Dr. Gisela Dombrowski was born in 1937 in Berlin, where she also spent her childhood and youth. After finishing school in 1956 she did an apprenticeship in order to become a translator for French and Spanish before undertaking her first long journey that brought her to Egypt. There she developed a stronger interest in other cultures. After a stay of six months in Spain, she returned to Berlin and worked for the German Foundation for Developing Countries (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsländer) for several years while also taking part in lectures on Ancient American Studies.
In 1966 Dombrowski fully took up her studies at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin, where Sigrid Westphal-Hellbusch, Wolfgang Rudolph and Lorenz Löffler were among her teachers. During this time she got in closer contact with the Museum of Ethnology where she took part in student courses concerning Material Culture and also did several internships. Dombrowski also had an increasing interest in the theories of Cultural Relativism, Structuralism and Linguistics. In 1975 she graduated with a thesis about Émile Durkheim and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown.
After finishing her studies Dombrowski took up an assistant position at the Museum of Ethnology, namely for the region of Western Asia. One year later she assumed a full position at the Museum and subsequently worked at the Department of the Islamic Orient until her retirement in 2000.