Take your first impression and acknowledge that it is probably wrong. She is not the girl you see nor the girl you perceive. Take a moment and look beyond the facade of bravado and indifference. Give it a chance, she will smile, if you are really lucky she will let you in. If all you got was a shrug and a “3ady”, don’t give up, try harder, wait…. the best things in life are worth the wait. This is coming from the epitome of impatience. Yet trust me, you want to wait, you want to meet the girl beneath it all.
Pray, don’t judge, it isn’t an arrogant air. She isn’t snubbing you. Nor is she claiming to be too cool for school. She is merely taking you in, sizing you up, attempting to understand how much damage you are capable of inflicting and the extent to which you would be inclined to inflict damage. She is working overtime trying to avoid getting hurt, she isn’t about to take a chance on you or me.
It was inevitable, the tough girl act, you see our twisted society has given her no other options. Be tough or get trampled over. Be tough or get abused. Be tough or get cheated. Be tough or die. Be tough! So tough she had to become.
Incidentally, I have this quote running through my head:
“I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses. All of us are. Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?”
I am angry at her universe for not telling her enough, for not re-enforcing the message at every opportunity. She IS a princess. She is worthy. She is important. She is loved. She is perfect. She matters.
Moreover, she maintained the classiness and attitude of princesses against all odds. She remained clean, pure and genuine in a society that ostracized you for all of the above. She repeatedly lost all sense of security and stability. Life as she knew it was constantly being torn from under her feet and radically altered before being thrown back into her lap. Even the constants in her life held that change against her, defined it as a shortcoming, accepted it as an unchangeable reality, sought to bury her spirit under these faulty realizations. The fallacy of realism, of protection.
She decided she didn’t need them. She could be a nation of 1, closed up from all the madness. She embraced the tasks at hand diligently, striving every day to be independent… to be bigger… better… smarter… stronger… tougher. She didn’t need them. She could take care of herself. All she had to do was work harder and embrace life without them.
Yet a decade later it will fully hit her… the extent to which she is exhausted, the scale of what she has attempted to take on, the futility of doing so in a society like ours. I have tremendous amounts of respect to who she is and what she has done. Yet I fear that in seeking to be independent she has excused them from their roles, given them a guilt-free way out. I feel she ought to call them on their bull shit and have them own up to their responsibilities. Perhaps then she would feel less strained, less tired, less abandoned and more pampered. Perhaps then society would give her a break because she would be better conforming to their norms.
May she get to be treated the way she deserves to be treated. May we miraculously mature as a society. May she realize that she is a princess, that she is loved, that she is worthy, and that she doesn’t have to do it all on her own.
Note to person in question: You Deserve BETTER!
Originally posted on Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind:
To the same theme.. a poem I wrote a while back.
I want bones like iron….. blood like mercury
Such that you no longer have an effect on me
Aspiring to be superman for just this time
How I crave immunity from your eyes and your lies
How I long to be free from those insomnic nights
To move on, break out, take a risk and dive
I want bones like iron….. blood like mercury
Such that you no longer have an effect on me
Unbreakable, that’s what I want to be
Too late for that, now that you’ve broken me
Time after time, you come and make amends
I yearned to believe you, to forgive, to accept
I want bones like iron….. blood like mercury
Such that you no longer have an effect on me
Oh that damned little heart of mine
I’ll never understand why you still reside…
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At the end when you cut to the bone, we are all essentially the same; we are women of great expectations. I realized that sitting across the table from them, that despite the variation of our chosen paths we were quintessentially suffering from the same syndrome… insecurity…the plague of this century.
I never learn, I’m always surprised, as if it’s the first incident, as if I’m hearing it all for the first time. Women; amazing women; women of great intellect, looks, grace and social status; women from which you’d expect “I’m queen of the universe” attitude but whom never act on it. These seemingly spectacular beings all fail to see themselves in that light. Suffering from major esteem issues, seeking validation from the external world.
We are all almost the same age, typical quarter life crisis psychiatric test candidates. We shared the same fear, the same sadness so to speak, the same sense of failure and self disappointment. Plagued by unmet targets, un-achieved destinies, unrealized dreams and plans postponed or altered with an endless stream of plan Bs and contingencies as we strive to reach our goal.
I’m tempted beyond description to blame the goals, to blame our naïve childish aspirations, to claim that we had set our expectations too high, that we aimed for the sun neglecting the light-years that separate us. Yet I’d like to think that those far-fetched ambitious dreams were not out of reach, that we have it in us to rock the world, to reach the sun to have no limit. That it is not our dreams that were faulty but our rockets low on fuel, that we somehow lost steam or got lost along the way. ~ To Each Her Own
I am one for shameless self advertising. Yet I assure you that this is not one of these incidents. I’m just stunned at how rapidly and how intensely this theme is taking over my life. My entire 9 to 5 circle fits the above description to a T. I find myself baffled and speechless over and over again. So decided to put it in writing, in public, in the hope that it would boost my credibility. Perhaps my ineffective commentary and irrelevant perspective would take on weight when backed up by this blog’s kind and generous readership base. Or perhaps we come across as more sincere and more convincing when we scream things louder. Consider this my megaphone.
The top 10 reasons you are awesome (you know who you are mat-harageesh):
1) You are strong. I am in awe of your strength. I can not begin to imagine how you are able to carry the weight of all the drama and all the challenges and curve balls that life throws your way and still emerge smiling and victorious.
2) You are independent. You are not a spoiled brat waiting to have life handed to you. You are not clueless. You are on top of things. You can take charge and make magic happen.
3) You are stunning. Not workplace harassment, scout’s honour! Yet one would have to be blind or jealous to see you as otherwise.
4) You are smart. Believe me, that is not a compliment I dish out often. We live in an era of mediocrity and stupidity. Your brain and how it processes is a sliver of positiveness in my otherwise bleak outlook on Egypt.
5) You are helpful. You have a genuine interest in making people’s lives easier and making yourself useful. It is a blessing from God and a very non-selfish outlook to life.
6) You are dedicated. You would work through a storm and food poisoning and then some. I can’t believe the number of times I have had to beg you to go home.
7) You are spiritual. I love the simplicity and the genuineness with which you tackle the spiritual and religious aspects of life. It is non-superficial and fundamentally profound.
8) You are talented. Uniquely so, in all things related to design and aesthetics with a special focus on fashion. You have an individual style to how you dress and how you envision or dress others.
9) You are ambitious. You know what you want and you fight for it and you seek to achieve it.
10) You care. You get touched by the simplest things. It is flooring to the person on the receiving end of the gratitude.
I could go on for considerably longer but I like round numbers (a).
How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.
The path to the Truth is a labour of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs (self, psyche, soul) with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.
You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true lover.
Intellect and love are made of different materials. Intellect ties people in knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everything. Intellect is always cautious and advises, ‘Beware too much ecstasy’, whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are hidden among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.
Most of problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstanding. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language, as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.
Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is the best to find a person who will be your mirror. Remember only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.
Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighbourhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.
Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to look at the end of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.
East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.
The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.
The quest for love changes user. There is no seeker among those who search for love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for love, you start to change within and without.
There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the light of God pass through them.
Try not to resist the changes, which come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving toward perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us separately because humanity is fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture.
It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human being with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God.
Real faith is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure water, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.
The whole universe is contained within a single human being-you. Everything that you see around, including the things that you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you set to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness.
If you want to change the ways others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.
Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That is the hardest part and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow.
We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is an amount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.
When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearance. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed instead opens a third eye – the eye that sees the inner realm.
Life is a temporary loan and this world is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance. Sufis do not go to extremes. A Sufi always remains mild and moderate.
The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each and every one of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it fells upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.
Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy or fight someone we tumble straight into the fires of hell.
Each and every reader comprehends the Holy Qur’an on a different level of tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning and it is the one that the majority of the people are content with. Next is the Batin – the inner level. Third, there is the inner of the inner. And the fourth level is so deep it cannot be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable.
The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.
Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbours ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of 40 days, because you will be different inside.
The past is an interpretation. The future is on illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.
Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to live everything to the fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the universe is all pervading and it is composed on 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.
The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?
If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss or fright, one way or another, we are all faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before…
Nothing should stand between you and God. No imams, priests, rabbits or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters and not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.
While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.
Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission a power that comes within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquility and peace even the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.
In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of Insane-I Kamil, the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.
This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain un-reciprocated. For not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs outside God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does it beautifully.
God is a meticulous clock maker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.
It is never too late to ask yourself, “Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?” Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one-way to be born into a new life: to die before death.
While the part change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every descent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes. For every Sufi who dies, another is born somewhere.
A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.
“The old cobbler had believed in something he called “the signature of all things”-namely, that God had hidden clues for humanity’s betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme claimed, containing proof of our Creator’s love.”
If someone acts in a certain way which contradicts with your ethical and moral framework, would you hold it against them?
Or would you factor in that not everyone’s views on these issues are the same and that perhaps what is taboo to you is less taboo by many others?
Hence, would the fact that you wouldn’t do it make them having done it necessarily wrong?
Not to sound insensitive, yet I feel there is an overwhelming fixation in Cairo with the idea of dying for something. I recently lost a good friend so a bit melodramatic in that regard. Yet putting that aside, kindly observe the extent to which death is always dragged into the discussion. Fanatics and regular Joe(s) are constantly using this as the ultimate benchmark, your willingness to die for a cause.
I have heard people claim they would die for loved ones, an ideology, a cause, a religion, a country, a way of life, the revolution, etc..
I appreciate the sacrifice involved, I do. I understand why that would come across as the ultimate level of commitment and dedication.
I am just posing a slightly different question, what in life are you willing to LIVE for? Like really live for, dedicate a lifetime to working towards and spare no time, effort, energy, spirit, heart, soul and money towards making it happen.
Would you live your life working diligently towards a better Egypt, towards the achievement of a specific goal, towards furthering a cause you believe in? Would you live to spread and ensure the success of that idea, cause, religion, ideology, political party, etc?
I really hope that the answer is yes more often. I really wish we would start living for our dreams and causes. Too much has already been lost. Too many martyrs. I really hope we can work on the ground day in day out on making sure their sacrifice was worth it, that our causes have a chance because we LIVED for them.
This is an attempt at using this blog’s limited readership base to make some magic happen.
I am dying to teach university in Cairo.
I would love to teach economics, public policy or intro to consulting.
I am flexible on the University.
If you can help please do!
For the majority of my tween years I abused a John Nash quote like a mantra. “To find a truly original idea, it is the only way I will ever distinguish myself, the only way I will ever really matter.”
Yet, what if John Nash had it wrong? What if the ideas are only as good as the minds that accept them and implement them?
What if it is about the people after all? Does it make ideological, philosophical and scientific progress any less significant?
The imperatives of the human progress. *Sigh*
Bassem’s departure has me obsessing about my own mortality, my own life choices and my own legacy.
I find myself circling the drain with regard to the topic of bucket lists, circles of influence, legacies and impact.
So I decided to dust off and update my old bucket list.
The last update of the list can be found here.
Here goes nothing:
- Travel the world. Safari in Kenya, dance in the streets of Brazil, snorkel around the Australian reef, pray in Palestine and take a photo sitting cross-legged on the floor in the square in front of the Kremlin.
- Write and publish a book that means a lot to me and which becomes a worldwide (ok, fine! regional or local) best-seller in the field of economics or business. Extra points if it has an awareness and/or local flavour.
- Jump out of a plane (preferably with a co-conspirator who understands the beauty of that experience).
- Start my own firm. Indifferent between a boutique management consulting firm and a VC.
- Write a hit song. Get a friend to sing it. Record it in a proper studio. Get the radio to air it.
- Study abroad at an Ivy league school (and get the highest GPA of that class).
- Hold a photography exhibition. Work on my craft to be worthy of hosting one.
- Speak at an international (economic) forum.
- Teach university.
- Become the policy maker.
- Be the best boss that I can.
- Be a positive influence.
- Strive to learn something new every day. Seek to spread that knowledge and coach and teach others every day.
- Inspire people.
- Make Egypt a better place.
What is on your bucket lists?!
You will notice that some under-achieved items from the last update have been dropped all-together in favour of different pursuits.
This is for me. I would have loved to claim that it was for him. Or for all of you. Yet this is for me. To cope. To believe. To survive.
Bassem Sabry is dead.
You have all heard. The tragic news has spread across social media like wildfire and has depressed friends, fans and loved ones across the globe.
Yet most of the formal news is talking about the political activist. Yet as I sit here, a mere citizen of the world, I mourn the man, the beautiful soul that he was.
Bassem Sabry was one of the finest men you would ever meet. Fact.
Since 2001 Bassem has been a staple of our faculty walls and of our beloved “Retro”. The cafe’s most frequent patrons knew him by sight if not in person. We all practically lived there. I shall probably be demanding they put up a Batman poster in his honour.
To understand the constant Batman references, read Dahshan’s stunning piece here.
Bassem was the eternal optimist. He was born with a thirst for knowledge and an impeccable internal compass. He was always seeking enlightenment and truth. Moreover, he was constantly going out of his way to make sure that this was never an individual pursuit. That the light was always shared. That his growing wisdom and knowledge base was simplified and shared with the masses through multiple real-life and digital media forums. Socrates cafe, his blog, his article-writing, his facebook groups…
Moreover, he moved so seamlessly through multiple circles, being a constant beacon of positivity and awesomeness in all of them. Ever the intellectual, the cinema producer, the batman enthusiast, the geek, the blogger, the writer, the politician, the activist, the philosopher, the Latin dancer, the kick-ass guitarist, the friend, THE dude.
Those of you who knew him personally would understand the magnitude of our collective loss. We have all reached out to each other over the last 12 hours with condolences and support.
Those of you who didn’t have followed his noble attempts at making the world a better place. At being the voice of reason amidst all the madness. At being his own man.
His pursuit for greatness and happiness was relentless. Moreover, he sought to define and simplify that happiness and empower the masses to seek it out and to find it.
I leave you with the man himself:
Update: I feel compelled to ask you to read about him through his eyes. What it meant to him to turn 30 and all the life lessons he wanted to share with the world. Check it out here.
لكي الله يا مصر
3 years later. We are pretty much where we were on the economic front. Outlook remains shady yet the recommendations remain constant. I still wish there were more consistent efforts by the economic community to spread awareness and to educate.
Originally posted on Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind:
Kindly check your political views at the door.
Many of you have been calling and e-mailing asking for my “economic” view on what’s happening, forecasted impact on the economy and what can be done.
I would much prefer to focus on the last point because worrying and fretting about impact is a useless exercise while exploring what we can do might actually have some good.
1) Regarding the campaign to invest 100 LE in the Egyptian Stock Market. In my humble opinion this is a minimum impact exercise, the only ones who stand to really gain are those seeking to currently exit the market and the brokerage companies. The money you invest goes into the pockets of previous owners of that stock, the company itself (whose stock you are buying) does not benefit. This money will not result in production or job generation, let alone any impact on the real…
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My mother, the most awesome being alive, is unwell these days. Prayers are highly welcome. Hence in tribute to her divine existence and in an attempt to sooth my frayed nerves and avert a panic-attack, I am sharing a post from 2006 in remembrance. I echo these prayers today. “May you all never have to carry keys to your homes.”
“This harmless bunch of shiny objects doesn’t include a key to our house. Yet that is so symbolic of my life as a whole. My conditional independence. My parents over-protectiveness. My general lack of responsibilities. A total care-freedom. Most of all, its a reminder, that anytime I get home, no matter what my arrival time is, there is always going to be someone there. That all my family are well, that my mother or grandma are going to lovingly open the door, ask how my day has been, feed me and tell me about theirs. May I never have to carry a key to our door.”
Originally posted on Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind:
Do you believe objects have memories? That day to day mundane objects that you carry or that lie around the house in fact remember where they’ve been. Could it be possible that the secrets of history and the way we used to be are locked up embedded in wood and stone, completely unaccessible.
It sits there on my desk, even as I type this, it seems it is forever around, if somebody was ever to write my biography it would be such a good source, if only it could speak. Most of you have already seen it, the massive bunch of things that constitutes my “keys”. Yet calling them keys is really a lie, for its just one key and a bunch of chains.
It’s funny, I never purchase key chains when I’m abroad. I am a firm believer that travel is a gift in itself, the sights and sounds…
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If you were to select a song to represent the human being that you are; which song would you feel most does you justice?
I am in no way expecting this to go viral or to turn into some sort of campaign. I am writing this down because the thought behind it has been haunting me all morning and I feel absolutely obligated to document it and act upon it.
Dear Former Boss/ Mentor/ Professor,
I know we do not speak or meet regularly, yet no day goes by that you do not cross my mind. Not in an intentional and deliberate way, but rather in a casual familiarity brought forth by the daily nuances that make me who I am. For that, quintessentially, is who I am. I am made up of millions of little fragments of wisdom, advise, habits, ethics, routines, ideologies, opinions and perceptions to life adopted and adapted from you.
It is so easy to forget that, in the hectic self-absorbing daily life. Yet today I wanted to pause and reflect, to reach out to you and let you know. I am thankful for your time, effort and attention. I am thankful for every time you gave a damn. I am grateful for all the positive reinforcement and the harsh critique. I am incredibly and overwhelmingly thankful. You have had a profound and fundamental effect on who I am, how I think, how I approach life and how I evaluate things.
Yet it extends beyond the philosophical and the ideological to the most mundane and routine tasks. I actually remember different people with gratitude every time I do basic algebra in my head, reference I.G.C.S.E o-levels, tutor economics, use excel or powerpoint features, draft a work e-mail, decide on what to wear to a client meeting or count to 10 before having a fit.
I quote you…. constantly… over the most random and trivial of things. I speak of you fondly and often. I hope that by some stroke of luck you end up reading this note on this little corner of the Egyptian blogosphere. Yet if that does not pan out; I vow to make more of an effort in 2014 to drop you a line every now and then to make sure you are well and to let you know that you are on the minds of your students and former employees & colleagues everywhere.
Pre-revolution I had reached the conclusions that the things we need most in Egypt are tolerance, awareness, self growth and serenity. This still holds true now as 2013 has come to a close.
Yet for 2014 I just wish you all peace of mind. It is the one thing I have missed the most in 2013 and which I’ve seen people struggle with the most. Peace of mind with all it entails. The courage to do the right thing. The maturity to know what the right thing is. The faith not to struggle with the decision once it has been made. Peace of mind.
Originally posted on Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind:
- Courage to start over.
- Freedom of want/need.
- Cool bosses, productive subordinates and fun coworkers.
- Time to smell the roses.
For a wordier list of wishes, see here.
In an attempt to revive this abandoned fluff of cyberspace, bringing back an old tradition of mashing up the year’s review with a hit that stuck with me throughout it.
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars
I can’t really tell if 2013 was generally positive or negative. It has most certainly been educational. I feel I have ended it as a deeper and darker shade of myself. Who was it that said that as you grow older you do not change, you merely become more of who you’ve always been? Yet I leave this year a darker version of myself, less optimistic, less willing to compromise, less forgiving…
I see this life
Like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
In my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find
I saw some great losses in 2013. I have lost to death some individuals who had a profoundly positive impact on life as we know it. They vary in proximity, yet share their greatness. I trust that they are in far better places than we, yet I am still pained by their loss.
2013 was also the year of discovery, new pursuits, new cities, new facets of people I had known for years. Challenge and travel tend to bring people together. I am thrilled at all my discoveries and shall carry these cities in my heart fondly and will honour these new friendships.
Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told
I spent 2013 being the anti-social workaholic. It has negatively impacted my health and has cost me nerves, friendships and the missing of some very important occasions. I vow to regain work-life balance in 2014.
I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing
And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
I learned a lot in 2013. I learned that you can be MVP all season and still get benched. I learned that there is no rest on that bench. Ultimately there is no rest full-stop. I’m having to operate outside my comfort zone 24/7. Wonder how long till the zone adjusts or the revolution happens.
I feel the love
And I feel it burn
Down this river every turn
Hope is our four letter word
Make that money
Watch it burn
I still carry the dream with me. Its flame burns fiercer than ever. Perhaps 2014 is the year. I remain cautiously optimistic about the outcomes.
Take that money
Watch it burn
Sing in the river
The lessons I learned
This wasn’t very engaging to the reader, I realize that now as I wrap it up, yet it is more for personal archiving, for remembrance.
Hmm, so I went through with it. Best decision I ever made. Would love you input on my attempts. You can check out the makeshift portfolio here: http://500px.com/InjiAmr
Originally posted on Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind:
These days I’m finding myself increasingly attracted to the idea of a semi-professional camera. I don’t believe I have an innate talent for photography. Whatever decent shots I’ve taken, I’ve taken by pure dumb luck and due to the fact that mother nature is so overwhelmingly beautiful at times, that it is impossible to take a bad shot.
When you think of someone, especially someone you know well, the mental image that you get of them, that’s who they are in your eyes. It is the time you feel they are most genuine or most themselves, or perhaps the best possible version of themselves. They are probably moments you’ve captured and retained from real life. From a smile over a cup of coffee who’s odor made someone beam with happiness. Or the image of them smiling a certain way, using a particular hand gesture, saying a particular phrase.
For instance to this…
View original 258 more words
At the end of 2006, Time magazine declared the reader, the individual, the average Joe; the Man of the Year. It was a testament to the overwhelming growth in user-generated content that took the world by storm during that year. Social media platforms were empowering individuals, like me and you around the globe to become overnight sensations; citizen journalists, artists, writers and educators. Individuals worldwide were creating content and news and contributing through the available platforms (blogging websites, YouTube, twitter, Facebook, Flickr) at the same frequency as they we were consuming it. We were becoming increasingly aware of our individuality, our opinions and our need to be heard.
This egocentric attitude and massive need for customization and uniqueness forced companies worldwide to abandon their standard off the shelf products. Corporates around the world no longer had the luxury once afforded to Ford to claim that their customers “could have the car in any colour as long as it is black”. This was a new day and age and the customer was king. Moreover, this customer (existing and prospective) sought to be actively involved in product and service design, positioning and delivery.
This led to the rise of mass customization; corporates had to find a way to break down their final product into modular components that could be assembled in different ways to avail each customer the opportunity to customize and build their own unique product. This enabled corporates to massively expand their product offering as they would now make to order. Henceforth, by allowing the customer to select specifications and alternatives from a list of options, the corporate could now claim to offer countless product possibilities.
I still recall spending hours on the Dell website dreaming up and virtually assembling and building super laptops. Yet this concept, which most associate with high technology products and manufacturing, has migrated into the retail food business here in Cairo. Food and beverage manufacturers and retailers are realizing the need to interface more aggressively and dynamically with their customer. Hence we, as end users, are increasingly allowed, furthermore invited, to build our own salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas and even drinks all over Cairo at outlets such as TBS, Saladero, Marly’s Kitchen and countless others.
This is of great importance due to the weight of the food sector in Egypt. For according to the Central Authority for Public Mobility & Statistics the average Egyptian family spends 39.9% of their annual expenditure on food and drinks. That is almost twice the amount spent on housing and almost six folds the amount spent on healthcare. The majority of this food and beverage expenditure is eaten up by proteins, grains and vegetables. This has reflected on the retail side, where according to the general authority for investment, 47% of all retail generated sales come from food and drink outlets. Furthermore, from a manufacturing point of view, agribusiness and food and beverage manufacturing constitutes 27.5% of all manufacturing production in Egypt. Hence it was probably inevitable that all budding and successful business models would be attractive expansion strategies for those operating in the agribusiness and food and beverage segments.
Meanwhile, this global phenomenon of massive customization has been working in tandem with yet another customer-centric phenomenon; manufacturers are investing heavily in forward integration endeavors. Corporates in Cairo are seeing the benefit of operation in proximity to the end consumer, where feedback is instantaneous and real consumption statistics can be measured and analyzed. Agribusiness manufacturers are opting to integrate forward by establishing dedicated retail outlets, such as the case with regard to Wadi Food or Koki; or through setting up restaurant chains.
Shady Mokhtar of Swiss Choice is one such example. The young entrepreneur started out with an idea to bridge a gap in the Egyptian market for delicacies. He observed as the existing agribusiness manufactures of meat, chicken and fish catered their limited list of identified products to the retail and HORECA (HOtels, REstaurants and CAtering) segments. He too had come to the realization of the importance of customization. Armed with that belief, Swiss Choice embarked upon the journey of becoming the first manufacturer in Egypt that allows its customer base an extensive amount of tailoring with regard to the products. Swiss Choice indulged their customer base by inviting each customer to request that Swiss Choice manufacture his/her own unique and proprietary recipe for different sausages, salamis and pepperonis. This granted Mokhtar the instantaneous advantage of having an almost infinite product list. Mokhtar’s customers appreciated the variety and customization, moreover, several sought to stream-line their Egypt offering with their global recipes in order to ensure a unified customer experience everywhere around the world. This gave birth to Swiss Choice second selling proposition, the exclusivity in particular products granted to customers whom are very keen on maintaining the uniqueness and confidentiality of their recipes and product preferences.
Mokhtar’s business model made him an attractive partner to some other creative young individuals. He was approached with the idea of mass customization restaurant chains to capitalize on the Swiss Choice success in customized products. This newly formed partnership ventured into the restaurant industry by creating three unique local brands: Top Dawgs for American style hot dogs, Ali Baba Doner Kebab for Turkish shawerma and finally Mr. Wok for Chinese take-out (mainly Noodles). All three ventures were built on the concept of mass customization where the dish or sandwich is built using an assembly line set-up. For instance, at Top Dawgs you are free to select the bread, sausage, toppings and condiments. Mr.Wok allows you to design your own Noodles dish with a selection of Noodles, protein, vegetables and sauce.
When asked to evaluate the experience Mokhtar seemed rather pleased with the preliminary results. “Our drive”, he said, “came from the belief that there is great unmet potential in the food and beverage industry in Egypt. Hence, my partners and I decided to opt for 3 restaurant types that have not been previously tested in Egypt”. His view rings very true, since whilst mass customization is invading the restaurant business in Egypt, his three selections could greatly be considered Blue Ocean (a dive into an unsaturated market where he would have a first mover advantage) or at the least uniquely positioned.
Another key advantage or attribute of the experience that Mokhtar values greatly is the learning he and his partners have gained. Mokhtar and his partners had decided against purchasing franchising rights of famous global brands, opting instead to build their own brand. This was both challenging and cost effective, as this saved them the initial large investment and financial outlay associated with the franchising contract, moreover it gave them free reign with regard to creative aspects of the restaurants. When building your own brand you have the luxury of being able to design your own logo, setting, atmosphere and menu; more significantly it allows you to customize your offering to suit the dynamic tastes of the Egyptian consumer. Hence came the realization that for a local brand to be successful mass customization was the way forward, customer insight and involvement were instrumental to success and to the ability to compete, succeed, grow and scale the operation.
This business model has resulted in a very steep learning curve for Mokhtar and the team. “We are able to get on the spot feedback from the clients on the products we would normally sell to retailers and get limited or delayed feedback on”. This ability to interact with the customer and get first hand feedback on consumption preferences of the product, frequency of consumption, preferred complimentary products and finally comments on flavor, size, quality and variety enable the young entrepreneur to improve the Swiss Choice products in their manufacturing phases.
I wondered if these successful mass customization restaurants in Zamalek and Mohandseen have had an impact on Swiss Choice’s business to business sales by virtue of brand associations; given that Mokhtar’s restaurants proudly bear a “Powered by Swiss Choice” emblem. “It is too soon to say”, says Mokhtar, “logic would claim that the affiliation would enable us to leverage the brand and sell more. Yet the restaurants are localized to one area of the city and have not been in operation long enough for me to draw accurate inferences about their impact on business.”
The largest challenge of shifting from being solely a manufacturer and distributor, to being the retailer at which the customer can consume the product is the risk of failure. “Our competitive advantage as Swiss Choice is our ability to customize our production lines to suit changing customer requirements; this means that should we discontinue a product or start a new one, minor changes have to be made to the production floor.” Mokhtar continued, “In the restaurant business on the other hand, you invest in a location, brand, concept, staff and marketing; then if the restaurant doesn’t take-off as planned in 6 months’ time, you would have to scrap the entire investment and start over”. “There are no quick fixes in a business-to-customer or retail setting” Mokhtar concluded.
Yet, given his own experience, Mokhtar expects that more and more agribusiness manufacturers will focus on integrating forward along their value chains in order to maximize their margins and in order to gain the advantages of customer interaction. “At the end, accurate and detailed customer insight is the real advantage.”
Originally written for Business Today