CairoScene's Impact List: The Egyptians Who Inspired in 2020
In a year of extraordinary challenges, these exceptional Egyptians rose to the occasion, sparking movements, saving lives and creating art that made a difference.
To say 2020 has been extraordinary would be doing it a disservice. There are no superlatives that can do justice to a global pandemic and the insidious upending of life as we know it. Historians, journalists, pundits scoured through the centuries in a desperate attempt to understand, give context, derive meaning. And yet, perhaps, the most extraordinary thing about this year was, well, how ordinary it still was. The resilience of the mundane. When all was said and done, once we had become alarmingly accustomed to the rising cases on the corner of the screen, once we had learned to #WFH and homeschool and fist bump and mask-wear, we just got on with it. We ate our breakfast, we bathed our kids, we bickered with our loved ones, and we watched Netflix. We can only hope history does not judge us harshly for the TikTok videos.
This list – our sixth annual edition of (just a few) of the most impactful Egyptians of the year - is perhaps testament to the dichotomous nature of historic world events. In the fullness of time, they alter the course of humanity and are life changing in ways few can predict. But ‘everyday’ life… well that goes on in the most predictable of ways, and the human spirit can prove impossible to suppress. Even while Rome burns, we shall make music, create art, and tell our stories.
The following interviews were conducted over the span of two weeks in December at our #MO4 studios. And while it is of course by no means a comprehensive list (it would be impossible to do so), we hope it has spotlighted a diverse cross-section of industries and initiatives – from the medical workers who proved to be the superheroes of our age and the activists who inspired change, to the creatives who kept us dreaming.
ASSER YASSIN // ACTOR
When does a star become a superstar? Is it a shift in public perception - a gradually mounting media narrative? There’s always a tipping point, hype - and not hyperbole - that solidifies into accepted wisdom about the ‘super’ nature of one’s stardom.
For Asser Yassin, 2020 was that tipping point. Of course he was already a big deal, but there was something about this year that catapulted him into ‘a moment’. Yassin says it was the blessings brought on by the birth of his third child, Zain. He says 2020’s unique challenges forced him - like many - to understand what he really wants out of life. Knowing thyself is a powerful proposition. It gives you a certain no-F*&Ks-given charisma that can be irresistible, and one senses it in his insouciant swagger and a kind of new self-deprecating playfulness on social media.
Of course 100 Wesh - his Ramadan comedy series about a gang of con artists – was also the year’s biggest hit, complete with a chart-topping viral song bolstered by exceptionally savvy social media at a unique time in history when people had little else to do but stare at their screens in search of distraction. Yassin not only offered them escape, he gave them joy. A stellar appearance with his wife and two older sons - Taher, 7, and Amin, 5 - on the El Gouna Film Festival red carpet broke the Internet, as did a spoof video featuring the 100 Wesh gang stealing the festival awards. Leading the festival’s jury also solidified his position as an industry power player. A month later, he crushed it again at the Cairo International Film Festival, showing up on the red carpet in biker gear to cleverly promote El Shayeb - the cross-over film that has been the talk of the town ever since Yassin made a cameo at the end of blockbuster movie, Welad Rizk 2.
Asser Yassin has the confidence that comes with experience and the power that comes with longevity, yet he’s also very much in command of the new rules of engagement (his own content creation company Arnazad is testament to that). 2020 might have been his year, but he’s proving to be a superstar for the ages.
NADEEN ASHRAF // FOUNDER OF ASSAULT POLICE
It's 4 a.m. on July 1st, 2020, and 22 year-old Nadeen Ashraf – a philosophy student at the American University in Cairo (AUC) - is in her bedroom cramming for an exam. At the same moment, another young woman is pressured into removing a social media post revealing a certain Ahmed Bassam Zaki had been aggressively harassing her.
It wasn’t the first time Zaki’s accusers had been silenced, ignored or gaslighted. Rumours had been swirling about Zaki amongst students of some of the country’s elite international schools since 2016. Any attempts at outing him were swiftly silenced. The hazy early hours of that fateful morning would prove to be a breaking point. Nadeen Ashraf had had enough. For the next two hours, she collected as much information as she could. She created an Instagram account (initially anonymously) called 'Assault Police', and at 6 a.m. published a post entitled, “Who is Ahmed Bassam Zaki? A Sexual Predator” along with his picture, a list of educational institutions he’d attended, and a call to action: “Together we can gather a large database of evidence for his harassment and assaults.” She woke up at noon – having missed her exam – and on the precipice of a revolution.
Egypt’s women were suddenly emboldened to speak up. An awakening turned into a reckoning. Multiple cases came to light including the high profile #FairmontIncident. Assault Police was the trusted hub of Egypt’s #MeToo movement (for want of a better label) - an always credible source of information, support and activism fuelled by young passionate volunteers. The story captured the world’s imagination. There were features in The New York Times and The Economist, the BBC listed her as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Women of 2020’. Ashraf was the sole honouree of the Equality Now Virtual Gala, receiving the Changemaker Award presented by Gucci. Sadly there were also signs the initial euphoria of possible change would have to be mediated. The road ahead is proving to be darkly treacherous, but thanks to the catalysing impact of Assault Police, the journey has least begun…
HEBA RASHED // FOUNDER OF MERSAL
In 2014, Heba Rashed and two employees began setting the groundwork for Mersal, a modest and plucky healthcare-oriented charity built on the simple foundations of wanting to help in whatever way they can. Six years on, Rashed has found herself on the BBC’s list of '100 Women of 2020' as one of their ‘Heros of Coronavirus’ in the Middle East.
While Rashed is quick to pass the praise onto her now 180-strong team, the recognition came as a marker of her truly remarkable impact, with Mersal now boasting five of its own clinics, a medical hostel and a free cancer treatment centre, with a dedicated children’s hospital in the works.
It was in this most difficult of years that Mersal came to truly shine, however, quickly reacting to the widespread panic that set in at the start of the pandemic. Rashed and the Mersal troops hit the ground running, visiting over 40 hospitals in 18 different governorates with free sanitisation products and medical supplies in tow, as well as ventilators and oxygen concentrators. Mersal even launched a Facebook group to offer advice and guidance to the general public, with certified medical staff answering questions and queries.
Rashed is proud when she mentions that Mersal’s impact has reached beyond Egypt, and that they have been able to help people of over 30 nationalities. Philanthropy in the region, however, is a thankless task, and she’s under no illusions about how much work is yet to be done. “The idea of deciding who to give the chance of survival to is a responsibility far too big for any human being," she says of Mersal’s efforts to help those impacted by Corona, a sentiment that extends to all of the charity’s good work. “We need people to donate so that we are able to give everyone the same chance.”
DR. MOSTAFA WAZIRY // SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF ANTIQUITIES
On October 20th 2020, Netflix released their two-hour long original documentary, Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb, shedding light on one of the biggest archeological discoveries in recent history; a tomb that had remained untouched for 4,400 years. The release could not have been timed better. One month later, on November 14th, Dr. Mostafa Waziry, the Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, unveiled yet another seminal Saqqara discovery - 100 new sarcophagi, adding to the total of 59 coffins already uncovered to much global media fanfare in September and October.
In a year when global tourism all but ground to a halt, the painstaking work that Dr. Waziry and his team had been doing was proof – if ever needed – that even in the darkest times, Egypt has the power to capture the world’s imagination. Indeed, savvy storytelling has been a mainstay of Dr. Waziry's three-year directorship at the council, and one that was best showcased in 2020. On April 18th – UNESCO’s World Heritage Day – Dr. Waziri invited the world to join him as he unveiled Saqqara’s Wahati tomb, also considered one of most important discoveries of the decade. It was a ‘live discovery’ that proved to be an innovative and inspired move at the cusp of COVID-19. Every week thereafter, there followed virtual tours of some of the most iconic ancient sites in Egypt.
Working alongside the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities, Dr. Waziry also presided over the inaugurations of not one, not two, but three museums - Sharm El-Sheikh, Kafr El-Sheikh and the Royal Chariots museums. Meanwhile, he has promised that come 2021, Egypt will put on a show unlike any other with the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum. "It will be our gift to the world,” he says.
The world might not have been able to visit Egypt in 2020, but Waziry helped make sure it’s at the very top of the bucket list.
AMIR EL-MASRY // ACTOR
This time last year, no one had really heard of Amir El-Masry. Now he’s in the running for ‘Best Actor’ against Anthony Hopkins at the British Independent Film Awards, and has been recognised by BAFTA as a 2020 breakthrough actor for his leading role in the critically acclaimed Limbo. The British comedy-drama - in which he plays a young musician separated from his Syrian family and stuck on a remote Scottish island awaiting the fate of his asylum request – has garnered the British-Egyptian actor rave global reviews. The Guardian called his performance “hugely gentle and intelligent,” Variety applauded the “weight and grace” of his performance “flickering with mirth and rage behind tired eyes,” while the Hollywood Reporter fawned over his “soulful, quietly hypnotic performance.”
El Masry - who studied at the prestigious London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art – has spent the last decade earning his acting chops in an impressive roster of works including the 2014’s Jon Stewart-directed political drama, Rosewater, and a slew of heavily-hyped shows including The Night Manager, Tyrant AND - wait for it - 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. He’s even starring in one of 2020’s most talked-about and streamed shows, HBO’s Industry, the British series about a group of young London bankers.
So why weren’t WE talking about him? Why aren’t we obsessing over him in the same way we do other Egyptians making it big in foreign lands, like Rami Malek, Mena Massoud and Ramy Youssef? Well, fame is a strange and fickle friend, but El-Masry is finally getting his long-deserved moment in the sun. When Limbo won Cairo International Film Festival’s Golden Pyramid for Best Film, El-Masry - who refused to speak anything but Arabic during press junkets - noted that the most special moment of his life was watching the film amongst his people in the motherland. And Egypt officially fell in love. Because unlike Rami (and Ramy) and Massoud, it feels like he’s really one of us, and if he can do it, we can too.
NOUR EMAM // FOUNDER OF MOTHER BEINGAs is often the case with those most suited to being thrust into the throes of changemaking, Nour Emam - 29-year-old doula, founder of Mother Being, and mother of one - never imagined an Instagram account launched on January 14th 2020 with the innocuous caption “fertility, pregnancy, birth and early motherhood support in Egypt” would turn into a powerful silence-shattering platform.
In her first few videos, Emam explains what a ‘doula’ is, and then talks about postpartum depression, the cervix, and breastfeeding. She reminds her then-smattering of followers that birth is “a natural physiological event… like pooping and peeing,” and tells them “how to push a watermelon out of a vagina.”
So far, nothing technically groundbreaking, no boats yet rocked, but it was rare to see a young approachable Egyptian woman speak in layman’s terms about reproductive health. Like your best girlfriend telling you how it is.
The followers grew incrementally. Young women - embarrassed by their own bodies - sent DMs asking intimate questions. It felt like she was on the precipice of something extraordinary, tiptoeing precariously on a fine invisible cultural line.
And then on July 3rd, Nour Emam - like millions of Egyptian women – was triggered by the ‘ABZ’ sexual assault case. On the eve of Egypt’s reckoning with rape, she posted an emotional video that went viral (nearly one million views to date). Tens of thousands of followers flooded her account. Emboldened by the impact of her words, Emam emerged in full force. “Silence is no longer an option,” she wrote, and proceeded to “bust myths about the misunderstood hymen,” talk about “the aftermath of FGM,” and show women how to “care for their vulva.” We even watched her disinfect her menstrual cup on the kitchen stove.
It is glorious, empowering and extraordinary. To many it’s also terrifying. Nour Emam has given a legion of women permission to ask questions, arming them with the knowledge to fight a systemic ignorance that our patriarchal society blissfully depends on. And who knows what might come of that…
AMR SALAMA // DIRECTOR OF 'PARANORMAL'
In 2004, Egyptian director Amr Salama happened upon a self-help book at a friend’s house and read the entire thing in one night – he credits it with propelling him to pursue directing as a career. Fast forward 15 years and he’s in LA, walking out of his Netflix meeting after pitching his now-hit series Paranormal, and he finds the author of that book waiting for his own meeting in the exact same room Salama just exited. One might say there were unknown forces at work in the universe.
That same premise – the existence of supernatural forces – is what drives Salama’s latest project, horror series Paranormal, though in this case the forces are significantly more sinister. The show, which premiered in November 2020, was a landmark project, not just for Salama and his co-director Majid Al-Ansary, but for the Egyptian television industry. Though Salama was already recognised as an acclaimed director with films such as Asmaa and Sheikh Jackson, the magnitude of having an Egyptian production on such a powerhouse platform elevates his work to another level. “The idea of seeing an Egyptian on a global stage makes you feel like we can all do this,” he shares.
Adapted from the works of famed Egyptian author, Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, the supernatural show tackles a genre that has not been the forte of the Arab world, and in doing so, sets a new standard for Arabic language television. Salama procured the rights from the author, who sadly passed away in 2018 before seeing his iconic literary work translated to the screen. “I’m very happy we were able to make his dream come true but incredibly sad that it didn’t happen while he was still alive.” But as is the case with books, movies, and TV, your work lives on for posterity. With the series being named one of Variety’s top 15 shows of the year, Paranormal will likely be remembered as one of the shows which catapulted Arabic television onto the global stage.
MOLOTOF // MUSIC PRODUCER
Is it Trap? Is it Mahraganat? Oh, now he’s doing Techno, too? Egyptian music producer, Molotof, is a hard one to nail down - a forever evolving, intangible and nebulous music producer whose versatility is unmatched both locally and regionally.
Making music since 2012, he first emerged on the scene as the man behind many a hit coming out of Alexandria’s growing rap scene. Since then, however, Molotof has come to occupy a unique position on the music scene, becoming a superstar producer that effortlessly crosses the boundaries of genre.
2020 has been a particularly spectacular year for Molotof, as he’s worked with some of the biggest independent artists in the Middle East, the undisputed highlight of which came in the form of a surprise collaboration with Palestinian rap royalty, Shabjdeed, on 'Jaw Ard', which was soon followed by a collaboration with one of the region’s very best rappers, The Synaptik, on 'Bela Ahdaf'.
Throw in a universally acclaimed detour into techno with the single 'Donya' and a solo EP, Mayat, as well as a feature on Boiler Room’s SYSTEM mix series, and Molotof is poised to take his undoubted and almost prodigal talent onto a much larger stage in 2021. “There are no particular end-goals I want to reach," he says nonchalantly and with a wry smile on his face. "I want to be heard by people across the planet. I want to conquer the world.”
SAMEH ALAA // DIRECTOR OF 'I'M AFRAID TO FORGET YOUR FACE'
Like so many large-scale events around the world, this year’s Cannes Film Festival was a shadow of its usual self. The pandemic forced the annual extravaganza to forgo its red carpets and its world premieres for a decidedly more low-key outdoor event along the famous Promenade de la Croisette in October, almost sixth months after its usual May date.
It made little difference to Egyptian director, Sameh Alaa, who was ecstatic to have his short film, I’m Afraid to Forget Your Face, nominated in the festival’s short film competition. As he stood on the stage alongside eleven other nominated filmmakers from around the world, struggling to understand the French-speaking host, Alaa had no idea that his life was about to change, that he was about to become the first and only Egyptian to win a Palme d’Or.
“I didn’t understand that this was being said,” he recalls. “But then I caught them saying 'Egyptian' and my friends in the audience started shouting and screaming. It’s a moment I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”
The film (called 16 in Arabic) had its world premiere at Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival, where it was a universal hit - and Alaa hasn’t looked back since. From London, to Zagreb, to Moscow, the film was lauded from all corners for its enigmatic and emotional portrayal of a 16 year-old boy on a thankless trip to reach his beloved after an 83-day separation. Alaa and his team would go on to pick up another award, this time a little closer to home, at El Gouna Film Festival, book-ending the remarkable three-year journey that went into making the film.
A monumental moment for Alaa and independent filmmaking in Egypt as a whole, Alaa still remains grounded. “I was very calm. I remember it very well. I just tried to take it all in and take a photo as a memento.”
MINA EL NAGGAR // FOUNDER OF MEDFEST EGYPT & 'NOT OK' CAMPAIGN
When the 2020 edition of MedFest Egypt was delayed at the last minute at the start of the Corona lockdown, the medically-themed short film forum’s founder, Mina El Naggar, feared the worst. Having launched in 2017, MedFest has, quite uniquely, managed to bridge two fields from opposite ends of the spectrum, fusing the medical with the artistic, the scientific with the cinematic - an approach that El Naggar and co. have since used to great effect for the ‘Not OK’ campaign. “The decision to delay MedFest was the best moment of 2020,” he recalls. “It opened the door to so many other things.”
Launched in November, the campaign aims to shed light on domestic violence against women, an issue El Naggar believes is still a blind spot for the medical community. Harnessing the unique power of short film as a medium, the campaign has manifested in a number of ways, including workshops and screenings in hospitals that aim to further educate medical staff on how to best serve victims of domestic violence. El Naggar also went one further in connecting doctors with filmmakers to work together on creating a spate of educational and informational films to further the discussions on the issue, some based on true stories.
The campaign also caught the attention of some of the biggest celebrities in Egypt at this year’s El Gouna Film Festival, where the likes of Amina Khalil, Passant Shawky, Sayed Ragab, Ahmed Magdy, Jamila Awad and Karim Kassem took part in a special photography shoot championing the campaign, with each wearing a special ‘Not OK’ mask.
El Naggar is under no illusions. He knows that there is no quick-fix, that this is a marathon, not a sprint. At the same time, however, he’s been buoyed by the reactions and support of the campaign’s approach, which in turn has only served to strengthen his resolve and his belief in the power of film. “People have the capacity to tell their stories when given a chance - that was my revelation of 2020.”
MAYYE ZAYED // DIRECTOR OF ‘LIFT LIKE A GIRL’
Egypt has no shortage of untold tales and stories waiting to be unearthed. Yet, documentary filmmaking is just now getting its moment in the sun thanks to a renewed energy across the local film industry and the scores of young, talented and unflappable directors and producers driving forward a new era of storytelling - and collecting accolades wherever they go. Fresh off three wins at Cairo International Film Festival, another at Germany’s DOK Leipzig, and a slew of screenings at international documentary festivals, Alexandria-native Mayye Zayed’s Lift Like a Girl is an emblem of this new head-turning force in a film industry which has, for too long, only championed formulaic blockbusters and big names.
“All the film’s screenings, from Toronto Film Festival to DOK Leipzig, Doc NYC and here at Cairo Film Festival, have been six years in the making,” says Zayed, who both produced and directed the feature-length documentary about a tenacious girl’s journey to becoming a weightlifting champion. Zayed met Captain Ramadan, the film’s co-protagonist, and father and coach of former women’s weightlifting pro Nahla Ramadan, in 2014, and has been obsessed ever since. “I was in awe of the set up. To me, the whole thing was inspiring and I wanted to make a film about this place and a girl who trains there,” she says.
Beyond the shiny accolades, Zayed’s success is paving the way for more female voices in the art of documentary-making, both in front of and behind the camera.
“I feel like it’s natural, as a woman, to want to tell the story of another woman,” says Zayyed about Zebiba, the film’s 14-year-old lead whose vulnerability in the gruelling, often-harsh world of professional sports lands her a place in the heart of anyone who’s seen the film. “The best moment of 2020 was the screening of the film at the Cairo Film Festival and having all the girls attend… having them on stage with me to speak about it after the screening.”
MUSTAFA SHARARA & OMAR HERAIZ // CO-FOUNDERS OF SYNC2020 was a year when many businesses were dealt a hefty blow. Some, however, managed not only to stay afloat despite a global pandemic that ravaged other ventures, but to thrive and add value. One such entity was SYNC School and Community.
The brainchild of co-founders Mustafa Sharara and Omar Heraiz, SYNC is a platform designed to foster connections and create opportunities in the Egyptian creative industry. Initially starting with on-ground workshops in late 2019, once the pandemic hit, they rapidly pivoted into a virtual space, creating a Facebook group that has since amassed a whopping 70,000 members.
“Our goal was to bridge the gap between creatives and anyone else who wants to join this industry,” explains Sharara. “The first obstacle for us was discovering whether experienced industry figures would be willing to share their knowhow, or even take the time to teach aspiring creatives. We quickly realised that all these professionals were very willing to share everything they’d learned – and their struggles – over the years.”
One of their early workshops, by copywriter and content creator Eslam Hossam, veritably exploded, with a 300-person waiting list within three days of announcing it, proving to them the thirst that existed within the Egyptian creative space for knowledge from its power players. Since then, the community has gone from strength to strength, not just with workshops and live sessions, but as a place for people to network, connect, and collaborate. “People have come back and told us about unknown creatives that they discovered and hired through our platform,” says Heraiz. “For someone to tell us that SYNC was the best thing to happen in 2020 was a huge feat for us.”
IMAN ELDEEB // FOUNDER OF UNN MODELS‘Fresh faces’ might just be the most overused phrase in the world of modelling and casting and, in Egypt, it had lost its meaning even more. For decades, the same sort of look could be spotted in commercials, billboards and fashion shoots far and wide. You know the look - blue eyes, symmetrical, petite features, generally unassuming and, critically, foreign-looking. “A lot of people don't see [our models] as beautiful,” says Iman Eldeeb, founder of UNN Models, and champion for inclusion and diversity in the cutthroat scene. “They would say that they look ‘too Egyptian’. These women are actually the ones who got contracts abroad and have walked at fashion weeks in Milan and Paris.”
While many might see modelling as a frivolous pursuit, the implications of who we see in mainstream media stretch far and wide, carving out beauty standards that impact people of all ages. “I wanted to help girls believe in themselves and always be their authentic selves,” explains Eldeeb about the advent of the modelling agency that seeks unusual looks and non-conforming talent. “We’re trying to foster a new philosophy in the country, for people to accept who they are and for modelling to be looked at differently.” Her first challenge was to change the market’s understanding of what a modelling agency is and how it operates. The second challenge was far more profound: “Given the fact that we work with young women… we had to build trust between us as an agency and the girls' families and change how modelling is seen. This is one of the only jobs where women can out-earn men,” adds ElDeeb.
Since the advent of UNN Models, Eldeeb’s recruits have seen massive success, booking jobs with the likes of Cairo International Film Festival, Egypt’s top designers, and - most recently - a massive shoot with Vogue Arabia. “They were five models, four of which were UNN models,” says Eldeeb, proudly.
KHALED BAHGAT & ASHKENAZ EL SOBKY // TEAM LEADERS AT ‘THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA’
If ever there was a doubt about the power of social media, you needn’t look further than the aptly named 'The Power of Social Media', a unique platform that has, for four years, served local communities in a myriad of ways without its team ever leaving their desks.
Launched in 2016 by Mohamed Wanas, a rag-tag collective of volunteers is the beating heart of the platform, working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week under the guidance of team leaders, Khaled Bahgat and Ashkenaz El Sobky, to connect Egyptians to services and opportunities, particularly when it comes to healthcare. "Someone might be looking to travel abroad for treatment or looking for a certain medicine,” Bahgat says. “We direct each case or request to the right people.”
Amidst the pandemic, the page was inundated with worried Egyptians looking for answers and solutions, a surge that saw them launch a dedicated group for Corona-related inquiries and requests. Amassing over 75,000 members, the ‘Corona Fighters’ group has its own dedicated medical team specialising in everything from vascular biology to pulmonology, who are on call to answer questions, big and small. Though Bahgat and El Sobky have been able to facilitate patients travelling abroad for critical surgery and treatment, the team at The Power of Social Media isn’t one to rest on its laurels. They have big plans to expand its reach and develop on-ground presence throughout Egypt and maybe even beyond.
“It’s like a beehive,” El Sobky says with a steely grit shaping the cadence of her voice. “Any case we take on, we have to close. We don’t just take cases for the sake of posting about them.”
AHMED SEROUR // FASHION DESIGNER AND STYLIST
Fashion is, without doubt, a fickle, fleeting game. It's a field marshalled by a select few, overlords that can make or break a trend, a career, a lifetime of work at a whim - a field that young Ahmed Serour has taken to like a duck to water.
First turning heads at London Fashion Week’s 2019 showcase of graduation projects by students of the prestigious London College of Fashion, Serour won acclaim for his unique reimagining of Egyptian cultural motifs, fusing it with a gender-bending aesthetic that has its roots in diversity.
“We do have diversity in Egypt,” Serour says when equating his work to real life. “But in a society like ours, it can be difficult when dealing with anything that's 'different’.” Don’t misconstrue Serour’s assertions as a signifier of different for the sake of different, or shock value for the sake of shock value. His work is informed by the Egyptian street, its inspirations rooted in a dichotomy that both celebrates and challenges his native culture.
2020 saw Serour push on from his watershed moment in the UK and now stands as one of the most intriguing and in-demand designers and stylists in the country, his work on a Burkini-themed fashion shoot standing as one of the highlights of a year that has also seen him work with stars such as Salma Abu Deif and Nelly Karim, as well as become a frequent collaborator with the likes of Kojak Studio. He even caught the eye of global industry giants during this year’s edition of the Fashion Trust Arabia competition, with judges Olivier Rousteing and Giambattista Valli marking him for special praise and comparing the boldness of his work to that of a certain John Galliano.
High praise indeed, but Serour is very much keeping his feet on the ground, never losing sight of his voice as a designer and stylist, something made all the more important coming off a difficult year for all creative industries. “People have to find opportunities in adversity,” he told us. “Pressure pushes you to keep progressing, to keep doing interesting things.”
EGYPT'S MEDICAL STAFF
They haven't had the luxury of #WFH, or even the luxury of avoiding mass gatherings to protect themselves and their families. In the face of mass panic and uncertainty, they’ve put their lives on the line, day-in and day-out.
Since the start of the Corona pandemic, there have been over 130,000 recorded cases across Egypt, over 7,000 of which have succumbed to this most insidious of viruses. That number might have been considerably larger had it not been for the tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and medical personnel that have been on the frontline of the fight throughout 2020.
We’ve seen the struggle through hundreds of social media posts and heard stories of miraculous recoveries - lives saved against all odds. The truth, however, is that much of their good work has gone unnoticed, under-appreciated and taken for granted.
They’ve been dubbed ‘The White Army’ by the public, a fierce and unflinching first line of defence against a pandemic that has laid waste to life as we know it - and for that, there’s no more deserving inclusion on The Impact List than each and every doctor, nurse and paramedic that has and continues to treat and save Egyptians in every corner of the country.