Marriott Mena House, Cairo’s majestic backdrop of the Pyramids of Giza served as the ideal venue for Egypt’s debut of the global partnership between TED and Marriott Hotels, which started two years ago. The remarkable partnership hosted at Marriott Mena House, Cairo drew two international speakers, Karim Abouelnaga and Meklit Hadero, along with the Senior Vice President and Global Brand Leader for Marriott Hotels, Julius Robinson. Our own, Farida El Sayed, sat down with the three mavens to discuss their significant global contributions.

Julius Robinson

While exuding a calm exterior, Robinson leads quite a hectic life as the Marriott Hotels’ Global Brand Leader. In his talk, Robinson spoke of Cairo’s resurgence, while expressing his genuine adoration of the city. He noted that Cairo’s “resurgence is very special. The hotels are full and there are a lot of activities going on. Our addition of this property to our portfolio, along with some others, is a signal that this market is thriving, it’s back, and we are excited about what’s going to happen here! And what better way to showcase our newest addition to the Marriott portfolio in Egypt, than with the debut of an unprecedented and groundbreaking collaboration with TED at Marriott Mena House, Cairo.”

Robinson fervently expressed the reason why this partnership has been successful,  “Marriott Hotels believe strongly that travel inspires the mind while the TED foundation believes that their talks inspire new ideas. We both want to create opportunities and new experiences for people. We want to offer something new and something familiar.”  “What an honor it is for the Marriott Mena House to host an event of this caliber,” he concluded.

Karim Abouelnaga

Despite growing up in a low-income household in Queens in New York City, Abouelnaga excelled in his studies and was offered a full scholarship to attend Cornell University. During his undergraduate studies he was inspired to start Practice Makes Perfect (PMP), and at the tender age of 23, landed a spot in the coveted 30 Under 30 list by Forbes. Today, through PMP, his ambitious aim is to equalize the educational playing field for kids that grew up like him. He does that by targeting their summer slump, offering them a unique summer school program that provides them with a rare opportunity to partake in activities such as yoga and financial literacy classes.

In his inspiring presentation, Abouelnaga explained that “the idea began when I was 18 and it was out of a sense of a moral obligation and in so many ways a by-product of my experience.” Having already served over 4,000 children PMP continues to grow rapidly, and is singlehandedly transforming the societal and economical landscape of New York City, and soon maybe, the world.

Meklit HaderoBy the time she was 24 this young Ethiopian-American musician had lived in 12 cities across 3 continents, and, as she noted, would “use the music of the place to connect me to the people.” However, it wasn’t until she settled in San Francisco, that she pursued music wholeheartedly. “For me, it just took a long time to give myself permission to be a musician even though it was always what I wanted to do.”

Due to her nomadic upbringing, she explained that she soon became fascinated with the healing power of music; and through countless research studies she discovered that “the power of music and dance has a huge impact on social cooperation, so much so that when people move together they cooperate more, they report trusting each other more, and liking each other more.”

As a result of her belief in the sustaining healing power of music, Hadero created the Nile Project, together with Egyptian ethnologist, Mina Girgis.  The project’s aim is to unite musicians from the 11 countries of the Nile Basin. Hadero excitedly explained how, through the Nile Project, these musicians “learned from each other, created music together, and explored what a Nile sound might mean, a sound that could be relevant across our entire ecology. This model is a kind of cross-culture collaboration.” By fostering social bonds across the region, Hadero has become an inspiring figure not only for Ethiopians and Americans, but for the Nile basin region as a whole.