In a world where fads come and go and trends easily fade, it takes more than a certain je ne sais quoi to have staying power. In this year’s society stars feature, eniGma brings you a special group of young movers and shakers making a lasting mark in a variety of fields. Besides being charming and stylish, not to mention their stunning good looks, these seven handpicked society stars are succeeding in an array of professions, from restaurateur and event organiser to TV show host and Instagram sensation, to name a few. Farida El Sayed sat with these inspiring personalities to discover their path to success and how they go about achieving a balanced and fulfilling life.
Tall, dark and handsome this society star ticks all the boxes, and then some, with his quick wits and zest for life. Born in Cairo and raised in the affluent suburb of Heliopolis, Tarek Foda earned a Mechanical Engineering degree at the American University in Cairo. Upon graduating in 2000, he worked at ORASCOM for two years before joining his family’s business. From there, as he likes to say, his “journey spread out beyond.”
Foda’s family business provides commercial representation for foreign companies doing business in Egypt, and it is also active in agriculture. While playing a big part in running the business, Foda doesn’t like to be pinned down. “I am not a guy you put in an office. If you put me in an office, you kill my edge. I am always touring; I cover 60 to 70 thousand kilometers a year.”
Foda has his hands in multiple ventures that fit well with his fast paced lifestyle. “As an investor, I started my career with Tamara, the Lebanese bistro run by Mori Co. I quickly switched from an F&B investor to F&B operator when I started, Be Good To You, with my business partner, Nadia Abou Taleb.” A staple for healthy eating in Egypt, Be Good To You has three branches across the country and has become a favourite for its nutritious salad bowls and protein smoothies.
Aside from F&B, Foda is a leader in the world of real estate. He co-founded the real estate magazine, INVEST-GATE, as well as a real estate brokerage company. He also serves as INERTIA’s director for non-residential developments, handling everything from commercial plazas and malls to clubhouses and nurseries in their residential communities. Revealing that INERTIA is “working on building a Gouna-like development on Egypt’s beautiful Mediterranean Coast,” Foda clearly has a lot to handle. Making sure to give credit where credit is due, Foda explains, “Even though I have a lot of responsibilities, we have an amazing team working together. It’s a great working environment.” Having succeeded in different fields, Foda believes that success stems from “the power of belief, contentment, consistency, and perseverance.”
With his life going at full speed, Foda modestly notes, “Since success is an integrated path that involves self-worth, family, career, love and last but not least, money, I am always challenging myself to keep the right balance.” A father of three, Foda says, “My kids are my driving engine.” According to him, another key to his success is his practice of Qur’anic meditation, which has had magical effects on motivating him daily.
Foda is not planning on slowing down any time soon; this modern-day gentleman still yearns to achieve more. He asserts, “My biggest dream is to be blessed with an understanding of what God really wants from us, to be able to share this knowledge and to create a positive impact on the lives of the people who cross my path.”
Sherine Hamdy’s infectious personality, on-screen charisma, and daring fashion style are many of the reasons behind this TV presenter’s success. Born and bred in Alexandria, Hamdy moved to Cairo five years ago and quickly made her mark on our television screens and in our hearts.
Hamdy was the owner of a successful gift shop in Alex before she and her husband decided to move to Cairo. It wasn’t until a chance encounter in 2014 with Mohamed Bassiouni, last year’s eniGma society star, that she drastically changed her career trajectory. “I met up with Mohamed Bassiouni, founder of Disalata and a very good friend of mine from school, who suggested I would work well in a lifestyle related show, with a focus on fashion. So we decided to work on a show together through his company, Disalata,”she recalls. Her online-web series Ana wi Heya (Me and Her) became such a huge success that just after two episodes, Cairo Festival City became the exclusive sponsor for a year.
While the show was put on hiatus in 2016 due to the uncertainty, following the exchange rate devaluation, seemingly out of nowhere in 2017, the TV channel, Ten, contacted Hamdy to fill a vacancy on its show, Assal Abyad (White Honey). “This came as a shock to me! It was so exciting,” she exclaims. Eventually the show’s name was changed to Kalam El Banat (Girl Talk), and despite being nervous, Hamdy proved to be up to the challenge of co-hosting the two-hour, five days a week TV show.
Another milestone in her career came a year later when the channel ON E offered Hamdy her very own show, called On Set. With On Set, Hamdy changed from being a lifestyle co-host to a celebrity interviewer, and it marked a memorable moment in her life. She recalls, “When I found myself on billboards all over Cairo, that’s when I felt I had made it.”
Hamdy has also developed a following on social media with a legion of admirers who look forward to seeing her fashionable outfits. This caught the attention of international brands like Versace fragrance, Sisco, and Bionike who have asked Hamdy to host many events and to promote their products. “It was never my intention to be a fashion influencer, but I am so grateful,” she humbly admits.
Hamdy clearly has a lot on her plate especially since she is also a wife and mother. A detailed itinerary and boundless optimism are her secret to balancing it all. Appropriately, her motto is, “There is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it. Balancing family and work life is a challenge; but it can be done.”
The undeniably charming and hardworking Hassan Abaza has dominated Egyptian nightlife for the past 14 years. With his sophisticated soirees and edgy parties, he reigns supreme among the top event planners in Egypt today.
Years ago, however, when he was a fresh graduate with a degree in Political Economy from the American University in Cairo, the event planning industry was worlds away from Abaza’s radar. “Getting into this field was a complete coincidence. It all started when I was 23 years old and my brother asked me to help him organise a charity event in Ramadan,” Abaza recalls.
The success of that initial event gave Abaza the confidence to start his own career in event planning, and soon enough his name and his company Rimedia Events, became synonymous with glamourous, extravagant events, with a growing client roster that includes the likes of Audi and Vodafone.
Taking on all sorts of events, big and small, Abaza works tirelessly on every detail to ensure his guests are satisfied. “I don’t like my events to be boring. It is about giving people something they don’t expect, something out of the box. It’s always quality over quantity for me and the details make a huge difference. Everything is linked together when creating a good party, from the music to the crowd,” says Abaza, who starts his creative process by deciding on the theme, followed by layout sketches and all the other details. “I give 100 percent effort during the production stage,” he emphasizes. Abaza’s meticulous attention to detail guarantees the success of his events which are invariably talked about for months later.
Modest by nature despite his impressive career achievements, Abaza says he still has many dreams he wants to achieve. “In the past I’ve brought entertainers like Flo-Rida and Luis Fonsi to perform in Egypt, and I also organised three Amr Diab concerts. My dream is to do more and more concerts like that in Egypt.” he says. He also wants to shift gears and enter the field of hospitality. “I want to have my own boutique party hotel in El Gouna. El Gouna has given me a lot of support and I love it there. I like having my parties there,” he adds.
On a personal level, Abaza is known to be a great family man and a loving father, who always puts his kids first. “My kids are the best part of my life,” he says emphatically. Despite his hectic professional schedule, this entertainment guru demonstrates that it is possible to flawlessly pull off balancing career and personal life after all.
With 400K followers watching her every move on Instagram, scrolling through Nour Aboulela’s lively fashion and lifestyle posts, adjectives like, “fabulous, fun, and very fashionable,” immediately come to mind.
Part Lebanese with Swiss, Russian, Turkish, and Egyptian roots, Aboulela comes from a diverse family. Having also lived in London, Khartoum, and Zurich, her style reflects both her multicultural background and her unique upbringing.
With two fashion designer grandmothers and her mother a jewellery designer, Aboulela’s transition into fashion came naturally. She started blogging eight years ago, and has already worked with top brands such as Marc Jacobs, Bulgari, and Pepsi. Aboulela is particularly proud of her collaboration with the iconic womenswear and lingerie brand, Victoria’s Secret, who reached out to her prior to their debut in Cairo. “I really loved working with them because no one in Egypt had worked with them before. They asked me to take part in their launch in City Stars and Cairo Festival City” says Aboulela.
Aboulela, says that she loves the variety that comes with her line of work. “It never gets boring. There is always action, so it’s quite entertaining. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like routine,” she explains. Nevertheless, she admits that the nature of her work changed significantly when she became a mother, as she sought to strike the right balance between her professional and personal life.
“I cut down a lot on my travel when I had kids. Seven years ago, I used to attend all the fashion weeks. Not anymore. Now I prefer to go on vacation with the family rather than to travel for work. I also make sure that when my kids are home that I’m done with work so that I can have quality time with them. I make sure that on their vacations, I am free so that we can travel and spend time as a family,” she adds.
The stylish blogger is equally passionate about animals; so much so that she recently saved an Iguana from a local pet store. “I like to do a lot of animal charity work. I’ve been dealing a lot with wild Iguanas, so when someone saw an Iguana here at a pet store, they told me about it and I had to save it,” Abulela explains. Lounging on her shoulders and tagging along with her on coffee runs and errands since then, her pet Iguana has turned into an Instagram star by association!
Ahmed Heggy was Business Development Director at his family’s international retail and jewelry conglomerate, when he decided to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant, ESCA, which swiftly became one of Cairo’s most sought out dining spots.
With a degree in finance and innovation from the German University in Cairo, Heggy started out preparing for a career in the family business, obtaining a certification from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in London in 2009, before joining the Heggy Group in Dubai where he was successful at opening no less than 12 new shops in a mere three years.
In 2015, Heggy decided to come back to Egypt still with the Heggy Group. Explaining how he soon ended up in the restaurant business, he recalls, “On my return to Cairo, whenever I wanted to go out, all too often, I found the nice spots either fully booked or very crowded.” Recognising that there was a dearth of high-end restaurants, Heggy, who has a sophisticated taste palette from all his global experiences, decided to fill this gap himself.
Heggy enlisted the services of designer extraordinaire, Karim Mekhtigian of Alchemy Design Studio, who expertly designed ESCA’s sleek interiors, which evoke upscale elegance and charm. He also went on to learn everything about the restaurant business, and how to deliver a comprehensive sense of hospitality to his customers. Today, from the music and lighting, to the temperature, quality of restrooms and down to the garnishes on his dishes, 32-year-old Heggy makes sure that each aspect of the customer’s experience is truly exceptional.
His initial success and the rapid growth in customer demand for ESCA’s excellent dining experience soon induced Heggy to renovate the space to double its occupancy. “Instead of 60 seats, ESCA now serves 120 customers; and now that I am more experienced, I am able to provide an even more refined dining experience,” explains Heggy, adding that a big part of his customers’ satisfaction stems from the fact that he sources only the best ingredients for his restaurant. “Until this day, I look for the ingredients myself in the morning,” Heggy notes. From Canadian red lobster to certified Angus beef and Norwegian tuna and salmon, Heggy has ensured that his restaurant is stocked with the finest ingredients.
The savvy and proud restaurateur is also a caring family man. “I don’t like to leave my son Adam, to anyone else’s care,” Heggy explains. “My wife and I do everything, including taking care of two parrots and two dogs,” he adds. Heggy owes his success to the support of his family, his parents and his wife and of course “the great team I am blessed with.” Now also expecting their second child, the happy anticipation only fuels Heggy’s energy even more, making sure he is always the devoted family man while taking his restaurant to new heights.
Monika Mansour is the proud owner of her own homegrown sportswear line, Monni K. A fitness fanatic, Mansour’s regimented daily workouts are what led her to designing sportswear in the first place.
While studying journalism at university, Mansour became very serious about exercising at the gym; and that’s when she realised that there was a critical gap in Egypt’s sportswear market. It was during that time that she started designing her first sportswear prototypes. “The idea came to me about five years ago, when I noticed that there were no fun sportwear brands like Lululemon available. We only had Nike and Adidas, which can get boring. It started out as a hobby then developed into a business,” she recalls.
Established in 2016, Mansour’s brand, Monni K, with its colorful collections and fabulous fits, has proven to be a hit with women of all ages. Her upcoming winter collection will be her most inclusive to date, offering larger sizes up to XXXL, and a variety of different styles that she’s never showcased before. “I want to make comfortable clothes for people of all sizes,” she explains. Her eager fans will also be happy to hear that the collection will include many more styles than before. “For example, previously, I didn’t have pants with really high waists, which a lot of girls prefer. I’m including these, as well as more sweaters, in the new collection.”
Mansour’s intimate knowledge of what gym enthusiasts are looking for, is clearly behind the success of her dedicated sportswear line. With her colorful and alluring sports apparel, she has successfully redefined sportswear in Egypt, changing what exercise clothes should feel and look like, from leggings with cutouts to fishnet tops and more. “With a lot of people hanging out with their friends after working out, they are looking for sports clothes that are not only comfortable, but also nice,” she explains.
Mansour has plans to introduce a men’s collection and wants to expand in the Middle East. “I get orders from places like Dubai, but at times it’s difficult to fill them because I don’t always have the sizes,” she explains, adding, “I also declined an opportunity to start something in London; because I’m not ready yet.”
As Mansour’s brand has grown, so has the media attention she has received, a clear sign of her success in her field. While she is pleased with that, of course, Mansour says that the source of her satisfaction and affirmation lies elsewhere. “What I love most is to find someone I don’t know, wearing my clothes in the street or at the gym! That’s the best feeling ever,” she says beaming with pride.
Zeina El Hariri
Zeina El Hariri is a co-designer at Kidzy, an online children’s clothing boutique, which she started with friends two years ago and has already amassed a huge following. Hariri is also a jewellery guru in the making, who hopes to launch her own jewellery line. A single mother who is taking care of her 10-year-old daughter, she stands as a shinning example of a successful and thriving mother, and entrepreneur.
After graduating from university in 2007, Hariri joined the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), in their Darb Al Ahmar project, and credits her experience there for fostering her love of crafts and for reigniting her passion for jewellery.
As a result, two years ago Hariri decided to seriously pursue her love of jewellery making by taking regimented jewellery design courses, which led to her first collection. Drawing inspiration from her surroundings in Cairo, specifically Zamalek, her much anticipated first collection includes many references to the wrought iron columns found in that neighbourhood. “The buildings and the columns really inspired me,” says Hariri.
Describing the challenges she faces in designing her jewellery, Hariri notes that the main challenge for her is to clear her head in order to create. “Jewellery design needs peace of mind. If your surroundings are not calm and tranquil you cannot create. Because a lot of it is handmade work, it needs calmness and steadiness,” she explains. Her daughter Taleen seems to help her achieve that state of mind. “My daughter loves joining me in everything I do. The fact that, maybe one day she would want to design jewellery too, keeps me going,” she explains. Of course, Taleen has already been a source of inspiration to Hariri in her designs for children’s wear for Kidzy.
Designing clothes and jewellery, all while being a full time single mother, is naturally another challenge for Hariri, whose plate is evidently always full. “It’s tough sometimes, that’s why every now and then I like to travel somewhere fun with my daughter to clear my mind,” she says, explaining that she needs to disconnect to recharge and nurture her creative juices from time to time.
Looking forward, Hariri wants to continue to nurture her jewellery brand and also hopes to “create a workshop for kids where they can practice the arts.” She credits her first job at AKDN for inspiring her down this path of community service. “In 10 years, what I really want to do is give back to the community in terms of arts. For example, to empower women in creating their own crafts is something I am very passionate about,” she adds.
LOCATION: MARAKEZ, Zamalek PHOTOGRAPHY: Khaled Fadda
STYLING: Hoda Wahby ART DIRECTION: Aisha Youssef
Assistant Stylist: Malak Salah
Makeup by Habiba Kasrawy
Hair by Toi Beauty Salon
BALDESSARINI: Citystars Mall, Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 115 458 3115
Charles & Keith : 9 Wadi El Nil،St., Mohandeseen, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 114 444 0253
Dima Jewellery: 1 El Kamel Mohamed, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 122 170 9871
Éclat: Obour Industrial Zone, Cairo, Egypt
Egypt Gold: Obour Industrial Zone, Cairo, Egypt
House of CB: www.houseofcb.com
Hugo Boss: Citystars Mall , Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 1098329825
Moreschi: Downtown Mall, Road 90, Cairo Egypt
Tel: +(20) 1099185030
Orange Square: 4A Ibn El Nabieh, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 1000082033
Rafik Zaki: Tel: +(20) 1281333466
Rag & Bone
Salvatore Ferragamo: Downtown Mall, Road 90, Cairo Egypt
Tel: +(20) 114413155
Steve Madden: Mall of Arabia, 6th of October, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 1111990076
The Boutique: Downtown Mall, Road 90, Cairo Egypt
Tel: +(20) 106 151 1117
Vivian Moawad: 7A Aziz Abaza St., Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(20) 127 944-4381