“Do not go where the path may lead; instead, go where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Born in Cairo, Farah Abouseif likes to start the morning with Turkish coffee at Oahwa, a favorite place near her home outside Cairo. She grew up in the city and around sports.
“I’m most passionate about kids and sports. Sports, for me, are an essential part of the day. I have to move, and I love watching it. Football/soccer is a big part of Egyptian culture, so I grew up seeing it everywhere,” Farah states. “As for kids, I’ve always had an instant connection with children. And the love of sports made that connection easier and natural with them.”
When not playing or watching sports, she was in school. She attended The American University in Cairo, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, international relations and political economy. That was followed by study in London at The American International University, where she was graduated with a master’s degree in international relations.
At the time, she thought of getting into foreign affairs, where she could also make use of her Arabic, English and French language skills. So, after graduation, Farah worked with the United Nations UN WOMEN, an entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Ultimately, she decided governmental work was not for her.
But Farah kept up with her charity-related work with a group of women on a weekly basis. “We go to underdeveloped areas in Cairo and try to provide their basic needs through donations. We go to orphanages and children’s hospitals and play with the kids,” she added. This is when she developed her passion for service work. “Getting into volunteer work and working with children who don’t have half of the privileges I had as a child makes me feel a sense of responsibility towards them – like I have to give back somehow.”
She also became passionate about travel as a way to make a difference. In addition to the grand river and all the history that surrounds her every day, she believes it is just as important for travelers get to know the people. Egyptians are friendly and very hospitable. Farah shows visitors the city she knows and loves, taking them to places where her friends spend time – a local restaurant or a club. They have opportunities for authentic exchanges of ideas, learning firsthand about each other.
“That’s what drives me. I’d hate to have just passed through my life with all these privileges without having done anything in return, even if it’s as simple as connecting cultures and righting the conceptions some people have about my country, my religion and my people,” Farah said.
She and Big Five’s president, Ashish Sanghrajka, became friends when she was a teenager and Ashish was not much older. Farah began actively guiding for Big Five a dozen years ago and remains just as enthusiastic today about showing off her city to our guests. To Farah, the purpose of tourism goes well beyond the sites. For her, it’s the people, the culture and the conversations she gets to have with others from all over the world.
“I think anyone coming to Cairo should come with an interest in learning about the people. We have so many cultures with different beliefs and principles,” Farah said.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I’m still learning.”