Yasmine Nazmy is an inspiration to many. Along with being a talented vegan chef, she is also an expert on holistic living, offers cooking classes, nutrition consultations and reaches out to many people on social media. Her aim is to show others that not only is veganism and chemical-free living enriching, but very doable and affordable in Egypt.
Nazmy has been vegan for almost three years and was inspired mainly by the idea of living a life in which she did not contribute to the cruel treatment of animals. After experimenting with this lifestyle and trying it out for a week, she realised that she felt great and even lost 8 kg, convincing her to stick to it. She also found that veganism was responsible for her better energy levels, clearer skin and reduced headaches, stomach aches and even colds.
She was inspired to begin sharing her experiences and knowledge on social media in order to help others find new ways to maintain healthier habits. Although many of us aspire to a much more wholesome way of living, we often don't know where to begin. This is why social media influencers of this kind have become so useful.
"With social media, it only felt natural to share such a great change as soon as I started feeling the benefits."
Nazmy 's main goal is to ensure that people are aware of the possibilities when adopting a healthier lifestyle, continuing, "I don't necessarily want people to turn vegan overnight but the idea is to show that it is possible to live a happy and healthy life without animal products. Everyone has their own path; my aim is really to show that is it doable, fun and affordable." The real changes, however, began when she started eating a mostly raw vegan diet.
"Going raw vegan was life-changing because raw foods are so simple to prepare (most of the time) and you feel a lot more energised on just fruit, veg and nuts. It's a different mindset; I eat about 90% raw now."
Despite what many would think, maintaining a vegan lifestyle in Egypt is not so difficult, in terms of both cost and accessibility.
"In Egypt, it's not as bad as it may seem. The country has even started growing crops like quinoa and kale. The variety of organic greens here is also very encouraging for people to eat more raw."
Nonetheless, veganism is still an overwhelming idea to many. While it certainly is a lifestyle that's gaining more popularity, even in Egypt, many still view it as an extreme fad diet.
"I think people are very confused by veganism because they just never make their own food. Most people think veganism is a diet or a trend, but that's because it is relatively a new concept in Egypt."
Her interest in cooking and creating dishes didn't begin until about 5 years ago when she was a university student living alone in London and saw cooking each evening as a way to entertain herself. She states that going vegan improved her cooking skills since she was forced to become much more creative, due to the fact that vegan food is often seen as bland and 'limiting'.
Her food ideas usually come from her own imagination, but she also finds a great deal of helpful information from vegan resources online, highlighting Finding Vegan as a favourite, as it features recipes from various vegan chefs.
The previous owner of the Vegan Kitchen in Maadi, Nazmy now runs her own catering and home delivery service, Earthly Delights (which even features items from her other brand, KAJU, on the menu). Earthly Delights and KAJU's items include delicious plant-based food options such as pizzas, burgers and even vegan cheeses and ice creams. Though her experience with the Vegan Kitchen put her in god stead for Earthly Delights, running a restaurant and a catering service are two completely different worlds.
"Having a restaurant here was crazy work; your restaurant becomes your life - and if you're not there 24/7 it will fail."
While it certainly has its ups and downs, running a catering service is much better suited to her schedule.
"A catering service can mean more pressure, but it's only at intervals - and I make up my own schedule. It's great and works better for me, though still requires a lot of discipline – and meditation!"
As someone who majored in environmental engineering at University College London, Nazmy is well aware of the important environmental impacts of veganism, too. Today, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. By going vegan, one not only saves over 100 animal lives every year, but also saves 1.3 million gallons of water per year and reduces their carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons. Nazmy also emphasises food packaging and chemical additives.
Most of us are aware of the dangerous risks of the pesticides used on our food, yet we rarely think about this while grocery shopping. Nazmy stresses the importance of keeping this knowledge in mind when making decisions about what we put into our body.
"Anything that requires plastic packaging should make you think twice before buying it. Processed foods that are packaged means double the environmental load. Going vegan is step one, but if you really want to take care of yourself and the environment, you need to control what goes into your system – and the best is straight from the earth with no chemicals. Most, not all, agricultural chemicals cause hormone disruption."
Nazmy lists Desert Lake Farms, Tabi3y and Makar as some organic farms in Cairo that open their doors to the public which are worth checking out.
Nazmy also makes an effort to avoid harmful chemicals when it comes to things other than food. Her Instagram and Facebook pages feature plethora of natural living advice, especially in regards to cosmetics and hygiene. Nazmy has managed to rid her life of chemical-filled products, using mostly homemade or DIY remedies, using no makeup or damaging heat on her hair.
"My cosmetic free living came so natural to me. It's easier and costs almost nothing," she tells us – and it shows. Her healthy, thick hair and flawless glowing skin are proof enough that she has been getting nothing but good results from making this switch.
"The best advice I have is for people to stop using chemical deodorants, because spraying them on your armpits, with open pores, is almost like injecting it. Try harmless natural alternatives like baking soda, mild essential oils or just lemon – it works like magic." Nazmy uses a boiled salt-water solution instead of shampoo and coconut oil for detangling. As for her blemish-free skin, she relies on her healthy diet and staying hydrated.
When she does post about makeup (which is rarely), she reveals her secrets for easy DIY natural makeup, made up of ingredients such as shea butter, coffee, and cacao powder. You can find all of this on her Instagram and Facebook pages.
There are options for those of us out there who want to go chemical-free, but maybe aren't the best with DIY, there are options.
"There are few people who have started making and selling natural cosmetics so I would suggest you find them at markets like the Zamalek Market or other one off Market events in Cairo."
As for her future plans, Nazmy says she would love to open a raw restaurant here in Cairo, but is waiting to see how things develop. Until then, she is focusing most of her time on KAJU's raw vegan ice cream "It's a hot summer and what better than whole-food plant based ice cream?!"