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TEDxCairo: Ideas Worth Spreading

TEDxCairo: Ideas Worth Spreading
written by
Zainab Magdy

Launched by four
college students, TEDxCairo is a one-day conference where selected speakers
give talks pulsing with creativity and ingenuity – what more do you need to be

TEDxCairo is a self-organised offshoot of TED (Technology Entertainment and Design), which originated as a
one-off conference in California in 1984 and aimed to share ‘ideas worth
spreading.’ With this becoming their slogan and mantra, TED has become a serial
event that has gone global; so much so that all the events are streamed across
the world. The world’s most successful,
creative and forward-thinking people are invited to share ideas, and are
challenged to do so in an innovative way within the short space of eighteen minutes. The TEDx program was subsequently created to give groups the guidance to provide the TED experience locally and independently.

During their last
year as university students, Ahmed Coucha, Amr Gamal, Bahy Abuel Ezz and Bassem
El Hady asked TED for a license to create TEDxCairo, and on February 8th
2010, they got the license and TEDxCairo was born. Although it carries the TED name, this initiative is very specifically Cairo-centric in its goals, organisation, and essence.

‘Food for thought’ is
the best way to describe TEDxCairo. After holding their first event in May
2010, the founders of TEDxCairo are preparing for their upcoming event ‘Resurrection:
Laughter, Tears and Hopes’. It’s quite a big event to handle, but the four
engineering graduates who organised last May’s event are quite capable of
handling this one.

‘We had many
challenges in 2010,’ says Bassem El Hady, which included time constraints;
preparations for the event began a little over two months from its scheduled

‘We wanted to make
TED and the idea behind it familiar to the Egyptian audience,’ he added. ‘We
shared videos, worked on creating a community for TEDxCairo and looked for
speakers and sponsors.’ In the end, they had seventeen speakers covering five categories:
social, cultural, technology, business and art.

Last year’s event
was held at AUC’s Ewart Hall on May 8th, 2010. Every speaker spoke
for not more than twenty minutes. Among the speakers were actor Khaled Abol Naga,
Google’s regional manager for North Africa Wael Fakharany, Ibrahim El Batout,
Sahar El Mougy, mountaineer Omar Samra, Tarek Naga, and others.

In 2011, the
Egyptian revolution inspired the TED organisers to change their plans slightly.
On March 1st, TED California – the main TED event – was to take place and the
founder of TED asked TEDxCairo to organise an event that analysed the revolution.
The event would then be streamed live from Cairo to California.

‘We made ‘The
Wonders of Tahrir’ in thirty six hours,’ says El Hady. They contacted the
speakers and arranged the closed event to be streamed all across the globe for
TED audience in California.

‘We had to come up
with everything in thirsty six hours; the title, speakers – everything!’

Speakers included Wael Ghonim, who spoke of
the role of social media, Tarek Naga who spoke about the resurrection of Tahrir
Square architecturally, Amr Salama who spoke of the Egyptian media’s role in promoting
the revolution indirectly, as well as documentary filmmaker Jihan Noujaim. Hany
Adel and Amir Eid even performed ‘Sout El Horreya’.

This Saturday, 21st
of May, TEDxCairo will hold its event ‘Resurrection: Laughter, Tears and Hopes’. Even
though it will take place in the aftermath of the revolution, ‘Resurrection’ is
not about the events of the last few months.

‘We want to reflect
on the revolution but in a very indirect way,’ says El Hady. ‘It’s an
initiative to bring forward ideas that have been present before, which – when
let out in the open next Saturday – will hopefully create a change in our

Before the revolution,
the idea of Egypt’s future was depressing. ‘Now, change is happening,’ says El
Hady, ‘And this change is what ‘Resurrection: Laughter, Tears, and Hopes’ is
all about.’

Speakers for this
year’s event are an interesting variety from different fields. Cardiologist Dr.
Bassem Youssef of the Bassem Youssef Show, Professor Rana Samir, author Essam Yussef, The Choir Project
and rapper Zap Tharwat among others.

There are no
tickets to TEDxCairo events, but you can apply online in order to attend. The deadline
for this event has passed, but stay tuned to their Facebook page because the
event will be live streamed on May 21st.

Also check out the
talks for their past two events on YouTube on the TEDxTalks channel. 

Whether you’ve sent
out an application or not, ‘Resurrection 2011’ is available for watching and
inspiring: live!