Interview with Samih Sawiris
An Interview with Mr. Samih Sawiris
The Mastermind Behind El Gouna
El Gouna is turning 30 years old this year, and many of us may be wondering how this safe and eclectic town came to be, where it all began and what goes on in the mind of someone who establishes a town. El Gouna is truly life as it should be with its azure waters, world-class diving and kiting centers, friendly people and endless sunshine.
We, at El Gouna Magazine, were fortunate enough to have interviewed Samih Sawiris, the owner and brains behind the town.
Where were you when you first had the idea to build El Gouna?
The idea to build El Gouna came while I was in Hurghada enjoying fishing and diving and I noticed that there was too much construction that was too haphazard with no planning, and I feared that Hurghada might develop like Alexandria where I spent my childhood, which now is no longer as nice as it was! At that point, I decided I should establish something outside Hurghada and try to keep it small and attractive for friends and family and potentially other people who might like it.
Can you describe how it all started and how it grew from there?
From then on I went to the government to ask for a piece of land to build a marina and some houses, but they insisted on a hotel and so I established them all in less than a year and a half.
How does it feel to see such a thriving town, knowing that you are the man behind it?
When I come to El Gouna, unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury to see what has happened, but my eyes keep catching the flaws and things that need to be done or are done differently. So, in essence, I only see what needs to be done and not what already looks nice.
What do you foresee for the future of El Gouna?
El Gouna should continue to grow to become a proper town with the same style and same kind of people who live here permanently.
What do you love most about El Gouna?
What I love about El Gouna is the serenity and the feeling that everybody feels safe and happy over here.
Where were you born, where did you grow up and where did you go to university?
I was born in Cairo and I went to the German School in Cairo before travelling to Berlin to study Economic Engineering at TU Berlin.
Who is/was your hero? Who do you want to be like?
My hero and my Godfather was Dr. Fathy Iskandar.
What do you do to relax?
I like listening to classical music, fishing, taking long showers and swimming more-or-less every day when I can; this is what helps me relax.
If you could sit and have coffee with anybody, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would like to meet Jesus Christ.
What is a normal day like for you?
I wake up, read the newspapers, and if I’m not too lazy, I swim my laps and go back for a piano lesson. If my parents are in El Gouna, I have breakfast with them, and then I usually have meetings at Seven Stars Café, before heading to the boat for lunch. I go home then attend another piano lesson, spa session and get ready for dinner.
Tell us one secret about Naguib Senior.
The biggest secret about Naguib Senior is his very big heart that he tries to hide. He is definitely the kindest of the three Sawiris, even though he always puts on a serious look and act.
Where did the name “Orascom” come from?
“Orascom” was the very old telegraphic address of my father’s old nationalized company, which was the only thing kept after nationalization as it was registered in his name. The company was renamed by the government after nationalization.
The “O” stands for Onsi and “com” for company.
Where is your favorite place to dine in El Gouna?
I love Pier 88, Saigon, the Indian Tandoor, Hedra, and, of course the Swiss House.
Who has represented El Gouna and its spirit most accurately?
Representing El Gouna best are the people who live in it permanently. They are the type of people that leave the entire country and settle in El Gouna. They give it the spirit, the soul and the style. In essence, they are the biggest asset to the town.
We offer our thanks to Mr. Sawiris for taking the time to talk with us, and on behalf of everybody who lives in El Gouna, for the amazing, safe town that it is. Most foreigners and expats would say that this is the safest place they have ever lived in.