"I have a magic hand"

Magda or “Maggy” is the only Egyptian woman running a restaurant- and camp-business at the beach of Dahab. In her “Paradise” restaurant you can get really fresh fruits and vegetables - proved by a look inside the fridge.

Where are you born?

I am born in Cairo. I am also married, and I have one daughter and two boys.

How old are your children?

The girl is 25 years, and the boys are 11 and 27. The older boy had a big accident with a cement truck. He lost one leg and suffered from a major brain damage. I stayed with him 2 years in the hospital. Because he survived so many operations, he lost his mind after the 3 years in hospital. He never recovered, and he still has the mind and the thinking of a 12 year old boy – even if he is now 27.

How did you come to Dahab?

I came for work 6 years ago. If you want to start a business in Cairo, you need a lot of money. Here I came with only little money and could grow my own business fast. When I first came to Dahab, I was working in Hilton and Ganet Sinai. I did relaxing and Thai massage for 4 years, and worked also in the beauty centers, sauna, jacuzzi and gym. I have a magic hand. This a professor from America told me - he gave me also a book about massage and learned me some techniques. When I do something, I need to like it. I love my job. Later on I followed the advice from a friend and rented the Negm Paradise Camp, which was empty that time. I started to make food for my guests, and that’s how I slowly started also the restaurant.

But isn’t it very unusual for Egyptian woman to run a business?

Usually it’s only men who do a business like this. I don’t know any other Egyptian woman who is working on the beach. It was very difficult in the beginning. Everyone was looking at me and nobody wanted to work with me. A lot of boys here didn’t see a business woman before and they can’t believe that women are able to give him order. Everybody was pretty sure that I will leave within the next 2 months, but I didn’t! Once I shout with my boy, and he told me: “No woman can talk to me like this, not even my mother!” And I told him: “You are wrong. I am not your mother, I am your manager”. And other people said to my workers: “He, why do you work with women?” And they gave them a bad feeling about it. Many people here come from small cities, and they have a different kind of thinking. But now everything changed, and a lot of people work to with me - because I do care for my workers.

How is this situation in Cairo?

It’s different in other cities like Cairo and Alexandria. Women work and are managers, too. But here I was the first.

What’s your philosophy?

I like to make food the same way I would like it to eat. And so I have always fresh vegetables and fruits in my fridge. I care very much about quality. I make everything fresh when I get an order. Even the juices I make fresh, not from the bottles.

How long would you like to stay in Dahab?

My contract is valid for 5 more years. Later I want to build a new business on my own place near Cairo - or in Cairo.

What’s your religion?

I am Muslim and I read the holy Koran, but I don’t like to cover my head. For me the only thing important is to be good inside, not outside. It’s my life, so I can make what I want!
I already did the hag [Muslim pilgrimage], and I went to Saudia Arabia and Mekka. For me it’s important to be honest. I listen to everything about Islam, but I don’t want to cover. I believe that god is always looking for the heart, not for the things outside.

Do you enjoy the life in Dahab?

Yes, if my work is good and my guests are happy! (laughing). But it’s also hard sometimes to run a business here. If you work, you have to care about everything, your workers, the restaurant place and all of this.

Thank you for the interview!

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