Cairo – New York – Wuerzburg

Again, we would like to leave Germany and its doors, to introduce you to other cultures and their stories – this time in the metropolis Cairo! Zaki, a young blogger and film maker, grew up there and has told us about his wishes for his home country and where he wants to go in his life.

I, Alessandra from your Doorknob-team, met Zaki (24) in a bar in New York – a lot of funny. long nights, discovery tours in this amazing city and good times were meant to follow!

What do photos of the winter in New york and at places with amazingly high temperatures have in common? – You are gonna read about it tomorrow, here! 🙂
While I was interning with a publishing company in Manhattan, Zaki went to college while working full-time in New York for one year, in the field of digital media. Unfortunately I haven´t made it to Egypt to visit him so far, but luckily he offered us insights into the city and his life there by e-mail! 🙂

Five questions for Zaki!

1. Where exactly is the door to your home, and how do you like the place you are living in?

The door to my home is just outside of Cairo, in the suburbs.
Cairo is a very diverse place, as there are people from all social classes around here. Engaging with different people coming from different backgrounds excites me a lot. I love my city and my country, the heritage we have is amazing and there is so much to discover here. For me personally, I don’t really see much potential for a future here in Cairo since the entrepreneurial community is still scratching the surface.

2. Can you briefly describe the political situation in Egypt these days?

This is one of the most difficult questions, and people ask so often. In my personal opinion, the political situation is very unstable, there is so much corruption to deal with in Egypt even after the revolution in 2011 and after two “Presidential elections”. I’m not saying the president is corrupt but even if he wasn’t there is so much more in the system than the president. The regime needs to be filtered big time. 
One of the major problems we currently have in Egypt is the lack of freedom of speech. People are getting locked up for opposing the current regime.

3. Which changes are you wishing for that should happen in your home country?

Education is the most important tool we need to focus on in Egypt. Education will bring up higher calibers in the coming years, people will actually learn what “democracy” means.

4. What is your very own blog about and why do you want to work in media?

I think that media is one of the most powerful tools that can actually have an effect on people, if not the most powerful. People all over the world are getting influenced by the mainstream media (newspapers, TV, radio). This is exactly why I want to work in media.
The internet is playing a great role as an unfiltered tool, you can post whatever you want without any constrains.
My blog currently is about travelling and exploring new places, eventually I will step it up a little and talk about inspiration, trying to get people to actually go out there and find their passion in life.

5. Which door are you dreaming of to pass through? 😉

I do not really have one door that I dream of passing through. Still, I have aways had this sense of exploration inside of me. A place I have actually been dreaming of visiting is an island close to Brazil that has a population of people that have never had any contact with another tribe or any other people outside of that island.

To be continued! 😉

Best wishes from your Doorknob-team 🙂


Open for change

Wooho – here we go: Today Alessandra is opening a door for the second time. What can we discover there now?


Do you all remember Allan from Dublin, who already told you more about his home country last Monday? In case you don´t, you are more than welcome to catch up on it here – but now we are already moving on to the second part of our Doorknob interview! Allan was not only an amazing host for my first night of my trip to Ireland, but was also willing to give an interview for this blog. This part is about his work in the field of sustainable development. Shortly described this means that needs of the present population should be provided for without harming the needs of others or future generations, which affects economic, political and ecological actions.

Read more about why Allan tries to create more understanding for sustainability and how he is doing that here.

How would you describe the concept of sustainable development to someone who has never heard of it before?

 F*uck!.. I’m too used to preaching to the choir. Sustainable Development is about finding ways to have our needs provided for without taking away from the provision of others’ needs (subsistence, freedom, respect, belonging, health, love, etc.). That requires relearning one’s whole outlook on the world, how they react with others and being open to change one’s beliefs. Right now, a lot of people do not have their needs provided for.

How did you come across the concept of sustainable development in the first place?

My uncle always used the word. It took me some time to grasp it as a teenager. But when I learnt of the economic hierarchy we have become so “dependent” on, it made things more clear. The needs of many people have been taken away as a result of the excessive demand of others. Not that I’m blaming anyone. Shit happens. And now we have the knowledge to fix it. Having heard many things about environmental destruction over the years, it was not until I saw the connection between this damage and the resulting effect on people’s needs that I realised how big the picture of sustainability was.

Why do you think is sustainable development so important nowadays?

Because we seem to be going through a change so great that we threaten our very existence as a species. I am optimistic that we can pull through, and save some animals while we’re at it. But I’m afraid many of us will suffer and die prematurely during this century and long-term damage may persist into the future of humanity. It’s a matter of providing the world with the necessary skills, knowledge, motivation and belief, to attempt any kind of ‘soft landing’ into a new era of transformation, but time is running out. I recommend that anyone sheltered from tyranny go to Syria and get a good picture of how awful life can be if we do not correct our mistakes.

In which area of sustainable development do you work in yourself?

To date, I have volunteered in various grassroots activities, shared ideas through the sustainability network and mostly been developing theories in relation to organise the sustainable development movement so that more people in society can get involved.

Can you shortly explain on what kind of project you are working on right now, and what you want to reach with this project?

I am currently putting together a project which I believe can serve as a basis to the social success of strong sustainable development throughout society. This involves building a grassroots alliance, where resources (time and money, labour, materials, knowledge, land, etc.) can be more easily shared and traded. Any group, organisation or individual that takes the initiative can participate in managing, innovating and strengthening such a network alliance. Many community, grassroots and sustainability actors will require training and further knowledge sharing in order for this alliance to succeed.
In the long run, I expect that this approach to sustainable development will lead to a more sophisticated, integrated and understanding ‘global’ community that can demonstrate working models of thriving resilient communities that can be replicated everywhere. The less interested people will eventually follow suit.

Which general achievements when it comes to sustainable development in Ireland do you wish for during the next couple of years?  

The establishment of a popular social club for people to share ideas and learn from each other about ways to strategically enhance civic participation of sustainable development and to make their communities more resilient; A fund to employ autonomous actors of change so that they may focus all of their efforts on building on these solutions together; An integrated alternative economy to reduce need for financial living expenses in the pursuit of sustainable transition towards a more holistic system of living; The beginnings of a culture of ‘real’ sustainability marketing.

How would you describe community life in Dublin? What do you particularly like, or dislike about it?

People can be very helpful. But they do not commit to much, as is in most cities I suppose. People depend less on individualist income and markets in rural areas. There, community is thriving. But they lack important knowledge about sustainability. That is, although rural Irish people do not trust the markets and political process in solving for their livelihoods, they perhaps lack trust in one another as a result of the institutionalisation of the political and market forces.

What do you wish for when it comes to community life in Dublin and the whole country?

For people to give up full time jobs and put more effort into understanding short and long term local needs. The same goes to any other community around the world, in my opinion.

Wow, that´s a lot of information all at once, isn´t it? In case you want to read more about sustainable development, here are a couple of interesting websites:

Sustainable development knowledge platform of the United Nations

Information on sustainable development in Ireland

Information on the national sustainability summit 2016 in Ireland

Pretty doors just down the street

In Ireland, you can find the prettiest doors – and prettiest men?! Two daring statements that are worth examining. And so Alessandra from your Doorknob team set out for the green island, to find the story behind the story!


Right now you might be thinking: She did not really leave for Ireland because of doors (or men)?! Yeah, your disbelief is justified, I have to admit. You can hear more about the third crucial reason for my one week-long trip to Ireland in this blog soon! Now let´s talk about my first Doorknob story that I got to experience on my arrival night in Dublin…

A friend of mine (you will hear more about him during my travel report!) managed to find a place to stay at for that night in Dublin. There I was – really tired after the long journey from Würzburg via Frankfurt to Dublin, with a huge backpack, in the middle of the night in front of a stranger´s house. But the door looked really pretty! As an ambitious Knobstory writer, I decided to trust these people behind that door straight way – which was the right decision.

Allan, our host, was super nice and had some interesting things to tell. Like for example that he is working for sustainable development in Dublin and Ireland in general. That immediately caught my attention: What exactly is sustainable development, in Ireland and all over the world? The next morning I took a chance and interviewed Allan about his work, his home country and Irish people.

Here goes the first part of our Doorknob interview – hear more about Allan and his opinion on his home country!

Tuerknauf: Honestly – did you ever host a person you did not know at all before?  

 Allan: Yeah – would you like me to elaborate? I once hosted 10 Indians. Initially they told me 8. Then they asked if it was ok to squeeze beyond capacity to 9. Then 10 arrived. Haha!

T: What is your best and your worst experience when it comes to staying with hosts or hosting yourself?

 A: Holding in my farts. Having to smell their farts.

T: Which typical characteristics would you attribute to Irish people?

 A: Flippantly resilient. They complain a lot but also put up with a lot of shit. Ah sure they’re grand. We are too serious about life to take life too seriously.

T: What is the lifestyle in Ireland like?

 A: After being abroad so much – I lived in China for a couple years during my 20’s, then in Sweden for 3 years and visited almost all western European countries – I have noticed that the lifestyle is becoming a little more European and more open. Fun can be found everywhere with any person. It’s not true that a gathering of people can’t enjoy themselves without alcohol. We just don’t allow ourselves to prove it.

T: How do those characteristics and the lifestyle differ from other countries you lived in before?  

A: We are considered quite conservative. But we lack restrictions that make other countries more boring. I do love the openness, freedom and access to services that can be found in other countries. You win some, you lose some. At the end of the day, you don’t need to be conservative to survive here.
Anyway, functional civil services, sophisticated infrastructure, diverse facilities and late night shopping don’t define joy. Joy can be made out of any shit moment. And that’s something we have got going very well in this country.

T: What do you like and dislike about Dublin, Irish people and the country?

A: I have always been bothered by and enjoyed narrow mindedness. Can’t live with or without it. But as I said, you can always find open minded people to do things with. And it’s exciting to see Ireland becoming quite open minded, e.g. first country to have a referendum for gay marriage.

T: In which field at college did you graduate in, and is that related to sustainable development in any kind of way?

A: I studied Business & Chinese for my undergrad, after having spent some time in art college. I studied a masters in Rural Development, and have postponed my thesis for the reasons of understanding sustainability in the first place.

You want to hear more about the concept of sustainability and Allan´s work on that? Wait for the second part of our Doorknob interview! I might have heard that Mondays and Thursdays are great days for telling Irish Doorknob stories …

PS: Oh and by the way – it was Allan that told me about the assumption that Irish men are the most attractive men worldwide on my first evening in Dublin. There seems to be a smart study which you can read more about here: If that assumption can be confirmed or not – everyone has to decide themselves, I guess! Irish doors are really pretty, though.