Ahmed Kady is an Egyptian entrepreneur, a graduate of fine arts and an avid art collector. He’s traveled extensively and lived in New York, Miami and London. He now resides on the island of Zamalek in Cairo.
He is the founder and creative director of Icon Branding, Third Space Zamalek and Maward. Third Space specializes in art deco and mid-century modern restored furniture as well as contemporary Egyptian art, and, has quickly earned it place as one of the go-to places for interior designers and clients looking for unique and rare pieces of furniture from the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Maward, his latest venture which is scheduled to open before the end of the year, and will sell luxury bedding, table linens and home-wares using sustainable Egyptian fabrics and bric-a-brac made by local craftsmen.
Let’s explore Ahmed’s perspective, intruding in the mind of a nostalgic soul with a passion for what culture & vintage art can bring to human emotion.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
A lot of things, quality time with friends and family, Nina (my dog), museums, flee markets antique hunting and old Cairo magnificent homes where I love spending time browsing and admiring how simple and refined the life of its previous owners has been.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
One of the earliest memories I have is of me at my grandmother’s spending hours and hours with a small sketchbook and crayons drawing. I’d ask for nothing, no toys no balls just the sketchbook and crayons. I’d draw the sitting room but change the colours of the walls or the view from the window or the chair where she sits with the side table and lamp. Then as I grew a bit older my mother with my aunt would take me along to auctions and explain to me what was happening, although I wasn’t any older than 10 years my love of antiques and nice things was clearly starting! My grandfather was an artist too and I spent many summers at his studio watching him and trying to copy what he painted. I guess a little bit of all of this is why I find myself doing what I love today.
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS
Black and white movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s, old grand homes of Cairo and Downtown Cairo architecture, these all are my point of reference. I love walking into an empty room and just letting it speak to me. Visiting at different times of the day when the light changes, imagining the colours and fabrics I’d use.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
We are currently working on an amazing residential project in downtown Cairo. It’s an old apartment building dating back to 1936 and one of the most famous in that area. It’s a huge project and we had to do a lot of research to understand what it was like when built so we could restore it to its former glory.
THE BEST THING ABOUT EGYPTIAN CREATIVITY IS
The diversity! Egypt has it all, name any style of architecture from any period and you will find amazing examples of them all, from Alexandria, Cairo to upper Egypt. All of these influences the artists and craftsmen of this country. Egypt was a melting pot of so many nationalities and cultures till very recently. A lot of the workshops we work with at Third Space were previously owned by masters of their trade from different nationalities and their apprentices run it now with the same traditional techniques that have been handed down.
BEST STATEMENT OF EGYPTIAN HUMOR
Humor is one of Egypt’s soft powers. Egyptians and not shy about making fun of themselves, it’s a coping mechanism that helped them to survive even during tough times. The one I like is a proverb “e3mel min elfeskh sharbat” meaning the one who can make sweet drink out of a rotting fish, Egyptians love to exaggerate!!
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO EGYPTIAN CREATIVES
You need to come to Egypt and spend time here browsing the stores and meeting the talent. Searching online is never enough. If possible, make contacts beforehand who can take you to the places you wouldn’t find alone.
BEST PLACE IN CAIRO
I have so many! But old Cairo will always be my favorite. With its amazing grand houses it’s a wonderful place to walk around and reminisce.
BEST PLACE IN EGYPT
Where to start.. the north coast, with its stunning beaches. I go with friends to relax there and Nina loves being on the beach and in the water. Also, the white desert, Siwa oasis and Aswan.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT EGYPT, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD IS
I’m always shocked and surprised when asked is it safe to come to Egypt because it really is one of the safest places in the world. One can walk safe at any time day or night in Cairo. The city doesn’t sleep!
EGYPT SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR
It’s people! No matter where you live or what your background, people here love to show how creative they are. Plus, I’m constantly surprised by the energy and creatively of our youth who make up 70% of the population now. They are so full of ideas and dreams.
YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY
Live and let live!
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
It’s a means to an end. Money doesn’t bring happiness, but it gives you choices.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
Here I would say anything from the past is worth exploring. It surprises me when I meet young people who refuse to watch an old movie from the 30s or the 40s or read a classic novel. What we learn from the past will help us shape the future.
AN EGYPT BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT
Weam elMasry she is an exceptional artist with lots of courage and talent. I love her work, because it’s so powerful and raw…nothing like it.
Check out Third Space Zamalek, here.