Under a bridge One may see a lot of things. One may see a dumpster but he saw a place of great value. Beside the Nile River in the heart of Cairo in one of its most sophisticated cultural enriched cities "Zamalek" where the Cairo Opera House, a lot of art galleries and the main office of the ministry of culture are located.
You see a shelter for the homeless where drug addicts and outlaws and beggars reside; he sees a cultural treasure buried under tons of garbage underneath the bridge.
Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder; the beholder I refer to here is Mohamed Abdel-Moneim El Sawy; the son of the Egyptian novelist, former minister of culture and journalist Abdel Moneim El Sawy. He is an architect with a vision; he looked under the bridge and saw a cultural center. A haven for those who want to satisfy their thirst for all kinds of art and culture and that's how the first non governmental cultural center in Egypt was established 6 years ago.
El Sawy CultureWheel or Sakkiat Al Sawy is a private cultural center. Its founder Mohamed El Sawy named it after his father's five-part novel series: "El-Sakkia" or (The Wheel). And the connotation that the ongoing Wheel is meant to never seize to satisfy those who are thirsty for culture is intended.
It wasn't exactly a smooth ride; at first Sakkia goers were very few. Sometimes they had concerts with almost no audience. But the fact that they weren't aiming for profit made things easier and made them more tolerant and patient. With time things got so much better and the place became very popular; now Sakkia goers go up to more than 20,000 visitors monthly and its website receives approximately 150,000 visitors every month .
The CultureWheel has become a very popular place to go to especially among youth which is very ironic; as the young Egyptian generation was criticized for their lack of interest in anything remotely cultural in nature. But El Sawy proved that when you are creative and put the effort to present something genuine out of respect to your audience then and only then you can get their attention and interest. El Sawy reached a hand with something new and creative; the Egyptian youth were turning their back not to culture but to what insults their intelligence.
One of the things that helped increase the popularity of Sakkia greatly and ensured its unmatched success is that Sakkia opened its doors to the Egyptian youth from all the different backgrounds and social classes. There is no discrimination whatsoever and they make sure that it is financially affordable for everyone to attend all their events. They also welcome all the new bands, artists and performers of all kinds to present their art in Sakkia with no fees at all not only that but also Sakkia is responsible for promoting their performance.
Mohamed El Sawy wouldn’t stop at that, he has big dreams for Sakkia. His future plans include making the CultureWheel even better than it is already and he hopes for opening a lot of branches for Sakkia all over Egypt to nurture culture everywhere.
CultureWheel restored our faith in the fact that culture is not necessarily mundane. Sakkiat Al Sawy broke the stereotype we have of cultural centers, before Sakkia we had the image of art galleries which are only attended by the sophisticated elders. El Sawy presented street culture; culture of the people by the people and for the people. A simple, genuine and utterly creative approach to culture that is not in any way condescending attracted many; the young and old, the rich and the poor, the liberal and conservative all with one thing in common, their thirst for culture.