Written by Fatma Kheir
26-year old Ayman Elshahed, who has studied business administration, knows very well what he wants from his trip to London, which is organised under the Active Citizen programme of the British Council. Ayman had already participated in the Active Citizen workshops in December 2011. In 2012, he carried out his initiative "Together for a United Family" in Imbaba district, Giza governorate. Ayman knew of his opportunity to go to London to meet up with other members of the Global Citizenship Programme (GCP); so he decided to come up with as many innovative solutions as possible, being part of the role played by members in their respective countries to solve existing problems in their communities. This was not all; Ayman realised that the problems were hindrances that could occur in his community whilst carrying out his planned projects, and saw in his trip a golden opportunity to acquire ideas as well as innovative solutions for potential problems. This had already happened.
"Utopian City" is the idea for Ayman’s next initiative, after having successfully carried out the initiative "Together for a United Family", in Imbaba district. He realised that the community needed more; hence his idea for a new initiative that he temporarily called "Almadina Alfadela" - the Utopian City. Ayman dreams to carry out this initiative across the country; however, he will start at the slums in Imbaba, El-sharrabeya, and El-saff. He has been obsessed with the idea since he watched the famous TV series "Yowmeyyat Anees" - the daily diary of Anees - where he saw the father's dream of an ideal family and society. He hopes that the Utopian City would provide the ideal model in Egypt, and that each area would have a local volunteer government that includes as many committees as Egyptian ministries. From these committees, development initiatives would emerge for the environment and for all the different classes of the community - a state-like community with integrated services provided by an organisation, an institution, or any other entity.
Ayman dreams to turn the Utopian City into a real community that he sees taking shape in the famous Orman Park, where people could meet to come up with solutions for their problems, arrange cultural trips to ancient areas and the multi-religious compound in old Cairo so that they can learn about their country's history and discuss religious tolerance. He carried more dreams on his way to London, seeking the means to realise them. He did not know that he would return to Egypt not only with all the solutions he was looking for, but also with a greater determination and stronger conviction that his dream is feasible, as he witnessed a model called "Charity Republic" in two English towns.
“Charity Republic" is an already existing model in the towns of Sheffield and Hernhill, where people exchange in-kind services. The idea quite matched Ayman's dream, as he found it applicable to his Utopian City; so he decided to include it in the initiatives he plans to carry out upon his return.
Ayman says that he discovered a new set of values during his trip, organised under the GCP, to visit Britain, especially after attending a session of British Parliament. Some of these values are: The values of civilised debates that, despite divergence, were free from intolerance or harshness; the wish to apply oneself regardless of age; the ability to co-exist despite religious, cultural, and traditional differences; and the way of solving problems by seeking solutions, rather than isolating oneself and avoiding inclusion.
Ayman went to London carrying a dream, but he came back convinced that his dream could come true. He believes that despite the diversity, co-existence is a reality and not an illusion, and our society has a genuine opportunity to advance and catch up with a world that has moved beyond these traditional problems.