There is always an opportunity for a beam of light

MSR scholar, 2013


My name is Mohamed Bassem Elfeky. I am a 30 year old Egyptian architect, currently doing my MA at TU Eindhoven and TU Delft.

After having completed my bachelor’s degree in architectural studies at Cairo University, I gained my professional experience by practicing architecture with two reputable and international companies operating in the MENA region. This experience provided me with a great opportunity to experiment the different phases of an architectural project, whereby one needs to take into account different factors linked to society, culture, possibilities and know-how before realizing a project. This aspect of architecture fascinated me and turned me into a firm believer that architecture goes way beyond the basic need for shelter and incorporates many other aspects that sometimes are overlooked.

During that time, the reputation of Dutch architecture was evolving. Many pioneering Dutch projects and architects were offering out of the box solutions and architectural manifestations and becoming increasingly visible.

I decided to start spending a big chunk of my free time to read and try to understand the different methodological approaches behind such successful and ambitious solutions. Through my research, a whole world of incredible architecture, design, art, fashion… integrating positive cultural awareness into their work opened to me.

Revolution had started in Egypt. And my country’s motto of the time was a motto for myself: Don’t wait for someone else’s first move, take it yourself.

I believe that my country today needs an intelligent strategic development, it needs rebuilding politically as well as on many other aspects of society. This was the point where I took the decision of continuing my post-graduate studies in the Netherlands; and my first option was TU Eindhoven. At the time I was curious to test my capabilities. I decided to apply and was happy to get an admission for the course of my choice. Unfortunately however the tuition fees were too high for me and my father had just passed away, which made it impossible for me to start my MA that year.

Fortunately however the university provided me with the option of deferring my admission by one year which allowed me the time to search for a scholarship. Although I was not very familiar with the scholarship procedures and was skeptic about the results, I nevertheless decided to take my chances.

Then one night, after a long working day, I received an email from the Lutfia Rabbani Foundation informing me that I was one of the Mahmoud Salim Rabbani scholars of that year. That night literally constituted a turning point in my life, my dream was becoming a reality and I was able to begin my MA in the Netherlands.

Upon my arrival to the Netherlands, I found a great support system from the Foundation. I was constantly invited to a wide range of events that were organized by the Lutfia Rabbani Foundation and received a very warm family atmosphere that I felt offered a smooth transition into my new Dutch world.

On the educational level, I found that the study programs tackled real time challenges, that the creativity and technological life were very active, and that no limits were set for innovation and research on all levels and disciplines.

The architectural study is very time consuming as I follow courses between the TU Eindhoven and Delft, while periodically visiting the Academy of architecture in Amsterdam, free design exhibitions, debates and events that are constantly taking place and accessible.

However, the high academic profile of the Netherlands makes it an attractive study destination for students from all over the world, helping in developing communication skills in an international environment with a large amount of international students every semester from all over the world.

As for the Netherlands, I found a democratic community where acceptance and respect is the main feature. The culture provides support to people coming from diverse communities while accepting their background and habits without interference.

In my experience, the Dutch are very aware of the Middle East and are always open to ask questions and know more about it, as most of the media provides a short in-site of what the MENA region is about. I constantly try to rectify most of some misunderstandings, give lots of reassurances, as I try to reflect the image of the place where I grew and lived, where civilization before me has inhabited, evolved and developed.

I find myself in the role of an ambassador of my region.

I hope that one day, with my knowledge and newly gained experience here in the Netherlands I can transfer such knowledge to our region and create a link between my country and the Dutch universities, diverting the interest of investments and research collaborations in-between them.

And, although people see the walls of hope may tremble somewhere, we must always think there is an opportunity for a beam of light.