A Woman of the World: Yasmine Shihata's goal to build bridges between East and West

07/24/2017 08:44 pm ET

In today’s political climate, it’s pretty obvious that the perspective of those looking to mend tumultuous cultural gaps with impartial thread is necessary. It can be an American, looking to shine a light on how keeping an open-mind is the only way the human race will truly survive. Or it could be from the other side of things-- those who feel discriminated against because of preconceived notions or a ridiculous travel ban. One powerful woman taking on this progressive role is Yasmine Shihata. Born to one of Egypt’s most respected individuals, Dr. Ibrahim Shihata,  Shihata was raised in both Vienna and Washington D.C., granting her valid standpoints from every angle of personal experience.

Shihata is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Enigma Magazine, the Arab world’s leading English language print and online publication. She has also organized some of the largest, most influential events highlighting the glamour of Arab culture that isn’t typically recognized in other parts of the world.

At the very start of her career, Shihata took part in internships with both Vogue and Marie Claire in London, and worked for nearly a year as Anna Wintour’s assistant in US Vogue (“I grew up very fast working with Vogue, it was an intense experience.”)

In 2000, Shihata launched Enigma Magazine.

“I grew up abroad and had gone to London for University, so I had this naive view of my country Egypt...that it was all fun and sunshine, and that I was going to create my own magazine.  Obviously, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. But after some trials and tribulations, we established it. We were the first lifestyle magazine to be published in Egypt, so we got a great deal of attention. It became popular at a more rapid pace than any other magazine because it truly captured the readers’ imagination. We highlighted a mix of high-society, celebrities, entertainment, art, and fashion in a way that nobody had done there before. Egypt is the Hollywood of the Middle East, and it is the center of art and culture, so we had so much to offer. Very soon after our first year, we expanded circulation to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and London.  In 2002, we set our events program in motion, starting with Cairo, then London in 2003. In 2005, we had a dazzling, unprecedented event at the Great Pyramids of Giza, celebrating the magazine’s fifth anniversary with Bryan Adams performing.”

Every year Shihata’s elegantly extravagant events gained a larger following, a highly anticipated line-up and increased sponsorships. For Enigma’s tenth anniversary, she brought in singer, Kylie Minogue, to perform at a party for over 2,000 people at Egypt’s Pyramids’s magical venue. After the Egyptian revolution, she focused her events in various cities, including Dubai, London and Los Angeles, and gained incredible traction in the Arab and overseas markets.

“We called our LA event, a “Celebration of Arab Glamour and Success” and flew in Arab celebrities and a prominent Saudi Arabian Princess as guests of honor, and hosted it at the beautiful Montage in Beverly Hills.  With each event, our aim is to promote a better understanding and appreciation of our culture in America by showcasing Arab art and culture and Arab success stories. This August, we are having our 3rd such event, and we’re bringing Tamer Hosny, a very popular Egyptian singer and actor, basically the Justin Timberlake of the Middle East, to perform at the renowned Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  This will also be the occasion for the first Hollywood handprint with an Arab star.”

Shihata’s events aren’t put together for the sole purpose of entertaining important people. Both the magazine and the events focus on bringing Arab entertainment, glamour and success to light. They showcase the other side of the Middle East; the rich cultural side that is mostly unknown and unappreciated in the west. And that’s what divides cultures. “We like to highlight examples of success in different fields. We’d like to show Americans the beautiful facets of our culture,” Shihata comments.

“This is important. I think America is going through a difficult phase right now, and the question is, how much damage to mutual understanding between cultures will be done during this phase? That’s what I worry about. It’s sad when there is so much damaging rhetoric being heard. There are many incredible things happening all over the world that are not being recognized due to this fabricated fear of the other. Our goal with Enigma Magazine and our events is to build bridges. We want to make a positive impact on mutual understanding between peoples and cultures.”

You can learn more and check out the magazine by visiting www.enigma-mag.com. The 3rd Celebration of Arab Glamour and Success event will be August 7th, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California, followed by Hosny’s ceremony on the 9th at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre.

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