Justin Linds, Alberto Marchioretto

An interview with Engy Aly

"There are much, much more Arabs and Muslims than I have ever seen in my life outside of an Arabic country."

July 2010. Engy has been living and working in Amsterdam-Noord for a few weeks. She was kind enough to share her first impressions, and tell us a little bit about her background.


Engy along the Keizersgracht - July 2010. Engy Aly is part of the Mapping for Tourists design team. Picture by Lars Wannop. Engy Aly is part of the Noord design team. Picture by Lars Wannop. Lars Wannop

Met: Engy Aly

Where are you from?
Cairo, born and bred.

Do you like living there?
Not anymore. I experienced too many things, and then all the good things got taken away. It's not easy. The things that should go a certain way don't go a certain way. And I go out and try and make them go a certain way. I'm a little... idealistic. I always try to get things done properly, which never happens. I always get stressed out. But now I've found out that certain things can only get done if you're protected.

You have to either have a lot of money or a lot of connections. It's just run run run with nothing properly done.


Female Owl by Engy Aly - Engy Aly

Is Amsterdam what you expected?
No, it's very different. I thought it would be less green, for one. But the big surprise is the amount of Arabs and Muslims. There are much, much more than I have ever seen in my life outside of an Arabic country. They're not Egyptian, though. In the north they are mostly Turkish and something I don't understand. I think they're either Iraqi or some dialect of Palestinian. I don't know what language they speak.

What do you think of the project?
I really like it, I think it's super cool. Especially because I've never done anything with mapping. It will be really interesting to do something totally new.

What is your role?
The graphic design team is collecting the content for the tourist guide slash artist book. We're collecting stuff from the process meetings, the information you need in a travel guide, as well as the mappings we think should be there. Plus we collect the artists' work. There will be other stuff, but I don't think we know yet what. KJ is the big boss.

What have been some past projects of yours you're especially proud of?
Last summer I did a project called Breaking Boredom with five other artists and a curator. The project was built on the exquisite corpse concept of the Surrealists back in 1930 something. Mahmoud participated as well. You would do a 50 cm by 35 cm illustration, whatever you had in mind. Then you would send it to Foula, the curator, who would cut 5 cm horizontally off the bottom. That piece would be sent to someone new, and that person would add 35 cm to it. They could only see the bottom 5 cm and have no idea of what's going on... It was really nice. I think they're online. There were 12 posters in the end. We all partook in it eight times.

What did you study?
I study applied arts and graphic design. There are 3 major universities. Mine was private, somewhere out of the city in the middle of the desert.


Breaking Boredom - Breaking Boredom is an exhibition curated by Ahmed Foula showing the collaborative artistry of: Engy Aly, George Azmy, Hani Mahfouz, Ibrahim Eslam, Mahmoud Hamdy and Mofa. Cairo: The Townhouse Gallery. Picture found on Ganzeer.com Ganzeer

If you want to know more about Engy and her recent projects, check her Dripbook profile.