Syrian Business Visionary Strives to Boost Entrepreneurship: Abdulsalam Haykal

The World Economic Forum named Abdulsalam Haykal (right) a Young Global Leader. (Photo source: America.gov)

An article was posted recently on America.gov website about Abdulsalam Haykal, CEO and Publisher of Haykal Media (and its subsidiary, Forward Magazine).

Titled, Syrian Business Visionary Strives to Boost Entrepreneurship, here is an excerpt of the article:

20 April 2010

Syrian Business Visionary Strives to Boost Entrepreneurship

Technology, publishing, business growth in Abdulsalam Haykal’s repertoire

This article is part of a series on delegates to the April 26–27 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.

By M. Scott Bortot
Staff Writer

Washington — If Abdulsalam Haykal has his way, Syria someday will be known as a regional technology hub led by a dynamic work force.

The young Syrian entrepreneur is no ordinary businessman. Haykal works actively to improve Syria’s small-business growth while running Damascus-based software firm Transtek and Haykal Media publishing house.

Haykal is president of the Syrian Young Entrepreneurs Association and a founding trustee of the BIDAYA Foundation, two organizations dedicated to empowering aspiring business people in Syria. In recognition of his business development activities, the Obama administration has invited Haykal to attend the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship April 26-27 in Washington.

For the full text, click here.

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Buy Shares in the Syrian Dream

By Abdulsalam Haykal, for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews). The original article can be viewed at http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=26077&lan=en&sid=1&sp=0&isNew=1#.

I spent summers as a young boy in Damascus, while my fellow Syrians were flocking to my coastal hometown of Tartous to savor the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the heat of Damascus, my summers there were always special.

The Damascene diversity was riveting. Every Friday morning, my grandfather let me tag along during his weekend ritual of shopping for antiques. We would stroll along Medhat Pasha, better known as the biblical Straight Street, moving slowly from one shop to another, eyeing the colored-glass vases, rubbing smooth brass plates and ogling intricate pearl-inlay chests.

Grandpa and I laughed a lot as we shopped for antiques. Some of our biggest belly laughs were with Jamil, an elderly Syrian Jew whose shop was near the Al-Efranj Synagogue, an active place of worship even today. We would stop by the monumental Umayyad Mosque, where the faithful gathered for Friday noon prayers. Inside the mosque, Grandpa once lifted me up to peer through the bars of a shrine said to contain the head of John the Baptist, known to Muslims as the Prophet Yahya.

My grandfather, Faisal Sabbagh, loved Damascus’s history. But he was not stuck in the past. When he was not out searching for antiques, Grandpa was a neurosurgeon who had trained at Columbia University and later established Damascus University’s neurosurgery department in 1949. The generations of medical doctors he taught still remember him as their role model.

My other grandfather is still vibrant at 93. A celebrated entrepreneur and a long-time community leader, I’m proud to be his namesake. He articulates his wisdom through witty poetry and fascinating stories, looking down at the prevailing patronizing attitudes. He teases my father about his passion for high-tech photography. Grandpa bought his first camera in France in the late 1920s, long before the era of digital cameras, and took photos of the National Boy Scouts, which he led in Tartous. He rejoices in his memories of the Scouts demonstrating against the French occupation more than 75 years ago, reminding me that all adversity comes to an end sooner or later.

Talk to young Syrians today and you will find that they often have similar family tales of history, tradition, resistance and innovation. Many have roots in far-flung corners of the world. Similarly, people around the globe can trace their roots to Syria, which was considered by some to be the geographic centre of the world, as well as the heart of the historic Silk Road connecting the Asian continent to Europe.

Many visitors confess that they feel “at home” in Damascus. That sense of belonging is due to an amusing anomaly: any visitor can find a Syrian who looks like them! We are a blend of cultures that triumphed over our ethnic and religious identities to form one nation. Yes, we have a distinct Arab identity and a rich Islamic culture. But we also have a powerful Christian heritage, a Mediterranean character, and a proximity to Europe.

Syria and its capital, Damascus, are sometimes themselves thought of as antiquities, remnants of an illustrious civilization that never quite made it to the present. But for the thousands of us born in the 1960s and 1970s, Syria is a very different nation than even a decade ago. We often feel we have an unprecedented opportunity to flourish.  We are committed to the rebirth of the “Syrian Dream”, empowered by a distinct sense of belonging and sense of duty.

Syria is an ancient nation propelled by a new, technology-savvy generation of young entrepreneurs. We have a vision of what we can be and have set the course to implement it. Countless people in government, civil society, business and the quiet heroes among ordinary citizens work hard against all odds, as we seek to be makers—and not only seekers—of peace. In a world as unstable as ours today, it makes sense to buy shares in this Syrian Dream!

At a recent World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in Jordan, I, along with 200 young adults from around the world named as Young Global Leaders, shared our stories and plans for a better world. I had an opportunity to tell government officials, entrepreneurs and activists about the contemporary global perspective that now thrives in Syria, nurtured by a heritage that gives Syrians the confidence to advance into the 21st century.

At the Dead Sea, I also realized I was not just a proud citizen of Syria, but also a proud citizen of an ever-changing world–just as my grandfathers intended me to be.

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* Abdulsalam Haykal is a Damascus-based media and technology entrepreneur and a social activist. In 2009, he was selected to be one of 200 Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Paolo Coelho tells Syrians: My writings are influenced by your Sufi tradition

In Paolo Coelho's first-ever interview with a Syrian media out let: My writings are influenced by Sufism, prevalent in Syria
In Paolo Coelho’s first-ever interview with a Syrian media out let: My writings are influenced by Sufism, prevalent in Syria

Paolo Coelho tells Syria’s Forward Magazine he is influenced by mystical Islam brewing in Syria

Paolo Coelho, the Brazilian writer who invaded the world stage with his thundering book The Alchemist , the source of inspiration for many around the world, told Syria’s leading English-speaking magazine, Forward, his writings were influenced by the Sufi traditions of Islam – mostly based is Damascus. Coelho made his debut in a Syrian media oulet last March, emphasizing his great admiration of Sufi figures, such as the famed Sufi dervish and love poet, Jelaluddin Rumi.

“Indeed, Sufism has inspired me a lot throughout my life and I refer to this tradition in some of my books such as The Alchemist and more recently The Zahir. Rumi is of course the first figure that springs to mind. His teachings and visions are incredibly subtle and clear,” Coelho told Sami Moubayed, the known Syrian political analyst and editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine.

Sufism, being the mystical order of Islam, is a natural part of Syrian life, with dervishes and Sufi Sheikhs from around the world considering Damascus as their spiritual center and homeland. Mostly populated by followers of the Naqshbandi order, Damascus is home to the tomb of Ibn Arabi, the widely studied Sufi leader and author of the Meccan Revelations, celebrated by Western scholars as one of the most enigmatic publications to date. Sufism is a non-violent spiritual path towards understanding man’s relationship with God and his/her fellow human beings, through the power of Love. Most of Syria’s Muftis (Religious Leaders appointed by government) are Sufi.

Coelho also revealed that the Arab character (Sharine Khalil) in one of his recent novels is inspired by a real person, from whom he weaved the threads of a story he was longing to tell; referring to it as the “feminine side of God.” Coelho said he believed that the strength of influencing people comes from the freedom contained in each one of us – whether Muslim, Arab, Western or Latin. When writing the Alchemist, Coelho was under the influence of Spirituality, which in his opinion came from curiosity. He believes that whether you like it or not life itself is a pilgrimage, a concept widely shared by Sufi thought and approach.

The interview appeared in Forward Magazine’s issue of April 2009.

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About Forward Magazine:

Forward Magazine is Syria’s leading English monthly, published by Haykal Media. Our ‘writer’s list’ includes names like David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Hala Gorani of CNN, and Riz Khan of Al-Jazeera International. We have also had cutting edge-interviews with leading figures from the political world. Our CEO and publisher, Abdulsalam Haykal, was recently named by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a Young Global Leader, as the first Syrian ever to deserve the title.

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