My family migrated from Egypt in the late 1970s. My uncle first, and then my father came to Milan as migrants to find a job and an opportunity to help their family in Egypt. My grandfather died young and his two elder sons did their best to support the rest of their siblings in getting an education and having a decent life in Cairo. My parents got married in Egypt – they were friends at university – and my mother moved to Italy without a permit to stay. They decided to relocate to Venice where they found jobs in the tourism industry. After I was born, my parents decided to send me to my grandmother in Cairo, where I spent my first few years. I returned to Italy a couple of years later when my parents obtained a permit of stay.
Many people see the status of an immigrant as a weakness, but I have tried to leverage my participation in two different cultures and turn it into one of my biggest assets. Being a foreigner in the northern region of Italy was not always easy—there are still some biases toward Middle Easterners, but I did my best to maintain ties with my country of origin: I learned Arabic, and completed an internship in Cairo which focused on international business in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region. Being part of two cultures and different worlds is a great competitive advantage in my career. That was what really made me distinctive and boosted my path to success. Rethinking my identity and redefining myself not as an Egyptian who had to migrate to Italy, but as a European, who understands the Middle East and its complexities, was a tipping point. I participate in Egyptian culture and traditions through my family, but have also tried to become part of the country where I actually live.
Now I maintain my ties to the Middle East both through family and my work as Special Consul at a law firm in Milan. Orrick often assists Italian companies that are investing – directly and/or indirectly – in Egypt and vice-versa. However, the most important success achieved in working between the two countries was a case in which we, with the support of many friends both Italian and Egyptian, helped a child heavily burned during the 2011 turmoil to receive medical attention at the University of Padua.