Hashem Montasser, Founder of the The Lighthouse Restaurant & Concept Store in Dubai Design District, is a raconteur who avidly follows the work of arts, culture, technology and, of course, food. In a series of conversations aimed at introducing its audience to the Middle East’s entrepreneurial landscape, Hashem asks his guests about their life journeys, inspirations, successes and failures and everything in-between. New episodes available every second Wednesday.
“Nothing is more important than the founder.” Khaled Talhouni on his journey from venture capital to supporting startups with Nuwa Capital
This week we dive into the world of venture capital and startup investing as Hashem catches up with Khaled Talhouni, Founder and Managing Director of Nuwa Capital, a Dubai/Riyadh-based investment platform he set up with partners Stephanie Nour Prince and Sarah Abu Risheh. Hashem and Khaled discuss his journey in the early days of venture investing in Dubai and why he prefers investing in a startup rather than operating one. Khaled shares his views on identity politics and the startup ecosystem in the Middle East vs. Silicon Valley. Hashem and Khaled also talk about what goes into supporting a startup and why the founder is the most important part of the equation.
A glimpse into the Careem mafia
Why software is eating the world
“I had a feeling of hybridity that I wanted to both capture and express” Hashem Montasser on his journey from Wall Street to building The Lighthouse from the ground up
This week we reunited with one of our favorite podcast guests from 2020, Fatafeat founder and overall renaissance man, Youssef El Deeb. Having met last summer just as The Lighthouse reopened post-lockdown, Hashem and Youssef formed a bond over chocolate cake, books and a shared nostalgia for Egypt’s ancien regime. In this episode, the tables were turned with Youssef playing host and Hashem as the guest in the hot seat. Through Youssef’s thoughtfully penned questions, Hashem talked about his childhood in 80’s Cairo and the journey from becoming one of the only Egyptian traders working on the trading floor during the Wall Street era of 1990s in New York, to planting the idea of a concept store cum restaurant and establishing The Lighthouse in 2017.
“When it comes to homegrown concepts in Dubai, this is only the beginning.” Sandy El Hayek on Dubai’s F&B scene & how to play it for the long haul
This week Hashem caught up with Sandy El Hayek, the newly minted General Manager of Dubai’s Time Out Market which launched in April in collaboration with Dubai mega developer Emaar. A veteran of Dubai’s F&B scene, Hashem and Sandy talked about her childhood as the daughter of Lebanese immigrants in Halmstad, Sweden, how her family dynamics influenced her passion for work (and good food), and the rudimentary 7-star wine service experience in Dubai that led Sandy to pack her Scandinavian bags and expand her career in the UAE. They also discussed Sandy’s particular interest in homegrown concepts & why she sees organizational culture as an integral part of her career path.
“The artist’s box doesn’t have to be small or exclusive.” Maha Maamoun on her multidisciplinary art practice and the importance of making art accessible to a wider audience
In today’s episode, host Hashem Montasser, a collector of Middle East art, catches up with multi-disciplinary and award-winning Egyptian artist Maha Maamoun. Maha expands on how her series “Domestic Tourism” and “Cairoscapes” came about and shares the fascinating stories behind the composited photographs. Hashem and Maha discuss the importance of displaying art to a broader audience within public spaces which has led to The Lighthouse’s acquisition of some of Maha’s artworks which are currently on display at our new Mall of Emirates outlet. Maha elaborates on her process as a multi-disciplinary artist, and how the exclusivity of certain art spaces and her desire for access to a wider public led to the creation of the publishing initiative Kayfa-Ta with her contemporary, Ala Younis.
“Curiosity is a blessing and a curse.” Manal Ataya on why curiosity became an essential trait in navigating her career as museum director.
In our first episode since Ramadan break, Hashem is joined by Manal Ataya who, as the Director General of Sharjah Museum Authority, sits at the helm of 16 museums documenting and consolidating the cultural heritage of the region. They discuss the “inner workings” of a museum director and why Manal finds curiosity and hunger for knowledge so essential to success in her field. They also talk about the subject of mental health which sits at the forefront of the post pandemic era. Manal speaks candidly about her own personal struggle with anxiety and being diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). She reveals that the book “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” helped inspire a change of perspective for her to not only embrace some of the positive outcomes of an anxious mind, but also use it to her advantage as a tool that fuels her productivity.
‘Preserving our heritage is to preserve ourselves.’ Designer Nada Debs on the inspirations of hybridity & true craftsmanship, plus creating her own contemporary design language.
On this week’s episode we caught up with friend of The Lighthouse, furniture and product designer Nada Debs. Coming from a lineage of Lebanese textile traders who settled in Japan at the turn of the century, Nada grew up with a sense of dissonance as one of the few Arabs/Muslims in Kobe. She chronicled her journey from booming 1980s Japan to Civil War Lebanon to Rhode Island and how each part of the journey influenced her designs, reiterating the importance of heritage and hybridity. Nada also shared her experience collaborating closely and exclusively with skilled craftsmen to produce her designs, and the inextricable link between craftsmanship and spirituality.
[WhatsApp our team](https://wa.me/971585953034) if you would like to inquire about the Nada Debs 'Refraction' mirror collection which is sold at The Lighthouse, Dubai Design District.
A breath of fresh air
These are interesting, free flowing, and honest conversations about art and culture in the Arab world. A niche subject perhaps, but quite accessible to the curious novice while managing to hold the interest of those with a little more exposure.
Reviewing the host/interviewer
Hashem is a natural conversationalist with a healthy curiosity and the occasional probing in pursuit of the essence of the story.
Deeply rooted in the oral traditions of storytelling in the region, you’ll find fluidity to the interview, and when a Segway is warranted, Hashem will add his narration/editorial note.