Picture by: Ahmed Waleed
Are you an explorer? Do you believe that travelling is one of the most important things in life and you’re always up-to-date with anything related to travelling? If so then you are probably familiar with the name Heidi El-Sohdy aka Farfoura.
Heidi is the first female Egyptian solo traveller, the founder of I Travel and the International Youth Federation’s regional director of the Middle East and North Africa. (Wow that’s a long name)
We were lucky enough to get to have an interview with her to get to know more about her and what she’s doing.
In the beginning, if I asked you to describe yourself in 5 words, what would they be?
Stubborn, self-confident, chicken-hearted, responsible, very ordinary
Tell us about your first trip abroad and where did the idea of being a traveller come from?
My first trip was a school trip to England and France when I was in grade 7. Personally I never sought to be called a traveller but the media and the people gave me that title and so I added it to the page later on, but I like to travel whether I have a title or not
France and England huh…*remembers dream park and cries*
Okay but a lot of people in Egypt now try to travel and go everywhere, so what makes you so different from them?
I started travelling 4 years before creating I Travel but what made me different is that I decided to share my experience with the very exact details with the people. My first goal was to comfort the people and assure them that travelling is something very normal and it doesn’t need an expert. I’m never embarrassed to show that I make mistakes or that face some difficulties too, on the contrary, I always talk about the problems I face in a comedy way so people would understand that every problem has a solution and that there is no reason to be afraid. And I believe that actions speak louder than words so talking to the people or going on a live broadcast on Facebook while I’m lost and then going on another Facebook live when I arrive to my destination is always better than just telling the people not to be afraid if they get lost.
Other things also make me different; whenever I’m travelling I make the people live the experience exactly as if they were the ones travelling. A lot of people like me because they believe that I’m very ordinary like them and like most of the Egyptian girls. I have been everywhere with my ordinary hijab and I haven’t changed at all. Not my attitude, the way I dress or even the way I speak.
You keep mentioning I Travel a lot, so what is the purpose of this page?
The purpose of I Travel has and will always keep developing depending on the people and what they need. In the beginning, the only purpose was to share simple stories and situations with the people. But then I started using the page to explain the steps of travelling and how to prepare for it. I even upload pictures of the bills of food and transportation. I decided to tell the stories of my trips in some episodes which didn’t really succeed because of the shortage of time but I plan to share those stories in a book. I also try to make some simple competitions from time to time and the winner gets travel for free with or without the help of a sponsor. I even launched Farfoura’s Riddles in Ramadan! But the main idea now is that I no longer travel alone, whenever I travel I am with 190,000 people seeing the country through the lens of I Travel.
Well excuse my lack of knowledge but what exactly is the International Youth Federation? And what do you do there?
The IYF is a global youth organization like many other international organizations and it’s a part of the United Nations and it is responsible for making projects that help the youth of the world. I entered the federation at first representing Egypt and after 6 months I got promoted to be responsible for 19 different countries rather than just one.
So what do you do in the time when you’re not travelling?
I do my main job as an accountant, I work for the federation, I work on the page and the website and I Travel a lot inside Egypt for the lectures and events which became a main part of my life.
And what are the best and the worst moments that you faced while travelling?
My favorite moments are always when I meet people from I Travel whether they’re inside Egypt or outside and whether it’s a planned meeting or if it’s a coincidence. People who meet me abroad always welcome me and want to take me on a tour in the country. The worst moment was when I was standing in line in the airport waiting for the bus that is going to take us to the plane going back to Egypt from Istanbul. It was 2011 and there were huge political fights between the people and unfortunately some Egyptians had an argument with a loud voice and I automatically found myself covering my passport with my hand because I didn’t want anyone to know I was Egyptian.
Okay now at the end of the interview wave to your fans and tell them whatever you want to say
Most people who talk about travelling love to exaggerate and say that it changes your life. Travelling does not change your life, nor does anything else and nothing will ever have an effect on you unless you decide to change. There are those who travel and come back with no change at all, those who come back worse and who come back better. Travelling is not a magic lamp, but effort and persistence on succeeding are the magic lamps to any success in life.
Find out more about Farfoura and her next trips by following her here.