In the words of Samia ElKhodary: “Being a part of Rabeha programme transformed me into a goal-oriented business owner.”
As a passionate adventurer who lives in a land of ancient wonders and modern marvels, Samia ElKhodary found an untapped market in culture and art tourism. Eager to showcase Egypt’s rich heritage and vibrant art scene, the 32-year-old entrepreneur launched Qahrawya, a unique tourism company that offers a different perspective on the country. With the support of Rabeha joint programme, Samia is now able to scale up her business and contribute more to Egypt’s tourism sector.
“Egypt is a country overflowing with cultural heritage and fascinating stories. While the pyramids and sphinx stand as monumental testaments to history and cannot be missed, I feel that Egypt’s conventional tourism is limiting and does not paint a complete picture of the country. That is why I created Qahrawya, a tourism company that organizes cultural and artistic walking tours around Cairo to explore its hidden gems.
The idea came to me gradually during my time as a business analyst in a global firm. Whenever we hosted visitors from abroad, I helped them organize tours around the city and I tried to suggest unique experiences and they always had a great time. As more and more people, both foreigners and locals, began to ask me for recommendations, I decided that it is time to take it to the next level and establish my own tourism company.
Qahrawya's journey began with a single downtown walking tour and as more people joined the fun, I started introducing more tours, including one for cinema, studio photography, art, Armenian heritage and much more.
Although my bachelor’s degree in business and economics was a great asset that helped me with Qahrawya, I was still struggling with many aspects to grow my company. That is why when I learned about Rabeha’s programme, I felt that it would give me the boost I needed to grow my startup even more.
Any small business owner would tell you that being your own boss is not always the easiest thing and it requires a lot of discipline to complete needed tasks on time. Being a part of Rabeha programme provided me with a structured track and transformed me into a goal-oriented business owner.
I used to dream big, now I plan bigger. I developed the habit of outlining my yearly goals and outlook for the company down on paper with detailed action plans, instead of just thinking about them as I used to do. By developing a clear plan, I became committed to achieving my goals and it served as a progress tracker, allowing me to tick off achievements and celebrate milestones.
Finance was another major challenge for me because, although I had all the numbers I needed, I just could not get them to make sense and felt that I was lost and all over the place. During the training programme, I learned how to create a balance sheet and income statement correctly. I also learned all the tips and tricks of categorization and labeling. Now, I am much more organized and can track everything that goes in and out of the company.
Apart from the technical training received, Rabeha’s financial support was a great asset for me, especially since I was actively seeking funding to build a team for Qahrawya as I was still a “one-woman show”.
With the support of the funding I received from Rabeha, I was able to hire around 20 part-timers who have now become my second family. Together, we are working on creating new tours, organizing more events, and growing Qahrawya.
A new project we are working on, thanks to the programme’s financial support, is the Qahrawya’s website. We are currently in its development phase and will hopefully launch soon. The website will provide us the space to gather all of our services and tour details on one platform. I am sure this will offer a better customer experience and help us promote our tours better.
Although it is hard to pick a certain moment that stands out during my entire journey with Qahrawya, our five-year anniversary celebration was a special moment of pride for me. I am proud to be leading my amazing team and to have grown this company for the past five years. I am also especially proud to be contributing to shaping the tourism scene in Egypt and helping people discover the hidden gems in Cairo.
Moving forward, I plan on adding more tours to our portfolio in addition to establishing a sister company specializing in "experience-driven" traditional tours that redefine Cairo sightseeing. I am also planning on branching out to other cities in Egypt so that everyone can have the chance to see the true charm of this beautiful country.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my journey is that patience is key to success. I would have accomplished nothing and Qahrawya would have never been born if I had quit at the first obstacle I faced. Realizing your dream demands dedication, perseverance and commitment, and with time you will eventually achieve your goal.
Samia is one of 6,300 women who participated in the “Women’s Economic Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Egypt” programme known as “Rabeha”. The programme aims to enhance women’s economic empowerment through increased access to employment and/or self-employment opportunities, by providing capacity building, development support and financial aid to women entrepreneurs, jobseekers, private sector companies and investors.
Rabeha programme is implemented by UN Women Egypt and UNIDO Egypt, in partnership with the National Council for Women (NCW), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (MSMEDA) with the generous support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC). The training programme that Samia joined was delivered by Nahdet El Mahrousa.