Ayman Baky is a name that everyone knows in Egypt. The Cairo-based entertainment tycoon has singlehandedly reshaped the North African country’s hospitality sector one restaurant opening after another. A graduate from the American University in Cairo, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, Baky has enjoyed a successful career that spans more than 15 years. The entrepreneur is the brainchild behind the award-winning sushi joint Kazoku and buzzy Mediterranean eatery Sachi, which was recognized with the Luxury Life Style Award in Dubai in 2016. His latest venture, Shinko, is a swanky, Japanese-inspired lounge nestled in Cairo’s luxurious Swan Lake Compound.
But before he dipped his toes into the world of restaurants, Baky was renowned for shaping Egypt’s nightlife. It all started in 1994 when he organized his first-ever party at the Mohamed Ali club, drawing in 400 guests. “The feeling I got after its success was indescribable,” recalls Baky. “I knew instantly that this is what I wanted to do.” The businessman would go on to work odd events up until 2002, when he decided to launch White, his first ever bar. Most ventures were extremely successful, such as the ultra-popular Tamarai, and others, not so much. “It was all a journey of trial and error from which I acquired so much experience,” muses Baky.
In 2013, he founded Baky Hospitality, and decided to transition from nightlife into fine dining. After the Egyptian Revolution and its subsequent economic recession forced Tamarai’s closure, he decided to take on Sachi as a tiny 80-seat restaurant in an upscale small neighborhood. “I had no intention to grow, however, opportunities came like no tomorrow.” In fact, the eatery became so successful that Baky decided to open another branch outside Cairo, on the North Coast of the Mediterranean Sea, entitled Sachi by the Sea. Despite the implications that followed the upheaval, the revolution proved to be beneficial to Baky’s business ventures. “The idea of opening a restaurant-cum-bar in Heliopolis wasn’t even an option in pre-revolution Egypt,” recalls Baky.
Here, in a new multi-brand shoot, the Egyptian mogul champions homegrown design talent, sporting a number of dapper looks from labels such as Hoxton House, Moscova, HUWA, Sams, and Baraka. Each ready-to-wear or accessories brand has roots in the businessman’s home country, with the shots captured by Milan-based, Egyptian photographer Ämr Ezzeldinn. Read on to see more from the shoot, as Cairo’s top entertainment and hospitality mogul opens up about his personal career highlights, go-to labels, and advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs.
On His Personal Career Highlights
“As a student at the American University of Cairo, I always wanted to put Egypt on the international hospitality map. Having received international recognition and witnessed the Egyptian flag rise in these events makes me very proud of the accomplishments we have made.”
“What came after the revolution was a nightmare in so many aspects. Oblivious to its consequences, my family and I panicked, and began to take decisions to leave the country and invest in Dubai and Greece without actually planning, analyzing, or researching correctly until we failed and lost all our investments in both countries.”
On Work-Life Balance
“Life is all about finding the proper balance, from family time, to sports, entertainment, traveling, and work. I usually spend one to two hours in the early morning working out before work. I spend about five hours in the office with the team, revising details on how to sustain consistency and loyalty to our customers. The rest of the day I spend with my kids and my wife up until 9pm. After the kids go to bed, I go to my restaurants for quality time with friends, sometimes with my wife, and at times alone.”
On His Go-To Labels
“I would best describe my style as understated eccentricity. I tend to keep my look original, modern, and classy. Given the amount of social events I have to attend, I make sure to always look smart and neat to leave a lasting impression on my guests and friends. My favorite designers are DSquared2, Dolce & Gabbana, Paul Smith, Valentino, and Salvatore Ferragamo. In Egypt, the fashion scene has emerged tremendously and we have very talented young men and women producing local designs that are very good quality with great creativity and cuts. I have been trying some of them from suits, shoes, and accessories over the past year, and I am very impressed with the outcome.”
On His Fashion Inspirations
“I might mix and match different styles together, of course, but if I was asked about the one thing that inspires me, it would probably be excessive traveling and dining at high-end restaurants and bars around the world, as I observe my competition. I am also a big football fan, so I draw inspiration from football players who have great style and follow the trends.”
On His Advice For Young Professionals
“Working with a passion is so much greater than working to build an empire and sell out. We work to satisfy our own needs and not financial needs. Focus on what you love, if you fall and fail, fight for what you believe in and what you love, because through your brand you will send out a message to the world. My life motto is to have faith in what you do, spread love to the people around you and be humble at all times.”
Photography: Ämr Ezzeldinn
Style: Aisha Youssef
Project: Flare PR