Asrar El-Nafs is a brand new podcast that revolves around mental health. Being the first Middle Eastern celebrity mental health show and the first-ever mental health podcast in Egypt, Asrar El-Nafs invites celebrity-guests to tell stories about mental health in order to raise awareness and help those in need.
We are glad to have been part of the episode that featured Egyptian actress Tara Emad, and we’re also excited to let you know more about the amazing team behind such a project.
We had a very fruitful talk with Aly Salama, Khaled El-Masry, and Hana El-Sadat about their wonderful collaboration that brought the podcast to the light!
Aly Salama – Asrar El-Nafs Founder and Host
1- Tell us about yourself!
My name is Aly and I’m a pretty weird 23-year-old guy who considers himself an empath yet a highly driven person on a mission to make empathy – what I was once mocked for having a ton of – go viral. I’m also an ex-pro swimmer. Swam for El Gezira Club Egypt, El Nasr Club, UAE, and Richmond Hill Aquatic Club in Canada. The highlight of my career was swimming in the world championships in Dubai in 2014!
The one thing that many people also don’t know about me is that I’m a singer. My childhood dream was actually to become a singer until one day I was clinically diagnosed with major depression. I realized then after having recovered that was my mission and message was to spread awareness, having gone through an extremely difficult uphill cultural battle.
2- Where did the idea of “Asrar El-Nafs” come from? Why is the focus around mental health?
The idea came when the World Youth Mental Health Conference we planned for Feb 2020 went bust due to COVID-19. So we needed to come up with an idea NOW to make up for the built-up awareness that we were going to have with all the celebs we were going to invite then.
Our World Youth Mental Health Conference is happening now in the form of Asrar El Nafs podcast and lives with the most influential people in the MENA Region.
As for why mental health, it’s simply not talked about enough in Egypt and I really wanted to shine a light on how important it is -especially during the current world pandemic and all the stigma around COVID-19, which definitely affects a lot of people’s mental wellbeing.
3- Why did you want it to be a podcast and not a show – even though podcasts in Egypt aren’t that popular?
Mainly, because I wanted to use my experience in podcasting to bring something new and beneficial to the country! I honestly knew it was going to be a little bit of a struggle to get it up and running. But I also knew that having celebrities featured can turn the podcast into a video show and can also highlight how powerful and advanced podcasting itself is.
The entire show is a mental health campaign and fundraiser. We’ve been working with Neya to raise funds for youth’s mental health in Egypt. The main idea is to create a platform where they can find mental health awareness videos in Arabic. Our main aim is to be able to hold educational workshops all around Egypt.
4- How and based on what do you pick the celebrity guests?
We only base our podcast on celebrities who have mental health stories they can tell as well as those who have used mental health services. We owe our listeners the responsibility when it comes to the integrity of the show, which is why we’re only trying to tell stories that are real, raw, and vulnerable.
5- Tell us about your experience so far and what the journey of bringing this project to the light has taught you.
This is a very unique experience that simply taught me that people really fear what they don’t know. And many of us are sometimes subject to hate when we try to be different or stand out. For example, my command of Arabic is not the best and I get worn down by comments highlighting it when new podcast episodes are out. But I always tend to sit back and reflect on how this is what the show is all about. It’s about educating people on differences, judgments, and most importantly, mental health.
6- What’s next for “Asrar El-Nafs”?
We’re aiming to transfer the podcast to YouTube and create like a video-podcasting series; you’re going to be seeing at least six more episodes in the future. And there might be some professionals joining the show as well. So, we’re still working on how to make the most out of the content that we have while looking for sponsorships and corporate collaborations for the near future.
Khaled El-Masry – 199X Co-Founder and Managing Partner
1- Tell us a bit about yourself and 199X!
I’m the co-founder and managing partner of 199X digital. We are the youngest Digital Marketing and Communications agency in the region. I started the agency in Dubai in 2018 when I was only 21 with co-founders Ziad El-Kady and Omar Shaheen. I’m now 23 years old.
We started off as an agency that offers social media and management and content creation, with clients from the Middle East; in Egypt, Saudi, Kuwait, Dubai, and Oman. We’re currently also working with international clients and handling global accounts. Because we’ve built our credibility with our clients – we work with them as a team, they trust our vision. And our end goal is to help them develop their businesses and services.
2- What did you like the most about the idea of “Asrar El-Nafs”?
We’re all youth leaders in a sense and we want to empower youth – by all means. So when Aly first approached us, we thought that it could be a very beneficial opportunity from a business perspective, of course, and for awareness. But mainly, for the love of the youth and for the beauty of the collaboration, we wanted to give back somehow.
We want to set examples that youth can present something that we’re lacking in Egypt; awareness about the importance of mental health. We wanted to show people that collaboratively, we worked hand in hand to host such a podcast; bringing in big names from Egypt and the Middle East to actually give their advice and tell their personal stories about mental health.
3- The podcast and the fact that the discussed topic is mental health is proof that the youth of today are becoming more aware of crucial matters in the world. What do you think?
I’ve personally come across a lot of mental challenges in the past few years, being a 21-year-old still studying and starting my own business alongside my partners. We all had so many challenges that started to affect us mentally and so we began to educate ourselves about mental health. So now, we try to give back to the youth in need of a helping hand.
And to answer your question, youth, these days, are more aware of how you need to surround yourself with an environment and a culture that can actually respect your thoughts, values, vision, creativity, and help you reach your goals and become a better version of yourself. Which also goes back to your own mental health; and this is the idea behind the whole show.
Hana El-Sadat – Neya Platform CEO & Founder
1- Tell us a bit about yourself and Neya Platform! What do you guys normally do as an entity; how did you start?
Neya is a facilitator and a marketplace for charity. It’s my dream to make charity accessible and easy to all. Accessibility makes people more likely to give back, and more likely to be engaged. There is so much potential in the market and our aim is to bring all these entities together in one place because together we are better.
2- In what ways are you contributing to “Asrar El-Nafs”? Where do the donations go? And apart from the podcast, where do they usually come from?
Asrar El-Nafs is currently on our events. One of Neya’s features is volunteering events and regular development events. On our app, users have access to listen to the podcast and learn more about what it’s all about. Through the podcast we have an ongoing fund called the EMPWR fund; the fund is supported by the Neya foundation to help facilitate workshops on the ground support for mental health in Egypt. To be the start of several events and support to the youth and community at large.
Donations come from our community and from those who are passionate about the cause. There are a lot of people who want to do good and support and we just help make these opportunities easier to find.
3- What drew you in and made you want to take part in producing “Asrar El-Nafs”?
We started working with Aly a year ago for EMPWR. We started on our marketplace, then our events, and today we have a full-on campaign. To have such a partnership speaks volumes about the support we can give anyone trying to make a difference. I’m very proud of this partnership because Aly is the perfect example of how youth are changing the world and trying to make it a better place especially for his country and from a distance.
4- What’s your favorite thing about the journey and collaborative work that led to bringing such a different and unique project to the light?
I love working on different fronts, at Neya we live off collaboration. It is what gets everyone in the office excited and offering their creative juices. Asrar El-Nafs is an addition to a bigger picture. When the idea was first proposed we cheered it on the full-throttle because it is always important to understand the power of a platform. A podcast is a platform for people to listen and so is Neya. This project has undergone its own process, and to see how it’s changing and growing to reach its goal is very impressive.