Humans of IHS: Omar Aboutaleb

Humans of IHS is a mini-portrait series that features the people who make IHS a unique place. Many of the urban professionals with common roots at IHS, often describe it as a very welcoming, familiar space, where they not only acquired valuable knowledge for their career, but also formed solid ties and friendships with their peers. This is what drove us to create this mini-series: the wish to give others a glimpse of the amazing people that make IHS special.

Omar is currently doing the Infrastructure & Smart Cities Master track at IHS, Erasmus University. He is a Cairo-based architect and urban researcher with a current focus on social sciences and urban inequalities.

"I dream of equal and just cities where citizens have their voices heard and appreciated. I believe being an urban manager will equip me with the necessary tools to advocate for the unseen, marginalized and deprived."

Although he didn't get enough chances to experience the Netherlands during corona, Omar mentions the enormous social support of his IHS colleagues as the most memorable moment at IHS. "We were complete strangers, and then we became a family." He also appreciates general acts of kindness, from how someone would volunteer to help with Dutch translations to people randomly smiling at him on the streets.

His favourite part of being part of the IHS classroom is the diversity of his colleagues and the freedom the professors give them. Even though everyone comes from a different place, they are always open to help and share everything they know. "I feel this is such a blessing! Our teachers don't constrain our creativity or how to express ourselves in our work. We are always welcome to choose, talk and even object freely when necessary."

When asked about the most significant urban issue he would solve, he highlights urban injustice in mobility and biking. "I am currently focusing on bikes as equality tools. It has environmental, economic and social benefits, and nevertheless, its users are marginalized."

At last, the one thing he couldn't live in the Netherlands without is his plants, he says.

"I get overly excited about their newly born roots and leaves. It is the feeling of growth, satisfaction and creation that I wish for myself, you know?"

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