Abdallah Sallam

Written by: Mahmoud Demerdash

Date: 2024-03-05

Unveiling the Insights of an Urban Visionary

Urban Visionary and CEO: Unveiling the Insights of Abdallah Sallam


In our quest to unravel the tapestry of monumental real estate endeavors, ambitious visionaries, and the creative minds shaping the industry, He Properties proudly launches its first edition. This magazine is dedicated to providing readers with profound insights into real estate, exploring the visions of realtors, investors, and their groundbreaking ideas.

At the forefront of this inaugural edition is an exclusive interview with Abdallah Sallam, the esteemed President & CEO of Madinet Masr, a company with a remarkable six-decade legacy. Against the backdrop of the timeless pyramids, we had the privilege of sitting down with Abdallah Sallam to discuss his journey, ambitions, and the evolving landscape of the real estate industry within Egypt.

Abdallah Sallam reflects on the honor of being the first featured personality in this new magazine, “I cannot wait for its potential to grow as impactful as your other titles, and it is an honor to be the first to feature.” As the conversation engages, the pyramids stand as a powerful symbol; Eng. Sallam, an enjoyer of history and philosophy, takes note of the Pyramids “mirroring the enduring strength and willpower of both humanity and the Egyptian people.” This setting serves as a poignant reminder of the industry's resilience and ability to withstand the test of time.



The Pyramids of Giza, situated on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, represent one of human history's most iconic and enduring architectural achievements. Believed to be constructed as tombs for pharaohs and accompanied by the enigmatic Sphinx, the Pyramids of Giza continue to captivate the world with their colossal scale, precision craftsmanship, and the mysteries that surround their construction purpose, and the advanced knowledge of the ancient civilization that conceived them. When asked what his feelings were sitting by the pyramids for this interview today, Eng. Sallam responded, "For Egyptians, our rich history is a source of profound pride, spanning an impressive 7000 years. The unique tapestry of our country's past holds a distinct place in history, unmatched by any other, making it an unparalleled journey through time that no other region can rival.” He continues by saying, “The pyramids transcend being mere symbols of status for our people; they stand as a testament to sustainability. They embody the perfect illustration of a structure that withstands the test of time, offering an unparalleled example of enduring strength and longevity." Such a prestigious structure evokes a sense of mystery; Eng. Sallam comments, “Even after an extended period, unraveling the mysteries surrounding the pyramids remains an ongoing challenge. The perplexity deepens as we contemplate how these structures endure through time without the aid of modern architectural elements like pillars. Moreover, the fact that they deviate from conventional shapes, being pyramids rather than cubes or rectangles, adds an extra layer of fascination to their enduring legacy.” Many contemporary structures fall significantly short, unable to approach even a fraction of the pyramid's timeless endurance.

In the conversation about the pyramids, it was observed that Eng. Sallam deeply appreciates retro architecture. When asked to elaborate on his love for retro structures, Eng. Sallam stated, “There's an intrinsic connection among them all—every building narrates a unique story, and each place carries its compelling tale, captivating people's interest. I find immense joy in unraveling the narratives behind these structures. My appreciation extends to the simplicity of minimalism and the intricacies of building interiors, making each architectural venture a source of fascination for me.” The notion that every building becomes historic upon an individual's entry is profound. It opens the mind to the many people who have come before, each with unique stories, creating a rich tapestry of humanity embedded within the architectural fabric of time. Providing examples of structures he finds remarkable, Eng. Sallam points out, “The Kaaba, both as a structure and a geometric cube, captivates my interest. While it may have only four sides, the narrative surrounding it lends a profound weight to its significance.” He further highlights “The spherical structure in Las Vegas boasts a massive diameter and incorporates cutting-edge technology. With its exterior functioning as an expansive screen and its interior serving as an arena, this structure's fusion of design and technological innovation fascinates me.”

Madinat Masr is a reputable company with a storied history dating back to 1959, playing a pivotal role in the developmental narrative of Cairo. Their impactful contributions extend to creating several iconic landmarks that have left an indelible mark on the city's history. When asked what makes the company so unique, Eng. Sallam recounted, “I gained insight from the firm by envisioning our projects in the next 50 years is integral to our vision for every undertaking. We consistently ponder the longevity of each project, striving to build structures that stand the test of time and become integral parts of the places they inhabit.” The practice of envisioning the trajectory of a structure over the next 50 years not only sets the tone for the firm but also encapsulates the essence of its profound aspirations and long-term objectives.



The real estate market in Egypt is vibrant, witnessing a surge in individuals exploring home and land acquisitions across the country. Given its substantial impact, buying a home often brings about nerves and anxiety, underscoring the magnitude of the decision. When people approach Eng. Sallam, regarding advice for home purchases, he recounts, "I frequently encounter this question: 'Where should I buy?' or 'What are your thoughts on this place?' In response, I always take a moment to step back and ask two fundamental questions. Firstly, I inquire about what the person truly desires – understanding their goals is paramount. Secondly, I emphasize the importance of considering how they wish to allocate their resources. Should the focus be on acquiring a home, investing in gold, or exploring other financial avenues? Is it about saving, wealth preservation, or securing a residence for oneself or future generations? Encouraging individuals, whether investors or homebuyers, to introspect their motivations is key to making informed decisions in the real estate market." Understanding what someone truly wants and how they intend to allocate their resources is crucial in guiding them towards a real estate decision that aligns with their long-term objectives, whether for investment, wealth preservation, or personal residence. These questions prompt individuals to consider their choices' broader context and implications, ultimately leading to more informed and tailored decisions in the dynamic real estate market.

When asked about home developers' place in the equation, Eng. Sallam explains, “Every home developer aspires to provide the best living experiences for people. They strive for excellence in construction by assembling top-notch teams for their projects. Visitors from abroad are often amazed by the mastery displayed in building and landscaping by Egyptian home developers. While the commitment is to deliver the best quality on schedule, it's crucial to recognize that each project serves a unique purpose – some designed for vacations, others for urban living, ensuring a diverse range of offerings tailored to varied preferences and lifestyles." He further provides insight on the contrast between different types of developers. “It's crucial to investigate the track record of home developers, but it's equally important not to underestimate new entrants. Every established home developer was once a newcomer, and these emerging developers are the driving force behind innovation in our industry. Closing the door on the possibilities they bring would mean hindering the dynamism and fresh perspectives they contribute to the field."



A term gaining traction in discussions is "real estate dollar," particularly about customs and tax matters. It denotes a specialized rate applicable to each business, highlighting the unique considerations and valuations within the real estate sector. When asked about the strength of the “real estate dollar,” Eng. Sallam informs, "Each industry grapples with unique challenges, and fortunately, ours fares comparatively well. While other sectors experience significant impacts due to factors like inflation, which can comprise a substantial portion of their operations, the real estate industry stands distinct. In our case, the dynamics differ, and the ripple effects are less pronounced. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that, for some businesses within our field, the upward trend in inflation has translated into increased expenses related to packing, storage, and transportation." He further continues by mentioning the effect materials have on assessing such value “Especially when sourcing materials internationally, the shortage in the dollar can pose challenges. The dollar's impact on real estate differs from that in other industries. Our industry involves specialized architecture, procurement, and logistics teams, actively monitoring and discussing market dynamics daily, particularly concerning prices. While the dollar does play a role, the real estate sector's strategic approach and constant market analysis help navigate and mitigate its effects more effectively than in many other industries." At times, price increases can occur independently of inflation or demand fluctuations. This can happen when a supplier faces a shortage of a particular material, leading to production delays. Eng. Sallam concludes, “The stability of the real estate dollar is contingent on the ongoing development and the underlying cost structure. Various firms employ diverse financial strategies, either relying on debt and financing or drawing fresh capital from entities, such as companies from the Gulf operating in Egypt. The influence of cost structures and financial instruments varies, shaping each company's business model size and duration of the development also play crucial roles. Different strategies are at play, with some companies strategically pausing sales to reevaluate their approach when faced with challenges, while others persevere, navigating obstacles without interruption."



Home prices have experienced a significant surge in the past couple of years, driven by robust demand and ongoing developments. A very pragmatic individual, Eng. Sallam prefers using data and history to better look at how our housing market will trend. He mentions, “We must delve into the historical data to initiate our analysis. Prices exhibit variations across different locations and markets, and observing the patterns reveals that a decline or stabilization often follows periods of upward movements, and it is essential for individuals not to worry overly. The norm involves approximately 20-25% price increases, particularly when demand significantly surpasses supply, as is the current scenario.” With the expanding population, the demand for housing is on the rise. Recognizing this trend, the government has proactively initiated measures to foster the development of urban centers nationwide. Numerous developers are actively engaged in substantial urban projects to address the escalating demand for housing. Eng. Sallam believes “there's an elevated demand as individuals increasingly invest in real estate to safeguard and grow their wealth by allocating their funds into tangible assets. While we anticipate a rise in prices, given the market's current volatility, we cannot anticipate the magnitude of these increases, with variations depending on the specifics of each project.”



As mentioned earlier, the government has played a significant role in developing urban centers and architectural initiatives. Being asked what the government could do to better support firms such as Madinat Masr, Eng. Sallam light-heartedly remarks, “It's always going to be an ongoing demand as things constantly change in our industry, and we will always be demanding new stuff as the market changes.” He further continues, “During a conference last week, I conveyed to my fellow developers that we don't need to rely on support from the government. Our sizable firm is adept at resolving its challenges, serving as a robust backbone that others can depend on. Gratefully, the industry is expansive, with consistent demand and ongoing projects.”. Eng. Sallam did mention one way the government could be by maintaining the current model of land distribution, a collaborative framework where the government supplies the land, and developers contribute innovative concepts. Eng. Sallam explains, “If the government could offer support, it would be most impactful by utilizing the model they use for land allocation. As the largest landowner in Egypt, the government's provision of land serves as the fundamental raw material for any developer. I strongly advocate for continuing this approach, which proves superior to other methods, ensuring the preservation and enhancement of this valuable model.”



As the President & CEO of a prominent firm, Eng. Sallam retains his identity as an urban developer, and his passion for the craft is palpable. When prompted to delve further into his deep appreciation for the art of building, he shared, "I'm a perpetual dreamer; my mind is filled with numerous visions. In Egypt's enchanting and hospitable landscape, a country brimming with beauty, I aspire to embark on projects that transcend time, resonating a century into the future. I aim to construct enduring structures and landmarks that people can reflect upon generations from now. Time evolves, and I'm driven by understanding the ever-shifting dynamics of demographics, keeping a pulse on evolving preferences. We focus on creating awe-inspiring creations that harmonize with diverse aesthetics prevalent in this region." He mentions Madinet Masr’s impact on him, "I take immense pride in leading a company of this caliber. Our customers find satisfaction in the brand and forge a deep connection, viewing it as an icon intricately tied to Egypt and its rich history. Our company's indelible footprint in the pages of history is truly gratifying." Madinet Masr is currently engaged in a significant project, working towards developing a new headquarters for themselves. Eng. Sallam chimes "We are in the process of constructing a new headquarters that will pay homage to our rich history and stand as an iconic representation of Egyptian architecture. This visionary project will be operational within a year and a half, serving as the central hub for all our innovative ideas and projects.”



As the interview neared its conclusion, it became imperative to address the pressing concerns of our times. The world is grappling with heightened tensions, marked by soaring prices and conflicts. The average millennial and Gen Z individual is currently grappling with this reality and experiencing anxiety about their future. Eng. Sallam provides comfort in pointing to our forefathers, "Reflecting on history, our grandparents and ancestors lived through challenges that may seem unimaginable to us, such as world wars and pandemics. Yet, life persists, and they navigated through those hardships, leaving a testament to resilience…. embrace each day and live fully. This country holds immense potential, and despite the challenges, it's essential to cherish and love it. Loving your country can manifest in various ways, including living abroad and contributing internationally. Don't perceive this as a discouragement from exploring life beyond borders. Being Egyptian is a beautiful identity; our culture is a positive force that can be shared and celebrated globally. We have demonstrated significant achievements abroad, showcasing the richness of our heritage." He ends with a final piece of advice, "Persevere with hope because when faced with challenges, what other options do we have? Shall we simply stay at home and do nothing? In the absence of alternatives, the only path is to persist. Moreover, never cease to dream, regardless of how small those dreams may be. Dreams possess the transformative power to continually reshape our perspectives and change the course of our lives."

Interview by: Amr Selim
Written by: Mahmoud Demerdash
Media Agency: Coxswains Cairo
DOP: Karim Khashaba
Creative Director: Nour Selim
Photography: Abdelrahman El Dash
Executive Producer: Youssef El Ghazzawy
Location: Kundalini Grand Pyramids