Happiness Project: Colouring the neighbourhood


Colours can alter communities: Mashrou El Saada (Happiness Project) is an initiative where youth create on the walls of Egypt’s popular areas.

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.” The statement was quoted by John Ruskin in the book The Stones of Venice but given a new meaning by the Mashrou El Saada team in several of Egypt’s governorates.

Mashrou El Saada is the name of an idea, which quickly turned into an organised project to change the features of the gray blurry areas, and turn them into colourful ones. A project that turned the shape of a range of popular areas, where it began in Darb El Saada (Happiness Path) in the Old Cairo district, after which it was named.

Darb El Saada

“Ever since we started a year and a half ago, Mashrou El Saada’s main aim has been to help provide psychological support to the people living in Egypt’s neglected slums as we believe that everyone deserves a bit of happiness and colour spread their way,” explained Hashem Rafat, an architecture student and founder of Mashrou El Saada.

“The idea started where I used to work in street performances in popular areas, in order to revive the Egyptian heritage there. That was the way which facilitated to me getting to know the people there, where staying with them for long periods enabled me to identify the different ways to entertain and please them without the need for high fund raising or major development projects, all it takes is a touch of coluor that will cheer their hearts,” Rafat continued.

“Proceeding from the idea of the colours; we started informing our team, which now consists of 13 members, most of whom are architects. We tried to design a colourful decorations for the alleys of the popular areas in Egypt, which represented in the ancient time the old Egyptian heritage, then had been subject to poverty, changed and disappeared.”

Sharing Happiness

There is a huge psychological deficit in our society, one that seems to increase as the years go by. This psychological deficit is most apparent within Egypt’s neglected slums. The people living in these areas hold strong communal values and seem to form a strong connection with the places that they live in, yet just like their inhabitants, these streets have been neglected throughout the years and have become a shadow of their former selves. Mashrou El Saada’s main aim has been to help provide psychological support for these people, by spreading color and cheer throughout these areas, attempting to return them to their former glory, and trying to take an active part in these people’s lives when they can.

Nadine Waleed, one of the team members, explained, “The idea was all up by Hashem, who wanted to help people in a different way other than the financial one, thus raising up their spirits and at the same time by a means we as architects can offer. We have studied how to use colours to affect people’s attitudes and we thought it’s time to apply these studies.”

“The first place we have visited was Darb El Saada lane. Initially, people there were suspicious and couldn’t understand what are we doing and why we do it, but when we went again for the second and third time, we were welcomed warmly and children participated in painting with us,” she added.

The day Mashrou El Saada started

Mohamed Rabea’, one of the team members, also said, “We aim for our contributions to deal and correlate the psyche and soul. We designate paintings of carefully-selected colours and uplifting designs to inspire happy thoughts and enrich minds.”

“It’s marvelous! Everything is changing around us here. We appreciate what those youth are doing for our place and consider it a good action. We are happy for their presence as much as the children are,” said Hassan Elsaid, one of Darb El Saada inhabitances.

The project has changed the entire spirit of Darb El Saada, Jiddawi lane, Bab Elkhala’, and other popular areas, which the Mashrou El Saada team gave a colourful touch of joy. The most recent project of Mashrou El Saada was to paint ‘Abdelsalam Kereem Manor School’ which is located in Fayoum. The event was made in collaboration with Benebny Hayah, ‘We build life’ and Master Crafter. The event was carried out under the name ‘Coloring Fayoum’.

“We would like to thank all those who came and participated, the event was a huge success and we made the place much happier and more colorful, and it wouldn’t have been this successful if it wasn’t’ for your huge effort,” Mashrou El Saada’s Facebook page stated.

The idea of Mashrou El Saada is not limited only to colouring and painting walls. The Mashrou El Saada team also clean up the streets and restore some of the walls and the houses’ ceilings. In addition, their work is typically peppered with a musical break.

Mashrou El Saada’s team is heading to Hisa Island for a makeover in partnership with Euroquarzo, the leading Italian-Egyptian paint company, and to take spreading happiness to one of the most beautiful places in Egypt. Mashrou El Saada is traveling with their volunteers to Hisa Island on a mission to colour the houses of this beautiful island. Hisa Island is one of the oldest islands in Nuba and they are now ready to bring happiness back to this place.

Nadine Waleed added, “We hope that everybody join us in all of our upcoming events so we can help spread that joyful spirit throughout the areas that need it the most. We have uploaded a volunteering application on our Facebook page, so that whoever interested can easily fill it in and join.”

To find out more, visit Mashrou El Saada’s Facebook page.