Teasing Ahmed Al Shurafa, CEO of Phoenix, his friends keep changing the pronunciation of the word ‘Phoenix’ making it an O, as in phone, instead of an E. This might sound like a trivial thing to people in general; however, to Ahmed, Phoenix is more than just a name for his company. It is part of his dream, who he is, and everything he has dreamed of.
“The legend of Phoenix has always inspired me. Have you ever seen a Phoenix rising from the ash of its predecessor? Not in real life of course” he chuckled, paused then said, “It’s beautiful – breathtaking. It’s like sitting by the window during autumn watching nature around you dying, and waking up two seasons later finding everything around you has bloomed,” he said as his eyes twinkled.
Phoenix is a company that is interested in making Virtual Reality applications. The most recent of which is the making of Al Aqsa Mosque. For Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip, this sacred place is not an area easily visited. Palestinians are not allowed to go pray there until they are really old – old enough to die at any second. “I have always wanted to go there. To Jerusalem. To pray in the Aqsa mosque. As children, we heard stories about that holy place from where the prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him ascended. We heard stories about how since its occupation many young men and women fought for its protection. We heard stories about the Dome of the Rock. About the details of the walls,” Ahmed said explaining why he chose to create Al Aqsa Mosque in 3D.
“Such stories remain part of our memories wherever we go and no matter how old we become. I have seen pictures of that place, I have spoken to people from there – and it always made me want to go there even more. If I cannot be there physically, I’ll make the place come for me instead. I started working on a 3D version of the Mosque; I had to talk to so many people who went there and I had to watch so many videos about the place so that it would be as real as possible,” words rushed out of Ahmed’s mouth as he passionately displayed his application.
Ahmed knew how difficult such work is, but he was driven by his emotions and determination. His absolute trust in the love he has for the Mosque. A creative, intelligent, young man saw the doors around him locked, so he created his own world inside. “Al Aqsa Mosque is just the beginning. I believe that this technology can help save the educational system! Why tell students about the Second World War when we can make them an application that could take them there! Why bore the students with abstract thoughts about geography when we can let them explore the world on their own! Ever wondered how your heart looks like when you meet someone you love? Ever wondered how babies grow inside their mothers’ wombs? All of this can be achieved through Virtual Reality applications. Go wherever you want. Whenever you want. You don’t even need a seat belt,” he added.
Ahmed’s tone was filled with love and life. He spoke about the obstacles that hindered his work, and how with the support of his family and the ones he loves he was able to overcome everything. “There is only one thing I wish I could do: add the scent of an early Fajr (morning prayer) while wandering around the Mosque from my house. That would make it perfect,” Ahmed gently smiled, “I only hope that one day I will be a true Phoenix,” he continued.
What Ahmed does not know is that he has already rose from the ash of generations past and this time he is going last, for he has proven himself worthy of being remembered as the person who made the dream of a million people, i.e. visiting Al Aqsa Mosque, come true.
What once seemed impossible, Ahmed the Phoenix, has made real – in 3D.