In this new series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.
Mona Siddiqui: Welcome everyone to the first in this series of one regret, one hope. My first guest is Firas Ibrahim. Firas welcome.
Firas Ibrahim: Thank you very much for inviting me to your first chat. I’m the Regional Director for the Middle East at Edinburgh Global. I originally come from Syria and I came to the UK in 2001. My whole family still lives there.
MS: Do you still think of Syria as home?
FI: It’s a very strange thing – it used to be home number one and now it feels like Edinburgh is more my home. When I go to Syria, it’s part of my heritage, it’s me, it’s where I started but I was 26 when I came here so in a few years’ time I’ll have lived in the UK as long as I lived in Syria. The last 20 years have been really great here.
MS: So with less travel at the moment what have you been doing during the last few months? Have you developed any other interests?
FI: Yes! Working from home has given me freedom in the morning. I’ve always had a passion for creative writing, but I never really had the chance or time to do it. Now I feel like a different avenue for creative writing has come to me.
MS: Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
FI: Mostly through real characters; I get characters or people or personalities and things that really happened and I join them together and just see what comes out.
Actually Mona you were one of the first people who encouraged me to write, I never thought I could do creative writing and you were the first person to read the first paragraph. I remember texting you saying, “What do you think?” and you didn’t text back, you didn’t email, you called me, and you said to me “Keep going. I want to know.” and that maybe felt like a simple thing to you but it was massive for me.
MS: Do you think that writing has helped you cope with lockdown?
FI: I think, hand on heart, it’s not only helped, I think I couldn’t have done it without writing. It’s been an outlet for a lot of things.
MS: If I was to ask you to think of the last few months, or even years, what would you say has been your biggest regret?
FI: I have lots of regrets but the latest one is not booking the last flight available in February 2020 and going to see my mother. She’s elderly and not very well and I was supposed to visit her back then. I wouldn’t have dreamt that we would be where we are now.
When my father wasn’t well, at the height of the war, he wouldn’t let me come, he thought the risk was too much and he passed away and I never really saw him. We spoke on the phone every day, but looking back now I think why didn’t I just book a flight for a week and go.
MS: And what’s your one hope, for now or for going forward?
FI: I’m very very hopeful about my writing. I want to take up writing properly alongside my work. I feel there’s a lot I want to say. I want to set up my own blog and just see where that takes me. Every time I think of a new story it’s a new life, a new beginning and it’s been a life saver.
MS: Your stories will definitely some day be published, I’m sure, so when you’re a bestseller, don’t forget that it all started here.
Photography: Yao Hui