Through social media, ECOFFEE Founder Norman Cescut was following my various ecological trips worldwide, and soon asked me if I was interested in doing sustainable business with him.
I told him: “it is not as easy as you think. You should know me first, meet me, and see inside me, because as a title Sheikh, it is not about investment or material wealth; it is about ethics and morals, and I wish for you to understand this.”
Norman decided to take the risk to visit me in Ajman. We agreed on 3 day visit to experience and discover our journey to live, to know, to reflect and to be inspired more in actions. Nothing personal, but to engage how we practice our faith, culture, business, and how we network and socialize with local and international people.
Norman experienced most of my daily life: family, business, charity, and faith. The experience really touched him deeply. He agreed we are all human beings with many similarities, but with different choices and tastes. My friend Norman expressed his impressions of my small world with the following story.
“This is a man I absolutely have to know”
It was a nice February morning in Dubai when my attention was captured by an article published on BuildGreen magazine. It was about Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al-Nuaimi , member of the ruling Royal Family of Ajman, UAE. I was struck by the words of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, also known worldwide as the Green Sheikh, who uses his influence and connections to create a better world through faith, charity and sustainability.
I said to myself: “This is a man I absolutely have to know.” And thanks to his openness, this happened at the end of May.
He agreed to meet me in a three-day long meeting in Ajman, suggested where to stay and set up a flexible schedule to adjust his previously scheduled meetings. My idea was to share with this big influencer all the information, projects and ideas which form ECOFFEE to have his highly reputable opinion about.
The Green Sheikh’s world
What happened was that I did not only have the opportunity to have the Green Sheikh commenting on what I have been building during the last year, but he also wanted me to join all his meetings and conference calls, introducing me to his world. And it is a big, very interesting one.
As you might guess, I was a little bit intimidated when I first met him, but he was incredibly welcoming and down to earth, letting me feel at my ease straightaway.
“Come with me, I show you the Al Ihsan Charity Centre.” He guided me to Centre, introducing me to his office manager Mr. Khalid, a smart and clever young future businessman, and Dr. Haki before leaving for an important meeting. Dr. Haki carefully explained to me what the center is about.
The Al Ihsan Charity Center provides financial, health and other support to 9,000 families, 25% of whom are local Emiratis. Each afternoon food is distributed to those who are in need. I was speechless and said to myself:
“This is a great man who speaks with his actions, not only with wise words”.
Dinner with the Green Sheikh’s kids:
Back from the meeting, the Green Sheikh drove me to his house to have dinner with his kids – can you imagine how honored I was to be welcomed to his house too? After a delicious meal, we sat down in the living room and it was my turn to start talking to introduce him ECOFFEE.
The knowledge and expertise of the Green Sheikh about the issues of sustainability and responsibility, much wider than mine and at a worldwide level, brought a new perspective inside the ECOFFEE project.
Surprise was not over that day, because our conversation had to be interrupted for a scheduled conference call with Terry Waghorn, CEO of Katerva, a charity organization registered out of the United Kingdom which delivers the Katerva Awards—the pinnacle of global sustainability recognition – and which acknowledged Sheikh Abdul Aziz among its Goodwill Ambassadors for his ability to take his ’holistic living’ message to the world, activating his moral networks worldwide and galvanizing people of all ages, religions and backgrounds. I was invited to assist at that conference, during which the Sheikh showed once again his being a great, “down-to-earth”, big influencer.
The day after, Sheikh Abdul Aziz had to attend the GITSI conference. GITSI is the Global Initiative Towards a Sustainable Iraq. He did not change his schedule because of my presence. Much better, he kindly asked to change the conference schedule to allow me to introduce ECOFFEE to all the participants. That was a great opportunity given me by Sheikh Abdul Aziz.
All his support and sharing really made me understand what he meant by ” I am following the core values of an Islamic philosophy based on appreciation and respect. My holistic living message describes one as being connected to the daily circle of life; balancing the spiritual, the intellectual, the physical, the emotional, the aesthetic, the environmental and my own inner peace to help spread peace throughout the world and in the process achieve wisdom.”
The conference was over and the time came to pray. The Sheikh Abdul Aziz wanted to share with me that experience too, allowing me to follow him at the Mosque, another great new experience I have to thank him for. He told me: I will teach you the Wudhu, how to act in the Mosque and how to follow us in the prayer movements, but you will be totally free to pray to yours and our God. Another sign of his open mind.
Meetings with big influencers and great inspiring conversations took place the last day too, and again the Sheikh introduced me to his world and network – reinforcing my belief that it is possible to create a better business, a better life and a better world through collaboration, sharing and deep respect.
A more detailed version of this post first appeared on Norman’s personal blog.
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