One of the most talented and lesser-known of Disney’s Imagineers passed away in 2015. Thankfully for all of us, Julie Svendsen preserved some of his precious memories just a few months before the tragedy struck.

Julie Svendsen: When and where were you born?

Hani El-Masri: I was born in Heliopolis, a residential area east of Cairo, which was originally built in the proximity of the ancient Heliopolis, or Oun, which was the theological center of ancient Egypt and is almost 7,000 years old. I was born on September 30, 1951, and was not expected to survive, so my parents waited for a few days just in case they had to do the birth and death certificate at the same time. They finally declared me born on October 5, 1951. My mother and father taught French, and so they decided to teach me the French language before the Arabic language since I was going to learn Arabic once I started having a normal social life in Cairo. This helped a lot, because later on in life most of the art books were written in French, which were easier for me to read and this gave me an advantage over my fellow citizens.

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