After fleeing his home in Baghdad in 2004, Project Souvenir Founder Yasir Dhannoon traveled across the Middle East, collecting souvenirs. His souvenirs are the faces of the friends and families who opened their doors to him and the rich culture of the Middle East – where even in its darkest hours continues to produce art and culture. Throughout the years, Yasir has worked in technology, media and fashion all around the world, started the first Dubai Fashion Week, designed and managed the fashion and lifestyle website Stylecaster.com in New York City which got nominated for a Webby! Yasir brings to the table a wide range of experience and networking opportunities in the NY fashion and tech world.
My name is Yasir. I am an entrepreneur, a product developer living and working in New York City.
Growing up in Baghdad, I always dreamt of having the freedom to travel the world and live life to its fullest potential. In Iraq, this was nearly impossible. Living through war nearly my entire life prevented me from even considering that my life could be full of possibilities.
I fled Iraq in 2005. I left my home, my family and everything I knew behind and became a refugee.
I traveled across the Middle East for the next 6 years – from Cairo to Amman to Dubai and finally to Damascus – searching for an opportunity to build a home, a career, and hopefully, finally, find some stability and peace. But, as a refugee, I would never have the freedom to work legally and seek out these opportunities I so desperately wanted.
In 2011, I was given the greatest gift I would ever receive: a one-way ticket to New York City through the United States refugee resettlement program.
The day I arrived in New York felt like the first day of a brand new life. I started from scratch. I made amazing new friends who supported me, built a network of professionals who would help me grow and started to realize my dream of limitless possibilities.
I fled Iraq because I was consumed by war all around me. But I carried with me the rich culture of my heritage. My experiences are shaped by the incredible art and architecture – both old and new – of the Middle East. Where some hear the word “Syria” and see conflict, I see the winding, ancient alleys in the old city of Damascus where John the Baptist walked. I marveled at the high rise towers of Dubai, I listened to Fayrouz, the Frank Sinatra of the middle east while looking out over a city of 25M in Cairo, Egypt.
My life today in New York is so far away from these experiences, but I carry them with me, the art, the culture as a Souvenir. Amid all of the sadness that exists in the region that I was born, I know that there is still so much beauty and so many incredible individuals making beautiful things that should be shared with the world. Project Souvenir is a convergence of this experience. It is finding the beauty that exists across the Middle East and bringing it here, to my new home in America, to share.
Since I was young, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In New York, I am able to fully explore this side of me. I want to create a business that reflects all of the experiences that I have had. I come from a culture that is rich in art and design. It is a complex place filled with undiscovered beauty.
ProjectSouvenir.com is a platform to elevate Middle Eastern culture and show the world the incredible contributions of artists and artisans. It is a place to celebrate culture, travel, fashion and design.
However, in order for my to start pursuing that dream I need a head start. The donations you are going to make are going towards legal fees to set up the company, website fees, marketing on social media and creating tools to create larger base of influential designers around the world.