Meet Hasan Haj, The modern man living in an old city

Meet Nikamateen Rasool, Pakistani musician living in Cyprus
October 2, 2017

“I feel human, with all the diversity and differences that exist between us, I feel human , and this is
what unites all of us” – Hassan Haj.

We had a nice long noble chat with blogger, and the owner of the Modern Man Diaries, Hassan Haj.. A man of Palestinian origin, born and raised in Israel who relocated to Cyprus. We talked about why he started his fashion and lifestyle blog, what fashion means to him, and what he thinks Palestine, Israel and Cyprus can learn from one another; that, and sooo much more. A very insightful piece, enjoy his impressive portfolio as you read…You’re welcome 🙂

1. What is your name?

My name is Hasan Haj
2. Tell us a bit about your background?
I’m Palestinian originally, however, I was born and raised in Israel. I went to High school in my village
there and moved on to university in Israel as well. I studied Psychology and statistics. I worked in a
bank there while studying. After my degree, I got an offer to move to Cyprus to work in Thomson
Wreuters, the news agency. And I took it. So I moved to Cyprus 5 years ago

3. How old are you? (ask him)
4. What do you do?
I’m a financial analyst at Thomson Reuters in Nicosia, Cyprus and also, I am a fashion and lifestyle
blogger at the Modern man Diary

5. So from being a financial analyst what made you want to get into fashion and the blogging life?
Well, life is as diverse as Cyprus is. I never thought about it initially but, it’s something I decided to do
on the side. You know how most people have their day job, but also this hobby on the side that they
enjoy more than their job.

6, Why “the modern man diary” ?

I was trying to find the name that will click well with people. It
took a while until I deided the modern man diary. I said, we are living in a world that the modern man is
very busy around. He can be anything, he can be anywhere and everywhere. He can be a gentle man,
he can be a business man,he can be the father, the brother, the husband, the employer, the boss and the
traveler as well. And its not only going to be fashion, it would ana lifestyle blog.

 

6. So you say it’s a hobby, but do you have a vision with the modern man diary?
I do have a vision. I want to create something for people, something to inspire, because the image is
more than what you see. What we wear and how we dress, I believe it’s the reflection of the whole
being. And our whole image, how we feel, our personality- we can express it with the clothes we wear,
the way we dress and how we look. I look to the future and I see that I can make a difference with the
photoshoots and the concepts and the ideas combined with fashion. I collaborate with some designers,
some local shops and designers but, it requires a lot of effort and work to connect with people and
designers because you need a win win relationships with the shops. Shops want to sell, designers want
to promote themselves.
7. So basically, do you approach them and say I have a blog and I’d like to work with you’?

Some of them, yeah. I already have the blog so I just tell them, ‘Hello my name is Hasan , I have a
fashion blog. If you’d like to collaborate, we can create a concept and promote your clothes’. At the
beginning I would take some clothes from one shop, do a photoshoots and afterwards, bring the clothes
back. But now I am a known by a few shops and designers, they want to work with me. If they like the
work that you do, when they want to do photoshoots, you’d come back to their minds. Oh, Hasan did a
photoshoot and we liked his photos, so let’s work with him.

8. Do you have a team that you work with or it’s just you?
I have two photographers that work with me. I used to have a stylist but now, it’s just me with the
photographers.

Are they your friends or is it a professional relationship?
They are professional photographers but after you work with them in like 10 – 15 photoshoots, you sort
of develop a friendship. And I believe you need people to believe in what you’re doing because if you
grow and succeed, everyone will benefit. Everyone will succeed and you will lift up everyone with you.
Because, it’s not just about you. Everytime I have a photoshoot and people like the photo, they’d ask,
“who is the photographer”. So it’s also a win-win relationship. I believe in win-win relationships, with
the designers, the shops, the photographers, with everyone. If it’s not not win-win, something will be
missing and it won’t succeed and you cannot push it forward.

9. So what is the content creation process of your blog?
Basically, I believe that everything we do should leave an impact and give a message. So for my
photoshoots usually, I meet with the photographers and I tell them the idea I have. I sit with them, we
discuss the idea, we see what we need- the clothes we need, models , the time and everything.
Afterwards, we pick and go to our location, arrange everything and then shoot it. Sometimes we might
arrange something but when you shoot the concept, it brings you something different, sometimes
better.

10. So back to you leaving your country, what made you actually decide to pack your bags and leave?
Was it the just the financial offer or there was something more to it?
There were a few things actually, I lost myself somehow. I was studying, working and a lot of things were
happening around me that I somehow lost myself. Then, one day I got the job offer. I had never
travelled before that. So when I got I the offer, I started considering the positives and negatives . Like I
would travel for the first time, I would work in a big company, meet new people and improve my
English(English is my third language). And the negatives were that I didn’t know the country so I might
not like it. But, the worst case scenerio would be that I’d leave to comeback after six months. So I just
thought about it this way and I didn’t want to miss the chance and regret it afterwards. So I took that
chance and I’ve been here for 5 years now.

 

11. Were they any expectations when coming to Cyprus?
Not really. I left everything – family friends, studies and everything- and I moved to a new country. I
didn’t know anyone here except one person from Israel who worked here. But then, I didn’t know even
know him personally. So, it was a kind of a test to see how I would adapt to a new environment and new
people. Eventually, when I came here, I felt like it wasn’t really that big a change. It was a half hour
flight, the weather was similar, there was diversity. I get to speak Arabic a lot with my colleagues and
friends. You can also find the same kinds of food in Cyprus. It was much more calmer and relaxed here.
So I didn’t come here with expectations but I discovered myself and I’ve adapted.
12. So would you say you are happy here and that you made a good decision coming to Cyprus?

Yes do feel that way. If I were home, I don’t think I would be as focused on the things I want and my
time will not be fully mine. I wouldn’t have the blog and I wouldn’t be working. Also, I wouldn’t be able
to write a book. Many things that I do now, I wouldn’t have been able to do them if I had remained
there.
Oh you have a book?
I wrote a draft for a book in Arabic for high school students related to Education for my masters degree.
I believe it will make a big switch in the mind, in the way students think before they get into the
university

13, During the process of the first six months, what was the point that made you say I’m going to stay here
for much longer?
The first six months is the period that the company will see you and you will see the company. For me, It
was smooth, a smooth start and a smooth transition and I didn’t really feel the time passing by. And at
the end of the 6 months, work was okay, everything was okay, everything was fine. So, I stayed. Till now,
my parents are still pushing me to go back.

14. Within your years of living here, what changes have you noticed in Cyprus from the beginning?
It is becoming more international. There is a lot more diversity, a lot more nationalities. I’m also amazed
how people from different nationalities get along so well.

15. How would you describe your personality?
Honestly I am happy with the person I am today. I grew up in a traditional Muslim village with very strict
tradition, and, religion was a very big part of our lives. And it’s difficult to accept everyone with
differences, with different religions, with different backgrounds easily when you grow up in a closed

environment. But now, I’m happy that when I meet new people, I’m more conscious that we are all the
same. All these labels don’t mean anything: Muslim, Christain, Black and White. At the end of the day.
we are all humans.
My personality, I’m very easy going, I’m open to change. I welcome change and I’m someone who
celebrates diversity. And I don’t just accept it, I respect it. I love it! Imagine if we were all the same in
this world, itd be so boring.


16. In terms of personality, has Cyprus influenced you in any way?
I’ve met people from different places. That has affected me. The office that I work is very diverse. That
in many ways has shaped me. With all the diversity in Cyprus, everywhere you go, you see different
people, you are more aware that this is what makes lives interesting.
My mindset has changed from when I was in the village than when I was in Cyprus. When I came to
Cyprus my world expanded being exposed to the diversity. And, when you expand your world and the
more you expand your world, the more you expand your mind.

17. How would you describe your fashion style?
*laughs* I love to dress formal, give me suits all day, week I don’t mind . I really love wearing suits. But
you know, it’s the smart casual as well. Jeans and sneakers and shirt and a blazer go perfect with me. I
believe the image is important. As I said earlier, the image is a reflection of how we feel, our personality
and how we see the world.
The first thing people see is the image. And I believe if you are dressed well and sharp, when you go to a
place, people notice you. And I see many times from personal experiences, that when I’m dressed sharp
and in a suit or something, when I go to a place, people are more likely to have a conversation with you,
maybe even offer you a job.
It can open doors for you. I’m not saying that it’s the most important thing because after they see the
image, they will still talk to you. You need the brain to work, and and to continue. Basically to follow up
the door you’ve opened. But first impression is the image and the image is important.

14, who is your biggest style inspiration? Do you have any bloggers or designers you look up to?
Well, there is no one specific but in the world of social media and Instagram, there are a lot of
inspirations out there. But, as for designers I love Massimo Dutti clothes.
Many people often get confused with getting inspired from someone and copying someone. Many
people see someone and try to copy them but it looks fake, it’s not real, not themselves. I see a lot of
people, I get inspired by many but I adapt to my personality, I take what matches my personality and
what suites me as Hassan Haj.

15, Has social Media influenced you in any way?

We are living in the world of social media but as everything, there are negatives aad positives and it’s
very easy to get distracted these days and to get sucked in social media spending hours of hours, just
wasting time viewing profiles

16. What’s the end goal for Modern Man Diary?
Well, It might change. What I have now, next month you might come to me and I’ll tell you ok I gave up
the modern man diary to try something different. I
I see the modern man diaries now as a platform for the Modern Man that can include anything there, to
inspire people, to follow their dreams, to take life easy, to adapt to change, to be open, to flow with life,
not to get stuck on things, to follow what they like to do and not give up their happiness
I see the platform growing, I see more collaborations with different brands but as well I want to make a
difference in the fashion industry to be open for everyone.
Even if it’s not going to be a worldwide success and no one will know about it, I will see myself growing. I
will see myself changing

 

17. So have you ever considered making Modern Man Dairy your fulltime career?
If it will come , I’m open for it. If it will not come, I’m open again.. I don’t like to force things to happen.
You work for them, you enjoy. I feel it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey. I’m flowing
with the jouney, whatever comes at the end. If it will become success and I will be busy with travelling
with fashion shows and brands and that sort of things, fair enough. I will quit my job and do it.
But, I believe my future would be in education and I will combine everything together.
18. As opposed to contrary belief that Cyprus is a place without opportunities, how have you managed
to start a career?
Personally, I believe if you like what you do, you can make a career anywhere you are. It’s not the
environment that you are in, It’s how you react to it. We see many successful people here. It is a small
country. That is why I started the blog. Because I saw that there are not a lot fashion shows here.
So If you really enjoy what you do and you do it well, you can succeed everywhere. Cyprus, israel,
Palestine, worldwide and today you don’t need to be restricted to a particular place. Whatever the place
is you can be online and reach the world with one click, so why limit yourself geographically .

19. What do you think is holding you back in advancing your career in Cyprus or maybe
internationally?
I believe Cyprus is not a fashion capital or fashion country like italy, france or london that you can see
fashion designers everywhere. It might not have the opportunities that other places have and It might
take longer. But, if you are consistent and you believe in what you are doing, do it with love and you
not focus on the money, you focus on the value and what you bring, you will succeed.

20. How will you describe the fashion scene in Cyprus?
Maybe lately there’s been progress, like some designers are coming on the map, others are developing
like Kristo Avraam. But in terms of like fashion shows and the fashion industry in general, it is not big
in Cyprus. They’re more business oriented, not really caring so much in the fashion. Especially men, I
don’t see that they care that much about fashion and style. It’s like whatever comes, it’s fine
21. What solutions or suggestions do you think they can do to grow the fashion industry in Cyprus?
Well, in my own opinion, even the shops for men are maybe like 5/ 10 percent out of the fashion for
women. And I don’t know how it started. There are no shops because men do want to dress or because
men don’t dress because there are no shops or designers for men.

Maybe it’s because it’s an island so people don’t really invest in looks. You go mostly to the beach so
they don’t mind wearing like jeans, t-shirts or shirts.. More casual than formal.
But I believe it’s a bit of mindset as well, you need to be willing to say “ok I want to dress up” Like I
said, it’s deeper than appearance. It’s a whole reflection of personality, what you believe, the image of
yourself you want to show to people. And if you’re happy with yourself and how you look, you’d want
be dressing better. There’s a whole psychology behind feeling good and looking good.

22, Has Cyprus given you any reason to question your identity?
Not really. At the beginning when I came, they were asking me lot of questions, I believe out of
curiosity. Because they see you different so they are curious to know where you are from. And when
you start answering they become more curious because they see that what they hear in the news about
the Israel situation is different from what you are telling them.
They know that Palestine and Israel are in conflict but they don’t know that there are Arabs in Israel
living under Israel authorities with the passport and they’re of Palestinian origins, so they start
questioning. Then they ask you questions, that makes you start questioning yourself. But it’s not
necessarily that they are affecting my identity, but that they make me consider it.

 

23, From your own point of view, how do you see the relationship amongst people from other
nationalities in Cyprus
I believe we are doing very well in Cyprus, people are doing really well to live together, to respect each
other, to accept each other with all the diversity and difference. But sometimes , I wonder like how we
hear all these news about all these things and how are we managing to live in peace in Cyprus.
Ok there was a war here in Cyprus in 1974 and there are still some sensitivity here and there but
generally, there is still solid peace.

24. How do you see this country in the next ten years?

Hopefully, One Cyprus , united. Definitely, I hope the border at Nicosia is removed. .This is my hope that
it’ll keep being international and even more accepting and respectful of everyone. I believe they'll solve
the political issues and the country will flourish in many dimensions

25. what is the biggest thing Cyprus has taught you?
Cyprus taught me that diversity makes life interesting and to keep surprising yourself. This is also what
makes life interesting

26 what is one thing you think Cyprus could learn from your country an vise versa?
Good, question.. Let me think…

Sometimes I make fun that I left the countries where there are check points between the cities in Israel
and Palestine and moved to the only city in the world where they have a checkpoint in the middle of the
city. Seriously, I think both Cyprus, Israel and Palestine can all learn to leave the
past in the past. And to check what is going on currently in this world and how we can solve it best
because what happened 60 years or 40 years or  30 years is hard, it’s difficult, its cruel, many people
cannot leave it behind but we cannot move on if we are still stuck in the past.

27 So, what do you do for fun?
Well, I do everything with fun.. When they ask me what do you do in Reuters, I say I play all day when I
have free time at work. Just playing around, teasing my colleagues and laughing with them.
For fun, I enjoy reading books. The fashion shows and photoshoots as well, sometimes I do commercials
for TV. I play football sometimes. I play tennis. I like to go the beach sometimes. I mean Its Cyprus, you
have to go to beach. I like laughing a lot too.

27. If you had three wishes what would you wish for
I wish that each person in this world respect everyone as a human without labeling and anything. I
wish that respect will be the first thing that we'll think about.

I wish that I can continue with enthusiasm to make a difference in education because I want young people to
have better opportunities than I had.

And I wish health and happiness for everyone. Because people miss this part of being healthy and
happy, most of them just forget to main purpose of life and become stuck with many things

28, What project would you say is next for you?
The blog was a bit on hold; I had my thesis and I had my work and things but now, I will go back to
being more active, to start creating more concepts and Ideas.
My coming project is creating short videos. So I believe that I have lots of ideas that I can put in videos
and deliver the content and message to people. I’m currently starting to create HAJ Diaries. So, HD your
mind will be my coming project, and I’ll be delivering videos about many ideas concerning the mind

29 So what quote would you say you live by?
I have a lot actually but these are two that  came to my mind right now
“When you have a thought, write a note, the biggest dreams start from one small thought”
“When you get an opportunity that you are not ready for, say yes and you’ll learn how to do it”

All Photography from The Modern Diary

Connect with Hasan Haj

Facebook  The Modern Man Diary 

Instagram @HasanHajOfficial

 

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