On 14 June civil engineer Hani Azer was awarded the first-class Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of his services to the German nation.
Azer, an adviser to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and honorary president of the Egypt Can Foundation, is a world-renowned tunnels expert and was chief engineer on the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the German capital’s central station which was refurbished following the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The Hauptbahnhof remains one of the most modern, and expensive, train stations in the world. Costing 700 million euros, the station is entirely roofed in glass, providing fantastic views of the city, and boasts a complex set of tunnels.
Azer was previously honoured by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in May 2006 during the inauguration of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. He is also the recipient of the Merit of the State of Berlin award, presented for outstanding service to the state. In 2006, Berliners voted Azer among its 50 most influential citizens. Today he is regarded as one of the world’s leading tunnelling and bridge engineers.
Born in Tanta to a Coptic family, Azer earned his Bachelor of Science in 1973 from the Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University. He later moved to Germany for post-graduate studies and subsequently emerged as a leading engineer, taking part in dozens of major engineering projects in Germany and elsewhere.
Germany’s ambassador to Egypt, Julius Louis, described Azer as “Egypt’s greatest gift to Germany”, a man who, the German president once said, not only builds tunnels but also builds bridges between Egypt and Germany.
Azer told Al-Ahram Weekly that he was proud of his country, his family and his school, and now that his achievements have been recognised internationally, he remains forever grateful to those who supported him at the beginning of his career, particularly his mother and father, who sacrificed a great deal for his sake, and his wife and his children. He also expressed appreciation for the colleagues he has worked with on the projects in which he has been involved, stressing that their success has always the result of collaborative efforts.
Since his appointment to the Egyptian Scientific Advisory Council, Azer has spent a great deal of time in Egypt.
President Al-Sisi assigned him to follow up on many projects, including development of the country’s road and rail networks, and the laying of the foundations for new Suez Canal tunnels.
Azer supervised the recently inaugurated Suez Canal tunnels linking Sinai with the Nile Valley.
Azer says engineers, technicians and workers from the Egyptian companies that constructed the tunnels travelled for training on working the four giant excavators used in digging the tunnels beneath the Suez Canal and “now have the experience to work on such projects in Egypt and around the world”.
He advised young people, especially newly graduated engineers, that there is no magic formula for the success of any project.
Each is unique, he said. The only important thing is to work hard, with love, sincerity and enthusiasm, and to concentrate on what you are doing to achieve success.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Building bridges