Dr Hassan El Laithy takes a seat overlooking the boats at Mornington Harbour.
It’s twilight sailing night and Mornington Yacht Club’s first Egyptian member in 71 years and the former Egyptian Ambassador to Australia has obligingly agreed to an interview with Mornington Peninsula Magazine (Dr El Laithy was also the first Ambassador of Egypt to the Slovak Republic and has held many other diplomatic roles in a career spanning 33 years).
Hassan, as he prefers to be called among friends, is one of the yacht club’s newest members. The club has made no secret of its excitement at having such a high ranking international diplomat join its ranks – they posted a photo of him on their website in February, soon after he joined, welcoming him.
Naturally, when a former ambassador chooses to live on the Mornington Peninsula after his tenure finishes, it’s something we can all feel a little chuffed about. After all, Hassan has lived in nine or 10 countries and it turns out he thinks just like we do - that the Mornington Peninsula is a magnificent place to live and raise a family (he and his wife have a 2-year-old son, Kariym, born in Australia).
“I love it,” Hassan says when asked to share his thoughts on the Peninsula. “The package that the Peninsula offers is unique - the ocean and the hills, the greenery and the community. The Peninsula to me is a wonderful region both for its diverse farming (both hobby and large-scale operations) as well as tourism, all of which constitutes a lifestyle region of great and wide potential.”
Hassan also loves the Peninsula’s proximity to Melbourne, the shopping on Main Street Mornington and the people. His first introduction to the area was an official visit, when he attended the 2015 Victorian Agricultural Summit at Lindenderry at Red Hill. Many prominent agriculturalists, leaders in agribusiness as well as council and regional representatives were there. “It was my first exposure to the extensive opportunities and potentials in the region beyond the obvious appeal of tourism and beautiful scenery. It came then as no surprise to me to learn of the subsequent launch of the Mornington Peninsula Produce Certified Trade Mark, which rightly recognises the world-class produce from the region.”
His decision to join Mornington Yacht Club was, he says, a spontaneous one and while he doesn’t have a boat moored here, yet, he is passionate about anything to do with the water. “I love the sea. I think it’s an extra lung,” he continues. Hassan now works as a consultant on international affairs while enjoying a Peninsula lifestyle and, of course, time at his new club.