Omar is an excellent conversationalist. His writing has taken him around the world and covers a wide range of topics including food, travel, urbanism, arts and culture. He’s an outspoken cat lover who has presented about the rising status of cats at Pecha Kucha (video) and the inaugural Edmonton International Cat Fest. Surprisingly, he only has two cats. He also raps as A.O.K. Because of his diverse writing and interests, he has something meaningful to add to any conversation.
Originally a small town Alberta boy, he moved west to Vancouver to study film and screen writing. After working on local productions (and a brief stint on Air Buddies as Camera Trainee), Omar came to Edmonton in 2006. It was supposed to be a family visit before moving to the middle east, but the airport he was supposed to land at was bombed, making his stopover in Edmonton longer than he had intended. He picked up freelance writing projects as a way to make ends meet and realized that Edmonton had more opportunity for him as a writer than he thought.
Fast forward to today, where you can find Omar’s writing in seemingly every local publication, Globe and Mail, Alberta Venture, VICE, enRoute, and more. He spent a year as Edmonton Public Library’s Writer in Residence, and has received a long list of awards for his work across Canada. He’s another gem we’re lucky to have making roots in Edmonton.
Omar’s Favourite Places
Eat// Pho – (many restaurants in Edmonton)
Omar has travelled the world and hasn’t found a bowl of pho as good as we make it in Edmonton. He doesn’t discriminate when it comes to Pho restaurants. He’s happy to eat it anywhere in Edmonton, especially in the winter.
Drink// The Confederation Lounge at Hotel MacDonald – 10065-100 Street
Omar loves a glass of scotch to reward himself after the completion of a long project. Can’t you just picture Omar, scotch in hand, lounging in the dimly lit space while pondering the fathers of confederation painting?
Eat & Drink// Remedy on 124 St - 10310-124 Street
It’s basically a second office to him. He loves that it is open late and you can get food or drinks to suit any time of day (lunch, dinner, snacks, anything).
Go// Hub Cigar – 10345 Whyte Avenue
You’d think he’d be a book reader, but Omar prefers to consume information in smaller amounts. His favourite place to peruse magazines and learn something new is at Hub Cigar. It’s back in its original space on Whyte Avenue now!
Shop// Jaisel – 8133-104 Street
Omar assures me they have the best selection of denim for men. He can fill his closet with clothes from Jaisel with everything from casual to business wear.
Omar’s Favourite Thing
Covet// Custom Ryaton Leather Bag - www.ryaton.com
As a gift, his wife had a custom leather bag made by Ryaton. It has a special spot for his bike’s U-lock, and all the pockets that a writer could ask for. He carries the monogrammed bag everywhere.
Omar’s Recommended Reads
Read// Lucky Peach – This is not your typical food magazine. It treats food as important as it is, but not preciously like other mainstream magazines. You can find stories of people’s lives through food and other literary takes on the food world.
Read// New York Magazine – It’s playful and it pokes fun at New York’s culture and yuppie life as much as it embraces it.
Read// Spacing – An urban design magazine based out of Toronto.
Read// Eighteen Bridges – A literary magazine out of the University of Alberta that is making waves far outside Edmonton. Omar is part of the editorial team that writes about Canadian stories (a lot of Western Canada) from the writer’s personal experience.
Read// GQ – He’s not a magazine snob. He always has time for GQ.
Omar’s Words of Wisdom
Omar is really comfortable asking for what he wants and thinks this is a key to his success. Asking to be a part of projects and putting yourself out there is easier in Edmonton than it is in other cities. Equally as important is being prepared to give something back in return. Advice for those starting out (and others): You need an idea of who you want to be professionally. Passion is helpful, but passion without ambition is useless.
An important part of journalism: learning how to listen. You’ll often get more out of a story if you are a good listener who lets the interviewee talk (This wasn't directed at me. Omar said I was a good listener.).