Big Issue Vendor

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities uses cities as backgrounds to create a space where tourists and locals can engage in a meaningful way with people who have experienced homelessness. Talking about their experience in these cities empowers their guides to feel like they belong and are valued members of society.

The founder, Zakia Moulaoui was inspired to start Invisible Cities after she travelled to the Greek capital and met the team behind SHEDIA, Greece’s only street paper. Similar to the Big Issue, vendors distribute a magazine. But as well as selling their magazines, vendors can also take you on a tour of their city, telling you stories of their lives and experiences of it. It is after going on one of these tours that Zakia decided to start the project back in Scotland. With the help of many partners, such as The Big Issue, CRISIS and of course Shedia, Invisible (Edinburgh) was created.

The Scottish social enterprise trains local people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own cities. They offer local and social tours, connecting tourists and locals with places that make the city what it is.

Until the investment from Big Issue Invest, Invisible Cities was 100% volunteer lead. Now they have a team of 4 staff – 2 full time and 2 part time. They have a total of 12 guides across 4 cities and have recruited York and Cardiff as two franchise cities.


The tours in Athens opened my eyes onto the reality of the country. I wanted to recreate the experience I had had in Greece back in Scotland. It was about having a real conversation and interaction with my guide and I thought that was very powerful. But in Edinburgh, the Big Issue has limited resources so I decided Why not do it myself?
Zakia Moulaoui, Founder
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