29 Apr. - 5 May 1999
Issue No. 427
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Profile Focus Special Travel Sports People Features Living Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
Soon, tonight at midnight actually, we will have to adjust our clocks to the summer time and what better way to celebrate the advent of the sunny days ahead than by getting married. This is exactly what Noha and Samer did last week, and what a wedding that was! The bride had the original idea of doing away with the traditional zaffa. Instead, she sang a beautifully tender solo which surprised and charmed her guests who had gathered in the Cleopatra Ballroom of the Semiramis Intercontinental to no end; but this wedding was special for many other reasons, not least of which because Noha is the ravishing daughter of prominent columnist and veteran journalist Said Sonbol and his charismatic wife Fadia Makram Ebeid. Samer is the son of Samir Sami Riad, the well-known chairman of the Riad and Lyn Group, and both the bride and the groom are on their way to becoming celebrities in their own right: Noha is the managing director of Info Computers, and Samer is chairman of Egypt Textiles.
The guest list, of course, read like a Who's Who in Cairo, with so many ministers, political figures, media personalities, renowned writers and famous actors and actresses in attendance that I couldn't begin to list them all. In this distinguished crowd I just managed to spot Minister of Foreign Affairs Amr Moussa, Minister of Information Safwat El-Sherif, Minister of Tourism Mamdouh El-Beltagui and Minister of Environment Nadia Makram Ebeid. Nadia is also Noha's maternal aunt, and it was clear from her smile that she was rather proud of her stunningly beautiful niece. Former MP Mona Makram Ebeid had torn herself away from her many public duties to attend. A very special guest among these luminaries was the legendary star of Egyptian cinema Faten Hamama, whose presence attracted almost as much attention as the happy couple.
And while we are on the chapter of celebrities, I just heard from a good friend that the Interior Ministry had called a few people in for a chat. It turns out that the ministry's traffic department wanted actresses Youssra and Nabila Ebeid as well as actors Gamil Ratib and Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz to record the new "speaking" traffic lights that are being installed all around town for the benefit of vision-impaired pedestrians. Ahmed Younis, who heads a society for the rights of the disabled, invented the device. TV personalities Sanaa Mansour, Samia El-Etribi and Buthayna Kamel were apparently also asked to assist.
And while we are on the chapter of inventions, would you believe that, between a party and a wedding, I found time to leaf through this month's European Patent Bulletin, which appeared only yesterday, and discovered that my good friend, Fawzeya Makhlouf-Norris, a top consultant in clinical psychology, who has been living in England for the past 40 years, was granted a patent for designing a "method and apparatus for representing the self-identity of a referent entity"? Of course, I haven't a clue what that means, but decided at once that it must be some sonar apparatus which, applied to the brain, allows Fawzeya to read one's most intimate thoughts in Morse Code. Maybe when the scientific commotion has died down, I will ask her to explain her invention in more basic English. I was nevertheless impressed and felt that congratulations were in order. I extended them promptly and heartily.
Feeling quite stimulated by all this intellectual activity, I went at once to attend the opening ceremony of the European Union Simulation 1999. This is a yearly extracurricular activity of Cairo University's Faculties of Economics and Political Science, co-funded by the European Commission. This year's simulation discussed the EU's assistance to the Palestinians and was attended by Ambassador Christian Falkowski, head of the delegation of the European Commission in Egypt, Dr Wadouda Badran, vice-dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science, and Mr Bernd Erbel, first counselor at the German Embassy. Quite an interesting venue, as I'm sure you can imagine.
I strongly feel, dears, that what the world needs now is peace -- even before love, you know. This is why I was so thrilled to hear about the Peace Cruise, which is organised under the patronage of President Hosni Mubarak by the World Scouts Office in collaboration with the Arab and European offices, and in partnership with the European Union, UNESCO, the European Youth Forum and the North-South Centre of the European Union. The Peace Cruise will be leaving Alexandria on 9 August to visit Gaza, Haifa, Beirut, Larnaca, Antalya, Istanbul and Piraeus. Fawzi Farghali, the Arab regional director of the project, explained that it aims at training around 100 young men and women aged 18-25 from countries bordering the Mediterranean to identify and overcome nationalist/ethnic prejudice as well as develop intercultural communication skills. They will come to understand that peace cannot be defined as the absence of conflict but as an active process to prompt the establishment of fair and caring society. It is hoped that at the end of the cruise they will have acquired the motivation and skills to become peace agents and mediators at the local, national and international levels. I can only commend the organisers for such a wonderful initiative and wish them bon voyage.
And while sailing on the waters of the Mediterranean, what better book to take along than Water: A Source of Tension in the 21st Century, authored by Minister of Public Works and Water Resources Mahmoud Abu Zeid, and published by Al-Ahram Centre for Translation and Publishing. The book examines the many problems caused by water resources or the lack thereof -- it will definitely be top of my beach book list.
Last week, Mustafa El-Razzaz, chairman of the Culture Palaces Organisation, was kept busy distributing awards to the winners of the drawing and painting competition held by the organisation and titled "I and my family, my environment and I". The prize-giving cer-mony was held at the Cin-ma Palace in Garden City, and was attended by Soheir Abdel-Fattah, administrative director of the child culture section. For the first time, children with special needs were invited to participate and received eight of the 14 awards distributed. Ten-year old Ahmed Omar from Alexandria won first prize, but Marwa Shaker's paint-ng also attracted much atten-ion.
All this warm weather, dears, has made me suddenly nostalgic for Paris in the springtime. Unfortunately, I could see no stroll on the banks of the Seine looming large in my horoscope; but then I heard that Cynthia Myntti's marvelous book, Paris along the Nile, would be launched on 3 May at the American University in Cai-o's Rare Books and Special Collections Library. Of course I made a note to attend this event, which will so ap-ropriately satisfy my dreams of the Boulevard Raspail and the Bois de Boulogne.
As if this is not enough, on 5 May I will be attending the gala dinner organised by French Ambassador and Ma-ame Jean-Marc de la Sa-lière at the French Em-assy -- one of my favourite villas in Giza -- in the framework of Francexpo 99. My dear friend Brigitte Lefebvre, Middle East rep-esentative of Dior Couture, was telling me that the em-assy's gardens were really the ideal setting for the spring/ summer creations of Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Jean-Paul Gaulthier and Pierre Balmain. Who needs to go to Paris?