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Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
With a stroke of the charismatic Samih Sawiress's magic wand, the Gouna Beverage Company has expanded the horizons of those of you who will be wining and dining in their favourite little restaurants this summer. They will now be able to sample the world famous 600-year-old LöwenbrŠu beer, which normally hails from Munich, but which is now being made under licence in the famed El-Gouna resort on the Red Sea shores. It is not clear if this new beer will be bear the name of LöwenbrŠu-on-the-Nile or retain its original label, but what I can tell you from experience is that it tastes even better with the addition of the distilled waters of our legendary river.
For the faint-hearted among you who are not partial to the heavier German brew, however, Samih has thoughtfully prepared a lighter, purely Egyptian lager, Sakara Premium, which has hit the market at the same time as LöwenbrŠu. Not content with making beer, Samih is also producing red and white wine (a rosé is on the way), under the trademark of Obelisque, a fact vividly brought to the attention of the guests during the launching. And what a launching that was! I do hope that you have already visited the Mohamed Ali Club, whose distinguished members, contrary to established rumour, do not boast a royal pedigree. What they lack in nobility, however, they more than make up for in joie de vivre. If, like me, you are one of the in crowd, you will agree that there wasn't a better place to celebrate the event. Maged Farag, the club owner and chairman of its board, never afraid to overdo things, delighted the 1,500 invitees, all celebrities of course, with his habitual panache, although the presence of a real lion and its cub may have surprised those who were not entirely familiar with this exceptionally hospitable host's flights of imagination. Another interesting feature of the Gouna folly orchestrated by the beverage company was the variety of talents that performed in a setting worthy of the Thousand and One Nights. A German musical ensemble cheered LöwenbrŠu drinkers on, while popular Egyptian songs were being belted out by the pool to a shisha-smoking, Sakara-swilling audience, and a little further away, celebrated harpist Manal Mohieddin was caressing the hearts of the wine tasters. Firmly entrenched in the shisha corner, Ahmed Fouad Nigm whispered rustic verses into the attentive ears of a selected few.
Well, dears, soon after I had drained my last glass to the dregs, I was off to a gathering of an entirely different nature. The most elegant ladies in Cairo sipped fresh orange juice and nibbled on exotic canapés while admiring the breathtaking view from my dear friend's Brigitte Lefebvre's equally breathtaking apartment. Brigitte, as you all know, represents Dior Couture in the Middle East. The exquisitely decorated salons bustled with chiffon-talk while the guests were introduced to the Princess d'Orléans, who is Dior's representative for Spain, and who is visiting Egypt for the first time. Mme Jean-Marc de la Sablière, the very charming wife of the French ambassador, was there, of course, chatting away with Guzine El-Aref and Suhaila El-Sawi; but, strangely enough, as I eavesdropped discreetly while pretending to be engrossed in the endives on my plate, I found they were talking not of the abundance of lace and the length of hemlines in the summer collections of the French couturiers, but rather of the most environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of garbage, a pet subject of several ladies these days, who have vowed to free our capital from the mounds of refuse that threaten to choke it. Needless to say, I was quite proud of their determination to carry through this mammoth task.
Others are also hard at work in Alexandria giving a hand to its governor, who is said to have accomplished urban miracles. Just mentioning my favourite port city to you, dears, has made me long for Nebi Daniel Street. Since, being so busy and all, I haven't been able to go see the impressive changes, I am planning to do the next best thing: that is, visit the Sony Gallery, where Gilles Perrin is exhibiting photographs of Street Life in Alexandria, 1995-1998. It is surprising how much more one can love a city when one sees it through the eyes of a gifted artist.
The advent of spring has obviously propelled the Culture Palaces Organisation into accelerated motion: they are planning various exciting activities for the season, such as tomorrow's visit to Ismailia's culture palace, where members will attend the award ceremony crowning Channel 4's talent show Aswat wa Alhan (Voices and Melodies), held under the auspices of the organisation and featuring amateur singers and musical groups.
Mustafa El-Razzaz, head of the Culture Palaces Organisation, and Ahmed Shukri, head of Suez Canal University, will be honoured for the help they have extended to this particular programme. Later, and back in Cairo, a children's carnival -- a new event, launched by the children's culture section of the organisation, headed by Soheir Abdel-Fattah -- will be attended by Cairo Governor Abdel-Rehim Shehata and El-Razzaz. To the accompaniment of typical Egyptian musical instruments, it will wind its way from the Pharaonic Village in Giza to the Floating Theatre, where the participants will be treated to a representation of Spring Breezes, a play befitting the season.
Ibrahim Nafie (left) and Mahmoud Sherif
Just two days ago, one of our leading specialists in education, Nawal El-Degwi, was awarded by the American Leagues of Colleges and Universities a well-deserved Honorary Degree of Doctor in Education at a moving ceremony which took place in the Opera House's main hall. The event included a procession of students from institutions founded by El-Degwi, many speeches detailing her distinguished career, a Disney show and a programme of songs performed by the students of Baby Home and October University for Modern Sciences and Arts (MSA). Among the distinguished speakers, Ronald Ruthenberg, chairman of the American League of Colleges and Universities, and Kenneth Bryant, president of Missouri Valley University, were particularly noted. A number of important personalities, academics and intellectuals were present. Chairman of Al-Ahram Organisation and Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Ibrahim Nafie attended the event, as did Minister of Rural Development Mahmoud Sherif, Ambassador Ahmed Qattan, Saudi Arabian chargé d'affaires in Washington DC, and many of El-Degwi's former students.
Last month, Egypt commemorated the death of one of its greatest poets, Salah Jahin. On this occasion, the Weekly's Mursi Saad El-Din wrote: "Salah Jahin's importance lies in the fact that, with him, poetry has become a marriage of imagination, intellect and actuality... What freshness and vigour are found in modern Arabic poetry is attributable much less to traditional poets than to the poets of the vernacular, headed by Jahin."
Jahin may have died prematurely, but he lives on in the hearts of those who have loved him, not the least his daughter, Samia. She wrote a long poem to her late father, of which I have selected a few moving lines:
"I sit there
Staring at your picture
in the dark living room,
your grandchild between
Like a promising new-born moon.
Many names they gave you
A Greek god
A rainbow, faded too soon...
But to me
to my empty, ignorant heart
you are and always will be
a mysterious work of art."