22 - 28 July 1999
Issue No. 439
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
What a week, dears: I must tell you, it's been one of the most hectic in years. You know how it is in the summertime; I think the heat makes us think we have a right to be lazy, and that's why everything seems so tiresome. Luckily for me, however, my pack is always brimming with the kinds of activities that constantly encourage vim and vigour.
I couldn't have been more ecstatic to speak to my dear friend Lubna Abdel-Aziz on the phone earlier this week, and imagine my delight when I heard that Mrs Suzanne Mubarak herself would soon be gracing Lubna's radio show, Auntie Lulu's Children's Corner, with her presence. Mrs Mubarak's dedication to encouraging literacy and to all kinds of projects for improving children's lives is far too well-known for me to dwell on here, of course, but I can reveal how impressed I was by her profoundly insightful comments to Lubna, which will be broadcast on the show during the summer.
Mrs Mubarak was enthusiastic about the idea of encouraging children to read to others: their grandparents, brothers and sisters, or anyone who might have trouble reading on their own. Lubna greatly admires Mrs Mubarak's goal of giving the written word its proper value, and believes that independent reading is the backbone of a cultured adult. That's why it is so important that children don't just waste their summers on the beach, at the mall, or just lounging around in front of the TV. They should also go to the library, where they'll find thousands of more useful things to do.
Lubna describes the show, which airs at noon on Fridays, as a "family of aunts and uncles", including her husband, gynaecologist Dr Ismail Barrada (who is also a very talented musician), Shahira Makram, Samir Sabri, Ashraf El-Guindi and Rasha Abdallah. They're a really fun bunch, who are optimistic about their goal of entertaining and teaching children at the same time through sketches and songs. You can't imagine how touched I was when Lubna told me that she thinks that a "book is the most faithful companion anyone can ever have."
Mrs Suzanne Mubarak and Lubna Abdel-Aziz discuss plans to help encourage children to read more this summer
So dear Lubna is back to her old career as a radio announcer (that is, the career she continued to pursue even as she became the unforgettable movie star we all know and love from the golden days of Egyptian cinema). And true to form, she has really lit up my life ever since she and Ismail decided to come back to the motherland from the States nearly a year ago. Anyway, she left me with a neat little thought before heading back to her important work, and that was the answer to the question: Why is it so quiet in a library? "Because we're listening to great ideas, of course."
My very good friend Mohamed Hassanein Heikal has always been a man of great ideas, whose books are read around the world. Everyone knows Heikal is the Arab world's most renowned political analyst, and next Monday, the Arab Unity Studies Centre in Beirut will make it official when Heikal receives the first-ever Gamal Abdel-Nasser Award for Arab Political Thought.
Heikal will be in Beirut next Monday accepting the Gamal Abdel-Nasser award
The ceremony, held on 26 July, the 42nd anniversary of the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, is sure to be attended by a bevy of prominent personalities from around the Arab world. They will be waiting anxiously for Heikal's acceptance speech, which will also be broadcast live on several Arab satellite channels.
Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Al-Hoss will be hosting the prestigious event, and presenting Heikal with his award. Those of you in the know are surely already aware that Heikal's policy is not to accept such honours, but he made an exception this time because of the "weakness" he has, "for which [he does] not apologise," for anything related to Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Heikal, however, has told the centre that he will not accept the $50,000 that goes with the award, instead urging them to put it back into the organisation's treasury "so that it may be used to further the fund's objectives".
Make sure to point your satellite dishes towards Beirut next Monday, dears...
Last month provided yet another most luscious surprise for the more bookish among us. I don't know how a book like this could have escaped my notice for so long, but somehow it happened, believe it or not. The profound and informative articles collected in Misr: Nazarat Nahw Al-Mustaqbal (Egypt: Visions of the Future), discussing practically all aspects of the future with academic rigour and a passionate sense of commitment -- not only to our country, mind you, but to the whole of the human race -- and written by, among others, our deeply cherished friend, the veteran literature professor and development activist Sami Badrawi, is a rare and luminous gem. The articles are fresh, honest and full of telling facts and figures. Make sure you read it, dears, and don't forget to congratulate Professor Badrawi.
New books by Badrawi
It looks like I'll be spending quite a bit of time reading this summer, for unmissable books keep piling up on my table. My colleague and friend Taha El-Magdoub, Al-Ahram consultant on strategic affairs, has just had his astounding piece of critical research on the time period between June 1967 and October 1973 published by Al-Ahram Centre for Translation and Publishing, headed by the ever-active Nawal El-Mahallawi. The book provides an insightful look at the period between the two wars -- as it should, considering that El-Magdoub is a retired major-general who was very much involved in the intensive transitions and preparations that occurred in those years. The book is called Sanawat Al-I'dad wa Ayam Al-Nasr (Years of Preparation, Days of Victory) -- a rather fitting title, if I may be so bold as to emit a personal opinion.
New books by Al-Magdoub
The French were celebrating their own victorious occasion, Bastille Day, recently, and of course I was one of the first people French Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sablière was sure to invite. The lovely fête was held in the embassy gardens, and I was so happy to see all my friends partying so joyously. Amongst the journalists, diplomats, businessmen, governors, and foreign and Arab ambassadors in attendance, I spied my colleague Salama Ahmed Salama, the esteemed Al-Ahram columnist, and Mufid Shehab, the minister of higher education.
Salama and the French Ambassador on Bastille Day
It was truly an enchanted evening on 5 July, when the beautiful Maye Ostowani was engaged to Omar Dajani, a tall and handsome computer specialist who also owns and manages a restaurant in Orlando, Florida. In a dimly lit wood-panelled hall at the Nile Hilton, several of my colleagues from the Weekly, including the vivacious Nevine Khalil, the ebullient Mariz Tadros, the effervescent Fatemah Farag, and the gregarious Peter Snowdon, congregated to wish Maye a happy engagement. Family members and friends danced the night away to classic favourites poured out by both a band and DJ.
Omar and Maye dancing the night away
Nora's new-born Ashod
My very warmest congratulations go out this week to my dear colleague Nora Keuhnelian on the birth of her beautiful son Ashod. Nora and her husband, architect Ara, are ecstatic with the new-born, as is the entire Weekly family. The always stylish Nora is already picking out baby Ashod's wardrobe as she takes a well-earned rest from the hectic life of the newspaper. I certainly wish the entire family all the best, and already have visions of young Ashod breaking all the girls' hearts at the Heliopolis Armenian Club. Congratulations Nora and Ara!