26 Aug. - 1 Sep. 1999
Issue No. 444
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
* Last week, dears, I was lucky enough to be sitting in the front row at the special outdoor concert at the Citadel he .Ȼn honour of the birth centenary of Umm Kulthoum. Oh, how beautiful it was to rekindle my memories of the grand dame of Arabic music, whom last I saw all those years ago. This concert was part of the Eleventh Citadel Festival of Music and Singing, organised by the Ministry of Culture and the Opera House. Now, the purists amongst you will surely note that no one really knows when Umm Kulthoum was born, and whether this really is her centenary year or not, but when you're listening to wonderful renditions of songs like Fakkarouni (Remind Me), Ma Dam Tehibb Betinkir Layh (Why Do You Deny Falling in Love?), and Ha Qabluh Bukra (I Will Meet Him Tomorrow), those types of specifics don't really matter, do they?
Besides, everyone knows it is a woman's perogative to tell or not to tell when it comes to age. I know I am always keen to exercise that right, and nobody but myself and the mid-wife who brought me into this world will ever know that date. In any case, my sweets, my most ardent kudos go to Mustafa Nagui, the director of the Opera House, who organised the event, and Rehab Mutawa, the new singer who brilliantly captured the spirit and grace of the inimitable Umm Kulthoum. You know, the week had even more wonderful surprises in store, as just a few days later, I also had the pleasure to attend a memorial concert in honour of Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, that stalwart of song (and one-time collaborator with Umm Kulthoum), which was part of the same festival. I must also mention how proud I was to find that the elegant booklet accompanying the festival was actually written and compiled by none other than my amiable colleague Samir Shehata, a distinguished staff member of Al-Ahram's back page.
* Music was certainly in the air this week, dearies, and the number of stars who have come into town to participate in this year's Festival of Song was bewildering.
Clockwise from top left: Umm Kulthoum: with Abdel-Wahab; with Faten Hamama; with Farid El-Atrash; with Fairouz; with Salah Taher; in a film performance
Imagine my delight when I received an invitation from Tourism Minister Mamdouh El-Beltagui to attend the opening ceremony of the Festival, held at the Cairo International Conference Centre, and featuring none other than my old friend (and Alexandrian, I must add) Demis Roussos. The man is large, I must say, and I certainly mean that in the nicest possible way. Poeple go crazy when they see him, and I am no exception. I just gush when I hear his lovely voice belting out the classics I've been enjoying all my life.. Did you know that Demis attributes his beautiful voice to having drunk from the waters of the Nile as a boy? At least that's what he told me after the show. Tribute was paid to prominent Egyptian artists and veteran musical superstars Mohamed Hamza, Muharram Fouad, Sabah Fakhri, Demis Roussos and Shehrazade, as well as the late musician Mohamed El-Qasabgui. Big names among the younger generation, Ihab Tawfiq and Angham offered selected pieces of their repertoire, leading up to a week of events featuring none other than Lionel Richie and a bevy of luminaries from here and abroad.
Samir Sabry; Shehrazade; Muharram Fuad; Demis Roussos photo:Sherif Sonboll
* While music may be a passion of mine, art is one of my favourite hobbies. That's why it was with intense joy that I made my way to the Nagui Museum in Giza to see the wonderful artwork produced by the children who are spending their summer in the museum's garden at an intensive art workshop. I was welcomed warmly by artist Hassan Ghoneim, the museum's director, who narrated the history of painter Mohamed Nagui, one of Egypt's pioneers in fine arts, just for me. Nagui studied law in France but abandoned the legal world for the sake of art. How well I understand those Bohemian yearnings! In this same garden and house, transformed into a museum after his death, Nagui lived and produced his masterpieces. I had goosebumps, I can tell you.
Randa Shaath at Laurel and Hardy
photo: Thomas Hartwell
According to Ghoneim, the workshop, which began in early July and ends mid-September, was advertised in both Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers, and has been frequented by roughly111 children, their ages ranging from 7 to 17. The children were divided by teachers into groups according to the fields they like, such as painting and sculpture. I am quite partial to finger-painting, myself, but that didn't seem to be on offer. Afaf Rashid, the supervisor of the museum's artistic activities, said that the sole qualification for participation is the child's love of art. This workshop is being held under the auspices of Ahmed Nawwar, head of the National Centre for Plastic Arts and head of the Museum Sector at the Supreme Council for Antiquities, who agreed to sponsor it and generously provided the raw materials. In the garden, I met 10-year-old Mahmoud Magdi, who told me how much he loved drawing in the open air among his friends. His and all the other children's eyes were glittering like the sun, and I felt such a warmth in my heart, dears, at the thought of the exhibition, which will be held at the end of the workshop, and at which awards will be given to the best works. I can't wait to see proud parents sharing their children's happiness during the event. That's why you'll find me there, smiling in the front row.
* My good friend Hisham Rashed, who is professionally a fearless commando in our courageous armed forces, invited me last week to witness a much less dangerous, albeit every bit as exciting, feat of prowess. He was getting engaged to gorgeous rhumatologist Reham Shalabi at the Infantry House. All I have to say about the wonderful celebration is that if Hesham's military skills equal his proficiency at dancing the tango, then our enemies, whoever they may be, are in real trouble.
Hisham and Reham
* I do love summer, my sweets, and there's nothing I like better than a long stroll by the seaside when the weather is sweltering. I find it does wonders for my powers of concentration -- unless, of course, one is forced at every step to dodge beach buggies screeching madly across said stretch of sand, driven (if that is the right word) by shrieking babes in arms. When I was a girl, I can tell you, children would hyperventilate with excitement at the thought of a donkey-ride and an ice-cream cone. Well, now parents need worry no more: in Marina, at least, beach buggies have been banned starting today. I wonder what the little tots will do now that their favourite toys have been taken away -- perhaps they will have to learn backgammon, or even solitaire.
* There are artists and artists, as you well know, my poppets. Take me, for instance: I was never given any formal training, but I must have drunk art with my mother's milk, because whenever I appear anywhere, people, after a few seconds of awed silence, always comment profusely on the artistic quality of my clothes, hairstyle, etc. I must say that I myself am quite proud of the flair with which I combine unusual materials, colours and item. Some of my friends still remember admiringly one of my more creative efforts, a necklace made with apricot pits and paper clips. There is no limit to improvisation, really, when one is artistically endowed, as my dear friend Hadi recently proved: Hadi has a tape shop (baptised Laurel and Hardy) in Maadi's new amusement park, Family Land. When he began to decorate it, he wanted to do something really special, so he asked Ayman George, a senior member of our very own layout staff, for back copies of Al-Ahram Weekly. Hadi chose the articles with the large and splendid photos for which the paper is so well known and used them to paper his walls. Needless to say, dears, the effect is quite arresting, and not only because my humble weekly contribution is prominently displayed. This, I must confess, has given me an idea for a new toilette... Artists like myself find inspiration at every turn of the road.
Budding young artists