18 - 24 November 1999
Issue No. 456
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
* What a lovely little gathering congregated to watch Alfonso Ortiz, the Spanish ambassador, award Antonio Gil de Carrasco, head of the Cervantes Institute (the Spanish Cultural Centre in Cairo) the Order of Merit.
This goes to tell you how active my good friend Antonio has been, especially when one thinks that this is his third well deserved award. So many luminaries from the Spanish community in Egypt were attending that they seemed to suddenly light up the room. I noticed Jaspar Diax Blanco, deputy chief of mission at the Spanish Embassy, who seemed very pleased with Antonio's decoration.
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* Tomorrow at 11.00 am, Roger Moore (AKA 007), will attend the celebrations of the10th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Rights of the Child. The ceremony, which is organised by the British Council, will include speakers who will touch upon various topics such as children's right to relax and participate in cultural endeavours. My favourite such endeavour is watching James Bond movies, personally. I am all for children's rights and dead set against child labour and all the miseries our ugly world has been inflicting on the little ones, especially lately, and I do congratulate Roger Moore on his role as goodwill ambassador for the UN, but what about us? Wouldn't it be nice if we could launch a special conference devoted to the defence of the rights of old gossips, and bestow upon them indefinite impunity? I seriously believe that the authorities, whoever they may be, should seriously look into it and then ask me to preside over the first meeting.
* Two of my dearest friends, Randa Shaath and Mohamed Abla have joined forces to put together a most unusual exhibition: Mohamed has painted and Randa has photographed scenes of everyday life in the little islands which dot the Nile the length of greater Cairo. I just had a sneak preview of the work, which will be on show at Cairo's Atelier starting 21 November, and darlings, it really gives you insight beyond the pretty view from the bridge. Dyamic communities of cultivators and fishermen are settled there, and it is rather strange to think of these patches of rural existence so close and yet so separate from the hustle and bustle of the city. When I think that, in my not so distant youth (did anyone say anything?), the whole of Mohandessin was not too different from these islands, I sincerely fear for the future of our beautiful capital if such shreds of greenery -- on which greedy developers are ready to build more multi-star hotels if anyone gives them half a chance -- were to ever disappear.
* On the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the Gezira Palace, which was built by Khedive Ismail for the purpose of accommodating Eugénie, empress of the French, the general manager of the Cairo Marriott Hotel (formerly the Gezira Palace) Ulrich Huth and his enchanting wife will hold a royal reception on Saturday 27 November. If you are among the lucky guests you are kindly requested to ask your chauffeur to stop at the Salon Royal. I would not be a little bit surprised if, while dismounting, you caught a glimpse of my friend Maged Farag pulling up in his horse-drawn royal landau. I, of course, feel that I negotiate the hellish traffic much better on a broom. The trick, dears, is to wear specially made pantaloons for the circumstance.
* In a little side alley off Champollion Street, there is a tiny café catering for a distinguished clientele who would exchange all the tea in China for a good glass of the brew and a shisha. served by the owner, Hagg Lipton. His real name has been forgotten, or maybe he never told anyone what it really was, but everyone who met him agreed that he was a poet at heart. He thrived in the company of intellectuals, although he himself never wrote a line. They all called him Hagg Lipton because he only wanted the best for his clients and the best, according to him, was a tea bag of this particular brand drunk piping hot from a spotless glass. You should ask George Bahgory if Hagg Lipton's tea was not the best in town. George, who lives in the immediate environs when he is in Egypt, often comes all the way from Paris on a whim to sample the magical decoction.
Sadly, Hagg Lipton died suddenly last week, leaving a great emptiness in the hearts of his many friends, who did not consider their day done unless they had lingered for a while at one of his tables neatly set against the back wall of Al-Nasriya School. This former palatial residence, which stands between the cafe and the ear-splitting noise of the main street, was very dear to Hagg Lipton's heart. He dreamed that he would one day see it restored to its former splendour. Unfortunately, if this ever happens, Hagg Lipton will no longer be able to rejoice at the stately rehabilitation of his peaceful patch in the busy city.