Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 March 2000
Issue No. 471
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues


Pack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris

* I just received a glowing confirmation of people's discerning judgement. From the minute I read the first words of Edward Said's latest book, I recognised a true masterpiece. Now I hear that his wonderful memoirs, entitled Out of Place, have won The New Yorker award for non-fiction. Based on the votes of 25,000 readers, the awards were presented during the magazine's memorable 75th anniversary party. OUT OF PLACE What a bash that was! I do so wish you could have been there, but we can't all be among the privileged few. If the bookstores are not all out of Out of Place, I would strongly suggest that you grab a copy, curl up in a quiet corner, and enjoy. You will not be able to put it down. And one more thing: I hear that Said has donated the proceeds of his prize to Bir Zeit University.

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   * When one is partial to good photography, one is naturally interested in the recognition of talented photographers, and when I found out that my good friend Thomas Hartwell had won the First ABB International Photography Competition, I was thrilled. I telephoned Tom at once and asked him to send me a copy of the winning entry. You see, I could not wait to share it with you, dears.

* And while we are on the subject of recognition, did you know that the children's book editor at Dar Al-Shorouq, Amira Abul-Magd, has just won her publishing house the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award, "New Horizons" -- singling out the best children's book among 1,400 entries from 30 different countries -- for the year 2000? The book selected is The Life of Mohamed in 20 stories, a colourfully illustrated 159-page volume which was described by the jury as "a successful attempt to bring into the modern day the great Arab tradition of fantasy and fable," as the congratulatory letter to Al-Shorouq put it.

Besides winning the prize and earning the praise, The Life of Mohamed presents a challenge to a popular belief, in conformity with Islam's teachings prohibiting the portrayal of the prophets, that religious books shouldn't include illustrations of humans. "We had a hard time getting the book out with so many illustrations without causing controversy," said the happy editor, who was quick to point out that the book had won the 1999 Suzanne Mubarak Award for Best Children's Book.

* The Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services (CEOSS), on the occasion of its golden jubilee this week, honoured individuals and organisations involved in community service. The well-attended event was held under the auspices of Mrs Suzanne Mubarak. An Award for Pioneering Social and Civil Work, donated in the name of the late Father Samuel Habib, was given to Father Athanasius for his devotion and service to the public good. Honoured as well were the pioneer of family planning Aziza Hussein, head of the National NGO Commission on Population and Development (NCPD); our dear friend Milad Hanna; and that wonderful authority on education Hamed Ammar. More awards went to Dr Ahmed Shawqi for his all-inclusive concern with social issues and Galaleddin Zaki of the Assiut Childhood and Development Society. Last, but not least of course, the Shubra Al-Kheima Society for Local Community Development was also honoured. The society received LE30,000 as an award while the lucky individuals each received LE10,000.
* It is just such examples of leadership that will inspire the young people gathering on 7-12 March, when AUC hosts over 350 students from Egypt, Europe, the United States and Canada taking part in its 12th Cairo International Model United Nations (CIMUN), on the theme "towards making globalisation more humane". Economy Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali, Professor of Political Sociology at the National Centre for Social Research El-Sayed Yassin and renowned businessman Ibrahim Kamel will be the keynote speakers at the opening session.
At a time UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is facing all sorts of trouble and pressure at the real UN, Soha Abdel-Ati is hoping to do a better job when she fills his post temporarily at the CIMUN. As for Tamer El-Rafie, the head of the CIMUN organising committee and Shaden Khalaf, a graduate student who is the CIMUN adviser they have been working around the clock. Besides the 15-member Security Council, in which students will tackle possible world crises, participants will simulate the International Court of Justice, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the UN Reform Committee, the Conference on Disarmement and the World Bank. Over and above all the heated political and economic discussions expected to take place, another committee linked to the conference will discuss means of eliminating child labour. One project related to this theme and led by Delilah Heikal will be to raise funds for the schooling of three children forced to work at a young age.
   * Darlings, do let me tell you about the absolutely wonderful Sister Maria Grabis and the lovely ladies who have set out to help her. Sister Maria has devoted her energies for the past 25 years to improving the living conditions of the zabbalin community of Mo'tamadiya, a suburb of Giza, doing wonders with scanty resources. Well, last week, she was in for a pleasant surprise: the president of the Organising Committee of the 1999 European Charity Bazaar, Renate Falkowski (who is also the charming wife of the European Commission ambassador), paid her a long visit, accompanied by the wives of European ambassadors to Egypt. The purpose of the visit, as you may have guessed was to assist Sister Maria, who is at present trying to care for some 5,000 people. Having found out that Sister Maria needs to buy an additional piece of land on which an extension to the school she has established can be constructed to cater for the growing number of children, these generous ladies presented her with a beautiful gift: the proceeds of their 1999 Annual Charity Bazaar, with which she will be able to complete her project.
    * Many of you will be quite thrilled by the news that Professor Olwen Hufton, Leverhulme Fellow of History at Merton College, Oxford, has been invited by the Department of History at the American University in Cairo to give two very interesting lectures. The first one, titled The European Woman, 1500-1800, will take place on 12 March; you can catch the second, The Birth of Modernity in 18th Century Europe, on 14 March, both at the Rare Books Library. A seminar discussion on Constructing European Woman, 1500-1800 is scheduled for 13 March.
   * Dears, with all the multi-national corporations ruling our lives so impersonally these days, one is happy to hear that there are actual people at the helm. One such person is our dear Jean Attallah, who left Egypt for Greece 18 years ago to become managing director of Entreprise Middle East. Well, now Jean has decided that it was time to invest his long experience in multinational advertising and marketing in Egypt, his homeland, and he has joined Memac Ogilvy & Mather Egypt as its managing director. Jean was telling me the just other day that we will soon see a noticeable difference in the advertising market now that he has come back.

* Don't you sometimes feel an overwhelming need to listen to good music? I do, and that is why I will take myself on 6 March to the Cervantes Institute (Spanish Cultural Centre), which will be presenting a Spanish violin and piano concerto by Manuel Guillen and Luis Rego. Gifted violinist Guillen, who studied violin and chamber music at the Madrid Conservatoire, is now the top violinist in the Queen Sofia chamber music orchestra. Rego, a wonderful pianist, will do the honours as far as the ivories are concerned.

* If music be the food of love... bring on the painting! An exhibition by three talented artists, El-Nahas, Nadia Omar and Ali Mohamed Azzam, is on show at the cleverly named apARTment Gallery in Mohandessin until 7 March. El-Nahas is a versatile artist who worked on creating the props for several theatrical productions at Al-Salam Theatre and the Opera. I have seen Nadia Omar's work at several solo and group exhibitions, while Azzam has won plenty of awards and exhibited in Holland, France, Britain, Spain, Iraq and Algeria. So as you can see, dears, we are hardly deprived on the cultural front this week.

   * To close on a celebratory note, Al-Ahram Weekly celebrated its ninth anniversary this week. I can't believe we have spent almost a decade together, my sweets. Time flies when you're having fun, that's for sure. So my colleagues and I took time out from our hectic work schedules to cut our collective birthday cake. Our much loved Editor-in-Chief Hosny Guindy was wreathed in smiles as we all gathered round to sing a rousing rendition of happy birthday.

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