Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
9 - 15 March 2000
Issue No. 472
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues


Pack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris

I've just come back from the opening ceremony of the American University in Cairo's12th International Model United Nations (CIMUN), and let me assure you, my dears, that it was even more prestigious and exciting than it sounds. The event, where students from around the world simulate the goings-on at the real UN, is the university's "largest and most popular," according to AUC President John Gerhart, and "completely student-run," as we were told by graduate advisor Shaden Khallaf.

As if to prove these claims true, Tamer El-Rafie, head of the organising committee, then told the audience a heartwarming tale about how much CIMUN had changed his personality for the better, and Soha Abdelaty, the secretary-general, also mentioned that participating in model UN had helped her to view the world in a different, more hopeful light.

The topic of this year's opening ceremony was "Towards making globalisation more humane", and, as usual, AUC had invited prestigious speakers -- in this case businessman Ibrahim Kamel and Al-Ahram's very own political analyst El-Sayed Yassin -- to enthrall the audience with the power of ideas.

CIMUN is underway. On the podium (top, l-r): Khallaf at the lectern, El-Rafie, Abdelaty, Gerhart, Kamel and Yassin. Left, AUC Provost Tim Sullivan with Kamel and Yassin
photos: Abdel-Hamid Eid

Kamel, who is an AUC trustee, began by joking that his 8-month old grandson recently told him that he wants to attend AUC. That elicited a hearty chuckle from the audience, as did Kamel's comment that the model's secretary-general, Abdelaty, was "much more charming than Kofi Annan." But then Kamel quickly moved on to the meat of the matter: that, as opposed to most people, he does not share a fear of globalisation, but instead sees in it great potential for the positive. Kamel credits globalisation with forcing developing countries to improve their products and make them more competitive.

El-Sayed Yassin presented the other side of the coin, arguing that open competitiveness is a myth, since there is such a huge gap in technology between the developing and developed worlds. He questioned what he called political globalisation, wondering if "Western" concepts of human rights and democracy were the only ones applicable? Yassin also briefly noted the astonishing fact that 80 per cent of the content on the Internet is in English, which he argued was a clear barrier against larger numbers of people around the world benefiting from the new global system.

I would love to tell you more about the wonderful reception that followed in the Science garden but I'm afraid I have to move on. But I will mention this, however: that the Weekly is the official media sponsor of this prestigious event.

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Soon, my dears, we will be able to enjoy a very special treat, for the American Centre for Press and Cultural Affairs is preparing an exhibition entitled "Picturing the Century: American Photoraphs from the National Archives of the United States". This event will be inaugurated by US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer at the Townhouse Gallery, and will last from 13 March to 5 April. Apparently, dears, once the new year's celebrations were over, the White House Millennium Council was overcome with a sudden sense of nostalgia, and we will have a chance to peek at photographs that retrace such an important period in America's relatively short history. The photographs are classified chronologically: you will be able to browse through unique snapshots of World War II, the Wright brothers and fabulous flying machines, immigrants arriving in New York, the roaring '20s, the construction of the Empire State Building, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal... and much, much more.

I am always proud of my favourite film stars when they take up noble causes and put their fame in the service of the public good, so you can imagine that I was pleased as punch to see the dashing and always active Hussein Fahmi (whom I will never forget in his role as the debonair and idealistic university professor in the immortal Khalli Balak min Zouzou), who is good-will ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, at the press conference organised by the United Nations Information Centre in Cairo in cooperation with the International Organisation for Drug Monitoring. I am always interested in such issues, as you know, and I was on hand to hear the presentation of the organisation's report on the global drug situation for 1999. While listening attentively, I spied several other knights in shining armour, especially Farouq Abul-Ata, the head of the General Authority for Combating Drugs at the Ministry of Interior.

On the occasion of Egyptian Physicians' Day, the Physicians' Syndicate granted its highest award to our own Al-Ahram historian, Dr Yunan Labib Rizk. I bet, dears, that like me you are inveterate addicts of the fascinating Diwan of Contemporary Life. Dear Yunan, an eminent professor of history and head of the Al-Ahram History Studies Centre, was granted the award for his distinguished role in documenting Egypt's history so interestingly.
Darlings, I always tell my friends that women of substance are invariably rewarded, and I can now adduce a new piece of evidence in support of my favourite maxim. Our very own Inas Mazhar, who heads the sports page here at Al-Ahram Weekly, has been invited to Paris by the International Olympic Committee to attend an international conference on women and sports, to be held from 5 to 10 March. The conference marks the 100th anniversary of the participation of women athletes at the Olympics, but also International Women's Day, celebrated on 8 March. At the conference, Inas is scheduled to deliver a lecture on how sportswomen are portrayed in the media. Inas will not be suffering from stage fright, I'm sure, since she is an old hand at such events: just last December, she attended a conference on women and sports in Norway, sponsored by the International Handball Federation.
Some days, dears, I find it rather difficult to tune in. It must have to do with my low protein intake (and don't you go finding other reasons). Well, on those particular days I find it difficult to listen and, when I try to, the message is a little garbled. This is why last week I confused award givers with recipients when I attempted to tell you all about the ceremony that took place at the Coptic Evangelical Organisation:for Social Services (CEOSS) I said my mea culpa a hundred times, and now please note that Ahmed Shawqi, Hamed Ammar and Milad Hanna did not receive awards but were on the illustrious award committee, which also included Amani Qandil, Osama El-Ghazali Harb, Ragab El-Banna, Samir Eleish, Hoda Rashad, Father Makram Naguib and Nabil Samuel Abadir.

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