15 - 21 June 2000
Issue No. 486
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
* What a treat it was to receive an invitation to Portugal's national day celebration! I have never visited that European nation, but am ever fascinated by its glorious seafaring past, and I knew the event was the closest I would get for now, so I made sure to leave my schedule open on the evening of 11 June. The embassy spared no expense and hosted an elegant reception in the posh Versailles Hall of the Gezirah Sheraton. Ambassador Manuel Nuno Tavares de Sousa greeted the influx of invitees at the door. His ebullient secretary Nabila stood in proximity, ushering us in and making sure no one hesitated to raid the sumptuous buffet of shrimp, chicken, beef and kofta dishes. The dessert buffet was calorie-packed with crème bržlée, mahalabiya and a bright marzipan-covered cake in the colors of the Portuguese flag. The latter was a gastronomic delight that I did not want to venture slicing into -- after all, would it not be considered a political faux-pas to cut a national flag to pieces, even if it is full of mouth-watering chocolate? Guests included diplomats from various countries and local television and print media representatives.
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I had to dodge the Egyptian satellite TV camera crew, who were filming me as I conversed with my mother overseas via mobile (she has always had terrible timing). I spotted the Romanian ambassador Doru Costea and his talented wife Jeni, whose photography exhibit of Egyptian monuments was held not too long ago. She looked resplendent in a shimmery pastel top. I also ran into Nicolas Grimal of the French embassy and his charming wife Camélia, who seems to appear more beautiful every time I see her. Shakil Akhtar of the Pakistan Embassy, journalist John Munroe and myself had an interesting chat about Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan and his beautiful wife, British heiress Jemima Goldsmith. The Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee was also in attendance with his wife Nalini, wearing a gorgeous sari. Why don't I have one just like it hanging in my wardrobe? I had the pleasure of meeting the very dapper Dr Saud Zabidi, from the Arab League Secretariat, and former Egyptian army general Hassan Abdel-Aziz. The soirée was laid-back and quite informal -- wonderful, really, since I had no desire to be standing on my high heels longer than necessary. The crowd gradually diffused, all impressed with the embassy's tasteful organisation of the event.
* Have you heard of the biggest newspaper in the world, Het Volk, which was once published in Belgium? Collector Louis Nierijnk from Holland, who owns one of the largest newspaper collections in the world, was kind enough to send a picture of it to Al-Ahram Weekly.
The enormousHet Volk was published in Gent, Belgium in 1993. It has eight pages, which measure a whopping 142 by 101cm each. It weighs 3/4kg, and ousted the American Illuminated Quadruple Constellation, printed in 1859, from the Guiness Book of Records. Now that is what I call a substantial bit of news!
* Darlings, I attended a most unusual event, organised by the Committee for Doqqi Comunity Development (CDCD) to mark Environment Day last week at the Gezira Sporting Club. I had the pleasure of listening to what great environmentalist and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Mustafa Tolba had to say about the many clever ways of reducing the huge amounts of garbage we produce. It gave me so many good ideas, dears, you would not believe it. One thing I can do at once is to stop using all these plastic bags, which are utterly unrecyclable and create vast amounts of pollution no matter how one tries to dispose of them.
Tolba was introduced by my dear friend Sohaila El-Sawi of CDCD, one of the most environmentally-aware persons I have ever met. Sohaila is desperate about the state of affairs, telling the audience: "We have become so used to the sight of ugliness that it does not shock us any more. In fact," she added sadly, "we have become incapable of recognising it." Words to ponder, no doubt.
* Last week, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni inaugurated the retrospective exhibition of Simon Shahrikian at the Gezira Art Centre's Ragheb Ayad Hall. Professor Ahmed Nawwar, head of the Fine Arts Sector and Chairman of Gezira Art Centre Mohamed Rizq were at hand to welcome the visitors to this rather unusual exhibition organised by the B Hovaghimian family who are pioneering the revival of Egyptian-Armenian art. The event commemorated the 10th anniversary of Shahrikian's death
* Yasser Sobhi and stunningly beautiful Mary Halim exchanged vows last week, at the church of Anba Antonious in Heliopolis, surrounded by family and friends. Yasser, a reporter on Al-Ahram 's economy page, is the son of our dear layout editor, Samir Sobhi, who made sure that the entire Al-Ahram family was in attendance. Also present were Father Arsenios and Father Alexious, who came all the way from St Catherine Monastery to attend the ceremony. Among the many guests, I spotted famous actress Nadia Lutfi beaming at the happiness of the young couple. Yasser and Mary's pool-side luncheon, organised by the Movenpick Pyramids, was a great hit with the guests who enjoyed themselves tremendously. The newly-weds are honeymooning in Sinai, which they will be exploring from one end to the other.