6 - 12 July 2000
Issue No. 489
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
"Not only has his good work earned him the prestigious French award Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur 17 years ago, but he was also honored as Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite.," said a friend at the ceremony held on 28 June, during which Iskandar Ghattas of the Justice Ministry was awarded the distinction at the Giza residence of French Ambassador François Dopffer. Prominent officials, diplomats, journalists and friends had come in droves. "We often say that the greatest evidence of success in life is friends," said the ambassador, indicating that the large group in attendance that evening was such a demonstration. Ghattas' career has spanned 40 years during which he worked up the Justice Ministry hierarchy. He also taught and represented Egypt in various international conferences. The ambassador stressed Ghattas' role in the francophonie, as a brilliant Egyptian jurist who has mastered the French language and has contributed importantly to French judicial culture. "Judicial cooperation between France and Egypt rests largely on your actions and your ideas," said the ambassador, citing one of Ghattas's projects involving the Courts of Cassation. In his acceptance speech, Ghattas expressed his profound gratitude to France, Ambassador Dopffer and made special mention of the latter's predecessor in Egypt, Jean Marc de la Sablière, upon whose recommendation this distinction was granted. In his acceptance speech, Ghattas drew a parallel between the thinking of Egyptian literary doyen Taha Hussein and the values propounded by francophonie. In calling for the respect of national identity within the cadre of cultural diversity, the francophonie considers language as a tool towards maintaining solidarity and power. By the same accord, it works to ensure that this solidarity and power be used to foster open-mindedness, tolerance and non-discrimination. The event ended with photographers taking snapshots of yours truly with all the high and mighty in sight, and the waiters offering champagne and little hors d'oeuvres to the attendees. I made sure not to indulge in too many of the tasty custard balls, as I was headed for yet another scrumptious fete.
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* A select group of journalists were invited to an informal dinner on 28 June at the residence of Anwar Kemal, Pakistan's ambassador to Egypt. Needless to say I was among those fortunate enough to have attended. The neo-classical residence located in posh Zamalek is a grand sight to behold and I think that you know by now how crazy I am about turn-of-the century architecture. Stark white and majestic, it has been well-maintained over the years and boasts an intriguing history, having at one time belonged to the grandfather of former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and then to the Aga Khan, from whom Pakistan purchased the deed. The ambassador has done an exquisite job decorating the interior, adopting a minimalist approach, with a few tasteful pieces placed here and there, including lovely tapestry and some of his own artwork on the walls. arriving early to enjoy the decor, I was entertained by Shakil Akhtar, the number two man at the Pakistan embassy, who gave me a little guided tour of the premises and some insight into the working habits of certain Pakistani artists. We were soon joined by the ambassador, and together, we waited for the 30 some guests to trickle in. Among the guests were Nermine Hazem, a popular Nile TV personality looking stunning in a bright red galabiya, Imam Gharib, head of programming at Nile TV, Mahmoud Murad, renowned columnist at Al-Ahram, beautiful Aicha Abdel Ghaffar, head of Al-Ahram's diplomatic section, and Soheir Gabr of Al-Akhbar, with whom I chatted briefly but was impressed nonetheless. After some time mingling in the salon, we were ushered into the dining area where a never-ending buffet of shrimp, lamb, fish, beef, potato and basmati rice dishes awaited us. No one resisted an encore . Meanwhile our host was keen on acquiring a better understanding of Middle East affairs from the perspective of Egyptian journalists.
* And what a great event that was, organised by the Foreign Affairs League at their press syndicate headquarters to allow foreign and Egyptian diplomats to mingle in a more informal setting. Many very interesting foreign representatives were in attendance but unfortunately, I only had a chance to be introduced to Bosnian Ambassador Avdija Hadrovic, Costas Papas, Greek press counselor, Oliver Mompartz, German press attaché, Pankaj Saran, Indian political councellor and Pretti Saran, Indian press councellor. There were many others of course but one can spread oneself that much dears as you well know.
The league does not only include diplomats but counts 100 prominent journalists specialising in foreign affairs among its members, with Sameh Abdallah as president of the league; he is deputy chief of the diplomatic section at Al-Ahram
The league also features an honorary committee which includes media luminaries and veteran journalists such as Al-Ahram columnist Salama Ahmed Salama, Hosny Guindy, Mohamed Salmawy, Mahfouz El-Ansari, Inji Rushdi, Kamal Abdel-Raouf and Mohamed El-Ezabi.
Among those who attended I noticed Ali Darwish, of the USA Embassy press office, Galal Abul-Futouh of Al-Wafd , Abdel-Moneim Said director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Marcelle Wahba, press and cultural councellor at the US Embassy, Sherif Galal from Al-Alam Al-Youm.
* Egypt is participating in a conference entitled, "Women's theatrical creativity", being held on the sidelines of the week-long International European Exhibition "Expo 2000" in Germany. The conference will be attended by a distinguished group of Egyptian playwrights and art critics. Among other events, attendees will be able to listen to our own theatre critic Nehad Selaiha speaking about women's role, as actresses and authors. Another lecture titled, "The physical performance", will be delivered by Nora Amin The Egyptian documentary film, Hiz el hilal ya Sayed, (Shake the crescent moon o Sayed) directed by Atiyat El-Abnoudi, will also be shown.
* The efforts of State Minister for the Environment Nadia Makram Ebeid to implement environmental law 4 for the year 1994 were recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) granting her its award, "smoke-free world." Ebeid's campaign against smoking in closed areas and public transport has proved so far to be a success. The head of the WHO Regional Office of the Eastern Mediterranean Hussein El-Gazayerli granted her the prize during a celebration attended by Health Minister Dr Ismail Sallam, Youth and Sport Minister Aliyeddin Hilal, representatives of the Environment Affairs Authority and Salah Montasser, Al-Ahram's eminent columnist who has been leading an anti-smoking campaign for years.
"This award really goes to President Hosni Mubarak and the entire Egyptian society who strongly supports environmental issues, said the Environment Minister. In her acceptance speech, Ebeid thanked the government's other ministries which cooperated in the smoke free project.
She also said there are about 11,000 people who die daily from smoking across the world. Consequently, the WHO took the initiative to control the cultivation of tobacco and trade all over the globe.
* For the serious minded I have a real treat, the book which our dear colleague at Al-Ahram Abdel-Halim Ghazali just wrote about his experience living for several months among the Taliban. This first hand account is both interesting to read and illuminating as to the nature of the group at a time when information is easy to get by but expertise on the topic hard to come by.
* I hope that you have noticed at newsstands the new Al-Ahram publication, a handsome and useful interior decoration magazine, the very latest in the series of publications launched by the chairman of the board of Al-Ahram Organisation and Al-Ahram's editor-in-chief Ibrahim Nafie, always keen on meeting needs of the public by offering them first class information on thousands of different topics.
The new magazine, Al-Bayt (the home), is produced entirely in Arabic and headed by Executive Editor-in-Chief Sylvia El-Nakkadi who has been able to surround herself with the best experts in the numerous topics on offer. We at the Weekly, wish our newborn sister a long and prosperous future.
*The American University in Cairo celebrated its 77 undergraduate commencement ceremony on 18 June at the Cairo International Conference Centre where 404 students received their bachelor's degree.
Furthermore, AUC and its board of Trustees conferred the degree of Doctorate of Humane Letters upon Ibrahim Helmi, medical zoologist, for his work in preservation of Egypt's natural resources and upon commencement speaker, Dr Ismail Serageldin, vice president of the World Bank.
Representative of the graduating class Nora Yasmine Abu Steit (Middle Eastern Studies) delivered the student speech.
Bassem Raouf Sobhi (Mechanical Engineering) and Dalia Nihal Ahmed Zaki Zahwi (also Mechanical Engineering) won the President's Cup, presented to students achieving the highest grade point average during their years of study.
The Ahmed El-Mahallawi Family Award established by the late Journalist Nawal El-Mahallawi was presented to Yasmine Abu Ferrekha (Psychology) and Wejdan Majed El-Malki (Biology) in recognition of their volunteer work and community service. Finally Ali Wali , president of the Students' Union was awarded the coveted Parents Association Cup