10 - 16 August 2000
Issue No. 494
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Pack of Cards
By Madame Sosostris
* To be frank, my puppets, I don't know what came over me. Perhaps it was the influence of Sharm, where youngsters exercise their youthful folly, partying the night away. Ah, ils étaient jeunes, ils étaient beaux... Last Saturday evening, I had the urge to relive the days of my youth and decided to hit the club scene. Yes, Madame Sosostris went bar-hopping. In recent years, the night life in Egypt has experienced a tremendous boom, it seems, and Cairo has witnessed a proliferation of Western-style hang-outs. I inaugurated my evening with a light dinner at the hip resto-bar Tabasco in Mohandessin. Donning my electric-blue sequin gown and silver bangle earrings, I was certainly hard to miss, especially with my new hairdo, courtesy of one of Mohamed Junior's coiffeurs extraordinaires. The waiter led me to a centrally located table, where I would be in full view of admirers. I ordered a glass of tonic with a twist of lemon, and an hors d'oeuvre, mushroom on toast, which arrived promptly, but tasted a little too much like Bovril (powdered gravy) for my palate. What a splendid suprise it was when I spotted an Al-Ahram Weekly colleague enter the premises. Kareem Fahim, who is a graduate student at Columbia University, has been in Cairo for a month now. Kareem was accompanied by his brother Ashraf, a student at London University's School of Oriental and Asian Studies, and sister-in-law Hanan. A brief exchange and I decided to relocate over to the resto-bar next door, Absolut, which is generally known to be packed with interesting youngsters. In fact, a friend of mine whispered a few weeks ago that she spotted actress Farah (Ard Al-Khof) one evening. I trotted over to Absolut in my Moschino mules, but alas, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. So I sauntered over to my chauffeur, Quasimodo, and asked him to take me to Pomodoro, the glam nightspot overlooking the Nile. When I made my grand entrance, the DJ was playing Debkeh, an Arab folkloric beat popular with the youth these days. Everyone was up snapping their fingers and shaking their hips with so much enthusiasm. Bravo, I silently thought to myself. I bumped into Walid El-Torky who is an engineering student at Cairo University. A few months ago, Walid injured his knee in an automobile accident and I was thrilled to see he has recovered. But then I checked my watch and my goodness, was it midnight already? Like Cinderella, I had a curfew and had to return home swiftly lest I miss a wink of my beauty sleep.
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* Woe is Madame Sosostris! Darlings, I am in pain. I write this tidbit after slathering lotion all over my sunburned spots, which I acquired this weekend bathing in the salty waters of the Red Sea at Sharm Al-Sheikh. A couple of friends were in town from Montreal, Vahe Tosikyan and his girlfriend Chris Sotiriou, and both were keen on a little getaway from Cairo's urban scene. Where else but Sharm, thought I, forgetting momentarily that August is the roastiest period of the year. Since the decision was taken at the very last moment, we were compelled to opt for the six-hour bus-trek through barren desert. At 11.30pm, we headed for Turgoman station and embarked the vehicle pumping second-rate Arabic music at deafening level and air-conditioning fit for a freezer. A veritable torture chamber! When we arrived in the wee morning hour of 6.00am, we decided that a five-star hotel was the way to go to make up for the excruciating experience. We hopped on a pick-up truck/taxi and asked for the "Hilton, Mövenpick, Marriott, Sheraton, or whatever." The driver caught on to our desire and whisked us off with a roar of his engine to the Hilton Fayrouz. Sweaty, exhausted and limping -- my foot had fallen asleep due to awkward positioning in the back of the pick-up truck -- my companions and I arranged for a room somewhere on the vast complex, which we eventually found as we hobbled along the cobblestone passageways that interwove the chalet-like rooms together. Once settled, we headed straight for the breakfast buffet at the restaurant serving the usual fare of fresh pancakes, omelettes, assortment of cheeses and fruits, as well as oven-baked potatoes with onions, stuffed tomatoes and fried sausages for those seeking to start off their morning with indigestion. Once our hunger was sufficiently sated, we veered towards the beach where we copped the sunniest location and lingered there, along with the many Italian and German holidaymakers garbed in heavy snorkeling gear, for the next five hours or so. Egyptians, it seems, knew better than to come out to Sharm in August. And, my sweet peas, the funny thing about sunburns is they creep up on you only after it is too late to do something about it -- the next morning.
This did not occur to your clever Madame Sosostris, her head scarved in Hermès and bespectacled à la Sophia Loren, as she dragged the plastic chaise-longue from under the parasol, into the water, and allowed her bikini-clad self to baste there in the sun and sea, defying all SPF edicts known to man. Naughty, naughty!
In the evening, the crowd shacking up at the many hotels adorning the coast gathered at the shopping area, where there are also several restaurants and nightclubs. We chose to dine at the Italian restaurant, aptly named "Italian Restaurant," on the beach and then strolled through the shops peddling vases, tapestry and beaded necklaces. We later passed by the "Crazy Daisy" bar that was playing a bizarre mélange of contemporary pop (eg, Britney Spears) and old sitcom themesongs (eg, Little House on the Prairie). To cap off the soirée, we made a cameo at the "Pirates" club, where there was a live band playing everything from Spanish to Arabic and waiters scuttled about in kilts and headscarves à la Captain Hook. One wonders how handsomely this establishment must have remunerated its Egyptian waiters in order to get them into skirts! By 2.00am, we were absolutely fatigués, so we returned to our room and fell fast asleep. The morning after, it was unanimously agreed upon that this episode was brought to us by the letter "Ow."
* And upon my return, my sweets, I sat on the balcony in my beige satin kimono to smoke a cigarillo and sift through my daily correspondence. It is a habit I have refused to surrender, in spite of technological "progress," which has replaced the plume with a plastic keyboard and personalised stationary with a blinding neon screen. I confess, I would rather sacrifice my correspondence to the Egyptian postal system than keep up with the changing times that have killed the art of letter-writing. So, every morning I put my mobile phone on vibrate to prevent any interruption and commence the ritual. But I digress.
How divine it was to learn that morning that a dear friend, Ghada Saba, was to arrive in Cairo on 11 August from Amman. Ghada and I met in Cairo some months back when she was working alongside director Sherif Shaaban on a soon-to-be-released film. The new film is basically an Arabic remake of the Marilyn Monroe flick "Some Like it Hot," starring Maged El-Masri and Hani Ramzi.
Ghada is a feisty Palestinian, born and bred in Jordan, where she has been a familiar face in the hip circles for a long time as the one-time host of a popular television show, See-Cinema. Nor is she a stranger to the art scene of the larger Arab world, she tells me, having interviewed Egyptian comedian Mohamed Heneidi (Hammam fi Amsterdam) and Ahmed Zaki (Ard Al-Khof), as well as being on chatty terms with Jordanian composer Tareq El-Nasser and Algerian singing sensation Rachid Taha, whose songs include "Ya rayih."
Ghada returns to Cairo this time with two points on her agenda. She will work alongside a widely acclaimed Egyptian director on his new film, and at the same time investigate the prospects of implementing in Egypt a project that has proven successful back home, Insan, for which she has just completed a documentary. Insan deals with children on the street and attempts to steer them away from violence by allowing them to vent their frustrations through theatre. If everyone put this much effort into humanitarian endeavours, would not our society be that much better?
* Now, for those of my darlings who depend on my impeccable art savvy, here's the lowdown on the circuit this week. An exhibition of acrylic paintings by Amir Shawqi Wahib is currently on show at Nocchio gallery in Heliopolis. In this display, running through 26 August, Wahib exhibits 40 pieces from his latest collection titled "New Perspective." His new perspective seems to me, quite frankly, drawn from the perspectives of many successful artists before him, namely Van Gogh. Nonetheless, his exhibit is worth a gander.
Wahib has participated in several exhibitions displaying his Coptic depictions at Picasso Art gallery and his acrylic paintings at Cairo Design Centre, Salon du Caire, Khan Al-Maghrabi and Riash art galleries. He has many of his oeuvre resting in prominent art galleries such as Doroub, Safar Khan, Orient Express, the Apartment and others. Wahib, a graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts Interior Design programme, pursued his artistic vocation in a variety of fields: interior and furniture designs, art direction and advertising.
* Taking a looksy in my agenda this week, I notice that Cairene art aficionados will not suffer from a shortage of worthy exhibits to attend. My lovelies, an opinion that I am sure you will agree upon when you attend the exhibition entitled "The Kind Land" by Omar Atta, is that my compatriots are not lacking in talent. The exhibition running through 11 August was inaugurated by Mustafa El-Fiqi, assistant to the minister of foreign affairs, at the Atelier du Caire. Atta, a Foreign Ministry employee, is an amateur who has toured the world displaying his creations. In 1994, he held an exhibition in Vienna and was awarded a certificate of recognition from the Viennese Culture Ministry. He also held several shows in Istanbul and Egypt.
* And, my little truffles, I am jubilant to announce that I have even found a must-see exhibition in my favourite sanctuary from Cairo's scorching sun, Alexandria, the bride of the Mediterranean. On 12 August, an exhibition of sculpture by Hazem Abdel-Khaliq will be inaugurated at Al-Anfoushi Culture Palace. The show, running through 22 August, will comprise 40 sculpted works created from various materials, which are basically wood and iron with the addition of polyester. Abdel-Khaliq, reputed for his interest in the relation between the statue and its base, created this relation in a harmonious way that abides by the general rules that create a beautiful work of sculpture. He will display his recent and varied collection including statues sculpted on wood and flat masks, inspired by Egypt's ancient heritage and created from polyester. Abdel-Khaliq has taken part in numerous exhibitions held in both Cairo and Alexandria. He received an honorary certificate from Jarash Festival in 1997 and this year, first prize of Alexandria Youth Salon for sculpture.