|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
28 Sep. - 4 Oct. 2000
Issue No. 501
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Pack of Cards
By Madame Sosostris
* On the terrace of the majestic Mubarak Library, overlooking the spectacular scene of the Nile in Giza, AUC Press celebrated last Monday its 40th anniversary in grand style, to say the least. The Book and Author Festival was attended by Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, US Ambassador to Cairo Daniel Kurtzer, AUC Provost Tim Sullivan, author Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid, publisher Nadim Elias and Al-Ahram book distributor Hani Tolba, who offered congratulatory comments about the AUC Press and its 40-year publishing history. They also paid homage to Mark Linz, AUC Press director, who hosted the festival .
Numerous other ministers, ambassadors, celebrities and friends of AUC Press, including authors, translators and journalists, participated in the celebration and enjoyed the music played by a takht.
The programme comprised exhibits of AUC Press titles from its early days to the present, including some 50 works by Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz .
Egypt Elections Region International Economy Opinion Culture Special Travel Living Sports Profile People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
Above clockwise from left: Culture Minister Farouk Hosni at the 40th anniversary of AUC Press; AUC Provost Tim Sullivan addressing the audience surrounded by American Ambassador Kurtzer (l), Thompson and Minister of Culture Hosni; sampling AUC publications; Zahi Hawass (l) in conversation with Australian Ambassador Victoria Owen and former Minister of Industry Ibrahim Fawzi
reception at the Armenian Embassy
reception at the Chilean Embassy
A slide presentation by archaeologist Zahi Hawass, entitled "City of Mummies," on his recently published and magnificently illustratedValley of the Golden Mummies, attracted a large audience.
In a short talk, Jason Thompson, editor of the historic Description of Egypt by Edward William Lane, hailed the work as a lost masterpiece refound. AUC Professor John Rodenbeck read a selection from Reading Egypt: Literature, History and Culture and included an extract from Cairo the CityVictorious, authored by his son Max and published by AUC Press. Forty prizes were offered, ranging from airline tickets to cell phones, and were won by 40 lucky winners from a tombola draw. The very enjoyable evening was only marred by a shortage of drinks (even mineral water), testing the endurance of a very thirsty assemblage of people on a hot and humid night.
With the sumptuous Salamlek Palace Hotel as the setting, the Alexandria art exhibition was inaugurated on 14 September on the sidelines of the Alexandria International Film Festival. The works of four leading contemporary artists, Ahmed Shiha, Adel El-Masri, Farouk Shehata and Gaber Hegazi, were on display. The opening was attended by Abdel-Salam El-Mahgoub, governor of Alexandria, Mohamed Saleh, president of the festival, veteran actor Nour El-Sherif (who has just received the Best Actor award for his role in "The Lovers") and gorgeous actress Elham Shahine. The exhibition, which will last till 28 September, was organised in collaboration with the Egyptian Foundation for Promoting Art and Creativity (EFPAC), which was founded by architect Yasser Askar and the EAB, and which aims to promote Egyptian culture and the work of both Egyptian and foreign artists.
Along similarly intellecual lines, an exhibition titled "Oriente Riflesso" by Italian artist Armando Arpaja was inaugurated by Attilio De Gasperis, director of the Italian Cultural Institute, at the gallery of the institute.
The exhibition, running until 10 October, showcases a panoramic view of Arpaja's paintings that reflect his complex personality. His wide-ranging works depict the anatomy of the human body and echo the customs and traditions of the countries he toured, such as Greece, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Denmark.
A week scarcely passes without at least two diplomatic soirées on my agenda, and this week was no exception. I was scheduled to make a cameo at an affair hosted by the Chileans. The occasion marked the 190th anniversary of the Republic of Chile. So, on the evening of 18 September, I slipped on a smashing floral number and headed for the Maadi residence of Chile's newly appointed Ambassador Samuel Fernandez Illanes, a charming gentleman with old school manners. With his beautiful wife Cecilia Undurraga, he warmly greeted all his guests at the door. Previously posted at UNESCO headquarters in France, he has been in Cairo for roughly a month and a half now. Nonetheless, he has not wasted anytime meeting everyone who's anyone on the Egyptian scene. Some 100 guests mingled as various pressmen deftly manoeuvred to catch the most prominent on camera. All Latin American ambassadors were present, as well as some members of the Spanish military and the Chilean expatriate community. From the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in attendance were Mohamed El-Dorghami, director of protocol, and Hassan Taher, director of the Latin America desk.
Allow me to share with you, my truffles, the second item on my diplomatic agenda. What a delightful evening I spent on 21 September at the Zamalek residence of Armenian Ambassador Sergey Manassarian and his lovely wife Irina! The reception purported to celebrate the republic's national day.
Eager to partake in the festivities, my escort and I arrived ever-so-unfashionably on time and had the opportunity to admire the grounds of the villa before a swarm of guests entered the premises. Some quality schmoozing was called for as Manassarian had assembled a sparkling array of ambassadors, prominent members of the Armenian community and of course, distinguished Al-Ahram Weekly journalists, including my dear colleagues Tanya Goudsouzian and Nora Keuhnelian, who was there with her husband Ara, as well as international page editor Gamal Nkrumah. I had the opportunity to speak with Cypriot Ambassador James C Droushiotis, who has been in Cairo for six months now and was previously posted at the United Nations headquarters in New York. I briefly chatted with Ethiopian Ambassador Kongit Sinegiorgis and American Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer. Moving on, I greeted Fathi Khattab, cultural assistant at the Palestinian Embassy, U Than Tun, counsellor at the Myanmar Embassy and Gulzhan Naimanova, third secretary at the Kazakhstan Embassy. Naimanova was kind enough to give me a tip on a Kazakh cultural event that is soon to take place. Among my Armenian friends I spotted well-known artist Chant Avedissian, AGBU President Berj Terzian, Antranik Mesrobian, Nubar Simonian, Garbis Yazedjian, Dr Kevork Mazloumian and Souren Bayramian. Through the grapevine, I learned that the embassy staff, including Third Secretary Fadey Charchoghlian and Second Secretary Dikran Kevorkian, had earlier bid farewell to Counsellor Anahit Tovmassian, who is preparing to return to Armenia. The reception, scheduled to end at 9.00pm, was so successful that at 10.00pm, there was still a crowd on the ambassador's lawn.
In order to better celebrate Armenia's independence day, the embassy teamed up with the local Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) to put together a wonderful concert on 24 September at the Cairo Opera House. Flown in from Armenia were two young musical prodigies, Anna Mayilian, mezzo soprano, and Yelena Melikian, pianist. The crowd in attendance included a large number of prominent Armenian community members, including His Eminence Archbishop Zaven Chinchinian. There were also some foreign faces who showed great interest in the programme. Among them I spotted Yugoslav Ambassador Dusan Simeonovic, his radiant wife Dragana, Russian Ambassador Andrey Ivanovich Denisov and his willowy wife Natalia. The programme included works from Handel, Schumann and Chopin, but also boasted some beautiful Armenian compositions. Ancient religious chants by Krikor Naregatsi (951-1003) and Nerses Shnorhali (1098-1173) enthralled the audience. Modern ones by Eduard Abrahamian (1923-1986), Romanos Melikian (1883-1935) and Georg Saradjian (1924-1985) were equally mesmerising. The show befitted a nation that has, throughout the centuries, been considered a bastion of arts and culture.
That was quite a cultural week, my darlings, and it did put a bit of a strain on my little brain, so to speak. This is why I was so happy to attend the charmingly original engagement party of Ahmed Farid, our colleague in charge of advertisements at Al-Ahram Hebdo, to lovely Rasha Mohamed Mahmoud Gad. It was a nice and friendly affair, which reminded me of times gone by when most of these events took place in the privacy of one's home and were shared only with the closest family members