|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line|
9 -15 November 2000
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
Call me Gulliver, or perhaps Phileas Fogg, but I dearly love to travel. So imagine my thrill upon receiving an invitation to attend on 31 October a cocktail reception and dinner presentation aboard the posh Le Pasha floating restaurant sponsored by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO). The purpose of the event was to feature the many attractions of this Mediterranean island -- beaches, shops, nightlife and history -- to an audience consisting mostly of press corps and travel agents. I have been to Nicosia once and most certainly intend to return. A clotheshorse like myself cannot resist the ultimate shopping experience offered on Makarios Avenue. Nor can the history buff in me stay away from the island's rich past, visible in the form of Greek temples, Roman theatres, Christian basilicas, Byzantine churches, Crusader castles amd Venetian fortifications.
Cypriot Ambassador James C Droushiotis and his staff greeted guests at the door of the boat's sumptuous Le Palais hall. During the mingling session, I chatted with CLEO's luminous fashion editor Susan Sabet and her husband Ayman. I had the pleasure of meeting Mohamed Abdel-Fattah from October magazine, Mervat Fahmi from Rose El-Youssef, Abdel-Nasser Ahmed from Al-Ahram Al-Masa'i, Rawya El-Manasterli from Al-Alam Al-Yom, Amir Fahim from the Travel Writers' Association and Esaad Mandour, head of the commercial section of EgyptAir. I was pleased to see two dear Al-Ahram Weekly colleagues, Rehab Saad and Tanya Goudsouzian, all decked out in their Sunday finest for the occasion.
Once we were all seated, dinner was served and a presentation was given by Christos Moustras, CTO director for the Middle East and Gulf regions. Aided by an audio-visual presentation titled "At the Edge of Heaven," Moustras transported the audience not so far away, to the third largest island on the Mediterranean, standing at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. While Greeks brought their civilisation to Cyprus some 3,000 years ago, many others passed through it, including Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans and British, before it became an independent state in 1960. A significant part of this cultural heritage, however, rests on the northern third of the island, where Turkish forces have established a permanent presence since 1974. From the Middle East, Cyprus receives some 60,000 tourists, constituting 2.5 per cent of the total number. From Egypt alone, some 7,000 holiday-makers travel to the island. As the programme came to an end, many seemed to be contemplating the possibility of joining these statistics...
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For you, dears, whom I spy with my little eye at every theatre in town, the Cairo Opera House and the American Centre for Press and Cultural Affairs will present the Chicago Pegasus Players at Al-Gomhouriya in a performance of the musical show Side by Side by Sondheim, a musical revue of the best-known works of Stephen Sondheim, one of the giants of contemporary American musical theatre, on 16 and 17 November. The show will feature songs, dance and acting by four famous actors and actresses and two piano players. The group of performers who will participate in the show told our colleague Reham El-Adawi that a workshop on musical theatre will follow the show. Their goal is to work on three songs from the show as well as on another never heard here before. The group apparently takes great pleasure in working with their Egyptian counterparts.
For Stephen Rader, one of the actors, the workshop is a forum for cultural exchange. Pegasus prides itself on bringing art to low-income groups, senior citizens, inner-city school students, the disabled and the disenfranchised. The performers visit hospitals and go to those who can't afford to come to them. They also have the reputation of tackling difficult pieces: for instance, they have performed Sondheim's The Frogs, which takes place in a swimming pool. "Maybe we could bring that to Cairo next time," said Arlene J Crewdson, executive director and founder of the Pegasus Players.
Under the auspices of Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, "Egyptian Features," an exhibition by the versatile artist and critic Hassan Osman, was inaugurated by the director-general of museum, Ahmed Nawwar, at the Ahmed Shawqi Museum. The exhibition, running until 16 November, comprises Osman's most recent work, including painting, sculpture and ceramics. Portraits, ceramic plates and two statues of the children of the Intifada are on display. A seminar titled "The Heritage of the Fayoum Portraits" will follow the exhibition; Director-General of the Giza Plateau Zahi Hawwas, ex-culture minister Tharwat Okasha, Nawwar and the artist will be the keynote speakers.
Darlings, you know a great deal about me by now, but do you know that I absolutely adore poetry? That is why I rushed to the Ahmed Shawqi Museum, where a poetry discussion group had been organised by Ahmed Sami, head of the Centre of Criticism and Creativity, to commemorate the 68th anniversary of poet laureate Ahmed Shawqi's death. The event featured a discussion of various poetic and cultural issues by poets Sameh Mahgoub, Ayman El-Awadi, Ali Omran, Sherine El-Adawi and Taha Wadi, professor at the Faculty of Science.
Staff, friends and supporters of the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt gathered at the annual alumni dinner to celebrate 51 years of Fulbright in Egypt. The dinner was attended by a bevy of famous and interesting personalities. Among them I noticed Minister of Higher Education Mufid Shehab, Minister of Youth Aliyeddin Hilal, Secretary-General of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood Moushira Khattab, a number of Arab and foreign ambassadors and presidents of Egyptian national universities. In her welcoming remarks, Executive Director of the commission in Egypt Ann Radwan spoke of its role in the past half-century. In addition, this year's dinner marked the beginning of a thematic focus on sustained Egyptian-American cooperation and partnerships. The keynote address, titled "Chicago and Luxor: Partners in Preservation, 1924-2000," was given by Raymond Johnson, field director of Chicago House in Luxor.
The very active Maadi Environmental Rangers organised their fourth clean-up campaign last week. The focus was to clean inside and around 16 local schools in Maadi. The ultimate aim is to enhance environmental awareness among schoolchildren as well as their teachers, said Nadia Rashad, chairperson of the Rangers.
This year, children were encouraged to separate garbage at the source and were educated on the benefits of recycling.
To help children successfully carry out their environmentally-friendly mission, stations were set up near the 16 participating schools to supply volunteers with the necessary equipment. Approximately 1,200 large bags of trash were collected. At the end of the event, students were awarded a package that included candy, environmental activity books and coloured markers. The supplies and the prizes were made possible through the kind donations of the local business community. More important, however, was the educational value of the activities accomplished. Aren't my Maadi friends wonderful?
Dears, I believe you know by now that Edward Said, the great writer we all admire so much, could not make it to Egypt. Sadly, we had to miss out on both his introduction to Murid Barghouti's book, presented last week at AUC during a moving ceremony, and the talk on American Zionism he was scheduled to give at Cairo University today. I am sure you would want to join me in hoping that Edward Said will take a raincheck and make it up to us as soon as possible.
"The Role of the Media in Environmental Protection and Heritage Preservation" is the title of an international conference that will bring together a vast gathering of experts and journalists concerned with regional environmental issues. Held under the auspices of Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, the event will be organised by the Regional Support Office of the Urban Management Programme and the Arab States Regions, in collaboration with the International Federation of Environmental Journalists and the Arab Media Forum for Environment and Development. It will focus on the media's role in raising community awareness and participation in environment issues. It will also discuss the connection between poverty, heritage and environment.
The event will provide a good opportunity for media people to establish contacts with regional and international professionals and to share knowledge and exchange information with urban development specialists.
I'm sure you've all been simply dying to know what the Egyptian team brought back from Erfurt, Germany, the scene of the Culinary Olympics 2000. Competing with 25 national teams, 12 junior national teams, 16 teams from the Armed Forces, confectioners and hundreds of individual exhibitors, our brilliant chefs were awarded no less than a silver medal for main courses and vegetarian show platters, a bronze medal for hors d'oeuvres and tapas, and another for pastries, all in the Cold Food Display section of the competition. As for the Live Cooking Contest, they received the Diploma for the Restaurant of Nations.
Mind you, dears, this is the very first time Egypt participates at such a level at world aware of its culinary traditions and promoting itself in a whole new way. Most praiseworthy was the team's professionalism, hygiene and cleanliness, hospitality and friendliness and, of course, team spirit.
My friend Tarek Heggy is much in demand these days. The Ibn Rushd International Assembly, headed by philosophy professor Murad Wahba, will organise a global conference on the theme "One Civilisation, Several Cultures" at the Goethe Institute on 15 November. The assembly has invited Tarek, who is president of TANA as well as a prominent writer, to speak about management and human civilisation at the conference's opening session at 10.30am. On the same day, AUC's Business Studies Division is inviting him to deliver a lecture titled "The Value of Progress: From Education to Management" at the Greek Campus at 7.00pm.
The newly opened Le Méridien Makadi Bay Hotel recently hosted the crew of the TV series Awan Al-Ward (The Flower's Time), scheduled for screening this Ramadan. The series, starring the vivacious Youssra, as well as Hisham Abdel-Hamid, Sameh El-Sayed and Safwa, is directed by Samir Seif. They were welcomed by Dietmar Kielnhofer, recently appointed general manager. Seif chose the hotel for its unique location and exceptional landscaping. The well-traveled Youssra had this to say: "Though I've been in hotels around the world, I have never enjoyed my stay as much as I did at Le Méridien, from the warm welcome of the hotel staff to the breathtaking surroundings."
And the clean-up frenzy continues... For the past seven years, Egypt has participated in Clean Up the World (CUW) campaign, which focuses attention on the need for local action in dealing with environmental problems. CUW has obtained grass-roots support from more than 110 countries, bringing together over 40 million volunteers each year in a massive community effort to protect the environment.
This year, the Heliopolis Community Activity Association (HCAA) has managed to convince students aged between 10 and 15 from 26 schools to help clean up. "We tried to convince them that they were needed to help those less fortunate than themselves and that together they could help teach people how to live in a clean environment," said Azza Abdel-Hafiz, chairperson of HCAA. Among those who contributed to this worthy task were the Ministry for Environmental Affairs, which contributed T-shirts and environmental awareness books, while Le Méridien Heliopolis hosted the closing ceremony, attended by Austrialian Ambassador Victoria Owen.
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