|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
7 -13 December 2000
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Pack of CardsBy Madame Sosostris
* At the Annual Awards ceremony at the American embassy, my very dear friend Magda Barsoum, cultural affairs specialist, was recognised by the US State Department as top employee of 2000 among all non-American employees of US embassies in the Near East. She was second runner-up worldwide. Magda is distinguished by her exceptional work on a wide variety of successful programmes such as promoting environmental awareness, civic education and voluntarism among youths.
An art exhibition titled "Yes, We Can" of the art works and handicrafts made by students with special needs from the Right to Live Association (RTLA) was inaugurated by Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Mufid Shehab, AUC President John D Gerhart and RTLA head Nanni Samra at AUC's Oriental Hall. The objects will be on display in Ewart Gallery until 17 December. Shehab was quite impressed by the level of the work, and said so emphatically in his opening speech. RTLA is a private, non-profit organisation established in 1981 by the parents and the families of mentally handicapped children and youths. Students are trained in self-care and daily living skills as well as some basic academic subjects. There are also six workshops where students learn to craft the beautiful objects that all present admired so much.
Recently I had a chance to say "ola, └qué tal?" (the only words that I can say unerringly in Spanish) to everyone I met at the Spanish Cultural Centre, AKA the Cervantes Institute, while attending, along with my colleague Reham El-Adawi, the celebrations held to launch the centre's updated Cervantes magazine. This annual publication, issued by the Spanish Embassy, AECI (Spanish Agency for International Cooperation) and Cervantes, promotes literature with a focus on global issues. Spanish and Arab authors are preferred of course. Antonio Gil de Carrasco, director of the Cervantes Institute, commented that a number of illustrious academics are contributing to the magazine.
Always a lover of music, I could hardly contain my excitement when I learned that the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was coming to Cairo to perform. And by the time Sunday night arrived, when along with my dear colleague David Blake I joined the crowds who flocked to the Opera House to hear the orchestra, conducted by the ever-so famous Vladimir Ashkenazy, and with Ramzi Yassa astride the piano, I was, I don't mind admitting, at least to you, indulgent reader, perfectly agog and quite bursting at the seams with anticipation. The concert, which was dedicated to the memory of the late, great conductor Youssef El-Sisi, was, in addition, in aid of good causes, always close to my heart. The lucky beneficiaries are the charitable projects of the Association for the Protection of the Environment, and of the Association of Businesswomen. And goodness, how I revelled in dear Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto, only, after the intermission, to return swooning to my seat for a bit of Dvorak who, I'm sure you all know, was the orchestra's very first conductor, way back in 1896.
Had you been at Cairo University the other day, you would have seen me applauding enthusiastically Gihan Anwar's spirited defence of her master's thesis in English literature. Now don't go thinking that I am fond of too much intellectual activity, or that I have a soft spot for Tennyson, who seems to have captured Gihan's imagination. She happens to be the sister of my dear colleague Abeer Anwar, a distinguished reporter on the Sports page. I was especially interested in the professors, who granted Gihan her degree with highest honours. The committee consisted of Professor Mona El-Halawani as supervisor, Professor Jean Ragheb and Professor Mohamed Anani. Gihan dedicated her thesis to her mother, her husband and her uncle for their great help and spiritual support as well as to her new baby Yasmin and her six-year-old daughter Nada, for whom Tennyson is as much a household name as is Amr Diab.
Magdi Youssef, professor of comparative literature and drama at Cairo University and president of the International Association of Intercultural Studies (IAIS), based in Germany at Bremen University and associated with UN's ECOSCOC, was visiting professor last month at Trinity College, Dublin. One of his lectures was a critique of of the hegemony of Disney cartoons over children's culture in the Arab world and a presentation of alternative indigenous folk Arab tales from Egypt, Tunisia and Palestine. Many Trinity students and scholars attended, as did Ambassador of Egypt to Ireland Ashraf Rashed, who spoke about the strong affinity between the Irish and the Egyptian people.
The Opera House is celebrating Ramadan under the auspices of the ministries of environment and culture, and courtesy of the Arab Communication Centre, which has set up a tent on the grounds where the friends of the environment can partake in the entertainment traditional to the holy month without being overwhelmed by the smoke of shishas, which are banned from the environmentally-friendly premises. On opening night, visitors included Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wassel, His Holiness Pope Shenuda, Minister of Endowments Hamdi Zaqzouq and Minister of Electricity Ali El-Sei'di as well as our Editor-in Chief of Al-Ahram and Chairman of Al-Ahram organisation Ibrahim Nafie. Even heavy smokers decided to put away their packs of cigarettes for the evening.
The holy month is also an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to reassert their faith in national unity, as was evident at the Iftar held at Deir Anba Barsoum El-Erian in Al-Ma'sara, on Monday. Organised by Anba Bisanti, archbishop of Helwan and Al-Ma'sara, the Iftar was attended by Sayed Mish'al, minister of military production; Samir El-Kholi, governor of Fayoum; Ali El-Samman, head of the Council for dialogue between religions; Ahmed Farrag, presenter of the TV programme Nour Ala Nour; and former minister of scientific research Venus Gouda, among others. In between bites of the scrumptious dishes served up, the guests discussed the Intifada and expressed their support for the Palestinians. This event was also an occasion to celebrate a brighter future for Al-Ma'sara, since Mustafa Abdel-Qader, minister of local administration, has allocated LE1 million for the upgrading of the area, while Minister of Youth Aliyeddin Hilal has earmarked quarter of a million pounds for the establishment of a youth centre there.
Ramadan this year is an occasion to express solidarity with the Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression, and I am sure you have noticed that numerous Ramadan lanterns are shaped like the Dome of the Rock. A particularly grandiose fanous has been set up in Madinet Nasr at the corner of Al-Tayaran Street, attracting passersby who crowd the footpath to admire it after Iftar. Our dear colleague Nora Koloyan has done her bit too, buying her son Ashod a couple of lanterns that seem to have taken his fancy.
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