Al-Ahram Weekly Online
13 - 19 December 2001
Issue No.564
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map


Pack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris

As the chillier days send me scuttling to the fireside, my thoughts turn to blistering hot deserts, and the calm oases that nestle within. And what better Eid project than a visit to Siwa? If you cannot spare the time, you can settle back and contemplate this vision by one of my favourite artists, Gamil Shafik, which could be titled Thinking of Siwa: it features the haunting contours of Shali, and the equine creature that recurs in so many of Gamil's other worldly dreamscapes.

 Sometimes we are lucky enough to hear very important professors who come to Egypt to lecture on a crucial topic. That was recently the case of my dear friends Professor Dr Kamal Ghaleb Khalil, professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and Professor Dr Samia Nazir Khalil, professor of anaesthesiology at the same medical school. Professor Khalil gave a fascinating lecture titled "surgical treatment of tumours of the inferior vena cava" at Mansoura University's Centre for Nephrology and Urology, at the invitation of Professor Dr Mohamed Ghoneim, the distinguished centre's director and world-renowned urologist who was this year's recipient of the Egyptian National Scientific Award. The staff of the urology centre and the cardiothoracic department attended the lecture, which was followed by a lengthy and enlightening discussion. Meanwhile, Professor Dr Samia Khalil headed a two-hour round table discussion on paediatric anaesthesiology, attended by the centre's faculty members. Both events were exceptional opportunities for the visiting professors and the medical centre's faculty to exchange ideas and current practices in these complex fields.

Coptic Choir With Christmas around the corner, the Coptic Choir will show its seasonal spirit by giving a concert at the Cairo Opera House's Small Hall on 19 December. The choir, led by deacon Diyaa Sabri, will offer a programme of beautiful songs. Michael Maher will direct the show.

An Islamic calligraphy exhibition at the AUC's Ewart Gallery features the work of Safia El-Wakil and Osman Andrew Young and was officially opened by Director of the Cairo Opera House Samir Farag. Among many friends at the opening, I chatted with Mexican ambassador to Cairo Miguel Orozco and calligraphy master Ahmed Sultan. Farag described the exhibition as "an essential means of keeping the tradition of calligraphy alive." Just arrived from Mexico, Orozco commented that he had always taken a personal interest in the aesthetic quality of calligraphy.

The exhibition, which runs until 16 December, contrasts El-Wakil and Young's complementary styles. Sultan told me: "Safia respects the classical aesthetic of colour and frame while Osman is primarily concerned with technique." Safia confesses that she sees calligraphy as a spiritual aesthetic, in which shape and form encapsulate the meaning of word and letter. Her emphasis on borders and colours is reminiscent of Ottoman script and style. In addition to her classical take on Islamic calligraphy, she experiments with computer renditions, infuses a digital framework with colour while maintaining style and technique. Osman's minimalist, stylised work remains true to the medium: much of his work features singular letters with no bordering frame or additional colour. Sultan says: "He respects the material of drawing as well as the rules of calligraphy."

Sherif El-Shoubashy The Arab World Institute in Paris held a party to honour my dear colleague, head of Al- Ahram's office in Paris, Sherif El-Shoubashy, who has been named first under-secretary for foreign relations at the Ministry of Culture. Among those who flocked to bid him adieu were the director of the institute, Nasser El-Ansari, Egyptian Ambassador to Paris Ali Maher, Nevine Simeika, Egypt's consul-general in Paris, and Tahani Omar, Egyptian ambassador to UNESCO.

Bulaq Social Services Association Under the patronage of Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, the Bulaq Social Services Association will hold its annual bazaar, which will be opened by the Minister of Social Affairs Amina El-Guindi on Saturday 22 December at the Safir Hotel in Zamalek. This, dears, is one of the oldest and best known associations in Egypt; its products, which range from pret-a-porter to items for the house, are always highly appreciated. So don't forget to be there at 10.30 sharp for some last-minute Christmas shopping.

Sheikh Tantawi I know that many of you are Rotarians, and this will probably be old news as far as you are concerned, but I want those who were not lucky enough to attend to know that Sheikh Tantawi Grand Imam of Al- Azhar and Pope Shenouda III were the guests of honour at an Iftar hosted by the Rotary Club of Cairo. Before the 300 Rotarians gathered for the occasion, Sheikh Tantawi spoke of the very important role played by service clubs in the local and international community, while Pope Shenouda discussed the strong fraternal ties that bind Muslims and Christians in Egypt. Haitham Nassar, director of business development, and Farida Mansour, public relations manager, welcomed the distinguished guests on arrival at the Nile Hilton.

Mona Makram Ebeid My dear friend, the dynamic Mona Makram Ebeid, will be the guest speaker at the Middle East Institute in Washington on 16 December, following an invitation extended to her by the president of the institute, former Secretary of State Edward Walker. Mona will focus on the negative impact that an expanded war, including an attack on Iraq, will have on the governments and the peoples of our beleaguered region.

  A new book is out: "Values of Progress," by Tarek Heggi. He has entered the clash of civilisations debate, but I won't give you any more clues: Heggi's views on this hot topic must be read to be enjoyed.

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