Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 April 2003
Issue No. 634
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SosostrisPack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris

This dreadful war, my dears, is having an impact on everybody. For some, it has inspired a creative outpouring of tremendous proportions. I'm referring here to Youssef Islam , the man previously known to millions as British pop singer Cat Stevens. Stevens converted to Islam many years ago, quitting the world of song and opting to dedicate his life to religious and humanitarian causes instead.

Well, it seems he has finally found a way for the two worlds to coexist. Knowing how powerful a force music can be to the growing anti-war movement, Islam has just finished recording two songs, Peace Train and Angel of War. The former, of course, is a remake of the immensely popular anti- war hit by none other than Cat Stevens himself. Islam stressed, however, that the new version of Peace Train, does not signify the beginning of some sort of Cat Stevens comeback. "I wrote Peace Train to protest another tragic war that filled my generation with sadness and uncertainty," he says. The idea of recording a new version of the multi-million selling original song, which has been listed by BMI as one of the most played recordings in history, came in response to an invitation to participate in One Big No, a London-based anti-war concert featuring George Michael, David Bowie, Neil Young, Ronan Keating, Elton John, and Michael Moore, as well as other artists against the war.

"Peace Train is a song I wrote, the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions of human beings, and there is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again. As a member of humanity and as a Muslim, this is my contribution to the call for a peaceful solution to the dangerous path some world leaders today seem to be taking," says Islam.

Peace Train and Angel of War are due to be released worldwide this month as a CD single, with the tracks being made available to radio stations around the world. Proceeds will be distributed to victimised Iraqi children by the UK-based and UN- registered Small Kindness charity organisation.


Another artist trying to let everybody know -- loud and clear -- that he's against the war is American rocker Lenny Kravitz. Kravitz -- as I recently found out from the Web site shrinkingglobe.com -- has just recorded a song called We Want Peace with Iraqi pop star Kazem Al- Saher. "Actually, having heard the song," says the site, "the move seems mainly symbolic -- Al- Saher's role is confined to just a little moaning in the middle of the song, and the rest is all mainly Lenny. And in the very beginning, a classical Arabic riff played by Simon Shaheen is immediately taken over by the storming rock guitar. Still, teaming up with an Iraqi singer seems like a courageous move by Kravitz in these Big Brother-like times." I must say it certainly sounds interesting, to say the least. In any case, you can find out for yourself because the song is available for free as a download on rockthevote.org.

I had a great time recently, my sweets, at a charity bazaar held at the residence of the Moroccan ambassador to Cairo, Ali Oumlil. Oumlil's energetic wife Nozha organised the bazaar featuring authentic Moroccan handicrafts, with all proceeds going towards the Tahseen Al-Sehha Association, an NGO. Nozha looked splendid in her traditional Moroccan attire as she welcomed the guests, who included the wives of several foreign ambassadors, and the head of the Tahseen Al-Sehha Association, Madiha Allam. She also made sure to enlighten all of those present regarding the fine art of decoration that plays such an integral role in Morocco's rich heritage of pottery-making.

The Russian Cultural Centre, meanwhile, recently organised a farewell party for its departing director, Nikola Losinski. First Undersecretary for Foreign Relations at the Ministry of Culture Cherif El-Choubashi was there for the occasion, as were former Egyptian Ambassador to Moscow Mourad Ghaleb, and late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser's daughter Hoda and her son Gamal.

Later this week, my loves, on the 22nd, you'll certainly find me at the Khan Al Maghraby gallery in Zamalek celebrating the opening of my dear friend and colleague George Bahgory's latest art exhibition. Called Places in the heart... Luxor... Aswan, it looks like Bahgory has truly outdone himself this time with an astounding collection of thoughtful, fluid work. Alf mabrouk!

Another exhibit I'm sure not to miss is being organised by Egypt's Salon for Photography. Called "Qibtiyat" (Coptic Heritage), the show can be seen at the Cairo Opera House's Music Library gallery. Inaugurated by Opera House Director Samir Farag, the exhibit introduces the work of 20 photographers who have focussed their lenses on a group of historic monasteries, icons and cathedrals spread across Egypt's governorates, and visited by members of the Holy Family. Egypt's Salon for Photography, in case you were not in the know, was established in 1988, and comprises some 50 members. It aims at improving standards of art photography in Egypt so it can compete on an international level, as well as enriching the skills of aspiring photographers. The show runs through 25 April.

Finally, my dears, I'd like to update you on all the wonderful events that have been taking place at the American University in Cairo. Celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Cairo International Model United Nations (CIMUN), students recently honoured AUC Provost Tim Sullivan, founder of CIMUN, presenting him with an exquisite plate with the CIMUN logo engraved on it. The university's Arabic lectures series, meanwhile, recently featured a talk by editor-in-chief of Al-Alam Al-Youm newspaper, Koll Al-Nas magazine and popular Orbit TV host Emadeddin Adib entitled "Iraq and the War". Organised by AUC's Office of Public Relations in cooperation with the Second Arab Youth Development Congress (AYDC), the lecture was followed by a stimulating question and answer session. Another notable figure -- Bibliotheca Alexandrina Director Ismail Serageddin -- was also at the university recently to deliver the keynote address at the opening of the 18th International Student Leadership Conference. The broad scope of Serageddin's address -- entitled "Learn to Lead and Lead to Learn" -- reflected the same goals of the ISLC, which provided forums where students engaged in debates on issues of global importance within organised workshops, in order to enhance and refine their valuable leadership skills. This year the workshops -- organised under the leadership of ISLC President Rafiq Zohdy -- included discussions on ethics, gender and globalisation, amongst other themes. Serageddin's speech was not only enlightening but encouraging as well, as he reminded students of our place in history and the definitions of our national character. In his reflections on our troubled times, he said that we need to focus on welfare and development rather than find ourselves caught in a savage fury.

Enlightening indeed!

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