Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 December 2011
Issue No. 1076
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Pack of cards

By Madame Sosostris

At El Sawy Culturewheel in Zamalek, the American University in Cairo (AUC) held a prestigious ceremony to celebrate the birth centenary of the late Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz.

The ceremony commenced with a screening of the documentary Naguib Mahfouz: His Life and Work, followed by a round table discussion entitled "Naguib Mahfouz and Revolutionary Literature", with a group of major writers.

The ceremony ended with a musical performance by the Abdel-Halim Noweira Arab Music Ensemble, conducted by Salah Ghoubashi, mesmerising the audience with Sayed Darwish songs.

This year, the AUC Press announced the award of the 2011 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the revolutionary creativity of the Egyptian people during the popular uprising which began on 25 January.

Present were Mahfouz's spouse Attiallah Mahfouz and his two daughters Fatma and Umm Kolthoum, the former minister of culture Emad Abu Ghazi, El Sawy Culturewheel founder Mohamed El-Sawy, Mark Linz and Nabila Aql from the AUC Press, novelists Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid, Samia Mehrez, Bahaa Abdel-Meguid and Hala El-Badri.

ô In collaboration with the Culture Resource Centre (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), the Goethe Institute in Cairo held a forum on culture and politics. More than 100 researchers in cultural policy, artists, writers, cultural directors and representatives of governmental institutions from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands participated.

The conference began with a keynote address by the Egyptian writer and novelist Bahaa Taher, who emphasised the relationship between culture and social justice, and the German writer Norbert Niemann, who pointed out the need to separate democracy from capitalism. In his opening statement, Gunter Hasenkamp, director of cultural programmes at the institute, discussed the importance of the Arab Spring for culture and politics, how the moment must be utilised.

In the course of two days, participants debated several issues relating to current cultural policy in those Arab countries now undergoing democratic transitions, and the introduction of international and regional visions that would reform the systems and structures of cultural work in the light of current situation.

Basma El-Husseini, the managing director of the Culture Resource, presented an alternative vision of cultural work which included detailed concepts on the restructuring of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture by transferring its main sector to independent local institutions.

Attia Lawgail, Libyan minister of culture in the National Transitional Council, and Emad Abu Ghazi, former Egyptian minister of culture, discussed the challenges of the democratic transition.

On the second day of the conference, the young Tunisian artist Zied Hadhri presented the experiences of the Ahl Al-Kahf (Cave People) movement, which sees art as part of the political movement on the street. The experiences of civil society initiatives during uprisings in Spain and Greece were also shared.

In the final session of the conference, participants discussed cultural relations between Europe and the Arab world in the light of the political changes in the region. The EU ambassador in Egypt Marco Franco referred to the role of concepts of identity which guide these relations.

The forum brought together a wide range of cultural professionals from Arab countries and European cultural organisations: Hanane Hajj Ali (Lebanon), Murad Kadiri ( Morocco), Rana Yazaji ( Syria), Hoda Lotfi ( Egypt), Viola Shafik (Egypt), Lila Hourani (Palestine), Habib Bel Hedi (Tunisia), Philip Dietachmair (the Netherlands), Lupe Garcia (Spain), among others.

ôï Last week, El Sawy Culturewheel held a celebration commemorating the death anniversary of the veteran journalist and intellectual Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy in the presence of many intellectuals.

Among the attendees were veteran novelist Bahaa Taher and the literary critic Youssri Abdallah, who gave testimonies about El-Sawy, with Taher stating how adventurous El-Sawy was as he described the latter's restless attempts to try new media tools at the time when others were intimidated by the arrival of television.

The director of El Sawy Culturewheel Mohamed El-Sawy said he attempted to embody his father's principles through the cultural initiative of El Sawy Culturewheel, while the last minutes of the celebration were dedicated for El-Sawy reading out some of his father's slogans, such as: Freedom cannot be granted.

ô The Beirut International Award Festival (BIAF) honoured a number of Arab and international singers in an enormous ceremony; the talented Moroccan singer Samira Said was among the honourees.

Said dazzled the attendees with two of her best loved songs, while the Moroccan Ambassador to Beirut bestowed the BIAF golden award for the Arab countries star to Said.

Said expressed her happiness and gratitude to the administration of the festival -- presided over by Michael Daher -- wishing the Arab countries well during these critical times.

ô The Romanian Ambassador to Egypt George Dumitru gave a lavish reception at the Sofitel Al-Gezira Hotel to celebrate Romania's National Day. A host of diplomats and high-profile personalities were present, including US Ambassador Anne Patterson, Italian Ambassador Claudio Pacifico, Ambassador of Singapore Tan Hung Seng and Lebanese Ambassador Khaled Ziayada.

ôï Under the title "Environmental Crafts and Tourist Potential in Al-Wadi Al-Gedid Governorship", Al-Wadi Al-Gedid Week opened on 12 December and is running through 19 December at the Italian Cultural Institute in Cairo. Present at the opening were the Italian Ambassador Claudio Pacifico and Governor of the Al-Wadi Al-Gedid Tarek El-Mahdi (see Listings p.19).

ô The Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) held a function at its premises on Talaat Harb Street, downtown Cairo, at which the Ambassador of India to Egypt R Swaminathan handed over certificates and diplomas to some 100 students who had successfully passed Hindi and Urdu courses conducted by the Centre in the last year. During the function, the Director of the Centre Suchitra Durai, the Hindi teacher Akshay Sharma and the Urdu teacher Abdel-Majeed made brief speeches while Egyptian students of the centre recited poems and delivered speeches on India. Hindi and Urdu books were distributed to the students. In 2011, three Egyptian students of the centre were selected for the nine-month scholarship course in India. The centre also screens Indian films, in Hindi and Urdu, with Arabic sub-titles, twice a week and has a vast library at its premises.

ô The Ambassador of Korea to Egypt Jong-kon Yoon honoured winners in the sixth Competition for Korean Language Conversation held last week at the Faculty of Al-Alsson, Ain Shams University. In his speech at the opening of the competition, the Korean Ambassador said that Egypt and South Korea have managed to strengthen their bilateral relations in all fields, political, economic and cultural. This annual competition is one of the ways in which the embassy seeks to promote Korean culture among Egyptians, as well as encouraging cultural exchange between the two countries.

ôï The coach of the Egyptian national soccer team, Robert Bradley, visited the American University in Cairo's New Cairo campus last week, where he toured the sports facilities, watched an AUC soccer match and delivered a speech to the AUC community. Bradley was accompanied by Zaki Abdel-Fattah, the national team's goalkeeping coach, and Abdel-Rahman Magdi, the team media officer.

"It is the first time for an American coach to train the Egyptian national team, and Coach Bradley succeeds Hassan Shehata, who successfully led the national team for years," said Mahmoud Taher, AUC's acting sports director.

Bradley and the university officials discussed a proposal to make AUC's sports facilities accessible to the Egyptian soccer team for training.

ô Alef Bookstores held a special Yemeni night last Thursday in which aspects of social, cultural and political Yemeni life were presented. The day witnessed a signing ceremony and a discussion of two important books which tackle two different experiences of non-Yemeni women in Yemen: The Woman who Fell from The Sky, by the American journalist Jennifer Steil, and Forty Days and Forty Nights in Yemen, written by the Egyptian writer Ethar El-Katatni. Steil moved to Yemen for a part-time job as a trainer in the Yemen Observer, but her three-week task turned into a full time job as the chief-editor of the triweekly newspaper. For El-Katatni, the journey was of a spiritual bent. She joined the Dowra, an Islamic Summer programme held yearly in Terim, in which a student partakes in an intensive course about true Islam for only 40 days. Both writers reflected on the binary oppositions of the Yemeni life, the ideological challenges they both met as being of a different culture, as well as the current political situation of the Yemeni revolution.

ô The Rotary Club of Qasr Al-Nil organised, for the third year in a row, its Annual Employment Fair. The fair was held under the slogan Mostakbalna Ya Baladna (Our Future Our Country) reflecting the club's commitment to build a better future for Egypt. This year, it managed to attract more than 35 local and multinational companies including most of the companies that participated in the fair in the past two years in addition to companies newly joined on the strength of the previous years' success.

Job-seekers this year exceeded 4,000 applicants, and they had the opportunity to apply for 700 jobs opportunities offered by participating companies. The event concluded with the promise to continue holding the fair annually and make the next years even better and bigger to satisfy the growing demand from employers and future employees.

Among the attendees was the Coach of the Egypt National team Bob Bradley, who was welcomed by the Rotary team and the organisers of the fair. The Employment Fair is one of many successful projects organised by the Rotary Club of Qasr Al-Nil, including the "Children's Right to Sight" Project, medical caravans and literacy classes.

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