Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
1 - 7 October 1998
Issue No.397
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

A big day out in October

By Galal Nassar

Egypt's rocket launcher Assiut - which sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat - will be displayed as part of the October War festivities
The armed forces will stage a military parade -- the first of its kind in 17 years -- in Ismailia to mark the 25th anniversary of the October 1973 war. The parade, in which land and air forces will take part, will be reviewed by President Hosni Mubarak, who was air force chief during the war, top officials and military commanders. Naval units, including the Assiut, which sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat following the June 1967 war, will be displayed in Alexandria and other coastal cities.

Following the 1973 victory, military parades were staged annually in celebration, but were stopped following the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat, who had been in the stands attending the October 1981 parade.

Maj. Gen. Samir Farag, chief of the orientation department of the armed forces, told Al-Ahram Weekly that this year's celebrations would match the importance of the occasion. "They will be comprehensive, covering the majority of the nation's governorates," he said.

At a solemn ceremony at Cairo Stadium, 20,000 war veterans will be decorated by Mubarak, some posthumously, Farag said. Mubarak will also chair a meeting of the supreme council of the armed forces, place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Nasr City and visit the operations room that ran the war, also at Nasr City. The room, where war documents and maps are displayed, will be opened to the public for the first time. Mubarak will also visit the air force operations room at Almaza and inaugurate a hi-tech military training centre.

According to Farag, the armed forces will publish four books to mark the occasion: [the 1968-'69] War of Attrition, The October War, Heroic Acts of the October War and A Summary History of the Egyptian Army. Military museums and the October War Panorama will be open to the public for free from 2 to 9 October. Military commanders will visit universities and sports clubs to speak about the war. There will also be fireworks displays in all governorates and the weapons used in the war will be exhibited in public squares.

The occasion will also be marked by the opening of new military hospitals in Aswan, Tanta, Hurghada and Qena. In addition to what has been described as an artistic and creative competition sponsored by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, there will be several sports events: bowling, car and yacht racing, rowing and shooting. Students will be offered free visits to air and naval bases as well as pieces of the Israeli Bar Lev line of fortifications which Egyptian troops destroyed during the war.

The climax of the celebrations will be a four-pronged seminar on 3-5 October dealing with the war and its consequences. Mubarak will address the seminar's opening session while Mrs Suzanne Mubarak will speak the following day about the role of Egyptian women in the war. The seminar will be chaired by former Prime Minister Mustafa Khalil. The political debate will be led by Abdel-Raouf El-Reidi, a former ambassador to Washington; the economic debate by businessman Gamal Mubarak; military debate by Maj. Gen. [retr'd] Ahmed Fakhr; and the social debate by Social Affairs Minister Mervat El-Talawi.

According to Khalil, the seminar will attempt an objective and scientific assessment of the war as well as its international consequences. The focus will be on Egyptian ingenuity in preparing for and running the war and also on the important role played by Arab solidarity during the hostilities. An evaluation of the war's consequences will also be made, stressing that peace is the nation's strategic option, Khalil said.

Raising the slogan "A war for peace," the seminar will have five salient themes: from the war of attrition to the October war; preparations for the war; running the war; the consequences of the war 25 years later; and how to prevent the eruption of a new war in the region.

Field Marshal [retr'd] Abdel-Ghani El-Gamassi, who was chief of operations and later chief-of-staff during the war, has submitted a paper about the preparations for war. Field Marshal [retr'd] Mohamed Ali Fahmi, who was air defence commander in 1973, has submitted another paper about the "Egyptian missile wall," the anti-aircraft missiles deployed along the banks of the Suez Canal.

Similar seminars about the war and its consequences will be held in the United States, Russia, Germany, France and Israel.

As part of the celebrations, Mubarak is expected to pay visits to mega-development projects, such as the Toshka land reclamation project in southwestern Egypt. He will also inaugurate an exhibition entitled "Egypt's achievements 25 years after victory," organised by the ministries of information and trade.

Cultural events marking the occasion will include a spectacular production of Verdi's Aida at the pyramids and the opening of the Abdin Palace Museum to the public.

A gala evening on 5 October at the International Cairo Conference Centre will feature an operetta based on Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's novel The Struggle of Thebes, linking past and present. The music is composed by Gamal Salama and the operetta will be directed by actor Nour El-Sherif.

At 2.05pm on 6 October, all Egyptian radio stations will broadcast Communiqué No 1, which announced to the nation a quarter of a century ago that Egyptian troops had stormed the Suez Canal's eastern bank, thereby launching the war of liberation.