Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
6 - 12 April 2000
Issue No. 476
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues


Pack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris

* What good news: I just heard that the Cairo Opera House, in cooperation with the American embassy and a group of sponsors, have had the brilliant idea of treating us to the New York production of George Gershwin's masterpiece Porgy and Bess, featuring outstanding singers such Elizabeth Graham in the role of Bess and Samuel Clark Stevenson in that of Porgy. This production will also include a cast of 85 dancers and singers drawn from some of the leading opera companies in the United States, with an orchestra under the direction of maestro Zoltan Papp.

* Among the many conferences I plan to attend this week, I have picked my very favourite to tell you about, dears: It will take place at the American University in Cairo on 10 April, is titled "Regional Integration and the Future of an Arab Common Market" and is part of the fascinating English Public Lectures Series. The speakers will be none other than my dear friends Abdel-Moneim Said, director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and Adel Beshai, AUC professor of economics and a member of the Shura Council. I hope that I will see many of you there.

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Osama El-Baz * Certainly worthy of your attention, dears, is the recital organised by the Embassy of the Czech Republic and performed by Patricia McDonald on piano, and our very good friend Dr Farid Fadel, who will give us a solo display of his renowned vocal talents. Is there no end to his gifts? I wonder. This fine concert, which will take place on 12 April, will include pieces by Mozart, Dvorak and Handel.

* And while we are on the topic of music, don't forget that on 9 and 10 April, the Japan Foundation, in cooperation with Goethe Institute and Al-Hanager Theatre at the Opera House, will present a classical music concert for piano, oboe and flute featuring Chika Nishiwaki, Katsuya Watanabe and Takako Hagiwara. This, my dears, is a unique chance to listen to these fine young artists, whose reputation is far greater than their age.

Tarek Atia
* I don't know about you, my sweets, but a gala dinner accompanied by the soft sounds of a symphony orchestra at the foot of the Sphinx is certainly my way of spending a superb Sunday night. So when my good friend Zahi Hawass, the director of the Giza Plateau, invited me to join him and the 1,500 Egyptologists from around the world who were celebrating the conclusion of their big international conference here in Cairo, I jumped at the chance to mingle with the smartest antiquities minds around.

You can read all about the results of the conference on the travel pages, but here let me tell you about the sumptuous socialising of this dust and bones crowd. The evening began with a private showing of the fabulous sound and light show, with its new laser-enhanced displays of hieroglyphics. Let me tell you, dears: the setting was perfect: a cloudless night filled with stars. I don't think the Pyramids have ever looked this good. Then the lights came up for a bountiful buffet served up by the Oberoi, where the conference took place. Just as we were finishing up our desserts, the lights dimmed again, and the orchestra began to play. I, dearies, was lucky enough to be sitting at the head table, along with Zahi, the conference's secretary-general, and Gaballa Ali Gaballa, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as well as two of my lovely colleagues here at the Weekly, Nevine El-Aref and Tarek Atia, both of whom had been valiantly helping the conference organisers translate speeches and prepare press briefings on the proceedings throughout the week-long event.

Allow me to let you in on something, dearies: although Egyptologists may seem like a serious bunch, there were a few hee-haws to be had as the night progressed, and the sweet mint tea seemed to get stronger with the wind. At one point, one of the gentlemen sitting at our table seemed to have an orchestra emanating from his jacket pocket, grandly accompanying the orchestra on the stage. On closer inspection it turned out to be his mobile phone. "Shut it off," someone hissed, but the man was so happy with the symphony coming out of his phone that he just stared at its green display in glee. A few seconds later a fork came flying from my right, smashing playfully into the man's chest, and we all erupted in hearty laughter. I could have sworn that the Sphinx was smiling too.

* Last week, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine celebrated its third anniversary in grand style, hosting a reception and a debate, as well as an official launch of the magazine's web-site. I braved the crowds and headed down to the party, where I had a pleasant chat with the magazine's editor, our dear colleague Osama Saraya. The debate, whose subject was the future of Arabic magazine publishing and advertising, featured a bevy of prestigious speakers, including Ali Ghoneim, deputy chairman and general manager of Al-Ahram Organisation Hassan Hamdi, general manager of Pyramids Advertising agency, Farouk Abu Zeid, dean of Cairo University's Faculty of Mass Communication, ad expert Sami Abdel-Aziz, ad moguls Tarek Nour and Hazem Dera, as well as Sammy Rafoul, an advertising researcher who came especially from abroad to present his intriguing studies of both the ad industry as a whole, and Al-Ahram Al-Arabi's recent reader survey. The speakers were all brilliant, dearies, even though they didn't necessarily all agree with each other on the points being made. In any case, that meant that it was a lively debate, which we all enjoyed with as much gusto as we applied to the fabulous spread, worthy of such a momentous birthday bash.

* Culture First and Foremost is the name of a book by Tarek Heggy proposing a comprehensive project for modernisation in Egypt. It appeared this week in the prestigious book series Iqraa', issued by Dar Al-Ma'arif. This my dears is Tarek's eleventh tome and deals with some of the themes that have become his trade-mark: the defence of a free-market economy and the accompanying liberal values, as well as a scathing critique of socialism. Incidentally, did you know that Tarek is a former chairman of Shell (Egypt)? That is one more reason why his knowledge of transnational corporations is so far-reaching. It is his firm grounding in Arabic literary heritage, though, that gives his books their unique value.

* Salah Enani's exhibition In Kont Nassi (Lest You Had Forgotten) opened on 27 March with 30 amazing oil paintings. Well, I hope you don't forget to go check it out at the Akhnaton art centre in Zamalek. Salah's paintings are always so witty, and it is a joy to behold how well he can capture his subjects' expressions.

* I am quite ashamed to be reminded that while I spend most of my time having fun, other more civically-minded bodies are trying to complete the second unit of Dar Al-Yasmin, the Senior Citizens' Home situated in 6 October City. They are the members of the Cairo Inner Wheel, and to fulfil their benevolent designs they held a party at the Nile Hilton Hotel which was presided over by my dear friend, the one and only Chonchette Rizkallah. The splendid musical entertainment was offered by the famous Al-Nour Wal Amal.

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