Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
13 - 19 July 2000
Issue No. 490
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues


Pack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris
* It is on a sad note that I tell you, my dears, that a good friend of mine will be leaving Cairo this week. Monika Van der Weijden, defence secretary attaché at the Royal Dutch embassy, will be moving on to assume her new post at the ambassador's office in Beirut. Monika has been in Egypt for the past seven years, and hers is a true success story. Arriving with nothing more than a simple desire to live in the "cradle of civilisation," she soon found employment at the embassy and climbed the ranks to reach her present position. Along the way, she managed to learn Arabic too! During her stay, Monika has garnered a vast array of friends who will miss her tremendously. Tonight, a little farewell party will be held at her Mohandessin residence. Of course, I have made sure to keep my date book open and will be there with bells on.

* It is always a pleasure to receive visitors, but this one has an edge: he is an old face back in town. John Sphakianakis will be in Cairo for three weeks to catch up with friends and breathe in the fresh (as you have noticed lately) Cairene air. He is currently working in Washington, DC as a researcher at the World Bank. Before that, he was a political science professor at the American University in Cairo for five years. During this time, not only was he writing for a number of local and foreign publications, but he was also working on his PhD at Oxford. John certainly knows how to keep himself busy.

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Armen * I am spoiled this month as far as visitors are concerned, in fact. After months of conjuring spectacular tales of intrigue to lure my good friend Armen Evrensel to Egypt, he has accepted. He arrived the evening of 11 July, leaving his starving artist's loft in New York to spend a month in the sandy city. Armen completed his studies in screenplay writing at New York University this year, and one of his scripts made it to the finals of a competition in Alaska last month. He has come to Egypt to draw inspiration, of course, treading the path of Flaubert and Golding. Truth be told, he is no stranger to the Middle East, even though this is the first time he has set foot in the region. After all, Mamoun's Falafel restaurant in Greenwich Village is the undisputed master of ta'miya and Armen has had his fill. Moreover, last year, he interviewed H E Ahmed Abul-Gheit, ambassador of Egypt to the United Nations, for a feature story in an Egyptian magazine.

* A little birdie told me that Andrew Jeffreys, editor-in-chief of the London-based Oxford Business Group, will be in town next week. The Oxford Business Group has two branches of activities, consulting and publication, and has recently extended feelers to Egypt. Emerging Egypt 2001 is the title of the publication it is sponsoring, which will focus on the economic and political situation here. My good friend Andrew J Tabler has taken the helm as editor. With main offices in Turkey, the group also has branches in Yemen, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. While Jeffreys has been in Cairo before on numerous occasions, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome him nonetheless.

* I really do hope I will make it to today's concert of Oriental music conducted by maestro Farouk El-Babli at the open-air theatre of the Cairo Opera House. The concert will feature a selection of singers such as Nashwa Abdel-Halim, Said Osman, Hala El-Sabagh, Ashraf Mekkawi, Samah Said and the budding singer Maye. The singers, who will be accompanied by a veritable galaxy of musicians from the National Arabic Music Ensemble, will perform a selection of Umm Kulthoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez and Nagat's best songs. As you may already know, these Thursday concerts will be a feature of our long hot summer.

* There is more to come, of course: the Opera House's summer activities at the open-air theatre will include a concert by the renowned Nubian singer Karam Murad and the Toshka Troupe on 15 July. Karam's first concert for this summer will comprise works by some of my favourite artists, among them Hamza Alaaeddin and Ahmed Munib. The Toshka Troupe was founded in 1997 and includes 20 musicians who are -- you guessed it, all inhabitants of Toshka. Small world, dears, isn't it? After the smashing success of last week's concert, which featured the Sudanese artists Sharhabil Ahmed and Sattouna El-Magrous, the Opera House officials knew they had a good thing going. Sharhabil has toured the world and received a plethora of awards. And you must know that my good friend Fatma, aka Sattouna, is a versatile artist who can create intricate henna flowers on any part of your body that you choose to decorate. Perhaps you do not know, on the other hand, that she is also a singer and actress on stage and on screen. She is famous for her song Chocolata, which appeared in Mohamed Heneidi's first hit Sa'idi Fil-Gama'a Al-Amrikiya. I hear that Sattouna has released a CD that is selling like hot cakes in Europe.

clockwise from left: Sharhabil; Sattuna; Karam Murad

* Lest you think this summer is nothing but fun, I feel compelled to inform you that serious undertakings are also afoot. Last week, Al-Ahram's Regional Institute for Journalism, in cooperation with the Fund for the Prevention and Treatment of Addiction (FPTA), organised a seminar entitled "Towards Effectively Fighting Addiction." The speakers at the round-table discussion, held in the Ibrahim Nafie Hall in Al-Ahram's new building, were the head of the FPTA, Soheir Lutfi, psychologist Adel Sadeq, Sheikh Gamal Qutb, counselor Hassan Badrawi and Major-General Mohamed Abbas. Discussions dealt with the extent to which the phenomenon has spread among different social strata in Egypt, factors that lead to substance abuse, ways of combating drug trafficking, and the role played by addicts' social and cultural background.

* Salah El-Ghamry, chief of the board of Al-Qawmiya Distributing Company, and his wife Amal Ismail, manager of hotellerie services at Al-Meqawloun hospital celebrated the sobou' of their first granddaughter Dima. The baby's parents, Dalia El-Ghamry and Walid El-Fakahani (manager of Dyarna Hotel in Dahab), came from Dahab for this special occasion. As for our dear colleague Khaled El-Ghamry, Dima's uncle, he told his friends that when he saw Dima he finally experienced what he had only heard about so far, love at first sight.

* Young Karim is quite surprised that grownups are not enjoying the hot weather as much as he is. As far as he is concerned he is having an absolutely lovely time. Give Karim a cool pool and he will ask for no more. He has been practising his back stroke seriously and would welcome an admiring public. Any one for a swim?

* Life is beautiful or waiting for my uncle from America is a play written and directed by my good friend Ahmed El-Attar well known to theatre habitués in Cairo. Attar who is now living in France has come especially for the presentation of his oeuvre which features music by Hassan Khan, and Ahmed Kamal and Salwa Mohamed Ali in the leading roles. The play will be presented at the French Cultural Centre on 15 July and on 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 July at the American University in Cairo. Performed by the Temple Independent Theatre Company in Egypt the play is sponsored by the Cultural Fund of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Cairo with the support of the AFAA (Association Française d'Action Artistique), Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres and the Centre Français de Culture et de Cooperation du Caire.

from left: Ahmed Kamal; Salwa Mohamed Ali

* The first national conference on Education for Citizenship and Social Responsibility was held recently at the Safir Hotel,. entitled not unexpectedly, "The New Millennium: Education for Good Citizenship. Inaugurated by Dr Hussein Kamel Bahaeddin, it featured important speakers and moderators such as Alieddin Hilal, minister of youth, Mustafa El-Fiqi, assistant to the minister of foreign affairs, Nabil Samuel, general manager of the Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services, former MP Mona Makram Ebeid, Soliman Souess of the Hashemite Jordanian Society for Human Rights, Farouk Al-Fami from the Palestinian Authority, prominent economist and head of the New Civic Forum Said El-Naggar as well as our own cultural editor Mursi Saad El-Din.

* Hilton's Gawharet Al-Nil was the venue for the Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs' monthly dinner. The theme for the evening was the Euro 2000 Championship. The menu with the names of the innovative six course dinner starting with Kickoff and ending with Extra Time, the uniforms of the service staff, the table decoration and the giant screen silently displaying the semi-finals all contributed to create a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.

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