Al-Ahram Weekly Online   26 June - 2 July 2003
Issue No. 644
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SosostrisPack of Cards

By Madame Sosostris

My week started off on a musical note, my dears, thanks to my colleague Reham El-Adawi, who took me with her to a stupendous celebration at the Al-Riyadi Gardens overlooking the spectacular Nile, where I enjoyed the sweet sounds of the Centre Français de Culture et de Coopération's (CFCC) Fête de la Musique.

Beginning a couple of hours before sunset, we were treated to a series of concerts by cool bands like Rahala, an oriental jazz troupe led by Hossam Shaker on qannun, Wanzani, whose musicians hail from France, Sudan and Comoros, Rai Train, featuring gifted vocalist Said Abdel-Rahman, percussionist Mustafa Abbas, and violinist Mahmoud Medhat, Wist Al-Balad, which specialises in global Egyptian pop, and Sons of the Nile, who perform Nubian music. The fest's guest of honour was rap band Java from France.

A parallel show was also taking place at the historical Citadel, where mediaeval music from the Iberian Peninsula was played by Andalusian oud master Luis Delgado and the Uruena Quartet.

I also recently had the pleasure of attending a wonderful dinner held by Minister of Tourism Mamdouh El- Beltagui to bid farewell to Mario Sica, Italy's ambassador in Egypt, and his wife. The dinner took place at the Nile Hilton's famous Rotisserie Belvedere, and was attended by Minister of Industry and Technological Development Ali El-Sa'edi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Fayza Abul-Naga, Secretary-General of the National Council for Childhood and Womanhood Moushira Khattab, former Minister of Environment Nadia Makram Ebeid, and other dignitaries.

On to the world of media... Zafar Siddiqi, the chairman and chief executive officer of CNBC Arabiya, was recently honoured at the annual awards dinner organised by the American University in Cairo's Adham Centre for Television Journalism. At the university's Oriental Hall, Siddiqi was awarded an honorary fellowship from the Adham Centre. The centre's head, AUC professor Abdallah Schleifer, presented Siddiqi -- who established Middle East Business News (MEBN) in Dubai Media City in April 2001 -- with the award. MEBN owns and operates CNBC Arabiya, the world's first 24-hour business channel broadcasting in Arabic. The channel is set to go live this month, and the network, I am told, is currently finalising negotiations with the Egyptian government to open a bureau in Cairo.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Cairo, my dear friend Mima Ghabbour recently held a banquet in honour of Hoda Maher, wife of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, and head of the International Club, whose members are the wives of foreign ambassadors in Egypt. The event took place at the brand new JW Marriott in Mirage City, where club members, along with a bevy of media figures, including my dear colleague Aisha Abdel-Ghaffar, toured the hotel's golf courses, lakes, restaurants, and conference halls. At the end of the day, Maher delivered a speech, bidding farewell to those ambassadors' wives who will be leaving Cairo at the end of their husbands' terms. Maher stressed the club's role in reinforcing the friendly ties between its members, who hail from various cultures and civilisations.

At the Cairo International Conference Centre, prominent members of the National Council for Women from El-Beheira, El-Qalyoubia, El-Fayoum, and El-Minya, were awarded certificates for successfully completing a training course on using advocacy techniques in addressing women's issues.

The pilot project was implemented through the joint efforts of the National Council for Women, the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), and the Alexandria Institute of Training and Research. The aim was to assess the problems that Egyptian women face in our society, with a goal towards prioritising and solving them. Among the attendees were: Secretary-General of the National Council For Women Farkhonda Hassan, Dean of the Alexandria Institute for Training and Research Selaiha Awad and director of the Cairo branch of CEDPA, Pamela MaCloud.

Recently, Le Meridien Heliopolis -- together with Le Royal Mansour Meridien Casablanca and Royal Air Maroc in Egypt -- organised an extraordinary seven-day Moroccan food and culture festival that took place at the hotel's St Germain restaurant. Inaugurated by Moroccan Ambassador to Cairo Ali Oumlil, a spectacular opening dinner ceremony was held around the pool. Le Meridien Heliopolis's General Manager Philippe Bonnot, Le Royal Mansour Meridien Casablanca's Director of External Affairs and Public Relations Mohamed Mekouar, and Royal Air Morocco Egypt's Regional Manager Abdallah Kanafawy welcomed the distinguished guests.

More major hotel news is in my pack this week, thanks to my colleague, Rehab Saad, who informed me that Hyatt International has just announced that it will begin operating two new hotels in Cairo -- specifically, the two former Le Meridien properties overlooking the Nile downtown. At a major press conference, André Pury, senior vice president of Hyatt International, and Sayed El-Kholy, representative of the Saudi Egyptian Tourism Development Company, which owns the properties, announced that the Royal Nile Tower would become the Grand Hyatt Cairo, and the former Le Meridien next to it the Park Hyatt Cairo.

The changes will take effect at the Royal Nile Tower on 1 August 2003, while the future Park Hyatt Cairo is scheduled to open in late 2004 after a complete $20 million renovation. With the new hotels, Hyatt will have four properties in Egypt, including its well-known Hyatt Regencies in Sharm El-Sheikh and Taba Heights.

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