Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Witness to Arab-US milestones

Obituary: Mohamed Hakki (1933-2015)

Mohamed Hakki
Mohamed Hakki
Al-Ahram Weekly

Veteran journalist, prominent diplomat and public figure Mohamed Hakki died Saturday night 24 October. He was 82. Hakki died in Manor Care Health Services, in Fair Oaks, Virginia, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Hakki started to make his name in the 1960s, especially in Washington. His legacy is his contribution to a deeper understanding of Egypt, its politics, economics and culture.

From 1959 to 1972, Hakki was a journalist at the daily Al-Ahram where, as a foreign desk editor and African affairs specialist, he covered the world. He travelled extensively in Europe, the former Soviet Union, South Asia, the Far East, Australia and sub-Saharan Africa, visiting nearly 25 African countries.

In 1975 he was asked by then-president Anwar Sadat to establish and head a press office at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington. Hakki became a key press liaison for major developments that took place in Egyptian-American relations, including such landmark events as the Camp David Accords and the assassination of Sadat in 1981. For almost a year before Sadat’s death, Hakki served as director of the State Information Service and was the president’s spokesman.

In the 1980s, Hakki returned to his roots in Arab media — both print and television — as a writer and Washington bureau chief for various outlets.

Hakki was born in Cairo on 7 April 1933 to Omnia Raouf and Ibrahim Hakki. He resided in Washington DC for the last 35 years of his life. On his 80th birthday, his colleagues and members of the Washington Association of Arab Journalists gathered to share their memories of him. It was a great opportunity for all of us to be together, to express our gratitude to a man who was generous in all his dealings and always a gentleman.

Those who had the chance to know him closely or work with him were well aware of his wide-ranging knowledge and insight regarding what Egypt was and is, its dynamics and key players. In addition to observing the modern history of Egypt and other regional countries, Hakki was also a decades-long witness and scholar of Egyptian-American relations and understood how these relations were shaped, or misshaped, over years.

Hakki wrote frequently and gave many lectures about those relations. Hakki — or Hakki Bey, as I liked to address him at the start of our conversations — was the person to talk to when a question related to any aspect of media and politics was raised, especially when one wanted to give the issue of concern a broader perspective and deeper approach.

He knew well who was who in Washington, and in particular those who were related to Egypt and to the Arab world. Hakki was also a hakawati — a very interesting storyteller and joke teller — Egyptian style. He always welcomed people with his unforgettable big smile and his welcome: Ahlaan!

Many Al-Ahram Weekly readers are probably familiar with Hakki and his insights because more a decade ago — especially after 9/11 and during the start of the US war on terror and invasion of Iraq — he wrote extensively, analysed deeply and harshly criticised Washington’s approach and handling of all issues related to the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Hakki was the man to ask if you wanted to know anyone or anything in the capital city. Likewise, when many Washingtonians were trying to figure out what was this or what was that in Egypt or the Middle East, Hakki was there to give them information or to show road maps to follow.

With Hakki, I was able to discuss a recently published political book, or a painting displayed in an art exhibition, or exchange ideas about a publication coming out of Egypt that was trying to fill what was missed in the cultural scene.

Hakki wrote a great deal, and left a great deal more in the memories of his colleagues and friends. Unfortunately, most of what he wrote and published in Arabic and in English are not part of the Google search world, nor have they been collected or published in a book.

They remain in the archives of the newspapers and magazines he worked and wrote for. Hopefully, his family members or friends may publish them one day to preserve what Hakki wrote, to demonstrate to new generations his valuable contribution to media and politics, and to further a better understanding of world affairs.


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