In Upper Egypt’s capital city of Assiut some 350km south of Cairo, an Austrian Day was held on 12 November at Assiut University. The event was held under the sponsorship of Assiut Governor Yasser Dessouqi. President of Assiut University Ahmed Abdou Gaeis welcomed his guests, prominent among whom was Georg Stillfried, Austria’s Ambassador to Cairo. Attending were deans of various colleges of Assiut University members of the faculty, members of the Austrian diplomatic corps in Cairo, as well as local politicians, security officials and public and clerical figures.
The event honoured the 60th anniversary of both Assiut University and the Austrian cultural centre in Egypt.
In his opening address, President of Assiut University expressed his happiness at hosting the Egypt-Austria Day, saying it was the first event of its kind to be held at the university. He said that the university cooperated well with international institutions and was keen to take part in student exchange programmes.
The Austrian ambassador said that Austria and Egypt had behind them 300 years of relations on the economic, scientific and cultural levels. He said that an Austrian company has been involved in the construction of Assiut barrage and, since 2017, in supplying and installing turbines to help bring clean energy to Assiut houses. As far as Assiut University is concerned, he said, the university is collaborating with the veterinary medicine university in Vienna in the field of molecular biology.
A documentary was screened on the 300-year-old Egyptian Austrian relations, highlighting three projects currently being implemented by Austria in Egypt: the power generation project in Assiut, the cooperation between Assiut University and Austrian counterparts, and a large artistic project in which Austrian and Egyptian artists join in painting graffiti on the Egyptian Railway train carriages that work on the Assiut-Aswan line. They are also, in parallel, painting the carriages of the Cairo underground metro. Among the artists are a number of Egyptians with disability.
An art exhibition was held displaying works of Egyptian and Austrian artists. Among the distinctive pieces was one by Noha al-Mufti made of pulverised natural rocks of different colours.
Messages from Paradise #1 Egypt: Austria / About the Permanent Longing for Elsewhere, an Austrian documentary by Daniela Swarowsky and Samuli Schielke was screened. The documentary tackles the issue of migration: the longing of young people to leave Egypt to Austria where they hope to realise all the good things they lack at home: money, freedom, new horizons. In Vienna, Egyptian migrants yearn for their home back in Egypt. Their tales of migration reveal that the realities of living in Europe are more complex and nuanced than they themselves might have dreamt of. Paradise, both sides of this fictional dialogue tell, is always elsewhere.
A discussion on emigration followed, in which Ms Swarowsky and Mr Schiekle took part. The students asked a lot of questions on life and conditions in Europe; they were given answers and reminded of the message in the documentary: that Europe is no paradise. Life there required arduous work which, if done in one’s own country, may yield better results. They were especially warned against illegal emigration and the dire consequences it involves.
The evening saw a concert in which both Egyptian and Austrian bands performed music and songs.
15 November 2017