Diplomatic briefs

26-11-2013 08:04 PM

Mary Fikry - Antoun Milad

Cairo celebrates Verdi
On the bicentennial of the composer##s birth, Giuseppe Verdi##s Aida returned to the Cairo Opera House, 142 years after it premiered in the Egyptian capital in 1871. A descendant of the composer, Angelo Carrara Verdi, attended.

“I am honored to be here, where my ancestor unfortunately was never able to come. A circle closes—Verdi has now reached Cairo,” he told reporters at the press launch of the Verdi cycle, which included the Requiem in November and another opera in March. The Italian embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Cairo organised an exhibition in the theatre’s foyer under the title “From Villa Verdi to Cairo, a voyage never made” by photographer Sandro Vannini. The show included images of Verdi’s home and letters between the composer and Egyptian cultural representative Draneht Bey, who commissioned the Aida on behalf of Egyptian Khedive (Viceroy) Ismail Pasha to celebrate the inauguration of the Suez Canal. The upcoming opera premiere will include the presentation of the book Viva Villa Verdi, by Vannini and Roberto Mottadelli, which tells the story of Villa St Agata, the composer’s beloved home, where he composed the Aida. This, said his descendant, was a departure from his custom of going to his opera locations to write them.
Italian ambassador to Egypt, Maurizio Massari, and Opera Director Ines Abdel-Dayem both pointed to the solid cultural relations between Italy and Egypt. Verdi was born on 10 October 1813, and the Cairo Opera House opened on 10 October 1988, Dayem said. Cairo##s previous opera house, which burned down in 1971, had opened in 1869 to the notes of Rigoletto, another Verdi masterpiece.
Camus, the rebel
France has marked the 100th birthday of Albert Camus, probably best known outside France for his novel L’Etranger (The Outsider or The Stranger), which has been translated into more than 40 languages. Set in colonial-era Algeria, L’Etranger is a morally-ambiguous tale of murder, punishment and despair, and has been sited as an example of “existentialist” thinking, a label Camus fiercely rejected.  In Cairo, the French Cultural Centre paid homage to the memory of Camus with a digital exhibition entitled Camus 1913-2013 and a seminar featuring Algerian journalist Yehia Belaaskari who talked about Camus’s Algerian roots.  The First Man, a French-Italian biopic on Camus directed by Gianni Amelio was screened.
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School meals in Upper Egypt
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has signed a second partnership agreement with Vodafone Egypt Foundation to support thousands of people in Upper Egypt through WFP’s school meals programme.
Vodafone Egypt Foundation contributed USD1 million (some EGP6 million) to the programme which should benefit some 75,000 people by providing school meals and monthly food rations to school children and their families. It also trains 300 teachers on nutrition awareness activities. The project covers 899 schools in the poorest and most remote areas of Sohag and Assiut governorates.
WFP school meals encourage enrolment of children in nursery and primary schools that are part of the government’s Girls Education Initiative. Through this programme, students receive a daily nutritious snack and a monthly food ration for their families. The in-school snack is fortified with vitamin A and iron and helps fight short-term hunger, enhancing children##s school performance.
 “The project also encourages enrolment and regular attendance of children with the take-home ration acting as an incentive for their parents to send them and keep them in school,” said WFP Egypt Representative and Country Director GianPietro Bordignon.
Parents whose children’s attendance rate is above 80 percent receive 10kgs of rice every month; the ration is worth as much as twenty percent of a family’s monthly food budget and is equivalent to the wage a child would earn if sent to work instead of school.
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World food day
The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation joined the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in celebrating the World Food Day on 17 November. The theme of the day this year was “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”. Participating were Minister of Agriculture Ayman Abu-Hadid and FAO’s regional representative Abdel-Salam Weld Ahmed.
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57357 Hospital Marathon
A marathon was held at the Smart Village, a sprawling IT park on the outskirts of the west Cairo satellite town of 6 October, in an event whose proceeds went to the research facilities at the children cancer hospital widely known as “57357”, the number of the bank account to which donations may be deposited. The marathon was organised under the sponsorship of the Canadian embassy in collaboration with the European Union (EU) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). Attending were Canada’s ambassador to Cairo David Drake, Information Technology Minister Atef Helmy, Sports Minister Taher Abu-Zeid, Minister of Manpower Kamal Abu-Eita and president of the Smart Village Company Adel Danish, as well as a public figures. 
A large number of participants took part in the 4km-marathon, and later enjoyed music and entertainment. A booklet was distributed to raise awareness, under the title A cancer-free home.
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Orange Bike day
Last Friday the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo launched its second Orange Bike Day to promote the idea of bicycling as a healthier transportation alternative in today’s high-paced world, and to highlight bicycles as a cheaper, ‘clean’ means of transportation. The initiatives aimed to raise awareness on maintaining a healthy eco-friendly lifestyle, and have gained momentum judging by the enthusiasm displayed by the more than 700 participants. They cycled through the leafy suburb of Zamalek, the starting point was the Netherlands Embassy at 18 Hassan Sabry St in Zamalek.
Gerard Steeghs, the Netherlands ambassador in Cairo, said that the Orange Bike Day would become an annual event.
Watani asked Mr Steeghs if, after the effort the embassy made to raise awareness among the public of the benefits of biking, he had made any effort with the Egyptian government to promote biking and provide the necessary infrastructure for it. Mr Ambassador replied that yes, there had been a seminar on the topic with government representatives last year in which the issue of infrastructure was explored. “We also pointed out,” Mr Steeghs said, “that biking may be a good opportunity to promote tourism in a novel fashion.”
The participants were especially thrilled with the event. The young law graduate Muhammad Mansour said that he belonged to a biking group that was only one among many such groups on Facebook. “These groups,” Mr Mansour said, “include bikers of different levels; ‘level’ denoting the number of kilometres a biker has travelled.” The highest level members, he said, had made it on bicycle from Cairo to Aswan, some 900km south.   
It is known that Netherlands has long implemented regulations facilitating the use of bicycles as a mean of transportation.
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Watani International
26 November 2013
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