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May 2007  Volume # 28  Issue 05 
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Courtesy Mohammed Bakir

Soad Hosni
March 2006
Culture 101
A roundup of the month's news in the arts and culture
By Manal el-Jesri and Noha Mohammed

Smash Hit II

Dar El-Shorouk celebrated the printing of Azmi Bishara’s second novel, Love in the Shadow Zone last month. Bishara is an active member of the Israeli Knesset, and a well respected thinker and writer. His first novel The Checkpoint was released in 2004.

ET Guide
An Artist for Life
After a successful stint as a commercial artist, Mira Shihad...
Screen Scrambles
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At a Cinema Near You
A combo of heroes, serial killers and a serving of espionage...
Maria Reloaded
Saucy songstress Maria sheds her contemporary Lolita look fo...
Rock On!
With local rock becoming more popular by the minute, isn’t i...
When Size Matters
The new MINI is a fun, stylish throwback to the sixties Brit...
Let the Maestro Play On
The InterContinental CityStars offers an Italian dining expe...
Documentary Revolution
Dubai-based Hot Spot Films blazes a trail in the Middle East...
Damage control
Where to get it fixed in the nation’s capital — from the bro...
Heading South
but proudly Upper Egyptian artist Omar Abdel Dhaher has mana...
Plain Talk from Mursi Saad el-Din
Trendy Trattoria
Zamalek’s La Trattoria pulls off great presentation — and ex...
Fire it Up
The Four Seasons at Nile Plaza brings Brazilian grill to Cai...
You’ve Gotta Laugh
Attempts to launch Stand Up Cairo fell flat, leaving organiz...
Virtually Free Software?
Google moves our desktops online with a software suite that ...
Straight to the Punch Line
Lebanese filmmaker Assad Fouladkar looks to shake up Egypt’s...
To Do in may

Soad Hosni’s youngest sister, Janjah, has signed a contract with El-Adl production group, giving them the right to produce both a film and a television series about the late idol’s life. Janjah’s only condition was that Abdel-Rahman Hafez writes the scripts for both works. Hafez wrote the TV biography of Om Kolthoum a few years ago and has since been recognized as one of the most faithful writers of biographic works in Egypt.

Brothers in Art

Interest in the Muslim Brotherhood has been steadily growing in the past few months, most notably with a newfound preoccupation with Hassan El-Banna, the mentor/founder of the group, who was assassinated in 1949.

Hassan El-Banna

Five producers are currently thinking of making films about the late leader, each party working separately. One of these parties happens to be the Brotherhood itself, which is trying to wrangle funds from its businessman members in support of the cause. The Brotherhood was hoping Nour El-Sherif would play the role of their spiritual leader, but have since postponed work on the project.

Screenwriter Waheed Hamed is another one of the parties interested in bringing the legendary figure to life. Hamed had spoken about writing the biographical script with Emadeddin Adib of GoodNews4Me.

A Western company and a Kuwaiti company have both shown interest in doing the film as well, while writer Mohamed El-Baz has written a script about El-Banna already.

Ahmed Seif El-Islam, the son of the late leader, has warned that any move to make a film without the consent of El-Banna’s family would result in his taking legal measures against the offending party. The son has declared that he is considering taking up the Kuwaiti company’s offer to produce the film.

In Loving Memory

Renowned journalist Mohamed Sid-Ahmed passed away last month after having served for many years as editor of Al-Ahram’s opinion section. Born in 1928, Sid-Ahmed was the son of a Pasha who dedicated his life to liberalism.

As a columnist writing for Al-Ahram for over half a century, the writer and political activist constantly fought for moral and patriotic integrity. Of Sid-Ahmed, fellow writer Mohammed Salmawy said, “He was closer in his way of thinking to the geniuses that stand out from the rest of the world.”

Sid-Ahmed was born in Cairo and held degrees from Cairo University’s faculties of law and engineering. Between 1945 and 1964 he joined local communist parties and was arrested briefly for his leftist leanings.

Sid-Ahmed also authored several books including After the Guns Fall Silent (1975), a prophetic take on the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Who the Kurds Are

Director Ali Badrakhan just came back from Iraq, where he was carrying out research for his upcoming film about the Kurds.

Badrakhan points out that the film is still in its very early stages, which is why he cannot yet disclose the names of any of its stars. Written by Ali El-Guindy, it is funded by the Iraqi government’s Ministry of Culture, which commissioned the film. The project will be produced in three languages: Arabic, English and Kurdish. Also worth a mention, Badrakhan is of Kurdish descent but says that this has nothing to do with why he was selected to make the movie.

Home Away From Home

Yet another Ancient Egyptian pottery discovery has recently taken the archaeological world by storm, but this time it had been sitting under the museum officials’ noses for decades.

After a request from the Department of Ancient Egypt at the British Museum, a quick search uncovered a 4,000-year-old discovery at Hawick Museum of Scotland. A box of pottery, collected by Egyptologist John Garstang in Esna in the early 20th century, which has remained untouched and undocumented, turned out to contain a number of items, many from the Middle Kingdom of 2040-1750 BC.

John Samples
The Cairo Opera House

Staff had long suspected that the pottery was Egyptian but lacked written confirmation. The British Museum has been trusted with the task of dating and analyzing the collection.

Comic Relief

While in Egypt last month, much-loved Syrian comedian Dureid Lahham was given the Culture Award for his role in Arab cinema. Lahham received the award from Dr. Ahmed Nawwar (head of Egypt’s Cultural Palaces) after a screening of his latest film Al-Abaa Al-Sighar (Young Fathers), which features Egyptian actress Hanan Turk. The critically acclaimed movie is a return to the social family drama of the 1970s and has been released to major screeners nationwide.

Art for All

Cairo celebrated the opening of the Fifth International Gravure Art Trinale last month. The festival takes place at Qasr El-Funoun, on the Cairo Opera House grounds. A total of 73 artists from all over the world will be showing some 1,400 works until the end of March.

Anwar Sadat
Hero’s Welcome

Decades after Nobel Peace Prize winner Anwar Sadat was assassinated, a long overdue museum has finally been officially inaugurated to celebrate the life of the former Egyptian president.

Visitors to the new facility can find out about the late leader’s rise from a humble Egyptian-Sudanese family to become one of the Arab world’s most influential political figures.

The focal points of the museum, basically a large room lined with prints documenting major milestones in Sadat’s life, are his wedding photo with Jehan Sadat, as well as his historic handshake with then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977. In the middle of the room sits a large model of warships crossing the Barlev Line and visitors can also watch and listen to Sadat’s speeches. Also on display are Sadat’s military uniforms, toothbrush and bathrobe.

At the museum’s inaugural ceremony, the late president’s widow, Jehan Sadat, was quoted as saying, “He was a hero of war, yet also a hero of peace. He chased the occupiers as well as the enemies inside, and anyone else he thought would harm the nation.”

Courtesy Teshkeel Media
Bari the Healer is one of The 99

The museum, which is located at the Pharaonic Village in Giza, actually opened its doors several months ago but curators were waiting to see audience reaction before making the opening official.

The 411 on the 99

In September, Kuwait-based Teshkeel Media plans to begin publishing The 99, a series of comics based on 99 characters each personifying one of the qualities that Muslims believe God embodies.

Naid Al-Mutawa, Teshkeel’s head, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and an MBA from Columbia University, told the New York Times that while existing superheroes personify the Judeo-Christian archetype of individuals with enormous powers (look no further than Superman) and the Japanese archetype of small creatures who rely on each other to become powerful (Pokemon), his characters are based on the Islamic notion of collective power that comes from virtues that ultimately belong to God.

The 99 are Muslims from all over the world: Jabbar from Saudi Arabia has the power to morph to immense sizes; Noora from the United Arab Emirates can read the truth in what people say; and there’s a niqab-wearing character called Batina. Among the writers is Fabian Nicieza, who wrote for X-Men and Power Rangers comics.

Al-Arabiya correspondent Atwar Bahjat

The 99 will debut with a special issue in May before moving to its regular production schedule this fall. Visit them online at

Iraq Claims Another Arab Journalist

Al-Arabiya Iraq correspondent Atwar Bahjat, 30, and her crew from Baghdad-based Wasan Media were kidnapped and murdered last month while on assignment in the war torn country.

Bahjat, with cameraman Khaled Mahmoud Al-Falahi, 39, and soundman Adnan Khaïrallah, 36, were found dead in Samarra, north of Baghdad, on February 23. Al-Arabyia said they were kidnapped on the Dor Road as they headed to Samarra to cover attacks on the holy sites of Imams Ali Al-Hadi and Hasan Al–Askari.

Bahjat, who had a BA in Arabic literature from Baghdad University and had worked for the Iraqi Satellite Channel and Al-Jazeera before joining Al-Arabiya, was born to a Sunni father and a Shia mother. She is the seventh woman journalist to be killed since the war started in March 2003 and the ninth Al-Arabiya journalist to die covering the conflict.

Barra is out.

The Dubai-based network is the foreign media that has suffered the highest losses in the war: Five staff members lost their lives in a car bomb that targeted the network’s bureau in Baghdad, and three died after being fired upon by coalition forces. Al-Arabiya reporter Jawad Khathem was the target of an armed kidnapping attempt and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

According to Reporters Without Borders, a total of 82 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the beginning of the war in Iraq; seven have died so far this year. Local broadcaster Al-Iraqiya is the Iraqi media that has been worst hit, with ten journalists and media assistants killed on the job.

Queer as Folk

The Lebanese NGO Helem, an acronym in Arabic for the Lebanese Protection of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Communities, the first public gay rights group in the Arab world, last summer released a quarterly magazine in Arabic.

Entitled Barra (Out) the magazine is also available on the internet, where it receives some 60,000 hits per month.

Five percent of the hits come from Lebanon, six percent from Saudi Arabia and the rest from other Arab countries, activist Ghassan Makarem told Al-Jazeera last month.

Though homosexuality is illegal in Lebanon, Helem has managed to register itself with the Lebanese authorities.


The Turkish movie Valley of the Wolves: Iraq (Kurtlar Vadisi, Irak), which portrays US Marines killing Iraqi soldiers and innocent civilians alike and mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, has broken box office records in Turkey.

Based on a highly successful Turkish television serial, the $10 million movie is the most expensive ever made in the country. It begins with the real-life events on July 4, 2003, when American Marines arrested 11 Turkish special forces soldiers in Sulaymaniyah after mistaking them for insurgents, which inflamed Turkish public opinion.

The movie’s fictional hero, Suleyman Aslan, one of those 11 agents, leads a team of special operations soldiers into northern Iraq to find American commander Sam William Marshall (another fictional character, played by American B-movie actor Billy Zane) who is responsible for the affront and who claims he is killing people for their own good in order to pacify them.

Zane said in a recent television interview, “I acted in this movie because I’m a pacifist. I’m against all kinds of war.”

Screenwriter Bahadir ?zdener told the New York Times last month that the movie is not meant to insult Americans, but to portray the real tragedy they have caused. The film’s official website is

Free Press in Libya?

Libya said last month that it plans to allow private newspapers, radio and television news into the state-controlled media environment.

A new company called 1/9 (in reference to the date of the 1969 Libyan revolution) announced it will launch an experimental radio program in March and a satellite TV channel in cooperation with foreign companies in 2007.

1/9 has inked a deal with German printing technology giant, Heidelberg, to build a modern printing facility for Western publications. International printing houses are expected to soon start distributing Newsweek, Der Speigel and Le Monde in Libya.

Paradise Now

The nomination of Palestinian director Hany Abu-Hassad’s film Paradise Now for a best foreign-language film Oscar fueled controversy in Israel and the United States last month.

The film, which featured a Palestinian crew and an Israeli producer backed by European funding, is the story of two childhood friends from the West Bank who volunteer to be suicide bombers.

In the end, one of them refuses to blow himself up while the other goes ahead.

Major theaters in Israel are refusing to screen the film. According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli diplomats and Jewish groups in Los Angeles are lobbying organizers of the Academy Awards not to present the film as coming from Palestine.

(For Egypt Today’s exclusive coverage of Paradise Now before it became an international sensation, see “A Show of Resistance,” by Contributing Editor Viviana Mazza in our October 2005 issue, page 142.)  et

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