Kuwait issues travel warning over Lebanon protests    Erdogan says not a problem for Turkey if Syrian forces are in areas cleared of Kurdish forces    Pompeo seeks to assure Israel US focus stays on Iran 'threat'    Egypt says strategic wheat reserves enough to cover its needs until February    Egypt keen to support DR Congo: Ambassador    Ratcliffe to rely on young talents to help Nice grow    Social media facilitates racist abuse, says Leicester's Morgan    Criticism of Man Utd transfer strategy an insult to club-Woodward    US vaping-related deaths rise to 33, cases of illness to 1,479    Cairo metro back to normal operations following hours-long power disruption    Egypt's Pope Tawadros opens Saint Mary, Mar Youhanna Church in Belgium    Apache Corp. plans to increase investments in Egypt: CEO    Egypt's Irrigation minister reviews latest developments of Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam in Budapest    UK, EU clinch new Brexit deal    U.S. Trump defends Syria pullout, condemned by House in bipartisan vote    'Passports should be valid for six months,' Egypt's foreign ministry advises citizens planning travel abroad    Unpaid work hits 35% of Egypt's GPD, but still not included in economic calculations: IMF    Egypt's FM Shoukry holds talks with Lithuania's govt. chancellor    Egypt's c.bank Oks new regulations tightening control on micro-financing    Dollar, pound tread water, Aussie bolstered by jobs report    European stocks set for cautious open ahead of crucial EU summit    Egypt in talks with World Bank over solid waste management loan    Grand Nile Tower Arts & Cultural Centre launches second round    AUC students win prestigious award at SensUs 2019    Egypt's coach Hossam El-Badry satisfied with winning start despite technical problems    Hundreds released    Luxor's new discoveries    Moroccan film Nomades scoops awards in Alexandria Film Festival    Toshiba's JV with Egyptian Elaraby opens regional HQ in South Africa    Six authors vie for Booker prize 2019, Atwood in the lead    In Photos: A sneak peek into rehearsals for the Cleopatra ballet world premiere    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM to meet in Moscow to discuss GERD issue    Sisi: army engaged in attrition phase against terrorism in Sinai since 2013    10K fans to attend Egypt's friendly against Botswana in Alexandria: EFA    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM agree to overcome obstacles in Nile dam talks    Farwell to Egyptian comic actor Talaat Zakaria    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Portraits of Al-Ahram
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 17 - 01 - 2019

I felt as though I had entered a personal portrait gallery but, in this case, the portraits were painted by the artist's pallet of senses and emotions as opposed to his pallet of oils. The exhibition features the names of the many individuals who had constructed the great edifice that Mustafa Sami calls “The Ahram of the 21st Century,” alluding to the late Mohamed Hassanein Heikal's epithet for the modern offices of Al-Ahram (“the pyramids” in Arabic) on Galaa Street in Downtown Cairo. This is also the title of Mustafa Sami's memoirs, recently published by Al-Ahram Centre for Translation and Publication, in which he recounts the half century that he spent among his colleagues in his “second home”, as he called it, in his capacity as a writer in the research department, an editor and, most recently, an Al-Ahram correspondent in France and then Canada.
The Ahram of the 21st Century is unlike other books. Although it presents a history of Al-Ahram establishment since it moved into its modern premises in 1967, it is not a history book. It speaks of the human beings, not the stones, that built this great journalistic edifice. At the time of its inauguration, the “Heikal Building”, as the first of the three buildings on Galaa Street came to be called, was the most modern newspaper tower in the world after that of Asahi newspaper in Japan. Still fresh in my mind are the images of the many foreign guests and newspaper correspondents who came to Al-Ahram just to view that state-of-the-art structure. At the time, Al-Ahram had a public relations office staffed with English, French and Arabic speaking guides who would lead visitors on tours of the newspaper building's various departments. Much has been written about this establishment in Egypt and abroad. In my personal library I have quite a few books on Al-Ahram and the most famous forger of its glory in the modern era of Arab journalism, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal.
But again, this is not what Sami's book is about. It proceeds from the premise that great achievements are not the work of a single individual but of a collective endeavour, even if that is steered or managed by a single person. The book therefore attempts to depict the journalistic talents on which this unique achievement was built. Although many of them are now journalistic or cultural celebrities, many others are largely unfamiliar to the general reading public. Sami's book gives the lesser knowns as much space as it does to their better-known colleagues. For example, who, today, is familiar with Fatheya Bahig, the first to introduce a women's page into the Arabic language dailies? Who knows Naguib Kanaan, Tawfik Bahari, Mamdouh Taha, Salah Hilal, Kamal Naguib, Salwa Habib, Mahmoud Ahmed, Farid Magdi, Nawal Al-Mahallawi, Sami Mansour, Ihsan Bakr or Fouad Saad? All of these people have been instrumental, in their own ways, to the development of the Egyptian press. Mustafa Sami tells us of their contributions. Or, more precisely, he paints their portraits with an attention, love and understanding equal to that he devotes to the portraits of such luminaries as Naguib Al-Mistakawi, Galaleddin Al-Hamamsi, Ahmed Bahaaeddin, Salah Montasser, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, Ibrahim Nafie, Abdel- Wahab Mutawea, Kamal Al-Mallakh, Ahmed Bahgat, Salama Ahmed Salama, Salah Jahin, Ali Hamdi Al-Gammal, Ezzat Al-Saadani, Lutfi Al-Khuli, Fahmi Howeidi, Farouk Guweida and Sanaa Al-Bisi.
Yet, all the affection that you sense Sami has devoted to his portraits of his colleagues has not induced him to flattery, to gloss over the rough spots or to otherwise distort the truth. He discusses both positive and negative points. After all, no portrait relies on light colours alone. The shadows and the darker hues create depth. Without them the painting will be flat and superficial.
The French painter Gustav Moreau famously said that an artist cannot paint a portrait of someone unless he loves that person. Mustafa Sami loved all his colleagues, including those who have offended him, which incidents you feel he relates not as a form of revenge, but merely for the record. The reader will not find a trace of hatred or spite in the pages of this book. Sami does not know such sentiments. In fact, while he claims to be objective, one cannot help that he tends more towards empathy for his subjects, to the degree that the reader will end up loving them all as well.
You may have noticed that Mohamed Hassanein Heikal is not among the names I mentioned above. There is no chapter in Sami's book dedicated to this great journalist and writer. Nevertheless, you feel his presence in virtually every page. He is the commander who led the brigade that built the glory of Al-Ahram. It was his rare and farsighted vision that steered Al-Ahram staff towards the 21st century and that turned the move from Mazloum Street in Bab Al-Louk to the premises on Galaa Street into a boom for the Egyptian and Arab press. Al-Ahram, under Heikal's stewardship, became one of the 10 most influential newspapers in the world. International research centres have testified to this. Yet, Sami does not hesitate to point out what he felt were negative points in Heikal's personality. The same applies to his treatment of Ibrahim Nafie and other heads of Al-Ahram management.
Despite the wealth of characters that are gathered together for the first time in a book, perhaps the most important feature of The Ahram of the 21st Century is the spirit of affection that prevails throughout. This spirit also prevailed among the staff at Al-Ahram for the half a century covered by this book, Unfortunately, it is sorely lacking among its staff today.

Clic here to read the story from its source.