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Stories from Bahary... some true revelations
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 19 - 02 - 2009

Fascinating scenes, brilliant colours and interesting stories from the seaside capture the eye of Rania Khallaf
"Bahary" is the simple title of an exhibition now running at the Picasso Gallery in Zamalek. The exhibition, which will continue until 3 March, displays about 30 paintings by the artist Farid Fadel, who is also a physician, pianist and a singer.
The paintings depict beautiful scenes from Alexandria and from towns and villages in the surrounding Nile Delta. The exhibition is the outcome of a two-month journey to various places along the coast, including Mahala, Alexandria, Mit Ghamr and Samannoud.
Born in Assiut in 1958, the artist was raised in a family renowned for its involvement in the arts and classical music. In 1965 Fadel joined the Conservatoire where he eventually graduated as a violinist and pianist, and 16 years later he graduated in medicine from Cairo University. In 1998 he was awarded a PhD from Cairo University for a study on preventive chemistry.
Art is clearly one of his many capacities, and perhaps the most intimate. Fadel held his first exhibition when he was only 13 years old. Several other exhibitions followed, in and outside Egypt; the most distinguished of which was one on the dialogue among civilisations, entitled "On Both Sides", which was hosted by the Toledo Art Museum, and then in the Egyptian Embassy in Washington in 2000.
So back to the local scene: the paintings invite the visitors to contemplate in other dimensions rather than the paintings themselves. Adjacent boats lie quietly on the shore, while their sails intersect in a romantic touch, give the impression of a woman resting in bed, stretching out her arms and waiting for her lover to come; and the small, remote houses in the background with their tiny windows indicate that someone is controlling or watching the scene from afar.
Another painting that cannot be missed is one of still nature. The pigeon picture, taken at one spot in Mahala Al-Kobra, where the artist was hosted by a family famous for their love of pigeons, suggests another symbolic meaning: as pigeons busily seek out the seeds, one cannot help but think of every creature as one desperate man seeks his food for the day.
"This exhibition is the third part of a trilogy that aimed at depicting the brilliance of place in Egypt," Fadel says. The first exhibition, entitled "Description of Egypt", was held in April 2008 in Alexandria. "The first exhibition depicted places all over Egypt such as Siwa and Kharga Oasis. When this exhibition was successful, I decided to revisit the place that I consider as my homeland: Upper Egypt. I was born there, and lived there only for a week; but my passion towards that place never dies."
The outcome of this unforgettable tour was the second exhibition, held last November at the Hanager Art Gallery.
"My tour in Upper Egypt was of a special value for me as I rediscovered many beautiful spots, such as Karnak Temple, and, most importantly, the market place in Luxor and Aswan, which is a vibrant place where young people meet and where you can watch and merge with the living traditions of the city," Fadel says in a passionate tone.
And back to Bahary. "My frequent trips to the Delta villages were like an eye opener to the verdant green of the Delta and to the more delicate nature of its landscapes compared with Upper Egypt."
One of the most beautiful spots he visited in this tour was Dekernes, located 15 kilometres east of Mansoura and where he painted the vegetable lady. "My one- day trip to Rosetta was a true artistic revelation, visiting the city's old Turkish baths and its magnificent fort and old mosques," Fadel says.
"Manzala Lake is also a wonderful place, where hundreds of lakes meet up, one of which hosts a school. The lake has become a major source of inspiration to my paintings, with its amazing scenes: flocks of students coming back from school before the sunset in feluccas (small sail boats), and equally amazing is the sight of the fishermen coming back from the sea with the catch of the day: fish and migrating birds."
Besides the artist's infatuation with the location, there seems to be another target for his enthusiasm. "Actually, I also wanted to depict the accumulation of history in a historical city. For example, Samannoud, which is only eight kilometres east of Mahala and is located on the Damietta branch of the Nile, is one of those historical places where you can find traces of ancient history mingled with the modern history of the city," he says. He goes on to explain that Samannoud was once named Bajmoti, and that it used to be the capital of Egypt during the 30th Dynasty. The beautiful bridge linking Samannoud and Minyat Samannoud is said to have been designed by Eiffel. The city also hosts an old temple and a church were the holy family is believed to have rested and which is a historical spot visited by Christians and Muslims alike.
And there at the local market of Samannoud, Fadel was inspired to paint one of his fascinating portraits. "I was walking with my friend in the souq on the first day of the new year when I came across a boy on his donkey, waiting helplessly at the front door of a house, while his eyes were scanning the market place. He obviously wanted to get into the house, but nobody was there. 'Open the door, it is cold out here, God where have the people gone?' the boy must have been thinking." "This scene," he continued, "reminded me of the Holy Family on the day Jesus was born, when they did not have a place that would take them in."
"Egyptophilia-Egyptomania" is the title of his next art exhibition due to be held in October at the Opera House. In this exhibition, the artist will continue to show his infatuation with Egypt. "It also illustrates a kind of comparison between the Orientalists' vision and the natives' view towards Egypt as the land of the ancient history."
This time, his passion for the history of Egypt is not the artist's sole target: "We, Egyptians, lack this feeling of belonging to our ancient history. We do not consider the Pharaohs as our ancestors. Our spiritual destination is to Mecca or Jerusalem, not to Memphis," he nodded. "I have started preparing for this exhibition two years ago. And I visited the Berlin Museum last year and spent two days looking at and sketching the Nefertiti bust."
In 1987, Fadel was described by the international Who's Who as "the Renaissance man", as his peerless talents cover physics, music, and plastic art. And though he is fully involved in the artistic field, he would not dream of quitting his job as a physician.
Although he has travelled in many parts of the world, Fadel is still obsessed with Egypt's "fascinating landscapes". "I could spend my whole life touring and sketching Egypt's beautiful nature and historical cities, and yet it is not enough," he says.


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