CULTURE

Egyptian first lady due in Athens for three-day visit

The first lady of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, who arrives in Greece on June 1, is to have a tightly packed, three-day schedule of events as the guest of Marianna Vardinoyianni, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and member of the board of the Bibliotecha Alexandrina, whose president is Mrs Mubarak. The common interest that has brought them together is their concern for children, particularly sick children, and for people with disabilities. Vardinoyianni is president of the Elpida Foundation for Children with Cancer and she is also the heart and soul of the bone marrow transplant unit at the Aghia Sophia Children’s Hospital and its residence at Goudi in Athens, where children and their parents can stay while the children are receiving treatment, and where Mubarak’s visit is to begin. On Monday June 2, the Egyptian first lady is to open an exhibition of Fayum portraits at the Athens Concert Hall, and will give a speech there on issues that interest her in her capacity as a sociologist. (Mubarak has a master’s degree in the sociology of education from the American University in Cairo, which in 2001 awarded her an honorary doctorate in human sciences.) Mubarak is also to meet with President Costis Stephanopoulos, who is to hold a dinner in her honor, even though this is not an official state visit. She has expressed the wish to be informed about foundations and persons involved in constructive philanthropic work, particularly with sick children and people with disabilities. Mubarak was the first to support and fund the idea of reviving the ancient library of Alexandria, undertaken by the University of Alexandria, and was among the distinguished personalities who believed in the project and helped support the national program promoted by President Mubarak. Originally president of the International Commission, Mrs Mubarak eventually became president of the board of trustees. The neoclassical Egyptian Embassy building in central Athens, now restored both inside and out, is waiting to receive Mrs Mubarak, a woman who believes in traditional values and is always open to new ideas regarding the good of society as a whole. The mother of two sons and also a grandmother, she avoids taking stands on international political issues. On the contrary, she is in favor of an open dialogue between religions, believing that whether Islam, Orthodox Christianity or any other, religion should be based on love and cooperation for the common good.