CULTURE

Egypt’s First Lady Suzanne Mubarak: ‘We’re united by culture and history’

Suzanne Mubarak, who gave Kathimerini an interview in last Sunday’s Greek edition, is a very approachable person, much warmer and more direct than the image in her official portrait, where she is decked out in jewels. She spoke of her efforts to fight illiteracy, in the gradual struggle by Egyptian women to obtain an equality within their society. Mubarak herself has set a shining example, with studies and 20 years of working in education and in setting up libraries for poor children. She is now chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which she described as «a center for crossing bridges between civilizations,» and «the crowning glory of 20 years of my career working with poor children, with books and with the conviction that every child must have access to books.» Mubarak also smilingly talked about how difficult it can be to live with «five men,» referring to her family, in which she is the only woman. The interview was held at the presidential suite of the Intercontinental Hotel and was attended by the ladies of the press corps accompanying the president’s wife. Here are some extracts from the interview. What do you call the president when you are alone? «I’m not telling you,» she replied with a laugh. The couple have two sons, Amaa and Gamel, and two grandsons (Mohamed, after his grandfather of course) and Omar («just like Omar Khayyam, the poet»). What did you like most in your three-day trip to Athens? «The people: their warm welcome, their friendship and their hospitality.» What did you like the least? «Nothing. Everything was wonderful. In any case, we are very much alike, we are ancient peoples, united by our culture and our history. In this crazy world we live in, we should acknowledge and maintain friendship and cooperation.» Will you be coming to the Olympic Games? «It is too soon to make plans, and (I think) there will be too many crowds.» Would you like to hold the Olympic Games in Cairo? «Yes, there has been some discussion. It involves a great responsibility and a great cost.» What would you like to say to the Greeks? «To the Greeks from Alexandria, whom I met and who spoke with such nostalgia of Egypt, which they left 50 years ago, I would like to tell them to pass that love on to their children and grandchildren, to the next generations of Greeks who do not know this history. They should encourage them to come and get to know Egypt, beginning with the Bibliotheca.» Do you often speak on television? «No, only when I have something important to say.» So, Suzanne Mubarak is beautiful, powerful and intelligent woman who is also very wise!