Friends of the Arabs / Dieter Lempke
Dieter Lempke is the librarian of the German Institute for Middle Eastern Studies. His relationship with Beirut started few days before the Israeli invasion of 1982 after receiving an invitation from the American University to attend one of its conferences in Beirut. Lempke saw the first days of the invasion but had to go back because of the war.
Dieter Lempke returned to Beirut after two years to work as a librarian at the Institute but again the capture of a group of Lebanese at Frankfurt airport forced him once more to leave Beirut in 1987 and go to Istanbul. Contrary to his expectations that his trip would only last a few days, he remained there until the mid nineties and in the meantime established in Istanbul another library for the Institute. In 1995 he returned to Beirut and is still there today, he became the librarian for Beirut and Istanbul branches.
Dieter got his doctorate in Islamic sciences from Koln University. He attributes his interest in the Islamic culture to studying in a centralized European educational system, which offered him a lot about the European culture only. This made him feel that his education is insufficient to understand the world and that it is necessary for him to study another non-European culture, and chose therefore the Islamic culture for its comprehensiveness.
* Lempke speaks about his first travel experience when he was twenty years old and visited Cairo and Khartoum where he stayed for 3 months touring Sudan. He thinks that his first experiences prompted him to travel to many countries in the Arab world such as Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Oman, Dubai, and other countries such as India and China and was keen to see the Islamic societies in them as he believes that it is not sufficient to know about something but it is equally important to see it.
* The German Institute for Islamic Studies in Beirut is considered the only center for German scholars of its kind in the region. Lempke explains to us at the Newspapers' Section that his work could be summarized in providing books, researches, and references for researchers and collecting manuscripts and printed publications, and that the library contains 130,000 volumes.
He works hard for providing the incomers from the West with books and newspapers published in the Arab world as it is difficult to obtain them in Europe and he has to travel continuously between Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo and sometimes even Sana, Tunis, and Casablanca for visiting libraries and exhibitions and buying books.
The library he supervises is one of the most important of its kind and contains materials about the Middle East attracting foreign and Lebanese researchers. Lempke stresses that it is important that the selection of books doesn't follow a certain approach imposing a specific system or a vision. The library contains all types and kinds of views ranging from left to right and from secular to religious, and it does not confine its interest to Islamic culture but takes interest as well in Eastern Church and contains important reference books in original languages such as Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian.
* Lempke confirmed while reviewing his newspaper collections that he tried to set up a special collection for those interested in the Palestinian cause and acquired the editions of one of the best printed Palestinian newspapers, specifically the political, such as "Palestine , The Revolution" and that he succeeded in buying a number of its very rare editions as most of them were destroyed in the civil war in Lebanon.
* As an intellectual, Dieter has several other interests similar to the collection of books and references such as the collection of original pictures, and postcards, and claims to have the best collection of World War I propaganda post cards.
He is also interested in Islamic calligraphy and has a big collection of rare historic pictures of the Middle East, which he considers very important for influencing the Western concept about the East. Lempke believes that these painters came to the East in the 18th & 19th century believing that Europe was characterized with clarity, judgment, and justice while the East was characterized with profligacy, tyranny, and darkness. They started depicting the Western expansion to the East, and later their paintings of the East reflected their dreams and the details of real life in it. These paintings tackled themes such as the obscure side of eastern women, the Eastern tyrannical rule, and rich life in the cities, villages, and desert. The paintings spread greatly with the enhancement of printing capabilities and were sold at very modest prices, and lately printed on stamps and became popular and part of the collective perception and image of the East, which Dieter tries to help the West to change.
* Lempke believes that people make their own hobbies. They take their heritage and add to it. When people ask him whether he is going to Beirut and if it is a dangerous place? He tries to correct the picture they have in their minds and replies that he is not surrounded by terrorists as they think, he feels there at home and comfortable, and that this environment is part of him not only there in Beirut but in all the Islamic world which he visited most of its capitals.
Date of broadcasting : January 15th 2006 – Al Jazeera News Channel
Christian Leblanc: Endless Love of Egypt and its monuments
Christian Leblanc came to Egypt for the first time in 1973 but he never imagined he would stay for so long and would miss Egypt every time he travels to France for some business as happens today. Christian started the journey of his infatuation with the Egyptian antiquities when he was 12 but his first visit was in 1970-1971, when he first met the French Egyptologist Serge Sonoro, who was the Director of Institute of Oriental Archeology in Cairo and became his ideal. Leblanc returned to Egypt in 1973 to work at the Studies and Documentation Center of Egyptian Pharaoh studies
He was 12 when the UNESCO launched in the sixties a campaign for saving Nuban antiquities and heard the French Culture Minister Andre Malraux announcing UNESCO invitation to all the countries in the world to save the Egyptian antiquities. Leblanc collected donations from his school mates and sent them to UNESCO at Paris, and the UNESCO director sent him a letter of appreciation as well as the secretariate of Jamal Abdul Nasser and which sent him a letter inviting him to continue his interest in the pharohnic civilization.
After high school, Leblanc joined the Louvre and succeeded in working in it and thus started his journey as an Egyptologist and got his bachelor degree in history and master degree in old history then his PHD in Egyptology and studied old Egyptian language.
In Egypt he worked at several archeological sites the most important of which is the Valley of the Queens located on the West Bank at Luxor. He worked at the valley for 20 years as it was unexplored before, and opened 80 unexplored tombs in it but he found that the contents were stolen at old ages or by some middle age travelers.
After completing the work at the Valley of Queens, he wanted to pursue his archeological and historical researches about Ramsis II dynasty and therefore he moved to Ramesseum Temple in 1991, which he considers an excellent material for archeological study.
He started work by removing the dust accumulated over the years over the pillars of the temple until their original beautiful colors started appearing from under the dust. This work required extremely accurate and specialized tools and the mission at the Ramesseum Temple continue till now with the participation of Egyptian archeologists.
Leblanc speaks while working with the Egyptian workers at Ramesseum temple of being happy for finding those interested workers that are being trained by French specialists to sculpture, cut stones, and restore antiquities. These are the children of families he knew very well and their fathers worked at the restoration of antiquities while the children were growing up before his eyes until they finished school and joined the foreign expeditions working at the restoration of antiquities in Egypt, and he believes a family atmosphere spreads between the 120-130 workers there.
He spent many years in Egypt and saw the country develop and change. He loves the freedom atmosphere in it and that the majority of its people are young contrary to the west, and this youth represent hope.
It shall be broadcasted on 1 July, 2005
Marie Louise Belarabi
Marie Louise Belarabi was born at Montpellier south of France. She was the fourth child of a Catholic physician and a Protestant mother. The family was interested in culture, and therefore Marie decided to study with the consent of her family editing & Libraries. This was in the early fifties when she was 18 years old. She graduated and worked at Julian Publishing House editing texts for Northwest Africans and especially Algerian writers, who chose France as their exile place. She met her husband at some friends while he was sleeping on a sponge chair and pointed at him and asked what is this? Isn't he ashamed of himself?!!.. and when they walked him up she found him humorous and they became friends later and married.
She was dazzled with the cordiality at Morocco that she missed in France where individualism dominates. All her neighbors knew her and used to bring her the delicious food at Ramadan, which surprised her. She loved in Morocco the light and the overwhelming kindheartedness and she visited every city in Morocco and accompanied her French family to visit the Moroccan cities and she says that she knows Morocco more than her husband.
One day her friend, the Moroccan journalist Zakia Daoud, told her that somebody needed a librarian to work with him and if she is interested to work for him. She was teaching at that time 20 hours per week, and therefore accepted the offer of the Frenchman who was selling dictionaries at Rue Mohammad V and agreed to work for him after the teaching hours. She moved after words to work for the Frenchman at another bookstore owned by him but at the Latin Quarter after convincing him that Rue Mohammad V was not good for selling books.
Her first experience failed and the bookstore went bankrupt, which frustrated her very much and made her decide to learn English. Her American friend convinced her of setting up a new bookstore, and she asked herself why not since she had the furniture and the books!!.. they rented a place under construction to use it as a garage but then despite knowing that opening a garage is more profitable yet she decided that culture is far important than profit and that she really wish to contribute in changing the quarter. This actually happened. She agreed with some of her friends who are working at la Publicité Warman in publicity and advertising to set an advertising plan based on purchasing clearance books. The campaign succeeded and they were able to make profit from the clearance books at the Latin Quarter and use the money for purchasing new ones. The Moroccan were not used to this philosophy as they rarely entered bookstores, who usually prohibit them from touching the books and going through them but Marie on the contrary invited Moroccans to browse the books and made them understand that they are not compelled to buy anything.
Her main objective was to educate a certain category of Moroccans, and the bookshop, whose name became "the Meeting place for Writers" became a place for meeting in addition to being a bookshop. Writers and readers come here to discuss with freedom not available anywhere else and the bookshop became a platform for freedom of expression without obstacles, censorship, or deletion.
Marie set a new publishing house called "Tariq Publishing House" and this step too has a story behind it. Her friend Joel visited her at the library one day and proposed that they establish together a publishing house but Marie apologized because she was busy and already a grandmother and has a lot to do, while she was supposed to retire. After one week her journalist friend Abdul Aziz Moreed visited her with a big envelop under his arm, and told her that it contains an illustrated story and wanted that she finds him a publisher. She took the papers and started browsing the pictures and her enthusiasm growing until she turned to him and said that she intends to set up a publishing house and she will publish it. In fact she and her friend Joel and Micho Banati set up Tariq Publishing House”.
Later Marie established “Ein Shams” Association, which has members Muslims, Christians, and Jews Moroccans, French, and Spanish to discuss things freely, get acquainted, and speak about their problems.
Marie Louis speaks about her philosophy in raising children: “simply love them and find out what makes them happy”, and therefore they made her happy more than publishing and bookshops that are among her priorities but not before children.
It shall be broadcasted 24/6/2005
Since 1977 Mona Omara lived in Egypt. She narrates her story while listening to Abdul Wahab song “what is destined to me?” and preparing a cup of an Egyptian tea. Japan is her original country and there she met her husband. She was attending an English language course when her friend from Mitsubishi told her that they are receiving an Egyptian delegation that speaks English and one of them speaks Japanese. During the visit of the delegation, she met her husband who was working for Suez Canal and who felt when he met her that he is meeting an Egyptian girl from the thirties similar to his mother and decided to marry her.
Before coming to Egypt she heard a lot of scary tales about the country: a desert .. No civilization or electricity or water… Bedouins herding sheep .. She new nothing about Egypt except the Pyramids, and Sphinx. When she was engaged one of the colleagues of her fiancé told her that life in Egypt is difficult as the economy is weak, and she will not be able to buy everything she wants from the supermarkets as in Japan, and she has to stand in long cues at the cooperatives for purchasing her things.
The things she heard frightened her and decided to visit Egypt first and then decide what to do. She bought a ticket with return to comfort her mother but she did not go back. At the airport she was received by her fiancé, mother in-law, and his brothers who welcomed her all and her mother in law prepared Egyptian food for her to try it.
She did not use the return tickets as she married and mixed with her husband’s family. Her mother in law taught her how to prepare Egyptian plates and learnt Arabic. Her mother with upset with her for sometime but Mona loved Egypt and lived in it and her father finally was convinced with the seriousness of the experiment that her daughter lives.
Her Japanese name was Hu Wyhara but nobody remembers it anymore, and when she decided to chose an Arabic name she decided take the name of Mona as it was easy to pronounce. Mona loved in the Egyptians their harmony and closeness to each other and therefore she was very quick in integrating in the Egyptian life and learning Arabic. Her husband remembers that he was away from the house for one week and when he returned she was speaking 3 Arabic words and after 5 months she spoke Arabic and was able to go to the market to buy her things.
Mona observed her first Ramadan with her husband, who told her about the holy month but did not care much about the details nor about Al Suhoor (last meal before daybreak during Ramadan) or about the Eid and when people stop fasting. Mona fasted many days without Suhoor until the end of Ramadan and lost much weight. Her husband told her that there is a mosque and an Islamic center in Japan in which she could profess Islam and that he prefers that she does that in Japan and not Egypt, which she actually did.
Mona was taking care of her granddaughter Malak at the garden, and explaining the fondness of Malak in her. Her husband was talking about the raising of Mona to their daughters Dina & May with great attention, and how she helped them since they were children to select a sport and she also accustomed them to self-dependence. They chose tennis and Dina traveled when she was 11 to represent Egypt in the Championship of Africa at Ivory Coast and May traveled to Holland. Mona continues her mission as a mother with her granddaughter that she raises very strictly as she does not want to give the impression that grandmothers spoil their granddaughters, and she believes that she is in an errand as long as she attends to Malak. Like any other oriental woman, she refuses to work and believes that she cannot divide her time between home and work.
She tried to cook Japanese food for her husband but he did not like it but she liked the Egyptian cooking and she eats even Kawarea that her husband does not. Mona has learnt Arabic properly and now she feels that her mother language is little bit rusty and lately she traveled to Japan but could not live there more than one month and returned and said that her house and family are in Egypt and she would visit Japan as a tourist.
The Series will be broadcasted on 17/6/2005
Erga Reheins: embracing the Arabic causes
Erga Reheins was born to a mother from Jaffa and a German father in 1935 in Palestine but since her father was fighting the British forces the family had to immigrate to USA. Erga studied in American schools and joined the university but never finished her studies for there weren't schools specialized in arts, and since she did not want to learn any other profession she had to educate herself. She lived and worked in New but in 1977 she left to Portugal.
Erga believes that her life in Portugal made it easy for her to live in any Arab country as Portuguese have Arabic blood in their veins and there is a lot of similarity between them and the Arabs but joining of Portugal to the Common European Market in 1988 changed its particularity into a typical European country.
As Erga liked challenges, she decided to migrate this time to Palestine where she was born and lived in the Arabic sector of Jerusalem from 1996 till 1997 working at archeological excavations. She also succeeded in making researches about Bedouins, in whom she is infatuated for she believes she shares their passion for traveling and never staying at one place for a long period.
In September 1997 the excavations manager for antiquities at Jerusalem asked her to go to Wadi Rum at Aqaba, which she actually did and lived at a place near the Saudi boarders for two weeks and enjoyed a mystic and distinguished experiment and fell in love with Wadi Rum and returned later to the same place to live there.
Erga loved the Bedouins' life and felt it offered her simplicity, which she always dreamt of: “You are at the desert where you own only what you need... no more no less... matches, wood, flour for making bread, rice and clothes .. and for Erga books to read. Erga also liked the idea of sharing in Bedouins culture, caring for each others, and providing a sleeping place for those who need it, and sharing their food with the hungry. Hospitality for Bedouins is not limited to three days only as she is herself a guest since more than 7 years.
At desert, she came upon the idea of liberty... no walls... no rooms... no geometrical figures … and for all these reasons she believes that people love this place … it reminds them of their roots... and this enables you to communicate with your own roots as a human being... this the concept which Erga wanted to express in her book about her personal experiment.
Bedouins find difficulty in understanding the presence of a single woman among them and therefore she used to say jokingly that her dowry is 500 dark camels and other five hundred white ones knowing that nobody in Jordan owns one thousand camels. When she was seventy, a person called Suleiman came asking for her hand for his 76 years grandfather but when she told him that her earlier two husbands died and left her and he told his grandfather the story, the latter withdrew his proposal saying that he doesn't want to be the third husband to die, and the story ended there. Since then she started telling everybody who asks her why she does not marry that she left behind two dead husbands and there is no reason to repeat her experiment.
One of the Wadi Rum inhabitants tells that Erga came as a tourist first then she became one of them, making her own bread, visiting the sick, sharing their happy and sad moments like the other women.
Erga used to say when she was sitting near the Bedouins children that these are her family and the children are her own grandchildren. She believes that there are common principles in raising children but different values as in the west they raise children on fear while children here move freely and commit mistakes that qualify them to bear responsibility. In the west children learn since they are young to act maturely but here they are allowed to enjoy their childhood for a longer period.
Before coming to Wadi, Erga used to express herself by painting but when she discovered later the splendor of the place she thought it would be more appropriate to possess a camera to take pictures. She believes that many things have changed in the Bedouins life such as use of technology for they now own Jeeps and they are nearer to the civilized world and she is sad for this change despite that she is not against it in general.
Broadcasting date 8 July 2005
Karen Asfour: Arabs grievances and pains
Karen Asfour, an American, met her husband while she was in her second year studying principle religions in the world at the University of East Michigan and he was preparing his master degree. After one year of friendship, he proposed to her and despite the liking of her parents yet they were not enthusiastic for the idea fearing for what the life of their daughter would be after marrying an Arab, if she would be able to adapt to life in Jordan, and will she lose her freedom as people used to say and kept reminding her that he could marry other three women in addition to her but she never felt at all such threat.
Her father believed that her venture would not last six months but after twenty-five years of marriage he realized that this is the only relationship that lasted for her two sisters were divorced while she succeeded in setting up a new life in Jordan and she thinks her parents are proud of her.
Life went normal for Karen as she moved with her husband to Jordan and taught in an American school. She gave birth to her daughter Malia, and after two years to her second daughter Tala, and after eight years to Qais and after seven years to Jad and all hold the American nationality but were raised according to Jordanian values. The family believed that it is necessary that children learn Arabic for they are Arabs and English for its importance and agreed that they speak Arabic with their friends outside the house and English inside in order to master both languages.
Karen turned into Islam without pressure and felt that this is a proper decision as a wife of a Muslim husband & children. She joined the American Women club in 1963 and became vice president for two consecutive terms. The most important activity of this club was the collection of donations for charity and as vice president she felt that it is necessary that their activities should also extend to charity associations outside Amman, and exerted much efforts for directing these donations to other places in Jordan and traveled a lot to north and south of Jordan and visited many villages and felt that it was the activity she enjoyed most in the mid eighties.
Karen shared in several charitable activities for since the seventies she joined Al Hussain Association for the habilitation of the disabled and became a director. The activities of the association were not limited to children as they set up a workshop for girls at the end of the eighties and beginning of nineties and managed it along with her friend Mary Rose. They appointed afterwards a professional to manage the workshop while she and Mary Rose worked in making children and acting clothes. The Association sold their products in its shop, and at the same time received orders from schools, producers, and other associations to supply them with costumes.
Karen was photographed while distributing wheelchairs to children. The wheelchairs were the result of cooperation between Al Hussain Association and an American establishment named “Wheelchair”, which handed these chairs to the Association to distribute them to the disabled in all Jordan and not only to school children.
Before coming to Jordan, Karen was not politically educated but felt that it is difficult to live in Jordan without taking interest in politics especially that she witnessed great political events after her arrival to Jordan since 1967, and seeing the Israeli invasion to Lebanon in 1982. These events made her set up along with other British women “The Vision” Association for influencing the public opinion in their original countries and presenting a new vision about the Middle-East and their feelings about the area. The Association holds a monthly meeting and endeavors to meet British and American officials when they visit Jordan and explain things to them.
One hundred fifty American women signed a letter addressed to President Bush requesting him to resort to negotiation and stop conflicts. Karen also shared in writing a letter to the American president and congressmen and held a press conference and appeared on TV while submitting a letter to the American Ambassador. Despite that their efforts did not succeed in preventing the war yet they tried again in the Gulf war to explain their point of view for people outside Jordan.
At the end, she feels Jordanian and little things arise her concern such as crowd, distribution of plastic bags in the country, environmental issues, and she participates in the major issues such as elections, women participation, protection of Petra and considers her points of view not a criticism from the outside as she belongs to this country and she publishes her views in the Jordan Times newspaper.
Broadcasting date 15 July/ August 2005
Jordan Lover / Jane Taylor
After the completion of her studies, she believed that her life would proceed like any other British woman. She worked at the beginning in teaching then moved to publishing but felt that life has a bigger significance.
She was born in the Middle East and grew up between the ME and Australia. She was fund of explorations and tried to overcome this feeling but failed, and thought of traveling to Istanbul where she had friends and could earn her living by teaching English to Turks. At Istanbul, she wrote articles for some newspapers and magazines and later the BBC took her as researcher for some programs about Turkish arts and history. The work with the BBC opened the doors for her to work at TVs even after her return to London.
In the early eighties, she traveled to South Africa to observe the South African experiment in preserving wildlife at the sanctuaries, and met a film producer and decided together to make a film about forests' inhabitants at Kalahari Desert. Her experiment led her to meet Van Der Post, who participated in presenting a film about Kalahari Desert in the fifties, and to writing a book with Van Der Post titled “Forest Men Confessions”.
Jane Taylor started looking for other themes to write about and since she graduated in history and had interest in it, and was fascinated with society secrets and believed that any country is the product of its own history, and in the case of Jordan diversified for people also make history. She was looking to add special flavor to history viz. details about the people instead of looking at history as figures and dry facts.
Jane remembers in this context that she fell upon a letter from a Roman soldier stationed near Petra to his father explaining that they passed the time in cutting stones. Jane concludes from this letter that at the fall of the Byzantine kingdom in the hands of Romans the Romans were supposed to build fortresses and roads and therefore they spent much time in cutting stones. Jane uses also photography for documenting whatever she writes and usually endeavors to select the visual themes.
Jane came accidently to Jordan to replace a tourist manager in a trip to Jordan and Syria for one of the travel companies owned by one of her friends in 1978 but she loved the Middle East and since 1984 she started coming yearly to Jordan and take many pictures. Once in 1989 she was able to photograph Jordan from the air and thought then of publishing a book about "aero photography of Jordan" and decided to move to Jordan for one year but she stayed there ever since.
She published her book "High above Jordan" and it was unique for no other book ever referred to the splendor and diversity of Jordan even the white and black tourist manuals. The book was published in English, French, Italian, and German in addition to other three languages. In 1993 Jane published her book about Petra and noticed that no book ever spoke about the experiment of the people who built Petra and decided that this would be the theme of her third book "Petra and the Lost Kingdom of Nabateans".
She is presently preparing for her new book about Jordan titled "Jordan: The Land & the People" and actually finished part of it, and was planning to publish it when we interviewed her. Jane lives in her house for more than fifteen years, and considers herself lucky for finding this house recommended by some friends for she loves the area in which she lives as it is surrounded by trees and old houses. The house was totally empty when she came to it as it was a studio for an artist, and then gradually she filled it with herself and her accumulative character. She loves to live in this area and in Jordan in general and receives a lot of warmth and welcome from Jordanians and see that the first word they learn in Arabic or English is welcome. Among other marvelous things that you find at Amman is this mixture of people and therefore she has many Jordanian friends and from nationalities.
Broadcast date 22 July/ August 2005
Ludovic & Agnes: Infatuation in alleyways & folk houses
In 1994 Ludovic & Agnes left France and decided to live in Egypt. Agnes was born at the southern parts of France while her husband Ludovic was born in Brittany, and they were married for fifteen years and worked in publishing.
They visited Egypt one summer and liked its moderate atmosphere, the kindness of the Egyptians, and ancient Egypt and thought of shifting to it and exploring their future there. Ludovic came one year before his wife and worked at Misr Al Jadidah neighborhood, at the same time when a wave of terrorists attacks started in Egypt, which gave much concern to his wife and made her call him all the time and ask herself what type of a country they have chosen? And her husband used to assure her that this is a temporary situation.
Agnes believes that what is published in newspapers does not reflect the daily Egyptian life and that she did not discover Egypt until she went there, for Egypt is not merely Cairo. She visited with her husband the Reef & Sewa oases, the desert, and many places even Egyptians never heard of. She remembers those marvelous moments she lived at the “Thursday Market” watching the Bedouins exhibit their products on the sand and sell them.
Ludovic decided to open a shop for selling Egyptian traditional products utilizing their experience in finding out the places, which produce these materials and their makers. The couples fixed on the wall pictures illustrating these traditional crafts and many tourists asked them if all these exhibited products were Egyptians, and when he gives a positive reply they express their astonishment for Egypt is rich with many invisible things.
Tourists usually see centers for the production of papyrus, carpets, or selling ornaments but Agnes believes that this is not real Egypt for Egypt is what people make with their own hands. At the beginning, the craftsmen were little bit worried in dealing with Ludovic and Agnes for they considered them strangers or tourists and kept asking themselves what they wanted but by time they felt comfortable with them and offered them more and more products and were willing to enhance their cooperation .. by time cultural boundaries fell... especially that the couples speak little Arabic and ask about details which makes others believe that they are really interested.
Egypt is not pyramids, museums, and markets but also houses and societies to which the French couple were attracted and believed that they are part of another extremely delightful discovery. How people live? The people in Egypt are disorganized but behave well. People here work at the last moment but they do their utmost to complete the work at the specified time, which never happens in Europe. At the end all knots are untied and happy endings come just as in movies. The relationship of Ludovic with his employees is very good, part of it is certainly good luck. Family feelings, interest in the employees’ comfort, and observation of some sensitivity always govern the relations between them. Things that never exist in work relations in France for here work relations include emotional and humanitarian dimension and they are quite different than the impartiality relations prevailing in Europe.
Agnes worked in bookstores in France but when she came to Egypt she remained inactive for some time, did not maintain her relations with the European authors and publishers, and decided to change her work from publishing to selling books. When she started working she discovered how difficult to work in a vital city like Cairo and therefore decided to hold book fairs in the Francophonian schools or French centers at Cairo. Agnes says that everyone warned her against working at Cairo for she is a woman but her frequent visits to it made her discard this advise for she works and lives at Cairo and never had a problem. She tried only to be gentle, straight, and respectful with all, and at the same time to exercise all her powers and this does not expose her to problems. It is true that her peers of French books importers and distributors are very rare as well as French speakers and the prices of French books are very high compared with the English ones and French publishers do not have a plan to export to the South.
Egyptians are very nice and forgiving with foreigners but very heated between them, as Ludovic noticed. Although this could be comfortable for him yet it was shocking. Being treated as a bunch of dollars for she is a foreigner irritates Agnes but on the other hand she feels much safe in Egypt, which is quite rare in other cities for here you do not hear of robberies while few hundreds happen daily at Paris. Agnes travels alone to the farthest areas in Egypt without any problem and if she ever faces a mechanical problem in her car on the road she always finds help. Many Egyptians are astonished for the couples’ decision to emigrate from France and chose to live at Cairo as many Egyptians dream of living there and the couple believe that their experiment was very fruitful and if they return back with time they would select again to live at Cairo where hearts are rich.
Broadcasting date 29 July/ August 2005
When Martha Sarah told her parents she was going to marry a Muslim Arab they felt miserable… maybe because she was going to live far from them but they offered her good support, and tried to comprehend that she… the Christian… is marrying a Muslim. Today, they visit her in Jordan, she explains to them the magnificence of Islam, and feels happy because her 90 years mother understood finally that they worship one God and she found a way to live with that.
She was studying at Hamburg University and working on holidays like any German student when she met her husband who was a student and colleague. He told her that he is a Palestinian but she did not know what a Palestinian meant despite considering herself politically educated. He told her the story of his life, and since then she became infatuated with the Palestinian cause before falling in love with her husband. And she finally learnt the truth about what German newspapers published: “the Jews found an arid desert and turned it into a paradise and the Arabs envy them and want to seize it”.
She and her husband decided to come and live at Jordan, a decision that reflected their joint wish to live nearer to the Arab world. In 1980 she came with her two children but one day her husband had to travel to USA to attend a training course and he was afraid to leave her in a non-speaking neighborhood but she assured him that she would manage to stay alone.
After the travel of her husband, all the woman at the neighborhood came to visit and take care of her for she was a foreigner, staying alone, and does not speak much Arabic, and were able to communicate by signals. They tried to convince her to become a Muslim but the first thing she wanted to know was if Islam treats differently women and men? They brought her the husband of one of the neighbours to explain to her in English that Islam looks impartially at men and women but men have 5% more duties than woman but she considered this percentage a sign of discrimination between men and women.
Martha believed that it was necessary for the children to see their father’s village “Qaqoon”, which does not exist on any map today and after much search she found it in an old map. She accompanied the two children, who hold German passports, to visit Jerusalem but they were worried for they never met Israelians before and for them Israel was the enemy and the visit was weird. She took them to Al-Aqsa Mosque, and at the beginning she used the German identity cards at the gates but they refused to let her enter for that day was allocated for Muslims and therefore they went to another gate and used their Arabic identity cards.
After visiting Al Aqsa mosque, she went to Toulkarem, where Yasser and her husband grew and met her husband family and relatives who are still living at the camp and those accompanied her to visit their old village Qaqoon, 6 km away inside the 1948 occupied lands and they did not meet difficulties in visiting it and see the old palace surrounded by cactus. The children enjoyed the visit to the camp, to see their relatives, and sat on the ground land listened to the stories narrated by their uncle and ask for more and more stories… it was a life journey for them… and their father was surprised of their joy.
Martha considered herself lucky for finding work in 1986 at one of the German companies in Jordan. The German Ministry of Economical Cooperation financed the company, which works at developing human resources in Jordan to enable them to develop and try to press people to participate in solving their problems, specifically young people and women. The company concentrates on supporting civil work organizations and make everyone feel that they are capable to make change without any discrimination between women, men, youth and old.
Martha joined the “Vision Team”, formed of a number of foreign ladies living at Jordan and interested in communication between the East and West. The first activity she participated in was proposed by a 60-year-old British lady, and it involved a journey on bicycles from Beirut to Amman through Damascus to demonstrate that Arab countries should not be associated with terrorism and blood shed and women in them may ride bicycles in them.
Martha loves Arabic cuisine but she believes it takes much time to prepare it and therefore she cooks in the evening and asks her husband to help her.
Martha loves gardens and she remembers always the garden at her house when she was a child. She brought seeds from Germany and planted them in Jordan, and she believes that she has set her roots in this land by planting trees, which only needed water for there is plenty of sun here.
Marcel Chiche was born at Orleonville in Algeria and lived there until he was 13 but still remembers that people there visit each other and comments that it is nice to be surrounded by friends and remembers the streets. He still remembers all these things that had great impact on him until he had to leave to France for they were French.
He studied at Paris dentistry for one year for this was the profession of his family but because he never dreamt of passing his life looking at somebody’s mouth he left dentistry and turned to restaurant management, which he loved.
He opened more than one restaurant in France but because he loved traveling his legs and destiny took him to Morocco, and the moment he put his foot on land he smelt the odor of figs, which reminded him of the country in which he was born… Algeria. He felt like returning home but he did not have sufficient time to explore everything there and he wasn’t in a hurry for he knew he was going to return once more. When he returned to Paris he was frustrated for leaving the bright sun, the wonderful sceneries, and worm people but he realized he was going back.
Marcel visited regularly Morocco but he never considered himself a tourist… Morocco was his city and when he decided to move there such decision was never easy for he had a family at Paris. He had reasons for being attracted to Morocco but his family never had the same motives and therefore he looked for ways to tempt them. It was inconceivable to force his family to come and therefore started to tell them stories about his recollections of Algeria and promising them with new life in Morocco. He purchased a plot of land, constructed his restaurant on it, brought his family, and started a new life. He considers Morocco different than Paris for the former gives him the opportunity to explore himself while at Paris they have no time for thinking or picking up your breath.
Marcel set up “Le Contour” Restaurant at Morocco and wanted it to reflect the two cultures he is familiar with, and be hospitable like a house and therefore he added words to it like love and peace. He says about his profession that it is not easy for he starts work at 10:30 in the morning, meets the suppliers, do office work, and then meets the different section heads at the restaurant and the chef for planning the evening period that starts at four and continues till 1 after midnight. Many believe that work at restaurants moves smoothly but for Marcel everything is organized and planned and he tries always to change the rhythm and style of the place to make his customers feel comfortable.
Marcel plans to launch teatime at the “Contour” for he believes in the importance of tea in the Moroccan culture, specifically tea with mint but he will also introduce other cultures that take interest in different kinds of tea and around the world.
Music is one of the important things in Marcel’s work and this relation started at teenage when he tried to learn playing one or two instruments but failed and realized that he was not gifted but music inhabited him and by opening the Contour he was realizing a dream of living surrounded by musicians playing wonderful tunes and pieces of music and he dreamt of loading the music on a CD titled “Le Contour” and selling them.
Six years he spent in Morocco for he believes investment in tourism there is excellent.
Marcel is father of three children, the eldest is 29 years old and works with his father at the Contour, and the second one is fifteen, and the third is his ten years daughter. He feels happy for convincing them to come with him to Morocco and enjoy life in it and understand the notion of “other cultures” and how to look at other people, understand, and respect them. And he believes that they have started understanding this concept for they have matured in this environment.
Jean-Pierre Coffel: Moroccan in heart and spirit
The French Jean-Pierre Coffel came and settled at Al-Moheet neighborhood in Rabat and lived at the flat of his friend Ignacio Ramoni, the Spanish language teacher. The apartment was nice and made of 3 rooms with gardens at both sides of the house. It was magnificent until one of the neighbors left and took his apartment a second hand furniture dealer, who raised chicken and had a cock that crowed at 3 in the morning. The cock did not distinguish between a day and a lamp light and this left him sleepless for one month. He complained to the neighbor, who replied that he has the right to raise chicken and ducks at his house and if he cannot live with that he may go back to France. Jean-Pierre complained to the police commissioner at the neighborhood but this one too told him: "we are Muslims… and the crow for us is like the muezzin who wakes people for prayer and if you dislike that you may pack and go to France". He did not go to France, but he went to his friend Mustafa at Kenitra. This happened in 1967 and he still lives at Kenitra till today… it was merely a coincidence.
Jean-Pierre Coffel was born at Casablanca, and at the age of five his father decided to move to Meknès and remained in it until they moved to Marrakech in which he grew up.
After high school, he decided to study Arabic language but he passed the Latin test and failed in the Arabic test at the second year in the university, and continued studying French Classic Literature that is Latin. He got his bachelor degree in Latin language but at the School of Literature in Bordeaux University he was asked to make a verbal test in a foreign language. He thought of a language he knew and chose Arabic because he was not eager to take Spanish. Bordeaux University inquired why is he choosing dead languages: Latin and Arabic. He contested to the description of Arabic as a dead language and showed them many newspapers published in Arabic like Al Manar, and Rai Al-Aam and succeeded in convincing them to accept Arabic as a contemporaneous language.
When Jean-Pierre was a child he never liked soldiers and athletes but liked writers and felt immensely happy in approaching them. For him extreme success is in becoming a writer but he failed to achieve this dream before retiring. He had many things to tell and write about but he never took writing a profession.
He started writing poetry at the age of ten. There was a French daily newspaper called "La Fiji Marocaine", which dedicated one page on Wednesdays titled "La Fijie De Jeûne" for publishing the writings of young writers or poets. At the age of thirteen he sent it one of his poems and signed it with a nickname: "Libre" and to his surprise it was published but they misspelled his nickname and put it "Lièvre" under which he continued writing a poem every week until the age of eighteen when he is considered no more a child but a young man.
He published his first novel "Sinsomiat Mahdi" and then the second one " Plums in the Tajin" for which he was granted the "Atlas Award" in 1994. Later he withdrew from writing plays and returned to poetry out of his own free will in order to make space for others, as he accustomed, and because he was proud of his students, who he considered their success is part of his personal one.
Coffel is active in helping young writers, and particularly the Francophonians, who wish to publish their works to meet publishers and creates opportunities for them through an association called "La Beck".
At the age of seventy and while working on novels and literature somebody sent him a 3-days child, whom he raised, became his godfather, and called him Adam. Coffel adopted another child in France before a French court and gave him his name.
At the serial many members of Jean-Pierre new family viz. Ahmad, his wife, and daughter who considered the Frenchman a father, father-in-law, grandfather… he granted them his name and they granted him the life he loved.
Countries on Location: Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, Iraq.