On Friday 28th May we had our reading at the El Gouna Library. All members of the El Gouna Writers' Residency Board attended as well as many Orascom staff members. Some residents of El Gouna attended too.
This is a photo of Seni, Elmaz, myself and board member Dr. Maha El-Said.
Here we are with members of Orascom head office including at the far right Sherine Sennara. Sherine was our main contact before coming to El Gouna.
I started the programme. I read a bit of the first chapter of the book I've been working on here title Revelations. Then I read a story of mine that has been published in a few places titled The Rich People's School. I chose the story so that the gathering might get a small glimpse of my country, a place few Egyptians had ever heard of.
After me was Seni Seneviratne. She started with a song and then read a few of her poems, including Dandelion Clocks which is included on her CD Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin. She also read one of the poems she wrote while in El Gouna. It's about the robotic drones that are used by the Israeli military. These drones drop bombs on people and like most machines make mistakes. It's a powerful poem about the travesty of the war machine told with images of bees and flowers.
Seni and Tiziana collaborated and translated each others poems while here in El Gouna. Seni read the English version of her own poem, Cinnamon Roots, and the English version of Tiziana's poem about India. Later, in Tiziana's set, she read the Italian version of Cinnamon Roots and the Italian version of her own poem about India. It was a demonstration of the importance of cooperation and collaboration between writers, one of the wonderful by-products of such a residency. It was lovely to listen to.
Tiziana read some of her poems in Italian including two haikus written in El Gouna about her morning Tai Chi sessions at our beautiful lagoon. Though she read in Italian and I know little of the language, it was like music to listen to.
Kevan Manwaring read an excerpt from the novel he worked on here at El Gouna.
The evening ended with Elmaz Abinader. She read an excerpt from the novel she was working on in El Gouna. It is about love during the time of the Lebanese war. Then she read some of her poetry. I was particularly touched by a poem she wrote for her brother-in-law who was going to have open heart surgery. It was about faith.
It was a lovely evening which led to a bittersweet weekend. And today is Monday. Elmaz left yesterday, Seni and Tiziana this morning. Writers are a prickly bunch. We are loners with a sensitive nature and to find your way around us is tricky business. But here in El Gouna four strong, independent, beautiful women found a way to each others' hearts. I found many things in El Gouna but most of all I found three dear friends.