gypt’s cultural scene has witnessed considerable development since President Abdel Fattah El Sisi came to power and since the appointment of Enas Abdel Dayem as minister of culture in 2018.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and shortage of funds, the Ministry of Culture continued its work. During the past year, the ministry organised 84,000 online and in-house activities nationwide. Several theatres and cultural centres have been refurbished. Here follows a breakdown of the ministry’s achievements since 2014.
Some 118 projects were undertaken at a cost of LE3.8 million, and 29 projects are in progress. Twenty-two cultural sites were opened in 2018-2021. For example, el-Arish Culture Palace opened after about 10 years’ closure. The General Authority for Culture Palaces has re-developed 18 cultural sites within the past 3 years.
National Library, Archives House
The Museum of the Revolutionary Command was established at a total cost of LE280 million. The museum was originally a rest house built in 1949 for King Farouk.
The National Library and Archives House were reopened in Bab el-Khalq with LE45 million funding from Sheikh Sultan Al-Qasimi, ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah.
The ministry also launched initiatives to reach more people. During the past two years and due to the coronavirus crisis, it launched ‘Stay at Home’ and posted performances on its YouTube channel.
Development of cultural facilities
The ministry also opened, re-developed and modernised 22 cultural and educational facilities, including cultural centres, libraries, theatres, and administrative buildings, including the censorship building in Qasr el-Aini Street, an outlet for publications by the General Book Authority in Ain Shams district, Toshka Culture Palace in Aswan and a culture palace in Luxor, Lycée el-Horreya Theatre in Alexandria and the Egypt Public Library in Faqous, Sharqia.
Meanwhile, the Museum of Modern Art in Opera Square, the Sadat Cinema and the Winter Theatre in Menoufia have been refurbished.
The Wadi el-Natroun Culture Palace in Beheira Governorate was re-opened along with the Arab Music Institute, the Folk Arts Museum, the Art School and the Academy of Arts for Applied Technology, the first of its kind in Egypt, at a total cost of LE4.9 million.
Many cultural sites have been developed and established since 2013, including the National Theatre, the Armant Library in Luxor, the cultural centre in Kafr el-Sheikh and the Aisha Fahmy Palace in Zamalek.
The minister of culture also opened the Egyptian Cinema in Port Said and the Ismailia Culture Palace Theatre besides the development of the Museum of Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil and his wife.
Online activities during pandemic
Everyone was able to view the Ministry of Culture’s masterpieces of theatre plays, concerts, and artistic and cultural treasures online through the Ministry’s YouTube channel or the digital platforms of its sectors on social media. A large number of publications were made available on the ministry’s website for viewing and free download.
The ministry also organised about 35,000 plays, seminars, and artistic and intellectual evenings during the first quarter of the year, plus 49,000 in open spaces after the gradual lifting of health restrictions.
The Cairo International Book Fair at the Egypt International Exhibition Centre is one of the biggest events on the cultural calendar. More than 900 Arab, Egyptian and foreign publishing houses from 40 countries are represented at the fair, which attracts 3.8 million visitors.
For the first time, book fairs were held in 24 villages in Upper Egypt in addition to permanent exhibitions by cultural palaces.
The Ministry of Culture has also implemented a number of artistic initiatives and projects, including ‘Egypt’s Craftsmen’ initiative, launched according to directives from President Sisi, to preserve the identity of Egypt by bringing Egyptian traditional and heritage craftsmen back into the spotlight and raise a new generation of talent.
More than 430 people applied to participate in the initiative, 43 artists and craftsmen aged between 18 and 40 were selected and trained, graduated as the first batch in the initiative.
The first phase covered 13 governorates, where 26 training workshops were organised, two workshops in each governorate, and the inauguration of the exhibition ‘Egypt’s Craftsmen’ opened this month.
The Ministry of Culture, through the Artistic House of Theatre, launched ‘Start Your Dream’ initiative, which is being held by the Youth Theatre Troupe at the Art House for free to support and discover new talents.
Another initiative is ‘Memory of the City’ to document the architectural identity of heritage areas in Egypt. It started in Zamalek Island area, which has its distinct historical value.
‘Street Tale’ records the story behind street names with commemorative plaques, of which 150 have been installed.
‘Live Here’ introduces the nation’s artists, actors and intellectuals and the places in which they lived. About 430 plaques have been installed and the names of heroes from the Egyptian armed forces and police were included in the initiative.
‘Cultural Relations’ series
This series is held with the cooperation of the Foreign Cultural Relations Sector and the Supreme Council of Culture. It is a series of seminars that come within the steps of consolidating ties between Egypt and other countries and shedding light on the activities of cultural exchange with the peoples of the world.
Each evening of the series hosts the ambassador of a country to introduce the culture of his country with focus on the cultural ties that bring his country together with Egypt throughout history.
Despite the pandemic, the Ministry of Culture did not neglect its sponsorship of intellectual and artistic festivals and forums, as it organised and provided sponsorship for more than 14 artistic and literary festivals and forums, believing in their importance in creating intellectual and creative mobility that serves Egypt’s soft power.
Among them was the Dandara Festival for Music and Singing in Qena Governorate, which is the first of its kind in southern Egypt. It is organised in co-operation with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. It included ten concerts over six days.
The ministry lists the following festivals: the 13th National Theatre Festival, the 42nd Cairo International Film Festival, the 29th Arab Music Festival and Conference, the 13th Samaa International Festival for Chanting and Spiritual Music, the 5th session of the Cairo International Forum for Calligraphic Arts, the 25th Aswan International Sculpture Symposium, 36th Alexandria International Film Festival, the 9th Luxor African Film Festival, the 27th Experimental Theatre Festival, which was organised online during the pandemic, the Luxor Photography Forum, the 4th Asoun International Women’s Film Festival, the 6th Alexandria Short Film Festival and the International Film Festival on Sharm el-Sheikh Youth Theatre.
The ministry has also succeeded in registering Upper Egyptian hand-weaving skills on the UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding Lists of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Academy of Arts organised online second scientific conference entitled ‘African Women, the Icon of the Black Continent’.
The Supreme Council of Culture also held a number of online seminars in which writers and thinkers from Arab and other countries participated.
The Egyptian Opera House hosted foreign troupes, namely the Cairo Steps Ensemble (Egypt-Germany), Georgia’s Fire, the Royal Georgian Ballet, the Milan Ballet (Italy), Heilongjiang Symphony Orchestra (China), the International Day of India, a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of relations between Egypt and Korea, orchestra ‘Chile’ and tenor quartet ‘Czech Republic’.