Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2008, pages 46-47

Northern California Chronicle

“Midnight at the Oasis” Party Celebrates Sonoma-Aswan Sister City Project

By Elaine Pasquini

  • ABOVE: (L-r) Rob Lyon holding Kazzy, Sherri Ferris, Egyptian Consul General Abderahman Salaheldin, Dr. Thoraya Elkhadrawy, Carol Blackman, and Lynette Lyon holding Hump-free (Staff photos P. Pasquini).

THE SONOMA-Aswan Committee of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association launched its new project with an Aug. 4 fund-raising bash beneath a massive tent at the town’s Meritage Restaurant. Sharing the spotlight with camels Kazzy and Hump-free, Maria Muldaur performed her signature 1970s hit song, “Midnight at the Oasis,” accompanied by her band, The Oasins.

Guests of honor Ambassador Abderahman Salaheldin, who has served as consul general of Egypt to the Western U.S. since 2004, and his wife, Dr. Thoraya Elkhadrawy, shared in the excitement of this new Egyptian-American venture, the fifth partnering of an Egyptian city with an American one. The diplomatic duo was delighted to see many guests dressed in colorful Egyptian outfits, including beautifully embroidered gallabiyas, keffiyehs and even one red fez.

“Reaching out to each other is what this relationship is all about,” Salaheldin told the enthusiastic crowd. “It’s about actually knowing about each other and the wishes of both people to connect with a town on the other side of the world.”

The project began in April, when the ambassador and his wife met with Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders and Sonoma Sister Cities president Bill Boerum. Through the hard work of committee co-chairs Carol Blackman and Sherri Ferris, among others, a formal agreement will be signed in Aswan in November. A delegation of Sonoma residents will be traveling to the Land of the Pharaohs to witness this momentous occasion.

Although located on opposite sides of the globe, the two cities share many commonalities, including an agricultural interest in solar energy and water conservation. Sonoma is a wine-growing giant, while Aswan is famous for its hibiscus plants and the juice of the same name. The communities also look forward to working jointly in the areas of the arts, culture, education, health care and the environment.

Egyptian National Day

Egyptian Consul General and Mrs. Salaheldin hosted more than 500 friends, diplomats and members of California’s Arab community at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts July 23 in a commemoration of the Free Officers Revolution of July 23, 1952.

The ambassador, who is returning to Egypt after his four-year assignment in the U.S., thanked the audience members for their friendship and support during his tenure and urged everyone to visit him in Cairo, where he will assume an interim position as assistant foreign minister for Arab affairs.

Salaheldin noted that through his office’s e-mail database he and his staff have been able to reach out to 10,000 Egyptian families living in the U.S. “Connecting Egyptian Americans with their homeland has served the interests of both countries,” he said. “Egyptians in California played a prominent role in bringing almost all major IT companies to Egypt.”

The diplomat was happy to report that hundreds of American students are attending Egyptian universities, particularly to study Arabic. “Learning about each other is our best hope for a peaceful future and ignorance is our worst enemy,” Salaheldin observed. “A better-educated population is our first line of defense against extremism.”

Kazzy Cheers Seniors and Patients with In-House Visits

  • Kazzy, with a face everyone can love, likes to give kisses (Staff photo P. Pasquini).

Eight-year-old Kazzy is not just a cute double-humped camel who provided photo ops for guests at the “Midnight at the Oasis” party. The female Bactrian is one of 70 therapy animals from Sonoma’s Lyon Ranch that travel to hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers to brighten the day of the ill and elderly residents. For the past five years, ranch owners Rob and Robin Lyon have been transporting their therapy animals to institutions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. With a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from the University of California at Davis, Robin is expert at training their camels to peacefully interact with patients and seniors. The former Delta Airlines flight attendant and her husband, a former Delta pilot, have raised Kazzy since she was three days old (and 110 pounds). For more information, visit <http://lyonranch.org/>.

Count of Wardal and Dr. Sharon Girard Wed in Berkeley Ceremony

  • Newlyweds Count and Countess of Wardal (Staff photo P. Pasquini).

Count Federico Sangirardi Quinto of Wardal and Dr. Sharon Elizabeth Girard exchanged wedding vows in an afternoon ceremony July 22 at Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Worker Church. An Italian native, the count traces his maternal lineage to Alexandria, Egypt. As president of the Italian Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina—one of 23 Friends groups around the world striving to raise awareness of the library’s artistic, cultural and educational importance—Sangirardi specializes in presenting international special events in support of the library. Soon after the 2002 completion of the Bibliotheca—situated near the site of the fabled original library—the count donated some 500 antiquarian books and manuscripts from his family’s collection to the institution. Both Sangirardi and his bride, a musicologist and adjunct professor of religion and the arts at Berkeley’s Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, are active members of UNESCO Association U.S.A. Among the guests celebrating the couple’s nuptials were Rosalie Cuneo Amer and Carmela Ruby, members of California Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and Dorothy Hackbarth of UNESCO. For information on the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, visit the official Web site at <http://www.bibalex.gov.eg>.

Arab Cultural Festival

Expressing the tradition of hospitality and generosity that is a hallmark of Arab culture worldwide, “Ya Hala” (Welcome) was the theme of the Arab Cultural and Community Center’s 14th annual Arab Cultural Festival held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Aug. 24.

In the main auditorium, some 3,000 festivalgoers enjoyed entertainment by Al-Juthoor debke troupe, the Georges Lammam Ensemble, singer Saadoun Al-Bayati, Tunisian musician MC Rai, Egyptian folkloric dancer Yasser Darwish, and hip hop artists Iron Sheik and Triki. Poet Dina Omar paid tribute to the late Mahmoud Darwish.

The daylong event also featured a booth bazaar with jewelry, books, artworks and crafts. Henna painting, children’s activities and delicious Arabic cuisine were offered on the outside patio. The ACCC may be reached by phone at (415) 664-2200; via e-mail at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >; or by visiting its Web site, <http://www.arabculturalcenter.org>. 


Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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