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The Egyptian’s unique concept of time


Networking Egyptian style
Uri Avnery Social activist
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במצרים נוצרה ידידות ביני ובין ראש לשכת העיתונות המצרית, ד"ר מורסי. לקח לי זמן עד שהבנתי שזה בכלל לא שם משפחה שלו אלא שם פרטי. מצרים לא אוהבים שמות משפחה. והכרתי מצרי אחר שבדיעבד הסתבר לי שהוא האח של ד"ר מוּרְסי, עם שם לגמרי אחר. אז ביקרתי אותו פעם, פעמיים, שלוש או ארבע, בשביל שיסדר לי פגישות עם אנשים שרציתי להיפגש. ובאחת הפגישות הזמינו אותי לנגיד תשע בבוקר. אני בא בתשע בבוקר על הדקה, חדר המזכירות שלו,א כולן בחורות יפות. במצרים בכלל שמתי לב שיש המון-המון נשים עם פנים יפות וגוף מחורבן. זה דבר מוזר, בדרך כלל שמנות, ושומן לא בהכרח יפה. אבל פנים – אחת אחת יפהפיות. אז ישבו שם המזכירות, אומרת לי: "השר", אני חושב שהוא היה שר, "הראיס" על כל פנים, "עוד עסוק, הוא עוד מעט יגמור, אנא שב פה, מה אפשר להציע לך? קפה?" וכן הלאה. ואני יושב, עשר דקות, רבע שעה, ואז היא אומרת: "השר מבקש שתיכנס”. נכנסתי. אני רואה את ד"ר מורסי יושב מאחורי שולחן הכתיבה שלו והחדר מלא אנשים. מי האנשים? אלה שהוזמנו לשבע, שבע וחצי, שמונה, שמונה וחצי. כולם יושבים וכולם משוחחים עם כולם: שחקנית הודית, שר מזרח גרמני לענייני כלכלה, כל מיני אנשים שאין להם שום דבר משותף חוץ מזה שהם היו באותו יום. וגם אני יושב אתם ומתחיל לשוחח עם פלוני ועם אלמוני, היה מאוד נחמד. אחרי שיחה כזאת של שעה הוא אומר: "כן, מה אפשר לעשות בשבילך?" אני אומר: "אני רוצה להיפגש זה וזה ותרשמי בבקשה, נודיע לך”. חמש דקות לקח כל הישיבה עצמה, אבל זה היה כל כך נחמד. אנשים מעניינים שפגשתי שם מכל העולם, אין שום דמיון בין אחד לשני. זה הצורה המצרית.‏‏

In Egypt a friendship grew between me and the head of the Egyptian Press Office, Dr Morsi. It took me a while to realize this was not his last name but his first name. Egyptians do not like surnames. I met another Egyptian who I later discovered was the brother of Dr Morsi, but with a completely different name. So I visited him once, twice, three or four times, in order that he would arrange meetings for me with people I wanted to meet.

One day, I was invited to a meeting for around nine in the morning. I was there at 9:00 on the dot, in the secretariat, staffed by beautiful girls. In Egypt I noticed that there are really a lot of women with beautiful faces but terrible bodies. It's strange, they're usually fat, and fat is not necessarily beautiful. But the faces – every single one was beautiful. That was where the secretaries sat, and one said to me:  'The minister', I think he was a minister, 'is still busy, he will soon finish. Please sit here, what can I offer you? Coffee?' And so on. I sat for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and then she says: 'The Minister asks you to go in'. I went in. I saw Dr Morsi sitting behind his desk in a room full of people. Who were these people? Those who had been invited for 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 8:30. Everyone was sitting and talking to everyone else: an Indian actress, the East German Minister of Economic Affairs, all sorts of people who had nothing in common except for the fact that they were there on that day. And so I also sat with them and began to talk with this one and that one; it was very pleasant. After this conversation which went on for about an hour, Dr Morsi said: 'Yes, what can we do for you?' I replied: 'I want to meet this one and that one'. 'Make a note please, we will inform you'. The meeting itself took 5 minutes, but it was so pleasant. I met interesting people from around the world there, who had nothing in common with one another. That is the Egyptian way.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Egypt, Minister Morsi

Duration: 2 minutes, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017