On Monday 7 May, during an official ceremony at the Embassy of France in Cairo, Egyptian conductor and composer Hisham Gabr was awarded Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a high order of France, in recognition of his contrubutions to the development of Egypt's cultural scene and work to link it with that of France.
The ceremony was attended by numerous French and Egyptian officials and media.
French Ambassador to Egypt, Stephane Roumtier, lauded Gabr's career, which the now-conductor and cultural manager originally began as a flutist.
Born in 1972, Gabr graduated from the Cairo Conservatory where he studied flute under Professor Ines Abdel-Dayem, the current Egyptian Minister of Culture.
Gabr has composed music and conducted concerts in Egypt and internationally and also served as director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Arts Centre between 2014 - 2017.
When he joined the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in the early 1990s, Gabr was the youngest member of the orchestra and still a student.
He later transitioned to conducting, studying in Egypt, France and the USA under such renowned musicians as Christophe Mueller, Dominique Ruits, Jean-Jacques Werner, Chris Kim and Ahmed El-Saedi.
In the United States, he was a recipient of the Fulbright Senior Grant and studied advanced conducting techniques.
His ongoing work includes regularly conducting Egypt's national orchestras, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and the Cairo Opera Orchestra.
He is also a returning conductor for numerous international orchestras, including the Göttingen Symphony Orchestra in Germany, Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra, Wroclaw Philharmonic in Poland, Astana Philharmonic Orchestra in Kazakhstan, Kiev Kamerata in the Ukraine, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, among others.
As a composer, Gabr has composed music for film, theatre and musicals. The latter genre includes such productions as Praxa and Ibn Battuta, which received widespread acclaim.
Between May 2014 and August 2017, Gabr served as director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library) Arts Centre.
During that time he reinvigorated the centre's activities after years of stagnation following the 2011 revolution.
Among his major achievements while at the Bibliotheca was the development and expansion of its Orchestra and Choir.
Gabr also brought screenings of Metropolitan Opera Live in HD to the Bibliotheca and presided over the launch of new festivals such as Jazz Tales, BA Contemporary Theatre Festival, and others.
The composer also oversaw the expansion of the BA Summer Festival, increasing educational and artistic activities for youth.
During his tenure, the Arts Centre established deep ties with international counterparts and events, including with the French Institute and French Embassy in Egypt.
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is awarded for remarkable achievements in the field of arts and literature, and was established in 1957 by the French Ministry of Culture.
The award was originally an extension of The Order of St. Michael, which was once reserved for French aristocracy.
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is offered in three grades, chevalier (knight), officier (officer) and commandeur (commander).
Each year, two rounds of nominations and awards are held for French nationals and one for international figures.
Previous international recipients of the Order include American actor George Clooney, Australian singer Kylie Minogue, American film director Tim Burton, American fiction writer Philipp Meyer, Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu, Turkish writer Elif Şafak, among numerous others.
Very few Egyptian figures have been awarded the Knight of the Order of Arts and Culture.
They include Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, novelist and journalist Gamal El-Ghitani, visual artist and women's activist Inji Aflatoun and novelist Alaa al-Aswany. Also the Tunisian Egypt-based actress Hend Sabry is among the award's recepients.
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