Three young pianists from Egypt visited Warsaw and Zelazowa Wola in Poland on 24-27 October following the path of Polish renowned composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1849).
The visit was the reward for the first prize winners of their respective age groups in the Chopin International Piano Competition: Zaina Qadoora, Lara Ossama and Jomana Youhanna.
The competition is divided into four age groups: under 12 years old, 12-15, 16-18, and over 18 years old.
In 2016, the first prizes, which included a visit to Chopin's homeland to visit several landmarks linked to the poet of the piano, were awarded to Zaina Qadoora, who was 10, Lara Ossama, who was 12, and Jomana Youhanna, who was 14.
No main prizes were given to the remaining age groups in the 2016 round.
As per the competition's regulations, the winners travel accompanied by one of their parents.
Visit to the Chopin's Museum in Warsaw (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
The trip for the winners included visits to the Chopin Museum, the Holy Cross Church where Chopin's heart is buried, Royal Lazienki Park with its iconic monument of the composer, Chopin benches scattered across the Old Town area in Warsaw, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is located in the place of the former Saxon Palace (residence of the Chopin family).
The winners also visited Zelazowa Wola, a village 50km east of Warsaw, where the composer was born and spent first years of his life.
In addition, the trip was topped with trips to other landmarks in Warsaw, such as a stroll around the Old Town and the Palace of Culture and Science.
Zeina Qaddoura in Central Warsaw's Saxon Garden (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
The youngest 1st prize winner, Zeina Qadoora, started studying piano at the age of seven at the Cairo Conservatory under Mirette Hanna and then continued her education with Mahmoud Mekhemar.
"I find Chopin's music very delicate and beautiful," Qadoora said.
"The visit to the many sites marked by the composer allowed me to get closer to his world and music," she concluded.
Lara Ossama at the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
Lara Ossama started her piano education at the age of four while taking private lessons next to her regular school. She then joined the Talents Development Centre (Cairo Opera House) where she studies with Marcelle Matta.
Ossama told Ahram Online that she particularly enjoyed visiting the Palace of Culture and Science where the girls were taken to the 30th floor to enjoy the panoramic view of Warsaw.
"I also found the Chopin's Museum very inspiring," she added, "It is a very rich museum. Everything is organised in a way that we can learn a lot about Chopin's life and music, in addition to technology solutions that allowed us to listen to his music."
Jomana Youhanna in Central Warsaw's Saxon Garden (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
The oldest winner, Jomana Youhanna, has studied piano with Marcelle Matta at the Cairo Conservatory since she was six.
"I owe my love to music and piano to my brother David Youhanna, who introduced me to the piano when I was just three years old. In fact, he was my first teacher before I even entered the Cairo Conservatory. We continue to play together to this day," she shared with Ahram Online.
"I benefitted a lot from those three days in Poland. I especially loved the Holy Cross Church and the idea of Chopin's heart to be in Warsaw," she explained. \
The rest of Chopin’s remains were buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, a city where the composer spent a big part of his life.
From L to R: Lara Ossama, Zaina Qaddoura, and Jomana Youhanna inside Chopin's house at Zelazowa Wola. (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
The Chopin International Piano Competition was started by Fawzy El-Shamy, the former dean of the Cairo Conservatory, who contributed to numerous musical initiatives to Egypt’s music scene, focusing on education and youth activities, and organised by the Egyptian Youth Music Association (EYMA, founded in 1985), in collaboration with the Polish Embassy.
The first edition of the competition took place in 2010, but due to political reasons its 2011 edition was cancelled. It returned in 2012 and has been held annually ever since.
For more arts and culture news and updates, follow Ahram Online Arts and Culture on Twitter at @AhramOnlineArts and on Facebook at Ahram Online: Arts & Culture