At 52.5 percent, more men than women have been making use of the digital initiative launched by Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem on 24 March to help with self-isolation, most of them coming through social media. The channel has logged 126,737 viewing hours and over 83 thousand subscribers, with viewers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, America, the UAE, Canada, Kuwait, Germany, England, France, the Netherlands, Jordan, Australia, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, Tunisia, Italy and Morocco. The age breakdown is as follows: 59 per cent are 18-34 years old, 21 per cent 35-44 years old, 15 per cent 45-64 years old, three per cent over 65 years old, and two per cent 13-17 years old.
The number of visitors of the official website of the Ministry of Culture who viewed the 150 books available as free PDFs has reached 20,000 readers, including historical documents and popular fiction. According to one beneficiary, the business development manager Adel Hussein, 48, “As an opera goer and book worm I am really enjoying the digital initiative ‘Stay at Home: Culture in Your Hands’. I’ve downloaded many books that I didn’t have, including Al-Shahrasanti and Descartes. I’ve enjoyed virtual exhibitions like Ahmed Shiha’s and concerts by Omar Khairat and (using holographic technology) the late Um Kolthoum. My only reservation is that some books are displayed twice.”
Abdel-Dayem has also announced the launch of an online workshop, “Start your Dream”, to train actors online. Implemented by the Artistic House of Theatre (headed by Ismail Moukhtar) and represented by the Youth Theatre Group (led by Adel Hassan), it involves 15-minute video lectures on YouTube and social networks. According to the minister, this is an ambitious project to identify and nurture talent. For his part Moukhtar stressed the success of the workshop before it went virtual, with three classes of graduates. The virtual version is to start next week once filming is complete. According to Hassan, the virtual workshop includes freely available lectures on acting by Alaa Quqa, drama by Alaa Abdel-Aziz, vocal performance and theatrical singing by Karim Arafa, and theatrical presentation given by Khaled Abdel-Salam.
11.5 million viewers from 25 countries have visited the YouTube channel
Portions of the nation’s audiovisual archives are being broadcast through YouTube, together with the children’s stage play Alice in Wonderland, and dramatic performances like Bint Arabi Opera, The Khedive, Sons of Love and Anger, Talameez Alfacebook (Facebook Students) and Les Miserables as well as ballets like The Nutcracker, Zorba, Swan Lake and Carmen. The service opened with the Opera’s first holographic concert on 6 March, featuring Um Kolthoum performing one of her best loved songs. Responding to audience demands, the broadcast was repeated on 7 April. Other concerts have featured Angham, Asala, Samira Said, Hany Shaker, Medhat Saleh and Ali Al-Haggar, who said, “Along with many other artists, specifically singers, I was very pleased with this initiative by the culture minister, artist Abdel-Dayem. It also pleased many lovers of sublime art and opera goers now staying at home.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly