New Cairo Opera House head appointed amid Egyptian artists' protest

Sara Elkamel, Mohamed Saad, Thursday 30 May 2013

Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz refutes rumours that he had stepped down, appoints new head of Cairo Opera House despite artists' rally held to protest his recent decisions

Artists protest outside Cairo Opera House in Zamalek.
Protesters outside the Cairo Opera House at 6pm, holding posters of Egyptian cultural icons and chanting against the regime. (Photo: Sara Elkamel)

Hundreds of Egyptian artists on Thursday staged a protest outside the main entrance of the Cairo Opera House in the capital's Zamalek district to protest newly-appointed culture minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz and his policies.

Among the protesters were leading figures from Egypt’s cultural scene, including world-renowned pianist Ramzi Yassa, film director Khaled Yousef, visual artist Mohamed Abla and artistic director and principal conductor of the Cairo Opera Orchestra Nayer Nagui, among others.

Most of the artistic companies from the opera house took part in the demonstration, along with numerous visual artists, contemporary dancers, filmmakers and actors.

Protesters displayed images of Egyptian cultural icons, holding posters depicting leading lights of Egypt’s artistic golden age in the 1960s, such as Um Kalthoum, Soad Hosny and Ismail Yassin.

"The people demand the fall of the regime," protesters shouted in unison in reference to Egypt's current Islamist-led government. "Leave, leave, leave."

Rumours began circulating around 9pm that Abdel-Aziz had stepped down – one of the protesters' chief demands.

The minister quickly refuted the rumour, however, telling Ahram Online: "People have the right to demonstrate; they have a vision, and I have mine."

It was his vision, he said, that led him to sack the longstanding head of the Cairo Opera House. "I will not reinstate Ines [Abdel-Dayem], because each decision I take is well studied."

Earlier this week, Abdel-Aziz appointed Badr El-Zakaziki as head of the opera house in Abdel-Dayem's place.

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