A celebration marking Egyptian-Armenian Community Week in Egypt took place at the lavishly decorated National Theatre on 26 September in an event directed by Wahid Sobhi.
Under the title, “We Are the Egyptian-Armenians: Tale of the Country’s Sons”, the celebration took place at the National Theatre in Attaba Square, with the presence of the Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram and Minister of the Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia Mkhitar Hayrapetyan.
The event opened with a recital of the Egyptian and Armenian national anthems by Arax Choir, conducted by Maestro Mihran Ghazelia. Arax Choir performed the Arabic songs, “Atr Al-Nada” and “Fiha Haga Helwa” as well as a couple of harmonious Armenian songs.
The recital was followed by screening a short documentary entitled, We Are the Egyptian-Armenians featuring a number of members from the Egyptian-Armenian community living in Egypt. Those in the documentary expressed their deep love for Egypt, and appreciation toward the Egyptian government for allowing them to freely practice their religious and cultural rituals.
Minister of Emigration Nabila Makram, Mona Ragab and Anoushka (Photo: Ayman Barayez)
Minister of the Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia Mkhitar Hayrapetyan, who was visiting Egypt upon Minister Makram’s invitation, began a short yet profound speech with thanking the efforts of Minister Makram in organising the event.
He pointed out that the Egyptian-Armenian nation are upholding their responsibilities, and expressed his pride that the Egyptian-Armenian Nubar Pasha was such a significant figure in modern Egypt’s history serving as the prime minister on three separate occasion. He noted that Armenians had participated in "building their own churches, clubs and organising their celebrations" and "were respected by Egypt to exercise all their traditions.”
He continued on to say that in Armenia "there are vital changes happening and from now we will do the best possible for the diaspora. We and the diaspora believe we can change the future and make a better future. Today the dreams of the diaspora and Armenia are the same, all looking for mutual benefit." He ended his speech with a blessing for Egypt, Armenia and the Armenian diaspora.
Following the Minister Hayrapetyan’s speech, the Egyptian Armenian Sardarabad and Zankezur dance troupes gave a number of spectacular performances highlighting the rich folk heritage of Armenian and Egyptian dances.
The dancers were primarily the sons and daughters of ex-members of the same troupes which were founded in the 1970s in Cairo. They performed one Bedouin and three Armenian folk dances.
Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram also spoke and stated that all thanks go to her counterpart Mkhitar Hayrapetyan, and that she is inspired by the enthusiasm of young people and members of the Egyptian-Armenian community for the success of the event. She also thanked the Arax Choir for memorizing the national anthem of Egypt and affirmed that ‘we don’t have Armenian refugees in Egypt, but we do have Egyptian-Armenian then listed a number of notable Armenians who excelled in different fields in the Egypt, such as the luminary cartoonist Sharoukhan, actors Fayrouz, Lebleba, Nelly, Iman and Anoushka.
Makram then said that it gives her "great pleasure and pride to announce today and for the first time that the Egyptian-Armenian community in Egypt donated a million pounds to the Amiri Hospital in Alexandria, and before to the Children Cancer Hospital 57357.”
Minister of the Diaspora of Armenia Mkhitar Hayrapetyan with Minister of Emigration Nabila Makram and Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Egypt Bishop Ashod Mnatsaganian (Photo: Ayman Barayez)
Minister Nabila Makram then shared a touching story with the audience about her strong friendship with childhood friend, Alexandrian-Armenian Jenny Thomassian.
A Bedouin dance show performed by the Egyptian Armenian Sardarabad and Zankezur dance troupes
“She has been my friend since childhood, and when we grew up we joined Alexandria University together; but she enrolled to the Faculty of Medicine and became a dentist then travelled with her family to work in Beirut, Lebanon.”
Traditional dance performance by the Egyptian Armenian Sardarabad and Zankezur dance troupe
Makram disclosed that it was difficult to convince her friend to come from Beirut to attend the celebration and deliver a talk on this occasion. However, Thomassian was present and gave a brief speech saying that she "went to Beirut determined to become one of the big names in my field, to raise the names of Armenia and Egypt." She expressed that she was proud of the diligent work done by her friend Nabila Makram in her role as a minister.
The Egyptian Armenian Sardarabad and Zankezur dance troupes
The event was attended by an array of figures such as renowned singer, actress and TV host Hayganush Garbis Selim popularly known as Anoushka, Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Egypt Bishop Ashod Mnatsaganian, Father Hagop Hagopian of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Egypt Armen Melkonian, Consul Stepan Gevorkian, Chairman of the Board of the Church’s Executive Council Vahé Pladian, Head of the Armenian National Committee of Egypt Armen Mazloumia.
Significant guests also included Principal of the Kalousdian-Noubarian Armenian School in Heliopolis Simon Chamkertenian, former Ambassador of Egypt to Armenia Tarek Maaty, and his successor newly appointed Ambassador of Egypt to Armenia Ihab Al-Dessouki, member of Egyptian Parliament Marianne Azer, and the presidents of Armenian Benevolent, social and sporting clubs and organisations in Egypt, Egyptian Satellite TV channels and media representatives including Al-Qahira Wa Al-Nas channel TV anchor Ahmed Salem, together with Al-Ahram’s Nisf Al-Donia magazine Chief-Editor Amal Fawzi, and Al-Ahram daily newspaper veteran writer Mona Ragab.
At the conclusion of the event Minister Makram and Minister Hayrapetyan gathered on stage and took selfies with all the performers, dancing and cheering at the end of a wonderful night.
Arax Choir reciting the Armenian and Egyptian national anthems