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Cablegate: The First Lady's Visit to Egypt, May 23-24

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 003953

SIPDIS

WHITE HOUSE FOR THE FIRST LADY'S CHIEF OF STAFF (ANITA
MCBRIDE)
NEA FOR PDAS CHENEY
NSC STAFF FOR POUNDS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP OTRA PREL EG
SUBJECT: THE FIRST LADY'S VISIT TO EGYPT, MAY 23-24


-------
Summary
-------

1. First Lady Laura Bush's May 23-24 visit to Egypt was a
public diplomacy triumph and contributed significantly to USG
efforts to promote education, reform, and the role of women.
In Cairo, her visit included meetings with Egyptian First
Lady Suzanne Mubarak and prominent female representatives of
Egyptian civil society. She toured a girls school and filmed
a segment on promoting literacy on Alam Simsim, the Egyptian
version of Sesame Street. She highlighted Egypt's cultural
heritage by taping the American morning shows in front of the
Pyramids and by touring an archeological site. In
Alexandria, Mrs. Bush visited a school and the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina. Press coverage of the visit was generally
positive. End summary.

-------------------------
Meeting with Mrs. Mubarak
-------------------------

2. After being greeted on arrival on May 23 by Mrs. Leila
Kamal Eldin Salah, wife of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed
Aboul Gheit, Mrs. Bush proceeded to the Ittihadiyyah Palace
for a brief private meeting with Mrs. Mubarak. The two First
Ladies were then joined by Mrs. Salah, the First Lady's Chief
of Staff Anita McBride, NEA PDAS Liz Cheney, and Mrs. Connie
Gray (wife of the Charge) for a meeting.

-------------------
Alam Simsim Filming
-------------------

3. After meeting at the palace, Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Mubarak
visited the set of Alam Simsim, the Egyptian version of
Sesame Street. Established with USAID funding in 1997, Alam
Simsim focuses on the promotion of literacy and girls'
education. The two First Ladies filmed a segment with
Khokha, the three-year-old female muppet, on the importance
of reading. The segment will be seen by Alam Simsim's
viewership of eighty-five percent of Egyptian preschoolers
and fifty-four percent of their mothers. (The current season
has ended, but the Ministry of Information may seek another
opportunity to air the segment soon with the two First
Ladies).

-------------------------------
Morning Shows and Women's Lunch
-------------------------------

4. With the Sphinx and two of the Pyramids as a backdrop,
Mrs. Bush participated in three American network morning
shows and an interview with CNN. At the nearby Mena House
hotel, Mrs. Mubarak hosted Mrs. Bush for a lunch with
prominent Egyptian women. Attendees included the wives of
ministers, leading academics, and senior representatives from
the National Council of Women and the National Council for
Childhood and Motherhood.

---------------------
Visit to Girls School
---------------------

5. Next, Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Mubarak visited the Abu Sir Girl
Friendly School in a rural area of the Giza Governorate to
highlight the importance of providing educational
opportunities to Egyptian girls previously kept out of school
for social or economic reasons. The Abu Sir School is a
model for offering the opportunity for the girls to catch-up
and eventually re-integrate into regular schools. This
unique school avoids rote learning and instead focuses on
encouraging creative thinking. As Mrs. Bush later remarked
to Embassy staff and to Rod Eichler, the Managing Director of
Apache Corporation, which funded the construction of the
school, the Abu Sir School could be a model for
re-introducing education to girls in Afghanistan.

---------------
Excavation Tour
---------------

6. Mrs. Bush ended her day with a tour of a newly discovered
excavation site with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of
the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. Statues found
in the excavation lead archeologists to believe that the site
has never been plundered by tomb raiders. Mrs. Bush held a
brief press availability at the site.

---------------------
Civil Society Meeting
---------------------

7. The next morning (May 24), Mrs. Bush held a meet and
greet with Embassy staff to thank them and their families for
their government service. Mrs. Bush met with prominent women
activists, and her formal comments recognized the assembled
women for their contributions to Egyptian society. Mrs. Bush
then departed Cairo for Alexandria.

----------------
Al-Seyouf School
----------------
8. Mrs. Bush's first stop in Alexandria was at the Al-Seyouf
school complex, a model participant in the Alexandria
Governorate's school reform program and a recipient of USAID
educational reform funding. During the visit, she
participated in an English language teaching demonstration,
reviewed library research projects, and listened to
instrumental and choral music performances. The stop helped
to publicize USG commitment to educational reform in a
setting especially appropriate to the First Lady's background
as a teacher and librarian.

-----------------------
Bibliotheca Alexandrina
-----------------------

9. Mrs. Bush then proceeded to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina,
a massive complex including a library, academic research
facilities, a conference center, and a variety of
technologically-advanced cultural heritage preservation
projects - i.e., the GOE's attempt at resurrecting the
ancient library of Alexandria. Her guided tour included the
library stacks, an IT-enhanced project encouraging children
to read, the antiquities and manuscripts collections, and an
interactive, nine-screen historical and cultural video
demonstration on Egypt. The visit also included a stop at a
display commemorating the 2004 signing of the Alexandria
Declaration, a document calling for political and economic
reform across the Arab world, and the First Lady's viewing of
Islamic religious manuscripts and an electronic, interactive
Qur'an.

---------------
Press Reactions
---------------

10. On the evening of May 23, Nile TV reported on Mrs.
Bush's visit to Alam Simsim and to the Abu Sir Girl Friendly
School, emphasizing the First Lady's commitment to education
for young girls and literacy. The following day, Mrs. Bush's
visits to Alam Simsim and Abu Sir School were replayed on
Egyptian TV (ETV), along with her visit to the Pyramids and
her comments at the site. ETV reported on May 25 the First
Lady's meeting with Egyptian women leaders at the U.S.
Embassy, as well as her visits to a school in Alexandria and
the Bibliotheca.

11. In its May 24 edition, Al-Ahram published a photo above
the fold of Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Mubarak seated together under
the headline: "Suzanne Mubarak Receives Laura Bush. The Two
Attend Taping of Children's Program." The English-language
Egyptian Gazette published a photo of the two First Ladies at
Alam Simsim, seated at a table reading with the muppet
character Khokha. Photos of the two First Ladies at the
Bibliotheca Alexandrina ran on May 25 with brief articles
emphasizing the importance of women's role in society.
Additional photos on May 25 in pro-government dailies
Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar showed Mrs. Bush visiting Al-Seyouf
School and the Bibliotheca.


Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/cairo

You can also access this site through the
State Department's Classified SIPRNET website.

GRAY

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