Today was the inauguration for the recently finished “New Campus” for the American University in Cairo. There were a lot of festivities planned; over 1,500 guests were invited to this exclusive event. For days, the campus tested its sound systems, playing the 1812 Overture over and over. The gates were decorated with huge specially made banners commemorating the event and huge white tents were set up.
The campus understandably wanted perfection; this was an important event for the school. However, it was especially important that this went well because the special guest for the inauguration was Suzanne Mubarak, the first lady of Egypt.
I was able to participate in this special event as students, both international and Egyptian, were offered the opportunity to greet the first lady upon her arrival. When I arrived, early this morning, I joined hundreds of other people waiting to be cleared by security. There were about 30 students who were to greet the first lady.
Finally, she arrived! There were several golf carts set up to whisk her and her entourage to the ceremony. She got on the cart, and the parade of golf carts passed us as we clapped. She smiled and waved at all of us. In the cart behind her was her son, Gamal, and his wife. He is rumored to be the Egyptian regime’s choice as the successor to Hosni Mubarak upon his death. So not only did I see the current first lady of Egypt today, but I saw the probable future president and first lady!
Today involved a lot of fanfare. While I only saw the first lady for a couple of minutes, it was exciting to be a part of a procession for the first family of another country. After all, it isn’t often that you encounter the leaders of another country!