- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Guests attending a jewelry show at the Egyptian embassy were hardly expecting a Cecil B. De Mille-type production when they arrived for Japanese designer Kazuo Ogawa's "Queens of Egypt" extravaganza Friday night.

Inspired as much by pagan dancing scenes from '40s and '50s Hollywood Bible epics as "5,000 years of Egyptian history" (as the invitation promised), the spectacle could hardly fail to bring smiles to the faces of the diplomats and social types who watched in amazement, cocktails in hand, as the show got under way.

First were the tall, willowy model-dancers, veiled in black from head to toe, who vamped down the runway to shrieking Arab techno music, their undulating arms and hands effectively showcasing rings and bracelets of Islamic motif.

Then came thumping drums and African rhythms to highlight Egypt's Nubian influences, with a voluptuous belly dancer wiggling in exotic bead items crafted from various semiprecious stones. Skimpy togas and laurel wreaths were in order for the Greco-Roman segment, of course. How better to highlight finely wrought pieces made from coins bearing Marc Antony's likeness?

Cleopatra and her retinue provided the crowd-pleasing denouement. The legendary queen of the Nile, wearing a gold gown and turban with a Debra Paget-style wig and dual scepters, made a grand entrance with her slithering female attendants and temple boys. Their elaborately choreographed pageant effectively exhibited the designer's Pharaonic ensemble, a dazzling array of platinum- and diamond-heavy items that, if not exactly rivaling the treasures of King Tut's tomb, at least managed to outshine them.

"What a show. They could take it to Broadway," said Belgian Ambassador Alex Reyn, who, like many of the guests, was taking a further look at the collection displayed on tables in an adjacent room.

Meridian International Center President Walter Cutler and UPI head Arnaud de Borchgrave both picked out the same $9,800 platinum and lapis lazuli necklace as their favorite item, though Mr. Cutler later averred he would be willing to pass on it for friendship's sake.

"I leave it to you," he told Mr. de Borchgrave with great bonhomie.

"And I'm leaving it to somebody else," Mr. de Borchgrave replied.

Prices began at about $1,200 for the smallest items and progressed up to $75,000 and beyond for the larger pieces worn in the show. Though they weren't exactly for sale on embassy premises, all were marked clearly with price tags. A bit of haggling was overheard here and there (with real estate agent Allison LaLand reporting that the bargaining rate was 30 percent off).

Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy and his wife, Nermin, who met Mr. Ogawa when they represented their country in Tokyo three years ago, seemed pleased that his show encompassed so much of Egypt's rich history beyond the better-known pharaonic era. Mrs. Fahmy, an Egyptologist and certified tour guide, said she helped Mr. Ogawa by taking him to museums and to numerous private collections while he was researching his designs in her country.

Mr. Fahmy, understandably concerned about the collapse of Middle East peace negotiations, said he didn't mind talking about jewelry after another day of killing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Everyone wants the violence to stop. We have to implement an understanding," he said, looking rather downcast as guests lined up nearby to fill their plates from a sumptuous traditional buffet. "It's no longer a question of a time frame or even how it is done. Now we just have to put some hope back into the process."

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