- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

“We should let the women promote Arab culture. Just hand it over to them since they do it better than we do,” volunteered Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy at Tuesday’s reception preceding a benefit dinner and program put on by the Mosaic Foundation in the banner-bedecked National Building Museum.

Certainly all eyes were on the wives of the Arab ambassadors — most in colorful national dress — and their pioneering educational effort to promote women and children’s welfare globally as well as Arab-American cultural understanding.

In nine years, the event has grown from a small self-selected group gathering to a gala attended by about 700 guests drawn from across Washington’s social and political spectrum. Thirty ambassadors were present, 18 of them from Arab states. “Not so long ago, these wives were seldom seen, much less heard from as public figures,” one observer noted, citing the advocacy role played by Princess Haifa Al-Faisal, wife of former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan and a foundation ex-officio trustee.

This year’s major beneficiary will be Sesame Mosaic, a link with the popular “Sesame Street” television show for preschoolers. which has gained Muppet “relatives” in India and Egypt. Not only was the night enlivened by the presence of first lady Laura Bush, who reminisced from the podium about her twin daughters’ youthful embrace of the show, but “Sesame Street’s” Elmo and his friend Khokha (plum in Arabic) from Egypt made singing and talking appearances.

“Growing up in Jordan, Cookie Monster was one of my favorite characters,” said Luma Kawar, event chairwoman and wife of Jordanian Ambassador Karim Kawar. The guest of honor, Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, mother of four, praised the group (“The Mosaic Foundation shows how much Arab women can do individually and collectively”) and gave the Sesame Workshop a plug as well.

“She’s a real star,” commented Beth Dozoretz, a patron who had had the queen to lunch in her home earlier that day. Equally vibrant was Jordanian composer and pianist Zade Dirani, a 26-year-old prodigy who performed with the youthful International Musicians Assembly in a medley of original songs to close the evening.

Ann Geracimos

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