Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cultural landmark restored in Damanhour

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Against the backdrop of a colourful street scene, Cairo ballet troupe joined with Cairo Orchestra for a performance of Zorba the Greek. Attended by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak and a host of senior government officials, the gala concert was staged to mark the opening of Damanhour's new opera house, located in the restored premises of the onetime Al-Nasr Winter Cinema. The audience also watched a documentary on the history and refurbishment of Damanhour's most famous cultural landmark.

"It is really a great leap for the Delta city of Damanhour," said Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni. "The new venue will not only allow the citizens of this area access to new art forms but it will also help nurture the talents of the future."

Hosni added that the project had the full support of President Hosni Mubarak, who has also given the go-ahead for two similar restoration projects in the Delta cities of Tanta and Mansoura.

The Al-Nasr Winter Cinema was built in 1930 to house a theatre, cinema and library. It is housed in a 1,500-square metre, three-storey structure decorated in a mixture of Andalusia and European styles. It has a moulded foliate ceiling and at its entrance is a large Ottoman style reception hall.

The design of the main auditorium fuses elements from the Vienna State Opera and the Odeon Theatre in Paris and the edifice on Mahmoud El-Nokrashi Street quickly established itself as the city's leading venue, hosting many of the era's most celebrated performers.

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