Day 1: Inauguration

March 5, 2010 at 1:55 am 1 comment


So I’m woken up at the ungodly hour of 8am by what I gather is someone from the Dutch embassy in Egypt: “Would you be free to attend a visitor’s program for Egyptian bloggers from 14th-20th of March?” I ask her to send me an email though I’m pretty sure it’s going to be impossible for me to go: my professors at university already hate me for missing so many of my graduate classes every time I travel.

I go back to sleep and wake up a couple of hours later. I register, and then head to where lunch was going to be: at the gorgeous Palau de Pedralbes, hosted by the President of Catalunya. Today was, unlike yesterday, a wonderfully sunny day.

The palace itself was beautiful and serene. But as soon as I saw the people mingling, the butterflies starting dancing in my stomach.

Here’s the thing: I get so nervous when I meet new people. And most of these people weren’t just any people, but very important people too.

Nevine Simaika, ex-ambassador at the Vatican and wife of Mahmoud Abaza, the head of the Wafd party in Egypt, came up to me. She told me how proud she was to have me representing Egypt, and that she was always happy to meet veiled women who did not have “a veil on their mind.” That she had googled me and read all about how I had gotten into journalism, and watched my TV interviews.

It’s so weird when people come up to me and say things like that. My impulse reaction is always to tell them that they have me mixed up with someone else. Because honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything incredible.

The feeling only multiplied when we headed to the conference center directly after lunch. I was directed quickly to the panel to sit, and wham, the butterflies turned into stomping hippopotamuses.

I look to my left, and I see the president of Catalunya, and ministers. I look in front of me and I see hundreds and hundreds of people. And there’s this voice in my head that’s going “what on earth am I doing up here?!”

I honestly thought about writing down a speech. I could have written a deep, insightful, wordy speech, it’s what I do after all. But in the end, I decided that, since my message was about dialogue, talking with people, then that was what I should do—just talk and express what I really believe in.

I hope I struck a chord. I know I wasn’t fancy, but I wasn’t trying to be. I wanted to get across something I truly believe in: that honestly, in the end, all our differences are semantics. And that we only have to really talk to each other to realize that. It sounds naïve, but walahi it’s true.

I will never forget laughing with Maria, a member of the Danish Youth Council, over the amount of dessert we were eating at the Danish Cartoon conference. That was one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments in my life—it made me see that we share is so much more than what we don’t.

We need dialogue more than ever in the world today. We need it because, as a poet once put it: “There are so many different worlds, so many different suns, and we have just one world, but we live in different ones.”

And not only are we living in different ones, but we often come to believe that our one is the ‘right’ one, and the others are ‘wrong.’ When, in reality, we all live in the same one.

We cannot afford to let things remain as they are because right now, we’re in a precarious situation. Mutual misrepresentation, and the painting of people, cultures or faiths as monolithic entities is not only divisive, but can potentially breed hatred.

And a world where we hate each other is not good.

Alrighty, so it’s late and I’m starting to ramble. More tomorrow.

Ethar El-Katatney


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Live blog of the Opening Session Internet and Terrorism

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Stephen Spillane  |  March 5, 2010 at 7:43 am

    What you were invited to is Th!nk3. It should be a good experience. I was on Th!nk1 and Th!nk2 if you want to ask me anything about it.

    See this website for more info


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Pictures from the Anna Lindh Forum

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