Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Center
for Indian Culture in Egypt
By Dr. Maged El-Bialy
Egypt and India are two countries with great civilizations. They both have a mystical magic, which simply lures you to hypnotically fall into the experience they offer. Both cultures are similar in hospitality and welcoming attitude. So a trip to the Indian Cultural Center while you are touring Egypt will definitely boost the pleasure of the trip and you will experience a mixture of Egyptian and Indian culture.Situated in the heart of downtown Cairo, the Center for Indian Culture offers visitors and members an escape to India within the two floors of this large center.
Just a few minutes walk from Tahrir Square, the Center is sure to fill the needs of anybody interested in India. In fact, there is so much going on here; one can spend each day partaking in interesting events. Upon entrance to the Centers complex, a large stone bust of Mahatma Gandhi greets you. Throughout the corridors and stairwells of the Center, stunning and rare photographs from India grace the walls; each framed with typed description of the photo, thus turning the mere hallways of the Center into a beautiful art gallery of sorts. Reaching the reception desk near the entrance, you are greeted with polite Indian courtesy and friendliness.
The Center itself began in January 1992 under the auspices of the India Embassy in Egypt. Dr. A.K. Pasha, First Secretary and Director of the Center for Indian Culture has been running operations here for almost 3 years. He explains the history behind the complex. "Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a national leader, scholar and statesman in India in the early 1900's. Along with Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and others, he fought for India's freedom from British rule. A symbol of the pluralistic and secular ethics of India, Abul Kalam Azad laid the basis for independent India's educational and cultural policies and contributed significantly to the foundation of the centers for scientific and cultural methods of inquiry. As an Islamic thinker, he made a significant contribution to the Islamic studies and wrote a brilliant commentary on the Quran. Maulana Azad had a special interest in cultural exchanges with other civilizations and nations. He founded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) which was established in 1950 with the primary objective of establishing, reviving and strengthening cultural relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries. He visited Egypt several times and has a special affinity for Egypt's great civilization, old and new. It is in recognition of Maulana Azad's contribution to culture and his affection for Egypt that the Center of Indian Culture in Egypt has been named after him."
Quite impressive is the Centers extensive array of events and programs all at an extremely low membership price. The Center caters to any kind of visitor or Egypt resident who partake in the various events hosted by the Center. Some of the offerings include the following:
Members are entitled to borrow two Indian films in a week for the yearly membership fee of 20 LE, plus a refundable deposit. Indian movies on tape are subtitled in Arabic and some in English.
The Center screens films for Cinema Club members twice a week. Membership fee is only 10 LE per year. You can relax inside the Center and watch various films from India on a large screen.
The Center offers an interesting array of lectures and most of them are free to attend. This month features Professor Hassan Hanafi, Head of the Philosophy Department, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, delivering a lecture in Arabic on "Mr. Mohamed Iqbul: A Cultural Bridge between India and Egypt." This month also features Dr. Fakhry Kostandy, Professor of English, Cairo University, delivering a lecture in Arabic called, "Tagore: An immortal Poet." According to the lecture schedule obtainable from the reception desk, there seems to be lectures every few days. Some are in Arabic and some in English.
The Center offers a wide range of classes including Urdu and Hindi language classes (30 LE). The language classes run for three months and cover all skill levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Yoga classes, most popular with the foreign residents in Cairo, run for three months as well, 4 days a week, at a small cost of 60 LE. Classes are also offered in three levels - beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
The Center features an 8,000-book library which include books in English, Arabic, and Hindi. All books relate to India and cover a vast range of topics. The library requires no membership to visit, but to take out books, a small yearly membership of 10 LE allows you to take out 2 books every two weeks. There are over 300 books about Mahatma Gandhi alone. To take out books, you must be a resident (either Egyptian or tourist resident) and supply a two photo and 1 forms of ID. Mrs. Hanan Hussein, who we found to be extremely helpful in answering any questions, runs the library. The library also features new and popular magazines from India (in English and Hindi) as well as current Indian newspapers. The library is open from 10am - 8pm, but members may only borrow material between 10am and 6pm.
The Center for Indian Culture offers the public other events and schedules of happenings. These include painting and drawing competitions for children, Indian dance and music performances, cultural exchanges between India and Egypt, ICCR scholarships to Egyptian students and more. Coming soon, the Center will be offering Indian cooking classes. Most interesting is the Indian Culture Week run by the Center. During this time, the Center staff travels around Egypt and its various governorates and sets up cultural awareness events/displays aimed towards school children in Egypt.
The Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Center for Indian Culture is located at 23 Talaat Harb St in downtown Cairo (5- minute walk from Tahrir, 15-minute walk from the Egyptian Museum). The Director is Dr. A.K. Pasha. The Head Librarian is Mrs. Hanan Hussein. Tel: 3933396 Fax: 3936572.
For more information about the Center, contact them directly via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Let them know you heard about them from TourEgypt.net!
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC)
Indian Council for Cultural Relations - Embassy of India
23, Talaat Harb Street
Cairo Tel: (202) 3933396
Fax:: (202) 3936572