Monday, May 21, 2012

Trip to Cairo to Collect an Award from United Nations

by Victoria Spackman
Chief Executive, Gibson Group

Cairo is a fascinating city and recently I had the privilege of spending a bit of time in the city and with some of its great citizens.  

My colleague Allan Smith and I were in Cairo to accept a World Summit Award for e-Culture & Heritage for the Gibson Group’s Wall project in Copenhagen.  The awards are run under the auspices of the United Nations and are therefore a big deal. 

The Wall project is a huge interactive touch screen exhibition for the Museum of Copenhagen.  Using the Gibson Group’s unique TouchCity™ technology, the Wall allows visitors to explore, comment on and add to the Museum’s huge collection of images of the city.  

While we were in Cairo, Allan also led a 2 day workshop with a group of Kiwis, Danes and Egyptians intent on bringing the magic of the Wall and TouchCity™ to Cairo.  With a talented team including an architect, designers and local cultural thinkers, the workshop team made some good progress towards a vision for a Wall in Cairo celebrating the history and culture of Cairo and the values of democracy.  Work continues!   

You will know that Cairo has been in the news lately because of the so-called Arab Spring uprising that overthrew long time President Hosni Mubarak.  The effect of that uprising and revolution is still very plain on the streets – graffiti honouring the martyrs is easy to find, as are people still protesting the current state of affairs.  The feeling in the city is one of sitting on a great precipice – the city and the country could spring or slide in any one of many directions.  As democracy comes to Egypt, lives will be changed, again.  

The awards ceremony for the World Summit Awards was held in the most astonishing of venues.  We dined high above the city in the Citadel, in the open air, under the imposing structure of the Mosque of Mohammad Ali.  The view was breathtaking and the company sublime.  This is probably the most amazing view of I have ever had the pleasure of eating my dinner by.  

There were a few opportunities to explore the vast history of Cairo and Egypt, including the famous pyramids and sphinx as well as the Egyptian Museum.  Having been warned off Egyptian food, I was trepidatious about the food, but it was uniformly excellent.  There is an emphasis of chickpeas, eggplant, sesame and meat simply cooked.  

I will be watching with interest as the Presidential elections commence this week and as democracy continues to unfold over the coming months.  And I look forward to returning to the city to work some more on a Wall celebrating the values of democracy soon.  

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