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The Importance of Culture and Literature in Politics
Tunisia's President Kais Saied chose to visit the Cairo Opera House on a recent visit to Egypt. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Importance of Culture and Literature in Politics

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, April 29

When foreign officials and senior dignitaries come on official state visits to Egypt, they typically differ in the sites they want to see and the places they want to visit. I still remember the late Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif, who ruled Iraq for a very short period of time that was characterized by relative calm, who came to visit Egypt during his term in office. Arif could have chosen to stop at any major historical, cultural, religious or political site in Cairo, but insisted on visiting the Giza Zoo, because of its heritage, fame, and the diversity of its animals and birds. In contrast, take the late Tunisian President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, who, upon his visit to Egypt, requested to meet the notable writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, alongside a visit to the Egyptian Museum. His choice reflected the brotherhood between the Egyptian and Tunisian people and their shared affinity toward culture and art. I bring all of this up on the occasion of the recent visit of the president of the Republic of Tunisia, Kais Saied, to Egypt. A prominent academic and university professor, Saied focused his visit on a prominent cultural landmark: He attended a Tunisian-Egyptian evening at the Opera House in the presence of the minister of culture, Dr. Inas Abdel Dayem. Saied’s visit reflected his great appreciation for the Egyptian civilization and he was concerned with museums and art more than he was interested in tourist attractions. I personally believe that a political leader who has experience and understanding in literature and art is better able to understand and lead his people. The literary and artistic vision broadens one’s perceptions, opens his mind, and allows him to make nuanced decisions on abstract matters. It is no wonder that the president of Tunisia approached his visit through this lens and made sure to celebrate the two countries’ contributions to the Arab world. The visit of President Kais Saied, who is known for the integrity of the word and clarity of the idea, reminds us once again of the relationship between culture and politics. A shrewd statesman doesn’t need to have political experience; it is enough to be educated and cultured. By understanding art and literature, a leader will better understand the facts of life and the paths of politics, regardless of his background and without regard to the nature of his qualifications. Culture is a divine gift that allows people to better understand those surrounding them while being able to look into the future and anticipate what is yet to come. – Mustafa Elfeki (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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