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July 21, 1989 - Image 21

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-07-21

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CH ' J> Interior Concepts II

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never forgotten what he has done. But I
also love my country so much, I cannot
tell you. I miss everything in my country.
Because of that, I am back and forth."
Mrs. Sadat's fondness for things Egyp-
tian was evident as she gave some pref-
atory remarks before a recent speech at
the University, of Maryland on the legacy
of her husband. Standing at the podium
in a green tailored suit with black piping
and a gold necklace medallion bearing a
profile of her husband, Mrs. Sadat spoke
softly about a four-day boat trip she had
just taken down the Nile.
"It was very peaceful," she told the
small audience. "The colors of the walls
of the houses were as if they had been
painted yesterday. The people were very
warm and friendly. I was very proud of
them, of our history, of our country and
its heritage and what we have given to
the world."
This from the 55-year-old daughter of
an Egyptian who worked in his country's
Ministry of Health and his wife from
Sheffield, England. Mrs. Sadat's non-
Arabic demeanor can be traced to her
mother, who brought a western woman's
assertiveness to the Raouf household on
Roda Island.
(Indeed, this Nile River island, linked
by bridges to Cairo in the east and Giza in
the west, could be a metaphor for Mrs.
Sadat's life, with its attempts to bridge
east and west.)
While her friends' mothers were
relatively retiring, as Moslem tradition
required, Mrs. Sadat's mother was outgo-
ing and assertive. Mrs. Raouf sat and
talked with guests and taught her chil-
dren to be independent. She ate her own
British food and, although her children
were being raised as Moslems, had a
Christmas tree each December. Mrs.
Raouf's sense of self, as a wife and as a
woman, had much to do with her
daughter's sense of self. No female mil-
quetoast, for example, would have appro-
priated for herself, as did Jehan, the title
of Egypt's "First Lady" while her hus-
band was president. No previous presi-
dent's wife had used the title. And no
previous wife had worked for family plan-
ning programs or women's rights.
At 16, Jehan (Persian for "the world")
married Anwar Sadat. As is the Egyptian
custom, their wedding ceremony lasted
all night. At dawn, the groom took Jehan
to the base of the Great Pyramids of
Cheops.
"Many times," Mrs. Sadat has said, "I
had seen the pyramids. But standing
there with my new husband, I saw every-
thing through different eyes. Could our
love endure as the Great Pyramid has en-
dured?... Never have I felt as full of hope:
for my husband, for my country, for all
the riches and wonders of Egypt that had
gone before, for all the promise that lay
ahead. From the beginning of our mar-

.

riage, our love for each other was intert-
wined with our love for Egypt. Surely, it
was God's will to draw us there."
It may also have been God's will that her
husband have what Mrs. Sadat calls "the
courage, vision and guts" to break the
impasse between Israel and Egypt.
"He understood," she says, "that
peace and prosperity are two sides of the
same coin."
Toward cementing that peace, she and
her husband traveled by boat from Egypt
to Haifa in 1979 after the peace treaty
had been signed in Washington. As their
boat neared the Israeli port, jets and
helicopters saluted them overhead and
the Sadats could see thousands and
thousands of Israelis waiting to greet them
on the shore. Jehan turned to her husband
and said in the midst of this warm
greeting, "Why were we waging war
against each other? Why were we killing?"
And he answered, a bit impatiently, but
maybe also proudly, "Stop it, Jehan. Stop
it. There is no more war now. Stop it. It's
over now. It's over?'
And as they set foot on Israeli soil —
Sadat for the second time and his wife for
the first — Mrs. Sadat felt "as if I was
still in Egypt. Even the way of greeting
my husband, it was the same. And I kept
wondering, 'Why were we at war...?' "
And it may also have been God's will
that the Sadats be separated in the 32nd
year of their marriage. Since then, Mrs.
Sadat has become more of a public wo-
man than she had been while her husband
was alive. She has received honorary doc-
torates from 12 colleges and universities
and nine international awards, including
Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger
Award. She has lectured often on her
husband's legacy and on women's rights.
She has written an autobiography. She
finished work on her doctorate.
All this, she says, was "very hard. I
spent a few years just traveling all the
time, teaching, finishing my book,
finishing my Ph.D. You can imagine how
it was, this changing of my life and com-
ing here. But that's my life and I have to
face it."
She must also face her family's trauma
that still lingers — and, probably, always
will — from her husband's assassination.
"He was such a wonderful grand-
father," says Mrs. Sadat, "a wonderful
husband. He cared for his family as he
cared for everyone else."
Her four grandchildren were with her
at the parade ground as her husband was
killed. Not until five years after the
assassination could they sleep without
nightmares. The worst to suffer was her
eldest grandchild, Sherif, now 12, who
was especially close to Sadat.
Asked how she sleeps, and whether the
nightmares still plague her, Mrs. Sadat
answers with a pensive sigh. "Ahhh," she
says, "I'm trying my best." El

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

21

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