A CULTURAL MOSAIC
Star-studded gala heralds the arrival of Sesame Mosaic across the Arab world
First Lady Laura Bush was there, so was Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan and all the Arab Ambassadors and their spouses. But with all the diplomatic and political notables inside the National Building Museum, it was a pair of Muppets who stole the show - beloved Elmo and Khokha from the Egyptian Sesame Street co-production, Alam Simsim. The major benefi ciary of Mosaic Foundation's Ninth Annual Benefi t Gala “Education: A Two Way Street” was Sesame Mosaic, a project designed to educate preschool children in the Arab world and the U.S. about mutual respect, and basic literacy and math.
Standing in front of a dramatic backdrop of colossal columns and fl owing 60-foot curtains, gala honorary chair Laura Bush and guest of honor Queen Rania, both spoke of breaking down cultural barriers and offering early education to children. With the amount of daily press focused on the war on terror, it was a welcomed respite to hear of a U.S. and Arab initiative that strikes at the core of cultural misunderstandings. “President Bush and I thank you for your dedication and your service, and we especially appreciate your commitment to strengthen the ties between America and the peoples of the Arab world,” said the First Lady before passing the podium to Queen Rania, who dazzled in an emerald green Gucci gown paired with a traditional Jordanian belt
The Mosaic Foundation (www.mosaicfound. org) is an American charitable and educational organization founded and run by the spouses of Arab Ambassadors to the United States. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $8 million to organizations improving the lives of women and children globally and increasing understanding and appreciation of Arab culture in the United States. Gala Chair Luma Kawar, the wife of the Jordanian ambassador, opened the evening by elaborating on the theme “Education: A Two Way Street,” saying: “The free-flow exchange of goods and ideas depends on trust. The foundation of trust is understanding which can only be attained through communication.” Sesame Workshop, the nonprofi t educational organization behind Sesame Street and Alam Simsim, has a long history in the Arab world. In 1979, the Workshop created its fi rst production in Arabic with Iftah Ya Simsim in Kuwait.
The organization has since established coproductions in Jordan and Palestine. Now, with the support of the Mosaic Foundation, more Arab children will be exposed to literacy skills and the diversity of cultures thanks to the creative puppetry of the Sesame Workshop. Episodes are to be shot in Arabic with messages focusing on education and common understanding.
One should only look as far as Egypt to see the positive impact Sesame Mosaic can have. In a country where over 50 percent of women are illiterate, Khokha stands as a role model for girls. One day, she wants to be a doctor. On another, she aspires to be a pilot. And on yet another day, she wants to become a librarian … inspiring a generation of Egyptian girls to do the same.
QUEEN RANIA AND KHOKHA
Khokha: You're involved in many charities
focusing on women and children; why is
Sesame Mosaic important?
Khokha: What impact do you think
television shows about Arab children will
have in the U.S.?