Oriental Hall, etc.

Happenings, speakers, and events at the American University in Cairo.

Friends, colleagues, and admirers gathered at AUC in October to pay homage to Éric Rouleau, the Egyptian-born French journalist and diplomat who died in 2015 at the age of 88. Longtime Le Monde Diplomatique editor Alain Gresh recalled how Rouleau, born to a Jewish family in Cairo in 1926, briefly joined Zionist organizations in his youth but “felt, first and foremost, Egyptian.” Nonetheless, Gresh recounted, as a Jewish leftist he was targeted along with many others by King Farouk’s regime in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and eventually immigrated to France. Rouleau was treated to a unique return to his native country in 1963; now a correspondent for Le Monde, he received a personal invitation from Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. “This was the beginning of a special relationship between Rouleau and Abdel Nasser, which played a role not only in the relationship between Egypt and France, but opened the doors of all the Arab World to Rouleau,” Gresh explained. “It was hard for any Arab president to reject meeting with Rouleau after Nasser granted an interview to him. Éric Rouleau is a part of Egyptian history.”

Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and United Nations peace negotiator, said that Rouleau, who covered the Middle East for Le Monde from 1955 to 1985 and later served as France’s ambassador to Tunisia and Turkey, spared no effort to highlight non-Western perspectives on issues from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Islamic Revolution in Iran. “Rouleau played a role much bigger than being a writer or a witness to historical events,” he said. “It is very important that the Arab youth understand about the 50s and 60s era that Rouleau wrote about.”

“Rouleau built his relationship with the national liberation movements and the leaders of the Middle East and the Third World on a critical complex basis,” said Nayef Hawatmeh, general secretary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in remarks delivered by Egyptian novelist Salwa Bakr. “He stood on the side of the nationalistic shifts towards the liberation of countries from the backwardness, imperialism, and colonization. On the other side of the equation, he enjoyed independence when it came to his criticism of all kinds of oppression and suppression of freedoms.”

André Parant, French ambassador to Egypt, memorialized Rouleau as “a singular personality [notable for] his subtle practice of crossing lines, and namely the line separating the analyst from the actor in history, so much so that [François] Mitterrand asked him to take up the role of diplomat.”

“A Special Tribute to Éric Rouleau” celebrated the Arabic translation of Rouleau’s memoir, Dans les coulisses du Proche-Orient: Mémoires d’un journaliste diplomate (1952-2012). The event was hosted by AUC’s Middle East Studies Center, the Institut Français d’Egypte, and Al-Tanany Publishing House.