Profile: Farouk Hosni

Egypt’s candidate for the top Unesco job is a controversial figure.

Hosni's knowledge of the arts is not questioned, but some of his statements have riled critics [Reuters]
Hosni's knowledge of the arts is not questioned, but some of his statements have riled critics [Reuters]

In September 2005, he resigned in the wake of a theatre fire which killed dozens in the southern city of Beni Sweif. The media blamed the culture minister for the fire, saying decades of negligence had left many art centres and theatres in a state of disrepair.

However, a few days later, he was re-instated by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

The minister has also been criticised by many Egyptian academics for allowing a decline in Egyptian literature.

According to Unesco, Egypt published 1,765 books in 1974. Ten years later, this figure increased to 3,108 but slipped down to 2,215 in 1995. During his tenure, there have been numerous book censorships and international media organisations have criticised the Egyptian authorities for clamping down on freedoms of expression, including pursuing and arresting bloggers.

Nevertheless, Hosni was behind many of the country’s restoration projects which revived Islamic, Coptic and ancient Egyptian sites.

He also spearheaded the initiative to rebuild the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which opened in 2002 with 250,000 books and is currently expanding to house 4 million volumes.

Hosni is also overseeing the construction of the Grand Egyptian museum in Giza, which is expected to house more than 50,000 pieces and open to visitors in 2013.

Born in Alexandria in 1938, the one-time professional artist graduated from the School of Fine Arts at Alexandria University.

He rose to prominence as the director of the al-Anfoushi Cultural Palace in Alexandria before being appointed as the cultural attache in Paris.

In 1987, Hosni moved back to Cairo from Rome where he was the director of the Egyptian Academy of Arts and was appointed the country’s culture minister.

In 2009, Hosni was nominated to become the ninth director-general of Unesco. His nomination, which sparked  controversy and an outcry from some groups, has been backed by the Arab League, African nations and Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera

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