Peter Curman

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Writers' cruises

1st Writers' cruise in Baltic Sea 1992
Film on YouTube from The Baltic Sea Cruise >>

2nd Writers' cruise in Black Sea & Aegean Sea 1994

Film on YouTube from The Black Sea & Aegean Sea Cruise >>

These cruises with writers from many different countries resulted in two dynamic Writers' and Translators' Centres under the auspices of UNESCO on the Swedish island of Gotland and the Greek island of Rhodes.

Read about how it all started >>

3rd Writers' cruise is now being planned to take part in Egypt autumn 2012.


Arab spring and the role of the writer and artist in an area of conflict

Sometimes history is quicker than our mind. When we in the beginning of September last year (2011) discussed the idea of an international writers´cruise in Eastern Mediterranean in Istanbul nobody had ever heard of "The Arab Spring".

Our plan was to hire some 200 cabins on a cruiser going from Istanbul to Alexandria in six days with some stop overs in the harbors on its way. In Alexandria we planned to hold a three day conference with invited writers from some of the Arab countries. The theme of the cruise and the conference should be "The Role of the Writer and Artist in an area of conflict". On board we planned to be some 150 writers, translators and journalists. This should have been the third cruise of its kind. The first cruise was carried out in 1992 in the Baltic Sea when 300 writers and translators met for the first time after the collapse of Sovjet union. That cruise resulted in the Baltic Centre on the Swedish island of Gotland under the auspices of UNESCO. The second cruise took place in the Black Sea and the Aegean on a Greek ship with 400 participants from 30 countries. The result was the International Centre of Rhodes, Greece, also under the protection of UNESCO. Both these cruises took part in the right historical time. Perhaps one can say that we were hitchhiking with history!
But now history suddenly decided to speed up! The uprise that started in Tunisia was soon speeding up Libya and Egypt. Yemen and Syria. Of course all these turbulent and revolutionary events effected our dream of a writers cruise. Of course we could not continue to plan for a cruise of the past when future was lying in front of us! Also the big touristic ship altered its destination from Alexandria to Haifa for "security reason". Of course we had to command "full back". Going from Istanbul to Haifa was for us impossible after the Gaza attack. So what to do? Postpone the cruise to another decade? Forget about a writers cruise and do something else?

But then, in this very crucial minute, I became aware of an Egyptian-Swede, Same Egyptson, who among other things is organizing cruises for tourists on the River Nile. In Sweden he was an academician for twenty years but then decided to bring Swedish tourists to the heart of this old country. He also got involved in the Egyptian revolution and took part in the still ongoing demonstrations on the Tharir square. But still he has access to the boats on the Nile, perhaps with fewer tourists now than in the past. But a trip on the Nile is at the same time a journey of the past. The ships are big and moves slowly between historical monuments on their way. There is plenty of place onboard , as done for conversations, readings and discussions. Our new idea is now that we all shall meet in Cairo for 2 or 3 days in October 2012 for a joint conference with reports from all uprising states and then continue our discussions for 4 days on the Nile to get to know each other and finally end up in Cairo again where we all will be invited to the Swedish Embassy for a closing session.

In order to investige if this plan is realistic I recently flew to Cairo where Sameh Egyptson had provided a detailed program for me. I was invited to stay in his "Scandinavian Cultural Center" (you may google it!) and from there we made exursions to various places and institutions in this 22 million city. We visited the Egyptian Writers Union, The Egyptian Journalist Union as well as a number of outstanding writers like Nawal Al Sadawie, Karima Elhefnawy, Mohamed Salmawy (who is also president of the panarabic network) and Fareda El-naqash. They all expressed their interest of taking part in organizing an international conference to discuss the writers role and the outcome of the Arab spring as well as how to improve the relations between all writers in the world. Our ideas were also generously welcomed by the Swedish Ambassador Malin Kärre.

Of course there are many details that must be cleared out before we can call for this meeting. First of all we need to call for a working group meeting in Kairo by April-May to take final decisions about economy and logistic questions. Meeting with Mamdouth El-wally at the Journalist Union we were immediately offered their big and modern congress hall for our Kairo meeting. It can host up to 500 participants. Same Egyptson has also good contacts with Meriott hotel where we could be hosted. When it comes to the cruise on the Nile there are different sizes of ships, from ships with pace for 100 persons to 150. We also have to discuss and decide our agenda both in Kairo and on the ship. Egyptson estimates the cost for each participant to 1300 USD (everything, also internal flights, included except the international flights to and from Egypt).

But first we have to get an idea about how many that still are interesting to take part in this historical event.
Therefore we kindly ask you to answer this letter. Unfortunately we cannot today serve you promises from sponsors and perhaps we must all look for different solutions in our different countries. But as there are so many writers that have expressed their interest to participate we hope that we all together will be able to solve these problems. But don´t feel that you must have the answer to this or any question when you answer this letter. And if you feel that you would like to join the working group please let us know as soon as possible. This letter will also be sent to UNESCO and to other cultural organizations like the Goethe Institute (who has promised us to give support to the German writers). Organizer in Egypt will be the Same Egyptson Travel Group. They will also offer an office for us.
With our best regards and hopes for a successful cooperation!

Peter Curman and Sameh Egyptson

 Peter Curman, Fatburstrappan 18, 118 26 Stockholm, Sweden
  © Peter Curman 2012