In his Mit Abu al-Kum birthplace, some 75 km far from the capital Cairo, the village people gathered around the former president’s house – since turned into a museum – to commemorate the birth date of their leader.
“President Sadat is a symbol of peace for the whole Arab nation,” said Soliman Shenawy, an agricultural engineer in the village, adding: “We feel proud and honoured to live here, where President Sadat once lived, took historical decisions, and met with the world top leaders.”
Shenamy still remembers when Sadat shook his hands while heading to the mosque, and notes: The president was very humble, and helped the farmers re-establish their houses with his own money.”
The late president’s birthday was celebrated by the villagers, the governor of Monufia along with other officials, and members of the armed forces, inside the 200-square-metre museum.
The house where the museum is located was built in 1962 when Sadat was chairman of the parliament. It was attached to a villa and vast gardens.
The museum contains the late president’s army uniform, the suit he wore when he delivered his famous speech in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), books, shoes and photos with world leaders.
Attiya Atef, the museum’s manager of the museum, says the facility was established in 2006 and is visited by around 10,000 people each year on average, adding that it also opens for students studying the history of Sadat.
“President Sadat is a historical model for my generation,” said Nadia Faramay, who says she visits the museum from time to time.
While writing on the guest book, she said she used to pass by Sadat’s house, and once saw some world leaders walking with the president.
“For his modesty, Sadat was an ordinary man who served his country, not a president people fear to talk with,” she added.
She expressed her joy when the museum was opened to enable people to watch the president’s possessions closely.
“I felt proud hearing that US President Donald Trump has signed a law to honour former President Sadat on the 100th anniversary of his birth,” the lady passionately said.
In August this year, the US Senate passed a bill to honour Sadat’s efforts in maintaining peace in the Middle East.
The Egyptian Embassy in Washington said in a press statement that the bill was “in recognition of Sadat’s heroic achievements and courageous contributions to peace in the Middle East”.
Sadat is the first Arab president ever honoured with such an award by the US Congress. Besides, a gold medal was given to his widow Gihan Sadat in recognition of her efforts to help maintain peace in the region.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi this Tuesday also hailed Sadat’s “bravery and vision” in creating peace in the region.
Sisi said that the 1973 war with Israel restored dignity for the Egyptian and Arab people, and paved the way for Sadat to make peace.
“The October War paved the way for President Anwar al-Sadat to carry out the most promising initiatives of the modern era,” he noted.
In 1978, Egypt and Israel signed – at the White House – the Camp David peace accords that ended prolonged hostilities between the two countries. The war eventually led to Israeli forces withdrawing from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 after 15 years of occupation.
“Sadat’s message was clear that Egypt does not accept injustice or humiliation,” Sisi said, adding that Egypt is bent on seeking a just peace, development and prosperity for its people, its region and the world.
The celebrations of Sadat’s birthday were also seen in Cairo through many activities. Singers performed some of the most famous national songs in Sadat’s era, including those depicting the state of the soldiers during war.
Then on Monday, a special conference was held at the Supreme Council of Culture in the capital, entitled: “Sadat: the hero of war and peace”. It discussed Sadat’s mindset towards ending the war, as well as his policies.
Sadat was the third president of Egypt, serving since October 15, 1970 until his assassination by Islamist fundamentalists on October 6, 1981.
Sadat was born in 1918 to a poor upper Egypt-origin family which would not know that their name would one day be carved in Egypt’s recent history by the hands of their son, Anwar, who became the first Egyptian ever to be awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sadat later joined the Royal Military Academy in Cairo and graduated to become a second lieutenant in the army. After President Gamal Abdel Nasser died from a heart attack, Sadat became president in 1970.
One of Egyptians’ severe criticisms is that Sadat’s peace life goal kept urging him to become the first Arab president to acknowledge the existence of Israel as a country, through visiting it in 1977 to discuss with the Israeli Knesset how comprehensive peace could be achieved in the region.
“I made my trip because I am convinced that we owe it to this generation and the generations to come not to leave a stone unturned in our pursuit of peace,” Sadat said.
- A Xinhua dispatch filed from Monufia, Egypt.