Engrossed in the rich history of Egypt, Madame Omneya Ahmed Mahmoud Elkouny has been very active in promoting Egyptian culture. Accompanying HE Moustapha Mahmoud Moustapha Elkouny, the ambassador of Egypt to Thailand, on his many postings, Madame Omneya shared with Elite+ glimpses of her stimulating and engaging life, particularly since arriving in Bangkok in November 2020.
Madame Omneya was born and educated in Alexandria, an ancient city in northern Egypt renowned for its vast library. Even today, it is a bustling modern city with a rich cultural heritage. She graduated from the Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University, and began her volunteer work there as a teacher in the French literature department.
Joining her husband, Ambassador Moustapha, on his various postings, Madame Omneya has spent time in Australia, France, Israel and Senegal. She shared, “As the wife of an Egyptian diplomat abroad, I also serve as a representative of my country. I would say as a diplomat’s wife, I not only represent Egyptian woman, but also our culture.”
In Cairo, Madame Omneya is a member of the Egyptian Diplomatic Spouse Association. “Our association is very active. We have monthly activities such as cultural events and guest lectures by experts in various fields. As a group, we visit many tourist attractions together. When I travel with my husband to different countries, I always participate in the diplomatic spouses club.”
Madame Omneya explained, “The life of a diplomat is not easy, moving from country to country, especially with children who have to change schools, and we all have to make new friends and adapt to the new country and culture. Whenever we move to a new country, at first, we feel lonely. However, we have learned how to adapt. These feelings of loneliness then fade as we get to know and love our new home and the people we meet.”
Aside from travelling and discovering new places, Madame Omneya expressed her other passions, saying “I enjoy drawing and handicrafts. I started silk painting in Marseille and have learned about other types of silk I now paint with. During our posting in Côte d’Ivoire, I learned new techniques and extended my painting to
porcelain. I have also found stimulation and satisfaction creating jewellery using different kinds of stones. Cote d’Ivoire is an African country full of beautiful wooden handicrafts. Their products are masterful pieces of art that are difficult to resist. The cotton fabrics there are full of bright, attractive colours. While there, we experienced a coup, but despite the initial uncertainties, life did return to a normalcy.”
Madame Omneya has always offered her service as a volunteer both at home and abroad. “The Egyptian Diplomatic Spouse Association has been involved with a school for students with special needs. Each year, the association organizes an annual bazaar to display their handmade products. The proceeds help to fund much needed winter aid, clothing and food.”
“In our overseas postings, I have participated in many charity bazaars by donating my painting on silk and porcelain to the bazaars. In Thailand, I have been a member of the Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar Committee for the past two years, and participated in their annual bazaar by helping to raise funds for Thai charity organizations by selling Egyptian handicrafts. Through the Spouses of the Heads of Mission (SHOM), I have visited and tried to help at many charity foundations.”
When asked her thoughts about the roles of women, Madame Omneya answered, “Women have always played a vital role both in ancient and modern societies. For instance, the role of women in ancient Egypt is documented on the walls of the ancient Egyptian temples and tombs. Women in Ancient Egypt had the same power and rights as men. I believe that women play a major role as contributors to building up our world. And we must remember that without education of all genders, no development is possible. Many influential women have held positions with a high degree of political power and left their mark on history. One of the most important ancient Egyptian queens, Queen Hatshepsut, ruled Egypt during the 18th dynasty. There are those who have acted as pioneers in certain professions and opened the door for future generations as icons inspiring men and women alike.”
As we concluded our interview, Madame Omneya discussed her experiences of Thailand and praised our wonderful country. “We arrived in Thailand during the Covid-19 pandemic and for a few months in 2021,
we had to deal with the severe lockdown. It should have been an exciting first few months for us as this is
the first time my husband has been posted to an Asian country. Thailand is an attractive country with a magnificent history. I have travelled to Chiang Mai, Koh Chang, Phuket, Krabi and Ayutthaya. I have thoroughly enjoyed Thailand as a peaceful country with beautiful landscapes and elaborate palaces, museums and temples. Thai food is delicious, and every foreign visitor would agree, Thai hospitality is truly genuine.”
To immerse into rich Thai culture, Madame Omneya has become a member of the National Museum Volunteers. She candidly admitted, “I sincerely wish to study more about the history of Thailand. When I first arrived, the first thing that caught my attention was the architecture, from traditional form to towering and eye-catching contemporary designs.” “Culture is one pillar that forms the relationship between Egypt and Thailand. A prime example is the large number of Thai students living and studying in Egypt, with many receiving scholarships offered by different Egyptian universities. There is also the keen interest shown by Thai people in Egyptian civilization, which is considered the cradle of all civilizations. With the end of Covid, I want to encourage your readers to rekindle your interest to visit Egypt. The recently inaugurated Grand Egyptian Museum is now considered the largest in the world.”