Egyptian visually-impaired female musicians hold concert despite pandemic

The orchestra has performed in more than 25 countries, including Austria, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan and Greece.
Thursday 24/09/2020
Maestro Mohamed Saad Basha with members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women perform at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (Reuters)
Maestro Mohamed Saad Basha with members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women perform at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (REUTERS)

CAIRO--Egypt’s Al Nour Wal Amal (light and hope) chamber orchestra, a music group of visually-impaired women, has faced many challenges over the decades, yet none was like this year’s pandemic.

After months without playing, the orchestra members resumed rehearsals three weeks ago and held their first concert since the start of the global health crisis on Sunday at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo.

Maestro Mohamed Saad Basha with members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (Reuters)
Maestro Mohamed Saad Basha with members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (REUTERS)

The orchestra, made up entirely of visually-impaired women apart from their conductor, played for a small group, wearing masks and exercising social distancing.

In March, Egypt imposed several restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus including banning all cultural activities. The orchestra members found this extremely frustrating and missed the fulfilment they get from making music, they said.

Members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (Reuters)
Members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (Reuters)

“The coronavirus came about, and we all had to stay at home,” said Amal Fikry, deputy director of Al Nour Wal Amal Association, a charity that runs the orchestra.

“The girls were very upset that they had to stay home. They didn’t have their special instruments.”

Member of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women plays during a practice session as she prepares for the first concert in the Heliopolis suburb of Cairo, Egypt, September 15, 2020. (Reuters)
Member of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women plays during a practice session as she prepares for the first concert in the Heliopolis suburb of Cairo, Egypt, September 15, 2020. (Reuters)

Egypt has relaxed coronavirus restrictions recently, which enabled the women to rehearse again, although in smaller groups.

The orchestra currently holds its fourth generation of musicians. They have performed in more than 25 countries, including Austria, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan and Greece.

Spectators wearing protective masks and keeping social distance attend the concert of the members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women,  at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (Reuters)
Spectators wearing protective masks and keeping social distance attend the concert of the members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women,  at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. (Reuters)

The women have special techniques to read and memorise notes. They specialise in Western classical music, as well as modern oriental music.