Egypt Today - The Magazine of Egypt
March / 2003

24 Syria Street
The Pulse

Cover Story
Their Turn Now

Go Figure
Beneath Murky Waters
Those 15 Minutes of fame
Pristine Silence

What's On
Downtown Café
Pop Music

What's In
Just In
Nature Notes
Sex, Eyes and Videotape
Writer: Hadia Mostafa
Photographer: IBA-Archives

The Hossam Abul Fotouh and Dina CD seems to be keeping the public entertained, but what about invasion of privacy?

Photographer: IBA Archives
These are unsettling times. Our country is deep in the throes of recession. The pound has been floated. Foreign exchange rates have gone ballistic, threatening to seriously alter our dollar-linked lifestyles. Unemployment is at a record high. And the United States is on the verge of catapulting the world into a senseless war that will shatter any hope we might have had for economic recovery.

But is the average man on the street preoccupied with the dire situation at hand? For the most part, the answer is no. Judging by the recent worldwide anti-war protests, people as far away as Mexico City seem more concerned about the situation than we are. Millions of protesters took to the streets in London, Paris, Rome and Moscow, while only handfuls intermittently show up to demonstrate in Tahrir Square. We're too busy occupying ourselves with the latest sex scandal.

By now everyone who has the inclination (and a PC) has seen the bedroom frolics of down-and-out tycoon Hossam Abul Fotouh and dancer/sex symbol Dina, digitally recorded on CD-ROM for our viewing pleasure. Audiences are now anxiously hoping there's a sequel - maybe "Hossam and Dina, Part 2" - soon to be followed by a whole series of the voyeuristic businessman's escapades with numerous seductive female celebrities and socialites. When authorities raided Abul Fotouh's Maadi residence several months ago, they apparently stumbled upon a gold mine with these recordings, which are now gradually being leaked to the public.

"All the women that he has been with are now frightened that he may have secretly filmed them like he did with Dina. It's actually quite funny," said one friend of mine who managed to gain quick access to the CD once it became public. When I asked him how he got a hold of his copy, he laughed. "Are you kidding? They are selling them at the newsstands!" I thought he was joking. But it turns out that the CD was available at some newsstands.

Unlike my friend, I didn't think the scandal was "funny," but it sure was an interesting topic of conversation! I hate to admit it, but Abul Fotouh's sexual preferences occupied quite a lengthy portion of a recent coffee chat that I had with two of my girlfriends. Rumors surrounding his many affairs have reached gargantuan proportions. Even those who have never met the former BMW tycoon are now experts on Hossam Abul Fotouh and the machinations of his sex life as they publicly analyze his behavior with a holier-than-thou attitude that I find puzzling.

I for one can't help but feel sorry for Abul Fotouh. One day the guy's on top of the world and the next, not only has his business empire crumbled into dust, but the most intimate details of his private life are open subjects for debate. And thus I made the conscious decision that I did not want to see his tryst with Dina. I'd already heard more than enough about it.

Then one evening not long after I'd come to the conclusion that I was boycotting the country's number-one box-office hit, the infamous CD somehow made its way into my living room and onto my laptop. That's when my reporter's instinct kicked in. I just had to see what all the fuss was about. So for purely journalistic purposes - really! - I decided to have a look. To ease my conscience, I viewed it in fast-forward, which actually made it quite funny in parts. Even as I sped through the 30-minute recording, I was surprised: It was much more graphic then I expected it to be. I was left with the feeling that I'd just invaded someone's privacy. But at least I knew what all the fuss was about.

It amazes me how "Hossam and Dina" audiences have not been restricted to the predominantly male pornography-viewing segment of society. Everyone from housewives to businessmen, students and professionals from all walks of life have either seen it or been given a firsthand account of its contents. One friend even told me that her grandmother wanted to borrow her PC because she had been given a copy of the infamous CD and had nowhere to install it.

So how is it that people who are normally opposed to watching pornography justify viewing this type of thing? Does the fact that the film stars two public figures make it OK to observe their affair? The issue was so widely debated that it became the subject of more than one satellite-channel talk show. Dina - who allegedly left the country after the scandal became public - was interviewed from abroad and brought to tears by her interviewer when he broached the subject of Abul Fotouh. She has been silent trying to maintain a low profile ever since. But that's not all. After returning from the hajj - a request which the Saudi Arabian government had first rejected, considering her to be too morally deviant - she retired and took the veil.

As for Abul Fotouh, I really wonder how he is feeling right now. I'm sure that even in his worst nightmares he never imagined that he would be in such a precarious position. Many feel that he got what he deserved. I disagree. The guy may be a rogue, but no one deserves this type of embarrassment. No matter how decadent a lifestyle he led and no matter how unscrupulous his business practices were, what went on in the privacy of his bedroom, even though he did choose to record it, should remain private. How many of those who are now glorifying in his shame can claim to have clean track records?

There's nothing like a sex scandal to get our minds off bigger problems. But rather than waiting for Hossam Abul Fotouh sequels to hit the market, perhaps it's time to turn our attention to more pressing issues.

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