Members of Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) chamber orchestra of blind women wearing protective masks play during their first concert, following months in limbo due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at the Manasterly Palace in Cairo, Egypt, September 20, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
September 23, 2020
CAIRO (Reuters) – 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.
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.
“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.”
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.
The women have special techniques to read and memorize notes. They specialize in Western classical music, as well as modern oriental music.
(Reporting by Amr Dalash; writing by Nadeen Ebrahim; editing by Mahmoud Mourad and Alexandra Hudson)