Nov 19, 2009
A Sylff fellow at the American University in Cairo, Ms. Ethar El-Katatney, won the Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award 2009 for her article “Identity Crisis 101,” published in Egypt Today. She is currently pursuing two graduate degrees from the university, an MBA and an MA in television and digital journalism, while traveling and writing as a journalist. Below is her report on the award ceremony of the award that took place on November 5, 2009, in Monaco.
(By Ethar El-Katatney)
Receiving an award for doing something you love is one of the most incredible feelings in the world. Receiving an incredibly prestigious award in an incredibly fancy hotel in a ceremony attended by the Prince of Monaco is even more so.
I just won the Economics and Business Award in CNN’s African Journalist of the Year competition last July—the first Egyptian to do so. So to win an award three months later that is just as prestigious—the print category of the Anna Lindh Journalism award—is mind-blowing.
I spent two days before the ceremony exploring Monaco and the Cote d’Azur, visiting some of most beautiful places I’ve ever had the chance to travel to. But although I had time to reflect upon the upcoming ceremony, it was more incredible than anything I could have imagined. To begin with, it was at the Hermitage hotel—a hotel I’d seen while I trooped around the casino square several times. A seriously elegant, lavish, and intimidating hotel. In the ballroom I was taken aback to see that all the seats were full. When I inquired who was attending I was told many were ambassadors. It was then I suddenly realized that I was going to go up there in front of people who hadn’t even read my article, and that they would be judging me based on what I said. And that I was going to be representing my gender, country, and faith. No pressure.
But I took a deep breath, went up to get my award, said my piece, and thankfully the audience seemed to like it.
I told them that the idea for my article, "Identity Crisis 101", initially came out of my own experiences. I was born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Egypt, and educated in western schools. Consequently, the way I look at my culture and society is different. So from there I thought: if I, who wasn’t even a ‘real’ halfie, had difficulties integrating in Egyptian society, what about Egyptians who are raised abroad? Or have a non-Egyptian parent? What difficulties do they face? What advantages do they have over normal Egyptians? And that was my story. Listening to the other winners talk about their stories was so very inspiring. As was meeting the Prince and having him congratulate us. After the ceremony came a TV interview and then a dizzying amount of praise and congratulations. It’s such a heady feeling. People tell you you’re so incredible, poised, articulate, amazing, you’re only 22?! etc., and part of you is staggered, going “you have me confused with someone else,” but another part is elated at getting recognition. I had directors, CEOs and ambassadors shower praise upon me. Women, old men, young guys. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget having four French college students surround me and hang onto my every word. They told me they managed to get tickets to attend, how amazed they were, how I inspired them, and asked me for advice. Someone told me my speech made her cry. The editor of the Financial Times told me my story could grace the pages of any news outlet in the world.
It was a whirlwind couple of hours. The thing that’s hitting me now is what you don’t realize when you’re dreaming of success: that more success is great, but it’s also bad, in a sense. Success means you have to work even harder. It means more people are looking at you. Expecting more of you. Success means that you put even higher goals for yourself. It means I want to work even harder. I look around at my life and I am so, so grateful. I just hope I can live up to what people think of me. This was an amazing experience. Elhamdulela.
Ethar’s article "Identity Crisis 101": click here
Ethar’s full archive, click here