Camelia Sadat carries on her father's independence, values
When your father is president of a politically dynamic country like Egypt, the moments you have to spend together are so few that you do your best to make the most of them.Skip to next paragraph
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For Camelia Sadat, daughter of the late Anwar Sadat, this meant giving up much of her own free time to study newspapers and newsmagazines. She not only kept pace with her father's latest policies and legislative victories, but also learned enough about the workings of government to be able to share inside political jokes with him.
''It's not common in Egypt for a girl to talk openly with her father and to discuss issues with him - but we did,'' she explains with characteristic frankness and an accent that hints of time spent in both London and New England. ''He was a liberal in some ways, but he was also a very traditional Muslim man, so it was not always easy for us.''
Her recollection ends with a resonant laugh, a reminder of the hearty sense of humor she says she inherited from her father, along with his preference for white chocolate and shoot-'em-up westerns.
''Whenever we'd get together with our family on the weekends to watch movies, '' she says, ''the grandchildren always wanted to see 007 films, and my father would say OK to one James Bond. But what he really liked were westerns. He said they were the only things that could take you away from your thinking.''
To hear Camelia Sadat describe the fundamental beliefs behind some of her father's decisions is to see an unexpected side of one of the Middle East's most controversial leaders. To the end, for example, he literally trusted others with his life.
''The night before the parade (at which Sadat was assassinated), the minister of interior went to my father to tell him about the Muslim group (in the Army) that was having shooting training in the desert, and to offer to add police troops to the Army parade for his protection.''
''But my father told the minister, 'No way.' He said, 'I trust my children,' which is what he always called the Army.''
As she leans forward on the conference table, fielding reporters' occasionally irritating questions with a good-natured ''Why do you ask me that?'' Ms. Sadat calls to mind the larger-than-life yet elegantly feminine carvings of ancient Egyptian goddesses and queens found in Nile River temples built more than 4,000 years ago. A tailored white linen suit provides a striking complement to her sculptured, dark bronze features, and from time to time she fingers a handsome gold scarab necklace bearing a medallion of President Sadat's pyramid-shaped tomb.
She saw her father for the last time in August of 1981, six weeks before he was assassinated and only days before she left Egypt with her teen-age daughter to study in the United States. Since then, she has earned a master's degree in communication from Boston University and settled comfortably in a nearby suburb. She won't be going home, she says, before her daughter has completed her own education.
Ms. Sadat has already finished five chapters of a book about her father which she hopes to have published within the year. Because she feels so little is known about the personal details of his life, she has set out to portray him in his various roles as son, brother, husband, and father - a ''man of two families ,'' she describes him.