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Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK

World: Middle East

Celebrity auction combats world hunger

Nobel prize winner Naguib Mahfouz has donated a pen

By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

Belongings of some of the Arab world's most famous cultural figures go under the hammer in Cairo on Tuesday to raise funds for the world's hungry.

The auction has been organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the FAO, to raise money for small-scale rural development projects.

[ image: A scarf worn by Egyptian musical legend Umm Kalthoum is on sale]
A scarf worn by Egyptian musical legend Umm Kalthoum is on sale
Auctions of antique furniture may be popular among the Egyptian elite, but celebrity auctions are a new concept here.

So too is the way this one is being conducted. It is being transmitted live on a Saudi-owned satellite station with buyers ringing in their bids by telephone.

Among the items on sale are the horn-rimmed dark glasses and head-scarf worn by the late Egyptian singer Umm Kalthoum, who remains a musical legend across the Middle East.

The last letter written by the famous Egyptian singer of love songs, Abdel Halim Hafez, also goes under the hammer, along with a pen used by the Nobel Prize winning author Naguib Mahfouz, the Arab world's most famous writer.

The Tunisian musician Lutfy Bushnaq has given a lute and the Lebanese singer, Sabah, one of her dresses.

A spokesman for the Food and Agriculture Organisation said he hoped the event would raise not only cash, but also awareness of the plight of some 800 million people around the world who cannot afford to eat.

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