Tarek Ragheb Establishes Arts Scholarship to Honor Father's Memory
For Tarek Ragheb, seeing his late father’s dedication to securing a decent living for his family and teaching them the true value of life motivated him to establish the Mohamed Ragheb Scholarship in Arts at AUC’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, in honor of his father Mohamed Ragheb, renowned Egyptian artist and painter.
“What I am doing is for my father’s memory, his legacy and his sacrifice for his children,” said Tarek Ragheb. “This is not about me; it is about him.”
Tarek Ragheb was born in Egypt and moved to the United States at the age of 11. He chose to give to AUC, as it represents the two fundamental touchstones that make up his life experiences –– Egypt and the United States. “I have been very successful in my life,” he said. “This success is not only due to both countries and what they have taught me, but to my father, who instilled values that have guided me through my entire life journey.”
His father, he added, lived his life as an artist, which was not easy. “By establishing a scholarship in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at AUC under my father’s name, I am not only honoring his legacy, but assisting a young artist in realizing his or her dreams and making his or her life journey a little bit easier,” he said.
The Journey of an Artist
Born in El Darb El Ahmar in Cairo, Mohamed Ragheb was brought up in a well-to-do family from Ayat, Egypt. His life journey was turbulent and complex. Hoping to emulate his grandfather, who was an officer commissioned in November 1876 in the third Calvary regiment under Viceroy Ismail, Ragheb attended the Egyptian Royal Police Academy. To balance his artistic drive with his family heritage, Ragheb joined the Police Academy in the mid-1930s to pursue the newly emerging fields of forensic photography and fingerprinting.
When those fields started to vanish, Ragheb left the service to start Studio Ragheb in the 1930s. Well-known across the Cairo art scene through his paintings and other works, he was to become the go-to-artist for cinematic epic blockbusters such as El Nasser Salah El Din, Bain Al Qasrain and Kasr Al Shawq by Naguib Mahfouz. In early 1960, he introduced three-color separation printing in Egypt and went on to reluctantly print Nasser’s infamous Arab Observed, a political regional magazine that competed with the likes of TIME and Newsweek at the regional level of the Middle East and Africa.
In 1966, Ragheb left Egypt to Germany as a guest worker, then traveled to Beirut, Lebanon in 1968. He obtained refugee status in 1969 and immigrated with his wife and three children to Bristol, Pennsylvania. Penniless and in a strange land, life in the United States was one hardship after another for Ragheb. Not only did he suffer a major heart attack soon after he arrived, but he also developed cataract in both eyes. Although he could barely see and was legally blind, he wore special glasses and kept on painting. During his time in the United States, he painted many important government officials, including Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania, U.S. President Richard Nixon and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, whom he met in 1977 during his visits to Washington, D.C. The painting of Sadat can be viewed at the village of Mit Abu al-Kum at the Sadat Museum.
It was his meeting with Sadat in Washington D.C. that motivated Ragheb to think about returning to his beloved Egypt. In 1986, Ragheb moved back to Egypt and never returned to the United States.
Ragheb passed away peacefully in 1994 at his home in Zamalek, where he lived with his daughter Tahia.