The deposed shah of Iran may have gotten Egypt's "two best palaces" as his homes away from home when he took up residence there last month. But Egypt's First Lady Jihan Sadat said yesterday: "We have others."
Mrs. Sadat was guest of honor at two coffees on Capitol Hill, an unprecedented welcome of the wife of a foreign head of state by wives of key members of the House and Senate. One event was hosted by the wife of Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), the other by the wife of Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.).
"We don't normally do this," said a staff member of the House International Relations Committee, whose subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East Rep. Hamilton heads. "But Mrs. Sadat is a personage in her own right -- she isn't only the first lady of Egypt; she's also head of the Menufia People's Council, an influential position."
To questions about the impact of the shah's presence on her husband's political standing in Egypt, Mrs. Sadat painted a picture that was different from those some congressional wives had been hearing and reading about.
Mrs. Alfred L. Atherton Jr., wife of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt and among Mrs. Sadat's official party, said Mrs. Sadat had been angry to see all the stories about "a teensy minority" demonstrating against Sadat's decision to admit the shah.
"The majority of people are behind him in Egypt," Mrs. Atherton said.
"She was very reassuring," one wife said later. "Someone sitting next to me said 'Boy, we don't get the whole pictured do we?"
Mrs. Sadat told the group that the "spirit of Islam" requires compassion and love for a friend and she described the shah as "a leper -- no one wanted anything to do with him. It wasn't until three days after he arrived in Egypt that he smiled."
Mrs. Sadat told the wives of Reps. Benjamin Rosenthal (D-N.Y.), Harold Volkmer (D-Mo.) and Clarence Long (D-Md.) at the Hamilton coffee that she and her husband no longer worried about Jimmy Carter's political standing, although they had earlier.
What changed that was finding Americans more responsive, more receptive to Carter's feelings when they arrived here this week, she said.
At the second coffee given by Mrs. Johnston, Mrs. Sadat elaborated a little on her endoresement of Carter for a second term.
"We pray for him," she told a reporter. "We want him to win. We don't want him to be in trouble. He is the best man for the job."
There were questions here, too, but of a less controversial nature, about her work and influence in family planning and health facilities in Egypt. Afterward, Esther Coopersmith, who has spearheaded a fund-raising drive on behalf of museum renovation in Egypt, presented Mrs. Sadat a gift, courtesy of "Cheops and Alexander Graham Bell": a telephone shaped like a pyramid.
"To phone Esther every day," said Mrs. Sadat, who later admitted she had only been kidding. "That would be very expensive."