Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal said goodbye to Washington last night, and to the hundreds of his friends who, in the past 10 years, have seen him through the highs of the Camp David accords and the lows of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's assassination.
"It's very emotional," said Ghorbal, as he greeted no fewer than 2,000 guests in an excruciatingly long receiving line.
Ghorbal says he plans to retire from diplomacy, and then do what every other out-of-office diplomat or politician does: write a book.
The party, given by Ghorbal at the embassy, was orchestrated in two shifts. "I've heard," said one guest, "that they have invited the phone book instead of the Green Book."
It was a little bit of both.
The main attraction was Anwar Sadat's widow, Jihan, who was in town yesterday to inaugurate the Anwar Sadat Memorial Endowment for International Peace at Georgetown University. She came with a phalanx of security, kissed five dozen cheeks, and then disappeared.
The bulk of the crowd was made up of the Egyptian and diplomatic communities, with a healthy representation from the Reagan adminstration. Naturally, the Reaganites were all rooting for their man in Sunday's foreign policy debate with Walter Mondale.
"I think the president got a little mad at the way the press interpreted the results of the first debate," said Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige. "He'll come back fighting on Sunday. I don't think anyone can beat him when he's in form."
"I think he's going to do great!" said Chief of Protocol Selwa Roosevelt. "I adore him."
"I didn't see any deficiency the last time he went to bat," said Interior Secretary William Clark.
"I came here to say goodbye to the ambassador," said Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. "And that's what I'm doing."
So much for the debate.
Former protocol chief Leonore Annenberg was in town from her Philadelphia home. "Excuse me," she called out to a stranger descending the stairs, "but is there any food up there?" Stuffed grape leaves and bite-sized pizzas were disappearing in huge quantities.
Everyone hugged and kissed Ghorbal, and milled around the foyer talking about what a terrific ambassador he's been. That was easier than trying to get to the bar.
"He's a very wise man with great judgment," said Roosevelt. "He's always the one I would call to get a sense of the diplomatic community."
"He's just someone without malice," said Lloyd Cutler, who was counsel to Jimmy Carter during the Camp David negotiations. "I remember him most from the accords . . . I would just look at him and Eppi Evron Israeli ambassador at the time and couldn't imagine what those two could ever have to fight about."
In the end, after the 2,000th hand had been pumped, Ghorbal's eyes saddened. "I always say au revoir," he said. "We'll be back."