Q: Wives of prominent men are often looked upon as an appendage to their husbands. Do you feel that people look at you in that sense? How do they treat you now that you're a widow? Were you looked upon as Mrs. Sadat as opposed to Jihan Sadat?
A: I am enjoying my life much better because I didn't enjoy the position to be a wife of a president. Starting from 7 until 10 every day, I was involved in meetings, inaugurating schools, trying to involve people, speeches here and there, traveling, official obligations, guests, studying, teaching. It was such a burden, really. Really, believe me, it was not worthwhile at all. People think, "Is she like us, is she eating and sleeping and going around like any other people?" No, on the contrary. I was really suffering, I would say.
The only thing which I'm sorry for is that I lost my husband. That's the only thing which I'm very, very sorry for in my life. I would rather hope that he was still alive and just enjoying the privacy which we missed most of our life. I can go walking here in Georgetown. I like it very much. I like to be free. I like to put on my training suit and go just walking. I've never done this in my life. I missed it very much.
Q: How about your friends now? Are they pretty much the same group you had when your husband was president? Or did they fall off like fair-weather friends?
A: Not many, but even when my husband was still alive I knew that these kind of people flew. They are for positions only, not for friendship. But my friends who are since long time ago, they were still my friends. They are even closer to me now than before. Because, they say, "Now we can find you. Now at least you have time to see us."
Q: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was married to Charles Lindbergh, once described her husband's death in comparison to a fallen tree, where she could see the whole length of him, see all the different periods of his life. How do you view your husband now? Do you see him differently (from) this vantage point?
A: Yes, I can see every word he said during his life. It's as if, whatever he said when he was still alive, everything is happening now. It is in his speeches, in his tapes. It's not just we are thinking what he said -- no. He said it openly and it stayed and it's written. And every word he said is really going on now. It is like reading the book. And he was, in my opinion, like an open book.
Q: Do you know him better in his death than when he was alive?
A: Yes, yes. I got to know him much more than anyone in the world, in 30 years together. It's not a short period and just two partners knowing each other, respecting each other, loving each other. When he was alive, sometimes I disagreed with him and I was saying no, no, no, no, no. But now I can say that everything he said was right. Even judging eople.
Q: I've read that you and your son had heard voices -- him speaking -- and you had had a vision of him.
A: Yes, though I'm not that kind of (person). I don't for instance -- people (go) to their fortune teller or (have) somebody tell them the future. I never believe in these things. But you know it happened, after he passed away. Maybe I was just very ready. I was sleeping in his room. We had two separate bedrooms. Sometimes we shared his room and sometimes mine and sometimes we are (in) each of the rooms, but when he passed away I went to his room, slept in his bed and one day, I found that as if he was beside me and I opened my eyes. I felt that I'm not sleeping anymore. It was something -- . I don't know how to explain it -- . I know he passed away -- . I was very, very surprised. What's that? And then I put my hand on his hand to feel him. Is it a dream or is it -- ? I don't know. And I felt his flesh when I put my hand and he looked at me. There was no talking. He didn't speak to me, I didn't speak to him. Just looking with the eyes. I know that he was assassinated. I was aware of everything. It was a smile, just looking without talking. He didn't say any word. As if he wanted to calm us.
And what happened with my son was something also very strange. My son is very, very intelligent boy. He's very realistic, very full of sense of humor. He has so many things from his father. He came in, "Mommy, Mommy, you can't believe what I heard. I heard while I was sleeping my father's voice in my ears. I heard him talking to me. And then he was telling me, 'Gamal, don't worry about me. I'm very happy. Tell your mother, tell your sisters, I'm happy. Don't cry, don't feel anything wrong.'" As if it is a message to us because at the beginning, we didn't scream and cry but the family -- not only our heart was broken but we couldn't really believe what happened to us.
Q: It's the violence of it.
A: Yes, it's the way, although, in our holy book as Moslems, if a person will be killed or shot, it means that he is a martyr and with martyrdom in our religion, he is not going to be questioned. When we die, we are going to be questioned about our sins in our life, our good things and our bad things. This is in our religion. And if our good things are much better than our bad things, we are going to paradise. If not, we are going to hell. But if a man, for instance, during the war is shot, then he is a martyr. He will not be questioned and is going to paradise.
The way he was killed is very, very hard but in the same time it is something which pleased me in that he is in paradise. He deserved it, too. I remember one of my sons came to me and said, "Mother, you know that he had to be killed. If he died on his bed as any other human being, there would have been questions." Of course, his good things are better than his sins, but even though he is a human, now he is a martyr.
Q: The day of the assassination there were quite a few people dancing in the streets in Tripoli, Baghdad and the PLO sections of Beirut. How did you feel about this?
A: I saw the TV. I felt sorry for them. If my enemy dies, whatever the way he die, even (if) I hate him, if he dies, then everything is finished. Even my hating him has to be stopped. On the contrary I have to pray condolences or at least to say that everything is finished. But they have bitterness towards my husband. I don't know whether these kind of people (have) very low standard, very low feelings. I never hated somebody or felt that anyone who dies -- . If Khomeini dies, I will not dance at all. Although he is destroying so many things, I will never dance because it will be ridiculous.
Q: How do you feel about the return to conservatism during (Egyptian president Hosni) Mubarak's regime? It seems to undermine what you and your husband stood for.
A: Well, (every) man has his own way.
Q: Thousands of women are returning to wearing the veil. What do you feel the veil symbolizes and would you go back to wearing the veil if it became universal in Egypt?
A: Never, never I would wear it. Because I believe that Islam is much, much deeper that just trivial things. I am a religious woman. I am always respectable in my dressing. I always put on long sleeves. I don't wear open dresses. I feel that I wear respectable dress which matches with the life I'm living, in the 20th century. In the same time I am following my religion, Islam's attitude, and obeying God, doing what we are told to do.
Q: What does the veil signify?
A: Not all of them are fanatics. Some of them are very, very good although they are veiled. But it's coming from inside and it's a religion way of thinking they want to do the perfect thing. Maybe they are right. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. But I can't really accept, if I love God and what I'm doing is not bad, my attitude is good, I'm working, doing something with the life I'm living, serving humanity. This in my opinion God wants us to do. God is not going to look at our dress and say, "Oh, she was putting on a long dress!" Any religion, especially my religion, is much deeper than that.
Q: Mrs. Mubarak has almost a non- existent public image. You were very flamboyant, out in the limelight. Was this a mistake?
A: Do you mean Western, by flamboyant?
A: On the contrary. I'm just picking what matches with our society and refusing what doesn't go with us. And I always respect our traditions, our customs. I know that we are conservative but it doesn't mean that we have to live in this closed society for good. I have to raise the standard of the people as much as possible. I was fighting and I'm still fighting, I made use of my position as a first lady, but now I'm continuing as a Jihan Sadat. And I don't find any differences between (the) two maybe.
Q: Do you see Egypt as a backward society?
A: No. Egypt is something between other countries. Even the location of Egypt itself is between Europe and Asia. We are an African country. We are an Arab country. We are a Moslem country. We are just a combination.
Q: Your husband referred to you as Egypt's First Lady.
A: Believe me, no, not him. The press.
Q: Did you have much of a say in his policy or what?
A: No, no, no. We were as two contrasts, just trying to complete each other. I never interfered as so many people think I was interfering in politics. Quite the contrary. He is such a leader -- no one was like him. He didn't need my advice at all. Since we were married no one of us interfered in the other's work at all.
Q: When your husband was president you promoted the idea of a three-child limit per family. But you have four.
A: That comes before! When I had my four children I was not even involved in social activities. I remember Barbara Walters, my dear friend. The first interview she did with me, she told me the same thing, "You are calling for three and two and you have four, Mrs. Sadat." And I say, "Barbara, I am wrong and I'm at fault. It's not right. I don't want others to do it or to repeat it. I'm calling for only three. That's enough now in our time. But in my time -- my youngest is 22 -- it wasn't that really difficult. Not to that extent that we are suffering these days.
Q: You seem very much the political animal. Is it difficult for somebody in your position to find someone to talk to openly, heart to heart?
A: I'm not that open. I don't want to say what is wrong. I never try to just tell my problems to anyone, even the nearest friends. They never knew if I'm quarreling with my husband. If we were fighting each other for instance and then friends come, nobody would even feel it, because starting from the beginning, there were such certain things that we followed: respecting each other very much, not interfering in one's work. These things we expect and it was the main thing maybe which made our life very happy and successful.
Q: I understand you've written some poetry under another name. What is your poetry about? Why did you choose a pen name?
A: It's about love as we see it in the Arabic desert. I tried to put it under a pen name because I was the wife of the president. I wanted to know the judgment. If (people) don't know I wrote it, they 'll judge it more fairly.
Q: One of your favorite poets -- Shelley -- once wrote a poem about a mighty king who was swept away by the sands of history. Do you find a little bit of Ozymandias in your life? In your husband's life?
A: Yes. My husband was very idealistic. I'm a combination between realistic, and sometimes I'd love to escape and to live in my poems, my books, my readings. Shelley and others, like Keats and Byron and Wordsworth.
Shelley was judged, criticized severely. He couldn't be put besides Keats and Byron. And the time passed and Shelley became one of the -- very famous poets. History gives each one what he deserves and I believe that my husband will be one of the heroes -- there will be one or two -- in our life. He never thought of his concern, his position. He never thought of losing everything. He thought only, what will humanity benefit from what he's doing? He didn't mean peace just to be between Israel and Egypt. He meant for the whole area, an example for the whole world.
Q: Was it too much too soon?
A: No, it was maybe -- too late.
Q: How are your chimpanzees? Sonny and Honey?
A: Well, unfortunately one of them died. The Sonny. I was very very sorry, I cried because I loved him very much. The other one, after losing her husband, was insisting to be out of the cage all of the time. And that was very dangerous for my grandchildren. She was actually jealous of them. And she's very very strong. I sent her to the zoo guards.
Q: Where did you get them?
A: One came as a gift from Italy. The first one, from my son-in-law. I remember some days, when they were such hectic days, and I'm very very tired, just going to the cage. Just sitting beside them, just a few minutes, you cannot believe the relief they gave me. Just watching them kissing me from the bars. Just shaking hands. Just giving a Coca- Cola to drink through the bar. Sometimes they open and close the button of (my) blouse. When they do this, they come out of the cage and I walk with them. And when I go back to put him in the cage, he refuses, and I try to calmly get him to. And then I shout at him and he goes inside and I give him an orange. But really, it was a relief. I needed it.