Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLXXXVI. A Return Visit (15 of 15)

The best way to see Alexandria is to hire a hantour. A hantour is a carriage pulled by one or two horses. In Midan Saad Zaghloul, A few carriages were waiting. The one at the front was an old man who was delighted to have an old-timer like him. He could barely contain his joy when he heard that this was my first visit after an absence of 40 years. “I will show you Alexandria, and bring back many old memories,” he said.

Perhaps the old memories should have been allowed to rest in peace. Alexandria was no longer the cosmopolitan city I remembered. It occurred to me that I was chasing ghosts.

He took me to the Ras-El-Tin Palace, one of two summer palaces of King Farouk. But there was no palace to be seen anymore, just the grounds which consisted of burned grass. The old man must have sensed my disappointment for he started telling me the stories of King Farouk and his womanizing. But these were old stories I had heard numerous times.

He took me to the commercial center where uncle Maurice conducted his business; there, at least, the change was not so pronounced.

Over time, after The Suez Canal Crisis, virtually all of my relatives and friends left Egypt. But there was one exception.

Tante Henriette was a cousin of my mother. During our stay in summer, we often went to visit her in her nice apartment. And she was (as far as I know) the only relative we had left in Egypt.

Before leaving Canada, I contacted my cousin Gasti in Brazil to ask if he knew her address and phone number. Yes, he did. And so, the way was open for me to go and pay her a visit.

Since this was a surprise visit after so many years, I could not notify her suddenly of my presence in Alexandria. That would have been a shock, more so since she was a lady in her late eighties. To announce myself, I enlisted the help of the receptionist at the hotel. She called her, and in a skilful (Egyptian) manner, let her know of my presence. Tante Henriette was of course delighted and asked me to come right away.

When I left the tramway that took me there, I walked to the square where she lived. The square was very small; and yet, it had looked so large when I was a child. At the building the ba’ob (janitor) stopped me and asked me where I was going, when he was informed, he told me that he had never seen me before, and he then accompanied me upstairs to make sure I was indeed a person she knew.

Henriette looked so tiny and old. I remembered her as a tall and beautiful woman. The apartment was no longer as large as I remembered it. But no matter, my visit to Henriette proved to be the highlight of my trip.

There was so much ground to cover we spend three solid hours talking.

Her husband Mark has died many years ago (that I knew). Why did she stayed in Egypt? When Mark and herself (she had no children) were ready to leave in the mid-sixties, the government had a law that did not allow you to leave Egypt unless you had a good reason. Belatedly, Abdel Nasser realized that he had lost most of his human capital and didn’t want to lose more. And this is why Henriette was still in Egypt.

She told me that she didn’t feel isolated. She regularly corresponded with other relatives across the world. The neighbors were very friendly and helped any way they could. She had received visits from other relatives, I certainly was not the first.

On her dresser, she had many pictures: Family members, weddings, and other simhas (celebrations). It occurred to me that she had no pictures of my family, would she like some? Of course. And so the first thing I did when I came back to Canada, was to send her some of my pictures, starting with my wedding picture. Her collection was now completed.

Healthwise, she was doing fine considering her age. Her nephew, Henri, an anesthesiologist practicing in Chicago had requested a doctor (a friend of him) in Alexandria to check on her on a regular basis, and that he did.

Henriette didn’t have the time to buy pastries and receive me in style; therefore, she insisted that I pay her a second visit. And so I came again on the following day, and we chatted some more.

When I left it was already dark, but I wanted to visit some of the streets where other relatives had lived (they all lived close to Henriette). First, I came across Rue Zankaloun, where nonna Gamila and her family had lived; next it was Rue Hehia where uncle Maurice and his family had lived; finally it was Rue Naga Hammadi where tante Linda and her family had lived. There had been so many changes, I had to make an effort to locate the proper buildings.

A few months after my return to Canada, I was informed by Gasti that Tante Henriette had passed away. My visit was indeed a timely one.


1) Egypt, Michael Haag, Cadogan Books Ltd., London, U.K., 1993

[This travel guide is second to none. It can be your starting point if you ever decide to visit Egypt. Indeed, merely calling it a travel guide is limiting it, for Mr. Haag has written a detailed and superb book which can be used for research. And that is what I actually did in writing this part of my book. The most recent edition: 5th Revised Edition (July 15, 2009).]

2) Ismailia

3) The Canal of Suez http://egypttourinfo/suez-canal.html

4) Nile River Cruises and Holidays in Egypt

* * *

At the end of my stay, I took a bus from Cairo to Tel-Aviv, for, next, I was going to visit my relatives in Israel.

The bus had a lot of young Israelis who had come back from a visit to Egypt. They sang in Arabic and Hebrew, and practically ordered me to join them.

They were delighted to find out that I was Egyptian, and showed off by repeating the few words they have learned in Arabic.

I asked them if they had enjoyed their visit to Egypt; they informed me that they had loved it; many vowed to come back.

Egypt has so many marvels to show its visitors, and these young Israelis had taken advantage of that. Israel, the holy land, has so many wonders awaiting its visitors, and yet few Egyptians had visited Israel and taken advantage of that.

When will the hatred die?


* * *

This brings to an end my part on Egypt. I said so much, and yet, I left out the things that could not be put into words. Only if you’re Egyptian and had left with The Second Exodus, can you fill in the gaps.

Our next destination was Italy, so let us go there.

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