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 – CXVIII. Alexandria – My Vacations (4 of 10)

We didn’t go to Stanley Bey, nor indeed did we take long walks on the corniche, every day; perhaps only half of the time.

Uncle Maurice’s family may have had other plans. In this case, I went to swim with Michel at Ibrahimia; and we donned our bathing suits in the house since there was no place to change.

Michel had a very good friend, and before my coming to Alexandria (the period previous to the end of June), these two were always together. This prompted aunt Linda to use the Arabic expression, tizen fe lebass (two tushes in one pant!). Sometimes this friend (I forget his name) came with us. Both Michel and this friend were superb swimmers, but they took into consideration the fact that I was not in their league. I loved spending time with them for they were considerate (as much as you can expect children to be).

When the sea was rough, the lifeguards evaluated the situation to determine if bathers would be allowed in the water; a more or less acceptable situation called for a red flag, meaning that you can go swimming, but be extra careful; otherwise, it was a black flag and swimming was not permitted.

On such days we played, took long walks, went to movies, or were taken to a cafe by our elders.

My favorite place was the Casino Shatby at the Shatby station. Casino Shatby was a big place half on the beach, and half in the water. The view was superb, and the treats scrumptious. Casino Shatby will forever be associated in my mind with a cousin of my mother, tante Esther (nicknamed Esterina). She came with her son Raymond (AKA Remi), and treated us all. The specialty of the house was Peach Melba. What would I give to be there right now, devouring a Peach Melba, with Tante Esterina, Remi, and my other cousins.

Back To Stanley Bey. The god of geology had long ago decreed that the beach would consist of three separate bays: Big, Medium, and Small. I have memories associated with each one.

The Medium bay was partially surrounded by rocks; if you were not a good swimmer, you were reasonably safe there. Armed with this knowledge, uncle Maurice favored the Medium bay. However, as I have previously related, he almost drowned there.

The Big bay was really the open sea. When my aunt, mother, and cousins swam there, they left me near the shore. I did not know how to swim and had stubbornly refused to learn. One day, I could no longer touch the bottom of the sea and I panicked. I was never in any real danger, for I was surrounded by people. A lady quickly came to my rescue and brought me back to the shore. When my mother came back, I told her what happened and announced that I was now willing to learn to swim.

It didn’t prove hard at all. After a few sessions, I was swimming reasonably well.

The open sea was dotted with milestones of sort – anchored metal barrels and rafts. I could measure my progress by realizing that I swam to the first barrel, the second one, and so on. There was a point beyond which you were not supposed to go; doing so would attract the frantic whistles of the lifeguards, and possibly a fine.

The Small bay was totally surrounded by rocks and was therefore less affected by the weather. Thus, even on black-flag days you could bathe there.

The water level was low throughout making it ideal for non- swimmers. I have some beautiful memories associated with this bay. Nisso being a non-swimmer bathed there. During his vacations, I accompanied him. Thus, father and son enjoyed unique moments of togetherness. Today, we call that bonding, back then, it was simply a chance for me to know my dad when he was relaxed and happy. To this day, I cherish those precious interludes.

I also became acquainted with other aspects of dad’s personality. He loved company, was a great conversationalist, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He could spend hours with family members that were gathered at the cabin. He loved to dardesh (chat) on both consequential and inconsequential matters. Nisso could be quite opinionated, somehow though, at the beach, he didn’t present his views as being the definitive word on the subject. I related to you how he spent his time with oncle Vita on his balcony. Later, when Vita went to Israel, the scene repeated itself on another balcony, and with a different scenario. Oncle Daniel took time off from work and they both spent their mornings on the balcony. They ate breakfast, talked, and laughed a lot. Daniel had a dry wit which was greatly appreciated by dad. Let me tell you about this balcony.

It was on the last floor, and thus allowed you to have a bird’s eyeview of a busy tramway station and a market. It was like watching a movie; the myriad activities of everyday Egyptian life were captured in my mind to be preserved for the day when I would leave this way of life for good.

Daniel, if need be, called a vendor from the balcony to inquire about his merchandise. Since he was so high, the merchant could not clearly hear him, but gestures filled the gap. Examples:

Daniel: “We need tamatem (tomatoes) for a spaghetti sauce.”

Merchant: “I have the nicest tamatem in all of Alexandria.”

Daniel also need kossa (zucchini). As it happens, this vendor carries the best kossa money can buy!

This particular market was known for its fish.

Daniel: “We need samak (fish) bourri (a type of fish) for frying. It has to be very fresh.”

Merchant: “My fish is almost alive!”

Daniel: “We also need gambari (shrimps).”

Merchant: “My gambari is so fresh, it can talk back to you!”

By the time dad went back to Hamzaoui, he had recharged his batteries and was ready to assume again his weighty responsibilities.

Comments are closed.