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 – XCV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (21 of 30)

Restaurants, cafes, and pastry shops

There were a number of establishments both in Cairo and Alexandria which became legendary in Egypt and Europe. Others on the other hand were just well-known and beloved, but never acquired the fame of say Groppi or Baudrot. If you are an Egyptian of my generation, chances are you will recognize all of the places I will be describing. You will often stop and exclaim: “Yes, of course, I remember Elite, Le Hatti, La Parisiana, or Le Grand Trianon.” You will have memories tied to one or more of those spots; perhaps that is where you went with the young lady who eventually became your wife; and the two of you were no doubt properly chaperoned!

Cairenes went to Alexandria on a regular basis, Alexandrians also visited Cairo, but less so. Whatever your city of origin, you will be on familiar grounds.

Many restaurants (not necessarily the high-class ones only) reserved a space for King Farouk. He was known to drop in with his entourage by surprise. And, of course, it wouldn’t do to have a King wait in line! I never had the opportunity to be there on a day when his majesty was paying this establishment a visit; pity, for I am told that he was friendly. You wouldn’t want him, however, to be too friendly with you; he was known to ask a perfect stranger to join him in a high-stake poker game. If you were accompanied by an attractive lady (and he only went for the best) he would make a pass at her, or dance with her if this was a music-hall. The odds, however, would be that Farouk would be in a cabaret like Badia Casino or The Mena House.

In connection with the above, there were two typical stories circulating; I’ll relate them to you, but feel free to disbelieve them.

In poker, he apparently cheated; however, even if you noticed, what can you say to a King. This was one of his standard tricks: Say you have 3 aces and Farouk has 3 kings, when you went for the money, he stopped you, “you have 3 aces, but I have 4 kings, 3 on the table and myself makes 4!”

If he liked your escort, he would invite her to visit the palace (without you, of course!). Apparently, odds were, the lady was sure to see more than the Egyptian Versailles (Abdine Palace).

But not to worry, the chances of either event happening were slim. Farouk mostly played with very wealthy individuals. And your girlfriend was probably safe; a man has only so much energy!

Inasmuch as the internet has greatly facilitated the research process, at times, I could only find sketchy details on some famous places. In some instances, I am only able to provide you with a name and some of my own memories.

One more point. Many of these establishments still exist; but in most cases, the owners have long departed, and, accordingly, these places may be only a shadow of their former selves.

Here therefore are the stories behind the storied institutions which became an integral part of this era. I am dividing them as between Cairo and Alexandria. They are not listed in any particular order.

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