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 – XXIV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (9 of 18)

Aunt Linda

By the 20th century, it was no longer enough to teach your daughter how to make the perfect kobeba! Forward-looking families were sending their children to school; and my grandparents embraced this progressive development.

The day came when little Linda (my maternal grandparents oldest child) marched to school. It was a French school, and, to the best of my recollection, its name was L’alliance Francaise.

Linda would be followed, first by Rachel, next by Maurice, and finally by Flora. My mother went up to grade 11, but never completed her high school education. The reason was that she had managed to secure a good secretarial job with a prestigious import-export firm, Mosseri et Curiel.

What was occurring with the Rosenzweig family in Alexandria, was also happening with the Ezri clan in Cairo.

First Joseph went to school. A year later, he was followed by Nessim, next came Maurice, and finally, it was Angele’s turn. The name of the school was Le College Francais (the very same school Robert and I later attended).

Schools were not coed in those days. And for some reason, the education of the men differed from that of the women, at least where languages were concerned. In Alexandria, my mother and my aunts, after they had completed their education in an all-girls school, were illiterate in Arabic! Not only could they not read and write the official language, but they also knew very little Classical Arabic. (Classical Arabic is very different from the popular Arabic which is the everyday language, and which doesn’t exist in written form).

Uncle Maurice went to an all-boys school and was, to the best of my knowledge, educated in both French and Arabic.

A parallel situation existed in Cairo. My dad and his two brothers went to an all-boys school and were proficient in both languages.

Aunt Angele went to an all-girls school and came out illiterate in Arabic. Curiously, though, she could, to some extent, understand nahaoui (Classical Arabic).

By the time my generation was educated, it would have been unthinkable for a school to not offer Arabic as part of its curriculum.

I am reminded that this section is about tante Linda. Therefore, I am now going back to her.

Linda and her sisters were well schooled in the art of running a complex household. They then went on their own way, and developed their own style in accordance with their personalities and circumstances of their lives.

Aunt Linda had 5 children. Therefore, she had to meet the needs of 7 people. In the summer we (my mother, Robert, and myself) came to her house for two months. She then had to cater to 10 people. At times, there were special occasions, and she managed to entertain guests on top of her already crowded household. What amazes me, even to the present day, was that she managed to make it look easy.

Today, many years after her passing, I remember her as a superb planner. Few things caught her by surprise. She was also a loving and skilled mother. Her children adored both parents. While their dad (uncle Vita) tended to be somewhat lax, she played exceptionally well the role of the tough sergeant.

She also had a strong personality. I may have been 10 when I learned a lesson I never forgot. I complained to her that her meals tended to repeat themselves. I urged her to vary her menu. I should have kept my mouth shut, for she tore into me. She made it clear that she didn’t need advice from a little boy. That over two months, some dishes will be repeated. Finally, she said that if I wasn’t pleased, I could have my meals at the Hatti (famous Cairo restaurant specializing in mechoui, i.e. grilled meat, kabob, and the like).

I never locked horns with her again!

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