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 – XXXVII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Father’s Business (1 of 4)

If you find yourself in today’s Cairo, and have the desire to shop in a colorful area, go to the Mosky district. This district starts from El Attaba square and is parallel to El Azhar Mosque and El Hussein Mosque.

El Mosky is known for offering a variety of goods at reasonable prices. But be prepared to bargain.

Some examples of what you can find there: Clothing stores that offer all kinds and styles of outfit. A bride can go to El Mosky and get all what she needs for her wedding. There is a street (El Mo’ez El Din Allah Al Fatemy) with perfume boutiques where you can get unusual fragrances, as well as different kind of herbs that you can use in incense. On Hammam El Talat street, you have shops selling home utensils. Finally, Darb El Barabra is not to be missed as it is the most important market in Egypt. It used to be known for its candies; today, however, you will come across establishments selling chandeliers, lamp shades, antiques crystals, and all that you could possibly need for weddings and baby showers. The merchants will do their best to meet your budgetary requirements.

I recently went to Cairo and revisited El Mosky. During my visit there, I didn’t buy one single item! Only a man can go to such a colorful market and come out empty-handed!

My visit to El Mosky was really a walk down memory lane, for that is where Nessim and Maurice conducted their business for some 14 years. Therefore, let me go back some 65 years and try to bring back to life those faraway days.

The aforementioned Hammam El Talat included an area known as Hamzaoui. And that is where my dad and his partner owned the business that put food on our tables. They were not retailers (like the enterprises discussed above), they were an import business (although they bought some of their china locally). They sold their wares to wholesalers and retailers (retailers that had their own stores, or who were street vendors).

(Hammam El Talat means the Tuesday Bath House. Was it still used as a Bath House? And if so, was it used only on Tuesday? I don’t remember getting a clear answer to those questions. I am not attempting to confuse you, but there was also Hammam El Arbaa which means the Wednesday Bath House. Again, I raise the same questions for whom I have no answers. If any of you is Egyptian and have even tentative answers, feel free to provide them).

At the beginning of this narrative (Part VI), I outlined the circumstances which led to the birth of this business. What I want to reiterate here is the fact that Maurice had expertise in the china business, whereas Nessim was a good administrator (having worked in a bank for many years).

Sometimes in 1942, Ezri et Kaire co. came into being. The partnership continued until 1956, an indication that the partners got along, or at least, when it became necessary, were willing to compromise.

Nessim and Maurice had different personalities; that would have been a blessing if they complemented each other, but they didn’t. Maurice complained that my dad was difficult to deal with. Had you taken a straw poll among friends and relatives, all would have heartily concurred with Maurice.

Nessim, on the other hand, complained that Maurice could be reckless in his business dealings. For instance, Maurice was willing to extend credit to customers with a poor credit history. As well, more than once, Maurice buying decisions resulted in slow- moving inventory, and eventually losses. In fairness to Maurice, dad (like me) was very conservative and unwilling to take risks. In time, Nessim understood a basic business principle: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Viewed from that angle, Maurice was a positive influence on my father who, years later, admitted as much.

Whatever their differences, they managed to establish a thriving business. Their wares were unusual, and their customers appreciated that. Dad and his partner never became wealthy, but they provided for their families in style.

Before I move on to other aspects of the business, I would like to state that dad and Maurice were more than just partners, they were good friends. Indeed, his partner lived two floors above us, and our families saw each other virtually on a daily basis.

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