I held the key to our past in Egypt: Jean Naggar

 In her memoir ‘Sipping from the Nile’, Jean Naggar (pictured), tried to salvage the story of her family’s ‘disenfranchisement’ from Egypt. She makes a welcome debut in the Huffington Post:

My mother’s Smouha family had deep roots in the Middle East, probably
going back to the first Diaspora. Her mother came from Damascus, Syria.
Her father was born in Baghdad. They met and married in Manchester,
England, and began to raise a family there. Business for the British
government took my grandfather, Joseph Smouha, to Egypt, where he
eventually settled with his family, contributing his vision and his
integrity to the city of Alexandria, draining the mosquito-infested
Hadra lakes to build a fine development still known as Smouha City.

My father’s Mosseri family, prosperous merchants in Toledo, Spain,
arrived in Egypt in the 18th century, tracing a path back to the Spanish
Inquisition of the late 1400s. They fled Spain for Livorno, Italy,
where they reinvented their lives and traded across the Mediterranean.
Eventually, some decided to settle in Cairo, Egypt. Once again
reinventing themselves, the Mosseri family wove their lives into the
social, economic and cultural fabric of Egypt. They embraced the
multi-cultural, post-colonial world in which they found themselves and
were in turn embraced by it, creating networks across national and
religious lines that led them to live peaceably and productively
alongside their Egyptian neighbors, producing eminent financiers,
journalists, jurists and real estate developers. As time went on, their
many achievements enabled them to undertake the establishment of
hospitals, schools, orphanages and community centers.

In 1948 with the emergence of the State of Israel, the balance
between Arabs and Jews underwent a profound change. In 1956, I watched
my father become unwelcome in his own life. An official summoned him to
government offices to pick up an expulsion notice to leave Egypt
immediately. Glancing at the address, my father was dumbfounded by the
irony: compelled to leave his homeland and the lifework of five
generations forever, he was summoned to offices located on the very
street that a grateful Egyptian government had named for his father.

My grandchildren hold the key to the future, but I held the key to
their past, to a time before economics, politics and war blew entire
families, like thistledown, across the face of the world to forge a
future in foreign soil. So I wrote a memoir, “Sipping from the Nile, My
Exodus from Egypt,” to give my children and grandchildren a glimpse at a
past from which they were forever excluded.

But I also wrote it in the hope that a profound disenfranchisement so
little acknowledged by the larger world would not disappear without
trace. The Suez crisis – that footnote in history – hurled Egypt’s
Jewish communities into exile, leaving homes, businesses, social
structures, lifelong friendships and fortunes behind.

Read article in full

Sipping from the Nile: a review

2 Comments

  • For whatever reason, Jean Naggar leaves out all of the oppression & persecution of Jews before Napoleon circa 1798

    Reply
  • I certainly empathise with our friend!
    How many lives have been ruined out of pure jealousy.
    But we can see what their land is now without their Jews
    sultana

    Reply

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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