That’s my house in Egypt you’re living in

Tahrir Square has been in the news as the focal point for Egypt’s ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions. But how many people know that the imposing buildings around it were once home to Cairo’s wealthy Jews ? In an extraordinary five-page feature published on 12 July in the Weekend Supplement of the Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot titled “That was my house “(no link available), Ronen Bergman explores the highly sensitive question of property and assets seized without compensation from Jews in Egypt. The list is not exhaustive (with thanks: Levana):

 That’s my house you’re living in… or mansion, or palace. Partial list of Jewish properties around Tahrir Square

Joseph Nissims home on the banks of the Nile: Now the residence of the Russian ambassador. The site houses the modern Russian embassy.

Victor Castro‘s palace: now Jehan Sadat’s residence. Egyptian government property.

Emile Zikov‘s house – now the Pakistani embassy.

Isaac Abdo‘s house: the merchant’s home is now the South Korean embassy.

The home of the Zuckerman family. Now the Swiss embassy.

Maurice Cattaoui‘s home. Now the German embassy.

Ovadia Salem‘s house. The home of the manager of the Chemla department store is today the Canadian embassy.

Guido Levy‘s house. Today the Dutch embassy.

Moise Cattaoui‘s house. Today the Great Library of Cairo.

Henri Curiel‘s house. Today the Algerian embassy.

The Castro family house. Today the embassy of Bahrain.

The Rollo family house. Formerly the US embassy. Now in private hands.

Salvatore Cicurel‘s house. Became a stock exchange and events hall. Now part of the US embassy.

The Chemla, Ades, Benzion, Levy, Cicurel, Orosdi Bak department stores still exist, but are owned by the Egyptian government.

My house is your house: Jewish rights denied

14 Comments

  • Hi Solomon,

    My name is Eric Victor T. My mother’s maiden name is Green, and I am named after her father Victor Vita Haim Green. He also had a son named Felix, and a nephew named Jacob Aslan. I came across your post and was wondering if you could help me learn more about my family. It’s possible we have common ancestry.

    Reply
  • My family were actually lucky. Our villa and garden stretching from the Nile Corniche to the main road and tramway was requisitioned to provide the Giza site for the University bridge across the Nile and we remined in the property until July 1956 when compensation was paid. My parents then moved to a villa in Zamalek that we already owned and which had been recently vacated by a British tenant.
    The Zamalek villa was nationalised after my mother left Egypt in 1962. It was then occupied, temporarily, by a friend, who was a tenant of another of our properties. Although he was already a senior civil servant, who later became Governor of Shubra, he was forced to vacate the house in favour of Field Marshal Hakim Amer's brother. When my wife and I visited the that villa, where we had been married, it was still occupied by the brother and his family who were petrified that they might be evicted by government.

    My uncle Moise's grandchildren were also lucky in that, after the death of the last of his children living in the villa in Sharia Talaat Harb (ex Soliman Pasha), they were able to sell it privately before it was nationalised and pulled down.

    After his death in 1967 uncle Ralph's villa and garden in Giza was expropriated (originally to build a library for the Russian Embassy). I have been unable to trace what has happened to his villa in Alexandria nor that of my uncle Felix (who was murdered in 1945). Felix's widow lived in Paris and his children in Israel so the villa was almost certainly sequestrated in 1948.

    My grandfather's villa, including the synagogue, still exists but it has been turned into Dokki Police station and a mosque has been built in its garden.

    Solomon Green

    Reply
  • My family were actually lucky. Our villa and garden stretching from the Nile Corniche to the main road and tramway was requisitioned to provide the Giza site for the University bridge across the Nile and we remined in the property until July 1956 when compensation was paid. My parents then moved to a villa in Zamalek that we already owned and which had been recently vacated by a British tenant.
    The Zamalek villa was nationalised after my mother left Egypt in 1962. It was then occupied, temporarily, by a friend, who was a tenant of another of our properties. Although he was already a senior civil servant, who later became Governor of Shubra, he was forced to vacate the house in favour of Field Marshal Hakim Amer's brother. When my wife and I visited the that villa, where we had been married, it was still occupied by the brother and his family who were petrified that they might be evicted by government.

    My uncle Moise's grandchildren were also lucky in that, after the death of the last of his children living in the villa in Sharia Talaat Harb (ex Soliman Pasha), they were able to sell it privately before it was nationalised and pulled down.

    After his death in 1967 uncle Ralph's villa and garden in Giza was expropriated (originally to build a library for the Russian Embassy). I have been unable to trace what has happened to his villa in Alexandria nor that of my uncle Felix (who was murdered in 1945). Felix's widow lived in Paris and his children in Israel so the villa was almost certainly sequestrated in 1948.

    My grandfather's villa, including the synagogue, still exists but it has been turned into Dokki Police station and a mosque has been built in its garden.

    Solomon Green

    Reply
  • Hi Mandy, Its me Yvette, writing. I sent you an email. glad you found this site. I am currently in Florida with my grandson Dylan. I will be back in August. i will call you then. love Yvette

    Reply
  • I am Yvette Salem,a niece of Ovardia Salem. There are other relations scattered around Europe and Israel. We should have some sort of plaque on the wall of the house at least.

    Reply
    • Hi Yvette, I am married to Ovadia's Brother Dario's Grandson. My late Father in law was Santo, Ovadias nephew. This line of our family live over in the UK x

      Reply
    • Hi Yvette, I am married to Ovadia's Brother Dario's Grandson. My late Father in law was Santo, Ovadias nephew. This line of our family live over in the UK x

      Reply
  • Thanks for these references, Malca. Unfortunately I know of nothing more specific to the area around Tahrir square, apart from the site egy.com.

    Reply
  • Are there on-line references supporting the specific claims in the published map?

    http://www.bh.org.il/he/database-article.aspx?48703
    via google translate
    Jewish community in Cairo, Egypt
    . . . .
    In the second quarter of the twentieth century wealthy families stayed around Midan Al – Tahrir and conducted a Western lifestyle. Exclusive suburb of Maadi and that in 1945 there were 555 families.
    . . . .
    In 1954 were Jewish underground cell in Cairo, and intensified hostility, and following the Sinai Campaign (1956) Jewish property was confiscated and closed community institutions. Many went to Israel. On the whole Egypt in 1960 were about 8,500 Jews.

    In addition, here are some general references which mention that members of the Jewish community lived and owned residences in Tahrir.

    1. My life in Abu Zaabal and Tora and other accounts at HSJE.org, the HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT.

    2. Aricles by Jehan Sadat, et al, edited by Aleya Serour: http://www.aucpress.com/freeebooks/WritingEgypt.pdf/
    This is the publisher's information on page 2 of Writing Egypt: History, Literature, and Culture: copyright 2012 ISBN 9781617971419 . The publisher is The American University in Cairo Press.

    Reply
  • I'm avidly WITH you, but alas, at the moment the Egyptians are beggars on short rations. We've waited 60 years. Let's keeep an eye on it. Good job!

    Reply
  • The most important point is the solution brought in this article by Uzi Arad – former Head of the Israeli "National Security Headquarter" – to pay COMPENSATIONS TO BOTH SIDES, out of the International Fund proposed by Bill Clinton at Camp David 2, on July 2000. This is one of the 8 resolutions of the N.S.H. "working paper", presented to Bibi Netanyahu by Uzi Arad on that matter.
    We could only wonder why this International Fund is not yet established, when it seems as a real solution to the so-called Palestinian Problem, and a real tool for Peace.
    Levana Zamir

    Reply
  • "The Rollo family house. Formerly the US embassy. Now in private hands."

    If the US embassy occupied the Rollo family home for a number of years without paying rent to the Rollos, then they should demand unpaid back rent from the Americans. They were using property stolen from the rightful owners. The US is in arrears.

    Reply

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