AAHA = Amicale
Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui : www.aaha.ch
The Ahsan Nas Group
2. l > r
: Paul Newnham, Renée Banoun, Gaby Nahmias, Suzy Sidi, Arlette Gotkine, Solly
3. l > r
: Lawrence Bugeya, Eddie Pinto, Claude Newnham, Denise Lichaa-Cohen, Fawzi Lichaa,
4. l > r
: Oscar Vella, Giovanna Vella, Ivan Vella, Flavio Centofanti, Margherita Agatone
5. l > r
: Anne-Marie Centofanti, Piero Centofanti, - -
6. l > r
: Jenny Schlegel-Briffa, Gérard Briffa, Ann Robinson, Reynold Briffa
7. l > r
: Marlène Grech, Paula Sapiano, Jenny Schlegel-Briffa, Gérard Briffa,
8. l > r
: Rosaria Grech-Coombo, Yseult Camalich, Marie-Thérèse Smith, Gérard Briffa,
Ann Robinson, Reynold Briffa, Sergio Camalich
9. l > r
: Aneurin Coombes, Jackie Kyan, Mario Kyan, Lino Banoun, Simeon Masmanian,
10. l > r
: Flavio Centofanti, - -, Ronnie Harounoff, Suzy Webb, Harold Beaton
11. l > r
: Eva Masmanian, Fouad El-Mekabaty, Caroline Hazan, Jwaydan
12. l > r
: Eva Masmanian, Laura Centofanti, Fouad El-Mekabaty
13. l > r
: Michael Arwas, Alec Caruana
14. l > r
: Herbert and Veronica Magri-Overend
- - - - - - -
a magnificent turnout - as expected of you, the AHSAN NAS were
all faithful to our rendez-vous!
were pacing up and down Great Portland Street when I tried to park on a double yellow line in front of Efes! They greeted me warmly at the entrance with Kazim who reassured me, in his deep Turkish voice, that
ALL was just as I had asked. What more could I wish for, everything was
meticulously in place for the most enjoyable day that lay ahead.
the time I
arrived at the scene, the room was already filled with colour and the sound of
many ‘ahlan wasahlans’, ‘buon giorno carissimi’, 'quel plaisir de vous revoir’, beneath the warm oriental lighthing. Enthusiastic habituées Marlène Grech, Marie-Therèse Smith,
and compagnia bella were busily making sure that their new guests Paula
Sapiano, Charlie, Dulce and Christine Camilleri were given the best seats at their
It felt like a royal venue when guests were coming in two by two and introducing
themselves - many I had not yet met. In came Fawzi (Victor)
and Denise Lichaa friends of Alphonse and Irene Saleh (who regrettably had to
cancel on that morning) Mario and Jackie Kyan, Madeleine and Aneurin Coombes.
was an overwhelming Maltese presence as a result of the combined venues between
the Friends of Malta and the AAHA London group - Herbert and Veronica
Magri-Overend, Ivan and Giovanna Vella, Oscar
and Marjorie Vella, Lawrence Bugeya
(who is an old Aahaian in his own right - Ahlan ya Renzo!), Reynold
Briffa who regrettably apologised for his brother Edmund and Ingeborg Briffa who
were unable to attend.
also apologised on behalf of his wife Patricia who could not come at the last
minute - we missed you Patricia! Gerard Briffa, for whom this was not the first time, came with Ann Robinson and Jenny
Schlegel. Rosaria Grech-Coombo who went out of her way to be with us - brava Rosie!
Yseult and Sergio Camalich, Eddie Malfiggiani and Josephine Byde.
son Fouad honoured me with his presence and his technical expertise as he looked
for the appropriate socket into which to plug my lap-top for the slide show of
our past AAHA lunches and Friends of Malta gatherings. My
brother Flavio, who had told me he was unable to attend, turned up unexpectedly
and to my great relief - el hamdulellah! Surprises
do happen! David and Caroline Hazan who did a lot of the last minute calls and who took many photos,
were there and so was Susan Willock, who maintains an active interest in the
Middle East, mingled freely collecting a few nostalgic musings from some of our fascinating
Ronnie Harounoff, Arlette Gotkine
(see separate account attached herewith). Susan is interested in putting together
two or three accounts each time we meet which could be collated separately to form a collection of memoirs. So if
anyone is interested in submitting memories, please don’t hesitate to e-mail
her directly:- firstname.lastname@example.org
Gaby Nahmias, who came back from Alsace
to be with us, took over ‘La Caisse’. I immediately felt I could finally
relax, secure in the knowledge that the practicalities were in capable hands.
wonderful warm Margherita Agatone
arrived and I felt I was back in
Alexandria. It was a lovely surprise to see Michael Arwas walk in unexpectedly and
wonderful to meet Suzy Sidi at long last - welcome ya Suzy! It was nice to
see you both Paul and Claude Newnham,
and later Stuart. I was happy to see
and Suzy Webb.
came in at first followed later by Lino who was noticed for mingling with the
guests. Simeon Masmanian
arrived with his beautiful and bright daughter Eva followed by our young
and talented Jwaydan Anwar
who came in like a breeze of fresh air.
walked in while I was trying without faltering to put the appropriate names to
the faces and introduce people without making any gaffes. Lovely to see
you with us Alex.
Uncharacteristically, my own mother Anne-Marie and my brother Piero Centofanti were the retardataires! I am still wondering what held them up but, of course I was
grateful they made it!
the maître d’hôtel tried discreetly to serve the welcoming drinks and take
down the orders everyone was finally seated.
then onwards it was the usual plentiful
array of dishes and plentiful they were.
At this stage it is only fitting to thank Kazim and his brave maîtres who, on
every occasion, go out of their way to attend to our every need dodging our
unruly people traffic from one table to the other without causing any disasters.
Well done and thank you for your excellent cuisine and very pleasant service.
the time I plucked up courage to say a word or two I imagined the presence
of the Master himself from the above trying to get hold of my microphone! Lord
knows, I would have been only too happy to pass it to him! I missed Teddy
as I tried to read my own notes without my glasses! Great Start! I decided to first thank my son, Fouad for coming forgetting to tell
everyone that Fouad is a true born and bred young Alexandrian. Shukran ya Waladi
for coming with me.
Teddy Nahmias on my mind, I so very much want to tell all of you who knew him well and
not so well, what a fantastic unique friend I had found in him in such a short
time. Nothing was too much for him even during his short devastating
illness he would find the time to be kind and trusting and talk to me at length
with advice and exciting solutions. He was generous with his time, with
art - he was Special. May he rest in Peace.
who also left us since we last met. He too so enjoyed coming to our
lunches and reminisce about his life and friends in
Alexandria. He has left a big gap within our circle of friends and especially
within my family. His best friend
wrote a lovely tribute for the funeral. May he rest in Peace.
last but not least, we remembered Gaby Nassif who, although he had never
attended our lunches, he was always in touch with me and insisted on being kept
informed of all events. Margherita Agatone was his close friend and companion, she told us a little about
Gaby’s life. She also spoke fondly and emotionally about her life in
Before I passed on the microphone to my brother, Flavio I informed everyone that
we will be holding a special lunch/dinner in October on the occasion of Sandro
Anne-Marie Manzoni’s (founders of the AAHA Group) forthcoming visit to the
UK. In view of this, I would welcome any special ideas you would like to put
forward to me. I would also recommend maximum attendance - especially from those
of you who have not yet attended our meetings.
who when in contact with a microphone has the knack of starting up debates - this time he spoke about how it is possible to always find a
bit of what we loved in our Egypt of today. This created many opinions of
pro and anti across the room and the microphone became a hot commodity.
Herbert Magri-Overend, President of the Friends of Malta introduced his group and
spoke about the role he and his father Ivan had had in the changing of the name
of the Association and he told us of a few anecdotal episodes relating to his e
ly life in Egypt
who managed to find himself seated next to two friends he
had not seen since his teenage years talked about his interest in tracing his ancestry.
enough of all this - thank you all for making this day a very special one
The microphone was passed on from hand to hand to Reynold Briffa then to
who spoke about his best friend
to Paula Sapiano who did not agree with Flavio’s theory then to Suzy Sidi to
Harold Beaton. Harold had the room erupt in a burst of uproarious laughter by telling us a story of typical Alexandrian folklore which he
said could not be printed in the Friends of Malta newsletter and all things
considered, neither shall it be here! All
in all, many of you had something to say and the microphone continued from
Yseult to Sergio Camalich to Gerard Briffa and Charlie Camilleri.
It felt like it had turned out to be a fun and
enjoyable Sunday even though I kept feeling that I had missed out on some
obligations or not always found the Bon Mot, but I hope that was just me being
over-anxious and that you all enjoyed it too.
- - - - - - - - - -
On the day of the 4th AAHA lunch p
ty the weather was grey all day, in sh
p contrast with the animated, beautifully dressed 55 or so people who
arrived at Efe's at 12.30 on Sunday Mar
ch 1. The Friends of Malta
Association were also invited and every seat was occupied.
Laura greeted everyone w
mly in her characteristically charming manner and whilst lunch was served some of the members talked about their
association with, and memories of
told of how his father was born
where he married and then went to Alexandria
to open a shop in Rue Cherif selling antiques and Persian carpets. His family lived by the
Corniche at Cleopatra. Ronnie really
loved life in Alexandria and particularly enjoyed his school days where he attended a mixed school although the girls
were taught in an adjacent building. 'Certainly
had reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s. The population reached 600,000 of whom 100,000 were foreigners... Greeks,
Italians, Maltese, Armenians, Jews and other foreigners flooded into the rapidly
area.' Like so many of this culturally diverse community in
Nasser's presidency changed their idyllic lives. The
nationalisation of the Suez Canal
and the Suez War
of 1956 led to the decimated of the foreign community. 'Fortunes were left by fleeing foreigners and often entire life savings.'
recalled a sudden and dramatic leave-taking when his parents and their four children left for
on the first boat out of Alexandria. They were fortunate to be granted
refugee status in
where his family settled, and he went on to
England to live with his Grandfather where he attended a Grammar
School. His parents lived a successful and fulfilling life in
until they died. He also spoke very
fondly of Teddy Nahmias who had been his friend from kinderg
Alexandria. They stayed very close even living
around the corner from one another in London, and met for lunch regularly, the last occasion being two days before Teddy's death. Ronnie remembers
especially his prodigious memory. Ronnie
and his wife hope to go back and see
again later this year.
talked of his father who had been
in the Royal Air Force and was stationed in Abu-Qir. He married a Maltese woman. He recalled
how his Grandfather and other Maltese nationals went back to
during the 'Urabi revolt against Western, Turkish and Christian influence in
sent an expedition
army force to quell the riots - leading to the re-occupation of
Egypt. Harold attended a British Boys' School which was dedicated to British children and
was established by the British High Commissioner in 1928. This meant that when Harold went to school later on in
he did not find things were very different from what he had experienced in his
talked about how he was born in
Cairo. His family
arrived there from
- fleeing from the chaos of the First World War
. He attended a French school in central
and lived a truly happy life there. He
emphasised how uniquely multi-cultural and tolerant
was at that time. He feels it was a
period of history which has not been successfully replicated anywhere.
for example, 'the French language dominated...the number of children attending
French schools doubled in the space of ten years. [In the 1920s and 30s] this
phenomenon was explained by the 'Frenchification' of Egyptian Jews and
Turco-Arabs...likewise for the "local subjects" of diverse ethnic
origins, who followed the same path.
A further sign was the increased circulation of French language publications.
(La Bourse Egyptienne, Le Journal d'Alexandrie and other periodicals).
David mentioned that when he studied at the College de la Salle a quarter of the students were Egyptian. He
studied Chemistry at
and has spent his career as an industrial chemist in England. He still enjoys a close friendship
with an Egyptian chemist he met as a student.
was born in Alexandria,
Egypt. In her case her Mother's parents came from
and her Father's from
after the First World War. Arlette's father was a banker and
she attended the Lycee de l'Union Juive in Alexandria. She has fond memories of her
childhood, her school friends, her teachers and the times enjoyed at the beach,
and San Stefano. Her nostalgia for Alexandria
is recorded in her poem published on the AAHA website entitled CINQUANTE ANS
SONT PASSES [Fifty Ye
s Have Gone By]. She left Egypt
in 1957 and managed to maintain contact with a number of her childhood friends.
One of them, Teddy Nahmias whom she met at school - it was uncanny how
their paths seemed to cross after they left Egypt, first in Nice and then in
Milan where they both resided and finally in London. Teddy was unique in his knowledge of the whereabouts of a tremendous
number of people and his input, as we know, has been invaluable to a number of
Associations of ex-Egyptians, including AAHA London.
Arlette is in no doubt that st
ting her life in Egypt, and mixing in a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural society
where everyone spoke two or three languages [and took it for granted] was a
great asset and was the reason why they could so well integrate in the countries
where they later found themselves.
or two people mentioned that the reason Israel was not particular
ly attractive to the Jewish community in Egypt was because they were very
cosmopolitan, having more in common with Europe than the new Jewish state. Certainly they enjoyed a very culturally varied life in
- at one time, extreme affluent Jews were central to
Egypt's economy. 'Jews were ... involved
in banking, cotton and sugar
production, tourism gold and silver jewellery, they also ran large departmental stores... Joseph Qatawi was the Jewish Minister of Finance in Zaghlul's
cabinet  and another Jew was appointed Egyptian Consul to France
- - - - - - - - -
& Renee BANOUN
& Sergio CAMALICH
& Aneurin COOMBES
Stuart & Arlette GOTKINE
& Jackie KYAN
and Fawzi LICHAA
& Veronica MAGRI-OVEREND
& Eva MASMASIAN
& Paul NEWNHAM
& Marjorie VELLA
& Giovanna VELLA
& Doreen BORG-HAMPTON
and Ingeborg BRIFFA
Gerard DE BOTTON
and Beryl CAMILLERI
& Huguette HARROP
and Helen MOUSSALLI
& Hilda SACHETT
& Irene SALEM
AAHA = Amicale
Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui : www.aaha.ch