AAHA = Amicale Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui : www.aaha.ch


Ahsan Nas

EFES Restaurant, Lunch, Sunday 31th October 2010


Dear Friends, 

I am conscious that the last time we met we had not yet been plunged into December darkness and the sound of Christmas cheer well on its way with the unprecedented snow falls and the total city grinding to a halt as a result.

It was Halloween and I was pleased to see that so many of you did not, in fact, go Trick-or-Treating. Instead you contended with the small plastic beasties and skeletons crawling onto your napkins….  I had to mark the occasion somehow!!

Some of you could not make it because of the change of date. Apologies went in particular to Alex BENAKIS whose sister Daphne KRAMPS was booked to come from Athens in time for the 7th November but could not change her dates. A la prochaine Daphne inchallah!

 Sadly October brought with it, sad long goodbyes to our friend Stuart Gotkine, Arlette’s husband, who religiously came to meet her after each of our lunches in time for his coffee and group photo.  We’ll miss his shy appearances.  Goodbye also to GĂ©rrard de Botton who passed away while in France a couple of weeks before. Our condolences, on behalf of the AaHa group were sent to their close ones.

 October in Alexandria used to be my favourite month.  We would still be staying in our house in Agami when the first rain would wash out and cleanse the dates from the few Palm trees which were allowed to grow in Bianchi – it was called ‘ghassil balah’. 

The bedouin would then come with his ‘sabat’ (basket) full of red and yellow dates to give us the first crop.  We used to crunch the red ones there and then and slave over the many kilos of yellow dates to make ‘merrabet balah’ for the e3la (the entire family)! I am still craving for the date jam… my brother Flavio went to Egypt and came back without it!!  So, if anyone knows where I can get hold of a bartaman (jar) of Egyptian date jam please let me know.

There were many Hellos:

 Dimitry (Micky) CAPAITZIS  was introduced to us by Michael and Loutfia HAAG - they could not make it this time.  Micky is a historian/writer/traveller who told us about his rich and interesting experiences around the world – I have heard him debate on contemporary issues with Michael and Flavio and believe me it was not  possible to get a word in edgeways!   Ahlan Micky!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Alex BENAKIS told us that he too is writing a book, a collection of memoirs around  his experiences and times which have inevitably  brought him to his colourful years in Alexandria.  He was also very keen to tell us about his friend Philip Mansel whose latest book, ‘Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean  is to be published very soon.  Alex will be bringing Philip Mansel to our next lunch. We are looking forward to it.

Welcome to George and Marie-Therese BUHAGIAR  cousins of our mascots Marlene and Marie-Therese GRECH. George and  Marie-Therese introduced themselves and talked to us about their time in Egypt.

 Hello to Albert DASSA and his cousin Youssef  ISKANDARANI (I think we have no doubts about where Youssef comes from!!)  Albert told us of his long friendship with Teddy Nahmias and  how much he misses him.  We were all very moved  because this was  the 2nd anniversary  since  Teddy left us.

 Hello to Dr Janice McCAFFERY who is Herbert and Veronica’s friend and Dentist – so, any of you not too fond of your local dentist?  Welcome Janice!

 Hello again to Alex CARUANA (long time no see) and Hello Edward MARSLAND  -  both had just come back from Crete in time for our lunch!!  Alex told us about the time when he went to the Cottesloe (National) Theatre in 1991 to watch  ‘The white Chameleon’ by Christopher Hampton .  Remember, I sent you all the link on Radio 4 when it was being aired  a few months ago. He told us of the amazing occasion during one scene portraying the BBS school play. Alex actually saw someone playing himself on stage.  Alex wrote to Christopher Hampton enclosing a cutting of the Egyptian Gazette of 30 April, 1956 with the review of the play.  The writer wrote back to Alex confirming that he remembered him as a boy and how happy he was to have heard from “the star of the very first play he ever saw”.   Fascinating stuff.  Thanks Alex.

 If anyone is passionate about the Tramway of Alexandria  - Tony PULIS is your man,  He is an expert on the subject and has enlightened me on many tram stops I didn’t know existed… I have to alert Sandro Manzoni that Tony would be very interested in issue No. 5 entitled “Les Trams d’Alexandrie” The photocopy I did for him  was not satisfactory.    

 For the piece de resistance : Claudie NEWNHAM –COHEN  talked to us about her book ‘Il etait une autre fois’ following her recent book launch this summer.  She introduced it  by evoking the blue cover of her book representing the blue skies of her youth in Alexandria.  Needless to say, it was a great success and many of us had to have our own copy – even two!  Well done Claudie.  When do you start on the next one?

 Hello again to Suzy HOWSE and Bryan SMITH who were looking forward to meeting Margherita AGATONE.  But Margherita was not there.  Hopefully next time.

 It was very nice to see Rosaria GRECH COOMBO-PATINIOTT with us.  She made a huge effort to be with us. Grazie Rosie.

 Gerrard BRIFFA very elegantly thanked us for organizing the lunch and gave us an interesting account of his recent well organized trip to Egypt.  

 The microphone passed on to Harold BEATON who, as usual, kept us amused with his very special anecdotes.  Thanks Harold.

 Ronnie HAROUNOFF who, together with Suzy WEBB, had gone to Egypt earlier in the year with the group organized through the AAHA also gave us a brief account of their pleasant experiences.

Hello to Natasha & Spyros KONIDARIS-STEPHANOU who are now my neighbours in SW London.  Nice to see you again.

 Hello again to Marlene and Marie-Therese GRECH we missed you!

 Hello to Herbert and Veronica MAGRI-OVEREND.  Herbert is so natural with the microphone and is always so good at remembering to thank the staff of EFES on our behalf for the fantastic service. 

You are a professional Herbert – I have a lot to learn from you!  Thank you.

Thank you Piero CENTOFANTI for making such a special effort to be present when I knew you had so much to be getting on with.  I appreciate it.

 Although he could not attend special mention has to go to David HAZAN  for his lovely CD ‘Vaya con Dios’ in memory of our beloved Teddy Nahmias who left us at around the same time two years ago.  I know some of you have received it. David sent me a couple of extra copies which he has asked me to give to anyone who wanted it. This I did.  The CD played throughout our lunch David!  Thank you for a very nice and valued gesture.

 FINALLY,  thank you Gaby again for being there – I know you’ve had a few tough weeks prior to the lunch.  Hello Philippe ISMALUN it was nice to see you as always.

 Thank you ALL you regulars who come each time.  You are the backbone of this group without whom it just would not be the same!!


I have been asked by all who were unable to come to say hello to you and ‘a la prochaine’!



You will find the photos of our nice lunch if you click on PHOTOS



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Laura Centofanti



AAHA = Amicale Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui : www.aaha.ch