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


Ahsan Nas

EFES Restaurant, Lunch, Sunday 23rd October 2011


Logic will take you from  A to B. imagination will take you everywhere (A. Einstein)


Sunday 23rd October, 2011      

EFES Restaurant

Dear All,

Two weeks ago today, we met at Efes for the 8th time.

Long live Efes! – faithful to our ‘rendez-vous’.  Efes has had a facelift and a few changes of personnel since the last time we met.  Kazim, the owner, I was told, was at home recovering from a knee operation.  Get well soon Kazim!

The usual menu of various mezze included many oriental dips, liver morcels and cheese sambousek.  This was followed by the grilled main course – all of which was served in abundance, promptly and was particularly tasty.  So thank you Efes for making our meetings fun, tasty and hassle free.

Although I did make a conscious effort to make a note in my diary and avoid lunches too close to Halloween, too close to Xmas, too near the Summer holidays, or during the Easter holidays, somehow I still feel I haven’t got it just right! Many of you were on holiday, business trips, many were bound by family commitments, one or two birthday celebrations, others have had workmen  and some have not been too well ( 10 cancellations in the last couple of days alone)!!  Everyone sent their Regrets and their best wishes.

 In spite of dwindling numbers – we were thirty and we had a lovely time.

 I hope you’ve all had a good summer and that you’ve got your logs ready for the chimney for the cosey winter ahead!

 Veronica Magri-Overend and Dr Janice Boswell took over the accounting (my bĂȘte noire).  Thank you Veronica and Janice for sorting it out.  This was very much appreciated as it allowed me the ease of meeting and greeting the guests.

 Marlene Grech and Marie-Therese Smith were the first guests to greet me with some lovely dates (the edible kind).  They looked lovely having coffee in the sunshine at the entrance of  Efes .  Thank you for remembering that I crave for Balah (dates) at this time of year.

 As promised us at our last meeting, Alex Benakis came with his illustrious friend Dr Philip Mansel.

 Dr Philip Mansel, is a historian of France and the Middle East.  He has studied in Oxford and Paris and has lived in Beirut and Istanbul.  He expertly took us through the colourful history of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire through to their decline.  He accentuated the importance and the influence of Mohamed Ali in promoting education, language and the arts and his particular preference for Alexandria and the importance of  being an ‘Alexandrian’.

He also read for us an excerpt from one of Cavafy’s poems.

Among the books he brought with him was ‘Constantinople City of the World’s Desire’ a portrait of the Ottoman capital as an international cross-roads between 1453 and 1924; ‘Sultans in Splendour’ with many photographs of Sultans and of the Egyptian Royal Family; as well as his latest book ‘Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean’ a first history in English based on unpublished family papers and diplomatic documents of modern Alexandria, Smyrna and Beirut.  He sees them not only as individual cities but also as part of the Mediterranean and Levantine worlds.

 He briefly explaind the origin and the existence of the Capitulations which were contracts/concessions given to foreigners by the Ottoman Empire to other European powers, particularly France.

Incidentally, Harold Beaton’s father was once a citizen of Smyrna and only got out with the help of the Royal Navy when the city was burnt down by the Turks.

 Herbert Magri-Overend stated that the origin of these concessions were the desire of Louis XIV, in the 17th Century, to find an ally outside Europe when he was being threatened by European Powers at home.

 Dr Mansel also brought to our attention the existence of a research group called ‘Levantine Heritage’ – an informal, non-political group and discussion forum for people interested in the heritage of  our communities.  These comprise both academic researchers as well as descendants of those communities, the various aspects of their culture, including genealogy, cuisine, architecture and economic history.  If you would like to join their network and share in their research, please get in touch with  Craig Encer (Coordinator) craigencer@yahoo.com    -                                 


 Hello again to Raymond Levy, whom I had met at a different venue a few months ago, Georges and Annette Psaros  who had to travel  a long way to get here  - well done and thank you for coming.  Georges promised to give me a hand with the  editing of the photos and I need lots of help!

It was nice to see Arlette Gotkine, we missed you - any new poems in the making?

 Hello to Solly Gabbay and Ronnie Harounoff,  it would not have been the same without you and hello to Natasha and Spyros Konidaris from Barnes. 

 Hello to my mother Anne-Marie and my brother Piero and thank you, as always, for your loving and constant support.

 Hello to the Vellas Oscar and Marjorie, Ivan and Giovanna and to the Wirths Gilbert and Rosemary, Herbert and Renate nawartouna! (you brought light to us!)

Gilbert and Herbert have promised to provide us with a little light musical entertainment at our next meeting and I am personally looking forward to it.

 Hello to Herbert and Veronica Magri-Overend and hello Dr Janice Boswell who came back for your free yearly dental check-ups!  In her spare time she also trains dogs for the blind.

 Hello Yseult Camalich and her lovely daughter Victoria who, being the youngest member of our group, has promised to bring new fresh ideas for communication within technology!  Welcome!

 Thank you all for coming today and for making it a particularly fun day.

 The Friends of Malta Luncheon on the 5th of November, which I advertised, has come and gone and was also a very pleasant and successful do with a small orchestra, a lovely lunch and lots of enticing raffle surprises which comprised 4 tickets to Malta.

 As announced, I took the photos in small groups as opposed to the usual table photos and the group photos and they have turned out reasonably well.  Do let me know what you think.

 This summer I went to Italy in the Mountains near Torino and I stopped at a friend’s Bed & Breakfast in the countryside in Roppolo  - it was a delightful  and peaceful place – all the more because my friend, Loretta, who is the owner, is herself very charming and an excellent hostess.  So, I thought you might like the links for when you find yourself in the area :



 Incidentally, Loretta has also lived in Alexandria for many years in the 80s.



Newsletter and Cahiers

The annual subscription is Euro 20.-  or equivalent for those of you who wish to receive a copy of the Newsletter and Euro 5.- for any of the Cahiers see this link: http://www.aaha.ch/cahiers/sommaire.htm

 The next Alexandrie Info No. 37 (Decembre 2011) will be ready within the next few days.

Sandro Manzoni has sent me the list of the people who receive the newsletter and I have noticed that many of you have not yet sent your participation for the current year.  Kindly let me know if you wish to continue to receive the said newsletter or whether you are no longer interested.

 Our next meeting :  Sunday 25th March 2012

Please make sure you let me know as soon as possible if that date clashes with any anniversaries, birthdays, travel plans, meetings, etc… and confirm to me which of the Sundays in March you would prefer.

 PS.:  I almost forgot Harold Beaton’s Nocta as told by himself!

 The frollowing is my little story (nocta):

Wagui Ghali

The last AAHA luncheon, pleasant as it was, found me facing a group of eager ex Alexandrians waiting for a funny story and realising that my stock of such stories is invariably unprintable and scurrilous. So what's to do? I decided to talk about a dear  school friend of mine, now sadly departed, who led a wild bohemian kind of life and put an end to it very prematurely, possibly drug related.

 Wagui Ghali was a Copt, hence a true Egyptian, and as such was fiercly nationalistic, with many a friendly yet fierce argument between us as to the rights and wrongs of the British presence in Egypt. Yet for all that he made his way to England and was becoming recognised as an up and coming journalist. He eventually published a novel called 'Beer at the Snooker Club', a somewhat autobiographical account of his time in London. Sadly, this novel is now out of print.

When the Suez affair brewed up and Eden's government went to war, two men from the Home Office called in on Wagui and escorted him to Dover and out of the country, as an undesirable alien. However, after some years he did, in fact, return. This is when I met up with him and heard this account from him.

On arrival at Calais, or Ostend, what could he reasonably do to earn a living. Being an Alexandrian, he started translating between the various languages Alexandrians are blessed with. He must have taken in German because he drifted over there and did some work, even as he admitted to me, for the British army as one of his clients. In fact, he admitted, some of the documents were classified. So much for military intelligence. Et voila, that's the story of poor Wagui Ghali. We don't know why he put an end to himself a little while later as he would have become famous. 

 Photos taken during the reunion

Laura Centofanti


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