[ilds] The Lost Capital of Memory

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 14 07:40:57 PDT 2009

I don't think Daniel Williams is lying or exaggerating in his article  
for Bloomberg news, and I take his point to be true.  Namely, the  
niqab (a woman's full-length body cloak, where only the eyes are  
exposed) has become standard swimming gear for Islamic women around  
Alex.  The women in Marc's submitted photos may be Copts or foreigners  
or some brave Egyptians.  (Egypt has a large Coptic population, maybe  
ten percent.)  I don't think they're Jews, because, as Charles has  
pointed out, there are very, very few Jews living in Egypt today,  
because of the hostile policies of the Egyptian government.  You will  
recall that Eve Cohen, aka Justine, was essentially stateless when she  
lived in Egypt, because she was a Jew.  Re the wearing of the niqab,  
I'm one with the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, who said  
recently, more or less, that it's a form of female imprisonment.


On Aug 14, 2009, at 1:26 AM, Marc Piel wrote:

> I asked an Egyptian to send me some photos of the people on the  
> beaches: these apparently tell another story!!! He is just outside  
> Alexandria; nobody swimms in Alex's beaches any more because of the  
> polution! My friend went out and took these photos for me.
> Marc
> Bruce Redwine a écrit :
>> Charles,
>> I am no authority on Alexandria, just a casual observer.  I was  
>> there for only five days, but the trends were disturbing.  The old  
>> cosmopolitan culture of Greeks, Jews, Copts, Christians, Arabs,  
>> Armenians, et al. is disappearing.  The city is no longer Durrell's  
>> city of diversity and tolerance.  Read Dr. Mohamed Awad's article  
>> in /Deus Loci,/ "The House Revisited, the City Remembered" (vol. 7,  
>> 1999-2000), for a local assessment of the cultural situation.  Also  
>> read and study Michael Haag's book of old photographs, V/intage  
>> Alexandria:  Photographs of the City 1860-1960 /(Cairo 2008).  That  
>> city is quickly vanishing.  More distressingly, some try to wipe  
>> out that memory and say it never really existed or was never  
>> representative of "real" Alexandria.  /VA/ was recently reviewed  
>> in /TLS /(26 June 2009), and the reviewer, Maria Golia, an American  
>> and longtime resident of Cairo, assumes the Islamist viewpoint and  
>> claims that Durrell's "capital of Memory" was never more than a  
>> society enjoyed by the families of "the very, very few."  Golia  
>> presumably means rich, decadent families of foreign lineage.  She  
>> sounds a good deal like Mr. Sobhi Saleh, a Muslim Brotherhood MP,  
>> as quoted in Daniel Williams's article.  Haag responded to Golia's  
>> review and wrote, "They were not so few, and their families had  
>> been in Egypt for generations, in some cases for centuries.  They  
>> had been welcomed in Egypt for their expertise, energy and capital;  
>> they played a major role in developing the country — they played an  
>> authentic part in Egyptian history" /(TLS,/ 2 July 2009).  Seems to  
>> me, that in Egypt today there is a concerted effort to deny the  
>> history that Haag refers to, the same one Durrell cherished.
>> Bruce
>> On Aug 13, 2009, at 12:17 PM, Charles Sligh wrote:
>>> Thanks for the Alexandrian report, Bruce.
>>>>       *Alexandria* needs *“stable” community values*, he insisted.
>>>>       *Sensuality*, if it means *sexuality*, is not part of *the
>>>>       social equation*. Even *the library* — with its *museum* that
>>>>       includes *pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic relics
>>>>       *— is misguided, Mr. Saleh said.
>>>>       “There, *Islam* is just one topic among many. We don’t like
>>>>       those *naked Greek statues*. Anyway, *that’s over*. Islam
>>>>       should have a special status at the library,” he said. “This
>>>>       is *a Muslim city* in *a Muslim country*; that is our
>>>>       *identity*.”
>>> Where to begin discussion of those statements?
>>> I have *deformed* the report in order to indicate what strikes me.
>>> I fancy that I tend to imagine history in terms of 1.000 to 2,000  
>>> year
>>> epochs.
>>> The City comes; the City goes--willy, nilly--Alexandria, she is  
>>> always
>>> "leaving" us.
>>> The Greeks and the Jews and the Romans and the Christians and the  
>>> Turks
>>> and the French and the English came and went.
>>> The great poets of secular history, such as Cavafy, Kipling, and
>>> Durrell, teach me that Islam once came and someday, inevitably,  
>>> will go.
>>> What new sect or cultus or tribe will follow?  Will anyone still be
>>> there to notice or to remember?
>>> But I would rather have some actual present-day Alexandrians from  
>>> the
>>> listserv commenting.
>>> Charles

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