Adonis Diaries

The “Tarbouche” by Robert Sole’: Book review part 1

Posted on: October 12, 2021

Note: In this book was published in 1992 by Robert Sole’ who lived in Egypt for 17 years and became the chief editor of the French “Le Monde”. A detailed stories of the Syrian community and the history of Egypt since Mohamad Ali until the revolution of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The term “Syrians” in the book refers to all those who emigrated to Egypt after 1860 from current state of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. They were called Syrians because they constituted one people and had open borders and daily trade.

Most of them left/fled after the terrible massacres perpetrated on the Christian communities in Aleppo, Damascus and Lebanon that left thousands of dead and lingering trauma for those who survived the lynching, rape and insane behaviors.

These massacres were initiated by the Ottoman empire to punish the interference of the western colonial powers in communities that seemed to prefer cultural alliances with them.

Le Tarbouche is a detailed history of modern Egypt since1830 until the coup d’etat of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954, and particularly the cultural/educational/political leaning of generations of the Greek catholic sect that settled in Egypt.

I decided to start from the end, the note in the diary of Michel Batrakani of 1964 as he emigrated to France:

He visited his brother Paul who settled in Switzerland with his Swiss wife and children. One of Paul’s sons asked his uncle Michel:

“Au fond, personne en Egypt a obliges les “Syriens” a quitter L’Egypte”. Les formules lapidaires s’adaptent mal a une histoire en demi-teintes comme notre communaute’ de Syriens Grecs-Catholiques.

Nous n’avons pas ete formellement expulses mais ont ne se sentaient plus accepte’ comme une communaute Egyptienne. Nous avons toujours ete’ entre deux langues, deux cultures, deux eglises, deux chaises. Comme mon pere disait: “Ce n’est pas confortable, mais nos fesses sont faites ainsi”

Non, personne ne nous a obliges a quitter l’Egypt, mais l’air y devenait irrespirable. Nous sommes partis de notre propre gre’, sur la pointe des pieds, sans tarbouche ni trompette. (Actually, those who used to wear the Tarbouche dropped this headchef to European alternatives as they boarded the ships)

Georges Batrakani rummarized the situation as “Nous ne sommes pas Syriens, pas Egyptiens: Nous sommes Greck-Catholiques”

Mon frere Andre’, un Jesuite, pense que nous n’avions pas fait l’effort de s’integrer. Il recommendait a tous ceux qui quitter L’Egypt de s’integrer aux pays, leur second pay.

(Actually, most of the Syrians wanted a foreign nationality, but they were Not even “authorized” an Egyptian nationality. They felt comfortable with the “mixed” legal system for foreigners to avoid the strict Islamic shari3a of the Egyptian legal system)

Note 2: The Egyptian “Christian” Kobet/Qobt considered the original Egyptians and were against foreign occupations, especially the British occupation, until the coup d’etat of Gamal Abdel Nasser that considered Islam as the nation religion in the constitution. Since then, the Qobt became the lynchpin every time a national upheaval spread in Egypt. Actually, the Qobt had their own accounting system and were the accountants in Egypt, until the British established their accounting system for graduation in that field.

Note 3: With the exception of highly educated Syrians in Egypt who created most of the dailies and theaters, and cultural clubs…the vast majority (Catholic and Orthodox emigrated Syrians) followed the events from their “balconies” in order Not to be in close contact with the mass Egyptians. Many lost their life-ling business from the ransacks and burning of their institutions during extremist upheavals against “foreigners”.

Note 4: This a description of the 1860 massacre committed in Damascus against the “Christians. Linda Batrakani kept her secret for 34 years until a few weeks before her passing away. She kept recounting this massacre every day “pour vider une plaie purulante qui debordait de toutes parts”. She said:

“Il etait midi. Les muezzins venaient d’appeler a la priere. Nous avond entendu 2 coups de canon, suivi d’une immense clameur. Des centaines de soldats ont fait irruption dans le quartier chretien et suivis de civils musulmans qui bradissaient des cimeterres, haches et trombones…Derriere eux les femmes les excitaient par leur cris.

Ils fracassaient les portes, egorgaient les personnes, meme les enfants males, malmenaient les filles et emportaient les objets… puis il mettaient le feu et poignardaient les fuyants, pendus par les pieds au-dessus des brasiers. Malheur aux femmes enceintes… Parfois, ils cuisaient les nouveaux nes sur les flammes

Haret al Nasara (the Christian quarter) etait riche et enchanteur et les personnes avaient de hauts postes, travaillaient aux tribunal local, et des institutions florissantes. Exterieurement, les masons ne payaient pas de mine, mais l’interieur etait un enchantement. De notre terrace on dominait les jardins de la villes et les montagnes dans lesquelles coulaient une multitude de ruisseaux… Damas etait une delicieuse ville et la mieux arrosee des villes.

Mes deux grands freres etaient partis le matin a cheval pour avertir l’emir Abdel Kader (the hero of the Algerian uprising against the new French occupation of Algeria). Des signes au charbon avaient ete inscrit pendant la nuit sur les portes des maisons Chretiennes.

Avec mes 3 autres freres, soeurs et maman nous sommes alles frapper a la porte d’une voisine musulmane et heberger jusqu’au matin moyennant 10 pieces d’or. En quittant, rasant les murs… ils furent tous massacre’. Dans une boutique, ils avaient enferme des jeunes gens et les questionner: “Veux-tu devenir musulman?” Ceux qui acceptaient etaient circoncis immediatement. Ceux qui refusaient etaient abattus d’un coup de hache.

l’emir Abdel Kader recueillis 3,000 dans son palais, mais les massacres continuaient pendant plusieurs jous et nuits. Puis l’exode vers Beyrouth et l’annee suivante l’embarquement pour Alexandrie, pas un sous, sauf un couvre chef.

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adonis49

adonis49

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