For the love of Egypt: Happy Shamm el-Nassim

“How should Spring bring forth a garden on hard stone? Become earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors. For you have been heart-breaking rock. Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth!” -RumiIMG_1906

Egyptians ‘sniff the spring breeze’ on Shamm el-Nassim, a pharaonic tradition in which Egyptians celebrate the arrival of spring by eating salty fish (fiseeskh), green onions, and boiled eggs. (https://nomad4now.com/articles-egypt/a-store-with-no-door/) .  This year, because of coronavirus, Egyptians are in a two-day lock down unable to share the day with friends and family in parks, gardens, and on bridges. Though families and friends cannot gather to share the holiday food, this ancient tradition of gratitude for the passing of time and the appreciation of life continues as it has over millennia.

As I stand in a long queue in London, waiting my turn to enter a grocery store, I look across the street to a nearby park and I am reminded to ‘sniff the spring breeze’, even though the warning to stay home is clearly noted.

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As the queue moves forward, messages on stone appear:

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I breath deeply in gratitude for the opportunity to know the meaning of Shamm el-Nassim. Thank you, Egypt.

Shubra, Revisited

Last month, I posted House of Foreigners Revisited because a reader came forward to tell his family history about his house in Shubra. Recently, another reader has expressed his family history in Shubra in the early twentieth century. I thought it might be interesting to extend an invitation to all who would like to post family history who lived in Cairo from 1850 to 1950. There is nostalgia and longing for Egypt who were born, raised, and lived through this period and left due to the 1952 Revolution. I would be happy to collect these stories on this page. Just comment on this page and I will email to connect.

Here is the family story of Richard Milosh who lives in Australia now. He says:

I was born in Shubra, Immeuble Garabedian, second floor, off the main Shubra street No. 45. I was born in 1941. In that building lived a number of related families of Italian, and Yugoslav nationality. Eventually, soon after the burning of Cairo, Saturday, 26 January 1952, one by one and two by twos, we all left Egypt for a safer place with a future. My father was born in Faggalah, Cairo in 1913 and went to school at the French St Joseph college (Khoronfish), Collège des Fréres. My mother was also born in Cairo, probably in Shubra as well. I blame the military coup of Nasser & Co. for the demise and scattering of my extended family that once upon a time considered Egypt their home.

I have settled in Australia where I have arrived from Egypt in 1963 with my parents. My Armenian grandparents also joined us in Australia a year later. Happy Sham el Nessim but be careful with the Coronavirus.


On May 29, 2015, Megawra sponsored a city walk through Shubra (See: Shubra, Off the Beaten Path) , a district of Cairo to the north and east of the railroad station: skirting Ahmad Helmi Street to the east; to the west, the Nile Corniche; to the north, the Delta by way of the Cairo-Alexandria Agricultural. Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.23.04 AM

The district of Shubra is one of the most densely populated parts of Cairo with approximately four million  people. Once upon a time, Shubra was a small village; the word, Shubra, actually means ‘small village’ from the Coptic word, ϭⲱⲡⲣⲟŠopro. (WikipediaShubra remained primarily agricultural until Muhammad Ali Pasha built his palace there in 1808. He also constructed a boulevard one hundred feet wide, lined with trees from his palace to el-Azbakiya.  Following the example of Muhammed Ali Pasha, other members of the royal family and the upper class built villas and summer residences at Shubra. In 1903, a tramline was built on the grand boulevard, and this area opened up to urban development.

The district of Shubra is one of the most densely populated parts of Cairo with approximately four million  people. Once upon a time, Shubra was a small village; the word, Shubra, actually means ‘small village’ from the Coptic word, ϭⲱⲡⲣⲟŠopro. (WikipediaShubra remained primarily agricultural until Muhammad Ali Pasha built his palace there in 1808. He also constructed a boulevard one hundred feet wide, lined with trees from his palace to el-Azbakiya.  Following the example of Muhammed Ali Pasha, other members of the royal family and the upper class built villas and summer residences at Shubra. In 1903, a tramline was built on the grand boulevard, and this area opened up to urban development.

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House of Foreigners, Revisited

On May 29, 2015, Megawra sponsored a city walk through Shubra (See: Shubra, Off the Beaten Path) , a district of Cairo to the north and east of the railroad station: skirting Ahmad Helmi Street to the east; to the west, the Nile Corniche; to the north, the Delta by way of the Cairo-Alexandria Agricultural Road. During the walk, our group was allowed to enter a five-storey apartment building that is known in the neighborhood as House of Foreigners. When asked why the apartment house was known as such, our guide said because the family who had built the building and lived there for generations were all Italians. That explanation is all we had…until now!    Read on…

House of Foreigners

On March 13, 2020, I received a post from Rolando Mazzone who wrote:Read on…

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House of Foreigners

I immediately responded to Mr. Mazzone’s comment and he kindly sent me the history of his family who lived in this house for three generations. Mr. Mazzone has given me permission to publish his family history.

My grandfather [Egizio Testaferrata] was Maltese of Italian culture and he spoke, at home, Italian and Maltese which is a mixture of southern Italian and Arabic. His father Nicola came to Egypt in the 1860ies from Malta and was a designer and engraver, educated in Naples, Italy. Nicola worked for the Egyptian government engraving coins and in the embellishment of public buildings ( e.g. the Cairo Opera in Midan Mohammad Ali).
My grandfather worked at the Naafi which was a British organisation supplying food to the military. He died in 1947. He had five children and had adopted a niece who had lost her parents. He lived at the first floor which consisted of a very big apartment. The two apartments at the second floor were occupied by other family members, as brothers in law and later married daughters.
My parents moved to one of the two smaller apartments in 1946. My father Luigi Mazzone had married one of the daughters of my grandfather, Vittoria. My father was Italian, born in Egypt in 1915 and died in Rome in 2009. His father Vincenzo came to Egypt from Sicily as a teenager in the beginning of the 1900ie and worked as a cabinetmaker, first in Alexandria and then in Cairo.
He built up a big business in Bulaq where he had a sawmill and a furniture factory working for the Egyptian government (Cairo Museum, Cairo University, doors, windows and wooden stairs of many famous buildings, including the Yacoubian building). Vincenzo died very young in 1934 and his business continued until 1940, where it was sequestrated by the authorities due to Italy entering World War 2.
My family didn’t restart the business after the war.
My father’s mother Eugenia Vescia belonged to the Vescia family which came to Egypt in the 1850ies as olive merchants. She lived in the house in Shoubra from 1940 until her death in 1953.
The second apartment at the second floor had been occupied by my father’s brother Francesco from 1946 to 1970. He had a hardware-shop in Ezbekiah in Cairo.
The architect of the house was Greek and he was a friend of my grandfathers, his name was Galligopoulo and there was an engraving on the Eastern side of the house with his name and the building year.
After the death of my grandfather the house was owned by my grandmother, which was Serbian and had British nationality, having been married to a Maltese.
The house was sequestrated by the Egyptian authorities, following the Suez War in 1956. My grandmother was refunded by the British authorities for her loss.
I hope that you can use some of this information about a house which for many years was full of life and the center of many happy events.
I would like to express my own and my whole family’s gratitude and best feelings for Egypt and the Egyptian people.

The district of Shubra is one of the most densely populated parts of Cairo with approximately four million  people. Once upon a time, Shubra was a small village; the word, Shubra, actually means ‘small village’ from the Coptic word, ϭⲱⲡⲣⲟ Šopro. (WikipediaShubra remained primarily agricultural until Muhammad Ali Pasha built his palace there in 1808. He also constructed a boulevard one hundred feet wide, lined with trees from his palace to el-Azbakiya.  Following the example of Muhammed Ali Pasha, other members of the royal family and the upper class built villas and summer residences at Shubra. In 1903, a tramline was built on the grand boulevard, and this area opened up to urban development. One of the houses that was built during the development of this district was the House of Foreigners.

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EPILOGUE – received on March 17, 2020

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Obituary: Niwoye Nupe Haj Aishatu Abdulmalik Wogbo

IMG_1834Late Niwoye Nupe Haj Aishatu Abdulmalik Wogbo, Emira from the royal Nupe house, Masaba. The entire Nupe community mourns the loss of a great woman, supporter of Islamic values, traditionalist, and keeper of KinNupe values.

Her official greeting, Ogbo, gives respect and recognition to royal position.  Ogbo: Alhaja gave her blessing to me and supported the making of  documentary, Bida Legacy, Bikini Glass. I am saddened that she will not share in the joy of seeing this documentary and knowing that this nearly forgotten cultural heritage is documented for the world to appreciate.

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Obelisque Magazine 2020

Leave something of sweetness and substance in the mouth of the world.                                  

 Anna Belle Kaufman

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Another beautiful edition of the Obelisque Magazine 2020 just hit the bookstores in Cairo! As usual it is full of articles that span subjects on architecture to heritage to travel. My contributions to the magazine this year are:  “Portrait of a Glassmaker” (the second article of a 2 part series, the first in Obelisque 2019) and Street Art: “Mohammed Laz-Ogli.”

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For more information on Masaga Community Glassmakers in Bida, Nigeria, go to:

Bida Glass: Bangles and Beads

Bling Bling in Bida

Bida Glass at Muséo Parc Alésia, France

https://nomad4now.com/2018/12/22/nupe-day-merit-award/

https://nomad4now.com/2019/10/06/red-walls-of-bida-the-book/

https://nomad4now.com/2020/01/03/portraits-of-a-glassmaker/

https://nomad4now.com/2019/12/04/turbaned-jikadiya-gargajiya/

Instragram: bida_glassmakers

OBA OF BENIN VISITS ETSU NUPE

The following three videos chronicle the official visit of HRH Ewuare II Oba of Benin with  HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, Etsu Nupe, Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers Read. This is a significant meeting between two powerful, traditional kingdoms of Nigeria. Take note of the Nupe traditional dance, the music particularly the flute and the durbar. This ceremony was held in Bida, Nigeria at the palace of the ETSU NUPE January 2020.

Above: The Oba of Benin arrives at the Palace of ETSU NUPE

Above: Kakaki trumpeters:

According to tradition the Atta of Igala, to whom the Nupe were subject in mid-fifteenth century, presented Tsoede, founder of the Nupe kingdom, with vari- ous royal insignia “including kakaki or the long royal trumpets” (Hogben & Kirk- Greene 1966:262). As this antedates their acquisition by both Songhai and Kano, which are considerably further north, while the Igala are to the south of the Nupe, one must choose between a southern origin, some form of instrumental leap-frog, or treat the story as legend. Since all evidence points to North Africa as the immed- iate source and simpler explanations are preferred to more contorted if they account for the facts, we are inclined to regard the story of Tsoede’s acquisition as later glorification of a past hero. There is, moreover, no evidence that the Igala ever had long trumpets; when the British 1841 expedition met the then Atta, his interest in the party’s bugle suggested unfamiliarity with both its “gold-like material” (Allen & Thomson 1848:303) and aerophones of longer dimensions. Recent research now dates the introduction of the Nupe kakaki from the reign of Etsu Majaya (1796- 1810)7, which accords with the hypothesis of a north-south diffusion, the trumpet entering Nigeria through Hausaland, whence it passed to the Nupe and so to the Yoruba.  – Gourlay, K.A., Long Trumpets of Northern Nigeria — In History and Today)

S.F. Nadel’s account of kakaki trumpeters in Bida (heart of Nupeland)  in 1930s:  “On Thursday night and again on Friday afternoon the Etsu rides in great state to the mosque in the town, and on Friday at his return holds a reception in his house …”. During the procession, with the “king and courtiers on horseback, in their sumptuous gowns … drummers are beating their drums, three mounted trumpeters blow the huge bronze kakati in an incessant deaf- ening chorus.” (S.F Nadel, A Black Byzantium London Routledge and Kegan. 1942.)

Obituary: Yanda Yayi, Masaga Glassmaker

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Yanda Yayi, blinded by years of sitting in front of an open fire, created glass beads for most of his 80 years.  He was the second oldest man in the Masaga community of glassmakers that had seen the making of bikini glass ( a term the Masaga people use that describes indigenously made glass) in his youth. In November 2019 when I produced a documentary about the Masaga glassmaking community,  he was present, everyday, and contributed generously to the reconstructing of the process to make bikini glass,

The urgency to make the documentary about locally produced bikini glass was that the Masaga community had not made bikini glass for over 50 years and only two men had ever seen it produced by their forefathers. Yanda Yayi was one of the two. Recreating this process for the community to witness the legend of making bikini glass in the present took a year of difficult negotiation.  I believed passionately their story had to be told.

Unfortunately, the film has yet to be edited and released. Hopefully the release will be by September 2020 but too late for Yanda Yayi.

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One of the oldest glass craftsmen in Bida

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Bida Glass: Bangles and Beads

Bling Bling in Bida

Bida Glass at Muséo Parc Alésia, France

https://nomad4now.com/2018/12/22/nupe-day-merit-award/

https://nomad4now.com/2019/10/06/red-walls-of-bida-the-book/

https://nomad4now.com/2020/01/03/portraits-of-a-glassmaker/

https://nomad4now.com/2019/12/04/turbaned-jikadiya-gargajiya/

Instagram: bida_glassmakers

‘Tis the season for Harmattan Lilies

IMG_1581  In sub-Saharan West Africa when the end of the year approaches and the rains have ceased, the dry Harmattan wind fills the sky with grey dust…tis the season for the glorious Harmattan lilies (Amaryllidaceae) to bloom.

As we welcome 2020 (the only year in the century that repeats its identical numbers), the perennial gift of the blossoming Harmattan lilies represent our delicate earth that needs everyones observant attentiveness to protect and preserve.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver

Thank you to everyone who follows my blog.

Happy New Year, Happy New Decade

 

 

Meanwhile in Lagos… Zainab Saleh Hosts the 6th International Female Open Karate Championship

While I was in Bida, Nigeria, filming the documentary about Masaga Glassmakers, The Zainab Saleh 6th International Female Open Karate Championship was taking place in Lagos from November 21st to 24th.

Founder, organizer and karate black belt, Hajiya Zainab Saleh is from Northern Nigeria. But her karate story begins far from Nigeria. Zainab started training in karate during the years her father, Ambassador Mustapha Saleh (late), served as Nigerian diplomat and ambassador in many capitols of the world. Zainab’s mother, Amina, originally from Sierre Leone, raised the family from country to country, which provided opportunities for Zainab and her siblings to experience a variety of sports that were not available in Nigeria.

Men and women play sports in different parts of the world, have fun, and then move onto something else. Not Zainab. When the Salehs were posted to Mexico, the young Zainab asked her father if she could train in karate. He was supportive. Wherever the family lived, Zainab took karate and eventually, qualified as a black belt. Then one day, many years later, Zainab decided that sporting opportunities were lacking for females in Nigeria. Karate was her passion.  So, beginning at the very beginning, she introduced karate training, then a tournament and then another until it became an international tournament with international referees.

Competition is not only open to females of all ages but for the first time this year, there was a category for wheelchair karate athletes.

If you are interested in supporting this incredible initiative, contact

Zainab Saleh Karate

@ZSalehKarate

#ZainabSalehKarate 

Email: zainabsalehkarate@gmail.com

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ZAINAB!

Next year…another tournament and another birthday…InshAllah!

 

 

Turbaned! Jikadiya Gargajiya

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Five years ago, my connection with Nupe Land began with a visit of condolences.  Alhaji Dan Galadima, brother of the late Alhaji Isah,  took me under his wing and introduced me to Nupe heritage and has been my mentor, friend and advisor throughout the years. From the start, I was enthralled with the diversity of traditional crafts in the area. Over the years, my journeys to Bida went from an interest in material culture and blogging about the experience to researcher of Nupe heritage, particularly, the study of glassmaking. All of which evolved into becoming an honorary member of the Masaga glassmaking community.  These rich and rewarding journeys culminated in the month of November 2019, that saw the acceptance of the title, Jikadiyan Gargagiya, Ambassador of Nupe Traditions  from His Royal Highness, His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, ETSU NUPE, Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers:

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The following is the only video that I have received of the turbaning. The video is taken from a bad angle but it is important in documenting the moment.

The turbaning was the highlight of the month spent in Bida while filming the production of bikini glass. A raw glass that had not been made for over 50 years by the Masaga glassakers. This film, Legacy of Bida Glassmakers, d

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On November 24, 2019, the Masaga glassmakers successfully unearthed glass, called bikini, which has not been produced for over 50 years. The secret formula, handed down for centuries by the Masaga forefathers, migrated from Egypt with this knowledge and settled in the area of Bida because of the rich silica sand, (told through oral history).  Only two, ninety year old men remain alive today who have seen this process in their youth. From this point of their memory, the documentary recreates the process of this Nupe heritage, nearly extinct in human memory and, it is said, the Masaga community to be the only people in the world who still can make glass  out of sand in an underground furnace .

 

 

The next picture and video are (swipe left)  from the Instagram page of the Remi Vaughan-Richard, the director of the documentary, Legacy of Bida Glassmakers (currently in production).

Below a video of unearthing glass, posted by the director, Remi Vaughan-Richards:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5PwcdblM7D/?utm_source=ig_web_options_share_sheet

The turbaning set for November 17, 2019 was a grand ceremony that brought together dignitaries from every walk of life in Nigeria. The following are a variety of pictures as the crowds came together.

Then the turbaning, itself, best appreciated in a slideshow….

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Bahagadochi
(praise and respect for His Royal Highness) Read, here

And if all the above is not thrilling enough, here is a turbaning archive, 1959, one year before independence from Britain. A durbar or parade after Ramadan and a traditional turbaning are the events presided over by the ETSU NUPE, Malam Muhammadu Ndayako dan Muhammadu.

copyscape-banner-white-160x56All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the permission of Lesley Lababidi 2019.

For more information about Bida, go to:

Bida Glass: Bangles and Beads

Bling Bling in Bida

Bida Glass at Muséo Parc Alésia, France

https://nomad4now.com/2018/12/22/nupe-day-merit-award/

https://nomad4now.com/2019/10/06/red-walls-of-bida-the-book/