Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shaking my limbs

I feel as if I'm just emerging from a pool of family and food and thanksgiving. It was warm and reassuring and nurturing. And it's hard to get my limbs moving again.
Over the holiday, I read Sipping from the Nile by Jean Naggar. She writes about a part of history I was only peripherally aware of--the Suez Canal Crisis of the late '50s when Jews were persecuted and pushed out of their homes.
Naggar grew up in Egypt in the kind of fairytale existence we only dream of: surrounded by caring extended family, living in a mansion with cooks and servants and dressmakers, constantly hearing a handful of languages and understanding them all, never wanting for anything.
Naggar details her "ivory tower" livelihood, as one of her relatives referred to it. I loved hearing about all the Jewish traditions, as well some of the superstitions of the time. One of those superstitions was whenever Naggar went on a trip--which she often did, and was in fact one of the first to ride in the revolutionary Comets, the first jet-propelled airplanes--she drank water from the place she was leaving from. That would ensure her safe passage back. She often sipped from the Nile. Unfortunately, this superstition didn't always work. Naggar's "ivory tower" started crumbling in 1956 with the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Jews were suddenly the target of hate. All they wanted now, after centuries of building a successful livelihood in Cairo, were exit visas to someplace safe.
It was a fascinating--and poignant--peek into a part of history we don't hear much about...
Read any good books over the holiday?


Anonymous said...


Interesting book. I had no idea this happened in that region. Jean's childhood sounds a lot like my grandmother's childhood in Berlin--she told stories of nannies and dancing lessons. Her life, too, got disrupted.

I'm reading Michael Palin's Sahara, which I'm loving!

Lynn said...

Jana, you read such deep books, you make me embarrassed to admit that I'm reading Tori Spelling's biography. And liking it. Sigh.

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