Wednesday, 1 November 2017

What Amr Moussa wrote “3”: the greenhouse

If it wasn’t for the promise I gave to the readers to make this article the last about Mr. Amr Moussa’s memoir, I would have written ten or may be more articles about it, for the memoir is really rich in what is worth mentioning and commenting over, either in agreement or disagreement. In addition to the necessity to tackle what was written about it, either the constructive or destructive criticism.

In the beginning, I have a question to ask that some may think is essential: when should we put limits between the subjective opinion and the objective one?... should we tackle issues that seem personal and relate to the upbringing and social composition or not? I believe the answer is not easy, for as long as the text being discussed contains what is closely related to the personal side, it is likely to discuss what came in the text, since it is known that the upbringing, social composition along with the cultural composition are crucial factors directly and strongly influencing man’s character, behavior, choices, decisions and ambitions.

Here, I believe what Mr. Moussa wrote about his upbringing, family, social composition and life path until he graduated from university is the main key to understand his character, behavior and ambitions, as the man was haunted by “as-Saraya[1]” and its surrounding environment, perhaps until this moment as he’s now in his eighties, may he enjoy long healthy life.

The heir of as-Saraya did not mention a single word about the social environment surrounding the palace of his maternal grandfather Mr. Hussein al-Harmeel having Bek title. He provided not a single brief footnote about “Mahallet Marhoum”, where the palace situated, and its people, nor did he mention anything about the relation of the people inhabiting the palace with those inhabiting the village, except for a few words about the man who was teaching him memorization of Quran, as Mahallet Marhoum – its real name is Mahallet El-Marhoum – is neighboring another village called “al-Gawharieya”. In al-Gawharieya lies the shrine of the pious man Sidi[2]al-Gohari” whom people believe can cause winds to blow and grant them good. In times of crises, they always raise their voices in supplication saying “Send us help, Gohari”.

Mahallet Marhoum is a village lying a few kilometers north to Tanta where women selling local Feteer or pies, milk, cottage cheese, butter and Gella or dry discs of dung used as fuel for primitive furnaces set out to sell them in Tanta. There, one can find the best tailors of Baladi or local Galabiyas and gowns. In that village, there were not big possessions of agricultural land like it was the case in other places in Delta, especially in northern Delta and Upper Egypt.

Here, as-Saraya – or the palace – looks like a closed greenhouse that contained the grandson who gave speeches at the masses of al-Wafd party’s supporters while he was still six years old!! Ironically, I remembered the late great satirist Mahmoud as-Sa’adani, whom Moussa was a friend of him, when he commented over what some media people used to say describing the Egyptian television that “It was born giant”. Al-Sa’adani said: “Born giant means it was born distorted, coz the normal thing is to be born a baby, then turn into a kid, afterwards a boy…etc.” I don’t know if it is true that the six-year old Moussa delivered an eloquent political speech, or he just sang a melody and chanted the name of an-Nahhas Pasha and al-Wafd party like it’s usually the case in some families when a child is being introduced to the guests and his folks ask him to reiterate the English alphabet, short verses of Quran or a melody he learnt at school in front of the guests.

In as-Saraya, there is no Tableya[3] of course. There is a dining table. The difference between the two is reflected upon the character of the person who sits to them as I will declare… perhaps I should say, as the memoir’s writer declared. As forTableya, it’s round where those eating sit next to one another, shoulder-to-shoulder with their hips neighboring. Sometimes, due to the many sitting to Tableya, some sit cross-legged with one knee bent to the chest and one arm stretched, mostly with the fingers and occasionally with the spoon, to reach out for the big plate containing food. Consequently, in sitting to Tableya one doesn’t feel superior or distinguished since it has no heading position, unlike sitting to the table or the square dining one that is different.

The difference became clear when Fathi ed-Deeb was sitting at the head of the table while Moussa, then a young attaché in the foreign ministry, was sitting at its far end, whispering to himself: when will I sit at its head? Trying time after time to reach towards the head, he finally said it in public after he became old in age and did his service in the ministry and the Arab League: “I want to be the president of Egypt...,” meaning I want to be the biggest head in this country. Unfortunately, he came forth in order in the presidential elections as I can remember. I believe he felt sad for this, for he depended on being Amr Moussa alone, with no clear electoral platform or new idea.

In as-Saray, the character of the father– the university lecturer whom the son did not say anything about his scholar discipline except that he was in the faculty of arts and that’s all –was missing. It’s important to mention the father’s specialty as it usually affects the composition, character, culture and orientations of the son who, unlike his father, didn’t join the faculty of arts, rather he chose the faculty of law.

In my opinion, such decision was due to being influenced by al-Wafd leaders whom most of them were law graduates. In such regard, I remember my phone call with Mr. Moussa, as he was kind enough to call me and complement my first article about his memoir, in which I told him that what he wrote about his insistence to join the faculty of law and his conversation with Sheikh Abo Zahra made me wonder why people at that time used to insist on joining the faculty of law.

I found out – perhaps I am wrong – that studying law was the closest field to the common education at that time, which was Al-Azhar, since both of their studies have to do, directly and necessarily, with the texts; texts of Quran and Prophet’s sayings in Al-Azhar, texts of Turath attributed to Sahabah, followers, founders of Madhhabs and writers of Mutoon[4] and Hawashi[5] or footnotes, texts of constitution, laws and by-laws in the faculty of law, then texts of final Cassation and Appeal verdicts and texts containing opinions of elite experts of law in every discipline, like as-Sanhouri, Sultan, Badr, al-Badrawi, Abo-Zahra and others. Moreover, dealing with the texts requires certain skills regarding the essence of the text, its philosophy, interpretation, manipulating it, making use of the gaps that legislators missed to address in it…etc.

For this reason, law people were stars in the time of British occupation and became leaders of the national movement, since pleading for the nation’s rights in independence, constitution and other things was required in facing the occupation’s bases, tanks, arms and ascendancy; whereas in the time of post-independence, an orientation for development and construction prevails. Therefore, technicians of engineers, people working in scientific fields and all their likes are required in post-occupation times.

The memoir’s writer talked about his maternal grandfather. He reminded me of the story our folks in the countryside of Gharbia governorate used to tell about the man who got married to the sister of the village’s mayor and had a son from her, and when people used to ask this son about his father, he answers: “My uncle is the village’s mayor!!”

I briefly searched about the origins of al-Harmeel family in what Ali Pasha Mubarak and al-Gabarti wrote in their books. I didn’t find enough literature except that Ahmed al-Harmeel appeared in the time of Muhammed Ali Pasha. As to the other two big families that I heard about them along with al-Harmeel, they were al-Khadem – literally means the servant – and ElBaradei. As to the first family, al-Khadem, they got their title from serving the shrine of Sidi Ahmed el-Badawi, and so they collected their fortune from the box of donations of religious vows. Whereas the second one got their title from the most thriving industry before mechanical means of transportation, like trains and cars, came to exist, that was making saddles – called Barad’a in Arabic – for donkeys and horses.

I don’t want to go on mentioning what I wrote about years ago regarding Muhammed ElBaradei; relative and colleague of Amr Moussa, as he was one of those who recommended the nice lady he got married to, and how ElBaradei dared to forge the documented recent history when he claimed that his father; the lawyer and once head of the syndicate of lawyers, was an opponent to Nasser. At that time, I published part of the minutes documenting the popular conference that recognized the National Charter of 1962 in which ElBaradei Sr. exaggerated in his hypocrisy toward the regime by asking to turn the syndicate of lawyers into a labor union.

The space allowed to me is about to come to an end. Unfortunately, I have a lot more to say, but I promised to make this article the last over this subject. I hope what I wrote does not affect the good relation I have with Mr. Amr Moussa.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on November 1, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

#almasry_alyoum #ahmed_elgammal #amr_moussa_memoir

[1] As-Saraya (Arabic: السرايا): in this context, it means the palace where the memoir’s writer was raised. There is a more direct word describing palace in Arabic; however, the writer is quoting the same word the man used in his memoir. In addition, this word in specific – as-Saraya – was used in the past by people to denote the palace or palatial residence of high-class people.
[2] Sidi: (Arabic: سيدي) transliterated for word meaning Master in Arabic. It’s said before calling names of figures people revere, especially those having religious or spiritual significance.
[3] Tableya (Arabic: طبلية): a low-elevated wooden table used for serving food in the past but not widely in use right now.
[4] Mutoon: (Arabic: متون) the Arabic plural word for muton (متن) which is the text containing the main idea.
[5] Hawashi: (Arabic: حواشي) meaning annotations, the Arabic plural word for Hashyia (حاشية) which is a brief marginal notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text or in the reader's language if it is different.

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