Saturday, July 26, 2008

Goodbye to All That

Living in Cairo, it's hard to forget the 26th of July, if only because one of the main streets through town has been given the name (Shar'a sita wa ashreen iulio in Arabic, which really is a mouthful to try and relay to a taxi driver).

What the date marks, though, is the abdication of Egypt's King Farouk, an event that caused headlines in 1952:

Farouk's abdication marked the end of over 1oo year's rule by his family, who originally arrived in the country as Albanian soldiers of fortune in service to the Ottoman Sultan.

The revolution began a repudiation of all things royal, starting with the King's ubiquitous portraits.

Unlike their Russian or French counterparts, the family all escaped safely. Farouk departed Alexandria on the royal yacht, accompanied by hundreds of pieces of luggage, his daughters, and his second wife, Nariman, a commoner whom he had married only a year earlier in a (fruitless) search for renewed popularity and (more successfully) an heir, after having divorced his first Queen, Farida, for her unfortunate habit of having daughters.

Nariman never made much a splash; even at her wedding, she was overshadowed by her stunning sister-in-law, the Princess Fawzia (who looked not well pleased at the whole affair):

Farouk and family spent the first few years of exile in Italy, living in many ways much the same life they had in Egypt.

Nariman eventually returned to Cairo, marrying several more times and ending her days in a simple apartment in the city's Heliopolis neighborhood.

Farouk's later exile was, to be kind, undistinguished, involving a great dealing of gambling, eating, drinking, and cavorting with showgirls. He is now most remembered, perhaps, for the only witty thing he ever said:

"The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left - the King of England and the kings of diamonds, hearts, spades, and clubs."

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