The Suez crisis in November 1956, when Britain, France and Israel went to war with Egypt, sounded the death knell for the Jews of Egypt: some 25,000 fled the country. Ted Nahmias, then a young teenager, was one of them. Here are Ted's recollections of his final days in Alexandria.
""You probably won't believe this, but I was one of the first rock 'n' rollers. As teenagers, we had to identify ourselves with James Dean or Elvis Presley. That was more important than watching our wonderful life collapse before us. That we left that to our parents. We knew it would be over soon, so we wanted to prolong and prolong this life of partying, going to the beach and the movies.
"A whole population was preparing to leave. Europe was very cold in the winter, they said - be prepared. Soon warm woollens, coats, and scarves were not to be found in stores. All sold out. Suitcases and large travel bags disappeared from the shelves in days. Farewell gatherings were a daily occurrence. Goodbye… Will we ever see each other again? Classmates promising to meet again somewhere abroad, friends in tears at the thought of parting and, worst of all, members of the same family having to emigrate to different countries and being separated from their loved ones, maybe forever. Sons and daughters following their spouses, grandparents left behind, too old to embark on a new life in faraway places such as Australia or Brazil.
"Windows and balconies were covered in heavy blue paper so as to create a 'black out' to protect the city from air attacks at night.
"Tension was growing and anyone with European features had to be quite careful when going around town. You would never guess, but I had distinctive streaks of blond hair at the time, and some Arabs in the street shouted inglesi at me more than once, frightening the living daylights out of me.
"Of course Egypt was at war with Britain and France, as well as Israel. British and French nationals were being expelled daily at 72 hours' notice. Other Jews bearing Greek, Italian, Belgian , Spanish passports etc, realized they had no future in Egypt. Businesses and property owned by Jews were seized. Thousands lost their jobs. Jewish institutions were closed down. Restrictions were imposed and people could only leave with limited luggage and most possessions were left behind. Khalass.
"It was impossible to fight the rising tide of Arab nationalism. I recall getting on a bus once with a friend, and as usual we were having a conversation en francais quite recklessly. Some of the passengers objected and said we should stop speaking French. In retrospect I cannot believe I made a gesture with my hand and said: Maalesh (never mind). How foolish. At that moment an arrogant young Egyptian in a grey suit and tie intervened and said, 'I shall cut your hand off if you say Maalesh again!' The bus had just come to a stop and we got off in a hurry. Lucky break for us.
"My father used to read the daily French paper, Le progres Egyptien. However, he would discreetly cover it with another paper he used to read - Taxidromos, the Greek daily. That, of course, was accepted, as Greeks took the Egyptian side during that conflict.
"An interesting activity was the setting up by the Egyptian army of free shooting galleries along the Corniche near Silsila. The targets were the figures of British, French and Israeli soldiers with Union Jacks, Bleu blanc rouge flags and Magen Davids on their chests. Young Egyptians were queuing to have a go at firing at the enemy. Groups of soldiers were constantly marching all over town and one could not help feeling uneasy and fearful. I cannot forget the fright I had when at the gare de Ramleh suddenly a group of soldiers walked towards me and stopped. One of them came out of the ranks and walked over to me.
"Khalass. My knees were shaking, I was probably as pale as a sheet. It was Gaber, my baoab's (doorman or porter's) son who was trying to show off his new uniform and machine gun. Ezzayak ya teddy. He laughed at my pitiful sight, and so did the other soldiers. He waved goodbye and they went away with this newly acquired sense of power.
"This was not like our peaceful, friendly city of Alexandria at all. I think that by then, we had realized. It was khalass - and for good."