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From England to Paris


Growing up in Egypt
Claudia Roden Writer
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I went to an English school, which was called English School Cairo. And it was the kind of school where most of the children were local, of course. Muslims and Copts and Jews and Armenians, and all kinds. And there were English people who had come, not only with the army but they were there because it was an English protectorate, the country, at the time. And so, we were mixing with them. And one thing I remember that we were talking many languages with each other, non-stop. And the teachers would come around and say, 'English only'. 'English only'. And at that time also, I remember it was a time of feminism. Of Egyptian feminism. That a lot of the girls' mothers were feminists. They were part of a movement that was called Bent el-Nil, it means the Daughters of the Nile. And they, of course, would never dream of putting a scarf on. And their daughters were very also, militant. So, I was very, very excited about what was going on.

But at the same time, in 1948, Israel had become a state. And it was given part of what was Palestine. And so, all the Muslim countries, and also in Egypt, there was a little bit of turbulence about that. Egypt did go to war against Israel. Actually, Egypt was the only country that sent soldiers. All the other Arab countries sent weapons and money. And, of course, there were... I think, Syrian army as well. But mainly it was the Egyptian army. But they didn't... because the Jews of Egypt had been a good part of Egypt and had contributed to much of good things that were going on. So... but gradually it was becoming difficult when the war continued because a lot of Jews were seen as Zionists. And were seen as pro-Israel. And, of course, even people who weren't Zionists cared a lot about Israel. And they did contribute money to help. So, my parents did worry and wonder about our future. But they still had a business, were happy to be there.

Claudia Roden (b. 1936) is an Egyptian-born British cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist of Sephardi/Mizrahi descent. She is best known as the author of Middle Eastern cookbooks including A Book of Middle Eastern Food, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and The Book of Jewish Food.

Listeners: Nelly Wolman

Claudia Roden talking to her granddaughter Nelly Wolman about her life in food.

Tags: Israel, Egypt

Duration: 3 minutes, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 26 November 2023