Alexandrian memories I: Living near the Synagogue

You know how when you grow up in a certain place and you recognize later how special it was? I guess this is my case. I always lived in the same building in Alexandria, a small one indirectly linked to the main street (port-said street, a main street in Alex) by a long corridor.

Well located, the building was hidden from the pedestrians curious eyes by one of these old building,  isolated and calm. We had this small yard and garden which gave us this intimacy and freedom to play and live. We were too close to the external life of the main street but far enough to have our own world.

Still I didn’t get to the specialty of the place i was brought up in, but here we are : behind our building, very near to the corniche, there was this old deserted synagogue raised sad with its broken glass windows. Yes yes a real Jewish synagogue with a big blackberry tree that I used to fantasize about when I was a child. I always considered it as an old crystal palace where a sleeping beauty live waiting for her prince.

It’s so unrealistic no? Come on admit it who had the chance to grow up near a monumental synagogue? Actually, I never saw any Jewish people coming praying in this deserted pentagonal building. As i remember it was always deserted. From its windows u can see its dusty golden chandelier, and flying birds at night. Well this was what my two elder sisters used to tell me about the bats flying at night near our window, trying not to frighten me.

One of these days, my dad came up with this brilliant idea: he bought a green ping-pong table in the yard and offer this summer activity for the teenagers of the two  crossed buildings : my 2 elder sisters, our neighbours ahmed and Rasha, from the other building Islam and Mohamed and myself as I was the youngest, just 5y old by this time.  Every night, during 3 summers, a bunch of noisy, laughing teenagers used to gather there playing ping pong, listening to Modern talken and George Mickeal (sometimes Abdel Halim), under the vigilant amused eye of our parents and habitants of the two buildings.

For the curious gang we were, the synagogue was THE ADVANTURE we got to live. We were like “el moghameroun al khamssa” trying to find out THE MYSTERY of this dusty, grey gosty building. Long nights we spent discussing and planning how to sneak in without its old sa3idi guard pay attention. Well what can I say, we tried it in a calm afternoon (we were too scared to try at night) and we got caught 🙂

Finally, the sa3idy guard was a nice guy,  he allowed us to have a look, just to the baths where a newlywed Jew couple have their bath (I guess it’s a marriage ritual or something) and he told us a story about him. During war of October, he once closed gates, keeping Jew prayers inside as hostages. Well this was hilarious by this time.

From almost 10 years ago, a well-known member of the People Assembly brought the land and the synagogue was demolished (till now I don’t know how!!! How comes that the Jews sold the land?! How this monumental building was destructed as I’m sure that it was a heritage?!!. Watching this ugly white big building raising in its place, with these numerous floors, narrow apartments, cubic widows, you know what? I just miss the bats!

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