Tuesday, July 17, 2012

`Hope the Voyage is a Long One'

The retired diplomat I befriended in Poland briefly returned to his home in Greece and then flew to his native Alexandria, Egypt, for his first visit in half a century. In an email he writes: 

“I managed to visit my old neighbourhood, my elementary and secondary schools, the churches, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, my father's grave and our old sports club with its soccer and track stands for five thousand spectators. In my tour I could not have missed Aboukir, not because of its historical importance but for the fact that it is the birthplace of my brother, who now lives in France.”

In the Bay of Aboukir, or Abū Qīr, some fourteen miles northeast of Alexandria, a British fleet commanded by Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon’s navy in 1798. By the time my Greek friend was a boy, Aboukir was a summer resort for Alexandrians:

“My parents back in the forties rented every year a cabin which accommodated in  two bedrooms and a 10-by-2-meter verandah about 15 or 20 people, seven of my closer family and a dozen Caireen, i.e. from Cairo, cousins, thus providing a cool and  happy shelter for the scorching months of the summer.”

In Poland, we had spoken of the Library of Alexandria, the ancient wonder and its modern successor. George paid a visit:

“My final visit was to the Library of Alexandria, an awesome high-tech building, a gigantic achievement of our contemporary Egyptian generation. If you asked me how I felt visiting my birthplace half a century after my departure, I would say I have mixed pleasant memories of the past with hard realities of the present.”

We also spoke of Constantine Cavafy, the great Greek poet of Alexandria, and exchanged links to “Ithaka” in English and Greek:

“Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time”

George closed his note with these words: “That's all for now. Thank you so much for keeping alive the flame of conversation.”

1 comment:

George said...

I was interested and impressed to learn that "Ithaka" is read at every commencement of Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.