Alexandra Kinias —
The year 1979 was a turning point in the world events. In the same year that Margaret Thatcher became new prime minister of Great Britain and Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, other events occurred that sowed the seeds of the insanity that the world is witnessing today. Few days after the year started, the Shah left Iran and the revolutionary forces under Khomeini took over in February. In November of that year, the Iranian militants seized the US embassy in Tehran and took hostages. The crescendo that ended the year was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December, from which the world has not recovered yet from its consequences. And it doesn’t seem that it will in the near future. It was overwhelming to watch all these events unfold in front of my eyes.
I was fifteen years old when I watched the Imperial Jet that carried the Iranian monarchs and their entourage, which was piloted by the Shah, arrived to Aswan’s airport on January 16th, 1979, after they fled Tehran. In a somber atmosphere, the Shah and Empress Farah were met by President Sadat and the First Lady Jihan. The royal couple received a full ceremonial welcome and was greeted by 21 gun salutes. They looked distressed and tired when they removed the sunglasses they were wearing when they exited the plane. Egypt was the first stop where their exile began.
I have always been overwhelmed with the Iranian monarchs. Tales from the Peacock Throne fascinated me. The Peacock Throne was originally a lavish gold throne that weighed more than a ton and was adorned with precious jewels, pearls and diamonds, including the famous 186-carat koh-i-Noor. It was built for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in the 17th century, who also commissioned the Taj Mahal. The throne derived its name from the design of the two peacocks that stood behind it, with their tails spread out. It was taken by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah when he invaded India in 1730. Even though the throne disappeared in history, yet the Persian Empire became known as the Peacock Throne. In perpetuation of the tradition into the 20th century, the Pahlavi Dynasty of Iran called their ceremonial seat “The Peacock Throne”.
The splendor of the 2,500th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Persian Empire held in Persepolis was unprecedented. It took ten years to plan this event that was held in October 1971 and was attended by members of royal families, world dignitaries and distinguished guests. The lavish dinner included 50 roasted peacocks stuffed with fois gras and was catered by the French restaurant Maxim of Paris.
My fascination with Iran and its royal family is credited to the time when Egypt and Iran had an intimate relationship in the 1940s when the young crown prince Mohamed Reza Pahlavi tied the knot with the Egyptian beauty, Princess Fawzia, the sister of King Farouk, in 1939. In 1941 she became Empress of Iran and in 1945 she left Iran back to Egypt and never returned. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1948. The young couple had one daughter, Princess Shahnaz, born in 1940.
I was born fourteen years after the revolution that dethroned King Farouk. And similar to most Egyptians, I was enchanted by the beauty of Princess Fawzia and captivated by the glamour, elegance and grace of the royal life. For many people who grew up in Egypt prior to the 1952 coup d’état, the photos left behind from that era bring back nostalgic memories to the days that are long gone, but never forgotten.
And as I child, not much of the political turmoil in Iran was much of interest to me, but I had developed a fascination with the Iranian royal family and a crush on the young Prince that made me follow their news. And while I was living in my fantasy world, the Iranian revolution was brewing.
To be continued …..