Why the Iranian scenario failed in Egypt? Part One

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.

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The Shah and Empress Farah, 1967

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”.

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Shah of Iran, Mohamed Reza, with Empress Farah and son Prince Reza, wearing crown jewels & embroidered robes during coronation.

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.

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Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Princess Fawzia

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.

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Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Empress Fawzia and their daughter Shahnaz

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.

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Royal Family of Iran

To be continued …..

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Why the Iranian scenario failed in Egypt? Part One

  1. Dina Sabra

    Love can’t wait to read the rest

  2. LT

    Following her return from Iran, Princess Fawzia remarried and lived very quietly in Alexandria until she died six months ago at the age of 91.

    All her belongings were confiscated in 1952, some inappropriately since they were hers as the ex-wife of the Shah of Iran rather than as a member of the Egyptian royal family.

    I have no idea how she survived the last 60 years without an income, particularly after the death of her second husband.

    Her funeral was a very simple affair on July 3, 2013, in el Sayda Nafisa Mosque in Cairo, well below her stature in Egyptian history. It came days after the events of June 30 and hardly anyone paid attention. She is buried next to her second husband.

  3. Alex Dadourian

    Beautiful review, Dina. I loved it. I, too, was born in Egypt (8 years) after the Coup of 1952. I loved the Shah and the Shahbanou. I remember their first official visit to Egypt in January 1975. I breathlessly followed the turmoil in Iran in 1978 and the exile of the Imperial Family to Egypt in January 1979.
    Fearing a similar revolution, we left Egypt in the summer of 1979 to settle in Los Angeles. My English Language term papers were about King Farouk. I needed to learn the truth; not the propanganda in the “history” classes when I was growing up in Egypt. I came to love our Royal Family and all the good they did FOR Egypt. And an interesting fact: I am caring for a 97 year old Armenian/ Assyrian woman who was personal friends with Queen Nazly
    and the Princeses Faiza and Fathia when they were in exile in Los Angeles.
    The Queen, who died in May 1978, LOVED Middle Eastern style yogurt that this lady prepared!

    • Thank you and glad you liked the article. Who is Dina??

      • Alex Dadourian

        Hi Alexandra, I apologize, I misread the name of one of the respondents and thought it was your name. As Alex, I can’t forget Alexandra! Obvious from my name that I am of Armenian origin. By the time we left, the Armenian Community in Egypt was already under 5,000 in count.
        Today is under 3000. Khediv Ismail’s idea of Cairo as a Cosmopolitan
        Mosaic of a city had its knell on July 23, 1952. I am being cautious in my words, not being sure as to where you reside…
        As a Christian, non-Arab, and Gay, I had three strikes against me and I needed to be out of there!

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