March 24, 2012

The Montazah Palace in Alexandria Egypt

The Montazah Palace, formerly the residence of Farouk, is surrounded by a large garden, with a number of other buildings standing nearby. The palace itself has been converted into a museum, and one of the buildings in the grounds is now a casino. The walls of the galleries in the three-story palace are hung with pictures, some depicting love scenes from the Middle Ages.

The Montazah Palace in Alexandria
Twelve miles east of the Montazah Palace lies the El Mamura coast, where Sadat has his country retreat. I was fortunate on one occasion to interview the president’s wife, Jehan, there. My real objective was an interview with the president himself, and I had hoped that I could somehow persuade Madame Sadat to intercede with him on my behalf. It was by appealing to Madame Dewi, the wife of Sukarno, that I managed to get an interview with him in Jakarta in 1965, and I was hoping to be as fortunate in securing an interview with the president of Egypt.

My interview with Madame Jehan Sadat took place over tea at a table on the beach. I noticed from the marks on the teacups and napkins that the Sadats were using the Palestine Hotel, which overlooks the sea at El Montazah, to do their catering. I found it very difficult to raise the subject of an interview with the president, and only managed to hint at my real intention at the very end of the interview by saying, “I hope most sincerely that the next time we meet, you will be accompanied by your husband the president.” But Madame Sadat merely acknowledged this with a polite “Thank you.” During my stay in Egypt, I always regretted not asking her more directly to help arrange an interview with the President.

Despite my failure to meet her husband, the interview with Madame Sadat was delightful. During the course of our conversation she told me about a few behind-the-scenes incidents of the revolution. In his book, The Revolt of the Nile, Sadat states that the uprising by the “young Turks” had been brought forward an hour. Sadat was not informed of this and was watching a movie at the time of the outbreak. Madame Sadat smiled as she told me the story from a slightly different perspective. “Actually he had gone with me to see the movie. When we got back there was a message from someone at my husband’s desk. He read it and rushed out again. He didn’t say a word to me and it wasn’t until the next morning, when I heard the voice of my own husband reading out the first communique of the revolution over the radio, that I knew what had happened. That was the first I had heard of the revolution.”

Madame Sadat is a tall, beautiful women, with a little English blood in her. I can see her now as I write, her hair floating in the sea breeze. The place where we had tea was sheltered from the sea by a fence so that it is impossible for anyone to peek into the house from the sea.

Related Web Search :
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