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Greeks of Alexandria

Greeks of Alexandria

Oct 12, 2011

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now..

Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.

go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

˜Cavafis

The Greek population of Alexandria, Egypt, once numbered some 150,000. Traders, businessmen, philanthropists and artists moved among the cosmopolitan society of Alexandria. Their legacy is still to be seen today, not only in their historical influence, their writings, teachings and their influence on the society of Egypt and Greece, but also in the structures which they designed and built – hospitals, churches, schools, public buildings and mansions.

The contribution of the Greek population in the financial life of Egypt was very important. It was the Greek agriculturists and farmers that first systematically and with scientific planning, have cultivated cotton and tobacco. The emergence of a Greek aristocracy that consisted of rich industrialists, commercants and bankers has led to the great legacy of Egyptiot Greek philanthropism. These benefactors have donated large amounts for the building of schools, academies, hospitals and institutions in both Egypt and their mother land Greece. Major benefactors include Benakis, Tositsas, Averof,Salvagos, Rodochanakis.

Today the Hellenic community of Alexandria has dwindled to a mere 800 and many of the businesses, clubs, hospitals and schools have closed, but many of the churches and grand neo-classical buildings remain.  In Alexandria, apart from the patriarchate, there is a patriarchal theology school that opened recently after 480 years being closed. Saint Nicolas church and several other buildings in Alexandria have been recently renovated by the Greek Government  and the Alexander Onasis Foundation During the last decade, there has been a new interest from the Egyptian government for a diplomatic rapprochement with Greece and this has positively affected the Greek diaspora.

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