Memories of the Parisiana

WIndsor

When a few years ago I interviewed the owner of Cairo’s Windsor hotel, William Doss (who was then 94), his earliest memories of the place were not of the hotel but of the bar–restaurant that once occupied the ground floor. This was the Parisiana, one of several popular night spots on Alfi Bey, along with the neighbouring Kursaal and the St James. As a student in the 1930s, Doss told me, he would go each Thursday evening to sit at one of the Parisiana’s pavement tables and order a beer for two and a half piasters. The café also appears in the memoir The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, as the venue where the parents of author Lucette Lagnado first met: “Edith was sitting outdoors at La Parisiana, Cairo’s most popular café, enjoying a café turque with her mother, when she noticed the man in white.”

Shark_Skin_2

The café is, of course, long gone. It was ‘foreign-owned’, and in the wake of the 1952 Revolution it was either nationalized or the owner just sold up and quit. Doss remembers the space becoming a showroom for a state collective of furniture makers before being occupied by the Ministry of Communication. This week I received an email from the great-granddaughter of a/the former owner of the Parisiana, an Armenian called Kapriel Ayrandjian. This lady wonders if I have any further information on the Parisiana and/or her great-grandfather. Unfortunately I don’t but I wonder if anybody reading this blog has? If so, please do get in touch.

10 Comments

Filed under Lost Egypt

10 Responses to Memories of the Parisiana

  1. Janine

    Another wonderful entry – thank you!! In fact I have just obtained the book you are recommending :D

  2. i am the author of the Man in the White Sharkskin Suit — was so delighted to discover your blog and yr entry on La Parisiana —
    indeed —
    I think that this cafe figured so largely in my imagination that it haunted me.
    Would love the email of the descendant of the original owner if you can share it or if you can ask her to email me it would be wonderful — i have been looking for any PHOTOGRAPHS of the actual cafe but have never seen any actually —
    take care once again, Lucette Lagnado.

    • Tanya

      Hi lucette, my email is t_ goudsouzian@hotmail.com i’m the “descendant” in question. Would love to hear from you.

    • Alexander Hed

      Dear Mrs. Lagnado

      I found your book, ” the man in the sharkskin Suit” in a bookstore in Johannesburg and read it on the plane home..what and epic tale…I was deeply moved..since then I have read many tales of among others the Greeks who left Egypt in 1962….Egypt today is more or less 100% Egyptian…and I think that it wasn t a good idea to get rid of all the foreigners and kill the multicultural Egypt that had existed..the Turks did the same after 1922.

  3. yetvart (Ed) Yaghdjian

    Tanya,
    I was born in Cairo in 1937, and am sorry to say that I have to question the accuracy of the information in your article.
    The reason I say this is because like everybody else in Cairo, I went to Parisiana for dinner or lunch very frequently and regularly from the time I was a small child, almost until I left Egypt in 1968.
    My parents and I as a family were close friends with the family that owned Parisiana. The owners were a gentleman by the name of Puzant Tekeyan, his wife, his son Arto, and two daughters Chaké and Araxi. Puzant Tekeyan died in the early 1950s and his wife Mrs. Tekeyan soon after. Their son Arto continued running the restaurant. Arto had diabetes and died in 1956.
    After that, I believe the business was sold, and the daughters who were in their forties got married and settled in the USA: Florida to be precise. They left no “descendants” that I know of.
    Sincerely,
    Ed Yghdjian

  4. Alexander Hed

    The Book, “the man in sharkskin suite” by Mrs.Lagnado which I found in a bookstore in Johannesburg and read is a fascinating and sad story..was is typical is that most of these foreign owned shops,bakeries,hotels,restaurants just vanished or if left are in a sorry state..obviously the arabo-egyptians never cared much for piety or quality..most of these if not all who built the service-infrastructure of Cairo or Alexandria where foreigners…the Egyptians have done a lousy job in preserving this..they are sloppy,indifferent in what they do. Sorry to say this although I m fascinated by Egypt.

  5. Alexander Hed

    Tragic that all those foreign owned institutions like Shepheard Hotel, Semiramis hotel or Groppis where either destroyed, nocked down or fell into a dilapidated state concerning service…..why? didn t Egyptians care for these places once the foreigners were gone??

  6. Rita Batchelor

    My maiden name is Djerdjerian, and I am the grand-daughter of Garabed Djerdjerian, one of four partners who together owned and ran the famous Parisiana. The family names of the other partners were Tekeyian, Ibishian, and Ayrandjian. In 1952 Parisiana was burned down during the revolution, and the following year my grandfather passed away and my father Arto Djerdjerian took his place (although the restaurant was still closed). in 1954 Parisiana was reopened by Levon and Senpat Ibishian (sons of the original partner), who were then joined by my father. The restaurant was nationalised in (I think) 1965/66, closed and turned into a governmental communications office. I remember Parisiana as a young girl of 12/13 years old, always with great fondness.

  7. Rita Batchelor

    I only have one picture which shows the outside of one side of Parisiana, unfortunately there is a shining new car parked in front which mars some of the view of Parisiana. Nonetheless I’ve forwarded the pic. to your @bt internet address. I also have a copy of an article titled ‘Enjoy Cairo Café for 50 cents’ from a January 1961 edition of the Chicago Sunday Tribune; I think this says it all! I’m also sending this to your e mail address.
    I hope you find these interesting.
    (PS. I’m forwarding these to you as I don’t think I can upload them directly to the blog.

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