EGYPTIAN ARMENIANS.

Via Jonathan Edelstein at The Head Heeb, a fascinating Al-Ahram supplement on the Armenian minority in Egypt. To steal Jonathan’s summary:

In the 1940s, this community numbered as many as 100,000 members, most of whom arrived as refugees from the Turkish genocide of 1915-17. During the Nasser era, however, they suffered from the same expropriation and punitive measures that affected the Greek and Jewish communities. The Egyptian Armenians, who live mostly in Alexandria and Cairo, are undergoing something of a resurgence today, but they number fewer than 6000.


The supplement includes several articles, one of which, “Little Armenia” by Fayza Hassan, includes this paragraph on the dialect of the community:

The difference in dialects is often mentioned by Armenians who have visited Armenia. Aida Ostayan, who has been directing the Armenian programme on Radio Cairo for 30 years, explains: "The Armenians of Armenia were under Persian and Russian influence; they are the Eastern Armenians. We, on the other hand, lived in the Ottoman provinces and our roots are more European." Ostayan herself was born in Aleppo. "The language is really the same, but there are differences in accent (as in Egyptian Arabic and Lebanese for instance), and words have been borrowed from one or the other culture, which sometimes lead to confusion," she says.

I once visited the Armenian quarter of Aleppo and heard an Armenian priest chant from the Bible: quite an experience. Must learn Armenian one of these days…

Comments

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