In this series I’ll introduce the main characters of the hugely popular podcast “Making the Cut” makingthecutpodcast.com. These characters come to life in my book Roots & Branches soon to be available on Amazon.
Abdel Aziz was born in 1905 in an adobe hut in Beni Harem a village along the Nile some 400 Km south of Cairo. As far as human memory allows, Beni Harem is the seat of the Meguid clan who cultivated a strip of fertile land in the province of Assiut, bordered by the desert to the west, the mighty waters of the Nile to the east and south by the Kingdom of Kush–the lands of Nubia and Sudan.
At age 4 years he watched his mother lie on her straw mattress and gradually die after a fatal accident. When his stepmother, Nazifa, bore a son two years later, he was sold into servitude in Cairo. His innocent crime was that his half-brother displaced him from the pinnacle of sibling hierarchy. Escaping his master, he became a boarder at the Madrasa (religious school) at Al-Azhar where he educated himself. By nineteen, Abdel Aziz had become a confident, self-assured, ambitious young man. As an employee of the Ministry of Education, he taught the Arabic language to first graders in a government-run school at a meagerly salary.
Now as the most learned in the Meguid clan the family in Beni Harem, seeking the prosperity of city life, joined him in Cairo. In 1928, he enrolled in a teacher training program at Saint Luke’s College in Exeter, Devon, England. There he met many young German women who had left their homeland because the National Socialists (Nazis) had closed the progressive women schools. Among them was Margarete Steinbach. Although she was betrothed to a good Nationalist officer in Hamburg who reflected German pride of fatherland, she faced the dilemma of choice: the vanilla German or the forbidden chocolate brown Egyptian. She married chocolate instead of vanilla.
Abel Aziz was a dark skinned hairy man who embodied centuries old Arab tribal traditions and wisdom–a true non-Aryan. So different looking was he, that the arrogant Brown Shirts arrested him thinking he was Jewish. After all like all Jews, he too was circumcised. His life was spared when they discovered that his wife was a proud Aryan German. His mother-in-law adored him. His father-in-law, now a committed National Socialist, reserved judgment. Seeing him pose on the Elbe’s jetty–hairy chest and curly hair–yet with a book in his hand struck a conflicting and contradictory picture. Was this Egyptian more worthy than the loyal German officer? Only time would tell.