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Nasser: My Husband

Tahia Gamal Abdel Nasser
Translated by Shereen Mosaad
Edited by Tahia Khaled Abdel Nasser
Foreword by Hoda Gamal Abdel Nasser
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Gamal Abdel Nasser, architect of Egypt’s 1952 Revolution, president of the country from 1956 to 1970, hero to millions across the Arab world since the Suez Crisis, was also a family man, a devoted husband and father who kept his private life largely private. In 1973, three years after his early passing at the age of 52, his wife Tahia wrote a memoir of her beloved husband for her family. The family then waited almost forty years, through the presidencies of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, both unsympathetic to the memory of Nasser, before publishing Tahia’s book in Arabic for the first time in 2011. Now this unique insight into the life of one of the giants of the twentieth century is finally available in English. Accompanied by more than one hundred photographs from the family archive, many never before published, this historic book tells the story of Gamal and Tahia’s life together from their marriage in 1944, through the Revolution and Gamal’s career on the world stage, revealing an unknown and intimate picture of the man behind the president. “At 6:30am on the morning of July 23, 1952 there was a knock on the door. Tharwat Okasha shook my hand and congratulated me: ‘The military coup has succeeded.’ I asked him about Gamal. ‘He is close by, not more than five minutes away at the General Command.’ At 9:30am an officer called: he had come from the General Command at Kubri al-Qubba, sent by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser to tell me that he was fine and would not be home for lunch."

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-368-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Hoda Gamal Abdel Nasser

    After my father’s funeral period, which lasted forty days, as was the custom, my mother Tahia found herself in a difficult situation: the house had been full of mourners from Egypt, the Arab world, and foreign countries, who had come to express their deepest sympathy and share the family’s sorrow (I still have the funeral notes and letters of condolence from statesmen and friends); now each one of us returned to his or her work and family. But fortunately for Tahia, her eldest son Khaled, who was still a student in the Department of Engineering at Cairo University, and her...

  4. Prologue: DEARLY DEPARTED
    (pp. 1-4)

    The date is 24 September 1973. In four days’ time it will be three years since the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser—the great leader, my beloved husband. There is not a minute that passes when I do not feel the sadness, when every moment I lived with him is not in my mind’s eye: his voice, his always radiant image, his humanity, his struggles, his challenges, his words, his speeches.

    With the memories come the tears; even when I laugh I feel the tears constantly choking me.

    I lived with Gamal Abdel Nasser for eight years before the Revolution,...

  5. Early Years
    (pp. 5-15)

    Let me now talk of my memories with Gamal Abdel Nasser: firstly, how he made my acquaintance and how he married me.

    My family had a longstanding friendship with his. He used to visit us with his uncle and his aunt, who was a friend of my mother, and meet with my second brother, and at times he would see me and greet me. When he decided to marry he sent his uncle and aunt to ask for my hand in marriage. At the time, he was a captain in the armed forces. My brother—who, after my father’s death,...

  6. To Palestine
    (pp. 16-21)

    Gamal completed his studies at the Staff Officers Academy and graduated in May 1948. Two days before graduation, he asked me to prepare his suit for him and to sew on a red badge below the military badge, which I happily did. Captain Gamal Abdel Nasser graduated, and I proudly congratulated him with love.

    Two days later, he asked me to pack his bags because he was traveling to Palestine to fight. It was a surprise to me, and I cried. When he asked me why I was crying, I told him, “How can I not cry when you are...

  7. Return from al-Faluja
    (pp. 22-29)

    At the beginning of March 1949, Gamal telephoned and said he was in Arish, and asked me to go to my brother’s house on the following day so that he could talk to me. I was elated that he was back and that we could talk. He asked about Hoda and Mona, and also told me that he wanted to speak to his father. So the next day his father came with me to my brother’s house and spoke with Gamal. He told me that he would call me every day at eight in the morning until he returned to...

  8. Continual Meetings with the Officers
    (pp. 30-45)

    Visitors came constantly, most of them officers who spent some time with Gamal and then left; others—one or two—would stay late into the night, talking in low, muted tones. Some nights there would be a knock on the door after we had gone to bed and Gamal would rise and see his guest into the salon where they would talk for a while; some stayed till dawn. Some nights he had more than one visitor and on other nights he would get dressed and go out with the caller, even though the house had retired to bed. This...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. Prelude to the Revolution
    (pp. 46-49)

    Our household remained the same: visitors at all hours both before and after the Ramadaniftar, and late nights out of the house. When Ramadan ended and we celebrated the feast, Gamal suggested we go and visit my sisters in Giza, who both lived in the same building. We took the car with Hoda, Mona, Khaled, and Mido.

    When we were close to the house, Gamal asked me if I would like him to drive us up to the Pyramids since the weather was agreeable; I agreed and thanked him, thinking it would be nice for the children.

    While we...

  11. The 23 July Revolution
    (pp. 50-63)

    It was 22 July 1952. At seven o’clock, Gamal, who had been up all night working in the dining room, came in and greeted me before getting dressed in his uniform and having breakfast with me.

    He came back in the afternoon and had lunch with the officers. They sat together in the salon and then they left. He asked me, “Why don’t you go with my brothers to the cinema and take Hoda, Mona, and Khaled? The weather is hot; it would be nice to go out.” I agreed to go.

    He went out before us, and, at sunset,...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. The Declaration of the Republic
    (pp. 64-65)

    Gamal had an abdominal pain that I did not know of for some time because he was out of the house most of the day.

    One day, before going out, he told me that he would be back for lunch and asked me to prepare a light meal of boiled vegetables because he had a slight pain in his stomach. I made the lunch and waited for him, but he did not show up. I thought nothing of it, believing that he had been delayed and had not had the time to come home. Later, I received a visit from...

  14. Conspiracies
    (pp. 66-69)

    Gamal came home before sunset and told me to pack a bag and take the children to my sister’s, and stay the night there. He told me I had to leave before eight because he was expecting an attack on the house, even an attempt to destroy it with cannon fire. I was to stay at my sister’s until he called me to come back.

    I packed my bags and called for the black Austin, which I used for going out, to wait for me in the garden. Gamal was in the salon with some officers and I sat in...

  15. At Home after the Revolution
    (pp. 70-72)

    On 8 January 1955, my youngest son, Abdel Hakim, was born. Before going to the hospital to give birth, I called Gamal to let him know. He had a meeting at the house with a Sudanese delegation. He told me that they would leave quickly and he could come with me, but I refused, telling him I could go alone and not to worry. At eleven at night, after I had given birth to my son, the doctor called Gamal to congratulate him and give him the good news. Gamal said, “I will come to the hospital now.” The doctor...

  16. The Nationalization of the Suez Canal Company
    (pp. 73-76)

    In the summer of 1956, we rented the same villa in Alexandria that we had the summer before. I returned to Cairo to attend the 23 July celebrations, and on 25 July went back to Alexandria.

    On 26 July, the President came to Alexandria to give a speech at al-Manshiya Square. After greeting me, he told me that he was having a cabinet meeting at the house. I left the house before he did, to go and wait for him to give the speech, at a building close to the square. I sat on the balcony, and waited to see...

  17. Life at Manshiyat al-Bakri after the Evacuation
    (pp. 77-79)

    The house has two floors. The ground floor has a first entrance into a sitting area, then an entrance to the left to the President’s study and an entrance to the right to the President’s private salon. The house facing ours had been rented to serve as offices for the guards and secretaries.

    The President worked from home more often, using his study and salon for meetings, and the activity in the house increased. I could detect no difference between mornings and nights; even when I had been out and came home late from the theater or opera, I would...

  18. Presidential Duties
    (pp. 80-87)

    The union with Syria was in February 1958,¹⁴ and the President was burdened with work. He traveled to Syria for a month and I remained in Cairo.

    In the summer of 1958, he was invited to Yugoslavia and President Tito insisted that the children and I accompany him on the visit. I traveled to Alexandria with the children ahead of the President, and we tookal-Hurriyato Yugoslavia on my first trip abroad. We were accompanied by Dr. Mahmoud Fawzi, the foreign minister, and Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, and their wives.

    When we arrived at the port of Dubrovnik, we were...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  20. End of the Union
    (pp. 88-89)

    The President used to travel to Syria for the union celebrations each year and stay for more than a month. I never went with him, since he preferred that I remain with the children.

    On the morning of 28 September 1961, the President received an urgent phone call. I was standing by his side at the time. He was informed of a military coup in Syria, and told that Abdel Hakim Amer was there. He quickly rose and got dressed, and went out, extreme agitation showing on his face. I remained quiet and did not comment on the news. I...

  21. The Family Man
    (pp. 90-95)

    President Gamal Abdel Nasser enjoyed watching films and considered this to be his time of rest and relaxation. During a movie, he would still receive memos, and he would read them using a lighter and write his replies in minutes, and then go back to his film. Sometimes, after reading a memo, he would get up and go to his study. Before leaving the room, he would tell me to go on watching, but I always asked for the film to be stopped till he returned. At other times, if he was going to be detained, he would let me...

  22. 1967
    (pp. 96-102)

    The Israelis had attacked Syria and the President was with us that morning. He said, “The Israelis will attack Egypt.” And he indicated the exact day—the following Monday. His prediction came true: Israel attacked on 5 June 1967, in the morning.

    On 9 June, the President gave a speech. I was in the sitting room with Abdel Hamid and Abdel Hakim, then twelve years old, watching the speech on television. The President announced that he was stepping down. I had no idea that he intended this, and I could see the sadness on his face. I looked at my...

  23. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  24. The First Heart Attack
    (pp. 103-106)

    When Khaled and Abdel Hakim finished their exams in the summer of 1969, I went with them to Alexandria. It was the President’s preference that I accompany them there. He was still worried about them swimming far out to sea. The President remained in Cairo at Manshiyat al-Bakri until August, when he came to Alexandria for a few days. He spent all his time working, in meetings in the salon overlooking the sea or in his study with his dossiers.

    He told me that I would be accompanying him on a trip in the first week of September to the...

  25. Summer 1970
    (pp. 107-113)

    Abdel Hakim was to take his exams for the second secondary year. The President told him before his exams that if he scored 80% he could ask for any gift, and the secretary, Mohamed Ahmed, would get it for him. Hakim used to wait for any opportunity to enter his father’s study, where he would embrace him, and if the President had a camera, radio, or small recorder he would ask Hakim, “What do you think?” And as Hakim left the room he would tell him, “Take it with you.”

    Hakim passed, and scored 84%, and went into his father’s...

  26. The Final Moments
    (pp. 114-118)

    The President stayed at the Hilton, and I followed the news in the papers, on the radio, and on television. On Sunday I was watching the 9 o’clock news, read by Samira al-Kelani. “An agreement has been reached at the Summit Conference. The President bade farewell to some leaders and kings, and the rest will leave Cairo tomorrow.” I let out a cry of joy and clapped my hands. My daughter Mona had just come in at that moment and said, “Shall we watch a movie together?” And we went down to the first floor.

    At 10:30, the butler came...

  27. Index
    (pp. 119-122)