The Arbor Vitae 2013

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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

The Smouha City Venture:
Alexandria 1923-1958

October 20, 2014

Tags: Smouha City, Richard Smouha, Joseph Smouha

This mid-month blog is to alert readers to a new book, just published, and available in print and on Kindle. If you read my memoir, SIPPING FROM THE NILE, you may remember reading about my grandfather, Joseph Smouha, and his transformation of a swampy mosquito-infested area of the city of Alexandria into a visionary real estate development: Smouha City.
THE SMOUHA CITY VENTURE explores various aspects involved in the creation, development and urbanization of Smouha City, a suburb of Alexandria in Egypt.
Joseph Smouha's eldest grandson, my cousin, Richard Smouha, ("Dicky" in my memoir) - with the help of two experts in the fields of historical, archeological and architectural research, Cristina Pallini and Marie-Cecile Bruwier - has pulled together a fascinating historical overview of Alexandria, a collaborative recording of the underpinnings of the incredible real estate venture that our grandfather, Joseph Smouha undertook, which transformed the city of Alexandria in his lifetime.
To the readers of my memoir, THE SMOUHA CITY VENTURE provides a fascinating context to SIPPING FROM THE NILE. It is interesting, entertaining and informative, and contains many wonderful maps and photos. Altogether, it is a valuable document. Delving into antiquity, historical and recent architectural discoveries and first-hand accounts of the events preceding, during and following the birth of Smouha City, Richard Smouha's book is thoroughly researched. It paints a vivid picture of the societal and architectural makeup of Alexandria during the first half of the mid-20th century, as well as expanding what we know about the history of our family and our Smouha grandparents.






Building My Winter Burrow

October 1, 2014

Tags: Winter Burrow, High Holidays, fall, squirrels, hibernating, winter

A Hibernated World

The months of early Fall whirl into focus amidst the beauty and turbulence of a rising wind dancing the leaves, and the pressures and pleasures of the High Holidays. These months also bring echoes of my losses. My two beloved maternal grandparents died during the High Holidays many years ago. My father died on the second night of Rosh Hashana in 1971, my mother last October. It is difficult not to view this time of year without a creeping apprehension that goes beyond a fear of the ice and cold to follow, the possibility of a winter as long and hard as the last one.
But as we come to terms with grey skies and the sudden assault of a day of wind and chill reminding us that summer is past, along with the squirrels, the woodchucks, the chipmunks, and the bears, we, too, set about building our winter burrows. Only our burrows are built of schedules and commitments, school routines for the young and their parents, shorter days, more demands, and a pace to match.
I have always known that I am a hibernating animal at heart, longing to curl up in warmth and sleep the winter away while others ski the slopes and run in marathons. This year I plan to let that hibernating creature take over.
To that end, I am now busy gathering my acorns and nuts, renovating my environment, whittling down my commitments and possessions to an organized clarity, preparing to use the winter to focus on my new book from the comfort of my home. I have tucked away as many distractions as possible, and have filled the shelves of my writing room with books relevant to the period and location I plan to explore in my novel. I am warning all my near and dear that my transitional year will end when January begins.
Small flares of the energy building in my subconscious are already bursting to the surface, and when they do, I write their messages down. But in my hibernation to come, I will open myself to doing the nothing that leads to something when it contemplates a blank computer monitor day after day after day, while nature rages outside the window.
Maybe the winter will bring cabin fever and nothing more. Maybe the pages I hope to write will never reach out into the world, but no matter how it goes, I am resolute.
If not now, when...?


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