Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 February 2005
Issue No. 728
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


A daring princess

Princess Fawzia (1940-2005)

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Princess Fawzia; Crown Prince Ahmed Fouad, (second from left) the late princess's brother, paying his last respects

Princess Fawzia, the daughter of King Farouk, Egypt's last monarch, died last Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, following a long and courageous struggle with multiple sclerosis -- a disease which left her paralysed for the past nine years. She was 64.

President Hosni Mubarak asked the Egyptian consulate in Geneva to convey his heart-felt condolences to the family and assist them in flying the princess back home. Claire, Princess Fawzia's life-long friend and loving caretaker during her long illness, accompanied her.

The princess was buried on Sunday in the Al-Rifaai Mosque, where she was laid to rest next to her father and her sister, Princess Fadia, who died in 2003.

The funeral was attended by members of the royal family of Egypt and their friends and relatives.

Crown Prince Ahmed Fouad, the late king's son, led the mourners who included Prince Fouad Sadeq and his sister Princess Fahima Sadeq, Prince Hussein Sherin, Dr Mustafa El- Demerdash and his children Ibrahim and Amina, Princes Ali and Shamel Orlof, Princess Yasmin Perreten and her husband Ali Shaarawi, Prince Abbas Helmy, Princess Nimet Amr and her daughter Ms Magda Sabry, and Ms Amina Rady, daughter of Princess Nimet- Allah Ibrahim Halim.

Princess Fawzia was born on 7 April 1940. She was named after her aunt Fawzia, reportedly the king's favourite sister. In her youth, the elder Fawzia was described as one of the world's most beautiful women and became the Shah of Iran's first wife.

Princess Fawzia was King Farouk's second daughter from his first wife Queen Farida. Her older sister, Ferial, taught French literature. Princess Fadia, her younger sister, worked as a translator for the Swiss Ministry of Tourism, and was married to Russian Prince Orlof.

Princess Fawzia was 12 when her father was overthrown by the 1952 Revolution. Immediately after the Free Officers took charge, they exiled the royal family. On 26 July 1952, King Farouk left Alexandria for Rome with his three daughters. He never returned to his homeland.

Seeking a better education for his daughters two years later, the king sent the three princesses to a Swiss boarding school. Their mother, Queen Farida, remained in Egypt for at least 10 years after the revolution before moving first to Lebanon and then to Switzerland, where she joined her daughters. Eventually the queen returned to Egypt, where she spent the last years of her life and where she was buried as she had always wished.

Since the days of her early childhood, Princess Fawzia was known for her zest for life. A gifted and accomplished athlete, the princess took flying lessons and obtained a pilot's licence. She also qualified as a professional sailor, eventually acquiring the rank of captain. "Fawzia was totally fearless," said her cousin Prince Fouad Sadeq, the son of the king's sister Princess Faika, and a talented Cairo-based artist and designer.

"I have never met anybody as daring. In addition to being a pilot and a sailor, she was a passionate scuba diver. She would dive in the Red Sea, sometimes at hazardous points -- regardless of the dangers involved. One day I was swimming with her when I noticed something resembling a shark's tail sticking out of a cave. When I warned her that the cave may be infested with sharks, she actually dove down and stuck her head inside the cave to get a closer look. She was truly extraordinary."

Princess Fawzia was multi-lingual, mastering French, English, Italian and Spanish as well as Arabic. A highly intelligent and hardworking woman, she passed a notoriously difficult exam -- with a success rate of about five per cent -- which qualified her to work as a simultaneous interpreter in Switzerland.

"Contrary to appearances, she was not a rich woman," said Sadeq. "Although her father had money, he did not leave his daughters much. So Fawzia had to work for a living like everybody else. And although the flying, sailing and diving bit may sound like she was leading a jet-setter's life, she paid for everything out of her own salary. And she worked hard, the competition was tough and the job stressful."

Sadeq remembers her as a happy person. Although she had lost her fortune along with her status as an Egyptian princess, and the press took turns at vilifying her father, and her family's legacy, she was not embittered. "Let's say she just learned to live with it," explained Sadeq. "She felt thoroughly Egyptian, despite everything. Throughout her long years of exile, she continued to love her homeland, returning as often as she could."

The last years of her life were hard, especially for an athlete of her calibre and vitality. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, she eventually became paralysed and bedridden. But true to form, she remained dignified and undefeated.

Faiza Rady

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