Where have all the Greeks gone? The story of Greeks in Africa

From Egypt to South Africa, the Greeks came in their thousands, and then they left

By George Philipas

Today there remain only few Greeks in Africa, mainly in the metropolises of South Africa. These last remnants only hint at a rich past that tied generations of Greeks to the vast African continent. There are some who still remember this prosperous past.

Minis Papapetrou, a retired engineer who grew up in Sudan and now resides in Athens, describes how he and around 200 members of the ‘Greek Community of Sudan’ still meet periodically in the Greek capital. Before Covid disrupted life, they regularly gathered for Christmas and Easter, even though most, including Papapetrou himself, left Africa almost 50 years ago. So powerful is the memory of the place that bonds them.

feature greeks antonis chaldeos
Antonis Chaldeos

“When we get together, or go to the club, our conversations are all about when we were back in Sudan,” he sighs. “Do you remember that? Do you remember when we went there? It’s a nice feeling to remember the country you were born.”

Papapetrou represents the last in a line of three generations of Greeks whose fortunes ebbed and flowed with those of the continent.

Greeks began arriving in numbers in Africa in the late 19th century. They mainly settled in Egypt and later travelled to Sudan before expanding to far-off places like East and South Africa. They soon found their feet turning to lucrative agri-businesses such as cotton and tobacco as well as banking and trading. At the turn of the 20th century, almost two-thirds of all cotton production from Egypt that fed the textiles factories of Manchester and northern England was produced by Greek settlers.

Greeks were by far the most adventurous foreign community too, venturing far and wide. All this was achieved often in spite of harsh and sometimes deadly conditions.

They suffered many setbacks, some having fought and died with Major-General Charles Gordon in Khartoum during the Mahdi Uprising in 1885. According to Antonis Chaldeos, an expert on Greek migration in Africa and author of eight books on the subject including The Greek Community of Sudan, Gordon compared the Greeks’ defence of Khartoum to that of the Spartans at Thermopylae. Those Greeks that survived the siege were forced to convert to Islam and marry the Catholic nuns who were captured.

Nevertheless Greeks continued to thrive all over Africa numbering over 50,000 in Egypt by the 1940s and 60,000 in Sudan by the mid-1950s. From there though their numbers quickly collapsed. So much so, that today they number no more than a few thousand In Egypt and merely hundreds in Sudan.

feature greeks the soweto uprising saw people leaving south africa fearing a repeat of experiences elsewhere
The Soweto uprising saw people leaving South Africa fearing a repeat of experiences elsewhere

So what happened?

A simple answer was the wave of nationalisations that swept North Africa following the surge in independence movements. The most significant was that by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt starting in 1961. Having their livelihoods and businesses taken away almost overnight devastated the Greek community and they departed en masse in the years that followed. Almost 40,000 left Egypt between 1961 and 1967 never to return.

Many migrated to South Africa, but by then a sense of alienation began to set in and the deep ties that had been forged on the frontiers of the Nile and Sahara in the late 19th century and early 20th century were broken.

feature greeks main evangelos bourboulis in 1974 in asmara receiving a business award from the governor general of the (then) ethiopian province of eritrea debebe haile maryam
Evangelos Bourboulis in 1974 in Asmara receiving a business award from the Governor-General of the (then) Ethiopian Province of Eritrea Debebe Haile Maryam

A sense of constant fear for the future set in among the remaining Greeks on the continent. So much so that the collective trauma at the start of South Africa’s Soweto student uprising in 1976 started a mass exodus that continued following the end of apartheid in 1990. The population of the last great centre of Greeks in Africa collapsed from a high of over 100,000 in the mid-1970s to just 35,000 today.

As Chaldeos notes, “the main reason for the exodus was fear for the future. Those people who had experienced similar phenomenon in Egypt and Sudan left because they thought that the next part was nationalisation policy.”

Many though challenge the widely accepted narrative in academic circles of why the Greeks left. Eftychia Mylona, PhD Candidate in Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University, believes that while nationalisations were kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back, the writing was on the wall decades before.

feature greeks eftychia mylona
Eftychia Mylona

“It was a process of events – people were talking about departures for some years.” She says, “this kind of Egypt for Egyptians was not a new slogan that came in the 50s or 60s by Nasser.”

Rather than just being alienated by the African independence movements through changes in citizenship laws and nationalisations, Greek communities themselves had started detaching themselves from their host countries.

The failure to adapt to new realities of national independence are striking given the Greeks’ unique position in both Egyptian and Sudanese society, straddling the social and economic vacuum between the British colonial power and the local population. But seen as a symptom of their success, it becomes more apparent. At first, they were treated as second-class citizens by the British, then came to be accepted as they became affluent. And as they did, their attitudes became firmly aligned with those of the colonist’s, regarding themselves of the same class and enjoying the same privileges.

This led to a defensive, siege mentality and ultimately to a failure to adapt to independence. As Professor Matoula Tomara-Sideris of Panteion University and a leading author and expert on Greek migration in Africa explains, “They saw the threat approaching, but they blocked out their ability to mentally and emotionally process the threat in a way that would have allowed them to form a sustainable collective attitude and response to the liberation movements.”

Today, the last remaining Greeks in South Africa continue to leave en masse. For Greeks of a younger generation, fear for their futures remains key. Yesterday’s fears of nationalisation though have been replaced with fears of finding employment and of crime. Since the mid-20th century, the pull of other centres such as Australia, Canada, the US and even Greece itself is too attractive to resist as the economic fortunes of Africa wane.

The Greeks in Africa look certain to dwindle to almost none. More than anything, the spell that bound them to the continent seems broken.

feature greeks professor matoula tomara sideris002
Professor Matoula Tomara Sideris

For the dying golden generation of settlers though, Africa will forever be their home, wherever they go. Evangelos Bourboulis, an industrialist who was the last of three generations on the continent, left for Athens only when his cotton-seed oil factory was confiscated in the mid-70s by the nationalisation policies of President Mengistu of Ethiopia, bears no grudge.

“There is not one person who was born in Africa that doesn’t want to return. That person doesn’t exist. Because its people are very good. Eritreans were my best friends. One by one, they are all dead now. I am the only survivor.”

The likes of Evangelos Bourboulis and Minis Papapetrou will close an illustrious chapter in Greek history, much-forgotten today but just as brave and tragic as the ancients of old.

Rethinking the “Europeanness” of Greek-Australians

Below we reproduce with permission an email we received from Mr Dimitri Gonis




The 2010 Greek economic crisis2 and its manifestation in Australia’s social discourse has underscored, once again, the complex and multifaceted presence of Greeks in Australia.3 Now entering its second and third generations since the mass migration of the 1950s and 1960s, the 2011 Census recorded 99,937 (0.5% of total Australian population – hereafter AP) Greece-born people living in Australia with 378,270 (1.8% AP) claiming Greek ancestry, and 383,400 (1.9% AP) declared as belonging to the Greek Orthodox faith. However, informal sources estimate the Greek-Australian community to be as large as 600,000- 700,000 (Department of Immigration and Border Protection 2014; Tamis 2001, 387).4 Whether from the “custodian” site of western civilization or one of the most dynamic migrant communities, Greeks occupy a unique place in contemporary Australia. In addition to its links to Greece, and by implication, as a conduit to the European project, the Greek-Australian community’s transient, historical and spatial delineations—including its Mediterranean, Hellenic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Orthodox lineages—renders it exceptional when discussing Australia’s European communities. By accentuating these nuances and interpreting them from a critical Eurocentric perspective, this chapter grapples with a series of epistemological questions relating to hyphenated GreekAustralia, at the centre of which is its claim to “Europeanness” as caught within the binary that divides the West from the East.5 But first we need to contextualise our definitional understanding of “Europeanness”. In understanding “Europeanness”, in terms of the ideological development of Greek nationhood, we need to treat Greek “Europeanness” as a subset of—or at least in tandem with—European Rethinking the “Europeanness” of Greek-Australians 3 “Europeanness”, rather than as a separate ontology. After all, Greece’s European ideological orientation took form 50 years prior to the formation of the modern Greek state (Liakos 2008, 204-5). However, from the very outset, Greek nation-builders found themselves, as Hugh Seton-Watson (1977, 112) reminds us, “divided between the followers of the Enlightenment and traditional Orthodoxy”. Greece’s historical and cultural demeanour may lie in the East, but with its national transfiguration it severed its Anatolian linkages that founding fathers such as Rígas Velestinlís (Feraíos) and Adamántios Koraïs viewed as an embarrassment. Paris-based Koraïs, in particular, sought Greek emancipation from the double yoke of Turkish Ottomanism and the obscurantism of the Orthodox Church (Clogg 2010, 28). Greece’s turn to Europe was, in essence, a deliberate embracing of what was then seen as modernity; its institutions and the European rendition of history and geopolitics. Greek “Europeanness” was an evolving construct grounded in eighteenth and nineteenth century European neoclassicism and romanticism which sought to resurrect an idealised rendition of ancient Hellenism through modern institutions, practices and precepts (Horrocks 2014). Such aspirations would ultimately lead in 1832 to the establishment of the Modern Greek nation-state—very much a European construct and an antidote to four centuries of Ottoman oriental subsistence. The re-constructed and nationalised “Hellene” was adulated with a reimagined likeness to its glorious ancient ancestors, as a conduit and continuer of their legacy. This in turn consigned Greeks to a role as custodians of Western (European) civilization. Throughout their history, Greeks have struggled to measure up to the “European invitation”. Convinced of belonging to the West, Greek elites sought to negate the contractions that stemmed from their Oriental and Orthodox lineages and leanings, manufacturing a more “European” “sophisticated” Greek demeanour that purged their Greek culture from all its Ottoman-Eastern vestiges. In this context, Greek Europeanness needs to be viewed as the distilling of an occidental dialectical process that sought to modernise whilst “de-orientalising”. It is within these conflictual parameters that, in both Greece and its diaspora, Modern Greek identity continues to negotiate its Europeanness. While at the very heart of this inquiry are broader ontological considerations of what it means to be a Greek-Australian, this chapter concerns itself with one particular facet: how do Greeks in Australia negotiate their Europeanness? From this core query, a set of sub-questions emerge: What nuances shape—and reshape—identity group formation in a third party setting such as Australia? How does the nexus between the 4 Chapter One original homeland and the adopted hostland impact upon notions of Europeanness amongst Greek-Australians? How has the Europeanization of Greece and Cyprus, as Greek “Metropolitan Centres” (Niotis 1999, 5), affected Greek-Australian perceptions of themselves? And, how does Europeanness (by now a metaphor for the East-West identity predicament), manifest itself for Greeks from different demographic settings (regional, urban, rural) and chronological periods of departure/settlement? These are some of the questions that we will attempt to deliberate on in our survey of the Greek-Australian community as a European diaspora. This chapter makes the case that, if Greek-Australians are to navigate/negotiate their “Europeanness” at all successfully, they will need to forge a sustained and multi-dimensional dialogue with their Anatolian/Eastern predisposition, of the kind that has so far eluded them in their one-dimensional engagement with Europe. Simply put, this will need to be a dialogue that engages not just the political, social, financial, intellectual and cultural leaders of the homeland (Greece and the Republic of Cyprus), but also their respective diasporas in ways that are mutually reinforcing. In this respect, the Greek-Australian community is geoculturally well situated. The dialogue itself will need to be multifaceted, connecting traditional identity concerns with emerging transnational cultural challenges, of which cultural hybridity is but its most striking manifestation. It will also need to reflect upon the evolving social fabric and economic structure of Europe, Asia and Australia with a view to identifying fruitful avenues of collaboration and importantly, ways of negotiating the undeniable cultural and political distance that separates them

Read more: The European Diaspora in Australia

ANGELIKI PANAYIOTATOU: The greatest female figure of the 20thcentury in Hellenic Egypt.

By Emmanuel Thomaidis, SSHD intern

Angeliki Panayiotatou was born in 1878 and after having studied medicine in the University of Athens and graduated with honors, she specialized in microbiology. She became a lecturer in 1908 and a professor of hygiene in the School of Medicine of Athens in 1947. Additionally, in 1950 she was elected corresponding member of the Academy of Athens. She settled down in Egypt where she studied the tropical diseases. She was honored for her work in 1902 with the medal of the Order of the Nile.  Angeliki Panayiotatou can be characterized as the greatest female figure of the 20thcentury in Hellenic Egypt. She moved to Egypt in 1900 specialized in pathology and microbiology and worked there as a microbiologist in the Greek Hospital and in the City Halls of Alexandria  as well as  a pathologist in the Health Department of the Customs of the same city. At the same time she kept her private clinic, attended patients at their homes and continued her scientific research on microbiology.  Alongside all these pursuits, since 1918 she actively participated in the social and charity activities in Alexandria, establishing the «National Association of Greek Women in Egypt» in order to ensure schooling for the working girls as well as summer camps  for the young girls in need. Mrs  Panayiotatou’s Greek literary salon was the first in Alexandria, established in her mansion on June 20th, 1934 under the name «Greek Ladies’ Literary Fellowship of Alexandria». The Greek Ladies’ Literary Fellowship of Alexandria presented once a month musical and literal programs for a period of twenty consecutive years till the death of its founder in 1954.  These concentrations were honored by distinctive personalities such as: the Patriarchs of Alexandria, the Consulates and Vice Consulates of Greece, community members and senior Greek officers, journalists, literati and artists from Greece and Egypt. Since 1926, Angeliki Panayiotatou had demonstrated extensive written work.  She wrote and published herself essays, travelers’ impressions, poems and also prepared scientific announcements for International Medical Conventions in Egypt and elsewhere. She used to be an active member of the Greek Scientific Association «Ptolemy Α». The establishment of «Ptolemy” had science as its primary aim having three branches: the medical part, the law practice part and the scientific part.  The most active department was the medical one. During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) the Association organized a mobile hospital that was sent to the Greek-Bulgarian front. During World War I and II the Association offered a mobile surgery to the «Blue Cross» to cover the needs of the soldiers who were wounded during the air raids in Alexandria. Angeliki Panayiotatou’s love for science is evident in the epilogue of her life, in her will in which she donated her house namely a two-storey private building opposite the Jewish Cemetery in Alexandria to ‘’Ptolemy” so as to continue offering knowledge and science to the future generations». (Tomara-Sideri Women, Gender and Diasporic Lives). In 1950, she was elected corresponding member of the Academy of Athens. Angeliki Panayiotatou died in Alexandria in Egypt in 1954.

Angels Over Alexandria

 by Veronica Morriss

A Tomb Fit for a Queen © 2009 Veronica Morriss

It was a blustery day in Alexandria (El Eskanderia) and the sea was full of chop. The northerly, known by the ancients as the Etesian wind, was blowing strong.  During the summer months this wind would pick up strength and provide favorable conditions for ancient mariners sailing to Egypt from Greece and the Aegean.  Just as in antiquity, the streets of Alexandria are still aligned to catch the northerly gusts that blow off the Mediterranean.  I inhaled deeply.  The air was fresh but slightly fishy.  I was chilled by the ocean air, but the sun was warm on my bare arms.  The taxi dropped me off on the corner of the Greek cemetery which spanned several blocks.  The burial grounds were surrounded by a 10-foot tall white stucco wall that was peeling in spots.  Most people don’t know what lies behind these walls.  There are no signs to indicate the secrets that lie within.

Outside the Greek Cemetery © 2008 E. Boulasiki

Greeks have been living in Egypt for over two millennia.  They arrived as early as the 7th century BC as traders and merchants and later settled in pockets of the Nile Delta.  After the triumph of Alexander (Eskander) the Great, Greeks streamed into Egypt, establishing communities in the Upper and Lower regions of the country.  They were skillful seamen and clever merchants and they brought with them insider knowledge of Greek ship construction and navigation.  After the apostle Saint Mark established the Coptic Orthodox Church in the 1st century CE, Christianity was adopted by the local Egyptian and Greek populations living in Egypt.  When the Arabs arrived in the 7th century CE, with no real navigation experience, they enlisted the help of the Greek Copts to build and man their impressive fleets that patrolled the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

Saint Mark the Apostle © F. Mikhail

Alexandria continued to be the home of a large Greek population up until the Nasser era (1950-70), when many were forced to leave.  Remnants of the Greek presence, however, can still be felt today, and the city exudes a Mediterranean air that recalls its former cosmopolitan history. The multitude of cemeteries in the district of Chatby alone, testify to Alexandria’s multiethnic population.  Today many of these relics are left unnoticed.

I had been to this Greek cemetery twice previously. It is perhaps my favorite place in all of Egypt. I peered through the wrought iron gate that guarded the entrance.  Two German Shepherds who were napping in the shade under a plumeria tree awoke and barked at me incessantly.  This alerted the Egyptian guard who came over to greet me.  He was also catching a wink before I arrived.  As soon as he opened the heavy gate the dogs quieted.  They reminded me of the Egyptian god, Anubis, who watched over the dead. I smiled.  I was the only visitor here and the cemetery was as beautiful as I remembered.  The plumeria trees were in bloom and the palms rustled gently in the protected confines of the burial grounds.  Japanese Shower Trees rained a cascade of red flowers over the walkways.  Bright green bushes, some with white flowers, decorated the grounds.  A single limestone pathway traversed the cemetery, while pebbled paths veered off in all directions around the humble and elaborately decorated tombs.  Though the cemetery is located right in the middle of the city, the plastered walls surrounding the complex keep much of the noise at bay.  I relished the silence of the graveyard and wandered down the narrow paths beside the crypts.

Shower Trees © 2009 Veronica Morriss

Sculptures decorate many of the tombs. Children rest calmly under the watchful eye of towering angels that seem to alight over the cemetery. Their pale marble skin stands out in stark contrast to the bright blue sky.  Other angels perched solemnly on graves. (See them here)

Angel of Alex © 2009 Veronica Morriss

Solitude © 2009 Veronica Morriss

An hour had passed wandering among the silent graves and pondering the lives of those who now inhabit them.

A lonely white marble mausoleum sits in the back of the cemetery.  A set of marble stairs leads to a pair of intricately designed iron doors that are now kept locked because the vault and its contents have been appraised at a value considered ‘priceless’ on today’s market. I ask the local guard to unlock the doors for me.

The Mausoleum © 2009 Veronica Morriss

When he opened them, a life-sized angel advanced from the darkness.  The sight is breathtaking.  With the doors wide open, light cascades through the stone interior.  The angel lurches forward with one foot in stride. Her hand is raised to her mouth in a gesture of silence that sends chills up your spine.  You can almost hear her whisper.

The Guardian © 2009 Veronica Morriss

The folds of drapery that adorn her body, though carved in stone, fall so elegantly over the steps they look real.  Taken aback by the angel’s beauty it is easy to miss the woman lying behind her whom she guards with an outstretched arm.  Frozen in an eternal doze, a sleeping beauty is carved atop a marble sarcophagus.  The artisanship is remarkable. The creases of the sheets and the fine details of lacework on the pillow is inspiring.

The Sleeping Beauty © 2009 Veronica Morriss

An oil painting of the woman in a timeless slumber stands in the corner and adds color to the room.  Alas, it was time to leave. I placed a plumeria at her feet and took one last glance at the angel.

Mistress of the Tomb © 2009 Veronica Morriss

Angel of Silence © 2009 Veronica Morriss

On my way out I stopped at a modest white marble grave adorned with a single cross and a matching marble vase that was empty.  It read in Greek: Constantine Cavafy April 29, 1863- April 29, 1933.  Cavafy, an acclaimed poet, was a Greek Alexandrian. My favorite of his poems was inspired by the Odyssey.  Ithaca, as it is called, is an ode about the journey of life. It calls to mind distant lands and the lure of travel.  It was humbling to stand beside the bones of one of the world’s finest poets.


When you set sail for Ithaca,

wish for the road to be long,

full of adventures, full of knowledge.

The Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes,

an angry Poseidon — do not fear.

You will never find such on your path,

if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit

and body are touched by a fine emotion.

The Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes,

a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,

if you do not carry them within your spirit,

if your spirit does not place them before you.

Wish for the road to be long.

Many the summer mornings to be when

with what pleasure, what joy

you will enter ports seen for the first time.

Stop at Phoenician markets,

and purchase the fine goods,

nacre and coral, amber and ebony,

and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,

the most delicate fragances you can find.

To many Egyptian cities you must go,

to learn and learn from the cultivated.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.

To arrive there is your final destination.

But do not hurry the voyage at all.

It is better for it to last many years,

and when old to rest in the island,

rich with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.

Without her you would not have set out on the road.

Nothing more does she have to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.

Wise as you have become, with so much experience,

you must already have understood what Ithaca means.


SOURCE:  Diving Archaelogy

AL JAZEERA WORLD: Egypt: The Other Homeland

A beautifully-filmed and poignant tale of the once-thriving Greek community in Egypt, told through interviews with returnees and archive footage.

“I feel lucky. Everyone has a homeland. But we, the Greeks of Egypt, have two homelands. Sometimes I am asked: ‘How did you feel in Egypt?’ I felt at home. I was never a stranger.”
Popi Deligiorgi

Greeks and Egyptians are connected by ancient history. Both peoples are descendants of two of the world’s oldest known civilisations.

At the start of the 20th century there were about 200,000 Greeks in Egypt. Today, the Greek community there has approximately 1,000 members.

It was a community that once controlled 80 per cent of Egypt’s financial life, founded the first bank, established the country’s first theatres and cinemas, and produced the first wines and cigarettes.

But this thriving community departed with the rise to power of Gamal Abdel Nasser and pan-Arab nationalism.

This film follows several Greek citizens who undertake a return visit to Egypt, the land where they were born and raised.

They visit their old homes and neighbourhoods as well as former family businesses, and they search for the Egyptian friends they left behind.

Revealing a bygone era, we tell the story of Egypt’s once-thriving Greek community.


SOURCE: http://www.aljazeera.com

The Greeks in Egypt functioned in a modernizing mode either on the scale of Egypt or on the scale of Hellenism. How is this view justified?

by Emmanuel Thomaidis, student of Political Science and History (Spring Semester paper)

Introduction: Within the framework of the activation of the colonial system of France, Great Britain and Italy and the attempt of the above countries to descent to Egypt, we observe the movement the Greek people made to that country during the 19th century AD. However, the Greeks that moved to Egypt altered the constitutional colonial concept: the Greeks descended as poor to establish a community in Egypt ; actually as sojourners rather than settlers. Thus, reference is made in this paper to a specific time spread between the years 1843-1956 AD and within a particular group of Greek population that involves on the one hand impoverished Greek people originating from the Greek mainland and on the other the wealthy ones coming from the Hellenes abroad .In both cases the place of transition was Egypt (Alexandria, Cairo).

On the scale of Egypt: At that time the country even though it possessed the fertile lands of the river Nile, left them unexploited since there was no upper class to attempt this kind of exploitation according to the capitalist standards of the time but the locals (the fellahs) cultivated in this land wheat or rice, not being aware either of the needs of the global market or modern farming methods. In fact, Mohamed Ali’s Egypt was generally a poor Ottoman province. However, this visionary governor wanted to achieve the independence of Egypt from the Ottomans releasing them from the Ottomans so as to be attached to the West. His vision included the Greek factor as well because he knew that the uneducated fellahs were unable to financially develop either themselves or their country in general. The global implications of the American civil war put forward special global financial interest to cotton as a main raw material. The Greeks in Egypt pioneered at all stages of the economic exploitation of the Egyptian cotton: cultivation, processing, distribution and trading: “Overall the Greeks within the general context of their economic activity at all stages (cultivation- processing- distribution- trading) serve in an intensive and in the course of time exclusive mode of a special function that has a decisive strategic importance.: they operate as a think tank and intelligence pool that promote the development and the innovation in the cotton sector”.(1).
The Egyptians are declared as a strategic factor of innovation framing ethically the research on cotton cultivation and strengthening it also regarding material. “The research is framed morally through its recognition by the Greeks and the Egyptians and it is reinforced regarding material by the cotton traders of the community themselves”.(2) The Greeks create new cotton varieties and the orders from the foreign markets began to show their preference to the new ones ( Pelion, Cassavetes, Zagora, Makrynitsa etc.). Zerbinis extracts cotton seed oil from cotton that is used as lamp oil as well. Kartalis invents the lifting machine and creates automatic watering wells. It was the Greeks who first blocked the Nile and exploited the mud of the river for agriculture purposes – water was not lost due to overflow. Dams were created so double harvest became a reality. In 1901 the first Greek Chamber of Commerce was established in Alexandria and in 1923 the Greek Chamber of Commerce was established in Cairo with Dimitri Martinis as its first chairman. Both Greek Chambers are in cooperation as well as with the Chamber of Barges (riverboats on the Nile belonged to the Greek community) and the Greek Chamber of Commerce. In fact, when Zerbinis established Kafr El Zayart Cotton Company, Egypt only exported cotton.

Overall, the whole financial function of the Greeks in the field of cotton is registered in the model identity-innovation –redefinition of identity: ‘’ After their initial involvement with the cultivation of cotton according to traditional methods (identity), the Greeks got involved to the production process by introducing new methods of processing and particularly steam-driven engines that replaced the manual ones (innovation). Later, they intervened by broadening the scope of producers which resulted in the production of cotton seed oil, soap, cotton seeds which were used as animal feed and fertilizers (innovation). Their intervention in the creation of new cotton varieties followed. (…) A final stage followed from 1926 onwards, where no one now …neither looks for nor finds new varieties (redefinition of identity)» (3). In brief, the function of the Greeks-Egyptians delineates how «historical development through suboptimal arrangements» worked: ‘’ When a system assumes that within a certain field the answers have been exhausted as well as the questions and the quests, it is led to a historically defined sense of structural stability and adequacy of the moment (…) yet without explicit knowledge of historical transience. Thus, a particular situation is established which can be characterized as suboptimal arrangement.’’ (4).
But also within the social and political framework, the Greeks in Egypt modernized Egypt. The Greek family networks created the urban class in Egypt. ’’The Egyptian Greeks dominated in all civil and petty occupations that emerged after the penetration of Western capitalism’’, states Constandinos Tsoukalas’’.(5) The Greek rich bourgeoisie were the first who took over government positions and set the example to the Egyptians to get educated as well. The first Greek community in Egypt was established in 1843 in Alexandria, while the second was established in 1856 in Cairo (it was recreated in 1904). Initially, while around Mohammed Ali there were a few local landowners and the rest of the population were uneducated fellahs, the example of the Greeks acted as a catalyst. The Greeks created family networks: the most prominent was Cassavetes who married some of his daughters with the sons of other cotton producers and thus we have the families of Sakellarides, Ionides etc. However, even though the country was promoted due to the Greeks, got released from the Ottoman Empire and the urban middle class was established from scratch, the Egyptians wanted some time to be released from the ‘’foreigners’’, as well. The local bourgeoisie passed laws that ‘’slowed down’’ the Greeks occupations with cotton and although the first Ministry of Agriculture was established in 1914 under the recommendation of the Greeks, finally the abolition of capitulations also abolished the immunity of the Greeks from taxation. The Egyptian urban class promoted Nasser with the slogan ‘’ Foreigners out’’ and while the Greeks believed that they would be exempt from the political approach towards colonists finally they themselves could not spare their removal from the economic activation in Egypt.
On the scale of Hellenism: Additionally to the financial soundness of the Greeks in Egypt, the notion of Beneficence was created (a distinctive characteristic of the Greeks living there and not of the colonizers), in other words the concept of beneficence was established. ‘The road of cotton united the industrially dominating Europe with the rural colonized Middle East through networks and mechanisms where the Greeks in Egypt constituted a crucial link in the chain of dependencies, interactions, contradictions, conflicts, compositions and tragedies that characterized the global financial, political and ideological scene within the historical development: here the dimension of charity is spotted. At the same time, in a particular way that characterizes the leading social classes and the people of the local community, the goods, the ideas and the cultures that framed the orbits and the meetings in the roads of cotton, they shaped and supported an element crucial for the cultural, social and institutional setting of modern Hellenism.: ‘The ideology and practice of benefaction, where exactly the dimension of charity lies’. (6). The Greek tycoons construct schools, churches, hospitals, acting according to the ideology of benefaction: The ‘’money subjects‘’ of the urban class initially produced money and then they sought to maintain this ‘’elitist’ social class through charity actions in order to benefit the wider community. ‘’ As wealthy traders, successful industry men or eminent bankers, they gave a large part of their wealth so as to cover the deficits in the communities there in the land of Egypt. They paid securities that were worth a lot of Egyptian pounds or British pounds in order to create significant institutions of their family networks ‘(7).
The benefactors themselves made their presence felt in their hometowns and reinforced their national center: The Greeks in Egypt constituted the primary nursery community and cradle of the benefaction within the Hellenes’ community. (8) Amalieion orphanage was constructed in Athens with donations as well as the School of Polytechnics (1859), the archaeological museum (1866), the complex of the Hellenic Military Academy (1896), Averopheion Ephebeum (1896), and the battleship ‘Georgios Averof’ (1899). Through donations we have the statues of Rigas Fereos and Patriarch Grigorios V in the entrance of the University of Athens (1896), the total placement of new marbles in the Panathenaic stadium for the Olympic Games of 1896, the Naval Academy (1904), the Sivitanidios school of Arts and Crafts (1927), two war planes to reinforce Greece during combat operations, Athens College (1925, Benakeios Library (1928), the Phytopathological Institute (1931), the National Gallery, Benaki Museum (1930) (9). « The Greeks in Egypt primarily constituted as the nursery and cradle of Hellenes abroad benefaction. The presence of the benefactors is exemplarily illustrated through the successful economic and social paths taken, as well as the distinctive performance they showed while serving the community with a great sense of responsibility and community awareness, their hometown with an obvious feeling of homesickness, without neglecting, however, the national center and their sense of dept to the national scene». (10)
The route of the Egyptian Hellenism is characterized by the role cotton production and cotton trade played within the framework of a historic formation and development of the Hellenic Egyptian financial and social elite. (11)

1.Ματούλα Τομαρά-Σιδέρη, Ο Αιγυπτιώτης Ελληνισμός. Στους δρόμους του βαμβακιού, Εκδόσεις Κέρκυρα, Αθήνα 2011, σελ.122
2.οπ.π., σελ.123
4.οπ.π., σελ.126
5. Κωνσταντίνος Τσουκαλάς, Εξάρτηση και αναπαραγωγή, Εκδόσεις Θεμέλιο, Αθήνα 1979, σελ. 320.
6. Ματούλα Τομαρά-Σιδέρη, οπ.π., σελ.11
7. Ματούλα Τομαρά-Σιδέρη, Αλεξανδρινές Οικογένειες. Χωρέμη-Μπενάκη-Σαλβάγου, Εκδόσεις Κέρκυρα, Αθήνα 2004 και
8.Παλαιολόγος Τάσος, Ο Αιγυπτιώτης Ελληνισμός: ιστορία και δράσις, 753π.Χ.-1953μ.Χ, Αλεξάνδρεια, 1953
9. Ματούλα Τομαρά-Σιδέρη, Ευεργετισμός και προσωπικότητα. Ευεργέτες Έλληνες του Καΐρου, Εκδόσεις Παπαζήση, Αθήνα 2002
10. Ματούλα Τομαρά-Σιδέρη, Οι Έλληνες του Καΐρου, Εκδόσεις Κέρκυρα, Αθήνα 2007
11.Ματούλα Τομαρά-Σιδέρη, Ο Αιγυπτιώτης Ελληνισμός, οπ.π., σελ.128