A nine-year-old Greek girl born in Cairo is the undisputed champion of gymnastics in Egypt, as for the second year in a row, she won gold in the Pan-Egyptian Rhythmic Gymnastics Games.
Anastasia Rektsini competed among hundreds of Egyptian athletes in the category of juniors under 10 years of age.
The games, organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Sports and Youth, were held last Saturday in Cairo.
Anastasia is the daughter of Efstratios Rektsinis and Mai Houri and the granddaughter of Antonis Rektsinis, who has served as President of the Hellenic Community of Cairo for many years.
The success of the young girl spread great joy throughout the Greek community of the Egyptian capital.
The Greeks of Cairo, Egypt
The small, but vibrant, remnants of the Greek community in Cairo has its roots deep in history.
Survival is no mean achievement for the Greeks of Cairo, who since the mid-1950s have abandoned Egypt in droves. Until the nationalization drive of the Nasser era, tens of thousands of Greeks had lived — and flourished — there in the fields of business and agriculture as well as in the realm of the arts.
Today, the size of the Greek community is a great deal smaller, numbering only several hundred, although many people of Greek origin are now counted as Egyptians, having changed their nationality officially.
Most Greeks in Cairo say that they feel both Greek and Egyptian. “We have two homelands. We don’t distinguish the one from the other,” Leonidas Fontrie said.
“When in Cairo I feel Egyptian, when in Greece I feel Hellene,” said student Aris Grustein, who the Greek Reporter met sitting with his friends at the Greek Center of Heliopolis, a suburb just outside Cairo.
Greeks have been present in Egypt since at least the 7th century BC. Herodotus visited Egypt in the 5th century BC and claimed that the Greeks were one of the first groups of foreigners who had ever lived in the country.
Beginning in the mid 19th century, tens of thousands of Greek citizens emigrated again to Egypt, mainly to the great cities of Alexandria and Cairo, strengthening the bonds between the two ancient civilizations on either side of the Mediterranean.
First modern Greek community in Cairo founded in 1856
The first organized Greek community in Cairo in modern times was founded in 1856, with the community based in three main neighborhoods: Tzouonia, Haret el Roum (Street of the Greeks), and in Hamzaoui.
The construction of many Greek schools, churches, and societies scattered all around the city soon followed.
“The Greek Club of Cairo,” located near the center of the city, is a place where generations of Greek expatriates have spent their free time, talking business, politics and diaspora issues. It is still open today — and still offers delicious Greek food.
“It’s a historic and symbolic meeting point. The Greek Club of Cairo hosted all the major personalities of the previous decades,” says Nikos Katsikas.
Today, there are just a few dozen students in various grades at the Achillopouleios School, which since 1928 has been housed in the building of the former Spetseropouleios Orphanage.
Apart from the lessons that are being taught in all the schools in Greece there are also classes teaching the Arabic language, as well as the history and geography of Egypt, which are taught by Egyptians.
Many Egyptian children whose parents were immigrants to Greece also attend classes there.