Meskel: An Ethiopian Family Saga

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9780974819891: Meskel: An Ethiopian Family Saga

In September 1981, a four-seater aircraft mounted into a scorched sky from an African desert track carrying two brothers to freedom. So ended the fifty-five year saga of the Fanouris family in Ethiopia. As Lukas Fanouris looked down and saw patches of gold in the receding landscape, he realized that the Meskel flower was in bloom everywhere. He wept, for the carpet of Meskel around Addis Ababa had been the first sight to meet his father's eyes when he had arrived in 1926 from his Greek island with his wife and infant son to seek his fortune among the descendants of Solomon and Sheba. Manoli Fanouris began his new life by opening a restaurant but soon realized that Ethiopia's hungers did not stem from the stomach but the mind. Soon he began selling newspapers, gradually adding magazines and books and thereby laid the foundations for what was to become one of the largest book and press agency in Ethiopia. Because of Emperor Haile Selasie's efforts to modernize his country and eradicate illiteray, close bonds had developed between the Fanouris enterprise and the Palace. Nevertheless, the rising expectations generated by modernization outstripped the will and power of the Emperor. In 1974 creeping dissension was whipped into military revolution by a hushed famine, deposing the old and frail ruler. While the new dictatorship proclaimed that the Emperor was under house arrest at the Menelik Palace, members of his family and his ministers were thrown into the cells of common criminals. deprived of the bare necessities of life. Sixty princes, ministers and high government officials were executed en masseand flung into an unmarked trench. The wives and mothers of men detained and tortured without charges were imprisoned, others forced to sell what little remained to them to pay for the bullets that had killed their loved ones. "Meskel" is the true and poignant saga of a Greek family who lived to witness and record the devastating destruction of a beautiful coun

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About the Author:

Mellina and Lukas Fanouris were both born in Addis Ababa. Their parents were Greek immigrants who had made a new life in Ethiopia, settled, prospered and instilled in their children an enduring love and respect for the culture and people of Ethiopia. Gabby, their only daughter was also born in Addis Ababa, but was forced to flee with her mother when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown. Lukas was not permitted to leave and had to survive as best he could in the military regime that followed. Despite danger, hardship and prolonged separation, their love has survived and the family lives today in Nairobi, Kenya.

Review:

Meskel: An Ethiopian Family Saga is really a Greek family saga that begins with the arrival of a Greek couple in Addis Ababa in 1926. They settled down, raised children and grandchildren, becoming prominent members of the Ethiopia s most important foreign community. The Fanouris family established the first and best bookstore in the country far better than anything available even now -- serving everyone from Emperor Haile Selassie s Palace to the literate in any language throughout the capital of Africa , as Addis Ababa was known. The account is well told by the Ethiopia-born Greek wife who married into the Fanouris family. It offers a credible account of the Fanouris family becoming a part of the local Greek community as well as the Ethiopian scene. Personal calamities - deaths, fire - and national calamities the Fascist occupation, the post-Imperial bloody dictatorship, are richly supplemented with personal relationships with ordinary and prominent Ethiopians, accompanied by some historic photographs. The family, like other established Greeks who provided many of the country s doctors, lawyers and businessmen, spoke fluent Amharic and developed an intimacy with Ethiopia that is nicely captured. Life for everyone, Greeks included, turned bitter with the arrival of the dictatorship. The bookstore was forced to close, younger family members left the country while some were trapped, with their risky escape bringing this saga to a satisfying conclusion. --Shlomo Bachrach, author of Ethiopian Falk tells

This is the true and poignant story if the Fanouris family who, like hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians, were forced to flee their motherland during Mengistu Hailemariam s Red Terror . --Fekrou Kidane, Coordinator, International Olympic Committee

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