An extract of an interview with Zaki, who sadly passed away last week. He was great fun to interview, a wonderful host with his wife Viola, and had a fantastic chuckle!
I had a Bar Mitzvah of course. They did it in Sudan, in the synagogue. We went and they put the tefillin for me and we made a big party in my house, in Khartoum. For all our clients also, the Sudanese also. They ask,
‘Why do you do this?’
And my father tells them that when a boy has thirteen years he is now responsible for himself. It was about two hundred and sixty people. They made cakes and tea and ice cream! In the house. It was a very good house.
We had three grapefruit trees, lemon, guava – in our garden. Also we had a parrot in the house, my father bought a parrot one day and he put it in the house in a cage. The station of the train was very near our house and every time there is a train the driver used to shout and blow the whistle, prrreeeeee, to make the train go. Then the parrot started to shout and say prrreeeeee exactly the same and the train will go! They came to my father from the station and they said,
‘What is this?? The train is moving and the people are not in it yet!!’
Because it was exactly the same, they got angry and they took it from us! After that we bought a small dog for my sister, he was a very naughty dog and my mother didn’t like it and the smell of it in the house so she took it and gave it to the servant to take it away to somebody else. And we always had chickens .
I went to school in Comboni College. School was not bad, I left when I was fifteen, in Secondary Classes. Because my father was ill and he had a store and he could not be in the store so my mother said,
‘The workers are thieving and we are going to lose everything. Come and work with your father’.
So I left school and I start to work there and everything goes ok. I enjoyed my work. We were the biggest shop in Khartoum North! It was a material shop, Gabra Store. We opened the shop at seven in the morning and in the Sudan we used to close at half past one, two, to eat lunch. Then I rested a bit in the house, go back at four and open until nine. After that I went out with my friends. Believe me – they were Sudanese, very good boys. I used to walk from my house until the bridge of Khartoum North, about half an hour, and then walking back with them. We went to the cinema sometimes, but not every day, maybe three, four times a week. I liked the English films, the cowboys. Dramas I don’t like, I enjoy laughing. I enjoyed very much the Greek and Roman films. What is it called….? Ben Hur!! I like Ben Hur!! This film I saw two or three times. And The Ten Commandments I like also. So we went to the cinema, go to a coffee house, sit down together, spend time until twelve o’clock and then the next morning, to work again.