My Father Was The Only Optician

Below is an extract from an interview with Dr Solomon Goldenberg, the son of Maurice Goldenberg whose Optician's shop stood in Khartoum until 2015. 

 

My father was the only optician, his shop was the Central Optical Specialist, in Arabic above it says ‘The Company of Sudanese Optical Specialists’.  We are Romanian Jews who moved to Egypt.  They migrated to make a living.  When my grandfather, my father’s father was a young man he came to Egypt in the late 1890’s I think.  My uncle was an optician also and my brother trained with him in Egypt.  But then when their father died my father came to Sudan aged 22 to support himself.  My eldest brother, Adolf, he was named after Adolf Hitler.  Mhmm, yes.  Because he was born in 1933, and that was when Adolf Hitler was…well all the Germans loved Adolf because he was coming up there, and until Kristallnacht they never ever thought anything.  Originally my family are from Romania and there was a Goldenberg family - some of the family - in Austria…and so on... But anyway, when we went to England we couldn’t call him Adolf so we called him Edward.  But then when we went to America, after many many years, he had on his birth certificate from Sudan ‘Adolf Goldenberg’, so that's how he had to be buried Adolf Goldenberg! 

© Frederique Cifuentes-Morgan

© Frederique Cifuentes-Morgan


But yes, we were a small community, we had our own club, our own basketball team.  We had a small team of about eight of us.  What happened is we had a lot of clubs; there was the Greek Club,  the Syrian Club, the Jewish Club, the Armenian Club, and the Egyptian Club and we used to have matches.  You know, it was a nice place.  It was really nice! Anyway, so we used to compete against each other.  We had a small team, we used to call it the Haganah team…it was great! We weren’t always winning, I think it was the Greeks that would always be winning.  I can’t remember exactly.  

The Sudan Club, although it was called the ‘Sudan Club’ was only purely British.  If you were not British born you could not even get into the swimming pool!  You had to be ‘Pure Brit’. Anyway, I used to go there because the British professors used to know me from the University They used to have tea there while they sit on the lawn, it was really quite nice.  We had a great time.  We used to do English country dancing in the Sudan Club also, I had an English girlfriend so I used to come up to the Club a lot - that was before my wife of course! We used to also do American country dancing, they used to have it at the American Embassy. It was really nice there.  And then I remember after I went back to Sudan from studying in Oxford there used to be a nightclub.  They were allowed to drink alcohol there.  It was a sleazy place where you used to go (laughs).  Sometimes they used to have half clad women there, dancing and so on.  The Golden Music Hall they called it.  I would be dancing there from 9 o’clock at night to 3 o'clock in the morning!