Sometimes, it is the most unlikely thing that brings back memories. An article that came across my screen the other day caused me to reminisce about many things.
The article above definitely contains what can be described as poetic license material. It over dramatizes the dialogs, the settings, ...etc.
Ragab used to live across the street from us in Glym, Alexandria. Despite being from El Qabbari القباري near the Sea Port of Alexandria, he moved to Glym, and bought a nice villa with a nice garden, and fer forge fence. This was in the early 1970s.
Our balcony overlooked his garden, and while we never saw any evidence of spying, we noticed a few day to day things that were unusual from the social aspect.
Ragab was obviously rich in order to afford such a villa, despite being of little learning (the article above says he failed high school). There was an aura of being noveau riche for sure, not fitting for the wealth he showed. The way they talked was seen as only fit of uneducated and lower class strata in Egyptian society.
Ragab always wore big sunglasses. He was of heavy built, and had a large mustache.
Ragab had a young kid called Qobtan قبطان who was about 8 years or so at the time. The name mans "Ship Captian", and is unusual as a first name in Egypt, and shows the influence of the sea port on the father. The boy time and time again exhibited what could be only interpreted as arrogance and being spoiled.
One day Qobtan was playing with a toy machine gun in the garden. Another boy was outside the fence in the street, and Qobtan was saying :
"Do you think this toy gun costs one pound or two pounds! It costs ten pounds!"
إنت فاكر المدفع الرشاش دة بجنيه و الا اثنين جنيه؟ دة بعشرة جنيه
Other things that my dear grandmother observed were the laundry. She used to say that this is the cleanest laundry she ever saw. What is strange is that they hung the laundry right on the front lawn and drive way, and not at the back of the villa.
Also, they used to take the carpets out and wash them using the garden hose right in the drive way! Quite unusual for people living in such a villa.
Suddenly, all the family disappeared in the mid 1970s, and the villa was shut. We never knew what happened to them, until we read the news that a spy for Israel was arrested.
Later, a relative told me that Ragab was on TV and said : "My son's name is Qobtan" and then cried!
Then a few months later, we heard that while in prison, he broke the lenses from his glasses, and he slit his wrists.
Ragab was not the first nor last Egyptian to be recruited by the Mossad in the intelligence wars. There was also Samir El Eskandarani سمير الإسكندراني from Alexandria, who was also a singer with an unusual (for the time) goatee beard.
This article in Alwafd says:
في عام 1960 سقطت في أيدي أجهزة الأمن المصرية 5 شبكات ـ دفعة واحدة ـ بعدجهد شاق استمر حوالي عامين في العملية الشهيرة المعروفة بـعملية سميرالإسكندراني الفنان المعروف، الذي تمكن بالتعاون مع جهاز المخابراتالمصرية في إسقاط 10 جواسيس من الوزن الثقيل وهم: جود سوارد، و رايمونددي بيترو و فرناندو دي بتشولا، ونيقولا جورج لويس مصمم الفتريناتبشركة ملابس الأهرام فرع مصر الجديدة، وجورج استاماتيو الموظف بمحلاتجروبي بوسط القاهرة.. والمصريون: إبراهيم رشيد المحامي، ومحمد محمد مصطفيرزق الشهير بـرشاد رزق، ومحمد سامي عبدالعليم نافع، ومرتضي التهامي،وفؤاد محرم علي فهمي مساعد طيار مدني.
Villain and Hero
What is interesting is the severe polarization on the hero/villain scale that a spy causes. We all know the saying "one people's hero is another people's villain". This is especially true in the case of spies.
For example, Ragab and others could be heros for Israel. The hero's welcome that Azzam Azzam عزام عزام got in Israel last week is basically the same phenomenon at work. Ra'fat El Haggan رأفت الهجان was a spy for Egypt against Israel. He was made into a hero in Egypt with a TV series done on him.
You also see how the recently released Mordechai Fanunu is seen by Israelis as a traitor, and Jonathan Pollard as a hero. As with many things in life, what you judge something as depends on which side you are.