Maya Cifali – The Silver Bracelet: An Egyptian Girlhood

Cheops Australia, 2017

This is a memoir of a life of migration stretching back to Maya’s forebears, but it is also a fascinating history of the Middle East, especially Egypt, seen from its impact on the ordinary citizen.

Brought up by grandmothers due to the circumstances of war, Maya had heritage in both French-Jewish and Italian-Roman Catholic traditions. This strong maternal influence has carried through generations and doubtless contributed richly to Maya’s own outlook on life.

Maya Cifali talks about The Silver Bracelet

The personal story in Egypt runs from 1937 to 1956, a time of immense world turmoil with world wars and the changing political status of Egypt from colonial vassal to independent state.

Because the Jews (amongst others) were expelled from Egypt upon the re-instatement of Egyptian home rule, Maya found that her journey to Paris, at the time thought to be a brief sojourn to study, became a permanent departure. Saying goodbye to home was not possible. And then the story leaves Egypt and migrates also to Europe and thence Australia, past and present.

Many years after first arriving in Australia Maya fulfills her long-held desire to meet and work with the Australian Indigenous communities, as she leaves her job in Canberra to take up a ‘temporary’ position in Alice Springs. Alice Springs’ cosmopolitan population, the air and colour of the desert resonate and Maya now calls it home.

As we travel through the turbulence of the early 20th century with Maya, we see parts of her story multiple times and from a variety of perspectives. We learn of the challenges to personal relationships and of financial strictures during war and we learn therefore of the strength of the family to which she belongs and especially the fortitude, capacity to adapt and intelligence of the female members of this family. Some solutions are pragmatic but there is always a consciousness of love.

Maya’s account of her life is honest and gathers us in as readers. Her account of the history of the times and place personalises what are usually told as strategic military and/or obscenely political gestures and acts, made in total disregard of the human cost.

People continue to be displaced because of such things and for many other reasons. The story of The Silver Bracelet reminds us of this and invites us to consider other ways of valuing human culture and our natural and social environment.

 Contact the author at [email protected] to purchase the book.