Marie Assaad

By Maggie Morgan

Marie Assaad, known for many great achievements in development, fighting FGM, and poverty, and championing the environment, but to me you are Christine’s beloved Teta, whom she so generously shared with so many of us.  Like others, I tagged along for gatherings, lunches, and different occasions, drawn into Marie Assaad’s circle of warmth and joy.  She had an open door, a welcoming voice, and beautiful smile.  I can still hear her voice of welcome saying, “Habibti….”  

You lived your life like someone flying a kite, succeeding to soar colorfully in spite of weather and pollution and by doing so, proved to others that it can be done!  You showed us how one life can matter if one dares to fly.

Do you know that when you spoke of the community of love, collective wisdom and social capital, that we listened so well? We watched how you lived, not just what you said, and you proved it true.    

Do you know that you showed so many of us how to live with intention and delight? From the water we drank at your house which you added flavors to, to eating fruit in season like those delicious apricots which you served in pottery bowls from Fayoum, to the recipe of your famous ful, and to the weekly molokheya lunches.  You created good traditions of gathering around your ROUND table, no doubt chosen by you, as democratic and egalitarian as tables can be.    

A resilient fighter against harmful traditions and always advocating for freedom and human dignity, you were not a ruthless iconoclast! You demonstrated how some traditions were valuable, worth-keeping and downright fun!

I remember a few….

Your famous Christmas party, which gathered so many people from all walks of life where year after year, where you served
the hot ta’amiya and punch.  Did any of us say that you taught us that open homes are warm homes?

The cactus Christmas tree which you had a small gathering to decorate…did any of us ever tell you that it was a brilliant and meaningful idea to have a tree from our own neck of the woods?  

And Palm Sunday with all its fun and creativity.  Did you know that friends of yours tried to recreate a similar gathering this year? That we thought of you often as we realized we weren’t so skilled at braiding those tricky palm fronds?  

You dressed in a way that celebrated and flaunted beautiful Egyptian textures, traditions, and colors.  Do you know we noticed?  

So many of us are better people for having known you.  
You made the road by walking, and demonstrated, to so many of us, that we can too.  
Thank you Marie Assaad for a life well-lived.  May our good-byes be worthy of you.