Farouk (1920-1965), the last King of Egypt,
was undeniably a very charming man, but he was also capricious and irresponsible.
He was immensely rich and loved to gamble, but Farouk was also a miser and a cleptomaniac.
If he wanted something, he took it. He not only stole from his subjects, but also from Winston Churchill and the Shah of Persia’s coffin.
Even with women, he seemed to prefer other men’s fiancées or wives, and he didn’t take no for an answer.
If there were seven deadly sins, it was said, Farouk would find an eight.
Farouk was born on February 11, 1920, as a son of Fouad of Egypt (1868-1936) and his second wife, Nasli Sabri (1894-1978). Fouad wasn’t an easy man to live with. Everybody had to put up with his suspicions and mysophobia1. He had both his wives locked in his harem, and he used to look for dust and dirt, that servants might have missed, smothering any imagined odour by spraying with cologne. After a fortune-teller had told him that ‘F’ was his lucky letter, Fouad named his subsequent children Fawkia, Farouk, Fawzia, Faiza, Faika and Fathia. In 1898, his brother-in-law shot Fouad in the leg, chest and throat. The last bullet couldn’t be removed, and resulted in the King making occasional and uncontrollable dog-like barks. The protocol was to ignore them.
Farouk grew up sheltered. His only playmates were his sisters. He was usually woken at 6 o‘clock in the morning, and forced to do gymnastics, followed by lessons. He had some talent for languages, but Farouk wasn’t interested in mathematics or history. The most important people in Farouk’s early life were his mother Nasli, who spoiled him, and his English governess, Ina Naylor. His stern father frightened Farouk. Fouad gave Farouk his first car, an Austin 7, when he was 11 years old. At 15, Farouk got a racing Morris. Farouk cried inconsolably, when a hawk killed his pet rabbit. On another occasion, however, he grabbed a cat by its tail and killed it by smashing its head repeatedly against a wall.
In September 1935, Farouk attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in Great Britain2, where he was known as “Prince Freddy”. On May 6, 1936, 16-year-old Farouk was back in Egypt, because his father had died. He was assisted by a regency council, until he became officially King of Egypt in July 1937. Farouk’s chamberlain, Ahmed Mohammed Hassanein (1889-1946)3, became a confident of Queen-mother Nasli. He also became Farouk’s main adviser and remained so until his death. Hassanein and Nasli most likely secretly married4.
By bluffing, Farouk tried to hide his inexperience. Feelings of inferiority and imperfection were the most likely reasons for Farouk to avoid his advisers, as he had always tried to avoid his father. He remained a naughty boy making mischief. In restaurants, Farouk made balls from bread and threw them at people. He also liked to throw pellets at dignitaries, and once slipped a piece of ice down the bra of a curtsying guest to “help her cool off”. Farouk also liked to burp to annoy people.
In 1937, Farouk (to the right) and his family went on a tour to Upper-Egypt, followed by a European tour. The daughter of a lady-in-waiting of his mother, Safinaz Zulficar (1921-1988), joined his sisters. During the tour, it became clear that 17-year-old Farouk had fallen in love with the girl. He proposed in August 1937, and they were married on January 12, 1938. She was renamed “Farida”. During the first months of their marriage, Farouk took her everywhere, and gave her a present every morning. Soon, however, he started to neglect his wife. Still, when Farouk got chicken-pocks, Farida nursed him. “You don’t really appreciate your wife until you are ill,” he said. She gave birth to 3 daughters: Ferial in 1938, Fawzia (1940-2005) and Fadia (1943-2002). Not having a son was perceived by Farouk as an undermining of his masculinity. Soon husband and wife had violent domestic rows.
Freed from tutelage, Farouk used to go to nightclubs, and then sleep the whole morning. He had caviar for breakfast, eating it directly from a can. Large quantities of boiled eggs, toast, lobster, steak, lamb, chicken, and pigeon usually followed. He liked fizzy drinks and drank at least 30 bottles a day. After having a series of nightmares about lions, Farouk went to Cairo Zoo, and shot its lions in their cage. The nightmares, however, continued.
Farouk owned several villa’s, yachts and airplanes, and more than 100 cars5. He had all his cars sprayed red and forbade his subjects to own a red vehicle. That way he could drive recklessly without being stopped by the police. When Farouk raced by in one of his red cars, people ran for their lives. When another car tried to pass him, Farouk shot at its tires. Supposedly, an ambulance followed him to pick up casualties.
When Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi of Persia (1919-1980) made a visit to Egypt, he proposed to 17-year-old Fawzia (to the right), Farouk’s favourite sister and a stunning beauty. They married on March 15, 1939. Soon afterwards hostilities broke out in Europe and, as an ally of Great Britain, Farouk had Germans arrested and their properties confiscated. In February 1942, his British allies threatened to depose Farouk, unless he accepted a prime minister of their choice. He never forgave the insult. Early 1943, Nazi-general Rommel drove the British out of Libya, and advanced into Egypt, until he was stopped near El Alamein.
In 1941, 21-year-old Irene Guinle had become Farouk’s first official mistress. For 2 years, they went together to nightclubs, slept nude together, played in the palace pool, and gossiped. “He was charming, like a naughty child you couldn’t help liking,” Irene explained. When her brother had pneumonia, and there was no penicillin, Irene didn’t get any from Farouk, until she threatened to let it be known that Farouk could have saved a life and didn’t.
Farouk’s next mistress was witty novelist Barbara Skelton, who looked like Katharine Hepburn. For 7 months they had an affair, which they continued for a while in 1950. Barbara described Farouk as a good kisser, but a bad lover. After spanking her, Farouk would “lie on his back like a beached whale”, and, when she got on top of him, it was usually quickly over. “His penis was tiny, and he adored having it sucked,” she added, “He was the King. He expected service.”
Farouk probably suffered from a hormonal deviation, probably a low level of testosteron6. Although he had flair, Farouk also suffered from mood changes. He was effeminate and his corpulence increased that impression. He was always surrounded by rumours about his prowess, virility and the size of his penis. Stories about his recurring impotence started early 1943. Farouk consulted hormone specialists, and tried love potions and aphrodisiacs, like hashish mixed with honey and even powdered rhinoceros horn. He also possessed a large collection of pornography and sex aides. Many of his mistresses described him as “a gentlemen, who wasn’t really that interested in sex”
Although he was immensely rich, Farouk was a cleptomaniac. He stole everything he fancied. He had even taken pickpocket lessons from a professional thief. At official receptions and parties, Farouk pick-pocketed watches, wallets and cigarette lighters. He even stole Winston Churchill’s pocket watch7. When, in 1944, the Shah of Persia had died, and his coffin landed in Cairo, Farouk stole the ceremonial sword, belt and medals from the corpse
In November 1943, 23-year-old Farouk crashed his red Cadillac against a lorry, and into a tree. The stretcher, on which the King was placed, collapsed under his already considerable weight. With 2 fractured ribs and a cracked pelvis bone, Farouk was nursed in a British military field hospital, where he enjoyed himself so much, that he was reluctant to leave. Back in Cairo, his gluttony and card-playing mania increased. Farouk continually surrounded himself with women, who usually described him as charming and funny, but also as a miser. A refusal of his affections could result in sanctions, like a withdrawal of immigration papers.
On his 24th birthday, Farouk toured through Upper-Egypt, donating money to the malaria-stricken region. By then, his marriage had completely disintegrated, and Farouk and Farida lived separately. Farouk used to boast about his female conquests in his wife’s presence. In 1943, he had fallen hopelessly in love with Fatima Chirine (1923-1990), the young and reserved wife of Prince Hassan Toussoun (1901-1946). He wanted a divorce and wanted Fatima to divorce her husband, too, but nothing came of it. After her husband’s death, Farouk seemed no longer interested. When she became engaged to Prince João of Orleans and Braganza8, however, Farouk again tried to persuade her to marry him instead, even using threads, but Fatima preferred the Prince.
By 1946, Farouk had finally got rid of both the pro-British prime minister and the hated British ambassador. The next year, the British withdrew from the major part of Egypt, but stayed in Suez and Sudan. With them went their Pounds, which resulted in an increase in unemployment. A cholera epidemic struck Egypt in 1947, when 35,000 people died within 6 months. In May 1948, the state of Israel was declared, and the Arab countries declared war. Farouk dressed in his desert field marshal uniform, inspected his troops on a stallion, and awarded military rank to his sisters. Meanwhile, the Arab troops were defeated, and Israel established itself as a nation. As a result, Farouk’s popularity decreased significantly.
Farouk had finally divorced his popular wife, Farida, in November 19489. For some years, young Liliane Cohen beguiled Farouk with Yiddish love songs and folk dances. Although she was a very poor girl, Farouk gave her hardly anything, and often wouldn’t pay for her dresses either. In 1950, she died in an airplane crash at the age of 20. Farouk also dated belly dancer Samia Gamal (1924-1994), 20-year-old singer Annie Berrier10, and Patricia Wilder (1918-1995), known as “Honeychile”. She described his “good manners and great sense of humour”. He took her to palace balls and duck shoots, until Honeychile married Prince Alexander von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfurst (1918-1984).
In 1950, Farouk’s jeweller set up a meeting between Farouk and 16-year-old Narriman Sadek (1933-2005). She was somewhat chubby, barely 5 feet tall, and of common descend, but Farouk was immediately smitten. The fact that she was already engaged, might have made her extra desirable for Farouk. Her engagement was cancelled, and Narriman was send to Rome to prepare for her future role as Queen. She studied general deportment, court etiquette, history, music, and the languages English, French, Italian and German. Narriman also had to bring her weight down to 50 kg. Meanwhile, 30-year-old Farouk made a tour through Southern Europe, surrounded by women. He lost fortunes at the gambling tables.
In February 1951, Farouk officially announced his engagement to Narriman. They were married on May 6. Subsequently, the pair embarked on a costly 3-month honeymoon of gluttony and gambling, just as the sacred month of Ramadan was beginning. Narriman was photographed in a bathing suit, and Farouk lost $150,000 at a casino in Cannes in a 70-hour baccarat marathon. Still, Farouk eschewed nightclubs on their honeymoon, and wasn’t dating other women. On January 16, 1952, Narriman (to the right) gave birth to Farouk’s only son, Ahmad Fouad.
Farouk banished his mother and youngest sister from Egypt, after Fathia had married Riad Ghali, a Coptic Christian, who had been Nasli’s lover after Hassanein’s death in 1946. Farouk deprived the women of their rank, privileges and property. The trio lived in Los Angeles until 1976, when Ghali left the women, because all their jewels had been sold and they ran out of money. By the end of that year, Ghali had murdered Fathia.
Despite occasional and highly publicised gestures of charity, Farouk had now become very unpopular. Bodyguards always surrounded him, and he always kept a gun nearby. In 1952, Nassar let a successful coup, and Farouk was forced to abdicate. He was seen as a hypocrite, when he took numerous crates of Champagne and Scotch with him, although, as a Muslim, he wasn’t supposed to drink alcohol. The crates, however, were packed with gold bars and represented the bulk of the fortune Farouk was able to smuggle out of Egypt with him. He left behind a large collection of coins, medals and stamps, many works of art in gold and silver, valuable clocks and watches, rare books, and ancient Egyptian artefacts. Farouk had also collected trivial objects like matchboxes, razorblades and toothpaste tubes.
Farouk settled in Italy with his wife and children. A typical evening for Farouk (to the right) would begin with an exclusive dinner, followed by high-staked card games. Afterwards, he would watch a floor show in a nightclub. In time, Narriman began staying home, preferring daylight shopping trips. In March 1953, she left Rome and Farouk. Next February, she signed a divorce agreement without any alimony or custody of their son10. While Farouk was alive, Narriman was allowed to see her son only twice.
On a dwindling fortune11, overweight Farouk tried to keep up his pose of a playboy. He dated a succession of pretty young girls, like Joan Rhodes, a professional strongwoman who bent steel bars with her teeth. He also took up a friendship with exiled underworld leader “Lucky” Luciano (1897-1962), who was to protect the ex-King’s life on several occasions. Through him, Farouk met 18-year-old Brigitta Stenberg, and made her his mistress. According to Brigitta, Farouk was neither impotent with her, nor unconcerned with her pleasure. They rarely left his bedroom.
Farouk’s last official mistress was reddish-blond Irma Capece Minutolo. They met when he was 32, fat12 and bald, while she was – probably - only 16. “The girth became him,” Irma said, ”it was part of his royalty.” She also liked his “hypnotic, sphinx-like eyes”. She learned to walk properly and to curtsy, and was instructed in music, literature and riding. Her innocence was what Farouk seemed to cherish about her; Irma insisted that nothing happened sexually with Farouk for the longest time
On March 17, 1965, Farouk took 22-year-old Annamaria Gatti to a restaurant. He ate oysters, lobster with sauce, lamb, and beans. After dinner, he lit up his giant Havanna, collapsed at the table. He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead just after midnight. Officially, his cause of death was a cerebral haemorrhage. However, a mistress of Salah Nasir, director of Nasser’s General Intelligence Bureau, claims Nasir expected and received a call about Farouk’s death that evening. They had supposedly poisoned the lobster.
Copyright © 2008 by J.N.W. Bos. All rights reserved.