From: Coke and Confiscation: On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice
April 14, 2008
Coke in Egypt
Refael Bigio in Montreal remembers the moment that the regime of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized his family’s property. He was driving to the factory with his father that traumatic August day in 1962. Police cordons surrounded the buildings at 14 Aswan Street in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. As Bigio and his father nervously stepped up the stairs, a policeman barked that the government had nationalized the business. "Give me the keys," he demanded. Once inside the offices, policemen and soldiers demanded the keys to the vault as well.
The nightmare of dispossession suffered by approximately one million Jews throughout the Arab world had finally descended upon the Bigio family. Brutal jailings and intimidation against Bigio family members culminated in a forced penniless exodus from the nation. The Bigios, along with a million other Jews across the Arab world, were expelled with just a few dollars in their pockets. The family fled to Canada. But the Bigios never forgot the life they knew in Egypt—or their assets.
The Bigio assemblage of warehouses and manufacturing buildings sprawled across 10,000 square meters in the midst of bustling Heliopolis traces its main commercial life to the 1930s when Bigio’s grandfather first bought the land and built a shoe polish plant. Eventually, the family business added a tin container operation to hold the shoe polish, and from that expanded into general tin plating. Eventually they produced tin bottle caps for soda. In 1942, at the height of World War II, a Coca-Cola licensed bottler became the family’s tenant, bottling the world-famous cola. Later the fruity drink called Fanta that Coca-Cola originally developed for the Nazi military was added. ...