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Obituary: Henri Pharaon

MAY I add to Professor John Carswell's evocative memories of Henri Pharaon (10 August, further to the obituary by Robert Fisk, 7 August)? writes Rosemarie Said Zahan.

Pharaon did not come from an old Triestine family which had emigrated to Egypt. The family came from the Bekaa in Lebanon, but one member, Antoun Kassis Pharaon, emigrated in the middle of the 18th century to Egypt, where he soon rose to become the substantial figure of Customs Master (Le Grand Douanier). He strongly advocated the Red Sea overland trade route from Europe to India via Suez (long before the canal was built), and in so doing, was helpful to many European traders. In 1784, he left Egypt and settled in Europe where he was given the title of Count of the Holy Roman Empire. His descendants are the Triestine family referred to by Professor Carswell.

In his remarkable mansion in Beirut, Henri Pharaon had a portrait of Antoun Kassis Pharaon which he proudly showed me in 1973, when I inquired about the family archives relating to Le Grand Douanier.