The Abaza family (Arabic: الأسرة الأباظية), is an Egyptian family that has played a powerful and long-standing role in Egyptian cultural, economic, intellectual and political life.
It is known as "the family of the pashas" for having produced the largest number of nobles under the Muhammad Ali dynasty and was noted in Egyptian media as one of the main "families that rule Egypt", and as "deeply rooted in Egyptian society and… in the history of the country." The clan is also known for contributions to modern Arabic literature such as in the poetry of Aziz Pasha Abaza (Arabic: عزيز باشا أباظة), novels of Tharwat Abaza (Arabic: ثروت أباظة), and the journalistic work and political activism of Fekry Pasha Abaza (Arabic: فكري باشا أباظة).
Notable members have included Wagih Abaza (Arabic: وجيه أباظة), the Governor of the Sharqia Governorate, Cairo, Beheira and Gharbia, and a member of the secretive Free Officers movement of the 1950s which convinced Farouk of Egypt to abdicate. Others included the longest serving Minister in Egyptian history (17 years) of Electricity and Energy, Maher Abaza (Arabic: ماهر أباظة), who is credited for supplying the vast majority of the country's rural areas with electricity for the first time. The first Egyptian Pasha after the fall of the Circassian Mamluks was an Abaza.
Their main stronghold is the Sharqia Governorate. Several villages in the Nile Delta are named after members of the clan, particularly surrounding the town of Kafr Abaza. The family monopolized several districts in their power centers for 70 years uninterrupted except by the January 25 Revolution.
In the November 2015 Egyptian parliamentary elections three members of the Abaza family won seats in accord with their famed position as "Egypt's oldest parliamentary dynasty." This was described critically in some media as "dynastic heredity" that was "a prominent feature" in the 2015 elections involving a number of powerful families.
The Egyptian Abaza family is well known in the country because "they seem to have produced an extraordinary number of exemplary individuals. Their family tree – every single generation – is littered with high profile politicians, intellectuals, business moguls and literary sensations.". It is said to have "offered the nation treasures of literature and cinema" and to be "Egypt’s oldest parliamentary dynasty".
Abkhazia is a region of the Caucasian Black Sea coast, the home of the Abkhazians, a people related to the Circassian people and speaking the Abkhaz language. The Abkhazians were one of several ethnic groups living in the Russian Empire who left during the ethnic cleansing of Circassians in the mid-19th century. However, some sources indicate that the Egyptian Abaza family was well established in the Nile Delta by the 18th century. In Egypt, the Abkhazians took — or were given — the last name "Abaza". A subgroup of the Abkhazians are the Abazin people, which this Egyptian family belongs to.
In the widely referenced study Egypt in the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, Afaf Lutfi Sayyid-Marsot mentions a traditional belief among the Egyptian Abaza family that they were named after a "beloved grandmother… or her place of birth". Family elders sat on the Majlis (council) created by Ibrahim Pasha, "uhda" (or royal endowments) of villages and land were obtained by the family and "the Abaza flourished". This maternal ancestor married the head of the powerful Al Ayed clan prior to the reign of Muhammad Ali of Egypt.
During the accession of the young King Farouk, "the Abaza family had solicited palace authorities to permit the royal train to stop briefly in their village so that the king could partake in refreshments offered in a large, magnificently ornamented tent they had erected in the train station".
In more recent decades the Society for Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt, the country's first and largest animal rights organization, was founded in 2001 by the novelist Tharwat Abaza's daughter, Amina Tharwat Abaza (Arabic: أمينة ثروت أباظة). Further cinematic figures have come to light particularly with Ingy Abaza (Arabic: إنجي أباظه), a young actress whose most notable work was with renowned director Yussef Chahine in his film Al-maseer (Arabic: المصير).
The Egyptian Abaza family is thought to number around 50,000 members, but this is difficult to verify. No official census has ever been conducted in Egypt regarding Circassian communities in the country, and thus these numbers are highly unreliable.
In 2014 the family sued Sada Elbalad TV for the creation of a children's cartoon named Abaza and the program was forced off the air. In the same year Egyptian satellite channel CBC Two aired a one-hour documentary on the clan.
A lentil dish attributed to Egypt's Abaza clan is known in the country as 'ads abazy (Arabic: عدس أباظي).
The Egyptian Abaza family descends from its modern founding father Hassan Pasha Abaza (Arabic: شيخ العرب حسن باشا أباظه), titled also as Sheikh of the Arabs, a title given to the heads of sufficiently influential clans at the time. Other Abaza received variations on the title, such as Shiekh Boghdady Pasha Abaza (Arabic: الشيخ بغدادي باشا أباظه) who with Hassan Pasha made the Abazas the only case of a single family holding two seats in Ibrahim Pasha's Majlis.
The name Abaza also refers to the ethnic group to which the family belongs as well as their native language and a town in Russia.
- Tharwat Abaza (Arabic: ثروت أباظه), journalist and novelist, whose best-known novel, A Man Escaping from Time, was televised in the late 1960s.
- Rushdy Abaza (Arabic: رشدي أباظه), actor
- Fekry Pasha Abaza (Arabic: فكري باشا أباظه), journalist and political activist
- "Rushdi Abaza, AlexCinema". www.bibalex.org. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- "Abaza Brothers".[dead link]
- Afaf Lutfi Sayyid-Marsot, Egypt in the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, pp. 123–124.
- Yunan Labib Rizk, The making of a king, Al-Ahram Weekly, 762, 29 Sep - 5 Oct 2005.
- Goldschmidt, Jr., Arthur (2000). Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-55587-229-8. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- 'Tharwat Abaza, 75; Egyptian Newspaper Columnist, Writer', LA Times, 19 March 2002.
- Society for Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt
- Article on the family and it's position in society
- Abaza Group
- Aziz Pasha Abaza archive at Bibliotheca Alexandrina
- Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali
- Official Clan Site
- Mahmoud Abaza Remarks
- Tharwat Abaza Obituary
- Ahram Article
- Abaza Clan Music
- Archive Egypt:Egypt's Four Largest Parliamentary Dynasties
- President Sisi Delegate to the Abaza Clan
- Families That Form Egyptian Political Life