Matossian Brothers The Cigarette Producers
Nestor Gianaclis The Founder
The story started a long time ago before the Matossian brothers, it begins with Nestor Gianaclis, the founder of the industry, a Greek who arrived in Egypt in 1864 and 1871 and established a factory in the Khairy Pasha palace in Cairo. After the British troops began being stationed in Egypt in 1882, British officers developed a taste for Egyptian cigarettes and they were soon being exported to the United Kingdom. Gianaclis and other Greek industrialists such as Ioannis Kyriazis of Kyriazi frères successfully produced and exported cigarettes using imported Turkish tobacco to meet the growing world demand for cigarettes in the closing decades of the nineteenth century.
Egyptian cigarettes made by Gianaclis and others became so popular in Europe and the United States that they inspired a large number of what were, in effect, locally-produced counterfeits. Among these was the American Camel brand, established in 1913, which used on its packet three Egyptian motifs: the camel, the pyramids, and a palm tree. Tastes in Europe and the United States shifted away from Turkish tobacco and Egyptian cigarettes towards Virginia tobacco, during and after the First World War.
Matossian Brothers of Tokat
They founded Egypt’s largest tobacco factory, 70,000 Armenians worked at the Matossian Tobacco factories. Between 1895-1896, 90% of Egypt’s cigarette production bore the trademark of Armenian-owned factories. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the Armenian tobacco industry expanded to such an extent that it dominated the markets of Egypt and Sudan, becoming the chief supplier of Ethiopia’s capital, Adis-Ababa, and other cities.
1952 Revolution and Nationalization program
What remained of the Greek-run tobacco industry in Egypt was nationalized after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. Egyptian-made cigarettes were sold only locally and became known for their poor quality (and low price). Of all the many foreign imitations of Egyptian cigarettes, only Camel survived the rest of the twentieth century.
The 1961 nationalization program of President Gamal Abdel Nasser affected the Armenian community, the majority of which was engaged in the private sector. The size of the community shrunk in that period, but not all felt compelled to leave, choosing instead to adapt to the new landscape. There was Joseph Matossian, then the chairman of Egypt’s Chamber of Tobacco.