Queen Nazli’s Story: part III – her final years – United States

In 1946, Queen Mother Nazli embarked on a journey from Egypt to the United States, accompanied by her daughters, Princess Fathia and Princess Faika, to seek medical treatment for Queen Nazli’s kidney problem.  To support them during their stay abroad, King Farouk appointed an Egyptian government official named Riad Ghali.

They arrived at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where Queen Nazli underwent a series of surgical operations in the years 1947, 1948, and 1949.  Afterward, they made their way to San Francisco, California, where Queen Nazli had previously received medical care, and there her treatment continued.

Princess Fathia and Riad Ghali

Princess Fathia and Riad Ghali fell in love, but their union faced obstacles.  King Farouk, Fathia’s brother, disapproved of their engagement due to Ghali’s Christian faith, contrasting with Fathia’s Muslim background.  As a consequence, King Farouk ordered Riad to be dismissed from the Egyptian diplomatic service.  The Queen Mother, on the other hand supported the marriage.

Flying in the face of the King’s objections, Fathia and Riad chose to marry in secret and Ghali converted to the muslim religion.  In April 1950, they held a quiet civil ceremony at a San Francisco residence, followed by two religious marriage ceremonies.


King Farouk requested that the United States government return Ghali, his wife, and her mother to Egypt.  However, no response came, even though Ghali was now in the United States without a diplomatic passport, essentially an illegal resident.  Princess Faika and her husband, Mohamed Fouad Sadek Bey obey the order to returned to Egypt.

Despite facing restrictions on his movements and job prospects, Ghali purchased a house in Beverly Hills in the early 1950s and lived there with his family,  During this time, Fathia gave birth to three children:

  • Rafik Ghali (born on 29 November 1952)
  • Rayed Ghali (born on 20 May 1954)
  • Ranya Ghali (born on 21 April 1956)

In August 1950, King Farouk stripped Queen Mother Nazli and Princess Fathia of their royal rights, income and titles due to Fathia’s marriage.  Nazli later converted to Christianity, adopting the name Mary-Elizabeth.

Despite the limitations on his movements, Ghali chose to remain in California rather than return to Egypt, driven by concerns for his and his family’s safety under King Farouk’s reign.

In 1952, King Farouk was forced to abdicate, and the royal family, with the exception of Princess Fawzia, went into exile in Italy.  Ghali, however, still chose not to return to Egypt, still fearing for his life under the Nasser government.  These fears were amplified by the tragic death of his father in Egypt in 1952, shortly after the Nasser regime took control.

The Nasser government had seized Ghali’s property, including real estate valued at around $600,000 and a substantial Egyptian bank account of approximately $100,000. Ghali had also invested in oil and gas leases in Mexico before his marriage.  However, it is unclear what happened to the income from that investment.  Ghali was ordered to pay a substantial sum to the tax collector in the United States at one point.

In 1965 Nazli attended the funeral of King Farouk in Rome

Unfortunately, family and financial issues stemming from poor investments led to the end of Ghali’s marriage in 1973.  It was rumored that Queen Nazli had given Ghali power of attorney to make financial decisions on behalf of herself and Fathia – and some of those decisions were, to some extent, responsible for their poor financial situation in the end.

The properties they had bought in the United States had to be sold.  Nazli moved to a small apartment in Westwood, Los Angeles, and Fathia joined her there after her divorce from Ghali

To cope with mounting debts, in 1975, Queen Nazli had to part with her jewelry, including a magnificent art deco tiara adorned with 720 diamonds weighing 274 carats and a matching necklace commissioned from Van Cleef & Arpels in 1938.  These pieces were sold at Sotheby’s, fetching $127,500 and $140,000, respectively. Despite these efforts, both Nazli and Fathia still found themselves facing bankruptcy.

Little more than a year later, on 10 November 1976, on the day that Fathia and her mother were due to return to Egypt — their passports having been returned by Anwar el-Sadat, the then Egyptian president — Fathia went to Ghali’s house.  In his book “The Last Cheetah of Egypt” the author David Rosen writes that Princess Fathia frequently went there after the divorce to check Ghali was alright – he had a drink problem, look after his clothes etc.   

Ghali shot her 6 times in the head.  She was 45 years old.  Ghali then then put two bullets in his own head.  He survived the bullet wounds and when later asked why he murdered his wife and deprived his children of their mother, he replied that he could not bear to think of her with anyone else.  David B Rosen also writes that Ghali called him after the shooting and that it was he who was alerted the police and the family of the tragedy.  Ghali died on 12 July 1987 in prison.

Nazli lived out the rest of her days in an apartment provided by a friend in West Los Angeles.  David Rosen writes in his book that he believed that Shams Pahlavi, the elder sister of the Shah of Iran, Fawzia’s ex husband, helped pay Queen Nazli’s bills.  But in 1978, Fathia’s jewellery also had to be sold to meet outstanding debts.

The life of Queen Nazli was a captivating and poignant tale, akin to a magnificent bird caught in a gilded cage.  Her spirit, fierce and independent, was constrained by the confines of her time and position.  In the annals of royal households, “all that glitters is not gold” and the appearance of wealth and privilege often belies the inner struggles and sacrifices endured by their inhabitants. 

Queen Nazli’s journey, spanning from her Egyptian childhood in Alexandria to her life in Abdeen Palace in Cairo to her later years in the United States, was marked by a resolute determination to navigate a path guided by her heart, enduring the pains of familial disapproval and financial adversity.  Her story is a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit, as she navigated her own way, embracing her true self, transcending the boundaries imposed upon her and ultimately abiding by the consequences of her decisions.  

Queen Nazli never returned to Egypt.  Just two years after Fathia’s murder, on May 29, 1978, Queen Nazli of Egypt passed away in California at the age of 83.  She is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, near her daughter Fathia. Her daughter, Faiza passed away on 5 June 1994, aged 70 and was cremated.  Her memorial plaque is in Westwood Memorial Park, Westwood, Los Angeles County, California.  Rest in Peace.

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