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Several of my articles on Garden City were plagiarized word for word by novelist MEKKAWI SAID (winner of the Egyptian State price for literature!!!!) and re-published under his own name in a three-part series in El-Masry El-Youm daily in September 2015.

Cheers to our "talented" literature prize awardee. Your pain his gain !!!


marjorie sykes


Maadi, 1 June 2014

marjorie sykes
Marjorie Frank R. Sykes
Mossley, Lancashire March 1925 - Maadi, Egypt, November 2009

marjorie sykes
Frank Sykes and Anne Woodhead on their wedding day - UK circa 1924

marjorie sykes

Recently a large acrylic sign went up on an abandoned house on Port Saiid Street. It says "This House belongs to the heirs of Marjorie Rihani and is NOT FOR SALE" fending off Maadi's renown real-estate vultures, or high-rise millionaires as they are frequently referred to by Maadi's oldies. The usual suspects had heretofore swooped and circled to in an attempt to 'purchase' the neglected house. Hardly anyone knew about the people who had lived there for almost a lifetime, neither did anyone care. All they saw was potential profit!

The last occupant of this abandoned house was Mrs. Badie El Rihani born Marjorie Frank Reuben Sykes (aka "Miss Sykes"), a former headmistress of the Maadi English School. Her stiff cadaver was peeled off an armchair three days after her exit in 2009.

Apparently, the British-born widow had no known heirs, and since she left no will or testament, the house would be sold in a public auction the proceeds going to the now-bankrupt state.

It was in the early 1950s when the newly arrived Miss Sykes replaced Mrs. Purvis as headmistress of the famous Maadi English School (today Canal School) on Road 82. Apart from the fact that she was a licentiate of the London College of Music, not much is known about Sykes's educational qualifications, or where exactly she beckoned from. All one needed to know was that in those days, the school reported directly to the British Council following a strict British curriculum. But all this changed in the wake of the 1956 Suez War when all things British were nationalized and resident Britons were invited to leave the country post haste.

For more information on Sykes I refer to the Maadi book Maadi 1904-1962; History & Society in a Cairo Suburb written by yours truly.

Following the 1956 Suez War headmistress...

"Miss Marjorie Sykes was left in a quandary. Now that the Queen's portrait had been removed it was time for her to go. But unlike her opposite numbers at the Lycee and Victoria College, Sykes was not required to leave Egypt, since her husband, Badie al-Rihani, was an Egyptian national.

Not lacking in sang-froid, the fearless and fearsome Miss Sykes, with the full backing of the pupils' parents, campaigned to remain at the ex-English School, even if it meant being demoted. Miss Sykes was married to the nephew of the very popular Naguib al-Rihani also known as "Kishkish Bey", an Egyptian version of Charlie Chaplin.

Once in Egypt Tony and Marjorie settled in Maadi where the latter easily obtained a teaching job at the Maadi English School as headmistress. Many years later, due to a misunderstanding with one of her subsequent bosses at the Maadi Canal School, Miss Sykes moved to the Manor House School in Zamalek working under the equally legendary Mary Salama. She remained there until she retired in the 1980s.

She herself had her own peculiar sense of humour. In the end she won the day and became the school's assistant headmistress and for the next few years, continued, undaunted, to bicycle to school from her house at No.8, Abdel Wahab Pasha (ex-Colvin) Avenue, which had now been renamed Port Saiid Street. Forty years later and Miss Sykes still looks the same except that the bicycle is now an old Fiat."

I called on Miss Sykes ("Sticky" as her Maadi students fondly called her behind her back) twice after her husband's passing. Both times I noticed how the Englishy-styled home of Maadi's once formidable headmistress had fallen on hard times. It was frozen in suspended animation. Except for the worn-out stand-up piano used for private lessons, nothing had been moved or touched since the day Badie Rihani died circa 2004. The only addition were thousands of empty plastic yogurt cups lying everywhere. Seemingly, this was the only edible Sykes was ingesting. It was obvious cobwebs and other crawlies had nested among books, statuettes, and a variety of ornaments much of which had come from Kish-Kish Bey's downtown Immobilia bldg apartment and his grandiose Abbassia villa.

Having taught Dickens half her professional life Miss Sykes had transmuted into Miss Havisham!

Age had also taken its toll. Miss Sykes, whose meagre physique, and rigid demeanor hadn't changed an iota for several decades, was now a shadow of her former self. Her hair, which she always pulled back into a miniscule ponytail was disheveled and unwashed. Her no-nonsense spectacles (courtesy of former student ophthalmologist Samia Sabry) barely hung on her pointed nose adding to the physical drama. Her tattered dress was stained everywhere. All that remained from the past was her shrill nasal English accent. It was all very sad.

In all the years I have known Miss Sykes she never once mentioned her childhood or adolescent years. Hardly anyone knew her mom (Anne Woodhead) had come for a long visit back in the 1950s. All that transpired was that while a music teacher in England she met chemist Badie Rihani (1918-2004) whom she immediately renamed "Tony". They were married in October 1949 and settled shortly after in their newly purchased villa house in the quiet suburb of Maadi. During their childless marriage they lived happily together, their social life kept to a bare minimum. Rare visitors to the Rihani villa were basically music students foremost among them was neighbor Raouf G Zaidan later to become a renown opera singer.

Much later, in the couple's twilight years, Miss Sykes would have to YELL the name "TONY" for Badie Rihani had become stone deaf and was prone to losing his hearing aid. And that is exactly how the long-time next-door neighbor came to realize the distinguished hobby-gardener Badie Bey, was called Tony. One hopes Tony's knowledge of chemistry was better than his passion for flora for his garden was far from attractive!

Long after Miss Sykes died intestate, and just when a highly questionable takeover was about to be concluded, an eleventh hour British heir (a descendant of grandpa Reuben Sykes 1871-1936) suddenly appeared claiming to be the rightful heir of his forgotten cousin, which explains the shining new sign on the now decrepit English house. Obviously, the prize will now go to the highest bidder.

marjorie sykes
above: Maadi English School in the days when Miss Sykes was headmistress
author of article front row talking to Jennifer Gates
Note: standing students in above photo include: Baheya Naqadi, Rowaida Darwish, Serge Walberg, Brian Herbert Lewy, Medhat Samaha, Marriane Ghali, Nicholas K. Gayed, Samia M. Sabry, Maha Mansour, Randa Karim, Magda Makady, Zizi Nazmi, Nadia Sabit, Allison, Hanaa El Alfy, Ihamy El-Masry, Magda Labib

below: prize day at end of school year
later that year the 1956 Suez War broke out hence many foreign and Jewish students did not return

marjorie sykes rihani

marjorie sykes rihani
Miss Sykes with Mary Salama to her right

marjorie sykes

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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