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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 !!!


Four Welshmen Who Made Good In Egypt

by Samir Raafat
Egyptian Mail, May 27, 1995

Emad el Dine Street

Most shoppers knew that John Davies Bryan owned one of Cairo's leading stores in the 1880s. What they failed to understand was why a Welsh Taffy from the hills of North Wales had come to Egypt.

English, Irish and Scotsmen were no strangers to colonial Egypt. No sooner had Britain defeated Orabi Pasha at Tal Al Kebir in 1882 and it was just a matter of time for St. Andrews' schools and churches to appear in Cairo and Alexandria. Next came the St. Patrick's Day celebrations fueled by a surplus of teachers and nurses from Dublin. But when it came to Wales, not much there. It was only after the British left Egypt in 1955 that we learned of Welsh rare bits, Laura Ashley's floral prints and superstar Richard Burton.

The more politically minded however recall with desolation the Welsh-born Prime Minister Lloyd George whose government offered the Jews a homeland in Arab Palestine.

And while Eurojews anticipated their "promised land," Welsh Taffies were abandoning theirs, migrating to rural Australia and South America.

Trade and commerce were never big in Wales so that whenever a successful shopkeeper left it was a sad day. A sad day as well when John Davies Bryan decided to relocate in Egypt.

Health problems and encouragement from a relation in Egypt brought the eldest son of Edward and Elinor Bryan of Caernarfon to the shores of Alexandria where a cousin, Samuel Evans, worked for the khedivial government as chief of the Egyptian Coastal Service. In his spare time Evans dealt in the buying and selling of camels.

John Davies Bryan In Wales, John Davies Bryan, eldest of four brothers, had run a small shop at No. 12 Bridge Street, Caernarfon. Therefore shortly after he disembarked in Egypt he did what he knew best. He opened a shop in Cairo's Continental Hotel under the trademark name of Davies Bryan.

Bryan's shop sold an array of imported goods including men and ladies hats, travel gear, draperies, hosiery and shoes. His fixed price policy in a market that centered on haggling and bargaining eventually earned him his sterling reputation.

As business expanded, Bryan sent for two of his brothers, Edward and Joseph. Together in Alexandria they opened a large store on Cherif Pasha Street, which was second to none in terms of commercial location. While refurbishing their building the brothers sought the advice of architect Robert Williams and at the latter's recommendation, redecorated the facade with polished red granite from Aberdeen, and Doulting freestone from Sommerstshire.

Likewise in Cairo the Bryans commissioned Williams to design the St. David that was completed in 1910. Named after the patron saint of Wales, the tall redbrick building stood on a large piece of property purchased from Karl H. Beyerlé, the director of the Credit Foncier Bank just across the street.

Soon enough, Davies Bryan of Cairo was the pride of Sharia Emad Al Din where most elegant shops were situated. The largest of its kind, the new store occupied 1900 square meters fronting three streets: Magrabi (now Adly), Mohammed Farid (ex-Emad Al Din) and Al Manakh (now Abdel Khalek Sarwat). At just above eye level, the store's facade was decorated with ornate stucco motifs. One can still make out shields with roses, thistles, shamrocks and leeks. While most shields are engraved with the initials 'D', 'B', 'MGA', 'EJ' and 'AB', two of them have 'Davies Bryan 1910' written on them in Arabic and in English.

A larger shield overlooking Mohammed Farid Street sports the following inscriptions.


These are Welsh words for 'truth against the world.' Another shield has three lines drawn on it, one vertical and two diagonal / | \ . This is the logo of the Welsh National Gorsedd of Bards (or Eisteddfod), an important annual Welsh cultural festival.

It would be three decades later that an Eisteddfod took place in Cairo. This was on September 21, 1943 when Egypt was home to thousands of Allied soldiers including several Welsh regiments.

plaque from a previous war at the All Saints Cathedral, Zamalek

No less than 200 Welsh servicemen dressed in bardic robes attended the Cairo Eisteddfod. It was held a few blocks from the St. David in a cinema theater (now garage) off Sharia Soliman Pasha. Requisitioned during World War 2 the theater was where Lady Dorothea, wife of Cairo Police Chief Sir Thomas Russell Pasha, launched Music for All, a benevolent wartime organization for the benefit of the Allied troops.

It was also at the Cairo Eisteddfod that Enfys was launched. At first known simply as Seren y Dwyrain, the tiny wartime Welsh-language journal became the Yr Enfys in Wales which today serves an expanding overseas Welsh audience.

Today's Welsh visitors may remark that several of the shields above the St. David's main entrance were painted over with the inscriptions 'Chourbagui.' In order to explain this aberration one must go back in time and follow the sequence of events that transferred the St. Davis from the Bryans to the present owner.

First to go was John Davies Bryan who died of typhoid at age 33 on November 13, 1888. During his relatively short Egypt sojourn, John kept up a prolific correspondence with the folk back home, most of it in Welsh. These contained his impressions on Egypt, some of which were published in Genedl and later appeared in book form, a copy of which can be found at the Welsh National Library under O'r Aifft (From Egypt).

On the morning of May 13, 1920, it was the youngest brother, Robert Bryan, 61, who passed away while in residence at the St. David. Never directly involved in the family business, he was the family's educated poet and musician which explains why he bequeathed to his alma mater, the University of Aberystwyth, the sum of 2000 pounds sterling for the establishment of a music scholarship. While in Egypt Robert translated proverbs and pharaonic poems one of which originated in an ancient tomb belonging to King Tehwiti-mes of the 18th Dynasty

Edward Bryan, the second of the four brothers, died in Alexandria in 1929, leaving a large sum for the Young Men's Christian Association. It is no coincidence that Cairo's YMCA branch was located in the St. David a few floors above Pension Wales.

Last to go was Joseph Bryan. He died in 1935 at age 71 leaving the sum of 5000 pounds sterling to the Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. Back in 1928 he had donated 85 acres on a hill above the town for the erection of new educational buildings. Between 1923-4, Joseph Bryan was president of both the Alexandria British Association and the British Chamber of Commerce. In his spare time he wrote several articles including 'The Victory of Islam' (Buddugoliaeth Gyntaf Islam); 'Mohammed and the Jews and Christians' (Mohammed a'r Iddewon a'r Cristnogion); and on 'The Fate of the Jews of Medina' (Tynged Iddewon Medina).

After Joseph's death Davies Bryan & Co. gradually wound up its activities in Egypt so that by the time the Welsh regiments arrived in World War 2 they found a downsized version of what their predecessors had seen in the previous war. Another Welshman, this time from Coedpoeth, ran the store. Fred Purslow had been chief account for the Bryans brothers before buying a share in the business in 1929. It was mostly thanks to him and his associate Moise Meriems that the trade name of Davies Bryan & Co. lived on until the 1950s.

What had once been a megastore slowly imploded into several smaller shops and boutiques including Stephenson's Pharmacy and the Anglo Bookstore. In 1957 or thereabouts, three prosperous Syrian brothers-the Chourbaguis, purchased the St. David along with sundry relics left behind by their four Welsh predecessors.

Following the demise of Egypt's private sector in 1961 the St. David was taken over by a state owned insurance company. From then on the building slipped into steady decline, its main halls and entrances acquiring their gothamesque character. Thus ended Egypt's Welsh connection.

95-06-27.4  95-06-27.6

Reader Comments

Date: Thursday, June 26, 2003 10:05 AM
From: Harry Stephenson

I have just picked up your article on Davies Bryan & Co. of Emad El Din St. and was interested in mention of Stephenson's Pharmacy. My Grandfather, George Herbert Stephenson , was a Pharmacist in East Yorkshire in the late 1800's. In 1898, he , his wife Clara, and five children , moved to Cairo and set up a Pharmacy there. His family grew up and went to school there. My father told me he was educated at a Lutheran School. ( He spoke fluent German.) My Father was on his way to Cambridge to study Pharmacy when WW1 started. He joined the Army with his Brothers. George Herbert died in 1919 , and the family scattered all over the World. I would be interested in finding out whether the Pharmacy you speak about was my Grandfathers. If in fact this is the case, could you provide me with any other snippets of information.
Yours Faithfully,

Subject: Davies Bryan brothers
Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002 18:46:12 +0100
From: William James

Hi! Have just read your article on the Davies Bryan brothers, which we found very interesting because we are descendants of Joseph Bryan, a cousin of Captain Edward Bryan, the father of the Bryan brothers. 2 corrections I would like to make are that the brothers did not own the Nelson on Bridge St, Caernarfon, but did own 12 Bridge St., a smaller shop no longer in existance today, sadly.
Also the nick name of Samuel Evans was not "Sam Weda Wedyn" But "Sam Nesa Wedyn" because when he was playing marbles with his cousins they said, we sould take turns and "nesa wedyn" means the turn after next, which he took in the game.
Also John Davies Bryan who came out to Cairo in 1886 started his first shop in the Continental Hotel in Cairo and later moved to Alexandria. Only two of his brothers took part in the business with him: Edward and Joseph. The other brother Robert was a man of leisure and was one time a teacher, poet and composer.
We did enjoy reading your article very much.
yours sincerely
Mair James (grandmother was Mary Bryan)

Subject: Davies Bryan
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 17:16:43 -0000
From: Sian Edwards

Have just read your article on DAVIES BRYAN AND CO OF EMAD EL DIN STREET. I was at College in Aberystwyth in the 60s, and one of the Students' Halls of residence was called 'Neuadd Davies Bryan' (Davies Bryan Hall) - now I know why!
Dymuniadau gorau,
Sian Edwards

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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