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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 !!!



Samir Raafat
Cairo Times (unedited version), April 2, 1998

Cairo, September 1934. The millennium old capital was getting ready to inaugurate its first Temple of Justice, a colossal post-renaissance edifice that would awe, nay dwarf any supplicant who walked through its iron portals or wandered the labyrinthine corridors that crisscrossed its insides. As he observed its colonnaded Roman facade, the passing individual instantly realized he was but a mere speck in the game of life.

That was invariably the objective - a giant building reducing the individual to infinitesimal anonymity. Eminent judges could pass stifling sentences from their sacrosanct chambers and lofty courtrooms assured that the ponderous surroundings would do the rest. It is noteworthy to mention here that all sitting judges were foreigners for this was to the new headquarters of The Mixed Tribunals a term used to reflect the different western jurisprudences applied therein. Under the old regime of Capitulations, foreign nationals in Egypt were outside local jurisdiction and at first could only appear in their respective Consular Courts. Later in the 19th century these were merged together to form The Mixed Tribunals.

Egyptians had their own National Courts.

From 1877 up until then, Cairo's Mixed Tribunals (or courts) had resided in the old Daira Saneya Palace on Ataba al-Khadra Square. Unable to live up to prevalent requirements and because the municipality had plans to enlarge the square interposing two new avenues departing from its center to Bab al-Husseinieh and to al-Azhar Mosque, it had become indispensable to remove the old justice palace.

The new one would be built on what had been the Cairo Water Company situated at the intersection of two of Cairo's grandest thoroughfares named after the King (Fouad 1st, now 26 of July) and Queen (Nazli, now Ramses) of Egypt. It would also front Rue Champollion that quintessential name synonymous to hieroglyphics.

The design of the monumental new court house would be awarded to the winner of a universal competition. All styles, concepts or ideas would be entertained.

Thirty-five out of 141 applicants were considered by the quasi government panel especially formed for the occasion. The panelists included an assortment of international architects and lawmakers such as the two veteran architects, Ernest Verucci Bey and Antonio Lasciac. Both had served as building superintendents of the Egyptian royal palaces and both had designed several of Cairo's better known buildings and banks, Banque Misr and the Khedivial Buildings on Emad al-Din Street among them. There was the Frenchman Monsieur Conin-Pastour, director-general of state buildings. He would later design the French Consulate on al-Fadl Street. As for his countryman Chief Justice Raoul Houriet, he represented the Mixed Courts. The only Egyptian on the panel was Mahmoud Fahmy Pasha, former chief architect of the Ministry of Wakf.

On 15 January 1924, it was announced that the first prize of LE 900 went to Messrs. Leon Azema, Max Edrei, Jacques Hardy and Victor Erlanger. Second prize went to Alexander Marcel of the French Institute in Paris. He was responsible for many of Heliopolis's architectural splendors. Third and fourth prize went to Lionel Brandon (French) and Michel Radoslavoff (Slavic) respectively.

Cost of the project -- LE 160,000. Ground breaking ceremony -- 3 September 1925.

Perhaps because of the Great Depression, construction took longer than expected. The building was still incomplete in 1931 when cracks appeared on its facade. No sooner had a commission of inquiry been convened and the front parapet was heaving. As expected, the press had itself a field day. And now that costs overruns were coming into play, the questioning moved to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

After a series of accusations and counter accusations in which the principal designing architects Messrs. Azema and Edrei (the other two having dropped out of the project early on) were absolved, the damages and their cause, which had been much exaggerated, were successfully attended to. The building was near completion.

The first courtroom hearing took place on October 16, 1934, nine years from groundbreaking. In a matter of months the whole Mixed Courts apparatus system had successfully transplanted itself from Ataba al-Khadra Square to King Fouad Avenue. In its early years Cairo's new Palace of Justice functioned superbly and was considered one of the finest in the world.

Exactly fifteen years after its inaugural, the Palace of Justice made history again. In a symbolic ceremony watched by the entire nation, the giant inscription above the building's facade was removed. No longer was the resented 'Tribunal Mixte' (al-Mahkama al-Mokhtalata) in evidence. October 15, 1949 will always be remembered as the day in which the Mixed and Consular Courts ceased to exist in Egypt following the long and painstaking negotiations known as the Montreux Convention of 1937.

From that day all residents in Egypt, irrespective of nationality would appear in front of the National Courts where the proceedings would be conducted in Arabic before Egyptian judges. Another logical step towards genuine independence had been achieved.

And from that day onwards, the Palace of Justice would be known as 'Dar al-Kada'a al-Aali' (Higher Court of Justice).

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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