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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 !!!

EGY.COM  -  MAADI

marjorie sykes

IN SEARCH OF SYKES

Maadi, 1 June 2014

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 in an attempt to 'purchase' the neglected house. Hardly anyone knew about the people who had lived there for almost a lifetime, neither did they care. All they saw was potential profit!

The last occupant of the abandoned house was Mrs. Badie El Rihani born Marjorie Frank Robin Sykes better known as "Miss Sykes", a former headmistress of the Maadi English School. Her stiff cadaver was peeled off an armchair three days after her exit in 2010.

Apparently the British-born widow had no 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 Maadi English School (today Canal School) on Road 82. In those days the school reported directly to the British Council following a strict British curriculum. But all this changed in the aftermath 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 your 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 Lycée 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—the Middle East’s Charlie Chaplin. 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 2002. The only addition were thousands of empty plastic yogurt cups lying everywhere. Seemingly this was the only edible Sykes was ingesting. It was obvious that cobwebs and other crawlies had taken over nesting among books, statuettes and a variety of ornaments much of which had come from Kish-Kish Bey's downtown Immobilia bldg apartment and Abbassia villa.

Having taught Dickens half her professional life 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 knew Miss Sykes she never once mentioned her childhood or adolescent years. Hardly anyone knew her mom had come for a long visit back in the 1950s. All that transpired was that while a music teacher in England she met Badie Rihani whom she called "Tony"--much later she would have to yell the name "TONY" for Badie Rihani had become deaf and was prone to loosing his hearing aid.

Once in Egypt Tony and Marjorie settled in Maadi where the latter easily obtained a teaching job at the Maadi English School. 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.

Long after Sykes died intestate and just when a highly questionable takeover was about to be concluded, an eleventh hour British heir appeared suddenly claiming his inheritance, 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 egy.com 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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