Cheers to our "talented" literature prize awardee. Your pain his gain !!!
EGY.COM - ZAMALEK
Commonwealth Office of
The United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland
By single stage tender
(if not sold beforehand)
One prestigious heritage villa residence located
At Ibn Zanki street, Zamalek, Cairo
Of special interest to:
Foreign Embassies, Missions, individuals
For viewing and further information please contact:
Sole agent in Egypt, CONSERV CO.
Property and Land Sales, Cairo Egypt
17A Mohamed Mazhar St. Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
To be noted the British government formally aquired the above villa and four others in 1948 and was exempted from paying any stamp/acquisiton duties on the basis or reciprocity
They once numbered 19, but that was over 85 years ago when Zamalek (known then as Gezira) was still a budding residential suburb. They were clustered north west of the Gezira Club so that together with that most venerated of 'British-only' sporting institutions the white washed villas formed the fenced suburban refuge of the higher Anglo-Saxon community, many of whom started or ended their careers in British-occupied Egypt.
Constructed circa 1906-7, the 19 government villas are among Zamalek's oldest. In his book Orientations, Sir Ronalald Storrs, a former British diplomat in Cairo, mentions them in the context of there having been some litigation over their original cost price. Not only that, but there appears to have been some secondary litigation over the sum disbursed to the experts brought in to look into the matter as evidenced by the following article which appeared in the Egyptian Gazette.
Judgement in the case of S. Cademinos Tromboff and Fitzio v. Konessios and Allam was delivered last week. The Plaintiffs were the experts selected to examine into the condition of the Government Buildings at Ghezirah erected by the first defendant, and claimed the LE 100 each, at which figure their fees were said to have been agreed. Defence was that the amount was excessive in view of the time occupied (viz. three months). Me. Cademinos, for himself and colleagues, pointed out that an accountant employed by Defendants in the same matter had received LE 50 from Konessios for one week's work and that the sums now claimed were just and reasonable. The Tribunal decided in the favor of Plaintiffs with cost against Komessios including legal fees of himslef and his co-defendant amounting to LE 4 each.
The Egyptian Gazette, 2 June 1908
The architect of these 19 villas was Ernest Tatham Richmond. The style is late Victorian with perhaps a whiff of colonial-oriental given their arched balconies and porticos. Having worked for an undisclosed period at the Wakf Ministry, Richmond had been exposed to a not inconsiderable wealth of Islamic monuments. Apart from his being the son of English painter Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), it was Ernest who supervised between 1917-19 the restoration of parts of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. While doing so he rediscovered over the 'King Solomon Stables' in the Temple area the original furnaces and kilns in which the Mosque tiles had been fired.
The 19 villas' original owner was the Domains Administration a subdivision of the Egyptian government under British control through a British financial advisor. Its first tenants were known as the 'Anglo-Egyptians,' that caste of administrators who acted as guardians of Britain's interests in Egypt's during the iron fisted reign of two of Britain's most powerful proconsuls, Lords Cromer and Kitchener.
Also among those initial tenants were several irrigation engineers credited with building the first Aswan dam and a dozen or so primary and secondary sluices in Egypt's Delta. Three engineers were famous enough so that Zamalek streets named after them: Sirs Wilcocks, Moncrieff and Garstin.
DOMAINS ADMINISTRATION |
TO LET--- Officials are informed that one of the Government houses at Zamalek, No. 14 Sharia Shagaret el Dor and a plot of garden adjoining it, 1021 metres in area, are to let.
The rent of the house is L.E. 170 and that of the garden L.E. 12.250 milliemes per annum, the lease to expire on December 31, 1919.
Any officials desirous of taking the house and garden on these terms should apply to the Director General, Domains Administration, Sharia Bulaq, Cairo. All such applications should reach the Director General before August 31, 1917.
Journal Official No. 70 du 23 Aout 1917
After the Engineers came the economic and political advisors such as Walter Smart, Sir Alexander Keown Boyd et.al.
Those in the know would tell you Sir Walter was the chief intelligence officer in Egypt. But to the outsiders he was the all-important Oriental Secretary, one of the minor key positions in the Middle East. Invariably this meant he was the ablest hand at the British Embassy when it came to understanding the locals. "He's the Englishman who'll put these fellows in their places, and keep 'em there!" is how a seasoned colonialist described 'Smartie's' position.
By tradition the three villas at the western end of Ibn Zanki Street were reserved for senior members of the official British community in Egypt. While Nos. 19 and 20 are still with us today, No. 22, by far the largest of this unique collection of homes, was replaced in the 1950s by an elegant apartment building designed and owned by architect Ali Labib Gabr.
Hardly anyone remembers that up to the end of WW2, Nos. 20 and 22 were contiguous and that the street separating the two plots today then ended at their northern sidewalk. Indeed, with the Brits still in command, no one in his right mind was going to axe part of Sir Thomas W. Russel Pasha's award-winning garden. He was after all still the Commandant of the Cairo Police.
But even before Mansour Mohammed Street reached out to Gabalaya Street, some of the villas in question had started to change hands. As a result Walter Smart's intelligence-gathering duty was enhanced when one of the more significant 'locals' moved in next-door.
Engineer Hussein Sirry Pasha was not only a pro-British prime minister but he was also the Queen's uncle. Had he wanted to, all Smartie had to do in order to fill in his daily reports was to sit quietly under his mango tree and listen in on King Farouk's wartime conversation floating across the hollyhocks hedge that separated No. 19 from No. 17 Ibn Zanki Street (today the Tunisian Ambassador's residence).
It was only when other privileged Egyptians started to move in that the heretofore anachronistic term Anglo-Egyptian took up a new connotation: Toplofty Anglos and Egypt's elite living together as enlightened neighbors.
But not for long! There would be 1952 followed by 1956.
After the Suez Canal debacle of 1956, the British, as far as Egypt was concerned, were history. From the original 19 Zamalek villas, the now unpopular British Embassy held on to half a dozen the rest having been acquired by a variety of Egyptians from the political, cultural and diplomatic worlds.
As urban laisser-faire gradually replaced zoning laws and as the price of the square meter started its spiraling ascent in the late 1970s, it was inevitable that all of Zamalek's villas were in peril. Who in his right mind would sit on a plot of real estate worth millions simply for the privilege of saying "I have a garden!"
With the on-going real estate boom and the exorbitant expenses of maintaining a villa by financially challenged Egyptians (or foreign governments I may add), only nine of the original 19 made it into the 21st century. Four of these belonged to the British government. I am purposefully using the past tense because the Embassy's two villas adjacent to Salah el Dine Street have just been sold.
With this latest development I think you'll all agree that by simple extrapolation based on past events, one can reasonably assume they will be torn down while the rest of Zamalek looks the other way.
Two down, seven to go.
Irish Embassy residence No. 8 Shagaret el Dorr Street
References on Ernest Richmond: Richmond, E. T. "Review of The Works of Sultan Bibars at Bunduqdārī in Egypt
(sic), by K. A. C. Creswell" in JRAS. 1927.
Richmond, Ernest T. "The Significance of Cairo" in JRAS. 1913. 23-40.
THEY LIVED IN THE RICHMOND VILLAS. (source: LE MONDAIN EGYPTIEN--WHO'S WHO, 1936-7)
Watson, Sir F.P., conseiller financier du governement egyptien, 15 Ibn Zanki
Smart, Walter A., secretaire oriental a la Residence, 19 Ibn Zanki
Mooro, Dr. Abdelwahab, chirurgien, 23 Ibn Zanki
Kelly, David Victor, conseiller de la Residence, 20 Ibn Zanki
Russell, "Lewa" Thomas Wentworth Pasha, Commandant Police du Caire 22, Ibn Zanki
Gamaleldine, Ali Pasha, ancien ministre, 4 Shagaret el Dorr
Mahmoud Shawky Pasha, secretaire prive de SM le Roi, 6 Shagaret el Dorr
Ibrahim Chourbagui Bey, medecin, 10 Shagaret el Dorr
Hussein Sirry Bey, sous-secretaire d'etat aux travaux publiques, 12 Shagaret el Dorr
Gharabali, Mohammed Naguib Pasha, ancien ministre, 16 Shagaret el Dorr
Keown-Boyd, Alexander, directeur generale departement de l'Europe, min. interieur, 10 Saleh Ayoub
Chaker, Ahmed Mahmoud Bey, directeur generale irrigation de la Basse Egypte, 12 Saleh Ayoub
Greaves, R. Hathorn, 8 Mansour Mohammed