A Prominent Family
A Prominent Family
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter focuses on the education and careers of Marcus Simaika's siblings. According to Marcus, no fewer than three prime ministers were among the graduates of the Coptic Patriarchal School: Boutros Pasha Ghali and Youssef Pasha Wahba, both Copts, and Yehia Pasha Ibrahim, a Muslim. A large number of ministers, heads of administrations, judges, and statesmen also graduated from this school. Marcus's two elder brothers, Abd al-Messih and Rizqallah, both graduated at the top of their class and were sent to the School of Law. They were later transferred to the Mixed Courts and then to the newly established Native Courts. Abdallah, the younger brother of Marcus, went to Montpellier to study law, while his youngest brother Attallah entered the Egyptian State Railways. His sister married her first cousin, Wassef Pasha Simaika.
The annual school examinations at the Coptic Patriarchal School were conducted in the presence of a committee of high officials from the Ministry of Education, and the khedive always sent two or three of his sons to attend the graduation ceremony, as well as ordering the khedivial music band to play on that occasion.
Simaika reported that no fewer than three prime ministers were among the graduates of the Coptic Patriarchal School: Boutros Pasha Ghali and Youssef Pasha Wahba, both Copts, and Yehia Pasha Ibrahim, a Muslim.13 A great number of ministers, heads of administrations, judges, and statesmen also graduated from this school. The School of Law had been established by Isma‘il Pasha in 1868, and the khedive gave orders that the most successful students of the Coptic Patriarchal School should be sent to it after their graduation, with a view to their appointment, later on, to higher administrative and judicial posts.
Simaika’s two elder brothers, Abd al-Messih and Rizqallah, both graduated at the top of their class and were sent to the School of Law. Abd al-Messih headed the list of successful candidates in the final year examinations at the School of Law and was chosen by the founder and director of the school, Vidal Pasha, a French jurist, to be his assistant.
Abd al-Messih and his younger brother Rizqallah were later transferred to the Mixed Courts, and subsequently to the newly established Native Courts. The Mixed Courts of Egypt had been founded in October 1875 by Khedive Isma‘il. These courts were designed by Nubar Pasha to reform the chaotic nineteenth-century legal system, in which consulate courts competed (p.24) with government tribunals and religious courts for jurisdiction. The Mixed Courts had codes based on a civil-law format, but with significant Islamic and local principles. Judges were appointed by the khedive from among leading Egyptian and foreign candidates. These courts heard disputes between Egyptians and foreigners and between foreigners of different nationalities. The Native Courts were set up in 1883, with mostly Egyptian judges and in 1949 the function of the Mixed Courts, the foremost judicial authority between 1875 and 1948, was transferred to the National Courts. Abd al-Messih eventually became a prominent judge in the Mixed Courts, and Rizqallah chef du parquet (prosecutor general) in the Court of Appeal. Both had great reputations for their ability, their keen sense of justice, and their integrity.
Abdallah, the younger brother of Marcus, after successfully passing his various examinations, was sent to Montpellier to study law. There the most flattering reviews appeared in the annual bulletins regarding the brilliant results he achieved. He was awarded five silver medals, and in the final year he won the gold medal and the prize of the city of Montpellier. He then entered the Faculté de Droit de Paris and was the first Egyptian ever to obtain the doctorate. He wrote two theses, one entitled “La compétence des tribunaux mixtes d’Egypte,” and the other “La province romaine d’Egypte.” The first was reviewed very flatteringly by the celebrated minister of foreign affairs, Tigran Pasha, in the Phare d’Alexandrie, a prominent daily political newspaper. The second was reviewed in the British press by Professor Archibald Sayce of Oxford University, who described it as a book worthy of a statesman. Abdallah rose to become conseiller royal to the Ministry of Communications, and later on was appointed senator in the Upper House of Parliament.
Marcus’s youngest brother Attallah, on graduating from the Patriarchal School, entered the State Railways. His sister married her first cousin, Wassef Pasha Simaika, a prominent judge who was to become the Coptic member in a number of cabinets.
Al-Ahram fifty years ago (1890)
It gives great pleasure to all those with the progress of young Egyptians dear to their hearts to learn of the achievements of Abdallah Effendi Simaika in his studies at the Faculty of Law in Montpellier. Though not yet twenty-two years of age, he has excelled in every examination he has sat for, and has been awarded the highest honors and prizes.
We have already written on this young man’s intelligence and ability, and we are not surprised that in his final examinations for the (p.25) Doctorate in Law he obtained four silver medals, the highest honor possible, and earned the praise of all his professors. We congratulate him and wish him further success.
Dr. Abdallah Bey Simaika is one of five brothers known for their learning, their uprightness, and their services to their country. His eldest brothers, the late Abd al-Messih Bey and the late Rizqallah, were prosecutors, then judges, in the Mixed Courts. They were later transferred to the newly established Native Courts. They distinguished themselves by their ability and integrity.
Marcus Pasha Simaika rose to become a senior official in the Railways Administration, and was subsequently appointed a member of the legislative council. He later founded the Coptic Museum and is its director. He is very active in the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Art, and has a leading role in the restoration and protection of Arabic and Islamic antiquities.
The youngest brother, Attallah, also entered the Railways Administration, and was sent on a mission to Europe to study the various railway systems.
The Ahram newspaper was correct from the very start in its judgment of Dr. Abdallah Bey Simaika. His “La province romaine d’Egypte,” which earned him the Doctorate of Law, is to this day a reference to scholars of the legal system in ancient Egypt.
When he reached the age of retirement, the government appointed him to the senate to benefit from his wide knowledge and experience. In the senate, he shone in discussions on various issues, especially in matters of education. His colleagues in that chamber would request him to present briefs on the subjects discussed, so they could study them carefully.
Dr. Abdallah Bey Simaika, like all his brothers, is active in the fight for Church reform and in the Coptic Community Council, as well as in the Tewfik Benevolent Society. He is still active to this day in Coptic community affairs, as if he were still a young man in his twenties.
In this way do patriotic families contribute to their country.
(13) Simaika appears to be in error here. Boutros Pasha Ghali actually attended the school similar to the Patriarchal School which Patriarch Cyril IV founded in Cairo’s Haret al-Saqqayin district.