Egyptian Chronicles: Kolena Laila : The Laila who if it were not for her, there would be no Cairo University.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kolena Laila : The Laila who if it were not for her, there would be no Cairo University.

It won’t be appropriate in the 100th anniversary of the Cairo University and on the Kolena Laila day to forget the Princess Fatimah Ismail.

The woman whom without what she had done to the Cairo University, there would Not University in the first place.

But first who was she??

Princess Fatimah was the daughter of Khedive Ismail, the famous Princess Fatimah Ismailruler of Egypt who tried to make from Cairo another Paris despite our financial capabilities could not afford then. She was the elder sister of the Sultan Hussein Kamel and King Fouad I; also she was the aunt of King Farouk.

It seems that Khedive Ismail raised his daughter born on the 3rd of June 1853 on the love of culture, education and arts. She married from her relative prince Tusun Mohamed Sa’id in 1871 but their marriage didn’t continue as her groom died after 7 years only leaving her with a boy “Omar” and a girl “Esmat”. The boy grew up to become the famous Prince Omar Tusun who was born on the 8th of September 1872, seeing the life of the mother you won’t be surprised that her son was one of the most active princes in the Mohamed Royal who contributed a lot in the social and scientific life of his country. Princess Fatimah married again from Prince Mahmoud Sari and gave birth to 2 sons “Mohamed and Ahmed” and a daughter “Amina”.

Princess Fatimah was the one who founded the Islamic Charity society that built many schools and hospitals for the poor throughout her life from her own money and you can see how large the projects of that society represented in the Agouza charity Hospital which follows the society till this day.

You have to know that that fine princess allocated 3357 acres for charity, that their revenue not to be hers but for the people on the 13th of July 1913.The revenue of that land would fund the Islamic Charity society in order to educate the poor kids, she wanted them to be doctors and engineers to revive her grandfather Mohamed Ali project in a way or another.

The story of our Laila with the University started when she knew from her personal doctor “Mohamed Pasha Alawi” that the Cairo University was facing huge financial troubles. Dr. Alawi were the first donors to the University .The Cairo university when it was first founded, it was named the National university .It was located in the current location of the Old AUC in down Cairo. After two years from its big inauguration in December 1908 , the University could not pay its costs , the rent of the buildings was too much, it was L.E 400 per year , of course you will laugh but remember my dear reader that this amount of money was equal to L.E 4 Million nowadays.

And here comes the role of the generous princess.

As soon as she knew the problem that could shut up the University for Good, she acted immediately. She allocated 661 acres in Delta from her charitable 3357 acres to the University; she made sure that 40% of the revenue of the 3357 would be dedicated to the University annually. She also donated piece of land in Giza including her own palace that was turned in to the Agricultural museum later.

Things got better and the administration of the University immediately started to build new buildings but again financial troubles came along.

And again the princess came to rescue the University again, this time she raised the bar again. The Princess decided to pay all the remaining costs of the University that were estimated then L.E 26,000 through selling some of her precious jewels in an auction to cover the expenses of the University. The Jewels could not be sold in Egypt because of their value, the administration of the University sent Dr. Alawi with Jewels to be sold in Europe and I think they were sold in Italy for L.E 600,000

The Jewels are so beautiful when you see them; you will wonder how can a lady give them so easily??

The generosity of Princess did not stop here because the Princess paid the expenses of the inauguration celebration of the University at its new location. The administration thanked the Princess Fatimah publicly by scribing a message of thanks over the main entrance of the faculty of Arts. Till now the message is still there and thousands of students crossed that entrance everyday, some of them had changed the face of literature not in Egypt but the whole Arab world

The Cairo University was not the only University in East that fine lady donated for it , before her death she donated on the 18th of November 1920 a sum of 2 million golden Turkish Lira to the Istanbul University

Among the 10 children of Khedive Ismail or to be precise the 6 daughters of the Khedive Princess Fatimah seems to me to inherit Princess Fatimahpart of her grandmother Valida Pasha Khushiyar. The beautiful Egyptian princess was from the most charitable princesses and most one of them involved in the cultural life of Egypt during that time. She was not a Haram princess for sure despite she was not a rebel as you may think still she was a great example of a princess and a mother.

she did what she could to continue I believe what her father and grandfather to do ; to found a modern and independent Egypt not through wars or through fancy building but through the most effective weapon of all time : Education.

Princess Fatimah died in year 1920, she did not see the National university turning to the University of Fouad I, she did not see it growing bigger and bigger and she did not see how it changed the Egypt and the Arab world but for sure if she saw all that she would feel more than proud .The Egyptian National university paid a respect and is still paying respect to her. In 1998 in the 90th anniversary of the university the Cairo University launched a search with the help of the foreign ministry to allocate in the grandchildren of the late princess, after the revolution most of Mohamed Ali family members had left Egypt to Europe, they found the grand children after a considerable time in Paris. I really wish that the University administration invite them again in the 100th anniversary of the University.

I consider Princess Fatimah Egyptian more than many Egyptians nowadays because what she had done had changed the fate of Egypt forever, she did not take as much she gave.

She is our Royal Laila who understood the Role of the first lady for real decades before first lady became an accessory to the President; she did it without cameras and big words, she did it based on a belief and that’s why she will and should be remembered when we speak about pioneer ladies in Egypt and the Arab world


Share :


  1. Amazing woman, self-less princess and a very visionary thinker. It is a sad thing that someone who has done so much for education in Egypt has not gotten the mention and praise she really deserves. This is the kind of female role model we should be aiming for instead of the Haifas and Nancys of the world.

  2. Dear Zeinab,
    I would like to thank you for all these precious informations.
    Also, Iwould like to thank you for your faithfullness to the souvenir of Princess Fatimah, this should be the behaviour of all of us.
    Again, I would like to thank you for your honnesty in transmitting informations.
    Keep going foreward you are doinga good Job
    best regards
    Nabil Gohary

  3. @Jessyz ,for sure this is the kind of women we should be proud and promote instead of Haifas and Nancys , it is enough to see that we had that sort of women in that time
    by the way she always mentioned but because we got short memory and her family for a long was a victim of politics ,she was how forgotten still she won't be anymore

    @Nabil,do not thank me it is my pleasure and my duty to transmit that information as it is to the whole world :)


Thank You for your comment
Please keep it civilized here , I will not tolerate any insult in my blog or any racist or hateful comment
The Comments in this blog with exclusion of the blog's owner do not represent the views of the blog's owner

By Year , By Month