The Sphinx, society paper and bar


Cairo has had dozens of English-language newspapers over the last century and a half – I co-founded one myself – and hats off to the Egyptian Gazette, which is the only one that has gone the distance, published (continuously, I think) since 1880. The one that fascinates me, however, is a publication called The Sphinx. Part of the fascination is because it is so rare. It was published weekly from December 1892 until at least 1947, so it lasted for over fifty years. Yet I’ve only ever been able to find a handful of surviving copies, all of which are held by the British Library. From the copies I’ve seen, it’s not a newspaper, it’s a cut-rate Tatler, filled with society news and gossip, write ups of garden parties at the ‘Residence’, that sort of thing.









Of much more interest than the writing (sample: ‘Oh! One could write reams on the top-hats of Cairo’) are the ads that pack the pages. Each issue is like a directory of fashionable businesses. For instance, the intriguing ad above for the Lipton’s Tea Rooms, which a story inside describes as being entered from Emad el-Din Street, near the Rond Pont Suares. It is supposed to have a garden with two circular domed summer houses and is being designed by St John Diamont, architect of the AUC’s Ewart Hall. I’m guessing this is what became Groppi’s garden café.

The founder of The Sphinx was an Anglophile American named David Garrick Longworth. Born in Addison, Ohio in 1853, as a young man Longworth worked as a booster for Barnum, whipping up publicity for his shows. He went into business for himself and travelled widely in Africa, where he continued to employ his talents for promotion: on one occasion in Cape Town he hired an army of locals to march, laden with white rocks, up Table Mountain, where he had the stones arranged to spell out ‘Take Liver Pills’. He arrived in Cairo in October 1892, a man in a hurry to make a splash, and launched The Sphinx a little over a month later. He remained at the helm of the paper only until 1894, at which point he moved on to Nairobi, where he founded another journal. He later surfaced in London as an agent for the Uganda State Railways.

Sphinx Bar

Longworth was described – in his own paper – as being a ‘regular Bohemian’ and in addition to The Sphinx he ran a theatrical troupe and operated a bar-nightclub, also called The Sphinx, which was on rue Fuad (present-day 26th of July Street), which flourished in the 1890s. I know nothing else about the bar, except it was famous/infamous enough to feature on postcards (above).

Meanwhile, Longworth’s wife spent three years sculpting a scale plaster model of the actual Sphinx, ten feet long and three feet high, which she exhibited in Paris in 1903, and which was subsequently bought by the Field Museum of Chicago, Mrs Longworth’s hometown. Mr Longworth died in London in January 1928. If anybody knows anything more about this intriguing character, his newspaper or bar, please get in touch.


Filed under Lost Egypt

9 Responses to The Sphinx, society paper and bar

  1. Martin

    Hi, my question has nothing to do with this article. As I do not know where else I can post this question I try it here. I am in search of a photo of the hotel that was founded in Cairo in 1906 by famous Cäsar Ritz. Can someone help me?

    • AndrewH

      Hi Martin
      As far as I am aware, Caesar Ritz never founded a hotel in Cairo. I don’t know of any hotels that opened in 1906, either. There was the National in 1905 and the Semiramis in 1907, but nothing in 1906.

  2. Alexis Lambros David

    Are any of the issues available online? I’d love to find any references to my families (Nungovich and Lyras.)

  3. Martin

    Hi Andrew, thank for your reply. Your comment is interesting as in several books about Cäsar Ritz is stated that he also founded a hotel in Cairo. The top authority in this field is Claude Roulet (he worked for many years in the Ritz Hotel in Paris). He publishes a chart that cleary shows that in 1906 the Ritz Hotel Ltd was existing in Cairo. I try to add this chart to this email but I am not sure if it works.
    Best regards, Martin
    I tried to add a photo but it does not work. If you send me your email-address I can send the photo to your email address.

  4. stephen bertram

    hi andrew, i have recently discovered a copy of the sphinx newspaper in a bag that was put away many years ago after my grandfathers death. his name is william stevenson ,from boho, victoria ,australia,later ,violet town, after ww1.he went to war with his four other brothers , john,MID, ralph,KIA,joe,KIA,and james, french military medal. all are buried in violet town cemetary, along with great grandparents and many relatives. my grandfather was a member of the 4th light horse which was stationed in egypt for training at the time. the paper itself is very fragile and in poor condition ,with the bottom half of the front page missing, but otherwise cmplete. the editor was a miss n. griffiths ,and the headline proclaimes ,”pope benedictus xv, a veritable prince of peace”. in the sporting jottings is a picture of the victorious 4th light horse against the 2nd field ambulance in a contest of australian rules football. i hope this information is of interest to you , and i look forward to your reply. yours stephen bertram.

  5. Shannon

    Hello. I am wondering where you found this magazine at? Was it an “in the attic” find? And are there more copies in your possession than what is posted here? Thanks.

    • AndrewH

      Hi Shannon
      The copies in this post are held by the British Library. However, the American University in Cairo has an almost complete run of The Sphinx in its Rare Books collection. You can view them online.

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