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Rayya and Sakina: The True Story Behind Egypt’s Notorious Serial Killers

November 16, 2021
Rayya and Sakina. Source: Egyptian Streets

“On November 15, 1920, an elderly man living in the al-Labban district of Alexandria, Egypt, reported a shocking discovery to his local police station. While installing a new sewage system in an apartment building managed by his family, he dug up the skeleton of a woman,” writes Nefertiti Taklan, an Assistant Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Manhattan University, in her Ph.D. dissertation to the University of California. The discovery was connected with two of the most infamous characters of Egyptian popular culture: Rayya and Sakina. Both were the first women to receive the death penalty under the modern Egyptian judicial system. Theirs is a story of a series of homicides that caused communal panic in Alexandria in the early 20th century under British colonial rule. The murder case started in 1919 and ended in 1921, with a total of 17 bodies of women and men buried underneath Rayya and Sakina’s house. According to Taklan, the case of Rayya and Sakina is much deeper than a grisly serial killing crime. Primary sources such as handwritten legal reports and investigations in Dar al-Mahfuzat and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina suggest that the…

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