Translator of Arabic literature Michael Cooperson has won the 2016 Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding for his rendition of Virtues of the Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal by Ibn al-Jawzī (New York University Press, 2013).
Michael Cooperson, 5th from the right, during the award ceremony held in Doha on December 13
Cooperson, a professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, is also the translator of Khairy Shalaby’s modern Arabic novel The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets, first published the AUC Press in 2010 and again in 2016 under our new fiction imprint Hoopoe.
The Sheikh Hamad Award, established last year in Doha, seeks to promote Arab and Islamic culture and “rid it of unfair distortions and stereotyping.” Its mission is to develop international understanding and promote exchange between Arabic and other world languages through the medium of translation.
“I wanted to learn as many difficult languages as possible,” explained Cooperson during an interview, “and Arabic began with A, so it was on the top of the list,” adding that he grew up speaking Greek “because my mother’s family is Greek.” Today he also speaks Persian, French, and Spanish.
Currently Cooperson is writing a book on the cultural history of the early Abbasid period and translating the Maqāmāt of al-Ḥarīrī for the Library of Arabic Literature of New York University Press. He is the author of Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the Age of al-Ma’mun (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Al-Mamun (Oxford: OneWorld Books, 2005).
Cooperson holds a PhD and an MA in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University.
Click here to read an interview with Michael Cooperson talking about the challenges of translating The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets, a novel set in medieval Egypt.
December 19, 2016
The American University in Cairo Press announced last month the award of the 2016 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the Egyptian writer Adel Esmat for his novel Hikayât Yûsuf Tadrus (The Tales of Yusuf Tadrus).
Presented by Dr. Sherif Sedky, Provost of the American University in Cairo, the award was decided by the members of the Award Committee: Dr. Tahia Abdel Nasser, Dr. Shereen Abouelnaga, Dr. Mona Tolba, Dr. Humphrey Davies, and Dr. Rasheed El-Enany. The award ceremony, held on 12 December at AUC’s Oriental Hall on the Tahrir Square Campus was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life.
In their citation for the award, the judges described Hikayât Yûsuf Tadrus as “a journey in search of light, not undertaken by a Sufi or a priest but by an artist, who does not long for loss of self in light, but strives to capture what flows of its rays and shadows, clusters and spaces, luminosity and dissipation,” and went on to
say: “The artistry of the novel is in a Coptic character who lives in Tanta, a small city compared to Cairo or Alexandria, which allows for intensely detailed accumulations of emotions that are trampled by any large city. . . . The intimate glimpse into Egyptian Christian life, rare in Egyptian fiction, is fascinating. . . . This story of a man’s struggle to remain true to his calling as an artist, despite the obstacles, some self-created, that block his path, is absorbing. . . . Esmat evokes the creation and epiphany that belong to any form of art. The tales and self-portraits offer a study of esthetics, the evocation of youth, and the solitude of the artist.”
For the media kit (including in Arabic), click here.
The AUC Press attended the annual Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference that was held in Boston last month, as the United Nations warns of another Arab awakening looming.
“This year’s MESA featured an exciting and exceptionally packed program—300 panel sessions in 3 days—with less emphasis than in recent years on the Arab uprisings and with notable focus on Turkey, Syria, the Gulf, Tunisia, and history in general,” said Nadia Naqib, AUC Press senior commissioning editor, who attended the four-day meeting. “It was good, as always, to reconnect with friends of the Press and to meet new scholars and publishers as well.”
MESA is a private, non-political association that encourages public understanding of the Middle East, bringing together scholars, educators, and individuals interested in the study of the region and its peoples. Every year MESA sponsors an annual meeting, considered by many experts in the field as an international forum for scholarship, intellectual exchange, and pedagogical innovation.
“As always, MESA is a unique occasion for us to to meet face-to-face with both our authors and readers against the backdrop of our latest and most important books from the year prior,” said Tarek El-Elaimy, AUC press marketing manager for North America. “More than an enriching experience and a rare opportunity in the globalized, online world of today, it is also good to see our efforts to expand our publishing program geographically into new areas of the Middle East met with a similar direction for MESA as well as attract a wider readership from the Annual Meeting attendees."
In an interview with AUC Press commissioning editor Tarek Ghanem, MESA president Beth Baron said: “While the region is under tremendous stress, the field is blossoming. The scholarship is at the cutting edge. The field is growing with many young students.” When asked about her outlook on Egypt’s current state of affairs, she answered: “Having hope is important.”
Every year the conference attracts publishers, scholars, researchers, and students from the US and abroad.
“With the internet, mass communication, and telecommunication, the Middle East is no longer there and we are here. Accessibility has influenced the field,” said Nathan J. Brown, American scholar of Middle Eastern law and politics at George Washington University.
“Scholars of the ME moved away from examining the ‘Arab Spring,’ a term that is now used far less than before, and instead are focusing on specifics. This is not how people talk about it anymore, rather the specifics within that phenomenon such as sectarianism, Islamic state, protest movement, policing, etc.,” added Brown.
(From left to right) Tarek El-Elaimy, marketing manager for North America; Nadia Naqib, senior commissioning editor;
and Tarek Ghanem, commissioning editor, at the AUC Press Booth (39-40) in the MESA Book Bazaar.
The AUC Press booth offered a sneak preview of the long-awaited book The Diaries of Waguih Ghali:
An Egyptian Writer in the Swinging Sixties Volume 1: 1964–66, edited by May Hawas, and including an interview with Diana Athill. These are the captivating diaries of an Egyptian political exile, novelist, and libertine intellectual in sixties Europe, author of the internationally acclaimed book Beer in the Snooker Club.
AUC Press’s wide selection of Arabic Language Learning titles continues to be in high demand at MESA.
Also among other forthcoming AUC Press books were advance copies of Zar: Spirit Possession, Music, and Healing Rituals in Egypt by Hager El Hadidi. This is an examination of the history and waning culture of zar in Egypt, and the world in which Muslim women negotiate relations with spirits.
Photos by Nadia Naqib
The Middle East Studies Association (#MESA) is a private, non-political association that encourages public understanding of the Middle East, bringing together scholars, educators and individuals interested in the study of the region and its peoples. As part of its goal to advance learning, facilitate communication, and promote cooperation, MESA sponsors an annual meeting that is a leading international forum for scholarship, intellectual exchange and pedagogical innovation.
This year it was held in Boston (17-20 November) #MESA2016Boston. The AUC Press, like every year, was attending (Booth 39-40).
(From left to right) Tarek El-Elaimy, marketing manager for North America; Nadia Naqib, senior commissioning editor;
and Tarek Ghanem, commissioning editor
Sneak preview of the long awaited forthcoming book The Diaries of Waguih Ghali:
An Egyptian Writer in the Swinging Sixties Volume 1: 1964–66, edited by May Hawas
Including an interview with by Diana Athill
The captivating diaries of an Egyptian political exile, novelist, and libertine intellectual in sixties Europe
AUC Press offers a wide selection of Arabic Language Learning titles
Sneak preview of the forthcoming book Zar: Spirit Possession, Music, and Healing Rituals in Egypt by Hager El Hadidi
An examination of the history and waning culture of zar in Egypt, and the world in which Muslim women negotiate relations with spirits
The AUC Tahrir Bookstore
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The AUC Press is sad to note the passing of one of its most distinguished authors, the pioneering medical historian and paleopathologist Professor Eugen Strouhal, of Charles University in Prague, who died last week at the age of 85.
He was the author of Life of the Ancient Egyptians (AUC Press, 1992) and (with Břetislav Vachala and Hana Vymazalová) of The Medicine of the Ancient Egyptians, Volume 1: Surgery, Gynecology, Obstetrics, and Pediatrics (AUC Press, 2014) and The Medicine of the Ancient Egyptians, Volume 2: Internal Medicine (AUC Press, forthcoming).
The AUC Press extends its sincere condolences to Professor Strouhal’s colleagues, friends, and family.
Professor of Islamic art and architecture at the American University in Cairo, Bernard O’Kane is the editor of The Treasures of Islamic Art (AUC Press, 2006) and Creswell Photographs Re-examined (AUC Press, 2009), and author of The Illustrated Guide to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo (AUC Press, 2012).
His latest book The Mosques of Egypt, published by AUC Press in time for the holiday season, is a magnificent fully color-illustrated celebration of Egypt’s Islamic architectural heritage, with 450 of his own photographs.
In this recent interview, O’Kane explains why it took nearly a decade to finish the book and hints at his favorite mosques in Egypt.
The book required a massive amount of research, data, references, and notes. How many years did it take to finalize the content, including the more than 500 color illustrations and plans?
It is nearly seven years since the project was begun in September 2009. There are a number of reasons why it took so long. Firstly, I underestimated the amount of work involved. Having glanced at the previously published The Churches of Egypt, to which my book is a companion, I assumed that the photographic coverage for the book, which is indeed extensive, would overshadow the text. In fact the text has turned out to be around 75,000 words, very much in the region of a normal book length text.
Secondly, I underestimated the amount of scholarship involved. True, the book is meant mostly for the general reader, and true, the division of the text into a catalogue of separate monuments made the organization easier. However, I soon realized that in writing the monument entries I wanted or needed to set myself two goals: that of accuracy, and originality. For the well published monuments of Cairo accuracy was not difficult, but for the poorly published monuments of Upper and Lower Egypt a certain amount of research was needed. As for originality, I wanted to be able to incorporate either some new information (rarely the case with the Cairo monuments), or at least some observations on aesthetics that brought a new slant to the buildings.
The 17,000-word introduction also needed research on the areas that I was relatively unfamiliar with, in particular the modern buildings of the last 65 years or so, a necessity since the coverage was predicated on a complete chronology of mosques up to the present day.
The commission to write the Guidebook to the Museum of Islamic Art, also published by AUC Press, arrived in the meantime and also consumed much of my energy until its publication in 2012.
How hard was it to gain access to some of the remote mosques?
I suppose I was lucky in that I travelled by car to some of the more isolated locations in Upper Egypt before the revolution when security considerations were not an issue. Once there, since I had the cooperation of the Ministry of Antiquities, access was not a problem. But even afterwards I had no difficulty visiting the mosques in remote locations in Lower Egypt, for instance. The only monument I failed to access was the Shrine of al-Guyushi on the Muqattam cliff, in a military zone. Fortunately I was able to use photographs taken earlier when access was not so difficult. During the seven years of the planning and writing of the book some mosques, such as those of Abu Bakr Muzhir in Cairo and Tarbana and Shurbaji in Alexandria were closed for restoration; they would otherwise have been strong candidates for inclusion.
Would you say this is the comprehensive book on the mosques of Egypt?
We have been lacking an up-to-date book in English on the mosques of Egypt that covers the full chronology to the present day and the whole of the country. So'ad Maher's four-volume work in Arabic (Misr wa Awliya'uha Al-Salihun) is more comprehensive than mine, but it does not have colour photos and, being published in 1971, is now somewhat out of date.
The aesthetic quality was one of your criteria for selecting which of the hundreds of mosques of Egypt to include in this book. What makes a mosque aesthetic in your opinion?
As I explain in the introduction, my choices inevitably involved a measure of subjectivity. However, a scholarly consensus has evolved on the major Mamluk mosques, for instance—note the space devoted to each in Doris Behrens-Abouseif's magisterial Cairo of the Mamluks (also published by AUC Press), for instance. Other criteria suggested the inclusion of mosques of historic importance, such as that of ‘Amr, the earliest mosque in Egypt; those of particular religious significance, such as Sayyidna al-Husayn, a place of popular pilgrimage, and some interesting out-of-the-way monuments which have been unduly neglected, such as the Sadat al-Wafa’iya Shrine.
How much has the function of the mosque evolved over the centuries?
From the beginning, mosques were multifunctional buildings. It is only quite recently, with the increase in population and the spread of more specialized locations for socializing and commerce, that their function has been much more limited to places of prayer.
What are some of the very essential features of a mosque?
They are invariably oriented to the qibla, and will include a mihrab in the qibla wall to commemorate the place where the Prophet led the first prayers.
How important are the artifacts inside the mosque, such as lighting, carpets, stands, minbars, etc.?
They are not essential, but of course they can provide some of the most valuable aesthetic additions to the building.
The Mamluk period contributed immensely to the building of mosques. Is it the most critical period in Egypt’s Islamic architectural heritage?
Yes, given the surviving buildings. Under the Mamluks Egypt was the main territory of an empire that ranged from Upper Egypt to Anatolia. It invariably received the bulk of patronage of the rulers and their amirs. They were extremely active builders, being concerned not only to assist their fellow Muslims and assure their place in heaven, but also to safeguard their wealth by making their families control their religious endowments. The subsequent Ottoman period was one in which the rulers spent most of their money in Istanbul, Egypt being reduced to provincial status.
Do you have a favorite mosque in Cairo or Egypt?
The undoubted aesthetic masterpieces are the mosques of Ibn Tulun and Sultan Hasan, but the lesser-visited mosque of Sulayman Pasha in the citadel is also an unexpected gem.
Is enough being done today to preserve Egypt’s mosques?
The situation has greatly improved since I came to Cairo in 1980, when the rising water table led to crumbling foundations and decoration of many buildings. However, more recently problems have arisen from occasional over-restoration of buildings, and the theft of artefacts, such as minbars, the metal fittings of doors, and wooden and marble friezes.
Do you think that there will be a call to build more contemporary-looking mosques as Egypt modernizes?
I certainly hope so, given the conservative neo-Mamluk style that usually prevails. But there is a delicate balance to be maintained between the desire for originality at all costs, leading to what has been characterized as "mosques with flying saucer domes and rocket minarets," and a contemporary aesthetic which acknowledges some of the country's architectural heritage.
Photo by Neil Hewison
This stunning new Islamic-style fountain inlayed with multicolored geometric marble patterns, recently installed in the gardens of the AUC Tahrir Campus, is a donation from the late John Patrick Feeney, a remarkable New Zealand photographer, film maker, and writer, who lived four decades in Egypt and authored two books published by AUC Press.
Photographing Egypt: Forty Years behind the Lens (2005) brings together rare color photographs of Egypt, including historic pictures of the Nile floods and the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdal-Nasser’s funeral cortege leaving Qasr al-Nil Bridge, accompanied by extracts from his essays first published in Aramco World Magazine.
His second book Egyptian Soups Hot and Cold (2006) is a marvelously inventive collection of recipes, ranging from wintery garlic and gargir (Egyptian rocket) soups to unusual iced pomegranate and guava summer soups.
Feeney’s career started in his native country where he worked for the New Zealand National Film Unit. Later he relocated to Canada where he collaborated with the National Film Board, producing mostly documentaries on the Canadian Arctic and its indigenous inhabitants. In 1963 he came to Egypt, invited by the Ministry of Information to film the Nile, initially intending to stay a year but then remained for forty.
The Egyptians commissioned Feeney, an Academy-Award nominated film director, to document the highly anticipated ‘last’ flood, before the construction of the Aswan High Dam. His documentary Fountains of the Sun, released in 1969, was shot on location across the Nile basin countries, with him following the Nile from its source for 3200 kilometers, capturing what is today the only filmed record of the momentous event.
“We left an Egypt blistering in the summer sun, every city, town and village anxiously awaiting the last flood of all. In the sultry heat of Aswan, thousands of sweating workers toiled day and night, hurrying to complete six giant tunnels in time to carry the coming flood safely past the unfinished Aswan High Dam,” wrote Feeney about the experience in Aramco, for which he was a regular contributor.
Feeney died in December 2006. “He loved Egypt where he spent most of his life,” wrote a friend on his blogpost after Feeney’s passing. “He saw himself as a ‘river man’—so to speak—his birthplace and home being between the two rivers, the Waipa and the Waikato.”
Returning to Egypt after the summer or moving here for the first time? Here are ten AUC Press books to help you settle in, get around, appreciate the country’s heritage, and enjoy your stay.
Buy the ten books for LE600 or choose five of them for LE300. The ten books are originally worth LE875. Now you can enjoy a more than 30% discount.
The offer is available in all three AUC Bookstores: Tahrir, New Cairo, and Maadi (CSA).
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The American University in Cairo Press notes with sadness the passing of Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail in the United States, at the age of 70.
Zewail received the Nobel chemistry prize in 1999 for his pioneering work in femtochemistry, the study of chemical reactions in ultra-short time scales. A decade later he became a science and technology advisor to US president Barack Obama and the first US science envoy to the Middle East. “Investing in science education and curiosity-driven research is investing in the future,” he once said.
More recently the former chemist was the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry, professor of physics, and director of the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at the prestigious Caltech in California.
"Ahmed was the quintessential scholar and global citizen," says Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum.
Zewail was decorated with the Order of the Grand Collar of the Nile, Egypt's highest state honor, and was named to the Order of Légion d'Honneur by the President of France, among other state honors. He also received 100 international prizes and awards, including the Albert Einstein World Award.
Born and schooled in Egypt, Zewail later moved to the US where he received a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974.
His autobiography Voyage through Time: Walks of Life to the Nobel Prize was published in English by AUC Press in 2002.
The AUC Press extends its sincere condolences to his wife, Dema Faham, and his four children, Maha, Amani, Nabeel, and Hani.
The short story "City of Ashes" by the Syrian Zakaria Tamer, one of the Arab world's preeminent short story writers, will be read in English on radio, live-streamed by the NPR member station WFIU 103.7, on August 14 at 1:00pm local time (EST) on http://indianapublicmedia.org/radio/
"City of Ashes" is from Tamer's book The Hedgehog, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies (AUC Press, 2009).
This reading is part of a new literary series, "Anthology," produced by WFIU, a radio station located in the American college town Bloomington, in Indiana http://goo.gl/SK7m1g
"We feature short stories, poetry, serialized novellas, memoir, and other genres from writers who have distinctive perspectives, including literature in translation," explains WFIU producer Cynthia Wolfe.
Zakaria Tamer was born in Damascus in 1931, and lived in its traditional working class neighborhoods, where he worked from a young age in blacksmithing and hand crafts. In 1957, he decided to enter the world of writing and chose short stories as his literary genre.
“Before my departure from this world, I hope to sit in a Damascene cafe and swear at the top of my voice at all the Syrian officials without feeling intimidated or fearing arrest,” once said the prolific writer. Read more about his life and work.
In her compelling book, Women in Revolutionary Egypt: Gender and the New Geographics of Identity (AUC Press, 2016), Shereen Abouelnaga, an Egyptian professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University, takes the January 2011 uprising as the point of reference to examine gender politics in post-Mubarak Egypt.
In this innovative inquiry, she explores the country’s entangled relationship between gender and nationalism, and Egyptian women’s use of artistic expression, and in particular poetry, as a form of political resistance. Abouelnaga also analyzes the paradoxical deterioration of women’s rights despite sociopolitical transformations and denounces the marginalization of women’s stories in the archives of Egypt’s collective memory.
Much has been written about Egypt’s 2011 Revolution. How is this book different?
Except for a few pieces, most of what has been written revolved around either the scene of women taking to the streetsparticularly in the famous 18 daysor around the horrid violations that happened later, especially the abuse and sexual harassment. Women in Revolutionary Egypt fathoms all that happened not for the sake of documenting or lamenting or taking pride. The purpose is to understand how gender has become a dominant factor in the formation of the new subjectivities of men and women, and how it has become a factor that cannot be untangled from the socio-political scene. Thinking gender is not a luxury any more.
Has Egypt’s gender issue really been challenged since the country’s 25 January 2011 uprising?
Yes indeed. Gender has always been part of the State’s image, hence, State feminism. Women have always been taken to be the cultural marker of identity. With the 25 January 2011 revolution (not uprising, definitely) the homogenous image was demolished, and the enforced silence turned into multiple voices, ideologies, images, protests, demands, and geographics. I believe it is the plurality, as opposed to singularity and monoliths that was (and still is) quite a challenge.
In your opinion, how does the new rising generation today understand womanhood in what still remains a rather traditionally patriarchal society?
It is impossible to talk about one new generation. Plurality is the most important outcome of the revolution. While gender has become an indispensable factor that cuts across all forms of identities, there are different constructs of it as well. That is, it has become part of the positionality and ideology taken by the subject. So we cannot talk about one understanding of womanhood. From the very beginning all positions were declared: the conservative, the liberal, the Islamic, and the radical. The main attribute that characterizes the new generations is that womanhood and gender have become part and parcel of the struggle, whether they are fighting for an Islamic state or a liberal state. Even the generation that naively supported the military rule could not dispense with the centrality of gender.
What do you mean by “the most important aspect of gender transformation in post-Revolution Egypt is that of positioning”?
The shattering of the enforced silence on gender by the Mubarak regime has allowed space for the freedom of choice, the possibility of declaring stands, and the capacity to practice identities. The latter comprises religion, class, education, color, ideology and gender. Where gender stands in this paradigm and how it affects and relates to the other factors form ‘positioning.’ These formations or rather the ability to discern them is one of the most important outcomes of the revolution since homogeneity and eradication of differences were the markers of gender previously. It was all about ‘the image of Egypt.’
As you address the question of women’s identity, you make the distinction between patriarchy and misogyny and go as far as saying that “it is highly misleading to blame patriarchy across the board” and it “does not provide a space for responsibility or accountability.” Can you explain that?
The Turkish scholar Deniz Kandiyoti has written a very illuminating piece on this issue. We have been blaming any violation of women’s rights on patriarchy but what is patriarchy? There is nothing concrete about that, it is not an autonomous visible project. In addition, blaming patriarchy renders the power relations that facilitate violations and the perpetrators of violence against women to the background. Blaming patriarchy, therefore, cannot form a sound analysis. Unfortunately, most writings about Egypt adopt this stand, and the result is a vague analysis that does not grapple with the issue of power.
In your book you say that “perhaps, one of the most naïve assumptions of the revolutionaries was that gender relations were to be reenvisioned automatically as a result of demolishing the hegemonic patriarchy, the president [Mubarak].” How was that shortsighted?
All assumptions were shortsighted. The belief that ousting Mubarak meant the birth of a new Egypt was not only naïve but also shortsighted. Similarly, and since we agree by now that gender cuts across all other factors of identity, we thought that gender constructs were to be transformed miraculously. How sad! You cannot expect any transformation of gender without the transformation of the socio-political infrastructure. They are both entangled, and any attempt at disentangling them will take us back to the discourse of state feminism.
Why do women’s rights get tied into politics of nationalism?
Any autocratic regime resorts to a high-pitched tone of nationalism to consolidate its power. Along with that, women’s rights and citizenship become the ideological declarative sign of this regime. Women’s rights are not only the marker of the regime but also the terrain on which loyalties and disloyalties take shape. Therefore, it is not surprising that during the short Islamic rule of Morsi women became the arena of extreme polarization. We used to hear terms like ‘our women’ and ‘their women.’ All binarisms were enacted on women’s rights and citizenship. In short, all parties were dragging us back to be the cultural markers of identity. Any struggle over power, usually disguised in the cloak of nationalism, resorts to women to credit or discredit their rights. The marriage of feminism and nationalism is always dysfunctional.
How have the new means in artistic expression that appeared during and since 2011 created a shift in the gender paradigm?
What I call the new text has exhibited new languagein the sense of discourse and vision. Whether it was a poem or a painting or a song or a drawing of graffiti, gender was presented in a new fresh way. It expressed the aspirations to justice and dignity. It rarely adopted the traditional constructs of femininity and masculinity. It was replete with new questions, new demands and novel visions to the extent that sometimes they shocked the traditional bourgeois class. It turned all tabooed ideas about the body, for example, into a serious subject worthy of discussions and debates. Violence against women, especially rape and sexual harassment, has stopped being a shameful act. It is now acknowledged as a crime that triggers punishment. Women are not blackmailed anymore by being abused or raped. The body is not identity, it is how society has constructed it. We can’t say things are perfect now but at least the taboo of the female body as a marker of honor has been subverted and discredited to a great extent.
Is the politics of cultural memory—by including women’s voices, histories, and works—such an effective tool to rethinking Egypt’s hegemony narrative?
Subverting any hegemonic narrative requires bringing into the scene new voices, or rather silenced and forgotten threads of that narrative. Re-visioning the dominant cultural narrative and carving space for all the marginalized and silenced women’s voices transform the workings of the memory, and in the long run we can get rid of the ‘add women and stir’ formula. Cultural memory is formed in a way that makes the presence of women look like an aberration! Once herstory is inserted side by side with the narrative of history, you can re-think, re-read and critique the hegemonic narrative; and we will stop reading headlines in both Western and Egyptian press, that celebrate the ‘appearance’ of women, or rave about their presence. Such headlines and assumptions have always perplexed me. They all imply that our presence started on January 25, which is far from accurate.
Many women actively participated in the eighteen-day sit-in. You argue that Tahrir Square during that time was a “geopolitical location that facilitated going beyond gender and established the female subject as a full agent.” What is the situation like today?
If I tell you that I am on the verge of tears, would you consider it an answer? If we agree that gender does not stand on its own in the new geographics of identity then we have to think of the whole scene. However, the enforced heavy silence does not imply forgetting at all. We are the cleverest people at waiting.
On her well-known and trending blog, not surprisingly called ArabLit (short for “Arabic Literature (in English)”), Marcia Lynx Qualey modestly describes herself as “a freelancer writer and editor.” However she is a highly respected literary critic, covering the world of Arabic literature and translation. Her articles appear in The Guardian, The National, Your Middle East, Qantara.de, World Literature Today, The Believer, Al Jazeera English, Al Masry Al Youm English edition, as well as various other publications.
With about 28,000 followers, her blog, launched in 2009, has become an international cross-cultural platform where readers, literary critics, translators, publishers, and authors gather to discuss and better understand Arabic literature and fiction from the Middle East. One subscriber and author refers to it as “a precious gift.”
Hoopoe caught up with her to find how she sees the state of Arabic literature and fiction today.
Why are you so interested in Arabic literature?
My earliest passions were nearly all about translation. I loved Russian literature, which was supposed to be my focus. Alas, the reality of Russia was a bit too subzero.
If I hadn’t visited Cairo in April 2001, if I hadn’t gone to the area around Bab Zuweila, where I felt at once that I’d walked in on the Trilogy—if I’d visited Kerala, India instead—then who knows, maybe I’d be a geek for Malayalam literature. But I did visit Cairo, and I moved to Egypt a few months later.
Every literature has its warts and annoyances, moments where you want to file for separation. But, when it’s a literature that has a 1500-year continuous tradition and is written by people over such a wide and diverse region, there’s always somewhere new to go.
In what ways is Arabic fiction different, if it is?
From a certain look, Arabic fiction is concerned with the same issues as contemporary fiction anywhere in the world: the struggle over what is and what ought. But it also comes from a long and dazzling tradition. Many Arab writers have tried to shake that off, but thankfully it wasn’t so easy.
Also: We can talk about “English-language fiction,” but we have to note that the Midwestern U.S. generally produces a quite different novel from Nigeria or Scotland. Ditto the concerns of the 2016 Algerian novel vs. the 2016 Emirati novel.
Is there a genre that is specific to the region?
In a way, every genre is specific to its literary history, right? I mean, there are epistolary novels in loads of languages, but they don’t carry the same associations as the risala. Khaled al-Khamissi’s Taxi is shoved into the “linked short stories” slot in English, while in Arabic you can see it’s maqama-inspired. I can’t even imagine how booksellers categorize Youssef Rakha’s Sultan’s Seal in English translation. And Nael Eltoukhy looks at you really funny if you suggest that Women of Karantina is science fiction just because it’s set in the future.
There are plenty of specific genres and subgenres in Arabic: the Egyptian comic-satiric novel; a burgeoning tradition of young-female novellas in the Emirates. Because they’re specific to time and place, not all of them will be interesting in translation.
How has the Arab Spring influenced writers in the Middle East?
I don’t suppose there’s one “Arab Spring” effect. A number of Egyptian writers, as Alexandra Alter recently noted in the New York Times, have trended toward dystopian novels. In other places (for instance, Kuwait and Lebanon), the novel seems less focused on a national struggle and more focused on identity issues.
Does novel writing differ much across the Arab world?
I wish I could say I had a grasp on what the novel was doing in all Arab-majority countries. Alas. I can say what seems to be happening with the novel in countries as proximate as Egypt, Lebanon, and occupied Palestine is very different. Not to mention the further differences between Gaza, the West Bank, Palestinians who have citizenship inside Israel.
Many of the great authors in Lebanon, for instance, are obsessed with identity, memory, and violence—the 1975-1990 civil war is a place that’s still being worked out, figured out. This shows up not just as “content” but in formal decisions and uncertainties. Characters who don’t know who they are, murders that aren’t solved.
Are there challenges that are specifically attributed to translating Arabic fiction?
Sure. Verb tense, for instance, works differently. We’re much stricter about it in English, and shifting tenses confused/confuses/will confuse us. A translator needs to be alert to that; ultimately, the book does have to work for the English-language reader.
There are other things, but one that interests me is that translators largely don’t specialize by dialect. So there are Facebook groups full of questions like “what on earth does this Lebanese (or Iraqi, or Syrian) phrase mean?” Or “I get that this is a dish, but what does it taste like?” Those groups are great fun.
In what ways has the rending of Arabic novels into English evolved?
So let’s fast-forward past reception of eighteenth-century translations of Hayy ibn Yakzan, keep our finger on the button, and zoom on past the 1,001 Nights. In the twentieth century (we’ll slow down now), Arabic literature in English was mostly an academic/Orientalist/specialist interest. The way it was translated was often by and for a small group. A few individual translations did work as broad-audience literature, but these were outliers.
Then came September of 2001. There was mass interest in “Arabs,” after that. But it was an interest that usually wanted Arab and Arabic fiction to fit a particular narrative. Publishers brought out stuff largely to show “what’s going on” with “those Arabs.” I think we are starting to wriggle our way out of that.
Up notes: The Spring 2016 Arabic-literature issue of The Common was so broad and varied and fantastic: chapeau Jennifer Acker and Hisham Bustani. Hoopoe Fiction is an exciting venture, Seagull’s new Arab literature line is exciting.
I look forward to seeing the back of anthropological, forensic, and white-savior interest in Arabic literature. Hey, hey-ey, good-bye.
Do you find that there is a growing interest in Arabic fiction?
Absolutely, from many different corners. The most exciting interest, to me, is from outside the US and UK. I just got a letter from a Malaysian newspaper, interested in profiling more Arabic literature. I almost broke into a little joy-dance.
Who are some of your favorite Arab writers?
To make it easier, we should probably narrow this to Arabophone writers, because if it’s all Arab writers, we’ll be here through Ramadan 2018. (The novel Seeing Red by Arab-Chilean novelist Lina Meruane is so wow that your teeth will fall out from jealousy.)
But then, another problem: My list of favorite writers changes by the day. For instance, there was a period of about a month where I carried Amjad Nasser’s slim poetry collection Petra around with me, in Fady Joudah’s translation, and read from it whenever I could, again and again, backwards and forwards, rubbing my hands against every word.
Another problem: how to choose a “favorite” author. I greatly admire Hoda Barakat’s work, but she feels so serious and distant, I could never put a Twitter heart next to her name. I would put a Twitter heart next to Radwa Ashour’s name, which doesn’t necessarily mean I consider her work “the best,” but her writings are so personal and close and dear. I miss Radwa’s presence in our world very much.
And what if I made a list of “favorites” and it didn’t include Very Brilliant Author XYZ? What if I read this list tomorrow and realized I’d forgotten to mention Ahmed Faris al-Shidyaq, and the translation Humphrey Davies did of Leg over Leg?!
A couple of books that have changed my world lately: Rabee Jaber’s little novella Confessions, and Kareem James Abu-Zeid did such a fine job crafting a beautiful translation. Rabee can sometimes over-write, but not here. Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue. It’s been called a fantasy, and a political dystopia, but I prefer to term it a philosophical novel. It really got inside my brain and rearranged the furniture.
In general, 2016 has been and will be a fantastic year for Arabic literature in translation, in part thanks to Hoopoe. (Otared! No Knives in the Kitchens of This City!) Although maybe by 2026 I’ll look back and think, “I thought that was a fantastic year? Ho, ho, ho, the state of Arabic literature in translation has improved so much since then.”
|From left: H.E. Ambassador Dr. Afif Safieh, Salman Abu Sitta, Victoria Brittain, Professor Ilan Pappé, Dr. Selma Dabbagh, and Dina Matar.|
A day after Nakba Day, the 1948 Palestinian exodus, commemorated annually on May 15, the University of London held last month a book launch for Salman Abu Sitta's best-selling Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir (AUC Press, 2016).
“My life story is simple in its description: they took away my home by force and made me a refugee. I want my home back. I dedicated my life for this self-imposed mission,” said Abu Sitta to a packed audience.
Abu Sitta, an engineer by profession and the author of several books, was born in 1937 in Ma‘in Abu Sitta, in the Beersheba district of mandate Palestine. He left his homeland when he was 10. In his address, he shared some childhood memories of his native Palestine, talked about his family's subsequent expulsion, today's continuing Nakba, and his careful documentation of Palestinian heritage.
The other invited speakers included H.E. Ambassador Dr. Afif Safieh, Palestinian ambassador to the Russian Federation, Victoria Brittain, former associate foreign editor of The Guardian and author, who chaired of the event, Ilan Pappé, prominent Israeli historian and socialist activist, Selma Dabbagh, British Palestinian fiction writer, and Dina Matar, senior lecturer in Arab media and political communication at SOAS.
The event, hosted by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Palestinian Return Centre, was attended by intellectuals, professors, activists, and supporters of the Palestinian cause.
Here is the complete transcript of Salman Abu Sitta's address.
“The book is about an odyssey of a Palestinian refugee who experienced al-Nakba and lived in exile through its consequences. It is not by far the most painful or tragic of Palestinian experiences. If you find it so, just read the article by Victoria Brittain after her recent visit to the West Bank and Gaza, to see the scale of daily suffering by Palestinians. Remember that 7 million Palestinians out of 12 million have suffered a great deal more, as refugees for 24,838 days to be precise. They lived literally under a state of war waged against them for seven decades, attacked by tanks, artillery, and planes, subject to blockade, arbitrary killing, random arrests, theft of land and water, as victims of Israeli expulsion, racism, and apartheid and the whole vocabulary of evil deeds.
The Nakba I witnessed is still going on today, with the difference that the world can watch it on TV screens and read about it on the net. The ordinary people around the world are largely sympathetic and supportive but western leaders still continue to feed the beast with arms and money.
My life story is simple in its description: they took away my home by force and made me a refugee. I want my home back. I dedicated my life for this self-imposed mission.
I said what I wanted to say in the book, which may be of interest to the reader. However I have some observations to share with you.
Two events in my life coincided with momentous events in the history of Nakba.
The first was when the headmaster of my boarding school told us to go home to our families, as he could not protect us. He said the news came from the north that the Jews, they did not call themselves Israelis then, are attacking villages around Jaffa and west of Jerusalem. So, I, a boy of 10, had to start on a journey to go home, about 40 km away, mostly on foot. That was around late March 1948 or early April, when Ben Gurion unleashed Haganah forces to occupy Palestine in the military operation known as Plan Dalet. Israel did not exist then. Half of all refugees were expelled at that time.
The second was when the well-trained Palmach Jewish soldiers attacked my village, burnt our homes, and destroyed our school and well. That was on 14-15 May 1948, the day on which Ben Gurion declared his state of Israel on the land of Palestine. On that day I acquired the title and started the life of a Palestinian refugee. But it did not go without a fight. The fight is still going on.
The first was to put a face to this invisible enemy who destroyed my life and made me a refugee. I had never seen a Jew before. I wanted to know how he destroyed my landscape, obliterated the face of my geography and the mere mention of my history. This resulted in years of documentation which culminated in the establishment of the Palestine Land Society and its many publications.
The second task was to pick up the pieces of the debris and try to reconstruct the destroyed landscape, to count, locate, and assemble the dispersed people in camps, towns, and countries, and to plan for their return home, in an effort to unite their stolen geography and erased history again.
|The author signing copies of his book|
The aim was to create a coherent, practical, and above all a legitimate plan of return. The plan was the subject of many papers and atlases. It has all the ingredients of feasibility except one: Zionism. For the plan to work Zionism must be abolished. But I am not a starry-eyed theoretician. I know full well that the road is long and arduous. Matching that obstacle is the endless reservoir of Palestinian resilience and sumoud. “We persevere” is the motto of Palestinians. I also believe that injustice has a short life. Evil may be strong, vengeful, and violent. But it has its own seeds of destruction. Just think how many tyrannical leaders and regimes flourished, expanded then vanished. This is the basic lesson of history.
In the end, it is the will of the people that counts. And we have plenty of that. We have hope. We persevere. Justice will always prevail. What is the proof? You are here tonight.”
The following AUC Press author and AUC professors are participating in this year's Mamluk Studies conference at the University of Chicago. Click here for the complete schedule.
Exchange in the Mamluk Sultanate: Economic & Cultural
Author of Crowds and Sultans: Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria (AUC Press, 2015)
Topic: “Food and Social Exchange in Ibn Tawq’s Diaries”
Assistant professor of Islamic art and architecture in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations at AUC
Topic: “Makers On the Move: Mobility and Artistic Exchange in Mamluk Material Culture”
Assistant professor of classical Arabic literature in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations at AUC
Topic: “Mamluk Literature for Modern Tastes: Ibn al-Wardī’s Poem Rhyming in Lām as a Tracer”
“If it’s Tuesday, it must be Togo!”
Jere L. Bacharach, AUC Press author of Islamic History through Coins: An Analysis and Catalogue of Tenth-Century Ikhshidid Coinage (Revised Edition) recently returned from a rare trip along the West African coast. He shares extracts of his travel journal and some photographs.
|The author's map
“In 1969 a popular American movie entitled “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” tells the fictitious account of a group of untraveled Americans who visit 8 European countries in two weeks. My wife, sister-in-law and I have just returned to Cairo from a three-week trip which included 12 countries and 16 ports of call and which I entitled, “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Togo!” We went from Cape Town, South Africa to Dakar, Senegal along the West Africa coast on a luxury liner with slightly more than 100 well-seasoned travelers. At one point one of the dozen specialists who served as guest lecturers on the vessel asked how many of us had visited the Galapagos. With so many hands up, he then asked “how many hadn’t?” We were three of the less than half-dozen who fell into that category.
The lands behind the infrequently visited ports of Namibia and Angola reminded me of the deserts that once surrounded Cairo before the Sixth of October, Fifth Settlement and all the other satellite cities were built. The lands from Cameroon through Benin, Togo, Ghana, etc. where, again, we visited ports rarely on cruise ship itineraries, were much more lush with extensive vegetation. Even more striking was the bright and bold colors of the clothing worn by male and female alike. The markets were filled with a fantastic range of textiles from cloth to dresses and pants. The training I received bargaining in Khan al-Khalili when it was filled with tourists prepared me for dealing with the merchants of West Africa. The only thing I couldn’t get used to was that while in Cairo strangers call me “mister,” in West Africa I was “papa.” I like the former much better.
|Namibia - sunken vessel in encroaching sands|
|Colorful African textiles|
As sightseers we visited many places associated with the brutal Atlantic African slave trade where local guides spoke of both the role of “white” (European and North American) traders but also the key part played by local African rulers, a story often neglected in North American presentations. Traveling occasionally into the interior we went by canoe up-river in Cameroon to visit a village of the “small people” who we once called pigmies but who are now much bigger as they eat better and intermarry with coastal peoples. In Benin we took a motorboat deep into a lagoon to visit a village built on stilts where the population had moved centuries ago to escape the taxation and rule of more powerful neighbors.
|Benin - Almina Fort|
|Benin - Ganvie Stilt Village|
One of the striking impressions was the number of mosques we saw in West Africa. In Senegal the main mosque which is closed to non-Believers as are those in Morocco followed the style of Moroccan mosques but with inscriptions which copied ones found in the Alhambra in Spain. In fact the percentage of Muslims in Senegal is higher than the percentage of Muslims in Egypt, a fact which astonished me. Another surprise was to discover that Voodooism is a popular, public, way of life among the coastal populations of Benin, Togo and Ghana and we were able to attend Voodoo ceremonies and visit Voodoo ritual sites. Finally, during the few days at sea when not in a port we spent our time reading and in my case this meant some of the books I had bought from the AUC Press before we departed. Here, again, I was among the minority but not for my taste in reading material but for the fact that I was holding a paperback rather than reading the text on an iPad, Kindle, iPhone or some other electronic device.”
|Cameroon - "Small People's medicine man”||Traditional women's dress|
|Togo - Voodooism||Senegal, Dakar - Mosque with motto from the Alhambra
Prominent Arab authors Mohamed Tawfik, Ahmed Mourad, and Percy Kemp, discussed the thriller as a literary genre at a roundtable during last month’s Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) in the Egyptian capital.
|From left: Percy Kemp, Samia Mehrez, Mohamed M. Tawfik, and Ahmed Mourad|
“The thriller, as a literary genre, has not been done justice to, particularly in this region,” said moderator and AUC Press author, Samia Mehrez, in her introductory remarks. “Crime is put in a lower tier because it doesn’t feature as literature to begin with and is not included in university curriculums.”
Ahmed Mourad, bestselling author of Vertigo, Blue Elephant, and more recently, 1919, concurred. “This type of literary genre has been marginalized.” However the Egyptian writer also sees it as potentially “thriving.” He noted: “The abundance of information available, like for example with the recent Panama Papers, pushes the writer to explore new grounds.”
When asked if it was necessary for crime writers to reflect today’s fast-paced, multifaceted world in their work, Mohamed Tawfik, author of candygirl (AUC Press, 2014) and Murder in the Tower of Happiness (AUC Press, 2008) said: “It is very important that the writer be one step ahead of the world in order to understand what is going on so that when his book is published it is timely.”
British-Lebanese novelist and essayist Percy Kemp pointed out: “The first ever detective story was written in Athens twenty-five centuries ago by Sophocles. Oedipus Rex is someone who starts investigating the murder of a king, not knowing that he is investigating himself, because he killed his own father.”
Mehrez raised the question of the author’s impartiality. “Nobody is neutral,” said Mourad. “There is not one single crime writer who only provides factual investigation. It’s the reader who decides what to take from the book.”
In his response, Tawfik added: “What I interpret of the novel is up to me as a reader. Reading is a private matter. The key artistic value is that it gains a new interpretation with every read. Ultimately there is not one single writer or book that is not biased. Everything is a representation of somebody’s opinion so it is up to the reader to come up with his own.”
On the topic of “red lines,” Tawfik replied: “We always have a risk but we can’t self censor ourselves as writers. The writer needs to feel like he’s an organic part of society.”
Kemp, who has gained expertise in security and intellegence matters in the Middle East, on the other hand, warned of today's lack of truth, particularly in politics and in science, and explained how this impacts his outlook as a writer of detective stories. “For me moving in spy writing was a way of continuing the quest for truth and being able to say indirectly, because it is fictionalized, that which was becoming increasingly difficult to say openly,” he said.
Tarek Ghanem, who recently joined the AUC Press team as commissioning editor, participated in last month's 'English Language Day Programme' entitled “World Englishes: One Language, Different Cultures” at the French University in Egypt.
Ghanem spoke about “The craft of translation: Cultural aspects and readers' experience.” Here are extracts of his presentation.
“In essence, translation is not an act of cultural diplomacy or explaining. It is about learning what is foreign, unfamiliar, culturally and linguistically particular or strange, and, to a lesser degree, asserting the universal. In literary translation, the job of a good translator is closer to a restoration expert than that of a curator; although some minimal and strategic curatorial work might be needed here and there.
Without standing in between the original author and the the new reader in a new language, a translator should keep the reader experience as enjoyable, fluid, and transparent as possible.This might mean asking oneself many question before starting the actual translational work: what kind of text is this? What kind of writing style is this? Can such linguistic indulgences and jokes, for example translate well? How can I echo the voice in the original language as accurately as possible and not whitewash or flatten its originality and uniqueness?
Since literature is self-referential everything should be contained in the translation, as it was in the original text. Of course the situation is turned on its ear in scholarly and academic translations. Here the main objective is to learn well about a certain subject. Of course the job of a translator here may include providing some supplementary context in the marginalia. That's why a translator of academic texts should translate in an area which he or she is familiar with, if not well versed in.”
Nariman Naili Al-Warraki, a long-time and dedicated member of the AUC faculty and an AUC Press author, passed away on Thursday, 12 May.
She was the co-author of two important AUC Press Arabic Language Teaching titles, Building Arabic Vocabulary through Reading: For Advanced Students of MSA (2013) and The Connectors in Modern Standard Arabic (1994). She also co-translated, with Kristin Walker, The Beggar by Naguib Mahfouz (AUC Press, 1986).
Nariman Al-Warraki was a senior Arabic language teacher and director of the Arabic Language Unit of the Arabic Language Institute at the American University in Cairo. She served AUC from the early 1960s as the assistant of Dean Crabbs, then instructor at CASA and the Arabic Language Intensive Program. She later headed the Program as director for fifteen years. She was one of the pioneers and founders of the AUC's Department of Arabic Language Instruction.
The AUC Press notes with great sadness her passing and extends its sincere condolences to her family.
Aidan Dodson is a senior research fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, where he teaches Egyptology. He is the author of various publications. During one of the last lectures Dodson gave in Cairo as the Chairman of Trustees of the Egypt Exploration Society he talked about the mysteries still surrounding the life and death of Ancient Egypt’s queen Nefertiti. To watch the video, click here.
To browse all of Aidan Dodson's books, click here.
Amina Elbendary, author of Crowds and Sultans: Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria (AUC Press, 2015) gave a lecture entitled “Egypt and Syria in the Fifteenth Century: The View from Below” at Cairo‘s American Research Center in Egypt in March.
“History from below is a historiographical approach that dates back to post WWII,” explained the author. “As the name suggests this approach aims to analyze history not from the point of view of the elite, be they owners or structures of power, but rather from the point of view of a larger group of people, including those often known by the legal sources as common people.”
Elbendary’s book looks at how in the fifteenth century sustained economic and political challenges—whether recurrent plagues or changes in international trade routes—impacted the Mamluk sultanate that had ruled Egypt and Syria since 1249-50, bringing about protests, social unrest, alliances, and eventual transformations.
|Click here to watch a segment of her lecture|
“Much of the modern literature on the late medieval period and late Mamluk rule is written within the paradigm of ‘decline and fall,’ which implicitly moves backward from the Ottoman conquests and explains the fifteenth century retrospectively,” writes the historian in her introduction.
“The rise of the Ottomans is understood firmly as a defeat of the Mamluks, thereby ignoring many of the similarities between the two regimes and many of the elements of historical continuity. One of the main signs and causes of the decline is implicitly the economic crisis. The decline is also thought to have permeated all aspects of society....” As she then points out, “this book tries to look at things sideways and bottom-up to read the signs of decline as signs of transformation and to hear the echoes of the non-elite through the surviving narratives.”
Following her lecture, Elbendary signed copies of her book.
Amina Elbendary is associate professor of history in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilization at AUC. Her research interests include Arabic historiography, Mamluk social and cultural history, and Islamic political thought. She is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters.
Salman Abu Sitta was born in 1937 in Ma‘in Abu Sitta, in the Beersheba district of mandate Palestine. He left his homeland when he was 10. His family’s farm estate and village were destroyed in 1948. As a refugee, he lived in Egypt, Kuwait, England, Canada, among other places.
Drawing on oral histories and personal recollections, his book Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir (AUC Press, 2016) vividly evokes the vanished world of his family and home from the late nineteenth century to the eve of the British withdrawal from Palestine and subsequent war.
Abu Sitta is an engineer by profession and the author of six books, but he is best known for his cartographic work on Palestine and his work on the Palestinian Right of Return. He is the founder and president of the Palestine Land Society. He is the founder and president of the Palestine Land Society.
In 1995, the “ordinary Palestinian” as he likes to call himself, returned to Beersheba to map his family heritage and visit his place of birth. “I walked around what was left of the schoolyard and found a familiar sight. The faithful eucalyptus tree was still there. It looked forlorn and abandoned,” writes Abu Sitta in his book.
Through painstaking cartographic and archival work on Palestine, he has single-handedly made available crucial mapping work on Palestine. “My mission is to restore Palestine to its place in the records by accurately rendering the map.”
In this video, the author, whom the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said described as “an extraordinary engineer and scholar,” recalls his visit to Beersheba, what mapping Palestine means to him, and how he sees the future of the Palestinians.
To pre-order Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir on Amazon, click here.
Dr. Tarek Swelim, prominent lecturer in Egyptology and Islamic art and architecture, takes us on a short visit of Ibn Tulun on a cold windy day.
He is the author of Ibn Tulun: His Lost City and Great Mosque (AUC Press, 2015), Dr. Swelim tells the story of this oldest intact mosque in Egypt and Africa, of the man who built it, and of the city he founded that has been lost to history for a thousand years.
To read more about Ibn Tulun, click here.
The book is also available on Amazon
"I always fall in love with my villains," said award-winning Egyptian novelist Reem Bassiouney about her latest novel Mortal Designs (AUCPress, 2015) during a book discussion earlier this week in Cairo.
"I have to admire the villain though," she added. In her latest novel, "he's ruthless, but he's creative, a poet."
During the event, hosted by the Community Services Association, Bassiouney talked about the creative process of writing a novel, her characters, and her source of inspiration. "I believe in inspiration. If I don't have it, I just don't write. But when I am inspired, I can write a book in three months. I will write day and even night. Most of my characters are inspired by people I meet."
For Bassiouney the structure of the novel is the challenge. "I start by writing the scenes that I like first. The plot, the story, are all in my head. I see it like a movie. I hear the characters' voices. To me they become real. I am separated from them but yet I decide their destiny."
Mortal Designs, translated into English by Melanie Magidow, is a contemporary Egyptian romance played out by characters trapped in their attitudes toward class and gender. "The book is about the strict social class system and the corrupt political system," added Bassiouney. "I wrote the novel six months before the 2011 [Egyptian] Revolution. It predicted it but not the outcome."
"The Arabic edition [of Mortal Designs] flows. It is very musical. This was the challenge with the English translation. Melanie Magidow, the translator, and I, reached a compromise. There is so much [cultural and political] background that the translator needs to know. I thought about translating it myself but I was too close to the text."
Mortal Designs is available in the AUC Press Bookstores and all other good bookstores in Cairo, and on Amazon.
Bassiouney, an associate professor at the American University in Cairo, also taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Utah.
The AUC Press is participating in the Cairo International Book Fair 2016, held at the Nasr City Fair Grounds.
The #CIBF2016 runs until 10 February. The AUC Press Book Stand, open daily from 9:00am - 9:00pm, is located near Gate 10-11.
We offer a free book with every purchase of LE250 or more!
Arabic Language Learning books Creative Coloring for Adults
Middle East Studies books Current Affairs books
Fiction from the Middle East New books
The AUC Press announced yesterday the award of the 2015 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the Lebanese writer Hassan Daoud for his novel La tariq ila al-janna (No Road to Paradise).
AUC president Lisa Anderson presenting the 2015 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to Hassan Daoud at the awards ceremony yesterday evening
Presented by Dr. Lisa Anderson, president of the American University in Cairo, the award was decided by the members of the Award Committee: Dr. Tahia Abdel Nasser, Dr. Shereen Abouelnaga, Dr. Mona Tolba, Dr. Humphrey Davies, and Dr. Rasheed El-Enany. The award ceremony at AUC’s Oriental Hall on the Tahrir Square Campus was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life.
In their citation for the award, the judges described No Road to Paradise as “a marvelous psychological novel that penetrates the enigmas of time and man in a religious society,” and went on to say: “Daoud’s evocation of a character enclosed in his existence in a southern Lebanese village is subtle and profound. . . . The work’s insights are Proustian in their precision. Each paragraph is like a wafer-thin cross-section of reality, so simply presented that the problems and questions that each action raises are exposed in all their complexity. . . . Through narration reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s narration and short, crisp sentences that conceal more than they reveal, the author quietly weaves the climax, so that the man of religion takes off his robe and turban and faces the world with his desire and recognition that this is not the road to paradise. . . . This is his powerful response to his fate. He refuses what he has been subjected to all his life on the threshold of death and is transformed into a real hero in the final pages after being an anti-hero throughout the novel.”
At the award ceremony, the AUC Press also celebrated the recent publication of six new paperback editions of Naguib Mahfouz novels (The Harafish, Children of the Alley, Khan al-Khalili, Midaq Alley, The Mirage, and The Thief and the Dogs), and a new translation, Mortal Designs by Reem Bassiouney.
The AUC Press, which established the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 1996, has been the primary publisher of Naguib Mahfouz’s English-language editions for more than twenty-five years, and has also been responsible for the publication of some 600 foreign-language editions of the Nobel laureate’s works in more than 40 languages around the world since the author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. With up to 60 new publications annually and more than 800 titles in print, the AUC Press is recognized as the region’s leading English-language publisher.
Nominations and submissions for the 2016 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature are welcomed at any time until 15 February 2016. Arabic novels published for the first time in 2014 or 2015, and not yet translated into English, are eligible.
13 December 2015
Edwar al-Kharrat, who passed away on 1 December, aged 89, is often described one of Egypt’s most influential fiction writers.
A very prolific author, al-Kharrat wrote over 50 books, including novels and poetry. His first book, a short story collection, Hitan Aliya (High Walls), received much praise and his first, highly acclaimed novel, Rama wa-l-Tinnen (Rama and the Dragon), now considered a classic, was awarded the 1999 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. The Award Committee considered this work “a breakthrough in the literary history of modern Arabic fiction.” This novel and Stones of Bobello, a volume of memoirs, were translated and published by the AUC Press in 2002 and 2005 respectively.
“I like to bring the reader to life, to wake him up. My writing is not to soothe people to sleep,” observed al-Kharrat in one of his interviews. “I’m looking particularly at the spirit of modern adventure, of experimentation, the sense of daring, of not abiding by the rules, moving away from the traditional style of writing a novel.”
In the recent tributes marking the passing of the much-loved Egyptian writer, the local media are remembering him as “one of the founders of the modern Arabic novel and short story” and “a pioneer of Arabic literature.” But al-Kharrat was also a prominent critic and translator. He rendered a number of foreign literary works into Arabic, including Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Actively engaged in left-wing politics, in 1946 he participated in the national revolutionary struggle against the British occupation and later spent two years in jail from 1948 to 1950.
He was a leading figure among the group of Egyptian writers known as the Sixties Generation, and founded and edited the literary journal Gallery 68, considered to be the mouthpiece of that generation.
Originally from Alexandria, al-Kharrat graduated from the University of Alexandria with a law degree in 1946 and moved to Cairo in the mid 1950s, where he worked as a translator in the Romanian embassy before starting his literary career.
Al-Kharrat won several prestigious literary awards, including the Nile Prize for Literature in 2014, the highest honor bestowed by the Egyptian state in the field of literature, and the Bin Sultan Al Owais Prize in 1994.
The AUC Press notes with great sadness the passing of the influential Egyptian writer and extends its sincere condolences to his family.
Last month Dr. Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, spoke about her academic career and fascinating work as an Egyptologist on mummification and burial practices in Ancient Egypt, during a seminar co-organized and hosted by the Community Services Association, in Cairo.
Here are excerpts from her talk:
“A lot of people who are my age, or in my generation of archaeology, were inspired by Indiana Jones, but he is a Jones come lately! I decided to do archaeology or history when I was about eight, because of the books I had seen on the subject, and when I was nine and a half, my family and I came to Egypt.
“We went into the Great Pyramids and it was the most amazing space. Then we went to the Cairo Museum and there were the statues of Rahotep and Nofret who looked alive, and then I just thought, ‘these are my people, this is what I’m going to be doing.’ To cement the whole thing, there was Tutankhamun, who was nine-ish and I was nine, so it was clearly meant to be.
“But even before that trip I already liked the Egyptians and I liked the Minoans.
“So I decided I would be an archaeologist, and I told my parents. Their response was 'Oh, how nice, you’re interested,’ and they kept bringing me back to Egypt and buying me books and being very enthusiastic until I went to college, and then they said, 'What are you going to major in?’ and I looked at them blankly and replied, 'You know my choice, I’m going to do archaeology.’ They were a bit horrified, but they eventually got over it. I double-majored at Bryn Mawr in archaeology and history, and then I came to Cairo for a year abroad at the AUC. I then trotted off to Cambridge (England) and studied archaeology and went on to be an Egyptologist, as it were. I think that, as with quite a few Egyptologists, what happens is we get bitten by the bug and then never grow up, while other people do. They become lawyers, doctors, bankers, or publishers, and we just remain in our juvenile stages of extreme excitement playing with the dirt.
“A lot of people think that it must be dreadful and hard being a woman Egyptologist in a Muslim country, or predominantly Muslim country. Well, looking around at what my friends go through in American academia, and maybe I am fortunate at AUC, but here at Cairo University, at Ain Shams, there are well-known woman scholars in Egyptology, both in philology as well as working on excavations. I myself, when I was a student at Bryn Mawr in the States, had Machteld Mellink as an example of a field archaeologist. I was lucky to have all these amazing women who were notable archaeologists. When I came to Egypt there was Fayza Haikal. In fact I feel that here in Egypt, one has a lot of women archaeologists, Egyptologists, in positions of responsibility and power. Sometimes there are issues with male colleagues or male workers, but I think it depends on how one addresses them, and I think that on certain levels there is less sexism in Egypt than there is in the West. Also I think that in the government sector, there will be equal pay for equal positions, regardless of gender, which we do not always find in the States, and certainly not in universities where there seems to be gender inequality issues.
“Having said all this, it is hard to be an Egyptologist. Graduate schools are increasingly taking fewer people, which I think is right. There are fewer and fewer jobs in the field, and I tell my students you always need a second string to your bow. You need to have something else that you are doing in addition to straight Egyptology, if you’re going to be successful. It is a rough field and not easy to get jobs. I think here in Egypt, however, it is easier, but then you have to have a realistic expectation of your pay scale. But there are compensations.
“Over the years I have been lucky enough to work basically from Alexandria to Aswan, either on on other people’s projects or directing my own project in Kharga and working as field director for the Valley of the Kings KV63 and KV10 projects. It has been quite fabulous and afforded me such enjoyment! It’s a real privilege to be able to work throughout the country, in so many excavations, and to meet so many brilliant scholars, as well as to be at so many marvelous sites. The Animal Mummy Room story started off when I visited Egypt as a child. Already then it was my favorite thing. When I came back as an adult to live here in 1993 I realized that that Room at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum had been shut for some time. I decided that it was time for it to have a renaissance. For me it is one of the most fascinating rooms in the museum. I am quite happy that the work that I had carried out on animal mummies has brought them into prominence. It built upon that of people in the late 19th century, early 20th century, and Dieter Kessler in the 1970s. Today I believe there are three exhibitions on animal mummies that are ongoing, which is quite extraordinary for an arterfact type that has been ignored for a long time. So yes it’s been wonderful!”
Photos by CSA
Architectural historian Dr. Tarek Swelim will give a talk on Sunday 6 December about Ibn Tulun, Ahmad ibn Tulun (835–84), the son of a Turkic slave in the Abbasid court of Baghdad, who became the founder of the first independent state in Egypt since antiquity, and builder of Egypt’s short-lived third capital of the Islamic era, al-Qata’i‘ and its great congregational mosque.
The event will be held in the courtyard of the Community Services Association (CSA), on 4 Road 21, in Maadi. For a map to CSA, click here. Please dress warm.
The event is now fully booked and closed for those who have not previously RSVPed.
Dr. Swelim is the author of the new book Ibn Tulun: His Lost City and Great Mosque (AUC Press, 2015). He obtained his Ph.D. in Islamic art and architecture from Harvard in 1994. He leads and lectures to American tour groups from prestigious institutions, and he is the author or co-author of a number of publications on Egypt's Islamic and Roman architecture. He has taught at AUC and other universities in the region.
The book will be available at the event at 20% discount. The author will be signing copies after his talk.
the 2015 National Translation Award (NTA) in prose for his English rendition from Arabic the novel The New Oasis by Libyan Tuareg author Ibrahim al-Koni (AUC Press, 2014).
The announcement came last month in Arizona during the annual conference of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), which administers the NTA, the only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction. The prose award is bestowed annually to a literary translator who has made “an outstanding contribution to literature in English by masterfully recreating the artistic force of a book of consummate quality.”
In their official statement, the NTA judges praised the way Hutchins “masterfully channels the poetic rhythms of Ibrahim al-Koni’s tale of a group of Tuareg, struggling with their evolution from a nomadic tribe to a settled community and the tensions that inevitably arise.” They also pointed out that al-Koni’s “legends, fables, prophecies and tribal laws, expressed in lyrical, metaphorical language, give a glimpse into the group’s traditions and the Tuareg mythical paradise oasis, Waw.”
In a recent interview Hutchins said “I don’t translate stuff I don’t like,” and praised the “incredible authors” he meets through his work. received a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts grant in literary translation.
After graduating from Yale University in 1964, Hutchins obtained a master’s degree in philosophy in 1967 and a Ph.D in Near Eastern languages with a concentration in Arabic and Islam in 1971, both at the University of Chicago.
The New Oasis was also published as New Waw, Saharan Oasis by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Hani Shukrallah is the author of Egypt, the Arabs, and the World: Reflections at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (AUC Press, 2011). In a recent Tweet, he commented on an interview he gave in 2012: “Each and every prediction I made in that interview proved wrong. Rather humbling, which is good for the soul.”
The founding editor of Ahram Online and executive director of the Heikal Foundation for Arab Journalism reflects in the piece below, written for the AUC Press, on the current situation in Egypt and the Middle East.
Night of the living dead
By Hani Shukrallah
The “Arabs’ age of ugly choices” as I’d come to call the thirty years that preceded the Tunisian people hailing in our astounding, if all too brief, spring, has now given way to what one might aptly call the Arabs’ “night of the living dead.” For three decades Egyptians and other Arabs seemed inescapably bound to choose between the terrible and the horrible, solidly wedged between the hammer of the police state and the anvil of Islamist theocracy.
Ahead of the second round of Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012, which pitted the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi against Mubarak throwback General Ahmed Shafiq, I announced I would boycott the vote, arguing that choosing between the plague and cholera was no choice at all.
The domino of Arab popular revolutions in 2010-2011 heralded the advent of a new, hitherto unimagined Arab age; in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain, men and women rose up against obdurate, vicious, and stagnant police states, calling in their hundreds of thousands not for Islamic Shariaa or “rule by what God ordained,” but for freedom and democracy, brotherhood and equality, social justice and human dignity for all. The progressive, secular, and humanist nature of what came to be called the Arab Spring was as astounding as it was glaring for all to see.
Yet here we are, nearly five years later (the blink of an eye in historical terms), and if anything the Arab region is mired in what is possibly the darkest period in its modern history with seemingly not a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. The strangle-hold of ugly duality of police state/Islamic state, which the Arab revolutions had—for an instant—overthrown, is not only back, but has been horribly transmogrified into a monstrous aspect of its pre-revolutionary self, as consummately exemplified by the Assad/ISIL wholesale devastation of Syria and the Syrian people.
But “there’s the rub.” Wholly irrational, incoherent, and self-destructive, the old Arab world is for all practical purposes moribund. The new was not ready yet to fulfill the tasks history had thrown its way, while the decaying and petrified old was unwilling to be consigned to the dust.
It is our “night of the living dead.”
How long it will last is anybody’s guess. But we might well ponder the words of American historian Howard Zinn in his seminal People’s History of the United States: “The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.”
The American University in Cairo Press notes with great sadness the passing of Egyptian writer, novelist, and journalist Gamal al-Ghitani.
Born in 1945, al-Ghitani started writing at a very young age. He authored six collections of short stories and more than a dozen historical and political novels including The Zafarani Files (AUC Press, 2015) and his iconic Zayni Barakat (AUC Press, 2004) that the late acclaimed intellectual Edward Said described as “a gripping, unforgettable work of prose fiction.”
Al-Ghitani became a journalist for the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar El Youm in 1969. He also founded the leading literary review Akhbar al-Adab and served as its editor-in-chief until 2011.
Confidante of the Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz and regarded as one of Egypt’s most distinguished writers, al-Ghitani was awarded the Egyptian National Prize for Literature in 1980, the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1987, and received the Nile Award for Literature in 2015, the highest literary honor granted by the Egyptian state.
The world has lost a major writer, and the AUC Press has lost a great friend and extends its sincere condolences to his family.
On Sunday 18 October, the AUC Tahrir Bookstore on the AUC Tahrir Square Campus celebrated its grand reopening.
The entrance to the Bookstore on Kasr El Aini is open once again, for the first time since it was closed during the Revolution in 2011. Visitors can now access the Bookstore directly from Tahrir Square.
“We are very glad because the convenient location of this entrance, right off Tahrir Square, will make it easier for visitors to reach the Bookstore,” says AUC Press director Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones.
The newly reopened Bookstore features a wide selection of books not previously available in Egypt, and customers will be able to enjoy a special celebratory 20% discount on all books until 31 October (textbooks excluded).
“The reopening of the AUC Tahrir Bookstore is a long overdue and important event in Cairo’s cultural scene,” said AUC Press associate director for sales and marketing Trevor Naylor. “For forty years this store has been a magnet for locals and visitors alike and its return should really appeal to any book buyer looking for an extensive and varied selection of English-language books, whether general interest books for children and adults, or academic publications for students and scholars.”
The Tahrir Bookstore is located on the corner of Sheikh Rihan and Kasr El Aini Streets, open from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm daily, except Fridays (tel: 2797 5929).
The AUC Press is very happy to announce its new partnership with Diwan Bookstores in Egypt. As a result of this new arrangement, the range of AUC Press titles and new books already featured across the Diwan Bookstores will increase significantly.
In the Diwan Zamalek branch, situated on 26th of July, customers will soon find a dedicated area for the AUC Press titles, with new titles immediately available, and a variety of promotional displays, including our popular first Saturday of the Month 20% discount.
This exciting new collaboration between the AUC Press and Diwan Bookstores comes following the permanent closure of the AUC Zamalek Bookstore this summer.
Born and raised in Sohag, in Upper Egypt, and a graduate in interior design from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Azza Fahmy became the first female apprentice to several of the best jewelers in Cairo, and studied jewelry craft at the City of London Polytechnic. Today she is a a world-renowned designer of jewelry inspired by traditional motifs. She has been described as one of Egypt’s best advocates in the world of jewelry.
Time Magazine said of her work: "Fahmy's jewelry catches the spirit of Arab tradition."
The revised edition of The Traditional Jewelry of Egypt has just been published by the AUC Press. In this lavishly illustrated book Fahmy lays before us an Aladdin’s cave of jewelry made in all corners of Egypt over the last one hundred years, collected through her extensive travels throughout the country. For many women of Egypt, their jewelry is their bank—they wear their wealth in their gold. But jewelry in Egypt is also more than mere assets, and its design and manufacture reveal a great array of styles and a high degree of skill and artistry.
You once worked as an apprentice with one of the great gold and silversmiths in Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili. Would you say this was a defining experience in your life?
Learning in Khan al-Khalili was the stepping stone to my journey as a jewelry designer. It was there where I learnt the basics of craft techniques by the hands of its masters. But soon enough, my eagerness for creativity developed. I was granted a scholarship by the British Council to study at the London Polytechnic and it was there where I understood scientifically and mathematically how to design and form, learning all the various jewelry-making techniques. It was the best feeling; my mind was set free and I realized that there were now no limitations to what I can design and create.
You seem to hold a particular affinity for peasant and sha’bi jewelry. What are the significant characteristics in this type of craftsmanship?
Peasant jewelry, unlike desert jewelry, carries a lot of softness and delicacy in its forms. It’s inspired by the airy environment that surrounds the Nile Valley with its flowing waters and greenery. Take the Egyptian ‘Kirdan’ as an example with its layering. Peasant jewelry is also characterized by a lot of gold or brass plated in gold, referred to as ‘dahab qishra.’
There are now Italian machine-made models that have invaded the Egyptian market. You point out also that some craftsmen resort to the use of molds and casts. How is this impacting technique and creativity?
Back when the Italian machine-made jewelry was introduced in Egypt, wealthier women started preferring those to sha’bi jewelry; it was finely produced and of meticulous quality. By default, Egyptian craftsmen started creating designs similar to those Italian models due to demand and stopped developing our traditional jewelry. What we did at Azza Fahmy Jewelry is that we took those traditional designs and techniques and fused them with technology. I’m not against the machine; technology helped art. The challenge lies in finding the balance between beautiful ancient handcraft and innovative techniques to revive heritage in a contemporary and cutting-edge way.
Peasant and sha’bi jewelry are quite unlike desert and Nubian jewelry. Why do landscape, climate, location, and dress impact the choice of design, components, and materials?
For sure the environment plays a great role in shaping the jewelry. Desert jewelry is quite harsh and rough like Siwan jewelry while peasant and sha’bi jewelry was quite delicate with its techniques like filigree and its ‘Makhrata’ crescent earrings and ‘Kirdans’. Nubian jewelry was mostly influenced by African, pharaonic, and tribal influences.
In your words, “In the making of jewelry, Siwa is the queen of all Egyptian oases.” Why do Siwan women wear a different ring on each finger (except the index)?
Siwan women go all out with their jewelry; their pieces are quite dramatic and their proportions are relatively big, influenced by the Berbers or ‘Amazighs’ of North Africa.
How hard is it to find zar jewelry today?
It’s not just zar jewelry that is difficult to find today but all traditional pieces that have become antiques, that are very rare to find. No one developed them. At Azza Fahmy Jewelry we develop this identity through our pieces which not only revive Egyptian history and its heritage but revive world cultures as well.
You are a world-famous jewelry designer. What are your sources of inspiration?
My sources of inspiration are endless and a compilation of years of research. I was born and raised in a region with such strong heritage that inspiration is everywhere I look and everywhere I travel. I collaborate with a very strong design team, and with my daughter Amina. Together, we work on our studies, be it through our special library or by documenting our muses throughout our journeys. We also work with trend forecasting individuals and stylists in London who take our research and inspirations to the next level by putting things into perspective and bringing a relevant appeal to the jewelry.
In what ways has your craft evolved since you started designing your first rings in the 1960s?
It came a long way of course and it was inevitable that it did. With the developments in technology, shared information and ideas, and needs of today. It was always important for us to always stay ahead of the game. Constantly evolving and developing were at the heart of everything we do.
Do you collect vintage Egyptian jewelry?
I used to collect sha’bi Egyptian jewelry and antiques. And until today, I continue to collect any interesting pieces of jewelry that I come across throughout my travels that I believe would help me with my research.
To read more about The Traditional Jewelry of Egypt, click here.
This summer, an AUC Press Partner Bookstore was opened at the Port Ghalib Resort in Marsa Alam on Egypt's beautiful Red Sea coast.
It carries the complete AUC Press stocklist, in addition to a wide selection of titles on the Red Sea marine life, as well as diving and snorkeling guides by other publishers, in different languages, including English, German, Italian, French, and Russian.
10:00 am - 11:00 pm daily
Port Ghalib Bookshop
Marina City Port Ghalib
Marsa Alam, Red Sea
Cell: (+0020 0)10 6644 4608 or (+00 20 0)12 2581 0085
“We are seeing quite a cross-section of customers in the bookstore. mainly from the four operating hotels in Port Ghalib but also visitors on day trips coming in by shuttle bus from neighboring resorts and hotels located north and south of Port Ghalib,” explains Bookstore manager Mohsen Saleh.
“The selection of books is really very extensive so we feel that there is something for every type of reader," he adds. "Not only is there a broad selection of categories to choose from but also different language editions in German, Italian, French, and Russian.”
The AUC Press will be selling books at the Celebrate Maadi event!
There will also be a food fair, music, guests speakers, and children's activities. See you there!
“Animals seemed to be endowed with supernatural powers. The Egyptians associated specific animals with particular deities that either shared the animal’s attributes and strengths or were thought to protect humans against whatever was threatening about that creature. In ancient Egypt most Egyptian gods were depicted both anthropomorphically and zoomorphically, as they were generally linked to animals in some way.”
(From Salima Ikram’s Ancient Egypt: An Introduction, AUC Press, 2011).
In this short interview, after the recent killing of #CecilTheLion, prominent Egyptologist and AUC Press author Salima Ikram comments on how lions were treated by the ancient Egyptians.
What did the lion symbolize to ancient Egyptians?
Strength, solar power, and kingship.
Were lions hunted in ancient Egypt?
Yes, mainly by the king.
By whom were the big cats venerated?
Everyone insofar as an animal in the general sense was worshiped. The ancient Egyptians were keen observers of nature and carefully selected the divine properties they identified with specific creatures. Animals were not really worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt, but rather thought of as manifestations of the gods. Animal cults were common in ancient Egypt. They focused on one specific animal, in which the spirit (ba) of a specific god resided, and was worshiped as the manifestation of the god’s power for the duration of the animal’s lifetime. These animal cults often had strong oracular components and allowed a certain amount of access to the god for the common people.
Did the ancient Egyptians have lion gods?
There were several lion gods in fact. Aker was a primeval earth deity shown as the foreparts of two lions or sphinxes, joined back to back, representing the western and eastern horizons, the entrance and exit to the underworld.
Apedamak, the Meroitic war god was the most important of the Nubian deities. He was depicted as a lion or lion-headed man, occasionally as a three-headed lion or even a serpent-lion.
The sun god Re was often represented as a lion, the king of the beasts and a creature that basks in the sun. His mane resembled a sun-disk.
Sekhmet, the goddess of war, had the body of a woman and the head of a lioness. Her headpiece consisted of a solar disk. She was renowned for her violence and power. Her son Mihos was the god of war and protection of Leontopolis, the “city of lions.” He was depicted as a lion-headed man, carrying a knife.
Ruty, the twin lions, linked with solar deities, marked sunrise and sunset.
Were lions frequently depicted in ancient Egyptian art?
From the Predynastic Period onward, they were represented either as being hunted or shown with a king, on the throne.
Did ancient Egyptians have pet lions and were they ever buried together?
Possibly! Early dynastic rulers had lions buried near them at Abydos—pets of some sort! Ramesses II is shown with a pet lion but the tomb has yet to be found.
How difficult is it to embalm such a big animal?
It is quite tricky—one lion, poorly embalmed, was found at the Bubasteion necropolis in Saqqara by Alain Zivie and his team in 2004.
For all of Salima Ikram's books published by the AUC Press, click here.
Here is how it works:
- take a selfie with your favorite AUC Press book
- post it on your Facebook profile with the hashtag #AUCPressBook (adjust your setting to "Public")
- your photo will be shared on the AUC Press Facebook timeline
- collect your 20% discount voucher at any of the AUC Press Bookstores
- this offer applies to all books except textbooks and runs until August 31, 2015
Nael Eltoukhy’s “darkly funny” (Chicago Times) novel Women of Karantina, translated by Robin Moger and published in 2014 by the American University in Cairo Press, has been selected for the fiction longlist of the 2015 FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards, announced today in the Financial Times.
Chosen by a panel of distinguished international judges, the Emerging Voices Awards are given this year for extraordinary artistic work in three categories, from three regions—fiction from Africa and the Middle East, films from the Asia-Pacific region, and visual arts from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Women of Karantina is a satiric epicabout crime and excess set in a future Alexandria, introducing the reader to a teeming cast of pimps, dealers, psychotics, and half-wits, that has been widely praised for its inventiveness, pace, and subversive humor. Ahram Online calls it “a new twist in the evolution of the form of the Egyptian novel itself,” while the Chicago Tribune writes thatthe author “simultaneously revels in and mourns the dark underbelly of Alexandria, where the locals live and fight. This is a side of Alexandria that is hardly glimpsed, let alone explored with Eltoukhy’s brand of incisive humor.”
Nael Eltoukhy is a 36-year-old Egyptian writer who was born in Kuwait. His first collection of short stories was published in 2003, and he is the author of four novels. He is also a journalist, blogger, and a translator of books from Hebrew into Arabic. Known for his sharp sense of humor and his unlimited passion for the songs of Umm Kulthum, the films of Woody Allen, and the novels of Franz Kafka, he has been described as “a serious guy with a light touch” and a “post-modern novelist.”
The names of the three finalists in the fiction category will be announced on 7 August, and the winner will be declared at the awards ceremony to be held in New York on 5 October.
Women of Karantina is available at AUC Press Bookstores and all other good bookstores in Egypt, and worldwide through all major booksellers.
To read the first chapter of the novel, click here.
June 12, 2015
Nina Gren is a Swedish social anthropologist whose research focuses on Palestinian refugees and diaspora, social memory, gender, home, and politics. Since 2014, she has been employed as a researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, and an external lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen.
Gren has also conducted research about Danes and Swedes with a Palestinian background and their diasporic practices, and has also carried out fieldwork in United Nations-run schools for Palestinian refugee children, focusing on processes of gendered identity formations.
Her new book, Occupied Lives : Maintaining Integrity in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in the West Bank, recently published by the AUC Press, is based on her one-year ethnographic fieldwork in Dheisheh, a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem, during the second intifada. The study looks at the many ways the camp's inhabitants tried to maintain continuity, morality, and normalcy, despite repeated emergencies.
As a social anthropologist, why are you interested in the cause of Palestinian refugees?
I am interested in how high politics influence people’s daily lives. With this case study, I wanted to focus on an important but often neglected group of Palestinians, namely camp refugees in the Occupied Territories. They are simultaneously intimately connected to a just solution of the Palestinian predicament and politically and economically marginalized both in relation both to Israelis and to many Palestinians. They also tend to be stereotyped as either victims or perpetrators in news media and by outsiders. I wanted to move beyond such simplified images.
Your book is a detailed account of daily life in Dheisheh, a refugee camp founded in 1949 on a hillside outside Bethlehem by the Red Cross and others. Sara Roy from Harvard University says that Occupied Lives “provides a thoughtful and well-researched corrective to this shameful reality…” What are you trying to set straight with this book?
In my book I try to present a more complex view of Palestinian camp refugees but also show how deeply the Israeli state-sponsored strategies of displacement, imprisonment, violence, and immobility have affected Palestinian society. Nevertheless, Palestinians also have ways to bounce back, which are important and hopeful.
You investigate the social continuity of generations and family lines in the refugee camp. In what ways has this tactic been a successful symbolic triumph over the occupying force?
I think many of my interlocutors would point to the simple fact that Palestinians, including Palestinian camp refugees, are still there. Despite everything, they stubbornly continue their attempts to have “a life”. People who have been suffering extensive violence while raising children and establishing new family lines are a kind of symbolic victory over those who attempt to get rid of them.
How do Dheishehans remain patient and hopeful amid all the violence and insecurity they endure under Israeli occupation?
I write about Dheishehans’ tactis of resilience and some of those are definitely connected to remaining patient and hopeful. Perhaps the most important tactic is to be able to reframe events. Take for instance, the many Dheishehans killed by the Israeli army. By reframing those killed as martyrs, premature deaths are not merely sad, but also meaningful as politico-religious sacrifices. Many Dheishehans also read Quranic verses as hopeful predictions of a forthcoming Palestinian victory. Another practice is to consistently continue to explain their predicament to researchers like me and other international figures.
Why are morality and integrity highly valued by Dheishehans when hardship is so prevalent in their everyday life?
Dheishehans literally feel invaded by Israel. In the book, I argue that when a society is under a lot of pressure from outside there is a general tendency to try to keep up clear boundaries between "us" and "them." A very effective way to show who belongs to the group is by monitoring righteous behavior. In a conflict situation with huge power imbalances, it is often also an advantage for the weaker part (in this case Palestinians) to prove its moral superiority. It is easier to argue for international protection and aid for instance if one is considered morally right.
Resistance is part of the Palestinian discourse. How do the refugees in Dheisheh define resistance? Do they have different types of resistance?
People in Dheisheh definitely have more than one way to define resistance. Resistance can be violent and aiming at either Israeli soldiers or both soldiers and civilians. Resistance can also be setting up a website about a Palestinian version of history or guiding politically engaged foreigners in the camp. Most would also agree that becoming a journalist or a PhD student can be another form of resistance that will change the future. In other words, resistance can also consist of an intellectual struggle.
What in your opinion is the most difficult aspect of all in their daily refugee camp life?
The unemployment and the bad economic situation are probably the most immediate difficulties in everyday life. More generally, I think that Palestinian statelessness with all that it implies when it comes to lack of rights is probably the most serious issue for Dheishehans and other Palestinians.
What stands out as the most important personal thing you learned during your fieldwork in the refugee camp?
I learnt a lot about friendship and the importance of social relationships as a way to bounce back from difficulties in life. I also learnt how important it is in some circumstances to show your sadness and frustration so as not to succumb under your own emotions.
How will the displacement of Palestinian refugees be resolved, in particular of those farmers of Dheisheh who were dispossessed over 60 years ago of their land that is now part of Israel?
There are researchers, such as Salman Abu Sitta, who have shown that in practical terms it would be possible for many refugees with a rural background to move back to their former villages. Most of their land has not been built on. However, this is of course a political not a practical issue. I think that we have seen several serious attempts over recent years to think about the Israeli-Palestinian issue in new and creative ways. It seems quite clear that a one-state solution is very difficult to implement, but that there might need to be some kind of bi-national unit. The most important thing is that ordinary Palestinians and Israelis get to have a say in such possible solutions. It shouldn’t be up to outsiders like me to decide.
To read more about Nina Gren's Occupied Lives, click here.
The online magazine of the arts Persimmon Tree selected AUC Press author Lesley Lababidi’s Undreams as one of the nine winning poems in the poetry category of its summer’s contest.
Persimmon Tree aims to showcase the creativity and talent of women over sixty in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art, to a broader audience.
“Undreams is for all those imprisoned in exile, forced from their homes, separated from friends and family, their way of life banished—the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Chibok girls and millions more…,” explains Lababidi.
An unfinished tapestry, pushed deep into the unlocked drawer, brought unshed tears to her eyes. After her grandmother’s death, the unowned tapestry was now hers to keep or, perhaps, upkeep.
The granddaughter unjammed the drawer, unwrinkled the unvalued tapestry and tugged at it, slowly, to unravel an unloved memory.
Her grandmother had worn the hijab when she unfortuitously was forced to flee. She was unbearably young, unable to unidentify herself from the only life she had ever known.
To read the rest of the poem, click here.
Lesley Lababidi is the author of Silent No More: Special Needs People in Egypt (AUC Press, 2002), Cairo’s Street Stories: Exploring the City’s Statues, Squares, Bridges, Gardens, and Sidewalk Cafés (AUC Press, 2008), Cairo: The Family Guide (AUC Press, 4th Edition, 2010), and Cairo Practical Guide (AUC Press, fully revised edition, 2011). She has also published numerous feature magazine articles.
Living up and down her corridor between Egypt and Nigeria for over forty years, she is an adventurer, amateur photographer, marathon cyclist, bird and nature enthusiast, and desert explorer. You can follow her on her blog nomad4now.com.
Samia Abdennour came to Egypt from Palestine in 1947. She is the author of Egyptian Customs and Festivals (AUC Press, 2007) and Egyptian Cooking and other Middle Eastern Recipes (AUC Press, 1984; new spiral edition, 2015), which has been a bestselling cookbook for more than thirty years. In this interview, she recommends what to prepare this month of Ramadan, and shares some great tips about cooking stuffed vegetables. She assures her readers: “My recipes are all easy.”
When did you learn how to cook?
Initially I started cooking for my four children when they were small. I wanted to give them healthy food. But also some of my friends went abroad, either to the UK or the US, for their university studies, and returned with foreign wives. One day at a picnic we were talking about Egyptian food and they complained that they could not find a book that they could relate to. Their mothers-in-law or their sisters-in-law would sometimes give them a few tips here and there. So then I got the idea to do this cookbook with all my favorite recipes.
Who taught you the tricks and secrets in the kitchen?
My mother. She was a very good cook. I used to watch her and learn.
Why is food so important in Egyptian society?
Egyptians are peasants at heart. For peasants food is very essential. You never ask someone to your house without giving them food. You don’t invite somebody over for drinks, it is either dinner or lunch.
Why is fuul so predominant in the Egyptian cuisine?
First of all it is very nutritious but also just like in other countries, where rice is their staple food, ours is fuul. You don’t have to eat it necessarily in the morning although many Egyptians do. They like it first thing in the day because it is very satisfying but it is only really heavy if you have too much. When you eat fuul you don’t feel hungry for a very long time and this is very important for some Egyptians.
What is a traditional meal that one prepares for the family on the first day of Ramadan?
The first thing is warm soup and then some well-seasoned fuul, vegetables, and lots of meat. Meat is very important in Ramadan. So is sugar.
A very typical dish would be fatta which is pieces of hard bread saturated with broth, and then covered with a layer of rice, more broth, and more meat. You can also make this with chicken in which case you then cover the top layer with well-flavored yogurt, meaning with a lot of garlic and salt.
How does Egyptian cooking differ from other Middle Eastern food?
Egyptians love tomatoes. They cook all their vegetables in tomato sauce. In Palestine and Syria however they use yogurt instead. It is very important to have lots of juice when you cook vegetables because then you can soak it up with your bread and as you know, in the Middle East, we eat a lot of bread.
In Palestine, instead of fuul, our staple food is hummus. We eat a lot of it and usually it is mixed with a bit of tahina.
How does the preparation of some of the dishes differ from region to region in Egypt?
Coastal towns in Lower Egypt use a lot of fish in their recipes, rather than chicken or meat. They even have mulukhiya cooked with fish, or with shrimps. In Upper Egypt on the other hand they use a lot of dates in their food, mostly in desserts.
What are some of the essential ingredients in a typical Egyptian dish?
Onions and garlic, salt and pepper of course, and different spices, but especially cumin. It is used a lot in Egyptian cooking. It does not necessarily have a predominant flavor if you use only a small amount of seeds. If you cook with readymade cumin powder it does not have a very strong taste. I usually buy the seeds, roast them lightly for about 3 minutes over the fire until you hear them pop. This gives them a lovely flavor. Then I grind them into a powder.
What is your secret to delicious homemade mulukhiya?
Mulukhiya is one of my favorite dishes. You fry coriander with crushed garlic in a little cooking oil and then add it to the mulukhiya. The trick is not to boil it for a long time.
How has Egyptian cuisine been affected by fast food?
It depends on the class of the Egyptian society. The upper middle and middle middle class definitely go for Western food thinking that this is being modern. However the diet of the average Egyptian, for example the government employee with a modest income, has not been affected.
One of the things that has become very Egyptian now, which surprisingly is not originally Egyptian, is kosheri. It actually initially comes from India. There it is called khishari. Australians eat it with fish, here we add pasta.
What dish do you like to cook?
Stuffed vegetables, which are very important in Egyptian cuisine. Practically every vegetable can be stuffed with rice, meat, chopped onions, spices, and sometimes dill. You can stuff zucchini, tomatoes, vine leaves, cabbage….. Some stuffed vegetables like eggplant or zucchini go well with meat, others don’t. Keep in mind that eggplant is one of the most used vegetables in the region: you can have it pickled, roasted, baked, cooked…. Also, there are various types of eggplant: long, slender, brown, white, and large. There is even a saying in Palestine during the eggplant season: “If the woman says she does not know what to cook, her husband has a right to divorce her.”
Which is your favorite dessert?
Umm Ali! It is not complicated but you have to spend a little time preparing the separate ingredients.
The AUC Press Bookstores will be closed from Saturday 20 June until Thursday 25 June on the occasion of their annual inventory.
The bookstores will resume operations starting June 27. During the holy month of Ramadan, the bookstores will close at 3:00pm. For the complete listing of AUC Press Bookstores, click here.
To browse the latest AUC Press catalog, click here.
For the latest AUC Press titles, click here.
AUC Press author Baghat Korany recently received the 2015 Distinguished Scholar Award by the Global South Caucus of the International Studies Association (ISA).
“I am very honored, as this is the first time this award is given to someone from the Arab world,” said Korany.
The annual GSC award is presented in recognition of the recipient’s exceptional and sustained contribution to global south international studies, as reflected in both published works and policy contributions.
Korany, who is professor of international relations and political economy at the American University in Cairo and director of the AUC Forum, is the editor of Arab Human Development in the Twenty-first Century: The Primacy of Empowerment (AUC Press, 2014), Arab Spring in Egypt: Revolution and Beyond (AUC Press, 2012), and The Changing Middle East: A New Look at Regional Dynamics (AUC Press, 2010) and co-editor of The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Globalization (AUC Press, 2008).
“Bahgat Korany’s welcome recognition by the ISA Global South Caucus symbolizes the increasing limitations of the U.S.-dominated international relations discipline and the imperative of recognizing and welcoming those 'other' perspectives which are in fact the new mainstream," said Professor Timothy Shaw, director of the Governance-Human Security program at the University of Massachusetts, who introduced Korany during the award ceremony last month.
Founded in 1959, with more than 6,000 members in North America and around the world, the ISA advances research and education in international affairs, and is recognized as the most respected and widely known scholarly association in this field.
“In 1977, Harvard professor Stanley Hoffmann criticized international relations as being ‘an American social science,’ almost as American as an apple pie. About 40 years later, has this situation changed?” asked Korany during his acceptance speech.
|Illustration by Dominique Navarro|
The latest edition of American Scientist, a distinguished bi-monthly publication about science, engineering and technology, features artwork adapted from the AUC Press Nature Foldout series, written and illustrated by Emmy-Award-winning art director Dominique Navarro.
As the cover of American Scientist, showcasing the main story of the May-June 2015 issue, Navarro's illustration depicts several of the mammals once present in Egypt during the African Humid Period, including elephants, giraffes, leopards, and lions.
The lead article, “Modern Lessons from Ancient Food Webs,” discusses the decline in species diversity of larger-bodied mammals present before, during, and after the rise of agricultural societies in ancient Egypt and other areas. It looks at the alarming question of Egypt’s disappearing wildlife. To read the article, click here.
Navarro's six colorful AUC Press Nature Foldout guides focus on animals and plants, from river wetland residents and desert survivors to animals venerated by the ancients and prehistoric dinosaurs. Ancient Egypt’s Wildlife documents the birds, animals, and plants on Egyptian tomb and temple walls, and Egypt’s Prehistoric Fauna captures Egypt’s extinct and surviving animals from prehistoric times. Her other foldouts look at the Birds of the Nile Valley (2013), Egypt’s Flora and Fauna (2013), the Cats of Egypt (2014), and the Wildlife of the Holy Land (2014).
(Illustrations by Tom Dunne and Dominique Navarro)
In October last year, Navarro was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction (2014) for the TV series ‘Big History’ during the 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards. She has worked for over a decade as an art director in the documentary and film industry for programs featured on the History Channel, Discovery, and National Geographic. In addition, she has made archaeological illustrations and sculptural reconstructions of unidentified persons and ancient archaeological remains.
As a trained forensic artist, Navarro also collaborates with law enforcement to create composite sketches from witness and victim descriptions. Her expertise led to her work in Egypt at the excavation of a 25th Dynasty tomb where she created facial reconstructions from mummies as well as tomb diagrams and epigraphic studies.
To browse the AUC Press Nature Foldout series, click here.
Andrew Humphreys, a journalist and editor living in London, has been a regular visitor to the banks of the Nile since 1988. Over the years, he had developed a true passion for Egypt’s vintage grand hotels and voyages. He nurtures a nostalgic attachment not just for the golden era of travel in this country, with its contemporary hotel life and its “appealing mix of the practical and the peculiar,” but also for the classic era of Nile cruising.
The author of the bestselling Grand Hotels of Egypt (AUC Press, 2012), Humphreys now takes us on a journey into the forgotten days of luxury steamers and floating hotels with his new book On the Nile in the Golden Age of Travel, published this month by the AUC Press.
In this interview, Humphreys reflects on the pioneer voyagers on the Nile, the conditions on board the vintage steamers, and the changing nature of Nile travel over the past two centuries.
AUC Press: Like your previous book Grand Hotels of Egypt, the new book On the Nile deals with the history of early tourism to Egypt – what new material did you find?
Andrew Humphreys: When I was researching Grand Hotels I visited the archives of Thomas Cook in Peterborough, England and discovered there a vast mine of material including letters, contracts, drawings and photographs, and bound volumes of the company’s own travel magazine, which started publishing in the 1850s or 60s. There were also diaries including one kept by a Miss Riggs who was on the very first Thomas Cook organized tour to Egypt in early 1869. This diary has never been published before, nor had much of the other material, so I think that much of what is in On the Nile is completely fresh, no matter how many other books you’ve read on early travelers in Egypt.
AUC Press: In the book you say that in the late 19th century, a trip to Egypt was widely seen as one of the most exciting winter activities available to the rich. Why was that?
Although Westerners had been traveling to Egypt since the beginning of the 19th century these had largely been adventurers and explorers, or writers and artists―people voyaging with a purpose rather than exclusively for leisure. So although countless published travelogues and volumes of drawings had made Egypt a subject of great fascination among the educated classes in the West, comparatively few had ever visited. As the 19th century moved into its final quarter, new rail routes across Europe and more frequent, fast steamer services across the Mediterranean, along with organized travel offered by the likes of Thomas Cook, suddenly made this fabulous country accessible.
AUC Press: Were most foreigners traveling to Egypt to sail on the Nile in the very early days as tough, resilient, and adventurous as Ms. Riggs and Ms. M.L.M. Carey, two well-educated, upper-middle-class Londoners?
Even with the advances mentioned above, a trip to Egypt wasn’t something one undertook lightly. It still took around 10 days to get from London to Alexandria via a complicated arrangement of horse-drawn charabancs, trains, and boats―add a few more days to that for travelers coming from America. And these people traveled with a lot of kit―Miss Riggs even took along her own saddle―so the logistics were challenging. You had to be a pretty determined sort of person if your sights were set on Egypt.
AUC Press: Besides rats, bugs, and running aground on the sandbanks, were there perils involved in such traveling?
Dahabiyas [slender sailboats] were occasionally turned over by sudden squalls of wind and lives were lost but aboard the steamers perils were decidedly minor. Travelers might fall off the donkeys that were provided for sightseeing excursions but generally the greatest fear seems to have been whether or not you would be seated with the right sort of people or not at dinner. Early travelers were such snobs. That said, a member of Miss Riggs’s party did succumb to illness while in Egypt and died at Jaffa before she could be got back home.
AUC Press: Why did some travelers find it more fashionable to hire a dahabiya rather than a steamer to journey up and down the Nile?
Already in the 19th century the distinction between travelers and tourists was being made. The former resented the fact that the Nile steamers operated by Thomas Cook and his competitors were making the Nile accessible to ever increasing numbers of the latter. The travelers heaped disdain on the “Cookites” who they characterized as steaming up and back down the Nile in packs and with indecent haste and insufficient appreciation of what they were seeing. The only way to experience Egypt, to their minds, was to hire a dahabiya and drift indolently for three or four months―at great expense of both time and money, and not an option available to those who were required to work for a living.
AUC Press: You write in the book that the list of Thomas Cook’s clients to Egypt by the late 19th century “read like an edition of Who’s Who”? Who were some of the most famous people to hire one of Cook's dahabiyas?
Although company founder Thomas Cook was a firm believer in the democratization of travel his son John Mason Cook, who took over the business in Egypt in 1871, had other ideas. John thought Nile travel should be luxurious and he constructed a fleet of fine new “first-class” steamers and smaller boats for private hire. He actively courted the wealthy and titled, and organized exclusive charters for the likes of American millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt, the British Consul-General in Egypt Sir Evelyn Baring, the Khedive Tewfik, and a whole host of dukes, lords, earls, and princes, not to mention the Archduke Ferdinand, whose death some years later would precipitate the First World War. There were also celebrities, notably Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes who, in 1896 set off on a Nile cruise aboard the Nitocris, a small, private Cook & Son steamer.
AUC Press: In what ways did the arrival of Thomas Cook’s tourism business in Egypt change the nature of travel and the country?
Thomas Cook’s championing of travel for the masses brought into Egypt more visitors than the country had ever previously experienced. To facilitate this the company employed hundreds of Egyptians and provided a livelihood for possibly thousands more, from the farmers up and down the river who sold their produce to the steamers to the souvenir sellers and the donkey boys who were there waiting to wrangle the tourists onto their animals as soon as a boat lowered its gangplank. Before Cook Luxor was no more than a cluster of mud-brick homes around the ruins of the riverside Luxor Temple; ten years after the arrival of the tourist steamers it had become a town of 3,600 inhabitants. Cook laid the foundations for the tourism industry that contributes so much to the national economy of Egypt today.
AUC Press: How much did passengers traveling up the Nile really see of the archaeological sites?
They saw as much or as little as they wanted. There were stops at all the major sites between Cairo and Aswan with a reasonable three days of busy escorted sightseeing at Luxor. At Aswan they could transfer to the Second Cataract service and spend a week sailing to Wadi Halfa on the Sudanese border and back, taking in the sites of Nubia, including not one but two halts (going and coming back) at Abu Simbel. Anyone who found this insufficient could always arrange to remain at Luxor (or any other stop along the Nile) and board another boat a few days or weeks later.
AUC Press: The very first Thomas Cook Nile cruise was in February 1869. How much of the Nile cruise experience today has changed since then?
Obviously the numbers have skyrocketed. At the dawn of the 20th century there were no more than three or four hundred tourists on the Nile at any one time, carried by perhaps a dozen steamers; in 2015 a single boat can carry that many passengers and there are something like 350 registered Nile cruisers. What hasn’t changed though is Egypt. Sights like Karnak, Abu Simbel, and Philae have lost none of their majesty and magnificence, inspiring just as much awe in visitors today as they have always done. And afloat on the Nile remains easily the best way to travel between them.
The AUC Press will be participating in the Mada Market Place event on April 25 (11:00am - 7:00pm) on the GrEEK Campus, in downtown Cairo. The event will feature publishers, local designers, artists, food, live music, and entertainment.
You will find our new books including Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt's Wilderness by Omar Attum, Andrew Humphrey's On the Nile in the Golden Age of Travel, and Viola Shafik's Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity: Updated with a New Postscript.
David Sims, author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (AUC Press, 2010) and Egypt’s Desert Dreams: Development or Disaster? (AUC Press, 2015, will be the keynote speaker at the "Housing the Majority" Conference at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
Friday, 10 April
Click here for the complete program of the conference.
TUESDAY, 7 APRIL
► Find us at https://twitter.com/AUCPress
► Follow hashtag #womenofkarantina
Nael Eltoukhy @naeleltoukhy is the author of this buzzing Egyptian novel, translated by Robin Moger (AUC Press, 2014).
Women of Karantina is a baroque novel of crime and excess in a future Alexandria, from a young Egyptian writer of promise.
Through three generations of Grand Guignol insanity, Nael Eltoukhy’s sly psychopomp of a narrator is our guide not only to the teeming cast of pimps, dealers, psychotics, and half-wits and the increasingly baroque chronicles of their exploits, but also to the moral of his tale.
The young Egyptian author has been described as “a serious guy with a light touch” and a "post-modern novelist." Read more.
To view a recent discussion with the author during the AUC Press's book launch in Cairo last fall, click here.
“With an epic tone that laughs at everything, an unusual lightness of spirit, and a surprisingly fresh treatment of old motifs, such as violence or succession, Eltoukhy creates something unprecedented in the history of the Arabic novel.”—Arabic Literature in English
“Through irony and exaggeration, Nael Eltoukhy builds and furnishes his novel Women of Karantina.”—al-Watan Online
“There is no doubt that you will encounter much hilarity here, in Nael Eltoukhy’s Karantina: it is as enjoyable as a cold drink when thirsty . . . [and uses] humor that is critical, sarcastic, and extremely clever.”—al-Tahrir
“The translation, by South Africa-based translator Robin Moger, follows Eltoukhy's work punch for punch, shifting when need be from the lyrical to the plainspoken to the vulgar. Moger's translation does not just bring the book's roughed-out meaning into English, it captures the prose's light touch.”—Marcia Lynx Qualey, al-Araby
April 3 | 1:30pm | Occidental College, McKinnon Atrium
David Sims is the author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (AUC Press, 2010) and Egypt’s Desert Dreams: Development or Disaster? (AUC Press, 2015)
Sims, also an economist and urban planner, will speak about the future of Egypt, its politics, and development. Click here for more information.
The Lebanese author Hoda Barakat and Ibrahim al-Koni from Libya are among the ten writers on the judges’ list of finalists under consideration for the sixth Man Booker International Prize, the £60,000 award which recognizes one writer for his or her achievement in fiction.
Barakat is the author of five novels, including The Tiller of Waters (AUC Press, 2004) and Disciples of Passion (Syracuse University Press and AUC Press, 2006), two plays, a book of short stories, and a book of memoirs. Her work has been translated into a number of languages. In 2000, the Paris-based writer was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for The Tiller of Waters. She received two prestigious French awards: Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2002 and Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite National in 2008.
Al-Koni, a Tuareg who writes in Arabic, has written more than sixty novels, including Anubis (AUC Press, 2005), Gold Dust (AUC Press 2008), The Puppet (AUC Press, 2010), and The New Oasis (Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Texas, and AUC Press 2014), as well as short stories, poems, and aphorisms. His work, inspired by the desert, has won him numerous important prizes in the Arab world, including the Mohamed Zefzaf Prize for the Arabic Novel in 2005 and the 2008 Sheikh Zayed Award for Literature.
The Man Booker International Prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language, thereby highlighting that writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.
This year’s names were announced on 24 March in Cape Town, South Africa. The winner will be announced on 19 May at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
“The judges have had an exhilarating experience reading for this prize; we have ranged across the world and entered the vision of writers who offer an extraordinary variety of experiences,” said the chair of judges, writer and academic Professor Marina Warner, during the event’s press conference.
“Fiction can enlarge the world for us all and stretch our understanding and our sympathy,” added Warner. “The novel today is in fine form: as a field of inquiry, a tribunal of history, a map of the heart, a probe of the psyche, a stimulus to thought, a well of pleasure and a laboratory of language.”
The other members of the 2015 judging panel for the Prize are novelist Nadeem Aslam; novelist, critic and professor of World Literature in English at Oxford University, Elleke Boehmer; editorial director of the New York Review Classics series, Edwin Frank, and professor of Arabic and comparative literature at SOAS, University of London, Wen-chin Ouyang.
Together they conjured up the idea for A Roving Eye, the recent illustrated book that combines body-related idioms and sayings in Arabic, with their transliteration, and English equivalent. Three authors are Egyptian and teach at the American University in Cairo. The fourth author and the photographer are both foreign residents in Egypt. They share a few thoughts about the richness of the Egyptian dialect, the advantages of learning colloquialisms, and the photography that accompanies them.
Mona Ateek has an MA in teaching English as a foreign language and has been teaching in the English Language Institute of AUC since 1987.
Why is it that the body is the source of such a variety of metaphors, expressions, and proverbs, in the Arabic language?
I think that a large variety of body metaphors are found in all languages, not only in Arabic. They are probably what can be called language universals and not just culture-specific, although when you read some of the expressions in A Roving Eye there are many examples of metaphors that are very Egyptian. For example 7aaTiT fi-baTnu batTTikha Seefi―he's put a summer watermelon in his stomach―is very Egyptian.
As human beings the language we speak expresses our thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, and judgments, and the parts of our body from head to toe―eyes, ears, tongue, blood, heart, etc.―convey them. I think it would be very interesting to compare body metaphors in different languages like Chinese, Russian, Hindi, etc.
Are idioms most culturally bound and does learning phrases and sayings such as these help to better understand the local culture?
Yes, of course. By learning and understanding these expressions and the context in which they are said, you learn the values and beliefs of the culture. For example, wishshaha 7ilw 3alayya―her face is lovely on me―shows that many Egyptians think that a person can bring you good (or bad) luck, or min bu22ak li-baab is-samma―from your mouth to the gate of heaven―expresses the hope that something desirable will come true. A Roving Eye is a compilation of over 90 such expressions that Egyptians use daily and that reflect their very heartbeat.
Mona Kamel Hassan
Mona Kamel Hassan is a senior Arabic language instructor in the Department of Arabic Language Instruction (ALI) at the AUC, and head of its Arabic language courses.
These are all colloquialisms. Do any of them exist in classical Arabic?
Indeed, these idiomatic expressions are in colloquial Arabic. The spoken dialect is characterized by its abundant use of such sayings that are used to describe people, their behavior and feelings. Some of these expressions exist in classical Arabic, but they are not identical to the colloquial ones. There are differences in relation to syntax and lexicon. For example, the colloquial expression lisaanu tawiil, his tongue is long (literal meaning), becomes huwa saliit-illisaan, he is sharp-tongue (again the literal meaning) in classical Arabic.
How can students learning colloquial Arabic benefit from this type of book?
From my experience in teaching Arabic as a foreign language, learning the colloquial idiomatic expressions is one of the main challenges that non-native speakers in Arabic face. Essentially students’ main objective is to speak and function in Arabic like native speakers. It therefore becomes necessary that they learn such expressions even though they may initially misinterpret or misuse them.
Trevor Naylor is the author of Living Normally: Where Life Comes Before Style. He lives normally in Cairo.
Why would you as a foreigner living in the Middle East be interested in such a book?
To be able to speak such colloquial phrases is a great way to get closer to people, and it’s a real reflection of how today’s Egyptians act and look.
Do you think that most Arabic-speaking readers know all these expressions, sayings, and proverbs?
All countries will have their equivalents, as different areas of the USA might or parts of the UK as well, but the point of the phrases is usually common enough, just expressed differently.
Marian Sarofim has been teaching English at the AUC since 1972, and is the recipient of the AUC’s 2012 Teaching Excellence Award.
Are most of these expressions specifically characteristic to Egyptian culture?
The answer is yes. The reason is that idiomatic expressions are linguistic features. Culture and language are always reflected in each other, and this has been stressed in research done on language and culture.
How much do such idiomatic expressions change over time?
Although any language is subject to change, I would say that these idiomatic expressions have been heard and used among Egyptians, in the past and nowadays.
Doriana MacMullen is a Bulgarian photographer who lives and works in Cairo. Her love of the Egypt and its people is reflected here in what has been her most exciting photography challenge yet.
How difficult was it to reflect through a photograph any one of the given expressions, sayings, and idioms in the book?
After having lived in Cairo for five years now, working on this book actually made me better understand the Egyptian culture and also gave the chance to meet many more people, in whom I could ‘read’ many of these expressions. Also as a non-native English speaker, learning these idioms in English as well was great.
What did it feel like to photograph in an environment that is on one hand very friendly and welcoming but at the same time suspicious of camera lenses?
I always believe Egyptian people are extremely friendly and probably that affects my approach when I photograph. I try to capture more natural shots, rather than staged ones. Being a woman behind the lens might have helped as well.
Do you feel that Egypt's cultural heritage has any influence--consciously or unconsciously--on the way you photograph its people?
I always try to concentrate on the person and what they can give to the photograph. Essentially I believe we all carry our culture and heritage within us, no matter how far we traveled to build a new life. I would say that even if I did it would have been unconsciously or it would have been what they would try to express.
Author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City out of Control (AUC Press, 2010) and more recently Egypt’s Desert Dreams: Development or Disaster (AUC Press, 2015), David Sims is an economist and urban planner who has been based in Egypt since 1974. As well as having worked in several Arab, Asian, and African countries, he has led studies on urban development, industrial estates, tourism, and other aspects of Egypt’s economic geography and spatial development.
In this interview, Sims sheds light on the ills plaguing the country’s desert development and the effects of land distribution mismanagement on the country’s economy, unemployment, agriculture, water resources, and housing.
Why did you decide to focus entirely on desert development in your latest book?
This Desert Dreams idea goes back to 2004. I am not a desert person. However, having lived in Egypt for so long it is impossible to avoid the desert. Over the years, it grew evident that the desert was becoming a receptacle for dreams. This book is an inquiry into why this is going on, why there is so much hype about desert development and so few result, and why lessons are never learned!
The desert allows the government and a whole raft of cheerleaders to concentrate on the desert and ignore the reality of existing urban pressures. Land reclamation and desert development are all part of the manufacture of hope. Dulling the people’s frustration with big government pronouncements has been going on for many years, in phases. It has been around since Nasser with the New Valley, with Sadat with the new towns program, with Mubarak, and now under the present government. They all talk about opportunities for youth. The record of the smallholder reclamation graduate program in the desert has not been a very good one. It’s costly, badly run, and has had no effect on getting people out there.
|Safaga‒Kharga Railway, abandoned line at Kilometer 85 from Safaga, April 2014 (photography by David Sims)|
One of the things that initially got me really interested in Egypt’s desert expansion is the famous railway line from Safaga to Qena to Kharga, to the Abu Tartour mines. I knew about this way back in the seventies. They said that it was going to change Egypt because of the phosphate deposits in Abu Tartour. It took forever to build the line and long before it was even partly finished the world price of phosphate had dropped so the whole thing no longer made sense. But the momentum of a national project is very hard to stop….
Then in 1989, I remember driving to Luxor just after a huge rainstorm and the floods that had knocked half the same railway off completely. Cars were up in the air, rails sticking out. This happened just after the then president Hosni Mubarak had inaugurated―with a red ribbon ceremony―the section of the line from Safaga to Qena. What amazed me was that when I watched the news and read the local newspapers, there was not a word about the damage. The fact that the railway had been washed away was considered non-news. It was embarrassing to the president….. They then rebuilt it, at great cost.
Then there was this story that came out in the local press about the ghost train that is sitting out in the middle of the desert, south of Kharga. It can’t be new because there are no more tracks. It was part of an old railway line. There was a last attempt to somehow make something out of this big investment and turn what was left into a tourist attraction. The ministry of tourism actually laid on a promotional trip from Safaga all the way to Kharga, down to Baris. The whole press corps was invited, free of charge. I know people who went. All the journalists got on in Safaga, rode the train to Qena, were whisked on buses down to Luxor, spent the night in a nice hotel, were back the next day, got on the train again, went on to Kharga and then were put up again in a nice hotel. They were supposed to all write about it.…. The train is still sitting there and when the 2011 Egyptian Revolution broke out, the rails got stolen. The government sees the train cars as part of Egypt’s national treasure and is debating how to get them back. The army was going to put each car on one of these big trailers and return them to Cairo. I am sure that by now the economic life of the things is gone.
How is desert land currently being used and who is buying it?
Most reclamation, and now more than ever, involves only Gulf investors and they are doing corporate farming which means large scale, capital intensive, desert reclamation, mostly central pivot, some drip, and usually for orchards or for farming. The number of jobs generated by that is close to zero. Has anybody ever pointed out that this contradicts the idea of creating jobs?
|Wall-to-wall tourist village development, South Hurghada (satellite image dated December 2011, © 2014 Digital Globe, © 2014 Google, © 2014 ORION-ME)|
And even if you do create jobs, look at the mode for working in the desert, whether in Toshka or on the Red Sea. In all those tourist villages, the employees are overwhelmingly on bachelor rotation. They stay there for two weeks and then sent home for a week. They never bring their families. They do not settle with them in the desert. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t afford it. And anyway who wants to lose the social connections, call it the social glue, that they enjoy back in their home. So even if you succeed in generating employment it will be composed largely of a transitory bachelor labor force.
Tourism has probably been the desert’s most successful economic sector, mainly because it is on the sea. Those workers are saving money. They work like dogs though, 12 hours on and 12 hours off, without holidays, and then they get the week off. And all the money they earn goes home. They might spend only some of it on tea and shisha.
Is it a contradiction to develop these huge Gulf-funded agricultural projects in the desert when the small Egyptian farmer is known to be one of the most productive in the world?
If you could actually move the farmer and his social context in time you would never solve the population problem but you could develop some serious agriculture that would be productive, Egyptian-owned, and which would generate a lot of income. That is why in my book I mention wad’ alyadd, a kind of land reclamation which involves informal smallholding projects operated by peasants living on the desert fringes. Nobody knows exactly the amount of land under wad’ alyadd cultivation. There have been pronouncements by the government. A couple years ago they said: “there are a million feddans of wad’ alyadd…. (a feddan is about 4,200 square meters) We have to do something about it…” In my book most of the photographs of really intensive, nice desert reclamation is the result of people doing the cultivation themselves.
How has Egypt’s development evolved since you wrote Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control three years ago?
We don’t have the figures but the Egyptian government and economic planners think that the real estate sector (housing and other property investments) is the generator of the economy. In Egypt the construction sector is 5% of GDP. They think that this will lead Egypt out of its economic stagnation. What you see out there is mostly corporate, mostly Egyptian but even more Arab capital, and very little Western capital…
|Entrance to New Qena City, April 2014 (photography by David Sims)|
Take for example the gated communities around Cairo. It would be interesting to know just how successful they are but there are no reliable figures. What is really going on out there, how full are they? Everybody in the game wants to pump them up because they think that they will sell more of their own units but also generate a climate of optimism, whether it’s Coldwell Banker or some of the investment conglomerates. Then you have the actual investors and the government saying the units in these gated communities are selling like hotcakes but we don’t know. For example, right now, they claim that there is a complete undersupply of office space in Greater Cairo. But just look at the two Bank Al Ahli Towers…. One has never been used. Now almost all new projects in New Cairo include office space. Most of that development is for office space, some high-end housing, and lots of shops. But we have no idea what the occupancy rates are. None of those developers are ever going to tell you.
Does building more shopping malls help unemployment? All that it does is take employment somewhere else. Look at the history of America, it’s the Walmart phenomenon. They think that this way Egypt is getting globalized. Most of these malls are filled with stores that sell products and services that the majority of Egyptians cannot afford.
Would you say that the allocation of land is more out of control now than it was before the 2011 revolution?
In a way it is not out of control, except for the rather common evidence of malfeasance, especially up to and after the 2011 Revolution, of land assignments, like sweetheart deals among friends. Most of the allocation of land in the desert is under the General Authority for Reclamation Projects and Agricultural Development (GARPAD). This is the authority that is allocated big chunks of land by ministerial and presidential decree and it then has almost carte blanche to distribute that land as it seems fit. GARPAD got burnt when it became evident that there had been a law since 1998 which says to sell all land by auction, except for social purposes, so as to avoid sweetheart deals. This was not happening.
Also some of the land they are assigned in the desert could not, even under the wildest imagination, ever be used for agriculture. Some of it is at an altitude of 300 meters. There is no ground water and the land is rock. Even if in a hundred years, with new technology, it could be exploited, the last thing you would want to do is assign it to somebody who will probably then just sit on the land for a while, plant a couple trees around the edges, and wait until he can sell off bits, at big profits, for rest cafés or villas as on the Ismailiya Road.
|Informal sprawl into the desert, south of Dandara, Qena Governorate, April 204 (photography by David Sims)|
How did you go about gathering reliable facts and figures for this book when it is so difficult to obtain official data from the government, developers, and investors?
As you can see from the book’s endnotes, much of it is based on what I read in the newspapers. A lot of these articles express wishful thinking or a desire to show that things are going to happen. But I also used some World Bank reports. In 2005‒2006, one of the best efforts that I saw was a Dutch-financed report, published with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.
Can one be optimistic about the future desert development of Egypt?
I put “A Way Forward” as the last chapter in the book simply because I have been criticized for being too pessimistic. If there were political will, things could be done tomorrow to improve the situation, through the setting up of a system to control the preservation of state land for future generations because it is obvious they don’t know what to do with it. All the good land has already disappeared, either formally or informally. The Alexandria Desert Road is a perfect example. After all these years, the first case came out in 2007 and eight years later as far as I know, they haven’t actually gotten back a single one of the famous 36 projects on what was supposed to be land reclamation obtained at between LE50 and LE100 a feddan and that they are selling at about LE1000 a square meter. This is it! It is all about the potential to make outrageous profits on this land, especially if it is well located. Most of the recommendations that I carefully point out in the last chapter come from a 2006 report by the World Bank in which they talk about how to improve the investment climate. The state has to take control of the land and not just hand it out.
Another central topic in your book are the megaprojects. You argue that they in fact benefit only a very small minority of Egyptians and that the idea that they create jobs and help develop housing and industry is mostly hype. Could they be successful however and instead benefit the collective livelihood?
The big ones that are going to be done on a corporate basis are unlikely to be successful. Because of their remoteness they just can’t generate as much employment as they want to and they certainly can’t draw people out there. They had this program to try and match job opportunities with unemployed youth so they sent out a team to Toshka and found out that there was a need for four employees, all of whom would have to be highly qualified and skilled, who could drive these big combine harvesters equipped with very sophisticated electronic gear. Of course these people would have to come from Europe…. In other words, the more capital intensive you get the less you need to hire, and if you do need somebody you probably won’t find them in the pool of Egyptian graduates.
|Successful wad’ al-yadd fields, Western Desert, Minya Governorate (photography by David Sims)|
There are opportunities in the desert but most of the best ones have already gone. Reclamation and settlement do work on the edge of the desert, as for example in Fayoum. One project that USAID evaluated as having the highest productivity of any land reclamation project was in Manayif which is in Ismailiya, only about five kilometers from the existing agriculture. One of the advantages of this successful project is that people working there can actually go home at the end of the day. Now that everybody has got motorcycles there is a certain degree of mobility.
Under the Mubarak Project for Youth Graduates, launched in 1987, land was being divided into five-feddan lots and given out to graduates. Are these the kind of people you want to be out there farming, people who have university degrees? Most of those people have sold out to others or even worse, they maintain the title to the land and sublet.
Probably the biggest megaproject, at least on paper, is East ‘Uwaynat. It is way out there in the desert. They say that it is supposed to cover 200,000 feddans but actually 100,000 only are under agriculture now. I know they are producing but I don’t think the idea is out there to air-freight fruits and vegetables to the European markets.
A good percentage of farms are owned by the army and are producing bersim that is put on trucks, then gets transported through Kharga all the way to Alexandria or Safaga to go feed camels and sheep in Saudi Arabia. Now has anybody done the math? How much does Egypt benefit from that? These are Gulf investors and they employ only one employee per 100 feddans, about 1000 employees at most, and that includes drivers and tea boys.
East ‘Uwaynat generates less employment than a supermarket. What does Egypt get out of it? Maybe some more employment for the truck drivers. There is a tax on exports so the Egyptian government gets something like LE200 a ton. What else does Egypt get? Nothing!
In 2012, 20% of Egypt’s energy was subsidized by the state. How does this affect these ambitious desert development projects?
This is a big issue. The government is very worried about the reaction of the people if it raises the price of energy. But what I am really concerned about is that as the state becomes more and more beholden to the Gulf countries and their investors, Egypt is going to sell its last remaining assets. These Gulf investors don’t do it out of the kindness of their heart.
Has the desert gotten greener?
|Central pivot irrigation for the cultivation of alfalfa (bersim), Toshka (photography by Khalil Nasrallah, December 2013)|
If you follow the current official pronouncements about the megaprojects, they say that they will be using ground water. So now the state is drilling wells right out there to pump up water in areas where the ground water is not always very clearly marked on the map. There have been maps, tests, surveys, PhD theses for years about potential ground water source in Egypt. Don’t you think they would have come across this famous untapped resource by now? One of the ‘hot’ areas is west of Wadi Natrun. The ground water there is pretty salty and it is getting saltier.
They are also talking about making the desert green using desalinated sea water. And they will use solar energy to do it! In Egypt desalination costs LE4 per cubic meter of water and this means using pumps, electricity, bearing in mind that the Red Sea water is the saltiest in the world. Currently all the big resorts in Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh are using reverse osmosis desalination units, which makes economic sense. Say you charge $20 a day and a room at best will consume one cubic meter a day which is equivalent to a dollar. So that is the model for all tourist development.
The country faces numerous development problems. If you could, what would you change first in order to alleviate some of the burden?
My advice would be to stop all land allocations and do nothing but get back what land you can. Most of that land in subject to contractual terms that stipulates that if you don’t do such and such by that time it is sufficient to break the contract and return the land to the government. I would hire an army of lawyers! Often the land is just sitting there and they aren’t doing anything with it.
The authorities should also go into the existing projects and see where you might make failed ones work. Half of North Sinai has been allocated to investors who never did anything with the land. God only knows where that went. But now that’s all a security issue. You will never find out about that. That is why they are concentrating on the Western Desert.
How does one tackle the deep-rooted perpetuating mismanagement of Egypt’s land allocation?
The problem lies in vested interests and archaic institutions, whose only talent is to protect themselves and their turf and ensure that no blame falls on them. It is amazing how fear predominates in Egyptian bureaucracies. You can’t be fired yet it is very very rare that someone stands up and says something! If Egypt’s president could learn something this is the period to do it but he’s got this circle of yes-men. Look at the media. It is just falling all over itself to praise the government. So unless there is some change in this area I don’t see how things will get better in terms of desert reclamation. But some things could definitely be done! You could rationalize some of the informal development so that it would work better, and look at satellite images to try to understand why certain existing projects are not working.
You could form special committees, perhaps under the ministry of finance to look into these failed projects. The maximum salary allowed now for any government employee is about LE2000 a month. For that you could get some pretty bright guys. It is always the friend of the minister who comes in with his laptop and does nothing―another yes-man. But instead you could form these committees that could go out there very quickly and evaluate the problems. But no doubt you would be fought tooth and nail by these archaic bureaucratic byzantine structures.
There was a time, up until 2005‒2007, when they were saying “We are going to slowly, through attrition, let the public sector shrink. No new hiring, early retirement…. It will takes decades but this is a burden on the state budget.” Because of the structure that is there it makes it almost impossible for those institutions that should be doing something to actually do anything. There are some public employees that actually work hard and most of them are motivated by the little bribes.
|Smallholder reclamation (in foreground) and new public housing (in background), Kharga Oasis, near Kharga City (photography by Nicholas Warner, 2012)|
So what kind of urban development does Cairo need?
It needs a little restructuring and for that a solution that would not be politically popular, politically in the sense of those who have vested interests. There is still quite a bit of land around the capital both inside and on the near desert. There is public, security, and army land that could be used to make logical extensions to the city. There was land beside Manshiyat Nasir that is now part of Uptown Cairo. Why would that land have been sold at LE100 per square meter to a business man from Dubai? Because he had connections with the army, which was just sitting on the land. In the end, he made LE165,000,000 out of this deal and now we have Uptown Cairo. The cheapest unit there is LE4,000,000. The actual plan is to build 10,000 units. That number will, at best, even with maids, house maybe 50,000 people. Right next door you have Manshiyat Nasir with a population of 650,000 people. But did anyone say “Why don’t you use some of that new land for the rotten services or for decamping some of that mess in Manshiyat Nasir? There was not a word from human rights types, the intelligentsia, or anybody else.
The new towns are largely a failure. Only New Cairo and Sixth of October have succeeded in attracting enough real estate development of the kind that Egypt needs like a hole in the head. They are used to generate false dreams, hope, fill up the front page of the newspapers, and are all Gulf investors.
Who can afford an LE4,000,000 housing unit?
These are investments. This is not just an Egyptian problem, this is happening all over now. It is because property is the most lucrative way to invest family or corporate capital. They build a villa for the son or rent it to some desperate expatriate who wants a nice place. That is what is happening in Katameya Heights. For every place that is rented out at $5000 a month, the hope value of all the other units increases. This is very hard to stop. If all that stuff you see along the road on the way to the American University in Cairo in New Cairo ever became inhabited there would not be any water left so it is probably just as well that it is empty.
But an economist should study the effect of these real estate investments on the economy. All this money is being put in concrete. Now it might have a value on the market sometime in the future but if that money were deposited in a bank, the bank would lend it to somebody, and that would generate more business. Right now the money is not circulating. So what is it contributing to the economy? And how much of that money is being sucked out and causing even more damage the general economy?
To mark World Wildlife Day on March 3, the AUC Press is offering 30% off of its wildlife publications in all the AUC Bookstores from 1-5 March.
Click here for all the titles.
Cairo, 15 January 2015
The American University in Cairo Press announced today that nominations and submissions for the 2015 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature are welcomed at any time until 15 February 2015.
Arabic novels published for the first time in 2013 or 2014, and not yet translated into English, are eligible. Authors and publishers are encouraged to submit novels for this year’s award by delivering six copies of their book, along with the author’s CV, to the offices of the AUC Press on the Tahrir Square Campus of the AUC.
For full details, click here. For more about the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, click here.
The winner of the 2014 Mahfouz Medal was the Sudanese writer Hammour Ziada, for his novel Shawq al-darwish (The Longing of the Dervish). The award consists of a silver medal, a cash prize, and translation and publication of the winning novel in English worldwide.
Contact: Basma El Manialawi (02) 2615-3973
Farid Kioumgi is a specialist on literature and travel to the Middle East, including historical documents, lithographs, and nineteenth-century photographs.
He is the co-author with Robert Graham of A Photographer on the Hajj: The Travels of Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa‘udi (1904/1908) (AUC Press, 2009).
He holds a BA in architecture from the School of Fine Arts in Cairo, an urban and regional planning degree from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and an MSc from the London School of Economics.
An avid antiquarian bookseller, Kioumgi was formerly director of Al Saqi Books, the first Arabic bookshop in London, later of Kamiliya Books, and then of Egyptophiliabooks, both also in London. He currently resides in Spain and is working on a new book.
His Egyptian Levantine family has long been involved in the Muslim-Christian dialogue, with Louis Massignon, a Catholic scholar of Islam and a pioneer of Catholic-Muslim mutual understanding, through the institution “Al Badaliya” located in the Egyptian capital.
In this interview he tells of his passion for travel literature about the Middle East and what inspired him to do the book A Photographer on the Hajj.
A selection of photographs from Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt’s Wilderness (AUC Press, 2014) by Omar Attum is being exhibited in the Future Gallery, (across from Ewart Hall) on the AUC Tahrir Square Campus. The hours are from 9:00am-4:00pm daily (except Friday). The exhibition ends February 12.
To read more about Omar Attum, click here.
For more about Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt’s Wilderness, click here.
Click here to browse the complete list of e-books.
The American University in Cairo Press announced today the award of the 2014 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the Sudanese writer Hammour Ziada for his novel Shawq al-darwish (The Longing of the Dervish).
“It is a great honor for me to win the Mahfouz Medal because I am the first Sudanese to get it,” said Ziada upon receiving the award. (Watch the video).
In their citation, the judges of the Award Committee described The Longing of the Dervish as “an intricate love story of a Sudanese slave in the world of the Mahdist movement in nineteenth-century Sudan.” This year’s committee members comprised Tahia Abdel Nasser, Shereen Abouelnaga, Mona Tolba, Humphrey Davies, and Rasheed El-Enany.
They praised not only the author’s “wide-ranging palette of characters and events” but also the range and dexterity of Ziada’s writing: “Shawq al-darwish is characterized by an epic richness that courses through the narrative, not only on the level of the complexity of the character of the tragic hero, but also on the level of the multiplicity of the modes of discourse: marvelously and richly alternating between narrative, poetry, songs, folklore, historical documents, Sufi and church hymns, Quranic and Biblical verses, and even writing about writing. . . .”
The AUC Press notes with sadness the passing of Mrs. Atiya Mahfouz, the wife of the late Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel literature laureate, whom she married in 1954, and wishes to extend its sincere condolences to her two daughters Fatma and Umm Kulthoum.
(In photo from left to right: Fatma, Umm Kulthoum, and Mrs. Atiya Mahfouz, at the AUC Press centennial celebration of Naguib Mahfouz's birth in 2011).
Nael Eltoukhy is a 36-year-old Egyptian author from Alexandria, with a wicked sense of humor, an unlimited passion for the Egyptian singer Um Kalsoum, Woody Allen films, Franz Kafka novels, and provocative Israeli authors.
“The most interesting writers for me are the funny ones,” said Eltoukhy in a past interview, who first dabbled with storytelling at the age of six. Today he is the author of four novels and a collection of short stories.
Born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents, Nael Eltoukhy is also a journalist, blogger, and a translator of Hebrew literature.
This AUC Press YouTube video presents segments of last month’s author reading and book signing with Eltoukhy, an event held at Cairo's Diwan Bookstore for the recent release of the English translation of Women of Karantina (AUC Press, 2014).
The American University in Cairo Press notes with sadness the passing of Egyptian writer, scholar, translator, and activist Radwa Ashour after a long illness.
Widely admired by both readers and fellow writers, Ashour was the author of eight novels, an autobiographical work, two collections of short stories, and five works of literary criticism. The AUC Press published three of her novels: Granada, part one of her best-known work The Granada Trilogy, translated by William Granara (2008); Specters, translated by Barbara Romaine (2010); and most recently The Woman from Tantoura, translated by Kay Heikkinen (2014); as well as a major encyclopedic work co-edited by Ashour, Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide: 1873-1999 (2004).
“Some books have a way of enchanting, attracting, and drawing you to leave your world and start a life among its pages. The Woman from Tantoura, the latest masterpiece from Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour, is exactly that kind of book," wrote Diwan al-Arab in a review of Ashour's novel of Palestine.
The AUC Press has lost a great writer and a great friend and extends its sincere condolences to Radwa's husband Mourid Barghouti and son Tamim Barghouti.
The AUC Press Tahrir Campus Bookstore continues to offer a complete selection of AUC Press publications, as well as a wide range of English-language books. Recently it has expanded its book categories in order to better serve the different needs and age groups of its readers and the Cairo community.
|A children’s books corner has been added in the bookstore, currently featuring Christmas titles in time for the holiday season.||
Meanwhile more titles are regularly added to the already existing young adults's fiction section.
Pakistani-born Egyptologist and archaeologist, author, and professor Salima Ikram is considered one of today’s leading experts on animal mummies, and is the founder and co-director of the Animal Mummy Project at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
In this recent video interview for the AUC Press YouTube channel, the Cairo-based specialist describes how she first came under the spell of the ancient Egyptians, tells of her work on more than a dozen ongoing projects, and reflects on the use of advanced technologies in the field of Egyptology.
The forty-nine year-old scholar studied Egyptology and archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, in Pennsylvania, earning an A.B. in classical and Near Eastern archaeology and history. She continued her studies at the University of Cambridge, earning her MPhil and PhD in Egyptology and museum studies. While working for her PhD she also trained in fauna analysis.
|Arita Baaijens speaking during the WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Award Gala|
AUC Press author and explorer Arita Baaijens received her Humanity Award at the WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Award Gala 2014 held in New York on October 16.
It is one of five awards given each year by WINGS WorldQuest to women who have made extraordinary discoveries in the farthest reaches of the world.
Arita Baaijens is the author of several books, including Desert Songs: A Woman Explorer in Egypt and Sudan (AUC Press 2008).
In their official announcement of the award, WINGS WorldQuest noted: “Dutch Explorer, biologist, author, photographer author of the award winning Desert Songs, Arita has made over 25 solo desert journeys on camel throughout Egypt and The Sudan. She is the first woman to travel the Forty Days Road in the Sudan twice and the first woman to cross the Libyan Desert solo. She photographed the last surviving female caravaneers in Mauritania. Most recently she has been working in Siberia and Central Eurasia focusing on the way mind and landscape influence one another. In 2013 she completed the first circumnavigation on horseback of the Altai Golden Mountains through four countries, crossing 1506 kilometers during 101 days of investigating sacred geography.”
To read more about her WINGS WorldQuest award, click here.
|With Umma Thurman (left), Master of Ceremonies, at the Award Gala||
|WINGS WorldQuest 2014 Awardees with MC Uma Thurman (Photo: Sherry Sutton)|
Natural history artist, writer, and art director Dominique Navarro was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction (2014) for the TV series ‘Big History’ at last month’s 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards in New York City.
“Winning an Emmy, especially a News & Documentary Emmy, is an immense honor,” said Navarro.” It is always a challenge for a creative person like myself to find projects that are inspiring, intelligent, and admirable. 'Big History' is such a project. I am really grateful to work with such a talented, dedicated team of people.”
The recent Emmy winner is the author and illustrator of the AUC Press Nature Foldout series for Egypt; Ancient Egypt’s Wildlife, with Salima Ikram (2013), Birds of the Nile Valley, with John Wyatt (2013), Cats of Egypt, with Richard Hoath (2014), Egypt’s Flora and Fauna, with Richard Hoath (2013), Egypt’s Prehistoric Fauna, with Matthew Lamanna (2013), and finally Wildlife of the Holy Land, with Sherif Baha El Din (2014).
“The AUC Press Nature Foldouts have been my passion for the last few years, allowing me the opportunity to work with naturalist and other scientists on a project that hopes to inspire a positive appreciation toward the environment and Egypt's natural heritage for generations to come,” said Navarro.
The AUC Press 2015 calendar Cats, Crocodiles, and Camels is also now available.
The full-color illustrations representing scenes of Egypt's ancient and modern wildlife are by Dominique Navarro.
‘Big History,’ an H2 History Channel series produced by Flight 33 Productions, chooses familiar subjects—such as salt, horses, gold, ice, gravity, coffee, or weapons—and looks at their influence on civilization and technology throughout the history of humankind.
“I am so proud to have worked on ‘Big History’,” said Navarro. “The collaborative teamwork, commitment to intelligent, educational storytelling, and inspiring creativity from all involved on this series makes it a unique project to be a part of.”
Navarro has worked for over a decade as an art director in the documentary and film industry for programs featured on the History Channel, Discovery and National Geographic.
As a trained forensic artist, Navarro also collaborates with law enforcement to create composite sketches from witness and victim descriptions. Her expertise has led to her work in Egypt at the excavation of a 25th Dynasty tomb where she created facial reconstructions from mummies as well as tomb diagrams and epigraphic studies.
In the past decade, award-winning, Cairo-based translator Humphrey Davies has rendered fifteen AUC Press titles from Arabic into English. He translates both classical and colloquial Arabic texts and the topics can range from a jihadist's autobiography and the cultural legacy of Turks in Egypt, to an eclectic variety of Arabic literature, including works by internationally-acclaimed writers such as Naguib Mahfouz and Alaa Al Aswany.
Today Humphrey Davies is widely regarded as one of the best translators from Arabic into English, having already received a number of literary prizes.
In this recent interview, the British translator talks about his passion for his craft, and the challenges behind it.
He won the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation twice: for his English rendering of Elias Khoury’s 'Gate of the Sun' in 2006, and again in 2010, for his translation of the same writer's novel 'Yalo.' He was also the runner up for the award for his translation of 'Sunset Oasis' by Bahaa Taher the same year. More recently, in 2012, he was the Banipal Prize runner up for his translation of Mourid Barghouti's 'I Was Born There, I Was Born Here' (AUC Press, 2011)
Humphrey Davies studied Arabic at Cambridge University and the American University in Cairo's Center for Arabic Studies Abroad. He completed his PhD in Arabic at the University of California, Berkeley in 1981
Browse all the AUC Press books translated by Humphrey Davies.
|Click here to read more about Naguib Mahfouz.||Click here to read more about the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature|
Bahaa Abdelmegid is a lecturer in English at Ain Shams University and is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, including Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers (AUC Press, 2010). His new novel Temple Bar, translated by award-winning Jonathan Wright, has just been published by the AUC Press. The forty-two-year-old Egyptian is currently working on a new novel, Red Velvet, set in Egypt in the 1930s.
In this interview, Abdelmegid shares his thoughts about Temple Bar in which his main protagonist Moataz faces marginalization, cultural misunderstandings, racism, and personal moral tribulations during his year as a PhD student at Trinity College in the Irish capital.
AUC Press: What do you think makes a good writer?
B.A.: I think being honest and hard working and having very deep knowledge of people and life. And to always learn and read and experiment and above all to suffer and then write. If you look at great writers you will see that their life is not easy, that they have many ups and downs but the good thing is they are lucky to transform these experiences into art.
One of your characters says to the protagonist Moataz, an aspiring writer: “Writers are always sensitive and suffer more than others.” Do you personally believe that?
Yes, because they are burdened by the weight of their own message and they want to enlighten their own society and they can see things that others cannot. I was quoting William Wordsworth in his definition of the meaning of the poet from the preface to his collection of poems Lyrical Ballads. I see Moataz, the hero of Temple Bar, as a romantic figure, very melancholic, kind, superstitious, and revolutionary but at the same time very static. I believe that sensitivity is an important aspect of any human being because it makes him or her respond quickly to any action in life, good or bad.
I remember I was reading The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe at that time and I was highly affected by his romantic tone and attitude to life. Temple Bar is a tragedy that portrays the failure of Moataz and his will to survive regardless of all suffering and pain.
To what extent is Temple Bar autobiographical?
It is a difficult question because I tried to mix between what is personal and what is imagined. For example I went to Dublin to study for my PhD at Trinity College and I studied Seamus Heaney. Some characters are fictitious but some of them were inspired by my experience there and their lives actually ended the way I describe in the book. It portrays stages of my life. You can call it a bildungsroman, like James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, where it reflects my physical and spiritual growth and mental dilemmas. The Dublin I describe in the novel is real and true and the Irish people and Egyptian characters are true but coloured by my own imagination.
If Moataz was your friend how would you describe him? Would you say he is conservative and chauvinistic?
Moataz is a human being who has principles but is confused. He is strong and full of pride―of himself and where he comes from. He also likes to show off his knowledge. His experience in Dublin has taught him how to love his country even more. He feels that he needs to defend himself and his origins. He respects his religious background on one hand but at the same time struggles with his desires that he hesitates to fulfil. He also wants to prove that he is from the East, especially Egypt, with its great civilization.
Has the fact that this novel takes place in a foreign country, Ireland, affected your style of writing?
To some extent, there were many attempts and temptations to write this novel in English when I was in Ireland. In fact I wrote some chapters directly in English but when I came back to Cairo I started to write it again in Arabic. I think that the way one looks at things especially in a foreign country does have an effect on your style as you tend to imitate the style of the language of that country.
The issue of racism towards Arabs and Moataz’s moral struggle with resisting Irish women are two reccurring themes. Would you say that Temple Bar is actually about tolerance and temptation?
It is true but it is also about choices, either to choose to mix or resist and isolate himself. Moataz does not have a clear idea about what he wants. He has desires but also religious and moral commitments to a woman he loves in Cairo. The greatness of Moataz is that he admits and confesses his desires and his urgent need to satisfy them. Meanwhile there is something vague and superstitious forbidding him from doing everything that tempts him.
We do need tolerance in this world, including in Egypt and Ireland. The Irish suffered a lot in their history, especially when the English nobility annexed their land in the 19th century. Today the Irish face the challenges of having joined the European Union because it brings in many foreigners into Ireland. The Irish have a complex toward the English and it translates into fear and rejection of foreigners. This is Moataz’s experience. The only person who is really sympathetic to him is Simone, who believes in peace but gets killed in the Omagh 1998 bombing. She believes that music can heal racism and sectarian violence in the world.
Why is Moataz so fascinated with the character of Leopold Bloom of James Joyce’s Ulysses?
The novel takes place in Ireland and Joyce is Moataz’s favourite writer. I think Moataz identifies himself with the myth of the lost Jew embodied in Leopold Bloom who searches for a home and acceptance. But also Bloom is in love with Molly who is not faithful to him, just like Moataz who is in love with Siham who married, ignoring his love, leaving him to suffer. Moataz also roams Dublin like Bloom, searching for experience and the meaning of life. I try to discuss the Jewish dilemma of seeking a home in the same way I did with the character of Luke in my novella Saint Theresa.
Do you anticipate that because of the cultural differences, some Western readers may relate differently than an Egyptian reader to Moataz’s tribulations? For example, to the way Moataz was overly spoiled by his mother or how he expects people to help and share the way they do in Egypt?
I think we have common ethical codes. The Western readers will sympathize with Moataz because he is sensitive and they realize the rationale behind his reactions. What Moataz is looking for is companionship and sympathy.
Moataz was not spoiled by his mother. She treated him differently because she realizes he is not an ordinary child and man, and she wants him to be successful. She is not always kind to him and even gets aggressive with him during his depressions. But at the same time, she wants to protect him from other people who will accuse him of madness.
How does the experience in Dublin change Moataz, if at all?
It changed him on many levels―physical, psychological , and spiritual. At the same time it brought out all his fears and madness.
Over the summer the AUC Press Bookstore and Campus Shop on the New Cairo Campus underwent some changes. Here is what the AUC community can look forward to as the new semester on campus begins.
The AUC Press University Bookstore
The Bookstore, previously located in the Campus Center beside the Food Court, has now moved into the former space of the Campus Shop in Bartlett Plaza, and has been renamed the AUC Press University Bookstore.
“We want it to be the center of serious book buying,” explains Trevor Naylor, AUC Press associate director, sales & marketing. “With this relocation, we are placing the University’s Press as close as possible to the center of the campus activity.”
The new University Bookstore offers the complete stock of AUC Press publications as well as similar books in the same categories from other major publishers. In addition, for the first time, it features Arabic books, fiction as well as nonfiction, breaking with past policy of carrying only English-language publications. Finally, the Bookstore carries all the Arabic Language Learning publications.
“The AUC Press University Bookstore is now our flagship store,” says Naylor. “It is here where we will host book launches and author receptions, and offer special promotions.”
The AUC Campus Shop
In parallel, the AUC Campus Shop, previously situated in Bartlett Plaza beside the Textbook Store, is now situated in the Bookstore’s old location. The new venue sells gifts, gift books, gadgets, stationery, and student supplies.
This forty-three year old Egyptian wears more than one hat: she is an author, professor, former presidential candidate, and outspoken activist who lived in Tahrir during the 2011 Revolution.
“They continued to kick my back and sides while showering me with insults for no reason other than sheer rage and deliberate humiliation,” writes Prince in her new book Revolution Is My Name: An Egyptian Woman's Diary from Eighteen Days in Tahrir, translated into English by Samia Mehrez and published this month by the AUC Press.
In this recent video, Mona Prince gives the keynote address at AUC’s annual Magda Al-Nowaihi Graduate Award in Gender Studies ceremony, a prize given for the university’s best gender-studies-related thesis.
During her address entitled "Women and Revolution," Prince reads passages from Revolution Is My Name, recounts some of her vivid encounters in Tahrir during the 2011 Egyptian uprising, and stresses the role that Egyptian women played in Egypt's Arab Spring. "Usually it is the men standing in the front row facing the police but now it was the young girls from lower-middle classes leading," explains Prince. "Revolution in Arabic is sawra which is feminine so it was no surprise to me that from the beginning women were in the front row, from day one, from the first hour. They participated and they were not afraid."
Mona Prince earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from Cairo’s Ain Shams University. She served as a lecturer in English literature at Suez Canal University and as a language instructor at Cairo University.
In 1995, Prince traveled to the TESOL Institute at St. Michael College in Vermont, courtesy of a Fulbright scholarship.
Currently she is a visiting professor at Claremont McKenna College in California where she teaches a course entitled “Protest Modern Arabic Lit.”
Her novel So You May See, translated and published by AUC Press in 2011, depicts the daring determination of Ayn, a strong female character who fights to live her life freely amidst conservative Egyptian society, seeking passion and unconventional romance.
Her other work includes two selections of short stories, Shortsightedness and The Last Piece of Clay, and the novel Three Suitcases for Traveling.
To read more about Revolution is My Name and buy the book, click here.
"candygirl," the Egyptian novel by M.M. Tawfik published by the AUC Press in 2012, has been selected for the official launch of the American University in Cairo’s fall semester Common Reading Program. Read more http://www.aucpress.com/t-enewsletter-CommonReadingProgram-June2014.aspx
“The AUC Press is very pleased to be part of this reading program and to support the university in encouraging students to read more and enjoy it,” explained Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones, AUC Press director.
To read more about the book and author, click here.
Omar Attum is a wildlife biologist and professor at Indiana University Southeast who fell in love with Sinai at the age of sixteen. He has been conducting wildlife research and surveys in the Sinai peninsula since 1998.
He is the author of the forthcoming book Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt’s Wilderness (AUC Press, September 2014).
A self-taught photographer, his credits include National Geographic magazine, The Courier Journal, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, Shutterbug, Egypt Today, and The Jordan Times. He is the recipient of a Blue Earth Alliance Photography fellowship.
|Photograph by Alaa el Din|
AUC Press: You refer to “surreal views” when you describe the Sinai. Just how out of the ordinary is this part of Egypt?
OA: There is something special about the views in Sinai, especially in the high mountains around sunset and sunrise. The first rays of light, peaking through the horizon, selectively light up a shrub or tree for just a few seconds, while everything else is dark. Then the mountains relive their magma origins, as the warm sun light paint the mountains lava red and orange colors. You combine this lighting with the grandness of the open desert and you have “surreal views.”
AUC Press: How long did it take you to put together all the images for this book?
OA: This book is a result of multiple expeditions, camping trips, and extended backpacking journeys, during a thirteen-year span. Some of the backpacking trips involved hikes as long as 170 km. I started to seriously photograph Sinai in 2000.
AUC Press: Can you describe some of the challenges you faced during your photo shoots to try and capture the different treasures of Sinai with its endangered species, like the Nubian ibex, a “hyper-muscular goat” that you claim “escaped extinction by retreating to some of the most inhospitable mountains in Egypt”?
OA: The challenges associated with remote camping, backpacking, or spending extended times in the field were part of the adventure and what made photographing Sinai so rewarding.
Photographing or even observing endangered mammals is extremely difficult because they are 1) rare and 2) extremely afraid of humans because of persecution or hunting. Usually, you are lucky if you find signs, such as fecal pellets, tracks, or bones. You really appreciate and understand how ibex can still exist in South Sinai despite high poaching levels, when you try to follow ibex into the difficult and sometimes inhospitable terrain of the Sinai mountains. There were a few times I questioned the wisdom of my actions when walking along the edges of high cliffs.
|Photograph by Alaa el Din|
The storms were beautifully rewarding but could also be challenging because they could be potentially dangerous and destructive to equipment. I was caught in a few storms, where there was nothing I could do but wait for the wind, sand, snow, or rain to pass. I am a wimp when it comes to cold weather, despite winter being my favorite time to photograph.
Just as Sinai’s landscape can be beautiful, it can be challenging. In Zaranik Protected Area, North Sinai, the beautiful and mobile sand of the sand dunes was very destructive to equipment as it penetrated my lenses and cameras. I have had a new camera fail because sand ‘flooded’ my camera after photographing a sand storm. The sand also finds its way into the camera bag and eventually the camera. It is unavoidable.
I hated when fleas infected my clothes and sleeping bags from camping in areas with large number of goats as I am allergic to their bites. There were times I hallucinated about what a shower felt like. One of our guides was bitten by his camel during our last trip and had to go to the hospital. One of our stubborn donkeys refused to follow our guide and almost fell off a cliff to its death, dangling and slipping until it could be rescued.
AUC Press: What species from Sinai's wilderness stuns you the most?
|Photograph by Alaa el Din|
OA: The Egyptian tortoise. It almost seems out of place in a desert―a small herbivore that cannot travel super long distances and is a heat-sensitive species. Yet it did because of adaptations to the desert. It is sad that the Egyptian tortoise could live in the desert for thousands and thousands of years, but is threatened with extinction as a result of humans collecting them for the pet trade and destroying their habitat within the past thirty years.
AUC Press: How aware and how concerned are people in Egypt and abroad of the rare bio-diversity and fragile micro habitats specific to Sinai?
OA: I think there is very little awareness abroad and locally. The Red Sea, Mt. Sinai, or the geopolitics are what most people associate with Sinai. Many people view the desert as just a harsh, barren area with no life, and want to pass through it as quickly as possible to reach Sharm al-Sheikh. They are missing out on so much beauty and life.
While rainforests are well known for the biodiversity and abundance of life, Sinai is unique in that its wildlife can survive and can adapt to environments where rainfall is rare and unpredictable. Also, there are pockets of different microhabitats that are like oases of biodiversity, relicts of species from a wetter, different era.
However, much wildlife and many habitats are threatened with being lost forever in Sinai. We are at a tipping point. This is what concerns me most, that by the time people become aware, it will be too late.
This is why I am also donating 30% of the proceeds from this book to conserve wildlife in Sinai.
|Photograph by Alaa el Din|
AUC Press: Sinai can be a very harsh environment―extreme weather, flash floods, “unforgiving” Sinai mountains, wild animals, etc. Is that what fascinates you most and made you want to do this book?
OA: I am attracted to Sinai for a combination of the environment, wildlife, history, people, and culture. When I am in Sinai, at times I want to be an archaeologist, historian, geologist, anthropologist, botanist, etc., in order to better understand Sinai. Sinai is such a history book full of life lessons. It is obvious how the environment has shaped the culture of people who live there, there are numerous lessons of what happens to society when they overuse their resources and the climate changes, and how wildlife has adapted to survive in Sinai.
The extreme weather, in my opinion, is when Sinai is the most photogenic. Most of the photographs that made the final cut were taken in the winter months when the weather is most unpredictable, when the light quality differs because of clouds and storms. The beginning or end of the storms in Sinai are truly magical, ephemeral moments.
To view photographs from his forthcoming book, click here.
EDWARD MORGAN FORSTER
“The cardinal fact in my life is my writing.”
That was the motto of Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970), the English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist.
“Why do I not write every day? Partly because I feel I ought to write well and know I can't. But that is not a good enough reason for not writing….”
This was a man who reached fame at 31 and wrote to his good friend Virginia Woolf to ask her what books she recommended he read. “He has […] an exquisite prose style, an acute sense of comedy, a power of creating characters in a few strokes which live in an atmosphere of their own,” said Woolf back in 1926 of his novels.
Forster, a King’s College graduate, wrote only six novels yet was considered was one of the most respected literary figures of his age. Among his best known are A Room with a View, A Passage to India, Howard's End, and Maurice.
Themes such as stifling Edwardian social etiquette, class difference, British colonial occupation, and travel would be reccurring sources for plot development in his writing.
“Forster was one of those Englishmen who found freedom, inspiration and relief in places like India and Egypt,” wrote shortlisted Booker Prize novelist Colm Toibin. “He stood for liberty, the individual, the sensuous life” and “had a gift for friendship.”
During the First World War, Forster, a conscientious objector, volunteered for the International Red Cross, and served in Alexandria, Egypt from 1915 to 1919.
His book Alexandria: A History and a Guide was inspired by those years spent in Egypt, and was first published in 1922. The recent AUC Press edition comes with an introduction by Lawrence Durrell, the expatriate British novelist and travel writer, most famous for his Alexandria Quartet, who notes: “[Forster] who was marooned here during the First World War must (one feels it) have been deeply happy, perhaps deeply in love, for his joie de vivre rings out in every affectionate line, and there is hardly an aspect of the city’s many moods and nuances of colour which his meticulous eye and fastidious pen have not captured and fixed for us.”
In another of Forster’s literary endeavors, Aspects of the Novel, a book compiled from a series of lectures he delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1927, in which he discusses the English language novel, he writes in his chapter on “The Plot”: “The intelligent novel-reader, unlike the inquisitive one who just runs his eye over a new fact, mentally picks it up. He sees it from two points of view: isolated, and related to the other facts that he has read on previous pages. Probably he does not understand it, but he does not expect to do so yet awhile.”
And while pointing out that the fundamental part of a novel is its story telling aspect, Forster adds: “We are all like Scheherazade’s husband, in that we want to know what happens next. That is universal and that is why the backbone of a novel has to be a story. Some of us want to know nothing else—there is nothing in us but primeval curiosity, and consequently our other literary judgments are ludicrous.”
The AUC Press is sad to note the passing of its first published author, George Scanlon, who died suddenly in New York on 13 July, aged 88.
He was the editor and translator of A Muslim Manual of War: being Tafrij al-kurub fi tadbir al-hurub by ‘Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Awsi al-Ansari, a fifteenth-century Arabic manuscript, which was the first book published by the AUC Press after its establishment in 1960; it was reissued as a free e-book in 2012.
Professor Scanlon remained a friend and champion of the AUC Press throughout his life, and in 2002 the Press published a festschrift in celebration of his achievements: Historians in Cairo: Essays in Honor of George Scanlon, edited by Jill Edwards. The Foreword to that volume, a very fine portrait of the man by his friend John Semple, can be read here.
The staff of the AUC Press extend their sympathies to Professor Scanlon's family and friends.
“The desert means freedom. It is the only place where we can stare death in the face, and return home safely afterwards,” says Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni, in an interview with Louisiana Channel.
“The question of the desert is first and foremost an existential question,” he explains. “It’s a symbol of human existence.”
Ibrahim Al-Koni has written various novels including, Anubis, Gold Dust, The Seven Veils of Seth, The Puppet, and The New Oasis, translated from Arabic and published by the AUC Press ( 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014). Many of them are set in the desert.
To watch the full interview, click here.
BONNIE M. SAMPSELL
For twenty-one years Dr. Bonnie M. Sampsell studied Egyptology and geology and traveled extensively to Egypt. She is the author of The Geology of Egypt: A Traveler’s Handbook. The AUC Press has recently published the revised edition of her book (May, 2014).
In this Q&A, the author talks about two of her passions―geology and Egyptology―and explains how and why these two fields of study are interconnected, especially in Egypt.
Dr. Sampsell was an associate professor of biology at Chicago State University and Buffalo State College, and then appointed chair of the college’s biology department. She currently holds the position of guest curator for the Egyptian Collection at Wayne County Historical Museum in Richmond, Indiana.
She holds a BA in physics from Miami University, a Master of Arts in teaching (Natural Sciences) from Northwestern University, a Ph.D. in genetics from University of Iowa, and completed a postdoctoral study in molecular biology at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute. Many of her articles on Egyptology appear in publications such as Kmt, The Ostracom, Aegyptos, and Al Ahram Weekly.
AUC Press: This book is designed as a traveler’s handbook to the geology of Egypt. In what way is it interesting for visitors to understand the geological context of this country and how it impacted the development of this great civilization?
Dr. Sampsell: First let me explain that the title is intended to convey to the potential buyer and reader the audience for whom the book is written, namely a person traveling (in person or by armchair) to Egypt who probably lacks any background in the subject of geology. Therefore, the book begins with a simple introduction to some geological principals, but only the basics needed to understand the rest of the material. Technical vocabulary is used sparingly, where it is necessary, and all terms are defined in a glossary.
Is this approach the result of your teaching experience?
Yes, I was a college professor for twenty years and learned how to present complicated scientific material in an accessible manner. The maps and diagrams—all redrawn by me expressly for this book—supplement the text.
Why did you decide to focus on geology?
When I retired from teaching and was able to take extended trips to many parts of the world, I realized that I would enjoy the trips more if I studied about my destination beforehand. Some people are interested in the cuisine or art of a foreign culture, others are birdwatchers or enjoy the native flora. For me, landscapes are fascinating, and I wanted to understand the geological processes that formed our current surroundings. Then I also began to realize that the landscape was a stage on which a country’s society evolved. Its geography and climate created opportunities and set limits.
As I visited various sites and museums, I realized that most of the impressive monuments and art works of ancient Egypt still exist because they were built or shaped from stones of various types. I wanted to know why they used different stones in different places and for different purposes. For example, why were the temples built mainly of limestone in the north and sandstone in the south of the country? The answer is simply that that was the local bedrock available in the huge quantities needed. The monuments of Giza, Saqqara, and Dahshur are built on limestone plateaus that provided ample supplies of coarse-grained rock for core blocks. While across the Nile River at Tura, fine-grained, white limestone was available for casing and chamber walls that would be inscribed. Even though the Tura blocks had to be ferried across the river, the quantities were only a small part of construction.
When New Kingdom kings began to commission works at Luxor, they first used limestone from a few local quarries, none of which were very large. Then they found the huge Gebel Silsila sandstone outcroppings which lie beside the river. Quarried blocks could be slid down ramps to waiting barges and carried downstream to Luxor where their fine-grained texture permitted the artists to carve highly-detailed scenes and texts. Good quality limestone and sandstone have similar mechanical properties, so the preference for sandstone was an economic and logistical one.
It is true that the sandstone at Luxor is eroding and many monuments are at risk?
Yes, that’s true. The so-called Nubian sandstone used in most Luxor temples has little cement between the grains of sand. When the blocks absorb salt-water from the soil, the moisture travels upwards and outwards. The water evaporates from the block surface, but salt crystallizes and pushes the sand grains off destroying inscriptions in the process.
Is the Aswan High Dam the cause of these salts?
The story is actually more complicated than that. Before the Aswan High Dam was built, Egypt experienced an annual inundation (flood) with the river rising 8 or 9 meters. After a few weeks, the flood waters receded leaving the soil moist enough for a single crop and a falling water table beneath the monuments.
When the High Dam was completed, Egyptian farmers gained a year-round supply of irrigation water and started to plant several crops a years in some cases applying large amounts of fertilizer as well. As this year-round water runs off fields (attempting to get back to the Nile) it maintains a high water table under the towns along the Nile, in some places nearly at the surface. Water carrying natural salts and excess fertilizer can rise several meters through the soil to reach the temple blocks.
Can anything be done about this?
In the revised edition of my book, I devote an extensive chapter to describing efforts to reduce ground water and conserve monuments. Controlling ground water is the essential first step, and this has been achieved by building a massive dewatering system (that is a pumped drainage system) around Luxor Temple, and around Karnak Temple on the East Bank and on the West Bank in a long trench from Medinet Habu to Seti I‘s Temple. In the few years since their completion, these systems have been successful in reducing the ground water levels, and many conservation projects are in progress at individual sites. I describe many of these projects because I think they will be of interest to tourists. Tourists can become involved in the conservation effort of the experts by making donations; they will then receive Newsletters that describe the progress of the work.
In this revised edition you describe to your readers how relevant geology was to the ancient Egyptians but that it continues to be in today’s modern society as well.
Exactly, the first edition laid out the geological history of the country and then showed how the landscape and resources contributed to (or constrained) the development of the ancient civilization. But geological processes—though generally slow—are inexorable. Throughout the book I take an applied geology approach because I think that is what the non-geological-professional traveler will find interesting. My fascination with Egypt has been greatly enhanced by my geology knowledge and appreciation as I have traveled to nearly every inhabited corner. I want to share some of that excitement with other travelers if I can.
To read more about the book and buy it, click here.
Mohamed Salmawy, author of the new Egyptian novel, Butterfly Wings, translated into English by Raphael Cohen and published by the AUC Press (May 2014), read a chapter from his book accompanied by prominent Egyptian actress Yousra. The event, organized by the AUC Press, was held in Oriental Hall, on the AUC Tahrir Square Campus, on May 24.
The reading was from the chapter 'Dinner with Tchaikovsky' in which Salmawy interpreted the character of Ashraf al-Zayni, a strongman of Egypt's political opposition, and Yousra of Doha, an Egyptian fashion designer unhappily married to a leading figures in the Mubarak regime. The reading was accompanied by live music performed by cellist Mohamed Abdelfattah from the Cairo Opera House.
Moving and at times humorous, Butterfly Wings is an extended allegory of Egypt’s modern experience of authoritarian rule and explores the fractures and challenges of a society at the moment of revolutionary transformation. Mohamed Salmawy’s almost prophetic novel was first published in Arabic immediately prior to the events of 25 January 2011, and has been celebrated as ‘the novel that predicted the Revolution.’ To read more about Butterfly Wings, click here.
"Mohamed Salmawy’s new novel emerges like a butterfly from the chaos of Cairo’s Arab Spring," writes Malcolm Forbes in his review in The National (May 22, 2014)
"Butterfly Wings is a novel of various tales of personal upheaval within the wider, more complex framework of national turmoil. We read wondering not only how each of Salmawy’s strands will be spliced together but also to what extent individual ordeals will unify into shared fates," adds Forbes. Click here for the full review.
To listen to Adel Iskandar's talk on YouTube, click here.
To read more about Egypt in Flux, click here.
The AUC Press Bookstores will be closed from Tuesday, June 17, until Monday, June 23, on the occasion of the annual inventory.
All the AUC Press Bookstores will be open again starting Tuesday, June 24.
The AUC Press Book Alley is postponing its next book club discussion initially scheduled for June 11 to September 2014.
The book selected for the first fall meeting is Rain over Baghdad, a 512-page new novel of Iraq from the award-winning Egyptian author Hala El Badry, translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab (AUC Press, 2014).
We hope you enjoy this wonderful book over the summer and look forward to hearing your comments at the Book Alley in September.
|(From left: Neil Hewison, Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones, Pope Tawadros II, and Dr. Fawzy Estefanous, executive vice president of the Saint Mark Foundation)
Egypt’s Pope Tawadros II, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, received the director of the AUC Press, Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones, and associate director for editorial programs, Neil Hewison, last week at the Patriarchate in Cairo’s Abbasiya district. They presented him with a copy of Coptic Civilization: Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt, the long-awaited and beautifully illustrated volume edited by the former director of Cairo’s Coptic Museum, Gawdat Gabra.
May 11, 2014
To read more about Egypt in Flux, click here.
Marjorie Ransom lived twice in Yemen, in 1966 and 1975, as a US diplomat in a thirty-year career that took her also to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Egypt. She and David Ransom, her late husband, were the first Arabic-speaking tandem couple in the Foreign Service.
With the help of American Institute for Yemeni Studies research grants, Ransom later spent a year in Yemen in 2005 studying jewelry and costumes. Her findings are featured in the stunning illustrated book Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Yemeni Regional Jewelry (AUC Press, forthcoming). She is currently working on a second volume solely about silversmiths.
“We hear mostly about their difficulties with terrorists,” explains Ransom. “This book offers a much nicer and fairer perspective. Each chapter presents the architecture, the costumes, the jewelry and, when possible, the women of the region.”
Ransom has lectured extensively in the US about traditional jewelry of the Middle East and exhibited her private collection of silver jewelry in various museums including the Bead Museum in Washington. She has also published numerous articles on Yemeni wedding jewelry, the craft of Yemeni silver, and the future of this threatened craft.
In this recent interview, she talks about her travels across Yemen, her passion for the country, and for its traditional silver jewelry.
Books at LE10 & 20% discount in the AUC Press Tahrir Bookstore
Valid photo ID required
To print the flyer, click here
Arita Baaijens, author of Desert Songs: A Woman Explorer in Egypt and Sudan (AUC Press, 2008) has received the 2014 Women of Discovery Humanity Award, one of five awards given each year by WINGS WorldQuest to women who have made extraordinary discoveries in the farthest reaches of the world.
In their official announcement of the award, WINGS WorldQuest noted: “Dutch Explorer, biologist, author, photographer author of the award winning Desert Songs, Arita has made over 25 solo desert journeys on camel throughout Egypt and The Sudan. She is the first woman to travel the Forty Days Road in the Sudan twice and the first woman to cross the Libyan Desert solo. She photographed the last surviving female caravaneers in Mauritania. Most recently she has been working in Siberia and Central Eurasia focusing on the way mind and landscape influence one another. In 2013 she completed the first circumnavigation on horseback of the Altai Golden Mountains through four countries, crossing 1506 kilometers during 101 days of investigating sacred geography.”
The other four annual Women of Discory awards are the Earth Award, the Courage Award, the Lifetime Award, and the WorldQuest Award.
"The relationship between humans and animals has always been complex, with mutual dependencies that are practical, psychological and even theological," explains Ikram. "Ancient Egyptian animal mummies are a particular manifestation of this complex web of interrelations."
In this lecture, Ikram will present the different types of animal mummies (food, pets, votive offerings and sacred creatures) and explain how and why they were made, the theological and aesthetic decisions that went into their packaging and what each type meant to the ancient Egyptians.
Ikram is the editor of Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt (AUC Press 2005), and co-author of The Mummy in Ancient Egypt (AUC Press, 1998) and The Tomb in Ancient Egypt (AUC Press, 2008). She is also the author of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction (AUC Press, 2011).
In a video made by Heritage Key, Salim Ikram explains how animal mummies were made. "Animals were mummified in a variety of ways," explains Ikram, associate professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo. "Basically what mummification does is to desiccate the body so you can be preserved for eternity; the basic thing to do then would be, if it is a large animal, to remove the internal organs and to dry out the body."
Click here to listen to the complete explanation.
Nayra Atiya is a UNICEF prize-winning author and oral historian. She is the author of the bestselling book Khul-Khaal: Five Egyptian Women Tell Their Stories (AUC Press, 1984).
She has translated a number of works, including the novels Ramza and Zanouba by Out el Kouloub.
Photograph by Amina Megalli
AUC Press: These stories are, as you yourself describe them, “very personal accounts” of five Egyptian women between their twenties and mid-sixties from Egypt’s impoverished middle to lower classes. How did you manage to establish such an unguarded rapport with each of them?
NA: I returned to Egypt in 1976 and lived on an incapacitated Cook’s Nile steamer, moored in Giza. The open decks gave me access to people and, as Egyptians are friendly, it was easy to talk. As to unguarded rapport, it was perhaps due to casting an aura of safety within which conversation (rather than interviews) was conducted.
AUC Press: Which of the five stories do / did you find most astonishing?
NA: They are all astonishing. What impressed me was the courage with which each woman conducted herself. Each was a warrior in her own right.
AUC Press: What did you learn while talking to these women about Egyptian society and culture?
NA: What touched and interested me was not so much the information imparted but the manner with which each woman told her story. It was a voice that I was hoping to capture and through each a snippet of Egypt. These women, like Egypt, are survivors.
On the occasion of the reissue of her book, Paris along the Nile: Architecture in Cairo from the Belle Epoque (AUC Press, 1999), the AUC Press sat down with Cynthia Myntti to talk about her passion for Cairo's architecture.
Cynthia Myntti is currently a professor of Public Health Practice at the American University of Beirut (AUB). She received her MA in anthropology from the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1974, a PhD in social anthropology from the London School of Economics (1983), and a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University (1986). She also studied photography at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Her career has spanned philanthropy and academia. She worked for the Ford Foundation as a program officer in Cairo and Jakarta for nearly a decade, and has held university teaching positions in London, Minneapolis, Sanaa and Beirut.
After publishing Paris along the Nile: Architecture in Cairo from the Belle Epoque (AUC Press, 1999), she decided to return to graduate school to study architecture, completing an M Arch at Yale in 2004. Since 2006, Myntti has directed the Neighborhood Initiative at AUB.
AUC Press: You are an anthropologist, not a photographer. How did that affect the way you took the photographs?
CM: I was, and still am, fascinated by how people use these grand buildings, as residences, offices, and places of commerce, how they have been adapted over time to fit the needs of new occupants. So I was happy to capture, on film, the quiet conversation on a roof top, the bundles of garlic or freshly washed laundry hanging on balconies, and so much more.
I was also interested in local opinions about the buildings. It became clear that, to the users of these buildings, they were not seen as something foreign but much loved and integral elements of their Cairo. Conversations with people in doorways and on the street nearby helped me focus on what they liked about the buildings.
Salima Ikram is associate professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo. She is the author of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction (AUC Press, 2011) and the co-author of The Tomb in Ancient Egypt: Royal and Private Sepulchres from the Early Dynastic Period to the Romans (AUC Press, 2008) and The Mummy in Ancient Egypt: Equipping the Dead for Eternity (AUC Press, 1998).
To buy Khul-Khaal: Five Egyptian Women Tell Their Stories by Nayra Atiya (AUC Press, 1984), click here.
To join The Book Alley Facebook page, click here.
The Aquarium Grotto Garden, otherwise also known as the "Fish Garden" ('Genenet El Asmak'), is located on Gabalaya Street, Zamalek.
The American University in Cairo Press received an “Honorable Mention” in the Architecture and Urban Planning category at the 38th annual PROSE Awards in Washington, DC earlier this month for its book The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo: Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque (AUC Press, 2013).
Beautifully illustrated with photographs by Sherif Sonbol, The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo by Gawdat Gabra, Gertrud J.M. van Loon, Stefan Reif, and Tarek Swelim, and edited by Carolyn Ludwig and Morris Jackson, pays homage to the historic enclave just to the south of modern Cairo, which today hosts a unique collection of monuments that attest to the shared cultural heritage of ancient Egyptians, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Syrian writer Khaled Khalifa has recently been selected as one of the six authors shortlisted for the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for his book La sakakin fi matabikh hadhihi al-madina (No Knives in the Kitchens of This City), which also won him the 2013 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.
The shortlisted IPAF titles, chosen from a longlist of 16, were revealed this week during a press conference in Amman, Jordan, by a judging panel of literary critics, writers, and academics, chaired by Saudi Arabian academic and critic, Saad A. Albazei. The novels were selected from 156 entries submitted from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months. The 2014 winner will be announced on 29 April.
Joshua Stacher is the author of Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria (AUC Press, 2012).
The AUC Press spoke to him recently about the current situations in Egypt and Syria, against the backdrop of the 3rd Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution and the recent Syria peace talks in Geneva, respectively.
Currently Stacher is an assistant professor of political science at Kent State University. He is on the editorial board of MERIP’s Middle East Report. During 2012-13, he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
William M. Hutchins
Jonathan Wright and William M. Hutchins, two prominent AUC Press translators, were selected as joint winners of the 2103 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, the prestigious award given for a published work of English literary translation from Arabic.
For the first time since the Banipal prize was established in 2005, the judging panel chose, among the 21 entries, two outright winners instead of the usual winner and runner-up. “Two enticing and finely translated novels, each in their very different way, captured the judges’ attention and passion, leading to the decision to share the prize,” said Margaret Obank, Administrator, Banipal Trust for Arabic Literature, in the official announcement of the 2013 winners.
The judges commended William M. Hutchins’s “superbly translated” English rendering of Wajdi al-Ahdal’s Arabic novel A Land Without Jasmine. The panel also applauded Jonathan Wright’s translation of Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan for “its delicacy and well-judged restraint” and for “deftly capturing the feeling of the original.”
Ibrahim Nasrallah, author of the two AUC Press novels Time of White Horses (2012) and Inside the Night (2007), is participating in a fundraising climb to Mount Kilimanjaro to raise donations for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), a non-profit organization that provides cost-free medical care and humanitarian relief for sick and injured children in the Middle East.
On January 17, Nasrallah and a group of other volunteers, led by Suzanne Al-Houby, the first Arab and Palestinian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, set off with two injured Palestinian children to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, in an attempt to raise awareness and support for the plight of injured and sick children in Palestine.
The two teenagers partaking in the expedition, each of whom who lost a leg during their childhood after having sustained injuries from Israeli military forces in the Occupied Territories, were treated by PCRF. Established in 1991 during the first Intifada, PCRF has sent over 1000 needy children abroad for medical care, while also treating thousands more in their home country.
AUC Press publications are now available online through Souq.com, the largest e-commerce site in the Arab world, often tagged as the “Amazon of the Middle East.”
“In a fresh approach to make our books more accessible to an even wider audience, the AUC Press has recently joined forces with Souq.com to sell all AUC Press publications on the fast-growing regional online shopping portal,” said AUC Press Director Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones.
Today Souq.com already attracts over 8 million customers per month. Through this new collaboration with the Dubai-headquartered retail site, readers within the Middle East now have access to all AUC Press titles, a move that coincides with the growing demand for greater online shopping in the Arab world.
Souq.com hosts an online store exclusively dedicated to AUC Press titles that features a variety of new and regularly updated special offers.
Currently the AUC Press publishes up to 60 new books annually and offers more than 1,000 titles in print, making it the region’s leading English-language publisher. Its books are already readily available online, in physical form, through the AUC Press website, and in electronic form, through the AUC Press e-Store. They are also sold online through Amazon and AUC Press’s regional distributors.
Hamdy el-Gazzar was born in 1970 in Cairo and graduated in philosophy from Cairo University. Since 1990 he has published several short stories and articles in the Arabic press, as well as writing and directing three plays. Black Magic is his first novel. He is also the author of Private Pleasures (AUC Press, 2013) and is currently working on a third novel.
El-Gazzar is presently director of the research department of the Culture TV channel in Cairo. He is also a columnist for SampsoniaWay.org and is a regular contributor to Jadaliyya.
The AUC Press announced yesterday the award of the 2013 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the Syrian writer Khaled Khalifa for his novel La sakakin fi matabikh hadhihi al-madina (No Knives in the Kitchens of This City).
Presented by Amr Shaarawi, Provost of the American University in Cairo, the award was decided by the members of the Award Committee: Tahia Abdel Nasser, Shereen Abouelnaga, Mona Tolba, Hussein Hammouda, and Abdo Wazen. The award ceremony at AUC’s Oriental Hall on the Tahrir Square Campus was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life. (To read the address by Award Committee member Tahia Abdel Nasser who announced the winner, click here).
"The debates about the winner went way way into the night," said AUC Press Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones, in his opening remarks.
In their citation for the award, the judges described No Knives in the Kitchens of This City as “the novel of contemporary Syria, which explores destruction, death, and desolation so hauntingly.,” and went on to say: “With the knife of the artist-sculptor, Khaled Khalifa sculpts an exquisite novel of the parts of an Arab family that political violence has bloodied, whose human dignity it has crushed to pieces. . . . The city of Aleppo stands as a center of all forms of resistance to the process of militarization. However, the shrinking of the lettuce fields and the ruralizing of the city, as metaphors of deterioration, have forced every character to look for a ‘safe’ exit. . . . There are different denunciations of the hegemony of one party, almost all-powerful, in a particular historical moment and what threatens this hegemony in another moment. . . . Against the personal shame, there emerges a political and public shame that is represented in the militarized regime and corrupt intelligence, which plays with individuals and fates for its own interests, which are mostly inhuman.”
|(Left to right) Tahia Abdel Nasser, Shereen Abouelnaga, Dr. Fatma el Boudy, Dr. Hussein Hammouda, and Amr Shaarawi|
Khaled Khalifa was unable to travel to Cairo to attend the ceremony. The Medal was accepted on his behalf by Dr. Fatma el Boudy, director of Dar al-Ain, his Cairo publisher. His acceptance address was read by his friend, journalist and poet, Sayed Mahmoud. "We expose oppressors, opportunists, and murderers, but we are not a court that passes sentences," said Khalifa, reflecting on the purpose of writing. He also thanked the late Egyptian Nobel Prize winner "our master Naguib Mahfouz, who taught me the meaning of perseverance, the meaning of the power and the agony of writing."
Khaled Khalifa was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1964. He graduated from the Law School of the University of Aleppo in 1988, and in 1990 he was a founding editor of the literary magazine Alif. He has written numerous scripts for TV dramas and films, several of which have won awards, and he presented and produced the TV series Portraits, on Arab writers. He has also written screenplays for several feature films.
He is the author of four novels, including Haris al-khadi‘a (Guard of Deception, 1993), Dafatir al-qurbat (The Gypsy’s Notebooks, 2000), and Madih al-karahiya (In Praise of Hatred, 2006), which was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and was published in English in 2012; it has also been translated into Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, and Danish.
His fourth novel, La sakakin fi matabikh hadhihi al-madina (No Knives in the Kitchens of This City), was published in Cairo by Dar al-Ain in 2013, and in Beirut by Dar al-Adab in the same year.
The AUC Press, which established the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 1996, has been the primary publisher of Naguib Mahfouz’s English-language editions for more than twenty-five years, and has also been responsible for the publication of some 600 foreign-language editions of the Nobel laureate’s works in more than 40 languages around the world since the author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.
The AUC Press Book Club will hold its first meeting on January 8 in the AUC Zamalek Dormitory (16 Mohamed Thakeb Street, off Al Maraashli Street) at 6:00pm to discuss Hamdy el-Gazzar's novel Black Magic, translated by Humphrey Davies (AUC Press, 2013, Pbk).
The author himself will be attending the debate.
We hope that you will join us!
The novel can be purchased online through our website or in our bookstores in Tahrir and New Cairo Campus. E-book enthusiasts will be happy to know this book is also available on our e-Store for download to your favorite e-reader.
To read more about the book Copts at the Crossroads, click here.
For the map to St. Mina Old Church, Fumm al-Khalig, in Old Cairo, click here.
Deborah Manley is the co-editor of Traveling through Egypt: From 450 B.C. to the Twentieth Century (AUC Press, 2004), Traveling through Sinai: From the Fourth to the Twenty-first Century (AUC Press, 2006), Egypt and the Nile: Through Writers’ Eyes (AUC Press, 2008), and Traveling through the Deserts of Egypt: From 450 B.C. to the Twentieth Century (AUC Press, 2009), and editor of Women Travelers in Egypt (AUC Press, 2012). Her latest book is A Cairo Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Travel Writing (AUC Press, 2013).
AUC Press: You have edited six books with the AUC Press, all to do with travelers’ experiences through Egypt–ranging from 450 B.C. to the twentieth century. What is your personal fascination with Egypt and traveling?
DM: I have traveled many miles in my life. My first journey was through the Suez Canal towards India when I was four—where I clearly remember the "gully-gully" men and their baby chicks entertaining us. My first proper visit to Egypt was many years later, although, like most people, I was well aware of Egypt and its long, long history.
I began to read about Egypt's 19th-century and earlier history and the travelers who went there after my first visit (with my husband and sister) almost fifty years later. At Philae we saw the carving made by Henry Salt, and wondered who he was—and on our return home we began to find out, and realized he deserved a modern biography—which my sister and I then wrote together. This brought us into contact with others interested in travelers to Egypt (and the Near East) particularly in the 18-19th centuries. We became founder members of ASTENE (Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East), which has a Bulletin of members' researches and news about the region, holds a biennial conference and occasional lecture series, and organizes journeys to the region.
Through ASTENE I met Dr. Sahar Abdel-Hakim and together we began to work on anthologies about, mainly, foreigners travelling to and in Egypt (and the Near East), published by AUC Press. I also put together an anthology on Malta, published by Signal Books, Oxford. These books brought together the many travelers who wrote accounts on their way to and from and within Egypt over time, and told readers much about life there.
AUC Press: So many illustrious travelers and explorers have banked the Nile, walked the sands of Egypt, and visited its sites—Herodotus, Lucie Duff Gordon, Florence Nightingale, Edward Lane to name a few…. Whom among the travelers featured in your books would you have wished to meet and what would you have liked to ask them?
DM: Both Lucy Duff Gordon and Amelia Edwards had much of interest in their lives, both in and beyond Egypt—even by today's standards. I would like to ask them what were the difficulties and the special experiences of women travelers of their period.
AUC Press: Why do you think Egypt has long been such a source of inspiration for so many writers, like Mark Twain, Taha Hussein, Alexandre Dumas, Rudyard Kipling, Ahdaf Soueif, etc.
DM: Egypt was and still is a fascinating country with so much to see and learn—both ancient and modern: its ancient buildings, its interesting religions, its friendly people (who so often speak English), the beauties of the Nile, and much of the country beyond the river....
AUC Press: The book Women Travelers in Egypt, From the Eighteenth to the Twenty-first Century describes Eliza Fay's arrival in Egypt in 1779, Rosemary Mahoney’s daring trip down the Nile in a rowboat in 2006, and includes a lively collection of writing by over forty women travelers includes Lady Evelyn Cobbold, Isabella Bird, Norma Lorimer, Amelia Edwards, and Lucie Duff Gordon. Do women travel differently?
DM: To some extent they have to—they are less physically strong than men and men are probably more respected in Egypt than are women. They therefore tend to come closer to the local people than men may do.
AUC Press: Readers have reacted very positively to the recent publication of A Cairo Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Travel Writing. Do you think there is nostalgia for that bygone Egypt?
DM: There is enormous nostalgia and fascination in Egypt's past, but also great interest in its present and sadness at the problems the country has recently been going through and every wish that Egypt may soon return to its happier past.
AUC Press: How would you describe traveling in Egypt today? Do you think that most visitors see the ‘real’ Egypt or did ‘Grand Tourists’ of the eighteenth century and those less grand who traveled here with Thomas Cook in the nineteenth have a more genuine experience?
DM: I think travelers in the past saw more of the real Egypt than do modern travelers. They travelled closer to the ordinary people and met them more easily than we do today.
To print the invitation, click here.
To read more about the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, click here.
For the news release, click here.
Ferial Ghazoul is a professor of English and comparative literature at the American University in Cairo and editor of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics. She has written extensively on gender issues in modern and medieval literature and is the author of Nocturnal Poetics: The Arabian Nights in Comparative Context (AUC Press, 1996).
AUC Press: Which Arabic writer have you most enjoyed translating and why?
FG: I enjoy all that I translate. Translation for me is a labor of love. It poses challenges and that is what attracts me to it. Translation requires mobilizing our varied competences to the utmost: knowledge of contexts, denotation and connotation of words, syntactic variations and significance, and exploring the subtexts of the work to be translated. I have enjoyed translating poetry and lyrical prose. I have particularly enjoyed translating Muhammad Afifi Matar, as his poetry is reflective and profound. His poems display an encyclopedic range and the translator has to be aware of the different layers of his text. He is philosophically inclined but also locally anchored. I have also enjoyed tremendously the translation of Qassim Haddad’s Majnun Layla. The challenge for him, and of course for the translators as well, was to cast a famous narrative about a poet-lover from early Arabian tradition into a poem with contemporary sensibility. Qassim keeps the fragmentary format of the traditional anecdotes about Majnun, but turns this fragmentation into an aesthetic dimension of a modern vision.
AUC Press: In one of your lectures you said “I think of translation as performance.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
FG: Yes, translation is a performance. A musician performs according to the musical score of say a piano concerto by Mozart; the pianist is bound by the score but there are so many ways of playing it. The same applies to directing a play. Othello can be rendered in a theatrical production in diverse ways and yet the original Shakespearean tragedy is the same. I would not call the translator a second author as some do, but I would call the translator a performer of the original text.
AUC Press: You translate and co-translate from and into Arabic, English, and French alike. Nevertheless do you have a preference which language you translate into or from given that each has its particularities, limitations, and advantages?
FG: I like to translate literary works from Arabic to English and I like to translate critical works from English and French to Arabic. I think in both cases the translation stretches the horizon of the target language. Innovations in critical theory have taken place in English and French and translating the technical vocabulary—whether terms like intertextuality or hybridity or queer theory or gender politics—is a challenge. One can always find an equivalent, but will it have the same impact and will it circulate? That is the rub. I have translated critics such as Edward Said, Louis Althusser, Paul Ricoeur, Michael Riffattere, Stuart Hall, among others, as I think their ideas are important worldwide. Their ideas are necessarily embedded in their style and terminology. I discuss with colleagues the nuances of specialized terms and also how to coin their equivalents in Arabic. Some translators prefer to transliterate the term, so gender is written in Arabic letters. I prefer not to do that but to find an equivalent as Arabic is a rich language and we can find an appropriate word or coin one derived from Arabic verbal roots.
AUC Press: When and how does the translation language betray the original text?
FG: The translation betrays the original when the translator does not understand the original and offers a literal translation rather mechanically. I was translating Edwar al-Kharrat’s lyrical novel, Rama and the Dragon, and came across the expression ‘ifrita (literally afreet or jinnee). Since it was not appropriate for the context, I checked dictionaries to no avail. But I kept asking friends and colleagues only to discover it is the Egyptian colloquial way of referring to a worker’s overall. Another betrayal is when the translator takes short cuts and dismisses what he or she does not understand. Understanding is not a matter of only knowing the words but also grasping the stylistic specificity of the writer. All conscientious translations—different as they may be—are modes of interpreting the original and there should be room for a variety of interpretations or performances, to use my own idiom.
AUC Press: You recently won the University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award for 2013, in recognition of your work, translating, with John Verlenden, Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Selected Poems of Qassim Haddad. What more needs to be done today to bring translated Arabic literature to an even broader international audience?
FG: I think what the AUC Press has undertaken in translating Arabic fiction and offering an award in the name of Naguib Mahfouz is a step in the right direction in disseminating Arabic literature. What is needed perhaps is something akin to what the Feminist Press does in New York. When an Arab writer or an African writer is published with them, there is a short Foreword by a well-known writer as well as a longer Afterword—an essay—by a scholar on the novel. This acquaints the reader in the target language with the cultural context and throws light on how to appreciate the work itself. A general reader cannot grasp cultural and literary specificity and thus such supplementary material helps the text in crossing linguistic and cultural borders.
AUC Press: Who is your favorite Arab writer today?
FG: I like many: Ibrahim al-Koni, Edwar al-Kharrat, Latifa al-Zayyat, Yusuf Idris, Abdel-Rahman Munif among fiction writers. My favorite poets are Matar, Haddad, Saadi Youssef, and Mahmoud Darwish.
AUC Press: You are also the editor of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, published by the AUC Press. Previous issues have focused on a fascinating scope of topics, ranging from Wanderlust: Travel Literature of Egypt and the Middle East (2006) and Childhood: Creativity and Representation (2007) to Trauma and Memory (2010) and The Desert: Human Geography and Symbolic Economy (2013). In your opinion what makes this journal unique?
FG: Alif is unique in addressing issues relevant to literary theory and cultural studies by calling on views from within and from abroad. It is truly global, having represented the voices of scholars and writers from the five continents, bringing together essays by established names as well as emerging scholars. Besides scholarly and peer-reviewed articles, we invite a creative writer to present a testimonial essay on the theme of the issue. Alif has also engaged artists in interviews by addressing their interest in the given theme of the issue visually and reflectively.
Photographs by Mona Abaza
Until November 14, 2013
The Legacy Gallery
AUC Tahrir Square Campus
9:00am - 5:00am daily except Friday
Entrance from Mohamed Mahmoud Gate (valid photo ID required)
The Legacy Room is located in the Sheikh Rihan Building, beside the AUC Press Tahrir Square Bookstore.
Mona Abaza is the author and photographer of The Cotton Plantation Remembered: An Egyptian Family Story (AUC Press, 2013). The book features 200 color illustrations, some of which are included in this exhibition.
To read more about The Cotton Plantation Remembered, click here. To listen to Neil Hewison, AUC Press Associate Director for Editorial Programs, talk about the book, click here. To hear Mona Abaza speak about the photography, click here.
Swedish author and photographer Mia Gröndahl, author of several AUC Press books, including Revolution Graffiti: Street Art of the New Egypt (2013) will give a talk on "Northern eyes on the Arab people - Images of travel, research and early photo journalism 1890-1956" on Saturday, November 9, at 3:30 pm in Oriental Hall, AUC Tahrir Square Campus (Entrance from Mohamed Mahmoud Gate, valid photo ID required).
Her talk is part of the two-day Arab-Nordic Scandinavian History Seminar entitled "Exploring Common History (9-10 November). To view the complete schedule, click here.
Gröndahl will introduce the work of four Swedes and a Finnish-Swedish anthropologist, Hilma Granqvist, who did research in Palestine between 1925-30. The Swedes include Crown Princess Victoria (later Queen of Sweden) who traveled to Egypt in 1890; Lewis Larsson, head of the American Colony Photographers in Jerusalem, 1896-1930; Signe Ekblad, head mistress at the Swedish School at Jerusalem, 1922-48, and Per Olow Anderson who built up the photo lab for the newly established State Information Service in 1956, covered the Suez crisis, and did the first book about the Palestinian refugees in Gaza.
To browse the list of Mia Gröndah's books, click here.
Tahia Khaled Abdel Nasser, assistant professor of English and comparative literature at the American University in Cairo and granddaughter of Tahia and Gamal Abdel Nasser, is the editor of Nasser: My Husband by Tahia Gamal Abdel Nasser, translated by Shereen Mosaad, with a foreword by Hoda Gamal Abdel Nasser.
In this interview she shares her views about the iconic Egyptian 'rais,' his legacy, and personal life.
Naguib Mahfouz's The Cairo Trilogy, with an introduction by Sabry Hafez, translated by William M. Hutchins, Olive E. Kenny, Lorne M. Kenny, and Angele Botros Samaan (AUC Press, 2001), and Ibrahim Abdel Meguid's No One Sleeps in Alexandria feature on List Muse's "The Best Books: The Top 100 Novels of All Time."
The novels in this magnificent epic trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons—tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. Al-Sayyid Ahmad’s rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination in Palace of Desire, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the 1920s. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the ageing patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician. Throughout the trilogy, the family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two World Wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, The Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller.
For the complete article, click here.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords (13 September, 1993), Petter Bauck, co-editor of The Oslo Accords 1993-2013: A Critical Assessment (AUC Press, 2013), talks about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
To listen to the interview on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
Thursday, September 26
Revolution Grafﬁti: Street Art of the New Egypt by Mia Gröndahl (AUC Press, 2013)
Alwan for the Arts
16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
Tahia Abdel Nasser is the editor of Nasser: My Husband by Tahia Gamal Abdel Nasser, translated by Shereen Mosaad, with a foreword by Hoda Gamal Abdel Nasser, (AUC Press, 2013). Click here to download the flyer.
In an article in the Washington Post (August 21, 2013) Adel Iskandar, author of Egypt in Flux: Essays on an Unfinished Revolution (AUC Press, 2013), explains that under the rule of autocratic former President Hosni Mubarak, “The military was untouchable and invisible” and that “the media, both state and private, were obedient because they were censored. “Now they are willfully on the bandwagon.”
Click here to read the complete article entitled "Shrill media landscape increasingly reflects _ and some say feeds _ Egypt’s mayhem."
Galal Amin is the author of Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak (AUC Press, 2011) and Whatever Happened to the Egyptian Revolution (AUC Press, 2013). He also wrote the bestsellers Whatever Happened to the Egyptians? (AUC Press, 2000), Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians? (AUC Press, 2004), and The Illusion of Progress in the Arab World (AUC Press, 2006).
AUC Press: June 30 move by the Egyptian military a coup or not a coup? Is this even a relevant question?
Amin: About a week ago Shorouk newspaper published an article I had written in Arabic with the title, “A revolution or a coup?” My position on this is quite clear. What happened in around June 30 had very important symptoms of a revolution but also of a coup because of what happened afterwards. The funny or rather ironic thing is that when you read comments you find that the people who approve of or like what happened call it a revolution, and the people who don’t like it call it a coup. They both go on the assumption that a revolution is necessarily a good thing and a coup essentially bad. I don’t share the opinion that a revolution is necessarily a good thing or that a coup always leads to bad results.
Adel Iskandar, author of Egypt in Flux: Essays on an Unfinished Revolution (AUC Press, 2013) sheds light on the prevalence of "adamant masculinity" and the phenomenon of sexual harassment in Egypt's public space.
To view the video on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
Ashraf Khalil is the author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation (AUC Press, 2012). On July 2, CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney speaks with Ashraf Khalil about what happens if Morsy steps down.
Click here to watch the interview.
Author of the already much-praised book Egypt in Flux: Essays on an Unfinished Revolution (AUC Press, 2013), Adel Iskandar, in this Skype interview on the AUC Press YouTube channel shares his prognostic about the plausible scenarios that could unfold in Egypt on June 30, and reflects on the country's sectarian violence, the need for a "third political tier," the current demographic profile of the Muslim Brotherhood constituency, and finally the nature of the coexistence between the military and the ruling Islamic group. To view the interview, click here.
The AUC Press and I.B.Tauris, the prominent, independent publishing house, have joined forces in response to ongoing interest in Middle East current events and to capitalize on the rapidly developing economies of the region.
From 1 September I.B.Tauris will handle sales and distribution for all AUC Press publications worldwide (excluding North America and Egypt). In addition, a raft of joint publishing on Middle East current affairs from both companies is slated for 2014.
During the first-ever Arabic Translation Slam held at Cairo's British Council Agouza on May 28, translators Adam Talib and Randa Aboubakr discussed the challenges they faced and the choices they made translating a text from Yusuf Abu Rayya’s novel ‘Ashiq al-hayy’. The Slam was moderated by Neil Hewison, AUC Press associate director for editorial programs.
To watch the televised video of the event, click here.
Stefan Reif, professor emeritus of medieval Hebrew studies and fellow of St John's College at the University of Cambridge, is a co-author of The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo: Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque (AUC Press, 2013).
In this interview, Stefan Reif talks about Jewish settlements in Egypt over the centuries, Jewish religious heritage in this country, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue in particular.
The AUC Press Bookstores will be closed until Saturday, June 22, on the occasion of the annual inventory.
All the bookstores will be open again starting Sunday, June 23.
In the meantime, you can order your books online through the website. Browse our new books!
Tarek Swelim, former professor, lecturer, guide, and co-author of The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo: Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque (AUC Press, 2013) takes us on a short guided tour of Old Cairo.
To watch the video posted on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
Saturday, June 8
During the Cairo Papers in Social Science's Twenty-First Annual Symposium, held in Cairo earlier this month, AUC Press author Mona Abaza gave a talk about her family’s cotton estate on the Nile Delta, the topic of her forthcoming book The Cotton Plantation Remembered: An Egyptian Family Story (AUC Press).
"I inherited remnants of an old 'Izba," said Abaza in her introduction remarks. "There were documents that dated back to 1927 and it would have been a pity not to work on such incredible, important information."
To listen to Abaza's presentation on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
The AUC Press proudly congratulates Nasr Marei, author/photographer of the beautiful 2010 publication The Arabian Horse of Egypt, on his receipt of the 2013 Arabian Horse Breeders Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Award citation notes: "Dr. Nasr Marei is a world-renowned breeder, international judge, and gracious ambassador for the Arabian breed.
His famed Albadeia Stud represents a family legacy of over seven decades and ten generations of Arabian horses."
Read more . . .
For more on The Arabian Horse of Egypt, click here.
David Sims is an American economist and urban planner, and the author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (AUC Press, 2012). He has led a number of studies about Cairo's urban development and housing. The Los Angeles Review of Books has described him as "one of Cairo's sharpest observers."
Recently he participated in the the Cairo Papers in Social Science's Twenty-First Annual Symposium on 'The Political Economy of the New Egyptian Republic' where he addressed the country's housing crisis while presenting his paper entitled "Affordable Housing Policies after the Revolution: More of the Same?"
To watch the video on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
► The Zamalek Bookstore will only be closed
The Zamalek Bookstore working hours are from 11:00am - 6:00pm, except on Friday 2:00-6:00pm.
► The Tahrir Square Bookstore will be closed
The Tahrir Square Bookstore working hours are from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm daily, closed Friday.
On May 4 both the Tahrir Square and Zamalek Bookstores will be open for the 1st Saturday Of the Month book offer (20% off).
The AUC Press received with sadness the news of the death of one of our most prolific and respected translators of Arabic fiction, Farouk Abdel Wahab, on 3 April in Chicago, after a short illness.
Farouk translated eleven novels for the Press by six leading Egyptian writers: Khairy Shalaby, Bahaa Taher, Gamal al-Ghitani, Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, Hala El Badry, and Alaa Al Aswany. His most recently completed translation of Hala El Badry's Rain over Baghdad will be published later this year. He was Ibn Rushd Professorial Lecturer in Arabic at the University of Chicago.
Our deepest condolences are extended to his wife Kay Heikkinen in Chicago and to his family in Cairo.
Ashraf Khalil, journalist and author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation (AUC Press, 2012) recently gave a talk in Cairo entitled 'Egypt's Unfinished Revolution' in which he commented on the ruling Muslim Brotherhood party, the Salafists, the opposition, the Egyptian constitution, the Ministry of Interior, and the "two wild cards."
To watch part of the talk on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
To read more about his book, click here.
David Sims, an American economist and urban planner, and the author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (AUC Press, 2012) is speaking at this week’s Cairo Papers in Social Science's Twenty-First Annual Symposium entitled 'The Political Economy of the New Egyptian Republic.'
He will give a talk on “Affordable Housing Policies after the Revolution: More of the Same?”
► Saturday April 6, 10:45 am-12:45 pm, at the Flamenco Hotel (Valencia Room), 2 El-Gezira al-Wosta Street, Zamalek
Click here to read more about David Sim's book Understanding Cairo. The 2012 paperback edition includes a postscript on Revolutionary Cairo One Year On.
To read an interview with the author about his book, click here.
Revolution Graffiti:Street Art of the New Egypt by Mia Gröndahl (AUC Press, 2013) will be launched Friday, April 5, 2013, starting at 6:00pm, during an event entitled "Garage Walls" sponsored by the Swedish Embassy in Cairo, at Garage Kareem Eldawia (6 Kareem Eldawia Street, off Mahmoud Bassiouni Street, Downtown Cairo).
To read more about Mia Gröndahl's latest book, click here.
For other books by Gröndahl, click here.
View a slide show of the award-winning book Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, edited by Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram, and Sue D’Auria, with photographs by Chester Higgins Jr., and a foreword by Zahi Hawass (AUC Press, 2012) on the Oxford Universitiy Press blog.
To listen to an interview with photographer Chester Higgins Jr. on the The Leonard Lopate Show, click here.
To order the book, click here.
Adel Iskandar is the author of the forthcoming AUC Press book Egypt in Flux: Essays on an Unfinished Revolution.
He appeared recently on Al Jazeera English's The Stream to talk about Egypt's youth movement.
To watch the program, click here.
His book, Egypt in Flux, is a collection of essays on the political, social, economic, and cultural dimensions of change in the country’s ongoing revolutionary current.
To read more about The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo, click here.
The AUC Press has been saddened to learn that former long-time director Mark Linz passed away on 9 February 2013, in London.
Already a successful New York publisher, Mark arrived in Cairo in 1983 to lead the AUC Press into a period of growth and transformation. He left in 1986 but returned in 1995 to continue to develop the Press into the largest English-language publishing house in the Middle East, with an international reach and reputation, until his retirement at the end of 2011.
Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, edited by Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram, and Sue D’Auria, with photographs by Chester Higgins Jr, and a foreword by Zahi Hawass, was named best book in the Archaeology and Anthropology category during the 37th Annual American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) ceremony in Washington.
Sponsored by the Professional Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, the PROSE Awards annually recognize excellence in books, journals, and electronic content in over forty categories. Publishers and authors are acknowledged for their commitment to pioneering works of research and for contributing to the conception, production, and design of landmark works in their fields.
During the Community Services Association's (CSA) Cultural Week, that will run from February 10-16, the following AUC Press authors will talk about their book(s) and sign copies:
"I was introduced to an Egypt I knew existed but never had seen so freely expressed, and by thousands of people at the same time," says Mia Gröndahl.
For more about her book Revolution Graffiti: Street Art of the New Egypt (AUC Press, 2013), click here.
Shems Friedlander, professor of practice in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo and author of Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes (AUC Press, 2003), has been selected by the Royal Islamic Institute for International Strategic Studies in Jordan as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims.
“I feel honored to be recognized as both an artist and representative of AUC,” said Friedlander, whose paintings and photographs were recently exhibited in the Istanbul Contemporary Art Fair, which featured some of the world’s most prestigious international projects, art initiatives and publications.
The acclaimed translator Humphrey Davies is the runner-up of the 2012 Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of I Was Born There, I Was Born Here by Mourid Barghouti, published in the Middle East by the AUC Press (2011). The winner this year is Roger Allen, who is the translator of numerous AUC Press published novels, including several by Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, for his English translation of A Muslim Suicide by Bensalem Himmich, published by Syracuse University Press.
In their official awards announcement, the judges hailed Humphrey Davies as “one of the masters of translation . . . a true exemplar to translators.”
In what was a very close-run competition, they noted: “Humphrey Davies knows how to find the right tone for his translated text and once more, in I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, he catches the spirit of the original text and lets us feel and enjoy the beauty of his English prose.”
Buy all three volumes for LE375 instead of LE450! This offer is valid until January 31, 2013.
The Popes of Egypt, published by the AUC Press, includes three volumes:
► The Early Coptic Papacy
The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity
By Stephen J. Davis
► The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt, 641–1517
By Mark N. Swanson
► The Emergence of the Modern Coptic Papacy
By Magdi Guirguis, Nelly van Doorn-Harder
Associate Editor by Michael Shelley
In an interview for "The New York Times Close Up" on NY1, celebrated American photojournalist Chester Higgins Jr. talks about his photographs in the AUC Press publication Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, a lushly illustrated volume on the archaeological sites of southern Egypt and northern Sudan, edited by Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram, and Sue D’Auria, with photographs by Chester Higgins Jr., and a foreword by Zahi Hawass.
“I have really become very passionate about the forces that have been left behind by humans, what we do and what we believe in,” explains the former New York Times photographer. “I see my work along the Nile as essentially looking at the ancient footprints of God.”
To watch the interview, click here.
Mohammad Gharipour is the editor of The Bazaar in the Islamic City: Design, Culture, and History (AUC Press, 2012). In this recent interview, he speaks about the concept, the life, and the history of the bazaar in the Middle Eastern and Arab bazaar. To order the book, click here.
|Blacksmiths at work in the Kabul bazaar in 1915/16 (photograph by Niedermayer).|
AUC Press: How would you define a “bazaar”?
Gharipour: The word “bazaar” has acquired three different meanings: the market as a whole, a market day, and the marketplace. The bazaar as a place is a marketplace or assemblage of shops where miscellaneous good are sold and bought and services are provided.
AUC Press: You point out in the book that the bazaar was once considered the core of most cities in the Islamic world. How has that changed today?
Gharipour: The historic bazaar may not necessarily function as the core of new cities but the bazaar as an institution still plays a central role. The role of bazaars has dramatically changed. New means of transportation and infrastructure have increased the mobility of people. Nevertheless the decentralization of many large cities has resulted in fewer people visiting the historic bazaars. There may not be a central traditional/historic marketplace in new urban developments however malls and shopping centers in urban or suburban neighborhoods still function as the core of many cultural, social, and economic activities.
The American University in Cairo Press announced early last month the award of the 2012 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the Egyptian writer Ezzat El Kamhawi for his novel Bayt al-dib (The House of El Deeb).
The House of El Deeb was described by the award committee judges as “a tour de force of a novel that interweaves a fictional village with strands of Egyptian history from Ottoman rule to fin-de-siècle Egypt.”
Presented by Dr. Amr Shaarawi, Provost of the American University in Cairo, on December 11, 2012, the award was decided unanimously by the members of the Award Committee: Tahia Abdel Nasser, Shereen Abouelnaga, Mona Tolba, Humphrey Davies, and Abdo Wazen. The award ceremony at AUC’s Zamalek Dormitory was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life.
In his acceptance address, Ezzat El Kamhawi said: "The House of El Deeb is a generational novel, a genre that we thought had come to an end in the classical period, but it seems it is a human essential. If novelists write in order to understand the chaos of existence and its fragility, they will resort to the generational novel precisely when they see that existence is threatened at its foundations."
The translation of The House of El Deeb is scheduled to be published worldwide in 2013 by the AUC Press.
The next book for discussion at the AUC Press book club will be Naguib Mahfouz’s Karnak Café—one of the Nobel laureate’s most pointedly critical works.
At a Cairo café, a cross-section of Egyptian society, young and old, rich and poor, are drawn together by the quality of its coffee and the allure of its owner, legendary former dancer Qurunfula. Three of the young patrons disappear for prolonged periods. Nighttime arrests take place. The country tries to come to terms with its defeat in the 1967 War.
This iconic Egyptian novel, translated by Roger Allen and published by the AUC Press in 2007, is available at the AUC Press Bookstores and can also be ordered through the AUC Press website. In Europe, the book is available through Eurospan, and in Canada and North America, through Amazon.com.
To read more about the internationally-acclaimed Egyptian writer, click here.
The discussion of Mahfouz’s Karnak Café begins on December 2, 2012 on Facebook. In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy the book if you have not already read it, and join the cyber conversation.
Call 2615-1305 between 10:00am and 6:00pm daily except Friday to order your choice of books and gifts from any of the AUC Press Bookstores in Cairo and have them delivered to your home or hotel.
This new service does not apply to textbooks.
To browse the AUC Press catalog, click here.
The AUC New Cairo Book Fair runs from December 2 to 6, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, on the AUC New Cairo Campus.
► Get 20% off in the AUC Press Bookstore. Print out the 20% voucher and present it at the cashier upon your purchase.
► Bargain prices on textbooks - limited quantities.
See the latest new AUC Press titles.
Date: Thursday, November 29
Time: 6:30-8pm (Reading at 7pm)
Location: David Nolan Gallery, 527 W 29 Street, New York, NY 10001
The Cairo of Naguib Mahfouz was published by the AUC Press in 2012, with photographs by Britta Le Va, text by Gamal al-Ghitani, and a foreword by Naguib Mahfouz.
A longtime admirer of the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, Britta Le Va discovered old Cairo through his works. She guides the reader through his pages, and treads his streets and alleys, to produce a collection of outstanding visual images of the historic city.
To read more about the book and buy it, click here. To print the flyer of the event, click here.
© Photographs by Britta Le Va
An exhibition on the Battle of El Alamein is currently being held in the AUC Legacy Gallery at the AUC Tahrir Campus, coinciding with the publication of the book El Alamein and the Struggle for North Africa: International Perspectives from the Twenty-first Century, edited by Jill Edwards (AUC Press, 2012) and the recent commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the desert war.
The exhibition, which has been extended to November 21, includes:
• 54 enlarged reproductions from the vintage illustrations of the AUC Press book
• display panels on the role of each participating army of both the Allied forces (United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, France, and Greece) and the Axis (Germany and Italy), centered around the 1942 Western Desert conflict, highlighting the political and military leaders, war strategies, maps, and desert combat and life
• a detailed chronology of the 1942 battle of El Alamein, the small Mediterranean coastal town in northern Egypt, where the pivotal desert battle was fought that halted the advance of the Axis in North Africa, marking a major turning point in WWII.
The exhibition is open every day from 9:00am till 6:00pm except Fridays and Saturdays. The AUC Legacy Gallery is located in the Sheikh Rihan Building (across from Ewart Hall), and can be accessed from the AUC Tahrir Campus Mohamed Mahmoud gate. (Photo ID is required).
To read more about El Alamein and the Struggle for North Africa and buy the book, click here.
To listen to an interview with the book’s editor Jill Edwards, click here.
To watch historian Niall Barr, fellow of the Royal Historical Society, reader in military history at King’s College, University of London, and one of the contributors of the book, speak to BBC News World, click here.
Two illustrated AUC Press books on Egypt’s 2011 Revolution—The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers and Messages from Tahrir: Signs from Egypt’s Revolution—have been selected for inclusion in the 22nd Edition of University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries, an annual collection development tool published by the Association of American University Presses (AAUP).
The more than 400 titles included in this 2012 bibliography were reviewed and selected by the American University Press Books Publication Selection Committee, a joint committee of members of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and of American Library Association public library professionals.
“Selections are not made based on price or format, but on content, and are an excellent assessment of content from the higher education community presented with substance and context not always available in the trade books found through standard collection development tools,” explains Linda Underwood, AASL Chairperson.
The collection is released in both print and online editions, distributed free to over 13,000 librarians. Book entries include key bibliographic data, a thumbnail description, a public librarian reviewer, and/or AASL rating.
Both AUC Press bestsellers received a “G/HS” rating, suitable for a general audience and high school students between grades 9 and 12.
As part of the AUC Press’s publishing program about the 2011 uprising, The Road to Tahrir documents a dramatic day-by-day visual record of the Egyptian Revolution from the front line, by photographers Sherif Assaf, Omar Attia, Timothy Kaldas, Rehab K. El Dalil, Zee Mo, and Monir El-Shazly.
Messages from Tahrir, edited by Karima Khalil, captures through the lens of 36 photographers the resourceful variety of methods used by protesters in Tahrir to voice their message during the spring uprising.
For the second consecutive academic year, the AUC Bookstores are working with a major international publisher to provide students at the university’s School of Continuing Education (SCE) with customized textbooks.
Licenses for specific chapters selected from various English-language business textbooks published by Pearson were bought from the prominent UK publisher who then edited and printed the combined content for SCE’s requested customized books. Co-published by AUC and Pearson, with specially designed covers carrying both logos, these made-to-order learning materials, because of their more-organized and perfectly coordinated content, now very effectively reflect and support the tailored standardized curricula of the SCE’s School’s Business Studies division.
So far the SCE has adopted more than a dozen such customized textbooks, including Fundamentals of Management and Selling Today. With these customized books, students can also gain access to online assignments, interactive lessons, and electronic lab simulations.
► To read more about The Turks in Egypt and Their Cultural Legacy (AUC Press, 2012) and buy the book, click here.
Handwoven scarves are among the new range of products from Turath sold at the AUC Campus Shop on the AUC New Cairo Campus.
The Campus Shop, located in Bartlett Plaza, Campus Center, is open daily from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (closed Friday & Saturday).
The Turath scarves have been specially made for the Campus Shop and carry the AUC logo.
Turath, which is the Arabic word for heritage, aims to protect Egypt’s heritage through a variety of different handicrafts, while improving living conditions of workers, and enhancing the quality of handmade products. It focuses on the weavers of Naqada, a small village in Upper Egypt just north of the city of Luxor. The looms used in Naqada today are traditional ones that have been handed down through generations since pharaonic times.
El Alamein and the Struggle for North Africa: International Perspectives from the Twenty-first Century (AUC Press, 2012), edited by Jill Edwards, offers a new set of studies of issues surrounding the pivotal desert battle on its 70th anniversary.
This illustrated volume, with over 55 photographs, presents fresh insights into a war fought over unusually difficult terrain and with exceptional supply demands.
The Frankfurt Book Fair takes place from October 10 to October 14 (8:00am - 7:30pm).
The Professional Training Program at the American University in Cairo Press has been established to provide recent university graduates and other Egyptian and foreign residents of Cairo each year with a special opportunity to receive professional training at the AUC Press and to learn about the purposes and procedures of book publishing, including editing, sales and marketing, design and production, promotion and public relations, bookselling, and administration. Successful professional trainees are also considered for permanent assistant positions which may become available at the AUC Press.
Click here for all details.
Browse the AUC Press FALL 2012 catalog for new and bestselling books:
To browse the AUC Press Spring 2012 catalog, click here.
For the AUC Press catalogs archive, click here.
Send us an email to let us know what you think.
Gamal al-Ghitani, author of The Cairo of Naguib Mahfouz (AUC Press, 2012) and many other bestselling books, will give a lecture about the book, followed by a discussion.The Cairo of Naguib Mahfouz is a beautiful volume about the old city in the footsteps of the Nobel laureate. The illustrations of this book are by photographer Britta Le Va, a long-time admirer and friend of the late Egyptian writer.
The event will take place:
► On Saturday, September 22, at 1:00pm
► On the occasion of the Neighborhood Book Fair at the Community Services Association (CSA), 4 Road 21, Maadi
► The Neighborhood Book Fair will be held on September 22-24, from 9:00am - 3:00pm
To read more about the book, click here.
To read an interview with photographer Britta Le Va, click here.
For all other books by Gamal al-Ghitani published by the AUC Press, click here.
To watch a guide tour through the Cairo of Naguib Mahfouz with
Gamal al-Ghitani (in Arabic), click here.
German-born Britta Le Va is a photographer based in New York, with a background in architecture and the arts. Her work has been exhibited in Egypt, Holland, and New York. The expanded edition of her bestselling book The Cairo of Naguib Mahfouz, which first came out in 1999, has recently been published by the AUC Press. For the occasion, in this recent interview, she talks about her special relation with Naguib Mahfouz and her passion for Egypt.
AUC Press: Would you say that one photographs Cairo differently after reading Naguib Mahfouz’s novels?
Le Va: How could one not? I used his location as a guide and searched for the visual images in his writing.
All the bookstores will be open again starting Tuesday, August 28.
For more about the AUC Bookstores, click here.
In a recent interview, Hani Shukrallah, author of Egypt, the Arabs, and The World: Reflections at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (AUC Press, 2012), decrypts the current political players and landscape in Egypt after the presidential elections.
AUC Press: Did you expect other scenarios than a Morsi–Shafiq run-off for Egypt’s recent presidential elections?
HS: Actually my prediction from fairly early on was that it would be a run-off. I described it as a “nightmare scenario.” As we got closer to the elections, I kept saying, well, it looks like we are in that scenario. When I started feeling maybe not, was in the first round of the elections and the spectacular rise of Hamdeen Sabahi. In the first round basically you had the pro-revolutionary vote responsible for a little over 40 percent of the votes, and that compares with somewhere over 24 percent for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic trend, and around 23 percent for the counter revolution, the Shafiq vote. But ultimately we got the nightmare scenario with a difference, with a very major difference: it was ultimately two very weak candidates competing.
During the month of Ramadan, the AUC Press Bookstores will be open during the following hours:
New Cairo: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Tahrir: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Falaki: 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Zamalek: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
The AUC Press Bookstore, Textbook Store, and Campus Shop, on the AUC New Cairo Campus, will open daily (except Friday and Saturday) at 9:00 am and close at 4:00 pm (instead of 5:00 pm) from on June 3 until August 23, 2012.
Normal working hours will resume on August 26, 2012.
The AUC Press Tahrir Bookstore, accessible from Mohamed Mahmoud gate, will be open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily (closed Friday) throughout the summer.
For the complete list of all AUC Press Bookstores, click here.
He was born in 1950 in Kairowan, Tunisia, to a large Bedouin family. In 1986, he received the National Novel Prize for his first collection of short stories, and the Tukan Prize in 2000 for his novel Tarshish Hallucination.
Mosbahi is currently a Feuchtwanger Fellow at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles.
AUC Press: How would you describe A Tunisian Tale? Is it a sinister, black, or realistic novel…?
HM: My novel is realistic, sinister, and black… like the characters that reflect a society in disarray; a society ailing from its social problems, its complexes, its contradictions. One must not forget that I was inspired while writing this novel by a real crime that was committed in the 70s. A twenty-year-old man burned his mother because he was convinced that she was a prostitute! I even met and spoke with the man in the main prison in Tunis in 1974 because I myself was incarcerated there as a political prisoner after having distributed flyers against the [former] Bourguiba regime.
The idea for Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir, edited by Samia Mehrez, started as a project for a new post-revolution seminar taught by Mehrez in 2011 at the American University in Cairo. It was designed to address one of the many aspects of the Egyptian uprising.
As she explains in her introduction, Mehrez, a professor of Arabic literature and founding director of the Center for Translation Studies at AUC, wanted “to engage the layers of revolutionary narratives and to translate these fields of meaning to each other and for each other in an attempt to understand, situate, and contextualize the historic events that enveloped us.”
The dozen contributors of Translating Egypt’s Revolution, stemming from very diverse linguistic, geographical, professional, and cultural backgrounds, selected a specific narrative of the January 2011 revolt for their translation—drawing on formats ranging from chants, banners, street art, jokes, poems, and interviews, to presidential speeches and military communiqués.
The AUC Press website was recently accessed by an unauthorized party and was therefore temporarily listed as suspicious by Google. The problem has now been completely resolved and the website is up and running again.
To maximize the publishing outreach of the AUC Press by selling and promoting subsidiary rights licenses for AUC Press titles to publishers in all media; to conclude Middle East licensing agreements with US and UK publishers, and publishing contracts with authors.
To read more about Translating Egypt's Revolution: The Language of Tahrir (AUC Press, 2012), click here.
To buy the book, click here.
To listen to Samia Mehrez talk about the book, click here.
Architect Ahmad Hamid, author of Hassan Fathy and Continuity in Islamic Arts and Architecture: The Birth of a New Modern (AUC Press, 2010) recently held an exhibition called "Extra Time" featuring a selection of his architectural renderings, at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo
An exhibition on original Hassan Fathy renderings will be exhibited on June 18 in Alexandria.
Dr. Nigel Fletcher-Jones recently joined the American University in Cairo Press as the new director, taking over the fifty-year-old publishing house from his predecessor Mark Linz.
Fletcher-Jones, who previously worked for Elsevier, Cell Press, Nature Publishing Group, and Blackwell Publishing Inc., said about his strategic objectives: “Over the next few years we will become a leading digital publisher within the region. The AUC Press now is primarily a book publishing company but we will create an infrastructure that supports electronic publishing to the web, tablets, and smartphones. Books will not disappear but I believe it is vital to meet the increasing demand for digital information within the global market.”
Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir, edited by Samia Mehrez, has recently been published by the AUC Press.
Samia Mehrez is also the author of a number of books, Egypt’s Culture Wars: Politics and Practice (AUC Press pbk edition, 2010), The Literary Atlas of Cairo (AUC Press, 2010), and The Literary Life of Cairo (AUC Press, 2011).
Ashraf Khalil, author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation (AUC Press, 2012), a dramatic and absorbing eye-witness account of his experience in the throes of the 25 January Revolution, was interviewed by Al Jazeera reporter Rawya Rageh, at the AUC Press Tahrir Bookstore, on May 7, 2012.
Click here to view an excerpt of the question-and-answer session posted on the AUC Press Youtube channel.
► To buy Homecoming: Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories, click here.
► For other books by Denys Johnson-Davies, click here.
Magdi Guirguis, co-author (with Nelly Van Doorn-Harder) of The Emergence of the Modern Coptic Papacy, volume 3 of The Popes of Egypt (AUC Press, 2011), in this recent interview, reflects on the legacy of the late Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Egypt, elected Patriarch in October 1971, who died last month, and the future of the Coptic Church.
The Emergence of the Modern Coptic Papacy spans the five centuries from the arrival of the Ottomans in 1517 to the present era. Guirguis, an independent Coptic researcher and a specialist in Egyptian documentary sources from the Ottoman period, reconstructs the authority of the popes and the organization of the Coptic community during that period. Nelly Van Doorn-Harder addresses the political, religious, and cultural issues faced by the patriarchs who led the Coptic community into the twenty-first century.
The AUC Press is participating in Cairo’s Community Services Association Trade Fair which runs from Sunday, May 13 to Thursday, May 17, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, at CSA, 4 Road 21, Maadi.
Ashraf Khalil was in Tahrir Square almost every one of the eighteen days during the January 2011 Egyptian uprising. His new book Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation (AUC Press, 2012) is a dramatic and absorbing eye witness account of his experience in the throes of the 25 January Revolution, combined with an insightful overview of Egypt’s modern history.
Khalil, a forty-year-old American Egyptian correspondent, has covered the Middle East for most of the past fifteen years. He is a former Los Angeles Times correspondent in Baghdad and Jerusalem, and a former editor-in-chief of the Cairo Times independent weekly news magazine. His articles appear in various prominent publications including The Economist, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Christian Science Monitor.
► To read more about the book, click here.
► To read the prologue of the book, click here.
► To read a recent interview with Ashraf Khalil, click here.
The AUC Press will be participating in the London Book Fair, held from April 16 to 18, at Earls Court in London.
AUC Press books, including recent bestselling publications such as Grand Hotels of Egypt in the Golden Age of Travel by Andrew Humphreys, will be available at Stand K725. (Eurospan Limited is the AUC Press distributor in the United Kingdom and Europe).
Egypt's late Pope Shenouda III, who headed the country's Coptic Orthodox Christian community for the past four decades, died in Cairo on March 17 at the age of 88, raising many questions about the legacy and future of the Coptic Church.
The three-volume series, published by the AUC Press, looks at the history of Egypt's Coptic Church and its patriarchs, from Saint Mark to the late Shenouda III.
On Friday, March 23, Turath, the Arab Students Organization of Columbia University is organizing the Egypt Symposium, a comprehensive, day-long conference exploring various aspects of the post-revolutionary Egyptian society. The event will address the complex changes slowly unfolding in Egypt, in the realms of media, development, markets, and politics. From panels on art to discussions with young revolutionaries, the Egypt Symposium will situate the complexities of present-day Egyptian society.
The move was prompted by an interest to serve on-campus customers better and to build upon the bookstore’s strong relationship with the AUC community. Its new, central location gives customers the option to stop in the store quickly or take their time to browse between classes.
Andrew Humphreys’s Grand Hotels of Egypt: In the Golden Age of Travel (AUC Press, 2012) tells of the country’s luxury hotels during the bygone days when explorers, travelers, and foreign occupying forces mingled in the lavish lobbies and al fresco on the moonlit terraces of these “gilded refuges,” also delighting in high-society dining and dancing, while “wintering on the Nile.” Grand Hotels of Egypt is a very visual book, combining well-documented accounts, extracts, and anecdotes, vintage photography, and full-color illustrations of travel posters, luggage labels, postcards, decorated letterheads, menus, and invitations.
The AUC Press celebrated this new publication early this month at Cairo's Windsor Hotel.
Barbara Romaine is the runner-up of the 2011 Saif Ghobash‒Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for her translation of Specters (AUC Press, 2010), a novel by Radwa Ashour, the highly acclaimed Egyptian scholar and author of more than fifteen books.
Specters tells the story of Egypt since the 1950s through the experiences of two women who are each other’s ghostly doubles. “Fluent and refreshing, Romaine has done a brilliant job,” comments the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature on its official website.
The AUC Press Tahrir Bookstore on the AUC Tahrir Campus is temporarily closed due to the events in the recent days.
When open, the Tahrir Bookstore is accessible from the Mohamed Mahmoud Street gate of the campus, with a valid photo ID.
Authors Agnieszka Dobrowolska and Jaroslaw Dobrowolski talk about their new book The Sultan’s Fountain: An Imperial Story of Cairo, Istanbul, and Amsterdam (AUC Press, 2011).
This beautifully illustrated volume tells the story of a Turkish sultan and his intriguing sabil-kuttab building with its stunning Dutch tiles.
The AUC Press offices on the Tahrir Campus are open.
AUC Press staff can be reached during regular working hours (8:30 am - 4:30 pm Sunday through Thursday).
The AUC Press Tahrir Bookstore remains temporarily closed.
The Falaki Textbook Store is open from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm daily; closed Friday & Saturday.
For the complete list of AUC Press Bookstores, click here.
To contact the AUC Press, click here.
To download the map to Bayt al-Sinnari, click here.
For the flyer of the event, click here.
To read an interview with the authors Agnieszka Dobrowolska and Jaroslaw Dobrowolski of the new book The Sultan’s Fountain: An Imperial Story of Cairo, Istanbul, and Amsterdam (AUC Press, 2011), click here.
The 20-volume Naguib Mahfouz Centennial Library published in commemoration of this year’s centenary of the Egyptian Nobel laureate’s birth is now available.
This exclusive limited edition is a definitive 8000-page collection presented in 20 hardbound volumes bringing together for the first time all the translated works of Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s greatest writer. Sold as a set, the Centennial Library comprises Mahfouz’s 35 novels, including his first, Khufu’s Wisdom, published in 1939, and his last, The Coffeehouse, which appeared in 1988, as well as a new translation of his masterpiece Midaq Alley by award-winning translator Humphrey Davies. The volumes also contain 38 short stories, a selection from Mahfouz’s very short fictions The Dreams, and his Echoes of an Autobiography, personal and reflective commentary on situations and events that shaped his life.
The AUC Press Zamalek Holiday Book Fair will be held from 9 through 12 December 2011, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at the AUC Zamalek Hostel, located at 16 Mohamed Thakeb Street (off al-Maraashli Street) in Zamalek.
The Book Fair will feature bestsellers, bargain books, gift books, children’s books, and discounts up to 80%.
In his new book, Egypt, the Arabs, and the World: Reflections at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (AUC Press, 2011), Hani Shukrallah, founding editor of Ahram Online, and the executive director of the Heikal Foundation for Arab Journalism, shares his observations on the modern Middle East and the Arab Spring.
In a recent interview he reflects on the 25 January Revolution, the Egyptian youth, the forthcoming elections, and the role of the military.
► Tahrir Bookstore & Zamalek Bookstore:
- Closed Sunday, November 6 through Tuesday, November 8.
► New Cairo Bookstore & Falaki Textbook Store
- Closed from Saturday, November 5 through Wednesday, November 9.
All AUC Press Bookstores will open again on Thursday, November 10.
For working hours of all AUC Press Bookstores, click here.
For the news release, click here.
To download the invitation, click here.
To download the event's program, click here.
To read a recent online interview with Sture Allén, click here.
Wiam El-Tamami, previously an AUC Press editorial trainee and currently one of its freelance translation editors, won the 2011 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize, an award launched last year to honor the achievements of young translators at the start of their careers.
The 27-year-old Egyptian’s rendering into English of the Arabic short story Layl Qouti (Gothic Night) by Mansoura Ez Eldin, author of Maryam’s Maze (AUC Press, 2007), was one of 92 entries from all around the world. “Wiam not only rose to the challenges of the text, fully comprehending the author’s Arabic, but also produced a beautiful piece of writing,” said prize founder and one of the four 2011 judges, Briony Everroad. “The translation displayed an elegance of style alongside fidelity to the Arabic original, yet the story is wonderfully articulated in the translator’s own voice.”
El-Tamami, who lives in Cairo, completed a BA in English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo in 2004, and later obtained an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. “I think this [Harvill Secker] award will encourage me to focus more on translating myself,” said the winner in an interview with Granta Magazine, posted on its website along with her translation of Gothic Night.
“Translators tread a tricky tightrope between capturing the full implications of the Arabic while creating an English text that flows smoothly and doesn’t sound overwrought, dated, or downright melodramatic,” noted El-Tamami while explaining the linguistic challenges inherent in Arabic-English translation.
The Secker Young Translators’ Prize award ceremony was held in London last week. Commenting on the selection of Ez Eldin’s writing, El-Tamami said: “The story was a wonderful choice for a translation competition—it presented just enough technical challenges while leaving plenty of room for creative interpretation.”
An editorial trainee at the AUC Press between 2006 and 2007, El-Tamami is now a regular freelance copy-editor for the Press. “Wiam is not only one of our most outstanding editors of translated fiction, she is also a fine judge of the quality of a translation,” said Neil Hewison, AUC Press associate director, editorial programs.
The American University in Cairo Press is pleased to announce the publication of its latest book on the 25 January Revolution, The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers (AUC Press, 2011).
In an event held on October 3 on the Nile Lily boat on the Nile, attended by several hundred guests, the publication was celebrated by the AUC Press in the presence of the photographers, Sherif Assaf, Omar Attia, Rehab K. El Dalil, Timothy Kaldas, Zee Mo, and Monir El Shazly, who took part in the book signing.
The Road to Tahrir is a unique and moving visual record that illustrates the days of the Egyptian revolution in sequence, from tear gas to tears of joy, covering the demonstrators’ cries of agony and their demand for “Bread, Freedom, and Human Dignity,” a visual testimony stretching chronologically from January 25—the Day of Revolt—to March 19—the day of the Constitutional Referendum.
“Each of us marched daily, armed with faith and hope, waving flags and grasping our cameras, from various parts of the city—Heliopolis, Maadi, Manial, Zamlek—to rally into the main arteries of the square—Abd al-Mun’im Riyad Square, Qasr al-Nil Bridge, Qasr al-Aini Street, Talaat Harb Square—to take part in the making of history in Tahrir Square,” explain Attia and Kaldas in the introduction to their book.
The six photographers who contributed the 150 dramatic images of this historic testimony are all young Egyptian students and professionals, most of whom did not know each other at the time of the revolution.“Here is what we witnessed and what we will never forget,” said Attia, an avid photographer and an AUC business administration graduate.
To read more about the book and buy it, click here.
To read a recent review about the book in The Daily News Egypt by Mariam Hamdy, click here.
The AUC Press will announce the winner of the 2011 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature on December 11, 2011, in El Sawy Cultural Wheel (River Hall), Zamalek, and hold a special Naguib Mahfouz Centennial Round Table Discussion with leading Egyptian writers and literary critics on the topic of “Naguib Mahfouz and Revolutionary Literature.”
The 2011 Medal award comes at a time of momentous and historic events in Egypt, and also coincides with celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Naguib Mahfouz on December 11, 1911.
The event will begin at 5:00 pm. The El Sawy Cultural Wheel is located on 26th of July Street, Zamalek.
To download the invitation, click here.
To download the program, click here.
The AUC Press is pleased to announce that Cairo Scholarship Online (CSO) went live on October 3 within the University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) platform, sponsored by Oxford University Press, which sells and distributes AUC Press books across North America.
In 1988 Professor Sture Allén of the Nobel Prize organization’s Swedish Academy in Stockholm, the awarding institution for the literature prize, delivered the Award Ceremony Speech for Naguib Mahfouz’s nomination.
In an online interview, Professor Allén, a distinguished computational linguist, Emeritus Professor at the University of Gothenburg, and the author of Nobel Lectures in Literature, speaks about the Nobel Prize and the great Egyptian writer whose centenary is celebrated this year by the AUC Press.
(Professor Allén will be giving a lecture about the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Prize, and Naguib Mahfouz on October 18 at 5:00 pm, at Oriental Hall, at the AUC Tahrir Campus).
AUC Press: In the 1980s, the Swedish Academy extended the prize to the most worthy writer “whether he be Scandinavian or not.” Why do you think it was important to broaden the scope to include literature of the whole world?
Professor Sture Allén: As a matter of fact, it was specified already in Alfred Nobel’s will of 1895 that no consideration shall be given to nationality. Among laureates from various parts of the world before the 1980s, in accordance with the testament, there is Tagore, O’Neill, Mistral, Hemingway, Agnon, Asturias, Kawabata, Neruda, White, Singer, and others. Naturally it takes time to establish the survey of world literature which is requiered for the task.
AUC Press: You said in the Award Ceremony Speech that you gave for the Nobel Prize of Naguib Mahfouz, that the Egyptian literature laureate presented themes in “clearly daring ways.” Is this a trait that the Swedish Academy holds in high regard and do you have some examples to illustrate what the Swedish Academy considered daring in Mahfouz’s writing?
Professor Sture Allén: What I said when I addressed the laureate who was sitting in Cairo was: “your rich and complex work invites us to reconsider the fundamental things in life. Themes like the nature of time and love, society and norms, knowledge and faith recur in a variety of situations and are presented in thought-provoking, evocative, and clearly daring ways.”
AUC Press: The prominent translator Denys Johnson-Davies said about Mahfouz that the Egyptian writer “rendered Arabic literature a great service by developing, over the years, a form of language in which many of the archaisms and clichés that had become fashionable were discarded” and that “he dealt with life in a very direct manner.” Do you think the Swedish Academy would share this opinion?
Professor Sture Allén: Based on our reading of translations and expert reports, on the whole yes.
AUC Press: On the other hand, some critics have suggested that “Mahfouz [was] perhaps an obstacle for the development of the Arabic novel” because he was so influential and this prevented other writers, younger ones, from breaking new ground. What is your opinion?
Professor Sture Allén: This way of thinking suggests that Nobel laureates as well as their eminent forerunners in earlier centuries were to be seen as obstructing rather than promoting cultural development. However, it seems that, through the years, there are pioneers overcoming the enemy.
AUC Press: Naguib Mahfouz himself said that it was through the translation of his novels into English by the AUC Press …. “that other publishers became aware of them and requested their translation into other foreign languages, and I believe that these translations were among the foremost reasons for my being awarded the Nobel prize.” How true is that?
Professor Sture Allén: In view of the fact that several thousand languages are spoken on earth, it is important that the œuvre of prominent authors is made accessible in good translations.
AUC Press: What do you think makes Naguib Mahfouz’s writing unique?
Professor Sture Allén: His excellence appears to be the result of his synthesis of classical Arabic tradition, European inspiration, and personal artistry.
AUC Press: Can you talk about your favorite Naguib Mahfouz work?
Professor Sture Allén: Writing a novel coming out as a spiritual history of mankind, which is what is done in The Children of the Alley, is a first-rate achievement.
AUC Press: How would you describe Naguib Mahfouz as a person, based on his writing?
Professor Sture Allén: As a worthy Nobel laureate, dedicated to his versatile literary undertaking.
Like every new season, the AUC Press has lined up a wonderful selection of new publications, this fall covering a very diverse range of topics, from Egyptian feminism, al-Qaida fundamentalism, and social networking in the Middle East, to Ancient Nubian Kingdoms, architecture of Upper Egypt, and America’s foreign policy of the 1990s in the region.
Political, economic, and social issues
Among the fifty-four new books, nearly half address political, economic, and social issues, some naturally directly relating to Egypt’s 25 January uprising, such as The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers by Sherif Assaf, Omar Attia, Rehab K. El Kalil, Timothy Kaldas, Zee Mo, and Monir El-Shazly, and Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir, edited by Samia Mehrez.
Much attention is paid to gender issues with Mapping Arab Women’s Movements: A Century of Transformations from Within, edited by Pernille Arendeldt and Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, Revolutionary Womanhood: Feminisms, Modernity, and the State in Nasser’s Egypt by Laura Bier, Khul‘ Divorce in Egypt by Nadia Sonneveld, Cairo Papers Vol. 31, No. 2, Law as a Tool for Empowering Women within Marital Relations: A Case Study of Paternity Lawsuits in Egypt by Hind Ahmed Zaki, Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Gender-Based Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by Jamileh Abu-Duhou, and finally Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870-1940 by Wilson Chacko Jacob.
History & Biography
On a more historical note, the themes span from the new updated paperback edition of A History of Egypt: From Earlier Times to the Present by Jason Thompson to Grand Hotels of Egypt: In the Golden Age of Travel by Andrew Humphreys.
Published this month is the third and final volume of The Popes of Egypt, The Emergence of the Modern Coptic Papacy by Magdi Guirguis and Nelly van Doorn-Harder, Associate Editor by Michael Shelley.
Arabic Literature in Translation
Ten new novels in translation highlight writers from Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia: first and foremost, The Naguib Mahfouz Centennial Library, which includes all the Nobel laureate’s 35 novels, as well as other of his works, and a new edition of Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley translated by award-winning Humphrey Davies. Also included are Brooklyn Heights by Miral al-Tahawy, last year’s winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, Judgment Day by Rasha al Ameer, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here by the author of I Saw Ramallah Mourid Barghouti, Sarmada by Fadi Azzam, and A Tunisian Tale by Hassouna Mosbahi.
Archaeology & Ancient Egypt
Included in the seven new books on archaeology are such beautifully illustrated volumes as Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, edited by Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram, and Sue D’Auria, with photographs by Chester Higgins Jr, and a new handy flexibound edition of The Treasures of the Valley of the Kings: Tombs and Temples of the Theban West Bank in Luxor, edited by Kent R. Weeks, with photographs by Araldo De Luca.
Architecture & the Arts
The focus of the two forthcoming architecture books is on Veiling Architecture: Decoration of Domestic Buildings in Upper Egypt 1672–1950 by Ahmed Abdel-Gawad and The Sultan’s Fountain: An Imperial Story of Cairo, Istanbul, and Amsterdam by Agnieszka Dobrowolska and Jaroslaw Dobrowolski.
For the new academic year and Arabic language students, the AUC Press is also publishing the next volume in the series ‘Arabi Liblib: Egyptian Colloquial Arabic for the Advanced Learner, 3: Idioms and Other Expressions by Kamal Al Ekhnawy and Jamal Ali, and Kalaam Gamiil: An Intensive Course in Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, Volume 2 by Abbas Al-Tonsi, Laila Al-Sawi, and Suzanne Massoud.
Travel Literature & Guidebooks
Finally, in this category will be available Lesley Lababidi’s new fully revised edition of Cairo: The Practical Guide as well as a new revised edition of Cairo: The Practical Guide Maps. Added to that are the much awaited Illustrated Guide to the Luxor Museum of Ancient Art and the Nubia Museum of Aswan by Janice Kamrin and The Illustrated Guide to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo by Bernard O’Kane.
Click here to browse and download
To download the flyer, click here.
The AUC Press was saddened to learn of the death of prominent Egyptian writer Khairy Shalaby in the early hours of 9 September 2011.
Khairy Shalaby was born on January 31, 1938, in a small village near Kafr al-Shaykh in the Nile Delta. He was a visiting professor at the Institute of Dramatic Arts, where he taught the history of contemporary Egyptian theater, and was editor-in-chief of Magallat al-shi'r (Poetry Magazine) and of the Maktabat al-dirasat al-sha'biya (Library of Popular Studies) series of books, published by the Ministry of Culture. He was awarded the National Prize for Literature for 1980-81, and received the Medal for Science and Art for the same year.
He was the author of some 70 books, including novels, short stories, historical tales, and critical studies. Three of his novels have been translated and published by the AUC Press: The Lodging House (Wikalat 'Atiya) (which was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2003), The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets (Rihalat al-turshagi al-halwagi), and earlier this year The Hashish Waiter (Saleh Hesa).
The AUC Press extends its sympathies to Mr. Shalaby's family.
To download the flyer, click here.
This summer’s AUC Press book contest is won by Ahmed Hamed for his description of the book A Photographer on the Hajj: The Travels of Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa‘udi (1904/1908) by Farid Kioumgi and Robert Graham (AUC Press, 2009). Below are three illustrations from the book.
Hamed, a friend of the AUC Press, wrote:
“This book is amazing as it shows us the history of the pilgrimage trip at the beginning of the twentieth century from Cairo to Mount Arafat to Medina. It is full of wonderful pictures that we can’t see anymore. It’s not only a book but also a time machine which takes us more than 100 years back in this holy trip through photographs and quotations.”
For this book contest that began on July 12, participants were asked to contribute a short description of an AUC Press book they particularly enjoyed reading.
Hamed, who is also an aficionado of Naguib Mahfouz and Alaa Al Aswany’s books, will receive a free book of his choice from the following AUC Press publications.
We hope you will join in for the next book contest this fall!
The latest in the AUC Press Tahrir Square publications, The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers (AUC Press, 2011) is now available at all the AUC Press Bookstores.
The six photographers, Sherif Assaf, Omar Attia, Rehab K. El Kalil, Timothy Kaldas, Zee Mo, and Monir El-Shazly, all students and professionals, followed and documented in different parts of Cairo the demonstrations converging on Tahrir, a square now internationally known as an icon of Liberation.
This powerful visual record covers the days of the Egyptian revolution in sequence, from January 25, "The Day of Revolt" to March 19, the day of the Constitutional Referendum.
To read more about The Road to Tahrir and buy it, click here.
Here are just some of the stunning photographs from the book.
The AUC Press has always been committed to the translation of Mahfouz’s writing, including all his 35 novels, as well as other works.
To pay tribute to Naguib Mahfouz’s seventy-year career and to mark the milestone centenary of his birth, the AUC Press is publishing this fall the Naguib Mahfouz Centennial Library.
► A one-time-only limited edition.
► 20 hardbound volumes (the books are not available individually in this edition).
► It also includes three collections of short stories, Echoes of an Autobiography, his exquisite late series of intensely short fictions The Dreams, and the collection of his weekly newspaper columns, Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber.
To read more about this Centennial Library, click here.
Summer vacation is a time for leisure, day dreaming, and reading....
Describe an AUC Press book that you have read and enjoyed, in 50 words or fewer.
The best description will win a free AUC Press book and will be published in the September edition of the AUC Press e-newsletter.
Entries are now welcome until August 20.
► post your book description on the AUC Press Facebook page
► or submit it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winner will be able to choose one of following AUC Press books:
Photography is one of his great passions. Since Amr Khadr picked up a camera 10 years ago, his work has been exhibited in Cairo, Rennes, and Paris.
Over the past decade his photographs have also appeared on almost a dozen covers of AUC Press Arabic in Translation books.
In a recent interview, the Egyptian photographer explained the work behind his cover images.
AUC Press: What do you think the photograph on a book cover should reflect?
Khadr: Very much like the title, the book cover is an exercise of eloquence that strives to capture an essential element of the book; a key idea, an intriguing character, or a dramatic event.
The summer hours, including during Ramadan, for the five AUC Press Bookstores are:
11:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
Falaki Texbook Store
9:00 am - 4:00 pm daily; closed Friday & Saturday
11:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
New Cairo Bookstore
9:00 am – 4:00 pm daily; closed Friday & Saturday
New Cairo Campus Shop
9:00 am – 4:00 pm daily; closed Friday & Saturday
For a complete further details about the AUC Press bookstores, click here.
Vacation is a perfect time to catch up on reading!
The AUC Press proposes the following list of books for your holiday:
Cairo: The City Victorious by Max Rodenbeck
The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, with an introduction by Sabry Hafez, translated by William M. Hutchins, Olive E. Kenny, Lorne M. Kenny, and Angele Botros Samaan
The Calligrapher’s Secret by Rafik Schami, translated by Anthea Bell
Chicago by Alaa Al Aswany, translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab
Egypt 1250 BC: A Traveler’s Companion by Donald P. Ryan
The Essential Naguib Mahfouz: Novels, Short Stories, Autobiography, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies
Farewell to Alexandria: Eleven Short Stories by Harry E. Tzalas, translated by Susan E. Mantouvalou, illustrated by Anna Boghiguian
Traveling through Egypt: From 450 B.C. to the Twentieth Century, edited by Deborah Manley and
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany, translated by Humphrey Davies
Denys Johnson-Davies has produced more than thirty volumes of translation of modern Arabic literature, including The Essential Tawfiq al-Hakim (AUC Press, 2008), The Essential Yusuf Idris (AUC Press, 2009), and more recently, The Essential Naguib Mahfouz (AUC Press, 2011).
The renowned literary critic and professor of English and comparative literature Edward Said described Denys Johnson-Davies as "the leading Arabic–English translator of our time."
As AUC Press celebrates this year the centennial of Mahfouz's birth, Johnson-Davies, who also translated some of Mahfouz's novels, including Arabian Nights and Days (AUC Press, 1996) and The Journey of Ibn Fattouma (AUC Press, 1997), speaks about his career as a translator and about his friend.
► To watch the interview on the AUC Press YouTube Channel, click here.
The questions Denys Johnson-Davies was asked during the interview:
* About translating
How do you decide which / what book you want to translate?
What makes a book worth translating?
What do you like about translating?
Does a translator have a style of translation and can it actually infringe on the author’s original literary style? Is this part of a good translation?
Why do you think Edward Said called you “the leading Arabic–English translator of our time”?
Do you think there is a lot of talent today among young Arab writers?
Which book have you most enjoyed translating over all these years?
What Arab writer do you most enjoy reading?
* About Naguib Mahfouz
Which of Mahfouz’s writing do you prefer?
You once said about Mahfouz: “Mahfouz also rendered Arabic literature a great service by developing, over the years, a form of language in which many of the archaisms and clichés that had become fashionable were discarded, a language that could serve as an adequate instrument for the writing of fiction in these times.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by “archaisms and clichés”?
What other aspects made Mahfouz such a great writer?
Is there a more contemporary Arab writer that can match Mahfouz’s pen?
How well did you know Naguib Mahfouz and how would you describe him?
How do you think Mahfouz would have reacted to Egypt’s 25 January revolution?
What do you consider a ‘good’ translation?
Is there a final comment that you wish to make about Naguib Mahfouz or translating?
For the complete list of translations by Denys Johnson-Davies, click here.
|Denys Johnson-Davies with Naguib Mahfouf|
About Denys Johnson-Davies
In 2007, Johnson-Davies received the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Personality of the Year in the Field of Culture.
He spent his childhood in Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, and Kenya, and then was sent to England to boarding school at age 12. He studied Oriental languages at Cambridge, and has lectured about translation and English literature at several universities across the Arab World.
He is the author of the forthcoming AUC Press publication Homecoming: Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories.
Photo by Cherif Abdullah
This year marks the centenary of the birth of the great Egyptian writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who was born in the crowded Cairo district of Gamaliya. He wrote nearly 40 novel-length works, plus hundreds of short stories and numerous screenplays.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988.
In the past 25 years, the AUC Press has published English translations of all Mahfouz’s novels, including his world classic Cairo Trilogy, many of his short stories and other writings, and 600 foreign language editions.
His youngest daughter, Faten Mahfouz, speaks about her father, his writing, and his legacy, as AUC Press, which has been providing English translations of Mahfouz’s writing since 1978, celebrates this important milestone year.
Father and daughter
AUC Press: What is it like to be the daughter of Naguib Mahfouz, the great humanist, the Nobel laureate, the famous Egyptian, the internationally-acclaimed novelist?
FMahfouz: For me, he was just a father. I am very glad that he’s been appreciated. He was a famous person but he was also a regular person. We never used to say, my sister and I, that we were the daughters of Naguib Mahfouz. My mother was the same. She would not introduce herself as "the wife of Naguib Mahfouz."
AUC Press: What kind of a father was Naguib Mahfouz?
FMahfouz: He was an ideal father. He was very affectionate. He spent more time with me when he grew older. When my sister and I were little, it was once a week. We would spend all day Friday together. During vacation, in the summer, we used to go to Alexandria for three months, sometimes more. In the morning, he would meet his friends and in the afternoon we would go out together.
He was different from other parents because of his age. He married late. If we didn’t agree with his opinion, we could discuss our differences. If we couldn’t convince each other, he wouldn’t say this is right or wrong. He was open minded.
AUC Press: What were some of your favorite things that you would do with your father?
FMahfouz: When we were kids, he would tell us stories before we went to bed. We would sit on the couch in the living room and listen to him.
In Alexandria, he and I would go on a walk together while my sister and mother would get ready. We would then all go out to dinner and then to the movies. We loved that very much.
AUC Press: Did either you or your sister wish to follow in your father’s footsteps and become writers?
FMahfouz: My sister used to write when she was in school. She was much better than me. My father tried to encourage us. He told me: “Try to write and I’ll be with you.” But either you have it or you don’t. He was just interested in writing. He would write even if he would not get published. He just wanted to write.
AUC Press: How would you describe your father?
FMahfouz: He was kind, honest, generous, and very caring. He had a great sense of humor. He was also very fair. If I asked him for something, [my sister never did], and he would always get me whatever I asked for, he would get two of them. One for me and one for my sister, even if she said she didn’t want it. He would get her one anyway.
He would never go to bed unless he knew we were all home safe. If we went to parties or weddings and stayed out late, in the morning he would check on us and say: “you were late” but in a nice way. He was not strict. Even if he would criticize something we did, he would say it in a very nice way, and maybe in a funny way so that we would laugh.
He would forgive people no matter what they did. If people tried to fool him, he would realize it but he would not make a fuss of it. That was his nature.
Mahfouz and his writing
AUC Press: Alaa Al Aswany once said about Naguib Mahfouz: “He was the founder of the new Arab novel, and he opened doors for five generations of Arab novelists. He is our father.” In your opinion, what does Mahfouz mean to Egyptians?
FMahfouz: I think it is very difficult to answer that question in his place. It is not for me to say.
AUC Press: What makes your father such a great writer?
FMahfouz: He was very loyal, very honest. He was concerned about the problems of Egyptians. He cared about Egypt. He was patriotic.
AUC Press: Do you have a favorite among your father’s books?
FMahfouz: I did not read all his writings but I like his novels. But maybe because he is my father….
AUC Press: Would your father talk to you about his writing?
FMahfouz: No, no. He wouldn’t talk to anyone until the book he was working on was published, not even to his friends or my mother.
AUC Press: Where did he draw his inspiration for his stories?
FMahfouz: I think it was a combination of things - conversations with people, the newspapers, cafés….
AUC Press: Would he write in the café?
FMahfouz: No, never. Not at all. He never wrote outside the house. He would only sit in the café and read the newspaper. He liked Fishawi because it is located in the heart of old Cairo and because many intellectuals used to go there. Sometimes we used to go with him to Fishawi. It was OK if people just came to greet him and didn’t take notice of us but most people were curious and I don’t like that. We would feel uncomfortable. They irritated me a lot.
AUC Press: What were some of his writing habits?
FMahfouz: He liked to get up early. When he was young, it was 4:00 am. Later, when he got older he would wake up at 7:00 am. He would exercise and then read. He liked to read several books at the same time. After that he would go out to a café, but would always walk there. There he would read the newspaper.
And then when he returned home he would write from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. His study was in the living room but he would never close the door. During the summer though, he never wrote. When my sister and I were in school, he would sit with us while we studied and he would write. We knew he was working so we were quiet. We were not to speak loud and if we played, we had to play outside.
AUC Press: Did you ever celebrate when he finished writing a book?
FMahfouz: No, never. But also, by the time he got married with my mother, he had already written some of his novels. He had more time then.
We didn’t have many people or parties in our house. We only had this one friend Tharwat Abaza, another famous Egyptian writer, who would come by the house anytime he wanted. He would stay for about half an hour when he had to talk to my father about something. We loved him very much. He was like a second father to us.
AUC Press: December 11 of this year marks the centennial of Naguib Mahfouz's birth. How do you think your father wants to be remembered?
FMahfouz: Of course he would be happy if people recognized him but I don’t think he would be sad if they didn’t. When we celebrated his birthday, he said a rose was enough. During the last years of his life, especially after the assassination attempt, different friends would come by the house every day for a whole week and invite him out and that would tire him very much. He appreciated it but it was hard on him because of his age.
He deserves to be remembered as a good person and a good novelist but then I can’t be objective because he is my father.
AUC Press: Did you ever talk about the assassination attempt on his life, in 1994?
FMahfouz: No, we never talked about it. It was a very painful memory and we did not want to bring it up. All what we know is what was in newspapers but we never asked him directly. I didn’t like it when journalists asked him for details about that day.
AUC Press: What would Naguib Mahfouz have said about the 25 January revolution?
FMahfouz: I think he would have been happy, like most Egyptians, including all intellectuals. A lot of people had been suffering.
In the 100th anniversary year of the birth of Naguib Mahfouz, the AUC Press recently published two more of his novels, along with a selection of the most important works of Egypt’s Nobel literature laureate.
Love in the Rain, written by Mahfouz in 1973, is a vibrant novel of love, bitterness, and betrayal, translated by Nancy Roberts. Set in Cairo in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the book’s protagonists are confronted with existential questions as Mahfouz exposes the hypocrisy of those who condemn any breach in sexual morality while turning a blind eye to violence, corruption, and oppression. “Policemen are demons. They know how to make life hell on earth and they breathe fire into pallid faces,” writes Mahfouz.
Heart of the Night, a classic Mahfouz story first released in Arabic in 1975, now in English, translated by Aida A. Bamia, explores the themes of marriage, spirituality, crime, and social justice. Jaafar Ibrahim Sayyid al-Rawi, the main character, is guided by his motto, “Let life be filled with holy madness to the last breath.” He marries a beautiful Bedouin woman but ultimately pays a high price. “I immediately became aware that I was in the company of a strong, ageless woman, a source of fascination, charm, and defiance. I surrendered to her, clearly revealing my own weakness,” says Mahfouz’s protagonist as he narrates his life story one night to one of the clients of a café in old Cairo.
The Essential Naguib Mahfouz: Novels, Short Stories, Autobiography, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies, offers an essential selection of short stories and extracts from novels such as Midaq Alley and Adrift on the Nile and other writings like his evocative Dreams, to present a cross-section through time of the very best of Mahfouz’s work. “With this publication, it is my hope that readers will be encouraged to take a plunge into modern Arabic literature through a selection of the writings of a man who showed that the same language that had produced a world classic like The Arabian Nights is also capable of making a worthwhile contribution to the literature of today,” writes Johnson-Davis in the book’s introduction.
Cairo Opera House – Open Air Theater
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
► 6:00 pm - Welcoming and Book Signings
Khairy Shalaby, The Hashish Waiter
Mona Prince, So You May See
Sherwet Shafei, Twentieth-Century Egyptian Art: The Private Collection of Sherwet Shafei by Mona Abaza
(AUC Press, 2011)
Mia Gröndahl, Tahrir Square: The Heart of the Egyptian Revolution (AUC Press, 2011)
Karima Khalil, Messages from Tahrir: Signs from Egypt's Revolution (AUC Press, 2011)
► 7:30 pm - Interview & Slide Presentation
Mia Gröndahl & Ayman Mohyeldin
► 8:00 pm - Life Performance
Ana Masry Band
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The AUC Press is currently holding three unique exhibitions on AUC's Tahrir Campus as part of a Visual Festival that runs until August 31, 2011. (Valid photo ID required).
To view a photo gallery of the exhibitions, click here.
AUC Future Gallery:
A photography exhibition with large color reproductions from three new AUC Press publications about the Egyptian revolution: Tahrir Square: The Heart of the Egyptian Revolution by Swedish photographer Mia Gröndahl; Messages from Tahrir: Signs from Egypt’s Revolution, and The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers by Sherif Assaf et al. (Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily except Friday)
Margo Veillon Gallery of Modern Egyptian Art :
The first of two collections exhibited concurrently, Celebrating Egypt, features more than 40 mixed media paintings by Margo Veillon.
The second, Still Lifes, also by the late Swiss Egyptian artist, comprises 17 oil and mixed media paintings, never previously seen by the public, from the Permanent Masterpieces Collection. (Hours: 2:00 to 6:00 pm daily except Friday)
AUC Legacy Gallery:
This third exhibition commemorates this year’s centennial of the birth of AUC Press author and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, as well as the AUC Press’s 50th Anniversary. (Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily except Friday)
Messages from Tahrir
The Road to Tahrir
|The exhibition in the Future Gallery also includes a display of revolution memorabilia.|
During the recent Tahrir Book Fair, a number of AUC Press authors, including Galal Amin, Samia Mehrez, Hamdi Abu Golayyel, Ahmed Sedky, Hala El Badry, Bahaa Abdelmegid, Heba Handoussa, M. M. Tawfiq, and moderator Hoda Wasfi, participated in an open discussion about the future of culture and literature about the 25 January uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Here is what some of the authors said during that discussion:
Galal Amin, author of the recently published Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak 1981 – 2011 (AUC Press, 2011), The Illusion of Progress in the Arab World: A Critique of Western Misconstructions (AUC Press, 2006), Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians?: From the Revolution to the Age of Globalization (AUC Press, 2004), and Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?: Changes in Egyptian Society from 1950 to the Present (AUC Press, 2000):
“Two important things happened as a result of Egypt’s 23 July Revolution in 1952. It created optimism and gave people hope in the future, but it also brought about a change in the class structure, as 20 to 30% of the population became part of the middle class, thus narrowing the gap between rich and poor. These two factors created new talent and were very good for cultural life, and I think the 25 January Revolution will have the same impact and therefore I am optimistic about cultural revival in this country.”
Samia Mehrez, editor of The Literary Life of Cairo: One Hundred Years in the Heart of the City (AUC Press, 2011) and The Literary Atlas of Cairo: One Hundred Years on the Streets of the City (AUC Press, 2010), and author of Egypt’s Culture Wars: Politics and Practice (AUC Press, 2010):
“I want to go back to the basic demands of the revolution, which are freedom, change, and social justice, and explore how they might be applied to the cultural field. If we begin with the demand for freedom, one of the problems in the cultural field, when Egyptian cultural producers would cross the red line they were constantly threatened to be prosecuted because of the haphazardness and unpredictability of legislation surrounding freedom of expression. What we need now is more transparency and fewer restrictions. Unfortunately, rather than support freedom of expression, the new cabinet in post-revolutionary Egypt has proposed a new legislation that criminalizes public protest, a proposal that violates the basic constitutional rights of every citizen. This is a serious setback already.
"As for the demand for change, we need to consider structural and institutional change in the cultural field and we need to look at how cultural institutions should be set up in the future. In the past these institutions served the state and not the people. They benefited the elite. Culture should be at the service of the people.
"Finally, the demand for social justice also needs to be integrated into the cultural field. There was a huge difference in pay between the elite of cultural institutions and the rest of the civil servants working within them. Likewise, independent and younger avant garde artists were generally excluded; they could not access the budget.”
Bahaa Abdelmegid, author of two modern Arabic novellas Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers (AUC Press, 2010) and Temple Bar (Merit Publishing House, 2011):
“Any political revolution is always accompanied by a cultural revolution, a cultural agenda. Overthrowing the old regime should be replaced by a new one and intellectuals have to participate in achieving this. Intellectuals safeguard freedom of expression by informing people through writing and enlightening them.
"The 25 January revolution expressed the will of people, their dream for a better life, equal opportunities, and a liberal society. Authors helped in making this possible either by writing or by speaking out.
"I was always aware of my role as a writer and as a university professor, and my characters were aware of the [former] dictatorial regime. In my novella Sleeping With Strangers and novel Temple Bar, my heroes are unhappy, depressed, and always thinking of suicide because they are not understood by their society and because of the lack of freedom they live in. They would always watch demonstrators in the streets but never participated in them. They were like an audience who wished change to happen in order to release them from their personal agony but they stood inactive and finally came the historical moment where all became one.
"We want a liberal society where all parties participate in civil government and civil life. We want cultural freedom, a chance to create, and mix with the whole world.”
Ahmed Sedky, author of Living with Heritage in Cairo: Area Conservation in the Arab–Islamic City (AUC Press, 2009):
“I like to use the metaphor of the earthquake in which the tectonic layers move in order for the Earth to release pressure. Egypt is eternal and everlasting, symbolized by the Earth, and we are the people on its surface. Regardless of the number of casualties like those claimed during the January 25 revolution, such an incident is very healthy. We suffered and shall still have to but certainly this is all healthy for Egypt and its culture after long time during which freedom was halted.
"We now need to move towards the individual's rights that have been suppressed for long time. Unfortunately we started to see, in less controlled contexts, some individuals impose their own rights and this would lead to nothing but chaos. A vibrant, functioning, and progressive nation cannot be realized without regaining the balance of both the individual's and the nation's rights, but this cannot be achieved at once!
"Now the anti-revolution forces are voraciously attacking and investing in their loyal deeply rooted agents in all institutions where the old regime leaders have bred for decades. But because of the DNA of this country’s great civilization, Egypt shall reach the ultimate balance needed for a prosperous, better life.”
BBC reporter Eva Dadrian visited the Tahrir Book Fair, hosted by the AUC Press at the AUC Tahrir Campus from March 31 to April 4.
She spoke to AUC Press Associate Director, Sales, Marketing, and Distribution Trevor Naylor, about freedom of expression after Egypt's revolution, the role of the media, and the future of the country's publishing industry.
To read the story on BBC News, click here.
To listen to The Strand radio program on the BBC World Service, click here.
“The idea of the Tahrir Anniversary Calendar actually came from one of our customers so I thought of having a calendar right away, starting from April 2011 to March 2012, which would, 12 months later, celebrate the anniversaries of some of Egypt’s greatest modern moments,” explained Trevor Naylor, AUC Press Associate Director for Sales and Marketing. “Dax’s photos are great and immediate, and so far all our customers love the Tahrir Calendar.”
Dax Roque, bookstore manager at the AUC Press, who has been living in Egypt since 2006, went into Tahrir Square nearly every day of the revolution with his Nikon to capture those historic moments. Twelve of his photographs are now featured in the new AUC Press Tahrir Anniversary Calendar 2011–2012.
In a recent interview, he shared some of his thoughts about his photography and his eye-witness experience of the revolution.
Bahgat Korany, editor of The Changing Middle East: A New Look at Regional Dynamics (AUC Press, 2010) and co-editor of The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Globalization (AUC Press, 2008), recently shared his views about the changing political landscape in the Middle East.
AUC Press: Did you expect events to unfold so quickly in Egypt after January 25?
Korany: No, I didn’t even expect the 25th January. I would have liked to be credited for it. CNN made a big issue, saying The Changing Middle East foretold or indicated the events. But the image I like to use is that I was like a geologist who could see the fault lines but couldn’t see what time the earthquake would take place. The timing of the revolt, the magnitude, and the impact, came as a surprise. I would say that even for the guys who were triggering the uprising, as many of the young people told me, they were hoping that at least their demonstration this time would be successful because they have tried so many times before and didn’t have enough people. Even for them it was a surprise.
AUC Press: In The Changing Middle East, you point out that the 1952 Egyptian revolution by Nasser brought some very significant changes to Egypt: a republic, agrarian reforms, welfare policies, and nationalization. What do you think will be some of the most important changes that will come out of this 2011 revolution and would you say that it was a combination of a sudden change—a revolution—and a cumulative process, like in Egypt's case, a very large and growing unemployed youth population?
Korany: To answer the second part of the question first, it touches on the whole framework of the book. I make the distinction between what I call big bangs, like war, revolution, and milestone events—for example, all of us actually, individually, have that: we get married, have children, travel abroad, have a certain experience; these are visible things, we can’t miss them—and the gradual incremental process of change—again, for example, all of us age with the passage of time and advance in our jobs. I was saying to young people that we should not fall into this trap, that because the incremental process is not visible, we think it is less important. On the contrary, I would say that many of the milestones, many of the big bangs are the accumulation of the incremental, gradual process. All the chapters in the book are about that incremental steady process of change. I wanted to attract attention to it because you can so easily miss it, whereas you cannot miss the big bangs. And the implication is that the big bangs somehow are the result of the accumulated incremental process. It is the crowning of that process.
A big part of the revolution, in Tunisia and in Egypt, is the magnitude of unemployment. All the economic problems have been part of daily life and getting worse and worse and then, at a certain time, it blows up. Take Mohammad Bu Azizi: he was a Tunisian university graduate and he wasn’t even allowed to be a fruit and vegetable peddler so he burned himself. That was a big bang but the process was there that led up to it. So there really is a close interaction between the big bangs and the incremental process. The revolution is certainly a big bang. Now what is going on, the impact of this revolution, is that we are getting rid of the old elite and seeing the rehabilitation of the young people. Many of the old elite used to talk about these “kids” but now the youth is being taken much more seriously. I think there is an increasing consciousness about the internet, Facebook, and all the new media. New values are being installed, like keeping the country clean and doing things properly, and I hope this will continue.
AUC Press: Do you think the Egyptian revolution and the others in the region would be taking place without the new social media?
Korany: The easy way would be to say that it is a combination but let me break it down because it is an important methodological question. Lots of people say Facebook is the cause. I don’t think so. Facebook has facilitated the mobilization of the people but the causes were there. People were fed up with repression, fed up with increasing corruption, economic problems, and the police security apparatus. Then diffusing the news got the people together and they went into Tahrir Square. So it really is the idea of mobilization through Facebook and the new media in general.
AUC Press: How stable is Egypt today?
Korany: Still unstable! I think the road ahead is quite rocky. We have a very peculiar situation. I will call it revolutionaries without a revolution, in the sense that when you look at history, in the history of revolutions, people go to the street, carry out the revolution, and take power. What we see here is that the revolutionaries who instigated the change are not there. We still have many of the traditional faces. Even the average age of the cabinet ministers has not changed very much. The vice prime minister is above eighty. So the mindset is not the revolutionary mindset and this is very peculiar in the Egyptian situation. I want to emphasize this anomaly. Usually in revolutions, the instigators change the regime and take power immediately. This is what happened in 1952. I think the young people in Tahrir have to get together and either form a coalition or a party. This primary group that carried out the change has to be in charge of managing the change and directing the country.
AUC Press: Can you speculate on who will be elected the next Egyptian president?
First of all the list is not complete. However, the top candidate seems to be Amr Moussa. I am not crazy about him. He is 75 and part of the old system, the old regime. He was the Egyptian foreign minister for ten years. Then he went to the Arab League in 2001. So for ten years he has been with the Arab League. What has he achieved, that is my question. He talks well, he knows how to charm people around him. But as a political scientist, I look at achievements. We are in a region where the majority of the population, above 50 percent, is under 25 years of age and this is one of the points that the book emphasizes—the gap between the youth bulge and the aging leadership. The possible election of Moussa does not narrow this generation gap.
AUC Press: How do you think all the current changes in the political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa will shape the effectiveness and role of the Arab League?
Korany: When you talk to people like Amr Moussa, he says you are asking him too much because he is the secretary general and these guys, the twenty-two members, have the power and are always restricting his power, and that might be true. But he also acts like a civil servant, not like an initiator or an innovator. The Arab League has recently been going through a revolution with the intervention in Libya because they have taken the decision to allow the no-fly zone in one of the member states. I wonder if these revolutions had not taken place if the Arab League would have made that decision because they stick to a really very outdated traditional idea of sovereignty. They are not aware of globalization.
The United Nations, if they had not adopted a new idea of sovereignty, would not have decided to intervene and protect civilians against their rulers. That is the new context that we live in and the Arab League seems to be catching up. But I think their hand has been forced a bit and they realize that some Gulf countries, because of their feuds with Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, have been forcing them. So it is not really a change of mindset yet. I think the Arab League is still traditional and I can’t see that Amr Moussa has done very much to change that aspect. He could have, because he has a certain charisma, a certain popularity, and he is an intelligent man. Instead he kept things going and wasn’t ready to rock the boat.
The Arab League has tried to modernize itself and be in contact with civil society. They added a new organ. Now they have an Arab parliament, but most of the MPs are appointed by their governments. In political science in this case we refer to GNGOs, which stands for government non-government organizations. So it becomes like a façade, a sort of farce.
The Arab League also has to change the old mindset that there are no problems. In their meetings, if you bring up problems you are perceived negatively, as if you are a spoiler. They like to keep the chat polite and pleasant, but that way we don’t solve anything.
Finally the structure of the institution itself needs a lot of rehauling and this might be the occasion.
AUC Press: In The Changing Middle East, as one of the dilemmas affecting the region’s dynamics you emphasize the “aging governing elites versus the youthfulness of the population.” Do you think a younger government is the main answer to gaining the confidence of the youth? And do you think that the youth in particular, long excluded from the political debate and civic society, is more knowledgeable and empowered today, and if so, how will this influence the outcome of elections and the future Egyptian governing body?
They have been energized and many of them feel rehabilitated. Are they going to be part of the decision making? There is a tendency toward that. Amr Hamzawi has been offered the post of minister of youth but he turned it down. He is probably right. The moment is not right because he will be a minority among the old mindset. Perhaps at some point he will form a political party and then get into elections and go into the political process. Also one of my research assistants has been associated with the vice prime minister to conduct the national dialogue so I think there is an attempt to reach out to the young people and that certainly convinces them that they have a role to play. Many of them measured up to the responsibility.
But to be fair, some of these young people are naïve and idealistic. They don’t have a program of action, are not united, and some are not practical. I mean if you are running a country, you have to manage things. You have to see how the stock exchange will work, how to get money to pay people’s salaries, if the food prices rise how you prevent the Egyptians from starving. These are down-to-earth issues that you have to deal with. You can’t just have your basic principles and say I insist on them. Politics is negotiation and compromise. Some of those young people still don’t have enough experience in political negotiation.
Now going back to the issue of bringing in a younger governing elite, this needs to be the case, and not just to pacify the young people in Midan al-Tahrir but to reflect the situation of the country. I mean if the majority of the population is young, why do we keep the old people and only the old people in power? We need to include and not exclude them as we did before. It is also the responsibility of the older generation to mentor the younger elite.
AUC Press: In what way(s) will the new regional dynamics in the Middle East affect the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Korany: There is pressure now on the Palestinians to unify, that is one thing. I think the Palestinian National Authority is as corrupt as many of the old regimes. There is a cleaning up act that needs to be done there. But also Israel needs a 25th January revolution. It is the biggest military power in the region and they have to reach out to other countries and instead of trying ethnic cleansing with the Palestinians as they did yesterday [March 23, 2011] in the Knesset, they need their revolution there too.
There is a close relationship between Egypt and Israel. I haven’t really collected the statistics but my feeling is that the last two years or so the most received foreign prime minister in Cairo has been Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. In addition to the telephone calls and the informal context that we don’t know about, the secrets, it has gone actually from just being peace, to being partnership, and some people may even talk about collusion. You now have a new Egyptian foreign minister, Nabil El Arabi, who had lots of reservations about Camp David at that time, i.e. 1978. I don’t think Egypt will cancel Camp David but certainly they will demand a revision of the natural gas agreement and that partnership/collusion could diminish. So there would be increasing pressure on Israel from this point of view.
AUC Press: In your concluding remarks in The Foreign Policies of Arab States, co-edited with Ali E. Hillal Dessouki, you said that “Arab ‘deficits’ in good governance are now coupled with a major adaptability deficit to global sea changes” and that as a result “the foreign policies of many states are concerned only with managing immediate problems and concentrate on the extremely short term, even in mastering their assets.” Is this likely to change at all in light of the events that have been unfolding across the region?
Korany: This brings us to problem-solving and mindsets. This will take time. It will change but it will take time. I think some regimes will realize that they can’t carry out business as usual and it has already started in Yemen and probably Syria and Bahrain. They will adapt much more easily under pressure. If the revolution in Tunisia was the trigger, Egypt was the prize. What was important about Tunisia was that it showed how fragile authoritarian regimes are, that they can collapse very quickly. With the revolutions, we did away with the barrier of fear, and civil society started to say “these guys look very strong but in fact they are not so let us revolt against them.” It worked in Egypt and it worked elsewhere. From that point of view, the pressure will continue. But what I am looking for is a change of mindsets, that things are done differently and not just as tactical responses because the regimes are under pressure.
AUC Press: Will the US need to rethink its foreign policy with the changing Middle East?
Korany: I think that the US is indeed pressured to rethink its foreign policy! I would not like to be in the place of US president Obama or the European Union because their agenda has been upset and the situation has changed. The positive aspect is that now the US can talk about politics and they can even help existing regimes make the transition because they can convince them that in the long run it is in their best interest. The US can’t be torn between its principles and its policies, it only can narrow the gap. One thing that has disappeared, and this is good, is that regime stability does not mean political stability. The fact that former president Mubarak was there for thirty years does not mean that there is political stability. It means that there is repression of the people that then blows up at a certain time. These situations are the most favorable for the appearance of extremist Muslim approaches including Al Qaeda.
Bahgat Korany is also a professor in the Department of Political Science at the American University in Cairo and Director of the AUC Forum. He has published nine books, including Social Change, Charisma and International Behavior, his first book, for which he received the Hauchman Prize in International Relations in 1976.
The AUC Press has selected more than one hundred publications in Middle East Studies.
► To download this complete list, click here.
► To see the AUC Press Books for Insight into The New Egypt click here.
The American University in Cairo Press will host the Tahrir Book Fair on the AUC Tahrir Campus from March 31 to April 3, during which one hundred local and foreign exhibitors, including the AUC Press, will be selling books in English, Arabic, and other languages, directly to the public. We hope you will participate in this special event!
If you wish to be an exhibitor during the four-day fair, please send us your application and payment by March 20, 2011.
► Invitation to the Tahrir Book Fair
► Program of the Tahrir Book Fair
► General Information for Exhibitors about the Tahrir Book Fair
► Exhibitor Application for the Tahrir Book Fair
► Map of AUC Tahrir Campus
►For further information, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Upon popular demand by the visiting public and the many exhibitors from Egypt and abroad, the Tahrir Book Fair on AUC's Downtown Campus is being extended through Monday, April 4, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The Tahrir Book Fair, hosted by the AUC Press, was inaugurated by H.E. the Minister of Culture, Dr. Emad Abou Ghazi, on Thursday, March 31.
"We are delighted by the enthusiastic turn-out," said AUC Press Director Mark Linz. "But we are even more pleased that we are now extending the Fair through Monday, April 4."
On Thursday, March 31, Egyptian AUC Press authors Galal Amin, Samia Mehrez, Hamdi Abu Golayyel, Ahmed Sedky, Hala El Badry, Bahaa Abdelmegid, Heba Handoussa, and M. M. Tawfiq, held an open discussion with moderator Hoda Wasfi on the direction of literature and cuture after Egypt's revolution.
Live music has been sponsored at the Book Fair by the Sawy Culture Wheel in the gardens, featuring bands like Wust el Balad.
On Saturday, April 2, visitors could enjoy special offers and book signings with the authors. A lively book reading with Sarah Gauch and a workshop for children were also included in the program.
"People are very excited about the Fair, they want us to organize the Tahrir Book Fair twice a year," said AUC Press Promotion Manager Nabila Akl. "The visitors love the place, the atmosphere, the activities, and the cheerful organization. Although people were disappointed that the Fair had to close earlier on Friday because of the unrest in Tahrir Square, everyone is now very happy with the extension through Monday afternoon."
To read more about the Tahrir Book Fair, click here.
Download the Tahrir Book Fair program
View the AUC Tahrir Campus map
Especially now that the incompetence and corruption of the former Egyptian government are the target of the people’s revolutionary wrath, everybody wants to understand Cairo—how the more than 20 million Egyptians who inhabit this megalopolis have been coping over the past decades with traffic gridlocks, insufficient public transportation, inadequate higher education, rising unemployment, and scarce affordable housing.
In his comprehensive and accessible new book, Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (AUC Press, 2010), economist and urban planner David Sims sheds a bright light on the intricacies of Cairo’s urban development and also deconstructs some of the misconceptions about the city he loves. One that he is avid to contest touches on the growth of Cairo’s population. “There is this attempt to lay all of Cairo’s problems on to the very people who are not destroying the city, which is the mass of people who don’t own cars and who are just trying to get along and are perceived to have peasant roots,” explains Sims in a recent interview. “This idea that they form this continued random migration into Cairo is also a myth,” adds Sims, a resident of Cairo for the past three decades.
To read more, click here.
In light of the historic and sweeping events that have unfolded in Egypt over the past weeks, the AUC Press proposes the following selection of books as recommended reading to better understand the contexts within which the new Egypt is rising.
These AUC Press publications, listed below, range from fiction to politics, economics, and social issues, but also, as importantly, cover history and biography. We hope you find these titles useful and insightful.
Arabic Literature in Translation:
|The Yacoubian Building
Alaa Al Aswany
Translated by Humphrey Davies
|Cairo Swan Song
Translated by Adam Talib
|The Day the Leader Was Killed
Translated by Malak Hashem
Translated by Roger Allen
Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab
Foreword by Edward W. Said
and Sleeping with Strangers
Translated by Chip Rossetti
Translated by Mary St. Germain and Charlene Constable
Afterword by Roger Allen
|City of Love and Ashes
R. Neil Hewison
|Conscience of the Nation:
Writers, State, and Society in Modern Egypt
Translated by David Tresilian
|The Literary Atlas of Cairo:
One Hundred Years on the Streets of the City
|The Literary Life of Cairo:
One Hundred Years in the Heart of the City
Edited and with an introduction by Samia Mehrez
Translated by Elliott Colla
|The Hashish Waiter
Translated by Adam Talib
Politics, Economics, and Social Issues:
|On the State of Egypt:
A Novelist's Provocative Reflections
Alaa Al Aswany
Translated by Jonathan Wright
|Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak, 1981–2011
|The Arab State and Neo-Liberal Globalization:
The Restructuring of State Power in the Middle East
Edited by Laura Guazzone and Daniela Pioppi
|Beyond the Façade:
Political Reform in the Arab World
Edited by Marina Ottaway and
Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East
Edited by Diane Singerman and Paul Amar
Governance, Urban Space, and Global Modernity
Edited by Diane Singerman
|The Changing Middle East:
A New Look at Regional Dynamics
Edited by Bahgat Korany
The Moment of Change
Edited by Rabab El-Mahdi
and Philip Marfleet
|Egypt, Islam, and Democracy:
Saad Eddin Ibrahim
With a new postscript by the author
|Egypt’s Culture Wars:
Politics and Practice
|Egypt’s Political Economy:
Power Relations in Development
Nadia Ramsis Farah
Current Challenges and Future Prospect
Edited by Hanaa Kheir-El-Din
The Logic of a City Out of Control
|Life as Politics:
How Ordinary People Change the Middle East
Class, Gender, and Public Space in Cosmopolitan Cairo
Anouk de Koning
|Popular Culture in the Arab World:
Arts, Politics, and the Media
|Judges and Political Reform in Egypt
Edited by Nathalie Bernard-Maugiron
|Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt
|The New Atlas of the Arab World||The Illusion of Progress in the Arab World:
A Critique of Western Misconstructions
Translated by David Wilmsen
|Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?:
Changes in Egyptian Society
from 1950 to the Present
Illustrations by Golo
|Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians?:
From the Revolution to the Age of Globalization
Translated by David Wilmsen
Illustrations by Samir
History and Biography:
The City Victorious
|A Concise History of the Middle East
New Revised Edition
Arthur Goldschmidt Jr.
|A History of Egypt:
From Earliest Times to the Present
An extensive selection of AUC Press publications from archaeology to modern Arabic literature, including Alaa Al Aswany’s new On The State of Egypt: A Novelist’s Provocative Reflections (AUC Press, 2011) are available in the Store's book section.
The Store is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and can be directly accessed from a separate entrance adjacent to the Museum.
To view a photo gallery of inside the Cairo Museum Store, click here.
Upon popular demand by the visiting public and the many exhibitors from Egypt and abroad, the Tahrir Book Fair on AUC's Downtown Campus is being extended through Monday, April 4, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The Tahrir Book Fair, hosted by the AUC Press, was inaugurated by H.E. the Minister of Culture, Dr. Emad Abou Ghazi, on Thursday, March 31.
"We are delighted by the enthusiastic turn-out," said AUC Press Director Mark Linz. "But we are even more pleased that we are now extending the Fair through Monday, April 4."
On Thursday, March 31, Egyptian AUC Press authors Galal Amin, Samia Mehrez, Hamdi Abu Golayyel, Ahmed Sedky, Hala El Badry, Bahaa Abdelmegid, Heba Handoussa, and M. M. Tawfiq, held an open discussion with moderator Hoda Wasfi on the direction of literature and cuture after Egypt's revolution.
Live music has been sponsored at the Book Fair by the Sawy Culture Wheel in the gardens, featuring bands like Wust el Balad.
On Saturday, April 2, visitors could enjoy special offers and book signings with the authors. A lively book reading with Sarah Gauch and a workshop for children were also included in the program.
"People are very excited about the Fair, they want us to organize the Tahrir Book Fair twice a year," said AUC Press Promotion Manager Nabila Akl. "The visitors love the place, the atmosphere, the activities, and the cheerful organization. Although people were disappointed that the Fair had to close earlier on Friday because of the unrest in Tahrir Square, everyone is now very happy with the extension through Monday afternoon."
To read more about the Tahrir Book Fair, click here.
Download the Tahrir Book Fair program
View the AUC Tahrir Campus map
See the list of the Tahrir Book Fair exhibitors
Alaa Al Aswany's new book On The State of Egypt: A Novelist's Provocative Reflections, translated by Jonathan Wright and just published by the AUC Press (2011) is now available at the AUC Press Zamalek and New Cairo Bookstores.
In On The State of Egypt, a collection of the weekly newspaper columns previously published in Arabic, now translated into English, the bestselling author of The Yacoubian Building and Chicago takes a close look at current affairs in Egypt. Like in his novels, he addresses poverty, class difference, police brutality, and corruption. He discusses the moral ambiguity of appointed politicians, the suitability of democratic reforms in a Muslim society, and the inherent contradiction in the actions of the religiously observant policeman who tortures or the man who harasses women.
To read more about the book, click here.
For other books by Alaa Al Aswany published by the AUC Press, click here.
Effective February 1, 2011, the publications of the American University in Cairo Press (AUC Press) are now being sold and distributed in the United States and Canada by Oxford University Press, Inc. (OUP-USA).
“We are very excited about our new distribution arrangement with Oxford University Press,” said Mark Linz, AUC Press director. “OUP’s market reach and expertise in how to sell both print and electronic books will allow us to expand our sales and distribution throughout North America. The first book we published when the AUC Press was established in 1960 was an international co-publication with Oxford. It’s great to be partnering with OUP again.”
Oxford University Press, Inc. (OUP USA) is linked to Oxford University Press in Oxford, England (OUP UK), which is a department of Oxford University and is the oldest and largest continuously operating university press in the world.
“Oxford is pleased to have a university press of such reputation join our distinguished line of distributed presses,” said Colleen Scollans, OUP vice president of global marketing. “The AUC Press’s commitment to excellence in scholarly publishing matches up with Oxford’s mission to further research and disseminate knowledge and scholarship worldwide, and their list of titles complements our own very well.”
To order AUC Press publications through OUP (USA), click here.
In light of the nationwide protests that took place as part of Egypt’s recent revolution, the sudden cancellation of the annual Cairo International Book Fair came as a disappointment to millions of visitors, as well as to the booksellers and publishers that attend the Book Fair from year to year.
The AUC Press strongly believes in the cultural and intellectual significance of the Cairo International Book Fair, and as a result of its cancellation will host at the end of March a Book Fair on the AUC Downtown Campus on Tahrir Square: The Tahrir Book Fair.
Held from March 31 to April 3, it will include thousands of publications by booksellers and publishers from Egypt and abroad, and will also feature author signings, panel seminars, special receptions, and entertainment.
To read about The Tahrir Book Fair in the news, click on the links below:
Trade looks forward with "excitement" in Egypt, The Bookseller.com, February 23, 2011
AUC to host Tahrir Book Fair, Al Ahram Online, February 20, 2011
The American University in Cairo Press is very pleased to announce that Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a runner-up in the 2010 Saif Ghobash - Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, for his translation of the novel Cities without Palms by Tarek Eltayeb, published by the AUC Press in 2009.
“It’s a real honor for me to be selected as one of the runners up, especially since this was the first novel that I have translated,” said Abu-Zeid on being told the result.
The judges of this year’s Banipal Translation Prize were author Margaret Drabble; writer, translator, and professor of comparative literature at Warwick University Susan Bassnett; translator and associate professor in the Department of Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University Elliott Colla; and on behalf of the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature Yasir Suleiman, professor of Modern Arabic studies and head of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge.
“Kareem Abu-Zeid’s translation reads fluently, the plainness of the writing reflecting the simplicity of the central character,” said Bassnett.
Cities without Palms is a timely short novel which recounts the journey of a village boy from Sudan who moves to Cairo and then travels to Europe in search of a better life. Tarek Eltayeb describes the trauma of migration and depicts tellingly the sharp contrasts of rural and city life.
“This is a story of our time, told with insight and sympathy, in a simple prose that the translator renders skillfully and unobtrusively into everyday English,” said Drabble.
The winner of the 2010 Banipal Translation Prize was the leading AUC Press translator Humphrey Davies for his translation of the novel Yalo by Elias Khoury, a captivating tale published by Maclehose Press, described by The Guardian as “curiously mesmerizing.” Davies was also the second 2010 runner-up for his translation of the Arab Booker Award winning novel Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher, published by Sceptre.
The Banipal award ceremony will be held on 31 January at King's Place in London, followed by a lecture on the art of literary translation.
The Saif Ghobash - Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is awarded annually to the translator of the published English translation of a full-length imaginative and creative work of literary merit translated from the Arabic original. The prize—£3,000—was established in 2005 by Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab Literature in English translation, and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, and now sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash in memory of his father, the late Saif Ghobash, a man passionate about Arabic literature and other literatures of the world.
Idris Ali, one of Egypt’s leading Nubian writers, passed away last month at the age of 70, following a heart attack.
Self-taught in literature, Ali attended the Religious Institute of al-Azhar and lived in Libya and Cairo.
He was the author of three short story collections and six novels, including Dongola (AUC Press, 2006) and Poor (AUC Press, 2007), that address life in Nubia, where characters struggle with the challenges of poverty, marginalization, emotional starvation, and squandered opportunities.
Idris fought for the rights of Nubians to better living conditions and compensation for the land taken from them when the High Dam was built in the 1970s.
In a book review of Ali’s novel Poor, Al Ahram Weekly said “[Poor] is never less than intelligent, and many of its sections, especially the flashbacks to the narrator's childhood in Nubia, make for very interesting reading."
Ali's latest work, The Leader Having a Haircut, caused controversy and was eventually confiscated by Egyptian security and banned from the 2010 Cairo International Book Fair. The short novella describes Egyptian workers in Libya, driven away from their homes to work under inhumane conditions. “They accused him of insulting [Libyan leader] Ghaddafi and said his book contained immoral phrases,” said Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, at the time of the ban.
In the recent obituary of Idris Ali in Al Ahram Weekly, Mary Mourad noted: “Although he loved writing and considered it his life's task, he worked as an employee in a construction company that paid him barely enough to make a living, and their sole appreciation for his talent was to offer him a small raise when he received the award of the Best Egyptian Novel in 1999 and shook hands with President Mubarak. His minor pension was never enough and his constant suicide attempts reflected his low moods, especially after the loss of his son.”
The Cairo International Book Fair was cancelled due to the current events in Egypt. To read more, click here.
The official opening day for the 43rd Cairo International Book Fair at the Cairo Conference Center in Nasr City has been changed to January 29. The event will now run until February 8, 2011.
The new hours will be from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and on Friday from 2:00 to 8:00 pm.
The AUC Press Naguib Mahfouz Pavilion will be located in Hall 2 where the AUC Press Bookstores will be selling a very wide selection of new general interest books and many recent AUC Press publications. Visitors to the AUC Press Pavilion will also find textbooks at reduced prices and bargains at up to 60% discount.
On Friday, February 4 and Saturday, February 5, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, a number of prominent AUC Press authors, including Alaa Al Aswany, Zahi Hawass, Samia Mehrez, Ahmed Sedky, and David Sims, will be signing copies of their books that will be for sale in the AUC Press Naguib Mahfouz Pavilion.
Click here to download the AUC Press invitation.
The new Store of the Egyptian Museum is now open and offers an extensive selection of AUC Press publications, from archaeology publications and Egyptian travel guides, including a official guide that highlights the major objects of the Museum, Inside the Egyptian Museum with Zahi Hawass, to modern Arabic literature and Middle East history and politics.
The Store is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Customers who are not first visiting the Museum and who wish to shop at the Store can directly access it from a separate entrance adjacent to the Museum.
Visitors to the Museum can also able to browse the extensive display of books and other merchandise for sale in the Store at the end of their visit, before exiting the museum grounds.
Click here to view a photo gallery of the new Store.
Egyptian writer Miral al-Tahawy received on Saturday the 2010 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her novel Brooklyn Heights during the 15th Award Ceremony held at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
Presented by David Arnold, President of the American University in Cairo, the award was decided unanimously by the members of the Award Committee: Samia Mehrez, Hoda Wasfy, Fakhri Saleh, Gaber Asfour, Mohamed Berrada, and Mark Linz, the Director of the AUC Press, which sponsors the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. The award ceremony at AUC’s Oriental Hall was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life, including members of the Mahfouz family.
In their citation for the award, the judges described Brooklyn Heights as “a novel of displacement and exile par excellence,” and went on to say: “Brooklyn Heights is an exceptional account of the relationship between East and West. . . , a humanistic work that represents the individual experience as it intersects with the vastness of a labyrinthine world. . . . It is a text that breaks the silence through an acute understanding of the complexities of time and place, tolerance and intolerance. . . . The author’s heightened sense of attention to detail through character portrayal, language and context, tone and cadence, all contribute to the production of an intensely moving and edifying story.”
The translation of the novel is scheduled to be published in 2011 by AUC Press, simultaneously in Cairo, New York, and London.
To read the recent article that appeared in News@AUC, click here.
The exhibition of Sandro Vannini’s stunning collection of photographs titled Within a Secret Voyage, some of which are selected from A Secret Voyage (World Heritage, 2009, distributed by AUC Press), was inaugurated on Monday in the AUC Future Gallery at AUC’s Downtown Cultural Center.
Sandro Vannini is an internationally-acclaimed professional freelance photographer, born in Rome, whose work has been featured in many magazines and books. He has been working on a project about the Egyptian archaeological heritage since 1997. Click here to view a video of his work on the AUC Press YouTube channel.
A Secret Voyage, a 400-page signed, limited edition by Zahi Hawass, with 166 super-high-resolution images by Vannini, a magnificent, hand-bound, silk-cover and clamshell box, is a captivating journey through the world of the Theban Necropolis, narrated by Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, in which the world-renowned archaeologist chronicles anecdotes and personal stories about his years of experience as an Egyptologist in the field.
Director of photography at Corbis Vanessa Kramer describes the Italian photographer’s work: “Vannini has mastered the art of digital photography, and the result is a brilliant collection of images highlighting Egypt’s cultural contribution to the world.”
The AUC Future Gallery is accessible from Sheikh Rihan Street. The Within a Secret Voyage exhibition will run until January 13, 2011. The Gallery is open daily from 9:00 to 4:00 pm, except Friday and Saturday.
A collection of large-format photographs by Sandro Vannini, titled A Secret Voyage: A Journey into the Realm of the Pharaohs, from the book A Secret Voyage, is also currently being held at the Egyptian Museum, Room 44, until January 12, 2011.
Michael Cooperson is a professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the translator of Khairy Shalaby’s recent modern Arabic novel The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets (AUC Press, 2010). He is also the author of Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the Age of al-Ma`mun (Cambridge 2000), and translator of Abdelfattah Kilito's The Author and His Doubles: Essays on Classical Arabic Culture (Syracuse 2002).
AUC Press: What is the story of The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets?
MC: The hero, Ibn Shalaby, or Son of Shalaby, bounces from one historical period to another while remaining fixed in space. His visits the founding of Cairo in 969, witnesses the fall of the Fatimid dynasty to the Ayyubids in 1171, and spends a good long time in the Mamluk period as confidant to sultans and emirs. His wristwatch tells him the date according to the Islamic calendar, so he always knows what period he has dropped in on, by he cannot choose when to leave or where to visit. He spends a lot of time trying to escape whatever predicament he lands in.
AUC Press: Was this modern Arabic novel particularly challenging to translate into English?
MC: Yes. For one thing, Ibn Shalaby meets a number of historians, who speak in passages taken from their works. These speeches are full of now-forgotten words, at least some of which seem to be reproduced for their exotic effect rather than in the expectation that modern readers will understand them. A translator can render such words with equally obscure ones in English, and in the few cases when I have found an obscure word that means the same thing as the Arabic, I have used it. But I have generally preferred to translate the historical passages in a slightly archaic but still clear English.
AUC Press: How did you manage to reflect the linguistic effects of colloquial and Modern Standard Arabic that Khairy Shalaby uses intermittently to mark the time travels of his hero?
MC: The passages in colloquial Arabic did pose another kind of problem. The dialect is the everyday spoken language of the country and there is of course nothing inherently funny about it. But it is uncommon to see it written down, especially in books about history. So when the speaker is a fifteenth-century historian, the dialect seems comical, apart from what it actually says. This effect can be reproduced to some extent by using informal English. Yet there are few kinds of informal English not marked as particular to one or another country, ethnicity, age group, and so on. In my translation, some lines of dialogue will doubtless have a strangely American ring, but it is hard to imagine an alternative that would sound any less odd.
Even the Modern Standard Arabic used for ordinary narration poses a problem. Standard Arabic is primarily a written language and is rarely used for spontaneous verbal communication. Translated literally, it often comes across as stilted and unnatural, especially in dialogue. In some cases I have addressed this problem by changing dialogue to indirect discourse. In other cases, I have simply toned down the language, trying to make it as flat and neutral—that is, as much like Modern Standard Arabic—as possible.
AUC Press: How will do Egyptians know the contemporary Egyptian novelist Khairy Shalaby?
MC: Every time I told Egyptian friends that I was working on the translation of Shalaby’s novel, they said that he was one of their favorite writers and it was about time he received more attention. And it's not just the intellectuals who say so. Several years ago, I visited him to interview him about the book. On the way, the taxi driver was having trouble finding the address, and asked me who I was going to see. When I told him, he said, "Why didn't you say you were going to see Ustaz Khairy!" and found the place quickly by asking people in the street.
AUC Press: How closely did you work with the author to clarify passages or words in the Arabic manuscript while working on the translation?
MC: I consulted with him constantly regarding the original texts he was quoting and the typographical errors that appeared in the Arabic text. His son-in-law, Hatem Hafez, answered literally hundreds of questions as well. Without their help, I could never have finished the translation.
AUC Press: Are you concerned that a non-Arabic-speaking reader would not fully understand such a novel without some prior knowledge of the historical periods and names referenced in the novel?
MC: The author has described the work as a fantasy, so I suppose one might read it as a sort of surreal tale; it isn't really a historical novel in the strict sense of the word. The editors at the Press put together a helpful concordance of dates and a glossary of terms and figures, so readers who feel disoriented will have somewhere to turn. But the book is about disorientation anyway.
AUC Press: Do you think that some Arabic words are simply not translatable into English (for example, because they have so many meanings, because they are ambiguous to begin with, etc.)?
MC: The same is true of words in any two languages. In any event, one translates whole sentences, not single words. The problem is usually stress, rhythm, flow, etc., not single words.
AUC Press: What do you consider to be a ‘good’ translation?
MC: There's no end of theory about this. But I'd have to vote for the one that people actually read.
AUC Press: You teach Arabic at UCLA. How interested are your students in Arabic literature?
MC: Our Arabic language classes are full to bursting. Relatively few students stick with it long enough to read literary works in the original, but those who do are a truly impressive group. Adam Talib, who has just translated Makkawi Said's Cairo Swan Song for AUC Press, got his undergraduate degree from UCLA.
To read more about The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets and order it online, click here.
Khairy Shalaby, born in Kafr al-Shaykh in Egypt’s Nile Delta in 1938, has written seventy books, including novels, short stories, historical tales, and critical studies. The Lodging House (translated in English by AUC Press, 2008) was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2003.
The American University in Cairo Press celebrated last week, in the house of Hassan Fathy, the late Egyptian architecture pioneer, the launch of three important new AUC Press architecture and the arts publications, The Minarets of Cairo by Doris Behrens-Abouseif, with contributions by Nicholas Warner and photographs by Bernard O' Kane, Hassan Fathy and Continuity in Islamic Arts and Architecture: The Birth of a New Modern by Ahmad Hamid, and Babylon of Egypt: The Archaeology of Old Cairo and the Origins of the City by Peter Sheehan.
The Minarets of Cairo is the definitive book on the city’s most distinctive architectural feature, with one hundred illustrated entries for individual minarets, excellent research, and analysis. Hassan Fathy and Continuity in Islamic Arts and Architecture, a beautifully illustrated study on the aesthetic, socioeconomic, environmental, and psychological components of Islamic architecture, offers also a comprehensive study on the significant contributions of the world-renowned architect who integrated contemporary design with artistic traditions of Islam. Babylon of Egypt, an ARCE Conservation Series publication, the most comprehensive book yet on Old Cairo, includes new archaeological evidence gathered between 2000 and 2006.
During its 50 years of publishing excellence, the AUC Press has published about 80 books on architecture and the arts, including such bestsellers as Paris along the Nile: Architecture in Cairo from the Belle Epoque by Cynthia Myntti (AUC Press, 2003), The Treasures of Islamic Art in the Museums of Cairo edited by Bernard O’Kane (AUC Press, 2006), Islamic Art and Culture: Timeline and History by Nasser D. Khalili (AUC Press, 2008), and Islam: Art and Architecture edited by Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius (AUC Press, 2008).
“We chose to hold this special event at the Hassan Fathy house because with these three books we are celebrating not only Hassan Fathy but also old Cairo and the minarets of the city,” said AUC Press Promotion and Public Relations Manager Nabila Akl. “This is the ideal location since it is in the heart of Islamic Cairo and from the rooftop one has a beautiful view of the city’s minarets.”
The much-awaited new Store of the Egyptian Museum that is scheduled to open to the public on December 15 will be offering a large selection of AUC Press publications.
Visitors to the Museum will now be able to browse an extensive display of books and other merchandise for sale in the Store at the end of their visit, before exiting the museum grounds. Customers who are not first visiting the Museum and who wish to shop at the Store can directly access it from a separate entrance adjacent to the Museum.
The Museum Store will be open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Equipped with state-of-the-art shelving, high-tech lighting, and modern facilities, the Egyptian Museum Store will offer visitors an impressive array of some 3,000 merchandise items varying from a wider range of gifts and jewelry to over 300 AUC Press books, from archaeology publications and Egyptian travel guides, including a official guide that highlights the major objects of the Museum, Inside the Egyptian Museum with Zahi Hawass, to modern Arabic literature and Middle East history and politics.
“This new Museum Store will be recognized as the most spectacular museum store in this part of the world,” said AUC Press Director Mark Linz.
The 1000-square-meter Museum Store will be managed by the newly established Exhibit Merchandising Egypt, in cooperation with Misr Sound & Light Company and the AUC Press.
“Visitors will find the best quality and the most extensive selection of books and gifts,” said AUC Press Associate Director for Sales & Marketing, Trevor Naylor.
The gallery is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily except Friday and Saturday, and is located in the Sheikh Rihan building, across from Ewart Memorial Hall.
Many of the photographs are from Gröndahl's book Gaza Graffiti: Messages of Love and Politics (AUC Press, 2009).
To read a recent interview with Mia Gröndahl in the latest AUC Press e-newsletter, click here.
To read more about the book and buy it online, click here.
The opening of the art exhibition Life in Egypt by Margo Veillon was held on Tuesday, October 12 at the Margo Veillon Gallery of Modern Egyptian Art.
The collection includes 40 mixed media as well as 20 paintings from the Permanent AUC Masterpiece Collection, featuring landscapes and portraits by the late Swiss-Austrian artist who spent her life as a painter in Egypt.
Born in Cairo in 1907, Margo Veillon lived and worked as an artist in Egypt until her death in 2003. The AUC Press has promoted her work for many years in numerous exhibitions and publications, including Margo Veillon: Painting Egypt: The Masterpiece Collection at the American University in Cairo (AUC Press, 2003) edited by curator Bruno Ronfard, who writes: “Everything is in its place. The mastery is perfect. The balance of colors and forms and the quality of line offer an impression of harmony and distinguish these works that have made the reputation of Margo Veillon.”
Last month, the collection went on display at the residence of the Swiss Ambassador to Egypt, on the occasion of Switzerland’s national day celebration in the presence of over one thousand guests.
“[Margo Veillon] left a very important work,” said H.E. Swiss Ambassador to Egypt, Dominik Furgler during the September event. “We are particularly grateful to AUC that they recently inaugurated the Margo Veillon Gallery of Modern Egyptian Art,” he added.
To preserve and advance Margo Veillon’s artistic legacy for future generations in Egypt and abroad, the AUC Press established last year the Margo Veillon Gallery primarily to showcase the late artist’s wide-ranging work but also to present other historic retrospectives of twentieth-century Egyptian art.
The Life in Egypt collection will run at the Margo Veillon Gallery until November 30, 2010. The gallery is open from 2:00 to 8:00 pm on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Click here to download the brochure about Margo Veillon, her work, and publications about her art by the AUC Press.
Lesley Lababidi is the author of numerous AUC Press publications, including Cairo's Street Stories: Exploring the City's Statues, Squares, Bridges, Gardens, and Sidewalk Cafés (AUC Press, 2008) and in particular Cairo: The Family Guide, first published by the AUC Press in 2000.
The new, revised volume of The Family Guide, now in its 10th edition, will be available later this month.
This book offers something for everyone: how to stay active in Cairo, where to find Cairo's green lungs, its bookstores and libraries, which festivals to attend, what to notice and remember about what site and landmark of the capital and outskirts, and even where to take belly dance and other lessons.
"Cairo: The Family Guide is a reality guidebook; no glossy pictures here," writes Lababidi in her introduction. "Those of you who march to a different beat or just don't know where to begin will find suggestions, encouragement, and unlimited opportunities to explore communities outside your own," added the Cairo resident, who has raised three children in Cairo and has been living in Egypt for 21 years.
To read more about Cairo: The Family Guide by Lesley Lababidi, in collaboration with Lisa Sabbahi, click here.
Click here to view the AUC Press YouTube Channel video in which Lababidi talks about the 10th anniversary of the Family Guide, some of the best-kept secrets of the city, and how to enjoy an outing in the capital with the family.
Richard Jacquemond, professor of modern Arabic literature and language, University of Aix-Marseille, France, will be delivering an Arabic lecture titled, “Translation in the Arab World: Policies and Practice” as part of AUC's In Translation lecture series.
The event will be held on Wednesday, November 3, 2010, at 6:00 pm, in Oriental Hall at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
Jacquemond's doctoral thesis on the modern Egyptian literary field has been published by AUC Press in an updated English translation as Conscience of the Nation: Writers, State and Society in Modern Egypt (AUC Press, 2008), translated by David Tresilian.
He will be signing copies of his book after the lecture.
Jacquemond has spent more than 15 years in Egypt as a student of Arabic language, a program officer at the French cultural mission and a researcher. Since his first stay in Cairo, he has been an active translator of modern Arabic works, mainly Egyptian fiction (15 books published to date).
He is currently working on a new book on the politics and poetics of modern Arabic translation.
The American University in Cairo Press and the Embassy of Sweden in Cairo are hosting on Monday, November 1 at 6:00 pm, a panel discussion entitled "Gaza Today: What's happening inside the closed borders?" with a number of distinguished Swedish and Palestinian journalists, correspondents, and photographers, in Ewart Memorial Hall at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
An exhibition with photographs by Swedish photographer Mia Gröndahl from her book Gaza Graffiti: Messages of Love and Politics (AUC Press, 2009) will be held in the AUC Future Gallery of the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
The event will end with a theater performance of The Gaza Mono-Logues, other readings, and songs, by El Warsha Theater Company, in Ewart Memorial Hall.
AUC Press Associate Director for Sales & Marketing Trevor Naylor recommends six essential AUC Press publications to newcomers to Cairo.
Click here to view the video on the AUC Press Youtube channel.
Cairo: The Practical Guide(AUC Press, 2008), compiled by Claire E. Francy, updated and edited by Lesley Lababidi. The new revised edition will be available in October.
Cairo: The Practical Guide Maps (AUC Press, 2008). The new revised edition will be available in November.
Cairo: The City Victorious (AUC Press, 2000) by Max Rodenbeck.
Palace Walk (AUC Press, 1997) by Naguib Mahfouz.
Welcome to Cairo! Ahlan wa sahlan fil Qahira!
The American University in Cairo Press’s Fall 2010 Catalog features more than 60 new publications, ranging from Naguib Mahfouz novels, helpful Arabic language study volumes, and timely books on political, economic, and social issues such as the Mubarak presidency and the spiraling urbanization of Egypt’s capital.
The latest AUC Press novels in translation include Naguib Mahfouz’s The Final Hour, translated by Roger Allen, a story about Egypt’s changing times and their effects on one family, and In The Time of Love, translated by Kay Heikkinen, one of the Nobel’s laureate’s most intriguing novels. The Puppet, by acclaimed veteran Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni, and translated by William M. Hutchins, is a mythic tale of greed and political corruption. The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets by Khairy Shalaby and translated by Michael Cooperson, recounts the adventures of a man who revisits Egypt’s colorful medieval past through sudden dislocations of time. Finally, Specters by Radwa Ashour, recipient of the Constantine Cavafy Prize for Literature, and translated by Barbara Romaine, tells the partly autobiographical story of two women born on the same day, described by Al Ahram Weekly as “a stimulating read”.
Two important new photography books are just published. Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine is a thought-provoking book by London-based freelance journalist William Parry that features the graffiti by foreign and Palestinian artists and activists covering Israel’s separation wall; reviewing the book, author Ahdaf Soueif, writes: “By engaging with [the wall] practically and imaginatively William Parry has produced an outstanding example of cultural resistance” . Gardens of Sand: Nineteenth-Century Photographs of Egypt, Arabia, Turkey, and the Levant, by Issam Nassar, Patricia Almárcegui, and Clark Worswick, brings together 90 rarely seen photographs of early Middle East landscapes, towns, and monuments.
Adding to an already extensive backlist of Travel Literature titles, the AUC Press also most recently published Egypt 1250 BC: A Traveler’s Companion, a humorous time-traveler’s guide to sightseeing and survival in Egypt, by Egyptologist and archaeologist Donald P. Ryan. Wonders of the Pyramids: The Sound and Light of Giza and Wonders of Abu Simbel: The Sound and Light of Nubia, both introduced by Zahi Hawass, come as two new editions to this growing illustrated collection on the Sound and Light shows of Egypt, complete with script and color photographs.
Finally, in the area of Politics, Economics, and Social Issues, Islamic Law and Civil Code: The Law of Property in Egypt, by Richard A. Debs, offers a detailed look at Sharia in modern Egypt, a book described by Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi as “a great achievement” and by Samuel Hayes of Harvard University Business School as “a thoughtful and well-researched history of Egyptian property law”. Access to Knowledge in Egypt: New Research on Intellectual Property, Innovation, and Development, edited by Nagla Rizk and Lea Shaver, is “a must-read for scholars and practitioners interested in economic development, cultural production, and access to knowledge,” says Susan K. Sell of George Washington University.
All these titles are now available in the AUC Press bookstores.
Samia Mehrez, author of The Literary Atlas of Cairo (AUC Press, 2010) and the forthcoming second volume in the project, The Literary Life of Cairo (AUC Press, 2011), delivered a lecture on “Mapping Cairo: Modern Literary Representations of the City,” on October 13 at AUC's New Cairo Campus.
To watch the video of the lecture on the AUC YouTube channel, click here.
The two modern Arabic novels The Zafarani Files by Gamal al-Ghitani and The Mirage by Naguib Mahfouz, both published and translated into English by the AUC Press in 2009, have been selected as finalists for the American Literary Translators Association’s 2010 National Translation Award (NTA).
The $5,000 prize is awarded annually for the best book-length translation into English of a work of fiction, poetry, drama, or creative non-fiction. It honors the translator whose work, by virtue of both its quality and its significance, has made the most valuable contribution to literary translation.
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), founded at the University of Texas, is the only organization in the United States dedicated solely to literary translation. Its mission is to bridge cultural communication and understanding among countries and languages through the art and craft of literary translation.
It awarded the 2009 NTA prize to French Women Poets of Nine Centuries by Norman Shapiro. This year’s NTA winner will be announced in the fall during ALTA’s annual conference.
The Zafarani Files, translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab, is a darkly comic novel about an unknown observer who watches the residents of Zafarani Alley, a village tucked into a corner of the city, where intrigue is the main entertainment. Farouk Abdel Wahab is Ibn Rushd Professorial Lecturer in Arabic at the University of Chicago. He is the translator of other AUC Press modern Arabic novels including Alaa Al Aswany’s bestselling Chicago (2007), and Love in Exile (2002) by Bahaa Taher. With an M.A. in English literature from the University of Cairo and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Minnesota, Abdel Wahab was already awarded the Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of Khairy Shalaby’s novel The Lodging House. Click here to order The Zafarani Files.
The Mirage, translated by Nancy Roberts, is the autobiographical account of Kamil Ru’ba, a tortured soul who finds himself struggling unduly to cope with life’s challenges. The narrative, full of pathos, draws the reader unwittingly into a vicarious experience of Kamil’s agonies and ecstasies. Nancy Roberts is also the translator of several AUC Press titles including Salwa Bakr’s The Man from Bashmour (2007) for which she received a commendation in the 2008 Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Translation. Click here to order The Mirage.
Joseph Massad, professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, will give a lecture on "Translating Islam" on Monday, September 27, at 6:00, in Oriental Hall at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
He is the author of Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (Columbia University Press, 2001), The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006) translated to Arabic and published by Dar al-Adab in 2009, Desiring Arabs (University of Chicago Press, 2007), and La persistance de la question palestinienne ( La Fabrique, 2009).
He is currently working on two books tentatively titled, Islam in Liberalism and Geneaologies of Islam.
Massad is the recipient of the Lionel Trilling Book Award (2008) for his book Desiring Arabs and of the Scott Nearing Award for Courageous Scholarship (2008). He also writes a column for the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly and the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar.
His books will be available for purchase and signing after the event, courtesy of the AUC Press Downtown Bookstore.
This event is part of a year-long lecture series In Translation headed by AUC's Center for Translation Studies.
To download the flier of the event, click here.
The Complete AUC Press Fall 2010 Catalog is now available. Click here to download and browse.
For the previous Spring 2010 catalog, click here.
Desert Plants of Egypt’s Wadi El Gemal National Park by Tamer Mahmoud, just published by the AUC Press, promises to be an invaluable companion not just for scientists and anthropologists, but also for nature lovers and desert trotters alike.
This 180-page guide offers a thorough site description of the 4,770 km² Wadi El Gemal National Park in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, maps of the park, and 350 color photographs of plant life, representing all seasons and habitat types.
Every Wadi El Gemal plant listed in the book’s directory is arranged in alphabetical order by Latin name, accompanied by its family name, common English and / or local name, description, importance and use, distribution within the park, photographs of different stages of the plant’s life, as well as a map of the park marking locations where the plant grows.
User-friendly and knapsack-size, Desert Plants also includes a glossary of flora terminology, the plant families and species identified in the park, and a comprehensive reference.
"The book provides botanical descriptions, notes on uses, ecological features, and distribution maps for 117 plant species out of 140 recorded in Wadi El Gemal National Park,” notes leading Egyptian ecologist Dr. Mohamed Kassas, in the preface. “The text is succinct and informative and the photographs invaluable.”
Author Tamer Mahmoud, who holds a B.Sc. in microbiology from Suez Canal University, has been a park ranger of the Wadi El Gemal National Park since 2003. Over the years he has taken seven thousand photographs of the park’s vegetation, examined its ecological features and flora, and recorded the use of land and plants by the Ababda tribes, the main indigenous inhabitants of the park today.
“It took me about three years of field and office work to complete this book, including 165 field trips,” said the 35-year-old ranger, who also established the park’s herbarium and arboretum nursery. “We talked with the inhabitants about their relationship with the plants and learned which ones were of real significance to them.” Because as Mahmoud points out, “the intimate contact between those living in the area, and especially the real desert dwellers, surprised me even more: the vegetation of Wadi El Gemal National Park and the socioeconomic relationship between plants and those who occupy the area deserve documentation, conservation, and publicity.”
To read more about Desert Plants of Egypt’s Wadi El Gemal National Park and order it online, click here.
Mahdi Issa al-Saqr’s modern Arabic novel East Winds, West Winds is set in his hometown, Basra, among the oil wells of the Southern Iraqi region. It draws on the late author’s own experiences as a translator with the Basra Petroleum Company and as a personnel superintendent of the Marine Transportation Company.
“East Winds, West Winds, published in Cairo in 1998, is a strongly autobiographical novel about an aspiring writer working as a translator for a British company in the oil fields near Basra during the 1950s,” writes the British newspaper The Independent, in a review of the book, praising the English translation by Paul Starkey published this year by the AUC Press.
“Paul Starkey's elegant and lucid translation does justice to Al-Saqr's absorbing and subtle portrait of British colonialism in action. It shows the muted aspirations of the post-war generation of educated Iraqis with emotional and sociological acuity,” says Alev Adil in the July 30 review.
Translator Paul Starkey is head of the Arabic Department at the University of Durham, England. He has published widely in the field of modern Arabic literature and was co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (1998). He is the translator of Edwar al-Kharrat’s Stones of Bobello (AUC Press, 2005) and Mansoura Ez Eldin’s Maryam’s Maze (AUC Press, 2007).
To order the book online, click here.
If French photographer Xavier Roy had to choose another title for his recent illustrated book he would have called it Egypt Face to Face so as to really accentuate what he calls the “extraordinary symbiosis between Egypt’s past and present” that captivated his eye while photographing the country.
In his new book Re:viewing Egypt: Image and Echo, published this month by the AUC Press, Roy seeks to capture this very coexistence by skillfully juxtaposing the world of the living with that of the dead, repeatedly contrasting stolen moments from today’s daily life with bits and fragments of the country’s once illustrious past.
Roy may focus his lens on a boy running in a bucolic countryside and then zoom in on a weathered antiquity half buried in the sand, or snap a shot of a dog stretching in front of a pyramid and then of an elongated afternoon shadow of a felucca on the Nile bank….
His 145 astonishing black-and-white photographs are accompanied by a profoundly contemplative introduction by Gamal al-Ghitani, in which the acclaimed Egyptian writer reflects on the country’s duality of origin and shadow, while praising Roy for capturing “the essence of the spirit of Egypt.”
In a recent interview, Xavier Roy talked more about his passion for photography, and for Egypt.
AUC Press: Gamal al-Ghitani, in his essay, talks about the “duality,” the “infinite,” and the “gradation” associated with the elements of Egyptian reality. Is this what touched you about Egypt and what you try to convey in your images?
XR: When I read the text of Gamal al-Ghitani, I was happily surprised and proud that such a famous Egyptian author would translate into words the feelings that I had myself experienced. It reassured me about my vision of Egypt as a foreigner. It is true that in this wonderful country I have the very strong impression of an eternal rebirth, that everything that disappears is continually reborn, like the phoenix from its ashes.... I hope that my photographs express the emotions I felt while taking them.
AUC Press: What emotions were these?
XR: Depending on what I was photographing, they could vary from tenderness to melancholy, or to joy…. When I have the impression that I took a “beautiful” photograph, it takes my breath away.
AUC Press: Would it be fair to say that there is an intentional visual “echo” in your photographs, either through the dialogue created by the composition in the image itself or through the arrangement of the images in the book layout?
XR: It is only when I saw my whole work that it became obvious. This "echo", this contrast, is the image of Egypt.
AUC Press: How do you ‘construct’ the duality or the contrast in your photographs? Do you take one photograph and then go look for the ‘echo’, either waiting for it to just happen or actually setting it up?
XR: No, I never did set up the photographs. I must say that strangely enough and contrary to all the other countries I photographed (Cuba, Brazil, France, Morocco, Madagascar ....), I just had to put the photographs of Egypt together and the duality in the pictures was in evidence.
AUC Press: Is this duality or resonance specific to Egypt or is this how you see the world as a photographer, made of contrasts, combinations, reflections?
XR: Generally when I take my pictures I never think about how they are going to be shown in a book. I capture them with my head, my eyes, and my heart.... It is only at the end of my work that I can have a global impression and the end result is different for every country that I photograph.
AUC Press: Which ‘echo’ catches your eye first when you look through the viewfinder of your camera – the light, the form, the texture, the subject?
XR: The four echoes at the same instant.
AUC Press: How would you describe your favorite photograph in this book?
XR: I have many favorite photographs but the one that moves me the most is the one of the little girl with a scarf on page 123: her very big eyes are full of shyness but at the same time there is curiosity, hope and tenderness.
AUC Press: Why do you think the book title Re:viewing Egypt is fitting for this collection of photographs?
XR: Because books about Egypt usually only show the ancient Egypt, as if contemporary Egypt was not so interesting. Often photographers are only interested in its glorious history.
AUC Press: You have photographed in many parts of the world. What is particular about taking photographs in Egypt?
XR: Everything is fascinating in Egypt. It is a paradise for photographers!
AUC Press: What do you prefer about black-and-white photography?
XR: Color is for me anecdotic because it distorts my photographic vision. Photos don't show reality: they are an adaptation, or a translation of reality made by the photographer. Black-and-white brings me pureness, it is more intimate and it emphasizes the lines, the composition and the attitudes. Black-and-white enables me to go to the essential: it is a different language than color.
AUC Press: Would you say your work is influenced by photographers such as Henri Cartier–Bresson?
XR: No, I admire him very much, but I would say that André Kertesz was my master: he gave me the desire to become a photographer.
AUC Press: How did you to decide to move from a successful career in marketing to becoming a full-time photographer?
XR: I always liked art. When I worked for the music company Vogue I always took photos whenever I could.... Today, more than a hobby, photography is a passion.
To view some of the photographs from Re:viewing Egypt: Image and Echo, click here.
To read more about the book and order it, click here.
Ahmed Sedky is the author of Living with Heritage in Cairo: Area Conservation in the Arab Islamic City, published by the AUC Press (2009).
“Because Sedky understands the effect of the urban environment on the community, he also understands the effect of the community on the urban environment,” wrote Al Masry Al Youm in their book review “Conservation conflicts.”
Ahmed Sedky, who holds a PhD in area conservation from Heriot-Watt University, recently discussed the meaning of area conservation in the Arab Islamic City and the criteria for assessing area conservation in Cairo, and other key issues he addresses in his book.
To view the video on the AUC Press YouTube channel, click here.
To read more about the book and order it online, click here.
You can also watch a previous interview with Ahmed Sedky speaking about his book, in Arabic:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Click on the links below to hear Ahmed Sedky in a television interview also in Arabic, calling for the charter for area conservation for Cairo:
The Arabic Literature (in English) blogger, Marcia Lynx Qualey, literary critic, writer and reader based in Cairo, Egypt, posts some suggestions for summer reading, including recommendations by AUC Press translators Humphrey Davies, Aida Bamia, Shakir Mustafa, and Neil Hewison.
Many of the books on the reading lists are published by the AUC Press.
Click on the link and Take the Arabic Summer Reading Challenge (and Win)
Samia Mehrez says putting the idea into a book coincided with the move of the American University in Cairo from "throbbing downtown Cairo" to New Cairo, a transition that took place in 2008. "I am a Cairo girl and the heart of Cairo is full of memories," said the AUC professor of Arabic literature and author of The Literary Atlas of Cairo: One Hundred Years on The Streets of the City (AUC Press 2010), her latest book, during a recent interview, who refers to the Egyptian capital as "Cairo, Mothers of Cities."
In the introduction to her book, Mehrez writes: "Through a careful selection and juxtaposition of reconstructions and representations of the city of Cairo in Arab literary works throughout the twentieth century, The Literary Atlas of Cairo provides a literary topography of the sociocultural, political, and urban history of the city by bringing together some one hundred works of Egyptian and Arab writers who represent several generations of men and women, Muslims, Copts, and Jews, citizens and lovers of the globalized metropolis, writing in Arabic, English, or French about the city of Cairo."
The book includes 56 extracts (all in English) from the works of Alaa Al Aswany, Albert Cossery, Gamal al-Ghitani, Hamdi Abu Golayyel, Mona Prince, Naguib Mahfouz, Taha Hussein, and Yusuf Idris, to name a few.
The new summer opening hours of the AUC Press Bookstores are as follows,
(effective Sunday, June 6, 2010):
Daily: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Friday: 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Sheikh Rihan Street, corner of Tahrir Square, tel. (20-2) 2797 5929
New Cairo Bookstore
Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
New Cairo Campus, AUC Park and Square, tel. (20-2) 2615 1303
Daily: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Friday: 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
AUC Residence, 16 Mohamed Thakeb Street, Zamalek, tel. (20-2) 2739 7045
Falaki Textbook Store
Sunday – Thursday: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Falaki Academic Center, tel. (20-2) 2797 6933
New Cairo Campus Shop
Sunday-Thursday: 9:00 am – 4:00pm
New Cairo Campus, Bartlett Plaza, tel. (20-2-) 2615 4188
“The range in this book is fantastic,” explains AUC Press Senior Development Editor Randi Danforth, who edited Preserving Egypt’s Cultural Heritage, a 300-page illustrated volume recently published by the American Research Center in Egypt and distributed by the AUC Press. “You are looking at Egypt from 4500BC to the 19th century, all in this one book,” adds Danforth. “And this is really just a taste of what has yet to be discovered in Egypt.”
The book’s articles, contributed by 35 scholars and experts, including some AUC Press authors, cover fifty documentation and conservation projects, completed under the direction of ARCE between 1995 and 2005, attesting to the country’s extensive and immensely diverse heritage, from prehistoric Egypt to historic Cairo.
Commenting on the different nationalities and staff involved in these projects, Danforth says: “This was not a paternalistic situation. Yes, there were Italian conservators, Dutch photographers, Polish architects, American archaeologists… working on these projects, but the number of Egyptians also involved was vast. It was all done as a co-venture with the Supreme Council of Antiquities,” explains Danforth, who holds a degree in archaeology from Yale University.
Preserving Egypt’s Cultural Heritage is dedicated to the late (Chjp) Robert K. Vincent, former Cultural Heritage Manager at ARCE. “It was his idea to collect all these articles into a book. His involvement, his leadership, and his mentoring were key. This book is his legacy,” says Danforth.
To edit the fifty essays Randi Danforth heeded the advice of Gerry D. Scott III, the current ARCE director: “Editing all these scholars will be like herding cats,” he told her four years ago, when they first started working on the book. “Sometimes the authors were hard to pin down. But most of the time they were very motivated to contribute their work to this important collected volume,” recalls Danforth.
Today Scott attributes the end result to Danforth’s “painstaking diligence.” “I have a pathological intolerance for mistakes in print,” explains Danforth, who also contributed two articles to the volume.
AUC Press authors in the book include Jaroslaw Dobrowolski, who writes about the exquisite, restored Greco-Roman mosaics in Alexandria’s Villa of the Birds, scorched by fire in the late third century. “Birds were popular themes on Egyptian mosaics. While some of these on the villa’s floor are depicted just as they might be seen on the banks of the Nile, the mosaic also reveals artistic ties with distant centers; for example, the motif of two birds drinking from a cup was clearly borrowed from the Pergamon milieu,” writes the Polish scholar, who relied on data from the project’s final report.
AUC Press author Agnieszka Dobrowolska documents the structural interventions on the Ottoman-style Muhammad Ali Pasha sabil that was on the verge of collapse when the conservation project started in 1998 and in its heyday was a public landmark that distributed free water to the thirsty, an act of charity deeply rooted in Islam.
Bernard O’Kane, also an AUC Press author, records endangered yet unpublished inscriptions from Cairo’s Islamic monuments that predate 1800, carefully photographed (11,000 exposed images), transcribed, and translated during the course of the project. Noting that Cairo has over four hundred monuments worthy of protection, many rapidly deteriorating because of the 1992 earthquake and rising water table, O’Kane warns: “Water has been moving gradually upward through the porous limestone of the buildings, depositing salts that crystallize on the exterior of the stone and cause it to become friable.”
Nicholas Warner contributes a unique new cartography for Cairo, tracing the evolution of Historic Cairo as an urban complex by using views, maps, and architectural renderings to construct a visual genealogy of the city. “It is rare to find a historic structure in Cairo today that has not undergone significant remodeling over the past century,” writes the architect and AUC Press author.
One particularly interesting feature of Preserving Egypt’s Cultural Heritage is the last of the five broad thematic chapters of the book, solely devoted to Cultural Heritage Management. “It was part of the book’s mission. This chapter is to encourage the good management of the sites so that once they have been restored they don’t fall into disrepair,” stresses Danforth. “It is death to a monument if you just conserve it and then close it up. The key words are adaptive re-use,” she says emphatically. “Some can stay just as beautifully conserved monuments that will have a revenue stream from ticket sales while others could house visitors' centers such as the Quseir Fort, or even cafés or bookstores.”
Several examples of site management projects established by ARCE are featured in the book, such as the preservation of the Red Sea coast Quseir Fort, founded in 1571, altered during the Napoleonic occupation of 1799-1801, and today re-used as a visitor’s center. “After the mid-nineteenth century, it diminished in importance and slowly decayed, used by the Egyptian coast guard until 1975,” writes Danforth in her Quseir Fort essay, using data from the final project report.
In the book’s foreword, Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Supreme Council of Antiquities, praises the importance of the ARCE projects and their contribution to the conservation and preservation of Egypt’s cultural heritage: “ARCE plays the most essential role of any foreign scientific institution in Cairo.” But Hawass also makes reference to ARCE’s cultural heritage management initiatives, and more specifically to its Museum Management Program: “The current program is helping our staff at the [Egyptian] museum understand the meaning of caring properly for the objects in their charge,” he writes.
This caring and passion for the preservation of Egypt’s heritage is echoed in the words of the late Robert Vincent who, in the introduction to this volume, notes: “The people who were driven by a sense of mission and duty, who believed that these old stones were worth saving, can see documented in this book the transformation of their ideas from concept to reality.”
To read more about the book and order it online, click here.
An exhibition of sixty watercolor paintings and mixed media works from the Summertime collection by the late Margo Veillon (1907−2003) is currently on display for the first time, in The Margo Veillon Gallery of Modern Egyptian Art at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center. Summertime will run until July 15.
Summertime includes watercolor landscapes and still life, painted by the artist between 1962 and 1983, depicting the Nile, the Egyptian countryside, the desert, Nubia, and flowers from the verdant gardens of Maadi.
“Margo Veillon is the painter who painted Egypt, the workers, the fellahin,” said prominent Al Ahram art critic Makran Henein. “She liked the local life. This love is rare in Egypt,” he added.
Born in Cairo, Margo Veillon lived and worked as an artist in Egypt for nearly a century. She spent much of her artistic career capturing the verve and movement of daily life in the Egyptian countryside, but also explored the Nile and the surrounding deserts through Nubia and into Sudan and Ethiopia. A prolific artist during her lifetime, Margo Veillon produced over seven thousand pieces of art, including oil paintings and watercolors, sketches in charcoal and pastel, prints, etchings, mosaics, murals, sculptures, and photographs. She held 78 exhibitions in Egypt and Europe, starting in Cairo in 1928—the last opened at AUC on her 96th birthday in February 2003.
“She created a genuine relation between Egypt and her brushes, especially in her watercolors,” explained Henein. “She painted her watercolors as an expressionist, full of emotion, that gave life to her work,” he added.
Inaugurated last November to preserve and exhibit the permanent collection of Margo Veillon, the gallery featured for its official opening celebration a selection from the permanent masterpiece collection of the late artist’s paintings, and a comprehensive retrospective of her Nocturnes and Fantasies. The gallery, operated by the AUC Press, also showcases historic retrospectives of twentieth-century Egyptian art, such as Jehan Sadat’s Landscapes of the Heart 1986−2009, exhibited in May.
When: The gallery is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, except Friday.
Where: The Margo Veillon Gallery is located in the landmark Sheikh Rihan palace building of the AUC Downtown Cultural Center and can be accessed from Sheikh Rihan Street. Click here for the map.
To download the map to the AUC Press Downtown Bookstore and Bargain Book Pavilion, click here.
One could say that Magda Mehdawy, co-author of The Pharaoh’s Kitchen, a book just published by the AUC Press, knows more than a thing or two about Egyptian gastronomy—ancient as well as modern. Her books, including My Egyptian Grandmother’s Kitchen (AUC Press, 2006), for the original Arabic edition of which she was awarded the Al-Ahram Appreciation Prize in 2004, reveal the extent of her knowledge and interest on the topic.
Specialized in the Greek-Roman period, she uses her archaeology degree from the University of Alexandria to study the origins of the local cooking traditions. The Pharaoh’s Kitchen tells readers and gourmets how to cook and eat like the ancient Egyptians.
We caught up with Mehdawy, who is also the two-time winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award, Best in the World (2007 and 2008), to talk about her latest recipes, which date back to pharaonic times and which are also found in today’s Egyptian kitchens.
How did the idea for this new book The Pharaoh’s Kitchen come about?
I have already worked on other books about Egyptian cuisine. However the idea for this particular one came as a result of extensive research done in cooperation with co-author Amr Hussein, an Egyptologist, in an attempt to trace the origins of our modern Egyptian food back to the ancient Egyptians.
What kind of research material did you rely on to gather the recipes in this book?
We went through original Egyptian texts, old photographs, and literature and we also relied on tomb reliefs that provided us with examples of the food offered in the tombs, the funeral meals that were buried with the dead as real meals or just as grains, and the offerings that the ancient Egyptians would commonly give to the gods in temples, depicted on the walls. All of these references helped us to determine most of the food types that were used in ancient Egyptian times and that are still in use today.
Were the recipes already carefully described or did you have to create some of them based on the ingredients collected from your research?
Some of the recipes were already available, others had to be reconstructed. The recipes in the book are divided into two sections: old recipes from Greek and Roman times, dating from the first century, originally in Latin and now translated into English, and the recipes from the pharaonic days that still exist in Upper Egypt today. We traveled to various parts of Upper Egypt to collect the recipes directly from the people. We pinpointed the food items and methods of cooking that are still being used now and identified those ingredients that have been added over time, as for example tomato, lemon, and rice, that did not exist in the original recipes.
Is today’s Egyptian cooking still very similar to that of the ancient Egyptians?
Some of the recipes in the book that were used in ancient Egypt can still be found in Upper Egypt, where most of the ingredients and spices are the same, whereas in the Delta the food has been affected by other cultures and is totally different.
What are some of the foods that were served on special occasions by ancient Egyptians, and that you find in modern Egyptian celebrations or traditional feasts?
Funeral feasts for the dead are still being held today, when families visit the tombs and graveyards of the deceased and offer them food such as loaves of bread, pies and fresh fruits.
Qoras el Rahma, which can be translated as Mercy Pies, a type of bread, is still offered to the dead now. The ancient Egyptians also celebrated the feast of harvest, what is now known as Sham El Nessim which was and still is famous for its variety of foods like lettuce, green chickpeas, salted lupine and fenugreek, salted fish, and colored eggs.
Who did most of the cooking during the time of the pharaohs and who does it nowadays?
During ancient times in the small households it was mainly the housewives who did the cooking, but in higher society the servants and cooks did it, and this is true today.
Which is your favorite recipe in The Pharaoh’s Kitchen and why?
The milk meat casserole with rice or cracked wheat, since it is easy to cook and very tasty. You can use meat cubes or different types of poultry like duck, goose, or pigeon, adding milk and cream.
How is fast food affecting Egyptian cooking?
As in other parts of the world, Egyptian food has been affected by fast food, which has started to take the place of the ordinary food. However, the value of our old-fashioned foods has become evident. By returning to our native foods and preparing our meals at home ourselves, we will be able to avoid unhealthy, artificial ingredients, and ensure quality and cleanliness.
Why are you so interested in Egyptian cuisine?
I am motivated by two reasons: because of my field of study in archeology, I am interested in food as part of the culture and history of Egypt. I believe that the documentation of the Egyptian cuisine will save it from being lost. I am the first one to approach this field with this specialized approach. But I also want to spread Egyptian cuisine around the world.
To read about her previous book, My Egyptian Grandmother’s Kitchen (AUC Press, 2006), click here.
This year, the American University in Cairo Press will hold its Annual Book, Art, & Music Festival, in celebration of AUC Press authors and new publications, on the historic al-Mu‘izz Street of Islamic Cairo, on Sunday, May 30, at 6:30 pm.
The event will include music, a tannura performance, and an exhibition of photographs from recent illustrated AUC Press publications. The Madrasa and Mausoleum of Sultan Qalawun, the Mausoleum of Sultan Barquq, and the Textile Museum will be open for guided tours.
“We like to host this particular event at different historic sites around Cairo because the AUC Press publications are all about highlighting the very culture and heritage of Egypt,” said Nabila Akl, AUC Press Promotion Manager.
During this month’s event, the AUC Press will be featuring many of its new books, in the presence of a number of authors: The Akhenaten Colossi of Karnak by Lise Manniche; The Arabian Horse of Egypt by Nasr Marei; Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan: An AUC Press Guide by Michael Haag; Coptic Identity and Ayyubid Politics in Egypt by Kurt Werthmuller; The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt by Mark N. Swanson; Drumbeat by Mohamed El-Bisatie, translated by Peter Daniel; For Better, For Worse by Hanan Kholoussy, Edward William Lane 1801–1876 by Jason Thompson; Egypt: An AUC Press Guide by Michael Haag; Egypt’s Culture Wars by Samia Mehrez; Inside the Egyptian Museum by Zahi Hawass; The Literary Atlas of Cairo by Samia Mehrez; The Nile Cruise, photographs by Sherif Sonbol, text by Jenny Jobbins; The Pharaoh’s Kitchen by Magda Mehdawy and Amr Hussein; The River Nile in the Post-Colonial Age, edited by Terje Tvedt; Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers by Bahaa Abdelmegid, translated by Chip Rossetti; The Scents of Marie-Claire by Habib Selmi, translated by Fadwa Al Qasem, Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt by Samer Shehata; and Wonders of Egypt by Giorgio Ferrero, with a foreword by Zahi Hawass.
“This event is also an important occasion for the AUC Press to pay tribute to its authors and to their latest books,” added Akl.
In previous years, historic venues for the AUC Press Annual Book, Art, & Music Festival included the Baron’s Palace in Heliopolis, the Citadel in Islamic Cairo, and Farouk’s Corner in Helwan.
For further details of the upcoming AUC Press Annual Book, Art, & Music Festival, including a map of al-Mu'izz Street in Fatimid Cairo, click here.
“It is not imperative that I write every day because there is false and the true writing, like the false and the true muse,” says Bahaa Abdelmegid, whose two novellas, Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers have just been published by the AUC Press.
But when he writes, Abdelmegid allows his creative impulse to run free. “I put everything down on paper and only then do I edit because I want to be in different moods,” explains the forty-three-year-old Egyptian writer.
Saint Theresa, one of his first novellas to be translated into English, is intentionally constructed on the confessions of the author’s characters, using their names as titles that divide the narrative into short chapters. “The little chapters are like testaments,” explains Abdelmegid. “It’s like in the Bible…. I used a narrative technique of biblical structure. Everybody has his own way to tell us their story,” adds the writer, who also utilizes emblematic titles such “Prayer of the Candles,” “A Wailing Wall,” “Hymn of the Sands,” and “The Apparition of the Virgin” for certain important passages.
“I have a religious background. My grandfather was an imam. He died while kneeling in the mosque during prayer,” he adds.
Sawsan is a young single Muslim woman from Shubra who enrolls in university and falls in love with a dangerous Marxist named Salim. Her Christian neighbor and childhood friend Budur marries Girgis, a struggling humble tailor and then falls in love with her husband’s prosperous Jewish Greek-Egyptian employer Luka.
Abdelmegid makes his characters coexist, testing their religious tolerance as they face temptation, love, and jealousy. “All religions have differences and similarities. It is not a matter of religion, it is a matter of how you deal with the different religions,” explains Abdelmegid.
Although this novella is not autobiographical, the author, who is also from Shubra, feels attached to his characters. “I am still living with them. I can’t separate myself from them. Budur and Sawsan are still with me.”
“I made women who are mentally very active, in a society where they are not allowed to be active, which is why they are introspective,” explains Abdelmegid. In his creative world, the female characters are strong-willed and determined, striving to improve their plight either through work or education. Sawsan writes in her notebook: “I aspire to a world where your clothes, your identity, and your class aren’t boxed in. I want to live in a world where I can mention my place of birth without arousing any kind of prejudice against me.”
Abdelmegid even goes as far as calling himself a feminist. “The woman is always responsible even when it is the man that deviates. I am attacking this kind of hypocrisy. Too much burden is put on women,” he adds.
Yet in Saint Theresa it is the woman who is unfaithful to her husband. “Budur is a victim of her poverty,” says Abdelmegid, justifying the behavior of his female character.
Saint Therasa was first published in Arabic in 2001, and was originally written as a 250-page novel. “I worked on it day and night at the same time as my dissertation,” explains the author who holds a PhD in English literature from Ain Shams University, where he currently teaches.
“I believe every word counts in a story,” says Abdelmegid. “Prose is like poetry. Every word should have a beat, a rhythm.”
In Saint Theresa, Abdelmegid plays with symbolism. Water is a recurring theme – whether the shores of Alexandria or the lake of Fayoum, at times beautiful, as times threatening, perhaps unconsciously reflecting the author’s deep personal fascination and angst. “I almost drowned in Ismailiya when I was a child,” says Abdelmegid, before adding: “Water is a symbol of purity, of life, of death."
The second novella, Sleeping with Strangers is also based on confessions. Basim, a confused, dishonest, womanizing young Egyptian, is drawn to the “land of opportunity,” only to end up in an American prison on various charges before eventually deported back to his native Egypt. Nader, a generous, romantic, aspiring writer in love with Basim’s neglected wife, tries to change the course of his cousin’s life, reminding him “that the American people have no power, just like us Arabs: they chase after their daily bread and a peaceful life for themselves.”
As with Budur, the author defends his male character. “Basim is not guilty,” explains Abdelmegid. “He is a victim of his father’s sins. He is seeking freedom. The US for him is like a dream, although freedom is relative,” adds the writer who studied in Vermont on a Fulbright scholarship, and later at Trinity College in Dublin.
“Basim is the ego and Nader his alter ego, or perhaps it’s the other way around,” explains the writer. “There is more hinting than telling in the story,” he says, noting that some things are deliberately left unexplained and unsaid. Yet Sleeping with Strangers is meant as a journey for his characters to know themselves. When the novella first appeared in Arabic in 2005 and Abdelmegid dedicated copies to his readers, he signed: “I hope that by reading Sleeping with Strangers you reach human bonds instead of alienation.”
Abdelmegid, who is also a lecturer of English literature at Alexandria and Beni Suef universities, still finds time to write. He is currently working on his fourth novel. His preliminary drafts are always done on paper. “The pen is kind to me. It is attached to my heart. With the pen, there is time for improvisation. The typed word on the other hand looks published, somehow irreversible.”
To order the book online, click here.
The American University in Cairo Press will celebrate the publication of The Arabian Horse of Egypt, a spectacular new title with striking photographs by Nasr Marei, at the Marei Albadeia Stud Farm in Mansouria, on Saturday, May 8.
Published by the AUC Press, The Arabian Horse in Egypt, with a foreword by HRH Princess Alia Bint Al Hussein, and an introduction by Cynthia Culbertson, is the first major publication to address with such authority and expertise the history and lineage of this special breed, considered a treasure of Egyptian heritage.
The 100 color photographs illustrate beautifully the elegance, agility, grace, pride, and power of the Egyptian Arabian purebred horse. Today the breeding programs in Egypt are the root source for the finest Arabian horses, attracting fervent enthusiasts from all corners of the world. Nasr Marei, not only a passionate photographer, is himself the third-generation owner of a stud farm in Giza, Egypt, raised among horses, with fifty years of breeding experience, as well as the co-founder and vice-chairman of the Egyptian Arabian Horse Breeders Association.
“My lifestyle is such that I have made the horses my family and have attempted to create the best possible world for us where they can thrive, and I can be part of their daily lives,” writes Nasr Marei in the book’s preface, noting his family’s Albadeia stud farm has bred over five hundred horses to date. “The Arabian horse is an example of survival in the harshest of environments,” he adds, stressing the importance of preserving the identity and integrity of the bloodline and valuable characteristics such as strength, courage, charisma, spirit, and endurance.
In the foreword, HRH Princess Alia Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, a world-renowned Arabian horse breeder, show judge, and director of the Royal Stables of Jordan for the Preservation of the Arabian Horse, says:“Nasr Marei’s sincere appreciation of the essential qualities of his subjects—beauty, free spirit, intelligence, and humor—is underlined here by the manner in which he has chosen to portray them: at rest, at play, and expressing themselves as only the unique Arabian horse can.”
The Arabian Horse of Egypt features an introduction by Cynthia Culbertson, an internationally-recognized Arabian horse historian. She traces the development of the Arabian horse, the world’s oldest breed, from the age of the pharaohs, the rise of Islam, and the time of the Mamluks, to today’s stud farms, and discusses the qualities of the ideal Arabian horse, the confirmation of the horse, and the bond between the mare and her foal. “To appreciate these magnificent animals fully it is important to understand their fascinating history and significant cultural legacy,” she writes.
To order The Arabian Horse of Egypt now, click here.
Click here to view some of the book’s splendid photographs.
For invitations to the Saturday event, contact Nabila Akl, firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 2797 6896 / 6893.
Visitors to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum can now discover the countless rare objects on display using the new official guide Inside the Egyptian Museum with Zahi Hawass, by Zahi Hawass, with photographs by Sandro Vannini.
The Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square, the first museum in the world purposely built to house and protect antiquities, holds the world’s greatest collection of Egyptian treasures—tens of thousands of stunning and fascinating objects dating from Predynastic times right through to the Greek and Roman Periods. In order to guide visitors, who may feel overwhelmed by the vast number of objects and the size of the museum, to the unmissable highlights of this great storehouse, Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and today the world’s best-known Egyptologist, offers his very own selection of exhibits to see.
The 300-page full color illustrated volume, with magnificent color photographs by veteran photographer Sandro Vannini, begins with a fascinating introduction about the history of the museum itself, its construction in 1897 by an Italian company, and the transfer of five thousand boxes of Egyptian artifacts from various storage areas to the new museum. “This is one of the most important museums in the world and contains the largest collection of pharaonic artifacts anywhere,” writes Zahi Hawass, who was appointed head of Egypt’s antiquities service in 2002.
“For the past few years, I have been working to bring the Egyptian Museum into the twenty-first century and into the hearts and minds of people from around the world,” he adds.
Among his two hundred favorite objects in the museum is the 4,500 year-old diorite statue of Khafre, the Fourth Dynasty king. “Although the statue looks to be of one person—King Khafre—it is, in fact, a triad,” explains Hawass. “The king is Osiris in death, while the falcon at the back of his head is Horus; the throne upon which the king sits is the hieroglyphic symbol of Isis,” he adds. “I like to walk around this statue and see the hawk on the back of Khafre’s head and imagine that it is taking him up to the sky. I also think about the artist who carved the king’s face and the muscles of the body.”
The visit on the ground floor starts in the Predynastic Room with the replica of the Rosetta Stone, with its three scripts—demotic, hieroglyphic, and Greek—deciphered by Champollion in 1822, and ends with a wooden coffin studded with stunning inlay of hieroglyphs in colored glass displaying the name and titles of Petosiris, the early Ptolemaic Period High Priest of Thoth.
On the upper floor, Hawass gives a brief history of the royal mummies and introduces the visitor to more of his favorite artifacts, like the golden finger stalls and sandals of Psusennes I from Tanis. From the Jewelry Room, his selection includes a gold and amethyst girdle of Mereret, modeled with panther heads that protect the wearer from harm, and four exquisite turquoise, lapis lazuli, amethyst, and gold bracelets from the tomb of King Djer, from the First Dynasty, that are believed to have belonged to a princess.
Inside the Egyptian Museum with Zahi Hawass will also soon be available in French, German, and Italian editions.
International author Ahdaf Soueif will be giving a lecture on "The Author as Translator" on April 28 at 6:00 pm in Oriental Hall, at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
Following her talk, she will be be signing her books at the AUC Press Downtown Bookstore on Wednesday, April 28.
Ahdaf Soueif is the author of many books including The Map of Love, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, 1999.
The London Review of Books said about her book: "Half-romance and half a gently nationalist defence of Egypt - Soueif never raises her voice."
To mark World Book Day, the biggest annual international celebration of books, reading, and publishing, initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the American University in Cairo Press is offering again one free book on any purchase made in its Downtown Bookstore, on Friday, April 23.
For their free copy, visitors will be able to choose from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and Denys Johnson-Davies’s Under the Naked Sky.
Located on the corner of Sheikh Rihan Street, the Downtown Bookstore, Coffee Corner, and Garden Terrace will be open from 2:00 to 8:00 pm.
On this special occasion, various just-published AUC Press titles will be available in the bookstore, including six modern Arabic novels, translated into English: Bahaa Abdelmegid's two novellas, Saint Therasa and Sleeping with Strangers, Mohamed El-Bisatie's Drumbeat, Habib Selmi's The Scents of Marie-Claire, Mahdi Issa al-Saqr's East Winds, West Winds, and Alaa Al Aswany's Chicago now in a new paperback edition.
History enthusiasts will find the comprehensive new biography of Edward William Lane, 1801−1876: The Life of the Pioneering Egyptologist and Orientalist, by Jason Thompson, author also of A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present (AUC Press, 2008).
For lovers of the arts, the AUC Press has just published The Arab National Project in Youssef Chahine's Cinema by Malek Khouri, already described by some critics as the first informative and critical analysis of the entire filmography of Chahine.
In the field of Politics, Economics, and Social Issues, readers can now also find Samia Mehrez's Egypt's Culture Wars, which looks at the raging debates in the arts in Egypt; For Better, For Worse: The Marriage Crisis that Made Modern Egypt by Hanan Khouloussy, which examines twentieth-century matrimony and society; The River Nile in the Post-Colonial Age, important research that analyses the modern development and politics of the Nile Basin, edited by Terje Tvedt; and Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt, an insider study of the worker identity in Egyptian industry by Samer Shehata.
As every year, the AUC Press marks World Book Day on April 23, the birthday of William Shakespeare and other prominent writers.
For more information, click here.
Regrettably, the AUC Press team is unable to attend the 2010 London Book Fair due to the flight delays into the UK.
If you have any queries related to The American University in Cairo Press, please do not hesitate contact us directly:
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For orders and queries on UK and Europe Distribution please click here.
The American University in Cairo Press celebrated the new 400-page signed, limited edition of A Secret Voyage, by Zahi Hawass, with photographs by Sandro Vannini, in Gouna on April 16.
A Secret Voyage, a magnificent, hand-bound, silk-cover edition of only 750 signed copies, is a captivating journey through the world of the Theban Necropolis, narrated by Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, in which the world-renowned archaeologist chronicles anecdotes and personal stories about his years of experience as an Egyptologist in the field. (Limited edition, Hardcover in clamshell box, LE22,500).
“The Valley of the Kings has more magic and mystery than any other pharaonic site in Egypt,” writes Zahi Hawass, in the introductory chapter about his connection with the west bank of the Nile and the mortuary temples.
Over the course of his career, Zahi Hawass has made many remarkable discoveries, such as the tombs of the pyramids builders at Giza, the Valley of the Golden Mummies, and the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut. He also revealed the mystery of Tutankhamun’s death and identified the mummies of the young king’s family.
“My stories have entered the hearts of people all over the world,” writes the Egyptian archaeologist, who was chosen by Time magazine, in 2006, as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
The very entertaining narrative of A Secret Voyage, on themes such as love, beauty, celebration, work, foes, life along the river, and the afterlife of the ancient Egyptians, is beautifully illustrated by stunning, extremely high-resolution images by Sandro Vannini.
After spending “long hours of observation, sometimes in total solitude,” often in restricted and remote sites across Egypt, and using cutting edge digital techniques and specially designed lighting, the Italian photographer brings to life breathtaking details from unique perspectives, of countless rare treasures, unseen and closed to the world—whether the intricate weave of a wooden funerary chair, the superb craftsmanship of a royal earring, the bold brush strokes of a tomb painting, or the refinement of a gold shrine engraving.
“Vannini has mastered the art of digital photography, and the result is a brilliant collection of images highlighting Egypt’s cultural contribution to the world,” said Vanessa Kramer, director of photography at Corbis. “Clients will recognize this work as a new standard in Egyptian photography.”
The book was already launched in Cairo on March 15, in the Gold Room at Manial Palace.
Zahi Hawass and Sandro Vannini collaborated last year on another important Egyptology book, Life in Paradise: The Noble Tombs of Thebes, one of the highlights of the AUC Press fall 2009 publications.
Zahi Hawass is the author of many other AUC Press publications, including The Royal Tombs of Egypt: The Art of Thebes Revealed (2007), King Tutankhamun: The Treasures of the Tomb (2007), Secrets from the Sand: My Search for Egypt’s Past (2003), The Great Book of Ancient Egypt: In the Realm of the Pharaohs (2006), and The Valley of the Golden Mummies (2000).
The coffee corner sells an assortment of hot and cold beverages, fresh coffee, tea, cookies, and pastries.
The AUC Press Bookstore is open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm Saturday through Thursday, and from 2:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday.
All AUC Press publications can be bought at the AUC Press Downtown Bookstore, or ordered online through the AUC Press website.
The AUC Press Downtown Bookstore
Entrance from Sheikh Rihan Street
Corner of Tahrir Square
Tel: (+202) 2797 5929
Munira Al-Sahi, a young unmarried Saudi woman with wide “bewitching eyes”, appears in the very first page of the novel, Munira’s Bottle. Author Yousef Al-Mohaimeed introduces the reader early on to the “scandalous calamity” that his main character finds herself in, telling of the old bottle in which Munira keeps her written secrets on ornamented pieces of paper, as he weaves around her an intricate web of human relations filled with deception, magic, honor, radicalism, and revenge.
In a recent interview, Yousef Al-Mohaimeed talked about what inspired him to write his second novel novel, Munira’s Bottle, translated by Anthony Calderbank, and published last month by the AUC Press.
“Honor and revenge is very common in every country, but more so in the Arab world,” said Al-Mohaimeed.
"It is the conflict within Saudi society, brought about through change, that created people like Munira and her family," explained Al-Mohaimeed. “Fifty years ago, life was very simple, there were few options. But now modern life has caused conflict between religious extremists and those who accept change.”
With suggestive descriptions of promiscuity, of women promised marriage, seduced, and then deceived, of fervent religious male family members who feel responsible to uphold their women’s honor and insure their morality, this novel touches on many sensitive issues. “A lot of themes are controversial in Saudi Arabia,” explained the Saudi native. “This conservative society sees themes such as love, sex, and religion as offensive.”
But Al-Mohaimeed says he does not worry too much about censorship. “To be honest, the censors understand more than the society,” noted the 46-year-old author from Riyadh. “The censors are actually receiving requests from members of the community, especially religious fanatics, to have books banned,” he added. “Some extremists stormed a bookshop in Riyadh and took all copies of Munira’s Bottle.”
His first novel, Wolves of the Crescent Moon, first published by the AUC Press in 2007, and now available in paperback (AUC Press, 2010), is about hope and redemption. Told in an elegantly constructed narrative, the novel connects the lives of three damaged peoplean old Bedouin man, an orphan, and a eunuch.
“After I finished my novel Wolves of the Crescent Moon, I started to think about women who were suffering from discrimination by the community, and how they are overly controlled,” explained Al-Mohaimeed. “The challenge was to write from a woman’s voice, especially one from a closed society.”
In his critical portrait of Saudi society, marred by the oppression of women and religious fanaticism, and set against the backdrop of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War, Al-Mohaimeed unveils the story of Munira, deceived by her male nemesis, who wreaks revenge for an insult to his character and manhood. But Al-Mohaimeed also tells the stories of other Saudi women, either victims or perpetrators of crimes, characters pained and tormented, trapped in cocoons of silence and fear, in a patriarchal society regulated by a strict moral code.
“I write about what happens in the Saudi society because I know it better than myself,” explained the author. In Saudi Arabia, both of Al-Mohaimeed’s novels sold well. Four editions so far have been published of Munira’s Bottle. “I think that this novel has helped me become better known in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab world,” said Al-Mohaimeed, who is also drawing international attention.
For world-renowned journalist and author Annie Proulx, winner of many distinguished literary awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Saudi novelist is “a rising star in international literature.” Proulx described Munira’s Bottle as a “rich and skillfully crafted story of a dysfunctional Saudi Arabian family.”
“One of its strengths lies in its edgy characters: Munira, a sultry, self-centered, sexually repressed woman; Ibn al-Dahhal, the bold imposter who deceives and betrays her; and Muhammad, her perpetually angry and righteous brother, a catalyst who forces the events,” writes Proulx.
Putting this praise into perspective, Al-Mohaimeed said: “I think it is magnificent that the author of The Shipping News writes such things about a young writer from Saudi Arabia. It gives me a sense of responsibility.”
His latest novel, Pigeons Don't Fly in Buraydah (not yet translated into English) about the so-called Committee for Virtue, which stalks young unmarried couples in Riyadh, is banned in Saudi Arabia.
Proulx also praises Al-Mohaimeed’s writing as an “opening door into Arab lives and minds” a door he seems comfortable leaving open.
“I think we learned a lot about the Japanese, their lives and their minds, through writers like Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata, and Haruki Murakami. We also know more about Indian culture from Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, and Aravind Adiga. I hope that I can describe the lives of Arabs that I see and live with, to all readers around the world.”
Al-Mohaimeed is currently working on a new novel. “It talks about the events at the beginning of the century in the Arabian Peninsula.”
To read the first three chapters of Munira’s Bottle, click here.
To order the book online, click here.
In the splendid Gold Room of Cairo’s Manial Palace, the AUC Press launched earlier this month the magnificent, hand-bound, silk-cover edition of A Secret Voyage, a monumental new book of only 750 copies, by Zahi Hawass and photographer Sandro Vannini, in the presence of ambassadors and prominent personalities, including Egypt's former minister of foreign affairs, Ahmed Maher.
During the event, guests could browse the numbered LE22,000 volume, on display, along with an exhibition of a selection of the book’s photographs.
"This book was the idea of Sandro Vannini," said Zahi Hawass following a brief introduction by Mark Link, director of the AUC Press. "It would not have been possible without his beautiful photographs, that are in my opinion, better than the things you see inside the actual tombs," added Hawass.
As the title of this large 400-page book suggests, A Secret Voyage is an exclusive journey through the captivating world of the Theban Necropolis. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, chronicles anecdotes and personal stories about his years of experience in the field, during which he made many remarkable discoveries, including the mystery of Tutankhamun’s death.
“The Valley of the Kings has more magic and mystery than any other pharaonic site in Egypt,” writes Hawass, in the introductory chapter about his connection with the west bank of the Nile and the mortuary temples.
Through his highly entertaining narrative, combined with translated pharaonic poems, Hawass takes the reader into the world of love, beauty, celebration, work, conflict, riverbank life, and the netherworld of the ancient Egyptians.In parallel, Italian photographer Sandro Vannini brings to life these themes through stunning super-high-resolution images. He uses cutting-edge digital techniques and specially designed lighting to photograph 166 images that are meticulous details taken from unique perspectives of countless rare treasures—an intricate weave of a wooden funerary chair, the superb craftsmanship of royal earrings, the bold brush strokes of a tomb painting, or the refinement of a gold shrine engraving—unseen or long closed to the world but now unveiled through the photographer’s “long hours of observation, sometimes in total solitude” and unique access to restricted sites across Egypt.
"This book was made with the idea to illustrate a secret voyage inside the ancient Egyptian culture," explained Vannini during the book launch. "Zahi gave me the possibility to do a wonderful job but at the same time it is good for the country because the more the media are interested in this book, the more people abroad are speaking about Egyptian culture," he added.
Where Vannini evokes the refinement of the ancient Egyptians’ craftsmanship with a close-up of an exquisite blue kohl holder from the New Kingdom, Hawass describes the beauty regimes of ancient Egyptian women, who used eye liner, powder, beauty masks, and “ancient breath mints” made of fragrant plants, and wore “tight dresses of white linen.”
Hawass also recalls some of the “beautiful true” love stories of his ancestors, from the legendary ones—Cleopatra and her lover Mark Anthony, Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten, to the less known ones—Queen Tiy, “a woman of common origins” married to King Amenhotep III, who inscribed scarabs on their tombs telling of their marriage.
“How did someone in ancient Egypt go about winning the heart of their beloved?” asks Hawass. “Magic and the assistance of the gods could be powerful tools in the quest of love,” explains the Egyptologist who was chosen by Time magazine, in 2006, as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. “Ladies and men also wrote spells on amulets to make their lovers come near.”
But A Secret Voyage looks well beyond devotion and everlasting beauty. It also portrays ancient Egyptians, in their daily life, at work, fishing, cultivating the land, working metals, developing other industries, in a time when “each week consisted of nine days and the tenth was a vacation,” when foreign lands were called khaswt— “places lacking in civilization, places of chaos,” and when “celebrations included music and dance performances as well as plenty of food and drink.”
The book closes with the afterlife and the faces of the past.
The ancient Egyptians had many names for the next world—the ‘west’ or the ‘underworld’, writes Hawass. “They believed in an afterlife based around resurrection and immortality following judgment. Therefore, they could well be the first people in the world to believe in punishment and reward in the afterlife.”
This “beautiful place ruled by justice and truth in which the deceased could relax among trees, water, and fields” that Hawass describes is illustrated by moving images such as a fragment of a tomb painting with Osiris, the king of the land of the dead, holding the ankh, the symbol of life, that he used to guarantee the continuation of the afterlife of the deceased.
“Vannini has mastered the art of digital photography, and the result is a brilliant collection of images highlighting Egypt’s cultural contribution to the world,” said Vanessa Kramer, director of photography at Corbis. “Clients will recognize this work as a new standard in Egyptian photography.”
Zahi Hawass and Sandro Vannini collaborated last year on another important Egyptology book, Life in Paradise: The Noble Tombs of Thebes, one of the highlights of the AUC Press fall 2009 publications.
The AUC Press is the exclusive distributor in Egypt of A Secret Voyage.
To view a video of the book launch at the Manial Palace, go to the AUC Press Facebook.
To view photographs of the event, click here.
This month the American University in Cairo Press celebrated Jehan Sadat’s first art exhibition, Landscapes of the Heart 1986−2009, in the Margo Veillon Gallery of Modern Egyptian Art, at the AUC Downtown Cultural Center.
Prominent personalities attending the March 7 opening included Mrs. Sadat herself, the former First Lady of Egypt, Farah Diba Pahlavi, the former Empress of Iran, and the ambassadors of Belgium, Canada, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey to Egypt. Among the guests of Cairo’s cultural community were Nabil Elarabi, former member of the International Law Commission of the United Nations, al-Akhbar satirist Ahmed Ragab, cartoonist and journalist Moustafa Hussein, art critic Farid Fadel, and longstanding AUC Press friends, including Naam El Baz, Nazli Shakhbandar, and Loulou Khalifa.
“We are here to celebrate these wonderful paintings of Jehan Sadat and to introduce this secret treasure to the world,” said Mark Linz, director of the AUC Press, to the large crowd gathered in the gallery for the red ribbon cutting ceremony.
The fifty-one acrylic paintings of Jehan Sadat, on exhibit in the Margo Veillon Gallery until the end of March, depict mostly landscapes, some inspired directly from Mit Abul Kum, the village in the Nile Delta that is the birthplace of her late husband and former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Other themes include traditional Egyptian village and river scenes, feluccas, and camel caravans, and mountain, waterfall, and lake scenes of North America.
“I feel that these paintings are almost a philosophical introspective about Jehan Sadat’s time in both worlds, in Egypt and in the United States, where she is talking about the past in color and in form, like a visual need,” said Egyptian artist Farid Fadel, on the opening night.
The utopian tranquility and serenity of the artwork mirror Jehan Sadat’s attachment to her home country and her deep conviction in fostering peace, as reflected in her latest book My Hope for Peace, published by the AUC Press in March 2009.
A number of paintings were sold on the opening night. “For me, this is Egypt,” said Brigitte Saman, describing Island Village, the painting she bought showing a rural scene of the Delta. “Jehan Sadat has painted with her heart, there is a lot of honesty in her work,” added Saman, an avid collector of Egyptian art and a resident of Cairo for the past fifteen years.
Landscapes of the Heart is the second exhibition to be held in the Margo Veillon Gallery of Modern Egyptian Art since it was inaugurated last November.
The gallery preserves and exhibits the permanent collection of Margo Veillon and showcases historic retrospectives of twentieth-century Egyptian art, by artists whose artwork either appears in an AUC Press publication, or who have published books with the AUC Press, like Jehan Sadat.
Located on Sheikh Rihan Street, in the historic Sheikh Rihan palace building of the AUC Downtown Cultural Center, the Margo Veillon gallery is open daily from 4:00 to 8:00 pm.
Click here to view images of the grand opening of the Jehan Sadat art exhibition.
Click here to view a video of the opening.
The AUC Press held a special gala dinner in the historic Oriental Hall earlier this month, to mark its milestone 50th Anniversary. Prominent figures attending the high-profile event included Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, Cairo Governor Abdel Azim Wazir, US ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, and members of the AUC Board of Trustees, including Ahmed Zewail, Nobel laureate and member of the US president council of advisors on science and technology.
Among the other distinguished guests were Zahi Hawass, author and secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, award-winning Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, internationally acclaimed Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, and a select group of AUC Press authors and friends from Cairo’s cultural community.
A number of speakers were invited to talk about the AUC Press, on the occasion of its jubilee celebration, starting with Alaa Al Aswany, three of whose books are published by the AUC Press (The Yacoubian Building, 2004; Chicago, 2007; and Friendly Fire, 2009).
“The great lesson of literature is that it teaches us that we can be different in color, in culture, and in religion, but that we are basically all human beings, with the same feelings, the same thoughts, and the same heart,” said Al Aswany. “I think this concept is essential to understand what the AUC Press has done, making it possible for many Arabic novels to be read in other parts of the world. The AUC Press has given Arab writers the opportunity to have their work translated,” he added, before explaining his own personal relation with the AUC Press.
“In my case, the AUC Press really changed my life,” said Al Aswany. “During the 90s, I wrote three books and I tried to have them published in Egypt but I failed,” he added. “When I wrote my fourth book, The Yacoubian Building in 2002, the AUC Press decided to publish the English version of it. That was the beginning of my huge international success,” he explained. “I have received many prestigious awards, I have been appreciated by many of the leading literary critics, and my books have been on bestselling lists in many western countries, but I would say that this great success is not all mine, it is ours, it is AUC Press’s success and my success,” concluded Al Aswany.
Mark Linz then briefly introduced the next speaker, Zahi Hawass, whom he described as “a star archaeologist and a very good friend.” Hawass has published eighteen books with the AUC Press, over the past fifteen years. “I think all of this success comes because of this gentleman,” said Hawass, pointing to the AUC Press director.
Among the other highlights of the evening was a reading by Omar Sharif from Alaa Al Aswany’s Friendly Fire. “I am a great admirer of his work,” said the celebrated actor about his author friend. “He is a very sarcastic man and a very humorous man,” warned Sharif, before reading Games, a short story about an obese schoolboy who succumbs to the demeaning mockeries and insults of his bullying classmates.
After the reading, Egypt’s virtuoso pianist Ramzi Yassa was invited to play some Chopin compositions.
Later in the evening, Mark Linz gave a broad overview of the mission, growth, and accomplishments of the AUC Press since it was first created in 1960. “We wanted to develop a large and diversified publishing program that would also reach a wide audience,” said Linz, who first joined the AUC Press in 1983, and then returned again in 1995. “A book is not published until it is sold, so we opened our first bookstore downtown, today 25 years old,” he noted, adding that the AUC Press now operates four other bookstores throughout Cairo.
AUC’s president David Arnold also addressed the hundred guests, reflecting on the impact that the AUC Press continues to have on the American University in Cairo: “I think the AUC Press is a tremendous asset to the university. It really enables us to fulfill our scholarly mission in the production and dissemination particularly of academic publications, which in the Middle East is vitally important.”
“The AUC Press also helps fulfill our mission of bridging cultures between east and west,” added Arnold, “particularly in translation, which has done so much to open up access to the appreciation of Arabic literature.”
To showcase its backlist of more than 1,000 publications and highlight its 50 years of publishing experience that today make the AUC Press the leading English-language publisher in the region, a selection of publications was on display including K.A.C. Creswell’s seminal A Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts, and Crafts of Islam (1961).
Finally, awards were presented to three distinguished friends of the AUC Press: Richard F. Pedersen, AUC President at the time of the Press's great expansion in the1980s; George Scanlon, author of one of the first books published by the AUC Press, A Muslim Manual of War (1960); and Aleya Serour, author and former AUC Press associate director, who worked at the AUC Press for more than forty years. “These have been the most hectic and the most enjoyable years of my life,” said Serour.
To view photographs of the event, click here.
Numbers actually weren’t his thing. He also didn’t like sitting at a desk. That was during the days when Sherif Sonbol worked as an insurance underwriter for some years, after studying commerce at Cairo University and in London, and before changing careers.
Today Sherif Sonbol is a veteran photographer at Al Ahram and head of the photography section at the Cairo Opera House. He was also worked on various AUC Press publications, including Egyptian Palaces, The Churches of Egypt, Mulid!, and The Nile Cruise: An Illustrated Journey.
Looking back on the patience, coordination, and organization needed to complete the illustrations for The Churches of Egypt, Sonbol says: “All the benches inside the churches needed to be cleared out, we could only shoot with the doors open in order to benefit from the daylight, and we had to find ways to deal with the loads of tourists visiting the sites.”
He would call himself an impulsive photographer. “If I see a shot I like, I always take it, I don’t think twice,” he says. Only after he’s taken the initial shot does he then try to improve it.
Some shots, as for The Churches of Egypt, require much preparation. “It depends on what I am photographing,” he says. “Sometimes a shot could take all day to set up.”
Gaining access to the churches, even with the necessary permits and paperwork, was also not always straightforward. “The guards at the sites are simple people from Upper Egypt, good Christians looking for jobs, but they can’t read. And when I showed up, with my beard, they would not want to let me into the sites thinking, I was perhaps a fanatic Muslim,” explains Sonbol, smiling his way through a scenario he seems familiar with.
“A good shot is one that grabs your attention,” says Sonbol. On the cover of his book, The Nile Cruise, dedicated to Giovanna Montalbetti, is the temple of Philae. The bright fuchsia of the blooming bougainvillaea reflect in the Nile, wrinkled slightly by small ripples in the waters. “Your eye usually gravitates toward the brightest part of the photograph,” he adds pointing at the luminosity of the floral vines on the book cover.
He insists that this book would not have been possible without the relentless assistance and coordination of Montalbetti, who not only frequently stopped the flow of tourists for the moment of a photograph but also scouted the best shooting locations at the various sites. "She is the main character in this book," he explains, stressing the big difference it made to have such a reliable and efficient assistant working with hm.
“Light is everything,” he continues, noting that there are different types of ‘good’ light that a photographer can work with: hard light, back light, side light, soft light, harsh light, and window light. “Flat light is what you don’t want because you don’t see shadows or depth,” he says.
“Architecture is very hard to shoot,” explains Sonbol. “Finding the right angle, getting the lines straight so that the building you are photographing does not look like it is falling…,” he adds, explaining that sometimes he carries around a level that he places on his camera.
The Nile Cruise, which was six years in the making, was his book idea. “You cannot do a Nile cruise without this book because it has secret places,” explains Sonbol. “It shows carvings and angles that are in no other books,” he adds, describing a photograph of a detail from the Ramesseum temple, on the West bank, showing the hand of God drawing images with a brush.
Sonbol then alludes to another example, referring to the Column Hall in Karnak: “My picture of it in this book is the only one that can show the actual size, the volume, the dimensions of the entire hall."
Most of the photographs for this book were shot in the middle of summer, in the heat of the day. “The stone carvings on the walls of the temples were shot when the sun fell from right above, when the light is only good for half an hour, but this is what makes them stand out in the photographs.”
It also meant photographing objects protected behind dirty glass reflections and bracing bus loads of tourists at some of the sites. “Some of the tombs have very narrow halls, lots of visitors, and no light,” explains Sonbol, who used very slow film, adding further complication to the arleady difficult conditions.
“This is an art book, not a history book. Books made by normal people might be more appreciated by tourists than books make by Egyptologists,” adds Sonbol, stressing that he also does not want to mislead the visitor with his photographs.
“I never deliver an image that doesn’t actually exist and I don’t enhance the color of my photographs very much, so that they look quite close to the real thing.”
After all his years of experience, Sonbol is careful in talking about his work. “I never ever felt that I am a good photographer,” he says. Yet his photographs have been exhibited on multiple occasions, including at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and in New York, at Lincoln Center, the New York Times praising his "brilliant" photography in a review.
He also does not believe much in studying other photographers’ work. “You end up imitating them and it interferes with you creating your own style,” he says.
When asked why he cares about photography, he answers with his characteristic wry humor: “It is easy. You push a button.” But on a more serious note, he then adds: “If I wasn’t doing this work, I would have died a long time ago.”
December 5 - 10, 2009
December 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 5 pm
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Click above for more details on the program and on how to apply...
The AUC Press celebrates Sarite Sander's The Eternal Light of Egypt: A Photographic Journey.
The AUC Press, the Friends of the Manial Palace, and the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo celebrate Islamic art and architecture at Qubbat Afandina in Cairo’s Northern Cemetery.
AUC Press author Bahaa Taher wins the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction (the ‘Arabic Booker’) for his novel Sunset Oasis.
“A growing number of readers worldwide have the opportunity to discover Arabic literature translated into English thanks to the American University in Cairo Press, the leading English-language publisher in the region.”
—Arab News (January 2008)
Special AUC Press exhibit
Textbooks at reduced prices
New general interest books
Bargains at up to 80% discount
Nasr City Fair Grounds
January 24 — February 4, 2008
10 am to 7 pm
Don't miss it! Your favorite authors will autograph your favorite books
Saturday, January 26, 2008
10 am to 6 pm (RSVP Nabila Akl: 2797 6896 / 6893)
The AUC Press hosted a special centenary event honoring Swiss artist Margo Veillon (1907–2003) at the Cairo Opera House on Sunday, February 4, 2007.
On April 22, the AUC Press celebrated the publication of by the internationally known Egyptian jewelry designer Azza Fahmy.
Farouk Abdel Wahab’s translation of Khairy Shalaby’s The Lodging House (AUC Press, 2006) will be awarded the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation
The American University in Cairo Press will announce the winner of the 2007 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature on December 11, 2007.
He spent his first nine or ten years in Gamaliya, which plays an important role in his earlier, realistic novels such as Midaq Alley and The Cairo Trilogy, and figures symbolically in later books like Children of the Alley and The Harafish. The alley of his childhood is a kind of microcosm of Egyptian society in his works. The family house, also, seems to have inspired Mahfouz and serves as the model for the Abd al-Jawad family house in The Cairo Trilogy. Mahfouz recalls the various rooms and secret places in these novels, including the roof, which becomes a scene for family gatherings and the meetings of lovers.