Egypt is one of the most cultural and highly influential centres in the world. There is plenty of art, history and literature that the country has to offer and it’s home to some of the most vivid and extraordinary writers of all time. The main focus on this article is the best Egyptian writers that you should definitely familiarise yourself with.
• Naguib Mahfouz
The most famous Egyptian writer of all time is perhaps Naguib Mahfouz. He is the winner of 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature and he is also regarded as one of the very first contemporary writers of the Arabic literature alongside Tawfiq el-Hakim. During his career, Mahfouz was able to write and publish 34 novels and over 350 stories among dozens of plays and movie scripts. Among some of his famous works are The Cairo Trilogy and Heart of the Night.
• Tawfiq al-Hakim
Alongside Naguib Mahfouz, he is one of the very first writers of the Arabic literature. Both of them actually had a huge impact on the Egyptian literature culture. Hakim is one of the pioneers of the modern Arabic literature and is frequently called the founder or creator of the Arabic literature world. Some of his famous works are A Bullet in the Heart, The People of the Cave and Leaving Paradise.
• Yusuf Idris
He won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature back in 1997 for his novel City of Love and Ashes. He has written a lot of plays, novels and short stories. Idris originally wanted to become a doctor and he went on to study in the University of Cairo, however, he then decided to become an author. Besides City of Love and Ashes, some of his other famous works are The Cheapest Nights and The Sin.
• Ahdaf Soueif
One of the biggest influencers in the Egyptian culture, politics and society is Ahdaf Soueif. She found herself in the politics and society world back in the Arab Spring protests which ousted the previous president Hosni Mubarak. Before all of this happened, she was already a successful and well known novelist. Her most famous work is The Map of Love but others also know her for the book Cairo: My City, Our Revolution which gives a glimpse and a clear look of her experience and life back in the Arab Spring.
• Yahya Haqqi
Described as the “Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab World”, Yahya Haqqi is among one of the most famous writers in Egypt. She is a feminist writer, an activist, psychiatrist and even physician and has written all sorts of books and novels. She’s known for her books that focus on the women in the Islam world and their role in the society. Besides her work in the literature, Haqqi is also the founder and president of the association called “Arab Women’s Solidary Association”. Some of her most famous works are Woman at Point Zero, God Dies by the Nile and The Hidden Face of Eve.
• Ihsan Abdel Quddous
Besides working as a writer, novelist and journalist, AIhsan Abdel Quddous worked as editor for the newspapers “Al Akhbar” and “Al-Ahram”. Back in 1973, he received his first award for the novel My Blood, My Tears, My Smile, which is one of his most notable works. He was also awarded the “Order of Merit of the First Class” by the president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
• Taha Hussein
A figurehead not only for the Egyptian Renaissance but also in general is Taha Hussein. He was one of the biggest influencers in the 20th century. Both a writer and intellectual, Hussein was nominated for the Nobel prize in literature 14 times. His most famous work that became a hit in the West is his autobiography which is called Al-Ayyam, translated and published in English as the famous An Egyptian Childhood, published back in 1932 and The Stream of Days in 1943.
• Ahmed Khaled Tawfik
Ahmed Khaled Tawfik wrote a lot of paperbacks both in Classical and Egyptian Arabic. He was actually the first ever contemporary writer that wrote about horror and science fiction back in the Arabic speaking world. Not only that, but he also managed to be the first one to write about the medical thriller genre as well. One of the influential writer’s famous works is Utopia.
• Gamal El-Ghitani
Known to many people in Egypt as the author of different political and historical novels, Gamal El-Ghitani was another key figure in the Egyptian literature. Back in 1980, El-Ghitani was awarded with the award “Egyptian National Prize for Literature”. Shortly after, in 1985, he became part of the Akhbar Al-Adab, one of Egypt’s most famous literary magazines where he began working as an editor-in-chief.
• Anis Mansour
With a BA in philosophy that he obtained in 1947, Anis Mansour is among one of the famous Egyptian writers that wrote a lot of valuable books. His journey started as a journalist when he worked in the newspaper “Al-Asas” and then went on to work with “Rose al-Yousef” and “Al-Ahram”. He is known to have written over 170 books and translated all sorts of documents in languages such as French, Russian and Dutch.
• Sonallah Ibrahim
Son’allah Ibrahim was one of the Egyptian novelists who wrote about the nationality. His views were expressed directly in his works whether it’s in one of the novels or short stories. His opinions about politics eventually got him in trouble as he was sent to prison in the 1960s. Ibrahim’s imprisonment takes a huge part in his book which is compelled of short stories and it’s titled That Smell. One of the many things he’s also known for is refusing to accept an award from the Ministry of Culture in Egypt that’s worth over 100,000 Egyptian pounds.
• Miral al-Tahawy
Coming from a very conservative background in Bedouin, Miral al-Tahawy became one of the premiere women in the literature world. She is a novelist and a short story writer whose story and success was even illustrated in the “The Washington Post”. Among some of her famous works are Al-Khibaa (The Tent), Al-Badhingana al-zarqa (Blue Aubergine) and Naquarat al-Zibae (Gazelle Tracks).
There are plenty of writers and people who contributed to the Egyptian literature. The above-mentioned names are just a few of the long list of pioneers and influencers that made the art and literature of Egypt what it is known as today.