The Kennedy Center

Gamal Al-Ghitany


Gamal Al-Ghitany is a novelist, essayist, and journalist, who was born in 1945 in the village of Guheina in Upper Egypt. His family moved to Cairo, and he spent his first thirty years there in the old "Islamic Cairo." Born into a poor family, Al-Ghitany was apprenticed as a child with a carpet maker, and later worked in one of the factories of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. He wrote his first short story when he was fourteen years old, and gained his real start as a writer of short stories and novels in the 1960s. His journalistic and literary texts have appeared in Egyptian and Lebanese newspapers since 1963. In 1966-1967 he was held in a prison camp for six months due to his critical position towards the President, Nasser. In 1969, Al-Ghitany began his career as a journalist at the Akhbar al-Youm daily newspaper, for which he reported as a correspondent from the war fronts in Sinai in 1973. He also travelled to regions at war in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, before being ordered to stop his work by President Sadat. Al-Ghitany published a biography of Naguib Mahfouz in Beirut in 1980. In the same year, he was awarded Egypt's State Prize for Novels, a Merit of Science and Arts – First Degree. In 1985, he became head of the cultural section of the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper, where he had his own column. Al-Ghitany also supervised the Akhbar al-Youm newspaper's monthly book section. In 1987, he was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. He is chief editor of the Egyptian literary weekly Akhbar al-Adab, a position which he has held since 1993. 
Al-Ghitany's work is a search for man's place in the universe and in the continuum of time. His fascination with Medieval Arabic writing, especially the work of Ibn Iyas, the Egyptian historian, was reflected in his great historical novel Zayni Barakat (Penguin, 1988), a post-modern historical novel of the first order which doubles as an allegory of 1960s Egypt under Nasser. Al-Ghitany's books have been published in many languages, including English, French, German, and Hebrew. His collected works were issued in six volumes in Cairo (1990-1996). The Cairo of Naguib Mahfouz (2000) and Zayni Barakat (2005) were published by the American University in Cairo Press. Al-Ghitany has lectured at leading universities worldwide, and has participated in many international conferences. In 2004, he was the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Al-Ghitany lives and works in Cairo.
Gamal Al-Ghitany