Egypt Festivals

A look back at the inaugural Cairo Literary Festival 2015

A panel at the Cairo Literary Festival
A panel at the Cairo Literary Festival

A few weeks ago our good friend in Cairo Lena Naassana gave us a report and images from the Cairo Book Fair which happened from 28th January – 12th February. If you read the piece keenly, you will note that she mentioned something about the Cairo Literary Festival at the very end of her piece. I have since been in touch with the organisers of that festival and have learnt a bit more about it from Mohamed El-Baaly the director of Sefsafa Culture & Publishing.

This was the first year of the Cairo Literary Festival which is a novelty in a town more well known for its book fair. This situation strikes a cord with me based here in Nairobi,. In 2008, the biggest book event in the city was the Nairobi Book Fair until our friends from Storymoja came with their festival and the rest is history.

The new Cairo Literary Festival which happened from 14-19 February was aimed at promoting communication among the literary public on the one side and writers and critics on the other.

So who were the writers on panels? There was a huge contingent from European continent including Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Christoph Peters (Germany), Michael O’Connell (Spain and Ireland), Kätlin Kaldmaa (Estonia), Monica Kompanikova (Slovakia), Petra Hulova (Czech Republic), Stanislaw Strasburger (Poland) and Dennis Krossovki (Hungary). Its still in early days so you can be sure to hear more writers from East, West and Southern African in future festivals.

The audience at an event at the Cairo Literary Festival
The audience at an event at the Cairo Literary Festival

The many authors from the European capitals who attended the festival make perfect sense when you see the names of its biggest supporters this year. The Advisory Committee included Ibrahim Abdel Meguid and Hamdy El Gazzar both writers, Humphrey T. Davies a prominent translator, Mehmet Demirtas the President of the Istanbul Literature Festival, Michael Marsh the President of The Prague Writers’ Festival and Tarek Al-Taher, Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine “Akhbar Al Adab”.

Just like with Storymoja, this festival has one organisation taking a big part in its preparation; Sefsafa Culture & Publishing. They were supported by an army of volunteers including writers, poets and journalists with extensive knowledge of Arabic literature as well as world literature and organizers of cultural events.

It was held in several locations in Fatimid and Khedivial Cairo including some cultural venues such as “Bayt Al-Suhaymi”, and “Bayt Al-Sinnari” and traditional coffee shops such as “Zahret Al-Bustan”.

Congratulations on your event guys. We look forward to the Cairo Literary Festival 2016. More Sub Saharan writers please?

By James Murua

This blog is run by James Murua a Nairobi, Kenya based lover of books.

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