Suhayr al Qalamawi, The First of Egypt

This article is also available in: Italiano

Dedicating a whole week to the women, it seemed right to us to start from what, in a certain sense, was the “First woman of Egypt”. Suhayr al Qalamawi was the first woman to establish herself in the country thanks to her intellect and talent, an example that should not be forgotten.

The first

Suhayr al Qalamawi was born in Cairo in 1911 into one of the most liberal families of the time. This allowed the future writer to immediately have contact with books and literature, which was rare for women at the time and that gave Qalamawi an edge for the future. Influenced by the feminist movements of the time, she decided to enroll in the medical faculty of Cairo, but was refused. She then enrolled in Arabic literature, becoming the first woman ever to go to university.

Feminist movements in Egypt

During her stay she made the acquaintance of the legendary writer Taha Hussein, who appointed her deputy editor of the university magazine, making her the first Egyptian woman with a journalistic license. Subsequently, Qalamawi became the first woman to receive a university doctorate, the first to become a teacher and the first to be president of the Arab department from 1958 to 1967.


Her university success was followed by an incredible career that will see her conquering various successes. Central, however, was her commitment to the feminist struggle in Egypt and which will see her as the absolute protagonist. In 1959 he was head of the League of Arab Graduate Women, in which he laid the foundations for cooperation between the Egyptian Union and the World University Union. Following this, he was president of the World Women’s Conference in 1960 and 1967 as head of the Egyptian authority for music, culture and film.

Suhayr al Qalamawi

We could spend hours here explaining the various successes of Suhayr al Qalamawi, then we will try to summarize saying that: she was also the director of the Egyptian Publishing Organization and in 1967 she founded the first book fair in the Middle East.


In addition to all political and social commitments, Qalamawi was also an incredible and prolific writer giving over 80 publications to the press throughout her long life. Note of merit, however, goes to Ahadith Jannati (The Grandmother’s Tales) and her legendary thesis on “The Thousand and One Nights” in which Sherazade also plays the role of educator of the sultan.

The thousand and one nights of Baya

Ahadith Jannati soon became a main text for Egyptian feminism thanks to her deeply innovative vision of the role of women. Looking at her grandmother, the writer sees a real guardian of knowledge, the only lifeline for culture during the war. She died on May 4, 1997, being remembered by everyone as a real Egyptian legend.

From Friday 1 to 8 March, our programming will have the theme “The great women”, get ready to discover incredible warriors, capable of writing their own story. Tomorrow we will tell you about Bi Kidude, the greatest taraab artist in all of Africa. Follow us on our facebook, YouTube and Instagram page, every like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle East.

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