Midnight in Cairo

Midnight in Cairo

The Female Stars of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s

9780863563133 April 2021 Hardback 352pp 16 black and white

About the Book

PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2022 – Honourable Mention

Longlisted for the HWA Crown Awards 2022

1920s Cairo: a counterculture was on the rise. A passionate group of artists captivated Egyptian society in the city’s bars, hash dens and music halls – and the most dazzling and assertive were women.

Midnight in Cairo tells the thrilling story of Egypt’s interwar nightlife, through the lives of these pioneering women, including dancehall impresario Badia Masabni, innovator of Egyptian cinema Aziza Amir and legendary singer Oum Kalthoum. They exploited the opportunities offered by this new era, while weathering its many prejudices. And they held the keys to this raucous, cosmopolitan city’s secrets.

Introducing an eccentric cast of characters, Raphael Cormack brings to life a world of revolutionary ideas and provocative art. This is a story of modern Cairo as we have never heard it before.

About the Author

Raphael Cormack has a PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, with a focus on Egyptian theatre, from the University of Edinburgh, and is currently Assistant Professor in Arabic Studies at Durham University. An award-winning editor and translator, Cormack is the editor of The Book of Cairo and the co-editor of The Book of Khartoum. His writing on Arab culture has appeared in the London Review of Books, Prospect and TLS, among others.


‘An utterly unique book ... These were true feminists avant la lettre who defied the societal norms and authorities of their time. An inspiring gem of a book.’
Hanan al-Shaykh

‘Fascinating ... A must-read.’
Alaa Al Aswany

‘A spectacular parade of the extraordinary, bold and brash Egyptian women who shot to fame in the early years of globalised celebrity culture.’
The Times

‘A revelation … in this tremendous act of historical discovery, Cormack has unearthed the regal figures and buried treasures of Cairo’s golden age. He is the Howard Carter of the demi-monde.’
The Telegraph

‘A captivating journey through [Cairo’s] bars, cafes, cabaret clubs and music halls during a magical era when some of its biggest stars were women.’
The Herald

‘Fascinating … A fizzing tale of an underexplored period ... [These female performers] changed the terms of Egyptian popular culture and blazed a path for women.’
David Gardner, Financial Times


HWA Non-Fiction crown (Longlisted)
Prize Website

PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize (Shortlisted)
Prize Website