Midnight in Cairo
The Female Stars of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s
About the Book
1920s Cairo: singers were pressing hit records, dramatic troupes were springing up and cabarets were packed – a counterculture was on the rise. In bars, hash-dens and music halls, people of all backgrounds came together as a passionate group of artists captivated Egyptian society.
Of these performers, Cairo’s biggest stars were female, and they asserted themselves on the stage like never before. Two of the most famous troupes were run by women; Badia Masabni’s dancehall became the hottest nightspot in town; pioneer of Egyptian cinema Aziza Amir made her stage debut; and legendary singer Oum Kalthoum first rose to fame. It is these women, who knew both the opportunities and prejudices that this world offered, who best reveal this cosmopolitan and raucous city’s secrets.
Midnight in Cairo tells the thrilling story of Egypt’s interwar nightlife and entertainment industry through the lives of its pioneering women. Introducing an eccentric cast of characters, it brings to life a world of revolutionary ideas and provocative art – one which laid the foundations of Arab popular culture today. It is a story of modern Cairo as we have never heard it before.
About the Author
Raphael Cormack has a PhD in Egyptian theatre from the University of Edinburgh and is currently a visiting researcher at Columbia University, New York. He is an award-winning editor and translator and has written on Arabic culture for the London Review of Books, Prospect and the TLS, among others. He is the editor of The Book of Cairo and the co-editor of The Book of Khartoum.
‘An utterly unique book, teeming with vividly recounted stories, at times hilarious and at times tragic. These were true feminists avant la lettre who defied the societal norms and authorities of their time, both in Egypt and abroad. This inspiring gem of a book gripped me from beginning to end.’ Hanan al-Shaykh, author of Women of Sand and Myrrh
‘Insightful and fascinating … Cormack highlights an important period in Egypt’s modern history – almost unknown in the West – when its cosmopolitan culture was characterised by a tolerance of all races and religions … A must-read.’ Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building
‘A book full of surprises. A lively story of women shaping gender, class, money and national liberation issues from the music halls and cabarets of early twentieth-century Cairo.’ Ahdaf Soueif, author of Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed
‘An unexpected story of powerful women and their no less powerful voices … Beguiling and original.’ Marina Warner, author of Forms of Enchantment
‘Packed with pizzazz and fizzing with naughtiness … a thrilling reminder of the richness and wonder of Egyptian culture in the roaring twenties.’ Justin Marozzi, author of Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
‘A riveting, lively picture of Cairo’s nightlife’ Wall Street Journal
‘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