American University in Cairo, Egypt, Nov.12 - Harsh words were exchanged between author Hamdi Abu Golayyel and an attendee at the Cairo Streets and Stories event where what started out as a peaceful discussion over his book exploded into a debate about the cultural identity of old Egypt.
The American University in Cairo held an open discussion of Golayyel’s book Cairo Streets and Stories on the Tahrir campus in downtown Cairo. Attendees were invited and encouraged to constructively criticize his writings and in doing so created a spirited discussion about the various themes portrayed in his book.
Golayyel is an award winning Egyptian author who was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for literature in 2008. Having grown up in Fayoum and migrated to Cairo in the 1980’s, he attained a fresh and sometimes unpopular perspective of Cairo culture, specifically architecture. He honed his opinion of Cairo’s streets and buildings whilst working as a construction laborer as a young man which later inspired the material for his books.
His book narrates the reader through a cultural tour of historic old Cairo, the book carries the notion that despite the modernization and development of Cairo that it has maintained its pride, dignity and originality and guides the reader through the various folklore of the people that bring the city to life.
Although the event started out friendly, it could be argued that Golayyel was overly bias towards the ideas in his book,resulting in friction with the attendees.“Why did you write about the streets of Cairo, when you are not from the city of Cairo?” asked Samia Mehrez an AUC professor and Author. Golayyel responded, “People living outside Cairo, are better writers about Cairo than people living in it.” This comment did not bode well with many of the attendees, and as a result people fired back criticizing his lack of credibility, with one person even storming out with rage.
Despite the animosity and disagreement , the event appeared to be successful in opening up the minds of both the speaker and attendees. Both sides presented perspectives that provided alternative views at looking at Cairo, as it is the aim of these lectures to promote dialogue and collegiality. The lecture was one of a series given by Golayyel at AUC, so if you ever feel like engaging in a spirited and sometimes heated debate then these lectures are right for you!