Thursday,20 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)
Thursday,20 June, 2019
Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Swan songs

Obituary: Mekkawi Said (1956-2017) 

   Obituary: Mekkawi Said (1956-2017) Swan songs
Obituary: Mekkawi Said (1956-2017) Swan songs
Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Saturday, the literary community lost one of its more popular pillars, the novelist, screenwriter, publisher and chronicler of downtown Cairo Mekkawi Said. Said died suddenly on Saturday morning, and his funeral was held at the Sayeda Zeinab Mosque later on the same day.

Born in Cairo on 6 July 1956, Said graduated from the Faculty of Commerce at Cairo University, where he was culturally active – notably as a vernacular poet – and influential in student literary circles; he would later mention the great free verse pioneer Salah Abdel-Sabour as an early influence. On graduating he began to publish the short stories he would later collect in Al-Rakd Wara’ Al-Daw’ (Running after the Light, 1981), his first book. It was then that Said began to turn into a regular presence on the downtown cafe scene. Among his friends was the Upper Egyptian short story writer Yahya Al-Taher Abdalla – a complete unknown at this point – and Said was instrumental in spreading the word about his phenomenal talent. They were fast friends, and when Abdalla died in a car accident Said withdrew from literary life, grieving in isolation.

Said’s novels include Fi’ran Al-Safina (Ship Rats), which won the Suad Al-Sabbah Arab Creativity Prize in 1991, and the monumental An Tuhibbuka Jihan (For Jihan to Love You, 2015), his last, as well as the Arabic Booker-shortlisted Cairo Swan Song (2008), a powerful meditation on downtown living that soon became his best-known work. Said also wrote a non-fiction book on downtown Cairo, Downtown’s Collectibles (2010), a record of the January Revolution, On Tahrir Square and its Manifestations (2013), five collections of short stories and a number of other books. 

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