Writing the Lives of the Women of Cairo's roaring '20s
A seminar with Dr. Raphael Cormack.
Postcard of Emad al-Din street, early 20th century. From Dr. Cormack's private collection
We are often told that women's history is hard to tell, that it is hidden in the margins or cannot be recovered. However, in Cairo's 1920s entertainment scene, the stories of women cannot be ignored, they are at the centre of everything, running cabarets and theatre troupes, with their faces all over the magazines. This talk examines how female celebrities are constructed in Egypt, how myths gather around them, how their life stories are told and how they tell their own life stories. It will also look at both the benefits and the problems of constructing a picture of Cairo's nightlife from its most famous stars, asking whose stories are preserved and whose are not.
Raphael Cormack has a PhD in Egyptian theatre from the University of Edinburgh. This spring saw the release of his book Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt's Roaring '20s, a portrait of the ambitious and talented women whose work in the arts defined an era, Cairo's 1920s and ’30s.