Laila Abou-Saif


The contrasts in Laila Abou-Saif's (ليلى أبوسيف) life are many. Born and raised in Cairo, she grew up in a family that valued education for both men and women, and arranged marriages for their children. After her college graduation she endured a seven-year marriage to a man chosen by her family.

An Arab woman raised in the Coptic church, a Christian minority in Egypt, she developed an awareness of all the citizens of her country and began to question the true costs of the ongoing religious war with Israel. During a performance for injured soldiers in Cairo, where she taught theater at the Academy of Arts, she realized that "in order to reach the masses, Egyptian theater must retain its indigenous roots, must remain visual, physical, and musical." Using this insight, she put herself at odds with the politicians in power by challenging the government's actions in her productions.

During the forty days of mourning the death of a family member, in seclusion with other women, she was inspired to film a documentary on Egyptian women. When the finished film was shown in New York City, its feminist approach threatened and angered many Egyptian officials, who retaliated by denying her access to local theaters.

Despite her experiences, Laila Abou-Saif's love of her homeland is consistently felt throughout her autobiography as we come to know this vulnerable yet determined woman, honest about her faults, and committed to her beliefs.

(From website)

Publications: (English)

  • A Bridge Through Time, 1993
  • Middle East Journal: A Woman's Journey into the Heart of the Arab World, 2002

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