20 March: Remembering Gamila El Alaily on Birthday

OV Digital Desk
4 Min Read
Gamila El Alaily

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Gamila El Alaily (20 March 1907– 11 April 1991) was an Egyptian poet and novelist who confronted ideas that were then socially accepted by educated men about women. As the first female member of the previously all male Apollo Poet Society, she was a pioneer women in the literary scene in Egypt and an influential modernist.

Life and Career

She was born in Mansoura, Dakahlia on 20 March 1907. El Alaily was one of the leading women of Egypt’s modern art renaissance. A passionate writer, she became the sole female member of the Apollo Society, an influential group of poets, writers, and artists who came to represent the first wave of modernism in Arab literature.

Encouraged by the work of pioneering poet May Ziadah, El Alaily moved to Cairo and began contributing poetry to the Egyptian literary journal Apollo, which was launched in 1932 by Dr. Ahmed Zaki Abu Shadi. The publication was named after the Greek god of poetry, as well as truth, prophecy, healing, light, and the sun—a fitting symbol of the society’s universal vision as well as El Alaily’s Apollonian verse. After consistently contributing to the highly regarded journal, she published The Echo of my Dreams, the first of her three diwans, or volumes of poetry, in 1936. Drawing inspiration from nature, her poetry addressed the themes of love and longing as well as contemplation.

In addition to volumes of verse, El Alaily went on to write a regular column for over a quarter century in her monthly newsletter, addressing ethics, values, and ideals, including her views on the role of women in society. In this respect, as well as her prolific poetic output, she broke new ground for women in the Arab world, inspiring generations of writers to come.

Award and Legacy

Gamila El Alaily was an Egyptian feminist, writer, and activist who played a significant role in the women’s rights movement in Egypt and the Arab world in the early 20th century. She was born in 1897 in Cairo, Egypt, and passed away in 1968.

El Alaily was a prolific writer and wrote numerous articles and books on various topics, including women’s rights, education, and social issues. Her most famous book is “Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924,” which chronicles her life and experiences as a feminist in Egypt during the early 20th century.

El Alaily’s advocacy work for women’s rights was significant, and she played a vital role in advancing women’s education in Egypt. She founded the Women’s Awakening Society in 1923, which aimed to promote women’s rights and provide education and training opportunities for women.

El Alaily’s legacy is celebrated in Egypt and beyond, and she is recognized as one of the most influential feminists in the Arab world. Her contributions to women’s rights continue to inspire activists and feminists today.

In recognition of her work, El Alaily was posthumously awarded the Egyptian Order of Merit, one of the highest honors in Egypt, in 2008. The award recognized her contribution to the advancement of women’s rights in Egypt and the Arab world.

On 20 March 2019, Google celebrated Gamila El Alaily’s 112th Birthday with a doodle.

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