Review: Shaawari’s Harem Years

Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924
Huda Shaarawi

Huda Shaarawi lead a pretty fucking amazing life. She started out life in the harem* of her father, and ended it being a feminist and a nationalist hero. This isn’t a particularly well written book, but when you lead a life that was intertwined with so many world events, your memoir doesn’t have to be well written to be engaging.

I could recount the narrative here for you, how she got an education in the harem from other women, how the harem wasn’t only a place of repression but was also a place of empowerment, how she was interested in European culture from an early age** but really you should just read it for yourself. The lives of incredible women like Shaarwi deserve far more attention than they generally get.

Huda Shaarwi

*We’re talking about the turn of the century, and yes there were still Harems
** If there isn’t a book out there about the relationships between early nationalist voices and the arts and culture of the colonial powers, there ought to be

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