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


About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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