The Egyptian government-owned Al Ahram has launched the beta version of its new English online portal. The site includes a replacement for the old Al Ahram Weekly book-review section, which expired in the spring of 2006.

According to the new portal’s Mary Mourad, this is not “a full-fledged publication, but something that’s more suitable for an online reader.”

Mourad said the website will be “covering as much as possible of the intellectual arena. With a significant focus on books and writers.”

The first list of articles ranges from events listings to book reviews to a notice about the new Shorouk Penguin partnership.

The portal, Mourad said, will cover news and views of Arabic literature, but will be “more focused on the international reader. The more international-community type of reader.”

Highlights from the beta version include a review of Miral al-Tahawy’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction-shortlisted Brooklyn Heights and a review of Beirut39 alum Mohamed Salah Al-Azab’s latest novel, Sidi Barrani.

The site erroneously calls Sidi Barrani Al-Azab’s first novel, but such is a beta version.

I just received a press release about the new venture in email:

We are pleased to announce the launch of the first English “Books” portal dedicated to Arabic published material, as part of Ahram Online new English Portal. The new “Books” portal is emerging at a time when Arabic literary production is increasing at a much faster pace than ever before, yet only a small proportion access the international audience who read in English. This is our attempt to bring to the English reader a deeper look at what is offered in the Arabic arena, benefiting from the wide access of internet and the diversity of its readers.

We are keen to present the latest in the world of writing to satisfy all our readers, whether literary events, new releases, book reviews, or interviews with acclaimed authors. The portal also spans a variety of fields ranging from literature and poetry all the way to sciences, social sciences and even cooking. We hope that the “meal” that we propose to create from this complex “recipe” will offer our readers a good “diet” of Arabic writings.

More about the history of Al Ahram:

Wikipedia

More about al-Tahawy:

Profile on ArabLit

Interview with Frontline Magazine

More about Al-Azab:

On GoodReads

On Twitter

His blog

The portal’s official Twitter account: