The website of Rowayat, a new Egyptian literary journal just launched, and the print magazine isn’t far behind. Founder Sherine ElBanhawy says the magazine aims to embrace Egypt’s hybrid writer, particularly those who write in English, from Waguih Ghali to Ahdaf Soueif to Hedy Habra to the future:
There are a number of Arabic literary magazines in Egypt, ElBanhawy says: Akhbar Eladab, Elkhan Elthaqafeya, A7lamena Eladabeya, Gallery68, Ibda3, Sotour, Adab wa Naqd, and more. But there isn’t a serious literary magazine in English, although, she says, “Egypt has always been the base of a hybridity of writers that express themselves in many languages other than Arabic.”
ElBanhawy said that, for the past three years, the country has been on an emotional roller coaster, “and it’s been thrilling, depressing, exciting, nerve-wracking.” Now it’s time to work, she said, “we have to build,” and “whoever is good at something needs to do it.”
So ElBanhawy was speaking with poet and writing teacher Linda Cleary, and “she got so excited and then I spoke to Amira Aly and voila: Many hours and months later, Rowayat is born.”
Where are they finding writers?
Several ways, ElBanhawy said. First, they’re looking for established authors and soliciting their work. For aspiring writers, Cleary has had more than 1,000 students through her creative-writing courses at Diwan and Darb 1718. And for young writers, Rowayat is running a student-fiction competition.
“There is so much talent in schools and universities waiting to be discovered,” ElBanhawy said. “They deserve this opportunity to shine.”
In contest entries, the Rowayat team is looking for original work, and will look at word choice, sentence fluency, voice, ideas/content, and organization. “But mostly,” they’re looking for “someone who has a great story to tell.”
Only the winning story will be printed in the magazine, but Rowayat also plans to publish the finalists on the website and social networking sites.
What sort of readers will enjoy Rowayat?
“Anyone who loves reading and writing will love Rowayat,” ElBanhawy said. “Academics, students, foreigners living in Egypt, it’s a great way to read something. It’s a great outlet for writers trying to enter the publishing world, it’s a step.”
What role does the website play?
“What goes in the print magazine won’t be online until one year after it is issued,” ElBanhawy said. “Then the whole issue will go in the archives on the website.”
In the main, the website will be a vehicle through which young people can enter the fiction competition. But it’s “also a resource for people who want to know about writers from Egypt that express themselves in other languages. Our writers page continues to grow and is a great way to discover amazing writers that have emerged from Egypt.”
Plans are to launch the first issue in January 2014 and to have the magazine distributed through all major bookstores in Egypt. “People will be able to subscribe online, too,” ElBanhawy said.
You can find the Rowayat webite: