I did not find Saniya Saleh in Cairo. The hunt began even before my trip to Egypt this summer. I tried calling the Tanmiya and Kotob Khan bookshops to get me a copy of her complete works (published by Al Mada) but they couldn’t. So when I arrived I dropped in at Dar El Shurouq where the poetry section is hidden beneath the staircase and confined to bestselling works of Egyptian dialect verse.
Poetry is better served at Madbouli’s across the square. You’ll find Mahmoud Darwish and Muhammed Al Maghut and Adonis clearly displayed on the first floor alongside Al Abnoudi and Ahmed Fouad Nigm. The experienced bookseller, who I’ve known since he was a young man working there in the ‘90s, said, “Who’s this Saniya Saleh?” and led me upstairs to search for myself through the warren of the second floor. There, quite by chance, I came across many books I’d despaired of ever finding: there were lots by the Tammuz poets and the Sixties generation, some from the Seventies, and even, lying on a table in one room, great tomes full of literary criticism of their work.
No sign of Saniya Saleh.