These days, you can poke your head into almost any Cairo bookshop and be greeted by a range of horror, from titles by Basma al-Kholy to Tamer Ibrahim to Sherine Hina’i to Mohammed Azouz and more:
But Egypt’s horror pioneer was Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962-2018), Egypt’s literary godfather of genre, who died earlier this year.
As Mohammed Saad wrote in Ahlam Online at the time of Towfik’s death:
He submitted his first horror book draft in 1992, Masas Al-Demaa w Ostorat alragol El Ze’b (The Vampire and the Legend of the Wolf Man), to a Cairo publishing house named The Modern Arab Association, which targeted teen audiences with pocket novels, such as the hit action series Ragol El-Mostaheel (The Man of the Impossible) by Nabil Farouk.
The initial draft was rejected by a committee formed by the publisher, and Tawfik was told to stick to more established genres, such as police fiction, action and military style novels.
However, Tawfik insisted on pursuing his passion until a new committee was formed and approved the draft, which saw the light of day later that year.
The book became the first in one of the most popular pocket book series in Egypt; Ma Wara’ Al-Tabi’a.
Towfik also once told The National: “my English was not good enough to read horror literature, so I started writing it myself.”
And, even through the difficulties of publishing and distribution, the popularity of horror has blossomed.
Irritatingly, only one of Towfik’s novels has been translated to English — his Utopia, translated by Chip Rossetti — and that book is out of print.
You can get a number of his horror novels, in Arabic, as e-versions. Three scary starts:
2. الآن أفهم (Now I Understand). A strange disease is eating away at human flesh.
3. الآن نفتح الصندوق(Now We Open the Box). Parts 1, 2, and 3 are all available as ebooks.