Renowned Egyptian writer and leftist journalist Salah Eissa dies at 78

Mohammed Saad , Monday 25 Dec 2017

Salah Eissa
Late Egyptian author and historian Salah Eissa (Photo:Wikipedia)

Egyptian writer and renowned leftist journalist Salah Eissa died on Monday at the age of 78 after a struggle with illness.

Eissa, dubbed the "storyteller," was one of Egypt's most well-known journalists, documenting the lives of many historical figures, celebrities and Egypt's most notorious serial killers Raya and Sakina.

Eissa, born on 4 October 1939 in Daqahliya governorate, was known for being a leftist activist, journalist and historian.

He started his career as a short story writer before turning to historical writing and political history. He edited, ran and co-founded many newspapers and magazines, and at the time of his death, he was the head of the board of Al-Kahera Cultural Magazine.

In 1966, Eissa was arrested for articles that criticised the regime of then-president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. He was tortured for 15 days and interrogated with other members of the communist group to which he belonged, and was released on the eve of Egypt's 1967 defeat against Israel.

He was repeatedly arrested between the 1960s and the 80s, including in the round of arrests that followed the 1977 bread riots.

Eissa was also a very influential figure in the movement against normalising relations with Israel. He strongly opposed the peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and was the leading figure against the planned participation of Israel in the Cairo International Book Fair in 1981, which never took place.

The renowned historian authored many books on Egypt's modern history, including his famous book on the Orabi revolt, The Orabian Revolution, which was published in the 1970s and republished in 2012.

He also wrote The Princess and the Effendi, which tells the story of a marriage that rocked the Egyptian Royal Family, when Princess Fatheya, the younger sister of King Farouk I, decided to get married to a young Egyptian Christian of humble origins in San Francisco.

Eissa also wrote A Constitution in the Garbage Can, which tracks the story of Egypt's 1954 Constitution, the country's most democratic constitution to date, which never saw the light of day. Eissa happened to find a draft copy and told its story.

Raya an Sakina's Men is one of Eissa's most famous books, in which he details the story of two Egyptian sisters who are considered Egypt's most infamous serial killers. The duo killed 17 women between 1920 and 1921, and were sentenced to death on May 1921. Thanks to the work of Salah Eissa, we have their full story and the story of their male accomplices.

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