'Mohall': From Luxor to Guantanamo Bay

Ahram Online, Thursday 22 Dec 2011

Youssef Zidan's new novel tracks one man's journey from sleepy Upper Egyptian tourist city to Guantanamo Bay detention centre


Mohall (‘Impossible’) by Youssef Zidan, Cairo: Dar Al-Shorouk, 2011.

Award-winning Egyptian author Youssef Zidan’s third book has just been released by the Dar Al-Shorouk publishing house. The novel’s main character is a young, devoutly religious Egyptian-Sudanese man who works as a tour guide in Luxor and Aswan, two Upper Egyptian cities known for their archaeological sites and tourism.

The protagonist dreams of marrying a beautiful Nubian girl and starting a family, but his plans are turned upside down when he meets “Al-Qaeda” chief Osama Bin Laden during a visit home to Sudan. The novel tracks his tortuous journey from Luxor to the Gulf and Afghanistan, culminating in his eventual internment at the US Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Zidan is an Egyptian writer and researcher specialised in Arab literature and heritage. He is best known for his controversial 2008 novel “Azazil,” which cemented his reputation as a novelist and won him the International Prize for Arab Fiction (the Arabic Booker) in 2009. He has since published two additional novels, “Al-Nabty” and “Zel Al-Af’a” (“The Snake’s Shadow”). 

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