From the pharmacist's counter

I went to an interesting book signing yesterday at Dar Al Ayn (I think it's a new independent publisher--I hadn't heard of it before). The book was Karima Al Hefnawy's يوميات صيدلانية ("Diaries of a Female Pharmacist"), a collection of anecdotes and recollections from the decades she chose to spend working as a pharmacist in a small Egyptian village. It reminded me of course of Tawfiq Al Hakim's "Diary of a Country Prosecutor" (which has some great stories)--although Al Hakim was miserable being banished as a young prosecutor to the countryside whereas Hefnawy chose to go work there to put her socialist beliefs into practice. The book (I've only read the first few stories in it) also strikes me as a very similar project, in its documentary nature and its insistence on "passing along" the voices of Egyptians who are often ignored, to Khaled Al Khamissi's Taxi. The underlying intuition seems to be that there is no need to invent stories these days--the average day of the average Egyptian has its full share of comedy, pathos and drama. 

The book signing took place on the same day as Abdel Waheb Al Messiri's (the leader of the opposition Kifaya movement) funeral. Hefnawy is a founding member of Kifaya, and the room was packed with opposition figures, from judge Hesham Bastawisi to author Alaa Al Aswany to editor and activist Abdel Halim Qandil. State security officers made a brief appearance as well. 

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.