Inside Al Ahram

My old friend and fellow journalist Sabah Hamamou -- who I and colleague Ashraf Khalil have both interviewed in articles about the Egyptian media -- has penned an autobiographical expose about her two decades as a reporter at state flagship newspaper Al Ahram (Sabah started there as an intern when she was still a teenager).

Hamamou's self-published يوميات صحفية في الاهرام ("Memoirs of an Al Ahram journalist"), now availabe in Cairo bookstores, is a fascinating and dispiriting window into the dysfunction of the once venerable newspaper. In a confidential, colloquial sytle, Hamamou explains everything from the logistical difficulties of working in newsrooms where 20 journalists share one phone to the way Al Ahram has gradually become bloated with the relatives and friends of senior employees, making a majority of the staff complicit in a parasitical, self-interested culture. The book gives a glimpse into the overwhelming challenge of carrying out institutional reform in Egypt today -- and not just in the state media. 

You can follow Hamamo on Twitter at: @hamamou and on Facebook.

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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.