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Latifa Al-Zayyat Posted by on May 14, 2010 in Culture, Literature

 Latifa Al-Zayyat (لطيفة الزيات) is a distinguished novelist (روائية), literary critic (ناقدة أدبية), an academic (أستاذة جامعية) and an intellectual (مفكرة). She was born in Damietta, on August 8, 1923. She received her education at Egyptian schools and later obtained her PhD in English literature from Cairo University in 1957. She is also a political activist (ناشطة سياسية) a social reformist (مصلحة اجتماعية). She struggled for Egypt’s independence from the British occupation and for women’s rights in Egypt.


She published influential works in the fields of critical theory and literary criticism, especially dealing with the image of women in Arabic novels. In addition, she is a distinguished novelist who wrote a seminal novel in 1960 called “the Open Door” (الباب المفتوح) which was also produced into a film starred by Faten Hamama in 1963. About this novel, Latifa Al-Zayyat said: “in the novel, I aimed at crystallizing three levels of significance. The first one deals with the development of the female protagonist, and its related to the second which deals with developments in Egypt at that period. As for the third level, it incorporates a commentary on the values of the middle class and its practices and how they prevent the country from a take off.” “The Open Door” (الباب المفتوح) is one of my favourite novels and movies. It has been a major inspiration for me since a very early age. It has also been an inspiration for a large number of Arab women who seek to challenge the status quo for women in the Arab world and achieve some sort of change. There is a famous blog based on the main character in the novel called (كلنا ليلى) ( which is a collection of blog entries written by Arab women who seek to change their situation.

Latifa Al-Zayyat was awarded an International Award of Recognition in Literature in 1996. She died in 1996, leaving behind a wealth of writings including novels, short stories, plays, critical essays and a collection of academic researches and translations

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