Cairo: Medhat Safwat
As soon as the Emirati writer and artist, Maysoon Saqr, announced that she had won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for her book “Café Feathers.. Eye on Egypt”, congratulations were launched from the Arab world, especially Egyptian writers and intellectuals, a case that could indicate the extent of mutual love between Egyptians and the daughter of Sharjah. And when I contacted her to congratulate her first, her voice sounded like a child who had passed an educational stage with distinction, sincere joy not only with the award, but with the love of people that overwhelmed her, communications and messages, until I felt that her voice had been strained, and with usual generosity, Maysoon continued the dialogue and interaction for more than an hour and a half, and spoke On several issues related to writing, identity and modernity
How did you receive your award?
Of course, a big award bearing the name of an authentic Arab personality, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul. The award organizers in Abu Dhabi have always worked to develop and neutralize it until it became a dream for all intellectuals, because they realize the value of the name it bears. Whoever wins it is referred to as admiration, and we do not find rejection of it, or disagreement about it, on the contrary, there is consensus on who gets the award, which did not favor the Emirates or the Gulf, and the evidence is that I am the first Emirati writer to win it after several sessions.
Who do you give the prize to?
I dedicate it to our literary and artistic history, to all the writers of the Emirates, and all my friends who were my back, my family and my family, in Egypt, the Emirates, or the Arab world, and if it were not for my presence among them, I would have lost the way. Finally, I dedicate it to the proud homeland of the Emirates, to Sharjah the first memory, and to my beloved Egypt, the mother of the world.
* We go to your writing, the place saturated with memories is a central element in it, and we notice this in “In My Mouth is a Pearl” and “Cafe of Feathers”, I feel here that the poet is afraid that her memory will be erased, isn’t it?
A person is inseparable from what he lived and where he lived. Writing is the origin of the place and is present in it, especially narrative or biographical writing. For example, you have the novel looking at the event and time, and they are the naughty of the soul. This is how writing begins, and “nostalgia and passion” are added to them, a sweeping nostalgia for the Emirates, and looking forward to what is happening. In Cairo.
And how was the place in «Cafe Riches»?
For the Egyptians, the place is stable and stable, and the idea is pervasive, because of the Nile River, not only in housing and residence, but even the Egyptian tombs are stable, which you find “houses” and contain a corner to receive visitors. On the contrary, with fishermen, for example, there is always a movement and movement, which makes writing about Cairo a special place for the place, as once I write about Cairo, history comes.
Does this explain the secret of Mason’s constant concern over memory?
I always live this anxiety, and I know that place and memory change with time, and then I resort to literature, whether in poetry, novel or biographical writing. And then we work to create awareness based on passion and discovery.
In “In My Mouth Is a Pearl”, the sea was generous with pearls… How was Cairo in the book’s ten-year journey?
Very generous, she opened her doors to me lovingly, and I had a love relationship with her, which confirms this, that I rarely left Cairo, I go to Alexandria quickly, and I only stayed there once, and I only went to most areas as a quick guest, I do not leave Cairo After she opened her door to me with affection and celebration.
In your book about Cairo, there is a complex history of interculturality, so how did it look so simple?
Cairo is not one layer, but several layers. It enters through the gate of history to find layers, and you cannot master them throughout your life, and it takes ages to find an entrance to it, like someone who stands in the rain and it rains down on him. The history of Cairo shyly, after I found some documents in Cafe Riche, I wanted to classify and mechanize them, and I obtained them for archiving as a loving work for the owner of the cafe, and I did not arrange to write, to discover a treasure, a small cafe containing a part of the history of Egypt. At that time, I stand small, from where did I get all this momentum, it is like standing in front of the pyramid, how few people live the experience.
Cafe Riche represented a starting point for entering the realms of urban and sociocultural history of Khedive Cairo, one of the aspects of the “Egypt is a Piece of Europe” project.
I did not have in my mind a project for a piece of Europe, on the contrary, I do not agree with the idea, and I proceeded from the idea of renaissance and independence from the advancement of the Arab individual, and getting out of the cloak of colonialism, and interest in building the human being, and the existence of the Egyptian as a human entity.
My interest was focused on modernizing architecture and architecture, not as an independent goal, but because of its impact on the person and the Egyptian presence. When I chose the Riche Café, I was trying to portray the real and the authentic, and I did not choose the Groppi Café, because the latter was devoid of the local Egyptian element, and perhaps I was trying to frame an Egyptian intelligentsia class against the class. It is not Egyptian, as if I am victorious for this tendency Almasirah, and I consider it silent about it in the book.
In your book, you combined history supported by documents and oral narratives… with a clear attention to detail, forgotten history… and marginalized narratives.. To what extent did you trust the written and oral historical narratives?
I was not interested in oral narration at first. I was flipping through more than one novel, especially since I deal with a part of history that is near and known and not far away. The narrations are multiple and available and not rare, and they support any researcher in the field of cultural history, so I put the oral narrative in parentheses, especially since it “Spoken”.
“Cafe of Feathers” is not just ordinary writing, but rather artistic and poetic paintings that present the image of a “multiple identities” Cairo.. How can we return to us this Cairo that seems lost in the eyes of many?
I imagine that the concept of modernity includes some ferocity, and it has two sides, one bad and the other positive. The most important thing we lose in modernity is the separation from our previous souls, and then we try in writing to preserve the memory, because our experience is inevitable, whether we like it or not, and the world will change, and my task is to I record the soul in its moment, and we must preserve ourselves, and know that we have a “jewel”, a forgotten history, and priceless details.
Mason’s written work is not devoid of poetic language. She attended “In my mouth is a pearl,” and appeared ghostly in “Cafe Riches,” she says about that language:
Of course, in the beginning, I am a poet, so every time I try to write any other material, even if I draw a painting, the idea of poetry is solved, but with Siri writing I was confused between the “dry language” so I was afraid that I would fall into history, and between the poetic language that might drop the work in Romance, the solution was in a middle language, as you described it as “ghost,” each book in its language, in order to reach the ordinary reader, and your messages leak without being direct.