‘Desert’ or Desert?

My usual rule is: If I’m not into a book by page 25, I put it down and give it to the first person who expresses interest in reading it. The last book I put down was Stieg Larrson’s Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. But last night I broke that rule, I’m now on pg 88 of Desert by JMG Le Clézio, and I don’t know why.

The family is watching Avatar, for the second time, and that’s another rule I seldom break – I only watch a movie once. But back to Desert. I took the book outside, it’s a glorious summer evening, the crickets are chirping, the bullfrogs are boasting, and the garden has sprayed herself in the luxurious scent of yesterday, today and tomorrow – the perfect evening to sit outside and read. I find my marker and read – another ten pages of description of the desert.

My friend Lauri doesn’t like too much description about setting, so she might want to pass on this book. After the ten pages I close the book, but keep my finger in pg 88. I love the characters, but hell, there’s only so much of desert description one can take. In This Blinding Absence of Light, Tahar Ben Jelloun tells the story of Moroccan prisoners who were held inside six-by-three-foot cells in the Moroccan desert for decades. Now I would have expected Jelloun to give writers a lesson in 100 ways to write about the desert; but he didn’t. Le Clézio on the other hand gives nothing but page after page of description of the sand.

So why am I still reading, if the sand is getting in my eyes? I look at the cover; this is what it reads: ‘A writer of something akin to genius.’ Sunday Telegraph. Desert. J M G Le Clézio. Winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature.

What am I missing here? I think, as I consider putting the book on the give-to-friends pile. I could weep with frustration. I have never faced this dilemma; I’m an easy chuck girl, yet here I am hanging on to the damn book, unable to put it down, yet unable to continue reading it.

The blurb calls Desert a ‘masterpiece’; I love north Africa; my husband recommended the novel. Omigod! I am at a loss. I’m not feeling this book; but I’m feeling maybe something will happen if I persevere. So, to persevere or not to persevere? This is when I wish I could speed-read.

The blurb is what appeals to me when I buy a book. If a blurb offers the kind of read I’m looking for I will buy the book. Neither personal recommendations nor reviews are what I base my choice on; I’ll certainly read the blurb of a recommendation or a review, but I won’t blindly buy the book because tastes in books vary. Buying a recommendation is a bit like buying silver eyelashes because they looked great on a friend at a 70s party – they are not going to look the same on you, in the harsh light of day.

My moods also dictate book purchases. Sometimes I am in the mood for scandalous love stories, and at other times I cannot get enough of Elizabeth George or Ruth Rendell’s mastery of the suspense genre.

I would never dream of buying a book just because the writer is award-winning; but I am more likely to buy a Picador title than another one, if I have a choice. Picador delivers almost every time – they publish the type of books that I like to read.

But my dilemma remains – do I finish reading Desert or do I desert it? What makes you keep reading and what makes you abandon a book?


Penguin Prize for African Writing

Penguin Books South Africa is delighted to announce the shortlists for the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. Having received approximately 250 submissions in the fiction category and 50 in the non-fiction category from countries all over Africa, Penguin Books South Africa is pleased to announce the names of the shortlisted authors for the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. This award seeks to highlight the diverse writing talent on the African continent and make new African fiction and non-fiction available to a wider readership. The shortlisted authors for the Penguin Prize for African Writing are:

Fiction Ellen Aaku (Zambia) Moraa Gitaa (Kenya) Chika Ezeanya (Nigeria) Shubnum Khan (South Africa) Isabella Morris (South Africa) Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ (Kenya) Non-fiction Pius Adesanmi (Nigeria) Andrew Barlow (South Africa) Ruth Carneson (South Africa) Ahmed Mortiar (South Africa) Tanure Ojaide (Nigeria) Anli Serfontein (South Africa) Tebogo Tlharipe (South Africa) These manuscripts have been sent to the judges and the winners will be announced on Saturday 4 September 2010 at the Mail and Guardian Literary Festival. The prize in each category will be R50 000 and a publishing contract with Penguin Books South Africa, with worldwide distribution via Penguin Group companies. About the judges Fiction Kole Omotoso Kole Omotoso was born in Nigeria in 1943. After studying in Nigeria, he obtained a doctorate on contemporary Arabic prose and dramatic writing at the University of Edinburgh. From 2001, he has been a professor in the Drama Department at Stellenbosch University, and is currently the director of the Africa Diaspora Research Group based in Johannesburg. In 2009, he was a judge for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Africa Region and was the keynote speaker on the festival’s opening night. He is the author of the classic historical narrative The Combat, first published in 1972 and republished in the Penguin Modern Classics series, as well as one short story collection, two plays, three books of literary criticism and several academic articles, novels and historical narratives. Harry Garuba Harry Garuba is the head of department and associate professor in the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town. His teaching interests include: African Literature, Postcolonial Theory and Criticism, African Modernities, and Intellectuals/Intellectual Traditions of African Nationalist Writing. In addition to being an academic, he is an author and poet, and with an active interest in African and postcolonial literatures, has been a member of the editorial advisory board of the Heinemann African Writers Series. Elinor Sisulu Elinor Sisulu was born in Zimbabwe. She studied in her home country as well as in Senegal and the Netherlands. As an academic researcher for the Ministry of Labour in Zimbabwe in the early eighties, she published studies of women’s work and development assistance in Zimbabwe. This included a major study for NORAD that was later published by SAPES in a book entitled Women in Zimbabwe. From 1987 to 1990 she worked for the International Labour Organisation on assistance programmes for the ANC, PAC and SWAPO. In 1991, Elinor moved to Johannesburg and until 1998, worked as a freelance writer and editor, and as assistant Editor for SPEAK, a black feminist publication. Her children’s book, The Day Gogo Went to Vote, a story about a child accompanying her grandmother to vote in the 1994 elections, won numerous awards, including the African Studies Association of America Best Children’s Book Award, and has been translated into 6 major South African languages. Her biography of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime, was published in 2002 and was runner up in the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, and was awarded the NOMA Award for most outstanding book published in Africa in 2003. Elinor Sisulu is currently advising on projects on democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe. Non-fiction Redi Direko Redi Direko was born in Soweto, Johannesburg. She studied for her first degree in Journalism and Communications, and English Literature at post-graduate level in Johannesburg. She has been a broadcast journalist for 11 years, having worked in both television and radio. She began her career as a reporter for Network Radio News and then Kaya FM, a Gauteng radio station. She went on to present a variety of programmes for the SABC and its Africa channel, where she interviewed people such as Thabo Mbeki, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. She was the senior news anchor at eTV’s 24th satellite news channel, and has been a columnist for Fairlady magazine. She is currently the presenter of the Redi Direko Show on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk and writes a weekly socio-political column for the Sowetan newspaper, while studying for her Master’s in Literature. Nic Dawes Nic Dawes has worked for the Mail & Guardian from 2004. Dawes joined the newspaper as associate editor from ThisDay newspaper. As an investigative and political reporter with editing duties, he was part of the team that broke the story linking police chief Jackie Selebi to the underworld networks surrounding Brett Kebble, and also contributed extensive news and analysis on politics and economic policy. He is now the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian weekly, and Mail & Guardian Online. Jonathan Jansen Jonathan Jansen is honorary professor of education at the University of the Witwatersrand and Scholar-in-Residence at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg. He has worked as a high school science teacher and served as the dean of education at the University of Pretoria from 2001-2007. He obtained his MS in science education at Cornell University and his PhD from Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar, and is widely regarded as one of the top researchers in the field of education.

You Can’t Stop Water… or Ashy Clouds

The focus of the London Book Fair this year is on South Africa. The Department of Arts & Culture duly arranged to send several South African writers to the fair to showcase the versatile literary talent that exists in our country. Local publisher Colleen Higgs has spent months preparing to take her modest yet active publishing company Modjaji Books to the fair. Among the local writers with their air tickets in hand are Fiona Snyckers, Liesl Jobson and Etienne van Heerden, but the plot hasn’t quite gone according to plan and their hopes of getting to London have been dulled by the untimely ash cloud that spewed forth from a volcano in Iceland.

Ah, the best laid plans of man are similar to the best laid plans of writers; I’m referring to structure. I recently had the good fortune to be contacted by a literary agent who had read my short story Bluette in the New Writing From Africa 2009 anthology and wanted to read some of my other work. I sent her the manuscript of a novel and received… well, second prize. While she enjoyed reading my stories, and felt that I had an engaging style, she did have a major concern with the structure. My husband was devastated that I didn’t get first prize, but I was thrilled at the agent’s comments. She engaged with me, discussed some tricky aspects of writing that I have so longed to discuss with someone; I replied and she agreed to read the synopsis and first three chapters of the book that I will start writing in June when I attend the El Gouna Writers Residency in Egypt.

But let’s return to structure. I could validate my reasons for choosing the structure I employed, and while the agent understood my reasons for doing so, she felt that what was most important was to just let the story be what it is, that writers don’t need to ‘clear space’ for issues or themes, they will come through in the telling of the story.

I have spent years studying the craft of stories, the nuts and bolts and how they all fit together, but instead of allowing the story to develop organically, I had become too focussed on technique. I was so anxious to get it right, that I’d got it wrong.

Story is innate in all of us, we tell our families and friends the stories of our lives every day, and we don’t have to think about how we’re going to frame the story, it bubbles forth naturally. So, while my dear writer friends try to get to the LBF and sip bubbly (and I hope that they do), I’m going to be bubbling forth, allowing the little streams of ideas to find their way into the main body of water where they’ll find their own depth.



Entries invited from 1 March 2010

The South African Centre of International PEN (SA PEN) is pleased to announce the launch of the second in the series of PEN/STUDZINSKI Literary Awards.

Entries for the award for original short stories in English are called for from 1 March 2010 and AFRICAN PENS, a compilation of the short-listed stories, will be published in mid-2011.

Prizes totalling £10 000 will once again be donated by American philanthropist and global investment banker, John Studzinski. The first, second and third prizes will be £5 000, £3 000 and £2 000, respectively.

Nobel Laureate and SA PEN Honorary Member, J.M. Coetzee, will once again select the winning entries.

The 2011 PEN/STUDZINSKI Literary Award aims to encourage creative writing in southern Africa and will offer talented writers an exciting opportunity to launch or develop a literary career. Twelve contributors to our earlier HSBC/SA PEN series have now published their own books, including Ceridwen Dovey who won the 2008 Sunday Times Fiction Prize. Petina Gappah, an early winner, went on to sign a three-book contract with Faber & Faber in the UK and Farrar Strauss & Giroux in the US. Three of the five short-listed stories for the Caine prize for African Writing first appeared in AFRICAN PENS 2007 – the model for AFRICAN PENS 2011. The story POISON, set in a threatened Cape Town, and written by author Henrietta Rose-Innes, was chosen by J.M. Coetzee as the winner of the 2007 HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award and it went on to win the 2008 Caine Prize of £10 000.

Our 2009 project, led by author Shaun Johnson, received over 800 entries from writers throughout Africa, but this year we revert to appealing only to writers living in the fifteen countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC*). The genre is still the short-story, this time between 3 000 and 5 000 words.

SA PEN is pleased to announce that author Margie Orford has agreed to take Shaun’s place on the SA PEN executive and that the Editorial Board for the 2011 award will comprise:

Anthony Fleischer (Chairman), novelist and President of SA PEN
Dianne Case, popular children’s author
John Gardener, English teacher, retired Head of Kingswood College & Bishops, published numerous articles and Bishops’ 150 year history of the school
Jeremy Lawrence, writer who has worked in journalism and publishing in London and South Africa
Adré Marshall, retired academic, author of book on Henry James and sundry poems, translator (French/English)
Peter Merrington, novelist, professor extraordinaire at the University of the Western Cape, ceramicist and motorcyclist
Margie Orford, writer and sometime journalist
Anne Schuster, novelist, poet, creative writing facilitator and publisher
J.M. Coetzee – Nobel Laureate (Final judge)

Writers who are citizens of SADC countries* are encouraged to prepare short stories for submission. Further information and detailed rules of entry will be posted on the SA PEN website, http://www.sapen.co.za, from the 1 March 2010.

Previous publications featuring the shortlisted and winning stories from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 HSBC/SA PEN, and 2009 PEN/STUDZINSKI Literary Awards are: AFRICAN COMPASS (2005, New Africa Books), AFRICAN ROAD (2006, New Africa Books), AFRICAN PENS (2007, New Africa Books), NEW WRITING FROM AFRICA 2009 (2009, Johnson & KingJames Books).

* SADC countries: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

For further information go to website:     http://www.sapen.co.za/SAPen.aspx

Bloggers of SA speak out

Blogging is about having the freedom to say what you want to say. In a democracy, freedom of speech is essential and it is the right of journalists to expose societal and political injustices and safeguard the constitutional rights of all South Africans. The ANC Youth League’s threats will not bully writers who have the right to exercise their constitutional freedoms. As a writer, I condemn the ANCYL for their attempt to gag and intimidate journalists who are exercising their rights for the benefit of South Africa. The ANC needs to open their mouth and affirm their commitment to the freedoms enshrined in our constitution.

Too Sore to Read; Too Sore to Write

I was pacing around the garden, admiring the blooming agapanthus and sipping a cup of tea, ruminating about things and finally settled on the South African stories that I read in New Contrast and New African Writing and then I considered some of the things that I haven’t written about. I don’t mean the gender-appropriate, or race and religious related literary no-no’s – I mean the ordinary every day things that happen in our country.

Nadine Gordimer recently accused South African writers of failing to write the stories that are happening now. A common cry from South African readers is that they don’t want to read another damn story that takes place during the transition from apartheid to post-apartheid.

In fairness, many of the local novels have themes that have moved beyond apartheid; but rainbow-nation-weary readers aren’t prepared to even read the blurb. And who can blame them, when they’re faced with international novels that completely convey them to another place, another time, another life.

I tried to consider some of the contemporary issues in our country and wondered who might be interested in hearing how repatriated refugees are tasered on the flights to their countries of origin, who might be intrigued by the porn-star whose daughter attended my own daughter’s private school and was rejected by her peers because the car-park mommies didn’t want their children attending a party at a porn palace.  Such stories, who’d believe them, I thought to myself.

Living in South Africa is a challenge. I doubt there is a resident of South Africa who doesn’t have a crime story to tell. In less than twenty four hours I had been told about or the following stories: The home invasion where a woman watched a thug holding a gun to her son’s head; a grandmother who had to leave her job two years before pensionable age to look after her orphaned grandchildren; a woman was ambushed while driving under the bridge situated 2km from our house, killed by the thugs who dropped a cement slab onto her windscreen.

While these stories might appear on the daily broadsheets and on TV news, they’re not the subject matter I, nor any South African reader, I imagine, want to be clutching when we get into bed at night or when we’re waiting at an appointment. No, I want subject matter that transports me from the horror stories that punctuate daily life for many South Africans.

So where do I find the stories that I write; well personally, most of the last twenty stories I’ve written have not been set in South Africa, simply because I am a travel writer and travel has provided me with an opportunity to look for stories elsewhere. I grasp this opportunity with both hands because I find that when I’m writing about another place or about the people that inhabit them, I am able to get the critical distance that I don’t achieve as easily when writing about South Africa. I’ve written short stories set in Mauritius and Thailand and a novel set in Morocco. The short story collection I’m compiling at present is set in Egypt as is the novel I will begin working on in June. The novels I plan to write after that one is set in Singapore, and the one after that in Japan.

I don’t think for a minute that there aren’t wonderful, spirit-lifting stories to be told about South Africa; I just don’t believe that, at the moment, I can emotionally detach myself from the grime of the crime to polish up the pretty.

Eeny, meeny, miney mo… Choosing Genre

Google Alerts is an excellent way of keeping writers or would-be-writers informed about what’s happening in the world of writing. Some publishing sites give a list of genre for the writer to consider before submitting their work – the list is usually limited to contemporary, literary, romance, mystery, etc. So imagine my surprise when all sorts of genres have started popping up on the alerts; it would seem that the only limit of genre is the writer’s imagination.

Culinary mystery seems to be hot and happening at the moment; crime fiction that focuses on chefs and caterers set in restaurants or unusual settings. It seems like culinary mysteries are tickling the taste-buds of mystery readers, and the novels contain a buffet of hostessing tips, recipes as well as of course – corpses (these not being on the menu).

Popular authors mixing mystery with meringues are Dianne Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke and J B Stanley, and most of the titles of the novels lean heavily on food puns:  Chopping Spree, The Last Suppers, Thyme of Death and Cereal Murder to name just a few.

Steam-punk, in spite of its name, has nothing to do with the gastronomic genre, it is science-fiction meets speculative fiction and is writing that is predominantly centred in an era where steam power is used, usually Victorian England. It’s prominent features are technological innovations similar to those found in HG Wells and Jules Verne novels. These machines are usually idealised and have adaptable functions.

Although the genre has roots back to 1960s, the name first appeared in 1995 in Paul Di Filippo’s Steampunk Trilogy which comprised Victoria which imagines the replacement of Queen Victoria by a human/newt clone; Hottentots deals with the Lovecraftian monsters’ invasion of Massachusetts and Walt and Emily which explores a love affair between poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.

Queer-zombie/queer horror is a sub-genre of LGBT Gothic and it came under a lot of flak recently when publishers made a call for submissions and then withdrew the call, going so far as to pay kill fees for writers who had already submitted stories.

The genre is characterized by castles, trap doors, and the zombie. An important aspect of the genre is its sexual natutre.

The lesbian vampire novella Carmilla was included in the collection In a Glass Darkly in 1872.

Geek fiction considers itself as appealing to “sophisticated, socially-connected readers [who] have higher-than-average IQs, advanced educations and are looking for intellectual challenges and extraordinary entertainment well beyond the ‘lowest common denominator’ content that is so often provided through mass media outlets” according to Trapdoor Books, who publish this genre. “It introduces intellectual acumen – anything from Assyrian history to plasma physics, and provides a thoughtful, entertaining diversion for the reader. While the settings can be niche – mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, gothic/horror, science fiction, etc. – the best geek fiction challenges readers and surprises them with well-paced, well-researched and compelling stories.” Their publications include The Ninth Avatar by Todd Newton, The Magician of Lhasa by David Michie and Cyber Kill by Frank Fiore.

The point is that writers shouldn’t try to slot themselves into any of the ‘popular’ genres, because novels that are written in new genres are often the breakout novels that take the writing world by storm – think Harry Potter and the Twilight series. If writers have unusual interests or off-the-wall ideas, chances are that there are a niche group of readers just waiting for to read something different. There’s no telling.

What is important to note is that in all the writer interviews I’ve read, writers admit to writing for themselves first. That’s the tip really, to write what comes from inside or from your interests, because it is the credibility that comes through, and that wins readers all the time.

The Bed Book of Short Stories

A collection of short stories by new and established Southern African women writers on the theme of Bed to be published this year.


1. Pamela Newham, “A natural combination”
2. Joanne Fedler, “Bedrock”
3. Lauri Kubuitsile, “In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata” (BOTSWANA)
4. Melissa Gardner – “In sickness”
5. Rumbi Katedza, “The Corpse” (ZIMBABWE)
6. Anne Woodborne, “The quilt of wife-beating crimes”
7. Sarah Lotz, “Heaven or something like it”
8. Jayne Bauling. “Stains like a map”
9. Gothataone Moeng, “Lie Still Heart” (BOTSWANA)
10. Joanne Hichens – title still to be decided
11. Jeanne Hromnik – title still to be decided
12. Arja Salafranca, “Desire without borders”
13. Sylvia Schlettwein, “To own a bed” (NAMIBIA)
14. Liesl Jobson, “On a broomstick”
15. Karabo Moleke, “Nompumelelo’s Sinxoto’s Bed”
16. Margot Saffer, “Imagining Monsters”
17. Megan Ross, “Finding a mother”
18. Ellen Banda-Aaku, “Made of Mukwa” (ZAMBIA)
19. Isabella Morris, “The Outsider”
20. Novuyo Tshuma, “Ikej” (ZIMBABWE)
21. Romaine Hill, “Every Picture Tells”
22. Marina Chichava, “Sleeping Through Heartbreak” (MOZAMBIQUE)
23. Erika Coetzee, “How to Improvise”
24. Bronwyn McLennan, “Portrait of a woman in bed”
25. Claudie Muchindu, “Wings on Indi’s Pillow” (ZAMBIA)
26. Nia Magoulianiti McGregor, “Hunters and lovers”
27. Tinashe Chidyausika, “Fools Gold” (ZIMBABWE)
28. Rose Richards, “Mary Mary”
29. Luso Katali Mnthali, “A requiem for Daniel” (MALAWI)
30. Helen Walne, “Crazy”
31. Rosemund Handler, “Lena My Lovely”

Published by Modjaji Books.
Compiled by Lauri Kubuitsile; edited by Joanne Hichens.

My Top 30 Reads

Isabella Morris selects her Top 30 Books in no particular order

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – Afghanistan, women, pain.

2. The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha – Shocking story of incest. Technical masterpiece.

3. In the Country of Men by Hisham Mitar. – Coming of age story against the backdrop of Libyan suppression.

4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – Technically perfect book. Morrison understands social issues and how to wield them.

5. The Reader by Bernard Schlink – The story of the holocaust as you’ve never read it.

6. Silk by Alessandro Baricco – Love story. Mysterious, haunting.

7. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – A book about love, what can I possibly say?

8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – Adultery.  Hester Prynne is a character that I found difficult not to empathise with.

9. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – Gosh, this was the most confounding story I ever read. But ultimately I felt Hardy succeeded because I really, really felt Jude’s absolute obscurity!

10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – Children, social issues, my favourite kind of book.

11. A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton – The loss of a child – who could not feel something about that?

12. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb – Family dynamics. Lamb’s a master at exploring them.

13. The Art of Fiction by John Gardner – Great advice for writers.

14. The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton – Hilarious in parts. Alain de Botton is to philosophy what Jamie Oliver is to cooking. Refreshing and accessible.

15. The Right Questions by Debbie Ford – Helps one to think about important decisions.

16. The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi – Children, social issues.

17. The Outsider by Albert Camus – Set in the desolate North African landscape that appeals to me.

18. The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

19. I Remember by Denis Hirson – Beautifully styled book on fleeting memories that hold pockets of emotion.

20. The Book of Fred by Abby Bardi – Fostering. What is family?

21. Beyond Culture by Edward T Hall

22. White Oleander by Janet Fitch – Abandonment.

23. The Writer’s Brush edited by Donald Friedman – Great book to come back to again and again.

24. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – First South African book that I really loved.

25. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – Children. Africa. Lots of social stuff.

26. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – Beautiful love story.

27. Atonement by Ian McEwan – Forgiveness, love, family, betrayal.

28. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Passion, drama.

29. Pookie, the rabbit with wings by Ivy Wallace – Set up the adventurer in me when i was 5 years old, I ran away a lot.

30. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks – Tender story about trench warfare. I finally understood why my grandfather was such a silent man.

El Gouna Writers Residency 2010

I’m really pleased to be attending this residency. It’s my first residency and I’m looking forward to engaging with writers from other parts of the world, and having a full month to just write without the distractions of daily life. I am grateful to my family for agreeing to live without me for a month 🙂

“El Gouna is a unique fully developed town on the Red Sea, acknowledged for preserving local traditions and culture throughout its 20-year existence. This can be seen through its multicultural living community, international school, international university campus, church, mosque, museum and all other locations where residents can encounter traditional Egyptian architecture, and customs.

A few years ago, El Gouna celebrated the opening of El Gouna Library, a branch of world renowned Bibliotheca Alexandrina and home to one of Egypt’s six “Culturamas”.

Aiming to expand our efforts in cultural enrichment and hoping to make El Gouna a platform for literary exchange, El Gouna offers the first Writers’ Residency Program in the MENA region intended to provide writers with a wide variety of exciting and inspiring life experiences to feed their art and help develop valuable projects.”