During the fall of 2016 I started writing some short essays. I was writing without having a particular genre in mind as one usually does in literature. This free writing continued throughout the winter of that year. I stopped writing for a while and then resumed in Fall 2017. By then my writing had started taking form; it was a sequential series of short stories variably revolving around one theme. There were ten pieces that needed revision and further review. I had initially planned on twenty of such texts interspersed with illustrations. At that point, because I could not afford to work on my project full time and because of the tedious daily life in Cairo, I had to put my writing on hold.
My short stories are the internal journeys of my heroes who immigrated and left their lives and most intimate details behind; I was part of these experiences. I waited for their return to witness what happens when people are absent for long stretches of time. I followed up on the details of their lives in Berlin, London, the Arab Emirates, Iraq, France, South Africa, Tunisia and Qatar... The details of the Egyptian diaspora everywhere.
Many of my friends were forced to leave Egypt after a number of massacres were committed against the opposition to the regime; some escaped. Some left to rescue their threatened families. Some left because they could no longer live in Cairo after the defeat of the revolution nor could they face its melancholic streets.
Some friends returned for short vacations, but others could not come back. The departure of friends was very painful. Sometimes the pain was intolerable, but I could not express myself except in writing.
I now realize that the idea of writing these short stories was born while I was in Rome in 2014. It was at a moment when I had to choose between staying in Italy and returning to Egypt and I chose to return because of the persistent feeling that I cannot live away from Egypt.
Three years into writing, my stories span a journey in the lives of their heroes. They were written intermittently, and they monitor the change in their reality, my writing, my relationship and their experience as strangers in a new country.
In the beginning of this year, I decided that I will finish this project by the end of it. I will give focus to the last three months of the year from September until December to review all my drafts and finish it to be ready for publishing, and I was looking into ways to give me motivation to execute this plan. This residency will really help me to execute my plan and give me the funds I need to be a full-time writer for these months to finish my work especially that this residency requires the completion of the text by the end of 2019.
Rasha Azab is an Egyptian journalist, activist, and writer. She received a B.A. in Media Education from Cairo University, where she studied journalism, theater and visual arts. She began her career in visual arts and theater in 2000, establishing an independent amateur theater festival. She edited the book Amateur Theater in Egypt, which includes articles and critiques by a number of prominent researchers in the field.
She is one of the founders of the political social movement “Kefaya “ against the Mubarak regime in 2004. Her role as an activist has been prominent in the Egyptian revolution through documenting abuses and police brutality by the military state against civilians with over 560,000 followers on Twitter. Her influence through writing has positioned her to be one of the influential women writers of this generation in Egypt.
Azab then assisted director Manal Khaled in the production of her first documentary project in Gaza, Palestine, in 2008. She worked as a researcher for the Egyptian feature films The Day I Ate The Fish by Aida El Kashef, 2014 and Searching For Ahmed Abboud Pasha, written by Ghada Shahbander (2016). She began writing the screenplay for Hammam Sokhn in 2012. Alongside her career as a scriptwriter and researcher, Azab has worked in local journalism since 1999, focusing on culture journalism in 2002 before moving to investigative reporting in 2013.