Egyptian feminist, author, psychiatrist, and university lecturer Nawal el Saadawi died earlier today, 21 March, at the age of 89. Saadawi came to prominence in 1972 after she published her book “Women and Sex” which caused an uproar among Egypt’s conservative religious and political circles. She also advocated against female genital mutilation which she described based on personal experience in “The Hidden Face of Eve.” Saadawi’s writings and controversial role in Egypt made her the face of the Arab feminist movement in the West, where she often appeared on the front page of magazines and on TV programs. At home, however, she was considered a persona non grata by both the government and religious extremists. Saadawi was jailed during President Anwar Sadat’s crackdown against the opposition, including intellectuals, and received death threats from al Gamaa al Islamiya who declared her an apostate.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, I photographed Saadawi at her home a number of times to illustrate stories for foreign publications. Here is a small selection.