Who was Gamila El Alaily? Google Doodle honours Egyptian poet and columnist

Today would have been El Alaily's 112th birthday

Egyptian poet Gamila El Alaily. courtesy : Gamila el alaily Facebook
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Egyptian poet and essayist Gamila El Alaily is the subject of today's Google Doodle, which celebrates what would have been El Alaily's 112th birthday.

Born in 1907 in Mansoura, Dakahlia, El Alaily moved to Cairo as a young woman and began contributing poems to the well-respected literary journal Apollo. She later became the only female member of the Apollo Society, a group of modernist writers and artists based in Cairo, and is considered a key figure in Egypt's modern art renaissance.

In 1936, El Alaily published The Echo of My Dreams, the first of three volumes of poetry. She also wrote a regular column for 25 years, in which she ruminated on everything from philosophy and ethics to the role of women in society. She is said to have been inspired by Lebanese-Palestinian poet May Ziade (1886-1941).

In a short note about today’s Doodle, Google wrote: “In this respect, as well as her prolific poetic output, she broke new ground for women in the Arab world, inspiring generations of writers to come.”

El Alaily's poems are widely available in Arabic, however not many translations are on offer. The National has translated an excerpt from one of her 1976 works from her collection The Echo Of My Faith to give readers a sense of her style:

A Strange Heart

O God, my heart is dreadful. How can I revive it?

Who can lull and calm down my heart?

The sound of arrogance is deafening my ear today,

I would have talked to it had I not had self-praise.

Strange my heart has become when in love.

Pure love it is, anyone to perceive?

I have become flabbergast at my ordeal,

I conceal none of my love fears.

I ask God to inspire me.

Do I have a living heart or should I lament its death?

Egyptian poet Gamila El Alaily. Courtesy: Google

El Alaily died on April 11 1991.

This Google Doodle is only being shown to users in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE and Oman.

In this story, we discuss how doodles showcasing the Western world are often shown across the entire globe, whereas those from the Middle East are only shown to those of us in the region.


Arab World's Google Doodles


Two Doodles in particular illustrate this disparity with perfect asymmetry. On July 24, 2012, the entire world, including the UAE, was invited to celebrate the 115th birthday of American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, who disappeared flying over the Pacific in 1937. On October 29, 2014, only Mena countries received the Doodle marking the 107th birthday of Lotfia El Nadi, the Arab world’s first female pilot, campaigner for women’s equality and the first woman after Earhart to fly solo.