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Karim Alrawi
Reading from a work in progress at the Vancouver International Writer's Festival 2010
Reading from a work in progress at the Vancouver International Writer's Festival 2010
BornAlexandria, Egypt
OccupationWriter, playwright
NationalityCanadian, British, Egyptian
GenreLiterary Fiction, Children's fiction, Plays
SubjectMiddle East; Contemporary England & North America; Identity Politics; Racism
Literary movementPost-colonial, Realism, Post-modern
Notable worksMigrations, Child in the Heart, Promised Land, The Unbroken Heart, Deep Cut, Madinat al-Salam

Karim Alrawi (Arabic كريم الراوي) is a writer born in Alexandria, Egypt. His family emigrated to England then to Canada. He was an International Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa and taught creative writing at the university's International Writing Program.[1] He has taught at universities in the UK, Egypt, US and Canada.

In the UK, he was Literary Manager of the Theatre Royal Stratford East and later Resident Writer at the Royal Court Theatre in Central London. He moved to Egypt, where he taught in the theatre department of the American University in Cairo. In Egypt his plays were banned by the state censor.[2][3] He was arrested and detained for interrogation by Egyptian State Security for his stage plays and for his work with the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR).[4] As a Fulbright International Scholar[5] he moved to the United States. He later took positions as Writer in Residence at Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) in Michigan and Editor in Chief of ARABICA magazine,[6] the leading nationally distributed Arab-American publication[7] with a certified readership of over 100,000 readers.[8]


Alrawi's fiction, plays and productions have received several awards including:

His children's book The Girl Who Lost Her Smile was winner of Parents Magazine Gold Award 2002 and was a finalist for the Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award (Kentucky Students' Choice) 2002.[9]

His picture book The Mouse Who Saved Egypt was listed for the People's Prize in the UK.

He has received writer's awards from the Arts Council of Great Britain and from the Canada Council for the Arts.

British plays

Karim Alrawi with Joint Stock receives Edinburgh Fringe First Award 1985, Edinburgh, Scotland
Karim Alrawi with Joint Stock receives Edinburgh Fringe First Award 1985, Edinburgh, Scotland

Alrawi's first full-length play Migrations was produced at the Theatre Royal Stratford East and his second play A Colder Climate was produced at the Royal Court Theatre in Central London. It was followed by three plays, Fire in the Lake, A Child in the Heart and Promised Land for Joint Stock Theatre, then one of Britain's major touring companies.[10] All three plays provoked controversy at the time of performance.[11][12] As Carol Woddis noted about Child in the Heart, "this almost messianic piece about the desperate pain of loss of roots and, in the truly biblical sense, tribal identity, refuses to let its audience off the hook."[13] Fire in the Lake was awarded an Edinburgh Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Crossing the Water a play about the British in Egypt and the Suez War was given a stage reading at the ICA in London before being produced at the American University in Cairo's Jamil Center despite a banning order by the Egyptian state censor.[14]

Alrawi's play Blind Edge, produced by the Old Vic Theatre, was staged at the Commonwealth Institute in London as part of the Festival of Asia, while his play Aliens won the Festival of Asia & Capital Radio's National Playwriting Award.[15]

While in England, Alrawi wrote plays for The Old Red Lion Theatre, Soho Theatre, M6 Theatre, Half Moon Theatre, Newcastle Playhouse, the Old Vic Theatre, London, and the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.[16]

Arabic plays

In Egypt, Alrawi taught at the theatre department of the American University in Cairo (AUC).[17] His first serious run-in with the state censor was when his play Crossing the Water was banned and he was summoned to give an account of himself to the censor's office.[18] Later that year, as a response to the censor, he adapted The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, setting it in contemporary Egypt. It was staged at the Wallace Theatre of AUC in central Cairo.[19] Also, Alrawi wrote four stage plays in Arabic two of which were staged at the Wallace Theatre.[14] Madinate el Salam (City of Peace) is a retelling of the life of the Sufi poet Mansour al-Hallaj who was executed in tenth century Baghdad on charges of heresy. The play was produced twice, both times after being refused a license by the state censor that led to threats of arrest of Alrawi by state security. The second produced play, Al-Bayt al Mahgour (The Abandoned House) was about sexual exploitation and its roots in Egypt's history of class privilege. The production of the plays, despite being denied rehearsal and production licenses by the state censor, was a contributory cause to Alrawi's later arrest and interrogation.[20]

Autobis al Intikhabat (The Election Bus), a satire on the Egyptian electoral system and Mudun Gha'iba (Absent Cities) about the destruction of Arab cities by war were two full-length plays that were to be produced with a cast of students from AUC. Alrawi and his actors were denied access to the Wallace theatre during the final days of rehearsals resulting in cancellation of the performances.

North American plays

Karim Alrawi receives Canadian National Playwriting Award 1999 from John Tennant, Canadian Consul, MI, USA
Karim Alrawi receives Canadian National Playwriting Award 1999 from John Tennant, Canadian Consul, MI, USA

Karim Alrawi was resident writer at a number of institutions, including Iowa State University, Pennsylvania State University, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oakland University and at Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) in Michigan.[21] He taught playwriting at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada and later was a resident at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa,[22] where he taught creative writing and global literature courses for the Between the Lines program.[23]

The Unbroken Heart a play based on the life of the blues singer Ethel Waters was first performed at the Fisher Theatre in Iowa before touring nationally.[24][25] His plays for MBT included A Gift of Glory,[26] about the Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the Ford family; Chagall's Arabian Nights,[27] a story of Marc Chagall's painting of the Arabian Nights and Killing Time,[28] a play about physician assisted suicide. He also wrote plays that toured local schools and ran theatre workshops for disadvantaged kids in South-East Michigan.[29]

His play Sarajevo about the Bosnian war was given a workshop production at MBT and the Shenandoah Arts Theatre. The play Sugar Candy was given a staged reading at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.

Patagonia[30] a play about torture and resistance was first performed by Ruby Slippers Theatre in Vancouver, Canada. Across The Morne a play for two actors and dogs, set in Newfoundland, was given a staged reading at the Playwrights' Theatre Centre, Vancouver, Canada.

Deep Cut, a play set on the American Gulf Islands about cultural conflict and political and personal expediency, was staged at La MaMa ETC[31] in New York as well as by Golden Thread Theatre in San Francisco and Washington, DC.[32]

Children's fiction

Alrawi has written two children's picture books: The Girl Who Lost Her Smile and The Mouse Who Saved Egypt.

The Girl Who Lost Her Smile was staged and performed as a children's play in the UK by Tutti Frutti Theatre and York Theatre Royal,[33] and in the United States by Golden Thread Theatre.

The Mouse Who Saved Egypt was edited on a rooftop overlooking Tahrir Square in Cairo, during the Egyptian revolution.[34]

Adult Fiction

Alrawi's novel Book of Sands, subtitled a novel of the Arab uprising, was published by HarperCollins in the Fall of 2015.

The novel won the inaugural HarperCollins Publishers Prize for Best New Fiction[35] and was a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Best Book of 2015.[36]

Other productions

Karim Alrawi has written for BBC radio and television, as well as for Channel Four television in the UK.


  1. ^ University of Iowa, The Writing University, Writers,
  2. ^ Karim Alrawi, "Pop Goes the Censor", Writer's Blog, June 3, 2011,
  3. ^ "The still, small voice within Egypt" Index on Censorship, London, February 1992
  4. ^ "Fear of the Word." Media Guardian, The Guardian newspaper, London, December 20, 1993
  5. ^ "Karim Alrawi Biography", The Writing University, UNESCO City of Literature,
  6. ^ Lama Bakri, "Arab-American magazine draws national readership", Detroit News, March 23, 2000, ISSN 1055-2715
  7. ^ Jim Dulzo, "Arabica magazine finds lucrative niche", Detroit News, December 20, 2000, ISSN 1055-2715
  8. ^ "Arabica magazine Subscriber Profile", John Zogby International, client report, October 2000
  9. ^ Author Awards, Tradewind Books,
  10. ^ Ritchie, R. (ed), "The Joint Stock Book: Making of a Theatre Collective," Methuen, London, 1987, ISBN 0-413-41030-7
  11. ^ Joyce Devlin, "Joint Stock: From Colorless Company to Company of Color." Theatre Topics Journal, Johns Hopkins University Press, March 1991, ISSN 1054-8378
  12. ^ Sara Freeman, "Writing the History of an Alternative Theatre Company: Mythology and the Last Years of Joint Stock." Theatre Survey 47:1, American Society for Theatre Research, May 2006, ISSN 0040-5574
  13. ^ Carol Woddis, '"Child in the Heart, play review." City Limits magazine, London, April 21, 1988
  14. ^ a b Walter Eysselinck, "Identity and Anxiety in the Plays of Karim Alrawi." Theatre Workshop Paper, American University in Cairo, 1991
  15. ^ Madhav Sharma, producer and theatre directing credits,
  16. ^ Karim Alrawi, Guide to Plays,,
  17. ^ Karim Alrawi interview, Dramatists Guild Quarterly, Spring 1994,
  18. ^ "No Queens on the Nile." The Guardian newspaper, London, July 27, 1990
  19. ^ "The Three Sisters", American University in Cairo,
  20. ^ "Kindest regards: you're banned." Index on Censorship, London, February 1992
  21. ^ Thom Foxlee & Maryann Foxlee, "Fifty Years of Meadow Brook Theatre", Arcadia Publishing, July 2015, ISBN 978-1467114202
  22. ^ "2013 Resident Participants | The International Writing Program". Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  23. ^ International Writing Program, University of Iowa,
  24. ^ Joe Pollack, "Busy Theatre Calendar", St. Louis Post, Missouri, USA, September 6, 1992
  25. ^ Peter Lennon, "Speaking out in a volatile climate", The Guardian, UK, May 28, 1994
  26. ^ George Bullard, "Play shows Detroit as an art sanctuary", Detroit News, March 6, 1999, ISSN 1055-2715
  27. ^ Celia Wren, "I Dream of Genie", American Theatre magazine, volume 17, issue 4, April 2000, ISSN 8750-3255
  28. ^ Michael Margolin, "Killing Time questions living without quality of life", Detroit News, February 16, 2001, ISSN 1055-2715
  29. ^ Meadow Brook Theatre Archives, Kresge Library,
  30. ^ Chris Dafoe, "Sled among top Jessie nominees", Globe and Mail, May 17, 1997
  31. ^ Nelson Pressley, "Deep Cut needs a sharper production", Washington Times, April 19, 1996
  32. ^ Rashad Rida, "From Cultural Authenticity to Social Relevance: The plays of Amin al-Rihanni, Khalil Gibran and Karim Alrawi." Colors of Enchantment, Ed. Sherifa Zuhur American University in Cairo Press, 2010 ISBN 977-424-607-1
  33. ^ Tutti Frutti return with enchanting children's play, York Theatre Royal,
  34. ^ Author background, BC Book World,
  35. ^ Karim Alrawi wins inaugural Prize for Best New Fiction, "Quill & Quire", November 12, 2013,
  36. ^ Book of Sands, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Best Books 2015,

External links

This page was last edited on 22 December 2019, at 03:09
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