A Border Passage: From Cairo to America-A Woman's Journey; Leila Ahmed

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An Egyptian woman's reflections on her changing homeland—updated with an afterword on the Arab Spring

In language that vividly evokes the lush summers of Cairo and the stark beauty of the Arabian desert, Leila Ahmed movingly recounts her Egyptian childhood growing up in a rich tradition of Islamic women and describes how she eventually came to terms with her identity as a feminist living in America. As a young woman in Cairo in the forties and fifties, Ahmed witnessed some of the major transformations of this century—the end of British colonialism, the rise of Arab nationalism, and the breakdown of Egypt's once multireligious society. As today's Egypt continues to undergo revolutionary change, Ahmed's inspirational story remains as poignant and relevant as ever.

January 1, 1999


About the Author

Leila Ahmed (Arabic: لیلى احمد‎) is an Egyptian American professor of Women's Studies and Religion at the Harvard Divinity School. Prior to coming to Harvard, she was professor of Women’s Studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge before moving to the United States to teach and write.

In her 1999 memoir A Border Passage, Ahmed describes her multicultural Cairene upbringing and her adult life as an expatriate and an immigrant in the West. She tells of how she was introduced to Islam through her grandmother during her childhood, and she came to distinguish it from "official Islam" as practiced and preached by a largely male religious elite. This realization would later form the basis of her first acclaimed book, Women and Gender in Islam (1993), a seminal work on Islamic history, Muslim feminism, and the historical role of women in Islam.

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