After months in coma, renowned Egyptian writer el-Ghitani dies at age 70


Renowned Egyptian novelist and journalist Gamal el-Ghitani died Sunday at a hospital in Cairo where he had been in a coma for more than three months, his wife said.

El-Ghitani, 70, was originally admitted to the El-Galaa military hospital after he faced difficulty in breathing.

“He died this morning,” el-Ghitani’s wife, Magda el-Gendi, told reporters.

His funeral was to be held at Cairo’s Sayyida Nafisa mosque later Sunday, state media reported.

El-Ghitani, a firm supporter of the army since the fall of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, was one of Egypt’s most acclaimed writers and shared a close friendship with the Arab world’s only Nobel laureate, Naguib Mahfouz.

“Gamal el-Ghitani contributed significantly in enriching literature with his unique style, intelligence and broad vision,” Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said in a statement.

El-Ghitani’s books, including the widely praised novel “Zayni Barakat,” have been translated into several languages such as English, German and French.

An opponent of Islamists, el-Ghitani, who worked as a carpet designer before taking to writing, reported extensively from the frontline during the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Acclaimed both locally and internationally, el-Ghitani won many awards, the latest being the Nile Award for Literature earlier this year, the highest literary honor granted by the Egyptian government.

In 1987 he was made Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a prestigious position awarded by the French government recognizing significant achievement in the arts.

In 1993, el-Ghitani founded and headed Akhbar Al-Adab (Literature News), one of Egypt’s literary newspapers, remaining its chief editor until 2011.