Ziadeh, May (1886–1941) By Haddad, Bayan
May Ziadeh was a prominent literary figure and salonnière in the Arab world in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. A journalist, essayist, author and literary critic, she was also known for being a spellbinding orator and an unusually gifted stylist and translator. Ziadeh was best known for instituting a long running weekly salon (1911–1931) in her home that brought together leading men and women in the period when Egyptian anti-colonial nationalism was at its height. Ziadeh was also a strong advocate of the emancipation of women in the Arab society.
Famous for being moderate, Ziadeh did not equate modernity with the denial of Arabic cultural heritage in blind imitation of the West. Many critics believe that modern Arabic literature has not produced a female writer of Ziadeh’s calibre and that her contribution to the feminist cause cannot be overlooked.