Gamal el-Ghitani, a renowned Egyptian novelist and journalist, died from respiratory complications Sunday morning at a military hospital in Cairo, where he had been in a coma for months, according to Egypt’s state-run news agency MENA. He was 70.
Ghitani worked as a carpet designer before taking up journalism in his 20s. He became a war correspondent for the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar al-Yom in the late 1960s and reported extensively from the front line of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, in which a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria fought Israel.
He was outspoken on his views of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's outlawed Islamist political party, and he supported the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, according to Associated Press.
Ghitani is also the author of the widely praised, classic novel “Zayni Barakat,” a scathing critique of authoritarian rule set in the medieval Mamluk era, which has been translated into several languages including English, German and French. The book was viewed as a jab at the regime of Egypt's second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, according to BBC News.
Ghitani was one of Egypt’s most acclaimed novelists, locally and internationally. He won the Nile Award, Egypt’s highest state of honor, in 2015. He was made Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1987, a prestigious French government award recognizing significant contributions to the arts and literature. Ghitani founded one of Egypt’s literary newspapers, Al-Adad, and remained its editor-in-chief until 2011.
"Gamal Ghitani contributed significantly in enriching literature with his unique style, intelligence and broad vision," Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said in a statement Sunday, according to Agence-France Press.
Ghitani is survived by his wife, Magda el-Gindi, and his son, Mohammed.