The Marriott Cell

An Epic Journey from Cairo's Scorpion Prison to Freedom

Publisher: Random House Canada
Award-winning journalist Mohamed Fahmy's widely anticipated account of his wrongful incarceration in Cairo's maximum-security Scorpion Prison for terrorists and political leaders, and his subsequent battle for justice, opens a remarkable window onto the closed world of Islamic fundamentalism and the bloody geopolitical struggles that dominate our headlines. An important book that reads like a political thriller, it is also a testament to the critical importance of journalism today; an inspiring love story that made front-page news; and a profoundly personal drama of one man's fight for freedom.

     On the night of December 29, 2013, Egyptian security forces, in a dramatic raid on the Marriott Hotel, seized Fahmy (Canadian-Egyptian Bureau Chief for Al Jazeera English) and two of his colleagues, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, accusing them of fabricating news as members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Their trials became a global cause célèbre condemned as a travesty. But Fahmy also never stopped being a journalist: inside Scorpion he found himself cheek by jowl with notorious Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Al Qaeda fighters, and ISIS sympathizers. Always intrepid, he took advantage of the situation to "interview" the Brotherhood about their aims, gaining exclusive insight into the geopolitical feuds between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE on one hand and Qatar and its allies, including Turkey on the other—interviews that led him to sue his former employer, Al Jazeera, from prison. The complex power brokering of Middle Eastern and Western governments left three men trapped in a web he describes as "Global McCarthyism." But at the heart of the book is an inspiring story of two strong women: Fahmy's wife, Marwa Omara, who used every means possible to fight for his release, bravely risking her safety; and his courageous international human-rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, who championed his battle for freedom.

PRAISE FOR

Finalist for the 2017 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize (BC Book Awards)

“[A] frightening account of his years of imprisonment, which should be a footnote in future history books on the jihadi struggle in the Middle East.” —The Independent

“[A] compelling and sensational account of [Fahmy’s] imprisonment and his fight for freedom.” —The Hill Times

Urgent, wise, readable, and at times very moving, the authors have successfully rebooted what has quickly become a stale Canadian mini-genre. . . . Fahmy was a reporter long before he was a prisoner and he’d experienced the worst of the recent Middle Eastern conflagrations and their subsequent fallout. He thus knows that his story is the wire frame for a much larger encounter: This book is about the great, bloody unwinding of his homeland. . . . Apart from functioning as a stirring memoir and a deeply personal meditation on the nature of conjoined identities (every immigrant’s bane), Fahmy’s and Shaben’s book also functions as one of the more concise history of the Egyptian revolution I’ve yet read. Having reported his way so deeply through the events leading up to his arrest, there’s very little Fahmy didn’t experience first-hand, and few of the major (and, more interestingly, minor) players he didn’t encounter. The writing is lucid, and his reportorial nous never flags, even when terrible things are happening.” —Richard Poplak, author of Braking Bad, The Globe and Mail

“Mohamed Fahmy has just published a remarkable memoir, The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo’s Scorpion Prison to Freedom. It’s a gripping, compelling and insightful book . . . that takes us behind the headlines into what it was really like for Mr. Fahmy and those around him.” —Joseph Planta, founding editor of thecommentary.ca (interview)


PRAISE FOR MOHAMED FAHMY:

“Mohamed Fahmy is a journalist’s journalist.” —Ben Makuch, host of Cyberwar, VICE Canada

“In 2011, as Hosni Mubarak’s government was being ousted in Egypt, [Fahmy] was hired by CNN and won accolades for his fearless and tenacious work.” —Gloria Galloway, The Globe and Mail

“Mohamed Fahmy is an extraordinary professional, a dedicated journalist, very passionate and a strong-willed character.” —Al Jazeera (interview)

“I met Mohamed Fahmy in Baghdad in 2003, as both of us were beginning our careers as journalists. Immediately, I admired his bravery and ability to get to the bottom of stories, even in a place as dangerous and opaque as Iraq. His energy was boundless and infectious, and we kept in touch over the years and occasionally crossed paths in our work and travels. . . . All journalists want their work to mean something, but few of us manage to achieve it. Mo could inspire envy with his ability to do amazing work in some of the toughest places; I considered myself lucky to be his friend, and even luckier to finally become his colleague when he was hired by Al Jazeera.” —David Enders, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression