The Whisper of the Scorpion

Mohamed Tawfik

The Whisper of the Scorpion is inspired by the true-life story of a Saharan journey to the Kufra oasis made in 1920 by Ahmed Hassanein (later Head of the Diwan of the Egyptian court) and the British explorer Rosita Forbes, the first European woman ever to visit the oasis. ‘Hussein’ and ‘Rose’ meet in 1938, at a private party given by King Farouk in the Montaza palace and reminisce about the trip. The novel follows in parallel the events of the journey and the royal party. Rose embarks upon the expedition after her traumatic experience as a nurse in the First World War and the loss of her family and loved ones. She makes the journey as an act of self-realisation, at a time when women were struggling to achieve equality with men. Ahmed Hassanein is trying to escape the mental turmoil caused by divided loyalties: he was Secretary to the British High Commission when the Egyptian 1919 Revolution broke out and is inwardly torn between his Azharite background and Oxford education and enchantment with the West. In the Sahara, the caravan faces destruction more than once. As Hussein and Rose are forced to confront their inner demons, the relationship between them deepens. At the Kufra oasis, the ruler of the place, Saidi Fawzi, welcomes them into his house. However, their presence upsets the delicate balance needed to preserve the oasis and comes to represent an existential threat, to the local people and to them.   


Dar al-Ain


2022 Longlist