Throughout Egyptian history, many incredible women have shaken society as they knew it. In the face of prejudice, sexism, and discrimination, these women have managed to stand up and take strides toward a more equitable world. They secured their page in history as firsts for Egyptian women. The inspirational women in this list are rebels and pioneers who carved the road for women to follow in their footsteps.
Lotfia El Nadi
Lotfia El Nadi is the first Egyptian to receive an aviation license and the second woman to fly solo, following in the footsteps of Amelia Earhart. El Nadi loved the idea of flying since it symbolized freedom that she and many other women lacked. She joined aviation school without informing her father and with the disapproval of her mother. She was left to fund her tuition by herself, so she worked as a receptionist at the airport. Not only is she a trailblazer in aviation, she played an integral role in the feminist movement that was sweeping the nation at the time. In fact, Huda Sharawi, whom she took as a role model, honored her. To this day, Lotfia El Nadi represents equality for Egyptian female pilots.
Doctor Hilana Sedarous is the first registered Egyptian female doctor. Born in 1904, Sedarous always dreamt of becoming a doctor to ease the pain and suffering of the sick, but the deck was stacked against her. In fact, women did not finish their education and if they did, the only occupation available to them was teaching. Due to academic excellence, she went on to specialize in Mathematics in England. Soon after, she switched to medicine and became a qualified doctor in 1930. She returned to Egypt to open her private practice and performed surgeries in the Coptic Hospital. She was also renowned for her many charitable acts, becoming a beacon of hope for other inspiring female doctors, then and now
Tahany El Gebali
Tahany El Gebali is Egypt’s first female judge. Majoring in law, she graduated from the University of Mansoura, which marked the beginning of a fruitful career in the judicial system. She became the first female member to hold a position in the permanent office of the Arab Lawyers Union. In 2003, Al Gebali was assigned as the first female Vice president of the Constitutional Court, by a presidential order. She also regularly spoke about women’s rights at conferences. She also served as an expert on the UN and Arab League Committees on the Status of Women. From supporting feminist causes to holding public offices, El Gebali paved the way for many women to follow in her footsteps.
Manal Rostom is the first Egyptian woman to climb Mount Everest and complete the World Marathon Majors. In 2015, Rostom became the first Hijabi woman to model in a Nike campaign, this came after her advocacy for veiled women in sports. After years of vigorous training, she claimed the title of a Mount Everest summiteer, a first for Egyptian women. Then in May 2022, she successfully finished the Tokyo Marathon. Through these inspiring athletic achievements, Rostom inspires women to walk a similar path.
Sara Sabry is the first Egyptian and Arab woman in space and the second-ever sponsored Citizen Astronaut. She graduated from the American University in Cairo with a degree in mechanical engineering. She later completed her master’s degree in Milan, Italy, and she working on her PhD in the United States of America. Also, Sabry founded the Deep Space Initiative, which is a nonprofit that works to make space research more accessible. She often speaks out about how her opportunities were limited due to her nationality. Through her work, she is making space a more welcoming place for Egyptian women.
These are only some of the trailblazers in Egyptian history. Whether in aviation, STEM, law, or sport, there are still many firsts left to be conquered by Egyptian women.