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Laila EL-Sissi tells remarkable story of escaping an arranged marriage

  • Broadcast in Spirituality
David Clarke

David Clarke


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Laila EL-Sissi was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to an upper class family and was one of six children. Her father was an architect and an observant Muslim who chose to educate his older daughters at a prestigious French convent school.

As a teenager, El-Sissi hoped to pursue a career in journalism. However, she and her older sister, Rawiya, were promised to older men in arranged marriages at a young age. Through perseverance and fortitude, they eventually divorced their husbands and escaped the abusers within their family, fleeing the country of their birth.

El-Sissi moved first to Europe, then Canada, and finally settled in the United States.

Several years ago, shortly after her sister Rawiya’s death, El-Sissi renewed her early interest in writing and began working her first book, a memoir, “Out from the Shadow of Men.”   It won Millennium Magazine’s 2010 writing contest, and Laila won a full stipend at the Arts Residency Cairo.

She and her second husband have two sons and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area where she works for a semiconductor company.


Years ago, Laila, a shy, impressionable and easily influenced 15-year-old, and her more rebellious 16-year-old sister, Rawyia, learned that they were betrothed to men they had never met. They refused to live in the prison constructed by their Egyptian society, hoping for a better life than that of their mothers and aunts. Running from their controlling father, an abusive brother, and arranged marriages to men twice their age, Laila and Rawyia risked their reputation and safety and plotted their escape. “Out from The Shadows of Men,” a memoir, tells the story of two sisters who found the courage to risk their lives and stand up to forces seemingly as large, strong and ancient as the pyramids so they could choose their futures.