Laughter in the Dark

Laughter in the Dark
Egypt to the Tune of Change

What can hip-hop tell us about Egypt today?

A decade ago, millions of Egyptians took to the streets in a people-led revolution that captivated the world’s attention and sent ripples across the Middle East. But the so-called “Arab Spring” quickly faded, and a return to the status quo—of authoritarian rule—was cemented. What happened to the energy and desire for change?

In Egypt, the answer lies in its youth, who comprise the bulk of the country’s fast-growing 106 million citizens. Sixty percent of the population is under the age of twenty-five, and their world views are very much influenced by social media: TikTok is their primary language and medium of choice. Music is their means of expression—in particular, a thriving hip-hop scene known as mahraganat. This music has given voice to deep dissatisfaction with the Egyptian state and the overall conditions of Egyptian society and culture. Could this be the start of a force for change?

Laughter in the Dark is a riveting portrait of a country that is being transformed, for good or bad, by the rise of a fresh youth culture.


This book is published with support from the
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Read CGR Director Nicholas Lemann’s Letter to the Reader

Laughter in the Dark
  • ISBN: 9798987053508
  • Price: $16.00
  • E-book ISBN: 9798987053515
  • On Sale: July 11, 2023
  • Pages: 112


“Yasmine El Rashidi has a gift for writing narratives that balance the personal with the political.” Los Angeles Review of Books

“Told with an insider’s perspective—El Rashidi writes with equal authority when chronicling the revolution and analyzing song lyrics—this is a persuasive appraisal of the connection between art and politics.” Publishers Weekly

“A brief, pungent dispatch from the vibrant youth music scene pushing against authoritarian dictates in [El Rashidi’s] country.... A vivid journalistic report.” Kirkus Reviews

Laughter in the Dark is a brilliantly composed portrait of Egypt’s answer to hip-hop—and how it functions as a musical genre, economic engine, and cultural force amid the restrictions of an increasingly authoritarian regime. Meticulously reported and elegantly written, it’s a must-read for any global citizen.” —Zack O’Malley Greenburg, author of Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office

“In Laughter in the Dark, Yasmine El Rashidi provides a brisk, brilliant, and brave portrait of young Egyptians simmering under the weight of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s repressive dictatorship and reveals the stark inequality between the rulers and the ruled.” —Basharat Peer, author of A Question of Order: India, Turkey and the Return of Strongmen

“The year 2011 brought revolutionary dreams to the forefront of Egyptian politics, but subsequent years have been cruel to those dreams. If we move from day-to-day politics to generational change, we see something very different: a repressive regime face-to-face with irrepressible cultural efflorescence. Yasmine El Rashidi guides us to look far from the headlines and consider the creative energies that make Egypt more than a site of dashed hopes.” —Nathan J. Brown, professor of political science and international affairs, George Washington University

“Fascinating and surprising! A beautifully written musical voyage into a unique genre, a celebration of hip-hop, a portrait of a surging youth culture and its ability to change the world.” —Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World: A Family History of Humanity


Read an excerpt from Laughter in the Dark for Columbia News

What Egyptian hip-hop says about the country a decade after the military coup — Vox

How hip-hop gave voice to a generation of Egyptians hungry for change — The Guardian

On the Hip-Hop That Powers Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution — Literary Hub

Mahraganat artists in Egypt are defining hip-hop culture, despite government crackdowns — Planet Hip Hop: The World

Yasmine El Rashidi on Egypt’s Fortunes — Bookstack podcast

The music that shaped change in Egypt — The Current with Matt Galloway

About the author

Yasmine El Rashidi
© Brigitte Lacombe

Yasmine El Rashidi is the author of The Battle for Egypt: Dispatches from the Revolution and Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt. She is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and a contributing editor of the Middle East culture journal Bidoun. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Atlantic, and has been anthologized in volumes including Writing Revolution: The Voices from Tunis to Damascus and The New York Review Abroad: Fifty Years of International Reportage. She lives in Cairo.