Alya defies stereotypes in London in the Perf Double Decker

POWER IS being both and neither

A Q&A with Alya Mooro

British-Egyptian journalist, burger lover,
and author of The Greater Freedom

Photographed in London by Claudia Leisinger

Your book is so raw and vulnerable—it must have been a struggle to overcome the fear of being so open and honest. How did you find the power to do this? 

I feel as though I’ve been building up the strength and courage and power to be so raw and vulnerable throughout my whole life. In my career as a journalist, as I grew more confident and sure of myself, I increasingly wrote pieces that were honest and vulnerable—although never quite as much as in The Greater Freedom. Seeing the response and positive feedback each time encouraged me to keep going, in particular as I could see that no matter what it was I was writing about, people were always able to relate and always appreciated the candour. It made me realise just how powerful honesty is, and just how important it is to bring that spirit to everything I do. 

Alya Mooro
“Being both and neither is also a power because it frees me from feeling like I need to adopt all the principles and ways of life of a certain culture/country.”
Alya Mooro reading

What was the most powerful emotion you felt when the book came out?

Pride in myself for having been so motivated and determined and having tried my absolute best. 

What has been the most powerful thing that’s happened since the debut of your book? 

Many things but hands down the most powerful has been the feedback and response from my mother. She cried when she first read it and said that reading the book made her realise that she is indeed a feminist, too (a label she had previously massively shied away from). She also said that The Greater Freedom had “cleared the bad energies of previous generations and paved the way forward to a happier future for the female offspring of the family—and beyond.” I had previously been a bit worried about what she might say, so to hear that the book had so resonated with her—and had lifted a burden from her life and her heart as well —just felt like the most powerful and most wonderful thing. 

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In your book you say, “I am both and I am neither.” Can you elaborate on this and talk about the power in being both and neither?

I am originally from Egypt but I’ve grown up in London. I feel like I am both British and Egyptian, but because I am both, it means I’m not really fully either. No matter which country or which of my “homes” I am in, I am always asked where I am from which serves to remind me of that fact. I like to think of being both and neither as a power, because it allows me a birds eye view of both cultures and to continue to see the world as an “outsider,” in a way, which I think serves me well in my journalism. Being both and neither is also a power because it frees me from feeling like I need to adopt all the principles and ways of life of a certain culture/country, etc. It allows me the freedom to pick and choose and be the person I want to be, away from expectations and stereotypes.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned from sharing your story?

Not so much surprising because I already had a feeling that this would be the case, but just how much other people were able to relate to my story—not just those from a Middle Eastern background, but people from all cultures. It goes to prove that human stories are always universal through the simple fact that they are human stories. It also cemented just how strong the role of the patriarchy is, around the world.

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PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT

Claudia Leisinger, Photographer, London @claudialeisinger

Power is best shared!

“Photography gives me the permission to look at my environment, to notice what is going on, to stay curious about what is behind the next bend, be surprised and sometimes be proven wrong. Power in photography for me is that it offers me a way to connect to my environment and everything that is in it.”

Claudia Leisinger

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