The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo's Scorpion Prison to Freedom

It has always been the journalist’s job to criticize the government and hold those in power to account. And this book is a powerful reminder that they should not be locked up for it. Our collective freedom is at stake.
— From the Forward by Amal Clooney
The Marriott Cell

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Urgent, wise, readable, and at times very moving...
— The Globe and Mail

Award-winning journalists' Mohamed Fahmy's and Carol Shaben's account of Fahmy's wrongful incarceration in Scorpion—Egypt's notorious maximum-security prison for terrorists and political leaders—is a riveting story of byzantine intrigue, a moving love story, and a battle for justice that provides a rare inside view of the world of Islamic fundamentalism that dominates our headlines.

On the night of December 29, 2013, in a dramatic raid on the Marriott Hotel, Egyptian security forces seized Fahmy, Bureau Chief of Al Jazeera's English news channel, and two of his colleagues, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, charging them as pro-Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, and with fabricating the news and undermining the security of the state. While the charges were internationally condemned as a travesty, and their trial become a global cause célèbre, Fahmy never stopped being a journalist. Incarcerated with Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Al Qaeda fighters, and ISIS sympathizers, he took advantage of the situation to "interview" them, gaining exclusive insight into their characters and the geopolitical politics of the region.

The Marriott Cell reads like a political thriller. But it is also a testament to the courage and critical importance of journalists today, and an inspiring sotry of two strong women: Fahmy's wife, Marwa Omara, who risked her own safety to secure his release, and his international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, who championed his battle for freedom.

Praise for The Marriott Cell

Longlist, 2018 RBC Taylor Nonfiction Prize

Finalist, 2017 Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize (BC Book Awards)

Winner, 2016 Ontario Historical Society Huguenot Award


"Urgent, wise, readable, and at times very moving, the authors have successfully rebooted what has quickly become a stale Canadian mini-genre.....Apart from functioning as a stirring memoir and a deeply personal meditation on the nature of conjoined identities (every immigrant's bane), Fahmy's and Shaben's book also functions as one of the more concise histories of the Egyptian revolution I've yet read... The writing is lucid, and his reportorial nous never flags, even when terrible things are happening."
— Richard Poplak, The Globe and Mail

The Marriott Cell is a gripping, fast-paced read, as one would expect from a story about a journalist in Egypt who suddenly finds himself terrifyingly and wrongfully incarcerated in a notorious prison next to the very people about whom he had been reporting. But it’s worth pausing to recognize how masterful storytelling can add momentum to an already engrossing narrative. Award-winning Egyptian Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, with the help of Carol Shaben, nails the art of pacing. The team’s ability to maintain momentum is a rarity among books written by journalists about their experience reporting on—even being caught up in—moments of intense conflict. Too often, such books are engaging and interesting, but squander their momentum by devoting giant chunks of text to providing background detail without any sustaining narrative. Not The Marriott Cell. . . . [C]ompelling.” —J-Source

"[A] frightening account of his years of imprisonment, which should be a footnote in future history books on the jihadi struggle in the Middle East."
—Robert Fisk, The Independent (UK)

"[A] compelling and sensational account of [Fahmy's] imprisonment and his fight for freedom."
— The Hill Times

"[A] remarkable memoir... It's a gripping, compelling and insightful book... that takes us behind the headlines into what it was really like for Mr. Fahmy and those around him."
— Joseph Planta, founding editor of

"Mohamed Fahmy is a journalist's journalist."
— Ben Makuch, host of Cyberwar, Vice Canada