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Jokha Alharthi

Man Booker International Prize 2019 winner Jokha Alharthi found herself in a "literature paradise" while pursuing her PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

Name Jokha Alharthi
Degree  PhD Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
Year of graduation 2011

Your time at the University  

Headshot of Jokha Alharti

One of my dearest memories at the University of Edinburgh started at an English Literature class. I recall how sweet the teacher was as to allow me to join her class, after my supervisor had spoken to her. The room was small, with wooden decoration, bookshelves and a round table in the middle. It was snowing outside but the aroma of wood, books, and coffee made me feel so warm inside. It was where I started feeling I was in the right place despite me feeling a bit out of place too. I felt like a member of an ancient elite group discussing literature in such a special place.

It was my first year then, struggling to adapt to the cold weather while trying to handle my first baby’s (Khuzama) feeling of loneliness. But the literature classroom moments saved me. That feeling of being immersed in my dream: a literature paradise. Later on, everything in the city enhanced this feeling: small bookshops, tiny cafes, traditional architecture, culturally and intellectually stimulating discussions and art venues.

Towards the end of my third year I submitted my thesis and also gave birth to my second child, Ibrahim. We have been back to Edinburgh three times since then so he could see the city of his birth. Every time I go back, I realise that this is the city that has enriched my experience as a writer and I am grateful to it.

Every time I go back [to Edinburgh], I realise that this is the city that has enriched my experience as a writer and I am grateful to it.​​​​​​​

Jokha Alharthi

Your experiences since leaving the University

Following the completion of my PhD thesis at the University of Edinburgh in 2008, I became an assistant professor at Sultan Qaboos University in 2010. I have since then published several research papers and two academic books. I also presented research papers and lectures in the UK, US, Canada, Spain, The Netherlands, France, Japan, South Korea, India, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries.

As a novelist, I have published two novels: ‘Celestial Bodies’, translated by Marilyn Booth and shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize 2019. And ‘Narinjah’ (‘Bitter Orange’) which won Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Art and Literature in 2016. 

My third child, Jasmine, was born in March 2018 in Muscat.

Front cover of the book Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
Novelist Jokha Alharthi and translator Marilyn Booth won the Man Booker International Prize 2019 for ‘Celestial Bodies’. Image courtesy of Sandstone Press.

Alumni wisdom

Be fearless. Walk the walk and talk the talk. Get engaged in all aspects of the University and city life. Befriend people, get immersed in meaningful discussions, become a member of new groups. Live. ​​​​​​​

Related links

Jokha Alharthi's website (external link)

Celestial Bodies - Sandstone Press (external link)

Man Booker International Prize (external link)

Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh

PhD Horizons Careers Conference - 17 June 2019

[Jokha Alharthi submitted her alumni profile prior to being announced as the joint winner of the Man Booker International Prize on 21 May 2019.]