Friendship. Feminism. Freedom.
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Shelley Davidow, Shaimaa Khalil

Two women. Two cultures. And a friendship that freed them both.

‘We don’t choose where we’re born. Geography ends up being everything.’
Shaimaa Khalil and Shelley Davidow met twenty years ago in the Middle East when Shaimaa was Shelley’s student at the University of Qatar. Strangers in a strange land where the silencing and oppression of women is deeply entrenched, they immediately formed a deep and abiding bond. 

Shelley saw Shaimaa as her ‘Rosetta Stone’, helping her decode a culture and world so foreign it appeared to be from another planet. Shaimaa saw Shelley and her apartment as her ‘Tardis’, a space where she could glimpse a world she dreamed of inhabiting.

Born a decade apart on opposite ends of the African continent – Shaimaa, an Arab Muslim from Egypt and Shelley an Ashkenazi Jew from South Africa – tell the story of a friendship that has defied historical, geographic and temporal boundaries, mapping the vast emotional and geographic territories they have travelled as women pushing against patriarchal confines over the past two decades. In an exchange of words and memories, Shaimaa and Shelley recall what shaped them, what broke them, and how they made themselves whole again through their interwoven stories.

About the Authors


Shaimaa Khalil is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the BBC for more than twelve years. She’s currently the BBC’s Australia correspondent. She has reported across the Middle East, covering some of the biggest stories of the last decade, including the Arab Spring, the military campaign to liberate Mosul, the 2016 US elections and Australia’s 2019-2020 bushfires. 







Shelley Davidow is the acclaimed author of forty-five books including recent international memoirs of displacement Shadow Sisters and Whisperings in the Blood (UQP, 2018; 2016). Her novel In the Shadow of Inyangani was nominated for the Macmillan/Picador Writers’ Prize for Africa. Shelley holds a PhD in Creative Arts and is a senior lecturer in Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast. She hosts a fortnightly segment on ABC Sunshine Coast FM Drive.




Pub Date
May 2022




True stories. Self-determination. Women’s rights.