I've known enough of the players in those years to know that many of them felt Heikal's books distorted facts and claimed greater knowledge than he possessed, and they may be right, but he wrote so many books that he may well control the narrative. Most people write only one memoir (Sadat is an exception), but Heikal wrote many. Al-Ahram, which he long edited, remembers him here.
He cut his journalistic teeth covering the Battle of Al-Alamein in 1942; he started out with the English-language Egyptian Gazette. He later moved to the weekly Akher Saa and then to Akhbar al-Yom. He first met Gamal Abdel Nasser during the first Arab-Israeli War in 1948, and was with the Free Officers on the night of the 1952 coup.
|With Nasser at Al-Ahram|
After Nasser died, Heikal never enjoyed as close a relationship with Sadat. He remained at the helm of Al-Ahram through the 1973 war, but in 1974 Sadat replaced him as Editor. He fell out further over the peace with Israel, and in 1981 Sadat jailed him in a widespread crackdown on his critics. After Sadat's assassination and Heikal's release, he wrote a book, Autumn of Fury (Kharif al-Ghadab), ostensibly about the Sadat assassination but really a scathing treatment of Sadat's whole career, retailing every scurrilous rumor, with or without evidence. Though the book was banned in Egypt for years, the jailed journalist had his revenge.
Heikal was a frequent critic of Mubarak. He never took a full-time newspaper post again but wrote columns and articles for a variety of papers and magazines across the Arab world. In 2003, at age 80, he announced he was stopping writing. But he continued his commentaries in interviews, two "lecture series" on Al-Jazeera, and after Al-Jazeera became anathema in Egypt, with the Egyptian satellite channel CBC.
Whatever else one may think of Heikal as a reporter, analyst, and commentator, no other Arab journalist enjoyed so long and prominent a career.