Al-Aswany was born on 26 May 1957. His mother, Zainab, came from an aristocratic family; her uncle was a Pasha and Minister of Education before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. His father, Abbas Al-Aswany, was from Aswan (in Lower Nubia) and was a lawyer and writer who “is remembered as being a captivating and charismatic speaker with a broad following and loyalty within a cross-section of the Egyptian revolutionary intelligentsia”. Abbas Al-Aswany wrote a regular back-page essay in the Egyptian weekly magazine Rose al-Yūsuf entitled Aswaaniyat. In 1972, he was “the recipient of the state award for literature". He died when Alaa was nineteen years old.