Gamal El-Ghitani was born to a poor family in the town of Guhayna, Sohag Governorate in Upper Egypt and moved with his family to Cairo as a child. He began writing at a young age and had his first short story published when he was only 14. He was originally trained to be a carpet designer and received his diploma in 1962. He continued to write on the side and was imprisoned from October 1966 through March 1967 for his critical commentary on the regime of Gamal Abd el-Nasser. In 1969 he switched careers and became a journalist for the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar El Yom ("The Day's News").