Read your way through Cairo


In the same vein is by Albert CosséryThe colors of infamy.” A very quick read, the book follows a well-behaved pickpocket and serves as something of a guide to the dynamics of the old city markets – the scam, the negotiation, the haggling for a deal. Once you set foot in the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, or even on the Giza pyramid plateau, where you’ll be swarmed with offers of camel rides, horseback riding and guides, you you might enjoy reading this book.

Cairo is largely characterized by its layers of architecture – Fatimid, Mamluk, Khedival. But it also has a rich history of modern architecture, from turn-of-the-century revivalism to concrete expressionism and modernist design. This includes the homes of iconic cultural figures. Singer Oum Kulthoum’s house was demolished, but similar houses by the same architect, Ali Labib Gabr, still stand nearby, including what was once my grandmother’s house a few blocks away. This is not a novel, but that of Mohamed ElshahedCairo since 1900: an architectural guide“offers a brilliant guide to this modern era and is a perfect walking tour companion, talking not only about the buildings and their historical significance, but about this era as well.

In fiction, Waguih GhaliBeer at the Snooker Club is a cult classic originally written in English that depicts postcolonial Cairo through the eyes of an English-speaking nationalist aristocrat struggling with regime change and new socialist policies under President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Although it was written in 1964, it also tells the story of Egypt today.

At the other end of the spectrum of class and experience under this same political regime is Sonallah Ibrahim’s experimental novel This smell.” Published in 1968, it tells the story of a recently released prisoner and his discomfort as he struggles, and fails, to readapt to everyday life on the outside. There are many days in this fast-paced city that feel like this novel to me.

Collection of essays by André Aciman “False papersfor a trip to Alexandria. Born and raised there, Aciman returns decades after his family left for exile and attempts to trace the city as it existed in his memory. He finds few, but his research captures in startling detail the city as it is best remembered. His thoughtful book spans time and geography, from Egypt to Europe, but even there it is still Aciman’s Alexandria. To hold on to this feeling – the gaze and the loss – then you should read “Constantin P. Cavafy”collected poems.” The two writers, both born in the ancient port city, form an unofficial Alexandrian collection.

  • Novels by Naguib Mahfouz

  • “In the Eye of the Sun” and “The Map of Love” Ahdaf Soueif

  • “Slip,” mohamed kheir

  • “Cairo: city of sand” Mary Golia

  • “The Colors of Infamy”, Albert Cossery

  • “Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide,” mohamed elshahed

  • “Beer at the Snooker Club,” Waguih Ghali

  • “That smell,” Sonallah Ibrahim

  • “False papers,” André Aciman

  • “Collected Poems” Constantin P. Cavafy


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