In the identical vein is Albert Cossery’s “The Colours of Infamy.” A really quick learn, the guide follows a well-mannered pickpocket and serves as a information of kinds to the dynamics of town’s historical markets — the swindling, the bargaining, the haggling for a deal. When you set foot within the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, and even onto the pyramids plateau in Giza, the place you can be swarmed with provides for camel rides, horse rides and guides, you might respect having learn this guide.
What books or authors ought to I convey together with me?
Cairo is characterised largely by its layers of structure — Fatimid, Mamluk, Khedival. Nevertheless it additionally has a wealthy historical past of contemporary structure, from turn-of-the-century revivalism to concrete expressionism and modernist design. This contains the homes of iconic cultural figures. The home of the singer Oum Kulthoum has been demolished, however related properties by the identical architect, Ali Labib Gabr, nonetheless stand within the neighborhood, together with what was as soon as my grandmother’s home, only a few blocks away. This isn’t a novel, however Mohamed Elshahed’s “Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Information” provides a superb information to this contemporary age and makes for an ideal walking-tour companion, talking not solely of the buildings and their historic significance but additionally of that period.
In fiction, Waguih Ghali’s “Beer within the Snooker Membership” is a cult basic initially written in English that depicts post-colonial Cairo by the eyes of a nationalist, Anglophone aristocrat grappling with a regime change and new socialist insurance policies below President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Though it was written in 1964, it additionally tells the story of Egypt now.
On the different finish of the category and experiential spectrum throughout that very same political regime is Sonallah Ibrahim’s experimental novel “That Scent.” Printed in 1968, it tells the story of a not too long ago launched prisoner and his malaise as he struggles, and fails, to readjust to on a regular basis life on the surface. There are numerous days on this fast-changing metropolis that really feel like this novel to me.
If I’ve no time for day journeys, what books might take me farther afield as an alternative?
André Aciman’s essay assortment “False Papers,” for a journey to Alexandria. Born and raised there, Aciman returns many years after his household left for exile and tries to retrace town because it existed in his reminiscence. He finds little of it left, however his search captures in vivid element town as it’s best remembered. His pensive guide strikes throughout time and geography, from Egypt to Europe, however, even there, it’s nonetheless about Aciman’s Alexandria. To carry on to that sentiment — the trying and the loss — it’s best to then learn Constantine P. Cavafy’s “Collected Poems.” The 2 writers, each born within the historical port metropolis, kind an unofficial Alexandrian compendium.
Yasmine El Rashidi’s Cairo Studying Checklist
Novels by Naguib Mahfouz
“Within the Eye of the Solar” and “The Map of Love,” Ahdaf Soueif
“Slipping,” Mohamed Kheir
“Cairo: Metropolis of Sand,” Maria Golia
“The Colours of Infamy,” Albert Cossery
“Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Information,” Mohamed Elshahed
“Beer within the Snooker Membership,” Waguih Ghali
“That Scent,” Sonallah Ibrahim
“False Papers,” André Aciman
“Collected Poems,” Constantine P. Cavafy