Egypt : From Ancient to Modern

In this edition’s Ultimate Library booklist, we delve into the foundations of human civilization as well as exploring contemporary life and politics – in the North African state of Egypt – the location of Karma Group’s new Nile Cruise through the most prominent sites of the Ancient World. From novels that deal with emigration,  political dissidence and family sagas to an encyclopaedic look at Egyptian art in the age of the pyramids – all five of these books are the perfect read to accompany you on a slow cruise down the Nile with Karma Karnak!


1. Beer in the Snooker Club by Waguih Ghali

This novel by Waguih Ghali follows two young Egyptian anglophiles, Ram and Font. The pair spend hours reminiscing over their time spent in the United Kingdom. They long to be far from a revolution that neither serves the people nor allows their rich aunts to live the life of leisure they are accustomed to. Ram and Font must choose between dangerous political opposition and reluctant
acquiescence. First published in 1964, this is classic tale of emigration is one of the greats of Egyptian literature.

Beer in the Snooker Club


2. Palace Walk by Naguid Mahfouz

A family and a country heading towards dramatic change. Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, a prosperous merchant, rules over his wife, three sons and two daughters with an iron hand. But his own behaviour is far from irreproachable as he indulges his desires for fine wine and voluptuous women. Mahfouz paints an intimate
portrait of the al-Jawads with humour and great attention to detail. As Egypt struggles to end colonial rule, the al-Jawad children struggle to break free from their father’s tyrannical control.

Palace Walk by Naguid Mahfouz


3. Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids by Dorothea Arnold,
Christiane Ziegler, and Catharine H. Roehrig

This book highlights the intensely visual nature of Ancient Egypt while bringing understanding scholarship as well. Filled with fantastic illustrations of sculpture, paintings, architecture, and jewellery demonstrating the flowering of Ancient Egypt in the pyramid age. This title accompanied the 1999-2000 travelling exhibition which assembled one of the most extensive collections of Egyptian art and artefacts in recent history.

Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids


4. Egypt on the Brink by Tarek Osman

Egyptian writer and commentator Osman provides the backstory on why people took to the streets to oust Mubarak in 2011. He casts a shrewd eye over the six decades since Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1952 revolution, taking stock of all the main players – Islamists, liberal capitalists, Coptic Christians, the army, and young Egyptians. Osman goes on to question whether Egypt has seen of the last of its strongmen?

Egypt on the Brink by Tarek Osman


5. The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany (Trans. By Humphrey Davies)

The Yacoubian Building is celebrated, possibly even notorious, for being a real bestseller — originally in Egypt and the Arab world and subsequently in the West. It tells the story of a building in downtown Cairo, and the changes that have affected the building and its inhabitants. Encapsulating the last 80 years of Egyptian history it provides a series of extremely sharply drawn sketches of what you might call archetypal figures of our day. Egypt’s many contradictions are at once an impassioned celebration and a ruthless dissection of a society dominated by dishonesty.

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

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