My favorite things Egypt

1. Novel: I like all of the Mahfouz I have read, but the Cairo Trilogy is the obvious pick.  Here is a very useful list of someone's favorite Egyptian authors and novels.

2. Musical CD: The Music of Islam, vol.1: Al-Qahirah, Classical Music of Cairo, Egypt.  The opening sweep of this is a stunner, and it shows both the Islamic and European influences on Egyptian music.  Musicians of the Nile are a good group, there is Hamza El Din, and there is plenty of rai.  What else?  I can't say I actually enjoy listening to Um Kalthoum, but her voice and phrasing are impressive.

3. Non-fiction book, about: Max Rodenbeck, Cairo: The City Victorious.  Few cities have a book this good.  There is also Dream Palace of the Arabs and Tom Segev's 1967.  Which again is the really good book on the 1973 War?

4. Movie, set in: Cairo Time.  This recent Canadian film avoids cliche, brings modern Cairo to life, and is an alternative to many schlocky (but sometimes good) alternatives, such as The Mummy, Death on the Nile, Exodus, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so on.  There is Agora.  Egyptian cinema surely has masterpieces but I do not know them.  If you're wondering, for books, I could not finish Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings.

5. Favorite food: I was impressed by the seafood restaurants on the promenade in Alexandria.  Food in Cairo did not thrill me, though I never had a bad meal there.

6. Philosopher: Must I say Plotinus?  I don't find him especially readable.

7. City: I enjoyed Alexandria, but I can't say I liked Cairo beyond the museum (much better than any Egyptian collection outside of Egypt) and the major mosques.  The Sphinx bored me.  The air pollution prevented me from walking for more than an hour and there was cement, cement. and more cement.  The ride between Cairo and Alexandria was one of the ugliest, most uninspiring journeys of my life.  The Egyptians were nice to me but I never had the sense that anything beautiful was being done with the country.  Let's hope that changes.

8. Opera, about: Philip Glass, Akhnaten.  But wait, there's also Aida, with Callas.  And there's Handel's Israel in Egypt.  Handel set a lot of his operas in Egypt, including Berenice and Giulio Cesare.

Diane Rehm is Egyptian-American but I don't know her show.  The new biography of Cleopatra is smooth but the narratives made me suspicious.  Was Euclid Egyptian?

Comments

Usually you post these "My favorite things [PLACE]" threads when you're going on a trip to the location in question. Please tell me you're not headed to Egypt in the middle of all this crazy shit, are you? D:

Tyler,

For paintings from Egypt, Google "encaustic" for a couple of hundred gorgeous funeral portraits from about 1800-2000 years ago preserved by Egypt's dry climate.

These were just commercial jobs done for grieving loved ones, but they are more appealing to contemporary eyes than any other paintings from the Greco-Roman world.

Why does everybody hate Cairo? Is it some plot to keep your expectations low? The cement, air pollution, and sexual harassment really aren't any worse than Rome in the 90s. It's enormous, elegant, romantic!

Favorite strongman?

Bob, I think Naples is a better comparison to Cairo than Rome.

But yes, Cairo does have a very Mediterranean feel to it.

I'm just going to assume this was in response to my request in a previous Egypt thread, and say thanks.

Oren's "Six Days of War" is entralling, much better than Sevev's "1967". I've read Rabinovich's "Yom Kippur War" but wasn't similiarly enthralled; I'd also appreciate recommendations for good books on 1973.

It's probably easier to tell the story of '67 than the story of '73. '67 was more an isolated Arab/Israeli conflict and the result was more clear-cut. '73 was part of a world-wide drama (arab/leftist terrorism, superpower conflict, the gold standard, the oil crisis) and the outcome was muddled.

I haven't been able to finish any of Mailer's books since "The Naked and the Dead"

How about "fiction about Egypt"? Michael Pearce's series of

(detective? mystery?) novels set in the period of English

domination of Egypt (say, 1905 - 1915) seem to me to do a very

good job of depicting the internal struggles of Eqyption society.

re: All three were probably more Egyptian than Cleopatra.

How so? All of them were ethnic Greeks or Macedonians living in Alexandria, "Egyptian" in the sense that Alexandria was a city in Egypt (in which native Egyptians were forbidden to reside) but no one would have considered them ethnically Egyptian. Cleopatra however did speak the language and made a big to-do over following the native religion in her role as queen.

Contemporary artists would include Ghada Amer, Susan Hefuna, Wael Shawky, Hassan Khan, Moataz Nasr, Hala El Koussy, Karim Rashid, Shady El Noshokaty, Khaled Hafez, Sabah Naim, Randa Shaath, Amal Kenawy.

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