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.
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?