Last Saturday I spent quite some time at a bookshop where I had the chance to browse, very intensively, through the pages of Cairo: Histories of a City by Nezar AlSayyad. I am not very knowledgeable on the subject of the history of the city I learned to love, but I did read before Andrew Beattie’s Cairo: a cultural history before. It was in 2006, in order to get some background prior to our Egyptian holiday. So, at least I can claim I have some basic idea about the several historical phases Cairo has gone through and their relation with the current urban landscape the traveller can find. There’s people saying it is an unbearable city, come on, the capital of the Arab world.
I read a couple of chapters and had an overview of AlSayyed’s book and not being an academic myself and even if I didn’t find it tourist-oriented at all I enjoyed the experience, also because of the nice photographs and maps that are included. Definitely it is a book to be taken into account by anyobody who has an interest in things Egyptian and who has liked The Mother of the World. If I had to recommend one of the books I would choose both, but I would give AlSayyad’s to whoever wants to do serious reading and Beattie’s to the person who wants to know more about the capital of Egypt before or after a trip around the area.