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Cairo: The City Victorious Paperback – February 22, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Every great city deserves a book like this one: a sweeping chronicle by an author whose motives mix passion and bewilderment. Over the course of four and a half millennia, Cairo has eluded all who would try to pin it down, reinventing itself time and again: "It has survived countless invasions, booms and busts, famines, plagues, and calamities." Author Max Rodenbeck, a correspondent for the Economist, moved to Cairo as a 2 year old, and has spent a good portion of his professional life working there. He finds himself repulsed by the crowds and pollution of a late 20th-century megacity, yet drawn by Cairo's ageless vibrancy. Cairo: The City Victorious combines wide-ranging history and first-person travelogue in an unconventional narrative that bounces easily from the present to the past and back again. ("If the story were to loop and tangle and digress," he writes, "well, that too would be in the character of Cairo.") Immersed in Rodenbeck's prose, readers will find themselves feeling at home as they discover (or rediscover) this unique place, its pyramids, and its people. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

From the awesome artistic trove of its 5000-year-old civilization to the high-rise buildings that dominate the skyline today, Cairo is evoked in all its dizzying variety in this rich, surprisingly concise history. Rodenbeck, the Economist's Middle East correspondent, has lived in Cairo since childhood and is not shy to admit that he has, on occasion, fallen "out of love" with his chaotic, noisy adopted home?the largest city in Africa, the Mediterranean and the Islamic world. He's especially dismayed at the city's current past-obliterating rush toward the trappings of global capitalism. But he notes, with characteristic wryness, that "not one generation in Cairo's five millennia of incarnations had failed to whine about decline." Eleven loosely chronological chapters fuse history with a contemporary travelogue. These include looks at Cairo's most ancient known civilization, On (credited with creating the modern-day solar calendar), of which virtually nothing remains today; medieval Cairo, "a prosperous and astonishingly cosmopolitan trading society" boasting a legal system far more humanistic than its European counterparts; and British-occupied Victorian-era Cairo, a chic stop for tourist hordes. He also examines the influence of 20th-century rulers, from King Farouk's corrupt reign to Anwar Sadat's nationalistic (and decidedly not pan-Arab) vision. Finally, Rodenbeck explores Cairo's current identity crisis and flirtation with Islamic fundamentalism: even in this most tolerant and bawdy of cities (it is, after all, the "belly-dancing capital of the world"), women are likely to don "retro seventh century" robes for the streets. Rodenbeck's tour brings this and other such quintessential Cairene paradoxes into rare focus.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 22, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679767274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679767275
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Samy S El Semman on May 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Although an Egyptian currently attending college in the USA, I am however a Cairene, and have lived in Cairo for most of my life. I've frequently wondered about the love-hate relationship we Cairenes have with our ancient yet bustling city. The more I thought about it, the less I seemed to be able to describe how I really felt about growing up in Cairo. Then I came upon Max Rodenbeck's book, and I can't describe how happy I am to have read it.
Rodenbeck's book is a truly fascinating account of Cairo. It's accounts of Cairo's history and its people are extremely vivid, yet do not burden the reader with excessive and pedantic detail. The author however examines all sides of Cairo's historical development, but most importantly, Rodenbeck devotes great efforts to examining the lives and attitudes of Cairenes through the ages. It is in this respect that Cairo: The City Victorious is truly fascinating. No book that I know of has ever come this close to capturing the indomitable spirit of Cairenes and how they and their city have endured through the ages.
This book is remarkably even-handed in its treatment of Cairo, giving credit where it's due, but never shying away from criticism when it is needed. It is an educating, entertaining, and in short, excellent narrative. This book has made me understand my own home city better, and after reading it, I'm more proud than ever to be a Cairene. Thank you Mr. Rodenbeck for a wonderful book.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on October 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What a pleasure it was to read this book! Mr. Rodenbeck manages to cram a lot of fascinating information into just 267 pages. The book ranges over an enormous period of time, from the days of the pharoahs right up until the present. Obviously, in such a short book you can't go really in depth but somehow after you're done reading you feel that you really understand Cairo and the people who live there. I learned many interesting things. Did you know that a thousand years ago Cairo was full of apartment buildings that ranged from 7 stories up to possibly 14 stories high? The city was so small considering the size of the population that they had nowhere to go but up! Another fascinating fact was that when the pharoah Cheops had his pyramid built at Giza the specifications called for 2.3 million stone blocks of an average weight of 2.5 tons to be used. In order for the pyramid to be completed during the 30 years of Cheops's reign this meant that a stone block had to be into place every 2 minutes! I could go on and on. You learn something on every page: about the physical layout of the city and how it has changed over the centuries; its relationship to the Nile; the way the wealthy and the middle class and the poor live; the importance of Islam and the struggle to find a balance between religion and the secular world; about such leaders as Farouk, Nasser and Sadat; the occupation of Cairo by Napoleon and later on by the British. One of the best things about the book is that Mr. Rodenbeck does not let himself get in the way of this wonderful story. He describes the way things have been in the past and the way they are now and he doesn't preach or predict or otherwise feel the need to insert his ego into what he has written. This is really an excellent book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I had only read a few pages of the book when I found tears rolling down my face. Dr. Rodenbeck (i've had the pleasure of being one of his literature students)gives you CAIRO in a nutshell. Umu Kulthoum's voice, and the overwhelming sight of millions of books stacked dustily in small shops, a dime a dozen, tell u exactly why some people like -no, adore- this noisy polluted city of ours. Dr. Rodenbeck, in his knowledge of Cairo, is more Egyptian than most Egyptians I know !
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jeri hurd on July 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
As an American ex-pat living in Cairo for the past four years--with all the resultant emotions and biases inherent in that--Rodenbeck's history has taken my somewhat jaded view of Cairo and reinvested it with a sense of awe and appreciation. Three-fourths of the way through the book, I have a long list of sites to visit--places I hadn't heard of, let alone seen--and an increased understanding of this complex city and its contrasts. Rodenbeck fills the book with wonderful bits of trivia ( it was possible in 16th century Cairo to make a living as a professional farter!) to round out his broader explanation of the sweep of Cairene history. Other reviews take him to task for his lack of thoroughness, but that was not his goal. If you're looking for a highly readable and insightful overview of Cairo from the end of the last Ice Age to the present, this is the book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has been to Cairo, wandered its streets, and read about its history, will still have trouble fathoming what one sees and its relationship to the city's long and complex past. The author skillfully wades through all of these cultural and historical waters while focusing on the consistencies of the city's history and of the character of its people rather than on any dialectic between a troubled present and the glorious past.
Rodenbeck will take the reader through 5000 years of Cairo's history and while giving him the sensation of having been in all of the city's forms from Pharonic Memphis until the present. The reader is there, in every metaphorphisis of the city, in Memphis, in Fustat, in Fatimid Al-Qahirah, in the Citerdal and the European-style quarters. This book is the closest thing that one can have to a time machine, the reader will feel as if he is there in the ancient, midevil, Mamluke and colonial times, and also in the present.
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