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Sipping from the Nile: My Exodus from Egypt Kindle Edition

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Length: 390 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


“An intimate portrait of a large, closely knit Jewish family in Egypt when that country was the cosmopolitan El Dorado of the Middle East, this loving memoir charts an idyllic secluded childhood and tender family relationships-offering a rate insight into what it was like to be Jews in Egypt at that time.” –Claudia Roden, author of The Book of Jewish Food and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food


“An intriguing way of life that no longer exists. Glamorous, exciting, filled with the sophisticated life of a Jewish family living in Europe and the Middle East, Naggar documents times of elegant lifestyles, to the tumultuous struggles of war. The book is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of homes, meals, glamorous clothing and social events while living in Egypt, later on in England, and finally in New York City. The history of this extended family is a most interesting look at a loving, religious, educated culture. And like every family, there is passionate love and loss, but always there is the undercurrent of delight and an indomitable will to do more than just survive.” -US Review of Books

Product Details

  • File Size: 7348 KB
  • Print Length: 390 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612181414
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (February 14, 2012)
  • Publication Date: February 14, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,760 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jean Naggar was born in Alexandria, Egypt where her mother's parents lived. She grew up in Cairo, attended the Gezira Preparatory School and then The English School in Heliopolis before going to Roedean School in England, for her high school years. The magical world of her childhood as daughter of two prominent Sephardic Jewish families came to a dramatic end in 1956 when Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and brought about the Suez Crisis that scattered the Jewish population of Egypt. She has recorded this lost world in her memoir, Sipping From the Nile: My Exodus From Egypt.

After graduating from London University Jean (Mosseri) Naggar met and married Serge Naggar, the "boy next door" and followed him to New York City where she has lived ever since. A voracious reader all her life, she wrote poetry which was published in The Listener and Athanor, translated books, and her work was published in the New York Times, the Village Voice and Publishers Weekly.

In 1978 she founded the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (see was responsible for bringing many iconic writers to the attention of the reading public, happily sharing her reading passions with the world. She is a former president of AAR and has been sought after as a speaker at events around the US. Mother of three adult children and grandmother of seven, she is at last exploring her childhood dream: to write.

Visit her at and

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 94 people found the following review helpful By MaryLBB on October 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've never been to Egypt or even read much about it, but I feel as if I just returned from a guided tour of a fascinating place in a fascinating time. The combination of page-turning narrative and lovely writing made it difficult to put the book down. The descriptions and the sense of place are truly lessons in the craft of writing. Jean Naggar skillfully connects me to her world, dropping me into a foreign country and immediately making me feel at home. Her specific memories connect me to my own past: as she learns to swim, I relive my own swimming lessons on a Southern California beach far from her beach. She often elicits such memories, subtly revealing that despite how different our physical worlds might be, people are alike on many basic levels, especially as children discovering life. The combination of bringing us into both the writer's world and the reader's own seems to me to one of the main purposes of writing, and one of the most difficult, even though Jean Naggar makes it look easy. Surely one day the world will understand how connected we all are; narratives such as this are a step in that direction.

The title comes from the tradition that if you sip from the Nile before leaving, you will one day return. I love the final two lines: "The past is never gone. It is the foundation on which we build the present, every day of our lives." How perfectly they tie into those first words, the title, since being transported into that time is indeed sipping from the Nile. Jean Naggar leaves us with the hope that we will always be able to revisit the past through memory, enriching our present with each sip.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Little Sister on October 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An engaging and informative book, Jean Naggar's Sipping from the Nile offers the pleasures both of a historical novel and of a mémoire. It presents her life as she remembers it, dense with extraordinarily vivid details of architecture, cuisine, clothes, furnishings, rich interiors redolent with her own childhood memories. But it is also a detailed portrayal of a tempestuous period in the history of the Middle East in general and Egypt in particular. Her personal story covers approximately two decades, the 40s and 50s, with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1956 a landmark and a caesura. But by introducing parents, aunts and uncles, grand parents and great grand parents she traces the family's presence in Cairo back to 1750 and their earlier history back to the 15th century when Spain expelled its Jews in 1492. She has created her own remembrance of things past including the tastes and smells of spices in traditional dishes. The reader can touch and taste and smell what is evoked in these pages and share the author's vivid sense of loss. Read and savor and enjoy!
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By S. L. Parker on April 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As it appears that the majority of the four and five star reviews are from people who are making their first and only review, and are either friends or relatives of this author. One five star review is actually posted by a "friend" using the authors handle here at Amazon. What is up with that? And several of the comments on the one star reviews also appear to be suspicious.

That being said, this is one of the most tedious and boring books I've ever read and should have been titled "Dispatches from Egypt by the Rich and Famous". Less than 10% of the "memoir" is devoted to the exodus out of Egypt during the Suez crisis, and during that year or so, the violin lessons continued, more designer dresses created, while this family tries to decide which of their precious possessions can be packed and carried out of the country, while still worrying if their servants would "murder them in their sleep".

There is not one word mentioned in this book about the perils that the ordinary, just trying to survive, Egyptians faced, just page after page of the wonderful food, wonderful clothes, wonderful friends, fancy schools not located in Egypt where this family got the majority of their education. And to add insult to injury, this family's passports were all from Italy.

What a total waste of time and money trying to plow through this book that isn't even written well. It jumps from one decade to another, one relative to another without any rhyme nor reason. Save your time and money on this one.
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207 of 257 people found the following review helpful By Reader on October 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
The writer is the daughter of descendants of two of the most prominent Jewish families in pre-1956 Egypt: her father is a Mosseri from Cairo, her mother is a Smouha from Alexandria. Hence the strength and the weakness of the book.

On the one hand, the book offers the reader an outline of the history and the achievements of these prominent families and a glimpse into the conditions in which they lived.

On the other hand, at least the first half of the book is an excruciatingly detailed account of the privileges that these families enjoyed: very large houses in Cairo and Alexandria, summer vacations in Switzerland, boarding schools in England, etc, etc. This is all fine and amusing, but only if the author shows any empathy towards the ordinary Egyptians that her family lived amongst. Any at all.

This self-absorption and total lack of compassion is singular given the hardships that her own family exprienced in the 1950's when things went totally wrong. I would have thought that the deprivation that at least some of her relatives came to experience post-1956 would have made her understand the anti-European feelings of many Egyptians pre-1956 that eventually lead to the personal tragedies that took place.

I do not condone what happened in the 1950's, and I am not saying that any of it was excusable. In fact, I firmly believe that too many innocent people, including the writer and her family, were treated very badly and suffered totally unnecessarily. I only wished to read any indication of understanding of the reasons why things went wrong and/or an acknowledgement of the fact that ordinary Egyptians were discriminated against and had the right to be resentful.
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