The mark of a good book is that it gives you something to think about. That is certainly the case with In the Heart of Cairo by Mahi Wasfy. Over the span of roughly six months, the values of the American School in Cairo, a new teacher, and students of the senior class are examined as Western and Arabic influences clash. Mrs. Magda has been hired to bring the school in line with diversity and bi-cultural expectations that the administration impedes at every turn. This is mirrored by the emotions of Maha, a traditional Egyptian student who feels as though her culture is continually marginalized by the growing trend of Westernization that places more value on things and popularity than family and traditional beliefs. Both Mrs. Magda and Maha struggle with trying to fit in and be happy while remaining true to their core values in spite of what is happening all around them.
The beauty of In the Heart of Cairo is that it speaks to the inner truth of each person, regardless of national background or religious affiliation. It celebrates the value of every life and the expression of that value through love, family ties, and the desire to be a valuable part of a community instead of being better than the one in which you live.
Mahi Wasfy does a wonderful job of distinguishing between fundamental beliefs and extremism, and shows that extremism exists in different forms - forcing traditional ideas on other people as well as adopting some other life goal that makes you turn your back on the very things that truly make a life worth living. In the Heart of Cairo is not only an insightful cultural study, it is a solid example of the importance of examining one's own life and finding peace and value in it.
Reviewed By Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite
Understanding the concept of anti-bias education is one of the most important lessons for the reader of the novel, In the Heart of Cairo by Mahi Wasfy. Mrs. Magda, a newly-hired and veiled Muslim teacher at the American School in Cairo, is one of the main characters in this intriguing adventure. She learns to advocate for her own rights, as well as those of other staff members and the students. The story also revolves around a group of Egyptian students who are conflicted about honoring their own culture versus becoming westernized. Maha is one of the adolescents who has committed to living her family's strong beliefs regarding proper behaviors such as not dating boys. She becomes ostracized from many ofher friends. There are many interesting examples woven throughout the story for readers to become familiar with the traditions of this country.
It is always a special treat to learn about other cultures by reading a compelling and engaging story - Mahi Wasfy accomplishes this in the fictional work, In the Heart of Cairo. The author is an excellent writer, and the story flows smoothly from one scene to another. From Mrs. Magda and Maher's home, to the classroom, to an adolescent party,the reader is given an insider's view of the many tensions and stresses of a changing culture. The clashes between the "old" traditional ways and the "new" modern ways, fraught with the pressure of becoming westernized, are clearly detailed. The ending of the book is certainly encouraging. A delightful read in many diverse ways!
Reviewed By Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite
In The Heart Of Cairo by Mahi Wasfy is a story from multiple perspectives. The story follows two women, one older and one a teenager. Maha is a senior at the school, almost finished with her basic education. All she wants is for her final year to be over, problem free and quickly.However, it is not what she had hoped for. Things are not going well,there is a love triangle, a fall out with friends, seriously bad luck,and it seems like she cannot handle the pressure on her right now. She does not want to be a misfit, but it looks as if she is fitting right in with them.
Mrs. Magda is the Theory of Knowledge teacher at the American School. She is new there, but she has big plans for her career and this new position is going to help her with them. She wants to make this schoolin Cairo bi-cultural, but challenges and hostility are preventing her from making it happen. Can she achieve her dreams and help her students find their center, or will the hostility of her colleagues be a challenge she cannot overcome?
This novel pretty much sums up the school systems in every Muslim state. Yes, things are better in many schools and regions, but some places can never be changed. The author subtly tells us what we need to know and what we have to discover on our own. There is a lot of drama, courage,and revelations. It all fitted well into these two characters' stories