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The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt's Past and Present Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 10, 2014
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A descriptive descent of the Nile, from Aswan to Cairo, Wilkinson’s travelogue fascinatingly blends the historical and the contemporary to underscore the eternal truth about Egypt, its absolute dependence on the Nile’s waters. An able writer (The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, 2011), Wilkinson enriches his observations with those of Western visitors since Herodotus, biographically digressing into their awestruck interests in Egyptian antiquities. Regularly contrasting their sketches and his own observations, Wilkinson unveils continuities in the depth of the Nile’s historical time. Start with what he regards as the Nile Valley’s most significant monument—no, not Karnak or the pyramids but rock-cut steps near Aswan. They are the Nilometer, “the key to Egypt’s fabled wealth”; they measured the Nile’s annual flood. Water’s vital importance to Egypt for millennia surfaces repeatedly in Wilkinson’s pleasingly paced presentation, materially as the means of transportation and agriculture and also spiritually in ancient Egyptian religion, Wilkinson’s commentary about whose pantheon underscores motivations of divine propitiation behind the construction of pharaonic monuments. From its archaeological past to its populous present, Egypt has a marvelously acute expositor in Wilkinson. --Gilbert Taylor
“Engaging. . . . Evocative. . . . The narrative moves comfortably among different time periods . . . smoothly guiding us on our Nile journey.” —The Washington Post
“Fascinating. . . . Compelling. . . . The Nile emerges as potent as ever, the sole bringer of life to Egypt.” —The Guardian (London)
“First-rate. . . . The Nile and the history it has engendered still manage to stir something in all of us.” —The Daily Beast
“Impressive. . . . Hugely entertaining. . . . Wilkinson’s book is bound to reawaken the joys of armchair traveling.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Tell[s] the entire layered story of Egyptian civilization. Wilkinson deftly mingles ancient lore from the Pharaonic past with tales of 19th-century tomb robbers and contemporary clashes between the competing imperatives to develop and preserve sites along the riverbanks.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Masterful. . . . Thoroughly enjoyable and gloriously catholic.” —The Times (London)
“Dexterously done and rich in detail. . . . This is infectious stuff that should surely inspire its readers to a fresh bout of Egyptian adventures.” —The Telegraph (London)
“In this felucca voyage of the Nile, you see all of its history and you are constantly reminded that Egypt is also a living nation of today. . . . [Wilkinson] has done for popularizing this land what Michio Kaku and DeGrasse Tyson have done for astronomy and physics.” —The New York Journal of Books
“[A] gently meandering tour of the Nile River in the company of a deeply knowledgeable guide. . . . To understand the cataclysmic changes gripping Egypt at the moment, eminent British Egyptologist Wilkinson urges a return to the heart of the country, the Nile, the source of the country’s economy, spiritual beliefs and political structure.” —Kirkus Reviews