“Alexandria is still alive and alters even when one tries to sum her up . . . . Only the climate, only the north wind and the sea remain as pure as when Menelaus, the first visitor, landed three thousand years ago.” In the autumn of 1915, in a “slightly heroic mood”, E.M. Forster arrived in Alexandria, full of lofty ideals as a volunteer for the Red Cross. Yet most of his time was spent exploring “the magic, antiquity and complexity” of the place in order to cope with living in what he saw as a “funk-hole.” With a novelist’s pen, he brings to life the fabled, romantic city of Alexander the Great, capital of Greco-Roman Egypt, beacon of light and culture symbolized by the Pharos, where the doomed love affair of Antony and Cleopatra was played out and the greatest library the world has ever known was built. Threading three thousand years of history with vibrant strands of literature and punctuating the narrative with his own experiences, Forster immortalized Alexandria, painting an incomparable portrait of the great city and, inadvertently, himself.
A History and a Guide
Introduction byLawrence Durrell
For sale only in the Middle East
Coptic Identity and Ayyubid Politics in Egypt, 1218–1250
Kurt J. Werthmuller
Using the life and writings of Cyril III Ibn Laqlaq, 75th patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, along with a variety of Christian and Muslim chroniclers, this study explores the identity and context of the Christian community of Egypt and its relations with the leadership of the Ayyubid dynasty in the early thirteenth century. Kurt Werthmuller introduces new scholarship that illuminates the varied relationships between medieval Christians of Egypt and their Muslim neighbors. Demonstrating that the Coptic community was neither passive nor static, the author discusses the active role played by the Copts in the formation and evolution of their own identity within the wider political and societal context of this period. In particular, he examines the boundaries between Copts and the wider Egyptian society in the Ayyubid period in three “in-between spaces”: patriarchal authority, religious conversion, and monasticism....read more
1 July 2010
8 color illus.
Description of Egypt
Notes and Views in Egypt and Nubia
Edward William Lane Edited and with an introduction Jason Thompson
Notes and Views in Egypt and NubiaEdward William Lane
Edited and with an introduction Jason Thompson
The launching of this hitherto unpublished book by the great nineteenth-century British traveler Edward William Lane (1801–76), a name known to almost everyone in all the many fields of Middle East studies, is a major publishing event. Lane was the author of a number of highly influential works: An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), his translation of The Thousand and One Nights (1839–41), Selections from the Kur-an (1843), and the Arabic–English Lexicon (1863–93). Yet one of his greatest works was never published: after years of labor and despite an enthusiastic reception by the publishing firm of John Murray in 1831, publication of his first book, Description of Egypt, was delayed and eventually dropped, mainly for financial reasons. The manuscript was sold to the British Library by Lane’s widow in 1891, and has only now been salvaged for publication by Dr. Jason Thompson, nearly 170 years after its completion. This enormously important book, which takes the form of a journey through Egypt from north to south, with descriptions of all the ancient monuments and contemporary life that Lane explored along the way, will be of immense interest to both ancient and modern historians of Egypt, and will become an essential companion to his Manners and Customs....read more
1 October 2000
158 b/w illus.
An Armenian Artist in Ottoman Egypt
Yuhanna al-Armani and His Coptic Icons
Magdi Guirguis Introduction by Nelly Hanna
Yuhanna al-Armani and His Coptic IconsMagdi Guirguis
Introduction by Nelly Hanna
Yuhanna al-Armani has long been known by historians of Coptic art as an eighteenth-century Armenian icon painter who lived and worked in Ottoman Cairo. Here for the first time is an account of his life that looks beyond his artistic production to place him firmly in the social, political, and economic milieu in which he moved and the confluence of interests that allowed him to flourish as a painter. Who was Yuhanna al-Armani? What was his network of relationships? How does this shed light on the contacts between Cairo’s Coptic and Armenian communities in the eighteenth century? Why was there so much demand for his work at that particular time? And how did a member of Cairo’s then relatively modest Armenian community reach such heights of artistic and creative endeavor? Drawing on eighteenth-century deeds relating to al-Armani and other members of his social network recorded in the registers of the Ottoman courts, Magdi Guirguis offers a fascinating glimpse into the ways of life of urban dwellers in eighteenth-century Cairo, at a time when a civilian elite had reached a high level of prominence and wealth. Illustrated with 28 full-color reproductions of al-Armani’s icons, An Armenian Artist in Ottoman Egypt is a rich and compelling window on Cairene social history that will interest students and scholars of art history, Coptic studies, or Ottoman history....read more
15 April 2008
28 color illus.
Caliph of Cairo
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021
Paul E. Walker
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021Paul E. Walker
One night in the year 411/1021, the powerful ruler of the Fatimid empire, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, rode out of the southern gates of Cairo and was never seen again. Was the caliph murdered, or could he have decided to abandon his royal life, wandering off to live alone and anonymous? Whatever the truth, the fact was that al-Hakim had literally vanished into the desert. Yet al-Hakim, though shrouded in mystery, has never been forgotten. To the Druze, he was (and is) God, and his disappearance merely indicated his reversion to non-human form. For Ismailis, al-Hakim was the sixteenth imam, descended from the Prophet, and infallible. Jews and Christians, by contrast, long remembered him as their persecutor, who ordered the destruction of many of their synagogues and churches. Using all the tools of modern scholarship, Paul Walker offers the most balanced and engaging biography yet to be published of this endlessly fascinating individual. To some, al-Hakim was God incarnate, to others an infallible imam, to still others he was a capricious tyrant. This book examines myth and fact, document and opinion, to present the most complete and detailed history yet written of the life and times of one of the medieval Islamic world’s most controversial figures....read more
15 December 2012