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The seat of pharaohs and sultans, the prize of conquerors from Alexander to Napoleon, Cairo has never stopped reinventing itself. Even in this century, as Max Rodenbeck shows us, the city has transformed itself yet again--from a glamorous European outpost into the nationalistic capital of the Arab world. And, most recently, we have been witness to contemporary Cairo grappling with a population explosion that strains every aspect of city life beyond capacity.
From its vantage atop the plateau of Giza, the Sphinx has witnessed it all: forty-five centuries of a city evolving on the river plain below it. "The Victorious" is what Arabs call Cairo, and its indomitable spirit still merits the name.
Rodenbeck's keen eye for the telling detail was gained from years of wandering Cairo's markets, chatting in its cafés, and burrowing in its dusty libraries. From the hashish dens to the salons of contemporary Cairo, Rodenbeck explores the city's stark contrasts. Ancient tombs abut skyscrapers and genteel colonial mansions, and the people, pulled between the cultural poles of Paris and Mecca, struggle with the double burden of an incomparably rich past and a challenging future.
"Rodenbeck unwinds Cairo's tale with witty, clear-eyed affection. He has a lightness of touch and erudition, a skill with anecdote, that recreates Egypt--for all Egypt's roads lead to Cairo--in all its contradictoriness." --The Economist