Sunday, February 06, 2011

Useful books on contemporary Egypt

In the light of current events I thought it might be useful to list a few books in English for those who would like to read more about the modern rather than the ancient history of Egypt. I've listed a real mixture of books and hope that it is of use to some of you, in no particular order. There's also bound to be a major outbreak of new books in the next month or so, given recent events!

These are just some of the ones kicking around my house so if you have any books to add to the mix, please do add them in the Comments section - recommendations will be most welcome.

Inside Egypt, The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution - John R. Bradley
A really disturbing look at Egypt, written in 2010, by an Egyptian-speaking former English resident of Egypt. It made my hair stand on end. The tone is conversational but the topics are often frightening, from first hand accounts of police brutality, through the different forms of religious expression in Egypt, to the changing face of social structure in Luxor as a result of tourism and the increase of expatriates. At all times involving, this is a truly remarkable book.

Egypt, An Economic Geography - Fouad N. Ibrahim and Barbara Ibrahim
One of my favourite books about urban and rural Egypt, this has something to say about all aspects of modern Egypt from its geology to problems with the Aswan Dam and modern irrigation, society, politics , women's status, religion and so much more.

A History of Egypt, from Earliest Times to the Present - Jason Thompson
A remarkably articulate and detailed investigation of Egypt's history which, unlike most books on Egypt's past, doesn't confine itself to one period but explores the way in which Egypt developed over thousands of years to the present day. The chapters on contemporary Egypt, the period following the Ottomans to the present day, are excellent.

Whatever Happened to the Egyptians, Changes in Egyptian Scoiety from 1950 to the Present - Galal Amin.
A popular and award-winning book about modern Egypt which mixes academic resaerch and personal experience to give an insightful view on the Egypt of today. Well argued, it looks via brief but informative chapters at all aspects of Egyptian life.

A Short History: Egypt - James Janowski
A short but useful insight into the development of Egypt, looking at the full span of Egyptian history from Pharaonic to modern times. Chapters on modern Egypt look at modernization, liberalization, revolution and the sociocultural ownership of Egypt.

Egypt. Moulids, Saints, Sufis - Nicolaas H. Biegman
With lots of photographs this book explores the practise of sufi'ism and their moulids in Egypt. A very personal account, but full of life and interest.

Global Dreams, Class, Gender and Public Space in Cosmopolitan Cairo - Anouk de Koning
An anthropological view of modern Cairene life in the context of economic liberatlization and globalization which asks what happened to the Egyptian middle class and argues that Cairo represents a divided nation, with very different views of the future depending on social background and livelihood experience.

Remaking the Modern, Space, Relocation and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo - Farha Ghannam
A fascinating look at one of the newly created areas of Cairo into which people were moved by a highly articulate anthropologist whose parents, though illiterate, believed strongly in education. Ghannam has provided an in depth insight into this working class community and how it works.

Bedouin, Settlers and Holiday-Makers: Egypt's Changing Northwest Coast - Donald P. Cole and Soraya Altorki
Anthropological research into the area of Marsa Matruh, which used to be an area occupied almost exclusively by Bedouin herders, but which in modern times has evolved over the years to include agricultural development and tourism. A really gripping insight into the changes of this Mediterranean coastal area.

Upper Egypt, Identity and Change - edited by Nicholas Hopkins and Reem Saad
A volume of papers about the changing face of the local identity of Upper Egypt under national economic, bureacratic and even religious pressure.

Labib Habachi, The Life and Legacy of an Egyptologyst - Jill Kamil
Not just a biography but an amazing insight into the social and political background within which Habichi's education and search for acceptance in the Egyptological community of Egypt took place.

Whose Pharaohs, Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I - Donald Malcolm Reid
A powerful examination of Egyptology and its development within the context of Colonialism and the evolution of Egyptian nationalism.

Archaeology Under Fire, Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East - Edited by Lynn Meskell
This does not look exclusively at Egypt but it is particularly relevant at the moment, providing a series of papers which look at the archaeology of the wider area in its sometimes changing political and social context.

There are a number of fiction books which represent Egypt too - if anyone is interested I can post a very short list of some of those too.


Anonymous said...

You might want to add a book that was just published a few weeks ago here in the US:

Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak by Tarek Osman

I just ordered it from in the US a few days before this uprising started!

I see that it has been available for a bit longer from in the UK:

Andie said...

Thanks Stephen, I've just ordered it on your recommendations. Andie x

Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much, I've asked online for modern history books on Egyptian politics, but received no response.
The 'on brink of revolution' looks awesome!

Unknown said...

does anyone know the name of the book about a coptic boy growing up in assiut.
the cover had a coptic deacon hugging a traditionally dressed (allcovered up) muslim girl?

Andie said...

Hi Unknown. It's unlikely that anyone will pick up this query on such an old post. I suggest that instead you post it on the discussion page on sister site Egyptological (