Cairo

Andre Raymond, Author, Willard Wood, Translator
Andre Raymond, Author, Willard Wood, Translator Harvard University Press $36.95 (436p) ISBN 978-0-674-00316-3
Reviewed on: 01/29/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
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Compared to many things Egyptian, Cairo, founded in A.D. 642, is relatively modern. Eminent French historian Raymond lucidly delineates how the city, intrinsically tied to Egypt's Islamic history (it was founded during the Arab conquest of this North African country), also reflects the multifaceted trends of modern Egyptian history and brings the city up-to-date in its transformation into the overcrowded, bustling, crumbling metropolis it is today. In the first of the book's four sections, Raymond focuses on archeological and architectural sources to show the ancient foundations upon which Cairo was built. Here and through most of the book the author offers a history less of people and daily life than of structures and space, of how buildings came to be erected. He maintains, for instance, that during the years 642-1250, Islamic leaders were generally tolerant of diverse religious communities, allowing synagogues and churches to be built. The book's two middle sections deal with medieval and traditional Cairo, while the last section, covering the years 1792 to 1992, offers a stimulating exploration of Egypt's contact with the rising powers of the West and the desperate attempt to catch up to the demands of Cairo's ever-growing population. Adeptly translated and equipped with fabulous maps of Cairo during each historic phase, this is a useful and reliable primer on the physical, economic and political history of an important and vibrant city. 63 b&w photos. (Jan. 15)
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