This is not at all a recommendation to buy, quite the contrary, the book is an alarmingly disappointing read. Intrigued to buy by the fact that events unfold in our beloved Cairo only to discover that Somerville has spun the tale to unsuspecting readers such that Cairo is an “exotic” and dangerous primitive place with desert and villages and tribal gangs.
Yet among page after page of cliché and a less than charming attempt at an action packed adventure, were a couple of paragraphs I felt worthy of sharing with you. Kindly don’t interpret this as a book recommendation, I wholeheartedly regret the purchase.
“Cairo was on the surface a city of filth, chaos and ruins. But to those who were able to sink in to, Cairo was Al Kahira – The Triumphant, teeming with people, ebullient, enveloped in the past, kinetic, yielding, collapsing and constantly rebuilding itself out of the debris”.
His description of driving in Cairo hits too close to home not to share, it was the only part of the book where he had me smiling of a whole page 🙂
Farouk drove his car as if the brakes had not only failed but long ago been ripped from the vehicle and replaced with only a horn. His response to all oncoming obstacles – camels, schoolchildren, bicycles, donkey carts, the infirm hobbling across the road – was to accelerate towards them, honking and cursing, merciless in his impatience. But he would demonstrate monk-like tranquillity behind trucks blocking narrow streets or with leisurely workers smoking and slowly moving split-bamboo cages containing chickens or piles of bricks.
The greatest enemy of all was that many-headed monster the Other Driver, with his murderous incompetence, psychotic competitiveness and profound visual impairment. Such cars were passed with unceasing incantations. In case of extreme provocation there was an escalating scale of response. Driving past and staring like a wrathful Hindu God was the least severe. Throwing both hands heavenward was the next level. The most serious and frequent reprisal was to wind down the window and articulate the anatomy of the offending driver’s mother. It was always the absent mothers who took the punishment. Fin wondered if, on some subtle level, they were actually responsible.