Leaping uncontrollably through history, Khairy Shalaby creates a time lapse of Cairo through words, covering thousands of years of history. He writes in short chapters telling a fantastical story of power struggle, of emir’s, sultan’s, revenge, death, and of kingdoms rising and falling.
What most surprised me though is the main character, Ibn Shalaby, the man who sold pickles and sweets. Spinning in and out of different times, the man is incredibly smart and witty, and yet so simple and often times stupid. I found myself smiling sheepishly at how much of Egypt seeped through the lines on each page, even while reading the English translation of the story.
Highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get lost in time, in Egypt, and in story.
Adding a few quotes here that struck me:
Patience isn’t the only virtue we have in Egypt. It’s not just the ability to endure pain and suffering, it’s the ability to endure the remedy. Our leeches can hold out even longer than we can. Our wounds keep opening but they keep treating them. It’s amazing what they put up with. The keep fighting us until we lose our minds. pp. 43
[The Arabic language] can take a single sensation and turn it into many, or a single pang and redouble it; it can change riches into famine, and tigers into butterflies. pp. 37