Month: February 2017

The Man Behind The Cat

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Gayer-Anderson (AUC Press)

One of the most beloved objects on display in the British Museum is a bronze figure representing the goddess Bastet. It stands 14cm high and takes the form of a seated cat with incised details, an inlaid silver sun-disc, a wedjat-eye pectoral ornament, and gold earrings and a nose ring. (more…)

Al-Ghuri Funerary Complex

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Al-Ghuri complex dome

In the pursuit of a bargain in the market outside, or on the way down to Bab Zuweila and the Street of the Tentmakers, it is quite possible to pass between the two halves of the Sultan al-Ghuri funerary complex—a stone’s throw away from the Khan al-Khalili—without a second thought. (more…)

The Geology of Egypt

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The Geology of Egypt (AUC Press)

There are few sights as spectacular as sunrise in the White Desert of Egypt. The early light catches the wind-carved chalk formations and begins to play tricks on the mind. Indeed, some of the shapes are so reminiscent of figures from ancient Egyptian mythology, such as the sphinx, that it lends credence to the theory that these shapes left an indelible print on those nomadic peoples who passed through the emerging Western Desert on their way to found a brilliant civilization along the banks of the Nile. (more…)

Parma Cathedral Window

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The west window, Parma Cathedral

I am very fond of places that are, essentially, universities with a city attached, and the city of Parma, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is famously home to the ancient University of Parma, as well as, of course, prosciutto (ham), and parmesan cheese.

It is a fine city to visit, as it is slightly off the tourist’s beaten track. Undeservedly so, as it has some very fine buildings—but long may it stay under the radar! (more…)

A Forgotten Turning Point

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The coast at El Alamein near the German cemetery

Driving west along the coast road toward Marsa Matruh is a bizarre experience. For kilometers, after leaving Alexandria, sight of the sea is blocked by modern ‘international’ housing developments.

The seeming folly of building on this vast scale along the arid coastline somehow prepares the visitor for an equally surreal sight—a light tank in the middle of the road. However, this is a sure sign that we have reached a point just over 100km from Alexandria and a mere 240km northwest of Cairo named El Alamein. (more…)

The Church of the Apostles

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The Church of The Apostles, St. Anthony's Monastery, Egypt
The Church of The Apostles, St. Anthony’s Monastery, Egypt

The Coptic monastery of Saint Anthony’s lies in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, quite a long way from anywhere, and that, of course, was the point.

Saint Anthony was born into a wealthy family in Lower Egypt circa 251 A.D.. What we know of him comes almost exclusively from a biography written by Athanasius of Alexandria, the Vita Antoni. (more…)

On Egypt’s Traditional Crafts

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The Traditional Crafts of Egypt (AUC Press)

At this time of year, much of my attention—as a publisher of books about Egypt—centers on trying to understand what is happening in the re-emerging tourist market.

My weather vanes are not, for the most part, the resorts on the Sinai Peninsula or the Red Sea, but Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, and Aswan, which attract those who are most interested in pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Coptic and Islamic monuments and history.

The good news is that, this season, things do seem to have been looking up for book sales. I have no doubts now, if I ever really had any, that we will survive the post-2011 slump, and will rise again, alongside the Egyptian tourist trade. This also seems to me to be inevitable given the universal interest in this most fascinating of countries.

So, the book trade will survive, in one form or another, but it is possible that others may not. (more…)