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Lesley Lababidi and Lisa Sabbahy: Cairo The Family Guide
A new revised edition of Cairo The Family Guide raises the bar for the many other guide books on Cairo. Accompanying listings of interesting places to see around the city are inspirational descriptions of these places, noting important elements such as if there are clean bathrooms and if photography is allowed, etc. so that the visitor knows exactly what to expect.
The book starts off with a chapter titled ‘How to Explore Cairo’, giving the reader a small but condensed dose of tips on life in the capital, from national and religious holidays to what is considered ‘modest clothing’. Egyptians are friendly people but it is also important not to break any social rules or traditions; so these little tips can really help a first-time visitor.
Cairo The Family Guide then moves onto each district in Cairo from Haram to Old Cairo and from Heliopolis to Maadi, listing nearly everything that needs to be seen from the obvious landmarks such as the Pyramids and museums to the lesser known landmarks like small galleries and old mansions. Each venue description includes a small list of regular working hours and Ramadan hours, a detailed address including nearby metro stations and entrance fees. The description also takes into consideration families with kids, what they might like to see, and what fun activities they can participate in.
Cairo can be a pretty exhausting city, and a little planning never hurts. Cairo The Family Guide is there for assistance in every part of the trip, including maps and directions along with a website directory for more insider tips. It is a book that would save its readers a lot of time and guide them directly to where the must-see Cairo gems are.
The structure of the book is difficult to map out. While the story is chronological in the bigger sense, events tend to jump back and forth, where each child slave’s full story is only revealed the further you read. We do not know exactly how either of them came to be until to the end.
Other distractions from the story line are religious references. Using Biblical references, verses from the Quran and the history of Moses and Adam, Thompson uses mythical tales to reflect on the characters at hand and the trials they face. He even has a character and element that bears an uncanny representation of Noah and his arc.
Apart from his use of history and religious fables, Thompson also tells a very aggressive, and often times, dark story. Dodola is married off as a child and upon turning to prostitution is subjected to rape and mistreatment. Zam is a slave who sacrifices his manhood out of a loss of a better life. They are both abused time and time again and having their misfortunes sketched out for the eye to witness adds a shocking element to the novel.
This brings us to what makes the novel so wonderful at the same time; the illustrations. The detailing of the sketches and the exemplary hand-work at play is extremely commendable. Action scenes have your eyes rushing through the pages as frantically as one seen on a TV screen. The beauty in the details is endless; the graphics are looming and grand but also sensual and precise. There is a lot of calligraphy incorporated, which makes for an interesting experience for those who can read Arabic.
Another interesting aspect is his combination of the new and the old. Though the story takes place in today’s world, a lot of the prevalent ideologies are from nomadic times; primitive and beastly.
There is indeed something quite poetic about the story he tells – and the manner in which it is told – regardless of the gruesome, harsh aspects; on the contrary, it is these parts that make the novel that much more meaningful.