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Diaries of an Egyptian Princess

Nevine Abbas Halim: Diaries of An Egyptian Princess

  • Nevine Abbas Halim
  • Biographies
  • Out now
  • English English
  • 250 EGP
  • Various
reviewed by
Melissa Howell
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Nevine Abbas Halim: Diaries of An Egyptian Princess

Many of us in Egypt are naturally captivated by the lives of
the rich and famous. There is something about these characters that we find
inherently exciting and mysterious. We
wear thin the pages of celebrity gossip magazines and tirelessly search the
Internet for updates on our favourite stars. Royalty from the days of yore are
no exception to our obsession; the elegant ways in which we imagine these
monarchs used to live is deeply entrancing. In Diaries of An Egyptian Princess,
Nevine Abbas Halim sets out to fascinate her readers with tales of triumph and
tribulation from her turbulent life before and after the 1952 revolution.

Unfortunately, the author’s writing fails to
adequately captivate her audience. The
jacket of the book promises to give insight into the princess’s early life as a
beloved socialite and her later post-revolution troubles as a social
outcast. Anxiously awaiting this cruel
twist of fate and the details of Princess Nevine’s struggle, the reader is
prepared to grant the heroine a fair deal of sympathy. It surely must have been
difficult to go from riches to rags so suddenly and so drastically.

A substantial bit of the narrative, which skips
carelessly to and fro through time, is devoted to listing the names of her high-society
cohorts and their genetic or social relation to the Royal Family. While the
author succeeds in making many of these people sound quite interesting, it is
to her detriment. The story might have been more interesting coming from the
perspective of one of Princess Nevine’s acquaintances.  

The life of the author is not wholly dull. She comes
across as a vivacious lady, willing to take chances and have fun with life. Taking advantage of the opportunities
presented to her, Princess Nevine attends many events, seeks out education both
in Egypt and the US and
travels extensively.

However, the author
makes it difficult to attract the reader’s sympathy over her frequently-jailed father
(Abbas Halim was the founder of the Egyptian Labour Movement), or the fact that
policemen no longer salute her when she drives by. Though she devotes a few pages to the Free
Officer’s Revolution, a much greater portion of the book concerns how difficult
her life was just before, during and after this time. It is not easy to understand exactly why that
is the case, as the tales of tribulation are frequently interspersed with stories
of a grand party or her travels through Europe.

The final pages of the book claim to bring us
to the close of the Golden Years, which are then followed by ‘…Supremely unwelcome
difficult days.’ The book would have
been much more gripping had this event been introduced a third of the way into
the story.  

Though the book does drag a bit, a slew of incredible
photographs of Princess Nevine, her friends and family are sprinkled throughout
the pages. This helps to humanise the characters quite a bit, which are
occasionally left rather underdeveloped in the text itself.   Diaries of An Egyptian Princess would make for a lovely coffee-table
book to flip through these images of the past. However, after reading the whole book, one is left feeling as though you
had to be there to really appreciate this autobiography.

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Author Bio

Princess Abbas Halim is the great-great granddaughter of Mohamed Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt.   She is the eldest of Prince Abbas Halim’s three children.   Diaries of An Egyptian Princess is taken from her own memoirs as well as those of her mother and grandmother.  

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