Its amazing to me that a city with a history so rich, that spans such important events in history of the world, can be turned into such a boring book. I think Raymond is aping Braudel in this book with his focus on the economics and geographical changes that happened in Cairo’s long, long history, but he fails to use these details to capture the sense of a place, or an idea of what makes this ungovernable mess of a mega-city so interesting. Instead we just get a laundry list of how many single family homes there were in Fustat, followed by a simplistic listing of the how many people of what religions lived in which neighborhoods… boring Sydney, bloody fucking boring.
Raymond almost never bothers with the big events in history. There is no real discussion of the end of French rule. No explanation of rise of Muhammad Ali, and Nasser’s revolution takes up half a page, before we head back into lists of demographics of different neighborhoods. Maybe Raymond assumes his reader already knows all about the revolution and is more interested in where the tanneries were location in medieval Cairo. But I don’t know everything about the revolution, and Raymond’s book failed to make this and many other events in Cairo’s history any clearer. Avoid this one, it isn’t worth the time.