"I pass over the spectacle of Poirot on a camel. He started by groans and lamentations and ended by shrieks, gesticulations and invocations to the Vir"I pass over the spectacle of Poirot on a camel. He started by groans and lamentations and ended by shrieks, gesticulations and invocations to the Virgin Mary and every Saint in the calendar. In the end, he descended ignominiously and finished the journey on a diminutive donkey. I must admit that a trotting camel is no joke for the amateur. I was stiff for several days" (101)....more
"It's not for nothing that advanced mathematics tends to be invented in hot countries. It's because of the morphic resonance of all the camels, who ha"It's not for nothing that advanced mathematics tends to be invented in hot countries. It's because of the morphic resonance of all the camels, who have that disdainful expression and famous curled lip as a natural result of an ability to do quadratic equations....The fact is that camels are far more intelligent than dolphins. They are so much brighter that they soon realized that the most prudent thing any intelligent animal can do, if it would prefer its descendants not to spend a lot of time on a slab with electrodes clamped to their brains or sticking mines on the bottom of ships or being patronized rigid by zoologists, is to make bloody certain humans don't find out about it. So they long ago plumped for a lifestyle that, in return for a certain amount of porterage and being prodded with sticks, allowed them adequate food and grooming and the chance to spit in a human's eye and get away with it" (191).
"And Dil was realizing that there are few things that so shake belief as seeing, clearly and precisely, the object of that belief. Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed anymore" (198)....more
What a joy to come upon a reference to my former boss: "'What about KV5?' she asked quietly. Bryant had briefed her on the most recent developments inWhat a joy to come upon a reference to my former boss: "'What about KV5?' she asked quietly. Bryant had briefed her on the most recent developments in Egyptology. In 1994, an American archaeologist named Kent Weeks had discovered the valley's biggest tomb to date, the burial site of the fifty-two sons of Rameses II. Excavation was still continuing." (234)...more
"And there, with the piano chords nudging him on, he introduced and educated whoever was with him to the important and complicated details of the worl"And there, with the piano chords nudging him on, he introduced and educated whoever was with him to the important and complicated details of the world. One day it might be about when to wear a hat, or it could be about spelling. 'It is an impossible language, English. Impossible! "Egypt," for instance. That's a problem. I'll show you how to spell it right every time. Just repeat the phrase "Ever Grasping Your Precious Tits" to yourself.' And indeed, I never forgot the phrase. Even as I write this now, there is a subliminal hesitation while I capitalize the letters in my head" (29).
"Mr. Fonseka would not be a wealthy man. And it would be a spare life he would be certain to lead as a schoolteacher in some urban location. But he had a serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live. And the serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armour of books close by" (59)....more
This is what I felt about AUC leaving Tahrir: "The retreat from city centres to peripheral areas is also part of a wider change in Egyptians' relationsThis is what I felt about AUC leaving Tahrir: "The retreat from city centres to peripheral areas is also part of a wider change in Egyptians' relationship with their land. Egypt's urban constellations (mainly Cairo and Alexandria, but also Al-Mahala, Tanta, Al-Zakazeek and Asyut) and their surrounding areas are in constant flux with both population growth and internal migration (mainly from Al-Sayeed and the remote parts of the Delta--now around 800,000 annually). Egyptians were increasingly condensed in the centres as well as fragmented at the peripheries. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, Cairo grew from 6 million inhabitants to more than 15 million. The city's density, at more than 1,000 individuals per square kilometre, is among the highest in the world, and Alexandria is not far behind. The exuberance, energy and waves of creativity that characterized Cairo and Alexandria throughout the twentieth century were giving way to suffocating crowdedness, domineering compactness and stifling closeness. At the same time, the rich and the middle class were deserting the city centres and the old neighbourhoods for new suburbs, opting for gated communities on the outskirts, detached not only from the over-crowding and the increasingly ailing infrastructure, but also from the historic neighbourhoods and quarters that have witnessed and shaped Egyptians' interaction with their physical space throughout decades (and at times centuries). "Cairo's centre, Zamalek, Garden City and Maadi were increasingly shadows of their former selves. New boutiques, restaurants and shopping centres continue to open up, but the city's centre of gravity has moved to the Sixth of October, Palm Hills, City Views, Allegria, the Fifth Settlement, Al-Obour and Al-Shorouk--new rich, immaculate and spacious communities, but lacking Cairo's and Alexandria's long and rich touches (and scars) of history. "As a result, for the first time in Egypt's history many people live, work and socialize far from the city centre, leaving its landmarks--the centuries-old mosques and churches, the baroque buildings and palaces of Ismael Pasha, the Corniche's boulevards, the busy streets of Adly, Embaba and Shoubra--neglected. Egyptians' attachment to their physical heritage is diminishing" (200-1)....more
I particularly liked the first three quarters of the book or so--after that, I felt less able (or willing) to relate to the self-centered interpretatiI particularly liked the first three quarters of the book or so--after that, I felt less able (or willing) to relate to the self-centered interpretations of her life and decisions. Some similarities to my own experiences--we were living in Cairo at the same time and are almost the same age--and some pretty radical differences. Similar frustrations, sometimes utterly different interpretations of those frustrations. I liked this perspective on a lunar calendar: "Festivals and fasts are unhinged, traveling backward at a rate of ten days per year, attached to no season. Even Laylat ul Qadr, the holiest night in Ramadan, drifts--its precise date is unknown. The iconclasm laid down by Muhammed was absolute: you must resist attachment not only to painted images, but to natural ones. Ramadan, Muharram, the Eids; you associate no religious event with the tang of snow in the air, or spring thaw, or the advent of summer. God permeates these things--as the saying goes, Allah is beautiful, and He loves beauty--but they are transient. Forced to concentrate on the eternal, you begin to see, or think you see, the bones and sinews of the world beneath its seasonal flesh. The sun and moon become formidable clockwork. They are transient also, but hint at the dark planes that stretch beyond the earth in every direction, full of stars and dust, toward a retreating, incomprehensible edge" (74)....more