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Cairo: The City Victorious

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  280 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
From a noted journalist who has spent much of his life in Cairo, here is a dazzling cultural excavation of that most ancient, colorful, and multifaceted of cities. The seat of pharaohs and sultans, the prize of conquerors from Alexander to Saladin to Napoleon, Cairo--nicknamed "the Victorious"--has never ceased reinventing herself.

With intimate knowlege, humor, and affecti
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 22nd 2000 by Vintage (first published September 18th 1998)
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Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No book has fully captured the essence and spirit of Cairo the way this book did. Written with thorough research and an awe inspiring eye for detail that could only come from an insider, this book is a testimony to the author's unsurpassed experience with the city, its history, its people, and his overriding passion for the place. As a Cairene myself, I have to say my eyebrows were raised more than once at the astonishing detail I thought few people could convey with such command, I caught mysel ...more
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Had this been a history book on, say, Cadbury's Creme Egg then maybe its often frustrating narrative would not matter all that much. But this being a book on one of the most important and ancient hubs of civilization in human history it does matter.
Admittedly, the writer states that he is after a fusion of history and descriptive travelogue and furthermore that ''...the writing would be difficult, but, if the story were to loop and tangle and digress, well, that too would be in the character of
Sean Sullivan
Jul 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
It is close by at first, starting with the intimate pock of the microphone and discreet , would not need to eb all hearing to hear it. An electric cloud of sound accumulates and holds, suspended over the city for a full minute by the loudspeakers of some 15,000 mosques, before dissolving piecemeal into the twitter of the waking birds.

Cairo A City Victorious is a great book. In 267 pages it takes the reader from Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs up to the age of Mubarak. Its honest in its telling
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
A well-written, well-paced history/travelogue of Cairo from a man who has spent the better part of his life there. I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who is traveling in Egypt -- it's a great read while you're there, experiencing all the things he's talking about. It definitely enriches your experience.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full of anecdotes and history from Cairo's beginnings, thousands of years ago, right up through the end of the 20th century. Rodenbeck's love for Cairo -combined a journalist's curiosity, adventurousness, interest in people and change, along with seeking out the reasons and perspectives about it - give this book a certain warmth as well as being incredibly informative. It is like getting the scoop from some well-traveled friend. My only wish at the end was that it continued on to even more curre ...more
Tamim Diaa
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An epic journey through the history and the near present of the city as seen by an outsider. As a local, it is always nice to get this perspective. The Cairo described in the book is the one we grew up in as children in the 90s; a lot of thing have changed since then: the people and their habits, the infrastructure, the look of the city and its urban expansion and of course the politics and the economy. Having said that, the main themes of social and ideological tensions haven't changed, they ac ...more
Cristel Verhaegen
een geweldig boek over de geschiedenis van een stad die moeilijk te vatten is en zich niet meteen laat liefhebben. Feit dat ik dit op een drieweekse reis door Egypte las maakte het nog irritante trekjes....ze hebben ze nog steeds
Rui Valente
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: viagens
I started reading this book just before going to Egypt last year. I wanted to get a feel of the place while still getting my backpack ready.
This the book does admirably - it covers the history of Cairo from the days of the earliest Pharaohs, when the dwellings were known as Heliopolis and Memphis (here the author streches himself a bit, as Memphis is considerably to the south of Cairo, but glad he did so, for the story is enthraling) to the last decade of the 20th century, in ever increasing det
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Rodenbeck's book makes me want to return to the streets of Cairo for a second time in the hopes of being able to soak up more of the history of this incredible city. Cairo: The City Victorious can be divided into a historical aspect and a shorter experience aspect, but both flow around each other in no particular order and are constantly reinforcing each other - much like the city itself.

This book sometimes reads like a textbook, but without the boredom. I learned more about the Pharonic period,
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came across this title while reading comments posted by an expat about living and working in Egypt. Her positive remarks of the work prompted me, as an Egyptian, to buy the book the very next day.

Armed with this and other positive reviews I read, I delved into this unique volume.I couldn't help but admire the sheer magnitude of both time and effort invested in its making. This not only confirms the prevailing theme of the book about the global allure of this timeless city despite periods of d
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is by far the most interesting book I have read about Egypt, written by a westerner who has lived most of his life in Cairo and brings an appreciation for a difficult, turbulent, challenging city and people. I started it as I was visiting Cairo, and really regret that I didn't read it before my trip, so I could approach the city with Rodenbeck's observations in mind. It's a mixed genre. He takes a scholarly approach to the thousands of years and multitude of eras in this city's history. But ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
From my twin review of this book and Mary Anne Weaver's "A PORTRAIT OF EGYPT A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam":

"Cairo: The City Victorious" is a quirky paean to one of the world's great crossroads. Max Rodenbeck has excavated myriad historical tidbits, such as the waqf, which exploited a loophole in Islamic inheritance law. Individuals couldn't receive bequests, but they could be hired to administer bequeathed endowments, thereby allowing control of the assets handed down. The pract
'Aussie Rick'
Nov 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

Having visited this City some years back this book brought back snapshot memories of the street kids begging and selling all sorts of things each time you stopped. The crushing crowds at the Museum and the amount of traffic and the noise and smell of a truly vibrant city. The book made me realise how much I did not see and understand.

The author, Max Rodenbeck, tells a remarkable and fascinating story of this cities history, how and why it has become what it is now. The author flicks back and fo
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best singe overview of Cairo, the mother of the world, whose name in Arabic (al qahira) literally means "victorious" Rodenbeck, who writes for the Economist and has lived in Cairo on and off for his entire life, paints a broad canvas—from ancient Egyptian Memphis, through the foreign occupiers (Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mamelukes, Ottoman Turks, French and finally the English), to the modern, grubby, dusty and charming city full of inequity and contradictions that Cairo is toda ...more
Mary Ellen
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Very Excited to read this book. It looked great but in the end it hasn't kept my attention. I need characters to love to be drawn in by and to care about. I guess that means I am not much of a scholar (who knew! Ha Ha!) I doubt I'll ever really finish it. Plus I feel that it focuses on the wrong things. Guess I should write my own book about Cairo and focus on what I think should be focused on.
Oct 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Een heel interessante geschiedenis van de stad Cairo. Ik heb al een aardig rijtje boeken , die de geschiedenis van een bepaalde stad behandelen. Na de laatste ontwikkelingen in de Arabische werld is dit boek een mooie aanvulling. Het speelt maar tot 1990 (ongeveer), maar aan het eind wordt wel duidelijk, waarom de gebeurtenissen van de laatste tijd onvermijdelijk waren. De schrijver heeft gewoond en gewerkt in Cairo en spreekt Arabisch. Dat merk je, als je het boek leest.
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This brilliant story of Cairo is neither a history nor a travelog but something in between. Rodenbeck brilliantly weaves together history with personal observations of Cairo, her sights, and her people. The book gives a great background for anyone planning to travel to Cairo and will leave you wanting to go even more! Even if you aren't planning on traveling to Cairo, this book offers a unique, candid, and somewhat romantic view of Al-Qahira - The City Victorious.
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
straight-up MUST if you ever intend to live in or even visit this CITY VICTORIOUS. It reads so easily and somehow Rodenbeck manages to teach you a thing or two about Mamluk torture practices and Fatimid burials. If you love Cairo, you'll love it, and if you're disillusioned with Cairo, you'll gain a re-appreciation for this magical place (if you hate Cairo, then GTFO).
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As I live in Cairo, I found the book fascinating. Rodenbeck truly has insight into this city victorious, and sometimes not so victorious. Pretty much everything Rodenbeck writes about Egypt is very good.
Angela McCallum
Apr 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: travel, egypt
This is my favorite book about the city of Cairo. I read it during my first year there. Back then, I didn't really understand Cairo's intrigue. The City Victorious brought Cairo's history to life. Unlike so many other novels about a city, it was honest and completely enthralling.
Zora O'Neill
Sep 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mid-east
Changed my outlook on Cairo significantly, which is saying a lot. Not that I hated the place, but I was too caught up in the small hassles to appreciate the big picture, which Rodenbeck depicts so well, in caring detail.
Oct 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Cairo: The City Victorious -(Qahra - Al Nasser) is BRILLIANT!!! Rodenbeck really knows and loves Cairo, he combines history with the present, it is anecdotal yet he does not stint on scholarship. 10 out of 10!
One review said that every great city deserves a book like this and I agree.
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Easily the best history of Cairo (and Egypt) ever written. Great mix of history and stories.
Apr 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
A short, fascinating history of Cairo's thousand year history as a city, plus a good bit about what came before.
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history, 2010
I thought this book was excellent. It gave a great background on the history from ancient to modern times of Cairo, the most populous city in the Arab world.
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, haunting portrait of a city
Oct 20, 2011 marked it as to-read
I missed this one when I was preparing for my Egypt trip...oops.
Osama Elkadi
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read lately. A must read to every Egyptian and an entertaining and illuminating read for everyone.
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very good history of a constantly evolving city and people - a must read if you plan to visit Cairo.
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