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Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street

(The Cairo Trilogy #1-3)

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  4,518 ratings  ·  368 reviews
Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent epic trilogy of colonial Egypt appears here in one volume for the first time. The Nobel Prize-winning writer's masterwork is the engrossing story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain's occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patri
Hardcover, Everyman's Library, 1313 pages
Published October 16th 2001 by Everyman's Library (first published 1957)
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Start your review of Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street (The Cairo Trilogy #1-3)
Wonderful! painful to see that Egyptian life continues to repeat old patterns, through the later 20th century...and on into the 21st. For me, this trilogy epitomizes what I look for and, in fact crave, in historical fiction. Nahfouz has placed people within families and families within their own parts of society in Cairo during three distinct times during the first half of the 20th century. He has embroiled them in social, religious and political events, as passive and active participants. So th ...more
In a way this is a deeply familiar story despite it's colonial Egyptian setting. If you've ever sniffed a nineteenth century family saga, particularly one that stretched into the twentieth century flavoured by the author's progress from boy to writer then you know, emotionally, what to expect, overbearing hypocritical patriarch, meek housebound wife, youngest son en-route via teaching to become an author, add mid novel stone throwing and protests at occupying British, stir occasionally on a low ...more
This trilogy narrates the rise and fall of the family of al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, a tyrannical hypocrite who oppresses his wife, terrorizes his children and leads a life of debauchery on the sly. Although he may be the ruler of the family, the one who enables it to function from day to day is his hard-working, slavishly docile and incredibly submissive wife, Amina. His wife and children use different strategies to wriggle out from beneath the iron fist of their husband and father, not all o ...more
Roman Clodia
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Volume 1: Palace Walk
She told him frankly that he was excessively conservative in his treatment of his family. It was abnormal.

When I started reading this I was immediately reminded of nineteenth century classics such as Middlemarch or Trollope's Palliser Novels, a story where 'the marriage plot' is supreme and where an extended family's dramas play out against a background of political change. But reading the introduction after I'd finished, I see that Mahfouz himself cites The Forsyte Saga
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Perhaps Doubt was as much of an evasion of responsibility as mysticism or a passive belief in science."

I don't think there's any significant subject or philosophy of life and nationality that Mahfouz hasn't touched upon in this magnum opus of his literary career. If no critic has, I will go ahead and declare that Mahfouz is to Egypt what Dostoevsky (and even Tolstoy) is to Russia. And yet, the appeal of the book is universal and magnanimous. He is such a crafty writer that he can make you feel
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Originally written as one massive novel, Mahfouz’s publisher would not touch it. It was only by serializing it and breaking it up into three books that we get to marvel at Mahfouz’s finest work today. The Everyman’s Library edition also has an excellent introduction by Hafez.

The novel traces three generations of an Egyptian family, coping with its ups and downs, while the country was grappling with political uncertainty.

Palace Walk

The first of the three books is set around the time of the first
Feb 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: old-favorites
Many wonderful writers have taken me to exotic locales, but one who has been in my thoughts a great deal lately is Naguib Mahfous. Thanks to this man, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, I feel a special kinship with the people of Egypt. They are more than the TV images of a deadly riot after a soccer game or a street filled with an angry mob. I don't mean to say that those images don't tell a story in their own right, but rather that, having read Mahfouz's Cairo trilogy, it's easy f ...more
ReemK10 (Paper Pills)
Apr 25, 2022 rated it it was amazing
149 readers signed up to read #TheCairoTrilogy for #Mahfouz22. We were always engaged with the characters in this trilogy. It really is quite an amazing feat that Naguib Mahfouz was able to hold our interest as we eagerly turned the pages of this 1313-page doorstopper!
Roger DeBlanck
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
At the level of sheer storytelling, The Cairo Trilogy (comprised of Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street) is remarkable in its depth and scope of chronicling various individuals over three generations in the al-Jawad family. For me, the most satisfying aspect of the three books is the cerebral insight in which Mahfouz investigates each major character throughout the successive generations. The result is a family saga immensely rich in its range of personalities. Readers feel as though ...more
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, classics
Wow. Over the half of a year that I've read these three books this family has become part of me, through their humanity and their flaws. ...more
Sean Sullivan
Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this was my review written for the first volume in this trilogy:

The Palace Walk is the best novel I have read in years. In the translation published by the Everyman Library the Cairo Trilogy is funny, biting and tragic with precise descriptions and deeply thought out characters. Though I haven’t read much of the great western popular novelists of the 19th century (meaning, Balzac, Dickens, etc) I get the impression that Mafouz was heavily influenced by them. This book is descriptive of setting a
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'd love to give this less stars, but I can't. I absolutely hated the father of the family, I think I never hated a character in a book that much. At some point I even threw the book against a wall, which just isn't me. However, that's a sign that the story has completely caught you, and that the book is great. ...more
Kiran Bhat
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most powerful novels of the 20th century. Mahfouz takes Cairo and makes it his own the way Balzac commands Paris. His depictions of inter-generational conflict and misunderstanding are some of the best I have seen portrayed yet in literature. His translated writing is also not particularly difficult to get into, and so his work is easy to recommend to someone who wants to read something linguistically simple, yet emotionally complex.
Neil R. Coulter
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

I’m embarrassed that I only recently heard of Naguib Mahfouz. I have no excuse, and my missing him until now is only further proof that there are too many books waiting to be discovered in this world. Whatever the case, I am thankful to have discovered another fantastic novelist, who opens up for me new cultural and historical vistas and perspectives. As I’ve been learning more about the Arab world recently, reading Mahfouz is a very pleasant way of tying together some of the details I
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A problem with writing a review of Naguib Mahfouz’s This Cairo Trilogy, (Everman Edition) is that I am not sure if I am the intended audience. A fair aspect in judging artistry is the degree to which the work achieves universality. This goal has to be measured against the context from which the author is writing. In this trilogy it is clear we are reading the work of an artist. Not just my opinion, Mafouz is a Nobel Prize winner. He is also one of the founders of modern Arabic Literature. A larg ...more
Dave O'Neal
Mar 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was in thrall to this epic trilogy all last summer. The story of a traditional Egyptian family in Cairo against the political and social upheavals of the late teens, 20s and 30s. I can't begin to summarize quickly why it's fascinating, because it is so on many levels. To pick a few: It's a view of a culture so different from mine as to seem another planet, yet I can relate to every character. Just seeing into a traditional Muslim household is fascinating: the women virtually never leave the ho ...more
Aug 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
This 1,313-page novel by Naguib Mafouz who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 is seemingly formidable but in fact it is highly readable since the team of four scholars have translated so beautifully that we readers can read on and on without any regrets due to our ignorance of its Arabian original version.
Robert Sheppard

When we think of African Literature that has universal impact and importance for all people inside and outside
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Palace Walk (a reread in preparation of reading the rest of the trilogy)
A quiet, yet gripping story of change, culture and tradition. Told with humor and warmth the story portrays a country in a time of turmoil & upheaval. The old ways are changing, the future is uncertain.
The story of the Abd al-Jawad family mirrors the changes in the country. The family strives for and are compelled to follow the stringent ways of tradition and obedience but they show their individuality & minds in small, hid
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
My dad really loved this book, but I'm kind of lukewarm on it, which makes me sad. I really have a strong distaste for parts of the current arabic culture, which alternately villifies and sanctifies women, with nothing in between. Yes, this book does kind of deal with that, but I found that the very way the author writes was equally sexist. The women in this book were almost always cartoonish, described by their attractiveness, or their virtue, or perhaps their lack thereof, with little effort m ...more
Moushumi Ghosh
Oct 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a tour de force, a universe, an adventure, a story of a nation, an epic, a journey and a deeply beautiful story. I feel blessed to have encountered it. Naguib Mahfouz's talent lies in making every one of his main characters multi faceted and deeply human. None of them can be seen as black or white. Each one of them is magnificently rounded and dynamic. Reading The Cairo Trilogy is reading life.

Many thanks to Reem (@ReemK10, @Paper Pills) and #BookTwitter for choosing The Cairo Trilogy (
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Book I Palace Walk:
By the years 1917-1919, Britain had liberated the western nations, encouraging Egypt's desire to be similarly independent from the British Protectorate of 1852. Egyptian hopes went unfulfilled for many frustrated, angry years even after the Egyptian Revolution 1918-1919.

The focus of this trilogy is the al-Jawad family of seven people. Its head of the house is a prosperous bourgeois merchant of a religious home. Unbeknownst at home, he's leading a double life but making sure
Chris Moriarty
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Forget about the Nobel Prize for a minute. This is not stuffy pretentious Capital L Literature. It's a potboiler family saga in the grand 19th century tradition. If you have ever complained that Trollope didn't write ENOUGH, then Naguib Mahfouz is your new best friend.

Oh ... And there's poignant irony, proustian characters, profound insights into human nature, the history of modern Egypt all wrapped up into one soaringly poetic masterpiece .... Yeah. Fine. Whatever.

The main point is that you'd
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I did read the trilogy years ago and yet it remains my favourite of all times . It beautifully and soo deeply depicts the Egyptian society of the time;during and years after the first world war; through the ups and downs of of" Ahmed Abd El Jawad"family .Reading the books,I felt that I was living in those streets of"Al Sukareyya" or "Kasr Al Shawq" and knew the characters who became part of my family or my friends through more than 1000 pages I could live and breath with them layer after layer I ...more
Nov 18, 2010 marked it as to-read
From Powell's website: "A student of philosophy and an avid reader, [Mahfouz] has been influenced by many Western writers, including Flaubert, Balzac, Zola, Camus, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and, above all, Proust." (!) ...more
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the first time, reading Naguib Mahfouz, that I was really able to understand how women could live in the world of the cloistered family harim--what they knew and didn't know, how they thought about their lives. These books are a miracle, a bridge into an utterly foreign way of life. What a writer, elegant prose, very well translated, so vivid and sensuous and clearly visualized. ...more
Rick Slane reads more reviews less
I was surprised to find the English translation was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I liked the first novel best.
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading the three books and this audiobook was a delightful revisiting of the highlights.
James Henderson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Naguib Mahfouz (Arabic author profile: نجيب محفوظ) was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films. ...more

Other books in the series

The Cairo Trilogy (3 books)
  • Palace Walk (The Cairo Trilogy, #1)
  • قصر الشوق
  • السكرية

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