Play Book Tag discussion

11 views
Archive: Other Books > The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas- 4 Stars (Decathlon-July)

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Hayjay315 (new)

Hayjay315 | 222 comments In The Last Watchman of Old Cairo author Michael David Lukas weaves together the stories of Berkeley literature student Joseph, synagogue watchman Ali and British twin sisters Margaret and Agnes who are antiquity scholars.

The book opens by detailing how the Muslim orphaned water carrier Ali is living with his uncle but in the process of carrying messages between the chief advisor to the caliph and the governing council of the Ibn Ezra Synagogue obtains the position of night watchman at the synagogue. What Ali comes to discover is that thousands of precious documents, including the Ezra Scroll are contained within the genizah, a hidden storage area within the synagogue.

Shifting to the present day, the reader is introduced to Joseph who has just received a package from his recently deceased father containing a piece of paper with Arabic and Hebrew script, a plaque indicating the paper was a gift to Muhammed al-Raqb from Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis and a business card from a Mr. Claude Mosseri with his phone number and address. Joseph decides to set off for Cairo and seek Mr. Mosseri to determine if the contents of the package have any connection to his family history of the al-Raqb men who served as watchmen of the Ibn Ezra Synagogue for a thousand years. Through his search he will come to unravel many of his family secrets and gain a greater understanding of his Jewish mother’s culture and his Muslim father’s culture.

The final timeline takes place in the 19th century where Margaret and Agnes work with Cambridge university professor Dr. Schechter and his assistant Miss de Witt in a race against time as they seek to prevent rampant looting of documents from the Ibn Ezra Synagogue from occurring any longer. Through this attempt they become aware of the story of the Ezra Scroll and the history of the al-Raqb watchmen.

In rich and vivid prose and descriptions the city of Cairo comes to life as themes of self identity and discovery, bridging cultural differences and family and community relationships are explored. A four star read and definitely one of my favorites of the year so far!


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Love your review! I still have this book in my head and think about it. So glad you loved it.


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8533 comments Loved your review too! I also think this book stayed with me, and enjoyed reading it with you all. What do you think happened with the Ezra Scroll?


message 4: by Hayjay315 (new)

Hayjay315 | 222 comments Thanks Rachel and Amy! It was nice to read a book that lived up to all the buzz it was getting!

Amy, I think Mr. Mosseri ended up being the keeper of the Scroll.


message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8533 comments I tend to favor that ending as well. That the old Jews in Cairo became the last watchmen of the scroll. That while other things could be scattered or sold, This was an item that forever needed a watchmen.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Amy wrote: "I tend to favor that ending as well. That the old Jews in Cairo became the last watchmen of the scroll. That while other things could be scattered or sold, This was an item that forever needed a wa..."

The Ben Ezra Synagogue is on my list of place I want to visit after reading this book. While its not only a museum I think it would be wonderful to see.


back to top