10 Must-Read Books to Enjoy Before the Summer Ends

Books to read

Summer is all about relaxing. Whether you’re doing it at home or by the beach, having a stack of books by your side just makes it all better. We’ve picked out a diverse set of books that’ll nourish your mind and give you some feels!

1. Zikrayat by Nayra Atiya 

Zikrayat Egyptian books
Zikrayat – Nayra Atiya

Between 1948 and 1957, a period that witnessed two wars between Egypt and Israel, 60,000 members of Egypt’s 75,000-strong Jewish population left the country, compelled by growing hostility to them because of their presumed links to Zionism, economic insecurity, and after 1956, overt expulsion. Decades later, during the 1980s and 1990s, the personal reminiscences of eight Egyptian Jewish women, presently residents of New York who had left Egypt, were meticulously collected by Nayra Atiya.

While Atiya’s sample of eight narrators represents only a tiny percentage of the Jews who left Egypt, their accounts tell us much about the middle- and upper-class Jews who migrated to the Americas and Europe, giving us a vivid sense of their lives in Egypt before their departure and the dynamic role they played in Egyptian society. They were the children or grandchildren of generations of Jews who migrated to Egypt from around or near the Mediterranean to escape economic hardship and persecution or, in one case, a family conflict.

With one exception, Atiya’s interlocutors resided in relatively upscale neighborhoods in Egypt near other Jewish families. They lived in elegant apartments, with servants, fine foods, memberships in elite clubs, and summers spent near Alexandria or in Europe. In Zikrayat, Atiya movingly captures the essence of these women’s characters and experiences, the fabric of their day-to-day lives, and the complex, many-layered mood of those times in Egypt. In doing so she brings to life the ties that bind all Egyptians, offering a glimpse into a now-vanished world—and the heartbreak of exile and migration.

2. Making Film in Egypt by Chihab El-Khachab 

Making Film In Egypt Egyptian books
Making Film in Egypt – Chihab El Khachab 

The enormous influence of the Egyptian film industry on popular culture and collective imagination across the Arab world is widely acknowledged, but little is known about its concrete workings behind the scenes. Making Film in Egypt provides a fascinating glimpse into the lived reality of commercial film production in today’s Cairo, with an emphasis on labor hierarchies, production practices, and the recent transition to digital technologies. Drawing on in-depth interviews and participant observation among production workers, on-set technicians, and artistic crew members, Chihab El Khachab sets out to answer a simple question: how do filmmakers deal with the unpredictable future of their films? The answer unfolds through a journey across the industry’s political economy, its labor processes, its technological infrastructure, its logistical and artistic work, and its imagined audiences. The result is a complex and nuanced portrait of the Arab world’s largest film industry, rich in ethnographic detail and theoretical innovations in media anthropology, media studies, and Middle East anthropology.

3. Banat El-Ayam Di 

Banat El Ayam Di Egyptian books
Banat El Ayam Di – Multiple Authors

Meet 50 amazing Egyptian girls and women, who dared to be different and unleash their power. This book is a labor of love from proud Egyptian women about amazing Egyptian women to girls all over the world. It is time to break glass ceilings, shatter molds, and break stereotypes. If you can see it, know that you can be it. No fairy tales, but inspiring real tales. Start writing your story …

4. I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti

I Saw Ramallah books
I Saw Ramallah – Mourid Barghouti

The first narrative work of the well-known Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti is an autobiographical memoir about the ironies of homecoming. The bridge that Barghouti crosses as a young man leaving his country in 1966 to pursue university studies in Cairo is the same bridge that he uses to cross back in 1996 after thirty long years in the Diaspora. I Saw Ramallah is about home and homelessness. The harrowing experience of a Palestinian, denied the most elementary human rights in his occupied country and in exile alike, is transformed into a humanist work. Palestine has been appropriated, dispossessed, renamed, changed beyond recognition by the usurpers, yet from the heap of broken images and shattered homes, Barghouti repossesses his homeland. Awarded the 1997 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.

5. Women in Revolutionary Egypt by Shereen Abouelnaga 

Women in Revolutionary Egypt books
Women in Revolutionary Egypt – Shereen Aboulnaga 

The 25 January 2011 uprising and the unprecedented dissent and discord to which it gave rise shattered the notion of homogeneity that had characterized state representations of Egypt and Egyptians since 1952. It allowed for the eruption of identities along multiple lines, including class, ideology, culture, and religion, long suppressed by state control. Concomitantly a profusion of women’s voices arose to further challenge the state-managed feminism that had sought to define and carefully circumscribe women’s social and civic roles in Egypt.

Women in Revolutionary Egypt takes the uprising as the point of departure for an exploration of how gender in post-Mubarak Egypt came to be rethought, reimagined, and contested. It examines key areas of tension between national and gender identities, including gender empowerment through art and literature, particularly graffiti and poetry, the disciplining of the body, and the politics of history and memory.

Shereen Abouelnaga argues that this new cartography of women’s struggle has to be read in a context that takes into consideration the micropolitics of everyday life as well as the larger processes that work to separate the personal from the political. She shows how a new generation of women is resisting, both discursively and visually, the notion of a fixed or ‘authentic’ notion of Egyptian womanhood in spite of prevailing social structures and in face of all gendered politics of imagined nation.

6. Bilhana by Yasmine and Shewekar Elgharably 

Bilhana Egyptian books
Bilhana – Yasmine and Shewekar Elgharably

Middle Eastern cuisine is renowned the world over for its sophistication, variety, and flavor. Bilhana (Egyptian for ‘bon appétit’) brings a contemporary twist to traditional Middle Eastern dishes with the use of healthy cooking methods and the freshest ingredients the region has to offer. Spanning the vast area south of the Mediterranean from the East (Lebanon and Egypt) to the West (Morocco), from simple mezze or breakfast dishes to elaborate stews and roasts, the recipes in this book showcase the vibrant colors and immense variety of Middle Eastern cooking as well as being easy to follow. Included are recipes for Roasted Eggplant with Tahini, Alexandrian Grilled Shrimp, Shakshuka, Moroccan Lamb Stew, Vegan Moussaka, Green Beans in Garlic and Caramelized Onions, Pomegranate and Guava Salad, and much more. Exquisitely illustrated with more than 130 full-color photographs.

7. The Lady of Zamalek by Ashraf El-Ashmawi

The Lady of Zamalek
The Lady of Zamalek – Ashraf El-Ashmawi

It was in the spring of 1927 that Cairo’s attention was captured by the shocking murder of prominent businessman Solomon Cicurel in his Nile-side villa in the upscale Zamalek district. It was a burglary that went wrong and four culprits were soon arrested. Their trial was concluded swiftly, their punishments were decisive, and society breathed a sigh of relief.

In Ashraf El-Ashmawi’s telling, however, there was a fifth accomplice, Abbas, who escaped back to his home in the countryside to lay low until the murder trial blew over. He had not left empty-handed and had kept some documents from Cicurel’s villa, ones that he realized would lead him to a hidden safe.

Abbas hatched a plan to return to the capital, find the safe, and make his fortune. The first step was to place his sister Zeinab with Cicurel’s widow, Paula.   A web of twists and intrigues run through the life of Abbas, in what unfolds as a tale of modern Egypt—taking in the Second World War, the 1952 revolution and the rise of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the 1967 war, the Sadat and Mubarak eras—from the 1920s through to 1990.

8. Midnight in Cairo: The Female Stars of Egypt’s Roaring 20s by Raphael Cormack 

Midnight in Cairo
Midnight in Cairo – Raphael Cormack 

1920s Cairo saw singers pressing hit records, new theaters and dramatic troupes springing up, and cabarets packed—a counter-culture was on the rise. In bars, hash-dens and music halls, people of all classes and backgrounds came together as a passionate group of eccentrics, narcissists, and idealists strove to entertain Egyptian society.

Of these performers, Cairo’s biggest stars were female, and they asserted themselves on the stage like never before. Two of the most famous troupes were run by women; Badia Masabni’s dancehall became the hottest nightspot in town; pioneer of Egyptian cinema Aziza Amir made her stage debut; and legendary singer Umm Kulthum first rose to fame. It is these women, who knew both the opportunities and prejudices that this world offered, who best reveal this cosmopolitan and raucous city’s secrets.

Introducing a thrilling cast of characters, Midnight in Cairo reveals a world of revolutionary ideas and provocative art—one which laid the foundations of Arab popular culture today. It is a story of modern Cairo as we have never known it before.

9. El Leban El Se7ri by Reem Gamil 

Al leban el se7ry
El Leban El Se7ri – Reem Gamil

Omar Abaza is a young hotshot, who works in advertising. He lives a life of luxury and always gets what he wants. To him, love and friendship are only means of killing time. The only person he truly loves is his grandmother, Gigi Salem, who was one of the most prominent Egyptian film stars in the 60s.

One day, Omar wakes up to news of his grandmother’s sudden death and later discovers it was a suicide.  He develops an obsession with finding out what led her to end her life. His search takes him on a turbulent journey out of his bustling life into her mysterious one, where he uncovers the most shocking of secrets.

His path to finding the truth behind his grandmother’s death makes him both love and hate her. That is, until he discovers something that turns his whole life upside down…

10. How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts by Iman Mersal 

How to mend
How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts – Iman Mersal

A new narrative of motherhood, moving between of interior and exterior landscapes, woven of diaries, readings, and photographs.

Iman Mersal intricately weaves a new narrative of motherhood, moving between interior and exterior landscapes, diaries, readings, and photographs to question old and current representations of motherhood and the related space of unconditional love, guilt, personal goals, and traditional expectations. What is hidden in narratives of motherhood in fictional and nonfictional texts as well as in photographs?

These books will have you traveling the world from the comfort of your chaise-longue! God knows after the past two years, we certainly need some travelling.

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