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Deep knowledge, deep affection
am 17. Juni 2000
Rodenbeck not only knows Cairo-he spent part of his childhood there, later studied Arabic and returned as a correspondent for The Economist-but, more importantly, he loves Cairo, not romantically but wholly, "in all her shambolic grandeur and operatic despair." His historical insight is substantial, and serious-minded readers who complain of his leaving off source citations will, in the next breath, praise his expansive bibliography. Anecdote, analysis and character are all sharp, rendered up to the reader in a kaleidoscopic fashion that is both erudite and populist. The approach suits Cairo well, for "other places may have been neater, quieter, and less prone to wrenching change, but they all lacked something. The easy warmth of Cairenes, perhaps, and their indomitable insouciance; the complexities and complicities of their relations; their casual mixing of sensuality with moral rigor, of razor wit with credulity."