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am 22. Oktober 1998
A must-read history of Cairo. A well written history of this interesting capital city. The writing style adopted by Mr Rodenbeck skirts the usual heaviness of history books, and he has created a highly readable book, quite sympathetic to Cairenes. The last third of the book deals with the insurmountable social and economical problems in modern Cairo, the ascendancy of a newly moneyed class, crassly disconnected from the remaining of its inhabitants, and with the city's cultural vacuum.
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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."
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am 17. Juli 2000
This book covers all aspects of Cairo's present & past. You'll find the whole thread of history, from the creation of the world, over pharaonic Egypt, the history of a medieval world capital where a big deal of Islamic history happened to recent events, politics, background on Islam... This book is a rare condensation of knowledge not readily accessible to westerners. After reading, you feel an expert on middle-east matters - and you want to go there.
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am 28. Oktober 1999
What a pleasure it was to read this book! Mr. Rodenbeck manages to cram a lot of fascinating information into just 267 pages. The book ranges over an enormous period of time, from the days of the pharoahs right up until the present. Obviously, in such a short book you can't go really in depth but somehow after you're done reading you feel that you really understand Cairo and the people who live there. I learned many interesting things. Did you know that a thousand years ago Cairo was full of apartment buildings that ranged from 7 stories up to possibly 14 stories high? The city was so small considering the size of the population that they had nowhere to go but up! Another fascinating fact was that when the pharoah Cheops had his pyramid built at Giza the specifications called for 2.3 million stone blocks of an average weight of 2.5 tons to be used. In order for the pyramid to be completed during the 30 years of Cheops's reign this meant that a stone block had to be into place every 2 minutes! I could go on and on. You learn something on every page: about the physical layout of the city and how it has changed over the centuries; its relationship to the Nile; the way the wealthy and the middle class and the poor live; the importance of Islam and the struggle to find a balance between religion and the secular world; about such leaders as Farouk, Nasser and Sadat; the occupation of Cairo by Napoleon and later on by the British. One of the best things about the book is that Mr. Rodenbeck does not let himself get in the way of this wonderful story. He describes the way things have been in the past and the way they are now and he doesn't preach or predict or otherwise feel the need to insert his ego into what he has written. This is really an excellent book!
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am 5. Mai 1999
Although an Egyptian currently attending college in the USA, I am however a Cairene, and have lived in Cairo for most of my life. I've frequently wondered about the love-hate relationship we Cairenes have with our ancient yet bustling city. The more I thought about it, the less I seemed to be able to describe how I really felt about growing up in Cairo. Then I came upon Max Rodenbeck's book, and I can't describe how happy I am to have read it.
Rodenbeck's book is a truly fascinating account of Cairo. It's accounts of Cairo's history and its people are extremely vivid, yet do not burden the reader with excessive and pedantic detail. The author however examines all sides of Cairo's historical development, but most importantly, Rodenbeck devotes great efforts to examining the lives and attitudes of Cairenes through the ages. It is in this respect that Cairo: The City Victorious is truly fascinating. No book that I know of has ever come this close to capturing the indomitable spirit of Cairenes and how they and their city have endured through the ages.
This book is remarkably even-handed in its treatment of Cairo, giving credit where it's due, but never shying away from criticism when it is needed. It is an educating, entertaining, and in short, excellent narrative. This book has made me understand my own home city better, and after reading it, I'm more proud than ever to be a Cairene. Thank you Mr. Rodenbeck for a wonderful book.
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am 19. Oktober 1998
Review from the London Financial Times,  October 17, 1998.
---------------------------- CAIRO - THE CITY VICTORIOUS by Max Rodenbeck Picador, 395 pages ----------------------------
THE CITY OF THE PHOENIX
Cairo has survived through the centuries against all odds, writes Nicholas Woodsworth
As anyone who has ever strolled its streets will tell you, Cairo is one of the most chaotic, sense-assaulting cities in the world. Its noise, bustle, size and sheer press of humanity make it a record breaker - it is, according to the United Nations, the most densely-populated large urban area on earth....If there is any shortcoming in this account of transformation and renewal, it is that Rodenbeck shies in predicting the next stage. A correspondent for The Economist. he implies that privatisation, new investment and the growth of globalised markets will pull Cairo out of its present problems. It is a tall order, even the formidable double threat facing Cairo at the outset of its sixth millennia - severe overpopulation and Islamic fundamentalism. But as Cairenes themselves would no doubt assert, they have weathered equally formidable threats before.
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am 6. Januar 2000
I don't think that I could add too much more to the previous excellent reviews of this book but I will try. 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 forth from the earliest days to modern Cairo but you never get lost in the story, the narrative just drags you along happily. This is a great book, full of interesting pieces of information and a great way to see Cairo without actually leaving your reading chair! I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to visit Cairo or who already has. Highly recommended reading.
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am 2. Mai 1999
Anyone who has been to Cairo, wandered its streets, and read about its history, will still have trouble fathoming what one sees and its relationship to the city's long and complex past. The author skillfully wades through all of these cultural and historical waters while focusing on the consistencies of the city's history and of the character of its people rather than on any dialectic between a troubled present and the glorious past.
Rodenbeck will take the reader through 5000 years of Cairo's history and while giving him the sensation of having been in all of the city's forms from Pharonic Memphis until the present. The reader is there, in every metaphorphisis of the city, in Memphis, in Fustat, in Fatimid Al-Qahirah, in the Citerdal and the European-style quarters. This book is the closest thing that one can have to a time machine, the reader will feel as if he is there in the ancient, midevil, Mamluke and colonial times, and also in the present.
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am 27. Mai 2000
Having visited Cairo many times over the years and having gotten to know it a very little I was suspect of any attempt - especially by an American - to do the imensity of that vast pile justice.
And I was wrong. Gloriously wrong. Rodenbeck writes not only with facility but with depth. There is not a dull page. You will be entertained and you will be educated.
After reading it I rushed off to Amazon to buy books of that greatest of all historians Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun at Rodenbeck's 'suggestion'
It will take your breath away and give it back with the tang of what may well be the world's greatest city.
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am 7. Januar 2000
I had only read a few pages of the book when I found tears rolling down my face. Dr. Rodenbeck (i've had the pleasure of being one of his literature students)gives you CAIRO in a nutshell. Umu Kulthoum's voice, and the overwhelming sight of millions of books stacked dustily in small shops, a dime a dozen, tell u exactly why some people like -no, adore- this noisy polluted city of ours. Dr. Rodenbeck, in his knowledge of Cairo, is more Egyptian than most Egyptians I know !
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