Sunday, December 2, 2012

RABT: "Cairo:The Mother of the World" by Herbert L. Smith Book Review

Travel Narrative
Title: Cairo: The Mother of the World
Author: Herbert L. Smith
Date Published: 2008

Cairo: The Mother Of The World explores the heart of a city that most tourists never see – an affectionate, humorous close-up of the aggregation that is Cairo, as well as an adventure among the streets, tombs, houses, and monuments that are the city yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Many have said that Cairo doesn’t change, but it does; sometimes very slowly, with a foot in the past and the other stepping toward the future.  At another time, it may explode with a sudden transformation that boggles the mind, as in the revolution of 2011-2012. Among all the confusion and noise and sand, it is still the same Cairo that many expatriates have come to love.
For anyone who has longed to visit Cairo, but has not had opportunity or felt a tour was risky at this time, this little book provides an intimate glimpse into the city that is largely unchanged, even after the revolution, and is moving forward, bit by bit, into a better tomorrow.
Love it with us as we walk among the people of Cairo and share the joy and tumult of the life that only the true Cairene is capable of appreciating in the midst of the gigantic jumble we call home.  It will be an unexpected treat.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Since I have visited the Middle Easy (Yemen), I found this book exceptionally interesting.  He caught my attention right off the bat with showing how egocentric American student are compared to the rest of the world.   appreciated his explanation of Middle Eastern/Egyptian culture, and their perception of Western culture.  I found some of the things said about Islam intriguing, and I was almost sorry to see this book end.  I would have loved pictures and stories/information organized just a little more into appropriate categories.  I certainly appreciated the brevity of the book and the ease with which I read it.  If you want a quick look at Cairo, Egypt today, this is the book for you!

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.

t has been my good fortune to live and work in schools and universities around the world. I
started teaching in the California State University system more than thirty years ago, after a time
working in secondary schools, went on to Egypt and the Middle East, and finally to Argentina. It
has been a fascinating series of events, from one adventure to another, and I loved nearly every
minute of it. (A few of the minutes were not quite so lovable for various reasons.)

Life as an expat lecturer and instructor led me into some unique and sometimes difficult

situations, but my appraisal of the whole was one of amazement that I was able to get to so
many wonderful places and enjoy the life of the people there. I taught English courses to
students who had already developed skills in the language and was always happy to tell them
about life in the U.S., as well as my appreciation of the life I led in their home countries. I would
gladly do it all again with only slight changes here and there.

A sustaining hobby throughout my life is music. I am a pianist, organist and composer with

many years of experience in church music. I found that wherever I went in the world, with the
exception of Argentina, I was almost immediately working with a church, playing the services
(usually on Fridays in the Middle East) regularly. Music is one of my fondest dreams as well as
a ‘forever’ joy.

I now live in Oregon with my wife of fifty years, Glenda, and we love the beauties that surround

us here. I will never tire of reliving the past, of course, either in writing or actually traveling, and
any time I have an opportunity to return to Cairo or Doha or La Rioja, I am excited to go again.


Excerpts from
Cairo: The Mother Of The World
Herbert L. Smith

               “Cairo is a kaleidoscope of light and color.  From the air, as I arrived for the first time, the city looked wearily drab and very much like the desert it sits on, but Cairo is no desert.  Instead, a thriving, throbbing, turbulent city of tremendous contrasts and contradictions awaits on the shore of the Nile.  Called “The Mother of The World” by her citizenry, Cairo works, plays, lives, and plans the future as she recalls a former glory that is still vigorously present.”

               “Although Cairo isn’t the oldest city in the world, it is very old, and has risen from the past without sacrificing its oldest self.  The city goes on living in a kind of renewed incarnation with each succeeding era.  Cairo is both impossible and improbable, but it is as strong today as in the past, incorporating the very newest into the already existing mega-metropolis, and there is always a sense of the past clinging to the stones, wherever one goes in the city.
               Some of the newest suburbs sit on ancient grounds, where temples and palaces and long vanished houses once stood, and where apartment blocks filled with families and hope for the future are fixed to the land today.  The oldest parts hold streets and buildings that were much the same long ago, even as much as an entire millennium in the past.  The oldest mosques and churches still witness to their grandest days, and the oldest houses are filled with families, some directly descended from the original builders who lived there more than five or six centuries in the past.  This is indeed an old city, and although many things have changed, the spirit of Cairo, the collective memory of its ancient history, is palpable in the Cairo of today.”

               “The expression that a picture is worth a thousand words may indeed be true, especially for those who are visually oriented, but I often favor words – words have a way of insinuating themselves into the consciousness more subtly than most pictures I have seen.  There are many picture books, sometimes called photo essays, about Cairo, and there are online sites filled with pictures. These pictures can evoke strong memories, but written descriptions, filled with evocative phrases and ideas, create a world that is partly imaginary and partly experiential, whatever that experience may be.  We bring ourselves more truly into written expressions than we are able to bring ourselves into a photograph or other realistic representation of a scene or situation.
               So it is with my experience of Cairo.  I love the entirety of the place, and find all kinds of enchantment within it.  I do not, therefore, always want to see the city in hard, photographic dimensions, although I know they are there.  I sometimes want to see the softer and gentler memories that I have assigned to the city from a recollection of my own encounters and adventures.  The physiognomy of Cairo, its countenance or face, seems one of the best words I can find to describe this ‘picture’ of Cairo, to bring it to the fore, and to find the beauty of the city beneath its rough exterior.”              

Follow the entire tour here


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