About the book
The 57 short essays that comprise this book were written during 1990 to 1995 while the author, Dr Lilllian Craig Harris, a former American Foreign Service officer married to British diplomat Alan Goulty, lived in Cairo. The essays explore Egypt’s cities, deserts, societies, monasteries, and circumstances in a time of widespread unrest, which helped set the scene for the Arab Spring two decades on. Included are essays about life in Cairo, diplomatic difficulties, religious tensions, the problems of the poor (including a growing resort to suicide), unrest under the Mubarak regime, travels in the Egyptian deserts, Upper Egypt, the Sinai, and the far west of the country––and more.
The following is a sample of topics discussed: Malfunction of government, deepening corruption, and growing anger over dictatorship; religious tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians; antigovernment violence, usually well shielded from foreign eyes; marginalization of the poor; the growing anger of impoverished and marginalized Egyptians; the importance of the desert tribes; national dependence on the Nile and the great river’s encounters with tourism; the importance of faith, Islam as well as Christianity, in helping people cope; expansion of the Coptic monasteries while many secular Copts left the country; unsustainable use of the fragile desert environment; the resilience, hope, faith, and hospitality of the Egyptian people; a high rate of suicide, as revealed by Befrienders Cairo, a suicide prevention charity the author set up; the love/hate relationship between Egyptians and their former colonial master, the British––and more.
This is a book in the ADST-DACOR Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series.
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“Harris was able to visit places that are now largely off limits to most outsiders, for security and/or political reasons…. Harris's travels gave her insights on some of the key themes that are relevant to ongoing, and intense, political debate in Egypt today.”
— Robin Raphel, Former US Ambassador to Tunisia.
“The book is poignant on many levels. Sadly, following the turmoil in Egypt over the past 5 years, tourism has been profoundly affected and the many off-the-beaten-path sites she described are undoubtedly off limits for the foreseeable future. The mobility that she and her husband enjoyed as they explored Egypt in the 1990s seems to come from a very distant era!”
— Ann Van Dusen, PhD, Founding Director, Masters Program in Global Human Development, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.