A hypnotic journey in the company of one of the world's most acclaimed Egyptologists over the fabled river telling how the Nile continually brought life to an ancient civilization now dead and how it sustained its successors, now in tumult.
Renowned Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson leads us through space as much as time: From the river's mystical sources (the Blue Nile which rises in Ethiopia, and the White Nile coursing from majestic Lake Victoria); to Thebes, with its Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and Luxor Temple; the fertile Delta; Giza, home of the Great Pyramid, the sole surviving Wonder of the Ancient World; and finally, to the pulsating capital city of Cairo, where the Arab Spring erupted on the bridges over the Nile. Along the way, he introduces us to mysterious and fabled characters - the gods, godlike pharaohs, emperors and empresses, who joined their fate to the Nile and gained immortality; the adventurers, archaeologists, and historians who have all fallen under its spell. With matchless erudition and storytelling skill, through a lens equal to both panoramas and close-ups, Wilkinson brings millennia of history into view.
This book attempts to be a cross between a travel book and a history book. In my opinion it fails on both counts. As a travel book, the so-called "journey downriver" is completely missing. No journey is described -- there are brief mentions of several disconnected trips made to Egypt by the author but with no sense of cohesion. A key ingredient of any good travel book is that one has some sense of the traveller's personality or life, but this is totally lacking. As a history book, it does contain a series of well told historical excerpts, but it is impossible to make sense of them because they are disconnected and often incomplete. A geographical ordering is just not a sensible way to tell history because the historical period being described jumps about all over the place. One exception to this is the final part about Cairo, when there is a clear and interesting account of the establishment and political events associated with the city -- told (thankfully) in chronological order. But there's a lot of listening to do before you get to that (short) section. The narration is good -- no problem on that front. I listened to this book after finished the absolutely superb series of lectures on Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier (Great Courses Series -- highly recommended). This book did give some links to the modern country but I was relieved when I finally got through it.
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