Khan al-Khalili, by Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, portrays the clash of old and new in an historic Cairo neighborhood as German bombs fall on the city.
The time is 1942, World War II is at its height, and the Africa Campaign is raging along the northern coast of Egypt. Against this backdrop, Mahfouz's novel tells the story of the Akifs, a middle-class family that has taken refuge in Cairo's colorful and bustling Khan al-Khalili neighborhood. Believing that the German forces will never bomb such a famously religious part of the city, they leave their more elegant neighborhood and seek safety among the crowded alleyways, busy cafs, and ancient mosques of the Khan. Through the eyes of Ahmad, the eldest Akif son, Mahfouz presents a richly textured vision of the Khan, and of a crisis that pits history against modernity and faith against secularism. Fans of Midaq Alley and The Cairo Trilogy will not want to miss this engaging and sensitive portrayal of a family at the crossroads of the old world and the new.
Translated from the Arabic by Roger Allen
Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. His nearly forty novels and hundreds of short stories range from re-imaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. Of his many works, most famous is The Cairo Trilogy, consisting of Palace Walk (1956), Palace of Desire (1957), and Sugar Street (1957), which focuses on a Cairo family through three generations, from 1917 until 1952. In 1988, he was the first writer in Arabic to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in August 2006.
"Mahfouz is a storyteller of the first order in any idiom." -Vanity Fair