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Daily News Egypt Review of Connected in Cairo

July 9, 2012
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There’s a review of Connected in Cairo by Ahmed Khalifa in the July 9 issue of Daily News Egypt.

He does not care for the introduction, with its anthropological jargon and scholarly framing but the review is in the main pretty flattering. Khalifa writes:

While it may seem obvious after being pointed out, it takes this to-the-point anthropological analysis by Mark Allen Peterson to show us that the cultural and identity crisis in Cairo runs very, very deep. Peterson is not simply content to tell us this, he meticulously traces the origins of the multifaceted Cairene society, from infancy through adolescence to adulthood, exploring factors and variables that eventually decide whether spending weekends at the neighbourhood ahwa really makes one any more Egyptian than weekends in Tamarai.

He states several times that the best part of the book is the ethnographic anecdotes:

A personal favourite was the image of two young boys walking down the street, so coincidentally close, yet light-years apart culturally, as evidenced by their manner of dress, their choice of reading material and the schools they emerged from. The scene appears so innocuous and everyday, yet Peterson dissects it thoroughly and constantly refers to it throughout the rest of the book as an example of the amazing panorama of parallel cultural motifs Cairo contains within its boundaries.

In the end, though, Khalifa would have it that nobody could write a book that fully captures Egyptian culture:

The attempt is a valiant one and gains several secure footholds but, in my opinion, the koshary that is this culture, with its American, European and uniquely Oriental roots, will forever remain enigmatic and indecipherable.

I’m cool with that. I’m not really trying to capture the koshary that is Egyptian culture–just one aspect to fit alongside all the other excellent works that explore Egyptian culture.

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