Visitors have often remarked on the light of Egypt. There is something about the soft diffusion of sunlight in the country that makes it visually special. Beginning in the early nineteenth century a combination of that light and the new, more sensitive technology of lithography conspired together to allow artists to capture with unprecedented fidelity the country's monuments, Pharaonic as well as Islamic.
But there is another way in which the word “light” captures the reality of Egypt. In Arabic it is said that the blood of a people is either “light” or “heavy.” Where the blood of others in the region could be said to be heavy, that of the Egyptians is emphatically light and it always seems to have been that way. Here, the word serves as a proxy for “cheerful” or “optimistic.”
The book that follows captures some of that fundamental Egyptian buoyancy and optimism, and it was not very hard to do. The attitude is infectious and anyone who has lived for any length of time in the country is in danger of succumbing. The pieces reflect a sometimes wry, occasionally humorous, but always affectionate view of an essentially unchanging Egypt.