“Egypt: A Short History”

Robert Tignor

Last month my wife and I went on a Road Scholar tour of Egypt (“Beyond the Pharaohs: Egypt Past and Present“). This book was on Road Scholar’s suggested reading list.

The parts of the book on ancient Egypt are invaluable as a survey of ancient Egyptian history. I wouldn’t call it “superficial”, but it is definitely an overview. The parts about the time between the arrival of Islam and the fall of the Ottoman Empire are less interesting and it tends to get bogged down in the various ruling dynasties. The pace — and my interest — picked up when Tignor reaches modern Egypt.

Overall the book is a little dry but it really helped me to understand what I saw on the trip.

As for the trip itself, it was pretty incredible. Egypt is a fascinating place full of (to borrow the phrase Howard Carter used to describe his first view of the wonders of King Tut’s tomb) “wonderful things”. An organized tour seems like the only practical way to visit Egypt and even though we decided we’re really not “tour people”, I’d recommend this tour to strongly to anyone interested in visiting Egypt and to anyone who wants to focus their travel experience on learning (as opposed to, for example, on shopping).

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