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Following in the Footsteps of The Cairo Codex: 72 Hours in Cairo–Day 3

linda lambertThis is part 3 in a 3-part series in which Linda Lambert, author of The Cairo Codex, takes us to Cairo as we follow in the footsteps of Dr. Justine Jenner

Can you believe our time in Cairo is almost over?  Let’s begin Day 3!

Day 3: Meet your driver—who is now your long lost brother—for a trip to the Camel Market in Birqash. Birqash-Camel-MarketNearly 40 miles out of town, into the Delta, the views along the way are fascinating and the Camel Market is not to be missed. Traders from the Sudan in flowing robes hold hands until a deal can be struck. Brace yourself for the rather cruel treatment of these awkward creatures. Here also is one of the Community Schools for Girls that collapsed during the earthquake.

800px-The_Masalla-_MatarayyiahAs you return, you will drive through Bulouc and Shoubra, two of the poorest areas of Cairo, arriving at “a secret garden,” Mataria, where the Holy Family rested on their way into Babylon (as Old Cairo was then known). A sacred child is buried under the ancient sycamore. Justine experiences the holy ground,

“…Inside the enclosure, natural spring water bubbled through an ancient stone fountain and down into the collection pool below. An elderly woman dressed in a green kaftan and white hijab held out her gnarled hand, catching and sipping the holy waters. Justine rested her exhausted body on a stone ledge facing the vista and ancient sycamore alongside, its tired, twisted branches held stable by hefty wooden props. Bare limbs with giant clusters of leaves were smothered at the top by the unrelenting smog. Jasmine and honeysuckle sprang boldly in irregular patches from the sacred ground…”

By early evening, you may need another rest and shower. Dress up for your last evening in Cairo (perhaps you should also pack photo_3603before you go out). You can walk to the Taboula Restaurant at 1 Latin America Street in Garden City (2792-5261) near the American and Canadian Embassies, where the team that would unravel The Cairo Codex first met. The restaurant might have been a stage set for One Thousand and One Nights: carved Arabesque brass tables, lounging seats with red recessed lamps, ancient Oriental artifacts, cozy corners, and ornate pipes giving an air of timeless mystery. If you might be hosting four people, order a full mezza, tabullah, kofta, and labna. When you finish dining, it will be quite dark, and since the sidewalks are uneven and treacherous then, ask a staff member to call a taxi to take you to The Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel on the Corniche, where Justine’s romance with Amir began, a romance that blossoms through the entire Justine Trilogy. It’s an easy walk back to the Shepheard. Fall into bed for you have an early flight—and much to think about:

Were these stories about the Holy Family true? Could they be?

Why such tensions among the three religions of the book when they

all originate with Abraham?

What did I observe about the Egyptian people, their economy, and

history?

Which of my original assumptions about Egypt have been overturned?

What stories will I tell back home?

********************************

cairo codexRead before you go: The Cairo Codex by Linda Lambert (but, of course); Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell; Midaq Alley, a short story by Naguib Mafouz.

If you have more time: Alexandria (Metropole Hotel), Luxor and the Valley of the Kings (The Presidente Hotel), Aswan (Old Cataract Hotel) and Abu Simbel (return to Aswan for the night), a cruise down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. Yes, north is “down” in this case.

 

It’s time to return home, but we’ll always have Cairo.

Thank so much to Linda Lambert.  Visit Linda’s blog here.  Buy The Cairo Codex here!

 

 

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The Cairo Codex by Linda Lambert

Book Review: The Cairo Codex by Linda Lambert (West Hills Press; 324 pages; $15.95).

cairo codexWhen an earthquake nearly buries anthropologist Justine Jenner in an ancient crypt, she finds what appears to be an ancient codex which, if real, could radically threaten the world’s great religions.

The Cairo Codex is a riveting novel of two women, two millennia apart, set in the exotic cultures of ancient and present-day Egypt. Dr. Justine Jenner has come to Cairo to forge her own path from the legacies of her parents, an Egyptian beauty and an American archaeologist. After an earthquake nearly buries her alive in an underground crypt, she discovers an ancient codex, written by a woman whose secrets threaten the foundations of both Christian and Muslim beliefs. As political instability rocks the region and the Muslim Brotherhood threatens to steal the Egyptian Revolution, Justine is thrust into a world where even those she trusts may betray her in order to control the codex’s revelations.

In The Cairo Codex, Linda Lambert, former state department envoy to Egypt and author of several books on leadership, plunges the reader into pre-revolutionary Egypt and allows us to witness a nation on the brink of a social uprising.  This is a subject Lambert knows well, and her expertise makes The Cairo Codex utterly gripping.  She could have easily set her tale in Iraq or Israel, but the effect would not be as great.  Writers are frequently told to write what they know best.  Lambert does just that, and it works beautifully.

Lambert combines history, mystery, and archaeology with romance, politics, and religion.  Almost a decade ago, novels like these were abundant.  Biblical thrillers were once all the rage most likely due to the success of Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code.  Within the past few years, however, they have largely disappeared from shelves.  Why, I have no clue.  Perhaps the public grew tired of them, and their popularity waned.  For me, at least, Lambert’s story was welcome.  I always enjoyed reading these historical mysteries.

It always helps to have a strong protagonist, especially if it’s an independent and clever woman.  Lambert’s main character, Justinelinda lambert Jenner, can be both tough and tender.  She has her flaws just like we all do, leading us to cheer her on her successes and lament her failures.

Lambert also introduces a minor character of great interest, Omar Mostafa, as Director of the Supreme Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities.  Mostafa will surely remind readers of Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs under former President Hosni Mubarak.

The codex that Justine discovers could shake the foundations of all the world’s religions.  I know what you’re thinking–so many thrillers that have anything to do with Christianity make similar claims and fall short.  Not The Cairo Codex. Interesting and exciting, Lambert’s novel delivers.

The Cairo Codex is the first novel in The Justine Trilogy, and I eagerly await the sequel.  

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