The Lady of Zamalek

Publishing House: Hoopoe

Publication Year: 2021

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 398

“The Lady of Zamalek” by Ashraf El-Ashmawi is a captivating novel set in the heart of Cairo, intertwining real historical events with a compelling fictional narrative. The story begins in the spring of 1927. With the city of Cairo being jolted by the brutal murder of Solomon Cicurel. He is a well-known businessman, in his villa along the Nile in the affluent district of Zamalek. Initially thought to be a burglary gone wrong, four suspects were rapidly apprehended, tried, and punished, temporarily assuaging the public’s fears.

El-Ashmawi’s novel, however, reveals a more complex plot involving a fifth participant, Abbas, who managed to flee to his rural home with crucial documents from Cicurel’s villa. These documents hinted at a concealed safe. Prompting Abbas to devise a return to Cairo with an ambitious plan to locate this safe and secure his fortune. His strategy involved placing his sister, Zeinab, in the household of Cicurel’s widow. And  Paula, setting the stage for a gripping saga.

What unfolds is a rich tapestry of modern Egyptian history, spanning from the 1920s to the 1990s. The narrative deftly captures significant historical milestones such as the Second World War, the 1952 revolution. In addition to the rise of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the 1967 war, and the subsequent Sadat and Mubarak eras. Through the lives of Abbas, Zeinab, and other characters. The novel offers an intimate glimpse into the transformations of Cairo. Particularly the Zamalek district, and the broader changes sweeping across Egypt.

Furthermore, critics have lauded “The Lady of Zamalek” for its detailed portrayal of Egyptian society’s classes, its bold reimagining of Egyptian transformations, and its compelling combination of historical fact and fiction. The book has been celebrated for its ability to draw readers into the nuances of a society that is at once strange and familiar. Offering a sweeping view of the country’s history and the intricate social norms and values that shaped it. El-Ashmawi’s storytelling has been described as magical. Capturing the constant power shifts and the ephemeral nature of wealth and influence in Egyptian society.

Read More About Ashraf El-Ashmawi

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