The Last Watchman of Old Cairo
Joseph, a graduate student in America, receives a mysterious package involving his father. The note reads, “Hope you can use this.” Joseph’s father was an Arab Muslim and his mother an Egyptian Jew. The initial attraction between his parents doesn’t work out after Joseph’s birth. However, as a child Joseph learned that his father’s family, the Al Raqbs, have guarded hidden Jewish scrolls for centuries, including the mysterious Ezra Scroll. These documents are hidden in the attics of old temples and are known to emanate supernatural power.
The novel is multilayered as we are introduced to the actual time, 1897, when these documents were found by two spinster scholars. They connive to transport the scriptures and notes to Cambridge University. This part of the novel is absolutely intriguing, as are the sections about how ardently the Al Raqb family took their work, including the time when they believed they had failed because some of the works began to disappear. The people treat the hidden documents as sacred, and here two mysteries are added to the plot.
Joseph, a rather plain character who seeks to understand his family’s past, adds little to the story other than revealing the Raqb family and the two spinster sisters. The novel also notes the changes in Egypt occurring after the dramatic change in government with the election of Nasser, which continue to the present day.
This is wonderful historical fiction, a novel that entices the reader to truly care about the historical artifacts revered by the characters in its pages. Highly recommended, and a great read!