Friday, February 28, 2014

Book: Toby Wilkinson's "The Rise And Fall Of Ancient Egypt"


My next read took me to a country I've been hoping to go to for a long time but things have got in the way.  The country: Egypt.  The book: Toby Wilkinson's "The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt".

I checked this ebook from the library to give me background on one of the oldest nation states in the world.  I'm not sure what I expected but as I got into this book I realized that the author was trying to do the impossible.  Egyptian history, even the subset referred to as Ancient, is huge.  This book covers nearly three thousand year.  Or maybe I was expecting the impossible.

Wilkinson does a pretty good job walking the reader through three thousand years of pharaohs, obsessions with death and the afterlife, and temple building.  I wanted more detail but, if he'd included all the detail I desired, the book would have been huge and probably unreadable.  There is just too much history.  As he wrote it, right when I was getting into a story, the pharaoh would die and the story would end and off you went to the next one in line.

Having said all this, the book wasn't a waste.  It did help put some things into perceptive.  One thing that I found particularly interesting was the interruption of the hereditary pharaohs by, essentially, military coups with Generals and military strong men becoming the pharaoh.  It was hard to read this and not think about the last six or seven decades of Egyptian political history with the country ruled by one military strong man after another.  And the event of the past three years with the ousting of the Mubarak regime followed by another military take down of the Morsi regime.  It sounds awfully similar to events that took place over three thousand years ago.

While I was reading this book I also watched an Oscar nominated documentary about the so called Arab Spring events in Egypt.  The documentary, "The Square", follows the events from the protests that brought down Mubarak in 2011 to the ouster of Morsi by the Army in 2013.  The film follows some of the protesters including a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  It is a fascinating and well done film.

The events in the movie sounded so similar to some of the events in the book.  Even two thousand years after the fall of Ancient Egypt, things really haven't changed much for Egypt.  I hope the events of the last few years are a beginning of change for the Egyptian people and one for the better.

I'm not sure I can recommend the book.  It wasn't that bad, it just didn't meet my expectations which may have been too high to meet to begin with.  That is not the author's fault.  "The Square", on the other hand, should be seen by everyone (it is in the theaters and streaming on Netflix).

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