A C Grayling

Crossroads in Cairo

The Yacoubian Building

By

Fourth Estate 255pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In Cairo’s Suleiman Basha Street, opposite the Excelsior Restaurant where Zaki Bey el Dessouki proposes to Busayna, young enough to be his daughter but who reciprocates his love, stands the Yacoubian Building. Even among the other old-fashioned European-style buildings on Suleiman Basha Street it stands out, despite its dilapidation, a monument to the Armenian millionaire who built it sixty years before: ten lofty storeys high, designed in classical style, its balconies decorated with Greek faces, all its columns, steps and corridors wrought in natural marble, and with an elevator by Schindler, it was home to the rich and fashionable before the Revolution, then to generals and senior civil servants after it, and now houses a cross-section of the hopeful, the hopeless, the cunning, the despairing, a few rich, many poor, and some on desperate paths leading to very different consummations. 

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