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Cadogan Guide: Cairo, Luxor, Aswan

I had never found a Cadogan guide before, but it cropped up on a list of travel books at Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers and, like a true compulsive bibliophile, I bought it. This book was written by Michael Haag, who is the author of a number of other travel books.

Covering the major tourist destinations of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, this guide offers a detailed tour of the major sites in each city. Each section emphasizes the particular uniqueness of three cities: Cairo in all it's big-city frenetic activity, relaxed and laid-back Aswan, and the awesome archaeology of Luxor. The book presents a well-grounded view of the historical background for each city and the many sites within, and gives that information in a straightforward style.

Each city area is presented with a brief history, and the areas of the city are "walked through" in a suggested tour that include suggestions for how long to spend at the sites and how to get there. You could easily tour the three cities simply by following each chapter and following directions.

The entire book is filled with interesting tidbits about the sites that gives a unique perspective to visiting tourists.

Mark Twain, who led a party of tourists here in the 1860s, attempted to escape [the touts and camel drivers] by climbing to the top of Cheop's pyramid but was pursued by an Arab, to whom he offered $1 if he could race to the top of Chephren's pyramid and back to the top of Cheops' within nine minutes, in the hope that the man would break his neck. Three dollars later, an exasperated Twain, now joined by the man's mother, offered them each $100 if they would jump off the pyramid head first"

Perhaps not the nicest of offers, but it succinctly captures the desperate sensation of being mobbed by the hundreds of touts and drivers and sellers and erstwhile guides around the pyramids.

The rest of the book is in the same style, and it contains just enough history and details to be useful to the serious site-hound, as well as some hints on where to stay in each general area. This is probably not the best book for the nuts and bolts of making reservations, but it is a great reference nonetheless. It would be a bit more useful if detailed maps accompanied the walking tours; floor plans and diagrams are included for major temples and tombs, however.

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