Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s by Raphael Cormack

Contemporary Cairo is nothing so much as a testament to its past. The pyramids and the Sphinx, of course, bear witness to an era of achievement tough to imagine for anyone who has spent time in the chaotic city it is today. But the cacophonous, endlessly gridlocked, acridly stifling metropolis also gives hints of more recent glory days with its once resplendent, now carbon-smeared neo-colonial works of architecture, one more fanciful than the next.

As one’s eyes sting from smog and one’s ears ring with the endless discordant symphony of blaring horns, though, that halcyon era of the 19th and early 20th centuries is difficult to conjure. For all its present-day enchantments, Cairo is a city that rests on its laurels.