Journal entry for Wednesday 4 November 1998
I’ve been in Egypt for over two weeks and hadn’t bought a book until today. I am an avid book collector and this must be a record for me. When I arrive in Luxor, one of my first outings is a tour of the bookshops – and there are many. I like to have a good look around and find out what is new on the subject of Egyptology and which shop offers the best deal.
My favourite bookshop is Aboudi’s, on the corner of the little mall, behind the fountain next to the New Winter Palace Hotel. There are actually two bookshops side by side called Aboudi’s and I think the owners are related but they are different shops with different stock and often different prices. I usually visit the two or three branches of Gaddis too as they sometimes publish books themselves and the Gaddis on the left of the Old Winter Palace also sell beautiful old black and white photographic prints and old postcards.
I can while away hours browsing in bookshops. I always look out for anything published by American University in Cairo (AUC) Press because they regularly publish Egyptological books in their own imprint, sometimes costing half the price of the original publication. One of the great things about AUC Press is that their books are often paperbacks and therefore lighter to carry home in my already bulging overweight suitcase.
This morning I found myself in Aboudi’s and came across a paperback edition of ‘Atlas of Egyptian Art’ by Emile Prisse d’Avennes, published by AUC Press. This is a beautiful collection of the art of the French scholar and draughtsman, Prisse d’Avennes, which was first published in Paris between 1868 and 1878 after many years of travelling in Egypt surveying and recording the monuments and meticulously copying the documents and decorations he found there.
I was also thrilled to find a copy of ‘Shahhat, An Egyptian’ by Richard Critchfield, (AUC Press, 1989). This little book is a fascinating portrait of the life of an Egyptian fellah and provides a unique insight into contemporary peasant life in Egypt, first published in 1978. Shahhat also happens to be the brother of my friend Nubi and the son of Nubi’s mother Haga, who has been so kind to me over the past couple of years. I had heard all about the book but had never found it until now. I couldn’t wait to start reading it.
My third exciting find was an indulgence because I could have bought the heavy hard-backed book at home for the same price and saved myself the problem of carrying it back to England. But I couldn’t resist ‘Proportion and Style in Ancient Egypt’ by Gay Robins (Thames and Hudson, 1994). It is an invaluable book for the subject of my current studies and I had been meaning to buy it for a while.
I was in the shop so long that the assistant at the counter had brought me a glass of tea and we sat and chatted while he totalled up my purchases, slipping a handful of bookmarks into the bag as he always does. Some women find buying new clothes or shoes therapeutic, but for me, books do it every time!