The Last Watchman

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a tightly-woven multigenerational novel centered around the Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Cairo.

Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor, Ali, a Muslim orphan who, nearly a thousand years earlier, was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary–perhaps magical–Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph’s family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 depart their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

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“A beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted…This book is a joy.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of the National Book Award finalist An Unnecessary Woman

“Lyrical, compassionate and illuminating.”—BBC

“Lukas writes marvelously about Old Cairo, a city he cherishes. . . . The Last Watchman of Old Cairo delivers in polyphonic textures a timeless yet contemporary story set in ancient and modern Cairo and Berkeley.”—The San Jose Mercury News

“This is wonderful historical fiction, a novel that entices the reader to truly care about the historical artifacts revered by the characters in its pages. Highly recommended, and a great read!”—Historical Novels Review

“Lukas’s writing explodes with imaginative force and splendor.. [He] demonstrates in this novel his sublime ability to enchant us with unforgettable characters and moving stories that linger with us long after we have finished his magical book.”—Jerusalem Post

“Weaving together characters from medieval Cairo, Victorian Britain, and contemporary Berkeley, Michael David Lukas has crafted a rich, highly readable story. His themes—the ties between generations, between the West and Egypt, and between Jews and Muslims—are bittersweet and timely. His plot is beautifully paced, and his characters break your heart, even when they have to reach across the generations to do so.”—Carla Power, author of the Pulitzer finalist If the Oceans Were Ink

“Of the novels set in Egypt, few if any have understood how Cairo’s place at the crossroads of many religions has broken communities’ and families’ hearts through the centuries.”—Trevor Naylor, American University in Cairo Bookstore

“Captivating . . . Lukas’s warmly affecting sophomore work largely examines what happens to all that life, its memories and stories, when the people experiencing it are gone. . . . Novels like Lukas’s can believe in the potential of another version of the world, whether we call it possible or magical or both.”—East Bay Express

“I just finished a wonderful novel by Michael David Lukas, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo. . . . I read the first few pages and I was hooked.”—Jeffrey Garret, Chicago Tribune

“Michael David Lukas has given us an elegiac novel of Cairo—Old Cairo and modern Cairo—with a bit of Berkeley thrown in. His prose is deeply evocative…but his greatest flair is in capturing the essence of that beautiful, haunted, shabby, beleaguered, yet still utterly sublime Middle Eastern city.”—Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years

“In this evocative novel, Lukas takes readers to Cairo at three different points in its history. Like a contemporary Lawrence Durrell, Lukas turns the Egyptian city into a tantalizingly seductive place of mystery.”—Publishers Weekly

“An appealing family drama…quietly moving…In his exploration of some 10 centuries of Cairo’s history, including times when the city’s Jews and Muslims lived side by side in relative harmony, Lukas at least hints that another era of peaceful coexistence is not beyond imagining.”—Kirkus

“Lukas entrances readers with an account that spans generations…Part mystery, part character study, yet historically accurate, this book should appeal to a broad swatch of readers.”—Library Journal