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
“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