The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

In this spellbinding novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.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 th...

Details The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

TitleThe Last Watchman of Old Cairo
Release DateMar 13th, 2018
PublisherSpiegel & Grau
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Northern Africa, Egypt, Cultural, Africa

Reviews The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

  • Carol
    Last Watchman of Cairo tells its story via three loosely related threads and timelines. In contemporaneous America, the Muslim Egyptian father of Joseph – the last watchman referenced in the title -- has died, and he has had a friend deliver to Joseph a keepsake without explanation. Joseph, raised exclusively by his Jewish Egyptian (by birth) mother in the US, had a cordial relationship with his father, at least until his father learned Joseph ...
  • Elyse
    “The Oracle of Stamboul”, written by Michael David Lukas — published in 2011—his debut....was sooooo wonderful- I was speechless to express how much I loved his novel. It’s still a very special book to me - one I read with my daughter...with so many fond memories. I remember the story as if I read it yesterday. The writing is gorgeous. It was a joy to meet Michael years back and hear him talk about his book. I learned of ‘this’ book...
  • Margitte
    I went into this book with no idea what to expect. Although it was a very busy time, actually an insanely hectic time, I managed to read a few pages in between. From the blurb: 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 generatio...
  • Tammy
  • Michael
    If I am not for myself who will be for me?
  • Bandit
    Time for some armchair traveling. This time not only geographically, but temporally, with this lovely work of historical fiction revolving (via three interconnected timelines) around a legendary Torah scroll. Back in the day when Egyptians might have been somewhat more tolerant, there was a thriving Jewish community there, eventually forced to flee the country during the foreign cleansing of 1956. There was a magnificent synagogue and watched ove...
  • B.T. Mienoré
    This is just a sweet novel, with a Judaica and historical angle that I found compelling enough that I finished this in a day. At the center of the book is the ancient Ibn Ezra synagogue in Cairo, and we get three stories that revolve around this building. First and second, the narrator Joseph traces his family's connections to the synagogue, which stretch over generations back to an ancestor story. Third, we have the story of twin sisters who, wi...
  • Melissa Dee
    I loved the mixing of old Egypt, colonial Egypt and modern Egypt, woven together like a tapestry. “A fragmented account of fathers and sons, cousins and strangers, grief, forgiveness and forbidden love. This lovely novel brings to life a family of guardians and their stories.
  • Annette
    This book interweaves two present stories of Joseph and two sisters, with one past story of Ali – Joseph’s ancestor.As the story builds up, it is interesting. But as soon as it reaches its peak, it starts falling apart very fast.Joseph is a literature student at Berkley and a son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. After the death of his father, he receives a scrap of paper. He doesn’t understand the meaning of the scroll. One day, on a...
  • Jackie Wisherd
    The book was most enjoyable to read. The author knew his subject well and wrote with great passion. People who enjoy reading about multi-cultural stories will like this book. It is the al-Raqb family history of the men through thousands of years of being the watchmen for the Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo.
  • Gaele
    Joseph is the son of Egyptian parents, born and raised in the United States. His mother, an Egyptian Jew, left Cairo in the 1950’s with her family, but as a child had befriended Ahmed al-Raqb, eldest son of the watchman at the Ibn Ezra Synagogue, an inherited position handed down from father to eldest son for over a millennium. A graduate student at Berkeley, news of his father’s death is followed by a small package containing a note, a busin...
  • Rebecca D'Harlingue
    In The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, Lukas masterfully weaves together three time periods, whose stories connect through a family mystery that is traced back a thousand years before the contemporary narrator. Each of the narrative threads is populated by characters who are peculiar to their time, and who fit perfectly within the specific Cairo in which they find themselves.We care about these characters, whose struggles we identify with, no matter ...
  • Lori
    "The Last Watchman of Old Cairo" was a captivating read. It follows a family who are the caretakers for a temple in Cairo!
  • Julie Barnard
    Unfortunately this doesn’t publish until next year, but it.’s definitely worth adding to your TBR list. Well-written book about Jews and Muslims in Cairo.
  • Rachel Skardis
    charming, really enjoyed this
  • Diogenes
    Captivating story of a young man's search for his identity, his father's roots in Egypt and the meaning of his name through ancient documents. Insightful, poignant and highly entertaining; a mixture of history and fiction that handles Muslim and Jewish differences with rare sensitivity.
  • Rachel
    Three different narratives - from three different time periods - that all connect to the Cairo Genizah. A fast, easy, interesting, and compelling novel that might motivate me to explore a non-fiction book on the subject.
  • Rose
    *The Last Watchman of Old Cairo: A Novel* by Michael David Lukas is a look at three different periods in time. It shows us the history of the first Watchman of an old Synagogue believed to house the mystical Ezra Scroll, a perfect copy of the Torah, within it's walls. We are also told about two twin sisters who want to preserve the old papers found in the attic of tbe Synagoge and perhaps find the Ezra Scroll as well. There is also the modern sto...
  • Annie
    Joseph, like many other literary sons, only really learns who his father is after his death. A few weeks after his father dies, Joseph receives a package with a letter written in an archaic form of Arabic that turns out to document his family’s long history of serving as watchmen for the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo. The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, by Michael David Lukas, moves back and forth in time from the first watchman, to the discovery of ...
  • L F
    A fascinating tale based on two Scottish sisters chasing religious antiquities in Cairo and the Sinai desert. As always truth is stranger than fiction. The book presents a strong case for marking sure they are protected. Because when they disappear a part of humanity is lost. “You can never tell the whole story, but the part you tell, must be told well. And most of all , always kept safe, because there will always be a watcher. “
  • Patrisia Sheremeta
    My favorite quote from this book: "Mercy is more powerful than justice; forgiveness greater than revenge."If you are expecting a Dan Brown-esque story about searching for a sacred object, you might be disappointed. This is more about the spiritual investiture we make in these objects. More ideas about the thing than the thing itself (with apologies to Wallace Stevens.)Plus it was great storytelling.
  • Neil Plakcy
    I enjoyed the historical elements of this book more than that set in the present. The current-day narrator is a bit of a wet blanket, unsure of his place in the world, while all the historical characters jumped with life and determination.
  • Jennifer
    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I would actually rate this book closer to a 3.5. I enjoyed how the story covered three different time periods related to interaction with the Ezra scroll. Characters were well developed to the point that you could imagine their behaviors and interactions. Some areas of the story took you down a path that felt important but then were wrapped up quickly and not really resolved. One big positive was the ...
  • Kidlitter
    I was a Tutankhamen-loving, mythology-obsessed, Pyramid-building, Egypt Game-playing, Elizabeth Peters/Agatha Christie archaelogy mystery reading, Mummy watching kid. Did I cross the line from romanticizing the exoticism of the country to the point of convenient ignorance (nothing past the Suez Crisis, please) to a condescending Orientalism that avoids inconvenient history? I'm sure I did. So I've tried to become more careful about my reading cho...
  • Mimi
    Told in alternating chapters, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo: A Novel takes place in three different time periods tied together by the following: Cairo’s Ibn Ezra synagogue, its geniza, and the Ezra scroll. It starts in 1040 C.E. with young Ali who is hired to be the watchman of the Ibn Ezra Synagogue and goes on to describe his connection to the Ezra scroll and the geniza. I found Ali’s tale the most appealing of the three stories. The secon...
  • Penny
    This is a novel that takes place in three time periods, detailing the lives of some of the Muslim al-Raqb family that has had for a millennium, the job of being the watchman of Cairo's Ibn Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo. The first story goes back to the first watchman, Ali, while the second, in the nineteenth century, involves scholarly twin sisters from Cambridge who oversee the rescue of historical papers that have begun to disappear from the syna...
  • Flo
    A fascinating story of Yussef al-Raqb, the son of a Jewish Egyptian woman and a Moslem Egyptian man. But Lukas tells his story by joining together three, sometimes four timelines: Cairo in the 11th century when the Ibn Ezra Synagogue was built, the mid 19th century when 2 British twin sisters, experts in Middle East documents, accompany Dr Solomon Shechter in their search for the geniza of the Ibn Ezra Synagogue and maybe the very Torah scroll th...
  • Jeanne
    I had mixed feelings about this book, while I really liked parts of it, I wish it had gone deeper. It might not be fair, but I couldn't help but compare it to Dara Horn's Guide for the Perplexed, which painted the same historical story of the Geniza in such an gorgeous way. This was more of a book on themes and being connected over time, which is good in it's own right, but I didn't feel entirely connected to the characters and some of it fell a ...
  • Kathleen Gray
    Three stories in three different time periods weave together to tell a tale that encompasses Judaism, Islam, homophobia, history, and so on. This uses the popular literary device of a legacy- in this case a scroll sent to Joseph. Some of the narrative, and some of the characters were more interesting (and likable) than others. I'm not sure why this didn't resonate with me as it's got all the elements of a good read and it's well written but someh...
  • Jess
    I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. The three stories are beautifully balanced. Lukas threads the connective tissue of the tales carefully to ensure the reader is aware but needs to keep reading in order to be satisfied. I respect the restraint Lukas shows: no overly emotional or purposefully dramatic scenes. Meaning unfolds carefully and consistently in this narrative.