16 Books Set In Egypt And Books By Egyptian Authors To Read Instead Of Going There

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I feel like I have always wanted to visit Egypt but over the last few years, I’ve seen an unfortunate number of posts on Reddit (and another one) about people going there, being absolutely miserable, and swearing to never return.

I won’t lie, this has definitely made me not want to go which makes me sad because it’s Egypt! The Pyramids! The Nile! But I figure reading some of these will let me experience Egypt without actually having to go there.

I haven’t entirely written it off, I would still consider it as part of a tour, but I’m not in a huge rush to go at this point. Reading about it is good enough for now.

Most of these books set in Egypt are fiction and I’ve also included some written by Egyptian authors. There is a little non-fiction, too. I’ve only read one of these so far but others are going to land on my wishlist I’m sure.

  • If you want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free.  Get that Audible deal here.
  • If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot. Sign up for Scribd here!
  • Shop my collection of bookish goodies on Etsy! These aren’t my shop items, but other shops I’ve curated into a book-themed collection. Shop my Etsy bookish goodies here!
  • If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option. It’s $9.99 a month but if you read a lot and like to read more than just new releases, it could be worth it. Get Kindle Unlimited here!
  • Get $5 off of $25 from BookOutlet! This is a great place to find new books for pretty cheap. They also have sales quite a bit, so keep an eye out for those. I tend to check here for books I want if they’re more expensive other places. They don’t have everything but they do have a lot. Shop BookOutlet here!
  • Thrift Books has become my go-to when I’m looking for a book and want it cheap. It’s great if you like buying used books. With this you can get a free book after spending $30!
  • Shop my book lists here! You can find every book list I have on Bookshop.org (except my monthly round-ups) and I add everything I can but they occasionally won’t have some. I do occasionally add extras though. If any lists are empty, they’ll be filled in shortly! Shop my bookshop.org book lists here.
  • Shopping internationally? Check out Book Depository!

Death on the Nile

This is a classic from the queen of mysteries, Agatha Christie kicking off our list of Egypt books.

The tranquil cruise along the Nile was interrupted when Linnet Ridgeway was found shot in the head. Hercule Poirot remembered an earlier outburst from another passenger but nothing on this cruise is as it seems.

Kids, Camels, and Cairo

Working in an international school in Cairo wasn’t as glamorous as expected, especially when dealing with days without electricity, being leered at by men, and breathing in city smog.

But Jill cherished her time at the Red Sea, seeing the Pyramids, and appreciating the Nile. She wanted to experience the thrill of adventure and moving to Cairo was how she did it.

Last Train to Cairo: Touring Egypt in the 21st Century

In the summer of 2014, Paul and his wife set off to explore Egypt by bus, train, and car. They tour ancient sites and modern cities, beginning with a midnight ride through the streets of Cairo to the Pyramids. Last Train to Cairo is full of colorful characters and adventures to last a lifetime.

If you want a book about traveling in Egypt, this is perfect.

Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller

Nadia knows the songs of the streets of Cairo by heart. With her friend, sister, and nothing to lose, in 2002, she opened an independent bookstore, something that didn’t exist in Egypt at the time.

Ten years later, it has ten locations, 150 employees, and a fervent fan base and this memoir tells the journey of the store and its people.

If you want an Egpytian memoir and love books, this is a must-read.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl under the rule of Queen Hatshepsut, yearning for freedom. Unlike the other slaves, she can read, write, and speak the language of Babylon. To earn her freedom, she begins to play the role of double spy for two arch enemies when she finds herself falling in love with one of her masters.

In An Antique Land

Indian writer, Amitav Gosh, follows the steps of an unknown slave from 700 years before to the Middle East. He is taken to a small village in Egypt. As he re-creates his predecessor’s life, he finds himself immersed in the lives of his modern Egyptian neighbors.

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Amelia Peabody starts her Egyptian adventure with self-confidence, a journal, and, of course, an umbrella. She rescues Evelyn, a young woman abandoned by her lover, on her way to Cairo. Together, they sail up the Nile to an archaeological site and two dashing brothers. Soon, they are joined by one more: a mummy.

Strange things start happening and Amelia is convinced someone is trying to hurt Evelyn. This almost sounds a bit like Nancy Drew! It sounds like a good cozy mystery set in Egypt.

Beer in the Snooker Club

Ram Bey is an over-educated, under-ambitious young Egpytian struggling to find his place in turbulent 1950s Cairo. His regular haunt is the Snooker Club whose members strive to emulate English gentility but his best friends devour Sartre and engage in revolutionary activities that support the country’s independence.

Valley of the Kings

Prince Amenhotep IV’s older brother’s death leaves the six-year-old as the heir to the Egyptian throne, the most powerful kingship in the ancient world.

His sovereignty as Pharoh over a decade later is being threatened by the corrupt Amun priesthood. In his desperation to maintain his power, he outlaws the Amun religion, renames himself Akenaten, and proclaims himself the living incarnation of the deity Aten, the sun.

His mother, Queen Ty, and his wife, Nefertiti, help him build a new capital in the desert while thousands of citizens uproot their lives to join them, but new threats loom.

Walking the Nile

Levison Wood walks the length of the Nile from Rwanda to Egypt,  4,000 miles across six countries, over nine months. 

He faces sandstorms, flash floods, and minefields all while camping in the wild, foraging for food, and trudging through the rainforest, swamp, savannah, and desert.

Along the way, he has a rap song written about him, he is detained by the secret police, and he escapes a charging hippo and wild crocodiles.  He also has to face the death of journalist Matthew Power along the way. 

Village on the Nile: A Travel Memoir of Upper Egypt

If you’re looking for a book about Egypt travel, or travel and daily life in Egypt, look no further! These are the stories of the villages along the Nile that Kenneth had the opportunity to visit on a Journalism fellowship in 1983.

We get to see how people live their lives along the Nile as he navigates cultural issues and struggles to avoid getting involved in ancient tensions between Muslim and Coptic Christian villagers.

Vertigo

Here we have a political thriller set in Egypt. During a fight in a high-class Cairo nightclub, a photographer witnesses his friend’s murder in a fight between young business rivals.

The Zafarani Files

Someone is observing and taking notes on a close-knit neighborhood in Cairo’s old city. The reports flow into a seamless narrative of Zafarani Alley. An alley where suspicion, superstition, and humor prevail in a story where everyone has a secret.

Sipping from the Nile

This is the coming of age memoir of Jean, who was born into a prominent Jewish family who spent time in Europe and the Middle East. Her childhood seemed magical like it would never come to an end but in 1956 when the Suez Canal is nationalized, her life is changed forever.

Her family is scattered far and wide, her own included as they move to London where she finishes school and is swept into adulthood in America. This isn’t entirely set in Egypt but a myriad of exotic locales.

The Cheapest Nights

This is a collection of works of one of Egypt’s most acclaimed authors. We follow a man who cannot sleep and angrily meditates on the state of his life and the extreme poverty in which he finds himself. The author explores the lives of the working class in Egypt all while turning a critical eye on those that oppress them.

Daughter of the Gods

In 1400s BC Egypt, the pharaoh’s second daughter, Hatshepsut, is pampered and does as she pleases. But when one of her games causes the death of her sister, Neferubity, she is forced to confront her guilt which profoundly changes her life course.

She enters a loveless marriage with her half-brother, Thut, to produce a male heir and ensure his claim to the Isis Throne. Instead, one of Thut’s other wives produces the male heir while Hatshepsut develops feeling for his advisor Senenmut.

After Thut suddenly dies, she becomes ruler as regent to her two-year-old nephew. Used to being free, she now must put Egypt first, lead a vast army, and build temples all while her enemies plot her downfall.

Have you read any of these books set in Egypt? Which ones? What is your favorite Egyptian author or book?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a cheesehead at heart currently residing in the Sunshine State. You can probably find me reading, watching Forensic Files, or both.

3 thoughts

  1. I went to Egypt over Christmas and LOVED it!! One of my favorite trips ever. I don’t know who has told you that they were miserable, but I think you’d have to try really hard to not have a great time there. Or go in the middle of August lol. I definitely recommend going with a tour group though. I hope you give it a chance! It’s an amazing country. Also I love Levison Wood’s book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so good to hear! It’s definitely a place I would love to go (with a tour). Most of the bad stories are about harassment of various sorts, especially near the Pyramids, things like that but hearing this does definitely help! His book is very enjoyable! I need to read his other ones still.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah that makes sense – the hustlers there are definitely the worst I’ve experienced, but having a guide with you makes them back off a bit. But that was really the only downside! An Arabian Journey by him is really excellent!

        Liked by 1 person

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