This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Egypt guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.
In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh is a wonderfully observant account of the author’s lengthy stay in a Delta village. It’s entertaining, educational and one of the few travel books that is not patronising towards its subject.
The Pharaoh’s Shadow by Anthony Sattin is travel literature with a twist. Sattin searches for ‘survivals’ of Pharaonic traditions and practices in the Egypt of today, encountering magicians, snake catchers, mystics and sceptics along the way.
Also by Anthony Sattin, Florence Nightingale’s Letters from Egypt tells of the five-month trip that the famous ‘Lady with the Lamp’ took through Egypt in the winter of 1849–50. The book is packed with 19th-century images.
Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, translated and edited by Francis Steegmuller, includes choice excerpts from Flaubert’s diary as he made his way up the Nile. Detailed descriptions of Upper Egyptian dancing girls and prostitutes spice up his accounts of ancient sites.
A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia Edwards is a travel classic describing a 19th-century journey from Cairo to Abu Simbel and back on a dahabiyya.
Letters from Egypt by Lucie Duff Gordon is the journal of a solo woman traveller who lived in Luxor for seven years from 1862 to 1869.
Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah by Tim Mackintosh-Smith sees the modern-day author following the route taken by the medieval adventurer; three great chapters are set in Egypt.
Cairo: The City Victorious by Max Rodenbeck offers a broad history of Cairo and a commentary on modern social life – it’s great for helping foreigners adjust their attitudes to the city.
More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.