Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 24th December, 2016
Jack “HackneyLad” Shenker has been providing some of the most incisive and independent journalism coming out of Egypt since he first set off for Cairo as a young freelancer in the twilight yeas of the Hosni Mubarak presidency. Because he was there to watch the decline and fall of Mubarak and his state security infrastructure, as well as the joys and tears of Egypt’s Revolution, then “second choice” Morsi’s ascendancy to the highest office, followed by the reimposition of the old order under General Sisi, he had a ringside seat to the tumultuous changes affecting the Arab world’s largest state. He was also dug deep enough into the real Egypt of the common people, rather than the Europeanised elite of Zamalek, in order to really hear and report what was happening on the street and in the torture chambers of police stations and prisons. Thus he was able to produce this magnificent portrait of a land and its people, The Egyptians (Penguin RandomHouse, £15.99), which should be the first port of call for anyone wanting to get an understanding of the complexities of modern Egyptian society and who has the time and dedication to devote themselves to reading the book carefully, as it deserves. It is part reportage, part political and historical treatise, and pulsates with the individual life stories of Egyptians who have fallen foul of the system, because they did not have the wasta or influential connections to get by. There is much to make one despair in Egypt’s modern history: so much injustice, corruption, violence and sheer inhumanity. And yet, the author emerges, as do I after 30 years of regular assignments and travels there, loving Egypt and its people, warts and all.