The Lady of Zamalek: A Novel
Translated by Peter Daniel
It was in the spring of 1927 that Cairo’s attention was captured by the shocking murder of prominent businessman Solomon Cicurel in his Nile-side villa in the upscale Zamalek district. It was a burglary that went wrong and four culprits were soon arrested. Their trial was concluded swiftly, their punishments were decisive, and society breathed a sigh of relief.
In Ashraf El-Ashmawi’s telling, however, there was a fifth accomplice, Abbas, who escaped back to his home in the countryside to lay low until the murder trial blew over. He had not left empty-handed and had kept some documents from Cicurel’s villa, ones that he realized would lead him to a hidden safe.
Abbas hatched a plan to return to the capital, find the safe, and make his fortune. The first step was to place his sister Zeinab with Cicurel’s widow, Paula. A web of twists and intrigues run through the life of Abbas, in what unfolds as a tale of modern Egypt—taking in the Second World War, the 1952 revolution and the rise of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the 1967 war, the Sadat and Mubarak eras—from the 1920s through to 1990.
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