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Book of the week – Midnight in Cairo by Raphael Cormack (Saqi books, 6 May)

Midnight in Cairo is the first book to lift the lid on the hidden world of Cairo in the 1920s – we all know about Berlin and Paris in the 1920s but did you know Cairo had a cabaret scene too?

Cormack argues that the best way into this incredible history is through its female stars – including Mounira al-Mahdiyya, (a dancer, actress and impresario who reinvented herself several times over three decades and created a powerful celebrity persona), Tawhida (who was running a dancehall in the 1930s but had started her career in the 1890s) and Fatima Rushdi - the ‘Sarah Bernhardt of the East’.

The book shows how the women weren’t just performers but business owners too – 1920s Cairo saw the blossoming of a new Egyptian feminism at the start of the 20th century and many women were central to the popular culture of the time.

Read Donna Ferguson’s brilliant overview in the Observer here.

You can see Richard Spencer’s Times review here and an interview with Raph here.

Raph will be on BBC Radio 3 Freethinking on a special programme on Egypt on 13 May – link is here.

Buy the book at here!

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