... a unique, erudite history of the city’s sparkling cultural life from the late 19th century to its decline after the 1952 revolution ... Drawing on memoirs, magazines, newspaper reports and archives, Mr. Cormack has built a riveting, lively picture of Cairo’s nightlife ... Mr. Cormack’s evocative descriptions are packed with bizarre, quirky detail.
... lively ... Chapters dedicated to these women’s lives tell stories that will resonate regardless of locale—tales of defying disapproving families or critics, persistently pursuing dreams, and navigating a world that judges women for their appearances, their loves, and how others react to them. Background details cover the area’s history and social movements as well as the cabaret world’s legacy in the second half of the twentieth century. Cormack’s final message is a hopeful one, reminding readers to focus on what these women accomplished and the impact they had on the world instead of moralizing their lives or painting them as tragic. For fans of theater history, 1920s and ‘30s drama, or stories of complex women.
... a highly readable account of an era that is 'often mythologized' in Egypt, but virtually unknown to Western readers ... Cormack effectively explains the emergence of feminism on the stages of nightclubs, theaters, and cabarets, where women with little formal education were defining their own places in the new country and new century. Utilizing archives in Egypt and the United Kingdom, among others, Cormack’s thoroughly researched work focuses on seven exceptional women who sometimes operated on the margins of decency and inspired opposition from various quarters. The story of interwar Egypt is told through the eyes of these women—actresses, dancers, and singers—who enjoyed opportunities but also faced prejudice and exploitation as they called on each other to fight for equality ... An engaging social history that touches on issues of freedom and liberation, issues that continue to resonate today.
... vibrant ... [a] singular work of scholarship ... While women artists and performers endured numerous unfair stereotypes, the author ably shows their significance to the cultural scene. Via a dozen or so minibiographies of these fascinating, talented women, many of whom rose from humble beginnings—as well as scores of contextualizing photos—Cormack makes the convincing case that 'at its core, this was a group of women demanding to be heard as they asserted their wishes, claimed their rights, and made space for themselves.' Shining examples abound ... A lively and original story of modern Egypt told through the lives of its first generation of women celebrities.
... lively ... Cormack portrays the colorful lives of these women within the context of the era’s political and cultural upheavals, including Arab nationalism and the emergence of an Egyptian feminist movement. This sparkling account casts the history of the Egyptian capital in a new light.