Egyptian Book Reviews: Common Birds of Egypt & Mysteries of Egypt

Volume I, Number 5 October 1st, 2000

Book Review

by Mary Kay Radnich

Common Birds of Egypt, Revised Edition

Bertel Bruun & Sherif Baha el Din

The American University in Cairo Press, 1996
Cairo, Egypt
LE 15.00

Egypt birding book

Traveling throughout the world gives one the opportunity to see not only different landscapes and lifestyles, but also to see a variety of different flora and fauna. While one may think, what unique wildlife could possibly be found in a land that is predominately desert, Egypt, as always, proves to be just as rich in bird life as it is in antiquities.

Boasting 430 resident and migratory bird species, even the most novice birder will have the opportunity to see unusual species while cruising the Nile or enjoying the sandy beaches of the Red Sea. But how, you may ask, can these colorful winged creatures be identified? Never fear, authors Bertel Bruun and Sherif Baha el Din, have created a marvelous, pocket-sized handbook of not only the birds to be found in Egypt with full color illustrations, but also of the best birding places, whether along the Nile, in the Delta area, at an oasis or along the Red Sea.

At a very reasonable LE 15.00 (less than $3 USD) and truly pocket-sized at less than 50 pages, this slim volume is the ideal companion for either the experienced bird-watcher or the casual tourist who just wants to know the name of that pretty bird he spotted while on a Nile felucca ride in Aswan. The introduction of the book gives a nice overview of bird watching in Egypt, speaks about conservation efforts, and then proceeds to list the 430 species of birds found in Egypt and identifies them as residents, breeders or visitors.

The illustrations by Sherif Baha el Din are very colorful and clear; the accompanying text for these pages is written in both English and Arabic. And, interestingly enough, the back of the book repeats the introductory information in Arabic.

I happened to find my copy of Common Birds of Egypt at the Aboudi Bookstore in Luxor. Published by the AUC Press, however, I am sure that you would be able to find this little gem of a guide at any of the AUC Bookstores in Cairo.

If you want more information about birding in Egypt, you can consult the web page,, which is maintained by Mindy Baha el Din.

Book Review by

Lynn M. Kordus

Egyptian Art

Jaromir Malek

Phaidon Press Limited, London
ISBN: 0 7148 3627 3

Egyptian Art is part of the Art & Ideas Series Plan, World Perspectives. An introduction to the worlds art through wide-ranging surveys, published by Phaidon Press Limited, but dont let that put you off. Not only is this title a beautiful collection of outstanding representative examples of ancient Egyptian art, but the paper stock, type style, and layout make this a beautiful book in and of itself.

Jaromir Malek is Editor of the Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts and Keeper of the Archive at the Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. He has participated in excavations at many sites throughout Egypt.

Egyptian Art is organized as one might expect, following the chronological path of Egyptian history, from predynastic and early dynastic periods, to the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, the Amarna Period, the Ramesside era, and the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods. Malek outlines artistic trends in each period, linking them to economic, political, and spiritual developments. Malek also includes a worthwhile glossary, listings of deities and personifications, dynasties and kings, key dates, a valuable index, and a reading list by chapter.

The book is small in format, somewhat larger than 6" x 8", but it is apparent great care was taken to present Egyptian art pieces in the best possible light. There are very few black and white photographs, for example, and the book runs to almost 450 pages.

What is most interesting and most disappointing at the same time is Maleks discussion of ancient Egyptian influence on contemporary art. Malek introduces the reader to ancient-Egyptian-inspired contemporary artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle, Peter Randall-Page, Igor Mitoraj, Stephen Cox, Andy Goldsworthy, Dorothea Rockburne, and Zandra Rhodes, but it is a mere introduction, barely a sentence or two and that is what is disappointing.

But, then, this is an introduction to Egyptian art, not an exhaustive study, and Maleks brevity only whets the appetite for more. As Malek says in his conclusion, "In the visual history of humanity, what chapter can compare with the extraordinary contribution of ancient Egypt? What other extinct culture arouses our imagination in such a powerful way? Through the prism of time this civilization appears as one of certainty, stability and profound wisdom, in direct contrast to the world in which we live today. Artists of the future will no doubt take something from ancient Egypt, continuing the link with the visual world explored in this book." (422)

Buy the book, Egyptian Art (Art and Ideas)

Media Review

by Mary Kay Radnich

Mysteries of Egypt

VHS Video1999
Produced by National Geographic and Destination Cinema

Egypt Mysteries, National Geographic Mysteries of Egypt

When Mysteries of Egypt first appeared as an IMAX theatre presentation, I saw it not once, not twice, but three times! National Geographic, well known for their commitment to marvelous photography, whether still photos or live action, has captured the romance, beauty and yes, the mystery of Egypt in this large format film. And now I can watch Mysteries of Egypt on video, in my own home!

Starring Omar Sharif, the original Egyptian "eye-candy" as narrator, he portrays a distinguished, enthusiastic grandfather taking his granddaughter, played by Kate Maberly, on a journey through time which unravels the mystery of the mummys curse legend while giving us a never-ending visual treat as we soar along the Nile, see the building of the Great Pyramid and follow Howard Carter in his search for the tomb of Tutankamun.

The producers of the film have used the large-format film technology to the best advantage in showcasing the wonders of Egypt and of the Nile. Not only are we able to soar like eagles above the rushing headwaters of the Nile in Uganda and Ethiopia, we are able to watch as each block of the Great Pyramid is transported up ramps by authentically costumed Egyptians. Great care was taken to make the re-enactments in the film as authentic as possible, under the tutelage of Zahi Hawass.

One of the most interesting techniques in the film is the use of black and white footage to give the sense of taking you back in time as Howard Carters efforts to discover Tuts tomb are brought to life. When Lord Carnarvan asks, "Carter, what do you see?" you are there, experiencing the anticipation right along with them, as they peer into the tomb by candlelight for the first time.

While watching Mysteries of Egypt on video does lack the overwhelming effect of seeing it on a five story IMAX screen, it does have one benefit that the IMAX version does not. Along with the film, is the 30-minute documentary, The Making of the Mysteries of Egypt. If you are at all interested in the how did they do that? sort of thing, then you will also enjoy this bonus film. Revealing the techniques used to recreate everything from building the pyramids to King Tuts funeral procession up the Valley of the Kings, battling desert heat and organizing hundreds of extras, you will be amazed, as I was, that this gorgeous film was put together in little more than a months time.

Buy Mysteries of Egypt

Welcome to the Ancient Egyptian Home By Ilene Springer

Historical Hotels in Egypt - Part IV By Jimmy Dunn

Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn

Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes

Book Reviews Various Editors

Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman

Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich

Hotel Reviews By Juergen Stryjak

Egyptian Exhibitions By deTraci Regula

Nightlife Various Editors

Restaurant Reviews Various Editors

Shopping Around By Juergen Stryjak

Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad

Web Reviews By Siri Bezdicek

Prior Issues

September 1st, 2000
August 1st, 2000

July 1st, 2000

June 1st, 2000

Last Updated: June 6th, 2011