Nominated for the 2023 Dublin Literary Award
This monumental family saga offers a vivid portrait of Egypt's Mamluk period, one that is at both sweeping in scope and intimate in detail. Set in medieval Cairo, the novel centers on three generations of Egyptians, foreign-born Mamluks, and their descendants as their trials and victories mirror those of their turbulent country. The first volume, "Sons of the People", introduces us to Zaynab, the daughter of a middle-class merchant in Cairo who catches the eye of the powerful Mamluk amir Muhammad. After they marry, Zaynab is transported to the foreign world of Mamluk politics and wealth where she must navigate the complicated machinations of various rulers and raise their four children. Their oldest son becomes an architect and embarks upon the monumental task of building a grand mosque with Sultan Hasan as a symbol of the Mamluks rise to power. In the second volume "The Judge of Qus", Bassiouney tells the story of Amr ibn Ahmad ibn Abd al-Karim, a wise and compassionate judge of Islamic law whose refusal to bend to the demands of the Mamluk rulers ultimately leads to Amr's downfall. The final volume, "Events of Nights," weaves together testimonies from three characters, each with narrow and differing perspectives on the novel's events, subtly calling the readers' attention to the unstable nature of historical fiction.
Filled with compelling drama, ruthless ambition, and tragic love, Bassiouney's masterful trilogy brings the Mamluk's rich cultural and architectural heritage to life through the eyes of one family.