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A Review of

Pyramids & Nightclubs

by L. L. Wynn

 

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Summary

An anthropologist examines the phenomenon of tourism in Egypt, focusing mostly on archeology-focused tourism by Westerners and social tourism by Gulf Arabs.
Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Pyramids and Nightclubs

Author

L. L. Wynn

ISBN

978-0-292-71702-2

Publisher

University of Texas Press

Category

Non-Fiction: Near Eastern Culture

Rating

StarStarStar

Number of Pages

279

Published In

2007

 

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Description

This book, written by an anthropologist, examines the experience of foreign tourists visiting Egypt and interacting with Egyptians.

The book sets the stage by talking about the point of view that underlies the book - the author's quest to study tourism in Egypt from the point of view of anthropological research. She explains the nature of her research and the constraints that help shape it. This is not particularly interesting for me, a non-anthropologist to read, but I expect it's crucial from the point of view of someone else in her field. It certainly helps understand the influences that shape her view of what she observes.

Not surprisingly, the book focuses first on the interest that Western tourists show in visiting the archeological sites of Egypt. It opens with an in-depth discussion of the history of archeology as we know it today, with the European archeologists essentially looking for buried treasure. The book explores how Egyptians stepped in to take control of their cultural heritage. It goes on to talk about how the profession of archeology evolved, and changed the nature of the archeo-tourism to be what we know today.

Another lengthy chapter explores the fascination that Westerners and other Arabs alike have with the "mystic powers" or "ancient wisdom" attributed by many to the ancient Egyptians. This chapter looks at the New Age tourism that has arisen in response to the writings of such authors as Graham Hancock.

Shifting gears, the book then moves away from the concept of Pharaonic tourism and examines something entirely different - tourism by Gulf Arabs. These tourists show very little interest in the Pharaonic sites, and instead come to Egypt to enjoy its vibrant leading role in Arabic-language pop culture. This is my favorite chapter because of the insights it provides into an important economic force that influences Egyptian music and dance. Along the way, this section of the book provides insight into what Egyptians think of Gulf Arabs and vice versa.

Near its end, the book devotes about nine pages to discussing expatriate belly dancers living and working in Egypt. It's a small portion of the overall book, but is sure to be interesting to dancers who aspire to visit Egypt and perhaps even live there for a time.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You would enjoy insights from an anthropologist on how tourists from differing cultures interact with Egyptians.
  • You weren't aware of how different the cultures of Gulf Arabs and Egyptians are from each other, and you'd like to learn more.
  • You're interested in the history of archeologists' interest in ancient Egypt and how their profession intersected with Egyptians.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You're not particularly interested in the notion of how tourists are perceived by Egyptians.
  • You're looking for information on how dancers fit into the picture of Egyptian culture.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • The section on the role Egypt plays in the dating habits of Gulf Arabic is interesting.
  • It's interesting to see how much New Age tourism Egypt experiences and what those tourists are like.
  • The author casts an interesting light on how Egyptians perceive foreign tourists, and how the tourists in turn perceive Egyptians.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • I was disappointed with how short the section on foreign dancers living and working in Egypt is. From the inclusion in the book's subtitle, I had expected more.
  • The chapter on the history of foreign archeologists in Egypt is rather tedious.

 

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Conclusion

The title drew me in: Pyramids and Nightclubs: A Travel Ethnography of Arab and Western Imaginations of Egypt, from King Tut and a Colony of Atlantis to Rumors of Sex Orgies, ... a Marauding Prince, and Blonde Belly Dancers. Unforunately, the book as a whole isn't nearly as entertaining to read as this title!.

I find this book interesting, although it doesn't rank as a favorite for me. I'm glad I read it, and maybe someday I'll read it again. More likely I'll pick it up just to refer back to a particular chapter now and then. I do recommend it, although I would probably prioritize other books more highly for people interested in learning more about Egyptian culture.

 

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Disclosures

There is nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone associated with this book.

 

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