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Michael David Lukas author photo and The Last Watchman of Old Cairo cover image

"The Last Watchman of Old Cairo"

An Evening with Author Michael David Lukas

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In this "wonderfully rich" (San Francisco Chronicle) novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.

Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary—perhaps magical—Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph's family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 departed their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a multi-generational testament to the stories we inherit and the places we are from. A poignant portrait of the complex relationship between estranged fathers and sons, of illicit love and of split cultural identity, the novel illuminates the tensions that have torn communities apart, and speaks to the need for bridging those divides—a need as relevant now as ever. 

About the Author:
Michael David Lukas is the author of the internationally bestselling novel The Oracle of Stamboul, which was a finalist for the California Book Award, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize and has been published in fifteen languages. He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a student at the American University of Cairo and a night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv. A graduate of Brown University, he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He works at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California. His latest book, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, came out in 2018. 

Praise for The Last Watchman of Old Cairo:

  • Winner of the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Award
  • Winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Fiction
  • Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the BBC
  • Longlisted for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Prize
  • A Penguin Random House International One World, One Book Selection
  • "Like a contemporary Lawrence Durrell, Lukas turns the Egyptian city into a tantalizingly seductive place of mystery." ~Publishers Weekly
  • "Lukas enlivens a fascinating epoch when Jews and Muslims bridged cultural divides for a common cause. Part mystery, part character study, yet historically accurate, this book should appeal to a broad swath of readers. ~Library Journal
  • "Lukas creates a thoroughly credible mystery, centering on the whereabouts of an apocryphal text of the Torah known as the Ezra Scroll, without sacrificing any of the complexity and subtlety of a work of character-centered literary fiction…. An appealing family drama illuminates the fascinating story of a famous repository of Jewish documents, the Cairo Geniza." ~Kirkus
Event date: 
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Oshman Family JCC
3921 Fabian Way-Freidenrich Conference Center, Room F-401
Palo Alto, CA

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