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Playing Cards In Cairo: Mint Tea, Tarneeb and Tales of the City [Paperback]

Hugh Miles
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

10 Feb 2011
PLAYING CARDS IN CAIRO is a fly-on-the-wall account - like THE BOOKSELLER OF KABUL - of life (for western readers) in a strange and exotic environment. Hugh Miles lives in Cairo and is engaged to an Egyptian woman. Twice a week he plays cards with a small group of Arab, Muslim women and through this medium he explores their lives in modern Cairo, the greatest of Arab cities. It is a secretive, romantic, often deprived but always soulful existence for the women as they struggle with abusive husbands and philandering boyfriends. The book is a window onto a city - and a way of life - which is at a crucial juncture in its history. Hugh Miles, who knows the Arab world intimately, is the perfect guide.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (10 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349119805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349119809
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 403,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


** 'Behind the veil are the frustrations, fads, fashions and fallibilities familiar to women the world over. Miles is a loving listener, whose understanding of the Islamic world is sharpened by tea and sympathy (THE TIMES)

** 'Playing Cards mixes personal vignettes with an informed overview of Egyptian politics, and although unflinching about Cairo's problems, Miles shows his affection for this great city of every page. (FINANCIAL TIMES)

** 'An intriguing read and, as an introduction to Egyptian life, it's fascinating (DAILY MAIL)

** 'Miles should be applauded for telling their stories so compellingly, and for giving us such a detailed insight into their everyday lives. (SCOTSMAN)

Book Description

An insider's account of the drama of Muslim women's lives in Egypt

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Stuff 20 April 2008
It was always going to be difficult and controversial for an Englishman to write a book about Egyptian women, but Hugh Miles manages it brilliantly. Placing himself and his relationship with one of them at the heart of his story, he never lets his readers forget the perspective from which the world he describes is being viewed.

Miles lets us in through the back door to eavesdrop on young middle-class Egyptian women talking about their lives. And their lives aren't easy: they have to cope with authoritarian husbands and brothers; one of them is addicted to prescription drugs; another is suffering from the after-effects of botched plastic surgery.

It's not all hardship, however. We also learn about their hopes, dreams, secret lovers and, above all, their friendships with each other which sustain them.

A consummate journalist, Miles lets the people he's writing about, people whose voices are rarely heard, speak for themselves.

This is an important and groundbreaking book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Petrolhead VINE VOICE
This book has the potential to appeal to a lot of different people. From the outside it looks like a romance that belongs in the travel section or perhaps the cards and games shelf of your local bookshop.

But the card games of the title (which enabled Hugh Miles to meet and fall in love with an Egyptian girl) are just a device, the narrative key to a treasure trove of stories about the lives and loves of women in Muslim society. The result is a compassionate book, very funny at times and truly shocking at others, which provides an outstanding documentary insight into a topic that is a mystery to most of us in the west, and it would seem, a taboo subject for many Muslim men.

The characters and relationships illustrate the difficulties that Egyptian women face (such as trying to find a suitable boy while under the vigilant discipline of one's own family) and - brilliantly and wonderfully - how they rise above those problems. The women's ingenuity and spirit as they subtly resist and defy their own fathers and brothers is inspiring and moving.

Miles had a privileged insider's view because the girl he fell in love with was unusually free of family ties and thus more able than most to associate with a foreign man. The women whose stories he tells are literate, metropolitan and relatively liberal, and I am sure that there are millions of women who have an even tougher time in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

This is a stunning, informative, insider's look at real lives in a society that I knew almost nothing about. Miles has unlocked the secrets and I will never feel the same again when I see a woman in a headscarf.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read 25 Sep 2009
I wasn't sure if I should buy this book after having seen it at the bookstore more than 3 months ago, but decided it might be an interesting read for last week's Eid El Fitr vacation and it was.
It's an easy read and a real page-turner taking me nearly three days to finish. I quite enjoyed sitting around the cards' table with the gang and listening in to what was going on in the girls' heads.
It is beautifully written and gives genuine insider's views on the lives of Egyptians today.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncovering New Challenges in Egyptian Society 13 April 2008
This book definitely deserves a 5! It addresses concerns which Egyptians, especially female Cairenes are unable to overtly discuss. It bluntly brings to the surface the day-to-day challenges that face women in correlation with society's unspoken traditional rules made by men.

Playing Cards in Cairo is a true outlook of real encouters of many families - Hugh Miles has done an excellent piece of work once again; this time by integrating a more personal experience making it more real for the reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even modern women have a hard time in Egypt 31 Mar 2011
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hugh Miles is a British freelance journalist whose work took him to Cairo in 2004. There he met a young Egyptian woman, here called Roda. A group of Cairene ladies met regularly in Roda's home to play cards, and Roda invited him to join these parties, where he was often the only man present. This gave him the rare opportunity for a foreigner to enter the world of these women, and the book pivots around what he learnt about their lives. They are all modern in their attitudes; but however modern they are, they are all under the control of male members of their families, husbands, fathers and even of younger brothers. Their lives in Roda's apartment are kept secret from their menfolk - for example, most of them smoke at these parties, but before they return home they take precautions that their breath no longer smells of tobacco. One of them accepts being beaten up by her husband occasionally; another loves her tyrannical younger brother; they all complain, but do not or cannot openly rebel. A few years earlier they had all been a little freer, but in recent years, despite Mubarak's crackdown on the militant Islamists in Egypt, the conservative and religious influences had become stronger and more difficult to resist. One of the women is in an urfi marriage (that is an unofficial marriage which is sanctioned by Islam, but which would be frowned upon by her respectable family if they knew about it.) Though in this way or another many modern young women secretly have sexual relationships with men, they often have their hymens sewn up again before a regular marriage, so that the wedding sheets can become bloodstained. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An amusing meander through pre 2011 revolution cairo
beautifully written with great humour and insight into the cairenes. lots of facts wrapped into an engaging storyline that will inform the tourist or business traveller.
Published 2 months ago by simon c davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanting to understand Egyptian culture this book gave me fascinating...
I am constantly seeking books centred on life over different times in Egypt as I spend significant periods living there. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Di Billups
5.0 out of 5 stars A must buy
This book is a 'must buy' or even a 'should buy' even if you are slightly interested in the life of modern day women in Cairo. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Violetta
4.0 out of 5 stars Okay
Perfect conditions of the book, great price. Quite fast, but I live in Italy, so I think the problem was living in another country.
Published 17 months ago by Emme.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical insight into Islamic culture.
Dont let the title fool you, this is not a book about cards, rather it is a snapshot of some of the lives lived by Eyptians today, especially that of Egyptian women, told to Hugh... Read more
Published on 10 Aug 2011 by cuentacuentos
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book is very well written, and by an excellent storyteller. Very enjoyable, and with a sympathetic understanding of Cairo and the people. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2011 by A. Ward
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, though slightly uninformed, with a hint of imperialism
Having lived in Cairo for some time, I have to say that some of Hugh Miles' information about Cairo and Islam is... Just. Not. True. Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2010 by Fairuza Foch
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocation of Cairo
This book is so evocative of the Cairo I remember and love.
It is written in a manner which brings memories alive and apart from the pleasure this must bringto readers who... Read more
Published on 15 Dec 2009 by S. M. B. Stark
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
This is well written as the writer has clearly immersed himself in the Egyptian culture, interweaving a story of Egyptian recent history and culture with the Egyptian people of... Read more
Published on 2 Oct 2008 by Stephen Chambers
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh.
An engaging read, and rather unique mix of romance and hard nosed social comment. Miles, a sympathetic listener and voracious fact finder, has created an original and entertaining... Read more
Published on 5 May 2008 by Chazegee
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