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Alexandria

On sale

2nd November 2023

Price: £24.99

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Selected: Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781529377613

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An original, authoritative and lively cultural history of the first modern city, from pre-Homeric times to the present day.

My dad had always told me about our city’s magnificence, and as I looked at the new library in Alexandria it finally hit home. This is no ordinary library, I reflected. And this is no ordinary city.

Combining rigorous research with myth and folklore, Alexandria is an authoritative history of a city that has shaped our modern world. Soon after being founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria became the crucible of cultural exchange between East and West for millennia and the undisputed global capital of knowledge. It was at the forefront of human progress, but it also witnessed brutal natural disasters, plagues, crusades and violence.

Major empires fought over Alexandria, from the Greeks and Romans to the Arabs, Ottomans, French and British. Key figures shaped the city from its eponymous founder to Aristotle, Cleopatra, Saint Mark the Evangelist, Napoleon Bonaparte and many others, each putting their own stamp on its identity and its fortunes. And millions of people have lived in this bustling seaport on the Mediterranean. From its humble origins to its dizzy heights and its latest incarnation, Islam Issa tells us the rich and gripping story of a city that changed the world.

(P)2023 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

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Reviews

Dominic Sandbrook, Books of the Year, Sunday Times
Founded by Alexander the Great on the Mediterranean coast, the city that bears his name evolved into one of the most dazzling metropolises in history. An intoxicating blend of Greek and Egyptian culture, Alexandria was a hub of philosophy, science, maths and history, as well as a city of pleasure, politics and astonishing violence. This is a wonderfully entertaining account of its history, written with vim and vigour
Raphael Cormack, Times Literary Supplement
Lively and well-researched
Paul Strathern, author of <i>The Medici</i>
Islam Issa's Alexandria is a fabulous book, in every sense of that word. It is a history of the city, of its multitudinous people, of its heroes and villains, of its Library and its Pharos, down through the ages to his own family and his life growing up there. It is a cornucopia of fascinating details, every page revealing a new delight. A work of brilliant and informed scholarship, as well as being a labour of love. It is as if Islam Issa was born to write this book.
Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, author of <i>Persians: the Age of the Great Kings</i>
Had things gone differently for Antony and Cleopatra, then today we would be lauding the glories of Alexandria instead of Rome. But Islam Issa refuses to see Alexandria as an also-ran and does a fine job in this book of guiding us through Alexandria's long, colourful, rarely peaceful, past. By evoking the splendours of its palaces, temples, libraries, churches, museums, synagogues, mosques, bazaars, dance halls and cafes, the book provides a multifaceted history of an enthralling city.
Francesca Peacock, Daily Telegraph
'In Islam Issa's monumental and vividly imagined new tale of the city, Alexandria comes to life . . . Issa's Alexandria arrives at 2011's Arab Spring having covered more than two millennia in just over 400 pages - no mean feat. But his real success is the book's sense of personality. It ends with Issa walking through the modern city that now stands on the ancient site, passing its markets and Art Deco cinemas. He writes about the present as vividly as the storied past. This book is a fitting tribute to a city that has survived, changed and grown for so many centuries
Michael Prodger, New Statesman
Issa, an Alexandrian himself, is an assured narrator with an easy, undemonstrative manner, who unearths myths and stories that give vivid life to his more sober account of Alexandria's travails and triumphs.
Philip Freeman, author of <i>Hannibal: Rome's Greatest Enemy</i>
Alexandria is the book on this amazing city that I've long been waiting for. It's wonderfully easy to read, solidly researched, and totally engaging
Kirkus
A comprehensive history . . . [Issa] relates his native city's past principally through attention to its most famous figures and rulers . . . A well-researched, readable history of one of the world's oldest and most consequential cities
Violet Moller, author of <i>The Map of Knowledge</i>
A fascinating and much-needed book about this singular city written with vibrancy and skill. Issa's personal knowledge and passion for Alexandria, past and present, shine through every sentence.
Publishers Weekly
Issa delivers a lively chronicle of one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities from its beginnings almost two and a half millennia ago to the present . . . Issa vividly recounts invasions by the Crusaders, Ottomans, French and British, and shows how in the modern era Alexandria continued in its role as a cultural hub and social and religious melting pot. This impressively researched account reveals a captivating city through the ages
Paul Edmondson, author of <i>Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile</i>
Crackling with good storytelling across more than two millennia, this is a love letter that makes us long for Alexandria
David Abulafia, Literary Review
Lively and engrossing . . . Issa combines love for the city with nostalgia for its vanished past . . . Issa has brilliantly illuminated the history of a great city
Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement
I was charmed by Islam Issa's Alexandria: The city That Changed the World, which recovers elegantly and poignantly the long history of rich interactions among the many communities of the city
Al Jazeera
Issa does a fantastic job of explaining the history, taking the time to share the stories, both mythical and factual, that have made Alexandria the city it is today . . . Whatever the future does bring, it will be hard to tell its story in a more informed and affectionate way than Issa has. His history is a tribute to Alexandria, a reservoir of knowledge on the city, and sets a marker for those wishing to tell the stories of the world's great cities.