Last Updated on December 9, 2022 by Maggie McKneely
Are you planning a trip to the land of pyramids and mummies? Here are the top 8 books about Egypt to read before you go!
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Books About Egypt
Egpyt – that mythical land where pyramids spring up from the desert, where people used to mummify everything from cats and crocs to family members, where enormous statues and temples are scattered all over the country. Ancient Egypt was one of the oldest and grandest civilizations in human history, and though the last pharaoh died over 2000 years ago, the remnants of that empire still fascinate and dazzle us today.
Because of that, there is no shortage of books inspired by Egypt. So I asked some fellow travel bloggers for their top recommendations of books about Egypt. This list is perfect if you’re planning a 7-day trip to Egypt, or just daydreaming about one day going. There’s classic fiction, ala Agatha Christie, fascinating non-fiction, and even some kids’ books, so there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.
Death on the Nile
Death on the Nile is a classic murder mystery that takes place on a steamboat tour along the Nile River. The book showcases some of Egypt’s most spectacular destinations as the boat travels from Shellal to Wadi Halfa. Its fun and well-written plot make it one of the best books about Egypt to read before a trip there.
Written by famed novelist Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile features the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot at his finest. He must solve a complicated murder onboard a ship with wealthy passengers – who are suddenly all murder suspects. Death, mayhem, and intrigue ensue as Poirot investigates the crime and discovers that not all are who they seem.
The locations in the book are evocative and thrilling. The mystery begins in Aswan where the passengers begin their journey. A few chapters later, they disembark at Abu Simbel to visit the temple and see the sights. They eventually end up at Wadi Halfa in Sudan and go on an excursion to view the Second Cataract.
Even though the book was written in 1937, it’s still as popular as ever. Death on the Nile is was recently released as a movie in February 2022. The new movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh and features an ensemble cast.
Recommended by: Katy from A Rambling Unicorn
Visiting Cairo generally means the usual stops for the majority of tourists. The Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, and the famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar for shopping and bargains. It pays to get off the tourist trail and into the backstreets of Cairo where you can witness Egyptian life unfolding in front of your eyes.
The book Midaq Alley by famed author Naguib Mahfouz is one of the best books about Egypt to learn about real-life Cairo. It is set in one of the backstreets of Khan el-Khalili and one where no tourists venture. Even though the story is set in the busy, crowded street of the 1940s, nothing has changed that much in regards to everyday life. The characters in Midaq Alley could well be the same today, with the same broken dreams.
The novel does not tell us about Cairo but chronicles its culture and the social changes that took place during the 20th century in this microcosm of the city through a range of assorted characters from different social classes and backgrounds.
Visitors often avoid the “different” parts of a city, which is a pity. Reading Midaq Alley before a trip to Cairo will open your mind and give you an insight into the “real life” that exists outside of the main attractions. Find a “Kirsha’s coffee shop,” sit and drink a coffee, listen, people watch, then go out into the alley and have your senses assaulted in all directions.
Recommended by: Dave from Silverbackpacker
The Tutankhamon Affair
Christian Jacq is an Egyptologist and French author. He has written several novels about ancient Egypt, among them The Tutankhamon Affair. The book is a historical fiction novel and is captivating from beginning to end.
Howard Carter discovered the grave of King Tutankhamon and Lord Carnarvon is the one who funded the excavations. In a thoroughly engaging way, Christian Jacq writes about the lives of both men from a young age all the way to their deaths: their love lives, the mysterious curse surrounding the tomb, and the setbacks in the research.
As a historian, I love reading a good, well-written historical novel. As the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, so far the only pharaoh’s tomb found untouched by robbers, is so significant in the long history of Egypt, everyone visiting Egypt should read The Tutankhamon Affair. It’s one of the best books about Egypt and about one of its most important archaeological discoveries.
Recommended by: Cosette from KarsTravels
Mara, Daughter of the Nile
Mara, Daughter of the Nile towards teens, but is not too juvenile to be a guilty pleasure! It’s one of those rare books about Egypt that can appeal to all ages.
Mara tells the story of a slave girl who will do just about anything for her freedom. She becomes an apathetic part of a rebellion to overthrow the reigning Pharoah, Queen Hatshepsut, in order to restore the young King Thutmose to the throne.
Initially part of the plan without much choice, but a lot of self-interest, Mara soon finds herself at the center of the plot, and her feelings involved with a captor.
This story follows a few different characters and their perspectives, which will keep your interest. The book is equal parts dramatic, romantic, and historical. It toes the line of fact and fiction by weaving a believable tale into actual events and the names of known figures and gods.
Reading this book before you take a trip to Egypt will have you slinking down backstreets and sympathizing with tomb robbers! It’s a great choice to take you back in time and picture what life was like in Ancient Egypt.
Recommended by: Celeste from SlowTravelBlog
The Writing of the Gods
This book is like Ford vs. Ferrari, but with the unearthing of a long-dead language.
The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone is an absolutely fascinating but entertaining look at how the Rosetta Stone was finally deciphered. Hieroglyphics, and ancient Egypt, puzzled schoolers for centuries. Egypt was the mightiest empire the world had ever known, yet everything about it—the pyramids, mummies, the Sphinx—was shrouded in mystery. Whoever was able to decipher the Rosetta Stone, and learn how to read hieroglyphs, would solve that mystery and fling open a door that had been locked for two thousand years. So when the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, linguists thought they would finally be able to read the language of the ancients in just a matter of time.
But it proved far more difficult to crack the code of hieroglyphics than anyone thought. This book tells the story of the race between two rival scholars as they worked for decades to understand how that pictorial writing system worked, and thus crack the code to learning all about ancient Egypt itself.
The author takes what could easily be a dry subject – deciphering a language – and makes it an easy-to-read ride of a story. He weaves in so many interesting facts, about ancient Egypt, hieroglyphic writing (I didn’t know the ancient Egyptians could be more impressive than I already thought they were), the study of language itself (I never knew how much I took for granted!), even Napoleon and how he was involved in the Stone’s discovery.
This is certainly one of the best books about Egypt for anyone interested in language and that amazing ancient culture.
Recommended by: Me! (Maggie) from Pink Caddy Travelogue
Walking the Nile
Walking the Nile is the fascinating story of Levison Wood’s grueling adventure following the Nile from source to sea and one of the best adventure books about Egypt.
Although often synonymous with Egypt (after all, it is thanks to the Nile that the ancient Egyptian civilization was able to prosper), the Nile actually runs through 11 of Africa’s nations. Throughout his epic 4,250-mile journey on foot, Levison has to face no end of challenges as he wild camps and forages for his food along the way. His journey sees him crossing war-torn countries, desolate terrains, crocodile-infested waters, palm-fringed shores, and impenetrable mangrove swamps.
It is one of the finest adventure books you will read this year. Not only will you feel like you are on the journey with him, but Levison also does a fantastic job of bringing to life an area of Africa that so many of us know so little about because it is rarely discussed in the mainstream media.
Be prepared for devastating lows, the frustration of corruption and bureaucracy, and the fear of unlawfulness. You will share his tears and anger, but also his joy as he recounts insurmountable kindness in the harshest of conditions.
It is truly an epic adventure like no other!
Recommended by: Bea from Bea Adventurous
The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present
The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present by the renowned Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson is the perfect choice to get inspiration for an upcoming trip to Egypt. In this book, the author takes you not only scenically along the Nile, but also through time. You go to Thebes with the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and Luxor Temple. Readers learn about the fertile Fayum and travel to Giza to the Great Pyramids and finish in the capital, Cairo.
On the way along the Nile, Wilkinson introduces readers to the Egyptian gods, pharaohs, and emperors and impresses whose fates were connected to the river. One gets a breathtaking insight into the history and tales of the enduring river Nile in Egypt. One of the most brilliant books about Egypt, especially if you are planning a Nile cruise and want to dive deep into Egyptology.
Recommended by: Martina from PlacesofJuma
See Inside Ancient Egypt (for kids!)
Ancient Egypt is a culture that fascinates at any age, but children in particular are enchanted to discover pyramids, underground tombs, and mummies. If you are planning a trip to Egypt with children, See Inside Ancient Egypt is one of the best books about Egypt to introduce kids to what they will then be able to see with their own eyes.
The book is produced in durable cardboard and there are 8 different topics, which explain interesting and real facts of daily life in ancient Egypt, sometimes even with a hint of irony. Across the book’s pages, there are 70 flaps to life to discover further details or curiosities and to feed the imagination of children.
The representatives are rich in detail and explain in a simple but exhaustive way even complex topics such as the construction of the pyramids or the mummification process. The book is recommended for children from five years old, but even younger children will be extremely fascinated by this very interactive book.
Recommended by: Clotilde from A Princess Traveling with Twins
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