I read this book at its release and a short time after my first and only visit to Egypt (to date, which tells something of my own fear to return to a country in the ensuing political climate). I wish I had read it before my visit, or at least during. Nothing I have read brings the true flavour of a community or a country so well to life. The Egypt of today is so built on its ancient history but it also carries an acute awareness of the modern Western world, which causes conflict. This book educates in both the history, extremely well, and the modern, with razor sharp insight and humour. I think it is a classic. The author has immense empathy and understanding in Egypt and its inhabitants.
Forget the guide books - this is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Egypt as it truly is. I read the book and remembered so much of my visit with a sometimes disturbing clarity. And this is why I have so much trust in what Paul William Roberts writes. To hit the nail on the head with so much precision about Egypt only encourages faith in his understanding of other countries and cultures with which he is familiar, but which I have so far failed to gain experience.
"River in the Desert" is the best book you could find on Egypt. It feeds a great drought in our knowledge and makes you laugh along the way.