I received a copy of Footprints in the Desert, written by Maha Akhtar, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. This e-book came out earlier this month. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
There are places and people quite different from us. We know this to be true but sometimes we need to be reminded.
For those of us who cannot go and see all the difference places and people - due to lack of time travel technology or affordability - we choose to do the next best thing. We open the pages of a book.
"Footprints in the Desert" takes place during the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Right away, we are introduced to Salah, an Arabian spy who has to flee Turkey in the middle of the night after his cover is blown.
Just like that, you’re swept up in a historical fiction tale of war, relationships and a whole different culture. Yet, parts seemed quite familiar...
He had certainly never meant to become a spy. He’d always envisioned a rather tame, conventional life for himself: a good job, a pretty girl, marriage by the time he was twenty-five, a family... that sort of thing.
Eventually, Salah makes his way home to Cairo, the place where he foresees his best chance of survival against the Turks who remain on his trail throughout the whole book. He had grown up in a bazaar, an enclosed merchandising area, marketplace or street of shops where good and services are exchanged or sold (wikipedia.org). A place where those who worked the shops also lived.
An intricate maze of alleys, tunnels and locals who served to confuse any foreigner who tried to infiltrate the system.
Do you know your way around the bazaar... Heavens, no! I only know my little places. Even those who spend a lifetime here don’t know it well.
The perfect hiding place indeed.
The story also introduces us to Saydeh, Salah’s mother. A delightful woman who spends time each day with a group of friends in a Cafe. We meet Norura, widow to one of Salah’s dearest friends. She’s left with no home, no job and an infant daughter to care for on her own. Until Salah steps in.
We meet many of Salah’s comrades. All of these characters interweave themselves into surviving war time and living everyday life. A very easy story to get lost in as you’re reading.
I enjoyed this book and read it rather quickly. It helped a lot in understanding the complexities of middle eastern politics, how much damage we can do when we step in without taking the time to understand and how much history goes into current events in that region of the world still today. All the while, regular life in places like the bazaar of Cairo continue as always.