Picnic at Sakkara (first part of the "Egypt Trilogy")
This is a delicious comedy, one of those rare, completely entertaining romps with a master of humour. It might have been called a comic Passage to Egypt.
The story concerns Edgar Perry, a lecturer at Cairo University in the days of King Farouk. This mild man of good will suddenly finds himself the private tutor of an illustrious and powerful Pasha, who at first encourages his illusions about Egypt, where not all mirages occur in the desert. He becomes the astonished fomenter of student riots—in other words, a dangerous character. Those to whom he has taught the beauties of George Eliot become addicts of sinister political violence. One of them, Muawiya Khaslat, an attractive rogue, wavers between his devotion to Perry and his membership in the Moslem Brotherhood.
Perry's innocent benevolence, his desire to alleviate the misery of the students, is his Achilles' heel. He discovers an Egypt in which nothing is what it seems, where infidelities may be illusory and loyalties divided, where it may be a mistake to put one's trust in kindness and princesses. It is a wonder that Perry comes out alive, though in the end it is perhaps his innocence that protects him.