Ruby arrives in Cairo - unannounced, unexpected and unwelcome! she is nonplussed by the lack of welcome and does not realize that Iris just longs to live each day in the past, in a quiet reminiscence of what happened and does not want to be rudely brought into the present times. Through their brief interaction Iris re-lives her entire life by talking to Ruby of incidents in her past - snippets here and there, seemingly unconnected and Ruby slowly unravels her grandmothers very rich life. Ruby seems to be a typical teenager making friends with her taxi driver and falling in love with his brother overnight - she also finds it difficult to adapt to the idea that being in love with someone does not necessarily mean that you have to have a physical relationship with him and is nonplussed at her boyfriend reluctance to engage in sex right away!! At the same time Ruby's relationship with Jas her friend who died also shows depths in Ruby's character which were not apparent till now. The death of Jas was the reason why Ruby felt she had to get away from everyone and go to a place where she was not known.
The story of Iris is mainly focussed on the period of WWII - very interesting time in Egypt's history it being so pivotal during the WW and in Ruby's case it is very much a modern one of here and now in Cairo, changed and yet seemingly unchanged culture wise. This was a nice peek into the Cairo of then and now. The story of Egypt during the WW was very interesting as it showed the importance that the allies placed on Egypt as being the center and the place which divided the West from the East. It shows the privileged life of the Westerner in a poor country even at times of war, enjoying privileges and luxuries denied the people of the country. Iris working in an administrative capacity at the time realises that she can do something by training to be a nurse, and she does so finally moving on to become a doctor much later in her life.
For someone like me who does not travel much and who very much likes to, books like these are interesting reads. I liked the distinction between the old and the new Cairo, the descriptiveness of the markets, the streets, the deserts and even the museums and history all bring Cairo very much to life.