The best books on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution

Who am I?

I'm a writer and filmmaker based in Cairo for over a decade. I was inspired to move to Egypt when I visited during the 2011 Revolution and fell in love with the vibrance of the city. Since then Cairo has changed and I have lived through an extraordinary history with some difficult times but always with a sense of curiosity for stories. My book, Cairo’s Ultras, began as a documentary film project in 2012 and I have found many other interesting topics during my time in this enigmatic and fascinating place. I will publish a second book next year, called Decolonising Images, that looks at the photographic heritage and visual culture of Egypt.


I wrote...

Cairo's Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture

By Ronnie Close,

Book cover of Cairo's Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture

What is my book about?

The history of Cairo’s football fans is one of the most poignant narratives of the January 25th, 2011 Egyptian uprising. Football fans became embroiled in the street protests that brought down the Mubarak regime and in the violent turmoil since the Ultras have been locked in a bitter conflict with the security state. This book explores the Ultras in Cairo and their role in the uprising alongside the politics of soccer in Egypt. Cairo’s Ultras provides an intimate sense of this unique subculture and how football communities offer ways of belonging in everyday life. Along the way, the book skewers media clichés and retraces Egyptian revolutionary politics to consider the capacity of sport to emancipate through fan performances on the football terraces.

The books I picked & why

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The City Always Wins

By Omar Robert Hamilton,

Book cover of The City Always Wins

Why this book?

This book is a novel written by an Egyptian activist, Omar Hamilton, who lived through the 2011 period. The fiction approach gives the author greater freedom to explore the inner lives of the Tahrir Square activists who he knew well and the momentous events in Cairo. The non-factual approach of a novel offers something missing even in the best journalism because the author brings to life the motivations and personalities involved in the leftist movements which overthrew the Mubarak regime. His first-hand experience of the time fuels the narrative as these revolutionaries faced the failure of the uprising in the long term. The book explores these harsh realities of politics through well-developed characters and expressionistic writing that brings to life this time in Egypt.

The City Always Wins

By Omar Robert Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The City Always Wins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Omar Robert Hamilton brings vividly to life the failed revolution of 2011 on the streets of Cairo, in all its youthful bravery and naive utopianism.' - JM Coetzee

'The City Always Wins is a stirring, clear, humane and immensely savvy novel about political innocence and fearlessness. Its fictive portrayals of the Egyptian 'revolution' of 2011 are nothing less than ground-breaking.' - Richard Ford

'I finished this novel with fascination and admiration. It gives a picture of the inside of a popular movement that we all saw from the outside, in countless news broadcasts and foreign-correspondent reports, a picture so vivid…


The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World

By Marwan M. Kraidy,

Book cover of The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World

Why this book?

Marwan Kraidy’s book is a deep dive into the cultural politics of the Arab Uprisings during 2011. Wonderfully written and cleverly organized this academic book looks at the ‘digital’ nature of these resistance movements and the use of art and media tools in the protests. The focus is on young Arabs who used the street to challenge authority and cutting-edge social media platforms to argue for social change. In the book political activism and a period of digital euphoria meet when places like Tahrir Square became the centre of the world. This is one of the most essential accounts of 2011 that offers a refreshing take on Facebook and Twitter as revolutionary agents that helped to bring down the military regime. 

The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World

By Marwan M. Kraidy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Naked Blogger of Cairo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Uprisings spread like wildfire across the Arab world from 2010 to 2012, fueled by a desire for popular sovereignty. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, protesters flooded the streets and the media, voicing dissent through slogans, graffiti, puppetry, videos, and satire that called for the overthrow of dictatorial regimes. Investigating what drives people to risk everything to express themselves in rebellious art, The Naked Blogger of Cairo uncovers the creative insurgency at the heart of the Arab uprisings. While commentators have stressed the role of texting and Twitter, Marwan M. Kraidy shows that the essential medium of expression was the human…


The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt's Unfinished Revolution

By Jack Shenker,

Book cover of The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt's Unfinished Revolution

Why this book?

As someone who moved to Egypt in 2012 I only experienced the 2011 Revolution in the past tense, in a secondhand way but this book puts this story in a clear, factual way. This is a meticulous work of journalism and passionate study of the time from someone who lived through the street protests and the book has combined on-the-ground reporting with wider investigation of the causes and the revolution’s achievements. The heart of the book is with the struggle of the Egyptian people during 2011 and the author knows Cairo as a city to bring alive this historic narrative for political freedom. 

The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt's Unfinished Revolution

By Jack Shenker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Egyptians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Egyptians, journalist Jack Shenker uncovers the roots of the uprising that succeeded in toppling Hosni Mubarak, one of the Middle East's most entrenched dictators, and explores a country now divided between two irreconcilable political orders. Challenging conventional analyses that depict contemporary Egypt as a battle between Islamists and secular forces, The Egyptians illuminates other, equally important fault lines: far-flung communities waging war against transnational corporations, men and women fighting to subvert long-established gender norms, and workers dramatically seizing control of their own factories.

Putting the Egyptian revolution in its proper context as an ongoing popular struggle against state…


The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

By James M. Dorsey,

Book cover of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

Why this book?

I found this book very informative when I started researching my book on the Ultras fans in Egypt. It is an in-depth look at the football history in the Middle East and North African region. 

The author, James Dorsey, has real-life experiences of Cairo and other places in the region when he worked as a journalist for decades before turning to his attention to soccer. This book grew out of a blog of the same name with a wide readership and this is the most significant book on the football politics available. The section on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood comes from an expert’s eye as he picks up the details and explains the situation to the reader. The book is a journey around the troubled landscape of the Middle East to discover the mix of history, cultures, and politics of the Arab world through soccer.

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

By James M. Dorsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James M. Dorsey introduces the reader to the world of Middle Eastern and North African football - an arena where struggles for political control, protest and resistance, self-respect and gender rights are played out. Politics was the midwife of soccer in the region, with many clubs being formed as pro- or anti-colonial platforms and engines of national identity and social justice. This book uncovers the seldom-told story of a game that evokes deep-seated passions. Football fans are shown to be a major political force and one of the largest civic groups in Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood: their demands for…


Cairo: City of Sand

By Maria Golia,

Book cover of Cairo: City of Sand

Why this book?

The book gives the reader a deep layered understanding of Egypt before the 2011 uprising to look at the state of the nation and into the heart of Cairo, an ancient city but now a metropolis of over 20 million. Written with a novelist's flare this is an intimate portrait of the lives of Cairenes that explores hidden aspects of this mysterious city. The author builds an intriguing story on the religious beliefs, family values, negotiating tactics, driving habits, and attitudes towards foreigners. This is a reflection on a wonderous city, a place of sadness and of hope, which uses the metaphor of Saharan desert sand blowing in to shape the sand castle politics of the Mubarak era that would come crashing down in the 2011 Revolution.

Cairo: City of Sand

By Maria Golia,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cairo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cairo is a 1,400-year-old metropolis whose streets are inscribed with sagas, a place where the pressures of life test people's equanimity to the very limit. Virtually surrounded by desert, sixteen million Cairenes cling to the Nile and each other, proximities that colour and shape lives. Packed with incident and anecdote "Cairo: City of Sand" describes the city's given circumstances and people's attitudes of response. Apart from a brisk historical overview, this book focuses on the present moment of one of the world's most illustrious and irreducible cities. Cairo steps inside the interactions between Cairenes, examining the roles of family, tradition…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Egypt, Cairo, and insurgency?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Egypt, Cairo, and insurgency.

Egypt Explore 140 books about Egypt
Cairo Explore 22 books about Cairo
Insurgency Explore 11 books about insurgency

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