By Mohamed H. Heikal, 1983
Why You Should Read It:
Mohamed Heikal, who died in February 2016, was an Egyptian journalist and for 17 years, editor-in-chief of the Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram. He was a masterful story teller, and this book on the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981 during the annual victory parade in Cairo to celebrate Operation Badr (1973), during which the Egyptian Army crossed the Suez Canal and taken back a small part of the Sinai Peninsula from Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War, reads like a thriller.
The assassination was undertaken by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, one of many Islamist groups angered by the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty Sadat signed with Sadat inked with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
The story of Sadat, the man, soldier, and politician Heikal that is weaved might not capture the imagination of younger readers today, but the courage of Sadat in making peace with Israel, looks extraordinary in the context of deeply troubled Middle East. The book was a forewarning, that should have been heeded more, about the rise of religious extremism and the havoc it would wreak. As a dummy’s guide to how extremism and the terrorism that plagues the region today goes, the book remains unequalled.
Why You Should Grumble:
Socially, Sadat was not of Egypt’s traditional Oriental-European ruling elite stock, and the snobbish upper classes always viewed him as an outsider. There is a hint of this in Heikal’s tone, which means he is only able to offer a minimal explanation to the root causes that ensured it was Sadat, and not any previous leader, who made peace with Israel. There is also only a cursory explanation of the stresses and fault lines in Egyptian society that were feeding the rise of extremism.