No land on earth has been so long observed as Egypt, which was attracting awestruck travelers back in the days of Herodotus and Julius Caesar.
Then came pilgrims to Sinai, crusaders and Napoleon, followed by the grand tourists of the eighteenth century, and those less grand with Thomas Cook in the nineteenth.
The range of voices gathered here is dazzling: an ancient myth from a papyrus next to Naguib Mahfouz's account of Alexandria, Florence Nightingale describing Abu Simbel side by side with Ahdaf Soueif's description of Sinai.
A description of medieval Cairo by Ibn Jubayr walks hand in hand with one of the modern city by the Egyptian thinker, Taha Hussein.
Lucie Duff-Gordon sails up the Nile, Edward Lane crawls through a sand-filled temple and Isambard Kingdom Brunel struggles up the cataract above Aswan.