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Juliette, a writer in New York, is widowed when her husband, a UN refugee camp director, is killed in the Middle East. Cairo-based Tareq, who once worked with Juliette’s husband as a UN security officer, writes to Juliette to offer his condolences. This is their first contact since their whirlwind week in Cairo where love began unexpectedly and ended abruptly.
Their correspondence leads to a reunion in Berlin where they rediscover the connections that sparked their relationship and begin to unpack the issues of faith and fidelity that kept them apart. With the ruins of the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, they tear down their own walls. Along the way, they visit museums filled with evocative collections of Middle Eastern and Egyptian artifacts, attend concerts which remind Tareq of his past as a musician, and put aside some of their burdens at the aptly name Sanssouci Palace.
Their time in Berlin confirms an enduring affection and prompts Tareq to visit Juliette in New York. In New York, he is forced to come to terms with both Juliette’s family and culture as well as his own, precipitating an identity crisis that has been brewing for three decades. In New York, Juliette and Tareq tackle her world together, starting first in a small town in upstate New York with Thanksgiving and Christmas in full swing and later with journeys that burst with artistry. In the end, they learn that love is ultimately about growth, creativity and acceptance.
Sometimes there are characters you just can’t get out of your head.
In the movie Cairo Time, characters Juliette and Tareq are thrown together after Juliette arrives in Cairo to visit her U.N. based husband. Tareq, an old colleague of her husband’s, meets Juliette’s plane instead, explaining that her husband has been delayed.
Juliette and Tareq proceed to explore parts of Cairo together, getting to know one another and exchanging cultures in the process. Though the feelings that develop between them are never overtly expressed, they are palpable throughout the movie. The film ends with the return of Juliette’s husband, and the viewer is left to wonder what might have been for Juliette and Tareq.
In the novel After Cairo, we get the pleasure of finding out. The pair meets again in Berlin after the death of Juliette’s husband. The novel’s description of Berlin’s sites and sounds is going to make you want to book your next vacation there – Berlin had never before been on my list of places to go, but now I’d like to go and use Juliette and Tareq’s itinerary as a guide!
The novel keeps the same languid and satisfying pace as the movie and keeps the romance understated. We watch these two adults fall in love poetically; their passion for each other is conveyed with respect and poignancy, leaving to the reader’s imagination what ought to be left there. The result is truly a mature and satisfying love story – and one of the most true to life I have read in a long time.
Combining romance, history, travel and family, the novel After Cairo is a satisfying and heartwarming sequel to the highly acclaimed film Cairo Time. Mitchell ably navigates the trials and tribulations of romance at middle age, relating the emotional highs and lows with humor and a deft touch. I loved this book and would recommend it wholeheartedly!
To all of us who loved the compelling characters from the movie Cairo Time, Mitchell has given a gift.
Against the backdrop of two countries – one foreign to him and one foreign to both – the author illuminates and then crumbles the cultural wall that separates Tareq and Juliette. Mitchell gets inside the characters’ heads and hearts and continues not only their story, but also their growth, both separately and toward one another.
She develops Tareq through his musicality, and develops Juliette through her relationship with her children, Marc and Emily. The clever new characters, especially the sparkling Emily, blend seamlessly with the old and beg to have their own stories told in future novels.
Mitchell’s poetic descriptions of the scenes, from Berlin’s Pergamon Museum to the snowy streets of a small New York town, highlight the characters’ emotions and float the reader through the story. Elements of light, color and music enhance the reader’s enjoyment and deepen the connection to the characters and appreciation of the central themes.
By the end of the novel, the reader is left with a sense of peace and hope, not just for these two people, but for a world divided by difference.
Cairo Time – The Film
Take a Virtual Tour of After Cairo Locations
Would you like to see the places that Juliette and Tareq visited? Links to some of the more famous destinations and museums in Berlin, Germany and around New York City are provided below, organized by chapter.
BERLIN, GERMANY ATTRACTIONS
Reunion – Chapter 3
The backdrop for Juliette’s and Tareq’s visit in Berlin is the city’s annual Festival of Lights. For this festival, artists design light displays that are projected onto buildings and landmarks. Tourists come from around the world to see the eye-catching and innovative displays of light.
Juliette and Tareq explore many of Berlin’s famous museums. One of the best websites overall for virtual visits to Berlin’s fabulous museums and landmarks is the Berlin Museums Portal (Museumsportal Berlin). In many instances, this website offers better visuals than the locations’ official websites.
The Dead – Chapter 4
Concerts are routine at Berlin’s Memorial Church, known in German as the Gedächtniskirche. The original Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was built in the 1890s and was heavily damaged in World War II. The modern church was built between 1956 and 1963. The church’s website includes information about the building’s architecture as well concerts held at the church.
Checkpoints – Chapter 5
The original Checkpoint Charlie no longer exists except as a shell that serves as a backdrop for a photo. The museum near the original checkpoint is known as the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, or “House at Checkpoint Charlie”. It houses the Mauer Museum, or Wall Museum, and the Museum des Weltweiten Gewaltfreien Kampfes (Museum for Nonviolent Struggle).
Part of the Topography of Terror Museum
By Adam Carr, May 2006,
Public Domain, Link to image on Wikimedia
For an overview of the extremely moving Topography of Terror, the Wikipedia page is good place to start. For a virtual tour of the open-air museum, YouTube provides some good options. This 1 minute 30 second video offers a closer view narrated in English. The camerawork is a bit wobbly, but the video still provides a sense of this outdoor exhibition. For more information about the formal museum, built on the ruins of Gestapo Headquarters, check out “Nazi control room reopens as Topography of Terror museum in Berlin” from The Guardian.
Before World War II, Potsdamerplatz was one of the busiest hubs in all of Europe. The square became a desolate no man’s land in a divided Berlin and then rose from its ashes after reunification. Visit Berlin’s Potsdamerplatz page includes a few photos of the area, but a quick search of the Internet will yield many more.
The Turkish Market website is available in English and includes some videos, including the one below of a woman making fresh sugar cane juice as the river flows gently behind her stand.
The Living – Chapter 6
Berlin’s Tiergarten, which literally means “Animal Park”, is an expansive garden in the middle of Berlin. Formerly a hunting ground, it’s now an idyllic place for a stroll. The Luiseninsel is nestled just off one of the Grosser Weg entrance to the park, near the Philharmonic.
About Tareq – Chapter 7
The website for the Pergamon Museum is available in English as well as German, although the search function is limited to German. At last check, the website included two general videos about the museum and some still photos from the collection, including the Market Gate of Miletus, the Babylonian Procession and the Ishtar Gate. In addition, many tourists have posted their videos of the museum on YouTube.
For more information about and more images of the Aleppo Room, the online Museum With No Frontiers offers a good overview in its Islamic Art Collection.
By Rad Vsovereign – own work
Public Domain Image, Link to the image on Wikimedia
Berlin’s Neues Museum, or New Museum, houses the Egyptian collection that is sometimes referred to as the Aegyptisches Museum, or Egyptian Museum. The website includes an introductory video in German with English subtitles, an architectural tour in English only, and some still photography. A wider selection of still photography is available on the website of the Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin.
The Egyptian Courtyard, Neues Museum, Berlin
By Eduard Gaertner – Das Neue Museum in Berlin, 1862
Public Domain, Link to the image on Wikimedia
After their day at the museum, Juliette and Tareq grab a bite to eat and head to the Fernsehturm for a good view of the Festival of Lights. Berlin is well-known for its international cuisine, including burritos at Dolores, which isn’t far from the iconic Fernsehturm (Television Tower). Constructed in the former East Berlin, the tower offers a 360 degree of Berlin and environs.
No Man’s Land – Chapter 8
The first border crossing breached when the Berlin Wall came down was Bornholmer Strasse. The historic events of that night are commemorated at the Platz des 9. November 1989. Not far from this square are other must-see sites for anyone interested in the fall of the Wall. The Wikipedia page for Mauerpark, created in the former death strip, provides a good overview of the divided Berlin as well as some pictures of the park itself.
The Berlin Wall Memorial is an archive, a museum, a memorial, and a place for contemplation. The Memorial is also a part of the Berlin Wall Foundation, which includes the Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum. A truly living museum, the Memorial continues to collect firsthand stories about the Wall from people impacted by the Wall.
The New Synagogue houses the Centrum Judaicum which serves as an archive, a museum and a center for various programs. As a museum, the Centrum Judaicum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The exhibition at the Palace of Tears (Tränenpalast at Friedrichstrasse Station) offers a painful glimpse into daily life in a divided Berlin. The website includes a short video in German with English subtitles featuring Berliners who remember saying goodbye to friends and loved ones at this station.
About Juliette – Chapter 9
Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is famous in history for Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics. The Stadium was renovated and hosted the 2006 World Cup final.
Berlin has many parks, but the Volkspark Friedrichshain is probably the most beloved after the Tiergarten. With giant, outdoor chess sets and a whimsical Fairytale Fountain, the park is favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Walls Come Down – Chapter 10
Located in the city of Potsdam to the south and west of Berlin, Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace and Park more than earn the UNESCO World Heritage Designation. The UNESCO website includes an historical overview and links to other resources. The photos are high quality, but not well labeled. For specific information on the Dragon House and the Temple of Friendship, Wikipedia is probably the most user-friendly resource in English.
Crossing the Border – Chapter 11
Berlin’s Pariserplatz sits between the Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, and the end of Unter den Linden, one of Berlin’s most famous streets. The Hotel Adlon, Berlin’s signature hotel for the well-heeled, survived the war physically and then hung on economically in East Berlin. Now a Kempinski property, the fictional backdrop for the movie Grand Hotel is known for its many famous visitors (as well as for the balcony from which Michael Jackson dangled his baby).
The Brandenburg Gate is visible from the Adlon’s dining room, and while the Berlin Wall existed, the Adlon was about as close as a visitor could get to the Gate itself. Since the fall of the Wall came down, it’s been possible again to walk around and under the gate.
The Reichstag building houses the German seat of government, the Bundestag, and is just a brief walk from the Brandenburg Gate. The online Encyclopaedia Brittanica provides a short history of the building’s history, including the 1933 fire that set in motion events that led to Hitler taking power.
One of the best moments in Reichstag history, in my opinion, was when it was wrapped up by the artists Christo and Jeanne Claude, a project more than 20 years in the making.
The Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, was inaugurated in May 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II. The foundation’s website includes photos, as does the Berlin.de tourist information website.
Bebelplatz dates to 1740, but took its current name in 1947 in honor of August Bebel, the founder of the SPD. The most infamous moment in the history of the square came in May 1933 when Nazis burned more than 20,000 books. The memorial by Micha Ullman, located beneath ground level, was dedicated in 1995.
Berlin is one of the world’s best cities for outdoor art, including the Eastside Gallery. The website includes photos of the gallery’s artwork, a list of artists whose work is displayed, and a short history of the gallery.
NEW YORK CITY ATTRACTIONS
The Eve – Chapter 16
Rockefeller Center is well-known to most, but the official website is worth a look.
Dog Days – Chapter 19
Corning Museum of Glass video featuring artist Jeff Mack. He says, “I make glass because it’s one of the most amazing craft processes that I know of.”
The Corning Museum of Glass is a real treat because it is both a working glass factory and an art museum. The museum’s website offers information on glassmaking as well as the history and art of glass. Lots of colorful videos and photos! Search “featured artist” for some more fun. Selim is only in my imagination, but the website does include images and information about the art of fused glass.
Composition – Chapter 20
Located about an hour north of New York City, Storm King Art Center sits on 500 acres above the Hudson River Valley, making it one of the largest outdoor sculpture gardens in the world. With more than 100 works sited on the park’s varied grounds, Storm King provides a wonderful environment to explore both nature and art.
Storm King’s website features information on every artist represented in the garden along with photographs of the artist’s work(s) on display, including Andy Goldsworthy and the Storm King Wall, Maya Lin’s Wavefield, and Isamu Noguchi and Momo Taro. The Storm King website is one of the most accessible and well-curated museum websites around and well worth a visit whether or not your travel plans are taking you in that direction.