Picks and Pans Review: Egypt

updated 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Text and photographs by Mary Cross

This handsome and heavy coffee-table tome is a remarkable achievement in at least one respect: Photojournalist Cross has managed to deliver 279 oversize pages of pictures and text while virtually ignoring the one artifact that every schoolchild can identify with Egypt: the Pyramids. The famous tombs appear in only one photograph—as the backdrop for a portrait of a camel.

It would seem hard to produce a photo act on Egypt without paying homage to the Pyramids, but Cross has cleverly done it by turning her camera on the people. From the tattooed cheeks of the Bedouin women in the Sinai to the pathos of an elderly peasant tenderly caressing a sheep headed for slaughter, Cross focuses on a people whose lifestyle in some cases seems not far removed from that of the biblical characters who roamed the same land.

The text, which precedes each of the four sections of the book—"Cairo," "Sinai," "The Nile Valley" and "Journey to the Five Oases"—is full of rich detail and is sometimes more interesting than the pictures themselves. Hollywood influences include the news that in the oasis town of Siwa, residents have discovered television and made Falcon Crest a local favorite.

In sum, Cross presents an unforgettable portrait of ancient traditions and cultural mores that, it turns out, are at least as interesting as the Pyramids. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $65)

From Our Partners