The basic setting for Aswany’s 2003 book is Cairo circa 1985 and the troubles which were being evidenced there at that time. The Yacoubian Building fictionalizes a real hotel in Cairo to explore the lives of the residents, rich (in the apartments) and poor (on the roof). Their lives are all connected by the corruption, poverty, religion – (fundamentalist and mainstream), politics, and sex which marked the post Nasser era until today.
The structure of the book resembles the structure of the building with several tales, each distinct but interwoven by the constant theme of corruption. One thread sometimes ends in a cliffhanger and the next one comes after only a larger paragraph break. There are only two chapters.
I can’t say as I loved this book but it was terrifically interesting – a social portrait of modern day Cairo (I doubt that much has changed).