In this “wonderfully rich” (San Francisco Chronicle) novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.

WINNER OF: THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION’S SOPHIE BRODY AWARD • THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD IN FICTION • THE SAMI ROHR PRIZE FOR JEWISH LITERATURE • Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the BBC • Longlisted for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Prize • A Penguin Random House International One World, One Book Selection


Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary—perhaps magical—Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph’s family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 depart their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a moving page-turner of a novel from acclaimed storyteller Michael David Lukas. This tightly woven multigenerational tale illuminates the tensions that have torn communities apart and the unlikely forces—potent magic, forbidden love—that boldly attempt to bridge that divide.

Praise for The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

“A beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is both a coming-of-age story and a family history, a wide-ranging book about fathers and sons, religion, magic, love, and the essence of storytelling. This book is a joy.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of the National Book Award finalist An Unnecessary Woman

“Lyrical, compassionate and illuminating.”—BBC

“Michael David Lukas has given us an elegiac novel of Cairo—Old Cairo and modern Cairo. Lukas’s greatest flair is in capturing the essence of that beautiful, haunted, shabby, beleaguered yet still utterly sublime Middle Eastern city.”—Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years

“Brilliant.”The Jerusalem Post
“Wonderfully rich . . . Both met and repressed desires—sensual and intellectual, compassionate and proprietary—create the novel’s driving force. . . . The deep pleasures of this novel come from the interconnecting narratives and how they inform one another [with] a mingling of history and imagination and mystery.”The San Francisco Chronicle

“A beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is both a coming-of-age story and a family history, a wide-ranging book about fathers and sons, religion, magic, love, and the essence of storytelling. This book is a joy.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of the National Book Award finalist An Unnecessary Woman

“Lyrical, compassionate and illuminating.”—BBC

“Michael David Lukas has given us an elegiac novel of Cairo—Old Cairo and modern Cairo. Lukas’s greatest flair is in capturing the essence of that beautiful, haunted, shabby, beleaguered yet still utterly sublime Middle Eastern city.”—Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years

“Brilliant . . . Lukas’s writing explodes with imaginative force and splendor [and he] demonstrates in this novel his sublime ability to enchant us with unforgettable characters and moving stories that linger with us long after we have finished his magical book.”The Jerusalem Post

“Lukas writes marvelously about Old Cairo, a city he cherishes. . . . The Last Watchman of Old Cairo delivers in polyphonic textures a timeless yet contemporary story set in ancient and modern Cairo and Berkeley.”The San Jose Mercury News

“Weaving together characters from medieval Cairo, Victorian Britain, and contemporary Berkeley, Michael David Lukas has crafted a rich, highly readable story. His themes—the ties between generations, between the West and Egypt, and between Jews and Muslims—are bittersweet and timely. His plot is beautifully paced, and his characters break your heart, even when they have to reach across the generations to do so.”—Carla Power, author of the Pulitzer finalist If the Oceans Were Ink

“Of the novels set in Egypt, few if any have understood how Cairo’s place at the crossroads of many religions has broken communities’ and families’ hearts through the centuries. This novel explores the center of Cairo’s oldest places through the story of one family and their search for a mysterious artifact, and for closure.”—Trevor Naylor, American University in Cairo Bookstore

“Captivating . . . Lukas’s warmly affecting sophomore work largely examines what happens to all that life, its memories and stories, when the people experiencing it are gone. . . . Novels like Lukas’s can believe in the potential of another version of the world, whether we call it possible or magical or both.”East Bay Express

“I just finished a wonderful novel by Michael David Lukas, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo. . . . I read the first few pages and I was hooked.”—Jeffrey Garret, Chicago Tribune

“[A] romantic gem . . . Lukas’s desert outing soars thanks to its themes of inclusion and forgiveness. Deceptively brief, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo charms with its cast of misfits and lost souls who find their way with the dream of the Ezra Scroll to guide them.”Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Evocative . . . Lukas turns the Egyptian city into a tantalizingly seductive place of mystery.”—Publishers Weekly

“Fascinating . . . Blending his fictional creations with real characters . . . Lukas creates a thoroughly credible mystery [and] an appealing family drama.”Kirkus Reviews

“Part mystery, part character study, yet historically accurate, this book should appeal to a broad swath of readers.”—Library Journal

“Lukas’ lyrical novel draws readers into a classic tale of family secrets, forbidden love, and religious rivalry that spans generations. . . . Parallel stories . . . intersect at a crucial juncture as family legends unfurl, coalesce, and enlighten.”Booklist