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Travels Into the Heart of Egypt

Back to Memoirs and Occasional Papers

 By Lillian Craig Harris

The fifty-seven short essays in this book set the scene for the difficulties that now threaten Egypt. They were written during 1990–1995 while Lillian Harris, a former American Foreign Service officer married to Alan Goulty, a British diplomat, lived in Cairo.

The essays explore Egypt’s cities, deserts, societies, monasteries, and circumstances in a time of widespread unrest that helped set the scene for the Arab Spring two decades later. Other essays examine life in Cairo, diplomatic difficulties, religious tensions, the problems of the poor, unrest under the Mubarak regime, and travels in many of the remoter parts of Egypt now largely off-limits to foreigners.

Dr. Harris’s travels gave her insights on many of the key themes relevant to political debate in Egypt today––the genesis of political malaise and extremism, economic fragility and the wealth gap, terrorism, threats to the environment and to Egypt’s rich cultural heritage, and perennial social issues such as the Muslim-Christian divide, women’s rights, population pressures, and leprosy. Enriching the book is the personal spiritual lens through which Lillian Harris views her experiences. She provides a unique picture of Egypt and Egyptians at a crucial period of Egypt’s modern history.


“We are lucky to be able to accompany Lillian Harris on her journey, for she succeeds in taking us more deeply into the mysteries of a people and of a timeless culture than we might ever have managed on our own.”
–– Wesley Egan, U.S. Ambassador (retired) 
“Harris was able to visit places that are now largely off limits to most outsiders, for security and/or political reasons….Her travels gave her insights on some of the key themes that are relevant to ongoing, and intense, political debate in Egypt today.”
  — Robin Raphel, Former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia


Lillian Craig Harris worked as an intelligence analyst/Foreign Service officer at the U.S. State Department in 1976–1986 and taught at Georgetown University, the American University in Cairo, Haigazian College (Beirut), and Wheaton College (Illinois). She has a PhD from Georgetown University (Modern East Asian history 1977), Master’s degrees from the American University of Beirut (Modern Middle East history 1972) and Syracuse University (journalism 1965), and a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia Bible College (1964).

She accompanied her British husband on diplomatic postings in Cairo (1990–95), Khartoum (1995–99), and Tunis (2004–8). She is the author of nine books, including China Considers the Middle East (I.B. Taurus 1993). She was awarded the Cross of St. Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002 and an honorary doctorate by Ahfad University for Women in 2006 and was appointed an Officer of the British Empire in 2007 for charitable work in Egypt and Sudan.