Once home to the creme de la creme of Egyptian society, The Yacoubian Building is now past its prime.
Older residents cling to the faded glories and old-world charm of its past, while newer tenants busily prevent eager arrivals from usurping more space in a building that reflects 70 years of Egypt's social and political upheavals.
Structured as a series of intersecting vignettes, The Yacoubian Building follows Taha, the studious doorman's son; his first love, Busayna, who struggles to support her family; Zaki Bey el Dessouki, an elderly yet elegant lothario; Hatim Rasheed, the homosexual editor of a leading newspaper; rags-to riches millionaire and political aspirant Hagg Azzam; and the wheeler-dealer tailor Malak Khilla, among others, as they conspire, romance, suffer, and dream in the shadow of the historic edifice.
Bursting with life, The Yacoubian Building vividly provides a revealing glimpse into contemporary Egypt, where a cosmopolitan past clashes with a tumultuous present.
Alaa Al Aswaney studied to be a dentist and in fact had his first surgery in The Yakoubian building before turning his hand to writing and becoming a worldwide bestselling author.
The Yakoubian Building was made into a film in 2006.
He now lives in Chicago but has been commentating on and supporting the call for democracy in Egypt.