This is not only a beautiful book, combining a superb picture of Egypt, past and present, with a 50,000-word essay on Egyptian character and civilization. The well-known and gifted photographer Fred J. Maroon provides a stunning pictorial record; capturing magical hues of light and form, he celebrates familiar as well as seldom-visited places. P.H. Newby's thoughtful text relates the fascinating story of a people who throughout 5,000 years of recorded history have been, in the author's words, "humane, humorous, and unfanatical." The Egypt Story begins with an expert, illustrated introduction to the principles that guided ancient Egyptian artists. Then, pictures and text present vivid vignettes of those remarkable Pharaohs who shaped Egypt's past, including Ramses II (Shelley's "Ozymandias, King of Kings"), whose rule lasted for nearly seven decades: Akhenaton, whose impact on Egyptian religion and culture was awesome; and Tutankhamun, the youthful Pharaoh now world-famous for the treasures that were entombed with him. The text provides insight after insight into the character of the ordinary people who built the Pyramids and cultivated the Nile Valley. We find revealing glimpses into their everyday life as recorded in tomb paintings and papyrus drawings.

As the text traces the succession of foreign conquerors – Alexander the Great, the Fatimids, the Marmelukes, Napoleon, the Albanian Mohammed Ali – the photographs reveal the lingering vestiges of each invader's reign, from the fabled harbor of Alexandria to the colorful bazaars of the Fatamid districts of Cairo. Christian and Islamic influences are reflected in Maroon's striking photographs of centuries-old Coptic monasteries still in use in the Eastern Desert and in the Islamic architecture in Cairo, from luminous silhouettes of mosques to lacelike details of great old houses.

We come finally to modern Egypt, where 20th century skyscrapers share the horizon with the Pyramids and where the bent figures of fellaheen toiling along the Nile are replicas of their ancestors as depicted on the walls of the tombs. The basic character of the Egyptian peasant endured unchanged, Mr. Newby suggests, until recently – a continuity unparalleled in world history. Today, however, Egypt's growth can scarcely accommodate its exploding population. As a result, Egypt must look to the desert for the sites of new cities. Concluding the book are awe-inspiring views of the Western Desert; what faces Egypt's future generations here is symbolized by a photograph of telephone poles stretching across barren sands.