All Jinned up
The ?rst graphic novel by journalist G. Willow Wilson, Cairo is an irreverent yet spiritual retelling of the Aladdin story. Here, Cairenes, American martyrs, a journalist and a Jinn meet in a journey from the streets of Cairo to Undernile, the fabled river said to run deep below the Nile, in the opposite direction.
Ashraf is but a humble hash smuggler, cadging a livelihood from the crowded streets of Egypt. But when he fences a magic hookah from a mob boss (wonderfully described as a “baby-eating Nile-toad”) the mobster kidnaps Ashraf’s friend, rabble-rousing journalist Ali Jibreel.
Elsewhere in the city, a young American calling himself Shaheed (Martyr, in Arabic) discovers that the hookah he bought at an in?ated price is haunted by a Rumi-quoting Jinn named Shams. When the mob boss sends a demon after the hookah, Shams becomes hell-bent on turning Shaheed from martyr to poet-warrior.
With gritty, black-and-white illustrations by Istanbulite artist M.K. Perker, Cairo is alternately mundane and mystical. Despite bloody historic grievances, the streams of myth and storytelling are never far from the surface.