Fine, quirky account of Roberts's recent travels through Egypt's teeming modern cities, Pharaonic monuments, ancient monasteries, and Edenic oases. Always insightful, frequently amusing, the Toronto-based journalist brings a fresh vision to a familiar subject. In addition to visiting such sites as the temples of Luxor, Karnak, and Abu Simbel, the Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert, the burial chamber of the pyramid of Mycerinus (where he spends the night), and neon-and-Naugahyde Red Sea resorts, Roberts takes us to an eerie Sufi ceremony in the back streets of Cairo, to the crest of Mount Sinai (where bus loads of grumbling pilgrims await the dawn), and on a hot-air balloon flight over the Valley of the Kings. He also interviews Nobel-winning author Naguib Mahfouz and noted scholar Ahmad Shalaby--and finds both to be pompous and overbearing. Roberts is far more impressed with now-Secretary General of the UN Boutros-Gahli, whom he describes as ``a formidable optimist'' and who evidently left the author a wiser man for having met him. Roberts's knowledge of and affection for Egypt is palpable, but these qualities do not blind him to the inanities of the land. He traverses a desert on a camel called ``Michael Jackson''; he wonders why a condom should have been named after Ramses, who reputedly sired 186 children; he speculates that the lack of conversational ability of a German mortician he meets may be ``an occupational hazard.'' Informative and entertaining: Roberts is the sort of witty, knowledgeable, stimulating guide every armchair traveler hankers for but seldom finds.