Set in the Middle East of the First World War, Maha Akhtar’s Footprints in the Sand is a well textured and riveting novel about love, bravery, and commitment both in the larger context of the fight for Arab freedom from Ottoman domination and in the struggle of the main characters who face death and experience death in their lives and loves. With strong attention to detail such as the colorful and time period clothing worn by the characters, the descriptions of the labyrinth of Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili bazaar and the dry, arid, and deadly desert of the Arabian Peninsula, Akhtar pens a picture of turbulent life in the time of war where loyalties are tested and uncertain and love is risky.
Focused around a young Egyptian named Salah who is a spy for the Arab Revolt and a young widowed mother and friend of Salah’s, named Noura, Footprints in the Sand is an intense novel whose shadows of plot are mirrored in the shadowy figures who seek Salah’s arrest for his work against the Ottomans. They are supported by a cast of colorful characters, including a group of women who serve as Noura’s re-entry point into life and love; the ruthless (and to me at times comical), Omer Erdogan, the Ottoman secret police officer who is relentless in his pursuit of Salah; and the legendary T E Lawrence with whom Salah works to defeat the Ottoman stronghold in the Levant.
I really enjoyed this novel as it was well told, fast paced, colorful, and historically interesting. It held my attention throughout the entire book.
I rate Footprints in the Sand a ‘great’ read.
Note: I received an uncorrected proof of this novel from the Amazon Vine review program in exchange for a review of it. I was not required to write a positive review.