Amid the convulsions in the years following the Arab Spring, Peter Hessler went to the ancient city of Amarna, site of another short-lived attempt to remake a nation

They say there is something special about buying your first brand-new car, and this is particularly true if it happens in Egypt during a revolution. By the spring of 2014, my wife, Leslie, and I had lived in Cairo for more than two years, as American foreign correspondents, and we had reached a point of decision. The previous summer, Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, had been removed in a military coup, and the security forces massacred more than 1,000 Morsi supporters in the capital, according to estimates by Human Rights Watch. At the time, our twin daughters, Ariel and Natasha, were three years old, and Leslie and I had the inevitable conversation: do we stay or do we go?

We had always intended to spend at least five years in Egypt. It seemed the minimum, given the richness of the country’s history and culture, and in the end we decided to stick to the plan. Purchasing the first new car that either of us had ever owned was part of that commitment – an act of determination, or maybe desperation.

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