This book is the result of many years of work in Egypt, North Carolina, and California, which would not have been possible without the support of many people, family, friends, colleagues, and teachers. My interest in zar started as a hobby, then it became my dissertation project and now zar permeates my life. I am most grateful to my dear friend for many years, the late anthropologist Linda Oldham. She was my rock. Nadia Benabid spent hours reading many drafts that led to the present work. Hassan Surour had my back in the field in Cairo. Often, after finishing his long work day, he would join us at zar events and he made sure that I was safe. We spent hours discussing zar and its people, without his help this ethnography would have been very difficult.
My mentors the late Cynthia Nelson, Nickolas Hopkins in Cairo, and James L. Peacock in North Carolina were always encouraging and supportive. My dissertation adviser Robert Daniels was always attentive and generous. Glenn Hinson believed in me and always supported me. Without the contributions of Carl Ernest and my dear friend Khaled Fahmy, the present work would not have been possible.
My friends Seth Murray and Lisa Pollard generously read earlier versions of my manuscript without hesitation. I am also indebted to Richard Natvig, Reem Saad, Hanzada Fikry, Dave Lippman, Nadia (p.x) Douek, and Alison Green for their kindness. Many thanks to Evelyne Porret for being my friend.
I had the privilege to meet exceptional people during fieldwork, who offered their friendship and their knowledge. These included the silver- and goldsmiths in Sohag, Akhmim, and Cairo, who were instrumental in teaching me aspects of zar. In the jewelry quarters across Egypt, strong friendships with the late ‘Amm Nasif, Qaldas, Fouad Farah, Nabil William, and the families of Mohamed Amin and Zaki Boutros sustained me throughout the years. The late Sheikha Anhar opened my eyes to the essence of zar. Her late daughter Sheikha Karima became my friend, taught me a great deal about zar, and became my zar sister. Words cannot describe the loss I feel without them. Many zar musicians and my zar sisters, the late Awatef and Ikram, Om Sayed, Atiyat, and many others, were my family and I miss them too.
Some financial support was provided by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Summer Travel Grant and by California State University Bakersfield with a Summer Research Grant. The American University in Cairo Press, in particular Nadine El-Hadi and Neil Hewison, has been instrumental in having this book published. Most of all I wish to thank photographer Ikhlas Abbis for his willingness to share captivating photographs.
Special thanks to my colleagues at California State University Bakersfield, Robert Yohe and Patrick O’Neill, for their support and enthusiasm. My final thanks is to my late father and mother, my daughter Nout and her husband Wesley Smith, and my friends Maha and Bryan Whitfield for their support and encouragement.