When Peter Stothard, former editor of The Times and now editor of the Times Literary Supplement, finds himself in Alexandria in the winter of 2010 after his flight to South Africa has been cancelled, he sets out to explore a nation on the brink of revolution.
Accompanied by two native Egyptians, Mohammed and Socratis, whose eagerness to spend time with him is never really explained, Stothard traces his lifelong interest in the history of Cleopatra, and his repeated failure to write the book about her that he has started so many times.
Melancholy and sometimes humorous, Alexandria filters the life of a classics scholar turned journalist through the prism of Cleopatra's turbulent history - while all around the author, the cracks begin to appear in Hosni Mubarak's own empire.
Episode 1 (of 5):
Pieces of paper, sketches and maps on a hotel room bed and the remarkable story behind the only fragment of parchment to bear Cleopatra's signature - a political gesture sanctioning a tax break.
Read by Kenneth Cranham
Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.