• Late 19th-century Beirut and Cairo were capitals of Arabic literary production and press
    activity. A period, oft deemed a nahḍah, that witnessed the advent of the novel form or
    riwāyah in Arabic, this was also the moment of intensified French and British imperial
    involvement in the region, and the concomitant industrialization of Beirut’s silk and
    Egypt’s cotton markets. This article argues that, through the novels published in and
    promoted through the region’s burgeoning private journals and newspapers, editors
    and novelists revived the literary trope of the garden of knowledge as a spatial
    metaphor for the Arabic reading public. While the 1870s in Beirut began as a hopeful
    decade—the civil war of 1860 buried in the fortunes being made off Mt Lebanon’s
    mulberry orchards—by 1890s Cairo these Edenic hopes were replaced by a sense of
    melancholy in the face of rampant speculation, accumulating in the gardens of
    Ezbekiyya. Reading two novels, Salım̄ al-Bustānı’̄ s 1870 Al-Huyām fı-̄ jinān al-Shām
    and Jurjı̄ Zaydān’s 1892 Asır̄ al-mutamahdı,̄ against the literary and press activities of
    the Bustānı̄ family’s Al-Jinān, Zaydān’s Al-Hilāl, Khalıl̄ al-Khūrı’̄ s Hadıq̄ at al-Akhbār,
    Yūsuf al-Shalfūn’s Al-Zahrah, Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥı’̄ s Misḅ āḥ al-Sharq, and Fāris
    Nimr and Yaʿqūb Ṣarrūf’s Al-Muqtaṭaf, this article offers a literary history of
    speculation and capital for late 19th-century Arabic.