Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz is the entertaining story of a unique local alley in Cairo who demonstrates on a day-to-day basis the true colors of a quintessential low class Egyptian society, in a contrast with a present day Egypt that hopes to modernize as the end of World War II occurs. It is the characters that inhabit this alley, along with their individual and communal stories and links that they share that excel this novel into a state of utter glory. The relationship that the residents of the narrow alley in the forgotten old part of Cairo hold is stronger than the reader initially perceives, becoming at times the only mean of survival for the alley. Much of the alley’s interaction is based of the gossip that maintains the isolated dead end street of Cairo intact. As a reader one does not understand the overarching story and plot until he meets all the players involved in the novel, including the wide array of characters that cope with one another to make each individual personality and story related to the overall backdrop of the novel. One of these characters would be Abbas Hilu, known to everyone by his first name. Abbas is good intentioned barber who has fallen victim to love. His sincere humbleness and deep affection towards the valley are corrupted by his life love, Hamida. It is the love affection and adoration that Abbas holds for Hamida, which make him leave the scarce conditions of Midaq in search of better economic condition that can satisfy Hamida’s lavish lifestyle. After finally getting the guts to profess his love to Hamida, and successfully getting an engagement out of it, Abbas enrolls in the British Army as a promise to his love in order to have sufficient money to meet the lifestyle that Hamida yearns. After several months of serving the armed forces at Tell el-Kabir Abbas returns to Cairo only to find that his fiancé Hamida had not only not maintained her loyalty and fidelity to Abbas, but instead was sleeping around with everyone as the whore that she was under her new name prostitute name of Titi. When Abba confronts Hamida of her new profession, Hamida brainwashes Abba by blaming her pimp Ibrahim Faraj and manages to convince Abbas to confront Faraj. Abbas, being the well-intentioned and naïve man that he is agrees to do so. “ It occurred to her that she could conscript Abbas against the man who was using her so heartlessly. He would become the instrument of her revenge while she remained apart from any unpleasant consequences,” (Mahfouz, 266). However after spotting Hamida the next day on the bar being the center of attention and flirting with a group of British soldiers at a bar as if she was still working her profession, Abbas grows full of anger and rage and throws a glass at Hamida. To his despair the group of British soldiers gang up on him and beat him down to death. Another key protagonist in the story is Hamida herself. Hamida of a beautiful presence has a combo of long elegant hair reaching up to her thighs with deadly stunning dark eyes. She is very self absorbed and arrogant of her beauty and it is why she stands by the window so that everyone can take a glimpse of her. She is a strong woman in her mid twenties who is strong tempered and constantly fights with her foster mother. Hamida is a girl who needs to be constantly pampered and spoiled. She has a desire for lavish clothes and wishes to live a life outside of the alley. This opportunity first presents to herself with Abbas, however seeing that his life as a barber wasn’t going to be sufficient to maintain the kind of lifestyle she wished to live, she made Abbas enlist in the British Army where he would have salary descent to the necessities of Hamida. Yet a better opportunity presents itself to Hamida while Abbas was away, Salim Alwan, the 50 year-old who is a sexaholic and owns a large company with an office next to Abbas’ barbershop, is stunned and amazed at Hamida’s beauty. At...
Cited: Mahfouz, Naguib. Midaq Alley. Translation. United Sates: Anchor Books, 1992. 286. Print.
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