Midaq Alley is a small, poor neighborhood in Cairo whose lives and doings are chronicled here during the Second World War. Among an array of characters are Salim Alwan, a young barbershop owner; Umm Hamida, bath attendant and marriage broker; Hussain Kirsha, a middle-aged cafe owner who ignores his wife to spend time with young men; and even Zaita, a dirty street person whose specialty is creating other beggars (even if that means breaking a limb or blinding them) and living off a portion of their take. Several males covet Umm Hamida's lovely young daughter, who is engaged in turn to several men but ends up an exotic dancer and prostitute after being sweet-talked by handsome and wealthy pimp Ibraham Faraj. Eqyptian writer Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize in 1988, presents this rich and strange milieu with calm, nonjudgmental objectivity and subtle humor. The 1947 story inspired a 1995 Mexican movie starring Salma Hayek.
This report prepared by David Loftus