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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 469

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Amitav Ghosh is the author of the book and also one of its main characters. In the book, he travels through Egypt, looking for sources to better understand the relationship between a Jewish merchant and an Indian slave, and then returns to Egypt years later to find it changed. He's very focused on what the past was like and how it compares to the present. Ghosh is an academic who, at the beginning of his time in Egypt, is working on his doctorate.

The Slave of MS H.6 is an Indian slave who is owned by a Jewish merchant. He is described as a valuable member of the household of Abraham Ben Yiju and as that man's business agent. Ghosh believes his name might have been Bamma.

Abraham Ben Yiju is a Jewish merchant, scholar, and calligrapher who owned an Indian slave; this pairing is what initially attracted Ghosh's interest. According to Ghosh, he may have had a sweet tooth based on the gifts his friend sent him. He was born in Tunisia and made a lot of money in India before he went to Egypt to live out his life.

Ashu is a slave that Ben Yiju freed. It is posited that she might be the woman who bore his child and also his wife.

Surur is Ben Yiju's son. His mentor, Madmun, sends a piece of coral to him as a gift.

Abu-'Ali is an ill-tempered man in Laitaifa. He hurt his leg as a child, gained weight, and never lost it. He is proud of his many gadgets and is upset that he isn't the first man in the village to get a television set. Ghosh stays in his household for awhile.

Shaikh Musa is one of the elders of the village where Ghosh is staying. He's friendly and trustworthy. Ghosh confides in him and dines with him. He believes Musa has tried to subtly warn him about the bad character of Abu-'Ali.

Ustaz Mustafa is the uncle of a friend of Ghosh's. He peppers him with strange, unsettling questions about India. He studied law at the University of Alexandria. He wants Ghosh to convert to Islam but accepts that he won't and that doing so would upset his father.

Khalaf ibn Isfoaq is the man who wrote the letters that first mentioned Yiju's slave. He speaks of the slave by name and sends him warm greetings.

Nabeel Idris Badawy is a friend of Ghosh's. He moved to Iraq and become a photographer's assistant in Baghdad. He stays in Iraq even after it's unsafe and they aren't sure where he ends up by the end of the book.

Isma'il is another friend of Ghosh's and Nabeel's. He gets a job as a construction worker in Iraq but returns to Nashawy before the country gets extremely unsafe.