Chapters 22–28 Summary
Last Updated on February 24, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 871
After the rain stops, the caravan with Fawaz and Suweyleh leaves for al-Hadra. Both young men are depressed—Fawaz because he feels Ibn Rashed has taken revenge on him for his father, Suweyleh because he is hurt that Ibn Rashed discriminated against him for his poor eyesight. Both young men are brooding on what they can tell their families about why they could not find employment in Wadi al-Uyoun. The two agree to tell their families that Ibn Rashed told them to come back in one month to start working then.
The young men arrive back in al-Hadra, to the usual excitement of a caravan arriving. Suweyleh tells his family that he will go back to Wadi al-Uyoun to work in a month, as he and Fawaz had agreed to tell them. He finds that his mother and sister, as well as Watfa, the woman he wants to marry, are caring for Najma al-Mithqal, a woman who has begun to have hallucinations. Wadha, the wife of Miteb and mother of Fawaz, knows best how to care for Najma. However, she is not allowed near her, and the treatment the others give her causes her to deteriorate. Wadha is still unable to speak, but she understands Fawaz when he tells her that he will be going back to the wadi in a month. In her sickness, Najma makes seemingly prophetic pronouncements about a doom to come.
The narrator describes the gloom and depression that comes with winter in al-Hadra, very different from the winters in Wadi al-Uyoun. This winter is especially depressing because of the people’s reaction to Najma’s prophecy, which they discuss obsessively. Suweyleh asks his father to help him secure Watfa’s hand in marriage, but his parents put him off at first. Then it is tacitly agreed that they will marry once Suweyleh has traveled and made some money. Fawaz is reluctant to leave again, though Suweyleh insists they must. His arguments have some weight with Fawaz because of Fawaz’s uncertainty about Miteb’s absence. Then, the famed Khosh finally arrives. After years, he has become a mythologized figure, but he appears in the flesh, and the people who have traveled from Wadi al-Uyoun greet him with great excitement. Khosh offers marriage to Radiya, sister of Fawaz, and Wadha grants him permission. Fawaz decides it is time to leave, and Wadha prepares many provisions for him.
Wadha and Fawaz say a mournful farewell, while Khosh sees them off cheerfully. Fawaz feels deeply sad as they travel, and Suweyleh is unable to cheer him up, even by singing. The two men agree to rest in Rawdhat al-Mashti when they reach it. They quarrel over whether to rest in the place where Fawaz saw Miteb but decide not to, which the narrator characterizes as a mistake, saying that Miteb would have appeared to them if they had stayed there. They decide to go on to Ujra the next day. Suweyleh continues to try to cheer Fawaz up, but without success. Outside Ujra, they run into Ibn Rashed. He recruits them to work for the company in the town of Harran.
The men recruited by Ibn Rashed, including Fawaz and Suweyleh, travel five days from Ujra to Harran. The town is by the sea, the sight of which stuns the men, as they have never seen anything like it in their lives. Ibn Rashed tells the recruits and the people of Harran that the company will help them if they serve the foreigners obediently. He tells them that their houses will be pulled down, then begins interrogating them about details of local geography. The Americans arrive and tell Ibn Rashed that a ship is coming and the men should be ready to unload it.
The ship arrives. Frightened by it and by the idea of going near the water, the recruits agree to use the machinery brought on the ship to destroy the houses of the town. The townspeople gather in temporary shelters until they can receive compensation. The recruits think of leaving at first but are paid so much that they can no longer consider that an option. Then Ibn Rashed invites them to sell him their camels, their only means of leaving. Fawaz and Suweyleh talk in the night, Fawaz ready to leave and Suweyleh trying to persuade him to stay. In the morning, they sell their camels to Ibn Rashed.
The narrator explains how strange it was for the men from the wadi and the other desert oases to conceive of news and travelers coming from the sea instead of the desert. Tentatively, the men explore the water, eventually getting so used to it that they are able to swim. Yet they remain frightened. Over time, unloading an endless stream of ships, the men grow ill and despairing. They ask Ibn Rashed to let them leave, but he puts them off with promises of better treatment soon. Describing the summer weather in Harran, the narrator explains why the men felt so depressed. This is how people in Harran feel in the summer, and only the thought of their sons who are traveling allows them to keep their spirits up.