Chapters 64–70 Summary
Last Updated on February 24, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1211
Hearing about the emir’s new radio and its wonders, the people are excited and intrigued. After inviting some others to come see it, the emir has Hassan train him to activate and control the radio. Nervous and excited, Emir Khaled practices repeatedly. When the people arrive, Khaled demonstrates his radio for them. The things they hear on the radio include music and an allegorical story about birds. Dabbasi and Abdullah mention that they have seen one before, but the others are frightened and wish the emir would put his new toy away. Warning of possible blasphemy, Ibn Naffeh interrogates Hassan about the radio and whether the people who made it are Muslim.
In the coffeehouse, the men talk excitedly about the new machine. When they describe it to Abu As’ad, the coffeehouse owner, he deduces that it is a radio. Scornfully, he explains that people in the big cities have radios in their homes and coffeehouses. He is excited at the idea that he might soon have a radio in his establishment, too. The party at the emir’s ends, but the emir continues to listen to loud music. Ibn Naffeh prays in the mosque, even more loudly. Rumors spread about the emir’s strange behavior concerning the radio. The emir’s life, the narrator states, has fundamentally changed.
When visiting the American compound, the emir inquires about the automobile, and the Americans offer him a ride in it. Out of pride, he accepts despite his fear. He is terrified in the vehicle and nearly causes multiple accidents. Afterward, the emir and Hassan discuss the dangers of the automobile. Back at his home, the emir turns on the radio, and he and Hassan listen together. Insincerely, Hassan asks the emir for permission to leave Harran, but he is happy when the emir refuses, saying he needs him. Listening to the radio, Hassan tells the emir that he can listen to the news from London and find out things that even he doesn’t know about what is happening in Harran. The two discuss how the Americans are evil because they do not disclose important things. When the emir learns that there will be an oil pipeline built between Wadi al-Uyoun and Harran, he is amused at the shock and afraid at the same time. Hassan asks the emir for a piece of land in Harran to build a house, and the emir grants it. Together, they listen to the news from London.
The narrator explains the nature of trucking on the new road from Harran to Ujra. At the center of the trade are two drivers, Raji and Akoub. It is a perilous journey, with the trucks breaking down almost every time. Abboud al-Salek of Ujra, who sells tickets to Harran, habitually manipulates the Bedouin tribesmen of Ujra into buying passage there without guaranteeing them anything. One of the truckers, Akoub, becomes very popular in Harran for his ability to fix things and to bring people the gadgets he himself uses. By contrast, Raji is popular because he entertains the people by gambling on backgammon in the coffeehouse. Raji and Akoub are rivals, with Raji being particularly vitriolic toward Akoub. One day, Raji’s truck breaks down for a long time, and Akoub helps him, towing him back to Harran. From this point on, Raji does not speak any better of Akoub, but he gets angry at anyone else who speaks against him. But when Raji sees his truck good as new, Akoub having repaired it, he embraces the other man and cries. Over time, the truckers begin to focus on carrying goods rather than people to Harran.
Akoub and Raji are now friends and collaborators. On impulse, Abboud travels to Harran, surprised to find it unrecognizable. He arranges for a branch office of his trucking company to open in Harran. Yet the world of trucking on the Ujra-Harran suddenly changes, as Hassan Rezaie has ordered much fancier and faster trucks to be delivered to Harran. These better vehicles make trouble for Raji and Akoub in their work. They are angry but are not able to do anything about their problem. Akoub becomes ill, and his truck breaks down in a way he can’t fix. Unable to sell passage between Ujra and Harran, Abboud turns his office in Harran into a shop. A travel agency opens in Harran, with buses transporting people around. The locals are amazed. Rezaie finds his business undermined by the agency. In an attempt to gain advantage, he makes Akoub an offer to hire him as a driver. Akoub and Raji discuss the matter. In Harran, they sit in the coffeehouse, but Raji will not play backgammon. Raji and Akoub stand by their trucks and rant about Rezaie. Suddenly, Akoub has an attack of illness. Even after Raji brings a doctor, he is unable to save him. Akoub dies in the morning, and Harran mourns him deeply.
During the construction of the pipeline, the Americans grow restlessly angry. They become even more brutal than previously. At this point, however, the Arab workers know how to deal with them. The narrator describes the pranks played on them by a worker named Majali, how he uses the local wildlife to frighten the Americans. Along the route of the pipeline, there are three stations where workers live in tents. They feel satisfied because they can be happy in the heat, while the Americans cannot. One night, three tents catch on fire, including an American office tent. Everyone believes that Miteb al-Hathal is responsible. Many rumors spread through the town. In response, the Americans send for soldiers from Ujra to patrol the area. Under the increased surveillance, the Arabs grow tense again. But though they search for Miteb al-Hathal, the soldiers cannot find him. He continues to be a sort of folk ghost, haunting the Americans’ fears. Once the pipeline is finally finished, there is a celebration, and Majali plays yet another prank on Hamilton, the lead American at the company. The Arab workers are told that they must be ready to leave by noon the next day. They do not know where they are going.
The doctor, Subhi al-Mamilijhi, who is new in town, finds his work in Harran more difficult than it was elsewhere. When asked about his past and why he came to Harran, he makes vague allusions to his story but refuses to explain plainly, even to the emir, whom he has befriended. His arrival in Harran has attracted a lot of attention, as the people are excited to have a skilled and prestigious doctor among them. Curing the emir’s son of the frightening fever makes Subhi a popular man in town, particularly with the emir himself. However, he still feels alone, as he cannot yet bring his wife and children to live in Harran with him. He also misses his assistant, with whom, as the narrator explains, he has a very close relationship and long history. But the assistant, Muhammad Eid, finally arrives, and together they establish the doctor’s business. Ibn Naffeh condemns the new doctor as unholy, but the others praise him. When another doctor arrives, the two become close friends and collaborators.