Cities of Salt

by Abdelrahman Munif

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Cities of Salt Characters

The main characters in Cities of Salt include Miteb al-Hathal, Ibn Rashed, and Emir Khaled al-Mishari.

  • Miteb al-Hathal is a Bedouin tribesman who warns the emir about the Americans to no avail, ultimately disappearing into the desert to become a mythologized figure.
  • Ibn Rashed is a resident of the wadi who joins forces with the Americans, recruiting Bedouin workers with false promises of prosperity.
  • Emir Khaled al-Mishari is a local leader who becomes entranced by modern Western technology and eventually suffers a mental breakdown.


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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 384

Miteb al-Hathal

Miteb al-Hathal is an older resident of Wadi al-Uyoun who resents the presence of Americans in the wadi. He is suspicious of the Americans who have come to look for oil, and he later disappears into the wilderness and becomes a symbol of resistance and of the past. He continues to haunt the desert and shows up in moments of conflict. His son, Fawaz, eventually goes to Harran.

Umm Khosh

Umm Khosh is a widow whose son has left the wadi. She refuses to abandon the wadi when given the order to do so, and she dies and does not join the diaspora of people leaving the wadi. She and her belongings are buried in the desert.

Ibn Rashed

Ibn Rashed is a resident of Wadi al-Uyoun who is pro-American and supports their extraction of oil. Later, he serves as a conduit between the men from the wadi who leave the desert to live in the coastal city of Harran and the Americans who control and modernize Harran.

Abdu Muhammad

Abdu Muhammad is a baker in Harran who starts putting pictures from Western magazines, some of them of suggestive poses between men and women, up in his bakery. He is overcome by lust for an American woman he sees on a ship brought to Harran.

Muffadi al-Jeddan

Muffadi al-Jeddan is a traditional healer in Harran who is targeted by the police and is eventually murdered. His partner is a woman named Khazna al-Hassan. He is challenged by Dr. Subhi al-Mahmilji, whose background is obscure but who clearly comes from an elite family. The doctor arrives in Harran with his wife. Though he tells the emir he has humanitarian reasons to come to Harran, Dr. Mahmilji’s real motives are that his grandfather left him land in Arabia and he has a passion for discovering new places.

The Emir

The emir is a man who is obsessed with modern technology. For example, he looks with wonder at the doctor’s stethoscope. He is, however, not attuned to his people’s suffering and does not truly care about them.

Ibn Naffeh

Ibn Naffeh is a devout Muslim who sees the destruction of the wadi and the construction of Harran and who complains to the emir about the infidels, as he refers to the Americans.

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