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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378

The following are the main characters in Cities of Salt:

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  • 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 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 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 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 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 family 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 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 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.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1097

Miteb al-Hathal

Miteb al-Hathal, a Bedouin tribesman with a special passion for the Wadi al-Uyoun desert oasis, where he and his family live. the appearance of Americans, who were invited by the Arabian government to explore and drill for oil, changes Miteb’s previously stoic and optimistic attitude toward life. With characteristic boldness and candor, he warns people about impending disaster and even stands up to the regional emir, but no one heeds him. When the Americans level the orchards and gardens to force people to leave what will henceforth be an oil-drilling site, Miteb mounts his Omani camel and disappears for good. Reports of his visitations come from various parts of the region.

Ibn Rashed

Ibn Rashed, a man from Wadi al-Uyoun who acquiesces to the American presence and decides to join the forces of change. He encourages the local population to relocate and becomes a personnel recruiter for the Americans, bringing Bedouins from all over to Harran with promises of good salaries and homes. the workers find only dehumanizing tents and later barracks. He loses his struggle against Dabbasi for local influence and power and comes to fear paranoically the specter of Miteb al-Hathal. He dies a broken man, an example of an Arab who has broken his ties and traditional fidelity to tribal values.

The Americans

The Americans, oil workers at Wadi al-Uyoun and Harran, and at the pipeline camps in between. These one-dimensional characters, almost caricatures of American workers and managers abroad, seem superficially interested in local culture and customs but are quick to defend and implement company policy in the...

(The entire section contains 2011 words.)

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Critical Essays