Hamida (hah-MEE-dah), a resident of Cairo’s Midaq Alley, a beautiful young woman and foster daughter of Umm Hamida, who serves as her matchmaker. Hamida, ever devoted to material possessions, agrees to marry Abbas Hilu, a barber, who falls desperately in love with her and leaves Midaq Alley to work for the British so that he can save money to buy Hamida everything she desires. Having sealed their engagement, he has no sooner left than Salim Alwan, a rich store owner, leaves his wife with the intention of marrying Hamida. Viewing this union as a means of quickly gaining wealth and position, Hamida, with Umm Hamida’s connivance, proceeds to make plans for her wedding to Salim, completely ignoring her commitment to Abbas. Before they can be married, Salim dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, leaving Hamida desolate. Soon afterward, however, Ibrahim Faraj begins his pursuit of Hamida, and they run away together, with the expectation on Hamida’s part that they will marry soon. Ibrahim has other ideas, setting Hamida up in his elegant apartment, which is essentially a school for prostitutes, and turning her into a wealthy, successful prostitute with a large following among the British and American servicemen stationed in Egypt during World War II. When a much richer Abbas returns from his work with the British, Hamida, desperate to escape the enslavement Ibrahim has imposed upon her, persuades Abbas to kill him. Before the planned murder, Abbas finds Hamida in a bar surrounded by soldiers. After she rejects him, he throws a glass at her,...
(The entire section is 651 words.)