Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Midaq Alley

Midaq Alley. Small, dead-end street in the ancient Gamaliyya section of Cairo. The ancient stone-surfaced alley leads to historic Santadiquiya Street in the heavily populated urban quarters of Cairo. Among the odoriferous shops and houses lining the alley’s three isolating walls, the sociopolitical ills of Egyptian society, familiar to Mahfouz from his boyhood homes in the Egyptian districts of al-Jamaliya and al-Abbasiya, are revealed through this intimate look into the lives of Uncle Kamil, Sheikh Darwish, and the other residents of the alley.

Within the alley, Egypt’s past and present mingle like the aromas from Kirsha’s café, with its crumbling multicolored arabesques, and permeate the voices of the residents as they go about their daily activities. Midaq Alley is a place of contrasts, a place where the recitations of an old poet who has frequented the café for twenty years are now met with protests from the owner who reminds the poet that things have changed. His customers want to listen to a radio, not to a poet. As the story opens, workers busily install the voice of the modern world into the otherwise isolated alley.

One side of the alley houses a shop and a bakery; on the other side sits a second shop and an office, while two adjoining three-story houses, filled with luckless tenants—including the marriage broker Umm Hamida and her scheming foster daughter—constitute the alley’s literal and...

(The entire section is 600 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

El-Enany, Rasheed. Naguib Mahfouz: The Pursuit of Meaning. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1993. Major study concentrating on the themes and issues in Mahfouz’s novels. Includes a carefully articulated examination of Midaq Alley.

Kilpatrick, Hilary. “The Egyptian Novel from Zaynab to 1980.” In Modern Arabic Literature, edited by M. M. Badawi. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. An important, in-depth examination of contemporary Egyptian literature, with special reference to Mahfouz. Positions him as a significant author of twentieth century prose.

Le Gassick, Trevor, ed. Critical Perspectives on Naguib Mahfouz. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1991. A collection of essays published between 1971 and 1989 in various journals. Le Gassick translates some essays from Arabic. Articles range from discussions to commentaries on specific works, including a socio-cultural analysis of Midaq Alley.

Moosa, Matti. The Early Novels of Naguib Mahfouz: Images of Modern Egypt. Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1994. Concentrates on Mahfouz’s work from the formative years in the 1930’s, his historical novels, and the novels dealing with contemporary Egypt up to 1959. Includes a detailed analysis of the Cairo trilogy and a thorough examination of Midaq Alley.

Somekh, Sasson. The Changing Rhythm: A Study of Najib Mahfuz’s Novels. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1973. This examination, considered by many scholars to be a classic study, remains an important and valuable assessment of Mahfouz’s writings, especially his earlier prose works. Includes a useful survey of the development of the Egyptian novel as an emerging literary form in the twentieth century.