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The Lodging House

The Lodging House

Khairy Shalaby
Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    The Lodging House
    Book Description:

    A young man’s dreams for a better future as a student in the Teachers’ Institute are shattered after he assaults one of his instructors for discriminating against him. From then on, he begins his descent into the underworld. Penniless, he seeks refuge in Wikalat ‘Atiya, a historic but now completely run-down caravanserai that has become the home of the town’s marginal and underprivileged characters. This award-winning novel takes on epic dimensions as the narrator escorts us on a journey to this underworld, portraying—as he sinks further into its intricate relationships—the many characters that inhabit it. Through a labyrinth of tales, reminiscent of the popular Arab tradition of storytelling, we are introduced to these denizens, whose lives oscillate between the real and the fantastic, the contemporary and the timeless. And while the narrator starts out as a spectator of these characters’ lives, he soon becomes an integral part of the lodging house’s community of rogues.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-179-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Wikalat Atiya
    (pp. 1-4)

    I never thought I could be brought down so low that I would accept living in Wikalat Atiya. Nor did I imagine that I would become such a rotten bum that I would come to know a place in the city of Damanhour called Wikalat Atiya. It was a place someone like me would not dream of under any circumstances; my feet could not take me to such a far-off place, which the sons of the city themselves might not even know, even those who traveled through it from one end to the other, and who knew every rat hole...

  3. The Square
    (pp. 5-16)

    Vagrants stick to each other like sticky fluid on a downward slope. That’s how it was with Mahrous and me; we stuck to each other. The first time I saw him was on the back road leading into town; he was sitting in front of a pile of radishes and gargir spread out on a sack, calling to the customers in mawwals that extolled the virtues of his radishes and gargir with a fervor and vitality surpassing that of Abu Nawas for his wine; the green eyes were in his radishes, and as for the gargir, it was a lover’s...

  4. The Gate
    (pp. 17-24)

    As I turned sideways to squeeze through the gate, I saw Shawadfi sitting cross-legged on the concrete bench; in front of him was a brazier of fire kindled with corn cobs, on top of which was a black tin pot with a wire handle twisted firmly around it. Shawadfi held it and started gently shaking the pot and the penetrating smell of tea rose to my nostrils.

    “Have a good day, Amm Shawadfi.”

    “Sit down and have a sip of tea.”

    “Thank you, and God bless you.”

    “I said, sit down!”

    He said that with decisiveness and simplicity and generosity,...

  5. My Cousin’s Alley
    (pp. 25-35)

    Susi Street is one of the most important commercial streets in Damanhour and one of its most crowded and lively. I can walk it up and down and to and fro all day long without anyone noticing me. It is very intimate; I am captivated by its intense crowds and the smells of the fruits and foods and the new fabrics, and the sight of the well-dressed peasants coming from the nearby villages shopping or attending the court sessions in their unending cases or presenting themselves to the doctors and hospitals of the city, and eating ta‘miya which is considered,...

  6. The Brothers’ Street
    (pp. 36-50)

    Even though I was quite a way away from Abu Sinn’s store, directly behind it but from the alley winding around it, his associate (and doppelganger) found me. Suddenly there was a voice shouting my name, calling, “Hey you—yeah, you!” Because I remembered the voice instantly, I picked up the pace. The voice called out to me again, closer this time, so I doubled my speed, trying to melt into the crowd in my cousin’s wide alley, which connected to the large Mudiriya Street, where the Administration Building before me seemed to stretch out facing the alley like a...

  7. “You’ve Eaten Our Bread, Elaishy”
    (pp. 51-60)

    I visited Muhammad Abu Sinn at his shop regularly in the evening. I would stay with him until the nightly gatherings began at the home of Sayyed Elaishy, a friend of his. Sayyed was a third-year student at law school and a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, where he was quite active at the local branch and very popular with the young men who took part in numerous artistic, sporting, and boy-scouting activities. He loved to travel, especially to faraway places such as al-Wadi al-Gadid, Fayoum, Safaga, and Hurghada to get acquainted with the young men, our many “brothers.”...

  8. Badriya
    (pp. 61-76)

    I had no money at all. The suitcase seemed like a heavy burden, a serious problem. I couldn’t just go on carrying it everywhere forever. I had to get rid of it somewhere safe. God inspired me to pass in front of the store of my friend, Hamdi al-Zawawi, who sold cigarettes, shisha tobacco, and some candy. I used to stop by his store and stand there with him for hours talking about nothing in particular. If a long time passed and only a few customers came by, I would sit on the counter with my legs dangling over the...

  9. A Room with a Mastaba
    (pp. 77-85)

    The sound of the horse’s hooves on the street asphalt and the clanking of the carriage wheels intoxicated me and made me feel pampered and spoiled. I automatically felt my body swaying with the movement of the wheels, not only because the motion made me sway but because, as a child, I used to see the overseers of the large estates and the sons and daughters of the big farm owners in our village swaying in ecstasy with the movement of the horse-drawn buggies in the village streets. I remembered the women’s hair dancing down their faces with excitement and...

  10. Shawadfi
    (pp. 86-94)

    I would sit with Shawadfi at my favorite perch every afternoon, watching the sun as it beat a retreat from the courtyard of the wikala, leaving the rooms encircling the courtyard bathed in gray as if they were remnants of medieval ruins in which life still surprisingly breathed. Suddenly I saw her entering through the gate, the same woman I’d seen one day selling candy on the sidewalk. There she was carrying the palm-frond crate filled with subdued chickens that let out faint clucking sounds that gave them away, for the crate was wrapped in a rag and on top...

  11. Etaita
    (pp. 95-101)

    “If you can’t find a job, be a judge!”

    The proverb rang in my ears as I was reclining on the mastaba in my room, having had more than my fill of sleep, but not knowing where to go. It was Etaita that I heard, teasing Shawadfi as she was leaving to start her day. It was as if I made a momentous discovery; I jumped off the mastaba, shed my gallabiya, and put on my shirt and pants, then my shoes and dashed out. I bade Shawadfi good morning and noticed that he was engrossed in twining a rope...

  12. Getting Acquainted
    (pp. 102-110)

    I got addicted to visiting this alley, which was like an amazing magical pocket in the body of the city bulging with fat spots. One afternoon as I was dawdling away, getting ready to leave the alley, I saw him coming from the other end staring at me in a way that made me suspicious. So I decided to challenge him by staring back at him, but he smiled as he approached me. He looked familiar.

    “Good evening, sir.”

    “Good evening. How are you?”

    “Can I get you anything here?” he said with a mysterious wink that told me there...

  13. Dumyana and the Monkey
    (pp. 111-116)

    I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to sleep easily that night because I had slept all day long on the beautiful mastaba, a very deep sleep during which I didn’t see any dreams at all, as if I were temporarily dead. It was long after midnight. Shawadfi had put out his kerosene lamp and pulled his worn out blanket over his head and was fast asleep. The door to my room was ajar and the way I was lying down I could see the whole inner part of the courtyard and parts of some of the upper rooms,...

  14. So Early in the Morning
    (pp. 117-124)

    As the sun rose, the courtyard of the wikala began to fill with all kinds of people. A loud din rose, dominated by the sound of the water pump which people turned on to wash their faces and feet. Each person operated the pump for another; most of them dried their faces and hands on the edges of their gallabiyas or just left the water on their faces and hands to be dried by the air. Then the crowds in the courtyard began to thin out gradually. In a few minutes the last person was leaving, shaking the water off...

  15. The Monkey Adds Up the Take of the Day
    (pp. 125-134)

    I became fascinated with the mornings in the courtyard of the wikala, watching them as I lay down on the mastaba in my room. They were enchanting mornings that changed their colors slowly and beautifully from slate to chalk to rose to gold, all redolent with fresh scents. During the slate phase of the morning, I was engrossed in reading the diwan of Bayram al-Tunsi, captivated by his descriptions of old Cairo alleys with their people, their contentiousness, their mud, and their horny outspoken women. I heard Shawadfi’s voice addressing someone at the gate, saying, “She’s in the second room...

  16. The Midwife and the Undertaker
    (pp. 135-150)

    The undertaker said, “You must be saying to yourself, dear sir, ‘This stupid man has a primary occupation, that of undertaking. So why does he abandon it and work as a server in a joint, opening himself up to risk?’”

    I told him that actually I was not thinking about that at the moment, but that undoubtedly I was going to think about it at some point or another, even though I wasn’t really concerned to know the reason since everyone did whatever they liked so long as they made a living by the sweat of their brow. However, he...

  17. Zainhum al-Atris
    (pp. 151-165)

    Until the morning I had not figured out the reason for the unusually huge crowds at the wikala. The courtyard was filled with people of all different kinds. It was also quite noisy, the hubbub rising, then falling, only to rise again. There were over three hundred men and women, not counting the children. And they were all shouting at the same time, so loudly and shrilly you would have thought that they were fighting, that at any moment clubs and cudgels would be wielded, but you soon heard laughter and sarcastic banter.

    It was difficult for me to take...

  18. Hours
    (pp. 166-171)

    Just as it happened this time and every time the courtyard became unusually crowded, week after week, I saw Sheikh Zainhum al-Atris coming toward the gate as I stood by the door of my room watching the intimate crowd. He spoke with Shawadfi for quite some time. He was carrying a small, coarse cotton sack clearly half-filled with cigarette butts that he had bought from the street children. The crutch came in handy as he used it to nudge people to clear a path for him to get to his room. I followed him with my eyes. The door to...

  19. Goodies for the Sheep
    (pp. 172-179)

    I saw a flock of sheep crossing the street in front of the wikala gate. It went on for many, many minutes in a seemingly endless procession. Then there appeared two shepherds and several boys each holding a long, flexible cane. Then a gaunt-faced man, with thick features and a dark brown complexion around whose lips a thick, pointed mustache dangled, got away from the flock. He had on a rounded cap like an upturned casserole and had a narrow forehead and narrow eyes. With blinking eyes the shepherd looked at the entrance of the gate then tapped it with...

  20. A Messenger from Hell
    (pp. 180-187)

    The delightful noise and crowds of the market greeted me. I was coming from downtown where I had spent the night walking around aimlessly, getting away from the boring, stifling atmosphere of my room in the wikala and avoiding Shawadfi and his sharp, painful barbs. It was a little before noon and I didn’t want to enter the wikala despite my unplanned return there. I turned right toward the distant fields. The market was huge and seemed endless, with displays squeezing together, selling grains, sugar cane, fabrics, vegetables, birds, and things that one would never think of at all. Crowded...

  21. The Flame and the Wind
    (pp. 188-193)

    The air in the wikala in the late afternoon was unparalleled: the large courtyard turned into a vast store for the sun from which the day borrowed its light and heat. As the day advanced, the sun stingily hid from it in the corners, nooks, and crannies, receiving delegations of wind rushing in from everywhere to the courtyard and which sifted and refined them, turning them into a sea of refreshing coolness. At such moments of autumn days, all the rooms in the wikala’s two stories opened their doors as well as the upper parts of the windows overlooking the...

  22. A Halter of Palm Fiber
    (pp. 194-202)

    She appeared on the balcony immediately after the call to the night prayers. It was as if the whole universe had lit up, for at that moment the universe meant only that area occupied by the balcony that seemed an extension of the wikala. I sensed her appearance before she actually made it. For, despite the distance and the noise around me, I was almost certain that I heard the rustling of her dress and the jingling of her bracelets on her wrists and the anklets around her ankles. She wanted me to feel her presence so she leaned on...

  23. Markets! Markets!
    (pp. 203-205)

    Before leaving the store, Muhammad Abu Sinn told me not to take my time going home because I had to get to bed early that night to get up at dawn, for the following day we were to take the two-horse drawn cart to the market in Mahmudiya village, to be in the midst of the market at sunrise at the latest. There we would spread sackcloth and oilcloth on a spot and arrange bolts of fabric of all kinds and sit in the middle under a large umbrella also of oilcloth behind a low wooden table that would serve...

  24. Widad’s Mother’s Genie
    (pp. 206-211)

    That night I had planned to go directly to my room to sleep until dawn, but my desire to spend the evening at Widad’s house was strongly tugging at me and pulling my feet to bypass the wikala gate toward Widad’s house. Then it occurred to me to just keep going there so that Shawadfi would not notice. Widad’s face was always full of fresh, delicious femininity, and sitting with her in the balcony for some time, surrounded by blue smoke, provided me with rest and relaxation sweeter and healthier than tossing and turning on the hard bed.

    Thus I...

  25. In Broad Daylight
    (pp. 212-216)

    By mid-morning the market’s business was reaching its peak. Customers came from everywhere and I devoted myself full time to selling small items such as bracelets, handkerchiefs, and the like. Muhammad handled the big sales, taking the money, and keeping track of receipts which he did with an indelible pencil that he kept behind his ear and a small piece of paper from a crude notebook. He never threw away any of the pieces of paper but folded them back so he could review the whole day’s take at the end of the day from those scraps that he alone...

  26. The Tomb Below
    (pp. 217-225)

    Widad stood frozen in her open door, fixing me with her scared, humiliated, yet belligerent eyes. It was as if she were looking in my eyes for the true intentions behind this visit, as if I were visiting her for the first time. She was visibly frightened and confused even though many days had passed since that incident. Her brows were knit in a pained look as if asking:What do you want from me? Why are you spying on me?But she didn’t say it. Instead, she said hospitably, “Come in, please,” and opened the door wide. I went...

  27. Whispering
    (pp. 226-230)

    Most workers who lived in the wikala did not work the streets on Friday, except Sundus, the gypsy, who carried a basket on her head and went out. She would wear a dress of gray chintz with small dark green dots, reaching her heels just above the anklets with broad ruffles. In the chest area and immediately below, the dress had pleats and cross-stitches that accentuated the chest, the belly, and the hips, and intimated that, under the clothing, there was a captivating female. The face was charmingly beautiful as if painted by an ancient Egyptian folk artist, lacking smoothness...

  28. Sundus and Harisa
    (pp. 231-250)

    I asked Muhammad Abu Sinn if he would give me Thursday evening off to go to our village Thursday and Friday. He readily agreed and gave me a whole pound, saying, “Buy something for your brothers and sisters. Don’t you dare take it for yourself, otherwise you’ll lose what you’ve lawfully worked for.”

    It was before noon and I was wearing the clean clothes that I wore for work in the store. I left the store, going deep into the vegetable and fruit market street, off Susi Street. On the corner was Fakharani Fruits, a very clean store that looked...

  29. Exhaustion
    (pp. 251-256)

    I saw Widad’s head over the edge of the balcony. I snapped my fingers and she looked down. I signaled that I was coming up there and she withdrew her head.

    Handing her the fish bag and the harisa packet I said, “It seems Sundus has forgotten our appointment tonight. Her room is closed; she must have gone out to work and God knows when she’s coming back.”

    She seemed to know Sundus’ plans for the day in detail as she said quite confidently, “She’s coming back. She’s on a nearby errand downtown. She hasn’t gone out to work, because...

  30. The Incomparable Wadida
    (pp. 257-281)

    “Sit down for a little bit with us, young man. Or does your new love make you forget your old friends? Everything that happens here does so with my blessing, anyway. So, don’t think you’re something special.

    “Sit down for I might need you. Yes, it is true, it is God who helps but let’s remember: God makes people help people. I am going to give you such tea the likes of which you have never had. And you’ll get a piece of opium in the bargain. Ha! Ha! If you had taken it the night of that party, it...

  31. The Mirage
    (pp. 282-286)

    The night had begun to get very dark even though it was still early. The ten o’clock summary of the news, read by Hemmat Mustafa, was still being read in the distant radio although it sounded as if it were nearby. The gate of the wikala opened after a light, symbolic knock. A thin man wearing a shirt and pants came toward us with open arms, shouting gleefully, “Amm Shawadfi! It’s been a long time! The living are destined to meet again!”

    He rushed into the arms of Shawadfi, who got up to welcome him warmly, embracing him and patting...

  32. The Tale of the Amazing Bird
    (pp. 287-295)

    “Praise the Prophet! There was (and oh, how much there was!) in old times gone by, a good, strong young man called al-Shatir Karim. He was not al-Shatir Hassan that you know about from the tales, because our story takes place in real life. Al-Shatir Karim was a tough guy: if he got into a fight, he beat up all his opponents; if someone upset him on the street, he cleared the whole street; and if he didn’t like a gathering, he brought it to an end. No one could stand up to him. He fell for a beautiful girl,...

  33. The Confrontation
    (pp. 296-299)

    “You son of a bitch! You are really clever, Sheikh Zainhum! May God reward you!”

    Thus spoke Shawadfi, waving with his big hand. Then his eyes began to dwell on Buri’s face which obviously had now changed completely. His face was relaxed and drooped and signs of aggressiveness had left it. A confused, hurried, and tense glance in his eyes had now subsided into one of total, quiet lethargy. The evil pride and mysterious joy were now replaced by childlike, wretched helplessness. The side of his face opposite me, in the shadow of a very faint light hanging from the...

  34. The Omen
    (pp. 300-303)

    Muhammad Abu Sinn, to my surprise, dismissed me early. It was surprising because, on such a night every week we spent the evening in Elaishy’s room until the dawn prayer, eating dinner and drinking tea and cinnamon and coffee and eating fruits and reading and talking. True, my talking was very limited, confined to expressions of surprise or admiration but their conversation was usually quite wondrous. I’d hear the same Qur’anic verses and the same hadiths of the Prophet that I’d heard in the mosques from preachers hundreds of times but on any given night I’d discover many other meanings...

  35. Nakedness
    (pp. 304-310)

    The door opened. I saw Widad’s face, which looked pale, as if she’d never slept in her life. The eyes were dull, the roses on her cheeks had turned into dry, wrinkled lemons and her smile was like a dead locust on the lips. Something strong inside me gave way as if an electric current had been shut off. I felt as if I were fizzling gradually and was actually engulfed in darkness for what seemed like a very long time, even though I had encountered the crude shining light in the corridor leading to the balcony.

    I turned to...

  36. The Law of Madness
    (pp. 311-315)

    “You know Nur al-Sabah? Shawadfi told you about her? Certainly! I don’t know why he suddenly remembered her now. It was he who reminded me a couple of days ago. He stopped me and asked me how Nur al-Sabah was doing. I told him I hadn’t seen her for some time. And right away I missed her and said to myself that perhaps it was a good omen. So long as someone mentioned her, she must be asking for you. She must need you. Who knows? Maybe she was cured or got better. That same night I got an errand...

  37. Return Trip
    (pp. 316-323)

    Widad was silent for a long time, as if we were at a funeral. I wanted to end this sudden, depressing stillness, so I sat up in front of the brazier and began to blow on the remnants of the burning coal until the flames lit up again. There were still some pipes left so we started smoking them very slowly. Then I found myself saying, “You said something earlier tonight that was very wise. One should not waste a single minute of his life. So, get up and wash your face and comb your hair and change this dress...

  38. Black Dawn
    (pp. 324-337)

    Susi Street and the surrounding area were quite desolate. This was what I first saw as soon as I went beyond the Administration building. The morning was not like previous mornings. There was an unmistakable humid gloom enveloping the buildings, pavements, the asphalt of the road, and the people, even in the pale sunlight devoid of any warmth despite the red sun visible directly above the Administration building.

    Traffic was slow and people moved about in a bored and lethargic manner. Even the donkeys and horses drawing carts and carriages had their ears and heads lowered and their eyelids drooping...

  39. The Well and its Cover
    (pp. 338-343)

    The news hit me like a large rock falling on my head and knocking me off balance. I almost beat my chest like a woman shouting, “Woe is me!” but I handled the shock with a faint smile by which I tried to conceal a fire that rose in my chest. I found myself looking at Shawadfi, summoning my utmost ability to disapprove: “Have you no fear of God? Why are you spreading this rumor?”

    Shawadfi roared with laughter like a mischevious child, “God be praised! Go see for yourself. Maybe then you’ll believe it.”

    “Widad? Married al Buri? How?”...

  40. Picked Clean
    (pp. 344-351)

    Sayyed Zanati’s room was a dazzling little museum. It was the largest room in the whole wikala. It must have been designed for some administrative function or another, for in addition to being large, it had three stories, with somewhat low ceilings. The first level was for sleeping and so was the third. As for the one in the middle, it was devoted to Sayyed Zanati: that was where he sat, stayed up, and received the teams for the settling of accounts. All the walls of the room were covered with well-washed, rose-colored linen drapes interspersed with mirror strips like...

  41. Bearing
    (pp. 352-355)

    The way my face looked in the mirror disturbed and agitated me; I almost denied it was my face. My beard had grown over an inch, completely covering my fair complexion under a coarse blondish fur like that of a sheep that began with two sections next to the ears growing larger as they went outward to the temples, cheeks, the chin and the front of the neck. I had a hard time keeping it and felt the need to get rid of it, scratching it all the time. After a short while, however, I gradually began to forget I...

  42. The Wings
    (pp. 356-360)

    The plan that Sayyed Zanati had drawn up for us was broad, but with precise details and sound structure. He supplied us with a number of Qur’anic verses, hadiths of the Prophet, and sayings attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib, Umar ibn al-Khattab, and Abu Dhar which were often quoted by Muslim Brotherhood speakers. I was quite surprised at how Sayyed Zanati knew those sayings in particular, and no others, to be used by us to help out when and if needed. He conducted a rehearsal for us by impersonating characters that we might encounter or who might argue with...

  43. Acceptability
    (pp. 361-368)

    According to Sayyed Zanati’s plan, there was an observer that we were not supposed to have anything to do with. I wished I were him instead of being involved in an actual role that might get me into trouble. The observer would take the same means of transportation with us as a totally unrelated person. He would follow us every step of the way without anyone noticing that at all. Once we got to work he’d come in with us as a regular citizen. If he noticed that we got into trouble or a passing difficulty he would intervene out...

  44. The Last Night
    (pp. 369-379)

    Sittat was trimming my beard in preparation for putting on the same show the following morning, Friday, at the Ahmedi mosque in Tanta. As her fragrant breath greeted my face, as she approached with her mouth closed firmly on the knot of the thread by which she was removing some thin hairs around my ear and nose, I remembered at that moment that the two of us were alone in the room with its three floors and that I was sitting on the same cushions on which Sayyed Zanati sat. My heart beat fast and my breath raced as though...

  45. What a Night!
    (pp. 380-392)

    It was obvious that something unusual had happened to Sayyed Zanati and his wives at the mulid of al-Hussein. For since his arrival he had been frowning quite visibly even though he did his best to relax the muscles of his face and fix them in a broad smile to look normal. But who’d believe him? He forgot those around him totally for long periods that he spent absently absorbed in smoking and drinking. And, like a possessed dervish he interrupted his reverie with a gasp or a moan or a groan that could only indicate a reaction to discovering...

  46. The Messenger
    (pp. 393-399)

    There must have been something magical about the room to make it accommodate so many despite seeming so small, as if it were made of rubber. The woman from Arish sat crosslegged to one side of the door opening as Sittat sat facing her on the other side. Sheikh Zainhum al-Atris sat in the center at the other end of the room and next to him the singer and three young men about his age, color, good looks, and good spirits. They each had a well-turned Saidi turban with the edge of the shawl dangling on the side of the...

  47. Badi‘
    (pp. 400-404)

    “My story, after asking for blessing of the Prophet, is a wonderous tale, if written with points of needles on the eyes, it would provide a lesson for those that listen. I was betrayed by friend and beloved and Time!”

    “There was a young man by the name of Badi‘, a fruit grocer by trade. God gave him of His bounty. He had a store in the town market, well stocked, and things were going very well. His heart, however, was smitten with art and the wound of art can only be cured with love.

    “He loved God in His...

  48. Fakiha
    (pp. 405-408)

    “Yes, I love him! I loved Badi‘ the fruit grocer before he put me in the mawwal instead of the fruit. The fact that he was my brother’s friend from their childhood has nothing to do with it because if he wasn’t my brother Abd al-Mawla’s friend, I’d still have loved him.”

    “He used to come in to our house with Abd al-Mawla a lot but I never really saw the whole of him. I heard his voice when he sang at weddings. No wedding without Badi‘ the fruit grocer singing! No wedding without me and all the girls sitting...

  49. The Tragedy
    (pp. 409-413)

    The dervish turned around and faced those sitting. He gathered the long misbaha and put it in his pocket then put his folded hands on his lap. Then he said as if ignoring all that went on around him, “Now, what should I tell Sidi Abd al-Rahim? Did you remember the thing that you found in the street and brought over here to use or save?”

    Sayyed Zanati chastised him with impatience he couldn’t control: “Will you wait until we solve this tough problem?”

    Then after a harsh glance of rebuke from Sheikh Zainhum Al-Atris he realized that he had...

  50. Nostalgia
    (pp. 414-418)

    For a long time I was bored, disgusted, and penniless. Then there were the constant disruptions: almost daily interrogations by the police, the prosecutors, and the court. As luck would have it, I had a few expenses lately and work was rare. Sayyed Zanati was in a foul and lousy mood and was no good at devising schemes that produced a high income. The gigs I went on with Sittat were diminished greatly and were of the traditional variety that did not require much experience even though they provided day to day expenses: claiming to be strangers who had been...

  51. The Widow
    (pp. 419-423)

    “They hanged my husband. They said he was one of the founders of the secret organization. They picked the right duty for him: they said he was the one in charge of purchasing and storing weapons, given his military expertise as a former army officer.

    “My husband, God knows, was a kind-hearted man. We only had his one pistol for which he had a permit and he used to fear it as much a child feared touching flames. He never took it out of his desk drawer!

    “You haven’t heard his trial on radio? It was in the newspaper every...

  52. The Fragrant End
    (pp. 424-426)

    After ten minutes of standing under the balcony, the basket was lowered down from the fourth floor. It was so heavy, it almost came crashing down to the ground. In the basket there was a canvas bag chock full of rolls of fitir; fancy, delicious-smelling fresh baked hard rolls; a jar of honey; and a tin of cheese. Badriya shouted from the balcony, telling me to untie the rope from the basket and take the whole thing with its contents. Then she printed a kiss on the tips of her fingers and threw it at me. I waved to her,...

  53. Translator’s Acknowledgments
    (pp. 427-427)
  54. Glossary
    (pp. 428-434)
  55. Back Matter
    (pp. 435-436)