Essay on Midaq Alley

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The theme of "Midaq Alley" cuts to the heart of Arab society. Namely, it shows how a group of characters living in the same slum neighborhood responds to the combined promise and threat of Western-influenced modernization. Midaq Alley is about the Egyptian residents of a hustling, packed back alley in Cairo in the 1940's. The attempts of several residents to escape the alley and move up in status end with dreams broken and unfulfilled. The opening sentences of "Midaq Alley" points to a world bypassed by history: "Many things combine to show that Midaq Alley is one of the gems of times gone by and that it once shone forth like a flashing star in the history of Cairo. Which Cairo do I mean? That of the Fatimids, the Mamlukes or the…show more content…
(Beattie 190)"Even though he has been reciting poems for the last twenty years, his time has come and history has passed him by. Of all the people in the neighborhood who are yearning for an escape from tradition and the poverty that seems to be its permanent handmaiden, none stands out more than the young and beautiful Hamida who is the novel's central character. Living with her adoptive mother, the matchmaker Umm Hamida, she sneers at the prospective husbands who would be the ostensible pathway toward a more prosperous future. They are all "nonentities." The young Hamida envies women who have broken free of traditional bonds, especially the Jewish factory girls. She tells her mother, "If you had seen the factory girls! You should just see those Jewish girls who go to work. They all go about in nice clothes. Well, what is the point of life then if we can't wear what we want? (Mahfouz 27)" In the 1930's Cairo faced a different kind of Westernization. Italy and Germany invaded Egypt. "They offered an alternative lifestyle with more modern assets such as electricity and running water. (Lewis 348)" Also Cairo had become more diverse in terms of culture and in religion. " In The 1927 census a fifth of the population belonged to minorities. Jews, Greeks, Italians, British, and French where all in Cairo (Rodenbeck 146)." So people of Cairo had seen different types of cultures. It
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