A Nobel Prize Winner’s Story Comes to Life

November 22, 2008
When going through the bazaar in Cairo with our guide, he pointed out Sugar Street (hundreds of years old) and looking up I saw this balcony and thought of the windows that played a role in Mahfouz’s prize-winning story, “Palace Walk,” for this was the way in which women were able to look out at the world without having someone see them.

Impressions of Egypt Number 15

In keeping with the blog’s theme of “Enrich Your Life, Enrich Your Relationships,” this is one of several posts about a trip we took in December 2007, to Egypt. It definitely enriched my life and expanded my understanding of that country, and of the many challenges they face as they evolve into a different kind of country than the one I visited. — Note added in 2011 after the spring revolution

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Shuttered Windows
Expanding Your Horizons with an Egyptian Travelogue

Before going to Egypt, I read Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz and discovered it made Cairo so much more understandable for me. A prolific writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mahfouz described traditional urban life with an undercurrent of political comment that was conveyed with symbolism and allegory. He undoubtedly did this both because he enjoyed writing in that style and because some of the subjects were forbidden to be discussed.

This picture is particularly interesting to me because one of the streets in the book was Sugar Street (and one of his books is titled Sugar Street). When going through the old Cairo bazaar with our self-appointed guide, he pointed out Sugar Street (hundreds of years old) and looking up I saw this balcony (though I can’t swear this particular picture was taken on Sugar Street itself). I thought of the windows that played a role in the story, for this was the way in which women were able to look out at the world without having someone see them.

Women must feel much more liberated in Egypt today (at least in the cities), even though they sometimes have burkas and have many more restrictions than we do. But at least they can leave their homes more freely.

Incidentally, in the center of a roundabout near the National Museum in Cairo stands a statue of Mahfouz. He was clearly a very revered author.

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