the answer may be found in the book the alchemist
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One of the main themes of the book is the unity of all religions. The reader sees an equivalence between the beliefs of a Christian such as Santiago and a Muslim such as the shopkeeper. For this reason, the geography of southern Spain is very important, since it is both spatially and cultural linked to North Africa. This is also highlighted by the repeated references to "the invaders" - a reference to the Moorish domination of the Iberian peninsula. Santiago sees these figures as predominantly negative in the beginning of the story, but modifies his views toward the end. The location of the story allows for a sub-theme of tolerance and understanding.