Midaq Alley

Midaq Alley Study Guide

Midaq Alley (Zuqaq al-Midaq) was published in Egypt, in Arabic, in 1947. The novel takes place in the Gamaliya neighborhood of Cairo, which is where Naguib Mahfouz and his family lived for the early years of his life. It has remained one of Mahfouz's best-known works, and was one of his earliest novels to detail a lower class lifestyle in Cairo. Many of his earlier novels focused on middle-class neighborhoods. The novel is marked by a loose narrative that traces an ensemble rather than a fixed protagonist.

Midaq Alley was Mahfouz's first novel to be translated into other languages, and has since become his most translated novel. It has appeared in more than 30 foreign editions, in 15 languages. In a 1992 interview with the Paris Review, Mahfouz said that "the translation was first published by a Lebanese named Khayyat. Neither I nor the translator made any money because Khayyat cheated us. Heinemann published it again around 1970. After that, it was translated into French, and other translations of my work soon followed."

In the same interview, Mahfouz says he was surprised when critics claimed that the character of Hamida was a symbol for Egypt. Though he did not intend her as an explicit allegory, he later recognized the connection, and believed he was subconsciously writing about his native country when imagining her journey.

In 1994, Midaq Alley was adapted into a Mexican film, released as El Callejon do los Milagros (The Alley of Miracles) and starring a pre-stardom Salma Hayek. The film was critically acclaimed in Mexico, and won 11 Ariel Awards (presented annually by the Mexican Academy of Film).