MESA Banner
Cairo Then and Now in Alifa Rifaat’s Short Stories
The considerable interest in Alifa Rifaat’s translated short story collection Distant View of a Minaret (1983) tends to privilege specific stories that address the sexual frustrations and repression experienced by some female characters. As a result, other topics and a large number of stories have not received the critical attention they deserve. The call to prayer (adhān), which punctuates the lives of characters in many of Rifaat’s stories, highlights the presence and importance of the mosque. The title story of the collection, for example, reveals an eclipsing of the minaret, a serious deterioration of the fourteenth-century Sultan Hasan mosque, as well as a general debasement of old Cairo. In many stories, Cairene residents confront a declining city landscape marked by deteriorating standards of living due to pollution and noise, notably incessant horn honking, combined with a mounting population density that requires more housing. I argue that the deterioration of monumental Islamic sites and the contracting view of the minaret over time reflect a distanciation from Islam and its values, as illustrated in some harmful customs and practices. In contrast to the religious revivalism of the time, Rifaat’s vision of Islam appears to embrace Sufism, which promotes iḥsān that stems from a deeper connection with the divine.
Geographic Area
Sub Area