This thesis is a study of the margins and the centers of Cairo as viewed through the lens of modern and contemporary Egyptian novels. I trace how these and other Egyptian writers map the main forces that shape centers of power, how centers of power see and use the marginalized, how the marginalized themselves picture these centers. The marginalized, by conceptual necessity, are defined by two cultures and two societies at the same time; the margin and the center. I explore how Egyptian writers locate and represent these two forces, and how this duality creates relationships that keep these two opposing entities connected to each other. I discover that these relationships are shaped in three different geometric dimensions: the horizontal, the vertical and the fragmented. The margin itself is in continuous movement, with a constantly shifting and evolving relationship to the center. I explore the horizontal relationship of repulsion and attraction between the old city and the modern city in Mahfouz's Midaq Alley, and the socio-political relationship between the top and the bottom of the building in Al-Aswani's The Yacoubian Building, and finally the fragmentation of reality and the death of the hero in the texts of El-Fakharani's The Shocking Line and Abu Golayyel's Thieves in Retirement. In these last two intentionally fragmented texts, the reader faces a realm of taboos, both social and linguistic. Violence, drugs, homosexuality and even incest are all used to break down conventions, penetrate new spaces and establish new territories. Transformations in language and transformations in people have merged to become one entity where linguistic taboos are in proportion with social ones. The reader is invited to personally experience social, cultural and political transformation both substantively (through character transformation), and structurally (through textual transformation). Modern Egyptian writers have been deconstructing and reconstructing cities and societies according to their points of view. As the boundaries of literary style and content expand, so do the boundaries of this mega city that we call Cairo. Finally, I ask to what extent these authors exert social, political and architectural influence on the people, institutions and boundaries of Cairo.


Arab & Islamic Civilizations Department

Degree Name

MA in Arabic Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

July 2010

First Advisor

Fadl, Assyed



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Arabic fiction -- Egypt -- History and criticism.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Arabic fiction -- 21st century -- History and criticism.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item