Colonialism is present in the text in many different forms, it represents the clash between the modern and eastern world. Naguib Mahfouz uses the setting as a way to create a contrast between the modern westernized world, and the ancient eastern culture, in order to clarify how colonialism had an impact on the street of Midaq Alley. I will confront the idea of colonialism through different aspects and perspective. Principally, the novel Midaq Alley portrays the decay of culture through colonialism.
In literature, the setting surrounding any piece of work is significant and yields to depict a certain notion intended by the author. Both the time and place allow the readers to grasp and have better understand the era, history, and society in which the story takes place. Midaq Alley is a well-known novel by Naguib Mahfouz that depicts the lives of the people living in a discrete alley in the ancient Gamaliyya street of Cairo; it has a limited size, that allows it to have a specific lifestyle. This novel was written during WWII. In 1882, the British army colonized Egypt in order to have access, and to protect to the Suez Canal. Britain took over the army of Egypt, and offered them equipment, instructions, and technicians. This act brought about the idea of colonialism and cultural intrusion, relating it to the name. Midaq in Arabic means hammer symbolically crushes citizens because of the cultural intrusion by the British during WWII. Prostitution became legal in Egypt, when Britain took over. The British implied colonialism in Egypt by having an army present in Cairo, and indirectly by decaying their culture. The narrator's use of different setting within the novel brings about the main theme of colonialism that is achieved through figurative language, and form and syntax.
Midaq Alley "is one of the gems of times gone by and that is shone forth like a flashing star in the history of Cairo" (Mahfouz 1), which shows that it's a symbol of culture, which gives it symbolic significance for its setting.