Literapedia Book Notes for

Fountain and Tomb by Naguib Mahfouz


  • Narrator (ch 1)—a young boy living in a quarter of Cairo, Egypt.
  • Sufis (ch 1)—a mystical religious sect; a Sufi takiya, a monastery, surrounds a garden in the quarter.
  • High Sheikh (ch 1)—the supposed leader of the takiya; he is never seen, except perhaps once by the narrator when he was a young boy.

Chapter Summaries

  1. Gazing at the Sufi takiya, the narrator believes he speaks with the High Sheikh about the mulberry tree in the garden.
  2. Um Zaki is seen sunbathing by the narrator. Later he witnesses her exorcism and her leaving for the hospital.
  3. The barber Am Hassan gives the narrator an operation.
  4. The narrator falls in love with the daughters of the flour merchant.
  5. The narrator gets a hug from the police prefect's wife.
  6. The narrator secretly meets and kisses his schoolmate Darwisha.
  7. The narrator wishes to become a singer until his neighbor Hag Bisheer and his family move away.
  8. The attitude of the narrator toward the cemetery changes when his nephew Heman dies.
  9. Tawheeda becomes the first neighborhood girl to take a job.
  10. Um Abdu, the best-known woman in the alley, is described. Her younger daughter Dawlet marries well. Her beautiful daughter Ahsan marries an older man and later leaves him.
  11. The narrator is happy about his failure in school but is told by his father that he must return.
  12. A demonstration for Saad Zaghloul and Egyptian nationalism shakes the alley.
  13. The narrator's cousin Sabry has him distribute political pamphlets.
  14. The narrator sees a demonstration against the Sultan for supporting the British.
  15. A group of the father's friends come to talk of the revolution and of Saad Zaghloul.
  16. Salooma becomes a martyr when he is killed in a demonstration, and his father Am Tulba becomes important.
  17. The narrator falls in love with his visiting cousin So'ad, who is betrothed.
  18. Saad Zaghloul returns from exile, and there is a celebration.
  19. The narrator describes a demonstration to his father.
  20. The narrator's friend Yehya Mudkoor introduces him to literature.
  21. Ibrahim Tawfeek accepts a dare to eat ten hot hornpeppers.
  22. Hasham Zayid's childhood as a shy, well-behaved child is contrasted with his adulthood.
  23. Saad Zaghloul dies.
  24. The narrator has a love affair with the postman's oldest daughter Senaya and describes meeting her years later.
  25. The narrator falls in love with Senaya's sister Fathaya, but she marries another. The narrator meets her again when they are both old.
  26. Sitt Nagayah, a lonely old woman with many pets and a belief in spirits, is described.
  27. Sitt Nazzalah, a woman twice widowed and with a son, is gossiped about but the narrator feels sympathetic towards her.
  28. The narrator's cousin Mohsen is described. Mohsen's inheritance is tied up in the courts, and when he finally receives it, he is old and dies soon afterwards.
  29. Ali Al-Benan, owner of a coffee-bean shop, knows that Onsaya has had many lovers but wishes to marry her anyway.
  30. Patrick is married at a young age, divorces his wife, and then marries a foreigner, who eventually leaves him.
  31. Sayeeda Kareem finally marries Idrees Al-Qadi after waiting for him for over 30 years.
  32. Senan Shalaby falls in love with a prostitute and commits murder to get the money to be with her.
  33. So many men fight over the beautiful Zenab that her father Zedan moves the family from the quarter.
  34. Henaya falls in love with Hamam, who is sent to jail for mugging. She waits for him, and they have a good marriage.
  35. Radwan Effendi and his wife Waleeda have two children who die young in tragic circumstances. He moves to the cemetery to mourn, but his wife is cheerful in her old age.
  36. The narrator finds meaning in seeing a drunk man insult another drunk man.
  37. Am Yansoon Issuramati marries the former lover of his dead son because she is pregnant.
  38. Fathaya Qaysoon curses the marriage of Naain Issaqaf and Sheikhun Iddehl and vows revenge.
  39. Sabri Gawani suddenly becomes prosperous and marries, but just as suddenly he mysteriously disappears.
  40. A young man goes crazy and rips off women's veils. His father locks him in a room.
  41. An amazingly large blind beggar, Ibrahim the Ape one day attacks another blind beggar, Zalooma, and is eventually subdued by the authorities.
  42. Bergowi, who runs a falafel shop, picks a fight with Kefrowi and kills him.
  43. Hawash Adad throws a big party and awakes to find his house destroyed. The mystery is never solved.
  44. Sheikh Aml Al-Mahdi witnesses the murder of Sitt Sikeena but refuses to testify against his patron, Muallim Mohamed Al-Zumr. Sheikh Aml eventually goes mad.
  45. A poor man, Ashur Iddenf is courted by and marries a rich widow, Sitt Fadeela. He chafes under her watchful eyes, hits her, is divorced by her, and refuses reconciliation.
  46. Saad Al-Gebaly becomes prosperous as a perfumer, becomes bankrupt, and eventually grows ill. On his deathbed he refuses to lose his faith or become bitter.
  47. Shalaby Ilaly idolizes his father but finds out after his father dies that his father had once been jailed.
  48. Saqr Mowazeeni, the son of a respected government official who dies penniless, is forced to care for his mother and sisters, never being rich enough to marry.
  49. The narrator mistakenly calls a visiting high official The Night Visitor, a figure who is supposed to come only in dreams.
  50. Gaalus Dananeeri, a powerful local gang leader, is described, including his death at the hands of a child of a man he had killed.
  51. Abdu suffers from fits, but when he challenges Gaalus, he is shown compassion.
  52. In order to win the hand of Um Ali the midwife, Zeyan seeks to join the gang of Sanawi. When Sanawi orders him to kill Um Ali, Zeyan leaves the quarter.
  53. As an old man, the retired gang leader Hamooda Halwani seeks to explain to an iman that many of the murders he performed were actually good deeds.
  54. Abbas Gehesh attempts to become the neighborhood gang leader, but when he is challenged during his wedding procession, he runs away.
  55. The quarter decides to build a new gate in the outer wall. As the geography teacher warns, a storm comes, and the neighborhood is flooded.
  56. Abdun the Sweet studies to become worthy of joining the gang of Al-Duqma, but he is rejected because he had wasted his life in the pursuit of his goal.
  57. Zaghreb Balaqeeti is the most benevolent of gang leaders, but eventually he is still resented. The people persuade Hagar the Hairless to challenge Zaghreb, but Hagar attacks the people instead.
  58. When gang violence becomes its worst, dark clouds block out the light, and the people gather together for comfort.
  59. Ghanam Abu-Rabyah, who works in the Ministry of the Interior, disappears and reappears mysteriously. The rumor is that he embezzled money, refused to give it back, and was released to avoid scandal.
  60. Khaleem Rumana suffers from amnesia, and when he regains his mind, he finds that his friend Bayumi had been hanged for the murder of Zenab the glass-bead peddler. Later Rumana confesses to the murder.
  61. While trying to burgle the home of Sitt Mashallah, Ibn Ayesha becomes trapped under the bed of Mashallah and her lover, who are killed by another intruder. Ibn Ayesha is caught but cleared of the murder.
  62. On his deathbed Hag Ali Khalafawy, a very rich man, confesses to his son that long before he stole the property of a partner, plunging his partner's family into poverty. The Hag died without his son making restitution.
  63. Shuldoom and Qormah carry a feud from their childhood until, as adults, they have each other killed.
  64. An honest policeman, Salama first covers up for his criminal step-son but eventually turns himself in and loses his job.
  65. Sheikh Labeeb is at first revered for his religious zeal, but in his old age he is reduced to begging.
  66. A child locked behind basement window bars asks a passer-by to let him out, but the child is ignored.
  67. A poor man, Am Sukry struggles to send his son to school. His son Abdu becomes an engineer, gets a high government post, and brings electricity to the quarter.
  68. Abdun Lelah, a hard-working baker's boy, lives an impeccable and pious life, but one day he commits suicide by jumping from the archway.
  69. Abu Al-Makaram, a moneylender, responds to a dream by burning all of his money and living in poverty. After he dies, a rich man is told in a dream to build a shrine to him.
  70. A stranger who was mugged and suffers a head-wound becomes a beggar in the alley and is named Abdullah. Eventually he is revered as a holy person.
  71. A stranger who calls himself Abd Al-Akher mysteriously enquires about Yusef Murr. Later Yusef tries to confront him at night in the graveyard, and Yusef mysteriously dies of a heart attack.
  72. Okla Issuramaty becomes successful, travels, and moves from the quarter. Years later his naked corpse is found in the quarter.
  73. Mustafa Al-Dashoory, a schoolteacher, shares his modern ideas about religion with the young narrator's father.
  74. A drunken man named One-Eye mistakenly relies upon Nono the madman to guide him to the takiya, where he is to meet a lover.
  75. Omar Morgani becomes drunk and happy in a bar, and when he won't be quiet, he is struck down.
  76. Abdu Sukry, a native of the alley and an engineer, proposes removing the takiya. His proposal is rejected.
  77. Anwar Gilel finds life humorous.
  78. The narrator speaks with a lawyer, Sheikh Omar Fikri, and asks for a way to see the High Sheikh of the takiya. The narrator decides that it won't ever be possible to truly know if there is actually a High Sheikh or not, but he can't imagine there not being one.

Book Note Creator

Hal Waller, instructor