chapter  13
Architecture and the Construction of Memory1
Pages 20

In the opening scene of The Palace Walk,3 Naguib Mahfouz, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, portrays a night view of Old Cairo through the eyes of a wife awaiting her husband’s return at midnight in the early years of the twentieth century.4 She looks at the alley from a small opening in “a cage-like wooden latticework” balcony overlooking an ancient building housing a cistern and a school. Looking left, the alley becomes narrow and twisting with busy coee houses at street level, while to the right it is engulfed in darkness. Ending the scene, Mahfouz hints to the association between ancient buildings and the memory of the wife: “There was nothing to attract the eye except the minarets of the ancient seminaries of Qala’un and Barquq, which loomed up like ghostly giants enjoying a night out by the light of the gleaming stars. It was a view that had grown on her over a quarter of a century”.5