Who or what is "Zaabalwi"?

Essay by oesiUniversity, Bachelor's February 2006

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The story "Zaabalwi" by Nagub Mahfouz is about a narrator's quest for Zaabalwi. The story takes place in Cairo and the narrator looks everywhere to find the mysterious character Zaabalwi. The narrator is looking for Zaabalwi because he has a disease, which no doctor can cure, and he believes Zaabalwi can heal him. The people of Cairo refer to Zaabalwi as a saint, who possess physical healing, and religious salvation.

The narrator first hears about Zaabalwi from his father. His father says "he's a true saint of God, a remover of worries and troubles, were it not for him I would have died miserably. These remarks makes the narrator refer to Zaabalwi as person who posses healing powers and he goes on a mission to find this person. The narrator goes on a mission to find Zaabalwi because this character is very hard to find and many people haven't seen him in a while.

During his mission the narrator meets a variety of people including a religious lawyer, a bookseller, a government officer, a calligrapher, a musician and a drunken man. All these people have meet Zaabalwi some time in their life but none of them know his exact location. They all believe that he is still alive which gives the narrator hope that some day he will find the mysterious guy. Every one of the individuals he meets tells him great things about the character Zaabalwi. They tell him that he inspired them and restore their health to them. When the narrator visits the calligrapher he tells the narrator what a mystery Zaabalwi is. He states, " A real man of mystery: he'd visit you so often that people would imagine he was nearest and dearest, then would disappear as though he'd never existed". It was very common...