Tale of peasant woman turned prostitute delves into the forbidden
CAIRO: Hussein Abdel Alim’s “Sa’deya wa Abdel Hakam wa Akhroun (Sa’adeya, Abdel Hakim and Others) reads like a short film, a very coherent and informative rendition of a country woman, her brother and a police officer and how their paths converge in Cairo in the early 1900s.
Driven by a desire to try, Sa’deya decides to move to Cairo’s red light district on Claude Beik Street three weeks after the death of her husband.
Working and living at a brothel is a choice she cannot explain except for the inexplicable desire to experience the seedier side of life. Her story of destitution, unpaid debt; she was actually curious to try that less savory pursuit, which is how she became known among her co-workers as Sa deya Wants To Try.
Everyone who knows her is intrigued and confused by Sa’deya’s philosophic approach towards prostitution, given her sheltered rural and uneducated background.
The “Others that the title refers to are by no means less intriguing or fascinating than the three main characters. They include a homosexual pimp who rules the prostitution trade dressed in women’s clothes and a nurse whose character reveals remarkable facts about the history of the practice of nursing.
Surprisingly, the writer makes no attempt to moralize or justify the trade through any of the characters, nor does he offer a reason as to why things happen. The events, along with the characters, are represented in a very explicitly raw and often graphic manner.
This is a very informative book about prostitution, its own merciless laws and the legislations that governed the practice in Egypt and how they have changed to accommodate political and social change. Throughout the novel, the reader is introduced to several historical, cultural and even medical facts that have affected the trade and impacted society.
At times one may feel a sense of abandonedment by the writer in his very brief attention to the characters’ background. Nevertheless, what the book reveals and the colorful style in which the characters are depicted leaves you more satisfied than disappointed. In fact, the whole book arouses a great deal of interest in a shunned chapter in the history of Egyptian society.
Sa’adeya, Abdel Hakim and Others – a novellaBy Hussein Abdel AlimMerit Publishing House, 2006