Distant View of a Minaret – Character List


“Distant View of a Minaret”

The Wife – The protagonist of the story who is sexually dissatisfied with
her marriage but has given up any attempt to change the situation. The wife
is indifferent to the fact that her husband may be having affairs with other
women. She wishes she had a house with a garden, but they live in the city
because of her husband’s job.Read an
in-depth analysis of The Wife.

The Husband – A man who cares only for his own sexual fulfillment. The husband
gives no consideration to his wife’s desires and flippantly refers to
relationships he’s had with other women.

“Bahiyya’s Eyes”

Bahiyya – An older women who is going blind. Bahiyya tends to ramble, and
she proposes that her eyes are going blind from all the tears she’s cried.
She laments being born a woman in her society, in which others have control
over her life.

“Telephone Call”

The Widow – The narrator, who has just lost her husband. The widow hopes for
a sign from beyond the grave and places all of her faith in the idea that a
late-night phone call is her dead husband communicating with

“Thursday Lunch”

The Wife – A fifty-year-old woman who wishes she could talk to someone about
her failing marriage. The wife was close to her sister, who recently died.
She has always been somewhat afraid to open up to her own mother, but she
blames her mother’s closed-in personality.Read an
in-depth analysis of The Wife.

The Mother – A well-groomed Turkish woman living in an expensively decorated
apartment with a servant. The mother was truly in love with her husband, who
died twenty-four years ago, and, despite her reserved nature, she makes an
attempt to connect with her daughter.

“An Incident in the Ghobashi Household”

Zeinat – The mother of the Ghobashi family. Zeinat is strong and
practical, in charge of the household since her husband left to work in
Libya. She is not afraid to lie in order to protect her child, Ni’ma, and to
save the honor of the family.

Ni’ma – The oldest daughter of the Ghobashi family. Ni’ma has gotten
illegitimately pregnant. Instead of facing her predicament, Ni’ma suggests
she commit suicide.

Ghobashi – The father and head of the household. Ghobashi does his best to
care for his family.

“Badriyya and Her Husband”

Badriyya – A naïve, romantic young woman who marries Omar, a
good-for-nothing womanizer. Badriyya is so adamant about holding on to her
fantasies about Omar saving her from the boring routine of her life that she
refuses to acknowledge his behavior.Read an
in-depth analysis of Badriyya.

Read an
in-depth analysis of Badriyya.

Omar – Badriyya’s husband, who was just released from prison for
stealing tires. Omar talks of grand plans for his life but spends all of his
time drinking, doing drugs, and sleeping with other women.

Badriyya’s Mother – A woman who lives with Badriyya and Omar. Badriyya’s mother
initially disapproves of Omar, but after he gives her some attention, she
changes her opinion of him.

Badriyya’s Uncle – A man who lives in a nearby town and tries to convince Badriyya
not to marry Omar. Badriyya’s uncle recognizes Omar’s character flaws but
ultimately allows Badriyya to make her own decisions.

“Me and My Sister”

Youngest Sister – The innocent narrator of the story who is abused by her sister
Dalal. The narrator’s only friend is her older sister, Nagwa. She is too
young to understand adult behavior and provides innocent description and
perspective. She desires approval from both Dalal and their

Dalal – The narrator’s older sister, who lies to their mother in order to
meet with her boyfriend, Mahmoud. Dalal brings the narrator along so as to
not arouse suspicion. She wants to marry Mahmoud, but her father is
arranging a marriage for her with someone else.

Mahmoud – Dalal’s boyfriend. Mahmoud buys the narrator chocolates, but his
character is questionable since he fondles her in Dalal’s absence. He likes
Dalal but is not interested in marriage.


Mansoura – A woman of great beauty and mysterious powers. Mansoura loves
Sayyid and seems righteous and honorable. It is unclear whether she
willingly cheats on Sayyid or is raped by Hindawi. She tragically drowns but
avenges her death from beyond the grave.

Sayyid – Mansoura’s husband, who goes to work for Sayyid. Sayyid is strong
and good-hearted but naïve, unable to realize that the folk songs he sings
are about his unfaithful wife.

Hindawi – The antagonist who employs Sayyid so that he can sneak off to
seduce Mansoura while Sayyid works. Hindawi is cowardly, dishonorable, and
obsessed with Mansoura. He flees after Mansoura’s death so that Sayyid will
not find and kill him.

Sheikh Zeidan – An older man who oversees the crew of men laying sewage pipe in
the Mansoura canal. Sheikh Zeidan narrates the legendary tale of Mansoura to
explain why the men chant her name as they lay pipe.

“The Long Night of Winter”

Zennouba – The protagonist whose husband cheats on her with the servant
girls. Zennouba is devastated to hear that her venerable father also cheated
on his wife. She was initially angry at her husband’s behavior but is now
indifferent and frustrated because they have to continually find new

Hagg – Zennouba’s husband, who sleeps with the servant girls. Hagg is
rough and uncaring.

Nargis – The new servant girl in the house. Nargis is submissive and

“My World of the Unknown”

The Wife – A wise, strong woman who is seduced by a snake who is a monarch
of the spirit world. The wife yearns for the snake and develops an unhealthy
obsession, during which she becomes lazy and indifferent. However, she does
act graciously toward Aneesa, the vagrant woman who claims the house as her
own, and she is independent enough to travel alone and choose a house for
the family.Read an
in-depth analysis of The Wife.

The Snake – A powerful spirit who has taken the form of a snake. The snake is
wise and benevolent; she loves the narrator and bestows the gifts of youth,
vitality, and sexual satisfaction upon her.

Aneesa – The mad woman with a child who tries to stop the narrator from
inhabiting the house. Aneesa eventually recovers her mental facilities after
the authorities take her away.

The Husband – A government worker whose transfer brings the family to the town
where the spirit-inhabited house is. The husband unknowingly breaks the pact
with the spirit world by killing a snake.

“At the Time of the Jasmine”

Hassan – The protagonist, who has traveled home for the burial of his
father. Hassan has neglected his emotions for most of his life, preferring
to live by reason and rational conventions. His inaction led to poor
relations with his father, his wife, and his daughter. At his father’s
funeral, he feels sadness and regret.Read an
in-depth analysis of Hassan.

Hagg Aballah Shalabi – The protagonist’s father, who has just died. Hagg Aballah was
proud of his young son and hoped to one day go on a pilgrimage with him. The
villagers knew him as a great horseman and said he could tell who was
approaching and when by putting his ear to the ground and

“The Flat in Nakshabandi Street”

Aziza – An old spinster who lives with her nephew and their servant.
Aziza is a somewhat hostile woman who spends her time criticizing the
servant and yelling at children. She leaves the house only to attend
funerals, where she leads the women in mourning. She is fond of her nephew
and takes pleasure in thinking of the large inheritance she will leave

Mahmoud – A bachelor and teacher who lives with his aunt, Aziza. Mahmoud
secretly sleeps with the servant, Waheeba, and wishes to meet a woman to
marry. Though he is agreeable with Aziza, he wishes he had more control, for
he has to hide his smoking from her and submit to her

Waheeba – A servant for Mahmoud and Aziza. Waheeba is a divorcee and
secretly sleeps with Mahmoud. She enjoys her time out of the house, when she
meets with friends and tells stories about the household, usually altering
the stories to make herself appear to have the upper hand.

“Degrees of Death”

The Little Girl – A small child who lives on a farm and receives two rabbits from
her grandmother. The narrator becomes very attached to the animals. She
feels guilty and responsible when Nanny Zareefa kills one of the
baby rabbits, and she gains a realization that death comes in varying
degrees of significance.

Nanny Zareefa – A servant who kills one of the baby rabbits. Nanny Zareefa
doesn’t realize that the narrator sees the killing.

“The Kite”

Widad – A widow who lives alone and cares for chickens. Widad doesn’t
believe in second chances and thinks that now is the time to live out the
rest of her life, alone, in her unchanging routine. She is devastated when a
kite swoops down and snatches one of her chicks; this leads her to rethink
her recent marriage proposal.

Mitwalli – Widad’s childhood sweetheart, recently widowed. Mitwalli comes to
propose to Widad in hopes that they can live the rest of their lives

“Just Another Day”

The Old Woman – An aged woman who feels useless and no longer finds the strength
to live her boring routine. The old woman does not realize she has died
until she hears a man reading the funeral prayers from the