Woman at Point Zero – Sharifa

Sharifa is the high-class prostitute who finds Firdaus sitting by the Nile
after her escape from Bayoumi’s house. Sharifa takes Firdaus to her luxurious
home, and it occurs to Firdaus for the first time that she could one day have a
home of her own and be surrounded by nice things. Sharifa, through her
confidence and the skillful application of makeup, helps Firdaus see that she
has beauty and strength. Unfortunately, Sharifa shows her these things in order
to make her more appealing to the men to whom Sharifa hopes to sell Firdaus’s
body. Though she takes Firdaus under her wing in order to earn more money,
Sharifa does act as a mother figure to Firdaus, and it is under Sharifa’s care
that it first occurs to Firdaus that she might be able to live without the
protection of a man. Like Firdaus’s own mother, Sharifa both supports and
undermines Firdaus. Under Sharifa, Firdaus is reborn as an attractive woman
aware of the power that she has over men. But like Firdaus’s mother, Sharifa is
jealous of the attention men give to Firdaus, and seeks to control her.
Eventually, Firdaus realizes that she has to leave Sharifa. This
realization comes because she needs to make her own money and determine the
course of her own destiny. In addition, Sharifa’s imagination is constrained by
a patriarchal society in a way in which Firdaus’s is not. Sharifa only wants
money and a comfortable life, and is willing to play the game that powerful men
have set up in order to attain these things. Sharifa is more charming with the
men who come to visit, and more eager to please. This is because she still
believes herself to be, in some respect, a supplicant, lucky to get whatever
money men throw her way. Firdaus wants to be comfortable, but she also wants
power of her own. Firdaus begins by emulating Sharifa, but it is only after
Firdaus leaves Sharifa that she realizes that as a prostitute, she commands
power over men, not the other way around.