The women of the Middle East would continue to uphold their traditional image, even though in their heart of hearts many of them may be yearning for plain liberty.  The chief character of Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley (1992) is a woman by the name of Hamida, who must put up acts to stay true to her traditions, at the same time as she yearns for something beyond the ordinary.  Yet, her passage into a world where men and women must be considered equal is a narrow one. As a matter of fact, her life is the Midaq Alley, which “resembles a ‘trap,’ with walls on three sides, making darkness one of its pervasive features (Deeb).”  What is more, there is a very narrow entrance and an equally narrow exit to the small alley – away from the big, outside world – that the Middle Eastern woman has come to represent in Mahfouz’s novel (Deeb). Yet, Hamida is not the kind to give up easily.  She sneers at her husbands-to-be simply because she wants something better than them, most definitely a life that is more prosperous, and outright superior, that is, the big, outside world.  She considers her husbands-to-be as nonentities because she thinks she can achieve well for herself without them.  At the same time, she is bounded by Middle Eastern customs and culture to choose one prospect and get married like ordinary girls (Mahfouz). Hamida admires the women who have escaped their marital bonds.  She is especially inspired by the factory girls she knows – who all happen to be Jewish.  She informs her mother about the same, "If you had seen the factory girls!  You should just see those Jewish girls who go to work.  They all go about in nice clothes.  Well, what is the point of life then if we can't wear what we want? (Mahfouz)" According to Middle Eastern customs for women, Hamida must control her true desires before the cultural expectations that are attached to all women.  All the same, Mahfouz brings to the mind’s eye the picture of Middle Eastern women that are longing to free themselves from the bonds of patriarchy, and all the rules of society that are connected to the same.  Apparently, the Middle Eastern women would also like to free themselves from the difficult clothing they are forced to wear. Perhaps they would like breaks from such clothing.  While women such as Hamida may genuinely face a problem with restrictive customs, Mahfouz also describes the ‘proper’ girls that are not expected to show their desires anyway.  Boys of the Middle East, on the contrary, are allowed various other facilities, also according to the author.  Boys are permitted, among other things, access to sex, nightlife, and friendships outside the family (Mahfouz). When Hamida gets married to Abbas, she only does so to escape her mother’s home.  Escape seems to be her only wish.  She turns into a prostitute as soon as her husband leaves home for an indefinite period of time.  But, does she find her eventual escape route through this act?  It appears that while many Middle Eastern women may be searching for escape routes from traditions, once and for all, it was only Hamida who actually managed to escape.  Whether she had dreamt of reaching a brothel or not is not the point of Mahfouz’s tale. The fact remains that Hamida had no choice to live a liberated life as a Middle Eastern woman, except as a prostitute.  Most Middle Eastern women would shun the idea of prostitution altogether, calling it a major sin.  However, Hamida was so desperate to escape that she defied the common image of the Middle Eastern woman to truly escape her cultural constraints, once and for all.  Whether she also found happiness is not the concern of the author either.  Hamida’s liberation, on the other hand, is an important message of Midaq Alley (Mahfouz). Hamida was the kind who merely upheld the traditional image of the Middle Eastern woman, just as many other Middle Eastern women probably do.  At the same time, she was desperate enough to express her suppressed desires of liberation that she chose the career of prostitution so as to escape all associations with the patriarchal traditions.  Perhaps, therefore, Mahfouz’s writing is a warning for the extremely strict movements that reduce people to suppressed desperation, which eventually bursts into crimes and various other problems (Mahfouz). Works Cited Deeb, Marius. “Najib Mahfuz's Midaq Alley: A Socio-Cultural Analysis.”  Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies), Vol. 10, No. 2 (1983), pp. 121-130. Mahfouz, Naguib. Midaq Alley. Reprint edition. New York: Anchor, 1992.