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An unknown observer is watching the residents of a small, closely-knit neighborhood in Cairo's old city, making notes. The college graduate, the street vendors, the political prisoner, the cafأ© owner, the taxi driver, the beautiful green-eyed young wife with the troll of a husband all are subjects of surveillance. The watcher's reports flow seamlessly into a narrative about Zafarani Alley, a village tucked into a corner of the city, where intrigue is the main entertainment, and everyone has a secret. Suspicion, superstition, and a wicked humor prevail in this darkly comedic novel. Drawing upon the experience of his own childhood growing up in al-Hussein, where the fictional Zafarani Alley is located, Gamal al-Ghitani has created a world richly populated with characters and situations that possess authenticity behind their veils of satire.