Children of Gebelawi

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Children of our alley
Author Naguib Mahfouz
Original title أولاد حارتنا
Translator Philip Stewart 1981
Peter Theroux 1999
Country Egypt
Language Arabic
Genre Novel
Publication date
1959 (translation 13 April 1981)
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 355 p. (paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-435-90225-3 (paperback edition)

Children of Gabalawi, (أولاد حارتنا) is a novel by the Egyptian writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. It is also known by its Egyptian dialectal transliteration, Awlad Haretna, formal Arabic transliteration, Awlaadu Haaratena and by the alternative translated transliteral Arabic title of "Children of Our Alley".


It was originally published in Arabic in 1959, in serialised form, in the daily newspaper Al-Ahram. It was met with severe opposition from religious authorities, and publication in the form of a book was banned in Egypt.[1]

It was first printed in Lebanon in 1967. An English translation by Philip Stewart was published in 1981 and is still in print; when Stewart refused to sell his copyright, Doubleday commissioned a new version by Peter Theroux.[citation needed]

It was this book that earned Naguib Mahfouz condemnation from Omar Abdel-Rahman in 1989, after the Nobel Prize had revived interest in it. As a result, in 1994 – a day after the anniversary of the prize – Mahfouz was attacked and stabbed in the neck by two extremists outside his Cairo home.[2] Fortunately, Mahfouz survived the attack, yet he suffered from its consequences till his last day.


The story recreates the tied history of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), allegorised against the setting of an imaginary 19th century Cairene neighborhood.

Gabalawi being an allegory for religion in general, the first four sections retell, in succession, the stories of: Adam (Adham أدهم) and how he was favored by Gabalawi over the latter's other sons, including Satan/Iblis (Idris إدريس); Moses (Gabal جبل); Jesus (Rifa'a رفاعة); and Muhammad (Qasim قاسم). Families of each son settle in different parts of the alley, symbolising Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The protagonist of the book's fifth section is Arafa (عرفة), who symbolises modern science and, significantly, comes after all prophets, while all of their followers claim Arafa as one of their own.


  • 1981, UK, Heinemann ISBN 0-435-99415-8 Pub date 1981, paperback (as Children of Gabalawi - Stewart's translation)
  • 1981, UK, Heinemann Educ. ISBN 0-435-90225-3 Pub date 13 April 1981, paperback (as Children of Gabalawi - Stewart's translation)
  • 1996, USA, Doubleday ISBN 0-385-42094-3, Pub date 1996, hardback (as Children of the Alley -Theroux's translation)
  • 1997, USA, Passeggata Press, ISBN 0-89410-818-2, Pub date 1997, paperback (as Children of Gabalawi - Stewart's version revised)


  1. ^ Hafez, Sabry: "Introduction" to The Cairo Trilogy. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2001. pg xxxiv.
  2. ^ Hafez, op. cit., pg. xlii.

1. Children of Gabalaawi, 1997 edition (referenced above), introduction, pp. vii-xxv.