Although Qahwat Ali Malek (Ali Malek Cafe, Sharqiat 2009) is Megahed el-Tayyeb’s first book, the writer has adequately demonstrated remarkable writing skill and has the tone of an elderly man well-aware of the secrets of the craft. He seems to master the cunning techniques of writing, and successfully employs them to deliver the intended depth of meaning. Flowing smoothly and seemingly effortlessly, his prose exhibits the skill of an experienced writer, such that one is inclined to believe he hesitated for long before deciding to have his first book published.
The writer–who classifies his book as a “narrative sequence”–has divided his novel into two main parts. The first is titled Hekaya Qadeema (An Old Story) and the second Atraaf el-Hekaya(Characters of the Story).
The book is about a tiny cafe in Heliopolis whose goers are blue-collar workers and marginalized groups that serve the much better-off residents of Cairo’s elegant Heliopolis neighborhood. The author uses this cafe, owned by the narrator’s father meallem Ali Malek, to portray life in the entire neighborhood.
Perhaps el-Tayyeb’s most notable achievement is his ability to steer clear of stirring feelings of sorrow for the bygone Nasserist era. Moreover, the author successfully manages to present real-life characters, some evil and others benevolent, rather than romaticized ideals who belong to some happy, carefree epoch.
Book: Qahwat Ali Malek (Ali Malek Cafe), a narrative
Author: Megahed el-Tayyeb
Publisher: Sharqiyat, Cairo, 2009
91 medium-size pages