“Men have the right to anything they want and women have a duty to obey” is the philosophy upon which this cast of characters operates, and it sets the stage for moral outrage on the part of western readers, and self destruction on the part of some characters as their world is torn asunder with change.
Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, a successful shopkeeper living in the Cairo neighbourhood of Palace Walk, is literally the king of his domain, ruling his family with a fundamentalist fist, while living a profligate life outside of it by engaging in wine, women and song. He is out every evening boozing, partying and womanizing. Yet his wife, Amina, is only allowed to leave the house to visit her sick mother. His two grown-up daughters do not go to school and have to live in the same confined quarters with their mother. His three sons have greater freedom of movement (they get to go to school or to work) but dare not challenge their father on any issue, least of all on his choice of their future wives.