Like all major features of Egyptian fiction, the deployment of space often resonates with reflections on, and of, identity. Specific configurations and mappings of carefully demarcated areas of the shared national space occasion different readings of the collective and communal identity residing therein. The physical, geographic backdrop to these recurrent imaginative renditions of national space in the Egyptian novel is perforce the nation-state itself, presently known as the Arab Republic of Egypt, though it has at different times in recent history gone by different names.1 The strident rhetoric of the modern nation-state, and the attendant emphasis on the inviolability of its territorial integrity, enshrined in the often touted, and just as often violated UN Charter that guarantees the right of each nation-state to live safely within its internationally recognized and secure borders, have in recent years all but reduced the complex phenomenon of nationalism to its territorial embodiment in the nation-state.2 This was not always the case. In fact, the zealous consecration of “national” boundaries, so solemnly enforced in most former colonies in Africa and Asia, but especially so perhaps between and among Arab “nation”-states, may on closer examination be shown to mask the artificiality of the very constructs these borders enclose.3 Such an examination is also likely
to reveal the large extent to which the territorial dimension of national identity regularly intertwines with, and competes against, other dimensions of identity, such as religious, cultural, and linguistic affiliation.