Summary of The Map of Love

A “Map” is a graphical representation that emphasises the links between pieces of a given thing. The title “the Map of Love” implies that love does not exist in a single location, but rather in numerous parts of the world. Thus, the title refers to love relationships all over the world, as well as how different cultures engage with one another and how this love is conveyed.

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif combines politics, love, wit, and grief. It is a fantastically sophisticated and articulated literary style that tells the overlapping tales of three women: an Egyptian, an American, and an Englishwoman. One of them is born a century before the other two. The primary female characters are Anna Winterbourne, Amal Al-Ghamrawi, and Isabel Parkman, who are all from various parts of the world.

Lady Anna is a recently widowed Englishwoman who travels to British-occupied Egypt in 1900. Anna is led by her passion and curiosity in Egyptian culture as a result of the artwork she sowed at the museum when she used to go there to attempt to understand and help her husband before it was too late. Anna disguises herself as an Arab man in order to fulfil her purpose, but she is kidnapped by an accomplice of a political activist. While a hostage, Anna meets and befriends her abductor’s wife, Layla Al-Baroudi. Layla takes her to her attorney brother Sharif, who insists on assisting in making amends for his men’s error. He helps her view the pyramids and Mt. Sinai as she wishes before returning her safely to her people.

During the ride to Sharif, an unsettling feeling creeps into Anna’s heart. Sharif is a man who divorced once due to a lack of affection in his marriage. However, in the Sinai desert and while Anna is costumed as an Arab woman, they both develop strong feelings for each other. Anna is drowning in her turmoil as a result of Sharif’s silence and resolves to return to her birthplace. Layla advises her brother to make a move, which he does by proposing marriage. They ponder the implications of such a marriage for both of their lives. They marry and move in with Sharif’s parents, his mother Zainab, who is just like any other Egyptian housewife, and his father, who rebelled against the British twenty years ago.

Anna admires every part of Egyptian identity, so she attempts to learn Arabic, adopt the culture, and, of course, engage with all family members and servants. As a translator, she supported the nationalist cause by putting them in touch with anti-colonialists in London and foreign visitors in Egypt. The love pair had a baby girl named Nur alHayyah, the light of their lives, after four years of marriage. Sarcastically, Sharif spent his life to battling British occupation legally and ethically; and after 10 years of marriage, he is considering retirement to take care of his wife and daughter; he is slain. Anna returns to England as he requested. The two families had lost contact.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Ahmed’s daughter, Amel Al-Ghamrawwi, as she reads an ancient trunk of journals and letters, some in English and some in Arabic, all belonging to the long-dead Anna. Sharif’s nephew is Ahmed. The tale begins in New York in 1997, when Isabel Parkman, Anna’s great-granddaughter, discovers the inherited trunk in her dying mother’s house. Omar Al-Ghamrawi, an elderly Egyptian singer living in New York with whom she falls in love, refers her to his sister Amel in Egypt for the fullest understanding of the strange trunk.

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Anna realises the unexpected blood relation after unravelling her heritage, which includes some papers written in Amel’s grandmother’s handwriting relating the narrative of her brother Sharif who falls in love with an English woman.

Amel becomes addicted to the story of her father’s uncle Sharif and his lover Anna, but she is preoccupied and distracted by Mubarak’s government, Egypt’s president at the time, which causes troubles in her family’s lands. Isabel is intrigued to the Egyptian life and difficulties of Omar’s sister. Only after making love to Isabel does Omar understand he was her mother’s lover in 1961. As a result, she suspects him of being her father. Isabel gives birth to a baby boy whom she names Sharif.

Anna weaves three tapestry panels depicting the ancient Egyptian deities Isis, Osiris, and Horus. Mabrouka, the household maid, however, takes the three panels and gives one to Anna to take with her to England, the one found in the trunk, and another to Layla to end up with Omar from his father Ahmed. The third one is lost, but Isabel discovers it in her camera bag and claims it was placed there by Umm Aya, a mystery woman she encountered in al-old Baroudi’s house on an accidental trip she once took alone in Egypt. Amel checks this claim and discovers that the property has been inhabited for a long time and is suitable for creating a museum, with no Umm Aya in sight. Despite the fact that Isabel’s storey is difficult to believe, Amel cannot come up with another plausible explanation.

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Soueif completes Amel and Isabel’s story. Amel’s love storey with her old friend Tareq “Atiyya” is yet unfinished; Tareq has begged to speak with her when she is free. Isabel arrives in Egypt with Sharif, and together with Amel, they await

Omar has finally returned home.

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