Adel and Samia
Young couple. They live with their 6 years old daughter, Bassant, in a one-room dwelling that has been fixed up inside a room of the antique necropolis. Further along we will see them at the birth of their second child, Mahmoud, the family’s first male descendent. Adel sometimes gets work as a docker, but he lives mostly on humor, poetry and philosophy. As he puts it: « Life should be a comedy, not a trial where we are judged ». His carefree attitude and romanticism often exasperate his wife Samia, who reminds him of his duties and scolds him with love, passion and a remarkable talent for expressing her feelings. As they provoke one another, there is quarreling, laughing and joking; the deep love uniting them is evident.
Mohamed and Manel Khattab
On Fridays, Mohamed Khattab gives the sermon in the Mafrouza mosque. Mornings, he works in a factory. Late afternoons and evenings, he runs a small neighborhood grocery store with his wife, Manel. His kindness and sense of humor have transformed the little shop into a town meeting place, where people come to talk and joke and, of course, discuss their feelings about the film currently being made. Beyond the sheikh’s witty personality, we will discover his social and religious responsibilities. He mediates marital rows with humor, utters his sermons with passion and, later in the film calmly resists pressure from the fundamentalists who attempt to take over the mosque. A paradoxical figure of wisdom and humor, he will also reveal a peculiar melancholy.
A singer and a star of the song-and-dance processions that regularly accompany newlyweds through the narrow streets on their wedding night, Hassan is also a champion of singing-insult jousts and a genius at improvisation. He spends hours each day with his friends, improvising verses and honing his poetic skills. Hanging out, getting into fights, joking and pulling pranks, enjoying beaches and sleepless nights, laughing or serious, Hassan is a free spirit who dances to the beat of his own drum. Which eventually leads him to desert the military service, get arrested and sent to jail.
The Chenabou family
Rag-pickers. The four sons, from age 9 to 18, sort out garbage, which is then sold and recycled. Adel, the father, manages the enterprise. He collects rents, owns one of the water points in the Gebel and hassles in various ways, which makes of him a weird mixture between a notable and a mobster. Nadia, his wife, sees to the running of the house. Even though this family is one of the richest in the neighbourhood, its six members live in a single and tiny room. Muslims, Adel and Nadia none the less pray to Saint Georges, whom they see in dreams and who grants their wishes (specially the one of not getting arrested by the police.)
Handicapped old man, he lives with his wife and their five children. Domino player and a regular at the café, he makes his living selling cassettes of the Koran, mounted on a strange tricycle, tinkered with to be driven by hand. What he gets from his sales is in fact more like charity. Bearded, a keffieh on his head, he has the appearance of a religious man, but people call him “father of riff-raff.” He encourages the sportive career of his daughter, the beautiful Gihad, and generally extols independent thinking and choice of freedom.