Ahmed’s mother is complicated and difficult regarding both her place in society and her relationship with Ahmed. Ethnically Turkish, the nationality of the ruling class of Egypt before the British took power in the late nineteenth century, Ahmed’s mother is afforded many privileges by virtue of her station in life. She doesn’t have to work, a fact that Ahmed looks down upon when she is a teenager. Ahmed herself vows to have a professional identity and set herself apart from her mother in whatever ways she can. The biggest rift in their relationship occurs when Ahmed is around eight or nine, when her mother finds out that a neighbor boy has been subjecting Ahmed to humiliating sexual games. Her shock and disdain are traumatic for Ahmed, who, after this discovery, is estranged from her mother for several months. Her mother’s preoccupation with traditional moral values and the appearance of propriety gets in the way of her offering her daughter the support that she needs after such a traumatic event.
Despite Ahmed’s conflict with her mother, she still reveres her for the influences she’s brought to her life. Through her mother and grandmother, Ahmed is granted entry into a community of women, where she absorbs Islam’s rich and humane oral tradition. Ahmed recognizes the challenges that face her mother’s generation: while they are the keepers and transmitters of these deep religious ethics, they possess little consciousness of how their culture takes away their voices. Ahmed also knows that the class who will change the status of women in Egypt is the middle class, not her mother’s class, where education and upward mobility are not chief concerns.