Not far from Cairo's madding crowds

Written by David Wroe

Mohamed is a gentle old man with a milky cataract in his left eye. He divides his time between looking after a 650-year-old mosque and caring for his daughter, Salwa, who has Down syndrome. 

Mohamed, 72, used to be a muezzin, the man who climbs to the top of a minaret and calls people to prayer. He says it has left him with a raspy voice, though the Cleopatra cigarettes he smokes have probably done their bit.

Each day he and Salwa sit in the doorway of the mosque and watch life pass by on the bustling Khayyamiya, the "tentmakers' alley", with their gas stove and kettle to make tea, like a couple of characters from the Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's novel, Children Of The Alley.