The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili – by P. Djèlí Clark

Second entry dedicated to the Dead Djinn Universe! Today I’ll be talking about its shortes piece of fiction, that is to say The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili, a story originally published as a part of the anthology Clockwork Cairo, and now available for free at

Title: The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili

Author: P. Djèlí Clark

Publisher: Twopenny Press (as a part of the anthology Clockwork Cairo: Steampunk Tales of Egypt); now available on

Publication Date: 1 June 2017

Genre: Fantasy – Alternate History – Steampunk

Length: 32 pages

Standalone or Series: Standalone (part of the Dead Djinn Universe)

Synopsis: Working girl Aliaa visits the famed Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo to bargain with a supernatural creature, seeking help to heal her sister. All transactions, however, have a price, and the misterious “angel” may be asking for a reward that Aliaa is not prepared to give away.

Analysis: Written in second person, present tense, The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili sounds like a half-whispered confession, the reticent inner dialogue of her tormented protagonist. The language is once again evocative and vibrant, effectively summoning to our minds the sensory chaos of the setting, as well as the inner anguish of the main character.

The story isn’t just standalone in its plot, but has no direct connection to the others, except of course for being set in the same world. Being the shortest work in the Dead Djinn Universe, The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili has obviosuly a much smaller focus. It doesn’t try to provide us with an exhaustive description of its colourful and complex world, instead it just sketches the parts that are required for its story. The plot is simple in its component, but surely not in its spirit: reminescent of a traditional folk tale in its structure, but tying its themes to social and political dynamics, it effectively resumes the essence of its setting while staying focused on few essential facts.

The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili is at its core a rather intimate story: it features no dangerous investigation, no daring adventure, instead dealing with the perhaps even darker secrets that dwell inside one’s conscience. As a result, it comes across as more poetic and pensive of other works, with none of their quaint side characters or satyrical undertone. At the same time, while the focus of the story is highly psychological, and indeed quite powerful at delivering its emotional message, it does touch on other subjects that tie it to the setting at large. Specifically, the role of women and the struggles of the working class are essential themes of the story, even though seen through a very specific perspective of Aliaa’s personal predicament.

Conclusions & Recommendations: The Angel Of Khan El-Khalili is perhaps the less known piece of its universe, however I found its lyrical touch particularly enjoyable. Since it’s available online it might be also a good chance to take a glance to the Dead Djinn Universe if you haven’t already.

Content Warning: Fire injury – Sexism

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