The alchemist watches from Al-Fayoum as the caravan arrives. The village around Al-Fayoum buzzes with excitement, but the alchemist has seen many people come and go so he pays no attention. Omens have made the alchemist aware that someone traveling with the caravan will learn from him, and the alchemist wonders how capable his new apprentice will be.
Al-Fayoum, a desert oasis, amazes Santiago. The place appears larger than many Spanish towns. Curious children crowd the caravan and women accost the caravan’s merchants. The camel driver tells Santiago that they are safe in Al-Fayoum. Warring tribes avoid it because mostly women and children inhabit the place. The caravan leader explains that the group will remain in Al-Fayoum until the war ends, and that they must hand over their arms and stay in tents with locals and fellow travelers. Santiago sleeps in a tent with five other young men his age. The next morning, he regales his roommates with stories of his life as a shepherd in Spain, but the Englishman interrupts him to ask for help finding the alchemist.
The pair searches all day for the alchemist’s tent without luck. Santiago asks an old man about the alchemist, and the old man replies that even tribal chieftains can’t meet with him. Santiago decides to ask one more person before giving up, and approaches a young woman at a well. As soon as he sees her, he falls deeply in love with her. The girl introduces herself as Fatima, and explains that the alchemist communicates with desert spirits and lives in the south of Al-Fayoum. The Englishman disappears to pursue the alchemist and Fatima leaves after getting water. Santiago remains where he stands, love-struck.
The next day, Santiago returns to the well, hoping to see Fatima again. He finds the Englishman there as well. The Englishman explains he waited all day for the alchemist. When the alchemist finally arrived, the Englishman asked how to turn lead into gold. The alchemist only responded that he must “go and try.” The Englishman feels annoyed to get such vague instructions after his long journey, but he resolves to try.
Fatima arrives after the Englishman leaves, and Santiago tells her he loves her. As the war drags on and the caravan remains in Al-Fayoum, Santiago meets Fatima at the well every day. Santiago tells Fatima about his Personal Legend which leads him to the pyramids, but he says he wants to stay in Al-Fayoum with her. One day, Fatima tells Santiago that she has been waiting for him her entire life, but insists that he continue on to Egypt after the war to pursue his Personal Legend. She says if they are meant to be together, they will meet again.
After this conversation, Santiago seeks out the Englishman and discovers he has built a furnace. The Englishman explains that he has abandoned his fear of failure and will attempt the Master Work.