Firdaus’s uncle is a complicated figure in her life, and in many ways her relationship with him forms a template for her relationships with the other men in the story. When Firdaus is a young girl living with her mother and father, her uncle represents a kind of freedom. He is a scholar, and he lives in Cairo, far away from the rural world of Firdaus’s immediate family. Yet he also sexualizes young Firdaus, as shown in the way he caresses her thighs. Though Firdaus is uncomfortable with the way in which he touches her, she does not object because it doesn’t occur to her to do so. As a result of this and her father’s behavior toward her mother, Firdaus learns to think that men own women’s bodies. Despite this, her uncle is still her savior. After Firdaus’s parents die, her uncle brings her to Cairo, where they sleep in the same bed and live like a married couple, though it isn’t clear whether they have a sexual relationship. Firdaus’s uncle sends her to school and consequently provides her with a much better life than the one she lived with her parents.
However, her uncle soon abandons the life of a scholar to become a civil servant. At this point, Firdaus learns that men value power above all else. She also learns how insignificant she is to her uncle when compared to his thirst for power. In order to advance, Firdaus’s uncle marries above his station. Because his new wife does not care for Firdaus, Firdaus is sent to boarding school. Firdaus’s uncle turns out to be just as selfish as all of the other men in her life. When he eventually marries Firdaus off to his wife’s old and disfigured uncle for a large sum of money, he confirms Firdaus’s belief that she is alone in the world, and that men are horrible hypocrites who will do anything for money and power.