1) Zaabalawi is a sheikh and holy man who is described by the people around him as a saint. The chief character is trying to find Zaabalawi because has an illness which has no cure. The main character does not find Zaabalawi, he falls asleep in a tavern after having too much to drink and misses his opportunity. It is than rumored that Zaabalawi is living abroad in which the main character sets out to find him again.
2) The main character meets many different people in his journey to meet Zaabalawi, many from different social classes. The people he meets who are from the upper classes such as the lawyer know very little of Zaabalawi. The Sheikh who is a local authority figure does not provide much help either, as he says “I myself haven’t seen him for years, having been somewhat preoccupied with the cares of the world, and was only brought back to those most exquisite time of my youth by your inquiry.” However the next two he meets the calligrapher and the musician, are far more familiar with Zaabalawi, both attribute the inspiration for their greatest works to the holy man.
There is a consistent theme of religion and spirituality throughout the work, the higher the social class of man the main character meets the further he seems to be from knowing Zaabalawi and god. Zaabalawi himself relates to god in the fact that the main character cannot find him physically, and Zaabalawi will only give his help to the people who love him and he loves. Many of the characters suggest that the chief character go visit a doctor instead of seeking out Zaabalawi, bring the idea of the power of science versus the power of religion. The belief in the fact that he will one day in fact meet Zaabalawi gives the chief character the spiritual power to continue moving forward despite his illness.