The protagonist started to half-heartedly look for Zaabalawi, visiting and meeting diverse characters during his quest. He met a lawyer, a bookseller, a government officer, a calligrapher, a musician and a drunkard all of these persons have somehow met or known Zaabalawi. The first person that the narrator met was Sheikh Quamar, who is a prominent lawyer in Cairo, Egypt. Quamar offered little help with the quest because it seems a long time ago since he last had contact with Zaabalawi.
In this instance, it seems that the author Mahfouz is signifying that this person has forgotten Zaabalawi (his spirituality) due to his materialistic needs and successes in life. This type of person can be found all over the world; the person who puts material things and worldly desires primary in his life. Politicians may be inadvertently touched by this characterization. The second person that the narrator met was the District Officer. The officer informed the narrator that he hasnt seen Zaabalawi for such a long time now for being so busy with his myriad functions and being preoccupied with worldy cares.
He felt joy before during his youthful days when he was Zaabalawi and yet has slowly forgotten those days as he became more embroiled with what the world and the government responsibilities offer him. He drew the narrator a map with a fee so that he will be guided in his quest for Zaabalawi. He then guided the narrator inside the calligraphers house, Hassanein. This person personified those of us who had already experienced happiness in living a much more simpler life. However, this was only from a brief period in his life for now, he had experienced what it feels like to have power and to be relied upon by thousands of people.
Power, indeed, is heady and can ruin ones self. Hassanein is faithful to Zaabalawis memory. His behavior and style of living mirrors his spirituality and servitude toward Allah. He said that in everything that he does, he felt the presence of Zaabalawi. He encouraged the narrator with his sayings that he believed that the narrator will be healed by Zaabalawi. Hassanein also described Zaabalawis nature as elusive such that he may be in the vicinity any moment or might not appear in a persons lifetime. Hassanein symbolizes the faithful followers of God.
He has chosen to live life in a simpler term and welcome people in all walks of life without prejudice and bias. He believes in God and is shown through his works. The narrator is then directed towards the house of a famous musician, Sheikh Gad, who looks very serene and is a meditative man. He told the narrator that the suffering and pains that he is experiencing now is a necessary ingredient for him to finally strengthen his faith, and not only his body and mind. Gad believes that the meeting that took place between him and the narrator is in fact, Zaabalawis work (Gods effort).
Zaabalawi is an inspiration and a motivation for the musician. Later on, the narrator found himself drinking wine at the Negma bar with Hagg wanas, a drunkard who was also acquainted with Zaabalawi. As he continued drinking, his mental and rational faculties were mystically stripped away one by one. With the first drink, the narrator ignited his stomach. The second drink, loses his willpower. The third, loses his memory, the fourth, loses sense of future (time and direction), and at the fifth drink, the world revolved, the narrator forgot his quest and instead sees colored planes and found himself in a euphoric stage.