Naguib Mahfouz, who died last week at 94, transcended the status of celebrated writer and became Egypt's spiritual father. The characters from his books were the vocabulary of everyday life. It is common to hear an Egyptian woman, quarrelling with her husband, shout in his face, "You think you're Si Sayed?"?a reference to the tyrannical husband in Mahfouz's landmark Cairo Trilogy. He laid the foundations of the modern Arab novel and proved that a great artist?he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988?must also be a great human being. Thousands of Cairo's inhabitants saw Mahfouz during his long daily wanderings on foot and were captivated by his affectionate and simple way of talking with them about their problems and sorrows. Mahfouz lived for his principles with the dedication of a prophet. Democracy, justice and freedom are found on every page of his 50 novels. Mahfouz would have been angered by his funeral procession, which prevented his true public from paying its last respects as he had wished. Behind him walked a dictatorship's politicians, while security forces kept at bay tens of thousands of Egypt's poor. They loved him and traveled great distances in the hope of taking a last look at a man who had written of the misery of their lives and who had defended with his art, as no one else had ever done, their rights and dignity.