Al-Fayoum, the oasis, is considered neutral territory in the desert tribal wars. The elder chief emphasizes this tradition when Santiago confronts him with his vision of a future in which enemy warriors invade Al-Fayoum. There are two reasons for the neutrality of the oasis: first, both sides of the war have oases to protect, and so both share a strategic weakness, and, second, the oasis contains civilians, many of whom are women and children. Al-Fayoum therefore symbolizes neutrality, but also life and prosperity. The literal contrast between the stark surrounding desert and the rich and fruitful oasis echoes the contrast between the prevailing warfare of the desert and the safe haven of the oasis. The oasis demonstrates that a common morality exists among the tribes, even in the face of violent warfare. A neutral territory, which is respected by all parties, promises that there can be some measure of peace achieved on earth.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Oasis (Al-Fayoum) appears in The Alchemist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...Santiago and the Englishman’s conversation. He tells them that there's a caravan leaving today for Al-Fayoum. The Englishman says that this must be a good luck omen. He feels it was... (full context)
...can concentrate on the present, you'll be happy. Two nights, later he points out the oasis on the horizon. Santiago asks why they don't hurry there, and the camel driver responds,... (full context)
...tribespeople observe traditions because they have helped their people survive. And tradition says that the oasis is a neutral territory. At the same time, tradition says that the people of the... (full context)