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My grandmother swore that she had seen an ifrit, or perhaps a marid, late one evening, on the edge of the desert. We told her that it was just a sandstorm, a little wind, but she said no, she saw its face, and its eyes, like yours, were burning flames.

–Salim to the Jinn, Chapter Seven

Salim is a young Muslim man from Oman who moved to New York City.

Significance in narrative[]

Chapter Seven[]

Somewhere in America

Salim is a young Muslim man from Oman who moved to New York City a week ago. He visits offices with a briefcase of trinkets, trying to secure a sale, but seldom sees any success. His brother-in-law, Fuad, secured him his job and a place to stay at the Paramount Hotel. Unfortunately, the sales aren't going well, his money is running out, and Fuad is very unhappy with Salim.

On this day, Salim goes to the office of Panglobal Imports. He arrives a half an hour early and spends all day at the office across from a sick secretary, but Mr. Blanding never has time to see him. At the end of the day, he decides to take a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi driver is a poor, exhausted middle eastern man. When he learns that Salim is from Oman, he says he's been there before, at the city of Ubar (The Lost City of Towers). Each night, three or four thousand travelers would stop at the city, drinking wine and celebrating, but the city perished two or three thousand years ago.

The taxi driver falls asleep at the wheel, and Salim reaches over to wake him and accidentally knocks off his sunglasses. That's when he sees his eyes: they burn like fire. The man is an ifrit, or a jinn: someone who was born of fire, as opposed to of mud, like men. He says that people don't know who he is here, that they think he can grant wishes, but if he could grant wishes, he wouldn't be a taxi driver. Before getting out, Salim tells the ifrit his room number.

That night, the ifrit comes to his room, and they have sex and sleep cuddling all night. In the morning, Salim finds that all his belongings are gone, and only the ifrit's taxi keys and ID remain. He thus begins his new life as a taxi driver. 

Interludes[]

It is mentioned that, "a falling girder in Manhattan closed a street for two days. It killed two pedestrians, an Arab taxi driver and the taxi driver's passenger." It is implied that the Arab taxi driver was Salim, the New Gods mistaking him for the ifrit.

Personality[]

Salim is a shy and meek young man. Always concerned about doing the right thing and easily feeling guilty, he tries to stay polite in all circumstances and is very patient and smiling (following his brother-in-law's advice that "A salesman is naked in America without a smile"). However he is far from being happy. Scared and confused by New-York, with its diversity, its masses and its insane traffic ; badly treated by his brother-in-law (of which he is a a bit afraid of) and his possible clients ; uncomfortable with his own sexuality (he needed a burst of courage to give the number of his bedroom to the jinn, his parents think of him as a "slight embarasment" and all his previous sexual encounters were by necessity brief and anonymous), he feels deep down "empty and alone", even considering suicide. Salim is also shown to be a devout Muslim, always checking where is the direction towards the Mecca, reading the Qur'an in his spare time, and reciting his religious teachings to the jinn upon realizing what he is.

Speaking the truth about the shitty quality of the trinkets his brother-in-law forces him to sell makes him feel "thrilled and horrified" at the same time, and upon swapping his identity with the one of the jinn, he feels "light-hearted" and joyful, free of his obligations and the misery of his previous existence.


Physical Appearance[]

Salim is described as a plump young man "with the eyes of a hurt puppy". After a week in New-York, he mentions feeling "heavier, rounder, softening", which is probably due to his diet of falafels, kabobs and french fries every night.

After swapping his identity with the jinn, he wears his outfit (consisting of a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, a dust-colored woolen sweater and black plastic sunglasses).


Gallery[]

Graphic novel

Trivia[]

  • Salim stays in New-York at the Paramount Hotel, on 46th Street, an hotel to the west of Broadway. Built in 1928 by Thomas W. Lamb as the Hotel Paramount, it became the Paramount Hotel in 1990 under the ownership of Ian Schrager. Strongly associated with music (it hosted the Memphis Stompers, Charlie Barnet and Billy Rose), it underwent a seven-month renovation in 1998, right before the time the novel is set in. Salim finds the hotel "confusing, claustrophobic, expensive, alien".
  • Salim is from Muscat, the capital city of Oman and the seat of the Muscat governorate of the Sultanate of Oman.
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