Abd el-Aziz, formerly a landowner but now in the grips of extreme poverty, moves his family to Cairo and takes on menial work in the storeroom of The Automobile Club. This is Egypt immediately after the Second World War: the Club is a place of refuge and luxury for its European members and a place where Egyptians may appear only as servants. Egypt's corrupt, womanizing king serves as patron and his chief-of-staff, Alku, runs the show in all but name.
Once Alku becomes dissatisfied with Abd el-Aziz, the man's days are numbered. His death--as much from shame as from injury after Alku has him beaten--sees his widow further impoverished, and two of his sons, Mahmud and Kemal, obliged to undertake work in the Club. As the whole family is drawn into the politics of the Club and the lives of its members, both servants and masters are subsumed by the unrest of the outside world. Soon the Egyptians of The Automobile Club of Egypt face a stark choice: to live safely, but without dignity, as servants, or to fight for their rights and risk everything.