THE “Wakalah,” as the Caravanserai or Khan is called in Egypt, combines the offices of hotel, lodging-house, and store. It is at Cairo, as at Constantinople, a massive pile of buildings surrounding a quadrangular “Hosh” or court-yard. On the ground-floor are rooms like caverns for merchandise, and shops of different kinds — tailors, cobblers, bakers, tobacconists, fruiterers, and others. A roofless gallery or a covered verandah, into which all the apartments open, runs round the first and sometimes the second story: the latter, however, is usually exposed to the sun and wind. The accommodations consist of sets of two or three rooms, generally an inner one and an outer; the latter contains a hearth for cooking, a bathing-place, and similar necessaries. The staircases are high, narrow, and exceedingly dirty; dark at night, and often in bad repair; a goat or donkey is tethered upon the different landings; here and there a fresh skin is stretched in process of tanning, and the smell reminds the veteran traveller of those closets in the old French inns where cat used to be prepared for playing the part of jugged hare. The interior is unfurnished; even the pegs upon which clothes are hung have been pulled down for fire-wood: the walls are bare but for stains, thick cobwebs depend in festoons from the blackened rafters of the ceiling, and the stone floor would disgrace a civilised prison: the windows are huge apertures carefully barred with wood or iron, and in rare places show remains of glass or paper pasted over the framework. In the court-yard the poorer sort of travellers consort with tethered beasts of burden, beggars howl, and slaves lie basking and scratching themselves upon mountainous heaps of cotton bales and other merchandise.
This is not a tempting picture, yet is the Wakalah a most amusing place, presenting a succession of scenes which would delight lovers of the Dutch school — a rich exemplification of the grotesque, and what is called by artists the “dirty picturesque.”
I could find no room in the Wakalah Khan Khalil, the Long’s, or Meurice’s of native Cairo; I was therefore obliged to put up with the Jamaliyah, a Greek quarter, swarming with drunken Christians, and therefore about as fashionable as Oxford Street or Covent Garden. Even for this I had to wait a week. The pilgrims were flocking to Cairo, and to none other would the prudent hotel keepers open their doors, for the following sufficient reasons. When you enter a Wakalah, the first thing you have to do is to pay a small sum, varying from two to five shillings, for the Miftah (the key). This is generally equivalent to a month’s rent; so the sooner you leave the house the better for it. I was obliged to call myself a Turkish pilgrim in order to get possession of two most comfortless rooms, which I afterwards learned were celebrated for making travellers ill; and I had to pay eighteen piastres for the key and eighteen ditto per mensem for rent, besides five piastres to the man who swept and washed the place. So that for this month my house-hire amounted to nearly four pence a day.
But I was fortunate enough in choosing the Jamaliyah Wakalah, for I found a friend there. On board the steamer a fellow-voyager, seeing me sitting alone and therefore as he conceived in discomfort, placed himself by my side and opened a hot fire of kind inquiries. He was a man about forty-five, of middle size, with a large round head closely shaven, a bull-neck, limbs sturdy as a Saxon’s, a thin red beard, and handsome features beaming with benevolence. A curious dry humour he had, delighting in “quizzing,” but in so quiet, solemn, and quaint a way that before you knew him you could scarcely divine his drift.
“Thank Allah, we carry a doctor!” said my friend more than once, with apparent fervour of gratitude, after he had discovered my profession. I was fairly taken in by the pious ejaculation, and some days elapsed before the drift of his remark became apparent.
“You doctors,” he explained, when we were more intimate, “what do you do? A man goes to you for ophthalmia: it is a purge, a blister, and a drop in the eye! Is it for fever? well! a purge and kinakina (quinine). For dysentery? a purge and extract of opium. Wa’llahi! I am as good a physician as the best of you,” he would add with a broad grin, “if I only knew the Dirham-birhams,1 — drams and drachms, — and a few break-jaw Arabic names of diseases.”
Haji Wali2 therefore emphatically advised me to make bread by honestly teaching languages. “We are doctor-ridden,” said he, and I found it was the case.
When we lived under the same roof, the Haji and I became fast friends. During the day we called on each other frequently, we dined together, and passed the evening in a Mosque, or some other place of public pastime. Coyly at first, but less guardedly as we grew bolder, we smoked the forbidden weed “Hashish,3” conversing lengthily the while about that world of which I had seen so much. Originally from Russia, he also had been a traveller, and in his wanderings he had cast off most of the prejudices of his people. “I believe in Allah and his Prophet, and in nothing else,” was his sturdy creed; he rejected alchemy, jinnis and magicians, and truly he had a most unoriental distaste for tales of wonder. When I entered the Wakalah, he constituted himself my cicerone, and especially guarded me against the cheating of trades-men. By his advice I laid aside the Darwaysh’s gown, the large blue pantaloons, and the short shirt; in fact all connection with Persia and the Persians. “If you persist in being an ’Ajami,” said the Haji, “you will get yourself into trouble; in Egypt you will be cursed; in Arabia you will be beaten because you are a heretic; you will pay the treble of what other travellers do, and if you fall sick you may die by the roadside.” After long deliberation about the choice of nations, I became a “Pathan.4” Born in India of Afghan parents, who had settled in the country, educated at Rangoon, and sent out to wander, as men of that race frequently are, from early youth, I was well guarded against the danger of detection by a fellow-countryman. To support the character requires a knowledge of Persian, Hindustani and Arabic, all of which I knew sufficiently well to pass muster; any trifling inaccuracy was charged upon my long residence at Rangoon. This was an important step; the first question at the shop, on the camel, and in the Mosque, is “What is thy name?” the second, “Whence comest thou?” This is not generally impertinent, or intended to be annoying; if, however, you see any evil intention in the questioner, you may rather roughly ask him, “What may be his maternal parent’s name?” — equivalent to enquiring, Anglice, in what church his mother was married, — and escape your difficulties under cover of the storm. But this is rarely necessary. I assumed the polite, pliant manners of an Indian physician, and the dress of a small Effendi (or gentleman), still, however, representing myself to be a Darwaysh, and frequenting the places where Darwayshes congregate. “What business,” asked the Haji, “have those reverend men with politics or statistics, or any of the information which you are collecting? Call yourself a religious wanderer if you like, and let those who ask the object of your peregrinations know that you are under a vow to visit all the holy places in Al-Islam. Thus you will persuade them that you are a man of rank under a cloud, and you will receive much more civility than perhaps you deserve,” concluded my friend with a dry laugh. The remark proved his sagacity; and after ample experience I had not to repent having been guided by his advice.
Haji Wali, by profession a merchant at Alexandria, had accompanied Khudabakhsh, the Indian, to Cairo on law-business. He soon explained his affairs to me, and as his case brought out certain Oriental peculiarities in a striking light, with his permission I offer a few of its details.
My friend was defendant in a suit instituted against him in H.B.M.‘s Consular Court, Cairo, by one Mohammed Shafi’a, a scoundrel of the first water. This man lived, and lived well, by setting up in business at places where his name was not known; he enticed the unwary by artful displays of capital; and, after succeeding in getting credit, he changed residence, carrying off all he could lay hands upon. But swindling is a profession of personal danger in uncivilised countries, where law punishes pauper debtors by a short imprisonment; and where the cheated prefer to gratify their revenge by the cudgel or the knife. So Mohammed Shafi’a, after a few narrow escapes, hit upon a prime expedient. Though known to be a native of Bokhara — he actually signed himself so in his letters, and his appearance at once bespoke his origin, — he determined to protect himself by a British passport. Our officials are sometimes careless enough in distributing these documents, and by so doing they expose themselves to a certain loss of reputation at Eastern courts5; still Mohammed Shafi’a found some difficulties in effecting his fraud. To recount all his Reynardisms would weary the reader; suffice it to say that by proper management of the subalterns in the consulate, he succeeded without ruining himself. Armed with this new defence, he started boldly for Jeddah on the Arabian coast. Having entered into partnership with Haji Wali, whose confidence he had won by prayers, fastings, and pilgrimages, he openly trafficked in slaves, sending them to Alexandria for sale, and writing with matchless impudence to his correspondent that he would dispose of them in person, but for fear of losing his British passport and protection.
Presently an unlucky adventure embroiled this worthy British subject with Faraj Yusuf, the principal merchant of Jeddah, and also an English protege. Fearing so powerful an adversary, Mohammed Shafi’a packed up his spoils and departed for Egypt. Presently he quarrels with his former partner, thinking him a soft man, and claims from him a debt of L165. He supports his pretensions by a document and four witnesses, who are ready to swear that the receipt in question was “signed, sealed, and delivered” by Haji Wali. The latter adduces his books to show that accounts have been settled, and can prove that the witnesses in question are paupers, therefore, not legal; moreover, that each has received from the plaintiff two dollars, the price of perjury.
Now had such a suit been carried into a Turkish court of justice, it would very sensibly have been settled by the bastinado, for Haji Wali was a respectable merchant, and Mohammed Shafi’a a notorious swindler. But the latter was a British subject, which notably influenced the question. The more to annoy his adversary, he went up to Cairo, and began proceedings there, hoping by this acute step to receive part payment of his demand.
Arrived at Cairo, Mohammed Shafi’a applied himself stoutly to the task of bribing all who could be useful to him, distributing shawls and piastres with great generosity. He secured the services of an efficient lawyer; and, determining to enlist heaven itself in his cause, he passed the Ramazan ostentatiously; he fasted, and he slaughtered sheep to feed the poor.
Meanwhile Haji Wali, a simple truth-telling man, who could never master the rudiments of that art which teaches man to blow hot and to blow cold with the same breath, had been persuaded to visit Cairo by Khudabakhsh, the wily Indian, who promised to introduce him to influential persons, and to receive him in his house till he could provide himself with a lodging at the Wakalah. But Mohammed Shafi’a, who had once been in partnership with the Indian, and who possibly knew more than was fit to meet the public ear, found this out; and, partly by begging, partly by bullying, persuaded Khudabakhsh to transfer the influential introductions to himself. Then the Hakim6 Abdullah — your humble servant — appears upon the scene: he has travelled in Feringistan, he has seen many men and their cities, he becomes an intimate and an adviser of the Haji, and he finds out evil passages in Mohammed Shafi’a’s life. Upon which Khudabakhsh ashamed, or rather afraid of his duplicity, collects his Indian friends. The Hakim Abdullah draws up a petition addressed to Mr. Walne (H.B.M’s Consul) by the Indian merchants and others resident at Cairo, informing him of Mohammed Shafi’a’s birth, character, and occupation as a vendor of slaves, offering proof of all assertions, and praying him for the sake of their good name to take away his passport. And all the Indians affix their seals to this paper. Then Mohammed Shafi’a threatens to waylay and to beat the Haji. The Haji, not loud or hectoringly, but with a composed smile, advises his friends to hold him off.
One would suppose that such a document would have elicited some inquiry.But Haji Wali was a Persian protege, and proceedings between the Consulates had commenced before the petition was presented. The pseudo-British subject, having been acknowledged as a real one, must be supported. Consuls, like kings, may err, but must not own to error. No notice was taken of the Indian petition; worse still, no inquiry into the slave-affair was set on foot7; and it was discovered that the passport having been granted by a Consul-General could not with official etiquette be resumed by a Consul.8
Thus matters were destined to proceed as they began. Mohammed Shafi’a had offered 5,000 piastres to the Persian Consul’s interpreter; this of course was refused, but still somehow or other all the Haji’s affairs seemed to go wrong. His statements were mistranslated, his accounts were misunderstood, and the suit was allowed to drag on to a suspicious length. When I left Cairo in July, Haji Wali had been kept away nearly two months from his business and family, though both parties — for the plaintiff’s purse was rapidly thinning — appeared eager to settle the difference by arbitration: when I returned from Arabia in October, matters were almost in statu quo ante, and when I started for India in January, the proceedings had not closed.
Such is a brief history, but too common, of a case in which the subject of an Eastern state has to contend against British influence. It is doubtless a point of honour to defend our proteges from injustice, but the higher principle should rest upon the base of common honesty. The worst part of such a case is, that the injured party has no redress.
“Fiat injustitia, ruat coelum,”
is the motto of his “natural protectors,” who would violate every law to gratify the false pride of a petty English official. And, saving the rare exceptions where rank or wealth command consideration, with what face, to use the native phrase, would a hapless Turk appeal to the higher powers, our ministers or our Parliament?
After lodging myself in the Wakalah, my first object was to make a certain stir in the world. In Europe your travelling doctor advertises the loss of a diamond ring, the gift of a Russian autocrat; or he monopolises a whole column in a newspaper, feeing perhaps a title for the use of a signature; the large brass plate, the gold-headed cane, the rattling chariot, and the summons from the sermon complete the work. Here, there is no such Royal
Road to medical fame. You must begin by sitting with the porter, who is sure to have blear eyes, into which you drop a little nitrate of silver, whilst you instil into his ear the pleasing intelligence that you never take a fee from the poor. He recovers; his report of you spreads far and wide, crowding your doors with paupers. They come to you as though you were their servant, and when cured they turn their backs upon you for ever. Hence it is that European doctors generally complain of ingratitude on the part of their Oriental patients. It is true that if you save a man’s life, he naturally asks you for the means of preserving it. Moreover, in none of the Eastern languages with which I am acquainted is there a single term conveying the meaning of our “gratitude,” and none but Germans9 have ideas unexplainable by words. But you must not condemn this absence of a virtue without considering the cause. An Oriental deems that he has the right to your surplus. “Daily bread is divided” (by heaven), he asserts, and eating yours, he considers it his own. Thus it is with other things. He is thankful to Allah for the gifts of the Creator, but he has a claim to the good offices of a fellow-creature. In rendering him a service you have but done your duty, and he would not pay you so poor a compliment as to praise you for the act. He leaves you, his benefactor, with a short prayer for the length of your days. “Thank you,” being expressed by “Allah increase thy weal!” or the selfish wish that your shadow (with which you protect him and his fellows) may never be less. And this is probably the last you hear of him.
There is a discomfort in such proceedings, a reasonable, a metaphysical coldness, uglily contrasting in theory with the genial warmth which a little more heart would infuse into them. In theory, I say, not in practice. Human nature feels kindness is displayed to return it in kind. But Easterns do not carry out the idea of such obligations as we do. What can be more troublesome than, when you have obliged a man, to run the gauntlet of his and his family’s thanksgivings, to find yourself become a master from being a friend, a great man when you were an equal; not to be contradicted, where shortly before every one gave his opinion freely? You must be unamiable if these considerations deter you from benefiting your friend; yet, I humbly opine, you still may fear his gratefulness.
To resume. When the mob has raised you to fame, patients of a better class will slowly appear on the scene. After some coquetting about “etiquette,” whether you are to visit them, or they are to call upon you, they make up their minds to see you, and to judge with their eyes whether you are to be trusted or not; whilst you, on your side, set out with the determination that they shall at once cross the Rubicon, — in less classical phrase, swallow your drug. If you visit the house, you insist upon the patient’s servants attending you; he must also provide and pay an ass for your conveyance, no matter if it be only to the other side of the street. Your confidential man accompanies you, primed for replies to the “fifty searching questions” of the “servants’ hall.” You are lifted off the saddle tenderly, as nurses dismount their charges, when you arrive at the gate; and you waddle upstairs with dignity. Arrived at the sick room, you salute those present with a general “Peace be upon you!” to which they respond, “And upon thee be the peace and the mercy of Allah, and his blessing!” To the invalid you say, “There is nothing the matter, please Allah, except the health;” to which the proper answer — for here every sign of ceremony has its countersign10 — is, “May Allah give thee health!” Then you sit down, and acknowledge the presence of the company by raising your right hand to your lips and forehead, bowing the while circularly; each individual returns the civility by a similar gesture. Then inquiry about the state of your health ensues. Then you are asked what refreshment you will take: you studiously mention something not likely to be in the house, but at last you rough it with a pipe and a cup of coffee. Then you proceed to the patient, who extends his wrist, and asks you what his complaint is. Then you examine his tongue, you feel his pulse, you look learned, and — he is talking all the time — after hearing a detailed list of all his ailments, you gravely discover them, taking for the same as much praise to yourself as does the practising phrenologist for a similar simple exercise of the reasoning faculties. The disease, to be respectable, must invariably be connected with one of the four temperaments, or the four elements, or the “humours of Hippocrates.” Cure is easy, but it will take time, and you, the doctor, require attention; any little rudeness it is in your power to punish by an alteration in the pill, or the powder, and, so unknown is professional honour, that none will brave your displeasure. If you would pass for a native practitioner, you must finally proceed to the most uncomfortable part of your visit, bargaining for fees. Nothing more effectually arouses suspicion than disinterestedness in a doctor. I once cured a rich Hazramaut merchant of rheumatism, and neglected to make him pay for treatment; he carried off one of my coffee cups, and was unceasingly wondering where I came from. So I made him produce five piastres, a shilling, which he threw upon the carpet, cursing Indian avarice. “You will bring on another illness,” said my friend, the Haji, when he heard of it. Properly speaking, the fee for a visit to a respectable man is 20 piastres, but with the rich patient you begin by making a bargain. He complains, for instance, of dysentery and sciatica. You demand L10 for the dysentery, and L20 for the sciatica. But you will rarely get it. The Eastern pays a doctor’s bill as an Oirishman does his “rint,” making a grievance of it. Your patient will show indisputable signs of convalescence: he will laugh and jest half the day; but the moment you appear, groans and a lengthened visage, and pretended complaints, welcome you. Then your way is to throw out some such hint as
“The world is a carcass, and they who seek it are dogs.”
And you refuse to treat the second disorder, which conduct may bring the refractory one to his senses. “Dat Galenus opes,” however, is a Western apothegm: the utmost “Jalinus” can do for you here is to provide you with the necessaries and comforts of life. Whatever you prescribe must be solid and material, and if you accompany it with something painful, such as rubbing to scarification with a horse-brush, so much the better. Easterns, like our peasants in Europe, wish the doctor to “give them the value of their money.” Besides which, rough measures act beneficially upon their imagination. So the Hakim of the King of Persia cured fevers by the bastinado; patients are beneficially baked in a bread-oven at Baghdad; and an Egyptian at Alexandria, whose quartan resisted the strongest appliances of European physic, was effectually healed by the actual cautery, which a certain Arab Shaykh applied to the crown of his head. When you administer with your own hand the remedy — half-a-dozen huge bread pills, dipped in a solution of aloes or cinnamon water, flavoured with assafoetida, which in the case of the dyspeptic rich often suffice, if they will but diet themselves — you are careful to say, “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” And after the patient has been dosed, “Praise be to Allah, the Curer, the Healer;” you then call for pen, ink, and paper, and write some such prescription as this:
“In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and blessings and peace be upon our Lord the Apostle, and his family, and his companions one and all! But afterwards let him take bees-honey and cinnamon and album graecum, of each half a part, and of ginger a whole part, which let him pound and mix with the honey, and form boluses, each bolus the weight of a Miskal, and of it let him use every day a Miskal on the saliva.12 Verily its effects are wonderful. And let him abstain from flesh, fish, vegetables, sweetmeats, flatulent food, acids of all descriptions, as well as the major ablution, and live in perfect quiet. So shall he be cured by the help of the King, the Healer.13 And The Peace.14”
The diet, I need scarcely say, should be rigorous; nothing has tended more to bring the European system of medicine into contempt among Orientals than our inattention to this branch of the therapeutic art. When an Hindi or a Hindu “takes medicine,” he prepares himself for it by diet and rest two or three days before adhibition, and as gradually, after the dose, he relapses into his usual habits; if he break through the regime it is concluded that fatal results must ensue. The ancient Egyptians we learn from Herodotus devoted a certain number of days in each month to the use of alteratives, and the period was consecutive, doubtless in order to graduate the strength of the medicine. The Persians, when under salivation, shut themselves up in a warm room, never undress, and so carefully guard against cold that they even drink tepid water. When the Afghan princes find it necessary to employ Chob-Chini, (the Jin-seng, 15 or China root so celebrated as a purifier, tonic, and aphrodisiac) they choose the spring season; they remove to a garden, where flowers and trees and bubbling streams soothe their senses; they carefully avoid fatigue and trouble of all kinds, and will not even hear a letter read, lest it should contain bad news.
When the prescription is written out, you affix an impression of your ring seal to the beginning and to the end of it, that no one may be able to add to or take from its contents. And when you send medicine to a patient of rank, who is sure to have enemies, you adopt some similar precaution against the box or the bottle being opened. One of the Pashas whom I attended, — a brave soldier who had been a favourite with Mohammed Ali, and therefore was degraded by his successor, — kept an impression of my ring in wax, to compare with that upon the phials. Men have not forgotten how frequently, in former times, those who became obnoxious to the State were seized with sudden and fatal cramps in the stomach. In the case of the doctor it is common prudence to adopt these precautions, as all evil consequences would be charged upon him, and he would be exposed to the family’s revenge.
Cairo, though abounding in medical practitioners, can still support more; but to thrive they must be Indians, Chinese, or Maghrabis. The Egyptians are thoroughly disgusted with European treatment, which is here about as efficacious as in India — that is to say, not at all. But they are ignorant of the medicine of Hind, and therefore great is its name; deservedly perhaps, for skill in simples and dietetics. Besides which the Indian may deal in charms and spells, — things to which the latitude gives such force that even Europeans learn to put faith in them. The traveller who, on the banks of the Seine, scoffs at Sights and Sounds, Table-turning and Spirit-rapping, sees in the wilds of Tartary and Thibet a something supernatural and diabolical in the bungling Sie-fa of the Bokte.16 Some sensible men, who pass for philosophers among their friends, have been caught by the incantations of the turbanded and bearded Cairo magician. In our West African colonies the phrase “growing black” was applied to colonists, who, after a term of residence, became thoroughly imbued with the superstitions of the land. And there are not wanting old Anglo-Indians, intelligent men, that place firm trust in tales and tenets too puerile even for the Hindus to believe. As a “Hindi” I could use animal magnetism, taking care, however, to give the science a specious supernatural appearance. Haji Wali, who, professing positive scepticism, showed the greatest interest in the subject as a curiosity, advised me not to practise pure mesmerism; otherwise, that I should infallibly become a “Companion of Devils.” “You must call this an Indian secret,” said my friend, “for it is clear that you are no Mashaikh,17 and people will ask, where are your drugs, and what business have you with charms?” It is useless to say that I followed his counsel; yet patients would consider themselves my Murids (disciples), and delighted in kissing the hand of the Sahib Nafas18 or minor saint.
The Haji repaid me for my docility by vaunting me everywhere as the very phoenix of physicians. My first successes were in the Wakalah; opposite to me there lived an Arab slave dealer, whose Abyssinians constantly fell sick. A tender race, they suffer when first transported to Egypt from many complaints, especially consumption, dysentery and varicose veins. I succeeded in curing one girl. As she was worth at least fifteen pounds, the gratitude of her owner was great, and I had to dose half a dozen others in order to cure them of the pernicious and price-lowering habit of snoring. Living in rooms opposite these slave girls, and seeing them at all hours of the day and night, I had frequent opportunities of studying them. They were average specimens of the steatopygous Abyssinian breed, broad-shouldered, thin-flanked, fine-limbed, and with haunches of a prodigious size. None of them had handsome features, but the short curly hair that stands on end being concealed under a kerchief, there was something pretty in the brow, eyes, and upper part of the nose, coarse and sensual in the pendent lips, large jowl and projecting mouth, whilst the whole had a combination of piquancy with sweetness. Their style of flirtation was peculiar.
“How beautiful thou art, O Maryam! — what eyes! — what —”
“Then why,” — would respond the lady — “don’t you buy me?”
“We are of one faith — of one creed — formed to form each other’s happiness.”
“Then why don’t you buy me?”
“Conceive, O Maryam, the blessing of two hearts —”
“Then why don’t you buy me?”
and so on. Most effectual gag to Cupid’s eloquence! Yet was not the plain-spoken Maryam’s reply without its moral. How often is it our fate, in the West as in the East, to see in bright eyes and to hear from rosy lips an implied, if not an expressed, “Why don’t you buy me?” or, worse still, “Why can’t you buy me?”
All I required in return for my services from the slave-dealer, whose brutal countenance and manners were truly repugnant, was to take me about the town, and explain to me certain mysteries in his craft, which knowledge might be useful in time to come. Little did he suspect who his interrogator was, and freely in his unsuspiciousness he entered upon the subject of slave hunting in the Somali country, and Zanzibar, of all things the most interesting to me. I have, however, nothing new to report concerning the present state of bondsmen in Egypt. England has already learned that slaves are not necessarily the most wretched and degraded of men. Some have been bold enough to tell the British public that, in the generality of Oriental countries,19 the serf fares far better than the servant, or indeed than the poorer orders of freemen. “The laws of Mahomet enjoin his followers to treat slaves with the greatest mildness, and the Moslems are in general scrupulous observers of the Apostle’s recommendation. Slaves are considered members of the family, and in houses where free servants are also kept, they seldom do any other work than filling the pipes, presenting the coffee, accompanying their master when going out, rubbing his feet when he takes his nap in the afternoon, and driving away the flies from him. When a slave is not satisfied, he can legally compel his master to sell him. He has no care for food, lodging, clothes and washing, and has no taxes to pay; he is exempt from military service and soccage, and in spite of his bondage is freer than the freest Fellah in Egypt.20” This is, I believe, a true statement, but of course it in no wise affects the question of slavery in the abstract. A certain amount of reputation was the consequence of curing the Abyssinian girls: my friend Haji Wali carefully told the news to all the town, and before fifteen days were over, I found myself obliged to decline extending a practice which threatened me with fame.
Servants are most troublesome things to all Englishmen in Egypt, but especially to one travelling as a respectable native, and therefore expected to have slaves. After much deliberation, I resolved to take a Berberi,21 and accordingly summoned a Shaykh — there is a Shaykh for everything down to thieves in “the East,” (in Egypt since the days of Diodorus Siculus), and made known my want. The list of sine qua nons was necessarily rather an extensive one, — good health and a readiness to travel anywhere, a little skill in cooking, sewing and washing, willingness to fight, and a habit of regular prayers. After a day’s delay the Shaykh brought me a specimen of his choosing, a broad-shouldered, bandy-legged fellow, with the usual bull-dog expression of the Berberis, in his case rendered doubly expressive by the drooping of an eyelid — an accident brought about with acrid juice in order to avoid conscription. He responded sturdily to all my questions. Some Egyptian donkey boys and men were making a noise in the room at the time, and the calm ferocity with which he ejected them commanded my approval. When a needle, thread, and an unhemmed napkin were handed to him, he sat down, held the edge of the cloth between his big toe and its neighbour, and finished the work in quite a superior style. Walking out, he armed himself with a Kurbaj, which he used, now lightly, then heavily, upon all laden animals, biped and quadruped, that came in the way. His conduct proving equally satisfactory in the kitchen, after getting security from him, and having his name registered by the Shaykh,22 I closed with him for eighty piastres a month. But Ali the Berberi and I were destined to part. Before a fortnight he stabbed his fellow servant — a Surat lad, who wishing to return home forced his services upon me — and for this trick he received, with his dismissal, 400 blows on the feet by order of the Zabit, or police magistrate. After this failure I tried a number of servants, Egyptians, Sa’idis,23 and clean and unclean eating24 Berberis. Recommended by different Shaykhs, all had some fatal defect; one cheated recklessly, another robbed me, a third drank, a fourth was always in scrapes for infringing the Julian edict, and the last, a long-legged Nubian, after remaining two days in the house, dismissed me for expressing a determination to travel by sea from Suez to Yambu’. I kept one man; he complained that he was worked to death: two — they did nothing but fight; and three — they left me, as Mr. Elwes said of old, to serve myself. At last, thoroughly tired of Egyptian domestics, and one servant being really sufficient for comfort, as well as suitable to my assumed rank, I determined to keep only the Indian boy. He had all the defects of his nation; a brave at Cairo, he was an arrant coward at Al-Madinah; the Badawin despised him heartily for his effeminacy in making his camel kneel to dismount, and he could not keep his hands from picking and stealing. But the choice had its advantages: his swarthy skin and chubby features made the Arabs always call him an Abyssinian slave, which, as it favoured my disguise, I did not care to contradict; he served well, he was amenable to discipline, and being completely dependent upon me, he was therefore less likely to watch and especially to prate about my proceedings. As master and man we performed the pilgrimage together; but, on my return to Egypt after the pilgrimage, Shaykh (become Haji) Nur, finding me to be a Sahib,25 changed for the worse. He would not work, and reserved all his energy for the purpose of pilfering, which he practised so audaciously upon my friends, as well as upon myself, that he could not be kept in the house.
Perhaps the reader may be curious to see the necessary expenses of a bachelor residing at Cairo. He must observe, however, in the following list that I was not a strict economist, and, besides that, I was a stranger in the country: inhabitants and old settlers would live as well for little more than two-thirds the sum.
|House rent at 18 piastres per mensem||0||24|
|Servant at 80 piastres per . . . do||2||26|
|Breakfast for self and servant.|
|Water melon (now 5 piastres)||1||0|
|Two rolls of bread||0||10|
|2 lbs. of meat||2||20|
|Two rolls of bread||0||10|
|Oil and clarified butter||1||0|
|A skin of Nile water||1||0|
|Hammam (hot bath)||3||20|
|Equal to about two shillings and sixpence.|
In these days who at Cairo without a Shaykh? I thought it right to conform to popular custom, and accordingly, after having secured a servant, my efforts were directed to finding a teacher; the pretext being that as an Indian doctor I wanted to read Arabic works on medicine, as well as to perfect myself in divinity and pronunciation.27 My theological studies were in the Shafe’i school for two reasons: in the first place, it is the least rigorous of the Four Orthodox, and, secondly, it most resembles the Shi’ah heresy, with which long intercourse with Persians had made me familiar.28 My choice of doctrine, however, confirmed those around me in their conviction that I was a rank heretic, for the ’Ajami, taught by his religion to conceal offensive tenets29 in lands where the open expression would be dangerous, always represents himself to be a Shafe’i. This, together with the original mistake of appearing publicly at Alexandria as a “Mirza” in a Persian dress, caused me infinite small annoyance at Cairo, in spite of all precautions and contrivances. And throughout my journey, even in Arabia, though I drew my knife every time an offensive hint was thrown out, the ill-fame clung to me like the shirt of Nessus.
It was not long before I happened to hit upon a proper teacher, in the person of Shaykh Mohammed al-Attar, or the “Druggist.” He had known prosperity, having once been a Khatib (preacher) in one of Mohammed Ali’s mosques. But His Highness the late Pasha had dismissed him, which disastrous event, with its subsequent train of misfortunes, he dates from the melancholy day when he took to himself a wife. He talks of her abroad as a stern and rigid master dealing with a naughty slave, though, by the look that accompanies his rhodomontade, I am convinced that at home he is the very model of “managed men.” His dismissal was the reason that compelled him to fall back upon the trade of a druggist, the refuge for the once wealthy, though now destitute, Sages of Egypt.
His little shop in the Jamaliyah Quarter is a perfect gem of Nilotic queerness. A hole, about five feet long and six deep, pierced in the wall of some house, it is divided into two compartments separated by a thin partition of wood, and communicating by a kind of arch cut in the boards. The inner box, germ of a back parlour, acts as store-room, as the pile of empty old baskets tossed in dusty confusion upon the dirty floor shows. In the front is displayed the stock in trade, a matting full of Persian tobacco and pipe-bowls of red clay, a palm-leaf bag containing vile coffee and large lumps of coarse, whity-brown sugar wrapped up in browner paper. On the shelves and ledges are rows of well-thumbed wooden boxes, labelled with the greatest carelessness, pepper for rhubarb, arsenic for Tafl, or wash-clay, and sulphate of iron where sal-ammoniac should be. There is also a square case containing, under lock and key, small change and some choice articles of commerce, damaged perfumes, bad antimony for the eyes, and pernicious rouge. And dangling close above it is a rusty pair of scales, ill poised enough for Egyptian Themis herself to use. To hooks over the shop-front are suspended reeds for pipes, tallow candles, dirty wax tapers and cigarette paper; instead of plate-glass windows and brass-handled doors, a ragged net keeps away the flies when the master is in, and the thieves when he goes out to recite in the Hasanayn Mosque his daily chapter “Ya Sin.30” A wooden shutter which closes down at night-time, and by day two palm-stick stools intensely dirty and full of fleas, occupying the place of the Mastabah or earthen bench,31 which accommodated purchasers, complete the furniture of my preceptor’s establishment.
There he sits, or rather lies (for verily I believe he sleeps through three-fourths of the day), a thin old man about fifty-eight,32 with features once handsome and regular; a sallow face, shaven head, deeply wrinkled cheeks, eyes hopelessly bleared, and a rough grey beard ignorant of oil and comb. His turband, though large, is brown with wear; his coat and small-clothes display many a hole; and, though his face and hands must be frequently washed preparatory to devotion, still they have the quality of looking always unclean. It is wonderful how fierce and gruff he is to the little boys and girls who flock to him grasping farthings for pepper and sugar. On such occasions I sit admiring to see him, when forced to exertion, wheel about on his place, making a pivot of that portion of our organisation which mainly distinguishes our species from the other families of the Simiadae, to reach some distant drawer, or to pull down a case from its accustomed shelf. How does he manage to say his prayers, to kneel and to prostrate himself upon that two feet of ragged rug, scarcely sufficient for a British infant to lie upon? He hopelessly owns that he knows nothing of his craft, and the seats before his shop are seldom occupied. His great pleasure appears to be when the Haji and I sit by him a few minutes in the evening, bringing with us pipes, which he assists us to smoke, and ordering coffee, which he insists upon sweetening with a lump of sugar from his little store. There we make him talk and laugh, and occasionally quote a few lines strongly savouring of the jovial: we provoke him to long stories about the love borne him in his student-days by the great and holy Shaykh Abd al-Rahman, and the antipathy with which he was regarded by the equally great and holy Shakh Nasr al-Din, his memorable single imprisonment for contumacy,33 and the temperate but effective lecture, beginning with “O almost entirely destitute of shame!” delivered on that occasion in presence of other under-graduates by the Right Reverend principal of his college. Then we consult him upon matters of doctrine, and quiz him tenderly about his powers of dormition, and flatter him, or rather his age, with such phrases as, “The water from thy hand is of the Waters of Zemzem;” or, “We have sought thee to deserve the Blessings of the Wise upon our undertakings.” Sometimes, with interested motives it must be owned, we induce him to accompany us to the Hammam,34 where he insists upon paying the smallest sum, quarrelling with everything and everybody, and giving the greatest trouble. We are generally his only visitors; acquaintances he appears to have few, and no friends; he must have had them once, for he was rich, but is not so now, so they have fallen away from the poor old man.
When the Shaykh Mohammed sits with me, or I climb up into his little shop for the purpose of receiving a lesson from him, he is quite at his ease, reading when he likes, or making me read, and generally beginning each lecture with some such preamble as this35:—
“Aywa! aywa! aywa!36” — Even so, even so, even so! we take refuge with Allah from Satan the Stoned! In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and the Blessings of Allah upon our Lord Mohammed, and his Family and his Companions one and all! Thus saith the author, may Almighty Allah have mercy upon him! ‘Section I. of chapter two, upon the orders of prayer,’ &c.”
He becomes fiercely sarcastic when I differ from him in opinion, especially upon a point of grammar, or the theology over which his beard has grown grey.
“Subhan’ Allah! (Allah be glorified!37) What words are these? If thou be right, enlarge thy turband,38” (i.e., set up as a learned man), “and throw away thy drugs, for verily it is better to quicken men’s souls than to destroy their bodies, O Abdullah!”
Oriental-like, he revels in giving good counsel.
“Thou art always writing, O my brave!39” (this is said on the few occasions when I venture to make a note in my book), “what evil habit is this? Surely thou hast learned it in the lands of the Frank. Repent!”
He loathes my giving medical advice gratis.
“Thou hast two servants to feed, O my son! The doctors of Egypt never write A, B, without a reward. Wherefore art thou ashamed? Better go and sit upon the mountain40 at once” (i.e., go to the desert), “and say thy prayers day and night!”
And finally, he is prodigal of preaching upon the subject of household expenses.
“Thy servant did write down two pounds of flesh yesterday! What words are these, O he?41 Dost thou never say, ‘Guard us, Allah, from the sin of extravagance?’”
He delights also in abruptly interrupting a serious subject when it begins to weigh upon his spirits. For instance,
Now the waters of ablution being of seven different kinds, it results that — hast thou a wife? — No? — Then verily thou must buy thee a female slave, O youth! This conduct is not right, and men will say of thee — Repentance: I take refuge with Allah42 — ‘of a truth his mouth watereth for the spouses of other Moslems.’”
But sometimes he nods over a difficult passage under my very eyes, or he reads it over a dozen times in the wantonness of idleness, or he takes what school-boys call a long “shot” most shamelessly at the signification. When this happens I lose my temper, and raise my voice, and shout, “Verily there is no power nor might save in Allah, the High, the Great!” Then he looks at me, and with passing meekness whispers —
“Fear Allah, O man!”
1 The second is an imitative word, called in Arabic grammar Tabi’a, as “Zayd Bayd,” “Zayd and others;” so used, it denotes contempt for drachms and similar parts of drug-craft.
2 This familiar abbreviation of Wali al-Din was the name assumed by the enterprising traveller, Dr. Wallin.
3 By the Indians called Bhang, the Persians Bang, the Hottentots Dakha, and the natives of Barbary Fasukh. Even the Siberians, we are told, intoxicate themselves by the vapour of this seed thrown upon red-hot stones. Egypt surpasses all other nations in the variety of compounds into which this fascinating drug enters, and will one day probably supply the Western world with “Indian hemp,” when its solid merits are duly appreciated. At present in Europe it is chiefly confined, as cognac and opium used to be, to the apothecary’s shelves. Some adventurous individuals at Paris, after the perusal of Monte Christo, attempted an “orgie” in one of the cafes, but with poor success.
4 The Indian name of an Afghan, supposed to be a corruption of the Arabic Fat’han (a conqueror), or a derivation from the Hindustani paithna, to penetrate (into the hostile ranks). It is an honourable term in Arabia, where “Khurasani” (a native of Khorasan), leads men to suspect a Persian, and the other generic appellation of the Afghan tribes “Sulaymani,” a descendant from Solomon, reminds the people of their proverb, “Sulaymani harami!” — “the Afghans are ruffians!”
5 For the simple reason that no Eastern power confers such an obligation except for value received. In old times, when official honour was not so rigorous as it is now, the creditors of Eastern powers and principalities would present high sums to British Residents and others for the privilege of being enrolled in the list of their subjects or servants. This they made profitable; for their claims, however exorbitant, when backed by a name of fear, were certain to be admitted, unless the Resident’s conscience would allow of his being persuaded by weightier arguments of a similar nature to abandon his protege. It is almost needless to remark that nothing of the kind can occur in the present day, and at the same time that throughout the Eastern world it is firmly believed that such things are of daily occurrence. Ill fame descends to distant generations; whilst good deeds, if they blossom, as we are told, in the dust, are at least as short-lived as they are sweet.
6 A doctor, a learned man; not to be confounded with Hakim, a ruler.
7 It may be as well to remark that our slave laws require reform throughout the East, their severity, like Draco’s Code, defeating their purpose. In Egypt, for instance, they require modification. Constitute the offence a misdemeanour, not a felony, inflict a fine (say L100), half of which should be given to the informer, and make the imprisonment either a short one, or, what would be better still, let it be done away with, except in cases of non-payment; and finally, let the Consul or some other magistrate residing at the place have power to inflict the penalty of the law, instead of being obliged, as at present, to transmit offenders to Malta for trial. As the law now stands, our officials are unwilling to carry its rigours into effect; they therefore easily lend an ear to the standard excuse — ignorance — in order to have an opportunity of decently dismissing a man, with a warning not to do it again.
8 Yet at the time there was at Alexandria an acting Consul-General, to whom the case could with strict propriety have been referred.
9 Johann Gottlieb Fichte expressly declares that the scope of his system has never been explained by words, and that it even admits not of being so explained. To make his opinions intelligible, he would express them by a system of figures, each of which must have a known and positive value.
10 M. C. de Perceval (Arabic Grammar), and Lane (Mod. Egyptians, Chapter 8 et passim), give specimens.
11 A monogram generally placed at the head of writings. It is the initial letter of “Allah,” and the first of the alphabet, used from time immemorial to denote the origin of creation. “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.”
12 “Ala-rik,” that is to say, fasting — the first thing in the morning.
13 The Almighty.
14 W’as-salam, i.e. adieu.
15 From M. Huc we learn that Jin-seng is the most considerable article of Manchurian commerce, and that throughout China there is no chemist’s shop unprovided with more or less of it. He adds: “The Chinese report marvels of the Jin-seng, and no doubt it is for Chinese organisation a tonic of very great effect for old and weak persons; but its nature is too heating, the Chinese physicians admit, for the European temperament, already in their opinion too hot. The price is enormous, and doubtless its dearness contributes with a people like the Chinese to raise its celebrity so high. The rich and the Mandarins probably use it only because it is above the reach of other people, and out of pure ostentation.” It is the principal tonic used throughout Central Asia, and was well known in Europe when Sarsaparilla arose to dispute with it the palm of popularity. In India, Persia, and Afghanistan, it is called chob-chini, — the “Chinese wood.” The preparations are in two forms, 1. Sufuf, or powder; 2. Kahwah, or decoction. The former is compound of Radix China Qrient, with gum mastich and sugar-candy, equal parts; about a dram of this compound is taken once a day, early in the morning. For the decoction one ounce of fine parings is boiled for a quarter of an hour in a quart of water. When the liquid assumes a red colour it is taken off the fire and left to cool. Furthermore, there are two methods of adhibiting the choh-chini: 1. Band; 2. Khola. The first is when the patient confines himself to a garden, listening to music, enjoying the breeze, the song of birds, and the bubbling of a flowing stream. He avoids everything likely to trouble and annoy him; he will not even open a letter, and the doctor forbids anyone to contradict him. Some grandees in central Asia will go through a course of forty days in every second year; it reminds one of Epicurus’ style of treatment, — the downy bed, the garlands of flowers, the good wine, and the beautiful singing girl, and is doubtless at least as efficacious in curing as the sweet relaxation of Gräfenberg or Malvern. So says Socrates, according to the Anatomist of Melancholy,
“Oculum non curabis sine toto capite,
Nec caput sine toto corpore,
Nec totum corpus sine animo.”
The “Khola” signifies that you take the tonic without other precautions than the avoiding acids, salt, and pepper, and choosing summer time, as cold is supposed to induce rheumatism.
16 Certain Lamas who, we learn from M. Huc, perform famous Sie-fa, or supernaturalisms, such as cutting open the abdomen, licking red-hot irons, making incisions in various parts of the body, which an instant afterwards leave no trace behind, &c., &c. The devil may “have a great deal to do with the matter” in Tartary, for all I know; but I can assure M. Huc, that the Rufa’i Darwayshes in India and the Sa’adiyah at Cairo perform exactly the same feats. Their jugglery, seen through the smoke of incense, and amidst the enthusiasm of a crowd, is tolerably dexterous, and no more.
17 A holy man. The word has a singular signification in a plural form, “honoris causa.”
18 A title literally meaning the “Master of Breath,” one who can cure ailments, physical as well as spiritual, by breathing upon them — a practice well known to mesmerists. The reader will allow me to observe, (in self-defence, otherwise he might look suspiciously upon so credulous a narrator), that when speaking of animal magnetism, as a thing established, I allude to the lower phenomena, rejecting the discussion of all disputed points, as the existence of a magnetic Aura, and of all its unintelligibilities — Prevision, Levitation, Introvision, and other divisions of Clairvoyance.
19 In the generality, not in all. Nothing, for instance, can be more disgraceful to human nature than the state of praedial slavery, or serfs attached to the glebe, when Malabar was under the dominion of the “mild Hindu.” And as a rule in the East it is only the domestic slaves who taste the sweets of slavery. Yet there is truth in Sonnini’s terrible remark: “The severe treatment under which the slaves languish in the West Indies is the shameful prerogative of civilisation, and is unknown to those nations among whom barbarism is reported to hold sway.” (Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt, vol. ii.)
20 The author has forgotten to mention one of the principal advantages of slaves, namely, the prospect of arriving at the highest rank of the empire. The Pasha of the Syrian caravan with which I travelled to Damascus, had been the slave of a slave, and he is but a solitary instance of cases perpetually occuring in all Moslem lands. “C’est un homme de bonne famille,” said a Turkish officer in Egypt, “il a ete achete.”
21 A “Barbarian” from Nubia and Upper Egypt. Some authorities, Mr. Lane for instance, attribute the good reputation of these people to their superior cunning. Sonnini says, “they are intelligent and handy servants, but knaves.” Others believe in them. As far as I could find out, they were generally esteemed more honest than the Egyptians, and they certainly possess a certain sense of honour unknown to their northern brethren. “Berberi” is a term of respect; “Masri” (corrupted from Misri) in the mouth of a Badawi or an Arab of Arabia is a reproach. “He shall be called an Egyptian,” means “he shall belong to a degraded race.”
22 Who becomes responsible, and must pay for any theft his protege may commit. Berberis, being generally “les Suisses” of respectable establishments, are expected to be honest. But I can assert from experience that, as a native, you will never recover the value of a stolen article without having recourse to the police. For his valuable security, the Shaykh demands a small fee (7 or 8 piastres), which, despite the urgent remonstrances of protector and protege, you deduct from the latter’s wages. The question of pay is a momentous one; too much always spoils a good servant, too little leaves you without one. An Egyptian of the middle class would pay his Berberi about 40 piastres a month, besides board, lodging, some small perquisites, and presents on certain occasions. This, however, will not induce a man to travel, especially to cross the sea.
23 A man from the Sa’id or Upper Egypt.
24 A favourite way of annoying the Berberis is to repeat the saying, “we have eaten the clean, we have eaten the unclean,” — meaning, that they are by no means cunning in the difference between right and wrong, pure and impure. I will relate the origin of the saying, as I heard it differently, from Mansfield Parkyns, (Life in Abyssinia, chap. 31.) A Berberi, said my informant, had been carefully fattening a fine sheep for a feast, when his cottage was burned by an accident. In the ashes he found roasted meat, which looked tempting to a hungry man: he called his neighbours, and all sat down to make merry over the mishap; presently they came to the head, which proved to be that of a dog, some enemy having doubtless stolen the sheep and put the impure animal in its place. Whereupon, sadly perplexed, all the Berberis went to their priest, and dolefully related the circumstance, expecting absolution, as the offence was involuntary. “You have eaten filth,” said the man of Allah. “Well,” replied the Berberis, falling upon him with their fists, “filth or not, we have eaten it.” The Berberi, I must remark, is the “Paddy” of this part of the world, celebrated for bulls and blunders.
25 The generic name given by Indians to English officials.
26 There are four kinds of tobacco smoked in Egypt. The first and best is the well-known Latakia, generally called “Jabali,” either from a small seaport town about three hours’ journey south of Latakia, or more probably because grown on the hills near the ancient Laodicea. Pure, it is known by its blackish colour, fine shredding, absence of stalk, and an undescribable odour, to me resembling that of creosote; the leaf, too, is small, so that when made into cigars it must be covered over with a slip of the yellow Turkish tobacco called Bafra. Except at the highest houses unadulterated Latakia is not to be had in Cairo. Yet, mixed as it is, no other growth exceeds it in flavour and fragrance. Miss Martineau smoked it, we are told, without inconvenience, and it differs from our Shag, Bird’s-eye, and Returns, in degree, as does Chateau Margeau from a bottle of cheap strong Spanish wine. To bring out its flavour, the connoisseur smokes it in long pipes of cherry, jasmine, maple, or rosewood, and these require a servant skilled in the arts of cleaning and filling them. The best Jabali at Cairo costs about seven piastres the pound; after which a small sum must be paid to the Farram or chopper, who prepares it for use.
2nd. Suri (Tyrian), or Shami, or Suryani, grown in Syria, an inferior growth, of a lighter colour than Latakia, and with a greenish tinge; when cut, its value is about three piastres per pound. Some smokers mix this leaf with Jabali, which, to my taste, spoils the flavour of the latter without improving the former. The strongest kind, called Korani or Jabayl, is generally used for cigarettes; it costs, when of first-rate quality, about five piastres per pound.
3rd. Tumbak, or Persian tobacco, called Hijazi, because imported from the Hijaz, where everybody smokes it, and supposed to come from Shiraz, Kazerun, and other celebrated places in Persia. It is all but impossible to buy this article unadulterated, except from the caravans returning after the pilgrimage. The Egyptians mix it with native growths, which ruins its flavour and gives it an acridity that “catches the throat,” whereas good tumbak never yet made a man cough. Yet the taste of this tobacco, even when second-rate, is so fascinating to some smokers that they will use no other. To be used it should be wetted and squeezed, and it is invariably inhaled through water into the lungs: almost every town has its favourite description of pipe, and these are of all kinds, from the pauper’s rough cocoa-nut mounted with two reeds, to the prince’s golden bowl set with the finest stones. Tumbak is cheap, costing about four piastres a pound, but large quantities of it are used.
4th. Hummi, as the word signifies, a “hot” variety of the tumbak, grown in Al-Yaman and other countries. It is placed in the tile on the buri or cocoa-nut pipe, unwetted, and has a very acrid flavour. Being supposed to produce intoxication, or rather a swimming in the head, hummi gives its votaries a bad name: respectable men would answer “no” with rage if asked whether they are smoking it, and when a fellow tells you that he has seen better days, but that now he smokes Hummi in a buri, you understand him that his misfortunes have affected either his brain or his morality. Hence it is that this tobacco is never put into pipes intended for smoking the other kinds. The price of Hummi is about five piastres per pound.
27 A study essential to the learned, as in some particular portions of the Koran a mispronunciation becomes a sin.
28 The Shafe’i, to quote but one point of similarity, abuse Yazid, the Syrian tyrant, who caused the death of the Imam Husayn: this expression of indignation is forbidden by the Hanafi doctors, who rigidly order their disciples to “judge not.”
29 A systematic concealment of doctrine, and profession of popular tenets, technically called by the Shi’ahs “Takiyah:” the literal meaning of the word is “fear,” or “caution.”
30 One of the most esteemed chapters of the Koran, frequently recited as a Wazifah or daily task by religious Moslems in Egypt.
31 The Mastabah here is a long earthen bench plastered over with clay, and raised about two feet from the ground, so as to bring the purchaser’s head to a level with the shop. Mohammed Ali ordered the people to remove them, as they narrowed the streets; their place is now supplied by “Kafas,” cages or stools of wicker-work.
32 A great age in Lower Egypt, where but few reach the 12th lustre. Even the ancients observed that the old Egyptians, despite their attention to diet and physic, were the most short-lived, and the Britons, despite their barbarism, the longest lived of men.
33 This is the “imposition” of Oxford and Cambridge.
34 The Hammam, or hot bath, being a kind of religious establishment, is one of the class of things — so uncomfortably numerous in Eastern countries — left ’ala jud’ak, “to thy generosity.” Consequently, you are pretty sure to have something disagreeable there, which you would vainly attempt to avoid by liberality. The best way to deal with all such extortioners, with the Lawingi (undresser) of a Cairo Hammam, or the “jarvey” of a London Hansom, is to find out the fare, and never to go beyond it — never to be generous. The Hammam has been too often noticed to bear another description: one point, however, connected with it I must be allowed to notice. Mr. Lane (Modern Egyptians) asserts that a Moslem should not pray nor recite the Koran in it, as the bath is believed to be a favourite resort of Jinnis (or genii). On the contrary, it is the custom of some sects to recite a Ruk’atayn (two-bow) prayer immediately after religious ablution in the hot cistern. This, however, is makruh, or improper without being sinful, to the followers of Abu Hanifah. As a general rule, throughout Al-Islam, the Farz (obligatory) prayers may be recited everywhere, no matter how impure the place may be: but those belonging to the classes sunnat (traditionary) and nafilah (supererogatory) are makruh, though not actually unlawful, in certain localities. I venture this remark on account of the extreme accuracy of the work referred to. A wonderful contrast to the generality of Oriental books, it amply deserves a revision in the rare places requiring care.
35 Europeans so seldom see the regular old Shaykh, whose place is now taken by polite young men educated in England or France, that this scene may be new even to those who have studied of late years on the banks of the Nile.
36 This word is often used to signify simply “yes.” It is corrupted from Ay wa’llahi, “Yes, by Allah.” In pure Arabic “ay” or “I” is synonymous with our “yes” or “ay”; and “Allah” in those countries enters somehow into every other phrase.
37 This is, of course, ironical: “Allah be praised for creating such a prodigy of learning as thou art!”
38 The larger the turband the greater are the individual’s pretensions to religious knowledge and respectability of demeanour. This is the custom in Egypt, Turkey, Persia, and many other parts of the Moslem world.
39 Ya gad’a, as the Egyptians pronounce it, is used exactly like the “mon brave” of France, and our “my good man.”
40 The “mountain” in Egypt and Arabia is what the “jungle” is in India. When informed that “you come from the mountain,” you understand that you are considered a mere clodhopper: when asserting that you will “sit upon the mountain,” you hint to your hearers an intention of turning anchorite or magician.
41 Ya hu, a common interpellative, not, perhaps, of the politest description.
42 A religious formula used when compelled to mention anything abominable or polluting to the lips of a pious man.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06