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suppose the fact was that the Pharaohs were the undertakers of architecture, whose attention was entirely given to funeral arrangements; and bridges were no use for tombs of the very private nature, which they found necessary in consequence of the incorrigible thievery of the Egyptians for the last seven thousand years. Seriously, as the Island of Elephantine takes up most of the channel, Assuan would be a very easy place to build a bridge, and would double its population and its valuation by so doing. Floods do not present an insuperable obstacle, in an age which has witnessed the construction of the Great Dam.
The shops of Assuan are not varied. There are postcard sellers, who also sell and develop photographs, stock kodakfilms, and deal in ostrich feathers, and silver-gilt modern imitations of mummy jewellery. If you walked down the front you would think that nearly every shop belonged to the Eastman Company; you get so tired of the word kodak. Besides shops for postcards and kodaks, there are a chemist or two and a few Greek grocers, who are also tinkers and ironmongers. And of course there is an office of Thomas Cook & Son. Cook is a sort of consul for the whole world in an Egyptian city. In Egypt distances are reckoned from Cook's office instead of from the English church.
The shops do not really signify; the bazar which lies at the back of them is so much more entertaining. It was here that my artist friend used to buy the tins of condensed milk, which he carried open in his pocket to the Greek café, where he had his afternoon tea. You can buy any humble grocery or tinkery in the bazar. Natives are so fond of the kind of things that you buy in sixpenny-halfpenny shops that one half of the bazar is entirely given up to them; the prevalence of the portrait of the German Emperor on tin mugs and toilet powder-boxes indicates their origin. The native of Egypt has not got beyond the “present from Brighton" stage. A workbox with Muriel written on the lid in shells would enchant him. The other half of the bazar is fascinating. It is full of the most audacious frauds in the land of lies; of the most blatant rubbish, which the East
manufactures for the West, or quite as often the West secretly manufactures for the East to sell to foreign tourists. The principal imports of Assuan from Birmingham are Abyssinian spears and maces and battle-axes. They are not so popular with tourists as the home-made weapons of the Berberinecrooked knives with orange handles and crocodile-skin cases, and that sort of thing. Great numbers of visitors are expected to buy stuffed crocodiles, which are really of no use to you anywhere, except in Egypt, where they are handy to deposit on the shoals of the Nile when you are taking kodaks. I don't see why the various companies of tourist steamers should not combine to decorate the shoals of the Nile in suitable localities, when the inundation begins to go down, something in the manner of a harvest festival. There are no stuffed hippopotami in the bazar, but there are enough hippopotamus-hide sticks to have used up hundreds of hippos.
Beads take the place of postcards in the Assuan bazar. If it is a low Nile for tourists they are not left on the vendors' hands—the natives of Nubia consume so many of them. They are made chiefly in England or Germany; but there is this to be said for them : that they are made to suit the native taste, and have been thoroughly naturalised as an article of native apparel. The more preposterous they are the better the natives like them, and the better chance they have of being sold to tourists as a product of the Sudan. Beads as big as the corks used for fishing-nets, of bright yellow zigzagged with gilt, top the market ; but the dealers have them of all colours, made of opaque glass, which they always declare to be real stones, though they are quite beyond the capacity of Nature to produce. These are what they sell in the obvious shops; but in the humbler and more retired shops a woman can buy all sorts of delightful necklaces, made by natives for natives, at any price above a piastre or two. Small, cheap beads manufactured in England can be made to assume charming combinations, when they are strung in twins on fine thongs of gazelle hide. You can buy them in certain exquisite colours-dusk-blue, laurel-green, maise
yellow, and pomegranate-juice red-for Nubians often show beautiful taste in the decoration of their persons and their house-fronts. The beads of native manufacture are fascinating. For a shilling I bought a necklace of roughly polished agates, round, the size of peas, and the colour of old amber. You could not buy it for a pound in England, even if you were able to find a shop which had one. Among the most covetable are the great cylindrical beads of opaque amber—the colour of the yolk of a duck's egg, and the long silver beads shaped like shuttles, worn smooth with being handed down from mother to daughter on the banks of the Nubian Nile.
Nubians do not like a necklace to match. They have a few big amber beads for luck and to give it a tone, some silver ones to break the masses of colour, some egg-shaped agates, some blue mummy beads, a carved ivory cylinder stolen from an ancient tomb, a boar's tusk, a lion's claw, an elephant's tooth-any other raree ; and they often fasten them at the back with a bit of tarnished gold lace off an officer's epaulette.
In the more typical shops, as soon as a woman starts buying necklaces, the oily proprietor tries to lure her into buying something more expensive, which he asserts to be especially cheap in Egypt-turquoises or peridots, or lapis-lazuli, the last for a choice, because it need not be real. I had a most amusing episode in connection with a lapis-lazuli necklace at Assuan. There was an American literary man on board the boat with us, who had made a huge success with comic opera, and was scattering his shekels. His wife started buying necklaces; I think she began with a sandal-wood necklace at two piastres, and progressed first, in the hands of the artful Egyptian, to a two-shilling necklace of blue mummy beads without any little gods attached to them. It is well to whet the appetite of the purchaser with cheapness. Then he offered her a lapis-lazuli necklace of a charming colour for eight pounds. With infinite patience she and her husband beat him down to four.
I am such an old hand at buying curios that I generally
impress my companions on a voyage in this capacity. The dramatist brought me his wife's bargain in triumph.
“ How much did you give for it?" I asked. "Four pounds," he said. “ You think it's real, don't you ?” he asked. “No; I don't. For if it was real it would be worth forty pounds. And the Jew you bought it of knows what lapis beads are worth by weight. Lapis of a certain colour has a fixed value, below which a dealer will never go." "Don't it look real ?” he asked. “At first glance, yes. But let me look into it, because it must be sham at the price you paid.” “Well, look into it," he said, rather crossly.
I did not have far to look, for the string on which it was strung had taken the dye between the beads, and the borings of the beads had not taken it, because they were filled up with string. That white string with its blue rings was damning. The dramatist took it back to the Jew. "I'll give you a hundred pounds if it isn't real,” said the Jew. “Don't do that,” said the American, “but give me back the four pounds right now, if you don't want me to go to the police." "I'm not afraid of you're going to the police," said the Jew grandly. " But here's your money if you think you've made a bad bargain." "I think I've made a very bad bargain," said my friend, who was the gritty kind of American. “ I'm making you take the thing back, because it's a bad swindle. Don't you make any mistake about it." The Jew shrugged his shoulders and said : “Oh, well, here's your money." My reputation as a curio-buyer went up with such a rush that I believe I could have made a handsome sum out of commissions in buying for my fellow-passengers, if I had wanted to.
The golden rule of curio-buying, always to go to the wrong shop, holds good at Assuan. There are several shops where you pay extravagantly for hippopotamus-hide sticks or stuffed crocodiles and other staple articles, at which you can buy Pharaonic, Roman, and Coptic antiquities for a song. They know the market price of hippic and crocodilic articles, but they know nothing about the sprinkling of antiquities they sell, which have been brought in to them by country people, and purchased for practically nothing. One often gets
bargains in Coptic antiquities at Assuan. One used to buy beautiful mediæval inscriptions from the Arab cemetery, but the authorities have stopped this trafficking in tombstones. You do not get bargains in Sudanese jewellery here like you do at Luxor. It is all in the hands of the big dealers. But one of the small jewellers, who work over a single ember of charcoal at Assuan, tried a new kind of swindle with me. The amount concerned was not large; it was two piastres. He begged me to buy a woman's forehead ornament-it was a hideous thing I did not want it and I did not think it cheap. It was made of gilt brass. But I bought it to please him. Half an hour afterwards he came to me with a policeman and said that it belonged to a customer ; that I must take the money back.
“ All right," I said, and handed him the jewel and took the money. “Did you give him that money ?” asked the policeman, “because it is bad." "No," I said, “I gave him a two-piastre piece, and he has brought me back four small piastres.” So the whole business was a new expedient for passing bad money on one. The policeman made him give me good money, and, if he was like any other Egyptian policeman, probably made the jeweller give him some good money too. The chief of all the commandments in Egypt is the eleventh, “Thou shalt not be found out.”
There is another and far more interesting piece of the bazar behind Neufeldt's house. It lacks the gaiety and audacity of the other part, which is hung with every kind of preposterous theatrical "property” which can be passed off on the wealthy American as Oriental. Sham armour of the Crusaders, sham Abyssinian weapons, sham plunder from the tombs of Ancient Egypt, European beads, tinsel made in Germany, anything which is garish and showy, and only fit for an Oriental bazar in musical comedy, is laid under contribution for the centre of the bazar. But, away at the northern end Africa asserts itself. After about half a inile of the shops, where the native deals for his futile tinkery and turnery and haberdashery, one comes to the Bisharin bazar, where the real business is the sale of barbaric grain. This is almost like a bit of Omdurman, conducted