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When Ramidge came back from England, he could not find him; he must have been in prison, or he would have found Ramidge. Egyptians always know everybody's business, and have a sort of general information bureau among themselves about foreigners.
One day I was going out to the Pyramids. When I got to the tramway an Egyptian came up to me. He said: " Your friend has not arrived yet.” I didn't know the man from Adam. But he was quite correct: I was expecting the friend whom he described, and who had been to the Pyramids with me once, a good many weeks earlier. I had been to Khartûm and back in the interval.
Belsize, another friend of ours, had an admirable Berberine servant, who simply ruled him. He would not allow him to use the stick which Ramidge had given him, because he did not think that it was up to his form. It did not signify that Belsize had chosen it himself at Ramidge's invitation. Zogby did not approve of it; that was enough.
Berberine servants have likes and dislikes in other matters beside walking-canes, about which they are very particular. A Berberine will buy a cane and a pair of lemon-coloured kid boots before he has enough to eat-in Cairo. They adore good looks, and especially fair, bright English colouring. We had two friends whom I shall call Berkeley and Perkins. Berkeley, a blue-eyed giant, was one of the best-looking men in Cairo. Perkins also was a very nice-looking man, but he had not the same scenic effects to the Berberine eye. They lived together. Perkins was very gentle with their Berberine; Berkeley threw the eggs at him if they were not sufficiently cooked, or opened the teapot and shook its contents over him when he made the tea with lukewarm water. Suffragis wear washing dresses, so his clothes were not damaged. That might have hurt him. As it was, he adored Berkeley, and would have licked the blacking off his boots if he had not thought it more adulatory to put all Perkins's blacking on Berkeley's boots.
It is best to have only one servant. He does everything : he caters for you and makes money out of that; he cooks
if necessary; he valets you and he keeps the house tidy. Sudanese servants are excellent; Egyptians are sometimes faithful ; Berberines will always sell any one when they are grown up, though they are quite decent when they are very young. If you have more than one Egyptian servant he always leaves things to the other.
There is one respect in which Cairo servants are not so bad as their rivals in Upper Egypt. They do not put hashish, which makes the smoker simply silly, into their cigarettes.
When you are going to take rooms or a house, it is quite useless to go to an agent; you must go round the town and look about for yourself. If you know the ropes, you hire your servant before you hire your house, just as the Japanese always begin a house by building the roof. The reason of this is that the Egyptian servant has a perfect genius for finding fault with anything that you are going to hire or going to buy. Make him examine everything in it, and point out its faults. It may take something off the rent, and you hear his objections beforehand.
The house is always a little worse than the house you occupied before, even if he has never seen it. He prefers you to take a house of eight rooms and leave most of them unfurnished rather than take a house of three rooms and furnish them well. He has to make face before his fellow servants. While the land-boom was on, the result was disastrous. But now that so many people have been ruined, and so many others have gone out of the town to Zeitoun, and the Skeleton City, and other suburbs, and Cairo is so overbuilt, a bachelor can get a self-contained flat from £4 a month, even in Savoy Chambers, the huge building near the Savoy Hotel opposite the Bourse, and he can take it by the month, though a year before he would have had to pay £12 to £18 a month under all sorts of restrictions. Nearly all the flats have the electric light, and the charge is not outrageous, though the company has a monopoly. Nearly all the new flats have been built with fireplaces but without telephones, which does not signify so much as it might, if you cannot speak Arabic, because the person who comes to the telephone
when you ring any one up is generally an Egyptian or a Berberine, who cannot speak any European language. Flat life is greatly on the increase among Greeks and other lower-class nations. They take a lodger for one or two rooms, and make him pay the whole rent, and live in the rest.
Nearly every suffragi in Cairo is a Berberine. They have a club. It paid 64 per cent. the first year, but it was joined more by educated Copts. Berberines are not liable to conscription; they have always been immune; it is said on the ground of their loyalty at the time of the first Sudan trouble. That is not the Berberine's idea as to the cause of his immunity. He is so vain that he really believes that it is because people are afraid that, if the Berberines were got together in one regiment, not a force in the world could stand against them, and that every decent-looking girl in the country would want to marry one of them. It is a common thing, they say, for a Berberine to snatch the rifle out of the hand of a chief, and twist it until it is of no further use. One wonders what kind of chief goes about carrying a rifle for Berberines to snatch.
The Berberines apparently make good use of their club. Every Berberine in Cairo knows every other one, and he helps to support that other if he is out of work. At irregular intervals the Government arrests all the Berberines in Cairo who are out of employment, and ships them back to their own country on the banks of the Nile, between Assuan and Wady Halfa.
Suffragis in Cairo generally wear white galabeahs with red tarbooshes, but particular people prefer a white turban, very big, to a tarboosh, for real blacks. Every servant until he discovers that his master knows the etiquette, tries to go about in a white knitted skull-cap: it is a distinct lack of respect if he comes before his master in this. The tall brown felt tarboosh is worn only by prisoners, common fellahin, and ghaffirs. Hotel servants and servants on Cook's boats wear
nart red sashes like belts; in the Sudan these are never worn by servants at breakfast-time. Red slippers are worn with very pointed toes, much too long, as the Egyptian does
not turn his slippers down at the heel like a Tunisian. He prefers to wear ridiculous boots of fancy colours, pale lemon predominating, though often with sky-blue or silver-grey tops. But few employers allow this on account of the noise. Ramidge's servant, Mustapha, who was a very small boy, wishing to be very grand, begged a pair of old shootingboots from him.
Another flower of Berberine conversation which I heard was that the erection of the Assuan Dam was the greatest mistake Lord Cromer ever made ; that it was erected to swamp two Berberine villages, to which servants, whom he disliked, belonged. No lie about the English is too big or too foolish for the Egyptian to believe. Ramidge once had a camera fastened to the back of a donkey. The donkey had the usual boy with it. When Ramidge wanted to use the camera, he found that the roll of films had been turned right round till it was all used up. The boy said he had seen the donkey biting at the saddle, and it must have caught the handle for turning the films in its teeth.
When Ramidge was living at an old villa near Matariyeh his servant told him one day that three men had been murdered the previous night in the road between the villa and the station, two by robbers and one by an afrit. He begged Ramidge never to send him to the station again by night. He had himself seen no fewer than seven afrits in one night, while he was coming back late. Ramidge discovered from the police that there never had been a murder on that road, though they could not be sure about the afrit. An Egyptian will believe anything in the way of a superstition.
Egyptian suffragis are always threatening their masters with the law-courts. Mustapha II., a Berberine, threatened to take Ramidge into court when he was going to beat him for not washing a meshrebiya screen as he had been ordered. Ramidge put the beating off till he could lose his temper. He only had to put it off till the next morning when he was waiting for the tea he was in the habit of drinking before he got up. He had to wait so long that he went to look for