Page images

life was impossible without mechanically produced music or mechanically removed dust.

The Egyptian servant always looks well. He is, if a Mohammedan, clean and well-shaven. I prefer him simply in a spotless white galabeah with a scarlet tarboosh and sash, but admit that he is a sumptuous-looking person when attired in a rich silk galabeah, or fine cloth breeches and bolero.

When you lunch or dine out with residents, you are struck by the dignity and orderliness of their households in the hands of native menservants.

The footman is, I should say, not so rich in humours as the man-housemaid, who is the Egyptian servant that I know best, in his capacity of cabin-steward or hotel bedroom boy.

At one hotel I found Hassan polishing the floor with the Wren's paste I had taken out for cleaning my brown boots. It acted so well that, coming into my bedroom with a loaded tea-tray, he slid over on its glassy surface, and spoilt it with scalding tea and broken china.

Huntley & Palmer's biscuits are his greatest comfort. He does not have to waste his afternoons in cutting thin bread-and-butter, because the Anglo-Egyptian puts up with biscuits for afternoon tea. And if the tourist wishes to have breakfast uncomfortably early, he has not to hunt up the baker, and get the butter off the ice; he simply produces biscuits.

He can clean boots well : he is noted for the resplendence of his own. But he often kills two birds with one stone by leaving yours uncleaned. The hotel people, he says, will not give him any stuff to clean them with. You either expostulate with the manager, or, if you are idle, give him money to buy some.

He avoids blame, and lays up a store of nugget, black or brown, for his own use, or sells it back to the shop.

That is one of his ways of getting bakshish. He is not so ill-mannered as to ask for it, and is politely grateful for the smallest mercies in this direction.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

“ G

ENTLEMEN," said the Governor of Damietta, “al

ways live in flats or hotels. The other class live in pensions sometimes." I asked him what he meant by the other class. He said, “Oh, clerks, and people in shops." They too, of course, live for the most part in cheaper houses and flats, though the number of pensions is growing in Egypt now, and gentlemen, when they are married, often have houses, and not flats. The Governor's enunciation therefore comes down to this, that the well-off young man who is not married would not like to be seen at a pension. The Governor forgot the man who lives at the club; but there is not accommodation for very many, though a great many take their meals there by contract.

At the Turf Club at Cairo, which is the most popular in Egypt, a man can have a bedroom and board, including everything but drinks and washing, for £12 a month. And he can have all his meals there, without a bedroom, for £6 a month.

Living in Egypt is decidedly expensive. Ten pounds in London is equal to twenty pounds in Cairo on a small salary, but five hundred a year in England is not equal to a thousand a year in Egypt. A young engineer I knew, who had eleven pounds a month when he left England, began at thirty pounds a month in Egypt. But the unfortunate clerk, who gets eight pounds a month in England, might not get more than twelve pounds in Egypt, where high pay only goes with positions of responsibility. A clerkship is not considered a

responsible position, because Copts make good clerks; they have wonderful heads for figures, and most Egyptians are very neat in matters like keeping books and doing maps.

It is not possible to economise in Egypt by going without, because the essentials are among the costly items, except a few things like tea—you can get good tea for a shilling a pound. The young man thinks Egypt a cheap place, because he saves on liquors and cigarettes ; White Seal Buchanan whisky only costs 25. 6d. a bottle in a bar, and only 10 piastres (25. id.) in a shop; and the cigarettes for which you pay 35. a hundred in Egypt would cost twice or three times the amount in England. You can buy cigarettes in Cairo as low as ten a penny.

But living is cheaper than it was. Houses which had a rent of £750 two years ago have a rent of £500 now. And the rent of the small flats in the Insurance Buildings has gone down from £250 to £100. The trams to Heliopolis-that is, to the Skeleton City-have also made a difference, for they have added a cheap suburb there to the suburbs like Zeitoun on the Pont Limoun Railway. Residents always say that no white people can use a tram except to Heliopolis or the Pyramids. But tourists fond of sightseeing do not stand upon this kind of ceremony; they find them very useful when once they have learned where there is likely to be a block. It is prudent to board the tram on the far side of the sticky point, or you may have a quarter of an hour's free use of the tram as a waiting-room.

Residents, however little they may be able to afford it, certainly do use cabs for everything; and this soon mounts up, though cabs, before the recent rise in fares, were cheap,three piastres (7d.) for a two-horse cab, if the distance was less than a kilometre, and five piastres (1s.) for any longer distance in the city. For short distances the cabman would often bargain for two piastres with a foreign, i.e. nonBritish resident; and the Egyptians certainly pay lower rates, for Ali, my humble dragoman, always used to say to me, when I came out of the bazars and wanted a cab, “Let me get cab for you, then you no pay more than three

piastres "—that meant three piastres from the bazars to the Continental Hotel.

The arabeah-driver, the Cairo cabby, is not discontented with his fares for driving by the course in the town, but if you have him by the hour it is wise to make your bargain. He dislikes driving by the hour unless he is going to be standing still all the time, while you are shopping or paying a call; and you most decidedly need to bargain if you are driving outside the town, because there is no fixed tariff for that Generally, however, if you employ the same man often, he is equitable without your having to make a bargain every time. For the poor Egyptian is a pleasant man to deal with; he likes to be obliging and popular. These qualities are so usual that they are almost hereditary in him.

If you know that a cabby is overcharging you badly, or he is impudent, you jump in again, and tell him to drive you to the nearest police-station. He is compelled to do this by law, and afraid to defy the law. Ramidge did this after driving about half the morning; he was astonished at the result. He was told not to pay the cabman anything, and the licence was taken away. The police are severe with cabmen, and it is necessary, as the cabbies drive at a gallop and don't mind running over anybody or anything. They call out "Ouah riglak!"-mind your legs and that is enough. As the Egyptian policeman said: “Your legs are on your own head if you fail to get out of the way.”

But the police are not so stern with dogs. For the impounding of stray dogs, they are provided with a combination of the pitchfork and the lasso. They never appear to see large unmuzzled dogs, that look as bad as wolves : they go for the ladies' pet dogs—an operation without danger, with a thirty-piastre ransom (six shillings) at the end of it. When I first went to Egypt, a pessimistic person, who had been many years in the country, and whom I was pumping for information, said: “You have spoken about society, and rent, and Sir Ernest Cassel-is there anything else in Egypt?" "I don't know," I said ; "I have only been in the country twenty-four hours." He had been terse in his esti



(p. 44

« PreviousContinue »