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anything you buy first-hand in the Jewellers' Bazar is expensive, because, as the native women make a bank of their jewellery, and put as much value into it as they can, the more it costs by weight the better they like it.
Rings, on the other hand, earrings, charms, and other small objects, often of great beauty and quaintness, can be bought very cheaply second-hand, except in the Turkish Bazar, where they take advantage of the ignorance of tourists. The proper place to go for them is some shop like that kept by the Assuan Turk, at the end of the Tentmakers' Bazar, which is farthest away from the Bab-es-Zuweyla. At Assuan there are many Turks, descendants of a former garrison.
I need not say that one pays ten times as much for such rings, and so on, when one buys them in the shops opposite the Savoy Hotel, and a great deal too much in the more moderate shop opposite Shepheard's. These are not the class of things to buy from European experts. If you want to buy the necklace of an Egyptian queen, or a crystal mosque lamp of the Middle Ages, you must go to a man whose written guarantee is worth having, and who would very likely charge you less than the crafty native, rich enough and well enough trained to go in for this costly line of business.
Ordinary antiquities from the tombs of ancient Egyptlittle gods and other statuettes, amulets, mummy beads, canopic jars and pottery, mummy cases, various bronzes, and silver coins (and scarabs on the rare occasions when the authorities sell any), are best bought at the Cairo Museum. They are far cheaper there, and they have the guarantee of the authorities, which would be accepted anywhere.
If you are not well off, the best way of buying scarabs is not to buy any, unless you are with an expert who is examining a find. Then buy the scarabs which are beneath his lordly contempt at the price fixed by his withering scorn. They will at any rate be genuine ; and you cannot expect to buy precious scarabs at reasonable prices, unless you have the requisite knowledge. In this requisite knowledge there are three items which take a very long time to acquire-a knowledge of hieroglyphics sufficient to read the scarabs, a
knowledge from catalogues of the market price of the variety of scarab you have before you, and a hawk's eye to tell if it is genuine or a fake.
If you are not rich, and are not buying to sell again, it is a golden rule only to buy curios as ornaments for the house or the person. Then you do not launch out because you think you have a bargain, because you think you are taking advantage of the ignorance of the vendor, whereas it is ten to one that he is taking advantage of your ignorance with a deep-laid trap. Then you only say to yourself," Is that bit of blue worth three shillings to me as a joy for ever on the mantelpiece of my Moorish room? Would that cunningly wrought charm fascinate me to the extent of five shillings, whenever I saw it hanging from the slender gold chain around my wife's neck ?”
As I have said, if you go the right way about it, certain precious stones, such as turquoises, can be bought very cheap in Cairo; and the Arabs make admirable perfumes, essences like otto of roses, but not equal to the essences of Tunis ; and the perfume-sellers are the greatest cheats in the whole bazar. You simply cannot buy scent without some one who knows the proper prices. You do not need to buy scent in the bazar, because, as there is only a very low duty on scents in Cairo, you can get the scents of the best English and French makers nearly fifty per cent. cheaper than in England.
While in Upper Egypt, Sudanese silverware, ancient Egyptian articles from tombs, and table lace, are the prizes to look out for.
The Indians who have shops in Assuan and Luxor have nice things and are content with a large fixed profit. But they keep nothing for the bargain-hunter. They sell things mostly new, like lace, embroideries, stuffs, and silverware. It is to the little shops in the bazars that you must go to find treasure-troves, and they are not easy to find. I have written about the Assuan Bazar in my chapters on the Winter City. The Luxor Bazar is neither so well known, so attractive, nor so picturesque. It has just two or three humble shops kept by genuine traders, as well as some clever dealers, who prey on the unsuspecting tourist, and one antiquity
dealer of world-wide fame who used to be a dragoman and now buys for the British Museum. He is not cheap but he is honest. His profits are not inordinate as the profits of knowing ones go, and he sells genuine things and can tell you what they are—a sufficiently rare quality in the Luxor antiquity dealer. One of the best tests of the rapacity of dealers is to ask them the price of the drachmæ of Alexander the Great, which they all have for sale, because they are so numerous. The Cairo Museum price is three shillings; if an excavator wants to buy one for any reason he does not pay more than two shillings. If a dealer asks you five shillings or upwards for an ordinary drachma of Alexander which is not in very fine condition, you know that you must take about forty per cent. off his other prices, which he pretends are fixed. But in the little honest dealer's shop near the Luxor Hotel you can buy second-hand Sudanese jewellery at the price of silver. The massive silver bracelets, for instance, with a knob at each end and a knob at the back of the wrist, which nearly every Sudanese woman wears, would cost you four shillings. They are hollow, of course, but quite thick. Sudanese rings, sometimes very old and of a fascinating filagree, cost about a shilling. Old silver earrings, looking like ancient Roman brooches without their pins, generally chased with antique patterns, cost only two or three shillings a pair. Besides these, you can buy at their proper value silver Mohammedan charms, Nubian necklaces, turquoise rings, and the like. But the last you can get in Cairo as good and cheap as anywhere. If you want to buy little museum things from ancient Egyptian tombs, the kinds I have mentioned above, you would only get them cheap at small antiquity stalls, which have dealings with the fellahin, who find them and do not do much business with foreigners.
There is another class of antiquity dealer at Luxor who should be more interesting to the police than any one else, because it is through these people that valuable antiquities stolen from the tombs are sold to rich foreigners. They would not be easy to catch, because the more important pieces shown in their shops are mostly fakes. Their dishonesty is
double-edged, for they not only sell stolen goods, but imitations of stolen goods, whenever they get the chance. If the police raided them they would only find, and very likely would be well paid only to find, imitations. But extremely valuable things are to be bought from them occasionally by rich collectors. Their exhibits, where they would have any value if they were genuine, are generally of the most unblushing order-regiments of wooden soldiers or soul-boats supposed to have been made at the same time as the Sheikh el-Beled in the Cairo Museum, or great gilt mummy-cases, or necklaces and bracelets which are supposed to have belonged to Rameses the Great's very large family,
I should not mention these spiders of the river-bank near the Winter Palace in a chapter addressed to the economical buyer were it not that they keep the pot boiling by the sale, at extravagant prices, of small antiquities and novelties to the gaping tourist. You will never get anything from them of a fair quality or at a fair price.
The most fascinating of all bargaining in Egypt is when you are voyaging on Cook's steamers through Nubia. The guileless Nubian wishes to sell you anything he or she possesses. Having money at all is a new idea to them, dating from the establishment of Cook's steamers, and you can see native jewellery to much better advantage on the necks and arms and legs and fingers and ears and noses of the people whose custom it is to wear these ornaments than you can in any curio shop. They cost you rather more than they do in that little curio shop by the Luxor Hotel, but you are having models to show them off in the style of Lucille and Paquin. I never tried to buy their clothes-nobody would think of buying a Nubian's clothes, off her person, but I have bought the amulet looking like a cabman's badge from her baby's neck, as well as bracelets and rings and earrings and necklaces. The Nubians, who are a most comely people, take evident pleasure in the bargaining, which can only be done by showing them the money you offer for each article. The fascination of buying the Nubian's finery seriously interferes with the adequate examination of Nubian temples.
THE LIFE AND CITIES OF THE NILE: FROM
ALEXANDRIA TO ASSUAN
Landing at Alexandria
ANDING at Alexandria is like landing yourself in a
bunker. It is worse than landing at Marseilles ; much worse than landing at Tunis. Naples is a joke to it. Here on the threshold of his country, the Egyptian commences the sacrifice of the goose which lays the golden egg.
Egypt, having a population of eleven million people who can live on nothing; Egypt, a nation of born valets and born cooks; Egypt, which has water-carriage from Alexandria to Khartûm; Egypt, which, wherever it has water, is three or four times as productive as other countries, ought to be as cheap to live in as Italy.
If Egypt was as cheap as Italy, half the English who live in Italy and the Riviera would go to Cairo, Luxor, and Assuan. The English people who live abroad, mainly in pensions, because they have not enough to live on in England, would all, instead of none of them, go to Egypt; for Egypt is the only place where you can be decently warm in winter without a fire.
How wise the Italian is! He knows that if a man, and more especially a woman, can get pension at his own pricebe it five, seven, ten, or twelve francs a day--he will allow himself to be pillaged in any other direction, smiling. In Italy you pay almost every time you enter a door; you can hardly ask a question without tipping some one. Italy is only cheap if you go without any luggage, and see nothing when you get there, except the views and the streets