May 5, 2012

Cries in the Market, 1844 | Walking Through Egypt

Cries in the Market, 1844
Edward Lane

Egyptian Market

Bread, vegetables, and a variety of eatables are carried about for sale. The cries of some of the hawkers are curious, and deserve to be mentioned. The seller of tirmis (or lupins) often cries, “Aid! O Imbabee! Aid!” This is understood in two senses as an invocation for aid to the sheyk Imbabeh (in the village from which the best tirmis is grown) and also implying that it is through the aid of [this] saint that the tirmis of Imbabeh is so excellent. . . . The seller of sour limes cries, “God make them light (or easy of sale)! O limes!” ... A curious cry of the seller of a kind of sweetmeat (halaweh) composed of treacle fried with some other ingredients is “For a nail! O sweetmeat!” indicating that children and servants often steal implements of iron etc from the house in which they live, and give them to him in exchange for his sweetmeat. The hawker of oranges cries, “Honey! O oranges! Honey!”. . . A very singular cry is used by the seller of roses: “The rose was a thorn; from the sweat of the Prophet it blossomed.” This alludes to a miracle related to the Prophet. The fragrant flowers of the henna-tree (or Egyptian privet) are carried about for sale, and the seller cries. “Odours of paradise! O flowers of the henna!”

Cries in the Streets, 1970
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
Was I lonely? Yes, I admitted to myself, I was, a bit. Being a mother and a sitt took a little getting used to, after my years as a career girl, a working wife and a companion-helper to my husband in his research. I sat there in unaccustomed leisure, and while the children shouted on the swings and the nannies scolded them and wiped their noses and kept them out of the drinking fountain and gossiped, the lush produce of the Delta and the services of the city were hawked along the street and carried up and down the back stairs of the apartment houses fronting the ganeena.

“Crazy tomatoes! Jewels! Jewels!” Yes, the tomato peddler came and the lettuce vendors, crying “Khass! Khass! Fresh lettuce!” for although open-air markets, grocery stores and government food cooperatives are found throughout Cairo, the individual peddlers still make the rounds, hoping for a tiny profit on a barrow of produce, bought early in the morning on the outskirts of the city from the carts arriving from the countryside.

Onions, potatoes, radishes (“Fiji! Fiji!”), garlands of garlic, braces of pigeons, crates of live chickens, tiny eggs in grass baskets were offered for sale on our street and, in season, fresh artichokes and narrow sweet strawberries. Oranges and grapefruit came in the winter, pomegranates and prickly pear in the spring, with Persian melons and mangoes, and in early summer, the great red watermelons for which Egypt is justly famous.

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