By Ana Maria Porto Castanheira and Silvio Pires de Paula
Nothing like a tourist trip to Egypt to gain knowledge that enriches our useless culture. We mean, getting to know better about camels, learning about the experience of men marrying several women at the same time, understanding the tax virtues of unfinished homes, and learning to make mummies. These are some of the many fond memories of our Nile ship trip, right after Brazil’s trade rapprochement event with Egypt during the last WOCA.
We had a lot of nice moments, so there’s a lot to tell. The company of so many interesting people during the trip is priceless. Reinforced friendship unites us.
After the slow ride with the felucca ,the traditional wooden sailing boat, across the Nile, Hosan, the pilot, anchored the boat, and for our surprise, picked up an Egyptian tambourine and, at a rhythmic pace, began an Arabic cantilena accompanied by his boat aide.
We were still holding the mugs of hot mint tea that the aide had prepared just before. The sun was setting, the end of another hot day. “This is Egyptian hospitality,” commented our guide. Offshore we could see some cattle grazing on the small riverside estates and many birds.
How much? In Egyptian pounds or dollars?
We were sailing smoothly with the “Esmeralda” ship by the Nile and suddenly there is an external commotion and we saw two boats approaching and, with some effort, hooking on the ship. Pirates? No, Nile traders or peddlers who wanted to sell clothes.
Conditions are unfavorable for the seller who is in a river boat, hooked and dragged by the ship while potential buyers are on the upper deck, four floors above. It is early evening. Garments packed in plastic bags are thrown up hard onto the deck. They fall in various places.
To make an easier choice, various bags of differently colored clothes and designs are thrown onto the ship’s deck. Then the negotiation begins. The buyer looks at one, looks at another, tries, then wants to know how much it is, negotiates, proposes a lower price, the seller shouts an intermediate price.
How much if it is in dollars? The buyer chooses two clothes and returns the unwanted pieces by throwing back the bags of leftover clothes, along with money. Sometimes a bag falls into the river and is quickly collected by the Nile boatman. Life is not easy for anyone.
One morning after breakfast we went back to the cabin and found the bath towels folded over like two prancing snakes, facing each other. The bellmen exclaimed cheerfully: surprise! The other morning a very neat goose appeared. The next morning was a yellow-clothed monkey hanging on a hanger, swinging. And there were always on the doorstep the joyful cabinets with our surprise. It was Impossible to resist the laughter and the curiosity to wait for the next. We took good
pictures of the surprises
In fact, dromedaries that we ride in Egipt just to take pictures are very well crafted. They transport cargo for over 150 km and day under the desert sun without drinking water. They can drink over 50 liters of water at a time. It would probably not be viable to live in the desert without camel work. It was employed in army battles for centuries. Everything can be taken of dromedaries and camels: the milk, the hair, the skin, the feces, the flesh, the bones. They can live over 50 years and are so valuable that they serve as a dowry in weddings. Women are traded for camels, some worth 20 to 40 camels. Mine I would trade for at least 100 camels. But stop thinking about how much your wife is worth.
A wife is picky, can you imagine to have more than one? In Egypt and several other Muslim countries it is possible for a man to have up to four women at the same time. The director of a cement industry who dined with us said he had 200 employees, many of them single, but had to pay hospital and health care to 219 wives. But it is not easy to marry other times. The husband must have permission from the older wife. All wives should receive benefits and attention from their husbands in much the same way. Until now I am considering the western system better.
If you find it strange to see so many unfinished houses, roofless, unpainted with seemingly loose columns on the top floor, know that this is pure wisdom or cleverness of the residents. By Egyptian law city governments cannot charge some taxes on unfinished homes and they will stay that way forever.
To make a mummy
Find a dead body and wash it off. Make a cut in the belly and take out all internal organs like liver, lungs, guts, and put them into separate jars. Take the heart out and set aside in another jar. Using a curved hook drill a hole in the nose until it reaches the brain. Crumple the brains to a paste that will be completely removed by the nose.
We’re in the middle of the mummy project. Fill the belly void with dry straw and sawdust. Put the heart back into their space. Then cover the body with salt for at least 40 days until it is dry. Now let’s embalm the mummy. Wash again and carefully cover the body with bandages wrapped in resins. The resin is made with a vegetable oil such as sesame oil, a “balsam” type plant, a herbal gum that can be extracted from acacia and pine resin.
When mixed in oil, the resin has antibacterial properties and protects the body from decomposition. Paint a mask worthy of the deceased, place it on the face area and cover it with bandages as well. Tie it up with ropes and you’re done with your mummy ready for burial.
Mummies from the pharaohs, nobility, and senior officials were buried with objects, jewelry, food, tools as they were expected to return after death. That happens more than 3000 years before the Christian era. Belief in resurrection after death existed in many civilizations long before Christ.