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THE SLAVE MARKET.
The Europeans and medical men of Cairo should inquire into and reform this disgrace upon humanity.
We next visited the slave-market, which is here of great extent. It was remarkable that as a seller of bread sat at the gate of the mad-house, the shop adjoining the gate of the slave-market was occupied by a vendor of koorbags, or Arab whips. Within was a large open court, surrounded by a number of small dark chambers, which rose in terraces around it; these contained the better class of slaves, who were all Abyssinian girls, from ten to eighteen years of age, with a yellowish olive complexion, long straight noses, handsome features, and particularly melting black eyes, the hair long and black, and the lips somewhat thicker than those of persons of a similar cast of countenance, which, naturally melancholy in this race, was rendered more so by their present sad condition. All were decently dressed, many decorated with silver anklets and bracelets, and some few had nose rings. Several were in tears, and all hung down their heads, and appeared ashamed of their degraded, hopeless situation, but brightened into a smile on our offering a few piasters. Most of these girls have been either kidnapped by the slave dealers, or sold by their own friends for a few trinkets or glass beads; large quantities of the latter are manufactured in Europe and sent here in packages, several of which I met as Atfé. Their eyes were blackened
like to the Mohammadan females, and many were remarkable for their tall, light, and elegant figures.
In the centre of the court were arranged a number of mats, divided into compartments, on which were squatted whole families of negroes, principally from Nubia and Dongola, and who were for the most part captives, taken in war by some neighbouring tribes. The majority of these were females from eight to twelve
age, who are purchased for household servants. Although nearly naked, the young
Nubian had still the inherent love of decoration, and strings of blue beads adorned the necks of many who could not boast even a chemise. They were all tattooed in various places about the head and breast, each according to the manner of their tribe, and their woolly pates dressed in plats about the size of whip-cord, and well greased with rancid lard, which hung in bunches over either ear. These young creatures appeared perfectly unconscious of their state, and, as far as appearance went, were happy. In intermediate places sat the different slave merchants, Turks, and Arabs; and Bedawees, stalking about in their Burnooses, and buyers, occasionally pointing out the slave they wished to purchase, who were called by the owner and carefully examined ; if they had covering on it was removed and they were made to exhibit their shapes, and paces like a horse at an auction mart. These young negresses can be purchased for from thirty to forty dollars ; the Abyssy
A NUBIAN'S MODESTY.
nians go as high as a hundred. These slaves so soon adopt the manners and religion of their masters, that I have known a girl, when purchased by a Mohammadan, lift up her only covering to shade her face while following him from the slave-market!
During an early morning visit I witnessed a very extraordinary scene here ; all the negresses, young and old, had ranged themselves round the walls of the upper terraces, and were greasing their bodies and heads, which shone lustrously in the warm sunshine ; they reminded me of so many cormorants pluming themselves upon a rock after their evening's meal. As manual field labour is seldom or never accomplished by slaves in this country, there are few adult males brought down, and the boys are principally used as grooms and confidential servants. There is a white slave market adjoining this, where Georgians and Circassians are kept, but no European is allowed to enter.
Having thus described an eastern slave market, let us inquire what slavery is in the east. The very term is, no doubt, one from which human nature shrinks with repugnance; but it is not here “the soul-debasing task-work of a servile bondage" as among Christian nations, and, apart from the miseries of separation from friends and country, it is an undoubted change to many for the better.
The worst part is the voyage down the Nile, or the passage across the desert, where they are subjected to much hardship and villany from the slave
dealers. Many of the male slaves in the east become officers, and rise to places of trust in the state, and numbers obtain their freedom in a few years. True it is that the master can kill his slave, but few are so foolish as to incur such a personal loss. They are far better fed, clothed, and taken care of than free servants at Cairo, whom they despise and look upon as inferiors, often boasting, by saying “ they were slaves and not servants.” Less manual labour is required of them than of the freemen, and all are acquainted with the political importance a race of slaves now extinct once assumed in Egypt. As regards the female slaves, I before stated that the Nubians were all used as under servants and attendants
upon the ladies of the hareem ; but the Abyssinians, for whom, from their interesting appearance, and somewhat greater advance in civilization, our sympathies would be more excited, are generally, purchased as concubines, a state in the present condition of morality in Egypt often preferable to that of wife, who can divorce herself or be divorced for any trifle, while the other can demand or insist on a proper allowance. The children of these women are free, and they themselves are generally made so on the birth of the first-born, especially if he be a son, and numbers are married to their masters, and become not only the most affectionate, but the most faithful women in the community.
Compare this with Christian slavery—compare it
likewise with the condition of those people in their native state, and we must acknowledge it an improvement of their condition. It was the slavery of the primitive Hebrew nations, allowed by Scripture and practised by the patriarchs, but which refinement and Christianity, the well-being of society, and the respect which man owes his fellow, alike forbid.
Our hotel at Cairo, though by no means the best, was comfortable, and its owner, Mr. Manson, formerly in the service of the Basha, endeavoured to make it so. Attached to it is a handsome garden, growing some rare and beautiful tamarisks and acacias. A billiard-room forms its under part, which being much frequented by the instructors, foreigners, and officials, both native and European, and the usual class of idle loungers which fill such places in all countries, has made it quite a place of news in the evenings, where the politics of Great Britain, as reported in the last papers, or detailed by the latest traveller, the different arrivals in the city, the last levee of Mohammad Alee, and the war in Syria, &c. are discussed.
We generally dined early, and as there were at Cairo several visitors of various countries, who like ourselves, could not obtain accommodation in the other inn, we were not at a loss for society, both agreeable and instructive, as we enjoyed our pipes and coffee.
And now a few words on those two articles of eastern luxury I was anxious to see and become