#CAIRO 1870: ENJOYING A #CHIBOUK IN THE ROYAL HAREM
Luise Muehlbach’s account of her visit to the Sultan’s
harem, continued: She is welcome by Princess Said, the mother of the heir
addressed friendly words to us through the translator and welcomed us to Cairo.
Then the conversation began, seemingly proceeding in phrases and forms much
like ours. The translator explained back and forth, and every time the
princesses received my reply, they nodded at me and waved their slim, white
fingers, which sparkled with large diamonds.
I took particular note of one ring on
the hand of the heir’s mother – a ring consisting of a single diamond without
setting, a diamond which had been hollowed out at the centre, it seemed, to form
a ring. The princess wore it on the uppermost joint of her little finger, where
it sparkled and gave off the most wonderful light.
As soon as we were seated, the slaves
came hurrying with chibouks which they offered to each of us. I have long ago
learned to smoke using a chibouk in the Orient, and with great pleasure I drew
clouds of smoke through a long pipe made of Linden wood, the top of which was
ornamented with a fat knob of amber. But I had never seen a chibouk like this.
The pipe was two ells long and covered with a net of gold threads and golden bands
sparkling with rubies and diamonds. The top, which consisted of a single piece
of amber, was encircled by a broad band of diamonds. The small headpiece made
of gold and diamonds sat in a plate on the carpet, its opening was also
encrusted with diamonds. Each of the princess received such a chibouk. We bent
over the amber piece with a serious and philosophical mien, sucked in the
fragrant smoke and allowed it to rise in blue clouds.
When people smoke they don’t need much
conversation; the little clouds of smoke take the place of words, yet the
princesses directed to us through the translator friendly and affectionate
questions concerning our home country and our family, and listened with
attention to our answers. They often gave us friendly nods and were kind enough
to tell me that they liked me very well and to tell my daughter that they found
her blond hair marvellously beautiful.
And then – but
no, that’s all for today’s letter. Tomorrow I tell you more about the harem,
the dancers and singers. Bukra!