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September 6, 2005
From journal Discovering Ancient Memphis
May 19, 2002
. Papyrus reed is a water plant which grows on river banks in Africa and the south eastern corner of the Mediterranean. The Ancient Egyptians revered the papyrus plant because of its pyramidal shape, which signifies immortality. In ancient days the stem marrow was eaten, the stem was used for wicker work. They peeled off the skin which they made into ‘writing paper’. Papyrus was also used in mummification. In other words a versatile plant. These days there are special papyrus farms, as it is still used.
This is how you make papyrus. It’s dead easy!
Take a stem and peel it. Because of its pyramid shape each stem produces three strips. The strips have to be dehydrated so beat them with a wooden hammer.Next you use a rolling pin to extract more water. Now it must soak in water. Leave it for one week and it is white, leave it for two weeks and it will become brown. You now cut the strips to the required length. Put one strip horizontally the next one vertically and so on. This way you get interweaving. The result is put on a cotton sheet and put under a press for two weeks. The natural gelatine sticks the strips together.Now you can use it as writing paper. Usually it is decorated with paintings copied from tombs. Next to it you can have your name in hieroglyphs.
It’s really easy to make it, the only problem is that the papyrus plant I have at home has a very slim stem and I can hardly peel it.
After this demonstration the young man handed me a piece of paper on which I could write down the numbers of the exhibits I liked. He explained to me what the numbers meant, one was the price and the other one I did not understand as he could make himself clear enough. Just to please him I walked round, and returned the piece of paper. He was not too much disappointed when he realised that that we didn’t buy. Actually the prices he asked were ridiculous. Sometimes tourists are seen as walking banks. I wonder whether he realises that I have to work for my money, just like him.
From journal Cairo: Love It or Hate It
February 18, 2002
We were the only tourists in the shop. The shop owner, a middle-aged woman, began her presentation on how papyrus is cut into strips, rolled and soaked in water for six days before it is weaved into paper and decorated with paint. She led us around her shop in a certain order, requesting that we write down numbers of corresponding prints that interested us, softly placing notepads and pencils into our hands.
At the end of her presentation, she asked which papyrus prints we liked. There were two. We were pressured into buying them before we finished our Arabic coffee. When we weren't willing to pay the $180 apiece price, and she wasn't willing to negotiate, we attempted to leave. Not so fast. Her eyes instantly changed into dark, stormy beads when we explained it was our first night in Egypt and wanted to think about it and maybe come back tomorrow. Hey, it's hard figuring out what you're really paying in American money without whipping out a calculator. "What about $150?" she persisted. Quick mental calculation. Okay. We agreed to buy one. Not satisfied, she pushed us to buy the other at a discount of "half price since you buy one." We succumbed. She suddenly smiled and offered to write our names in hieroglyphic symbols "free of charge" and joined our names together with a lotus flower, to represent "your honeymoon love."
It was frustrating to be in that position. Nobody likes a hard sell, especially in a foreign country where you're isolated from other tourists, and have no idea what things are worth, especially such unfamiliar products. The Egyptian people seemed to assist each other by bringing tourists to certain shops, restaurants, etc. One guide later confided that they're either related, get a percentage of the total sale, or get some other favor in return.
Just be forewarned that when your taxi driver insists on taking you somewhere "Just for a look" you will probably end up buying, whether you want to or not. In this case, it didn't turn out so bad. For around $70 US, we have two authentic papyrus prints proudly displayed in our library. (I won't tell you what's in the attic.)
From journal Honeymoon in Cairo
December 5, 2000
From journal Cairo's Museums and the Nile