Friday, October 07, 2011

dress like an egyptian

I forgot the time I first fell in love with an elusive piece of fabric called Assuit / Assiut / Asyut / Tulle-bi-Telli. However, like so many things Egyptian (their reverence of cats, the jewelry, the pharaonic scale drama, the eyeliner, the dark and handsome men), I've come to fall in love with this fabric.

This is going to be weird, but I just bought fortune-worth loads of books that I'm using as references for my (hopefully) up and coming novel. In one of the books, The Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek, it is said that:

"The earliest known remains of a cat in Egypt come from Mostagedda, south of Asyut in Middle Egypt, and are dated to sometime before c.4000 BC. One of the graves in this cemetery contained the burial of a man who, judging by the tools and other material accompanying him to the next world, probably was a primitive craftsman. The bones of a gazelle and a cat, the former probably intended for his funerary repast, the latter perhaps his pet, were found at the dead man's feet. (p. 45)"
I know there's something sinister with the Egyptians, or rather humans, in that when they're dead, they expect their loved ones to follow suit, hence the killing of the cats, the entombing of lovers, etc. In Classical Cats by Donald Engels, the Celts also killed cats by roasting them slowly in a basket to ensure fertility, a horrifying tradition that was later adopted by the English and the French (pp. 128-129). Perhaps the inhumanity of humans is so innate that at times I wonder what makes us think we can be called humans indeed.

But, I digress.

Let's get back to the subject.

After a long, dwindling fascination I had with Assuit, not unlike the fascination I had with Banjara skirts, and after a few unsuccessful eBay bids, I found this site: It was selling quite a few Assuit shawls, including one cream with gold metals and one black with silver metals, each for the mere price of... drum rolls please... USD 35. So, I ordered those two shawls and a golden Ankh necklace. Sounds like a perfect bargain? Wait, here's the catch: Nilemarket ships from Egypt.

I cleared the payment for my package on September 12, and the next day, I received a notification that my purchase was shipped. I contacted the seller about the tracking number straight away (because there was no mention of the tracking number on the notification), but my e-mail wasn't answered. I used the website's inquiry form, and still no answer. I was worried and half-pissed, but then Haitham (the seller) replied my e-mail and provided me with the tracking number. He also wrote that the number would become visible once my parcel landed in the USA. So, I waited.

I waited, waited, waited for about ten days, each day opening the USPS website to track my package, and then one fine day, the USPS website said something else other than its usual: No record of this shipment, check back soon. It said: Origin post is preparing shipment. That sounded strange. That sounded like it was still in Egypt. I asked the omniscient Google and it confirmed. Still, I decided to wait.

Then ten more days passed, and me being the paranoid that I am, checked the USPS website every single damn day. And it stilled showed the same message: Origin post is preparing shipment. So I shot Haitham another e-mail, concerning the fate of my package. I also grew worried because I learned that some mails from the USA to Egypt had been experiencing difficulties due to the uprising in Egypt (but this issue was later resolved, thank goodness), so I thought that the same thing might have occurred the other way around. Haitham was at first unresponsive (like the first e-mail), and I also used the form to ask him the whereabouts of my parcel. Then he finally responded and told me not to worry because the package would arrive within the week.

There is one thread on about Nileart / Craveegypt, which I think is / are the same with Nilemarket for two reasons: the eBay page of Nileart / Craveegypt sell the same things with, or at least using the same photos of Nilemarket and if you look at Nilemarket's contact page, the e-mail that says will link to if you hover on it. In the thread, one purchaser wrote that she was happy with the purchase, although she had to endure a long wait (19 days). Here's the link. So, I took solace in it.

Then two days after Haitham responded my e-mail with warm consolation, the package arrived. It appeared out of nowhere on the desk in the building's lobby. I touched it and the inside felt soft, like layers of cloths. I was also expecting another shipment of clothing, so I didn't think it was my Egyptian parcel. However, I was in a rush to go to school and my bag was packed as it was so I put it back on the table (I also didn't have time to run upstairs to my apartment and place it inside). It was during a very boring lecture at school when I was approached by an epiphany: it had got to be my parcel from Egypt because my other package would have been a lot thinner! So the day went by so slow because all I could think about was to rush home to open it.

When I finally arrived home (it takes me a good one hour of commute with bus and BART and bus where it takes only ten minutes by car), I grabbed the parcel that was still waiting on the lobby desk and examined it as I climbed the stairs briskly: It had Arabic markings. My heart raced. Then once I'm in the safe confinement of my room, I opened it, and here they are, my first Assuits, 21 days after the payment:

Oh, and the weird thing is, up until this very day, the USPS website still displayed the same message when I tracked my package: Origin post is preparing shipment. I stumbled across another, more detailed tracking website called and up until now, it displayed the information that it had been sitting in the Cairo customs office since September 22, 2011. Don't believe me? Type in RS002330044EG (the tracking number of the parcel) and see for yourself.

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