Topsy-Turvy Land eBook

Samuel Marinus Zwemer
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 87 pages of information about Topsy-Turvy Land.
in one street or section of the town.  You will see for example in one street a long row of shops where they sell drugs and perfumery; in another place there are only hardware merchants; again a whole street of nothing but grocers.  I think the reason is that Arabs love to bargain and to beat down prices and so it is easier to have all the merchants of one kind close together.  At any rate this arrangement makes it quite convenient for the purchaser.  Indeed it is becoming somewhat customary to group the shops in this way in some of your Western cities.  Occidental civilisation can learn some things from the Orient!

[Illustration:  ARAB GROCER.]

Our shopkeeper has a mixed lot of groceries in his shop; many things which you would find at your grocers’ he has never heard of.  Everything is topsy-turvy.  Just fancy how strange to hang up the sugar in a row of cones on strings like sausages!  Do you see them on the ceiling of the shop in our picture?  That is the way white sugar comes wrapped from France and is sold in Arabia.  A sugar barrel would soon be full of ants in this country; but when it hangs up on a string the ants have a hard time getting it away.  Maybe there is a suggestion here for your homes if you are troubled with ants.

In those big Arab baskets the grocer keeps his carrots and other vegetables; carrots are white in Arabia and there are curious vegetables of which you have never heard.

Do you see the bottles and tin boxes on his shelves?  Those are for spices; pepper, cinnamon, nutmegs, curry-powder and such things of which Arab housewives are very fond.

The big bowl on the left probably has olives in it or other kind of pickled vegetables.  On the right you can see the big pair of old fashioned scales on which he weighs his wares.  I hope he is an honest man, although I do not think he looks very honest, do you?  The scale hangs true I have no doubt; but it is in the weights that deception lurks.  In Arabia we can every day see illustrations of the words of Solomon in the book of Proverbs about “divers weights” and “false balances.”  The most of the shopkeepers do not have proper weights of iron or brass, but use ordinary cobblestones and pebbles.  Only a few days ago I bought some walnuts and the grocer weighed them so many stones’ weight!  Do you know what a “stone” weight is.  Maybe you had better look it up in your dictionary.  That covered kettle near the scale-pans on top of the little box contains semn, which is the Arabic name for sheep’s fat.  You would hardly believe me if I told you what a lot of this greasy yellow stuff the boys and girls eat on their rice, and how much is used in an Arab kitchen.  It is sold by weight, just as well as all other things, even milk in Arabia.  If we wait long enough you will see Fatimah and Mirjam and the other girls come with empty bowls to buy so many pennies’ worth of grease.

Do you notice that the shop has queer little doors on the lower part of the front opening?  The other part of the shop is closed by a flap-door that does not show on the picture.  This is hinged from the top and is used when the shop is open as a sort of blind to keep off the sun or the rain.

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Topsy-Turvy Land from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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