Thursday, 13 August 2009

Image 4 - Ali Jabri, Giza 1888

Of his first dinner with Grant, on Saturday 18th December 1880, Petrie records:

“He considers it quite safe to go and settle in with Ali Gabri (not Dobree as C.P.S. writes it) as head-man, giving the shekh occasional bakksheesh fully £1 a month, but no great lump at last: they are too much head to mouth to do that. He says, as Highet said, and Baedecker also, that there is no chance of a raid, still less of personal violence, that even nothing large would be ventured on, or any regular stealing, but only appropriation of trifles and attempts at imposition; and that Ali would be above that, as C.P.S. says. He told me that some of the Pyramid Arabs are nearly every day in Cairo; so often, that it is not worth while to go out there to find Ali, as he might be out; I therefore, as he recommended, went to the Oriental Hotel and to Shepherd’s and asked the door attendants to send any of the Pyramid Arabs they might see to Dr. Grant; and he will get Ali Gabri over to his house, and there make a personal settlement with him and me.”

(20.12.1880, Drower 2004: 13-14):

“there stood Ali Gabri with a card from Mr. Grant, saying that if I would come with him to the Dr’s we would settle matters. So off I started, and chatted to Ali on the way; he speaks very fair English, and though no beauty he has a very pleasant and trustworthy face, looking calm, simple, decided and straight forward, a man whom I would trust without a recommendation; and considering the excellent character given him by C.P.S., Weyman Dixon, Mr.Gill, and Dr.Grant, I felt every confidence in him.”
“I had written out all that I thought necessary to settle, and Dr. G. took my paper and talked over each point with Ali Gabri in Arabic. Ali saying that regular Bakhsheesh to the shekh was quite unnecessary, only giving when any special service was required. Having settled it all, and engaged Ali at £1 per week from that time forward, (he saying that he did it for love of Mr.Smyth and Mr.Gill and not for the sake of money) we then left.”

“I then looked over his testimonials, which he was anxious I should see; they speak of him in even higher terms than I had heard before; C.P.S., Dixon, Watson, and Gill, and another traveller who took him up the Nile, all agree in his great intelligence, scrupulous honesty and protection of his travellers from any imposition, and his gentlemanlyness and companionability. From my talk with him this evening over coffee, I can only say that his manners are those of a perfect nature’s gentleman, and one feels that the same delicacy and politeness is due to him that one would use to any gentleman.”

“I then came back home to supper, and had a chat as usual to Ali. We talk on astronomy, navigation, constitutional government, etc, in a fashion that would make anyone laugh” (23.12.1880).


  1. The last quote interesting quote - is he referring to fact that other people would laugh that someone non-European could discuss politics, etc? Am interested in way he talks about Ali Jabri - friendship forged, describes his personality and the affection shared; but obviously from a colonial perspective too. Kipling quote, etc

    Comment from Gemma Romain

  2. Couldn't Petrie referred to the difficult of the conversation due to the non perfect english spoken by his interlocutor?