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meats, cut pieces of radish or turnip; a sort of omelette; a partridge or fowl stewed to pieces in some sweet or sour sauce; and one or two bowls of different sherbet; each having a long-handled carved pear-wood spoon floating upon it. One of these mujmuahs, thus laden, is placed usually for every two guests; and when all are thus served, the master of the feast, uttering the word Bismillah!" In the name of God !" by way of grace, leans forward, and the meal begins.
The manner in which the trays are placed, one to every two guests, throws some light upon the circumstances of the dinner which Joseph's brethren ate with him and the Egyptians. "They set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves," Gen. xliii. 32, which, according to this method, might be done without too obviously invidious or offensive distinctions, seeing that the customary order of a feast required a tray to be set before two or three persons separately. This is no conjecture; for the paintings in the Egyptian tombs show that the custom of eating from separate trays, brought in full charged with the dishes, and set down, one before two guests, was also the Egyptian custom; and that the Egyptians
sat upon the floor, and fed themselves with their hands in the same manner as do the modern Persians.
It would seem, however, that the Egyptian fare was less than the Persian composed of stews and made dishes, and more of substantial joints, and of large birds dressed whole. This, perhaps, facilitated the operation mentioned in Gen. xliii. 34, "He took and sent messes unto them from before him;" which was a great honour according to the notions of a Persian, who cannot show to a guest a higher distinction than to order a particular dish to be taken from his own tray to that of the person he wishes to honour-or by giving a choice morsel with his own hands from a dish before him to anyone who is near enough to receive it. So sir James Sutherland, in his description of a dinner given to sir Harford Jones, writes: "It is considered at a Persian entertainment a compliment for a person to offer you a piece out of a dish that stands before him, which he does with his hands; and this you are expected to receive and devour with peculiar satisfaction-to do otherwise would be considered the greatest piece of incivility and rudeness, if not insult. Nasr Oollah Khan favoured the ambassador
with this unenviable mark of his respect; and
During the half-hour, or thereabout, which the meal occupies, the fingers of every one are busily employed in forming the lugmehs, or handfuls of rice mixed with other things, and which are conveyed towards the mouth, and jerked in, without spilling a grain of rice, or a drop of sauce, in a manner which a European cannot learn without much inconvenient practice. This labour is performed with diligent application and close attention,
only interrupted by occasionally taking a spoonful or two of sherbet. By-and-by, one or two arise from their stooping posture, or keep only trifling with their fingers, till the host erects himself, with an audible Alhumdulillah !"Thanks be to God!" which is echoed by the company; for the Moslems invariably observe before and after meats, that decent acknowledgment to God, which too many who call themselves Christians altogether neglect.
Or the Persians, generally, it may be said that they are pre-eminent among the nations of the east for their intellectual qualities, while their moral character exhibits a compound of the most odious defects. It would be hard to deny them a sound understanding; and their possession of a quick imagination, a ready memory, and a happy capacity for the sciences, and the liberal and mechanic arts, has been universally acknowledged. Under the appearance of a proud indifference, they derive much information from the society of foreigners, and profit by their knowledge; they receive them kindly, patronize them, tolerate their religion, and seem generally to regard them with pity rather than with contempt. In illness and affliction they even solicit the prayers of Christians, whom they regard as infidels-which may,