25. Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber

Abu Kir is a dyer and a swindler and liar. Abu Sir is a barber. They decide to go from Alexandria to find fortune and promise to help each other if they have any luck. On a ship Abu Sir finds work in shaving and feeds Abu Kir who says he is ill. Abu Sir eats with the captain. When they come to shore they go to a Khan where, again, Abu Sir takes care of Abu Kir. When Abu Sir becomes ill, Abu Kir locks him up and takes all his money. He buys himself new clothes. In this new land he finds out that they only know how to dye blue. He goes to the King and asks for a dyery so he can dye all different colours. The King gives him money and builds a dyery for him. Abu Sir finds himself alone and is taken care of by the concierge of the Khan. When he goes to the same town he finds Abu Kir. Abu Kir however lets him get beaten and thrown out of his house. Abu Sir wants to refresh himself at the Hammam-bath but can’t find any. He discovers the city doesn’t know what Hammam-baths are and asks the King to build one. The King offers him money and a building. The baths become very popular. One day Abu Kir comes to the baths and recognises Abu Sir, he denies he recognised him when Abu Sir entered the dyery. Abu Sir washes him and the dyer advises him to add a depilatory treatment to it. Abu Sir agrees. Abu Kir goes to the King and tells him Abu Sir wants to poison him with a depilatory, because his wife and children and taken by a Christian King. When the King goes to the baths he is offered the depilatory. He smells it and thinks it is poisoned. Abu Sir is arrested. The King decides he is to be thrown into the sea in a sack with stones. The captain of the ship, however, was well-treated in the baths by Abu Sir and sets him free, asking him to help him with fishing. When the king orders the sack to be thrown into the sea he loses his seal-ring with which he controls his troops by fear. The seal-ring casts lightning killing a person on sight. The sack is thrown into the water and Abu Sir finds the ring while fishing for the captain. He returns t the palace where everything is revealed. Abu Kir undergoes the fate which was first imposed on Abu Sir. Abu Kir returns the Alexandria and finds the body of Abu Kir. He buries him. When Abu Sir dies he is buried next to Abu Kir.

In Alexander City dwell two men. One is a dyer named Abu Kir and the other a barber name Abu Sir. Abu Kir was a swindler and a liar. When people wanted to let him dye their cloth he would let them pay in advance and sell the cloths and buy meat and drink. He would tell the owner of the cloth he needed more time and when there was no way out he said somebody stole the cloth whilst it hang drying. Abu Kir would sit in the barbershop of Abu Sir and watch his own shop to see if there is a new customer. This goes on for years and years until one owner calls in the Kazi. Abu Kir’s shop is closed and locked. The Kazi says that when the cloth is returned, he will get the key back. Abu Kir explains his workings to Abu Sir and he tell him that he did so out of poverty. Abu Sir also says he has the same fate. He is a master of his craft yet poor. Abu Kir suggests to leave the city together and find a place where they can use their crafts. Abu Sir eventually agrees and Abu Kir makes the following suggestion, he who gets work will feed the one who doesn’t, and what is left will be left in a chest, from which it will be equally divided in Alexandria. Abu Sir agrees to this. They lock their shops and set forth.

They come to the sea and enter a galleon. Abu Sir says he will look if somebody needs shaving so they have money for food and drink. Abu Kir agrees and sleeps. On the galleon there are a lot of people who need shaving and he gets a load of food. He is even invited by the captain supper with him every night. When Abu Sir brings the victuals to Abu Kir he says Abu Sir must go to the captain alone and he will eat from the things Abu Sir has brought, because he says he has seasickness. Abu Sir goes to the captain and he says to bring food to his sick comrade. After twenty days they arrive in a city.

They join a Khan and Abu Sir buys a cook pot and meat. Abu Kir again says he is ill and can’t help. Abu Sir motivates him to have a look around, but Abu Kir says he’s giddy and prefers lying down. After a few days Abu Sir himself becomes ill and cannot take care of Abu Kir. Abu Kir gets hungry and finds a thousand silver bits in Abu Sir’s clothes. He closes Abu Sir in the room and goes to the market and clothes himself in costly clothes.

When Abu Kir enters the city he notices that all people are clad in clothes of white and blue, without any other colour. Abu Kir wants his clothes to be dyed but finds out the dyeing is very expensive and can only be done in blue, because the dyer doesn’t know how to dye in a different colour. Abu Kir also learns that there are forty dyers in the city, each teaching his eldest son the trade. Abu Kir says he is a dyer himself and wants to hire him out. He would teach the dyer everything he knows about dyeing in new colours, but the dyer declines and warns him not to start a business on his own. When he goes to the other dyers he gets the same answer, even at the Shayk of the Dyers. So, Abu Kir goes to the King and tells his story. The King offers him a dyery and says that if somebody wants to hinder him, he will be hanged. When Abu Kir finds a place for the dyery to be built, he gets four thousand dinars to start his business. Abu Kir sets himself to work and dyes the clothes in many colours. Passers-by wander and ask him the colours of the clothes which he gives them. He dyes clothes for the people and people give him gold and silver. His dyery becomes known as the Sultan’s Dyery. The other dyers excuse themselves and ask to take them as an apprentice, which he rejects.

Abu Sir is woken up by the concierge of the Khan. He unlocks the door and finds the barber. He asks for money and then Abu Sir finds out Abu Kir has left with all of it. After Abu Sir cries and tells him the story, the concierge cooks him some broth and takes care of the barber for two months. After two months he gets better and goes from the Khan. By chance he comes to the bazaar where Abu Kir’s dyery is built. It is told to him that the Sultan’s Dyery is Abu Kir’s, and they tell him the full story. And Abu Sir rejoices that all goes well for Abu Kir and he excuses him because he has worked hard. He goes to the dyery of Abu Kir expecting him to be rejoiced, because of Abu Sir’s generosity.

Abu Sir sees Abu Kir sitting like a Grand Wazir or Monarch on a mattress with Mamelukes and blackamoors around him. He taught his slaves how to dye and only says “do this” or “do that”. When Abu Kir recognises Abu Sir he accuses him of being a thief and he is seized, thrown down and beaten a hundred strokes. He warns him if Abu Sir ever comes to his door again he will send him to the King. When people ask Abu Kir what this man had done he tells them despite being kind to him, this thief still robbed him.

Abu Sir goes back to the Khan and discovers that there are no Hammam-baths in this country. He is advised to wash in the sea, even the King washes himself in it. He goes to the King and tells him about the Hammam-bath and wants to build one. The King gives him beautiful robes, lets him build the baths and gives him money for furniture. The people marvel at the new place and Abu Sir sends out a cryer proclaiming the Sultan’s Hammam is opened. People go to the baths and don’t have to pay for three days. On the fourth day the King comes to the Hammam and he enjoys it himself. The King asks what price Abu Sir would ask for the Hammam, but Abu Sir says that it is up to the King. First the King states a thousand dinars, but Abu Sir objects saying that the poor won’t be able to use the baths. So it is decided that each person pays what he can afford. The Lords of Land are to pay a hundred dinars and a give a slave. Abu Sir gets so many slaves that he cannot afford them, but the King offers Abu Sir to buy them from him for a hundred dinar each. And King gives the slaves back to the former owners.

When the Queen wants to enter the baths Abu Sir decides that between dawn and noon men are allowed to come in, and between midday and sundown women may enter. Once a week the King would come , the rest of the days were for the rich and the poor. One day the captain of his ship  enters the baths and he washes him and gives him coffee and sherbet without asking money.

Abu Kir hears of the Hammam and one day goes to them. When he sees Abu Sir being the owner of the baths he asks him why he did not invite him, a man with such a stature. He sought all the Khans for the barber but could not find find him. Abu Sir relates the story of him being beaten at Abu Kir’s dyery. Abu Kir shows amazement and tells Abu Sir he did not recognise him. There was a fellow just like him coming by every day day and steal people’s stuff. Abu Sir forgives him and washes him. Abu Kir offers Abu Sir to recommend him to the King, but Abu Kir declines as his relation with the King is good enough. Then Abu Kir advises Abu Sir to use depilatory, as an improvement to the baths, on the King.

Next, Abu Kir goes to the King and warns him that the next time he would enter the Hammam he will perish, because the bathkeeper is a foe of the Faith and will poison the King with a substance that would remove hair easily. A Christian King holds Abu Sir’s wife and children. When he would slay the King and return to this Christian King, his wife and children would be released. The King would be offered this depilatory and would apply him himself. The poison will work within a day and night. The King becomes full of wrath and tells the dyer to keep this a secret.

The King visits the Hammam and is offered the depilatory. The King smells it and thinks it is indeed poisoned. Abu Sir is arrested and brought before the King in his palace. The King orders his Sea-captain to put him in a sack with two lime stones and his mouth tied. Then the sack should be thrown into the sea. The captain says he obeys, but as he received a free Hammam-bath he asks Abu Sir what he has done to receive such a vile death. Abu Sir says he has no idea and the captain says someone must have been jealous and have taken revenge. The captain says he will release him, but he must stay with him until they come to Abu Sir’s native land. Abu Sir needs to help the captain with fishing because the captain is behind, and bring it to the kitchen. In the meantime the captain will throw the sack, with a man-size stone, into the sea in front of the palace.

When the King signed the captain to throw the sack into the sea, the King’s seal-ring fell into the water. With this ring the King could slay a man with lightning, and his troops would only obey out of fear for this ring. When Abu Sir is fishing on the island he brings in a large amount. He decides to prepare some so when the captain returns they could eat it. When he prepares the fish he finds the seal-ring in one of them. Abu Sir  puts it on his finger and when two of the cook’s boys appear and asks where the captain is, Abu Sir answers he doesn’t know, signing with his hand. The heads of both boys fall to the ground. When the captain returns he understands what has happened and says to Abu Sir not to move his hands. The captain discovers he has the ring of the King, upon which Abu Sir decides to go back to the city.

In the palace the King wonders at the arrival of Abu Sir, but the barber tells him  the whole story and returns the ring to the King, because he has always treated him honourably. If the King would reveal the crime he has committed, he would accept the punishment so the King is absolved of the sin of shedding blood. Abu Sir gives the ring to the King. The King asks for forgiveness because only the barber would return the ring to him. The King tells him the story of the dyer. The barber denies knowing any Christian King and tells the King the true story. The dyer is summoned, bare footed, bareheaded and elbows pinioned. He is tortured and confesses upon which he is paraded through the city, put in a sack and thrown into the sea.

The King asks Abu Sir what he wants and it is given to him. Abu Sir says he wants to go home. The King gives him a galleon with goods and slaves. When he reached Alexandria one of his slaves finds the sack with the dead body of Abu Kir on the beach. He buries Abu Kir and when Abu Sir finally dies he is laid beside Abu Kir. The place is called Abu Kir and Abu Sir, but is nowadays called Abu Kir.

From: The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night — Volume 09

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