Friday, 28 February 2014

The Servants of Ra: Zairah Al-Ghais



Here is Zairah from the Servants of Ra company.  This is a lovely, animated figure but her slim ankle is a weak point and she needs careful handling; like the young lady on whom I have based her name!

She was discovered by Sir Lawrence Swann during his two year stay in Cairo,  He introduces her, in London, as his draughtswoman and explains that she is someone who would copy Egyptian inscriptions, sculptures and paintings as source material for his magnum opus The Pharaoh Akhenaten and his court inspect candidates for the role of temple dancing girls purchased from an Akkadian slave trader.  A painting he is producing for the Worshipful Company of Bankers livery hall in Threadneedle Street.

"Just make sure there are lots of naked slave girls in it. And heaps of gold!" demanded Sir Paul Fudgge ("that's two gs, old man"), one of the richest but most unpopular aldermen in the City of London, who had commissioned the painting.




Although she is, indeed, a talented artist, Swann actually discovered Zairah dancing virtually naked in a brothel just a few streets behind his hotel, Shepheard's, in Cairo.  Sir Lawrence was surprised at the number of such establishments so close to Shepheard's and the recently renovated Grand Hotel.  He supposed the proximity of the Greek Consulate had something to do with it.  He needed a dancer who could be the centrepiece of his painting.  In  truth, he was looking for a Circassian dancing girl, as he supposed that they might be more likely to happily dispense with their clothes than the local lovelies.  When he saw Zairah, however, he knew he had found his model.  She had the most beautiful back he had ever seen and, indeed, her entire rear aspect was one of the great sights of Egypt. Or so he told himself as Zairah went through a series of artistic contortions for him in his room at Shepheard's, while he tried to capture her sinuous form on paper.  

He discovered both her extraordinary gymnastic ability and her skill with a blade when a trio of unsavoury locals tried to relieve him of his Breguet pocket watch in the narrow alleys behind the Khan el-Khalili souk.  Zairah, in a sudden flash of movement, disarmed one robber with a swift blow to his wrist and flicked the knife into the air with her foot before it hit the ground. She caught it, deftly, in her dainty hand and supporting herself on the shoulder of the astounded knifeman ran up the side of a wall to land a solid kick on the head of the thief behind.  A quick slash of the next man's cheek, with her recently acquired blade, sent the low life scum scuttling back into the shadows. 

Shortly afterwards, recovering over a strong Turkish coffee in Fishawi's coffee house, Sir Lawrence offered to employ Zairah full time as draughtswoman, model and bodyguard.  He took a room for her adjoining his, for the sake of propriety, although it had an interconnecting door which was never locked. 




One afternoon, as she stood on the small balcony overlooking the delightful garden at the rear of the hotel, she began to speak of a lost tomb discovered by a Turkish archaeologist.  An intact, possibly royal, tomb containing an extraordinary device covered in hieroglyphs linking it to Akhenaten himself. 

Having become fascinated by the pharaoh in the research for his painting, Swann was intrigued but sceptical.

"I would bet ten thousand pounds that there are no intact royal tombs in the whole of Egypt.  No one will ever find one. They have all been plundered by filthy Egyptians; either in antiquity or more recently, since Egyptology has become so fashionable!" he declared. "No offence about the "filthy Egyptian" comment, of course, young Zairah!"

"No offence taken.  The sponge bath you gave me this morning saw to that, anyway!" she giggled.

"How do you know this Turkish chap?" asked Swann.  Zairah raised one elegant eyebrow and looked at the floor.

"I see.  Best not to ask.  Perhaps I should meet the fellow!"

"Perhaps you should.   I will arrange it!"

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