Beit Al-Kreitlia, as with all houses of the wealthy and governing families had quarters known as the Hareem where the ladies of the house could relax safely from strangers’ eyes.
Agha Saleem’s Secret Treasure Trove
The ‘hareem’ at Beit Al-Kreitlia is situated on the first floor directly above the magic well – where lives the King of the Djinns. In the north-east corner of the hareem, there is a slab with an iron ring.
Underneath is a secret hiding space, very small but big enough to hold the household money, jewels and small treasures in times of danger, possibly even a person. The patriarch of the family – Agha Saleem al-Kretli Bey was a miserly man who loved and hoarded gold.
He was miserly in spending money on anything, his own clothes, his family’s clothing, their food etc. Indeed he was so mean that even the rats ran away! It seems he did some important favour or service for the King of the Djins, Sultan al-Watawit and in return the Sultan paid him with buckets of gold dust drawn up regularly from the magic well.
Agha Saleem thought the Hareem the best place to hide his gold dust, as nobody except the women were allowed into these quarters, so into the secret chamber under the floor he used to empty his buckets of gold dust. If ever questioned he replied it was chaff for the donkey to eat. As time went by the chamber was almost filled with gold dust and the Agha decided to take a new wife, She was a pretty young girl but, unfortunately, the Agha didn’t know she had a passion for cleaning and putting everything in order………..
One day while the Agha Saleem was away on business the new wife looked into the secret chamber and seeing all the dust asked a servant what it was. The servant replied it was just food for the donkey which the Agha threw in there because the bins in the stable were full. The indignant young lady call a second servant and ordered both of them to empty the chamber with shovel and bucket. This they did, and threw the gold dust out the window into the street – as they did with all their rubbish (not much changed in Egypt since then!)
Later in the evening the Agha returned home and, when he was rested he went to take a look at his gold dust – in which he rejoiced so much. The young wife rushed to him, all delighted with what she had done and exclaimed “Oh my Lord, I have cleaned up all in here, I have thrown all the dust from the window and made this space fit for proper use!”
The poor distraught Agha Saleem was so horrified and shocked he lost the power of speech – some say it was this was the work of the King of the Djins lest the master reveal the secret of his gold dust. He also experienced a paralysis of the body – leaving him bedridden. He never recovered, faded away and very soon died. Legend also says that the Djin was so angered at the waste of the gold that he struck down the young wife with a lingering illness from which she also soon died.
After that to pacify the Djin and obtain his favours the women would throw offerings to the Djin through the trap-door where once the gold was stored. When R.G moved into the house he open the secret chamber and found bunches of dried flowers, and scraps of personal clothing women through the years had left to appease the King of the Djinns.
You can visit the Hareem in this story as part of Mara’s Mythical Tour to Beit Al-Kreitlia (Gayer Anderson House)
Other Legends of Beit Al-Kreitlia:
- The King of the Djinns (Geniis)
- The Face of True Love
- The Benevolent Serpent of Beit Al-Kreitlia
- The Story of Ibn Tulun (builder of mosque next door, Noah’s Ark, the benevolent Djinn (Genie) and secret treasure!