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All things change, and cultures are always in motion. Things that are appreciated today, may hold little value tomorrow. Silver amulets or jewelry highly appreciated by Bedouin in older days, are today substituted by gold. The handmade silver pieces like zār amulets are now sold to antiquity dealers and the money is invested in machine-made gold jewellery.
Once in a while, pieces that were almost forgotten, turn up again. Some years ago, while I was researching Cairene veils, I questioned one of the old silver smiths (“the Doctor”) on the silver market of Cairo. I was looking for an object I had until then only seen on photographs, the arousa el burqa (literally the 'Bride of the Veil'), a small amulet case. I knew the pieces from pictures, books and even advertisements (bottom left and the background image). I was sure the real object was somewhere to be found and studied in Cairo. For two seasons I found no trace of them, until I discovered one by chance on the market and was able to show them to one of the silver smiths I knew. Nowadays a lot more of these unique pieces have appeared on the market, even traders find them and offer them to researchers and dealers.
The arousa was only worn in Egypt during the last few centuries and was almost completely forgotten when in the first half of the 20th century, many Egyptian women abandoned the veil altogether. To me, they have become a symbol of change. It is extremely illustrative to see how fast a tradition can disappear and be almost completely forgotten in this rapidly changing world.
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