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Graphic Literature

The Pharaohs of Egypt

This work of contemporary graphic fiction explores themes of stereotypes, racism, and colonialism.
The Pharaohs of Egypt by Florent Ruppert and Jerome Mulot, color by Sebastien Lusmineau. Tourist 1: ahhhhh Tourist 2: You there a spot of help I want to go up to the top of the Pyramid Guide 1: Me not speak good Tourist 2: I’ll pay Guide 1: Me savage Tourist 2: Me dollars Guide 1: You dollar? Tourist 2: Me dollars Guide 1: Me dollar? Tourist: You dollars Guide 1: me dollar ok Guide 2: 50 Tourist 3: 50?! Guide 2: 50 Tourist 3: nah 10 Guide 2: 45 Tourist 3: 15 Guide 2: forty five Tourist 3: fifteen Guide 2: forty four Tourist 3: fifteen! Guide 2: forty Tourist 3: twenty Guide 2: thirty five Tourist 3: twenty five Guide 2: thirty Tourist 3: twenty six Guide 2: twenty nine Tourist 3: twenty seven Guide 2: twenty eight Tourist 3: twenty seven fifty Guide 2: twenty seven seventy five
Tourist 1: Can you see Bamboola with your total lack of culture that ancient pyramid (kheops) over there it’s 5000 years old Tourist 2: But you probably couldn’t give a damn your brain the size it is Tourist 3: fuck Tourist 4: Not this way, that way you can plainly see it’s too high there Tourist 5: We’ve just started and you’re already goofing off Tourist 6: This way over there you stupid savage Tourist 7: Yes this way don’t meed much in the way of brains to see that
Tourist: Eh? you don’t give a damn how old your pyramids are Guide: Me not understand Tourist: Yah no harm done, least not when your brain’s the size of a monkey’s Tourist: Yah monkey’s bit like a brother to you wot? Guide: Me no… Tourist: yah yah yah Tourist 1: Ah a white man. Good day sir Tourist 2: I see you’ve also hired a savage? Tourist 3: Yes yes it’s handier Tourist 2: Yes odor aside it’s quite helpful Tourist 3: Naturally yours too smells like sweat? Tourist 2: You mean he reeks Tourist 4: Ah a white man. Good day sir Tourist 5: How often do you wash yourself? Guide: Me not speak Tourist 5: Wash yourself? Guide: Me not Tourist 5: Washing isn’t in your vocabulary, Christ Guide: . Tourist 5: You don’t know what washing means?
Guide 1: Felt like smashing his head in with a rock Guide 2: Plus he’s got an ugly white face but I have a solution to your problem Guide 2: Take his jacket (the easy part) and without him seeing tap it with your cock Guide 1: What? Guide 2: You tap his jacket with your cock Guide 1: Ok Guide 2: That’s it and when he’s talking to you later you’ll know in your mind that you tapped his jacket with your cock Guide 1: Oh I see Guide 2: It’s psychological Guide 1: Yeah yeah Guide 2: Voila Guide 1: Still I wonder if I wouldn’t rather take a hammer to his head Tourist 1: No but the problem is they refuse to learn Tourist 2: hm Tourist 1: These savages just won’t find the means Tourist 2: Hm Tourist 1: That’s the problem Tourist 2: But that’s because they’re too at home with their stupidity Tourist 1: hm Tourist 2: Clearly, they could take advantage of us being there to learn things, develop Tourist 1: but that would take an effort Tourist 2: Clearly Tourist 1: Shiftlessness Tourist 2: To be sure a shiftless lot Tourist 1: To be sure Tourist 2: Shiftless the lot Tourist 1: Yah Tourist 2: Clearly Tourist 1: Shiftless all
Tourist 1: See you at the bottom good sir? Tourist 2: Of course of course in a jiffy Tourist 1: So Bamboola, happy now? You’ve had a break. Guide 1: Me not Bamboola, me Said. Tourist 1: Come on just try to do a proper job that’d be a start Tourist 1: Only thing you blacks are good at is having kids Tourist 1: Having kids and drinking tea all the livelong day Tourist 1: How mnay kids have you got, Bamboola? Ten, fifteen? Tourist: Hey are you even listening to me? Tourist 1: You’re a great one for daydreaming, but when it comes to doing a proper job Tourist: A job very well compensated to boot. Tourist 1: I never se..the link…these sav…really
Tourist 1: Oh there you are Tourist 2: We’ve just arrived. Tourist 1: Quicker coming down than going up at any rate Tourist 2: Quicker than it was building the pyramid at any rate. Tourist 1: Yes, going back to the hotel? Tourist 1: Hullo, what’s this…. Tourist 1: What’ve you got there on your shoulder?

Copyright by Florent Ruppert and Jéróme Mulot. First published as Les Pharoans d’Egypte. By arrangement with L’Association. Translation copyright 2007 by Edward Gauvin. All rights reserved.

Read Context Explore Teaching Ideas

Copyright by Florent Ruppert and Jéróme Mulot. First published as Les Pharoans d’Egypte. By arrangement with L’Association. Translation copyright 2007 by Edward Gauvin. All rights reserved.

Meet the Creators

Read an interview with the “two-headed cartoon beast,”  Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot, published in metabunker.

Meet Translator Edward Gauvin

Read Gauvin’s interview with The Comics Journal, in which he explains how he got his start as a translator:  “Year Abroad. Dumb luck. Decent Taste.”  

Being Bedouin

Read a young Bedouin tour guide’s thoughts on Bedouin history and culture, published on the independent news site Egyptian Streets.

Then, listen to Bedouin songs from the Smithsonian’s music collection.

The Pharaohs as Inspiration

Look at a modern mural that invokes the pharaohs to commemorate people who died during a soccer match—and read about the artist who made it.

Background on Egypt
A black, red, and white mural reading "Freedom Egypt"

Mural, Egypt, 2013, photographed by stttijn. License: CC-BY 2.0.

To learn more about Egypt’s history, read the BBC’s timeline of key events from 7000 BCE to 2018.

More from the Creators

Read Barrel of Monkeys, also by Ruppert and Mulot.

More from Translator Edward Gauvin

Read Gauvin’s other work for Words Without Borders, of which he is a contributing editor. We especially recommend his translation of the comic “Crocodiles are Everywhere” and his essay on his own work being translated

Or visit Gauvin’s YouTube playlist of videos related to his work, including a reading of his translation of the story of a man who “sort of flies,” below.

Being a Tourist

Read about a modern encounter between Western tourists and Bedouin guides, from the perspective of the tourist.

5 More Pharaohs: Then and Now
More Literary "Savages"

You’ll find the word being used, with conscious and unconscious irony, in such poems as: 

"A Human Being or An Old Shoe?": More Stories of People Getting Labeled

The tourists in this story call their tour guides “savages.” Read another story from Egypt, in which a grandmother is only ever referred to as “The Guest.” 

Read selections from Taxi, Khaled Al Khamissi’s nonfiction collection of stories of Cairo’s cab drivers—their experiences are, in some ways, similar to those of the tour guides in “The Pharaohs of Egypt.” One of the cab drivers asks, “What do you think, sir, am I a human being or an old shoe?” 

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Copyright by Florent Ruppert and Jéróme Mulot. First published as Les Pharoans d’Egypte. By arrangement with L’Association. Translation copyright 2007 by Edward Gauvin. All rights reserved.

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