Two Bowls from Aswan
Two bowls and a mysterious Joseph
story by Robbert Woltering
You are looking at two brass bowls that are similar, but not quite the same. Their provenance is somewhat uncertain, but it is likely that they were made in the late 19th to early 20th century in upper Egypt, perhaps in Aswan. That is where I saw them on the flea market in the year 2000. One of them caught my eye because of my interest in magic bowls, which often come in similarly shaped brass bowls. However, magic bowls tend to have inscriptions on the inside, not embossed calligraphy on the outside, as was the case with this bowl. But what really got me excited was the bowl lying next to it, nearly identical but for the fact that it had Hebrew lettering on it. Its meaning was vague, but it referred to Yōsef (Joseph). What these bowls were once made for was unclear to me at the time, but I had a strong feeling they had a story to tell. A story I wanted to hear...