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The History Of Ali Cogia, A Merchant Of Bagdad
by [?]

In the reign of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid there lived at Bagdad a merchant named Ali Cogia, who was neither of the richest nor yet of the lowest order. He dwelt in his paternal house without either wife or children. He lived contented with what his business produced, and was as free in his actions as in his will. During this period he had for three successive nights a dream, in which an old man appeared to him, with a venerable aspect but a severe countenance, who reprimanded him for not having yet performed a pilgrimage to Mecca.

This dream troubled Ali Cogia very much. As a good Mussulman, he was aware of the necessity for this pilgrimage; but as he was encumbered with a house and furniture, and a shop, he had always considered these as excuses, and he endeavored to make up for the neglect by charitable deeds. But since he had these dreams his conscience disturbed him, and he was so fearful of some misfortune that he resolved no longer to defer this act of duty.

To enable himself to perform this in the following year, Ali Cogia began to sell his furniture; he then disposed of his shop, together with the greatest part of the merchandise, reserving only such as might be salable at Mecca; and he found a tenant for his house.

Having thus arranged everything, he was ready to set out at the time that the caravan for Mecca was to take its departure. The only thing which remained to be done was to find some secure place in which he could leave the sum of a thousand pieces of gold, which remained over and above the money he had set apart for his pilgrimage.

Ali Cogia chose a jar of a proper size, and put the thousand pieces of gold into it, and then filled it up with olives. After having closed the jar tightly, he took it to a merchant who was his friend. “Brother,” said he to him, “you are not unacquainted with my intention of setting out on a pilgrimage to Mecca with the caravan which goes in a few days; I beg the favor of you to take charge of this jar of olives till my return.” The merchant instantly replied: “Here, this is the key of my warehouse; take the jar there yourself, and place it where you think fit. I promise you that you shall find it in the same place when you come for it again.”

The day for departure arriving, Ali Cogia joined the caravan with a camel laden with the merchandise he had made choice of, which also served him as a sort of saddle to ride on, and he arrived in perfect safety at Mecca. He, together with the other pilgrims, visited the temple–that edifice, so celebrated and so frequented every year by all the Mussulman nations, who repair thither from all parts of the globe, to observe the religious ceremonies which are required of them. When he had acquitted himself of the duties of his pilgrimage, he exposed the merchandise he had brought with him for sale.

Two merchants, who were passing that way, and saw the goods of Ali Cogia, found them so beautiful that they stopped to look at them, although they did not want to purchase them. When they had satisfied their curiosity, one said to the other as he was walking away: “If this merchant knew the profit he could make of his goods at Cairo, he would take them there in preference to selling them here, where they are not of so much value.”

This speech did not escape Ali Cogia, and as he had often heard of the beauties of Egypt, he instantly resolved to travel to that country. Having, therefore, packed up his bales, he joined the caravan that was going to Cairo. When he arrived he found it so much to his advantage, that in a few days he had disposed of all his merchandise with much greater profit than he could possibly have expected. He then purchased other goods, intending to go to Damascus, and while he was waiting for the convenience of a caravan, which was to go in six weeks, he not only visited everything that was worthy of his curiosity in Cairo, but also went to view the pyramids, extended his journey to some distance up the Nile, and inspected the most celebrated cities that are situated on its banks.