Royal Gardener Sennejem arrived at the portal of Abu’s large apartment as Ra, the sun, was leaving Egypt. He stood before a tall door carved of imported cedar. Abu’s pet baboon, Huni, heard him before he knocked, and began to whimper as the aged Butler Farafra shuffled his way toward the door.
When the door opened, Sennejem handed Farafra a basket of ripe figs, saying, “These are for Huni.” The butler nodded, bowed as deep as his old body allowed, then with a scrawny arm silently offered Sennejem entrance.
The cool rooms, like all the royal apartments, were insulated from the heat of the desert with massively thick walls of whitewashed mud brick. As soon as the astrologer saw Sennejem, without greeting him, he stood and clapped his hands. Four lean attendants stood at attention. Pulling his rotund frame tall, Abu boomed his food order, while the men listened in earnest:
“Two knuckles of Suti beef, four pigeons, a crock of goat cheese, and a cone of bread. A pot of olives and bunches of mint, parsley and dill. Bring green onions and radishes, too. Choose the ripest melon and don’t forget honey cakes.” Abu then welcomed Sennejem and sat back down.
Dining with Abu was a sumptuous experience, because the food came from Pharaoh’s kitchen. Sennejem had grown excited when “Suti beef” was mentioned. It was prized meat, reserved mainly for the court, and was from cattle grown on a huge estate that Pharaoh had given Royal Astrologer Suti. (The latter, together with his twin, Hor, had been designated royal architects at a young age. Pharaoh was generous to twins for the good omens they portended.)
Abu turned to his butler and said, “We have sma, do we not?” Sma was blended wine of preferred vintages, found only in Pharaoh’s cellar. How Abu got sma wine for his table, Sennejem did not ask. Farafra nodded that they did have the wine, then motioned the four attendants to fetch the food order from the royal kitchen, some three hundred yards away. They took off running, empty baskets in hand.