Mielich's sumptuous compositions of Cairene markets, bazaars and cafés offered contemporary audiences an exotic yet faithful view of Egyptian street life. Standing outside a mosque in the Haret el Yahoud district of the city, with the distinctive moon crescent and star motif and decked in wooden ‘alam
finials (used as processional standards), three merchants engage in animated negotiation over a group of Moroccan rugs, Rabat, nineteenth-century, and others including kilims folded and stacked in the background. Hanging to the left of the doorway is a silk appliqué panel, Uzbekistan, nineteenth-century, with stylised geometric motifs and an azure blue ground and deep dark brown border, which reappears in Mielich's pastel, The Discussion
, of 1892 (Private collection, Cairo).
Austrian-born Mielich first travelled to Egypt in 1889, and returned on several occasions up until the outbreak of the First World War, and the 'snapshot' verisimilitude of the scene in the present work is testimony to his sensitive understanding of the culture he depicts. Mielich's views of Cairo won him the admiration and patronage of Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who bought several of his paintings. In 1901, following international success, Mielich was sent by the Austrian Academy of Sciences on a mission to document western Arabia in pictures.