Title: An Account of The Manners and Customs of The Modern Egyptians. Written In Egypt During the Years 1833—1835. [Electronic Edition]

Author: Lane, Edward William, 1801-1876
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Title: An Account of The Manners and Customs of The Modern Egyptians. Written in Egypt during the Years 1833—1835.

Author: Edward William Lane
Reprinted from the Third Edition, 1842.
File size or extent: xxiv, 552 p. illus. 20 cm.
Publisher: Ward, Lock and Co.
Place of publication: London; New York; Melbourne
Publication date: 1890
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Origin/composition of the text: 1890
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  • Arabic (ara)
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  • Egypt -- Social life and customs.
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An Account of The Manners and Customs of The Modern Egyptians. Written In Egypt During the Years 1833—1835. [Electronic Edition]


Lane's Modern Egyptians.


Edited by G. T. BETTANY, M.A., B.Sc.

Written in Egypt during the Years 1833—1835.

Translator of “The Thousand and One Nights.”
With Eighty Illustrations and Sixteen Full-Page Engravings.
Reprinted from the Third Edition, 1842.



Fortunately in recent years many educated, observant, and
enterprising Englishmen have studied Mussulman life and character
in many parts of the world. The names of Sir Richard
Burton and Edward Henry Palmer stand as types of the later generation
of these men; but in the early part of this century no man
can be named who has greater claims to recognition and gratitude
for his labours in this direction than Edward William Lane. To
him we owe an admirable translation of “The Thousand and One
Nights,” with notes, which form a complete encyclopaedia of Arab
manners and customs; selections from the Koran, which introduce
the English reader to its most valuable portions; an
invaluable Arabic-English Lexicon; and lastly the present work,
which has been described as “the most remarkable description
of a people ever written.”
Edward William Lane, third son of the Rev. Theophilus Lane,
a Prebendary of Hereford Cathedral, and of Sophia Gardiner,
a niece of Gainsborough the painter, was born at Hereford, on
Sept. 17th, 1801, and largely educated by his parents, especially
his mother, to whom he owed much of his intellectual and moral
training. Having shown equal mastery of classics and mathematics,
he intended entering at Cambridge with a view to taking
holy orders, but abandoned this intention after a short visit to
Cambridge. Immediately afterwards he found himself able to
solve all the problems in the mathematical tripos of the year
except one, the solution to which came to him while asleep, and
was at once written down on waking in the middle of the night.

Joining his elder brother Richard, an able lithographer, in London,
he made great progress in engraving and other branches
of art, which were afterwards of much value to him in Egypt.
Through overwork and want of exercise, he injured his constitution,
and nearly succumbed to an attack of fever. His subsequent
ill-health led him to contemplate a residence in the East, to
which his now rapidly progressing studies in Arabic had already
attracted him. In July, 1825, he left England in a brig bound
for Alexandria. On Sept. 2nd the vessel nearly foundered in a
gale off Tunis; the master proved incompetent, and begged Lane,
who knew something of navigation, to take the helm; and, lashed
to the wheel, he succeeded in taking the brig safely into Malta.
Arrived at Alexandria, he resolved to throw himself con amore
into native life, to adopt native costume, speak Arabic continually,
and penetrate the inner life of the people. Several months were
spent in Cairo; at the Pyramids he lived in a tomb for a fortnight,
with bones, rags, and mummies for his companions; in
1826 he ascended the Nile to the Second Cataract; everywhere
recording his exact impressions, making plans and careful drawings,
and taking all trouble to secure accurate knowledge. He
returned to England in the autumn of 1828, with a complete
“Description of Egypt,” as it then was, and 101 excellent sepia
drawings, made with the camera lucida. But Egypt was not yet
known or appreciated in England, and publishers would not incur
the expense of publishing the work and reproducing the drawings,
though they were universally praised by all who saw them.
Fortunately that part of the work which gave an account of the
modern inhabitants was shown to Lord Brougham, who at once
recommended its acceptance by the Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge. But in order to perfect the book, Lane
undertook to visit Egypt a second time, to stay two years, and
still more completely enter into the life of the Egyptians. The
book, when ready, was illustrated by admirable woodcuts drawn
on the blocks by his own hand; it was published in December,
1836, in two volumes. Its success was immediate and great;

other editions followed, the third, much improved, being published
by Charles Knight in 1842. It is from this that the present
edition is reprinted. Later editions have contained various
modifications, but nothing can add to the book as we present it,
as a perfect picture of what Lane saw in Egypt in 1833-5. Even
twenty-five years later, the people and their habits had in many
ways altered more than in several preceding centuries. We can
never reconstruct Egypt as Lane saw it, except by reading Lane's
description. It has a permanent value as history, and thus no
attempt has here been made to modernise it, or to alter the
references which he made to “recent” or “present” times. It
bears the stamp of a character singularly open to the realisation
of the genius of a different race from his own, and as such it has
few parallels in literature.
A fresh translation of the “Arabian Nights” was Lane's next
great work. Instead of the misleading and imperfect translation
still, unfortunately, current, he made a version which reproduces
the true Oriental impression, informed with knowledge of and
insight into the people described. To it he added a vast number
of notes, encyclopaedic in their range over Arab customs and
institutions, and full of interest to all classes of readers. It was
published in monthly parts from 1838 to 1840. Next he arranged
a valuable series of “Selections from the Koran,” published in
1843. He now entered upon the work which for scholars surpasses
all his other efforts, though it is unknown to the general
reader. No Arabic-English Lexicon of any value existed: Lane
devoted the remainder of his life to filling the void. The
language of the Koran was rapidly becoming deteriorated in
common speech, and it needed careful study of manuscripts still
existing, but watchfully secured from unbelievers, to become truly
at home in the classic language. The great Arabic Lexicon, Taj-el-'Aroos,
a combination of all preceding lexicons, had to be
transcribed throughout, by the aid of a learned Mohammedan,
in Cairo, for thirteen years, and then elaborately studied and
translated and modified by the aid of all possible authorities. It

was Lord Prudhoe's (afterwards fourth Duke of Northumberland)
munificence that first enabled this to be done. In 1842 Lane
left England again, accompanied by his wife, a Greek lady whom
he married in 1840, and by his sister, Mrs. Poole (author of the
“Englishwoman in Egypt”), and he lived as a close student in
Cairo till 1849, when he returned to England. After that date
he settled at Worthing, entirely devoted to his great work, a
worthy successor of Dr. Johnson in his strenuous devotion to his
great Dictionary, but in other respects his antithesis. Its publication
in eight volumes was not completed at his death, and the last
parts were superintended by his nephew, Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole,
who has written a brief life of his uncle, to which this introduction
is greatly indebted. Quiet, gentlemanly, courteous, genial,
simple in Christian faith and practice, while admitting the great
critical light which Semitic studies throw upon the Bible, earnest
and pure-souled, “in his presence a profane or impure speech
was an impossibility; yet no one was ever more gentle with that
frailty for which the world has no pity.” He died at Worthing,
on August 10th, 1876. His name is imperishably written among
those of the giants of Arabic scholarship.
G. T. B.



Cairo, 1835.
During a former visit to this country, undertaken chiefly for the
purpose of studying the Arabic language in its most famous school,
I devoted much of my attention to the manners and customs of the
Arab inhabitants; and in an intercourse of two years and a half
with this people, soon found that all the information which I had
previously been able to obtain respecting them was insufficient to
be of much use to the student of Arabic literature, or to satisfy
the curiosity of the general reader. Hence I was induced to
cover some quires of paper with notes on the most remarkable of
their usages, partly for my own benefit, and partly in the hope
that I might have it in my power to make some of my country,
men better acquainted with the domiciliated classes of one of the
most interesting nations of the world, by drawing a detailed picture
of the inhabitants of the largest Arab city. The period of
my first visit to this country did not, however, suffice for the accomplishment
of this object, and for the prosecution of my other
studies; and I relinquished the idea of publishing the notes which
I had made on the modern inhabitants: but, five years after my
return to England, those notes were shown to some members of
the Committee of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,
at whose suggestion, the Committee, interested with the
subjects of them, and with the novelty of some of their contents
engaged me to complete and print them. Encouraged by their
approbation, and relying upon their judgment, I immediately
determined to follow their advice, and, by the earliest opportunity,
again departed to Egypt. After another residence of more
than a year in the metropolis of this country, and half a year in

Upper Egypt, I have now accomplished, as well as I am able, the
task proposed to me.1
1 It give me great pleasure to find, that, while I have been attempting to
preserve memorials of the manners and customs of the most polished modern
Arab people, one of my learned friends (M. Fulgence Fresnel) has been occupied,
with eminent success, in rescuing from oblivion many interesting notices
of the history of the early Arabs, and that another (Mr. [now, Sir Gardner]
Wilkinson) has been preparing to impart to us an account of the private life,
manners, etc., of the Ancient Egyptians. [The very high and just commendation
which the works of these two authors (published since the above was
written) have obtained from eminent critics renders it needless for me to add my
humble testimony to their merits.]
It may be said, that the English reader already possesses an
excellent and ample description of Arab manners and customs, in
Dr. Russell's account of the people of Aleppo. I will not forfeit
my own claim to the reputation of an honest writer, by attempting
to detract from the just merits of that valuable and interesting
work; but must assert, that it is, upon the whole, rather an
account of Turkish than of Arab manners; and that neither the
original Author, nor his brother, to whom we are indebted for the
enlarged and much-improved edition, was sufficiently acquainted
with the Arabic language to scrutinize some of the most interesting
subjects of inquiry which the plan of the work required them
to treat: nor would their well-known station in Aleppo, or perhaps
their national feelings, allow them to assume those disguises
which were necessary to enable them to become familiar with
many of the most remarkable religious ceremonies, opinions, and
superstitions of the people whom they have described. Deficiencies
in their remarks on these subjects are the only faults of
any importance that I can discover in their excellent and learned
2 Among the memoirs in “the great French work” on Egypt, is one entitled
“Essai sur les maeurs des habitans modernes de l'
Egypte;” but its
author appears to me to have fallen into an error of considerable magnitude,
in applying to the Egyptians in general, observations which were, in truth,
for the most part descriptive of the manners and customs of their naturalized
rulers, the Memlooks. It is probable that the Egyptians in some degree
imitated, when they were able to do so, the habits and customs of this class:
I may however, venture to affirm, that the essay here alluded to does not
convey a true notion of their present moral and social state. Its author,
moreover, shows himself to have been often extremely careless both in his
observations and inquiries: this is particularly evident in his singular misstatement
of the correspondence of French and Mohammadan hours, and in the
first two pages (in the 8vo. edition) of the section on public fêtes. He has
given many just philosophical observations; but these occupy too large a proportion
of a memoir scarcely exceeding one-third of the extent of the present
work. To show that these remarks are not made in an invidious spirit, I
most willingly express my high admiration of other parts of “the great work”
(especially the contributions of M. Jomard), relating to subjects which have
alike employed my mind and pen, and upon which I shall probably publish
my observations.—Burckhardt's “Arabic Proverbs,” and their illustrations,
convey many notions of remarkable customs and traits of character of the
modern Egyptians; but are very far from composing a complete exposition, or
in every case, a true one; for national proverbs are bad tests of the morality
of a people.—There is one word, however, which presents most admirable pictures
of the manners and customs of the Arabs, and particularly of those of
the Egyptians: it is “The Thousand and One Nights,” or Arabian Nights'
Entertainments: if the English reader had possessed a close translation of it
with sufficient illustrative notes, I might almost have spared myself the labour
of the present undertaking.—[This remark, respecting “The Thousand and
One Nights,” was, I believe, the cause of my being employed, since the
publication of the first edition of the present work, to translate those admirable
tales, and to illustrate them by explanatory notes.]


I have been differently circumstanced. Previously to my first
visit to this country, I acquired some knowledge of the language
and literature of the Arabs; and in a year after my first arrival
here, I was able to converse with the people among whom I was
residing with tolerable ease. I have associated, almost exclusively,
with Muslims, of various ranks in society: I have lived as they
live, conforming with their general habits; and, in order to make
them familiar and unreserved towards me on every subject, have
always avowed my agreement with them in opinion whenever my
conscience would allow me, and in most other cases, refrained
from the expression of my dissent, as well as from every action
which might give them disgust; abstaining from eating food for
bidden by their religion, and drinking wine, etc.; and even from
habits merely disagreeable to them; such as the use of knives
and forks at meals. Having made myself acquainted with all
their common religious ceremonies, I have been able to escape
exciting, in strangers, any suspicion of my being a person who
had no right to intrude among them, whenever it was necessary
for me to witness any Muslim right or festival. While, from the
dress which I have found most convenient to wear, I am generally
mistaken, in public, for a Turk. My acquaintances, of course,

know me to be an Englishman; but I constrain them to treat me
as a Muslim, by my freely acknowledging the hand of Providence
in the introduction and diffusion of the religion of El-Islám, and,
when interrogated, avowing my belief in the Messiah, in accordance
with the words of the Kur-án, as the Word of God, infused
into the womb of the Virgin Mary, and a spirit proceeding from
Him. Thus, I believe, I have acquired their good opinion, and
much of their confidence; though not to such an extent as to
prevent my having to contend with many difficulties. The Muslims
are very averse from giving information on subjects connected
with their religion or superstitions to persons whom they suspect
of differing from them in sentiments; but very ready to talk on
such subjects with those whom they think acquainted with them:
hence I have generally obtained some slight knowledge of matters
difficult for me thoroughly to learn from one of the most lax, and
of the least instructed, of my friends; so as to be able to draw
into conversation, upon the desired topics, persons of better
information; and by this mode I have invariably succeeded in
overcoming their scruples. I have had two professors of Arabic
and of Muslim religion and law as my regular, salaried tutors;
and, by submitting to them questions on any matters respecting
which I was in doubt, have authenticated or corrected, and added
to, the information derived from conversation with my other
friends. Occasionally, also, I have applied to higher authorities;
having the happiness to number among my friends in this city
some persons of the highest attainments in Eastern learning.
Perhaps the reader may not be displeased if I here attempt to
acquaint him more particularly with one of my Muslim friends,
the first of those above alluded to; and to show, at the same
time, the light in which he, like others of his country, regards me
in my present situation.—The sheykh Ahmad (or seyyid Ahmad;
for he is one of the numerous class of “shereefs,” or descendants
of the Prophet) is somewhat more than forty years of age, by his
own confession; but appears more near to fifty. He is as remarkable
in physiognomy as in character. His stature is under
the middle size: his beard reddish, and now becoming grey. For

many years he has been nearly blind: one of his eyes is almost
entirely closed; and both are ornamented, on particular occasions
(at least on the two grand annual festivals), with a border
of the black pigment called “kohl,” which is seldom used but
by women. He boasts his descent not only from the Prophet,
but also from a very celebrated saint, Esh-Shaaráwee;1 and his
complexion, which is very fair, supports his assertion, that his
ancestors, for several generations, lived in the north-western
parts of Africa. He obtains his subsistence from a slender patrimony,
and by exercising the trade of a bookseller. Partly to
profit in this occupation, and partly for the sake of society, or at
least to enjoy some tobacco and coffee, he is a visitor in my house
almost every evening.
1 Thus commonly pronounced, for Esh-Shaaránee.
For several years before he adopted the trade of a bookseller,
which was that of his father, he pursued no other occupation than
that of performing in the religious ceremonies called “zikrs;”
which consist in the repetition of the name and attributes, etc.,
of God, by a number of persons, in chorus; and in such performances
he is still often employed. He was then a member of the
order of the Saadeeyeh darweeshes, who are particularly famous
for devouring live serpents; and he is said to have been one of
the serpent-eaters: but he did not confine himself to food so
easily digested. One night, during a meeting of a party of darweeshes
of his order, at which their Sheykh was present, my friend
became affected with religious frenzy, seized a tall glass shade
which surrounded a candle placed on the floor, and ate a large
portion of it. The Sheykh and the other darweeshes, looking at
him with astonishment, upbraided him with having broken the
institutes of his order; since the eating of glass was not among
the miracles which they were allowed to perform; and they immediately
expelled him. He then entered the order of the
Ahmedeeyeh; and as they, likewise, never ate glass, he determined
not to do so again. However, soon after, at a meeting of
some brethren of this order, when several Saadeeyeh also were
present, he again was seized with frenzy, and, jumping up to a

chandelier, caught hold of one of the small glass lamps attached
to it, and devoured about half of it, swallowing also the oil and
water which it contained. He was conducted before his Sheykh,
to be tried for this offence; but, on his taking an oath never to
eat glass again, he was neither punished not expelled the order.
Notwithstanding this oath, he soon again gratified his propensity
to eat a glass lamp; and a brother-darweesh, who was present,
attempted to do the same; but a large fragment stuck between
the tongue and palate of this rash person; and my friend had
great trouble to extract it. He was again tried by his Sheykh;
and, being reproached for having broken his oath and vow of
repentance, he coolly answered, “I repent again: repentance is
good: for He whose name be exalted hath said, in the Excellent
Book, ‘Verily, God loveth the repentant.”' The Sheykh, in
anger, exclaimed, “Dost thou dare to act in this manner, and
then come and cite the Kur-án before me?”—and with this reproof,
he ordered that he should be imprisoned ten days: after
which, he made him again swear to abstain from eating glass; and
on this condition he was allowed to remain a member of the Ahmedeeyeh.
This second oath he professes not to have broken.—
The person whose office it was to prosecute him related to me
these facts; and my friend reluctantly confessed them to be
When I was first acquainted with the sheykh Ahmad, he had
long been content with one wife; but now he has indulged himself
with a second,1 who continues to live in her parents' house:
yet he has taken care to assure me, that he is not rich enough to
refuse my yearly present of a dress. On my visiting him for the
second time during my present residence in this place, his mother
came to the door of the room in which I was sitting with him, to
complain to me of his conduct in taking this new wife. Putting
her hand within the door, to give greater effect to her words by
proper action (or perhaps to show how beautifully the palm, and
the tips of the fingers, glowed with the fresh red dye of the

“henna”), but concealing the rest of her person, she commenced
a most energetic appeal to my sympathy.—“O Efendee!” she exclaimed,
“I throw myself upon thy mercy! I kiss thy feet! I have
no hope but in God and thee!” “What words are these, my
mistress?” said I: “what misfortune hath befallen thee? and what
can I do for thee? Tell me.” “This son of mine,” she continued,
“this my son Ahmad, is a worthless fellow: he has a wife here, a
good creature, with whom he has lived happily, with God's blessing,
for sixteen years; and now he has neglected her and me,
and given himself up to a second wife, a young, impudent wench:
he lavishes his money upon this monkey, and others like her,
and upon her father and mother and uncles and brother and
brother's children, and I know not whom besides, and abridges
us, that is, myself and his first wife, of the comforts of which we
were before accustomed. By the Prophet! and by thy dear head!
I speak truth. I kiss thy feet, and beg thee to insist upon
his divorcing his new wife.”—The poor man looked a little
foolish while his mother was thus addressing me from behind the
door; and as soon as she was gone, promised to do what she
desired. “But,” said he, “it is a difficult case. I was in the
habit of sleeping occasionally in the house of the brother of the
girl whom I have lately taken as my wife: he is a clerk in the
employ of ‘Abbás Básha; and rather more than a year ago,
‘Abbás Básha sent for me, and said, ‘I hear that you are often
sleeping in the house of my clerk Mohammad. Why do you act
so? Do you not know that it is very improper, when there are
women in the house?' I said, ‘I am going to marry his sister.'
‘Then why have you not married her already?' asked the Básha.
‘She is only nine years of age.' ‘Is the marriage contract made?'
‘No.' ‘Why not?' ‘I cannot afford, at present, to give the
dowry.' ‘What is the dowry to be?' ‘Ninety piasters.' ‘Here,
then,' said the Básha, ‘take the money, and let the contract be
concluded immediately.' So you see I was obliged to marry the
girl; and I am afraid that the Básha will be angry if I divorce
her: but I will act in such a manner that her brother shall insist
upon the divorce; and then, please God, I shall live in peace

again.”—This is a good example of the comfort of having two
1 He professes to have had more than thirty wives in the course of his life;
bat, in saying so, I believe he greatly exaggerates.
A short time since, upon his offering me a copy of the Kur-án
for sale, he thought it necessary to make some excuse for his
doing so. He remarked that, by my conforming with many of
the ceremonies of the Muslims, I tacitly professed myself to be
one of them; and that it was incumbent upon him to regard
me in the most favourable light, which he was the more willing to
do because he knew that I should incur the displeasure of my
King by making an open profession of the faith of El-Islám, and
therefore could not do it.
1 “You give me,” said he, the salutation
of ‘Peace be on you!' and it would be impious in me,
being directly forbidden by my religion, to pronounce you an
unbeliever; for God, whose name be exalted, hath said, ‘Say
not unto him who greeteth thee with peace, Thou art not a
believer:'2 therefore,” he added, “it is no sin in me to put
into your hands the noble Kur-án: but there are some of your
countrymen who will take it in unclean hands, and even sit upon
it! I beg God's forgiveness for talking of such a thing: far be it
from you to do so; you, praise be to God, know and observe the
command, ‘None shall touch it but they who are purified.'” 3
—He once sold a copy of the Kur-án, on my application, to a
countryman of mine, who, being disturbed, just as the bargain
was concluded, by some person entering the room, hastily put
the sacred book upon the seat, and under a part of his dress, to
conceal it. The bookseller was much scandalized by this action;
thinking that my friend was sitting upon the book, and that he
was doing so to show his contempt of it: he declares his belief
that he has been heavily punished by God for this unlawful sale.
—There was only one thing that I had much difficulty in persuading
him to do during my former visit to this country: which
1 It is a common belief among the Egyptians, that every European traveller
who visits their country is an emissary from his King; and it is difficult to
convince them that this is not the case: so strange to them is the idea of a
man's incurring great trouble and expense for the purpose of acquiring the
knowledge of foreign countries and nations.
2 Kur-án, chap. iv., ver. 96.
3 Kur-án, chap, lvi., ver 78.

was, to go with me, at a particular period, into the mosque of the
Hasaneyn, the reputed burial-place of the head of El-Hoseyn,
and the most sacred of the mosques in the Egyptian metropolis.
On my passing with him before one of the entrances of this
building, one afternoon during the fast of Ramadán, when it was
crowded with Turks, and many of the principal people of the city
were among the congregation, I thought it a good opportunity to
see it to the greatest advantage, and asked my companion to go
in with me. He positively refused, in the fear of my being discovered
to be an Englishman, which might so rouse the fanatic
anger of some of the Turks there as to expose me to some act of
violence. I therefore entered alone. He remained at the door,
following me with his eye only (or his only eye), and wondering at
my audacity; but as soon as he saw me acquit myself in the usual
manner, by walking round the bronze screen which surrounds
the monument over the spot where the head of the martyr is said
to be buried, and then putting myself into the regular postures of
prayer, he came in, and said his prayers by my side.
After relating these anecdotes, I should mention, that the
characters of my other acquaintances here are not marked by
similar eccentricities. My attentions to my visitors have been
generally confined to the common usages of Eastern hospitality;
supplying them with pipes and coffee, and welcoming them to a
share of my dinner or supper. Many of their communications I
have written in Arabic, at their dictation, and since translated
and inserted in the following pages. What I have principally
aimed at, in this work, is correctness; and I do not scruple to
assert, that I am not conscious of having endeavoured to render
interesting any matter that I have related by the slightest sacrifice
of truth.
P.S.—With regard to the engravings which accompany this
work, I should mention, that they are from drawings which I have
made, not to embellish the pages, but merely to explain the text.



Since the publication of the first edition of the present work, the
studies in which I have been engaged have enabled me to improve
it by various corrections and additions; and the success
which it has obtained (a success very far beyond my expectations)
has excited me to use my utmost endeavours to rectify its errors
and supply its defects.
In reading the Kur-án, with an Arabic commentary, I have
found that Sale's version, though deserving of high commendation
for its general accuracy, is incorrect in many important passages;
and hence I have been induced to revise with especial care my
abstract of the principal Muslim laws: for as Sale had excellent
commentaries to consult, and I, when I composed that abstract,
had none, I placed great reliance on his translation. My plan, in
the execution of that portion of my work, was to make use of
Sale's translation as the basis, and to add what appeared necessary
from the Sunneh and other sources, chiefly at the dictation of a
professor of law, who was my tutor: but I have found that my
foundation was in several points faulty.
I am indebted to a gentleman who possesses a thorough knowledge
of the spirit of Muslim institutions1 for the suggestion of
some improvements in the same and other portions of this work;
and observations made by several intelligent critics have lessened
the labour of revision and emendation.
1 David Urquhart, Esq., author of “The Spirit of the East,” etc.


I have also profited, on this occasion, by a paper containing
a number of corrections and additions written in Egypt, which
I had mislaid and forgotten: but none of these are of much
The mode in which Arabic words were transcribed in the
previous editions I thought better calculated than any other to
enable an English reader, unacquainted with the Arabic language,
to pronounce those words with tolerable accuracy; but it was
liable to serious objections, and was disagreeable, in some
respects, to most Oriental scholars, and to myself. I have therefore
now employed, in its stead, as I did in my translation of
“The Thousand and One Nights,” a system congenial with our
language, and of the most simple kind; and to this system I
adhere in every case, for the sake of uniformity as well as truth. 1 It requires little explanation: the general reader may be directed
to pronounce
  • “a” as in our word “beggar:”2
  • “á” as in “father:”3
  • “e” as in “bed:”
  • “é” as in “there:”
  • “ee” as in “bee:”
  • “ei” as our word “eye:”
  • “ey” as in “they:”
  • “i” as in “bid:”
  • “o” as in “obey” (short):
  • “ó” as in “bone:”
  • “oo” as in “boot:”
  • “ow” as in “down:”
  • “u” as in “bull:”
  • “y” as in “you.”
1 Here I must mention, that I have written “Básha” instead of “Pásha”
in conformity with the pronunciation of the Egyptians.
2 Strictly speaking, it has a sound between that of “a” in “bad” and that
of “u” in “bud;” sometimes approximating more to the former, and sometimes to the latter.
3 Its sound, however, often approximates to that of “a” in “ball.”
An apostrophe, when immediately preceding or following a
vowel, I employ to denote the place of a letter which has no
equivalent in our alphabet: it has a guttural sound, like that
which is heard in the bleating of sheep.
The usual sign of a diaeresis I sometimes employ to show that
a final “e” is not mute, but pronounced as that letter, when unaccented,
in the beginning or middle of a word.
Having avoided as much as possible marking the accentuation
in Arabic words, I must request the reader to bear in mind, not

only that a single vowel, when not marked with an accent, is
always short; but that a double vowel, or diphthong, at the end
of a word, when not so marked, is not accented (“Welee,” for
instance, being pronounced “Wě'lee,” or “Wel'ee,”): also, that
the accents do not always denote the principal or only emphasis
(“Sháweesh” being pronounced “Sháwee'sh”); and that “dh,”
“gh,” “kh,” “sh,” and “th,” when not divided by a hyphen,
represent, each, a single Arabic letter.
As some readers may observe that many Arabic words are
written differently in this work and in my translation of “The
Thousand and One Nights,” it is necessary to add, that in the
present case I write such words agreeably with the general pronunciation
of the educated classes in Cairo. For the same
reason I often use the same European character to express two
Arabic letters which in Egypt are pronounced alike.

E. W. L.

May, 1842.



Biographical Notice of the Author v
Preface ix
Advertisement to the Third Edition xviii
The Country and Climate—Metropolis—Houses—Population 1
I.—Personal Characteristics and Dress of the Muslim
II.—Infancy and Early Education 42
III.—Religion and Laws 52
IV.—Government 98
V.—Domestic Life (Men of the Higher and Middle Orders) 120
VI.—Domestic Life, continued (Women of the Higher and Middle
VII.—Domestic Life, continued (The Lower Orders) 174
VIII.—Common Usages of Society 179
IX.—Language, Literature, and Science 188
X.—Superstitions (Genii, Saints, and Darweeshes) 202
XI.—Superstitions, continued (Charms and Auguration) 226
XII.—Magic, Astrology, and Alchemy« 242
XIII.—Character 255
XIV.—Industry 285
XV.—Use of Tobacco, Coffee, Hemp, Opium, Etc. 303


XVI.—The Bath 307
XVII.—Games 315
XVIII.—Music 323
XIX.—Public Dancers 347
XX.—Serpent-Charmers and Performers of Legerdemain
XXI.—Public Recitations of Romances 359
XXII.—Public Recitations of Romances, continued 367
XXIII.—Public Recitations of Romances, continued 380
XXIV.—Periodical Public Festivals, Etc. (Those of the First
Three months of the Muslim year
XXV.—Periodical Public Festivals, Etc., continued (Those of
the Fourth of Following Months of The Muslim Year
XXVI.—Periodical Public Festivals, Etc., continued. (Those of
the Solar year
XXVII.—Private Festivities, Etc. 463
XXVIII.—Death and Funeral Rites 473
I.—The Copts 489
II.—The Jews of Egypt 512
III.—Of Late Innovations in Egypt 515
Female Ornaments 519
Egyptian Measures, Weights and Moneys 532
Prayer of Muslim School-Boys 536



The Doseh (see p. 416) Frontispiece.
Private Houses in Cairo Facing page 5
Court of a Private House in Cairo Facing page 9
A Käah Facing page 16
Men of the Middle and Higher Classes Facing page 25
A Lady in the Dress worn in private Facing page 35
A Woman of the Southern Province of Upper Egypt (sketched at
Facing page 42
Parade previous to Circumcision Facing page 48
Bridal Procession (Part I.) Facing page 150
Bridal Procession (Part II.) Facing page 152
Shops in a Street in Cairo Facing page 289
Shop of a Turkish Merchant Facing page 293
The Shádoof Facing page 300
A Sha'er, with his accompanying Violist Facing page 359
Funeral Procession Facing page 477
Sketch of a Tomb with the Entrance uncovered Facing page 484


Door of a Private House 6
Specimens of Lattice-work 7
Fountain 9
Suffeh 10
Specimens of Panel-work 12
Ceiling of a Durká'ah 13
Ceiling of a projecting Window 13
Wooden Lock 15
Fellaheen 27
An Eye ornamented with Kohl 30
Muk-hul'ahs and Mirweds 30
Ancient Vessel and Probe for Kohl 31
An Eye and Eyebrow ornamented with Kohl, as represented in ancient
Hands and Feet stained with Henna 32
A tattooed Girl 34
Specimens of Tattooing on the Chin 34
Tattooed Hands and Foot 34
A Lady adorned with the Kurs and Safa, etc. 36
Lady attired for Riding or Walking 38
Fellah Women 40
Ornamented black Veils 41
Postures of Prayer (Part I.) 64
Postures of Prayer (Part II.) 65
Interior of a Mosque 68


Pipes 123
Coffee-service 125
'A'z'kee and Mankals 127
Washing before or after a Meal 129
Tisht and Ibreek 130
Kursee and Seeneeyeh 131
A Party at Dinner or Supper 132
Water-bottles 135
Sherbet-cups 137
Lantern, etc., suspended on the occasion of a Wedding 149
Mesh'als 154
Kumkum and Mibkhar'ah 185
Magic Invocation and Charm 248
Magic Square and Mirror of Ink 249
Water-carriers 296
Hemalees 298
Plan of a Bath 309
Section of the Harárah 311
Foot-rasps 312
Mankal'ah 315
Seega 320
Kemengeh 327
Kánoon 328
Egyptian Musical Instruments, Pipe, Ornaments, etc. 330
Náy 331
Rabáb esh-Shá'er 332
Ságát 334
Tár 334
Darabukkeh 334
Earthen Darabukkeh 335
Zummárah 335
Mouth-piece of the Zummárah 335
Arghool 335
The Mahmal 404
Diamond Kurs 520
Gold Kurs 521
Kussah 522
'Enebeh 522
Kamarahs 523
Sákiyeh 523
‘Ood es-Saleeb 523
Mishts 523
'Akeek 523
Belloor 525
Ear-rings 525
Necklaces 520
Bracelets 527
Bark 529
Másoorah 529
Habbeh 529
Shiftish'eh 529
Anklets 529
Hegábs 530
Nose-rings 531



It is generally observed that many of the most remarkable
peculiarities in the manners, customs, and character of a nation
are attributable to the physical peculiarities of the country. Such
causes, in an especial manner, affect the moral and social state
of the modern Egyptians, and therefore here require some preliminary
notice; but it will not as yet be necessary to explain
their particular influences: these will be evinced in many subsequent
parts of the present work.
The Nile, in its course trough the narrow and winding valley
of Upper Egypt, which is confined on each side by mountainous
and sandy deserts, as well as through the plain of Lower Egypt, is
everywhere bordered, excepting in a very few places, by cultivated
fields of its own formation. These cultivated tracts are not
perfectly level, being somewhat lower towards the deserts than in
the neighbourhood of the river. They are interspersed with palm
groves and villages, and intersected by numerous canals. The
copious summer rains which prevail in Abyssinia and the neighbouring
countries begin to show their effects in Egypt, by the
rising of the Nile, about the period of the summer solstice. By
the autumnal equinox, the river attains its greatest height, which
is always sufficient to fill the canals by which the fields are
irrigated, and, generally, to inundate large portions of the cultivable
land: it then gradually falls until the period when it again

begins to rise. Being impregnated, particularly during its rise,
with rich soil washed down from the mountainous countries
whence it flows, a copious deposit is annually spread, either by
the natural inundation or by artificial irrigation, over the fields
which border it; while its bed, from the same cause, rises in an
equal degree. The Egyptians depend entirely upon their river
for the fertilization of the soil, rain being a very rare phenomenon
in their country, excepting in the neighbourhood of the Mediterranean;
and as the seasons are perfectly regular, the peasant may
make his arrangements with the utmost precision respecting the
labour he will have to perform. Sometimes his labour is light;
but when it consists in raising water for irrigation it is excessively
The climate of Egypt, during the greater part of the year, is
remarkably salubrious. The exhalations from the soil after the
period of the inundation render the latter part of the autumn less
healthy than the summer and winter; and cause ophthalmia and
dysentery, and some other diseases, to be more prevalent then
than at other seasons; and during a period of somewhat more or
less than fifty days (called “el-khamáseen1”), commencing in
April, and lasting throughout May, hot southerly winds occasionally
prevail for about three days together. These winds, though
they seldom cause the thermometer of Fahrenheit to rise above
95° in Lower Egypt, or, in Upper Egypt, 105°,2 are dreadfully
oppressive, even to the natives. When the plague visits Egypt, it
is generally in the spring; and this disease is most severe in the
period of the khamáseen. Egypt is also subject, particularly
during the spring and summer, to the hot wind called the
“samoom,” which is still more oppressive than the khamáseen
winds, but of much shorter duration, seldom lasting longer than
a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. It generally proceeds
from the south-east, or south-south-east, and carries with it clouds
of dust and sand. The general height of the thermometer in the
depth of winter in Lower Egypt, in the afternoon and in the
shade, is from 50° to 60°: in the hottest season it is from 90° to
100°; and about ten degrees higher in the southern parts of
Upper Egypt. But though the summer heat is so great it is
seldom very oppressive, being generally accompanied by a refreshing
northerly breeze, and the air being extremely dry. There

is, however, one great source of discomfort arising from this
dryness—namely, an excessive quantity of dust; and there are
other plagues which very much detract from the comfort which
the natives of Egypt, and visitors to their country, otherwise
derive from its genial climate. In spring, summer, and autumn,
flies are so abundant as to be extremely annoying during the
daytime, and musquitoes are troublesome at night (unless a
curtain be made use of to keep them away), and sometimes even
in the day; and every house that contains much wood-work (as
most of the better houses do) swarms with bugs during the warm
weather. Lice are not always to be avoided in any season, but
they are easily got rid of; and in the cooler weather fleas are
excessively numerous.
1 Respecting this term, see the first of the notes in Chapter xxvi.
2 This is the temperature in the shade. At Thebes, I have observed the
thermometer to rise above 110° during a khamáseen wind, in the shade.
The climate of Upper Egypt is more healthy, though hotter,
than that of Lower Egypt. The plague seldom ascends far above
Cairo, the metropolis; and is most common in the marshy parts
of the country, near the Mediterranean. During the last ten
years, the country having been better drained, and quarantine
regulations adopted to prevent or guard against the introduction
of this disease from other countries, very few plague cases have
occurred, excepting in the parts above mentioned, and in those
parts the pestilence has not been severe.1 Ophthalmia is also
more common in Lower Egypt than in the southern parts. It
generally arises from checked perspiration, but is aggravated by
the dust and many other causes. When remedies are promptly
employed, this disease is seldom alarming in its progress; but
vast numbers of the natives of Egypt, not knowing how to treat
it, or obstinately resigning themselves to fate, are deprived of the
sight of one or both of their eyes.
1 This remark was written before the terrible plague of the present year
[1835], which was certainly introduced from Turkey, and extended throughout
the whole of Egypt, though its ravages were not great in the southern parts.
It has destroyed not less than eighty thousand persons in
Cairo: that is, one-third
of the population; and far more, I believe, than two hundred thousand
in all Egypt. According to a report made by the government, the victims of
this plague in Cairo were about forty thousand; but I have been informed, on
high authority, that the government made it a rule to report only half the
number of deaths in this case.
When questioned respecting the salubrity of Egypt, I have
often been asked whether many aged persons are seen among the
inhabitants: few, certainly, attain a great age in this country;
but how few do, in our own land, without more than once suffering
from an illness that would prove fatal without medical aid,

which is obtained by a very small number in Egypt! The heat
of the summer months is sufficiently oppressive to occasion
considerable lassitude, while, at the same time, it excites the
Egyptian to intemperance in sensual enjoyments; and the exuberant
fertility of the soil engenders indolence, little nourishment
sufficing for the natives, and the sufficiency being procurable
without much exertion.
The modern Egyptian metropolis, to the inhabitants of which
most of the contents of the following pages relate, is now called
Masr”;1 more properly, “Misr”; but was formerly named
“El-Káhireh”; whence Europeans have formed the name of
Cairo. It is situated at the entrance of the valley of Upper
Egypt, midway between the Nile and the eastern mountain range
of Mukattam. Between it and the river there intervenes a tract
of land, for the most part cultivated, which, in the northern parts
(where the port of Boolák is situated), is more than a mile in
width, and, at the southern part, less than half a mile wide. The
metropolis occupies a space equal to about three square miles;
and its population is about two hundred and forty thousand. It
is surrounded by a wall, the gates of which are shut at night, and
is commanded by a large citadel, situated at an angle of the town,
near a point of the mountain. The streets are unpaved, and
most of them are narrow and irregular: they might more properly
be called lanes.
1 This is the name by which the modern Egyptians call their country, as
well as its metropolis.
By a stranger who merely passed through the streets, Cairo
would be regarded as a very close and crowded city; but that
this is not the case is evident to a person who overlooks the town
from the top of a lofty house, or from the menaret of a mosque.
The great thoroughfare-streets have generally a row of shops
along each side. Above the shops are apartments which do not
communicate with them, and which are seldom occupied by the
persons who rent the shops. To the right and left of the great
thoroughfares are bye-streets and quarters. Most of the bye-streets
are thoroughfares, and have a large wooden gate at each end,
closed at night, and kept by a porter within, who opens to any
persons requiring to be admitted. The quarters mostly consist
of several narrow lanes, having but one general entrance, with a
gate, which is also closed at night; but several have a bye-street
passing through them.

PRIVATE HOUSE IN CAIRO. The street in this view is wider than usual. The projecting windows on opposite sides of a street often nearly meet each other, almost entirely excluding the sun, and thus producing an agreeable coolness in the summer.


Of the private houses of the metropolis it is particularly necessary
that I should give a description. The accompanying engraving
will serve to give a general notion of their exterior. The
foundation-walls, to the height of the first floor, are cased, externally,
and often internally, with the soft calcareous stone of the
neighbouring mountain. The surface of the stone, when newly
cut, is of a light yellowish hue; but its colour soon darkens. The
alternate courses of the front are sometimes coloured red and
white,1 particularly in large houses; as is the case with most
mosques. The superstructure, the front of which generally projects
about two feet, and is supported by corbels or piers, is of
brick, and often plastered. The bricks are burnt, and of a dull
red colour. The mortar is generally composed of mud in the
proportion of one-half, with a fourth part of lime, and the remaining
part of the ashes of straw and rubbish. Hence the unplastered
walls of brick are of a dirty colour, as if the bricks were unburnt.
The roof is flat, and covered with a coat of plaster.
1 With red ochre and lime wash.
The most usual architectural style of the entrance of a private
house in
Cairo is shown by he sketch here inserted. The door
is often ornamented in the manner here represented: the compartment
in which is the inscription, and the other similarly-shaped
compartments, are painted red, bordered with white; the
rest of the surface of the door is painted green. The inscription,
“He (i.e., God) is the excellent Creator, the Everlasting” (the
object of which will be explained when I treat of the superstitions
of the Egyptians), is seen on many doors; but is far from being
general. It is usually painted in black or white characters. Few
doors but those of large houses are painted. They generally have
an iron knocker and a wooden lock; and there is usually a mounting-stone
by the side.
The ground-floor apartments next the street have small wooden
grated windows, placed sufficiently high to render it impossible
for a person passing by in the street, even on horseback, to see
through them. The windows of the upper apartments generally
project a foot and a half, or more, and are mostly formed of turned
wooden lattice-work, which is so close that it shuts out much of
the light and sun, and screens the inmates of the house from the
view of persons without, while at the same time it admits the air.
They are generally of unpainted wood; but some few are partially
painted red and green, and some are entirely painted. A window

of this kind is called a “róshan,” or, more commonly, a “meshrebeeyeh,”
which latter word has another application, that will be


mentioned below. Several windows of different descriptions are
represented in some of the illustrations of this work; and sketches

of the most common patterns of the lattice-work, on a larger

SPECIMENS OF LATTICE WORK. From the centre of one row of beads to that of the next (in these specimens) is between an inch and a quarter and an inch and three-quarters.

scale, are here inserted.1 Sometimes a window of the kind above

described has a little meshrebeeyeh, which somewhat resembles a
róshan in miniature, projecting from the front, or from each side.
In this, in order to be exposed to a current of air, are placed
porous earthen bottles, which are used for cooling water by
evaporation. Hence the name of “meshrebeeyeh,” which signifies
“a place for drink,” or “—for drinking.” The projecting window
has a flat one of lattice-work, or of grating of wood, or of coloured
glass, immediately above it. This upper window, if of lattice-work,
is often of a more fanciful construction than the others,
exhibiting a representation of a basin with a ewer above it, or the
figure of a lion, or the name of “Allah,” or the words “God is my
hope,” etc. Some projecting windows are wholly constructed of
boards, and a few have frames of glass in the sides. In the
better houses, also, the windows of lattice-work are now generally
furnished with frames of glass in the inside, which in the winter
are wholly closed: for a penetrating cold is felt in Egypt when the
thermometer of Fahrenheit is below 60°. The windows of inferior
houses are mostly of a different kind, being even with the
exterior surface of the wall: the upper part is of wooden lattice-work,
or grating; and the lower closed by hanging shutters; but
many of these have a little meshrebeeyeh for the water-bottles,
projecting from the lower part.
1 No. 1 is a view and section of a portion of the most simple kind. This and
the other four kinds and here represented on a scale of about one-seventh of the
real size. No. 6 shows the general proportions of the side of a projecting
window. The portion A is, in most instances, of lattice-work similar to
No. 1, and comprises about twelve rows of beads in the width: the portion B
is commonly either of the same kind, or like No. 2 or No. 3; and the small
lattice C, which is attached by hinges, is generally similar to No. 4.
The houses in general are two or three storeys high; and
almost every house that is sufficiently large encloses an open,
unpaved court, called a “hósh,” which is entered by a passage
that is constructed with one or two turnings, for the purpose of
preventing passengers in the street from seeing into it.
1 In this
passage, just within the door, there is a long stone seat, called
“mastab'ah,” built against the back or side wall, for the porter
and other servants. In the court is a well of slightly brackish
water, which filters through the soil from the Nile; and on its
most shaded side are, commonly, two water-jars, which are daily replenished
with water of the Nile, brought from the river in skins.2
The principal apartments look into the court; and their exterior


walls (those which are of brick) are plastered and whitewashed.
There are several doors, which are entered from the court. One
of these is called “báb el-hareem” (the door of the hareem): it
is the entrance of the stairs which lead to the apartments
appropriated exclusively to the women and their master and his
1 Commonly similar to No. 1, or No. 5.
2 Some large houses have two courts: the inner for the hareem; and in the
latter, or both of these, there is usually a little enclosure of arched wood-work,
in which trees and flowers are raised.
1 In the accompanying view of the court of a house, the door of the hareem
is that which faces the spectator.
In-general, there is, on the ground floor, an apartment called a
“mandar'ah,” in which male visitors are received. This has a
wide wooden grated window, or two windows of this kind, next
the court. A small part of the floor, extending from the door to
the opposite side of the room, is six or seven inches lower than
the rest: this part is called the “durká'ah.”
2 In a handsome


house, the durká'ah of the mandar'ah is paved with white and
black marble, and little pieces of fine red tile, inlaid in complicated
and tasteful patterns, and has in the centre a fountain
(called “faskeeyeh”), which plays into a small shallow pool, lined
with coloured marbles, etc., like the surrounding pavement. I
give a sketch of the fountain. The water which falls from the
fountain is drained off from the pool by a pipe. There is generally,
fronting the door, at the end of the durká'ah, a shelf of marble

or of common stone, about four feet high, called a “suffeh,” supported
by two or more arches, or by a single arch, under which
are placed utensils in ordinary use—such as perfuming vessels,
and the basin and ewer which are used for washing before and
after meals, and for the ablution preparatory to prayer: water-bottles,
coffee-cups, etc., are placed upon the suffeh. In handsome
houses, the arches of the suffeh are faced with marble and
tile, like the pool of the fountain represented in the sketch above,
and sometimes the wall over it, to the height of about four feet or
more, is also cased with similar materials: partly with large upright
slabs, and partly with small pieces, like the durká'ah. The
raised part of the floor of the room is called “leewán”1 (a
corruption of “el-eewán,” which signifies “any raised place to sit
upon,” and also “a palace”). Every person slips off his shoes on
the durká'ah before he steps upon the leewán.2 The latter is


generally paved with common stone, and covered with a mat in
summer, and a carpet over the mat in winter; and has a mattress
and cushions placed against each of its three walls, composing
what is called a “deewán,” or divan. The mattress, which is
generally about three feet wide and three or four inches thick, is
placed either on the ground or on a raised frame; and the
cushions, which are usually of a length equal to the width of the
mattress, and of a height equal to half that measure, lean against
the wall. Both mattresses and cushions are stuffed with cotton,
and are covered with printed calico, cloth, or some more expensive

stuff. The walls are plastered and whitewashed. There are
generally, in the walls, two or three shallow cupboards, the doors
of which are composed of very small panels, on account of the
heat and dryness of the climate, which cause wood to warp and
shrink as if it were placed in an oven; for which reason the doors
of the apartments also are constructed in the same manner. We
observe great variety and much ingenuity displayed in the different
modes in which these small panels are formed and disposed.
A few specimens are here introduced. The ceiling over the
leewán is of wood, with carved beams, generally about a foot
apart, partially painted, and sometimes gilt. But that part of the
ceiling which is over the durká'ah, in a handsome house, is usually
more richly decorated; here, instead of beams, numerous thin
strips of wood are nailed upon the planks, forming patterns
curiously complicated, yet perfectly regular, and having a highly
ornamental effect. I give a sketch of the half of a ceiling thus
decorated, but not in the most complicated style. The strips are
painted yellow or gilt; and the spaces within, painted green, red,
and blue.1 In the example which I have inserted, the colours
are as indicated in the sketch of a portion of the same on a
larger scale, excepting in the square in the centre of the ceiling,
where the strips are black, upon a yellow ground. From the
centre of this square a chandelier is often suspended. There are
many patterns of a similar kind; and the colours generally
occupy similar places with regard to each other; but in some
houses these ceilings are not painted. The ceiling of a projecting
window is often ornamented in the same manner. A sketch of
one is here given. Good taste is evinced by only decorating in
this manner parts which are not always before the eyes; for to
look long at so many lines intersecting each other in various
directions would be painful.
2 Apparently a corruption of the Persian “dargáh.”—The view of a ká'ah
opposite p. 14 will serve to illustrate the description of the mandar'ah.
1 The “leewán” is not to be confounded with the “deewán,” which is afterwards
2 One of the chief reasons of the custom here mentioned is, to avoid defiling
a mat or carpet upon which prayer is usually made. This, as many authors
have observed, illustrates passages of the Scriptures—Exodus iii. 5, and Joshua
v. 15.
1 See Jeremiah xxii. 14.
In some houses (as in that which is the subject of the engraving
opposite p. 9) there is another room, called a “mak'ad,” for the same
use as the mandar'ah, having an open front, with two or more
arches and a low railing; and also, on the ground floor, a square
recess, called a “takhtabósh,” with an open front, and generally
a pillar to support the wall above: its floor is a paved leewán;
and there is a long wooden sofa placed along one, or two, or each
of its three walls. The court, during the summer, is frequently
sprinkled with water, which renders the surrounding apartments

agreeably cool—or at least those on the ground-floor. All the
rooms are furnished in the same manner as that first described.

SPECIMENS OF PANEL-WORK. These are represented on a scale of one inch to twenty-four or thirty.

Among the upper apartments, or those of the Hareem, there
is generally one called a “ká'ah,” which is particularly lofty. It

has two leewáns—one on each hand of a person entering: one of
these is generally larger than the other, and is the more honourable

CEILING OF A DURKá' AH.—About eight feet wide.

CEILING OF A PROJECTING WINDOW. The dimensions of this are about eight feet by three.

part. A portion of the roof of this saloon, the part which is

over the durká'ah that divides the two leewáns, is a little elevated
above the rest; and has, in the centre, a small lantern, called
“memrak,” the sides of which are composed of lattice-work, like
the windows before described, and support a cupola. The durká'ah
is commonly without a fountain; but is often paved in a
similar manner to that of the mandar'ah, which the ká'ah also
resembles in having a handsome suffeh, and cupboards of curious
panel-work. There is, besides, in this and some other apartments,
a narrow shelf of wood, extending along two or each of the three
walls which bound the leewán, about seven feet or more from the
floor, just above the cupboards, but interrupted in some parts—
at least in those parts where the windows are placed; upon this
are arranged several vessels of china, not so much for general use
as for ornament.1 All the apartments are lofty, generally fourteen
feet or more in height; but the ká'ah is the largest and most lofty
room, and in a large house it is a noble saloon.
1 In the larger houses, and some others, there is also, adjoining the principal
saloon, an elevated closet, designed as an orchestra, for female singers. A
description of this will be found in the chapter on music.
In several of the upper rooms, in the houses of the wealthy,
there are, besides the windows of lattice-work, others, of coloured
glass, representing bunches of flowers, peacocks, and other gay
and gaudy objects, or merely fanciful patterns, which have a
pleasing effect. These coloured glass windows, which are termed
2 are mostly from a foot and a half to two feet
and a half in height, and from one to two feet in width; and are
generally placed along the upper part of the projecting lattice-window,
in a row; or above that kind of window, disposed in a
group, so as to form a large square; or elsewhere in the upper
parts of the walls, usually singly, or in pairs, side by side. They
are composed of small pieces of glass, of various colours, set in
rims of fine plaster, and enclosed in a frame of wood. On the
plastered walls of some apartments are rude paintings of the
temple of Mekkeh, or of the tomb of the Prophet, or of flowers
and other objects, executed by native Muslim artists, who have
not the least notion of the rules of perspective, and who consequently

deface what they thus attempt to decorate. Sometimes,
also, the walls are ornamented with Arabic inscriptions, of maxims,
etc., which are more usually written on paper, in an embellished
style, and enclosed in glazed frames. No chambers are furnished
as bedrooms. The bed, in the daytime, is rolled up, and placed
on one side, or in an adjoining closet, called “khazneh,” which,
in the winter, is a sleeping-place: in summer, many people sleep
upon the house-top. A mat, or carpet, spread upon the raised
part of the stone floor, and a deewán, constitute the complete
furniture of a room. For meals, a round tray is brought in, and
placed upon a low stool, and the company sit round it on the
ground. There is no fire-place:1 the room is warmed, when
necessary, by burning charcoal in a chafing-dish. Many houses
have, at the top, a sloping shed of boards, called a “malkaf,”2


directed towards the north or north-west, to convey to a “fes-hah,”
or “fesahah” (an open apartment), below the cool breezes which
generally blow from those quarters.
2 This word is said to be derived from “kamar” (the moon). Baron
Hammer-Purgstall thinks (see the Vienna “Jahrbücher der Literatur,” lxxxi.
bd., pp. 71, 72) that it has its origin from Chumaruje [or, as he is called by
the Arabs in general, Khumáraweyh], the second prince of the dynasty of the
Benee-Tooloon, who governed in Egypt in the end of the ninth century of the
Christian era, and that it proves the art of staining glass to have been in a
flourishing state in
Cairo at that period.
1 Excepting in the kitchen, in which are several small receptacles for fire,
constructed on a kind of bench of brick. Hence, and for several other reasons
(among which may be mentioned the sober and early habits of the people, the
general absence of draperies in the apartments, and the construction of the
floors, which are of wood overlaid with stone), the destruction of a house by
fire seldom happens in
Cairo; but when such an accident does occur, an extensive
conflagration is the usual result; for a great quantity of wood, mostly deal,
and of course excessively dry, is employed in the construction of the houses.
2 See again the engraving opposite p. 9.
Every door is furnished with a wooden lock, called a “dabbeh,”

the mechanism of which is shown by a sketch here inserted.
No. 1 in this sketch is a front view of the lock, with the bolt
drawn back; Nos. 2, 3, and 4, are back views of the separate
parts, and the key. A number of small iron pins (four, five,
or more) drop into corresponding holes in the sliding bolt as
soon as the latter is pushed into the hole or staple of the
door-post. The key also has small pins, made to correspond
with the holes, into which they are introduced to open the
lock: the former pins being thus pushed up, the bolt may be
drawn back. The wooden lock of a street-door is commonly
about fourteen inches long:1 those of the doors of apartments,
cupboards, etc., are about seven, or eight, or nine inches. The
locks of the gates of quarters, public buildings, etc., are of the
same kind, and mostly two feet, or even more, in length. It is
not difficult to pick this kind of lock.
1 This is the measure of the sliding bolt.
In the plan of almost every house there is an utter want of
regularity. The apartments are generally of different heights—so
that a person has to ascend or descend one, two, or more steps,
to pass from one chamber to another adjoining it. The principal
aim of the architect is to render the house as private as possible;
particularly that part of it which is inhabited by the women; and
not to make any window in such a situation as to overlook the
apartments of another house. Another object of the architect, in
building a house for a person of wealth or rank, is to make a
secret door (“báb sirr”
2), from which the tenant may make his
escape in case of danger from an arrest, or an attempt at assassination—or
by which to give access and egress to a paramour; and
it is also common to make a hiding-place for treasure (called
“makhba”) in some part of the house. In the hareem of a large
house there is generally a bath, which is heated in the same
manner as the public baths.
2 This term is also applied sometimes to the door of the hareem.
Another style of building has lately been very generally adopted
for houses of the more wealthy. These do not differ much from
those already described; excepting in the windows, which are of
glass, and placed almost close together. Each window of the
hareem has, outside, a sliding frame of close wooden trellis-work,
to cover the lower half. The numerous glass windows are ill
adapted to a hot climate.
When shops occupy the lower part of the buildings in a street
(as is generally the case in the great thoroughfares of the metropolis,


and in some of the bye-streets), the superstructure is usually
divided into distinct lodgings, and is termed “raba.” These
lodgings are separate from each other, as well as from the shops
below, and let to families who cannot afford the rent of a whole
house. Each lodging in a raba comprises one or two sitting and
sleeping-rooms, and generally a kitchen and latrina. It seldom
has a separate entrance from the street, one entrance and one
staircase usually admitting to a range of several lodgings. The
apartments are similar to those of the private houses first described.
They are never let ready-furnished; and it is very seldom that a
person who has not a wife or female slave is allowed to reside in
them, or in any private house: such a person (unless he have
parents or other near relations to dwell with) is usually obliged to
take up his abode in a “wekáleh,” which is a building chiefly designed
for the reception of merchants and their goods. Franks,
however, are now exempted from this restriction.
Very few large or handsome houses are to be seen in Egypt,
excepting in the metropolis and some other towns. The dwellings
of the lower orders, particularly those of the peasants, are of
a very mean description: they are mostly built of unbaked bricks,
cemented together with mud. Some of them are mere hovels.
The greater number, however, comprise two or more apartments;
though few are two storeys high. In one of these apartments, in
the houses of the peasants in Lower Egypt, there is generally an
oven (“furn”), at the end farthest from the entrance, and occupying
the whole width of the chamber. It resembles a wide bench
or seat, and is about breast-high: it is constructed of brick and
mud; the roof arched within, and flat on the top. The inhabitants
of the house, who seldom have any night-covering during the
winter, sleep upon the top of the oven, having previously lighted
a fire within it; or the husband and wife only enjoy this luxury,
and the children sleep upon the floor. The chambers have small
apertures high up in the walls, for the admission of light and air
—sometimes furnished with a grating of wood. The roofs are
formed of palm-branches and palm-leaves, or of millet-stalks, etc.,
laid upon rafters of the trunk of the palm, and covered with a
plaster of mud and chopped straw. The furniture consists of a
mat or two to sleep upon, a few earthen vessels, and a hand-mill
to grind the corn. In many villages large pigeon-houses of a
square form, but with the walls slightly inclining inwards (like
many of the ancient Egyptian buildings), or of the form of a
sugar-loaf, are constructed upon the roofs of the huts, with crude

brick, pottery, and mud.1 Most of the villages of Egypt are situated
upon eminences of rubbish, which rise a few feet above the
reach of the inundation, and are surrounded by palm-trees, or have
a few of these trees in their vicinity. The rubbish which they
occupy chiefly consists of the materials of former huts, and seems
to increase in about the same degree as the level of the alluvial
plains and the bed of the river.
1 The earthen pots used in the construction of these pigeon-houses are of an
oval form, with a wide mouth, which is placed outwards, and a small hole at
the other end. Each pair of pigeons occupies a separate pot.
In a country where neither births nor deaths are registered it is
next to impossible to ascertain, with precision, the amount of the
population. A few years ago a calculation was made, founded on
the number of houses in Egypt, and the supposition that the inhabitants
of each house in the metropolis amount to eight persons,
and in the provinces to four. This computation approximates, I
believe, very nearly to the truth; but personal observation and
inquiry incline me to think that the houses of such towns as
Alexandria, Boolák, and Masr el-'Ateekah contain each, on the
average, at least five persons: Rasheed (or Rosetta) is half deserted;
but as to the crowded town of Dimyát2 (or Damietta),
we must reckon as many as six persons to each house, or our
estimate will fall far short of what is generally believed to be the
number of its inhabitants. The addition of one or two persons
to each house in the above-mentioned towns will, however, make
little difference in the computation of the whole population of
Egypt, which was found, by this mode of reckoning, to amount
to rather more than 2,500,000; but it is now much reduced. Of
2,500,000 souls, say 1,200,000 are males; and one-third of this
number (400,000) men fit for military service: from this latter
number the present Básha of Egypt has taken, at the least,
200,000 (that is, one-half of the most serviceable portion of the
male population) to form and recruit his armies of regular troops,
and for the service of his navy. The further loss caused by
withdrawing so many men from their wives, or preventing their
marrying, during ten years, must surely far exceed 300,000; consequently,
the present population may be calculated as less than
two millions. The numbers of the several classes of which the
population is mainly composed are nearly as follows:—
2 Vulgarly called “Dumyát.”

Muslim Egyptians (felláheen, or
peasants, and townspeople)
Christian Egyptians (Copts) 150,000
'Osmánlees, or Turks 10,000
Syrians 5,000
Greeks 5,000
Armenians 2,000
Jews 5,000
Of the remainder (namely, Arabians, Western Arabs, Nubians,
Negro slaves, Memlooks [or white male slaves], female white
slaves, Franks, etc.), amounting to about 70,000, the respective
numbers are very uncertain and variable. The Arabs of the
neighbouring deserts ought not to be included among the population
of Egypt.1
1 The Muslim Egyptians, Copts, Syrians, and Jews of Egypt, with few
exceptions, speak no language but the Arabic, which is also the language
generally used by the foreigners settled in this country. The Nubians, among
themselves, speak their own dialects.
Cairo, I have said, contains about 240,000 inhabitants.2 We
should be greatly deceived if we judged of the population of this
city from the crowds that we meet in the principal thoroughfare-streets
and markets; in most of the bye-streets and quarters very
few passengers are seen. Nor should we judge from the extent
of the city and suburbs; for there are within the walls many
vacant places, some of which, during the season of the inundation,
are lakes (as the Birket el-Ezbekeeyeh, Birket el-Feel, etc.).
The gardens, several burial-grounds, the courts of houses, and the
mosques, also occupy a considerable space. Of the inhabitants
of the metropolis, about 190,000 are Egyptian Muslims; about
10,000, Copts; 3,000 or 4,000, Jews; and the rest, strangers
from various countries.3
2 The population of Cairo has increased to this amount, from about 200,000,
within the last three or four years. Since the computation here stated was
made, the plague of this year [1835] has destroyed not fewer than one-third
of its inhabitants, as before mentioned; but this deficiency will be rapidly
supplied from the villages.
3 About one-third of the population of the metropolis consists of adult
males. Of this number (or 80,000) about 30,000 are merchants, petty shopkeepers,
and artisans; 20,000, domestic servants; 15,000, common labourers,
porters, etc.: the remainder chiefly consists of military and civil servants of
the government.
The population of Egypt in the times of the Pharaohs was

probably about six or seven millions.1 The produce of the soil
in the present age would suffice, if none were exported, for the
maintenance of a population amounting to 4,000,000; and if all
the soil which is capable of cultivation were sown, the produce
would be sufficient for the maintenance of 8,000,000. But this
would be the utmost number that Egypt could maintain in years
of plentiful inundation; I therefore compute the ancient population,
at the time when agriculture was in a very flourishing state,
to have amounted to what I first stated; and must suppose it to
have been scarcely more than half as numerous in the times of
the Ptolemies, and at later periods, when a great quantity of corn
was annually exported.2 This calculation agrees with what Diodorus
Siculus says (in lib. i. cap. 31); namely, that Egypt contained,
in the times of the ancient kings, 7,000,000 inhabitants,
and in his own time not less than 3,000,000.
1 I place but little reliance on the accounts of ancient authors on this subject.
2 It has been suggested to me that, if corn was exported, something of
equal value was imported; and that the exportation of corn, or anything else,
would give a stimulus to industry and to population: but I do not know what
could be imported that would fill up the measure of the food necessary to sustain
a population much greater than that which would consume the corn retained.
How different now is the state of Egypt from what it might be,
possessing a population of scarcely more than one quarter of the
number that it might be rendered capable of supporting! How
great a change might be effected in it by a truly enlightened
government, by a prince who (instead of impoverishing the
peasantry by depriving them of their lands, and by his monopolies
of the most valuable productions of the soil; by employing
the best portion of the population to prosecute his ambitious
schemes of foreign conquest, and another large portion in the
vain attempt to rival. European manufactures) would give his
people a greater interest in the cultivation of the fields, and make
Egypt what nature designed it to be—almost exclusively an agricultural
country! Its produce of cotton alone would more than
suffice to procure all the articles of foreign manufacture, and all
the natural productions of foreign countries, that the wants of its
inhabitants demand.
3 During the present year [1835] more than 100,000 bales of cotton (each
bale weighing a hundred-weight and three-quarters) have been shipped at
Alexandria. The price paid for this quantity by the merchants exceeded
£700,000. The quantity exported last year was 34,000 bales, which is considerably
less than usual.—The policy above recommended is strongly advocated
by Ibráheem Básha.


The desired change may now be easily effected, for since the
above was written the Básha has been placed in a new position,
which will enable him to acquire a greater and more honourable
fame, by the cultivation of the arts of peace, than his conquests,
brilliant as they have been, have hitherto procured for him. No
one who is acquainted with the modern history of Egypt, and
more particularly with the state of the country during the period
that intervened between the French expedition and the accession
of Mohammad 'Alee to the office of viceroy, can doubt that he
possesses extraordinary talents for government; and let us hope
that those talents will be rightly employed: but, as he himself
affirms, some time will be required for effecting the necessary

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Muslims of Arabian origin have for many centuries mainly composed
the population of Egypt: they have changed its language,
laws, and general manners; and its metropolis they have made
the principal seat of Arabian learning and arts. To the description
of this people, and especially of the middle and higher
classes in the Egyptian capital, will be devoted the chief portion
of the present work. In every point of view, Masr (or Cairo)
must be regarded as the first Arab city of our age; and the
manners and customs of its inhabitants are particularly interesting,
as they are a combination of those which prevail most generally
in the towns of Arabia, Syria, and the whole of Northern Africa,
and in a great degree in Turkey. There is no other place in
which we can obtain so complete a knowledge of the most civilized
classes of the Arabs.
From statements made in the introduction to this work, it
appears that Muslim Egyptians (or Arab-Egyptians) compose
nearly four-fifths of the population of the metropolis (which is
computed to amount to about 240,000), and just seven-eighths
of that of all Egypt.
The Muslim Egyptians are descended from various Arab tribes
and families which have settled in Egypt at different periods;

mostly soon after the conquest of this country by 'Amr, its first
Arab governor; but by intermarriages with the Copts and others
who have become proselytes to the faith of El-Islám, as well as by
the change from a life of wandering to that of citizens or of agriculturists,
their personal characteristics have, by degrees, become so
much altered, that there is a strongly marked difference between
them and the natives of Arabia. Yet they are to be regarded as
not less genuine Arabs than the townspeople of Arabia itself,
among whom has long and very generally prevailed a custom of
keeping Abyssinian female slaves, either instead of marrying their
own countrywomen, or (as is commonly the case with the opulent)
in addition to their Arab wives; so that they bear almost as
strong a resemblance to the Abyssinians as to the Bedawees, or
Arabs of the Desert. The term “Arab,”1 it should here be remarked,
is now used wherever the Arabic language is spoken,
only to designate the Bedawees collectively. In speaking of a
tribe, or of a small number of those people, the word “'Orbán”
is also used; and a single individual is called “Bedawee.”2 In
the metropolis and other towns of Egypt, the distinction of tribes
is almost wholly lost; but it is preserved among the peasants,
who have retained many Bedawee customs, of which I shall have
to speak. The native Muslim inhabitants of Cairo commonly call
themselves “El-Masreeyeen,” “Owlád-Masr” (or “Ahl-Masr”),
and “Owlád-el-Beled,” which signify people of Masr, children of
Masr, and children of the town; the singular forms of these appellations
are “Masree,” “Ibn-Masr,” and “Ibn-el-Beled.”3 Of
these three terms, the last is most common in the town itself.
The country people are called “El-Felláheen” (or the Agriculturists),
in the singular “Felláh.”4 The Turks often apply this
term to the Egyptians in general in an abusive sense, as meaning
“the boors,” or “the clowns;” and improperly stigmatize them
with the appellation of “Ahl-Far'oon,”5 or “the people of
1 This term was formerly used to designate the Arabian townspeople and villagers,
while the Arabs who dwelt in the Desert were called “Aaráb,” or
“Aarábees.” The Arabs dwelling in house now terms themselves “Owlád-el-‘Arab,”
or Sons of the Arabs.
2 Feminine, “Bedaweeyeh.”
3 In the feminine, “Masreeyeh,” “Bint-Masr,” and “Bint-el-Beled.”
4 Feminine, “Felláhah.”
5 Thus commonly pronounced for “Fir'own.”
In general, the Muslim Egyptians attain the height of about
five feet eight, or five feet nine inches. Most of the children
under nine or ten years of age have spare limbs and a distended

abdomen; but, as they grow up, their forms rapidly improve. In
mature age most of them are remarkably well proportioned. The
men, muscular and robust; the women, very beautifully formed,
and plump; and neither sex is too fat. I have never seen corpulent
persons among them, excepting a few in the metropolis
and other towns, rendered so by a life of inactivity. In Cairo,
and throughout the northern provinces, those who have not been
much exposed to the sun, have a yellowish, but very clear complexion,
and soft skin; the rest are of a considerably darker and
coarser complexion. The people of Middle Egypt are of a more
tawny colour, and those of the more southern provinces are of a
deep bronze or brown complexion—darkest towards Nubia, where
the climate is hottest. In general, the countenance of the Muslim
Egyptian (I here speak of the men) is of a fine oval form; the
forehead, of moderate size, seldom high, but generally prominent;
the eyes are deep-sunk, black, and brilliant; the nose is straight,
but rather thick; the mouth well formed; the lips are rather full
than otherwise; the teeth particularly beautiful;1 the beard is
commonly black and curly, but scanty. I have seen very few
individuals of this race with grey eyes, or rather, few persons
supposed to be of this race; for I am inclined to think them the
offspring of Arab women by Turks or other foreigners. The
Felláheen, from constant exposure to the sun, have a habit of half
shutting their eyes; this is also characteristic of the Bedawees.
Great numbers of the Egyptians are blind in one or both eyes.
They generally shave that part of the cheek which is above the
lower jaw, and likewise a small space under the lower lip, leaving,
however, the hairs which grow in the middle under the mouth;
or, instead of shaving these parts, they pluck out the hair. They
also shave a part of the beard under the chin. Very few shave
the rest of their beards,2 and none their moustaches. The former
they suffer to grow to the length of about a hand's breadth below
the chin (such, at least, is the general rule, and such was the custom
of the Prophet); and their moustaches they do not allow to
1 Tooth-ache is, however, a very common disorder in Egypt, as it was in
ancient times. This, at least, was probably the case, as Herodotus (lib, ii.,
cap.84) mentions dentists among the classes of Egyptian physicians. It is,
of course, most prevalent among the higher orders.
2 A few of the servants, and some others, shave their beards. The respect
which Orientals in general pay to the beard has often been remarked. They
swear by it, and say that a man disgraces it by an evil action. The punishment
recorded in 2 Samuel, ch. x., v. 4, has frequently been practised in
modern times, but not so often as the shaving of the whole of the beard.

become so long as to incommode them in eating and drinking.
The practice of dyeing the beard is not common, for a grey beard
is much respected. The Egyptians shave all the rest of the hair,
or leave only a small tuft (called “shoosheh”) upon the crown of
the head.1 This last custom (which is almost universal among
them), I have been told, originated in the fear that if the Muslim
should fall into the hands of an infidel and be slain, the latter
might cut off the head of his victim, and finding no hair by which
to hold it, put his impure hand into the mouth in order to carry
it; for the beard might not be sufficiently long.2 With the like
view of avoiding impurity, the Egyptians observe other customs
which need not here be described.3 Many men of the lower
orders, and some others, make blue marks upon their arms, and
sometimes upon the hands and chest, as the women, in speaking
of whom this operation will be described.
1 The Muslims hold it to be inconsistent with the honour that is due to
everything that has appertained to the human body to leave upon the ground
the shavings or clippings of hair the parings of nails, etc., which, therefore,
they generally bury in the earth.
2 Persons of literary and religious professions generally disapprove of the
3 They are mentioned in the “Mishcát-ul-Masábíh,” vol. ii., p.359, and are
observed by both sexes.
The dress of the men of the middle and higher classes consists
of the following articles.
4 First, a pair of full drawers5 of linen
or cotton, tied round the body by a running string or band,6 the
ends of which are embroidered with coloured silks, though concealed
by the outer dress. The drawers descend a little below
the knees, or to the ankles; but many of the Arabs will not wear
long drawers, because prohibited by the Prophet. Next is worn
a shirt, with very full sleeves, reaching to the wrist; it is made of
linen, of a loose, open texture, or of cotton stuff, or of muslin or
silk, or of a mixture of silk and cotton, in stripes, but all white.7 Over this, in winter, or in cool weather, most persons wear a
“sudeyree,” which is a short vest of cloth, or of striped coloured
silk and cotton, without sleeves. Over the shirt and sudeyree, or
the former alone, is worn a long vest of striped silk and cotton8
(called “kaftán,” or more commonly “kuftán”), descending to
4 The fashion of their dress remains almost the same during the lapse of centuries.
5 In Arabic, “libás.”
6 Called “dikkeh,” or “tikkeh.”
7 The Prophet forbade men to wear silk clothing, but allowed women to do
so. The prohibition is, however, attended to by very few modern Muslims,
excepting the Wahhábees.
8 The stripes are seldom plain; they are generally figured or flowered.


the ankles, with long sleeves extending a few inches beyond the
fingers' ends, but divided from a point a little above the wrist, or
about the middle of the fore-arm; so that the hand is generally
exposed, though it may be concealed by the sleeve when necessary,
for it is customary to cover the hands in the presence of a
person of high rank. Round this vest is wound the girdle, which
is a coloured shawl, or a long piece of white figured muslin. The
ordinary outer robe is a long cloth coat, of any colour (called by
the Turks “jubbeh,” but by the Egyptians “gibbeh”), the sleeves
of which reach not quite to the wrist.1 Some persons also wear
a “beneesh,” or “benish,” which is a robe of cloth, with long
sleeves, like those of the kauftán, but more ample; 2 it is properly
a robe of ceremony, and should be worn over the other cloth coat;
but many persons wear it instead of the gibbeh. Another robe,
called “farageeyeh,” nearly resembles the beneesh. It has very
long sleeves, but these are not slit, and it is chiefly worn by men
of the learned professions. In cold or cool weather, a kind of
black woollen cloak, called “'abáyeh,” is commonly worn. Sometimes
this is drawn over the head. In winter also many persons
wrap a muslin or other shawl (such as they use for a turban) about
the head and shoulders. The head-dress consists, first, of a small,
close-fitting, cotton cap,3 which is often changed; next, a “tarboosh,”
which is a red cloth cap, also fitting closely to the head,
with a tassel of dark blue silk at the crown; lastly, a long piece
of white muslin, generally figured, or a Kashmeer shawl, which is
wound round the tarboosh. Thus is formed the turban. The
Kashmeer shawl is seldom worn excepting in cool weather. Some
persons wear two or three tarbooshes, one over another. A
“shereef” (or descendant of the Prophet) wears a green turban,
or is privileged to do so; but no other person; and it is not
common for any but a shereef to wear a bright green dress.
Stockings are not in use; but some few persons, in cold weather,
wear woollen or cotton socks. The shoes are of thick red morocco,
pointed and turning up at the toes. Some persons also
wear inner shoes of soft yellow morocco, and with soles of the
same. The outer shoes are taken off on stepping upon a carpet
or mat; but not the inner, for this reason—the former are often
worn turned down at the heel.
1 See the foremost figure in the accompanying engraving.
2 See the figure to the left in the same engraving.
3 Called “tákeeyeh,” or “'arakeeyeh.”
On the little finger of the right hand is worn a seal-ring,4 which
4 “Khátim.”—It is allowable to wear it on a finger of the left hand.

is generally of silver, with a carnelion, or other stone, upon which
is engraved the wearer's name: the name is usually accompanied
by the words “his servant” (signifying “the servant, or worshipper,
of God”), and often by other words expressive of the person's
trust in God, etc.1 The prophet disapproved of gold;
therefore few Muslims wear gold rings; but the women have
various ornaments (rings, bracelets, etc.) of that precious metal.
The seal-ring is used for signing letters and other writings, and
its impression is considered more valid than the sign-manual.2
A little ink is dabbed upon it with one of the fingers, and it is
pressed upon the paper, the person who uses it having first
touched his tongue with another finger and moistened the place
in the paper which is to be stamped. Almost every person who
can afford it has a seal-ring, even though he be a servant. The
regular scribes, literary men, and many others, wear a silver,
brass, or copper “dawáyeh,” which is a case with receptacles for
ink and pens, stuck in the girdle.3 Some have, in the place of
this, or in addition to it, a case-knife or a dagger.
1 See St. John's Gospel iii. 33; and Exodus xxxix. 30.
2 Therefore, giving the ring to another person is the utmost mark of confidence.—
See Genesis xli. 42.
3 This is a very ancient custom.—See Ezekiel ix. 2, 3, II. The dawáyeh is
represented in a cut in Chapter IX.
The Egyptian generally takes his pipe with him wherever he
goes (unless it be to the mosque), or has a servant to carry it,
though it is not a common custom to smoke while riding or walking.
The tobacco-purse he crams into his bosom, the kuftán
being large, and lapping over in front. A handkerchief, embroidered
with coloured silks and gold, and neatly folded, is also
placed in the bosom. Many persons of the middle orders, who
wish to avoid being thought rich, conceal such a dress as I have
described by a long black gown of cotton, similar to the gown
worn by most persons of the lower classes.
The costume of the men of the lower orders is very simple.
These, if not of the very poorest class, wear a pair of drawers, and
a long and full shirt or gown of blue linen or cotton, or of brown
woollen stuff (the former called “'eree,” and the latter “zaaboot”),
open from the neck nearly to the waist, and having wide sleeves.
Over this some wear a white or red woollen girdle. Their turban
is generally composed of a white, red, or yellow woollen shawl,
or of a piece of coarse cotton or muslin wound round a tarboosh,
under which is a white or brown felt cap; but many are so poor

as to have no other cap than the latter—no turban, nor even
drawers nor shoes, but only the blue or brown shirt, or merely a
few rags; while many, on the other hand, wear a sudeyree under
the blue shirt; and some, particularly servants in the houses of
great men, wear a white shirt, a sudeyree, and a kuftán or gibbeh,
or both, and the blue shirt over all. The full sleeves of this
shirt are sometimes drawn up by means of cords, which pass
round each shoulder and cross behind, where they are tied in a


knot. This custom is adopted by servants (particularly grooms)
who have cords of crimson or dark-blue silk for this purpose. In
cold weather many persons of the lower classes wear an 'abáyeh,
like that before described, but coarser, and sometimes (instead of
being black) having broad stripes, brown and white, or blue and
white, but the latter rarely. Another kind of cloak, more full
than the 'abáyeh, of black or deep-blue woollen stuff, is also very
commonly worn; it is called “diffeeyeh.”1 The shoes are of
red or yellow morocco, or of sheep-skin.
4 The zaaboot is mostly worn in the winter.
1 A kind of blue and white plaid (called “miláyeh” is also worn by some
men, but more commonly by women, in the account of whose dress it will be
further described: the men throw it over the shoulders, or wrap it about the


Several different forms of turbans are represented in some of
the engravings which illustrate this work. The Muslims are distinguished
by the colours of their turbans from the Copts and the
Jews, who (as well as other subjects of the Turkish Sultán who
are not Muslims) wear black, blue, grey, or light-brown turbans,
and generally dull-coloured dresses. The distinction of sects,
families, dynasties, etc., among the Muslim Arabs, by the colour
of the turban and other articles of dress, is of very early origin.
When the Imáam Ibráheem Ibn-Mohammad, asserting his pretensions
to the dignity of Khaleefeh,1 was put to death by the Umawee
Khaleefeh Marwán, many persons of the family of El-'Abbás
assumed black clothing in testimony of their sorrow for his fate;
and hence the black dress and turban (which latter is now
characteristic, almost solely, of Christian and Jewish tributaries to
the Osmánlee, or Turkish, Sultán) became the distinguishing
costume of the Abbásee Khaleefehs, and of their officers. When
an officer under this dynasty was disgraced, he was made to wear
a white dress. White was adopted by the false prophet El-Mukanna',
to distinguish his party from the 'Abbásees; and the
Fawátim of Egypt (or Khaleefehs of the race of Fátimeh), as
rivals of the 'Abbásees, wore a white costume. El-Melik El-Ashraf
Shaabán, a Sultán of Egypt (who reigned from the year of
the Flight 764 to 778, or A.D. 1362 to 1376), was the first who
ordered the “shereefs” to distinguish themselves by the green
turban and dress. Some darweeshes of the sect of the Rifá'ees,
and a few, but very few, other Muslims, wear a turban of black
woollen stuff, or of a very deep olive-coloured (almost black)
muslin; but that of the Copts, Jews, etc., is generally of black
or blue muslin, or linen. There are not many different forms
of turbans now worn in Egypt: that worn by most of the
servants is very formal. The kind common among the middle
and higher classes of the tradesmen and other citizens of the
metropolis and large towns is also very formal, but less so than
that just before alluded to. The Turkish turban worn in Egypt
is of a more elegant mode. The Syrian is distinguished by its
width. The 'Ulama, and men of religion and letters in general,
used to wear, as some do still, one particularly wide and formal,
called a “mukleh.” The turban is much respected. In the
houses of the more wealthy classes, there is usually a chair on
which it is placed at night. This is often sent with the furniture
1 Commonly written by English authors “Caliph,” or “Khalif.”

of a bride, as it is common for a lady to have one upon which to
place her head-dress. This kind of chair is never used for any
other purpose. As an instance of the respect paid to the turban,
one of my friends mentioned to me that an 'álim1 being thrown
off his donkey in a street of this city, his mukleh fell off, and
rolled along several yards, whereupon the passengers ran after it,
crying, “Lift up the crown of El-Islám!” while the poor 'álim,
whom no one came to assist, called out in anger, “Lift up the
sheykh 2 of El-Islám!”
1 This appellation (of which “ulama” is the plural) signifies a man of
science or learning.
2 “Sheykh” here signifies master, or doctor.
The general form and features of the women must now be
described. From the age of about fourteen to that of eighteen
or twenty, they are generally models of beauty in body and limbs;
and in countenance most of them are pleasing, and many exceedingly
lovely: but soon after they have attained their perfect
growth, they rapidly decline; the bosom early loses all its beauty,
acquiring, from the relaxing nature of the climate, an excessive
length and flatness in its forms, even while the face retains its full
charms; and though, in most other respects, time does not commonly
so soon nor so much deform them, at the age of forty it
renders many, who in earlier years possessed considerable attractions,
absolutely ugly. In the Egyptian females, the forms of
womanhood begin to develop themselves about the ninth or tenth
year: at the age of fifteen or sixteen they generally attain their
highest degree of perfection. With regard to their complexions,
the same remarks apply to them as to the men, with only this
difference, that their faces, being generally veiled when they go
abroad, are not quite so much tanned as those of the men. They
are characterized, like the men, by a fine oval countenance;
though, in some instances, it is rather broad. The eyes, with very
few exceptions, are black, large, and of a long almond-form, with
long and beautiful lashes and an exquisitely soft, bewitching
expression: eyes more beautiful can hardly be conceived: their
charming effect is much heightened by the concealment of the
other features (however pleasing the latter may be), and is
rendered still more striking by a practice universal among the
females of the higher and middle classes, and very common among
those of the lower orders, which is that of blackening the edge of
the eyelids, both above and below the eye, with a black powder
called “kohl.” This is a collyrium commonly composed of the

smoke-black which is produced by burning a kind of “liban”—
an aromatic resin—a species of frankincense, used, I am told, in
preference to the better kind of frankincense, as being cheaper,
and equally good for this purpose. Kohl is also prepared of the
smoke-black produced by burning the shells of almonds. These
two kinds, though believed to be beneficial to the eyes, are used
merely for ornament; but there are several kinds used for their


real or supposed medical properties; particularly the powder of
several kinds of lead ore, to which are often added sarcocolla,
long pepper, sugar-candy, fine dust of a Venetian sequin, and
sometimes powdered pearls. Antimony, it is said, was formerly
used for painting the edges of the eyelids. The kohl is applied
with a small probe, of wood, ivory, or silver, tapering towards the
end, but blunt. This is moistened, sometimes with rose water,
then dipped in the powder, and drawn along the edges of the

MUK-HUL'AHS AND MIRWEDS. These are represented on scales of one-third, and a quarter, of the real size.

eyelids: it is called “mirwed;” and the glass vessel in which the
kohl is kept “muk-hul'ah.” The custom of thus ornamenting the
eyes prevailed among both sexes in Egypt in very ancient times:
this is shown by the sculptures and paintings in the temples and
tombs of this country; and kohl vessels, with the probes, and even
with remains of the black powder, have often been found in the
ancient tombs. I have two in my possession. But in many cases

the ancient mode of ornamenting with the kohl was a little
different from the modern, as shown by the subjoined sketch: I
have, however, seen this ancient mode practised in the present
day in the neighbourhood of Cairo, though I only remember to
have noticed it in two instances. The same custom existed
among the ancient Greek ladies, and among the Jewish women


in early times.1 The eyes of the Egyptian women are generally
the most beautiful of their features. Countenances altogether
handsome are far less common among this race than handsome
figures; but I have seen among them faces distinguished by a
style of beauty possessing such sweetness of expression, that they
have struck me as exhibiting the perfection of female loveliness,
and impressed me with the idea (perhaps not false) that their


equals could not be found in any other country. With such eyes
as many of them have, the face must be handsome, if its other
features be but moderately well formed.2 The nose is generally
straight; the lips are mostly rather fuller than those of the men,
but not in the least degree partaking of the negro character. The
hair is of that deep, glossy black, which best suits all but fair
complexions: in some instances it is rather coarse and crisp, but
never woolly.
1 See 2 Kings ix. 30 (where, in our common version, we find the words,
“painted her face” for “painted her eyes”), and Ezekiel xxiii. 40.
2 Scissors are often used to reduce the width of the eye-brows, and to give
them a more arched form.
The females of the higher and middle classes, and many of the

poorer women, stain certain parts of their hands and feet (which
are, with very few exceptions, beautifully formed) with the leaves
of the henna tree,1 which impart a yellowish red, or deep orange
colour. Many thus dye only the nails of the fingers and toes;
others extend the dye as high as the first joint of each finger and
toe; some also make a stripe along the next row of joints; and
there are several other fanciful modes of applying the henna; but
the most common practice is to dye the tips of the fingers and


toes as high as the first joint, and the whole of the inside of the
hand and the sole of the foot;2 adding, though not always, the
stripe above mentioned along the middle joints of the fingers, and
a similar stripe a little above the toes. The henna is prepared
for this use merely by being powdered and mixed with a little
water, so as to form a paste. Some of this paste being spread in
the palm of the hand, and on other parts of it which are to be
dyed, and the fingers being doubled, and their extremities inserted
1 Lawsonia inermis; also called “Egyptian privet.”
2 The application of this dye to the palms of the hands and the soles of the
feet is said to have an agreeable effect upon the skin; particularly to prevent
its being too tender and sensitive.


into the paste in the palm, the whole hand is tightly bound with
linen, and remains thus during a whole night. In a similar manner
it is applied to the feet. The colour does not disappear until
after many days: it is generally renewed after about a fortnight
or three weeks. This custom prevails not only in Egypt, but in
several other countries of the East, which are supplied with henna
from the banks of the Nile. To the nails the henna imparts a
more bright, clear, and permanent colour than to the skin.
When this dye alone is applied to the nails, or to a larger portion
of the fingers and toes, it may, with some reason, be regarded as
an embellishment, for it makes the general complexion of the
hand and foot appear more delicate; but many ladies stain their
hands in a manner much less agreeable to our taste: by applying,
immediately after the removal of the paste of henna, another paste,
composed of quick-lime, common smoke-black, and linseed-oil,
they convert the tint of the henna to a black, or to a blackish
olive hue. Ladies in Egypt are often seen with their nails stained
with this colour, or with their fingers of the same dark hue from
the extremity to the first joint, red from the first to the second
joint, and of the former colour from the second to the third joint,
with the palm also stained in a similar manner, having a broad,
dark stripe across the middle, and the rest left red; the thumb
dark from the extremity to the first joint, and red from the first
to the second joint. Some, after a more simple fashion, blacken
the ends of the fingers and the whole of the inside of the hand.
Among the females of the lower orders, in the country-towns
and villages of Egypt, and among the same classes in the metropolis,
but in a less degree, prevails a custom somewhat similar to
that above described: it consists in making indelible marks of a
blue or greenish hue upon the face and other parts, or, at least,
upon the front of the chin, and upon the back of the right hand,
and often also upon the left hand, the right arm, or both arms,
the feet, the middle of the bosom, and the forehead: the most
common of these marks made upon the chin and hands are here
represented. The operation is performed with several needles
(generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in
the desired pattern: some smoke-black (of wood or oil), mixed
with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in; and
about a week after, before the skin has healed, a paste of the
pounded fresh leaves of white beet or clover is applied, and gives
a blue or greenish colour to the marks: or, to produce the same
effect in a more simple manner, some indigo is rubbed into the

punctures, instead of the smoke-black, etc. It is generally performed




at the age of about five or six years, and by gipsy-women.
The term applied to it is “dakk.” Most of the females of the

higher parts of Upper Egypt, who are of a very dark complexion,
tattoo their lips instead of the parts above-mentioned; thus converting
their natural colour to a dull, bluish hue, which, to the
eye of a stranger, is extremely displeasing.1
1 The depilatory most commonly used by the Egyptian women is a kind of
resin, called libán shámee, applied in a melted state: but this, they pretend,
is not always necessary: by applying the blood of a bat to the skin of a newly-born
female infant, on the parts where they wish no hair to grow, they assert
that they accomplish this desire. A female upon whom this application has
been made is termed “muwatwatah”; from “watwát,” a bat. Some women
pluck out the hair after merely rubbing the part with the ashes of charcoal.
Another characteristic of the Egyptian women that should be
here mentioned is their upright carriage and gait. This is most
remarkable in the female peasantry, owing, doubtless, in a great
measure, to their habit of bearing a heavy earthen water-vessel,
and other burthens, upon the head.
The dress of the women of the middle and higher orders is
handsome and elegant. Their shirt is very full, like that of the
men—but rather shorter—reaching not quite to the knees: it is
also, generally, of the same kind of material as the men's shirt, or of
coloured crape—sometimes black. A pair of very wide trousers
(called “shintiyán”), of a coloured striped stuff of silk and
cotton, or of printed, or worked, or plain white muslin, is tied
round the hips, under the shirt, with a dikkeh: its lower extremities
are drawn up and tied just below the knee with running
strings; but it is sufficiently long to hang down to the feet, or
almost to the ground, when attached in this manner. Over the
shirt and shintiyán is worn a long vest (called “yelek”), of the
same material as the latter: it nearly resembles the kuftán of the
men; but is more tight to the body and arms: the sleeves also
are longer; and it is made to button down the front, from the
bosom to a little below the girdle, instead of lapping over: it is
open, likewise, on each side, from the height of the hip, downwards.
In general the yelek is cut in such a manner as to leave
half of the bosom uncovered, except by the shirt; but many
ladies have it made more ample at that part: and, according to
the most approved fashion, it should be of a sufficient length to
reach to the ground, or should exceed that length by two of
three inches, or more. A short vest (called “'anter'ee”), reaching
only a little below the waist, and exactly resembling a yelek
of which the lower part has been cut off, is sometimes worn
instead of the latter. A square shawl, or an embroidered kerchief,

doubled diagonally, is put loosely round the waist as a girdle;
the two corners that are folded together hanging down behind.
Over the yelek is worn a gibbeh of cloth, or velvet, or silk, usually
embroidered with gold or with coloured silk: it differs in form
from the gibbeh of the men chiefly in being not so wide;

A LADY ADORNED WITH THE KURS AND SAFA, ETC. (The Hand is partially stained with Henna.)

particularly in the fore part; and is of the same length as the
yelek. Instead of this, a jacket (called “saltah”), generally of
cloth or velvet, and embroidered in the same manner as the
gibbeh, is often worn. The head-dress consists of a tákeeyeh and
tarboosh, with a square kerchief (called “faroodeeyeh”) of printed

or painted muslin, or one of crape, wound tightly round, composing
what is called a “rabtah.” Two or more such kerchiefs were
commonly used, a short time since, and are still sometimes, to
form the ladies' turban, but always wound in a high, flat shape,
very different from that of the turban of the men. A kind of
crown, called “kurs,” and other ornaments, are attached to the
ladies' head-dress: descriptions and engravings of these and
other ornaments of the women of Egypt will be found in the
Appendix to this work. A long piece of white muslin embroidered
at each end with coloured silks and gold, or of coloured crape
ornamented with gold thread, etc., and spangles, rests upon the
head, and hangs down behind, nearly or quite to the ground: this
is called “tarhah”—it is the head-veil: the face-veil I shall presently
describe. The hair, excepting over the forehead and
temples, is divided into numerous braids or plaits, generally from
eleven to twenty-five in number, but always of an uneven number:
these hang down the back. To each braid of hair are usually
added three black silk cords, with little ornaments of gold, etc.,
attached to them. For a description of these, which are called
“safa,” I refer to the Appendix. Over the forehead the hair is
cut rather short; but two full locks hang down on each side
of the face: these are often curled in ringlets, and sometimes
plaited.1 Few of the ladies of Egypt wear stockings or socks,
but many of them wear “mezz” (or inner shoes), of yellow or
red morocco, sometimes embroidered with gold: over these,
whenever they step off the matted or carpeted part of the floor,
they put on “báboog” (or slippers) of yellow morocco, with high,
pointed toes; or use high wooden clogs or pattens, generally
from four to nine inches in height, and usually ornamented with
mother-of-pearl, or silver, etc. These are always used in the bath
by men and women; but not by many ladies at home: some ladies
wear them merely to keep their skirts from trailing on the ground:
others, to make themselves appear tall.—Such is the dress which
is worn by the Egyptian ladies in the house.
1 Egyptian women swear by the side-lock (as men do by the beard), generally
holding it when they utter the oath, “Wa-hayát maksoosee!”
The riding or walking attire is called “tezyeereh.” Whenever
a lady leaves the house, she wears, in addition to what has been
above described, first a large, loose gown (called “tób,” or
“sebleh”), the sleeves of which are nearly equal in width to the
whole length of the gown:
2 it is of silk; generally of a pink, or
2 This is similar in form to the tób of women of the lower orders.

rose, or violet colour. Next is put on the “burko',” or face-veil,
which is a long strip of white muslin, concealing the whole of the
face except the eyes, and reaching nearly to the feet. It is suspended
at the top by a narrow band, which passes up the forehead,
and which is sewed, as are also the two upper corners of the veil,
to a band that is tied round the head. The lady then covers
herself with a “habarah,” which, for a married lady, is composed
of two breadths of glossy, black silk, each ell-wide, and three


yards long: these are sewed together, at or near the selvages
(according to the height of the person); the seam running horizontally,
with respect to the manner in which it is worn: a piece
of narrow black riband is sewed inside the upper part, about six
inches from the edge, to tie round the head. This covering is
always worn in the manner shown by the accompanying sketch.
The unmarried ladies wear a habarah of white silk, or a shawl.

Some females of the middle classes, who cannot afford to purchase
a habarah, wear instead of it an “eezár”; which is a piece of
white calico, of the same form and size as the former, and is worn
in the same manner. On the feet are worn short boots or
socks (called “khuff”), of yellow morocco, and over these the
This dress, though chiefly designed for females of the higher
classes, who are seldom seen in public on foot, is worn by many
women who cannot often afford so far to imitate their superiors
as to hire an ass to carry them. It is extremely inconvenient as
a walking attire. Viewing it as a disguise for whatever is attractive
or graceful in the person and adornments of the wearer, we should
not find fault with it for being itself deficient in grace: we must
remark, however, that, in one respect, it fails in accomplishing its
main purpose; displaying the eyes, which are almost always beautiful;
making them to appear still more so by concealing the other
features, which are seldom of equal beauty; and often causing the
stranger to imagine a defective face perfectly charming. The
veil is of very remote antiquity;1 but, from the sculptures and
paintings of the ancient Egyptians, it seems not to have been
worn by the females of that nation.
1 See Genesis xxiv. 65; and Isaiah iii. 23. See also I Corinthians xi. 10,
and a marginal note on that verse.
The dress of a large proportion of those women of the lower
orders who are not of the poorest class consists of a pair of
trousers or drawers (similar in form to the shintiyán of the ladies,
but generally of plain white cotton or linen), a blue linen or
cotton shirt (not quite so full as that of the men), a burko' of a
kind of coarse black crape,
2 and a dark blue tarhah of muslin or
linen. Some wear over the shirt, or instead of the latter, a linen
tób, of the same form as that of the ladies. The sleeves of this
are often turned up over the head; either to prevent their being
incommodious, or to supply the place of a tarhah. In addition
to these articles of dress, many women who are not of the very
poor classes wear, as a covering, a kind of plaid, similar in form
to the habarah, composed of two pieces of cotton, woven in small
chequers of blue and white, or cross stripes, with a mixture of
red at each end. It is called “miláyeh:”3 in general it is worn
in the same manner as the habarah; but sometimes like the
2 Some of those who are descended from the Prophet wear a green burko'.
3 For “muláäh.”

tarhah.1 The upper part of the black burko' is often ornamented
with false pearls, small gold coins, and other little flat ornaments
of the same metal (called “bark”); sometimes with a coral bead,
and a gold coin beneath; also with small coins of base silver;
and more commonly with a pair of chain tassels, of brass or
silver (called “'oyoon”), attached to the corners. A square


black silk kerchief (called “'asbeh”), with a border of red and
yellow, is bound round the head, doubled diagonally, and tied
with a single knot behind; or, instead of this, the tarboosh and

faroodeeyeh are worn, though by very few women of the lower
classes. The best kind of shoes worn by the females of the lower
orders are of red morocco, turned up, but round at the toes.
The burko' and shoes are most common in Cairo, and are also
worn by many of the women throughout Lower Egypt; but in
Upper Egypt, the burko' is very seldom seen, and shoes are
scarcely less uncommon. To supply the place of the former,
when necessary, a portion of the tarhah is drawn before the face,

ORNAMENTED BLACK VEILS. Only one of these (that to the right) is represented in its whole length.

so as to conceal nearly all the countenance excepting one eye.
Many of the women of the lower orders, even in the metropolis,
never conceal their faces. Throughout the greater part of Egypt
the most common dress of the women merely consists of the blue
shirt, or tób, and tarhah. In the southern parts of Upper
Egypt, chiefly above Akhmeem, most of the women envelop
themselves in a large piece of dark brown woollen stuff (called a
“hulaleeyeh”), wrapping it round the body, and attaching the

upper parts together over each shoulder;1 and a piece of the
same they use as a tarhah. This dull dress, though picturesque,
is almost as disguising as the blue tinge which, as I have before
mentioned, the women in these parts of Egypt impart to their
lips. Most of the women of the lower orders wear a variety of
trumpery ornaments, such as ear-rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc.,
and sometimes a nose-ring. Descriptions and engravings of some
of these ornaments will be given in the Appendix.
1 There is a superior kind of miláyeh, of silk, and of various colours; but
this is now seldom worn. The two pieces which compose the miláyeh are
sewed together, like those which compose the habarah.
1 The classical reader will recognise, in this picturesque garment, an article
of ancient Greek and Roman female attire.
The women of Egypt deem it more incumbent upon them to
cover the upper and back part of the head than the face; and
more requisite to conceal the face than most other parts of the
person. I have often seen, in this country, women but half
covered with miserable rags; and several times, females in the
prime of womanhood, and others in more advanced age, with
nothing on the body but a narrow strip of rag bound round the

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In the rearing and general treatment of their children, the
Muslims are chiefly guided by the directions of their Prophet,
and other religious institutors. One of the first duties required
to be performed on the birth of a child is to pronounce the adán
(or call to prayer) in the infant's right ear; and this should be
done by a male. Some persons also pronounce the ikámeh (which
is nearly the same as the adán) in the left ear. The object of
each of these ceremonies is to preserve the infant from the
influence of the ginn, or genii. Another custom, observed with
the same view, is to say, “In the name of the Prophet and of
his cousin2 'Alee!”
2 Literally, “the son of his paternal uncle.”
It was a custom very common in Egypt, as in other Muslim
countries, to consult an astrologer previously to giving a name to
a child, and to be guided by his choice; but very few persons

now conform with this old usage: the father makes choice of a
name for his son, and confers it without any ceremony; a daughter
is generally named by her mother. Boys are often named after
the Prophet (Mohammad, Ahmad, or Mustaf'a), or some of the
members of his family ('Alee, Hasan, Hoseyn, etc.), or his eminent
companions ('Omar, 'Osmán, 'Amr, etc.), or some of the prophets
and patriarchs of early times (as Ibráheem, Is-hák, Isma'eel,
Yaakoob, Moosa, Dáood, Suleymán, etc.), or receive a name
signifying “Servant of God,” “Servant of the Compassionate,”
“Servant of the Powerful,” etc. ('Abd-Allah, 'Abd-er-Rahmán,
'Abd-el-Kádir). Girls are mostly named after the wives or the
favourite daughter of the Arabian Prophet, or after others of his
family (as Khadeegeh, 'A'ïsheh, A'm'neh, Fát'meh, Zeyneb), or
are distinguished by a name implying that they are “beloved,”
“blessed,” “precious,” etc. (Mahboobeh, Mebrookeh, Nefeeseh,
etc.) or the name of a flower, or of some other pleasing object.1
1 In Cairo, it is the fashion to change the first five female names here mentioned,
and the last, into Khaddoogeh, 'Eiyoosheh, Ammooneh, Fattoomeh,
Zennoobeh, and Neffooseh; and some other names are changed to the same
“measure” as these; which measure implies, in these cases, a superior degree
of dignity.
As the proper name does not necessarily or generally descend
from parent to child, persons are usually distinguished by one or
more surnames, of the following kinds:—a surname of relationship;
as “Aboo-'Alee”2 (Father of 'Alee), “Ibn-Ahmad” (Son
of Ahmad), etc.:—a surname of honour, or a nickname; as
“Noor-ed-Deen” (The Light of the Religion), “Et-Taweel”
(The Tall), etc.:—an appellation relating to country, birth-place,
origin, family, sect, trade or occupation, etc.; as “Er-Rasheedee”
(of the town of Rasheed), “Es-Sabbágh” (The Dyer), “Et-Tágir”
(The Merchant). The second kind of surname, and that
relating to country, etc., are often inherited; thus becoming
family-names. Each kind of surname is now generally placed
after the proper name.
2 On an improper use of this kind of surname, see a note towards the close
of Chapter IV.
The dress of the children of the middle and higher orders is
similar to that of the parents, but generally slovenly. The children
of the poor are either clad in a shirt and a cotton skull-cap
or a tarboosh, or (as is mostly the case in the villages) are left
quite naked until the age of six or seven years or more, unless a
bit of rag can be easily obtained to serve them as a partial covering.

Those little girls who have only a piece of ragged stuff not
large enough to cover both the head and body generally prefer
wearing it upon the head, and sometimes have the coquetry to
draw a part of it before the face, as a veil, while the whole body
is exposed. Little ladies, four or five years of age, mostly wear
the white face veil, like their mothers. When a boy is two or
three years old, or often earlier, his head is shaven; a tuft of hair
only being left on the crown, and another over the forehead,1
the heads of female infants are seldom shaven. The young children,
of both sexes, are usually carried by their mothers and
nurses, not in the arms, but on the shoulder, seated astride:2 and
sometimes, for a short distance, on the hip.
1 It is customary among the peasants throughout a great part of Egypt, on
the first occasion of shaving a child's head, to slay a victim, generally a goat,
at the tomb of some saint in or near their village, and to make a feast with
the meat, of which their friends, and any other persons who please, partake.
This is most common in
Upper Egypt, and among the tribes not very long
established on the banks of the Nile. Their Pagan ancestors in Arabia observed
this custom, and usually gave, as alms to the poor, the weight of the
hair in silver or gold. The victim is called “'akeekah,” and is offered as a
ransom for the child from hell. The custom of shaving one part of a child's
head and leaving another was forbidden by the Prophet.
2 See Isaiah xlix. 22.
In the treatment of their children, the women of the wealthier
classes are remarkable for their excessive indulgence; and the
poor, for the little attention they bestow, beyond supplying the
absolute wants of nature. The mother is prohibited, by the
Muslim law, from weaning her child before the expiration of two
years from the period of its birth, unless with the consent of her
husband, which, I am told, is generally given after the first year
or eighteen months. In the houses of the wealthy, the child,
whether boy or girl, remains almost constantly confined in the
hareem (or the woman's apartments), or, at least, in the house:
sometimes the boy continues thus an effeminate prisoner until a
master, hired to instruct him daily, has taught him to read and
write. But it is important to observe, that an affectionate respect
for parents and elders inculcated in the hareem fits the boy for an
abrupt introduction into the world, as will presently be shown.
When the ladies go out to pay a visit, or to take an airing,
mounted on asses, the children generally go with them, each
carried by a female slave or servant, or seated between her knees
upon the fore part of the saddle; the female attendants, as well
as the ladies, being usually borne by asses, and it being the custom

of all the women to sit astride. But it is seldom that the
children of the rich enjoy this slight diversion; their health suffers
from confinement and pampering, and they are often rendered
capricious, proud, and selfish. The women of the middle classes
are scarcely less indulgent mothers. The estimation in which the
wife is held by her husband, and even by her acquaintance,
depends, in a great degree, upon her fruitfulness, and upon the
preservation of her children; for by men and women, rich and
poor, barrenness is still considered, in the East, a curse and a
reproach; and it is regarded as disgraceful in a man to divorce,
without some cogent reason, a wife who has borne him a child,
especially while her child is living. If, therefore, a woman desire
her husband's love, or the respect of others, her giving birth to a
child is a source of great joy to herself and him, and her own
interest alone is a sufficient motive for maternal tenderness.
Very little expense is required, in Egypt, for the maintenance of
a numerous offspring.1
1 It is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus (lib. i., cap. 20), that the ancient
Egyptians clothed and reared their children at a very trifling expense.
However much the children are caressed and fondled, in general
they feel and manifest a most profound and praiseworthy respect
for their parents. Disobedience to parents is considered by the
Muslims as one of the greatest of sins, and classed, in point of
heinousness, with six other sins, which are idolatry, murder, falsely
accusing modest women of adultery, wasting the property of
orphans, taking usury, and desertion in an expedition against
infidels. An undutiful child is very seldom heard of among the
Egyptians or the Arabs in general. Among the middle and higher
classes, the child usually greets the father in the morning by kissing
his hand, and then stands before him in an humble attitude,
with the left hand covered by the right, to receive any order, or to
await his permission to depart; but after the respectful kiss, is
often taken on the lap; and nearly the same respect is shown
towards the mother. Other members of the family, according
to age, relationship, and station, are also similarly regarded by the
young; and hence arise that ease and propriety with which a
child, emerging from the hareem, conducts himself in every
society, and that loyalty which is often improperly regarded as
the result of Eastern despotism.
2 Sons scarcely ever sit, or eat,
or smoke, in the presence of the father, unless bidden to do so;
2 “The structure of Eastern government is but the enlargement of the
paternal roof.” (Urquhart's Spirit of the East, vol. ii., p. 249.)

and they often even wait upon him, and upon his guests, at meals
and on other occasions: they do not cease to act thus when they
have become men.—I once partook of breakfast with an Egyptian
merchant, before the door of his house, in the month of Ramadán
(and therefore a little after sunset); and though every person who
passed by, however poor, was invited to partake of the meal, we
were waited upon by two of my host's sons; the elder about forty
years of age. As they had been fasting during the whole of the
day, and had as yet only taken a draught of water, I begged the
father to allow them to sit down and eat with us: he immediately
told them that they might do so; but they declined.—The mothers
generally enjoy, in a greater degree than the fathers, the affection
of their children; though they do not receive from them equal
outward marks of respect. I have often known servants to
hoard their wages for their mothers, though seldom for their
With the exception of those of the wealthier classes, the young
children in Egypt, though objects of so much solicitude, are
generally very dirty, and shabbily clad. The stranger here is disgusted
by the sight of them, and at once condemns the modern
Egyptians as a very filthy people, without requiring any other
reason for forming such an opinion of them; but it is often the
case that those children who are most petted and beloved are the
dirtiest, and worst clad. It is not uncommon to see, in the city
in which I am writing, a lady shuffling along in her ample tób
and habarah of new and rich and glistening silks, and one who
scents the whole street with the odour of musk or civet as she
passes along, with all that appears of her person scrupulously clean
and delicate, her eyes neatly bordered with kohl applied in the
most careful manner, and the tip of a finger or two showing the
fresh dye of the henna, and by her side a little boy or girl, her
own child, with a face besmeared with dirt, and with clothes
appearing as though they had been worn for months without
being washed. Few things surprised me so much as sights of this
kind on my first arrival in this country. I naturally inquired the
cause of what struck me as so strange and inconsistent, and
was informed that the affectionate mothers thus neglected the
appearance of their children, and purposely left them unwashed,
and clothed them so shabbily, particularly when they had to take
them out in public, from fear of the evil eye, which is excessively
dreaded, and especially in the case of children, since they are
generally esteemed the greatest of blessings, and therefore most

likely to be coveted. It is partly for the same reason that many
of them confine their boys so long in the hareem. Some mothers
even dress their young sons as girls, because the latter are less obnoxious
to envy.
The children of the poor have a yet more neglected appearance:
besides being very scantily clad, or quite naked, they are,
in general, excessively dirty: their eyes are frequently extremely
filthy: it is common to see half a dozen or more flies in each eye,
unheeded and unmolested. The parents consider it extremely
injurious to wash, or even touch, the eyes, when they discharge
that acrid humour which attracts the flies: they even affirm that
the loss of sight would result from frequently touching or washing
them when thus affected; though washing is really one of the best
means of alleviating the complaint.
At the age of about five or six years, or sometimes later, the
boy is circumcised.1 Previously to the performance of this rite
in the metropolis and other towns of Egypt, the parents of the
youth, if not in indigent circumstances, generally cause him to be
paraded through several streets in the neighbourhood of their
dwelling. They mostly avail themselves of the occurrence of a
bridal procession, to lessen the expenses of the parade: and, in
this case, the boy and his attendants lead the procession. He
generally wears a red Kashmeer turban; but, in other respects, is
dressed as a girl, with a yelek and saltah, and with a kurs, safa,
and other female ornaments, to attract the eye, and so divert it
from his person.2 These articles of dress are of the richest
description that can be procured: they are usually borrowed from
some lady, and much too large to fit the boy. A horse, handsomely
caparisoned, is also borrowed to convey him; and in his
hand is placed a folded embroidered handkerchief, which he constantly
holds before his mouth in his right hand, to hide part of
his face, and thus protect himself from the evil eye. He is
preceded by a servant of the barber, who is the operator, and by
three or more musicians, whose instruments are commonly a hautboy
and drums. The foremost person in the procession is
generally the barber's servant, bearing his “heml,” which is a
case of wood, of a semi-cylindrical form, with four short legs; its
front (the flat surface) covered with pieces of looking-glass and
1 Among the peasants, not unfrequently at the age of twelve, thirteen, or
fourteen years.
2 For a description of the ornaments here mentioned see the Appendix: the
kurs and safa are also represented in a preceding engraving, page 36.

embossed brass; and its back, with a curtain. This is merely
the barber's sign: the servant carries it in the manner represented
in the engraving here inserted. The musicians follow next (or
some of them precede the “heml”), and then follows the boy;
his horse led by a groom. Behind him walk several of his female
relations and friends. Two boys are often paraded together, and
sometimes borne by one horse. Of the bridal processions, with
which that above described is so often united, an account will be
found in the proper place. A description, also, of some further
customs observed on the occasion of a circumcision, and particularly
of a more genteel but less general mode of celebrating that
event, will be given in another chapter, relating to various private
1 A custom mentioned by Strabo (p. 824), as prevailing among the
Egyptians in his time, is still universally practised in every part of Egypt,
both by the Muslims and Copts, excepting in
Alexandria and perhaps a few
other places on the shore of the Mediterranean: it is also common, if not
equally prevalent, in Arabia. Reland, who imperfectly describes this custom
(De Religione Mohammedica, p. 75, edit. 1717), remarks its being mentioned
likewise by Galen.
The parents seldom devote much of their time or attention to
the intellectual education of their children; generally contenting
themselves with instilling into their young minds a few principles
of religion, and then submitting them, if they can afford to do so,
to the instruction of a schoolmaster. As early as possible, the
child is taught to say, “I testify that there is no deity but God;
and I testify that Mohammad is God's Apostle.” He receives
also lessons of religious pride, and learns to hate the Christians,
and all other sects but his own, as thoroughly as does the Muslim
in advanced age. Most of the children of the higher and middle
classes, and some of those of the lower orders, are taught by the
schoolmaster to read, and to recite and chant2 the whole or
certain portions of the Kur-án by memory. They afterwards
learn the most common rules of arithmetic.
2 See the Chapter on music.
Schools are very numerous, not only in the metropolis, but in
every large town; and there is one, at least, in every considerable
village. Almost every mosque, “sebeel” (or public fountain),
and “hód” (or drinking-place for cattle) in the metropolis has a
“kuttáb” (or school) attached to it, in which children are instructed
for a very trifling expense; the “sheykh” or “fikee”
3 This term is a corruption of “fakeeh,” which latter appellation is generally
given in Egypt only to a person deeply versed in religion and law; a man
who merely recites the Kur-án, etc., professionally, or who teaches others to
do so, being commonly called a “fikee.”


(the master of the school) receiving from the parent of each pupil
half a piaster (about five farthings of our money), or something
more or less, every Thursday.1 The master of a school attached
to a mosque or other public building in Cairo also generally
receives yearly a tarboosh, a piece of white muslin for a turban, a
piece of linen, and a pair of shoes; and each boy receives, at the
same time, a linen skull cap, four or five cubits2 of cotton cloth,
and perhaps half a piece (ten or twelve cubits) of linen, and a
pair of shoes, and, in some cases, half a piaster or a piaster.
These presents are supplied by funds bequeathed to the school,
and are given in the month of Ramadán. The boys attend only
during the hours of instruction, and then return to their homes.
The lessons are generally written upon tablets of wood, painted
white; and when one lesson is learnt, the tablet is washed and
another is written. They also practise writing upon the same
tablet. The schoolmaster and his pupils sit upon the ground,
and each boy has his tablet in his hands, or a copy of the Kur-án,
or of one of its thirty sections, on a little kind of desk of palmsticks.
All who are learning to read, recite, or chant their lessons
aloud, at the same time rocking their heads or bodies incessantly
backwards and forwards; which practice is observed by almost
all persons in reciting the Kur-án; being thought to assist the
memory. The noise may be imagined.3
1 Friday, being the sabbath of the Muslims, is a holiday to the school-boys
and fikee.
2 The cubit employed in measuring Egyptian cloths is equal to twenty-two
inches and two-thirds.
3 The usual punishment is beating on the soles of the feet with a palm-stick.
The boys first learn the letters of the alphabet; next, the vowel-points
and other orthographical marks; and then, the numerical
value of each letter of the alphabet.
4 Previously to this third
stage of the pupil's progress, it is customary for the master to
ornament the tablet with black and red ink, and green paint, and
to write upon it the letters of the alphabet in the order of their
respective numerical values, and convey it to the father, who
returns it with a piaster or two placed upon it. The like is also
done at several subsequent stages of the boy's progress, as when
he begins to learn the Kur-án, and six or seven times as he
proceeds in learning the sacred book; each time the next lesson
being written on the tablet. When he has become acquainted with
the numerical values of the letters, the master writes for him some
4 The Arabic letters are often used as numerals.

simple words, as the names of men; then, the ninety-nine names
or epithets of God: next, the Fat'hah, or opening chapter of the
Kur-án, is written upon his tablet, and he reads it repeatedly
until he has perfectly committed it to memory. He then proceeds
to learn the other chapters of the Kur-án: after the first chapter
he learns the last; then the last but one; next the last but two,
and so on, in inverted order, ending with the second; as the
chapters in general successively decrease in length from the second
to the last inclusively. It is seldom that the master of a school
teaches writing; and few boys learn to write unless destined for
some employment which absolutely requires that they should do
so; in which latter case they are generally taught the art of
writing, and likewise arithmetic, by a “kabbánee,” who is a
person employed to weigh goods in a market or bázár, with the
steelyard. Those who are to devote themselves to religion, or to
any of the learned professions, mostly pursue a regular course of
study in the great mosque El-Azhar.
The schoolmasters in Egypt are mostly persons of very little
learning: few of them are acquainted with any writings except
the Kur-án, and certain prayers, which, as well as the contents of
the sacred volume, they are hired to recite on particular occasions.
I was lately told of a man who could neither read nor write
succeeding to the office of a schoolmaster in my neighbourhood.
Being able to recite the whole of the Kur-án, he could hear the
boys repeat their lessons: to write them, he employed the
“'areef” (or head boy and monitor in the school), pretending
that his eyes were weak. A few days after he had taken upon
himself this office, a poor woman brought a letter for him to read
to her from her son, who had gone on pilgrimage. The fikee
pretended to read it, but said nothing; and the woman, inferring
from his silence that the letter contained bad news, said to him,
‘Shall I shriek?” He answered “Yes.” “Shall I tear my
clothes?” she asked: he replied “Yes.” So the poor woman
returned to her house, and with her assembled friends performed
the lamentation and other ceremonies usual on the occasion of a
death. Not many days after this, her son arrived, and she asked
him what he could mean by causing a letter to be written stating
that he was dead? He explained the contents of the letter, and
she went to the schoolmaster and begged him to inform her why
he had told her to shriek and to tear her clothes, since the letter
was to inform her that her son was well, and he was now arrived
at home. Not at all abashed, he said, “God knows futurity!

How could I know that your son would arrive in safety? It was
better that you should think him dead than be led to expect to
see him and perhaps be disappointed.” Some persons who were
sitting with him praised his wisdom, exclaiming, “Truly, our new
fikee is a man of unusual judgment!” and, for a little while, he
found that he had raised his reputation by this blunder.1
1 I have since found an anecdote almost exactly similar to the above in the
Cairo edition of the “Thousand and One Nights:” therefore either my informant's
account is not strictly true, or the man alluded to by him was, in the
main, an imitator: the latter is not improbable, as I have been credibly informed
of several similar imitations, and of one which I know to be a fact.
Some parents employ a sheykh or fikee to teach their boys
at home. The father usually teaches his son to perform the
“wudoó,” and other ablutions, and to say his prayers, and instructs
him in other religious and moral duties to the best of his
ability. The Prophet directed his followers to order their children
to say their prayers when seven years of age, and to beat
them if they did not do so when ten years old; and at the latter
age to make them sleep in separate beds. In Egypt, however,
very few persons pray before they have attained to manhood.
The female children are very seldom taught to read or write;
and not many of them, even among the higher orders, learn to
say their prayers. Some of the rich engage a “sheykhah” (or
learned woman) to visit the hareem daily; to teach their daughters
and female slaves to say their prayers, and to recite a few
chapters of the Kur-án; and sometimes to instruct them in reading
and writing; but these are very rare accomplishments for
females, even of the highest class in Egypt.2 There are many
schools in which girls are taught plain needlework, embroidery,
etc. In families in easy circumstances a “m'allimeh,” or female
teacher of such kinds of work, is often engaged to attend the girls
at their own home.
2 The young daughters of persons of the middle classes are sometimes instructed
with the boys in a public school; but they are usually veiled, and
hold no intercourse with the boys. I have often seen a well-dressed girl reading
the Kur-án in a boys' school.

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As the most important branch of their education, and the main
foundation of their manners and customs, the religion and laws
of the people who are the subject of these pages must be well
understood—not only in their general principles, but in many
minor points—before we can proceed to consider their social
condition and habits in the state of manhood.
A difference of opinion among Muslims, respecting some
points of religion and law, has given rise to four sects, which
consider each other orthodox as to fundamental matters, and call
themselves “Sunnees,” or followers of the traditions; while they
designate all other Muslims by the term “Shiya'ees,” signifying,
according to their acceptation, “heretics.” The Sunnees alone
are the class which we have to consider. The four sects into
which they are divided are the “Hanafees,” “Sháfe'ees,” “Málikees,”
and “Hambel'ees,”—so called from the names of the
respective doctors whose tenets they have adopted. The Turks
are of the first sect, which is the most reasonable. The inhabitants
of Cairo, a small proportion excepted (who are Hanafees),
are either Sháfe'ees or Málikees; and it is generally said that
they are mostly of the former of these sects, as are also the people
of Arabia; those of the Sharkeeyeh, on the east of the Delta,
Sháfe'ees; those of the Gharbeeyeh, or Delta, Sháfe'ees, with a
few Málikees; those of the Boheyreh, on the west of the Delta,
Málikees. The inhabitants of the Sa'eed, or the valley of Upper
Egypt, are likewise, with few exceptions, Málikees; so also are
the Nubians, and the Western Arabs. To the fourth sect very
few persons in the present day belong. All these sects agree in
deriving their code of religion and law from four sources; namely,
the Kur-án, the traditions of the Prophet, the concordance of his
early disciples, and analogy.
The religion which Mohammad taught is generally called by
the Arabs “El-Islám. “Eemán” and “Deen” are the particular
terms applied, respectively, to faith and practical religion.
The grand principles of the faith are expressed in two articles,
the first of which is this—
There is no deity but God.
God, who created all things in heaven and in earth, who

preserveth all things, and decreeth all things, who is without
beginning, and without end, omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-present,
is one. His unity is thus declared in a short chapter of
the Kur-án1: “Say, He is God; one [God]. God is the Eternal.
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none equal
unto Him.” He hath no partner, nor any offspring, in the creed
of the Muslim. Though Jesus Christ (whose name should not
be mentioned without adding, “on whom be peace”) is believed
to have been born of a pure virgin, by the miraculous operation
of God,2 without any natural father, to be the Messiah, and “the
Word of God, which He transmitted unto Mary, and a Spirit
[proceeding] from Him,”3 yet he is not called the Son of God;
and no higher titles are given to him than those of a Prophet and
Apostle; he is even considered as of inferior dignity to Mohammad,
inasmuch as the Gospel is held to be superseded by the
Kurán. The Muslim believes that Seyyidna 'Eesa 4 (or “our
Lord Jesus”), after He had fulfilled the object of His mission, was
taken up unto God from the Jews, who sought to slay Him; and
that another person, on whom God had stamped the likeness of
Christ, was crucified in His stead.5 He also believes that Christ
is to come again upon the earth, to establish the Muslim religion,
and perfect peace and security, after having killed Antichrist, and
to be a sign of the approach of the last day.
1 Ch. 112.—In quoting passages in the Kur-án, I have sometimes followed
Sale's translation, to the general fidelity of which I willingly add my testimony.
I should, however, mention that some of his explanatory notes are
unauthorized and erroneous; as, for instance, with respect to the laws of inheritance;
on which subject his version of the text also is faulty. When
necessary, I have distinguished the verses by numbers. In doing this I had
originally adopted the divisions made by Marracci, but have since made the
numbers to agree with those in the late edition of the Arabic text by Fluegel,
which, from its superior accuracy, is likely to supersede the former editions.
2 Kur-án, ch. iii., vv. 40-42.
3 Kur-án, ch. iv., v. 169.
4 The title of “Seyyidna” (our Lord) is given by the Muslims to prophets
and other venerated persons.
5 Kur-án, ch. iv., v. 156.
The other grand article of the faith, which cannot be believed
without the former, is this—
Mohammad is God's Apostle.
Mohammad is believed by his followers to have been the last
and greatest of Prophets and Apostles.
6 Six of these—namely,
Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad—are
believed each to have received a revealed law, or system of religion
6 The Muslim seldom mentions the name of the Prophet without adding,
“Salla-lláhu 'aleyhi wa-sellem”; i.e., “God favour and preserve him!”

and morality. That, however, which was revealed to Adam
was abrogated by the next; and each succeeding law, or code of
laws, abrogated the preceding, though all are believed to have
been the same in every essential point; therefore, those who professed
the Jewish religion from the time of Moses to that of Jesus
were true believers, and those who professed the Christian religion
(uncorrupted, as the Muslims say, by the tenet that Christ was
the son of God) until the time of Mohammad are held, in like
manner, to have been true believers. But the copies of the
Pentateuch, the Psalms of David (which the Muslims also hold
to be of divine origin), and the Gospels now existing, are believed
to have been so much altered as to contain very little of
the true word of God. The Kur-án is believed to have suffered
no alteration whatever.
It is further necessary that the Muslim should believe in the
existence of angels, and of good and evil genii; the evil genii
being devils, whose chief is Iblees:1 also, in the immortality of
the soul, the general resurrection and judgment, in future rewards
and punishments in Paradise and Hell, in the balance in which
good and evil works shall be weighed, and in the bridge “Es-Sirát
(which extends over the midst of Hell, finer than a hair, and
sharper than the edge of a sword), over which all must pass, and
from which the wicked shall fall into Hell. He believes, also, that
they who have acknowledged the faith of El-Islám and yet acted
wickedly will not remain in Hell for ever; but that all of other
religions must: that there are, however, degrees of punishments, as
well as of rewards,—the former consisting in severe torture by
excessive heat and cold, and the latter, partly in the indulgence
of the appetites by most delicious meats and drinks, and in the
pleasures afforded by the company of the girls of Paradise, whose
eyes will be very large and entirely black,2 and whose stature will
be proportioned to that of the men, which will be the height of
a tall palm-tree, or about sixty feet. Such, the Muslims generally
believe, was the height of our first parents. It is said that the
souls of martyrs reside, until the judgment, in the crops of green
1 In the first edition of this work, I here mentioned the Devil as distinct
from the genii; but I have since found that the majority of the most esteemed
Arab authors are of the contrary opinion. Theirs is also the general opinion
of the modern Arabs.—The angelic nature is considered as inferior to the
human (because the angels were commanded to prostrate themselves before
Adam), and still more so is the nature of genii.
2 Like those of the gazelle: this meaning of their common appellation (which
is mentioned afterwards) is, however, disputed

birds, which eat of the fruits of paradise and drink of its rivers.1
Women are not to be excluded from Paradise, according to the
faith of El-Islám; though it has been asserted, by many Christians,
that the Muslims believe women to have no souls. In
several places in the Kur-án, Paradise is promised to all true
believers, whether males or females. It is the doctrine of the
Kur-án that no person will be admitted into Paradise by his own
merits; but that admission will be granted to the believers merely
by the mercy of God, on account of their faith; yet that the
felicity of each person will be proportioned to his good works.
The very meanest in Paradise is promised “eighty thousand servants”
(beautiful youths, called “weleeds”), “seventy-two wives
of the girls of Paradise” (“hooreeyehs”), “besides the wives he
had in this world,” if he desire to have the latter (and the good
will doubtless desire the good), “and a tent erected for him of
pearls, jacinths, and emeralds, of a very large extent;” “and will
be waited on by three hundred attendants while he eats, and
served in dishes of gold, whereof three hundred shall be set before
him at once, each containing a different kind of food, the last
morsel of which will be as grateful as the first.” Wine also,
“though forbidden in this life, will yet be freely allowed to be
drunk in the next, and without danger, since the wine of Paradise
will not inebriate.”2 We are further told, that all superfluities
from the bodies of the inhabitants of Paradise will be carried off
by perspiration, which will diffuse an odour like that of musk; and
that they will be clothed in the richest silks, chiefly of green.
They are also promised perpetual youth, and children as many as
they may desire. These pleasures, together with the songs of the
angel Isráfeel, and many other gratifications of the senses, will
charm even the meanest inhabitant of Paradise. But all these
enjoyments will be lightly esteemed by those more blessed persons
who are to be admitted to the highest of all honours—that spiritual
pleasure of beholding, morning and evening, the face of God.3
1 The title of martyr is given to the unpaid soldier killed in a war for the
defence of the faith, to a person who innocently meets with his death from the
hand of another, to a victim of the plague (if he has not fled from the disease)
or of dysentery, to a person who is drowned, and to one who is killed by the
fall of any building.
2 See Sale's Preliminary Discourse to his Translation of the Kur-án, sect, iv.
3 A Muslim of some learning professed to me that he considered the description
of Paradise given in the Kur-án to be, in a great measure, figurative:
“like those,” said he, “in the book of the Revelation of St. John;” and he
assured me that many learned Muslims were of the same opinion.

The Muslim must also believe in the examination of the dead
in the sepulchre, by two angels, called Munkar and Nekeer, of
terrible aspect, who will cause the body (to which the soul shall,
for the time, be re-united) to sit upright in the grave,1 and will
question the deceased respecting his faith. The wicked they will
severely torture; but the good they will not hurt. Lastly, he
should believe in God's absolute decree of every event, both good
and evil. This doctrine has given rise to as much controversy
among the Muslims as among Christians; but the former,
generally, believe in predestination as, in some respects, conditional.
1 The corpse is always deposited in a vault, and not placed in a coffin, but
merely wrapped in winding-sheets or clothes.
The most important duties enjoined in the ritual and moral
laws and prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage.
The religious purifications, which are of two kinds,—first, the
ordinary ablution preparatory to prayer, and secondly, the washing
of the whole body, together with the performance of the former
ablution,—are of primary importance: for prayer, which is a duty
so important that it is called “the Key of Paradise,” will not be
accepted from a person in a state of uncleanness. It is therefore
also necessary to avoid impurity by clipping the nails, and other
similar practices.
2 Alluded to in the first chapter.
There are partial washings, or purifications, which all Muslims
perform on certain occasions, even if they neglect their prayers,
and which are considered as religious acts.
3 The ablution called
“el-wudoó,” which is preparatory to prayer, I shall now describe.
The purifications just before alluded to are a part of the wudoó:
the other washings are not, of necessity, to be performed immediately
after, but only when the person is about to say his prayers;
and these are performed in the mosque or in the house, in
public or in private. There is in every mosque a tank (called
“meydaäah”) or a “hanafeeyeh,” which is a raised reservoir, with
spouts round it, from which the water falls. In some mosques
there are both these. The Muslims of the Hanafee sect (of which
are the Turks) perform the ablution at the latter (which has received
its name from that cause); for they must do it with running
water, or from a tank or pool at least ten cubits in breadth,
3 For an account of these private ablutions, and the occasions which require
their performance, the reader may consult Reland, De Rel. Moh., pp. 80-83,
ed. 1717.

and the same in depth; and I believe that there is only one
meydaäh in Cairo of that depth, which is in the great mosque
El-Azhar. A small hanafeeyeh of tinned copper, placed on a low
shelf, and a large basin, or a small ewer and basin of the same
metal, are generally used in the house for the performance of the
The person, having tucked up his sleeves a little higher than
his elbows, says, in a low voice, or inaudibly, “I purpose performing
the wudoó, for prayer.”1 He then washes his hands
three times; saying, in the same manner as before, “In the
name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! Praise be to
God, who hath sent down water for purification, and made
El-Islám to be a light and a conductor, and a guide to Thy
gardens, the gardens of delight, and to Thy mansion, the mansion
of peace.” Then he rinses his mouth three times, throwing the
water into it with his right hand;2 and in doing this he says,
“O God, assist me in the reading of Thy book, and in commemorating
Thee, and in thanking Thee, and in worshipping
Thee well!” Next, with his right hand, he throws water up
his nostrils (snuffing it up at the same time), and then blows it
out, compressing his nostrils with the thumb and finger of the
left hand; and this also is done three times. While doing it, he
says, “O God, make me to smell the odours of Paradise, and
bless me with its delights; and make me not to smell the smell
of the fires [of Hell].” He then washes his face three times,
throwing up the water with both hands, and saying, “O God,
whiten my face with Thy light, on the day when Thou shalt
whiten the faces of Thy favourites; and do not blacken my face,
on the day when Thou shalt blacken the faces of Thine enemies.”3
His right hand and arm, as high as the elbow, he next washes
three times, and as many times causes some water to run along
his arm, from the palm of the hand to the elbow, saying, as he
does this, “O God, give me my book in my right hand;4 and
1 All persons do not use exactly the same words on this occasion, nor
during the performance of the wudoó; and most persons use no words during
the performance.
2 He should also use a tooth-stick (miswák) to clean his teeth; but few
do so.
3 It is believed that the good man will rise to judgment with his face white;
and the bad, with his face black. Hence a man's face is said to be white or
black according as he is in good or bad repute; and “may God blacken thy
face!” is a common imprecation.
4 To every man is appropriated a book, in which all the actions of his life
are written. The just man, it is said, will receive his book in his right hand;
but the wicked, in his left, which will be tied behind his back; his right hand
being tied up to his neck.

reckon with me with an easy reckoning.” In the same manner
he washes the left hand and arm, saying, “O God, do not give
me my book in my left hand, nor behind my back; and do not
reckon with me with a difficult reckoning; nor make me to be
one of the people of the fire.” He next draws his wetted right
hand over the upper part of his head, raising his turban or cap
with his left: this he does but once; and he accompanies the
action with this supplication, “O God, cover me with Thy mercy,
and pour down Thy blessing upon me; and shade me under the
shadow of Thy canopy, on the day when there shall be no shade
but its shade.” If he have a beard, he then combs it with the
wetted fingers of his right hand; holding his hand with the palm
forwards, and passing the fingers through his beard from the
throat upwards. He then puts the tips of his fore-fingers into
his ears, and twists them round, passing his thumbs at the same
time round the back of the ears, from the bottom upwards; and
saying, “O God, make me to be of those who hear what is said,
and obey what is best;” or, “O God, make me to hear good.”
Next he wipes his neck with the back of the fingers of both
hands, making the ends of his fingers meet behind his neck, and
then drawing them forward; and in doing so, he says, “O God,
free my neck from the fire; and keep me from the chains, and
the collars, and the fetters.” Lastly, he washes his feet, as high
as the ankles, and passes his fingers between the toes: he washes
the right foot first, saying, at the same time, “O God, make firm
my feet upon the Sirát, on the day when feet shall slip upon it:”
on washing the left foot, he says, “O God, make my labour to
be approved, and my sin forgiven, and my works accepted,
merchandise that shall not perish, by Thy pardon, O Mighty!
O very Forgiving! by Thy mercy, O most Merciful of those who
show mercy!” After having thus completed the ablution, he
says, looking towards heaven, “Thy perfection, O God! [I extol]
with Thy praise: I testify that there is no deity but Thou alone:
Thou hast no companion: I implore Thy forgiveness, and turn to
Thee with repentance.” Then looking towards the earth, he
adds, “I testify that there is no deity but God: and I testify that
Mohammad is His servant and His apostle.” Having uttered
these words, he should recite, once, twice, or three times, the
“Soorat el-Kadr,” or 97th chapter of the Kur-án.


The wudoó is generally performed in less than two minutes;
most persons hurrying through the act, as well as omitting almost
all the prayers, etc., which should accompany and follow the
actions. It is not required before each of the five daily prayers,
when the person is conscious of having avoided every kind of
impurity since the last performance of this ablution. When water
cannot be easily procured, or would be injurious to the health of
the individual, he may perform the ablution with dust or sand.
This ceremony is called “tayemmum.” The person, in this case,
strikes the palms of his hands upon any dry dust or sand (it will
suffice to do so upon his cloth robe, as it must contain some
dust), and, with both hands, wipes his face: then, having struck
his hands again upon the dust, he wipes his right hand and arm
as high as the elbow; and then, the left hand and arm, in the
same manner. This completes the ceremony. The washing of
the whole body is often performed merely for the sake of cleanliness;
but not as a religious act, excepting on particular occasions—
as on the morning of Friday, and on the two grand festivals, etc.,1
when it is called “ghusl.”
1 Here, again, I must beg to refer the reader (if he desires such information)
to Reland's account of the ghusl, and the occasions which require its performance.—
De Rel. Moh., pp. 66-77, ed. 1717.
Cleanliness is required not only in the worshipper, but also in
the ground, mat, carpet, robe, or whatever else it be, upon which
he prays. Persons of the lower orders often pray upon the bare
ground, which is considered clean if it be dry; and they seldom
wipe off immediately the dust which adheres to the nose and
forehead in prostration; for it is regarded as ornamental to the
believer's face: but when a person has a cloak or any other
garment that he can take off without exposing his person in an
unbecoming manner, he spreads it upon the ground to serve as a
prayer-carpet. The rich use a prayer-carpet (called “seggádeh”)
about the size of a wide hearth-rug, having a niche represented
upon it, the point of which is turned towards Mekkeh.
2 It is
reckoned sinful to pass near before a person engaged in prayer.
2 Seggádeshs, of the kind here described, are now sold in London, under
the name of Persian carpets or Persian rugs.
Prayer is called “salah.” Five times in the course of every
day is its performance required of the Muslim: but there are
comparatively few persons in Egypt who do not sometimes, or
often, neglect this duty; and many who scarcely ever pray.
Certain portions of the ordinary prayers are called “fard,” which

are appointed by the Kur-án; and others, “sunneh,” which are
appointed by the Prophet, without allegation of a divine order.
The first time of prayer commences at the “maghrib,” or
sunset,1 or rather, about four minutes later; the second, at the
“'eshë,” or nightfall, when the evening has closed, and it is quite
dark;2 the third, at the “subh” or “fegr;” i.e., daybreak;3
the fourth, at the “duhr,” or noon, or, rather, a little later, when
the sun has begun to decline; the fifth, at the “'asr,” or afternoon;
i.e., about mid-time between noon and nightfall.4 Each
period of prayer ends when the next commences, excepting that
of daybreak, which ends at sunrise. The Prophet would not
have his followers commence their prayers at sunrise, nor exactly
at noon or sunset, because, he said, infidels worshipped the sun
at such times.
1 I have called this the first, because the Mohammadan day commences
from sunset; but the morning prayer is often termed the first; the prayer of
noon, the second; and so on.
2 The 'eshë of the Sháfe'ees, Málikees, and Hambel'ees, is when the red
gleam (“esh-shafak el-ahmar”) after sunset has disappeared; and that of the
Hanafees, when both the red and the white gleam have disappeared.
3 Generally on the first faint appearance of light in the east. The Hanafees
mostly perform the morning-prayer a little later, when the yellow gleam
(“el-isfirár”) appears: this they deem the most proper time, but they may
pray earlier.
4 The 'asr, according to the Sháfe'ees, Málikees, and Hambel'ees, is when
the shade of an object, cast by the sun, is equal to the length of that object,
added to the length of the shade which the same object casts at noon; and,
according to the Hanafees, when the shadow is equal to twice the length of
the object added to the length of its mid day shadow.
Should the time of prayer arrive when they are eating, or about
to eat, they are not to rise to prayer till they have finished their
meal. The prayers should be said as nearly as possible at the
commencement of the periods above mentioned: they may be
said after, but not before. The several times of prayer are announced
by the “muëddin” of each mosque. Having ascended
to the gallery of the “mád'neh,” or menaret, he chants the
“adán,” or call to prayer, which is as follows: “God is most
Great!” (this is said four times.) “I testify that there is no
deity but God!” (twice.) “I testify that Mohammad is
God's Apostle!” (twice.) “Come to prayer!” (twice.) “Come
to security!” (twice.)
5 “God is most Great!” (twice.) “There
is no deity but God!”—Most of the muëddins of Cairo have
5 Here is added, in the morning call, “Prayer is better than sleep!”

harmonious and sonorous voices, which they strain to the utmost
pitch: yet there is a simple and solemn melody in their chants
which is very striking, particularly in the stillness of night.1
Blind men are generally preferred for the office of muëddins,
that the hareems and terraces of surrounding houses may not be
overlooked from the mád'nehs.
1 A common air, to which the adán is chanted in Cairo, will be given in the
chapter on Egyptian music.
Two other calls to prayer are made during the night, to rouse
those persons who desire to perform supererogatory acts of devotion.2
A little after midnight, the muëddins of the great royal
mosques in Cairo (i.e., of each of the great mosques founded by
a Sultán, which is called “Gámë, Sultánee”), and of some other
large mosques, ascend the mád'nehs, and chant the following call,
which, being one of the two night-calls not at the regular periods
of obligatory prayers, is called the “Oola,” a term signifying
merely the “First.” Having commenced by chanting the common
adán, with those words which are introduced in the call to
morning-prayer (“Prayer is better than sleep”), he adds, “There
is no deity but God” (three times) “alone: He hath no companion:
to Him belongeth the dominion; and to Him belongeth
praise. He giveth life, and causeth death; and He is living, and
shall never die. In His hand is blessing [or good]; and He is
Almighty.—There is no deity but God!” (three times) “and we
will not worship any beside Him, ‘serving Him with sincerity of
religion,'3 ‘though the infidels be averse'4 [thereto]. There is
no deity but God! Mohammad is the most noble of the creation
in the sight of God. Mohammad is the best prophet that hath
been sent, and a lord by whom his companions became lords;
comely; liberal of gifts; perfect; pleasant to the taste; sweet;
soft to the throat [or to be drunk]. Pardon, O Lord, Thy servant
and Thy poor dependent, the endower of this place, and
him who watcheth it with goodness and beneficence, and its
neighbours, and those who frequent it at the times of prayers
and good acts, O Thou Bountiful!—O Lord!”5 (three times.)
“Thou art He who ceaseth not to be distinguished by mercy:
Thou art liberal of Thy clemency towards the rebellious; and
protectest him; and concealest what is foul; and makest manifest
every virtuous action; and Thou bestowest Thy beneficence upon
the servant, and comfortest him, O Thou Bountiful!—O Lord!”
2 They are few who do so.
3 Kur-án, ch. xcviii., v. 4.
4 Same, ch. ix., v. 32, and ch. 1xi. v. 8.
5 This exclamation (“Yá rabb!”) is made in a very loud tone.

(three times.) “My sins, when I think upon them, [I see to be]
many; but the mercy of my Lord is more abundant than are
my sins: I am not solicitous on account of good that I have
done; but for the mercy of God I am most solicitous. Extolled
be the Everlasting! He hath no companion in His great dominion.
His perfection [I extol]: exalted be His name: [I extol]
the perfection of God.”
About an hour before daybreak, the muëddins of most mosques
chant the second call, named the “Ebed,” and so called from the
occurrence of that word near the commencement.1 This call is
as follows: “[I extol] the perfection of God, the Existing for
ever and ever” (three times): “the perfection of God, the
Desired, the Existing, the Single, the Supreme: the perfection of
God, the One, the Sole: the perfection of Him who taketh to
Himself, in His great dominion, neither female companion, nor
male partner, nor any like unto Him, nor any that is disobedient,
nor any deputy, nor any equal, nor any offspring. His perfection
[I extol]: and exalted be His name! He is a Deity who knew
what hath been before it was, and called into existence what
hath been; and He is now existing as He was [at the first].
His perfection [I extol]: and exalted be His name! He is a
Deity unto whom there is none like existing. There is none like
unto God, the Bountiful, existing. There is none like unto God,
the Clement, existing. There is none like unto God, the Great,
existing. And there is no deity but Thou, O our Lord, to be
worshipped and to be praised and to be desired and to be
glorified. [I extol] the perfection of Him who created all creatures,
and numbered them, and distributed their sustenance, and
decreed the terms of the lives of His servants: and our Lord,
the Bountiful, the Clement, the Great, forgetteth not one of them.
[I extol] the perfection of Him who, of His power and greatness,
caused the pure water to flow from the solid stone, the mass of
rock: the perfection of Him who spake with our lord Moosa [or
Moses] upon the mountain;2 whereupon the mountain was reduced
to dust,3 through dread of God, whose name be exalted,
the One, the Sole. There is no deity but God. He is a just
Judge. [I extol] the perfection of the First. Blessing and peace
be on thee, O comely of countenance! O Apostle of God!
1 The word “ebed” is here used adverbially, signifying “for ever.”

Blessing and peace be on thee, O first of the creatures of
God! and seal of the apostles of God! Blessing and peace be
on thee, O thou Prophet! on thee and on thy Family, and all
thy Companions. God is most Great! God is most Great!”
etc., to the end of the call to morning-prayer. “O God, favour
and preserve and bless the blessed Prophet, our lord Mohammad!
And may God, whose name be blessed and exalted, be well
pleased with thee, O our lord El-Hasan, and with thee, O our
lord El-Hoseyn, and with thee, O Aboo-Farrág,1 O Sheykh of
the Arabs, and with all the favourites [the “welees”] of God.
2 These words, “The perfection of Him who spake,” etc. (“subhána men
kellema,” etc.), are pronounced in a very high and loud tone.
3 See Kur-án, ch. vii., v. 139.
1 “Aboo-Farrág” is a surname of a famous saint, the seyyid Ahmad El-Bedawee,
buried at
Tanta in the Delta: it implies that he obtains relief to
those who visit his tomb, and implore his intercession.
The prayers which are performed daily at the five periods
before mentioned are said to be of so many “rek'ahs,” or inclinations
of the head.2
2 The morning-prayers, two rek'ahs sunneh and two fard: the noon, four
sunneh and four fard; the afternoon, the same; the evening, three fard and
two sunneh; and the night-prayers (or 'eshë), four sunneh and four fard, and
two sunneh again. After these are yet to be performed three rek'ahs “witr;”
i.e., single or separate prayers: these may be performed immediately after the
'eshë prayers, or at any time in the night; but are more meritorious if late in
the night.
The worshipper, standing with his face towards the Kibleh
(that is, towards Mekkeh), and his feet not quite close together,
says, inaudibly, that he has purposed to recite the prayers of so
many rek'ahs (sunneh or fard) the morning-prayers (or the noon,
etc.) of the present day (or night); and then, raising his open
hands on each side of his face, and touching the lobes of his
ears with the ends of his thumbs, he says, “God is most Great!”
(“Alláhu Akbar.”) This ejaculation is called the “tekbeer.”
He then proceeds to recite the prayers of the prescribed number
of rek'ahs,
3 thus:—
3 There are some little differences in the attitudes of the four great sects
during prayer. I describe those of the Hanafees.
Still standing, and placing his hands before him, a little below
his girdle, the left within the right, he recites (with his eyes
directed towards the spot where his head will touch the ground
in prostration) the Fát'hah, or opening chapter of the Kur-án,
4 and
4 Some persons previously utter certain supererogatory ejaculations, expressive
of the praise and glory of God; and add, “I seek refuge with God from
Satan the accursed;” which petition is often offered up before reciting any
part of the Kur-án on other occasions, as commanded by the Kur-án itself
(ch. xvi., v. 100). The Kur-án is usually recited, in the fard prayers, in a
voice slightly audible, excepting at noon and the 'asr, when it is recited
inaudibly. By Imáms, when praying at the head of others, and sometimes by
persons praying alone, it is chanted. In the sunneh prayers it is recited

after it three or more other verses, or one of the short chapters,
of the Kur-án—very commonly the 112th chapter—but without
repeating the bismillah (in the name of God, etc.) before the
second recitation. He then says, “God is most Great!” and
makes, at the same time, an inclination of his head and body,
placing his hands upon his knees, and separating his fingers a
little. In this posture he says, “[I extol] the perfection of my
Lord, the Great!” (three times), adding, “May God hear him
who praiseth Him. Our Lord, praise be unto Thee!” Then,


raising his head and body, he repeats, “God is most Great!”
He next drops gently upon his knees, and, saying again, “God is
most Great!” places his hands upon the ground, a little before
his knees, and puts his nose and forehead also to the ground (the
former first), between his two hands. During this prostration he
says, “[I extol] the perfection of my Lord, the Most High!”

(three times.) He raises his head and body (but his knees
remain upon the ground), sinks backwards upon his heels, and
places his hands upon his thighs, saving, at the same time, “God
is most Great!” and this he repeats as he bends his head a
second time to the ground. During this second prostration he
repeats the same words as in the first, and in raising his head
again, he utters the tekbeer as before. Thus are completed the
prayers of one rek'ah. In all the changes of posture, the toes
of the right foot must not be moved from the spot where they
were first placed, and the left foot should be moved as little as


Having finished the prayers of one rek'ah, the worshipper rises
upon his feet (but without moving his toes from the spot where
they were, particularly those of the right foot), and repeats the
same; only he should recite some other chapter, or portion, after
the Fát'hah, than that which he repeated before, as, for instance,
the 108th chapter.1
1 In the third and fourth fard rek'ahs, the recitation of a second portion of
the Kur-án after the Fát'hah should be omitted; and before fard prayers of
four rek'ahs, the “ikámeh (which consists of the words of the adán, with the
addition of “the time of prayer is come,” pronounced twice after “come to
security”) should be repeated; but most persons neglect doing this, and
many do not observe the former rule.


After every second rek'ah (and after the last, though there be
an odd number, as in the evening fard), he does not immediately
raise his knees from the ground, but bends his left foot under
him, and sits upon it, and places his hands upon his thighs, with
the fingers a little apart. In this posture he says, “Praises are
to God, and prayers, and good works. Peace be on thee, O
Prophet, and the mercy of God, and His blessings! Peace be on
us, and on [all] the righteous worshippers of God!” Then
raising the first finger of the right hand1 (but not the hand itself),
he adds, “I testify that there is no deity but God; and I testify
that Mohammad is His servant and His apostle.”
1 The doctors of El-Islám differ respecting the proper position of the
fingers of the right hand on this occasion: some hold that all the fingers but
the first are to be doubled, as represented in Part II. of the sketch of the
postures of prayer.
After the last rek'ah of each of the prayers (that is, after the
sunneh prayers and the fard alike), after saying, “Praises are to
God,” etc., the worshipper, looking upon his right shoulder, says,
“Peace be on you, and the mercy of God!” Then looking
upon the left, he repeats the same. These salutations are considered
by some as addressed only to the guardian angels who
watch over the believer, and note all his actions;
2 but others say
that they are addressed both to angels and men (i.e., believers
only), who may be present; no person, however, returns them.
Before the salutations in the last prayer, the worshipper may offer
up any short petition (in Scriptural language rather than his
own); while he does so, looking at the palms of his two hands,
which he holds like an open book before him, and then draws
over his face, from the forehead downwards.
2 Some say that every believer is attended by two angels; others say, five;
others, sixty, or a hundred and sixty.
Having finished both the sunneh and fard prayers, the worshipper,
if he would acquit himself completely, or rather, perform
supererogatory acts, remains sitting (but may then sit more at his
ease), and recites the “A'yet el-Kursee,” or Throne-Verse, which
is the 256th of the 2nd chapter of the Kur-án;
3 and adds, “O
High! O Great! Thy perfection [I extol].” He then repeats,
“The perfection of God!” (thirty-three times.) “The perfection
3 Beginning with the words “God: there is no deity but He;” and
ending with, “He is the High, the Great.”

of God, the Great, with His praise for ever!” (once.) “Praise
be to God!” (thirty-three times.) “Extolled be His dignity!
There is no deity but He!” (once.) “God is most Great!”
(thirty-three times.) “God is most Great in greatness, and praise
be to God in abundance!” (once.) He counts these repetitions
with a string of beads called “sebhah” (more properly “subhah”).
The beads are ninety-nine, and have a mark between
each thirty-three. They are of aloes, or other odoriferous or
precious wood, or of coral, or of certain fruit-stones, or seeds,
Any wandering of the eyes, or of the mind, a coughing, or the
like, answering a question, or any action not prescribed to be
performed, must be strictly avoided (unless it be between the
sunneh prayers and the fard, or be difficult to avoid; for it is
held allowable to make three slight irregular motions, or deviations
from correct deportment); otherwise the worshipper must
begin again, and repeat his prayers with due reverence. It is
considered extremely sinful to interrupt a man when engaged in
his devotions. The time usually occupied in repeating the prayers
of four rek'ahs, without the supererogatory additions, is less than
four, or even three, minutes. The Muslim says the five daily
prayers in his house or shop or in the mosque, according as may
be most convenient to him: it is seldom that a person goes from
his house to the mosque to pray, excepting to join the congregation
on Friday. Men of the lower orders oftener pray in the
mosques than those who have a comfortable home, and a mat or
carpet upon which to pray.
The same prayers are said by the congregation in the mosque
on the noon of Friday; but there are additional rites performed
by the Imám and other ministers on this occasion. The chief
reasons for fixing upon Friday as the Sabbath of the Muslims
were, it is said, because Adam was created on that day, and died
on the same day of the week, and because the general resurrection
was prophesied to happen on the day; whence, particularly,
Friday was named the day of “El-Gum'ah” (or the assembly).
The Muslim does not abstain from worldly business on Friday,
excepting during the time of prayer, according to the precept of
the Kur-án, ch. lxii., vv. 9 and 10.
To form a proper conception of the ceremonials of the Friday-prayers,
it is necessary to have some idea of the interior of a
mosque. A mosque in which a congregation assembles to
perform the Friday-prayers is called “gámë'.” The mosques of

Cairo are so numerous, that none of them is inconveniently


crowded on the Friday; and some of them are so large as to
occupy spaces three or four hundred feet square. They are

mostly built of stone, the alternate courses of which are generally
coloured externally red and white. Most commonly a large
mosque consists of porticoes surrounding a square open court,
in the centre of which is a tank or a fountain for ablution. One
side of the building faces the direction of Mekkeh, and the portico
on this side, being the principal place of prayer, is more spacious
than those on the three other sides of the court: it generally has
two or more rows of columns, forming so many aisles, parallel
with the exterior wall. In some cases, this portico, like the other
three, is open to the court; in other cases, it is separated from the
court by partitions of wood, connecting the front row of columns.
In the centre of its exterior wall is the mehráb (or niche) which
marks the direction of Mekkeh; and to the right of this is the
“mimbar” (or pulpit). Opposite the mehráb, in the fore part of
the portico, or in its central part, there is generally a platform
(called “dikkeh”), surrounded by a parapet, and supported by
small columns; and by it, or before it, are one or two seats,
having a kind of desk to bear a volume of the Kur-án, from which
a chapter is read to the congregation. The walls are generally
quite plain, being simply white-washed; but in some mosques the
lower part of the wall of the place of prayer is lined with coloured
marbles, and the other part ornamented with various devices
executed in stucco, but mostly with texts of the Kur-án (which
form long friezes, having a pleasing effect), and never with the
representation of anything that has life. The pavement is
covered with matting, and the rich and poor pray side by side;
the man of rank or wealth enjoying no peculiar distinction or
comfort, unless (which is sometimes the case) he have a prayer-carpet
brought by his servant, and spread for him.1
1 Adjoining each mosque are several “latrinae,” in each of which is a
receptacle with water, for ablution.
The Prophet did not forbid women to attend public prayers in
a mosque, but pronounced it better for them to pray in private:
Cairo, however, neither females nor young boys are allowed to
pray with the congregation in the mosque, or even to be present
in the mosque at any time of prayer: formerly women were
permitted (and perhaps are still in some countries), but were
obliged to place themselves apart from the men, and behind the
latter; because, as Sale has remarked, the Muslims are of opinion
that the presence of females inspires a different kind of devotion
from that which is requisite in a place dedicated to the worship
of God. Very few women in Egypt even pray at home.


Over each of the mosques of Cairo presides a “Názir” (or
warden), who is the trustee of the funds, which arise from lands,
houses, etc., bequeathed to the mosque by the founder and
others, and who appoints the religious ministers and the inferior
servants. Two “Imáms” are employed to officiate in each of
the larger mosques: one of them, called the “Khateeb,”
preaches and prays before the congregation on the Friday: the
other is an “Imám Rátib,” or ordinary Imám, who recites the
five prayers of every day in the mosque, at the head of those
persons who may be there at the exact times of those prayers:
but in most of the smaller mosques both these offices are performed
by one Imám. There are also to each mosque one or
more “muëddins” (to chant the call to prayer), and “bowwábs”
(or door-keepers), according as there are one or more mád'nehs
(or menarets) and entrances; and several other servants are
employed to sweep the mosque, spread the mats, light the lamps,
and attend to the sákiyeh (or water-wheel), by which the tank or
fountain, and other receptacles for water, necessary to the performance
of ablutions, are supplied. The Imáms, and those persons
who perform the lower offices, are all paid from the funds of the
mosque, and not by any contributions exacted from the people.
The condition of the Imáms is very different, in most respects,
from that of Christian priests. They have no authority above
other persons, and do not enjoy any respect buy what their
reputed piety or learning may obtain them: nor are they a
distinct order of men set apart for religious offices, like our
clergy, and composing an indissoluble fraternity; for a man who
has acted as the Imám of a mosque may be displaced by the
warden of that mosque, and, with his employment and salary,
loses the title of Imám, and has no better chance of being again
chosen for religious minister than any other person competent
to perform the office. The Imáms obtain their livelihood chiefly
by other means than the service of the mosque, as their salaries
are very small: that of a Khateeb being generally about a piaster
(2 2/5d. of our money) per month; and that of an ordinary Imám,
about five piasters. Some of them engage in trade; several of
them are “'attárs” (or druggists and perfumers), and many of
them are schoolmasters: those who have no regular occupations
of these kinds often recite the Kur-án for hire in private houses.
They are mostly chosen from among the poor students of the
great mosque El-Azhar.
The large mosques are open from day-break till a little after

the 'eshë, or till nearly two hours after sunset. The others are
closed between the hours of morning and noon prayers; and
most mosques are also closed in rainy weather (excepting at the
times of prayer), lest persons who have no shoes should enter,
and dirt the pavement and matting. Such persons always enter by
the door nearest the tank or fountain (if there be more than one
door), that they may wash before they pass into the place of
prayer; and generally this door alone is left open in dirty weather.
The great mosque El-Azhar remains open all night, with the exception
of the principal place of prayer, which is called the “maksoorah,”
being partitioned off from the rest of the building. In many of
the larger mosques, particularly in the afternoon, persons are seen
lounging, chatting together, eating, sleeping, and sometimes spinning
or sewing, or engaged in some other simple craft; but,
notwithstanding such practices, which are contrary to precepts of
their prophet, the Muslims very highly respect their mosques.
There are several mosques in Cairo (as the Azhar, Hasaneyn,
etc.) before which no Frank, or any other Christian, nor a Jew,
were allowed to pass, till of late years, since the French invasion.
On the Friday, half an hour before the “duhr” (or noon), the
muëddins of the mosques ascend to the galleries of the mád'nehs,
and chant the “Selám,” which is a salutation to the Prophet, not
always expressed in the same words, but generally in words to
the following effect:—“Blessing and peace be on thee, O thou
of great dignity! O Apostle of God! Blessing and peace be
on thee, to whom the Truth said, I am God! Blessing and peace
be on thee, thou first of the creatures of God, and seal of the
Apostles of God! From me be peace on thee, on thee and on
thy Family and all thy companions!”—Persons then begin to
assemble in the mosques.
The utmost solemnity and decorum are observed in the public
worship of the Muslims. Their looks and behaviour in the
mosque are not those of enthusiastic devotion, but of calm and
modest piety. Never are they guilty of a designedly irregular
word or action during their prayers. The pride and fanaticism
which they exhibit in common life, in intercourse with persons of
their own, or of a different faith, seem to be dropped on their
entering the mosque, and they appear wholly absorbed in the
adoration of their Creator; humble and downcast, yet without
affected humility, or a forced expression of countenance.
The Muslim takes off his shoes at the door of the mosque,
carries them in his left hand, sole to sole, and puts his right foot

first over the threshold. If he have not previously performed
the preparatory ablution, he repairs at once to the tank or fountain
to acquit himself of that duty. Before he commences his prayers,
he places his shoes (and his sword and pistols, if he have such
arms) upon the matting, a little before the spot where his head
will touch the ground in prostration: his shoes are put one upon
the other, sole to sole.
The people who assemble to perform the noon prayers of Friday
arrange themselves in rows parallel to that side of the mosque in
which is the niche, and facing that side. Many do not go until
the adán of noon, or just before. When a person goes at, or
a little after, the Selám, as soon as he has taken his place in one
of the ranks, he performs two rek'ahs, and then remains sitting,
on his knees or cross-legged, while a reader, having seated himself
on the reading-chair immediately after the Selám, is occupied in
reciting (usually without book) the Soorat el-Kahf (the 18th
chapter of the Kur-án), or a part of it; for, generally, he has not
finished it before the adán of noon, when he stops. All the congregation,
as soon as they hear the adán (which is the same as on
other days), sit on their knees and feet. When the adán is finished,
they stand up, and perform, each separately, two1 rek'ahs, “sunnet
el-gum'ah” (or the sunneh ordinance for Friday), which they
conclude, like the ordinary prayers, with the two salutations. A
servant of the mosque, called a “Murakkee,” then opens the
folding-doors at the foot of the pulpit-stairs, takes from behind
them a straight wooden sword, and, standing a little to the right
of the doorway, with his right side towards the kibleh, holds this
sword in his right hand, resting the point on the ground. In this
position he says, “Verily God favoureth, and His angels bless, the
Prophet. O ye who believe, bless him, and greet him with a
salutation!”2 Then one or more persons, called “Muballighs,”
stationed on the dikkeh, chant the following, or similar words.3
“O God! favour and preserve and bless the most noble of the
Arabs and 'Agam [or foreigners], the Imám of Mekkeh and El-Medeeneh
and the Temple, to whom the spider showed favour,
and wove its web in the cave; and whom the dabb4 saluted, and
1 If of the sect of the Sháfe'ees, to which most of the people of Cairo
belong; but if of that of the Hanafees, four rek'ahs.
2 Kur-án, chap. xxxiii., v. 56.
3 There are some trifling differences in the forms of salutations of the
Prophet in the Friday-prayers in different mosques; I describe what is most
4 A kind of lizard, the lacerta Libyca.

before whom the moon was cloven in twain, our lord Mohammad,
and his Family and Companions!” The Murakkee then recites
the adán (which the Muëddins have already chanted): after every
few words he pauses, and the Muballighs on the dikkeh repeat
the same words in a sonorous chant.1 Before the adán is finished,
the Khateeb, or Imám, comes to the foot of the pulpit, takes the
wooden sword from the Murakkee's hand, ascends the pulpit, and
sits on the top step or platform. The pulpit of a large mosque
on this day is decorated with two flags, with the profession of the
faith, or the names of God and Mohammad, worked upon them:
these are fixed at the top of the stairs, slanting forward. The
Murakkee and Muballighs having finished the adán, the former
repeats a tradition of the Prophet, saying, “The Prophet (upon
whom be blessing and peace!) hath said, ‘If thou say unto thy
companion while the Imám is preaching on Friday, Be thou silent,
thou speakest rashly.' Be ye silent: ye shall be rewarded: God
shall recompense you.” He then sits down. The Khateeb now
rises, and, holding the wooden sword2 in the same manner as the
Murakkee did, delivers an exhortation, called “khutbet el-waaz.”
As the reader may be curious to see a translation of a Muslim
sermon, I insert one. The following is a sermon preached on
the first Friday of the Arab year.3 The original, as usual, is in
rhyming prose.
1 In the great mosque El-Azhar there are several Muballighs in different
places, to make the adán heard to the whole congregation.
2 To commemorate the acquisition of Egypt by the sword. It is never used
by the Khateeb but in a country or town that has been so acquired by the
Muslims from unbelievers.
3 During my first visit to Egypt I went to the great mosque El-Azhar, to
witness the performance of the Friday-prayers by the largest congregation in
Cairo. I was pleased with the preaching of the Khateeb of the mosque, Gád-El-Mowla,
and afterwards procured his sermon-book (“deewán khutab”),
containing sermons for every Friday in the year, and for the two “'eeds,” or
grand festivals. I translate the first sermon.
“Praise be to God, the renewer of years, and the multiplier of
favours, and the creator of months and days, according to the most
perfect wisdom and most admirable regulation; who hath dignified
the months of the Arabs above all other months, and pronounced
that among the more excellent of them is El-Moharram the
Sacred, and commenced with it the year, as He hath closed it
with Zu-l-Heggeh. How propitious is the beginning, and how
good is the end!4 [I extol] His perfection, exempting Him from
4 The year begins and ends with a sacred month. The sacred months are
four: the first, seventh, eleventh, and twelfth. During these, war was forbidden
to be waged against such as acknowledged them to be sacred, but was afterwards
allowed. The first month is also held to be excellent on account of the
day of 'A'shoora (respecting which see Chap. XXIV. of this work); and the
last, on account of the pilgrimage.

the association of any other deity with Him. He hath well considered
what He hath formed, and established what He hath
contrived, and He alone hath the power to create and to annihilate.
I praise Him, extolling His perfection, and exalting His
name, for the knowledge and inspiration which He hath graciously
vouchsafed; and I testify that there is no deity but God alone;
He hat no companion; He is the most holy King; the [God
of] peace: and I testify that our Lord and our Prophet and our
friend Mohammad is His servant, and His apostle, and His elect,
and His friend, the guide of the way, and the lamp of the dark.
O God! favour and preserve and bless this noble Prophet, and
chief and excellent apostle, the merciful-hearted, our lord Mohammad,
and his family, and his companions, and his wives, and
his posterity, and the people of his house, the noble persons, and
preserve them amply! O servants of God! your lives have been
gradually curtailed, and year after year hath passed away, and ye
are sleeping on the bed of indolence and on the pillow of iniquity.
Ye pass by the tombs of your predecessors, and fear not the
assault of destiny and destruction, as if others departed from the
world and ye must of necessity remain in it. Ye rejoice at the
arrival of new years, as if they brought an increase to the term of
life, and swim in the seas of desires, and enlarge your hopes, and
in every way exceed other people [in presumption], and ye are
sluggish in doing good. O how great a calamity is this! God
teacheth by an allegory. Know ye not that in the curtailment of
time by indolence and sleep there is very great trouble? Know
ye not that in the cutting short of lives by the termination of years
is a very great warning? Know ye not that the night and day
divide the lives of numerous souls? Know ye not that health
and capacity are two blessings coveted by many men? But the
truth hath become manifest to him who hath eyes. Ye are now
between two years: one year hath passed away, and come to an
end, with its evils; and ye have entered upon another year, in
which, if it please God, mankind shall be relieved. Is any of you
determining upon diligence [in doing good] in the year of come?
or repenting of his failings in the times that are passed? The
happy is he who maketh amends for the time passed in the time
to come; and the miserable is he whose days pass away, and he

is careless of his time. This new year hath arrived, and the sacred
month of God hath come with blessings to you—the first of the
months of the year, and of the four sacred months, as hath been
said, and the most worthy of preference and honour and reverence.
Its fast is the most excellent of fasts after that which is
incumbent,1 and the doing of good in it is among the most excellent
of the objects of desire. Whosoever desireth to reap advantage
from it, let him fast the ninth and tenth days, looking for
aid.2 Abstain not from this fast through indolence, and esteeming
it a hardship; but comply with it in the best manner, and
honour it with the best of honours, and improve your time by the
worship of God morning and evening. Turn unto God with
repentance, before the assault of death: He is the God who
accepteth repentance of His servants, and pardoneth sins.—The
3—The Apostle of God (God favour and preserve him!)
hath said, ‘The most excellent prayer, after the prescribed,4 is
the prayer that is said in the last third of the night; and the most
excellent fast, after Ramadán, is that of the month of God, El-Moharram.”'
1 That of the month of Ramadán.
2 See an account of the customs observed in honour of the day of 'A'shoora,
chap. xxiv.
3 The Khateeb always closes his exhortation with one or two traditions of
the Prophet.
4 The five daily prayers ordained by the Kur-án.
The Khateeb, having concluded his exhortation, says to the
congregation, “Supplicate God.” He then sits down, and prays
privately; and each member of the congregation at the same time
offers up some private petition, as after the ordinary prayers, holding
his hands before him (looking at the palms), and then drawing
them down his face. This done, the Muballighs say, “A'meen!
A'meen! (Amen! Amen!) O Lord of all creatures!” —The
Khateeb now rises again, and recites another Khutbeh, called
“khutbet en-naat,” of which the following is a translation:—
5 This is always the same, or nearly so.
“Praise be to God, abundant praise, as He hath commanded!
I testify that there is no deity but God alone: He hath no companion:
affirming His supremacy, and condemning him who
denieth and disbelieveth: and I testify that our lord and our
prophet Mohammad is His servant and His apostle, the lord of
mankind, the intercessor, the accepted intercessor, on the day of
assembling: God favour him and his family as long as the eye
seeth and the ear heareth! O people! reverence God by doing

what He hath commanded, and abstain from that which He hath
forbidden and prohibited. The happy is he who obeyeth, and
the miserable is he who opposeth and sinneth. Know that the
present world is a transitory abode, and that the world to come
is a lasting abode. Make provision, therefore, in your transitory
state for your lasting state, and prepare for your reckoning and
standing before your Lord: for know that ye shall to-morrow be
placed before God, and reckoned with according to your deeds;
and before the Lord of Might ye shall be present, ‘and those
who have acted unjustly shall know with what an overthrowal they
shall be overthrown.'1 Know that God, whose perfection I extol,
and whose name be exalted, hath said (and ceaseth not to say
wisely, and to command judiciously, warning you, and teaching,
and honouring the dignity of your Prophet, extolling and magnifying
him), ‘Verily, God favoureth, and His angels bless, the
Prophet: O ye who believe, bless him, and greet him with a
salutation!”2 O God! favour Mohammad and the family of
Mohammad, as Thou favouredst Ibráheem3 and the family of
Ibráheem; and bless Mohammad and the family of Mohammad,
as Thou blessedst Ibráheem and the family of Ibráheem among
all creatures—for Thou art praiseworthy and glorious! O
God! do Thou also be well pleased with the four Khaleefehs,
the orthodox lords, of high dignity and illustrious honour,
Aboo-Bekr Es-Siddeek, and ‘Omar, and ‘Osmán, and 'Alee;
and be Thou well pleased, O God! with the six who remained
of the ten noble and just persons who swore allegiance
to thy Prophet Mohammad (God favour and preserve
him!) under the tree; (for Thou art the Lord of Piety, and the
Lord of pardon,) those persons of excellence and clemency, and
rectitude and prosperity, Talhah, and Ez-Zubeyr, and Saad, and
Sa'eed, and 'Abd-Er-Rahmán Ibn-'Owf, and Aboo-'Obeydeh 'A'mir
Ibn-El-Garráh; and with all the Companions of the Apostle of
God! (God favour and preserve him!); and be Thou well pleased,
O God! with the two martyred descendants, the two bright
moons, ‘the two lords of the youths of the people of Paradise
in Paradise,' the two sweet-smelling flowers of the Prophet of this
nation, Aboo-Mohammad El-Hasan, and Aboo-'Abd-Allah El-Hoseyn:
and be Thou well pleased, O God! with their mother,
the daughter of the Apostle of God (God favour and preserve
him!), Fátimeh Ez-Zahra, and with their grandmother Khadeegeh
1 Kur-án, chap. xxvi., last verse.
2 Idem., chap. xxxiii., v. 56.
3 The patriarch Abraham.

El-Kubra, and with 'A'isheh, the mother of the faithful, and with
the rest of the pure wives, and with the generation which succeeded
the Companions, and the generation which succeeded
that, with beneficence to the day of judgment! O God! pardon
the believing men and the believing women, and the Muslim men
and the Muslim women, those who are living, and the dead; for
Thou art a hearer near, an answerer of prayers, O Lord of all
creatures! O God! aid El-Islám, and strengthen its pillars, and
make infidelity to tremble, and destroy its might, by the preservation
of Thy servant, and the son of Thy servant, the submissive to
the might of Thy majesty and glory, whom God hath aided, by
the care of the Adored King, our master the Sultán, son of the
Sultán, the Sultán Mahmood1 Khán: may God assist him, and
prolong [his reign]! O God! assist him, and assist his armies!
O Thou Lord of the religion, and of the world present, and the
world to come! O Lord of all creatures! O God! assist the
forces of the Muslims, and the armies of the Unitarians! O God!
frustrate the infidels and polytheists, thine enemies, the enemies
of the religion! O God! invert their banners, and ruin their
habitations, and give them and their wealth as booty to the
Muslims!2 O God! unloose the captivity of the captives, and
annul the debts of the debtors; and make this town to be safe
and secure, and blessed with wealth and plenty, and all the towns
of the Muslims, O Lord of all creatures! And decree safety and
health to us and to all travellers, and pilgrims, and warriors, and
wanderers, upon Thy earth, and upon Thy sea, such as are Muslims,
O Lord of all creatures! ‘O Lord! we have acted unjustly
towards our own souls, and if Thou do not forgive us and be
merciful unto us, we shall surely be of those who perish.'3 I beg
of God, the Great, that He may forgive me and you, and all the
people of Mohammad, the servants of God. ‘Verily God commandeth
justice, and the doing of good, and giving [what is due]
to kindred; and forbiddeth wickedness, and iniquity, and oppression:
He admonisheth you that ye may reflect.'4 Remember
God; He will remember you: and thank Him; He will increase
to you [your blessings]. Praise be to God, the Lord of all
1 The reigning Sultán at the time when the above was written.
2 This sentence, beginning “O God, frustrate,” was not inserted in one copy
of this prayer, which I obtained from an Imám. Another Imám, at whose dictation
I wrote the copy here translated, told me that this sentence and some
others were often omitted.
3 Kur-án, chap. viii., v. 22.
4 Ibid., chap. xvi., v. 92.


During the rise of the Nile, a good inundation is also prayed for
in this Khutbeh. The Khateeb, or Imám, having ended it, descends
from the pulpit, and the Muballighs chant the “ikámeh” (described
in page 66): the Imám, stationed before the niche, then
recites the “fard” prayers of Friday, which consist of two rek'ahs,
and are similar to the ordinary prayers. The people do the
same, but silently, and keeping time exactly with the Imám in
the various postures. Those who are of the Málikee sect then
leave the mosque; and so also do many persons of the other
sects: but some of the Sháfe'ees and Hanafees (there are scarcely
any Hambel'ees in Cairo) remain, and recite the ordinary fard
prayers of noon; forming a number of separate groups, in each
of which one acts as Imám. The rich, on going out of the
mosque, often give alms to the poor outside the door.
There are other prayers to be performed on particular occasions—on
the two grand annual festivals, on the nights of Ramadán
(the month of abstinence), on the occasion of an eclipse of the
sun or moon, for rain, previously to the commencement of battle,
in pilgrimage, and at funerals.
I have spoken thus fully of Muslim worship because my countrymen
in general have very imperfect and erroneous notions on
this subject; many of them even imagining that the Muslims
ordinarily pray to their Prophet as well as to God. Invocations
to the Prophet, for his intercession, are, indeed, frequently made,
particularly at his tomb, where pious visitors generally say, “We
ask thy intercession, O Apostle of God!” The Muslims also
even implore the intercession of their numerous saints.
The duty next in importance to prayer is that of giving alms.
Certain alms are prescribed by law, and are called “zekah”:
others, called “sadakah,” are voluntary. The former, or obligatory
alms, were, in the earlier ages of El-Islám, collected by
officers appointed by the sovereign, for pious uses, such as building
mosques, etc.; but now it is left to the Muslim's conscience to
give them, and to apply them in what manner he thinks fit; that
is, to bestow them upon whatever needy persons he may choose.
They are to be given once in every year, of cattle and sheep,
generally in the proportion of one in forty, two in a hundred and
twenty; of camels, for every five, a ewe; or for twenty-five, a
pregnant camel; and likewise of money, and, among the Hanafees,
of merchandize, etc. He who has money to the amount of
two hundred dirhems (or drams) of silver, or twenty mitkáls (i.e.,
thirty drams) of gold (or, among the Hanafees, the value of the

above in gold or silver ornaments, utensils, etc.), must annually
give the fortieth part (“ruba el-'oshr”), or the value of that part.
Fasting is the next duty. The Muslim is commanded to fast
during the whole month of Ramadán1 every day, from the first
appearance of daybreak, or rather from the hour when there is
sufficient light for a person to distinguish plainly a white thread
from a black thread2 (about two hours before sunrise in Egypt),
until sunset. He must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking,
smelling perfumes, and every unnecessary indulgence or pleasure
of a worldly nature; even from intentionally swallowing his spittle.
When Ramadán falls in summer,3 the fast is very severe; the
abstinence from drinking being most painfully felt. Persons who
are sick, or on a journey, and soldiers in time of war, are not
obliged to observe the fast during Ramadán; but if they do not
keep it in this month they should fast an equal number of days
at a future time. Fasting is also to be dispensed with in the
cases of a nurse and a pregnant woman. The Prophet even disapproved
of any person's keeping the fast of Ramadán if not
perfectly able; and desired no man to fast so much as to injure
his health, or disqualify himself for necessary labour. The
modern Muslims seem to regard the fast of Ramadán as of more
importance than any other religious act, for many of them keep
this fast who neglect their daily prayers; and even those who
break the fast, with very few exceptions, pretend to keep it.
Many Muslims of the wealthy classes eat and drink in secret
during Ramadán; but the greater number strictly keep the fast,
which is fatal to numerous persons in a weak state of health.
There are some other days on which it is considered meritorious
to fast, but not absolutely necessary. On the two grand festivals,
namely, that following Ramadán, and that which succeeds the
pilgrimage, it is unlawful to do so, being expressly forbidden by
the Prophet.
1 Because the Prophet received the first revelation in that month.
2 Kur-án, chap. ii., v. 183.
3 The year being lunar, each month retrogrades through all the seasons in
the course of about thirty-three years and a half.
The last of the four most important duties, that of pilgrimage,
remains to be noticed. It is incumbent on every Muslim to
perform, once in his life, the pilgrimage to Mekkeh and Mount
'Arafát, unless poverty or ill health prevent him; or, if a Hanafee,
he may send a deputy, whose expenses he must pay.
4 Many,
4 A Málikee is held bound to perform the pilgrimage if strong enough to
bear the journey on foot, and able to earn his food on the way.

however, neglect the duty of pilgrimage who cannot plead a
lawful excuse; and they are not reproached for so doing. It is
not merely by the visit to Mekkeh, and the performance of the
ceremonies of compassing the Kaabeh seven times and kissing
the “black stone” in each round, and other rites in the Holy
City, that the Muslim acquires the title of “el-hágg”1 (or the
pilgrim): the final object of the pilgrimage is Mount 'Arafát,
six hours' journey distant from Mekkeh. During his performance
of the required ceremonies in Mekkeh, and also during his
journey to 'Arafát, and until his completion of the pilgrimage, the
Muslim wears a peculiar dress, called “ehrám” (vulgarly herám),
generally consisting of two simple pieces of cotton, or linen, or
woollen cloth, without seam or ornament, one of which is wrapped
round the loins, and the other thrown over the shoulders: the
instep and heel of each foot, and the head, must be bare; but
umbrellas are now used by many of the pilgrims. It is necessary
that the pilgrim be present on the occasion of a Khutbeh which
is recited on Mount 'Arafát in the afternoon of the 9th of the
month of Zu-l-Heggeh. In the ensuing evening, after sunset, the
pilgrims commence their return to Mekkeh. Halting the following
day in the valley of Mina (or, as it is more commonly called,
Muna), they complete the ceremonies of the pilgrimage by a
sacrifice (of one or more male sheep, he-goats, cows, or she-camels,
part of the flesh of which they eat, and part give to the
poor), and by shaving the head and clipping the nails. Every
one, after this, resumes his usual dress, or puts on a new one, if
provided with such. The sacrifice is called “el-fida” (or the
ransom), as it is performed in commemoration of the ransom of
Isma'eel (or Ishmael) by the sacrifice of the ram, when he was
himself about to have been offered up by his father; for it is the
general opinion of the Muslims that it was this son, not Isaac,
who was to have been sacrificed by his father.
1 On the pronunciation of this word, see a note to the second paragraph of
Chapter V., p. 120.
There are other ordinances, more or less connected with those
which have been already explained.
The two festivals called “el-'Eed es-Sugheiyir,”2 or the Minor
Festival, and ‘el-'Eed el-Kebeer,” or the Great Festival, the
occasions of which have been mentioned above, are observed
with public prayer and general rejoicing. The first of these lasts
2 More properly “Sagheer.” This is what many travellers have incorrectly
called “the Great Festival.”

three days; and the second, three or four days. The festivities
with which they are celebrated will be described in a subsequent
chapter. On the first day of the latter festival (it being the
day on which the pilgrims perform their sacrifice) every Muslim
should slay a victim, if he can afford to purchase one. The
wealthy person slays several sheep, or a sheep or two, and a
buffalo, and distributes the greater portion of the meat to the
poor. The slaughter may be performed by a deputy.
War against enemies of El-Islám, who have been the first
aggressors, is enjoined as a sacred duty; and he who loses his
life in fulfilling this duty, if unpaid, is promised the rewards of a
martyr. It has been said, even by some of their leading doctors,
that the Muslims are commanded to put to death all idolaters
who refuse to embrace El-Islám excepting women and children,
whom they are to make slaves:1 but the precepts on which this
assertion is founded relate to the Pagan Arabs, who had violated
their oaths and long persevered in their hostility to Mohammad
and his followers. According to the decisions of the most
reasonable doctors, the laws respecting other idolaters, as well as
Christians and Jews, who have drawn upon themselves the
hostility of the Muslims, are different: of such enemies, if reduced
by force of arms, refusing to capitulate or to surrender
themselves, the men may be put to death or be made slaves, and
the women and children also, under the same circumstances,
may be made slaves: but life and liberty are to be granted to
those enemies who surrender themselves by capitulation or otherwise,
on the condition of their embracing El-Islám or paying a
poll-tax, unless they have acted perfidiously towards the Muslims,
as did the Jewish tribe of Kureydhah, who, being in league
with Mohammad, went over to his enemies and aided them
against him: for which conduct, when they surrendered, the men
were slain, and the women and children were made slaves.—The
Muslims, it may here be added, are forbidden to contract intimate
friendship with unbelievers.
1 Misled by the decision of those doctors, and an opinion prevalent in
Europe, I represented the laws of “holy war” as more severe than I find
them to be according to the letter and spirit of the Kur-án, when carefully
examined, and according to the Hanafee code. I am indebted to Mr.
Urquhart for suggesting to me the necessity of revising my former statement
on this subject; and must express my conviction that no precept is to be
found in the Kur-án which, taken with the context, can justify unprovoked


There are certain prohibitory laws in the Kur-án which must
be mentioned here, as remarkably affecting the moral and social
condition of its disciples.
Wine, and all inebriating liquors, are forbidden, as being the
cause of “more evil than profit.”1 Many of the Muslims, however,
in the present day, drink wine, brandy, etc., in secret; and
some, thinking it no sin to indulge thus in moderation, scruple
not to do so openly; but among the Egyptians there are few
who transgress in this flagrant manner. “Boozeh,” or “boozah,”
which is an intoxicating liquor made with barley-bread, crumbled,
mixed with water, strained, and left to ferment, is commonly
drunk by the boatmen of the Nile, and by other persons of the
lower orders.2 Opium, and other drugs which produce a similar
effect, are considered unlawful, though not mentioned in the
Kur-án; and persons who are addicted to the use of these drugs
are regarded as immoral characters; but in Egypt, such persons
are not very numerous. Some Muslims have pronounced tobacco,
and even coffee, unlawful.
1 Kur-án, chap. ii., v. 216. A kind of wine, formerly called “nebeedh”
(a name now given to prohibited kinds), may be lawfully drunk. This is
generally an infusion of dry grapes, or dry dates. The Muslims used to keep
it until it had slightly fermented; and the Prophet himself was accustomed to
drink it, but not when it was more than two days old. The nebeedh of raisins
is now called “zebeeb.”
2 A similar beverage, thus prepared from barley, was used by the ancient
Egyptians. (Herodotus, lib. ii., cap. 77.) The modern inhabitants of Egypt
also prepare boozeh from wheat and from millet in the same manner, but less
The eating of swine's flesh is strictly forbidden. The unwholesome
effects of that meat in a hot climate would be a sufficient
reason for the prohibition; but the pig is held in abhorrence by
the Muslim chiefly an account of its extremely filthy habits.
Most animals prohibited for food by the Mosaic law are alike
forbidden to the Muslim. The camel is an exception. The
Muslim is “forbidden [to eat] that which dieth of itself, and
blood, and swine's flesh, and that on which the name of any
beside God hath been invoked; and that which hath been
strangled or killed by a blow, or by a fall, or by the horns [of
another beast]; and that which hath been [partly] eaten by a
wild beast, except what he shall [himself] kill; and that which
hath been sacrificed unto idols.”4 An animal that is killed for
3 Swine were universally deemed impure by the ancient Egyptians.
(Herodotus, lib. ii., cap. 47.)
4 Kur-án, chap. v., v. 4.

the food of man must be slaughtered in a particular manner: the
person who is about to perform the operation must say, “In the
name of God! God is most great!” and then cut its throat, at
the part next the head, taking care to divide the windpipe, gullet,
and carotid arteries; unless it be a camel, in which case he
should stab the throat at the part next the breast. It is forbidden
to utter, in slaughtering an animal, the phrase which is so often
made use of on other occasions, “In the name of God, the Compassionate,
the Merciful!” because the mention of the most
benevolent epithets of the Deity on such an occasion would seem
like a mockery of the sufferings which it is about to endure.
Some persons in Egypt, but mostly women, when about to kill
an animal for food, say, “In the name of God! God is most
great! God give thee patience to endure the affliction which
He hath allotted thee!”1 If the sentiment which first dictated
this prayer were always felt, it would present a beautiful trait in
the character of the people who use it. In cases of necessity,
when in danger of starving, the Muslim is allowed to eat any
food which is unlawful under other circumstances. The made
of slaughter above described is, of course, only required to be
practised in the cases of domestic animals. Most kinds of fish
are lawful food:2 so also are many birds; the tame kinds of
which must be killed in the same manner as cattle; but the wild
may be shot. The hare, rabbit, gazelle, etc., are lawful food,
and may either be shot, or killed by a dog, provided the name of
God was uttered at the time of discharging the arrow, etc., or
slipping the dog, and he (the dog) has not eaten any part of the
prey. This animal, however, is considered very unclean: the
Sháfe'ees hold themselves to be polluted by the touch of its
nose, if it be wet; and if any part of their clothes be so touched,
they must wash that part with seven waters, and once with clean
earth: some others are only careful not to let the animal lick, or
defile in a worse manner, their persons or their dress, etc. When
game has been struck down by any weapon, but not killed, its
throat must be immediately cut: otherwise it is unlawful food.
1 The Arabic words of this prayer, “God give thee patience,” etc., are,
“Allah yesabbirak (for yusabbirak) 'ala má belák.”
2 In some respects the Muslim code does not appear to be so strictly
founded upon exigencies of a sanatory nature as the Mosaic. See Leviticus
xi. 9–12. In Egypt, fish which have not scales are generally found to be
unwholesome food. One of the few reasonable laws of El-Hákim was that
which forbade the selling or catching such kinds of fish. See De Sacy,
“Chrestomathie Arabe,” 2nde ed., tome i., p. 98.


Gambling and usury are prohibited,1 and all games of chance;
and likewise the making of images or pictures of anything that
has life.2 The Prophet declared that every representation of this
kind would be placed before its author on the day of judgment,
and that he would be commanded to put life into it; which not
being able to do, he would be cast, for a time, into hell.
1 It is unlawful to give or receive interest, however small, for a loan, or on
account of credit; and to exchange any article for another article of the same
species, but differing in quantity. These and several other commercial transactions
of a similar kind are severely condemned; but they are not very
uncommon among modern Muslims, some of whom take exorbitant interest.
2 Many of the Muslims hold that only sculptures which cast a shadow,
representing living creatures, are unlawful; but the Prophet certainly condemned
pictures also.
The principal civil and criminal laws remain to be stated.
Their origin we discover partly in customs of the Pagan Arabs,
but mostly in the Jewish Scriptures and traditions.
The civil and criminal laws are chiefly and immediately derived
from the Kur-án
3; but, in many important cases, this highest
authority affords no precept. In most of these cases the Traditions
of the Prophet direct the decisions of the judge.4 There
are, however, some important cases, and many of an inferior kind,
respecting which both the Kur-án and the Traditions are silent or
undecisive. These are determined by the explanations and
amplifications derived either from the concordance of the principal
early disciples, or from analogy, by the four great Imáms, or
founders of the four orthodox sects of El-Islám; generally on the
authority of the Imám of that sect to which the ruling power
belongs, which sect, in Egypt, and throughout the Turkish
Empire, is that of the Hanafees: or, if none of the decisions of
the Imám relate to a case in dispute (which not unfrequently
happens), judgment is given in accordance with a sentence of
some other eminent doctor, founded upon analogy.—In general,
only the principal laws, as laid down in the Kur-án and the Traditions,
will be here stated.
3 A law given in the Kur-án is called “fard.”
4 A law derived from the Traditions is called “sunneh.”
The laws relating to marriage and the licence of polygamy, the
facility of divorce allowed by the Kur-án, and the permission of
concubinage, are essentially the natural and necessary consequences
of the main principle of the constitution of Muslim society—the
restriction of the intercourse between the sexes before marriage.
Few men would marry if he who was disappointed in a wife whom
he had never seen before were not allowed to take another; and

in the case of a man's doing this, his own happiness, or that of
the former wife, or the happiness of both these parties, may
require his either retaining this wife of divorcing her. But I
hope that my reader will admit a much stronger reason for these
laws, regarding them as designed for the Muslims. As the Mosaic
code allowed God's chosen people, for the hardness of their hearts,
to put away their wives, and forbade neither polygamy nor concubinage,
he who believes that Moses was divinely inspired, to
enact the best laws for his people, must hold the permission of
these practices to be less injurious to morality than their prohibition,
among a people similar to the ancient Jews. Their
permission, though certainly productive of injurious effects upon
morality and domestic happiness, prevents a profligacy that would
be worse than that which prevails to so great a degree in European
countries, where parties are united in marriage after an intimate
mutual acquaintance. As to the licence of polygamy, which
seems to be unfavourable to the accomplishment of the main
object for which marriage was instituted, as well as to the exercise
and improvement of the nobler powers of the mind, we should
remark that it was not introduced, but limited, by the legislator
of the Muslims. It is true that he assumed to himself the
privilege of having a greater number of waves than he allowed to
others; but, in doing so, he may have been actuated by the want
of male offspring, rather than impelled by voluptuousness.
The law respecting marriage and concubinage is perfectly
explicit as to the number of wives whom a Muslim may have at
the same time; but it is not so with regard to the number of
concubine-slaves whom he may have. It is written, “Take in
marriage, of the women who please you, two, three, or four; but
if ye fear that ye cannot act equitably [to so many, take] one; or
[take] those whom your right hands have acquired,”1 that is, your
slaves. Therefore many of the wealthy Muslims marry two,
three, or four wives, and keep besides several concubine-slaves;
and many of the most revered characters, even Companions of
the Prophet, are recorded to have done the same. The conduct
of the later clearly shows that the number of concubine-slaves
whom a man may have is not limited by the law in the opinion
of the orthodox.2
1 Kur-án, chap. iv., v. 3.
2 Some Muslim moralists argue, that, as four wives are a sufficient number
for one man, so also are four concubine-slaves, or four women consisting of
these two classes together; but, notwithstanding what Sale and some other
learned men have asserted on this subject, the Muslim law certainly does not
limit the number of concubine-slaves whom a man may have, whether in
addition to, or without, a wife or wives.


It is held lawful for a Muslim to marry a Christian or a Jewish
woman, if induced to do so by excessive love of her, or if he
cannot obtain a wife of his own faith; but in this case of offspring
must follow the father's faith,1 and the wife does not
inherit when the father dies. A Muslim'eh, however, is not
allowed under any circumstances, but when force is employed, to
marry a man who is not of her own faith. A man is forbidden,
by the Kur-án2 and the Sunneh, to marry his mother, or other
ascendant; his daughter, or other descendant; his sister, or half-sister;
the sister of his father or mother, or other ascendant; his
niece, or any of her descendants; his foster-mother,3 or a woman
related to him by milk in any of the degrees which would preclude
his marriage with her if she were similarly related to him
by consanguinity; the mother of his wife, even if he have not
consummated his marriage with this wife; the daughter of his
wife if he have consummated his marriage with the latter, and she
be still his wife; his father's wife, and his son's wife; and to
have at the same time two wives who are sisters, or aunt and
niece: he is forbidden also to marry his unemancipated slave, or
another man's slave, if he have already a free wife. It is lawful
for the Muslim to see the faces of these women whom he is forbidden
to marry, but of no others, excepting his own wives and
female slaves. The marriage of a man and woman, or of a man
and a girl who has arrived at puberty, is lawfully effected by their
declaring (which the latter generally does by a “wekeel,” or
deputy) their consent to marry each other, in the presence of two
witnesses (if witnesses can be procured), and by the payment, or
part-payment, of a dowry. But the consent of a girl under the
age of puberty is not required; her father, or, if he be dead, her
nearest adult male relation, or any person appointed as her
guardian by will or by the Kádee, acting for her as he pleases.4
The giving of a dowry is indispensable, and the least sum that is
allowed by law is ten “dirhems” (or drachms of silver), which is
1 In like manner, when a Christian man marries a Jewess, the Muslim law
requires the offspring to profess “the better faith,” namely, the Christian, if
unwilling to embrace El-Islám.
2 Chap. iv., vv. 26, 27.
3 By the Hanafee code, a man may not marry a woman from whose breast
he has received a single drop of milk; but Esh-Sháfe'ee does not prohibit the
marriage unless he has been suckled by her five times in the course of the first
two years.
4 A boy may be thus married; but he may divorce his wife.

equal to about five shillings of our money. A man may legally
marry a woman without mentioning a dowry; but after the consummation
of the marriage she can, in this case, compel him to
pay the sum of ten dirhems.1
1 Whatever property the wife receives from her husband, parents, or any
other person, is entirely at her own disposal, and not subject to any claim of
her husband or his creditors.
A man may divorce his wife twice, and each time take her
back without any ceremony, excepting in a case to be mentioned
below; but if he divorce her the third time, or put her away by
a triple divorce conveyed in one sentence, he cannot receive
her again until she has been married and divorced by another
husband, who must have consummated his marriage with her.
When a man divorces his wife (which he does by merely saying,
“Thou art divorced,” or “I divorce thee”), he pays her a portion
of her dowry (generally one-third), which he had kept back from
the first, to be paid on this occasion, or at his death; and she
takes away with her the furniture, etc., which she brought at her
marriage. He may thus put her away from mere dislike,3 and
without assigning any reason; but a woman cannot separate
herself from her husband against his will, unless it be for some
considerable fault on his part, as cruel treatment, or neglect; and
even then, application to the Kádee's court is generally necessary
to compel the man to divorce her; and she forfeits the above-mentioned
remnant of the dowry.
2 Kur-án, chap. ii., vv. 229, 230.
3 As the Mosaic law also allows. See Deut. xxiv. I.
The first and second divorce, if made without any mutual
agreement for a compensation from the woman, or a pecuniary
sacrifice on her part, is termed “talák reg'ee” (a divorce which
admits of return); because the husband may take back his wife,
without her consent, during the period of her “'eddeh” (which
will be presently explained), but not after, unless with her consent,
and by a new contract. If he divorce her the first or second
time for a compensation, she perhaps requesting, “Divorce me
for what thou owest me,” or “—hast of mine” (that is, of the
dowry, furniture, etc.), or for an additional sum, he cannot take
her again but by her own consent, and by a new contract. This
is a “talák báïn” (or separating divorce), and is termed “the
lesser separation,” to distinguish it from the third divorce, which
is called “the greater separation.” The “'eddeh” is the period
during which a divorced woman or a widow must wait before
marrying again,—in either case, if pregnant, until delivery; otherwise

the former must wait three lunar periods, or three months,
and the latter, four months and ten days. A woman who is
divorced when in a state of pregnancy, though she may make a
new contract of marriage immediately after her delivery, must
wait forty days longer before she can complete her marriage by
receiving her husband. The man who divorces his wife must
maintain her in his own house, or in that of her parents, or elsewhere,
during the period of her 'eddeh, but must cease to live
with her as her husband from the commencement of that period.
A divorced woman who has a son under two years of age may
retain him until he has attained that age, and may be compelled to
do so by the law of the Sháfe'ees, and by the law of the Málikees,
until he has arrived at puberty, but the Hanafee law limits the
period during which the boy should remain under her care to seven
years: her daughter she should retain until nine years of age, or
the period of puberty. If a man divorce his wife before the consummation
of marriage, he must pay her half the sum which he
has promised to give her as a dowry, or, if he have promised no
dowry, he must pay her the half of the smallest dowry allowed by
law, which has been above mentioned, and she may marry again
When a wife refuses to obey to lawful commands of her husband,
he may, and generally does, take her, or two witnesses1
against her, to the Kádee's court, to prefer a complaint against
her; and, if the case be proved, a certificate is written declaring
the woman “náshizeh,” or rebellious against her husband. This
process is termed “writing a woman náshizeh.” It exempts her
husband from obligation to lodge, clothe, and maintain her. He
is not obliged to divorce her; and, by refusing to do this, he may
prevent her marrying another man as long as he lives; but, if she
promise to be obedient afterwards, he must take her back, and
maintain her, or divorce her. It is more common, however, for
a wife whose husband refuses to divorce her, if she have parents
or other relations able and willing to support her comfortably, to
make a complaint at the Kádee's court, stating her husband's
conduct to be of such a nature towards her that she will not live
with him, and thus cause herself to be registered “náshizeh,” and
separated from him. In this case, the husband generally persists,
from mere spite, in refusing to divorce her.
1 The witnesses must always be Muslims in accusations against a person of
the same faith.
As concubines are slaves, some account of slaves in general

may her be appropriately inserted, with a statement of the
principal laws respecting concubines and their offspring, etc.—
The slaves is either a person taken captive in war, or carried off
by force from a foreign hostile country, and being at the time of
capture an infidel; or the offspring of a female slave by another
slave, or by any man who is not her owner, or by her owner if he
do not acknowledge himself to be the father; but a person cannot
be the slave of a relation who is within the prohibited degrees
of marriage. The power of the owner is such that he may even
kill his slave with impunity for any offence; and he incurs but a
slight punishment (as imprisonment for a period at the discretion
of the judge) if he do so wantonly. He may give or sell his
slaves, excepting in some cases which will be mentioned, and
may marry them to whom he will, but not separate them when
married. A slave, however, according to most of the doctors,
cannot have more than two wives at the same time. As a slave
enjoys less advantages than a free person, the law, in some cases,
ordains that his punishment for an offence shall be half of that
to which the free is liable for the same offence, or even less than
half: if it be a fine, or pecuniary compensation, it must be paid
by the owner, to the amount, if necessary, of the value of the
slave, or the slave must be given in compensation. An unemancipated
slave, at the death of the owner, becomes the property of
the heirs of the latter; and when an emancipated slave dies,
leaving no male descendant or collateral relation, the former
owner is the heir; or, if he be dead, his heirs inherit the slave's
property. But an unemancipated slave can acquire no property
without the permission of the owner. Complete and immediate
emancipation is sometimes granted to a slave gratuitously, or for
a future pecuniary compensation. It is conferred by means of a
written document, or by a verbal declaration in the presence of
two witnesses, or by presenting the slave with the certificate of
sale obtained from the former owner. Future emancipation is
sometimes covenanted to be granted on the fulfilment of certain
conditions; and more frequently, to be conferred on the occasion
of the owner's death. In the latter case, the owner cannot sell
the slave to whom he has made this promise; and as he cannot
alienate by will more than one-third of the whole property that he
leaves, the law ordains that, if the value of the said slave exceed
that portion, the slave must obtain, and pay to the owner's heirs,
the additional sum.—A Muslim may take as his concubine any of
his female slaves who is a Muslim'eh, or a Christian, or a Jewess,

if he have not married her to another man; but he may not have
as his concubines, at the same time, two or more who are sisters,
or who are related to each other in any of the degrees which
would prevent their both being his wives at the same time if they
were free. A Christian is not by the law allowed, nor is a Jew,
to have a Muslim'eh slave as his concubine.1 The master must
wait a certain period (generally from a month to three months)
after his acquisition of a female slave, before he can take her as
his concubine. When a female slave becomes a mother by her
master, the child which she bears to him is free, if he acknowledge
it to be his own; but if not, it is his slave. In the former case
the mother cannot afterwards be sold or given away by her
master (though she must continue to serve him and be his concubine
as long as he desires); and she is entitled to emancipation
at his death. Her bearing a child to him is called the cause
of her emancipation or liberty; but it does not oblige him to
emancipate her as long as he lives, though it is commendable if
he do so, and make her his wife, provided he have not already
four wives, or if he marry her to another man, should it be her
wish. A free person cannot become the husband or wife of his,
or her, own slave, without first emancipating that slave; and the
marriage of a free person with the slave of another is dissolved if
the former become the owner of the latter, and cannot be renewed
but by emancipation and a regular legal contract.
1 Yet many Christians and Jews in Egypt infringe the law in this respect
with impunity.
The most remarkable general principles of the laws of inheritance
are the denial of any privileges to primogeniture,
2 and in
most cases awarding to a female a share equal to half that of a
male of the same degree of relationship to the deceased.3 A
person may bequeath one-third of his or her property; but not
2 In this the Muslim law differs from the Mosaic, which assigns a double
portion to the first-born son. See Deut. xxi. 17.
3 In my summary of the principal laws relating to inheritance, in the former
editions of this work, there were some errors, occasioned by my relying too
much upon Sale's version of the Kur-án; for I doubted not his accuracy, as
he had several commentaries to consult, and I had none; wherefore, in my
inquiries respecting these laws, I sought only to add to, not to correct, the
information conveyed by his version. I have here given a corrected statement,
derived from the Kur-án and the Commentary of the Geláleyn, supplying some
words of necessary explanation (which are enclosed in brackets) partly on the
authority of a sheykh who was my tutor, and partly from the valuable work of
D'Ohsson, “Tableau Général de l'Empire Othoman,” Code Civil, livre iv.

a larger portion, unless he or she has no legal heir; nor any
portion to a legal heir, excepting wife or husband, without the
consent of all the other heirs. The children of a person deceased
inherit the whole of that person's property, or what remains after
payment of the legacies and debts, etc., and the share of a male
is double the share of a female. If the children of the deceased
be only females, two or more in number, they inherit together,
by the law of the Kur-án, two-thirds; and if there be but one
child, and that a female, she inherits by the same law half. [But
the remaining third, or half, is also assigned to the said daughters
or daughter, by a law of the Sunneh (which applies also to other
cases), if there be no other legal heir.] If the deceased have left
no immediate descendant, the sons and daughters of his son or sons
inherit as immediate descendants [and so on]. If the deceased
have left a child or a son's child [and so on], each of the parents
of the deceased inherits one-sixth. If the father be dead, his
share falls to his father. [If the mother be dead, her share falls
to her mother.] If the deceased have left no child or son's child
[and so on], the mother has one-third of the property, or of what
remains after deducting the share of the wife or wives or husband,
and the residue is for the father; unless the deceased has left two
or more brothers or sisters, in which case the mother inherits
one-sixth, and the father the residue; the said brothers or sisters
receiving nothing1 [if the deceased have left a father or any
ascendant in the male line]. A man inherits half of what remains
of his wife's property after the payment of her legacies, etc.,
if she have left no child or son's child [and so on]; and one-fourth
if she have left a child or son's child [and so on]. One-fourth is
the share of the wife, or of the wives conjointly, if the deceased
husband have left no child or son's child [and so on]; and one-eighth
1 According to Sale's translation of the 12th verse of chap. iv., and a note
thereon, if the deceased have no child, and his parents be his heirs, then
his mother shall have the third part, and his father the other two-thirds; but
if he have brethren, his mother shall have a sixth part;—and by his translation
of the last verse of the same chapter, stating that the brothers of a man who
has died without issue have a claim to inheritance, it is implied that the
brothers, if the father be living, must have a share; consequently, that they
would have, in the case above-mentioned, a sixth part: for he has not stated
that this portion which is deducted from the mother's share goes to the father,
nor that the father's share in diminished.—Why the mothers' share is diminished
and the father's increased, in the case to which this note relates, I do not see:
the reason might be easily inferred, were it not that the surviving brothers or
sisters of the deceased may be his brothers or sisters by the mother's side

if he have left any such descendant.1 If the deceased have
not left a father [nor any ascendant in the male line], nor a child
[nor a son's child, and so on], the law ordains as follows:—1. A
sole brother, or sister, only by the mother's side, inherits on-sixth;
and if there be two or more brothers or sisters, only by the mother's
side, or one or more of such relations of each sex, they inherit
collectively one-third, which is equally divided, without distinction
of male and female.—2. If the deceased have left a sole sister
by his father and mother [and no such brother], she inherits
half; and a man inherits the whole property of such a sister [or
what remains after the payment of her legacies, etc.], if she have
left no child; but if she have left a male child [or son's child, and
so on], he (the brother) inherits nothing; and if she have left a
female child, the said brother inherits what remains after deducting
that child's share [and after the payment of the legacies, etc.].
If the deceased have left two or more sisters, by his father and
mother [and no such brother], they inherit together two-thirds.
If the deceased have left one or more brothers, and one or more
sisters, by his father and mother, they inherit the whole [or what
remains after the payment of the legacies, etc.], and the share of a
male is double the share of a female.—3. Brothers and sisters
by the father's side only [when there is no brother or sister by
the father and mother] inherit as brothers and sisters by the
father and mother.2 No distinction is made between the
child of a wife and that borne by a slave to her master (if
the master acknowledge the child to be his own): both inherit
equally. So also do the child of a wife and the adopted child.
A bastard inherits only from his mother, and vice versâ. When
there is no legal heir, or legatee, the property falls to the government-treasury,
which is called “beyt el-mál.” The laws respecting
certain remote degrees of kindred, etc., I have not thought it
necessary to state.3 The property of the deceased is nominally
divided into keeráts (or twenty-fourth parts); and the share of
each son, or other heir, is said to be so many keeráts.
1 This is exclusive of what may remain due to her of her dowry, of which
one-third is usually held in reserve by the husband, to be paid to her if he
divorce her, or when he dies.
2 The portions of the Kur-án upon which the above laws are founded are
verses 12-15, and the last verse, of chap. iv.
3 The reader may see them in D'Ohsson's work before mentioned.
The law is remarkably lenient towards debtors. “If there be
any [debtor],” says the Kur-án,
4 “under a difficulty [of paying
4 Chap. ii., v. 280.

his debt], let [his creditor] wait till it be easy [for him to do it];
but if ye remit it as alms, it will be better for you.” The Muslim
is commanded (in the chapter from which the above extract is
taken), when he contracts a debt, to cause a statement of it to be
written, and attested by two men, or a man and two women, of
his own faith. The debtor is imprisoned for non-payment of his
debt; but if he establish his insolvency, he is liberated. He
may be compelled to work for the discharge of his debt, if able.
The Kur-án ordains that murder shall be punished with death;
or rather, that the free shall die for the free, the slave for the
slave, and a woman for a woman; or that the perpetrator of the
crime shall pay to the heirs of the person whom he has killed, if
they allow it a fine, which is to be divided according to the laws
of inheritance.1 It also ordains that unintentional homicide shall
be expiated by freeing a believer from slavery, and paying, to the
family of the person killed, a fine, unless they remit it.2 But
these laws are amplified and explained by the same book and by
the Imáms.—A fine is not to be accepted for murder unless the
crime has been attended by some palliating circumstance. This
fine, which is the price of blood, is a hundred camels; or a
thousand deenárs (about £500) from him who possesses gold;
or from him who possesses silver, twelve thousand dirhems3
(about £300). This is for killing a free-man: for a woman, half
the sum: for a slave, his or her value; but that must fall short
of the price of blood for the free. A person unable to free a
believer must fast two months, as in Ramadán. The accomplices
of a murderer are liable to the punishment of death. By the
Sunneh also, a man is obnoxious to capital punishment for the
murder of a woman; and by the Hanafee law, for the murder of
another man's slave. But he is exempted from this punishment who
kills his own child or other descendant, or his own slave, or his
son's slave, or a slave of whom he is part-owner: so also are his
accomplices; and according to Esh-Sháfe'ee, a Muslim, though a
slave, is not to be put to death for killing an infidel, though the
latter be free. In the present day, however, murder is generally
punished with death; the government seldom allowing a composition
in money to be made. A man who kills another in self-defence,
or to defend his property from a robber, is exempt from
all punishment. The price of blood is a debt incumbent on the
family, tribe, or association of which the homicide is a member
1 Chap. ii., v. 173.
2 Chap. iv., v. 94.
3 Or, according to some, ten thousand dirhems.

It is also incumbent on the inhabitants of an enclosed quarter,
or the proprietor or proprietors of a field, in which the body of a
person killed by an unknown hand is found; unless the person
has been found killed in his own house. A woman, convicted of
a capital crime, is generally put to death by drowning in the Nile.
The Bedawees have made the law of the avenging of blood
terribly severe and unjust, transgressing the limits assigned by the
Kur-án: for, with them, any single person descended from the
homicide, or from the homicide's father, may be killed by any
of such relations of the person murdered or killed in fight; but,
among most tribes, the fine is generally accepted instead of the
blood. Cases of blood-revenge are very common among the
peasantry of Egypt, who, as I have before remarked, retain many
customs of their Bedawee ancestors. The relations of a person
who has been killed, in an Egyptian village, generally retaliate
with their own hands rather than apply to the government, and
often do so with disgusting cruelty, and even mangle and insult
the corpse of their victim. The relations of a homicide usually fly
from their own to another village, for protection. Even when retaliation
has been made, animosity frequently continues between the
two parties for many years; and often a case of blood-revenge involves
the inhabitants of two or more villages in hostilities, which
are renewed, at intervals, during the period of several generations.
Retaliation for intentional wounds and mutilations is allowed,
like as for murder; “eye for eye,” etc.;1 but a fine may be
accepted instead, which the law allows also for unintentional injuries.
The fine for a member that is single (as the nose) is the
whole price of blood, as for homicide; for a member of which
there are two, and not more (as a hand), half the price of blood;
for one of which there are ten (a finger or toe), a tenth of the
price of blood; but the fine of a man for maiming or wounding a
woman is half of that for the same injury to a man; and that of a
free person for injuring a slave varies according to the value of the
slave. The fine for depriving a man of any of his five senses, or
dangerously wounding him, or grievously disfiguring him for life,
is the whole price of blood.
1 Kur-án, chap. v., v. 49.
Theft, whether committed by a man or by a woman, according
to the Kur-án,
2 is to be punished by cutting off the offender's right
hand for the first offence; but a Sunneh law ordains that this
punishment shall not be inflicted if the value of the stolen property
2 Chap. v., v. 42.

is less than a quarter of a deenár;1 and it is also held
necessary, to render the thief obnoxious to this punishment, that
the property stolen should have been deposited in a place to which
he had not ordinary or easy access; whence it follows, that a man
who steals in the house of a near relation is not subject to this
punishment; nor is a slave who robs the house of his master. For
the second offence, the left foot is to be cut off; for the third,
according to the Sháfe'ee law, the left hand; for the fourth, the
right foot; and for further offences of the same kind, the culprit
is to be flogged or beaten; or, by the Hanafee code, for the third
and subsequent offences, the criminal is to be punished by a long
imprisonment. A man may steal a free-born infant without offending
against the law, because it is not property; but not a slave;
and the hand is not to be cut off for stealing any article of food
that is quickly perishable, because it may have been taken to
supply the immediate demands of hunger. There are also some
other cases in which the thief is exempt from the punishments
above mentioned. In Egypt, of late years, these punishments
have not been inflicted. Beating and hard labour have been substituted
for the first, second, or third offence, and frequently death
for the fourth. Most petty offences are usually punished by beating
with the “kurbág” (a thong or whip of hippopotamus' hide,
hammered into a round form), or with a stick, generally on the
soles of the feet.2
1 The deenár is a mitkál (or nearly 72 English grains) of gold. Sale, copying
a false translation by Marracci, and neglecting to examine the Arabic text
quoted by the latter, has stated the sum in question to be four deenárs.
2 The feet are confined by a chain or rope attached at each end to a staff,
which is turned round to tighten it. This is called a “falakah.” Two persons
(one on each side) strike alternately.
Adultery is most severely visited: but to establish a charge of
this crime against a wife, four eye-witnesses are necessary.
3 If
convicted thus, she is to be put to death by stoning.4 I need scarcely
say that cases of this kind have very seldom occurred, form the
difficulty of obtaining such testimony.5 Further laws on this subject,
3 Kur-án, chap. iv., v. 19.
4 This is a “Sunneh” law. The doom, as Mr. Urquhart observes, “stands
rather as the expression of public abhorrence, than as a law which is to be
carried into execution.” (“Spirit of the East,” vol. ii., p. 425.) The law
is the same in the case of the adulterer, if married; but it is never enforced.
See Leviticus xx. 10, and John viii. 4, 5.
5 It is worthy of remark, that the circumstance which occasioned the promulgation
of this extraordinary law was an accusation of adultery preferred
against the Prophet's favourite wife, 'A'ïsheh; she was thus absolved from
punishment, and her reputation was cleared by additional “revelations.”

and still more favourable to the women, are given in the
Kur-án1 in the following words:—“But [as to] those who accuse
women of reputation [of fornication or adultery], and produce not
four witnesses [of the fact], scourge them with eighty stripes, and
receive not their testimony for ever; for such are infamous prevaricators,
excepting those who shall afterwards repent; for God
is gracious and merciful. They who shall accuse their wives [of
adultery], and shall have no witnesses [thereof] beside themselves,
the testimony [which shall be required] of one of them,
[shall be] that he swear four times by God that he speaketh the
truth, and the fifth [time that he imprecate] the curse of God on
him if he be a liar; and it shall avert the punishment [of the wife]
if she sware four times by God that he is a liar, and if the fifth
[time she imprecate] the wrath of God on her if he speak the
truth.” The commentators and lawyers have agreed that, under
these circumstances, the marriage must be dissolved. In the
chapter from which the above quotation is made, it is ordained
(in verse 2) that unmarried persons convicted of fornication shall
be punished by scourging, with a hundred stripes; and a Sunneh
law renders them obnoxious to the further punishment of banishment
for a whole year.2 Of the punishment of women convicted
of incontinence in Cairo, I shall speak in the next chapter, as it
is an arbitrary act of the government, not founded on the laws of
the Kur-án, or the Traditions.3
1 Chap. xxiv., vv. 4–9.
2 An unmarried person convicted of adultery is likewise obnoxious only to
this punishment. The two laws mentioned in Leviticus xx. 13 and 15 have
been introduced into the Muslim code; but in the present day they are never
3 In the villages of Egypt, a woman found, or suspected, to have been guilty
of this crime, if she be not a common prostitute, often experiences a different
fate, which will be described in the account of the domestic life and customs of
the lower orders.
Drunkenness was punished by the Prophet by flogging, and is
still in
Cairo, though not often. The “hadd,” or number of
stripes for this offence, is eighty in the case of a free man, and
forty in that of a slave.
Apostacy from the faith of El-Islám is considered a most heinous
sin, and must be punished with death, unless the apostate will
recant on being thrice warned. I once saw a woman paraded
through the streets of Cairo, and afterwards taken down to the
Nile to be drowned, for having apostatized from the faith of Mohammad,
and having married a Christian. Unfortunately, she

had tattooed a blue cross on her arm, which led to her detection
by one of her former friends in a bath. She was mounted upon
a high-saddled ass, such as ladies in Egypt usually ride, and very
respectably dressed, attended by soldiers, and surrounded by a
rabble, who, instead of commiserating, uttered loud imprecations
against her. The Kádee who passed sentence upon her, exhorted
her in vain to return to her former faith. Her own father was
her accuser! She was taken in a boat into the midst of the river,
stripped nearly naked, strangled, and then thrown into the stream.1 The Europeans residing in Cairo regretted that the Básha was then
at Alexandria, as they might have prevailed upon him to pardon
her. Once before, they interceded with him for a woman who
had been condemned for apostacy. The Básha ordered that she
should be brought before him; he exhorted her to recant; but
finding her resolute, reproved her for her folly, and sent her home,
commanding that no injury should be done to her.
1 The conduct of the lower orders in Cairo on this occasion speaks sadly
against their character. A song was composed on the victim of this terrible
law, and became very popular in the metropolis.
Still more severe is the law with respect to blasphemy. The
person who utters blasphemy against God, or Mohammad, or
Christ, or Moses, or any prophet, is to be put to death without
delay, even though he profess himself repentant; repentance for
such a sin being deemed impossible. Apostacy or infidelity is
occasioned by misjudgment; but blasphemy is the result of utter
A few words may here be added respecting the sect of the
“Wahhábees,” also called “Wahabees,” which was founded less
than a century ago, by Mohammad Ibn-'Add-El-Wahháb, a pious
and learned sheykh of the province of En-Nejd, in Central Arabia.
About the middle of the last century, he had the good fortune to
convert to his creed a powerful chief of Ed-Dir'eeyeh, the capital
of En-Nejd. This chief, Mohammad Ibn-So'ood, became the
sovereign of the new sect—their religious and political head—and
under him and his successors the Wahhábee doctrines were spread
throughout the greater part of Arabia. He was first succeeded
by his son, 'Abd-El'-Azeez; next, by So'ood, the son of the latter,
and the greatest of the Wahhábee leaders; and lastly, by 'Abd-Allah,
the son of this So'ood, who, after an arduous warfare with
the armies of Mohammad' Alee, surrendered himself to his victorious
enemies, was sent to Egypt, thence to Constantinople, and
there beheaded. The wars which Mohammad 'Alee carried on

against the Wahhábees, had for their chief object the destruction
of the political power of the new sect. Their religious tenets are
still professed by many of the Arabs, and allowed to be orthodox
by the most learned of the 'Ulama of Egypt. The Wahhábees
are merely reformers, who believe all the fundamental points of
El-Islám, and all the accessory doctrines of the Kur-án and the
Traditions of the Prophet: in short, their tenets are those of the
primitive Muslims. They disapprove of gorgeous sepulchres, and
domes erected over tombs; such they invariably destroy when in
their power. They also condemn, as idolaters, those who pay
peculiar veneration to deceased saints; and even declare all other
Muslims to be heretics, for the extravagant respect which they pay
to the Prophet. They forbid the wearing of silk and gold ornaments,
and all costly apparel, and also the practice of smoking
tobacco. For the want of this last luxury, they console themselves
in some degree by an immoderate use of coffee.1 There
are many learned men among them, and they have collected
many valuable books (chiefly historical) from various parts of
Arabia, and from Egypt.
1 Among many other erroneous statements respecting the Wahhábees, it has
been asserted that they prohibit the drinking of coffee.

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EGYPT has, of late years, experienced great political changes, and
nearly ceased to be a province of the Turkish Empire. Its present
Básha (Mohammad 'Alee), having exterminated the Ghuzz,
or Memlooks, who shared the government with his predecessors,
has rendered himself almost an independent prince. He, however,
professes allegiance to the Sultán, and remits the tribute,
according to former custom, to Constantinople; he is, moreover,
under an obligation to respect the fundamental laws of the Kur-án
and the Traditions; but he exercises a dominion otherwise
unlimited.2 He may cause any one of his subjects to be put to
2 Though his territory has been greatly lessened since the above was written,
his power in Egypt remains nearly the same.

death without the formality of a trial, or without assigning any
cause: a simple horizontal motion of his hand is sufficient to imply
the sentence of decapitation. But I must not be understood
to insinuate that he is prone to shed blood without any reason:
severity is a characteristic of this prince rather than wanton
cruelty; and boundless ambition has prompted him to almost
every action by which he has attracted either praise or censure.1
1 The government of Egypt, from the period of the conquest of this country
by the Arabs, has been nearly the same as it is at present in its influence upon
the manners and customs and character of the inhabitants; and I therefore do
not deem an historical retrospect necessary to the illustration of this work. It
should, however, be mentioned that the people of Egypt are not now allowed
to indulge in that excessive fanatical rudeness with which they formerly treated
unbelievers; and hence European travellers have one great cause for gratitude
to Mohammad 'Alee. Restraint may, at first, increase, but will probably, in
the course of time, materially diminish the feeling of fanatical intolerance.
In the Citadel of the Metropolis is a court of judicature, called
“ed-Deewán el-Khideewee,”
2 where, in the Básha's absence, presides
his “Kikhya,”3 or deputy, Habeeb Efendee. In cases
which do not fall within the province of the Kádee, or which are
sufficiently clear to be decided without referring them to the
court of that officer, or to another council, the president of the
Deewán el-Khideewee passes judgment. Numerous guard-houses
have been established throughout the metropolis, at each of which
is stationed a body of Nizám, or regular troops. The guard is
called “Kulluk,” or, more commonly at present, “Karakól.”
Persons accused of thefts, assaults, etc., in Cairo, are given in
charge to a soldier of the guard, who takes them to the chief
guard-house, in the Mooskee, a street in that part of the town in
which most of the Franks reside. The charges being here stated,
and committed to writing, he conducts them to the “Zábit,” or
chief magistrate of the police of the metropolis. The Zábit, having
heard the case, sends the accused for trial to the Deewán el-Khideewee.4
When a person denies the offence with which he is
charged, and there is not sufficient evidence to convict him, but
some ground of suspicion, he is generally bastinaded, in order to
2 “Khideewee” is a relative adjective formed from the Turkish “Khideev,”
which signifies “a prince.”
3 Thus pronounced in Egypt, but more properly “Kyáhya,” or “Ketkhud'a.”
4 A very arbitrary power is often exercised in this and similar courts, and
the proceedings are conducted with little decorum. Many Turkish officers,
even of the highest rank, make use of language far too disgusting for me to
mention, towards persons brought before them for judgment, and towards those
who appeal to them for justice.

induce him to confess; and then, if not before, when the crime
is not of a nature that renders him obnoxious to a very heavy
punishment, he, if guilty, admits it. A thief, after this discipline,
generally confesses, “The devil seduced me, and I took it.” The
punishment of the convicts is regulated by a system of arbitrary,
but lenient and wise, policy: it usually consists in their being
compelled to labour, for a scanty sustenance, in some of the public
works, such as the removal of rubbish, digging canals, etc.;
and sometimes the army is recruited with able-bodied young men
convicted of petty offences. In employing malefactors in labours
for the improvement of the country, Mohammad 'Alee merits the
praises bestowed upon Sabacon, the Ethiopian conqueror and
king of Egypt, who is said to have introduced this policy. The
Básha is, however, very severe in punishment thefts, etc., committed
against himself:—death is the usual penalty in such cases.
There are several inferior councils for conducting the affairs of
different departments of the administration. The principal of
these are the following:—1. The “Meglis el-Meshwar'ah (the
Council of Deliberation), also called “Meglis el-Meshwar'ah el-Melekeeyeh”
(the Council of Deliberation on the Affairs of the
State), to distinguish it from other councils. The members of
this and of the other similar councils are chosen by the Básha,
for their talents or other qualifications; and consequently his will
and interest sway them in all their decisions. They are his instruments,
and compose a committee for presiding over the general
government of the country, and the commercial and agricultural
affairs of the Básha. Petitions, etc., addressed to the Básha, or
to his Deewán, relating to private interests or the affairs of the
government, are generally submitted to their consideration and
judgment, unless they more properly come under the cognizance
of other councils hereafter to be mentioned. 2. The “Meglis
el-Gihádeeyeh” (the Council of the Army); also called “Meglis
el-Meshwar'ah el-'Askereeyeh” (the Council of Deliberation on
Military Affairs). The province of this court is sufficiently shown
by its name. 3. The Council of the “Tarskháneh,” or Navy.
4. The “Deewán et-Tuggár” (or Court of the Merchants). This
court, the members of which are merchants of various countries
and religions, presided over by the “Sháhbandar” (or chief of
the merchants of Cairo), was instituted in consequence of the
laws of the Kur-án and the Sunneh being found not sufficiently
explicit in some cases arising out of modern commercial transactions.


The “Kádee” (or chief judge) of Cairo presides in Egypt only
a year, at the expiration of which term, a new Kádee having arrived
from Constantinople, the former returns. It was customary
for this officer to proceed from Cairo, with the great caravan of
pilgrims, to Mekkeh, perform the ceremonies of the pilgrimage,
and remain one year as Kádee of the holy city, and one year at
El-Medeeneh.1 He purchases his place privately of the government,
which pays no particular regard to his qualifications, though
he must be a man of some knowledge, an 'Osmánlee (that is, a
Turk), and of the sect of the Hanafees. His tribunal is called
the “Mahkem'eh,” or Place of Judgment. Few Kádees are
very well acquainted with the Arabic language; nor is it necessary
for them to have such knowledge. In Cairo, the Kádee has little
or nothing to do but to confirm the sentence of his “Náïb” (or
deputy), who hears and decides the more ordinary cases, and
whom he chooses from among the 'Ulama of Istambool, or the
decision of the “Muftee” (or chief doctor of the law) of his own
sect, who constantly resides in Cairo, and gives judgment in all
cases of difficulty. But in general, the Náïb is, at the best, but
little conversant with the popular dialect of Egypt; therefore, in
Cairo, where the chief proportion of the litigants at the Mahkem'eh
are Arabs, the judge must place the utmost confidence in
the “Básh Turgumán” (or Chief Interpreter), whose place is permanent,
and who is consequently well acquainted with all the
customs of the court, particularly with the system of bribery; and
this knowledge he is generally very ready to communicate to
every new Kádee or Náïb. A man may be grossly ignorant of
the law, and yet hold the office of Kádee of Cairo: several instances
of this kind have occurred; but the Náïb must be a
lawyer of learning and experience.
1 He used to arrive in Cairo in the beginning of Ramadán; but the beginning
of the first month, Moharram, has of late been fixed upon, instead of the
former period.
When a person has a suit to prefer at the Mahkem'eh against
another individual or party, he goes thither, and applies to the
“Básh Rusul” (or chief of the bailiffs or sergeants who execute
arrests) for a “Rasool” to arrest the accused. The Rasool receives
a piaster or two,2 and generally gives half of this fee
privately to his chief. The plaintiff and defendant then present
themselves in the great hall of the Mahkem'eh, which is a large
saloon, facing a spacious court, and having an open front formed
2 The Egyptian piaster is now equivalent to the fifth part of a shilling, or 2⅖d.

by a row of columns and arches. Here are seated several officers
called “Sháhids,” whose business is to hear and write the statements
of the cases to be submitted to judgment, and who are
under the authority of the “Básh Kátib” (or Chief Secretary).
The plaintiff, addressing any one of the Sháhids whom he finds
unoccupied, states his case, and the Sháhid commits it to writing,
and receives a fee of a piaster or more; after which, if the case be
of a trifling nature, and the defendant acknowledge the justice of
the suit, he (the Sháhid) passes sentence; but otherwise he conducts
the two parties before the Náïb, who holds his court in an
inner apartment. The Náïb, having heard the case, desires the
plaintiff to procure a “fetwa” (or judicial decision) from the
Muftee of the sect of the Hanafees, who receives a fee, seldom
less than ten piasters, and often more than a hundred or two
hundred. This is the course pursued in all cases but those of a
very trifling nature, which are settled with less trouble, and those
of great importance or intricacy. A case of the latter kind is
tried in the private apartment of the Kádee, before the Kádee
himself, the Náïb, and the Muftee of the Hanafees, who is summoned
to hear it, and to give his decision; and sometimes, in
cases of very great difficulty or moment, several of the 'Ulama of
Cairo are, in like manner, summoned. The Muftee hears the
case and writes his sentence, and the Kádee confirms his judgment,
and stamps the paper with his seal, which is all that he has to
do in any case. The accused may clear himself by his oath when
the plaintiff has not witnesses to produce: placing his right hand
on a copy of the Kur-án, which is held out to him, he says, “By
God, the Great!” The witnesses must be men of good
this of the word of God!” The witnesses must be men of good
repute, or asserted to be such, and not interested in the cause: in
every case at least two witnesses are requisite1 (or one man and
two women); and each of these must be attested to be a person
of probity by two others. An infidel cannot bear witness against
a Muslim in a case involving capital or other heavy punishment;
and evidence in favour of a son or grandson, or of a father or
grandfather, is not received; nor is the testimony of slaves;
neither can a master testify in favour of his slave.
1 This law is borrowed from the Jews. See Deut. xix. 15.—A man may
refuse to give his testimony
The fees, until lately, used to be paid by the successful party;
but now they are paid by the other party. The Kádee's fees for
decisions in cases respecting the sale of property are two per cent.

on the amount of the property: in cases of legacies, four
per cent., excepting when the heir is an orphan not of age, who
pays only two per cent.: for decisions respecting property in
houses or land, when the cost of the property in question is
known, his fees are two per cent.; but when the cost is not
known, one year's rent. These are the legitimate fees; but
more than the due amount is often exacted. In cases which do
not concern property, the Kádee's Náïb fixes the amount of the
fees. There are also other fees than those of the Kádee to be
paid after the decision of the case: for instance, if the Kádee's
fees be two or three hundred piasters, a fee of about two piasters
must be paid to the Básh Turgumán; about the same to the Básh
Rusul; and one piaster to the Rasool, or to each Rasool employed.
The rank of a plaintiff or defendant, or a bribe from either,
often influences the decision of the judge. In general the Náïb
and Muftee take bribes, and the Kádee receives from his Náïb.
On some occasions, particularly in long litigations, bribes are
given by each party, and the decision is awarded in favour of him
who pays highest. This frequently happens in difficult law-suits;
and even in cases respecting which the law is perfectly clear,
strict justice is not always administered; bribes and false testimony
being employed by one of the parties. The shocking
extent to which the practices of bribery and suborning false witnesses
are carried in Muslim courts of law, and among them in
the tribunal of the Kádee of Cairo, may be scarcely credited on
the bare assertion of the fact: some strong proof, resting on indubitable
authority, may be demanded; and here I shall give
such proof, in a summary of a case which was tried not long since,
and which was related to me by the Secretary and Imám of the
Sheykh El-Mahdee, who was then supreme Muftee of Cairo (being
the chief Muftee of the Hanafees), and to whom this case was
referred after judgment in the Kádee's court.
A Turkish merchant, residing at Cairo, died, leaving property
to the amount of six thousand purses,1 and no relation to inherit
but one daughter. The seyyid Mohammad El-Mahrookee, the
Sháh-bandar (chief of the merchants of Cairo), hearing of this
event, suborned a common felláh, who was the bowwáb (or doorkeeper)
of a respected sheykh, and whose parents (both of them
Arabs) were known to many persons, to assert himself a son of a
brother of the deceased. The case was brought before the Kádee,
1 A purse is the sum of five hundred piasters, and was then equivalent to
nearly seven pounds sterling, but is now equal to only five pounds.

and, as it was one of considerable importance, several of the
principal 'Ulama of the city were summoned to decide it. They
were all bribed or influenced by El-Mahrookee, as will presently
be shown; false witnesses were brought forward to swear to the
truth of the bowwáb's pretensions, and others to give testimony
to the good character of these witnesses. Three thousand purses
were adjudged to the daughter of the deceased, and the other half
of the property to the bowwáb. El-Mahrookee received the share
of the latter, deducting only three hundred piasters, which he
presented to the bowwáb. The chief Muftee, El-Mahdee, was
absent from Cairo when the case was tried. On his return to
the metropolis, a few days after, the daughter of the deceased
merchant repaired to his house, stated her case to him, and
earnestly solicited redress. The Muftee, though convinced of the
injustice which she had suffered, and not doubting the truth of
what she related respecting the part which El-Mahrookee had
taken in this affair, told her that he feared it was impossible for
him to annul the judgment, unless there were some informality in
the proceedings of the court, but that he would look at the record
of the case in the register of the Mahkem'eh. Having done this,
he betook himself to the Básha, with whom he was in great favour
for his knowledge and inflexible integrity, and complained to him
that the tribunal of the Kádee was disgraced by the administration
of the most flagrant injustice; that false witness was admitted by
the 'Ulama, however evident and glaring it might be; and that a
judgment which they had given in a late case, during his absence,
was the general talk and wonder of the town. The Básha summoned
the Kádee talk and wonder of the town. The Básha summeet
the Muftee in the Citadel; and when they had assembled
there, addressed them, as from himself, with the Muftee's complaint.
The Kádee, appearing, like the 'Ulama, highly indignant
at this charge, demanded to know upon what it was grounded.
The Básha replied that it was a general charge, but particularly
grounded on the case in which the court had admitted the claim
of a bowwáb to a relationship and inheritance which they could
not believe to be his right. The Kádee here urged that he had
passed sentence in accordance with the unanimous decision of the
'Ulama then present. “Let the record of the case be read,” said
the Básha. The journal being sent for, this was done; and when
the secretary had finished reading the minutes, the Kádee, in a
loud tone of proud authority, said, “And I judged so.” The Muftee,
in a louder and more authoritative tone, exclaimed, “And thy

judgment is false!” All eyes were fixed in astonishment, now
at the Muftee, now at the Básha, now at the other 'Ulama. The
Kádee and the 'Ulama rolled their heads and stroked their beards.
The former exclaimed, tapping his breast, “I, the Kádee of
Misr, pass a false sentence!” “And we,” said the 'Ulama, “we,
Sheykh Mahdee! we, 'Ulama el-Islám, give a false decision!”
“O Sheykh Mahdee,” said El-Mahrookee (who, from his commercial
transactions with the Básha, could generally obtain a
place in his councils), “respect the 'Ulama as they respect
thee!” “O Mahrookee!” exclaimed the Muftee, “art thou concerned
in this affair? Declare what part thou hast in it, or else
hold thy peace: go, speak in the assemblies of the merchants,
but presume not again to open thy mouth in the council of the
'Ulama!” El-Mahrookee immediately left the palace, for he saw
how the affair would terminate, and had to make his arrangements
accordingly. The Muftee was now desired, by the other 'Ulama,
to adduce a proof of the invalidity of their decision. Drawing
from his bosom a small book on the laws of inheritance, he read
from it, “To establish a claim to relationship and inheritance, the
names of the father and the mother of the claimant, and those of
his father's father and mother, and of his mother's father and
mother, must be ascertained.” The names of the father and
mother of the pretended father of the bowwáb the false witnesses
had not been prepared to give; and this deficiency in
the testimony (which the 'Ulama, in trying the case, purposely
overlooked) now caused the sentence to be annulled. The
bowwáb was brought before the council, and, denying the imposition
of which he had been made the principal instrument,
was, by order of the Básha, very severely bastinaded; but the
only confession that could be drawn from him by the torture
which he endured was, that he had received nothing more of the
three thousand purses than three hundred piasters. Meanwhile,
El-Mahrookee had repaired to the bowwáb's master: he told the
latter what had happened at the Citadel, and what he had foreseen
would be the result, put into his hand three thousand purses, and
begged him immediately to go to the council, give this sum of
money, and say that it had been placed in his hands in trust by
his servant. This was done, and the money was paid to the
daughter of the deceased.
In another case, when the Kádee and the council of the 'Ulama
were influenced in their decision by a Básha (not Mohammad
‘Alee), and passed a sentence contrary to law, they were thwarted

in the same manner by El-Mahdee. This Muftee was a rare
example of integrity. It is said that he never took a fee for a
fetwa. He died shortly after my first visit to this country.—I
could mention several other glaring cases of bribery in the court
of the Kádee of Cairo; but the above is sufficient.
There are five minor Mahkem'ehs in Cairo; and likewise one
at its principal port, Boolák; and one at its southern port, Masr
El-'Ateekah. A Sháhid from the great Mahkem'eh presides at
each of them, as deputy of the chief Kádee, who confirms their
acts. The matters submitted to these minor tribunals are chiefly
respecting the sales of property, and legacies, marriages, and
divorces; for the Kádee marries female orphans under age who
have no relations of age to act as their guardians; and wives
often have recourse to law to compel their husbands to divorce
them. In every country-town there is also a Kádee, generally a
native of the place, and never a Turk, who decides all cases,
sometimes from his own knowledge of the law, but commonly on
the authority of a Muftee. One Kádee generally serves for two or
three or more villages.
Each of the four orthodox sects of the Muslims (the Hanafees,
Sháfe'ees, Málikees, and Hambel'ees) has its “Sheykh,” or religious
chief, who is chosen from among the most learned of the
body, and resides in the metropolis. The Sheykh of the great
mosque El-Azhar (who is always of the sect of the Sháfe'ees, and
sometimes Sheykh of that sect), together with the other Sheykhs
above mentioned, and the Kádee, the Nakeeb el-Ashráf (the
chief of the Shereefs, or descendants of the Prophet), and several
other persons, constitute the council of the 'Ulama1 (or learned
men), by whom the Turkish Báshas and Memlook chiefs have
often been kept in awe, and by whom their tyranny has frequently
been restricted: but now this learned body has lost almost all its
influence over the government. Petty disputes are often, by
mutual consent of the parties at variance, submitted to the judgment
of one of the four Sheykhs first mentioned, as they are the
chief Muftees of their respective sects; and the utmost deference
is always paid to them. Difficult and delicate causes, which
concern the laws of the Kur-án or the Traditions, are also
frequently referred by the Básha to these Sheykhs; but their
opinion is not always followed by him: for instance, after consulting
1 In the singular “A'lim.” This title is more particularly given to a professor
of jurisprudence. European writers generally use the plural form of
this appellation for the singular.

them respecting the legality of dissecting human bodies,
for the sake of acquiring anatomical knowledge, and receiving
their declaration that it was repugnant to the laws of the religion,
he, nevertheless, has caused it to be practised by Muslim students
of anatomy.
The police of the metropolis is more under the direction of the
military than of the civil power. A few years ago it was under
the authority of the “Wálee” and the “Zábit;” but since my
first visit to this country the office of the former has been abolished.
He was charged with the apprehension of thieves and other
criminals; and under his jurisdiction were the public women, of
whom he kept a list, and from each of whom he exacted a tax.
He also took cognizance of the conduct of the women in general;
and when he found a female to have been guilty of a single act
of incontinence, he added her name to the list of the public
women, and demanded from her the tax, unless she preferred, or
could afford, to escape that ignominy, by giving to him, or to his
officers, a considerable bribe. This course was always pursued,
and is still, by a person who farms the tax of the of public women,1
in the case of unmarried females, and generally in the case of the
married also; but the latter are sometimes privately put to death,
if they cannot, by bribery or some other artifice, save themselves.
Such proceedings are, however, in two points, contrary to the
law, which ordains that a person who accuses a woman of adultery
or fornication, without producing four witnesses of the crime,
shall be scourged with eighty stripes, and decrees other punishments
than those of degradation and tribute against women convicted
of such offences.
1 Since this was written, the public women throughout Egypt have been
compelled to relinquish their licentious profession.
The office of the Zábit has before been mentioned. He is
now the chief of the police. His officers, who have no distinguishing
mark to render them known as such, are interspersed
through the metropolis: they often visit the coffee-shops, and
observe the conduct, and listen to the conversation, of the citizens.
Many of them are pardoned thieves. They accompany the military
guards in their nightly rounds through the streets of the metropolis.
Here, none but the blind are allowed to go out at night
later than about an hour and a half after sunset, without a
lantern or a light of some kind. Few persons are seen in the
streets later than two or three hours after sunset. At the fifth or
sixth hour, one might pass through the whole length of the metropolis

and scarcely meet more than a dozen or twenty persons,
excepting the watchmen and guards, and the porters at the gates
of the bye-streets and quarters. The sentinel, or guard, calls out
to the approaching passenger, in Turkish, “Who is that?” and
is answered in Arabic, “A citizen.”1 The private watchman, in
the same case exclaims, “Attest the unity of God!” or merely,
“Attest the unity!”2 The reply given to this is, “There is no
deity but God!” which Christians, as well as Muslims, object
not to say; the former understanding these words in a different
sense from the latter. It is supposed that a thief, or a person
bound on any unlawful undertaking, would not dare to utter these
words. Some persons loudly exclaim, in reply to the summons
of the watchman, “There is no deity but God: Mohammad is
God's Apostle.” The private watchmen are employed to guard,
by night, the sooks (or market-streets) and other districts of the
town. They carry a nebboot (or long staff), but no lantern.
1 “Ibn beled.” If blind, he answers, “Aama.”
2 “Wahhed;” or, to more than one person, “Wahhedoo.”
The Zábit, or A'gha of the police, used frequently to go about
the metropolis by night, often accompanied only by the executioner
and the “shealeg'ee,” or bearer of a kind of torch called
“shealeh,” which is still in use.
3 This torch burns, soon after it
is lighted, without a flame, excepting when it is waved through
the air, when it suddenly blazes forth: it therefore answers the
same purpose as our dark lantern. The burning end is sometimes
concealed in a small pot or jar, or covered with something else,
when not required to give light; but it is said that thieves often
smell it in time to escape meeting the bearer. When a person
without a light is met by the police at night, he seldom attempts
resistance or flight; the punishment to which he is liable is beating.
The chief of the police had an arbitrary power to put any
criminal or offender to death without trial, and when not obnoxious,
by law, to capital punishment; and so also had many inferior
officers, as will be seen in subsequent pages of this work: but
within the last two or three years, instances of the exercise of such
power have been very rare, and I believe they would not now be
permitted. The officers of the Zábit perform their nightly rounds
with the military guards merely as being better acquainted than
3 Baron Hammer-Purgstall is mistaken in substituting “Meshaaledschi”
for “Shealeg'ee.” The officer who bears the latter appellation does not carry
a mesh'al, but a twisted torch. The mesh'al is described and figured in
Chap. vi.

the latter with the haunts and practices of thieves and other bad
characters; and the Zábit himself scarcely ever exercises any
penal authority beyond that of beating or flogging.
Very curious measures, such as we read of in some of the tales
of “the Thousand and One Nights,” were often adopted by the
police magistrates of Cairo, to discover an offender, before the
police magistrates of Cairo, to discover an offender, before the
late innovations. I may mention an instance. The authenticity
of the following case, and of several others of a similar nature, is
well known. I shall relate it in the manner in which I have heard
it told.—A poor man applied one day to the A'gha of the police,
and said, “Sir, there came to me, to-day, a woman, and she said
to me, ‘Take this “kurs,”1 and let it remain in your possession
for a time, and lend me five hundred piasters:' and I took it
from her, Sir, and gave her the five hundred piasters, and she
went away: and when she was gone away, I said to myself, ‘Let
me look at this kurs;' and I looked at it, and behold, it was
yellow brass: and I slapped my face, and said, ‘I will go to the
A'gha, and relate my story to him; perhaps he will investigate
the affair, and clear it up;' for there is none that can help me in
this matter but thou.” The A'gha said to him, “Hear what I
tell thee, man. Take whatever is in thy shop; leave nothing;
and lock it up; and to-morrow morning go early; and when thou
hast opened the shop, cry out, ‘Alas for my property!' then take
in thy hands two clods, and beat thyself with them, and cry,
‘Alas for the property of others!' and whoever says to thee,
‘What is the matter with thee?' do thou answer, ‘The property
of others is lost: a pledge that I had, belonging to a woman, is
lost; if it were my own, I should not thus lament it;' and this
will clear up the affair.” The man promised to do as he was
desired. He removed everything from his shop, and early the
next morning he went and opened it, and began to cry out, “Alas
for the property of others!” and he took two clods, and beat
himself with them, and went about every district of the city,
crying, “Alas for the property of others! a pledge that I had,
belonging to a woman, is lost; if it were my own, I should not
thus lament it.” The woman who had given him the kurs in
pledge heard of this, and discovered that it was the man whom
she had cheated; so she said to herself, “Go and bring an action
against him.” She went to his shop, riding on an ass, to give
herself consequence, and said to him, “Man, give me my property
1 An ornament worn on the crown of the head-dress by women, described
in the Appendix to this work.

that is in thy possession.” He answered, “It is lost.”
“Thy tongue be cut out!” she cried: “dost thou lose my
property? By Allah! I will go to the A'gha, and inform him of
it.” “Go,” said he; and she went, and told her case. The
A'gha sent for the man; and, when he had come, said to his
accuser, ‘What is thy property in his possession?” She answered,
“A kurs of red Venetian gold.” “Woman,” said the A'gha, “I
have a gold kurs here: I should like to show it thee.” She said,
“Show it me, Sir, for I shall know my kurs.” The A'gha then
untied a handkerchief, and, taking out of it the kurs which she
had given in pledge, said, “Look.” She looked at it and knew
it, and hung down her head. The A'gha said, “Raise thy head,
and say where are the five hundred piasters of this man.” She
answered, “Sir, they are in my house.” The executioner was
sent with her to her house, but without his sword; and the
woman, having gone into the house, brought out a purse containing
the money, and went back with him. The money was given to
the man from whom it had been obtained, and the executioner
was then ordered to take the woman to the Rumeyleh (a large
open place below the Citadel), and there to behead her; which
he did.
The markets of Cairo, and the weights and measures, are under
the inspection of an officer called the “Mohtes'ib.” He occasionally
rides about the town, preceded by an officer who carries
a large pair of scales, and followed by the executioners and
numerous other servants. Passing by shops, or through the markets,
he orders each shopkeeper, one after another, or sometimes only
one here and there, to produce his scales, weights, and measures,
and tries whether they be correct. He also inquires the prices of
provisions at the shops where such articles are sold. Often, too,
he stops a servant, or other passenger in the street, whom he may
chance to meet carrying any article of food that he has just
bought, and asks him for what sum, or at what weight, he purchased
it. When he finds that a shopkeeper has incorrect
scales, weights, or measures, or that he has sold a thing deficient
in weight, or above the regular market price, he punishes him on
the spot. The general punishment is beating or flogging. Once
I saw a man tormented in a different way, for selling bread
deficient in weight. A hole was bored through his nose, and a
cake of bread, about a span wide, and a finger's breadth in thickness,
was suspended to it by a piece of string. He was stripped
naked, with the exception of having a piece of linen about his

loins, and tied, with his arms bound behind him, to the bars of a
window of a mosque called the Ashrafeeyeh, in the main street
of the metropolis, his feet resting upon the sill. He remained
thus about three hours, exposed to the gaze of the multitude which
thronged the street, and to the scorching rays of the sun.
A person who was appointed Mohtes'ib shortly after my former
visit to this country (Mustaf'a Káshif, a Kurd) exercised his power
in a most brutal manner, clipping men's ears (that is, cutting off
the lobe, or ear-lap), not only for the most trifling transgression,
but often of no offence whatever. He once met an old man,
driving along several asses laden with water-melons, and pointing
to one of the largest of these fruits, asked its price. The old
man put his finger and thumb to his ear-lap, and said, “Cut it,
Sir.” He was asked again and again, and gave the same answer.
The Mohtes'ib, angry, but unable to refrain from laughing, said,
“Fellow, are you mad or deaf?” “No,” replied the old man,
“I am neither mad nor deaf; but I know that, if I were to say
the price of the melon is ten faddahs, you would say, ‘Clip his
ear'; and if I said five faddahs, or one faddah, you would say,
‘Clip his ear'; therefore clip it at once, and let me pass on.”
His humour saved him.—Clipping ears was the usual punishment
inflicted by this Mohhtes'ib; but sometimes he tortured in a
different manner. A butcher, who had sold some meat wanting
two ounces of its due weight, he punished by cutting off two
ounces of flesh from his back. A seller of “kunáfeh” (a kind
of paste resembling vermicelli) having made his customers pay a
trifle more than was just, he caused him to be stripped, and
seated upon the round copper tray on which the kunáfeh was
baked, and kept so until he was dreadfully burnt. He generally
punished dishonest butchers by putting a hook through their
nose, and hanging a piece of meat to it. Meeting, one day, a
man carrying a large crate full of earthen water-bottles from
Semennood, which he offered for sale as made at Kinë, he
caused his attendants to break each bottle separately against the
vendor's head. Mustafa Káshif also exercised his tyranny in
other cases than those which properly fell under his jurisdiction.
He once took a fancy to send one of his horses to a bath, and
desired the keeper of a bath in his neighbourhood to prepare for
receiving it, and to wash it well, and make its coat very smooth.
The bath-keeper, annoyed at so extraordinary a command, ventured
to suggest that, as the pavements of the bath were of
marble, the horse might slip, and fall; and also, that it might

take cold on going out; and that it would, therefore, be better
for him to convey to the stable the contents of the cistern of the
bath in buckets, and there to perform the operation. Mustafa
Káshif said, “I see how it is; you do not like that my horse
should go into your bath.” He desired some of his servants to
throw him down, and beat him with staves until he should tell
them to stop. They did so; and beat the poor man till he died.
A few years ago there used to be carried before the Mohtes'ib,
when going his rounds to examine the weights and measures, etc.,
a pair of scales larger than that used at present. Its beam, it is
said, was a hollow tube, containing some quicksilver; by means
of which, the bearer, knowing those persons who had bribed his
master, and those who had not, easily made either scale preponderate.
As the Mohtes'ib is the overseer of the public markets, so
there are officers who have a similar charge in superintending
each branch of the Básha's trade and manufactures; and some
of these persons have been known to perpetrate most abominable
acts of tyranny any cruelty. One of this class, who was named
'Alee Bey, “Názir el-Kumásh” (or Overseer of the Linen), when
he found a person in possession of a private loom, or selling the
produce of such a loom, generally bound him up in a piece of
his linen, soaked in oil and tar; then suspended him, thus enveloped,
to a branch of a tree, and set light to the wrapper.
After having destroyed a number of men in this horrible manner,
he was himself, among many others, burnt to death, by the explosion
of a powder-magazine on the northern slope of the Citadel
of Cairo, in 1824, the year before my first arrival in Egypt. A
friend of mine, who spoke to me of the atrocities of this monster,
added, “When his corpse was taken to be buried, the Sheykh
El-'Aroosee (who was Sheykh of the great mosque El-Azhar)
recited the funeral prayers over it, in the mosque of the
Hasaneyn; and I acted as ‘muballigh' (to repeat the words of
the Imám): when the Sheykh uttered the words, ‘Give your
testimony respecting him,' and when I had repeated them, no
one of all the persons present, and they were many, presumed to
give the answer, ‘He was of the virtuous': all were silent. To
make the circumstance more glaring, I said again, ‘Give your
testimony respecting him:' but not an answer was heard; and
the Sheykh, in confusion, said, but in a very low voice, ‘May
God have mercy upon him.' Now we may certainly say of this
cursed man,” continued my friend, “that he is gone to hell: yet

his wife is constantly having ‘khatmehs' (recitations of the
Kur-án) performed in her house for him; and lights two wax
candles, for his sake, every evening, at the niche of the mosque
of the Hasaneyn.”
Every quarter in the metropolis has its sheykh, called “Sheykh
el-Hárah,” whose influence is exerted to maintain order, to settle
any trifling disputes among the inhabitants, and to expel those
who disturb the peace of their neighbours. The whole of the
metropolis is also divided into eight districts, over each of which
is a sheykh, called “Sheykh et-Tumn.”
The members of various trades and manufactures in the metropolis
and other large towns have also their respective sheykhs, to
whom all disputes respecting matters connected with those trades
or crafts are submitted for arbitration; and whose sanction is
required for the admission of new members.
The servants in the metropolis are likewise under the authority
of particular sheykhs. Any person in want of a servant may
procure one by applying to one of these officers, who, for a small
fee (two or three piasters), becomes responsible for the conduct
of the man whom he recommends. Should a servant so engaged
rob his master, the later gives information to the sheykh, who,
whether he can recover the stolen property or not, must indemnify the master.
Even the common thieves used, not many years since, to
respect a superior, who was called their sheykh. He was often
required to search for stolen goods, and to bring offenders to
justice; which he generally accomplished. It is very remarkable
that the same strange system prevailed among the ancient
1 See Diodorus Siculus, lib. i., cap. 80.
The Coptic Patriarch, who is the head of his church, judges
petty causes among his people in the metropolis; and the inferior
clergy do the same in other places; but an appeal may be made
to the Kádee. A Muslim aggrieved by a Copt may demand
justice from the Patriarch or the Kádee: a Copt who seeks
redress from a Muslim must apply to the Kádee. The Jews are
similarly circumstanced. The Franks, or Europeans in general,
are not answerable to any other authority than that of their
respective consuls, excepting when they are aggressors against a
Muslim: they are then surrendered to the Turkish authorities,
who, on the other hand, will render justice to the Frank who is
aggrieved by a Muslim.


The inhabitants of the country-towns and villages are under
the government of Turkish officers and of their own countrymen.
The whole of Egypt is divided into several large provinces, each
of which is governed by an 'Osmánlee (or a Turk); and these
provinces are subdivided into districts, which are governed by
native officers, with the titles of “Mamoor and Názir.” Every
village, as well as town, has also its Sheykh, called “Sheykh
el-Beled;” who is one of the native Muslim inhabitants. All the
officers above mentioned, excepting the last, were formerly Turks;
and there were other Turkish governors of small districts, who
were called “Ká-shifs,” and “Káïm-makáms:” the change was
made very shortly before my present visit to this country; and
the Felláheen complain that their condition is worse than it was
before; but it is generally from the tyranny of their great Turkish
governors that they suffer most severely.
The following case will convey some idea of the condition of
Egyptian peasants in some provinces. A Turk,1 infamous for
many barbarous acts, presiding at the town of Tanta, in the
Delta, went one night to the government-granary of that town,
and, finding two peasants sleeping there, asked them who they
were, and what was their business in that place. One of them
said that he had brought 130 ardebbs of corn from a village of
the district; and the other, that he had brought 60 ardebbs from
the land belonging to the town. “You rascal!” said the governor
to the latter; “this man brings 130 ardebbs from the lands
of a small village; and you, but 60 from the lands of the town.”
“This man,” answered the peasant of Tanta, “brings corn but
once a week; and I am now bringing it every day.” “Be
silent!” said the governor; and, pointing to a neighbouring tree,
he ordered one of the servants of the granary to hang the peasant
to one of its branches. The order was obeyed, and the governor
returned to his house. The next morning he went again to the
granary, and saw a man brining in a large quantity of corn. He
asked who he was, and what quantity he had brought; and was
answered, by the hangman of the preceding night, “This is the
man, Sir, whom I hanged by your orders, last night; and he has
brought 160 ardebbs.” “What!” exclaimed the governor: “has
he risen from the dead?” He was answered, “No, Sir; I hanged
him so that his toes touched the ground; and when you were
gone, I untied the rope: you did not order me to kill him.” The
Turk muttered, “Aha! hanging and killing are different things:
1 Suleymán A'gha, the Silahdár.

Arabic is copious: next time I will say kill. Take care of Aboo-Dá-ood.”1
This is his nick-name.
1 Aboo-Dá-ood, Aboo-' Alee, etc., are patronymics, used by the Egyptian
peasants in general, not as signifying “Father of Dá-ood,” “Father of 'Alee,”
etc., but “whose father is (or was) Dá-ood,” “—Alee,” etc.
Another occurrence may here be aptly related, as a further
illustration of the nature of the government to which the people
of Egypt are subjected. A felláh, who was appointed Názir (or
governor) of the district of El-Manoofeeyeh (the southernmost
district of the Delta), a short time before my present visit to
Egypt, in collecting the taxes at a village, demanded, of a poor
peasant, the sum of sixty riyáls (ninety faddahs each, making a
sum total of a hundred and thirty-five piasters, which was then
equivalent to about thirty shillings). The poor man urged that
he possessed nothing but a cow, which barely afforded sustenance
to himself and his family. Instead of pursuing the method
usually followed when a felláh declares himself unable to pay the
tax demanded of him, which is to give him a severe bastinading,
the Názir, in this case, sent the Sheykh el-Beled to bring the
poor peasant's cow, and desired some of the felláheen to buy it.
They saying that they had not sufficient money, he sent for a
butcher, and desired him to kill the cow; which was done: he
then told him to divide it into sixty pieces. The butcher asked
for his pay; and was given the head of the cow. Sixty felláheen
were then called together; and each of them was compelled to
purchase, for a riyál, a piece of the cow. The owner of the cow
went, weeping and complaining, to the Názir's superior, the late
Mohammad Bey, Deftardár. “O my master,” said he, “I am
oppressed and in misery: I had no property but one cow, a
milch cow: I and my family lived upon her milk; and she
ploughed for me, and threshed my corn; and my whole subsistence
was derived from her: the Názir has taken her, and
killed her, and cut her up into sixty pieces, and sold the pieces
to my neighbours—to each a piece, for one riyál; so that he
obtained but sixty riyáls for the whole, while the value of the
cow was a hundred and twenty riyáls, or more. I am oppressed
and in misery, and a stranger in the place, for I came from
another village; but the Názir had no pity on me. I and my
family are become beggars, and have nothing left. Have mercy
upon me, and give me justice: I implore it by thy hareem.”
The Deftardár, having caused the Názir to be brought before
him, asked him, “Where is the cow of this felláh?” “I have

sold it,” said the Názir. “For how much?” “For sixty riyáls.”
“Why did you kill it and sell it?” “He owed sixty riyáls for
land: so I took his cow, and killed it, and sold it for the
amount.” “Where is the butcher that killed it?” “In
Manoof.” The butcher was sent for, and brought. The
Deftardár said to him, “Why did you kill this man's cow?”
“The Názir desired me,” he answered, “and I could not oppose
him: if I had attempted to do so, he would have beaten me, and
destroyed my house: I killed it; and the Názir gave me the
head as my reward.” “Man,” said the Deftradár, “do you know
the persons who bought the meat?” The butcher replied that
he did. The Deftardár then desired his secretary to write the
names of the sixty men, and an order to the sheykh of their
village to bring them to Manoof, where this complaint was made.
The Názir and butcher were placed in confinement till the next
morning; when the sheykh of the village came, with the sixty
felláheen. The two prisoners were then brought again before
the Deftardár, who said to the sheykh and the sixty peasants,
“Was the value of this man's cow sixty riyáls?” “O our
master,” they answered, “her value was greater.” The Deftardár
sent for the Kádee of Manoof, and said to him, “O Kádee, here
is a man oppressed by this Názir, who has taken his cow, and
killed it; and sold its flesh for sixty riyáls. What is thy judgment?”
The Kádee replied, “He is a cruel tyrant, who
oppresses every one under his authority. Is not a cow worth a
hundred and twenty riyáls, or more? and he has sold this one for
sixty riyáls: this is tyranny towards the owner.” The Deftardár
then said to some of his soldiers, “Take the Názir, and strip
him, and bind him.” This done, he said to the butcher,
“Butcher, dost thou not fear God? Thou has killed the cow
unjustly.” The butcher again urged that he was obliged to obey
the Názir. “Then,” said the Deftardár, “if I order thee to do
a thing, wilt thou do it?” “I will do it,” answered the butcher.
“Slaughter the Názir,” said the Deftardár. Immediately, several
of the soldiers present seized the Názir, and threw him down;
and the butcher cut his throat, in the regular orthodox manner
of killing animals for food. “Now, cut him up,” said the
Deftardár, “into sixty pieces.” This was done: the people concerned
in the affair, and many others, looking on; but none
daring to speak. The sixty peasants who had bought the meat
of the cow were then called forward, one after another, and each
was made to take a piece of the flesh of the Názir, and to pay for it

two riyáls; so that a hundred and twenty riyáls were obtained from
them. They were then dismissed; but the butcher remained.
The Kádee was asked what should be the reward of the butcher;
and answered that he should be paid as he had been paid by the
Názir. The Deftardár therefore ordered that the head of the
Názir should be given to him; and the butcher went away with
his worse than valueless burden, thanking God that he had not
been more unfortunate, and scarcely believing himself to have so
easily escaped until he arrived at his village. The money paid
for the flesh of the Názir was given to the owner of the cow.
Most of the governors of provinces and districts carry their
oppression far beyond the limits to which they are authorized to
proceed by the Básha; and even the sheykh of a village, in
executing the commands of his superiors, abuses his lawful
power: bribes, and the ties of relationship and marriage,
influence him and them, and by lessening the oppression of
some, who are more able to bear it, greatly increase that of
others. But the office of a sheykh of a village is far from being
a sinecure: at the period when the taxes are demanded of him,
he frequently receives a more severe bastinading than any of his
inferiors; for when the population of a village does not yield the
sum required, their sheykh is often beaten for their default: and
not always does he produce his own proportion until he has been
well thrashed. All the felláheen are proud of the stripes they
receive for withholding their contributions; and are often heard
to boast of the number of blows which were inflicted upon them
before they would give up their money. Ammianus Marcellinus
gives precisely the same character to the Egyptians of his time.1
1 Lib, xxii. The more easily the peasant pays, the more is he made to pay.
The revenue of the Básha of Egypt is generally said to amount
to about three millions of pounds sterling.
2 Nearly half arises
from the direct taxes on land, and from indirect exactions from
the felláheen: the remainder, principally from the custom-taxes,
the tax on palm-trees, a kind of income-tax, and the sale of
various productions of the land; by which sale, the government,
in most instances, obtains a profit of more than fifty per cent.
2 Some estimate it at five millions; others, at little more than two millions.
The present Básha has increased his revenue to this amount
by most oppressive measures. He has dispossessed of their
lands almost all the private proprietors throughout Egypt, allotting

to each, as a partial compensation, a pension for life, proportioned
to the extent and quality of the land which belonged
to him. The farmer has, therefore, nothing to leave to his
children but his hut, and perhaps a few cattle and some small
The direct taxes on land are proportioned to the natural
advantages of the soil. Their average amount is about 8s. per
feddán, which is nearly equal to an English acre.1 But the cultivator
can never calculate exactly the full amount of what the
government will require of him: he suffers from indirect exactions
of quantities (differing in different years, but always levied per
feddán) of butter, honey, wax, wool, baskets of palm-leaves, ropes
of the fibres of the palm-tree, and other commodities: he is also
obliged to pay the hire of the camels which convey his grain to
the government shooneh (or granary), and to defray various other
expenses. A portion of the produce of his land is taken by the
government,2 and sometimes the whole produce, at a fixed and
fair price, which, however, in many parts of Egypt, is retained to
make up for the debts of the insolvent peasants.3 The felláh,
to supply the bare necessaries of life, is often obliged to steal,
and convey secretly to his hut, as much as he can of the produce
of his land. He may either himself supply the seed for his land,
or obtain it as a loan from the government: but in the latter case
he seldom obtains a sufficient quantity, a considerable portion
being generally stolen by the persons through whose hands it
passes before he receives it. To relate all the oppressions which
the peasantry of Egypt endure from the dishonesty of the Mamoors
and inferior officers would require too much space in the
present work. It would be scarcely possible for them to suffer
more, and live. It may be hardly necessary, therefore, to add,
that few of them engage, with assiduity, in the labours of agriculture,
unless compelled to do so by their superiors.
1 The feddán has lately been reduced: it was equal to about an English
acre and one-tenth a few years ago; and somewhat more at an earlier period.
2 Of some productions, as cotton, flax, etc., the government always takes
the whole.
3 Even the debts of the peasantry of one village are often imposed upon
the inhabitants of another who have paid all that is justly due from them.
The Básha has not only taken possession of the lands of the
private proprietors, but he has also thrown into his treasury a considerable
proportion of the incomes of religious and charitable institutions,
deeming their accumulated wealth superfluous. He first

imposed a tax (of nearly half the amount of the regular land-tax)
upon all land which had become a “wakf” (or legacy unalienable by
law) to any mosque, fountain, public school, etc.; and afterwards
took absolute possession of such lands, granting certain annuities
in lieu of them, for keeping in repair the respective buildings, and
for the maintenance of those persons attached to them, as Názirs
(or wardens), religious ministers, inferior servants, students, and
other pensioners. He has thus rendered himself extremely odious
to most persons of the religious and learned professions, and especially
to the Názirs of the mosques, who too generally enriched
themselves from the funds intrusted to their care, which were,
in most cases, superabundant. The household property of the
mosques and other public institutions (the wakfs of numerous
individuals of various ranks) the Básha has hitherto left inviolate.
The tax upon the palm-trees has been calculated to amount to
about a hundred thousand pounds sterling. The trees are rated
according to their qualities; generally at a piaster and a half each.
The income-tax, which is called “firdeh,” is generally a twelfth
or more of a man's annual income or salary, when that can be
ascertained. The maximum, however, is fixed at five hundred
piasters. In the large towns it is levied upon individuals; in the
villages upon houses. The income-tax of all the inhabitants of
the metropolis amounts to eight thousand purses, or about forty
thousand pounds sterling.
The inhabitants of the metropolis and of other large towns pay
a heavy tax on grain, etc. The tax on each kind of grain is eighteen
piasters per ardebb (or about five bushels); which sum is
equal to the price of wheat in the country after a good harvest.1
1 The above account of the government of Egypt, having been written in
the years 1834 and 1835, is not altogether correct with respect to the present
time (1842). Great changes are now being made in various departments; and
as the Básha has no longer to maintain an enormous military and naval force,
he will be able to ameliorate very considerably the condition of the people
whom he governs. Most of the evils of which the people of Egypt have
hitherto had to complain have arisen from the vast expense incurred in war,
from the conscription, and from the dishonesty of almost all the Básha's civil

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HAVING sufficiently considered the foundations of the moral and
social state of the Muslims of Egypt, we may now take a view of
their domestic life and ordinary habits; and, first, let us confine
our attention to the higher and middle orders.
A master of a family, or any person who has arrived at manhood,
and is not in a menial situation, or of very low condition,
is commonly honoured with the appellation of “the sheykh,” prefixed
to his name. The word “sheykh” literally signifies “an
elder,” or “an aged person”; but it is often used as synonymous
with our appellation of “Mister”; though more particularly
applied to a learned man, or a reputed saint. A “shereef,” or
descendant of the Prophet, is called “the seyd,” or “the seyyid”
(master, or lord), whatever be his station. Many shereefs are
employed in the lowest offices: there are servants, dustmen, and
beggars, of the honoured race of Mohammad; but all of them
are entitled to the distinctive appellation above mentioned, and
privileged to wear the green turban;1 many of them, however,
not only among those of humble station, but also among the
wealthy, and particularly the learned, assume neither of these
prerogatives; preferring the title of “sheykh,” and the white
turban. A man who has performed the pilgrimage is generally
called “the hágg;”2 and a woman who has alike distinguished
herself, “the hággeh:” yet there are many pilgrims who, like
those shereefs just before alluded to, prefer the title of “sheykh.”
The general appellation of a lady is “the sitt,” which signifies
“the mistress,” or “the lady.”
1 Men and women of this race often contract marriages with persons who
are not members of the same; and as the title of shereef is inherited from
either of the parents, the number of persons who enjoy this distinction has
become very considerable.
2 This word is thus pronounced by the inhabitants of Cairo and the greater
part of Egypt; but in most other countries where Arabic is spoken, “hájj.”
The Turks and Persians use, instead of it, the synonymous Arabic word
Before I describe the ordinary habits of the master of a family,
I must mention the various classes of persons of whom the
family may consist. The hareem, or the females of the house,
have distinct apartments alloted to them; and into these apartments

(which, as well as the persons to whom they are appropriated,
are called “the hareem”) no males are allowed to enter, excepting
the master of the family, and certain other near relations, and
children. The hareem may consist, first, of a wife, or wives (to
the number of four); secondly, of female slaves, some of whom,
namely, white and Abyssinian slaves, are generally concubines,
and others (the black slaves) kept merely for servile offices, as
cooking, waiting upon the ladies, etc.; thirdly, of female free
servants, who are, in no case, concubines, or not legitimately so.
The male dependants may consist of white and of black slaves,
and free servants; but are mostly of the last-mentioned class.
Very few of the Egyptians avail themselves of the licence, which
their religion allows them, of having four wives; and still smaller
is the number of those who have two or more wives, and concubines
besides. Even most of those men who have but one wife
are content, for the sake of domestic peace, if for no other
reason, to remain without a concubine slave: but some prefer the
possession of an Abyssinian slave to the more expensive maintenance
of a wife; and keep a black slave-girl, or an Egyptian female
servant, to wait upon her, to clean and keep in order the apartments
of the hareem, and to cook. It is seldom that two
or more wives are kept in the same house: if they be, they
generally have distinct apartments. Of male servants, the master
of a family keeps, if he can afford to do so, one or more to wait
upon him and his male guests: another, who is called a “sakka,”
or water-carrier, but who is particularly a servant of the hareem,
and attends the ladies when they go out;1 a “bowwáb,” or doorkeeper,
who constantly sits at the door of the house; and a “sáïs,”
or groom, for the horse, mule, or ass. Few of the Egyptians have
“memlooks,” or male white slaves; most of these being in the
possession of rich 'Osmánlees (Turks); and scarcely any but
Turks of high rank keep eunuchs: but a wealthy Egyptian merchant
is proud of having a black slave to ride or walk behind him,
and to carry his pipe.
1 Unless there be a eunuch. The sakka is generally the chief of the servants.
The Egyptian is a very early riser; as he riser; as he retires to sleep at an
early hour: it is his duty to be up and dressed before daybreak,
when he should say the morning-prayers. In general, while the
master of a family is performing the religious ablution, and saying
his prayers, his wife or slave is preparing for him a cup of coffee,
and filling his pipe, which she presents to him as soon as he has
acquitted himself of his religious duties.


Many of the Egyptians take nothing before noon but the cup
of coffee and the pipe: others take a light meal at an early hour.
The meal of breakfast (“el-fatoor”) generally consists of bread,
with eggs, butter, cheese, clouted cream, or curdled milk, etc.; or
of a “fateereh,” which is a kind of pastry, saturated with butter,
made very thin, and folded over and over like a napkin: it is
eaten alone, or with a little honey poured over it, or sugar. A
very common dish for breakfast is “fool mudemmes,” or beans,
similar to our horse-beans, slowly boiled, during a whole night, in
an earthen vessel, buried, all but the neck, in the hot ashes of an
oven or a bath, and having the mouth closely stopped: they are
eaten with linseed-oil, or butter, and generally with a little lime-juice:
thus prepared, they are sold in the morning in the sooks
(or markets) of Cairo and other towns. A meal is often made (by
those who cannot afford luxuries) of bread and a mixture called
“dukkah,” which is commonly composed of salt and pepper, with
“zaatar” (or wild marjoram) or mint or cumin-seed, and with one,
or more, or all, of the following ingredients.: namely, coriander-seed,
cinnamon, sesame, and “hommus” (or chick-peas): each
mouthful of bread is dipped in this mixture. The bread is always
made in the form of a round flat cake, generally about a span in
width, and a finger's breadth in thickness.
The pipe and the cup of coffee are enjoyed by almost all persons
who can afford such luxuries, very early in the morning, and often-times
during the day. There are many men who are scarcely ever
seen without a pipe either in their hand or carried behind them
by a servant. The smoker keeps his tobacco for daily use in
a purse or bag made of shawl-stuff, or silk, or velvet, which is often
accompanied with a small pouch containing a flint and steel, and
some agaric tinder, and is usually crammed into his bosom.
The pipe (which is called by many names, as “shibuk,” “'ood,”
etc.) is generally between four and five feet long; some pipes are
shorter, and some are of greater length. The most common kind
used in Egypt is made of a kind of wood called “garmash'ak.”1
The greater part of the stick (from the mouth-piece to about three-quarters
of its length) is covered with silk, which is confined at
each extremity by gold thread, often intertwined with coloured
silks, or by a tube of gilt silver; and at the lower extremity of the
covering is a tassel of silk. The covering was originally designed
to be moistened with water, in order to cool the pipe, and, consequently,
1 I believe it is maple.

the smoke, by evaporation; but this is only done when
the pipe is old, or not handsome. Cherry-stick pipes, which are


never covered, are also used by many persons, particularly in the
winter. In summer the smoke is not so cool from the cherry-stick
pipe as from the kind before mentioned. The bowl is of baked

earth, coloured red or brown.1 The mouth-piece is composed of
two or more pieces of opaque, light-coloured amber, interjoined
by ornaments of enamelled gold, agate, jasper, carnelion, or some
other precious substance. It is the most costly part of the pipe;
the price of one of the kind most generally used by persons of
the middle order is from about one to three pounds sterling. A
wooden tube passes through it. This is often changed, as it soon
becomes foul from the oil of the tobacco. The pipe also requires
to be cleaned very often, which is done with tow, by means of
a long wire. Many poor men in Cairo gain their livelihood by
going about to clean pipes.
1 To preserve the matting or carpet from injury, a small brass tray is often
placed beneath the bowl; and a small tray of wood is made use of to receive the ashes of the tobacco.
The tobacco smoked by persons of the higher orders, and some
others, in Egypt, is of a very mild and delicious flavour. It is
mostly from the neighbourhood of El-Ládikeeyeh, in
Syria. The
best kind is the “mountain tobacco,” grown on the hills about
that town. A stronger kind, which takes its name from the town
of Soor, sometimes mixed with the former, is used by most persons
of the middle orders. In smoking, the people of Egypt and of
other countries of the East draw in their breath freely, so that
much of the smoke descends into the lungs; and the terms which
they use to express “smoking tobacco” signify “drinking smoke,”
or “drinking tobacco,” for the same word signifies both “smoke”
and “tobacco.” Few of them spit while smoking; I have very
seldom seen any do so.
Some of the Egyptians use the Persian pipe, in which the
smoke passes through water. The pipe of this kind most commonly
used by persons of the higher classes is called “nárgeeleh,”
because the vessel that contains the water is a cocoa-nut, of which
“nárgeeleh” is an Arabic name. Another kind, which has a glass
vase, is called “sheesheh.”2 Each has a very long flexible tube.
A particular kind of tobacco, called “tumbák,” from Persia, is
used in the water-pipe” it is first washed several times, and put
into the pipe-bowl while damp, and two or three pieces of live
charcoal are placed on the top. Its flavour is mild, and very
agreeable; but the strong inhalation necessary in this mode of
smoking is injurious to persons of delicate lungs.3 In using the
2 A Persian word, signifying “glass.”
3 It is, however, often recommended in the case of a cough. One of my
friends, the most celebrated of the poets of
Cairo, who is much troubled by
asthma, uses the nárgeeleh almost incessantly from morning till night.

Persian pipe, the person as freely draws the smoke into his lungs
as he would inhale pure air. The great prevalence of liver-complaints
in Arabia is attributed to the general use of the nárgeeleh;
and many persons in Egypt suffer severely from the same
cause. A kind of pipe commonly called “gózeh,” which is
similar to the nárgeeleh, excepting that it has a short cane tube,
instead of the snake (or flexible one), and no stand, is used by
men of the lowest class, for smoking both the tumbák and the
intoxicating “hasheesh,” or hemp.
The coffee (“kahweh”1) is made very strong, and without
sugar or milk. The coffee-cup (which is called “fingán”) is small,
generally holding not quite an ounce and a half of liquid. It is
of porcelain, or Dutch ware, and, being without a handle, is placed


within another cup (called “zarf”), of silver or brass, according
to the circumstances of the owner, and, both in shape and size,
nearly resembling our egg-cup.2 In preparing the coffee, the
water is first made to boil, the coffee (freshly roasted and pounded)
1 This is the name of the beverage; the berries (whether whole or pounded)
are called “bunn.”
2 In a full service there are ten fingáns and zarfs of uniform kinds, and often
another fingán and zarf of a superior kind for the master of the house, or for
a distinguished guest. In the accompanying sketch, the coffee-pot (“bekreg,”
or “bakrag”) and the zarfs and tray are of silver, and are represented on a
scale of one-eighth of the real size. Below this set are a similar zarf and fingán,
on a scale of one-fourth, and a brass zarf, with the fingán placed in it. Some
zarfs are of plain or gilt silver filigree; and a few opulent persons have them of
gold. Many Muslims, however, religiously disallow all utensils of gold and
of silver.

is then put in, and stirred, after which the pot is again placed on
the fire, once or twice, until the coffee begins to simmer, when it
is taken off, and its contents are poured out into the cups while
the surface is yet creamy. The Egyptians are excessively fond
of pure and strong coffee thus prepared, and very seldom add
sugar to it (though some do so when they are unwell), and never
milk or cream; but a little cardamom-seed is often added to it.
It is a common custom, also, to fumigate the cup with the smoke
of mastic; and the wealthy sometimes impregnate the coffee with
the delicious fragrance of ambergris. The most general mode of
doing this is to put about a carat-weight of ambergris in a coffee-pot,
and melt it over a fire; then make the coffee in another pot,
in the manner before described, and, when it has settled a little,
pour it into the pot which contains the ambergris. Some persons
make use of the ambergris, for the same purpose, in a different
way, sticking a piece of it, of the weight of about two carats, in
the bottom of the cup, and then pouring in the coffee; a piece
of the weight above mentioned will serve for two or three weeks.
This mode is often adopted by persons who like always to have
the coffee which they themselves drink flavoured with this perfume,
and do not give all their visitors the same luxury. The coffee-pot
is sometimes brought in a vessel of silver or brass (called
“'áz'kee”1), containing burning charcoal. This vessel is suspended
by three chains. In presenting the coffee, the servant
holds the foot of the zarf with his thumb and first finger. In
receiving the fingán and zarf, he makes use of both hands, placing
the left beneath and the right above at the same instant.
1 Baron Hammer-Purgstall considers this word a corruption, and writes
“chasseki” in its stead; “'áz'kee” (for “'ázikee) is, however, the term used
by the Egyptians.
In cold weather, a brasier, or chafing-dish (called “mankal,”
and vulgarly “mankad”), of tinned copper, full of burning charcoal,
is placed on the floor, and sometimes perfume is burnt in it.
The Egyptians take great delight in perfumes,
2 and often fumigate
their apartments. The substance most commonly used for this
purpose is frankincense of an inferior quality, called “bakhoor el-barr.”
Benzoin and aloes-wood are also used for the same purpose.
2 They sometimes perfume the beard and mustaches with civet.
If he can conveniently afford to keep a horse, mule, or ass, or
to hire an ass, the Egyptian is seldom seen walking far beyond
the threshold of his own house; but very few of the people of
Cairo, or of the other towns, venture to expose themselves to the

suspicion of possessing superfluous wealth, and, consequently, to
greater exactions of the government than they would otherwise
suffer, by keeping horses.1 The modern saddle of the horse is
generally padded, and covered with cloth or velvet, embroidered,
or otherwise ornamented; and the head-stall and breast-leather
are adorned with silk tassels, and coins, or other ornaments, of
silver. Wealthy merchants, and the great 'ulama, usually ride
mules. The saddle of the mule is, generally, nearly the same as
that of the ass, of which a sketch is inserted; when the rider is
one of the 'ulama, it is covered with a “seggádeh” (or prayer-carpet;
so, also, sometimes, is the ladies' saddle, from which,
however, the former differs considerably, as will be shown hereafter.
Asses are most generally used for riding through the narrow
and crowded streets of Cairo, and there are many for hire; their
usual pace is an easy amble. Egypt has long been famed for its


excellent asses, which are, in general, larger than those of our
country, and very superior to the latter in every respect. The
usual price of one of a good breed and well trained is about three
or four pounds sterling. The ass is furnished with a stuffed saddle,
the forepart of which is covered with red leather, and the seat,
most commonly, with a kind of soft woollen lace, similar to our
coach-lace, of red, yellow, and other colours. The stirrup-leathers
1 Whether walking or riding, a person of the higher classes is usually
attended by a servant bearing his pipe.
2 One of the latter (that to the right) is an earthen vessel. Each of the
above utensils is represented on a scale of about one-eighth of the real size.

are, in every case, very short. The horseman is preceded by
a servant, or by two servants, to clear the way; and, for the same
purpose, a servant generally runs beside or behind the ass, or
sometimes before, calling out to the passengers to move out of
the way to the right or left, or to take care of their backs, faces,
sides, feet, or heels.1 The rider, however, must be vigilant, and
not trust merely to his servant, or he may be thrown down by the
wide load of a camel, which accident, indeed, is sometimes unavoidable
in the more narrow and crowded streets. His pipe is
generally carried by the servant, and filled and lighted if he dismount
at a house or shop.
1 “Yemeenak! shimálak!” (to thy right! to thy left!), “dahrak!” (thy
back!), “wishshak!” (thy face!), “gembak!” (thy side!), “riglak!” (thy
foot!), “kaabak!” (thy heel!), and, to a Turk, “sákin!” (take care!), are
the most common cries. The following appellations are also often added:
“yá efendee!” (to a Turk), “yá sheykh!” (to an old or a middle-aged Muslim
native), “yá sabee!” (to a young man), “yá weled!” or “yá ibnee!”
(to a boy), “yá shereef!” (to a green turbaned descendant of the Prophet),
“yá m'allim!” (to a native Christian, or a Jew), “yá khawágeh!” (to a
Frank), “yá sitt!” (to a lady, or a female of the middle order), and “yá
bint!” that is “daughter,” or “girl” (to a poor female). A woman of the
lower class, however old she be, the servant must call “girl,” or “daughter,”
or probably she will not move an inch out of the way. A little girl, or young
woman, is often called “'arooseh,” or “bride;” and “hággeh,” or “female
pilgrim,” is an appellation often given to women in the streets.
If he have no regular business to employ him, the Egyptian
spends the greater part of the day in riding, paying visits, or making
purchases; or in smoking and sipping coffee and chatting with
a friend at home; or he passes an hour or more in the morning
enjoying the luxuries of a public bath. At noon he has again to
say prayers, if he fulfil the duties imposed on him by his religion;
but, as I have remarked on a former occasion, there are comparatively
few persons among the Egyptians who do not sometimes
neglect these duties, and there are many who scarcely ever pray.
Directly after midday (if he has not taken a late breakfast) he
dines, then takes a pipe and a cup of coffee, and, in hot weather,
usually indulges himself with a nap. Often he retires to recline
in the hareem, where a wife or female slave watches over his
repose, or rubs the soles of his feet with her hands. On such
occasions, and at other times when he wishes to enjoy privacy,
every person who comes to pay him a visit is told, by the servant,
that he is in the hareem; and no friend expects him to be called
thence, unless on very urgent business. From the time of the
afternoon-prayers until sunset (the next time of prayer) he generally

enjoys again his pipe and a cup of coffee in the society of
some one or more of his friends at home or abroad. Shortly after
sunset he sups.
I must now describe the meals of dinner (“el-ghada”) and
supper (“el-'asha”), and the manner and etiquette of eating.
The same remarks will apply to both these repasts; excepting
that supper is always the principal meal. It is the general custom
to cook in the afternoon, and what remain of the supper is eaten
the next day for dinner, when there are no guests in the house.
The master of a family generally dines and sups with his wife or


wives and children; but there are many men, particularly of the
higher classes, who are too proud to do this, or too much engaged
in society to be able to do so, unless on some few occasions;
and there are men even of the lowest class who scarcely ever
eat with their wives or children. When a person is paying a
visit to a friend, and the hour of dinner or supper arrives, it is
incumbent on the master of the house to order the meal to be
brought; and the same is generally considered necessary if the
visitor be a stranger.
Every person, before he sits down to the table, or rather to the

tray, washes his hands,1 and sometimes his mouth also, with soap
and water; or, at least, has some water poured upon his right
hand. A servant brings to him a basin and ewer (called “tisht”
and “ibreek”), of tinned copper, or brass.2 The former of these
has a cover pierced with holes, with a raised receptacle for the
soap in the middle; and the water, being poured upon the
hands, passes through this cover into the space below; so that
when the basin is brought to a second person, the water with
which the former one has washed is not seen. A napkin (“footah”)
is given to each person.
1 See Mark vii. 3.
2 In the houses of some of the opulent, these utensils are of silver. I have
also seen some of gilt copper.
A round tray (called “seeneeyeh,” and “sáneeyeh”) of tinned
copper, or sometimes of brass, generally between two and three
feet in diameter, serves as a table; being placed upon a stool


(“kursee”) about fifteen inches high made of wood, and often
covered with mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell, bone, etc. These
two pieces of furniture compose the “sufrah.” Round cakes of
bread, such as have been before described, sometimes cut in
halves across the middle, are placed round the tray, with several
limes, cut in two, to be squeezed over any of the dishes that
may require the acid; and a spoon of box-wood, or of ebony,
or tortoise-shell, is put for each person. The bread often serves
3 The width of the former is fourteen inches; and the height of the latter,
the same

as a plate. Several dishes of tinned copper, or of china, containing
different kinds of viands, vegetables, etc., are then placed
upon the tray, according to the common fashion of the country;
or only one dish is put on at a time, after the Turkish mode.
The persons who are to partake of the repast sit upon the
floor around the tray, each with his napkin upon his knees;
or, if the tray be placed near the edge of a low deewán, which
is often done, some of the persons may sit on the deewán, and
the others on the floor: but if the party be numerous, the tray
is placed in the middle of the room, and they sit round it with
one knee on the ground, and the other (the right) raised; and,


in this manner, as many as twelve persons may sit round a tray
three feet wide. Each person bares his right arm to the elbow,
or tucks up the hanging end of his sleeve. Before he begins to
eat, he say, “Bi-smi-llah” (In the name of God).1 This is
generally said in a low, but audible voice; and by the master
of the house first. It is considered both as a grace and as an
invitation to any person to partake of the meal; and when any
one is addressed with “Bi-smi-llah,” or “Tafaddal” (which latter
signifies, in this case, “Do me the favour to partake of the
1 Or “Bi-smi-lláhi-r-rahmáni-r-raheem” (In the name of God, the Compassionate,
the Merciful).

repast”), he must reply, if he do not accept the invitation,
“Heneeän” (or “May it be productive of enjoyment,” or
“benefit”), or use some similar expression: else it will be feared
that an evil eye has been cast upon the food; and they say that,
“in the food that is coveted” (or upon which an envious eye
has fallen), “there is no blessing.” But the manner in which
the Egyptian often presses a stranger to eat with him, shows
that feelings of hospitality most forcibly dictate the “Bi-smi-llah.”


The master of the house first begins to eat; the guests or others
immediately follow his example. Neither knives nor forks are
used: the thumb and two fingers of the right hand serve instead
of those instruments; but the spoons are used for soup or rice,
or other things that cannot be easily taken without; and both
hands may be used in particular cases, as will be presently
1 One of the servants is holding a water-bottle: the other, a fly-whisk,
made of palm leaves.


explained. When there are several dishes upon the tray, each
person takes of any that he likes, or of every one in succession:
when only one dish is placed upon the tray at a time, each takes
from it a few mouthfuls, and it is quickly removed, to give place
to another.1 To pick out a delicate morsel, and hand it to a
friend, is esteemed polite. The manner of eating with the
fingers, as practised in Egypt and other Eastern countries, is more
delicate than may be imagined by Europeans who have not witnessed
it, nor heard it correctly described. Each person breaks
off a small piece of bread, dips it in the dish, and then conveys it
to his mouth, together with a small portion of the meat or other
contents of the dish.2 The piece of bread is generally doubled
together, so as to enclose the morsel of meat, etc.; and only the
thumb and first and second fingers are commonly used. When
a person takes a piece of meat too large for a single mouthful, he
usually places it upon his bread.
1 Our Saviour and His disciples thus ate from one dish. See Matt. xxvi.
2 Or he merely sops his morsel of bread in the dish. See Ruth ii. 14; and
John xiii. 26.
The food is dressed in such a manner that it may be easily
eaten in the mode above-described. It generally consist, for
the most part, of “yakhnee,” or stewed meat, with chopped
onions, or with a quantity of “bámiyehs,”
3 or other vegetables;
“káwurmeh,” or a richer stew, with onions; “warak mahshee,”
or vine-leaves, or bits of lettuce-leaf or cabbage-leaf, with a
mixture of rice and minced meat (delicately seasoned with salt,
pepper, and onions, and often with garlic, parsley, etc.) wrapped
up in them, and boiled; cucumbers (“khiyár”), or black, white, or
red “bádingáns,”4 or a kind of gourd (called “kara kooseh”) of
the size and shape of a small cucumber, which are all “mahshee,”
or stuffed, with the same composition as the leaves above-mentioned;
and “kebáb,” or small morsels of mutton or lamb,
roasted on skewers. Many dishes consist wholly, or for the most
part, of vegetables; such as cabbage, purslain, spinach, beans,
lupins, chick peas, gourd cut into small pieces, colocasia, lentils,
3 The bámiyeh is the esculent “hibiscus:” the part which is eaten is a
polygonal pod, generally between one and three inches in length, and of the
thickness of a small finger: it is full of seeds and nutritive mucilage, and has
a very pleasant flavour. A little lime-juice is usually dropped on the plate
of bámiyehs.
4 The black and white bádingán are the fruits of two kinds of egg-plant:
the red is the tomato.

etc. Fish, dressed with oil, is also a common dish. Most of
the meats are cooked with clarified butter, on account of the
deficiency of fat; and are made very rich: the butter, in the
hot season, is perfectly liquid. When a fowl is placed whole on
the tray, both hands are generally required to separate the joints;
or two persons, each using the right hand alone, perform this
operation together: but some will do it very cleverly without
assistance, and with a single hand. Many of the Arabs will not
allow the left hand to touch food in any case,1 excepting when
the right is maimed. A boned fowl, stuffed with raisins, pistachio-nuts,
crumbled bread, and parsley, is not an uncommon dish;
and even a whole lamb, stuffed with pistachio-nuts, etc., is sometimes
served up; but the meat is easily separated with one
hand. Sweets are often mixed with stewed meat, etc.; as, for
instance, “'annáb” (or jujubes), peaches, apricots, etc., and
sugar, with yakhnee. Various kinds of sweets are also served up,
and often in no particular order with respect to other meats.
A favourite sweet dish is “kunáfeh,” which is made of wheat-flour,
and resembles vermicelli, but is finer; it is fried with a
little clarified butter, and sweetened with sugar or honey. A
dish of water-melon (“batteeikh”), if in season, generally forms
part of the meal. This is cut up about a quarter of an hour
before, and left to cool in the external air, or in a current of
air, by the evaporation of the juice on the surfaces of the slices;
but it is always watched during this time, lest a serpent should
come to it, and poison it by its breath or bite; for this reptile
is said to be extremely fond of the water-melon, and to smell it
at a great distance. Water-melons are very abundant in Egypt,
and mostly very delicious and wholesome. A dish of boiled
rice (called “ruzz mufelfel,” the “piláv” of the Turks), mixed
with a little butter, and seasoned with salt and pepper, is generally
that from which the last morsels are taken; but, in the houses of
the wealthy, this is often followed by a bowl of “khusháf,”2 a
sweet drink, commonly consisting of water with raisins boiled
in it, and then sugar: when cool, a little rose-water is dropped
into it.3 The water-melon frequently supplies the place of this.4
1 Because used for unclean purposes.
2 So called from the Persian “khósh áb,” or “sweet water.”
3 It is drunk with ladles of tortoise-shell or cocoa-nut.
4 The principal and best fruits of Egypt are dates, grapes, oranges and
citrons of various kinds, common figs, sycamore-figs, prickly pears, pomegranates,
bananas, and a great variety of melons. From this enumeration,
it appears that there are not many good fruits in this country.


The Egyptians eat very moderately, though quickly. Each
person, as soon as he has finished, says, “El-hamdu li-lláh”
(Praise be to God),1 and gets up, without waiting till the others
have done:2 he then washes his hands and mouth with soap and
water; the basin and ewer being held by a servant, as before.
1Or, “El-hamdu li-ll´hi rabbi-l-ἂlammeen” (Praise be to God, the Lord of all creatures).
2It is deemed highly improper to rise during a meal, even from respect to a
superior who may approach. It has been mentioned before, that the Prophet
forbade his followers to rise while eating, or when about to eat, even if the time
of prayer arrived.
The only beverage at meals is water of the Nile, or, sometimes,
at the tables of the rich, sherbet, which will presently be described.
The Arabs drink little or no water during a meal, but generally
take a large draught immediately after. The water of the Nile is
remarkably good; but that of all the wells in
Cairo and in other
parts of Egypt is slightly brackish. In general, water is drunk
either from an earthen bottle or from a brass cup.3 The water-bottles
are of two kinds; one called “dórak,” and the other


“kulleh:” the former has a narrow, and the latter a wide, mouth.
They are made of a greyish, porous earth, which cools the water
deliciously, by evaporation; and they are, therefore, generally
placed in a current of air. The interior is often blackened with
the smoke of some resinous wood, and then perfumed with the
smoke of “kafal”4 wood and mastic; the latter used last. A
small earthen vessel (called “mibkhar'ah”) is employed in performing
3The ancient Egyptians used drinking-cups of brass. (Herodotus, lib. ii.
cap. 37.)
4“Amyris kafal” of Forskal. An Arabian tree.

these operations, to contain the burning charcoal, which
is required to ignite the wood, and the mastic; and the water-bottle
is held inverted over it. A strip of rag is tied round the
neck of the dórak, at the distance of about an inch from the
mouth, to prevent the smoke-black from extending too far upon
the exterior of the bottle. Many persons also put a little orange-flower-water
into the bottles. This gives a very agreeable flavour
to their contents. The bottles have stoppers of silver, brass, tin,
wood, or palm-leaves; and are generally placed in a tray of tinned
copper, which receives the water that exudes from them. In cold
weather, china bottles are used in many houses instead of those
above-described, which then render the water too cold.1 The
two most common forms of drinking-cups are here represented.
Some of them have texts of the Kur-án, etc., engraved in the interior,
or the names of “the Seven Sleepers”: but inscriptions of
the former kind I have seldom seen. Every person, before and
after drinking, repeats the same ejaculations as before and after
eating; and this he does each time that he drinks during a meal:
each friend present then says to him, “May it be productive of
enjoyment,” or “benefit”; to which the reply is, “God cause thee
to have enjoyment.”2
1 Baron Hammer-Purgstall has remarked, that two other vessels should have
been mentioned here (in the first edition of this work), more especially because
their names have been adopted in European languages: they are the “
or “jarrah,” a water-jar or pitcher, and the “demigán” or “demiján,” a large
bottle, “la dame-jeanne.”
2 “Allah yehenneek” (for “yuhenneek”).
Though we read, in some of the delightful tales of “The Thousand
and One Nights,” of removing “the table of viands” and
bringing “the table of wine,” this prohibited beverage is not
often introduced in general society, either during or after the
meal, or at other times, by the Muslims of Egypt in the present
day. Many of them, however, habitually indulge in drinking
wine with select parties of their acquaintance. The servants of a
man who is addicted to this habit know such of his friends as may
be admitted, if they happen to call when he is engaged in this
unlawful pleasure; and to all others they say that he is not at
home, or that he is in the hareem. Drinking wine is indulged in
by such persons before and after supper, and during that meal;
but it is most approved before supper, as they say that it quickens
the appetite. The “table of wine” is usually thus prepared, according
to a penitent Muslim wine-bibber, who is one of my
friends (I cannot speak on this subject from my own experience;

for, as I never drink wine, I have never been invited to join a Muslim
wine-party):—a round japanned tray, or a glass dish, is placed
on the stool before-mentioned: on this are generally arranged two
cut-glass jugs, one containing wine,1 and the other, rosoglio; and
sometimes two or more bottles besides: several small glasses are
placed with these; and glass saucers of dried and fresh fruits, and,
perhaps, pickles: lastly, two candles, and often a bunch of flowers
stuck in a candlestick, are put upon the tray.
1 “Nebeed” (more properly, “nebeedh”), or “mudám.”
The Egyptians have various kinds of sherbets, or sweet drinks.
The most common kind
2 is merely sugar and water, but very
sweet; lemonade3 is another: a third kind, the most esteemed,
is prepared from a hard conserve of violets, made by pounding
violet-flowers, and then boiling them with sugar: this violet-sherbet
is of a green colour: a fourth kind is prepared from mulberries:
a fifth, from sorrel. There is also a kind of sherbet sold


in the streets,4 which is made with raisins, as its name implies
another kind, which is a strong infusion of liquorice-root, and called
by the name of that root; and a third kind, which is prepared
from the fruit of the locust tree, and called, in like manner, by
the name of the fruit. The sherbet is served in coloured glass
cups, generally called “kullehs,” containing about three-quarters
of a pint; some of which (the more common kind) are ornamented
with gilt flowers, etc. The sherbet-cups are placed on a round
tray, and covered with a round piece of embroidered silk, or cloth
of gold. On the right arm of the person who presents the sherbet
is hung a large oblong napkin with a wide embroidered border of
gold and coloured silks at each end. This is ostensibly offered
2 Called simply “sharbát,” or “sharbát sukkar,” or only “sukkar.”
3 “Leymoonáteh,” or “sharáb el-leymoon.”
4 Called “zebeeb,” This name is also given to an intoxicating conserve.

for the purpose of wiping the lips after drinking the sherbet; but
it is really not so much for use as for display: the lips are seldom
or scarcely touched with it.
The interval between supper and the “'eshë,” or time of the
night-prayers, is generally passed in smoking a pipe, and sipping
a cup of coffee. The enjoyment of the pipe may be interrupted
by prayer, but is continued afterwards; and sometimes draughts
or chess, or some other game, or at least conversation, contributes
to make the time glide away more agreeably. The members
of an Egyptian family in easy circumstances may pass their
time very pleasantly; but they do so in a quiet way. The men often
pay evening visits to their friends, at, or after, supper-time. They
commonly use, on these and similar occasions, a folding lantern
(“fánoos”), composed of waxed cloth strained over rings of wire,
and a top and bottom of tinned copper. This kind of lantern is
here represented, together with the common lamp (“kandeel”),
and its usual receptacle of wood, which serves to protect the
flame from the wind. The lamp is a small vessel of glass, having
a little tube in the bottom, in which is stuck a wick formed of
cotton twisted round a piece of straw. Some water is poured in
first, and then the oil. A lamp of this kind is often hung over
the entrance of a house. By night, the interiors of the houses
present a more dull appearance than in the day: the light of one
or two candles (placed on the floor or on a stool, and sometimes
surrounded by a large glass shade, or enclosed in a glass lantern,
on account of the windows being merely of lattice-work) is generally
thought sufficient for a large and lofty saloon. Few of the
Egyptians sit up later, in summer, than three or four o'clock,
which is three or four hours after sunset; for their reckoning of
time is from sunset at every season of the year: in winter they
often sit up five or six hours.
Thus the day is usually spent by men of moderate wealth who
have no regular business to attend to, or none that requires their
own active superintendence. But it is the habit of the tradesman
to repair, soon after breakfast, to his shop or warehouse, and to
remain there until near sunset.1 He has leisure to smoke as
much as he likes; and his customers often smoke with him. To
some of these he offers his own pipe (unless they have theirs with
them), and a cup of coffee, which is obtained from the nearest
coffee-shop. A great portion of the day he sometimes passes in
1 A description of the shops, and a further account of the tradesmen of Cairo,
will be given in another chapter, on Industry.

agreeable chat with customers, or with the tradesmen of the next
or opposite shops. He generally says his prayers without moving
from the shop. Shortly after the noon-prayers, or sometimes
earlier or later, he eats a light meal, such as a plate of kebáb and
a cake of bread (which a boy or maid daily brings from his house,
or procures in the market), or some bread and cheese or pickles,
etc., which are carried about the streets for sale; and if a customer
be present, he is always invited, and often pressed, to partake of
this meal. A large earthen bottle of water is kept in the shop,
and replenished, whenever necessary, by a passing “sakka,” or
water-carrier. In the evening, the tradesman returns to his house,
eats his supper, and, soon after, retires to bed.
It is the general custom in Egypt for the husband and wife
to sleep in the same bed, excepting among the wealthy classes,
who mostly prefer separate beds. The bed is usually thus prepared
in the houses of persons of moderate wealth: a mattress,
stuffed with cotton, about six feet long, and three or four feet in
width, is placed upon a low frame; a pillow is placed for he head,
and a sheet spread over this and the mattress: the only covering
in summer is generally a thin blanket: and in winter a thick quilt,
stuffed with cotton. If there be no frame, the mattress is placed
upon the floor; or two mattresses are laid one upon the other,
with the sheet, pillow, etc.; and often, a cushion of the deewán is
placed on each side. A musquito-curtain1 is suspended over the
bed by means of four strings, which are attached to nails in the
wall. The dress is seldom changed on going to bed; and in
winter, many people sleep with all their ordinary clothes on,
excepting the gibbeh, or cloth coat; but in summer, they sleep
almost, or entirely, unclad. In winter, the bed is prepared in a
small closet (called “khazneh”): in summer, in a large room.
All the bed-clothes are rolled up, in the day-time, and placed on
one side, or in the closet above-mentioned. During the hottest
weather, many people sleep upon the house-top, or in a “fes-hah,”
(or “fesahah”), which is an uncovered apartment; but ophthalmia
and other diseases often result from their thus exposing themselves
to the external air at night. The most common kind of
frame for the bed is made of palm-sticks; but this harbours bugs,
which are very abundant in Egypt in the summer, as fleas are
in the winter. These and other plagues to which the people of
Egypt are exposed by night and day have been before mentioned.2
1 “Námooseeyeh.” It is composed of muslin, or linen of an open texture,
or crape, and forms a close canopy.
2 In the Introduction to this work.

With regard to the most disgusting of them, the lice, it may here
be added, that, though they are not always to be avoided even by
the most scrupulous cleanliness, a person who changes his linen
after two or three days' wear is very seldom annoyed by these
vermin; and when he is, they are easily removed, not attaching
themselves to the skin; they are generally found in the linen. A
house may be kept almost clear of fleas by frequent washing and
sweeping; and the flies may be kept out by placing nets at the
doors and windows; but it is impossible to purify an Egyptian
house from bugs, if it contain much wood-work, which is generally
the case.
The male servants lead a very easy life, with the exception of
the “sáïs,” or groom, who whenever his master takes a ride, runs
before or beside him; and this he will do in the hottest weather
for hours together, without appearing fatigued. Almost every
wealthy person in Cairo has a “bowwáb,” or door-keeper, always
at the door of his house, and several other male servants. Most
of these are natives of Egypt; but many Nubians are also employed
as servants in Cairo and other Egyptian towns. The
latter are mostly bowwábs, and are generally esteemed more honest
than the Egyptian servants; but I am inclined to think, from the
opinion of several of my friends, and from my own experience,
that they have acquired this reputation only by superior cunning,
The wages of the male servants are very small, usually from one
to two dollars (or from four to eight shillings) per month: but
they receive many presents.1 On the “'eed” (or festival) after
Ramadán, the master generally gives, to each of his servants, part
or the whole of a new suit of clothes, consisting of an “'eree” (a
blue shirt, which is their outer dress), a “tarboosh,” and a turban.
Other articles of dress which they require during the year (excepting,
sometimes, shoes) the servants are obliged to provide for
themselves. Besides what their master gives them, they also
receive small presents of money from his visitors, and from the
tradespeople with whom he deals; particularly whenever he has
1 “The habit of irregular remuneration, in lieu of fixed, invariable, and
actionable wages, produces a difference of mental habits, as regards servants
and masters, that I am sure is not to be understand through description; and
yet every day you see Europeans, those men who affect such comprehensive
views and such powers of logic, reviling the habit of giving presents, not perceiving
that this practices leads to the preservation of those interesting domestic
relations which I conceive to be the greatest lesson, political and moral, that
is presented to us by the Eastern world.”—Urquhart's Spirit of the East, vol.
ii. p. 402.

made any considerable purchase. They sleep in the clothes
which they wear during the day, each upon a small mat; and in
winter they cover themselves with a cloak1 or blanket. In some
respects, they are often familiar in their manners to their master,
even laughing and joking with him: in others, they are very submissive:
paying him the utmost honour, and bearing corporal
chastisement from his hand with child-like patience.
1 See Exodus, xxii. 26, 27.
The male black slave is treated with more consideration than
the free servant; and leads a life well suited to his lazy disposition.
If discontented with his situation, he can legally compel
his master to sell him. Many of the slaves in Egypt wear the
Turkish military dress. They are generally the greatest fanatics
in the East; and more accustomed than any other class to insult
the Christians and every people who are not of the faith which
they have themselves adopted, without knowing more of its
doctrines than Arab children who have been but a week at school.
Of the female slaves, some account will be given in the next
An acquaintance with the modern inhabitants of Egypt leads us
often to compare their domestic habits with those of Europeans
in the middle ages; and, perhaps, in this comparison, the points
of resemblance which we observe, with regard to the men, are
more striking than the contrasts; but the reverse will be found to
be the case when we consider the state of the females.

[Back to top]

DOMESTIC LIFE—continued.

QUITTING the lower apartments, where we have been long detained,
I must enter upon a more presumptuous office than I have yet
undertaken, which is that of a guide to the “Hareem:”2 but
first I must give some account of marriage, and the marriage-ceremonies.
2 The term “hareem” (which, as before mentioned, is applied both to the
females of a family and to the apartments which they occupy) signifies prohibited, sacred, etc. The Turks, and many of the Arabs, use the synonymous
Arabic term “haram,” which the former pronounce “harem.”
To abstain from marrying when a man has attained a sufficient

age, and when there is no just impediment, is esteemed, by the
Egyptians, improper, and even disreputable. For being myself
guilty of this fault (to use no harsher term), I have suffered much
inconvenience and discomfort during my stay in this country, and
endured many reproaches. During my former visit to Egypt, having
occasion to remove from a house which I had occupied for some
months in a great thoroughfare-street in Cairo, I engaged another
house, in a neighbouring quarter: the lease was written, and some
money paid in advance; but a day or two after, the agent of the
owner came to inform me that the inhabitants of the quarter, who
were mostly “shereefs” (or descendants of the Prophet), objected
to my living among them, because I was not married. He added,
however, that they would gladly admit me if I would even purchase
a female slave, which would exempt me from the opprobrium
cast upon me by the want of a wife. I replied, that, being merely
a sojourner in Egypt, I did not like to take either a wife or female
slave, whom I must soon abandon: the money that I had paid was,
therefore, returned to me. In another quarter, I was less unfortunate;
such heavy objections on account of my being unmarried
were not raised: I was only required to promise that no persons
wearing hats should come into the quarter to visit me; yet, after
I had established myself in my new residence, the sheykh (or
chief) of the quarter often endeavoured to persuade me to
marry. All my arguments against doing so he deemed of no
weight. “You tell me,” said he, “that in a year or two you mean
to leave this country: now, there is a young widow, who, I am
told, is handsome, living within a few doors of you, who will be
glad to become your wife, even with the express understanding
that you shall divorce her when you quit this place; thought, of
course, you may do so before, if she should not please you.”
This young damsel had several times contrived to let me catch
a glimpse of a pretty face, as I passed the house in which she
and her parents lived. What answer could I return? I replied,
that I had actually, by accident, seen her face, and that she was
the last woman I should wish to marry, under such circumstances:
for I was sure that I could never make up my mind to part with
her. But I found it rather difficult to silence my officious friend.
—It has been mentioned before, in the Introduction, that an unmarried
man, or one who has not a female slave, is usually obliged
to dwell in a wekáleh, unless he has some near relation with
whom to reside; but that Franks are now exempted from this restriction.


The Egyptian females arrive at puberty much earlier than the
natives of colder climates. Many marry at the age of twelve or
thirteen years; and some remarkably precocious girls are married
at the age of ten: 1 but such occurrences are not common. Few
remain unmarried after sixteen years of age. An Egyptian girl at
the age of thirteen, or even earlier, may be a mother. The women
of Egypt are generally very prolific; but females of other countries
residing here are often childless; and the children of foreigners,
born in Egypt, seldom live to a mature age, even when the mother
is a native. It was on this account that the emancipated Memlooks
(or military slaves) usually adopted Memlooks.
1 They are often betrothed two or three or more years earlier.
It is very common among the Arabs of Egypt and of other
countries, but less so in
Cairo than in other parts of Egypt, for a
man to marry his first cousin. In this case, the husband and
wife continue to call each other “cousin;” because the tie of
blood is indissoluble; but that of matrimony very precarious. A
union of this kind is generally lasting, on account of this tie of
blood; and because mutual intercourse may have formed an
attachment between the parties in tender age; though, if they
be of the higher or middle classes, the young man is seldom
allowed to see the face of his female cousin, or even to meet and
converse with her, after she has arrived at or near the age of
puberty, until she has become his wife.
Marriages in Cairo are generally conducted, in the case of a
virgin, in the following manner; but in that of a widow, or a
divorced woman, with little ceremony. Most commonly, the
mother, or some other near female relation, of the youth or man
who is desirous of obtaining a wife, describes to him the personal
and other qualifications of the young woman with whom she is
acquainted, and directs his choice:2 or he employs a “khát'beh,”
or “khátibeh;” a woman whose regular business it is to assist
men in such cases. Sometimes two or more women of this profession
are employed. A khát'beh gives her report confidentially,
describing one girl as being like a gazelle, pretty and elegant and
young; and another, as not pretty, but rich, and so forth. If the
man have a mother and other near female relations, two or three
of these usually go with a khát'beh to pay visits to several hareems,
to which she has access in her professional character of a matchmaker;
2 Abraham's sending a messenger to his own country to seek a wife for his
son Isaac (see Genesis xxiv.) was just such a measure as most modern Arabs
would adopt under similar circumstances, if easily practicable.

for she is employed as much by the women as by the
men. She sometimes also exercises the trade of a “delláleh” (or
broker) for the sale of ornaments, clothing, etc., which procures
her admission into almost every hareem. The women who accompany
her in search of a wife for their relation are introduced
to the different hareems merely as ordinary visitors; and as such,
if disappointed, they soon take their leave, though the object of
their visit is of course understood by the other party: but if they
find among the females of a family (and they are sure to see all
who are marriageable) a girl or young woman having the necessary
personal qualifications, they state the motive of their visit, and
ask, if the proposed match be not at once disapproved of, what
property, ornaments, etc., the object of their wishes may possess.
If the father of the intended bride be dead, she may perhaps
possess one or more houses, shops, etc.; and in almost every
case, a marriageable girl of the middle or higher ranks has a set
or ornaments of gold and jewels. The women-visitors, having
asked these and other questions, bring their report to the expectant
youth or man. If satisfied with their report, he gives a present
to the khát'beh, and sends her again to the family of his
intended wife, to make known to them his wishes. She generally
gives an exaggerated description of his personal attractions, wealth,
etc. For instance, she will say, of a very ordinary young man, of
scarcely any property, and of whose disposition she knows nothing,
“My daughter, the youth who wishes to marry you is young,
graceful, elegant, beardless, has plenty of money, dresses handsomely,
is fond of delicacies, but cannot enjoy his luxuries alone;
he wants you as his companion; he will give you everything that
money can procure; he is a stayer-at-home, and will spend his
whole time with you, caressing and fondling you.”
The parents may betroth their daughter to whom they please,
and marry her to him without her consent, if she be not arrived
at the age of puberty; but after she has attained that age, she
may choose a husband for herself, and appoint any man to arrange
and effect her marriage. In the former case, however, the khát'beh
and the relations of a girl sought in marriage usually endeavour to
obtain her consent to the proposed union. Very often, a father
objects to giving a daughter in marriage to a man who is not of
the same profession or trade as himself; and to marrying a younger
daughter before an elder.1 The bridegroom can scarcely ever
1 See Genesis xxix. 26.

obtain even a surreptitious glance at the features of his bride,
until he finds her in his absolute possession, unless she belong to
the lower classes of society; in which case, it is easy enough for
him to see her face.
When a female is about to marry, she should have a “wekeel”
(or deputy) to settle the compact, and conclude the contract, for
her, with her proposed husband. If she be under the age of
puberty, this is absolutely necessary; and in this case, her father,
if living, or (if he be dead) her nearest adult male relation, or a
guardian appointed by will, or by the Kádee, performs the office
of wekeel: but if she be of age, she appoints her own wekeel, or
may even make the contract herself; though this is seldom done.
After a youth or man has made choice of a female to demand
in marriage, on the report of his female relations, or that of the
khát'beh, and, by proxy, made the preliminary arrangements before
described with her and her relations in the hareem, he repairs
with two or three of his friends to her wekeel. Having obtained
the wekeel's consent to the union, if the intended bride be under
age, he asks what is the amount of the required “mahr” (or
The giving of a dowry is indispensable, as I have mentioned in
a former chapter. It is generally calculated in “riyáls,” of ninety
faddahs (now equivalent to five pence and two-fifths) each. The
riyál is an imaginary money, not a coin. The usual amount of
the dowry, if the parties be in possession of a moderately good
income, is about a thousand riyáls (or twenty-two pounds ten
shillings); or, sometimes, not more than half that sum. The
wealthy calculate the dowry in purses, of five hundred piasters
(now, five pounds sterling) each; and fix its amount at ten purses,
or more. It must be borne in mind that we are considering the
case of a virgin-bride; the dowry of a widow or a divorced woman
is much less. In settling the amount of the dowry, as in other
pecuniary transactions, a little haggling frequently takes place: if
a thousand riyáls be demanded through the wekeel, the party of
the intended bridegroom will probably make an offer of six hundred:
the former party then gradually lowering the demand, and
the other increasing the offer, they at length agree to fix it at eight
hundred. It is generally stipulated that two-thirds of the dowry
shall be paid immediately before the marriage contract is made;
and the remaining third held in reserve, to be paid to the wife in
case of divorcing her against her own consent, or in case of the
husband's death.


This affair being settled, and confirmed by all persons present
reciting the opening chapter of the Kur-án (the Fát'hah), an early
day (perhaps the day next following) is appointed for paying the
money, and performing the ceremony of the marriage-contract,
which is properly called “'akd ennikáh.”1 The making this contract
is commonly called “ketb el-kitáb” (or the writing of the
writ); but it is very seldom the case that any document is written
to confirm the marriage, unless the bridegroom is about to travel to
another place, and fears that he may have occasion to prove his
marriage where witnesses of the contract cannot be procured.
Sometimes the marriage-contract is concluded immediately after
the arrangement respecting the dowry, but more generally a day or
two after. On the day appointed for this ceremony, the bridegroom,
again accompanied by two or three of his friends, goes to the house
of the bride, usually about noon, taking with him that portion of the
dowry which he has promised to pay on this occasion. He and
his companions are received by the bride's wekeel; and two or
more friends of the latter are usually present. It is necessary
that there be two witnesses (and those must be Muslims) to the
marriage-contract, unless in a situation where witnesses cannot be
procured. All persons present recite the Fát'hah; and the bridegroom
then pays the money. After this, the marriage-contract is
performed. It is very simple. The bridegroom and the bride's
wekeel sit upon the ground, face to face, with one knee upon the
ground, and grasp each other's right hand, raising the thumbs,
and pressing them against each other. A fikee2 is generally employed to instruct them what they are to say. Having placed a
handkerchief over their joined hands, he usually prefaces the
words of the contract with a “khutbeh,” consisting of a few
words of exhortation and prayer, with quotations from the Kur-án
and Traditions, on the excellency and advantages of marriage.
He then desires the bride's wekeel to say, “I betroth [or marry],
to thee, my daughter [or the female who has appointed me her
wekeel], such a one [naming the bride], the virgin 3 [or the adult
virgin], for a dowry of such an amount.” (The words “for a

dowry,” etc., are sometimes omitted.) The bride's wekeel having
said this, the bridegroom, prompted in the same manner by the
fikee, says, “I accept from thee her betrothal [or marriage] to
myself, and take her under my care, and bind myself to afford
her my protection; and ye who are present bear witness of this.”
The wekeel addresses the bridegroom in the same manner a
second and a third time; and each time, the latter replies as
before. They then generally add, “And blessing be on the Apostles,
and praise be to God, the Lord of all creatures: amen:”
after which, all present again repeat the Fát'hah. It is not always
the same form of “khutbeh” that is recited on these occasions:
any form may be used; and it may be repeated by any person:
it is not even necessary; and is often altogether omitted. The
contract concluded, the bridegroom sometimes (but seldom unless
he be a person of the lower orders) kisses the hands of his friends
and others there present; and they are presented with sherbet,
and generally remain to dinner. Each of them receives an embroidered
handkerchief, provided by the family of the bride;
excepting the fikee, who receives a similar handkerchief, with a
small gold coin tied up in it, from the bridegroom. Before the
persons assembled on this occasion disperse, they settle when the
“leylet ed-dukhleh” is to be: this is the night when the bride is
brought to the house of the bridegroom, and the latter, for the
first time, visits her.
1 It is a common belief in Egypt, that, if any one makes a marriage-contract
in the month of Moharram, the marriage will be unhappy, and soon dissolved:
wherefore, few persons do so. The most propitious period is the month of
2 This appellation is commonly given to a schoolmaster. See a note in page
3 If the bride be not a virgin, a word importing this is substituted; namely,
“seyyib,” or, more properly, “theyyib.”
In general, the bridegroom waits for his bride about eight or
ten days after the conclusion of the contract. Meanwhile, he
sends to her, two or three or more times, some fruit, sweetmeats,
etc.; and perhaps makes her a present of a shawl, or some other
article of value. The bride's family are at the same time occupied
in preparing for her a stock of household furniture (as deewáns,
matting, carpets, bedding, kitchen-utensils, etc.) and dress. The
portion of the dowry which has been paid by the bridegroom,
and generally a much larger sum (the additional money, which is
often more than the dowry itself, being supplied by the bride's
family), is expended in purchasing the articles of furniture, dress,
and ornaments, for the bride. These articles, which are called
“gaház,” are the property of the bride; and if she be divorced,
she takes them away with her. She cannot, therefore, with truth,
be said to be purchased.
1 The furniture is sent, commonly borne
1 Among the peasants, however, the father, or other lawful guardian of the
bride, receives the dowry, and gives nothing in return but the girl, and sometimes
a little corn, etc. The bridegroom, in this case, supplies everything;
even the dress of the bride.

by a train of camels, to the bridegroom's house. Often, among
the articles of the gaház is a chair for the turban or head-dress,
alluded to in a former page. It is of a large size, but slight make;
the bottom and back generally of cane-work; sometimes with a
canopy. It is never used to sit upon. The turban, when placed
upon it, is covered with a kerchief of thick silk stuff, usually
ornamented with gold thread. There are sometimes sent two of
these chairs; one for the husband and the other for the wife.
The bridegroom should receive his bride on the eve of Friday,
or that of Monday;1 but the former is generally esteemed the
more fortunate period. Let us say, for instance, that the bride is
to be conducted to him on the eve of Friday. During two or
three or more preceding nights, the street or quarter in which the
bridegroom lives is illuminated with chandeliers and lanterns, or
with lanterns and small lamps, some suspended from cords drawn
across from the bridegroom's and several other houses on each
side to the houses opposite; and several small silk flags, each of
two colours, generally red and green, are attached to these or
other cords.2 An entertainment is also given on each of these
nights, particularly on the last night before that on which the
wedding is concluded, at the bridegroom's house. On these
occasions, it is customary for the persons invited, and for all intimate
friends, to send presents to his house, a day or two before
the feast which they purpose or expect to attend; they generally
send sugar, coffee, rice, wax-candles, or a lamb: the former articles
are usually placed upon a tray of copper or wood, and covered
with a silk or embroidered kerchief. The guests are entertained
1 These entertainments I do not here particularly describe, as it is my intention
to devote the whole of a subsequent chapter to the subject of private
festivities. The “khatmeh” is the recitation of the whole of the Kur-án;
and the “zikr,” the repetition of the name of God, or of the profession of his
unity, etc.; I shall have occasion to speak of both more fully in another
chapter, on the periodical public festivals.

on these occasions by musicians and male or female singers, by
dancing girls, or by the performance of a “khatmeh” or a
1 Burckhardt has erred in stating that Monday and Thursday are the days on
which the ceremonies immediately previous to the marriage-night are performed,
he should have said Sunday and Thursday. He has also fallen into some other
errors in the account which he has given of the marriage ceremonies of the
Egyptians, in the illustrations of his “Arabic Proverbs” (pp. 112–118). To
mention this I feel to be a duty to myself; but one which I perform with
reluctance, and not without the fear that Burckhardt's just reputation for
general accuracy may make my reader think that he is right in these cases,
and that I am wrong. I write these words in
Cairo, with his book before
me, and after sufficient experience and inquiries.
2 The lantern here represented, which is constructed of wood, and painted
green, red, white, and blue, is called “tureiya” (the Arabic name of the
Pleiades), and, together with the frame above, from which six lamps are suspended, and which is termed “khátim Suleymán” (or Solomon's seal), composes
what is called a “heml kanádeel.”
In the houses of the wealthy, the khát'beh or khat'behs, together
with the “dáyeh” (or midwife) of the family, the “belláneh
(or female attendant of the bath), and the nurse of the
bride, are each presented, a day or two after the conclusion of
the contract, with a piece of gold stuff, a Kashmeer shawl, or a
piece of striped silk, such as yeleks and shintiyáns are made of;


and, placing these over the left shoulder, and attaching the edges
together on the right side, go upon asses, with two or more men
before them beating kettle drums or tabours, to the houses of all
the friends of the bride, to invite the females to accompany her

to and from the bath, and to partake of an entertainment given on
that occasion. At every house where they call, they are treated
with a repast, having sent notice the day before of their intended
visit. They are called “mudnát.”1 I have sometimes seen them
walking, and without the drums before them; but making up for
the want of these instruments by shrill, quavering cries of joy
called “zagháreet.”2
1 “From the verb ‘adna,' he brought,” etc.
2 These cries of the women, which are heard on various occasions of rejoicing
in Egypt and other Eastern countries, are produced by a sharp utterance
of the voice, accompanied by a quick, tremulous motion of the tongue.
On the preceding Wednesday (or on the Saturday if the wedding
be to conclude on the eve of Monday), at about the hour of
noon, or a little later, the bride goes in state to the bath.
3 The
procession to the bath is called “Zeffet el-Hammám.” It is
headed by a party of musicians with a hautboy, or two, and drums
of different kinds.4 Frequently, as I have mentioned in a former
chapter, some person avails himself of this opportunity to parade
his young son previously to circumcision; the child, and his
attendants, in this case, follow next after the musicians, in the
manner already described. Sometimes, at the head of the bride's
party are two men who carry the utensils and linen used in the
bath, upon two round trays, each of which is covered with an
embroidered or a plain silk kerchief; also a sakka, who gives
water to any of the passengers, if asked; and two other persons,
one of whom bears a “kumkum,” or bottle of plain or gilt silver,
or of china, containing rose-water, or orange-flower-water, which
he occasionally sprinkles on the passengers; and the other, a
“mibkhar'ah” (or perfuming-vessel) of silver, with aloes-wood, or
some other odoriferous substance, burning in it: but it is seldom
that the procession is thus attended. In general, the first persons
among the bride's party are several of her married female
relations and friends, walking in pairs; and next, a number of
young virgins. The former are dressed in the usual manner,
covered with the black silk habarah: the latter have white silk
habarahs, or shawls. Then follows the bride, walking under a
canopy of silk, of some gay colour, as pink, rose-colour, or yellow,
or of two colours composing wide stripes, often rose-colour and
yellow. It is carried by four men, by means of a pole at each
3 I have once seen this “zeffeh,” or procession, and a second which will be
described hereafter, go forth much later, and return an hour after sunset.
4 The music is generally of a very rude kind; and the airs usually played are
those of popular songs; specimens of which will be found in this work.


corner, and is open only in front; and at the top of each of the
four poles is attached an embroidered handkerchief. The dress
of the bride, during this procession, entirely conceals her person.
She is generally covered, from head to foot, with a red Kashmeer
shawl; or with a white or yellow shawl, though rarely. Upon her
head is placed a small pasteboard cap, or crown. The shawl is
placed over this, and conceals from the view of the public the
richer articles of her dress, her face, and her jewels, etc., excepting
one or two “kussahs”1 (and sometimes other ornaments), generally
of diamonds and emeralds, attached to that part of the shawl
which covers her forehead. She is accompanied by two or three
of her female relations within the canopy; and often, when in hot
weather, a woman, walking backwards before her, is constantly
employed in fanning her, with a large fan of black ostrich-feathers,
the lower part of the front of which is usually ornamented with
a piece of looking-glass. Sometimes one zeffeh, with a single
canopy, serves for two brides, who walk side by side. The procession
moves very slowly, and generally pursues a circuitous
route, for the sake of greater display. On leaving the house, it
turns to the right. It is closed by a second party of musicians,
similar to the first, or by two or three drummers.
1 For a description of these ornaments, see the Appendix.
In the bridal processions of the lower orders, which are often
conducted in the same manner as that above described, the
women of the party frequently utter, at intervals, those shrill cries
of joy called zagháreet, which I have before had occasion to mention;
and females of the poorer classes, when merely spectators
of a zeffeh, often do the same.
The whole bath is sometimes hired for the bride and her party
exclusively. They pass several hours, or seldom less than two,
occupied in washing, sporting, and feasting; and frequently
“'A‘l'mehs” (or female singers) are hired to amuse them in the
bath: they then return in the same order in which they came.
The expense of the zeffeh falls on the relations of the bride; but
the feast is supplied by the bridegroom.
Having returned from the bath to the house of her family, the
bride and her companions sup together. If ‘A‘l'mehs have contributed
to the festivity in the bath, they also return with the
bride, to renew their concert. Their songs are always on the
subject of love, and of the joyous event which occasions their
presence. After the company have been thus entertained, a large
quantity of henna having been prepared, mixed into a paste, the

bride takes a lump of it in her hand, and receives contributions
(called “nukoot”) from her guests: each of them sticks a coin
(usually of gold) in the henna which she holds upon her hand;
and when the lump is closely stuck with these coins, she scrapes
it off her hand upon the edge of a basin of water. Having
collected in this manner from all her guests, some more henna is
applied to her hands and feet, which are then bound with pieces
of linen; and in this state they remain until the next morning,
when they are found to be sufficiently dyed with its deep orange-red
tint. Her guests make use of the remainder of the dye for
their own hands. This night is called “Leylet el-Henna,” or
“the Night of the Henna.”
It is on this night, and sometimes also during the latter half of
the preceding day, that the bridegroom gives his chief entertainment.
“Mohabbazeen” (or low farce-players) often perform on
this occasion before the house, or, if it be large enough, in the
court. The other and more common performances by which the
guests are amused have been before mentioned.
On the following day the bride goes in procession to the house
of the bridegroom. The procession before described is called
“the zeffeh of the bath,” to distinguish it from this, which is the
more important, and which is therefore particularly called “Zeffet
el-‘Arooseh,” or “the Zeffeh of the Bride.” In some cases, to
diminish the expenses of the marriage-ceremonies, the bride is
conducted privately to the bath, and only honoured with a zeffeh
to the bridegroom's house. This procession is exactly similar to
the former. The bride and her party, after breakfasting together,
generally set out a little after mid-day. They proceed in the
same order, and at the same slow pace, as in the zeffeh of the
bath; and, if the house of the bridegroom be near, they follow a
circuitous route, through several principal streets, for the sake of
display. The ceremony usually occupies three or more hours.
Sometimes, before bridal processions of this kind, two swordsmen,
clad in nothing but their drawers, engage each other in a
mock combat; or two peasants cudgel each other with nebboots,
or long staves. In the procession of a bride of a wealthy family,
any person who has the art of performing some extraordinary feat
to amuse the spectators is almost sure of being a welcome assistant,
and of receiving a handsome present.1 When the seyyid
1 One of the most common of the feats witnessed on such an occasion is the
performance of a laborious task by a water-carrier, termed a “keiyim,” who,
for the sake of a present, and this empty title, carries a water-skin filled with
sand and water, of greater weight, and for a longer period, than any of his
brethren will venture to do; and this he must accomplish without ever sitting
down, except in a crouching position, to rest. In the case of a bridal procession
which I lately witnessed, the keiyim began to carry his burden, a skin of
sand and water weighing about two hundred pounds, at sunset of the preceding
day; bore it the whole night, and the ensuing day, before and during the
procession, and continued to do so till sunset.


‘Omar, the Nakeeb el-Ashráf (or chief of the descendants of the
Prophet), who was the main instrument of advancing Mohammad
‘Alee to the dignity of Básha of Egypt, married a daughter, about
twenty-seven years since, there walked before the procession a
young man who had made an incision in his abdomen, and drawn
out a large portion of his intestines, which he carried before him
on a silver tray. After the procession he restored them to their
proper place, and remained in bed many days before he recovered
from the effects of this foolish and disgusting act. Another man,
on the same occasion, ran a sword through his arm, before the
crowding spectators, and then bound over the wound, without
withdrawing the sword, several handkerchiefs, which were soaked
with the blood. These facts were described to me by an eyewitness.
A spectacle of a more singular and more disgusting
nature used to be not uncommon on similar occasions, but is now
very seldom witnessed.1 Sometimes, also, “háwees” (or conjurors
and sleight-of-hand performers) exhibit a variety of tricks on
these occasions. But the most common of all the performances
here mentioned are the mock fights. Similar exhibitions are also
sometimes witnessed on the occasion of a circumcision.2
1 A correct description of this is given in Burckhardt's “Arabic Proverbs,”
pp. 115, 116.
2 Grand zeffehs are sometimes accompanied by a number of cars, each
bearing a group of persons of some manufacture or trade performing the usual
work of their craft; even such as builders, white-washers, etc.; including
members of all, or almost all, the arts and manufactures practised in the
The bride and her party, having arrived at the bridegroom's
house, sit down to a repast. Her friends, shortly after, take their
departure, leaving with her only her mother and sister, or other
near female relations, and one or two other women, usually the
belláneh. The ensuing night is called “Leylet ed-Dukhleh,” or
“the Night of the Entrance.”
The bridegroom sits below. Before sunset, he goes to the bath,
and there changes his clothes; or he merely does the latter at
home, and, after having supped with a party of his friends, waits
till a little before the “'eshë” (or time of the night-prayer), or

until the third or fourth hour of the night, when, according to
general custom, he should repair to some celebrated mosque, such
as that of the Hasaneyn, and there say his prayers. If young, he
is generally honoured with a zeffeh on this occasion: he goes to
the mosque preceded by musicians with drums and one or more
hautboys, and accompanied by a number of friends, and by several
men bearing “mesh'als.” The mesh'al is a staff with a cylindrical
frame of iron at the top filled with flaming wood, or having two,
three, four, or five of these receptacles for fire. The party usually


proceeds to the mosque with a quick pace, and without much
order. A second group of musicians, with the same instruments,
or with drums only, closes the procession. The bridegroom is
generally dressed in a kuftán with red stripes, and a red gibbeh,
with a Kashmeer shawl of the same colour for his turban; and
walks between two friends similarly dressed. The prayers are
commonly performed merely as a matter of ceremony; and it is
frequently the case that the bridegroom does not pray at all, or
prays without having previously performed the wudoó, like memlooks

who say their prayers only because they fear their master.1
The procession returns from the mosque with more order and
display, and very slowly; perhaps because it would be considered
unbecoming in the bridegroom to hasten home to take possession
of his bride. It is headed, as before, by musicians, and two or
more bearers of mesh'als. These are generally followed by two
men, bearing, by means of a pole resting horizontally upon their
shoulders, a hanging frame, to which are attached about sixty or
more small lamps, in four circles, one above another, the uppermost
of which circles is made to revolve, being turned round
occasionally by one of the two bearers. These numerous lamps,
and several mesh'als beside those before mentioned, brilliantly
illumine the streets through which the procession passes, and
produce a remarkably picturesque effect. The bridegroom and
his friends and other attendants follow, advancing in the form of
an oblong ring, all facing the interior of the ring, and each bearing
in his hand one or more wax candles, and sometimes a sprig
of henna or some other flower, excepting the bridegroom and the
friend on either side of him. These three form the latter part of
the ring, which generally consists of twenty or more persons. At
frequent intervals the party stops for a few minutes; and during
each of these pauses, a boy or man, one of the persons who compose
the ring, sings a few words of an epithalamium. The sounds
of the drums, and the shrill notes of the hautboy (which the bride
hears half an hour or more before the procession arrives at the
house), cease during these songs. The train is closed, as in the
former case, by a second group of musicians.
1 Hence this kind of prayer is called “salah memáleekeeyeh,” or “the
prayer of memlooks.”
In the manner above described, the bridegroom's zeffeh is most
commonly conducted; but there is another mode, that is more
respectable, called “zeffeh sádátee,” which signifies “the gentlemen's
zeffeh.” In this, the bridegroom is accompanied by his
friends in the same manner as before related, and attended and
preceded by men bearing mesh'als, but not by musicians: in the
place of these are about six or eight men, who, from their being
employed as singers on occasions of this kind, are called “wilád
el-läyálee,” or “sons of the nights.” Thus attended, he goes to
the mosque; and while he returns slowly thence to his house, the
singers above mentioned chant, or rather sing, “muweshshahs”
(or lyric odes) in praise of the Prophet. Having returned to the
house, these same persons chant portions of the Kur-án, one after

another, for the amusement of the guests; then, all together, recite
the opening chapter (the Fát'hah); after which one of them sings
a “kaseedeh” (or short poem) in praise of the Prophet: lastly,
all of them again sing muweshshahs. After having thus performed,
they receive “nukoot” (or contributions of money) from
the bridegroom and his friends.
Soon after his return from the mosque, the bridegroom leaves
his friends in a lower apartment, enjoying their pipes and coffee
and sherbet. The bride's mother and sister, or whatever other
female relations were left with her, are above; and the bride herself,
and the belláneh, in a separate apartment.1 If the bridegroom
be a youth or young man, it is considered proper that he,
as well as the bride, should exhibit some degree of bashfulness:
one of his friends, therefore, carries him a part of the way up to
the hareem. On entering the bride's apartment, he gives a present
to the belláneh, and she retires. The bride has a shawl
thrown over her head; and the bridegroom must give her a present
of money, which is called “the price of the uncovering of the
face,” before he attempts to remove this, which she does not allow
him to do without some apparent reluctance, if not violent resistance,
in order to show her maiden modesty. On removing the
covering, he says, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the
Merciful;” and then greets her with this compliment: “The
night be blessed,” or “—is blessed:” to which she replies, if
timidity do not choke her utterance, “God bless thee.” The
bridegroom now sees the face of his bride for the first time, and
generally finds her nearly what he has been led to expect. He
remains with her but a few minutes longer:2 having satisfied his
curiosity respecting her personal charms, he calls to the women
(who generally collect at the door, where they wait in anxious
suspense) to raise their cries of joy, or zagháreet: and the shrill
sounds acquaint the persons below and in the neighbourhood, and
often, responded by other women, spread still further the news,
that he has acknowledged himself satisfied with his bride: he
soon afterwards descends to rejoin his friends, and remains with
them an hour, or more, before he returns to his wife. It very
1 Sometimes, when the parties are persons of wealth, the bride is displayed
before the bridegroom in different dresses, to the number of seven.
2 I beg to refer the reader, if he desire further details on this subject, to
page 117 of Burckhardt's “Arabic Proverbs.” His account might have been
more complete; but he seems to have studied to be particularly concise in this

seldom happens that the husband, if disappointed in his bride,
immediately disgraces and divorces her; in general, he retains
her, in this case, a week or more.
Having now described the most usual manner in which the
marriages of virgin-brides are conducted in Cairo, I may add a
few words on some of the ceremonies observed in other cases of
matrimony, both of virgins and of widows or divorced women.
The daughters of the great, generally having baths in their own
houses, seldom go to the public bath previously to marriage. A
bride of a wealthy family, and her female relations and friends, if
there be not a bath in her house, go to the public bath, which is
hired for them exclusively, and to the bridegroom's house, without
music or canopy, mounted on asses: the bride herself generally
wearing a Kashmeer shawl, in the manner of a habarah.
If the bridegroom or the bride's family have eunuchs, these ride
before the bride; and sometimes a man runs at the head of the
procession, crying, “Bless ye the Prophet!” This man, on
entering the house, throws down upon the threshold some leaves
of the white beet (“salk”), over which the ladies ride. The
object of this act is to propitiate fortune. The same man then
exclaims, “Assistance from God, and a speedy victory!”1
1 Kur-án, chap. lxi., ver. 13.
Marriages, among the Egyptians, are sometimes conducted
without any pomp or ceremony, even in the case of virgins, by
mutual consent of the bridegroom and the bride's family, or the
bride herself; and widows and divorced women are never honoured
with a zeffeh on marrying again. The mere sentence, “I
give myself up to thee,” uttered by a female to a man who
proposes to become her husband (even without the presence of
witnesses, if none can easily be procured), renders her his legal
wife, if arrived at puberty; and marriages with widows and
divorced women, among the Muslims of Egypt, and other Arabs,
are sometimes concluded in this simple manner. The dowry of
such women is generally one quarter or third or half the amount
of that of a virgin.
In Cairo, among persons not of the lowest order, though in
very humble life, the marriage ceremonies are conducted in the
same manner as among the middle orders. But when the expenses
of such zeffehs as I have described cannot by any means
be paid, the bride is paraded in a very simple manner, covered
with a shawl (generally red), and surrounded by a group of her

female relations and friends, dressed in their best, or in borrowed,
clothes, and enlivened by no other sounds of joy than their
zagháreet, which they repeat at frequent intervals.
The general mode of zeffeh among the inhabitants of the
villages is different from those above described. The bride,
usually covered with a shawl, is seated on a camel, and so conveyed
to the bridegroom's dwelling. Sometimes four or five
women or girls sit with her on the same camel, one on either
side of her, and two or three others behind: the seat being made
very wide, and usually covered with carpets or other drapery.
She is followed by a group of women singing. In the evening
of the wedding, and often during several previous evenings, in a
village, the male and female friends of the two parties meet at
the bridegroom's house, and pass several hours of the night in
the open air, amusing themselves with songs and a rude kind
of dance, accompanied by the sounds of a tambourine or some
kind of drum: both sexes sing; but only the women dance.—I
have introduced here these few words on the marriage-ceremonies
of the peasantry to avoid scattering notes on subjects of the same
nature. I now revert to the customs of the people of Cairo.
On the morning after the marriage, “khäwals”1 or “gházeeyehs”
(dancing men or girls) perform in the street before the
bridegroom's house, or in the court.2 On the same morning also,
if the bridegroom be a young man, the person who carried him
upstairs generally takes him and several friends to an entertainment
in the country, where they spend the whole day. This
ceremony is called “el-huroobeh,” or the flight. Sometimes the
bridegroom himself makes the arrangements for it, and pays part
of the expenses, if they exceed the amount of the contributions
of his friends; for they give nukoot on this occasion. Musicians
and dancing girls are often hired to attend the entertainment. If
the bridegroom be a person of the lower orders, he is conducted
back in procession, preceded by three or four musicians with
drums and hautboy; his friends and other attendants carrying
each a nosegay, as in the zeffeh of the preceding night; and if
their return be after sunset, they are accompanied by men bearing
mesh'als, lamps, etc.; and the friends of the bridegroom
carry lighted wax candles, besides the nosegays.3 Subsequent
1 A khäwal is also called “gháïsh”; plural, “gheeyásh.”
2 This performance is called the bride's “sabáheeyeh.”
3 Among the peasants of Upper Egypt, the relations and acquaintances of
the bridegroom and bride meet together on the day after the marriage; and
while a number of the men clap their hands, as an accompaniment to a tambourine
or two, and any other instruments that can be procured, the bride
dances before them for a short time. She has a head-veil reaching to her
heels, and a printed cotton handkerchief completely covering her face, and
wears, externally, the most remarkable of her bridal garments (mentioned by
Burckhardt, in the place before referred to, and, in some parts of Egypt, hung
over the door of a peasant's house after marriage). Other women, similarly
veiled, and dressed in their best, or borrowed, clothes, continue the dance
about two hours, or more.

festivities occasioned by marriage will be described in a later
The husband, if he can conveniently so arrange, generally
prefers that his mother should reside with him and his wife; that she
may protect his wife's honour, and consequently his own also. It
is said that the mother-in-law is, for this reason, called “hamah.”1
The women of Egypt are said to be generally prone to criminal
intrigues; and I fear that, in this respect, they are not unjustly
accused. Sometimes a husband keeps his wife in the house of
her mother, and pays the daily expenses of both. This ought
to make the mother very careful with regard to expenditure, and
strict as to her daughter's conduct, lest the latter should be
divorced; but it is said that, in this case, she often acts as her
daughter's procuress, and teaches her innumerable tricks, by which
to gain the upper hand over her husband, and to drain his purse.
The influence of the wife's mother is also scarcely less feared
when she only enjoys occasional opportunities of seeing her
daughter: hence it is held more prudent for a man to marry a
female who has neither mother nor any near relations of her own
sex; and some wives are even prohibited receiving any female
friends but those who are relations of the husband: they are very
few, however, upon whom such severe restrictions are imposed.
1 Thus commonly pronounced, for “hamáh,” a word derived from the
verb “hama,” “he protected, or guarded.”
For a person who has become familiar with male Muslim
society in
Cairo, without marrying, it is not so difficult as might
be imagined by a stranger to obtain, directly and indirectly,
correct and ample information respecting the condition and habits
of the women. Many husbands of the middle classes, and some
of the higher orders, freely talk of the affairs of the hareem with
one who professes to agree with them in their general moral
sentiments, if they have not to converse through the medium of
an interpreter.
Though the women have a particular portion of the house

allotted to them, the wives, in general, are not to be regarded as
prisoners; for they are usually at liberty to go out and pay visits,
as well as to receive female visitors, almost as often as they
please. The slaves, indeed, being subservient to the wives, as
well as to their master, or, if subject to the master only, being
under an authority almost unlimited, have not that liberty. One
of the chief objects of the master in appropriating a distinct
suite of apartments to his women, is to prevent their being seen
by the male domestics and other men without being covered in
the manner prescribed by their religion. The following words
of the Kur-án show the necessity under which a Muslim'eh is
placed of concealing whatever is attractive in her person or attire
from all men, excepting certain relations and some other persons.
“And speak unto the believing women, that they restrain their
eyes, and preserve their modesty, and discover not their ornaments,
except what [necessarily] appeareth thereof: and let them
throw their veils over their bosoms, and not show their ornaments,
unless to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands'
fathers, or their sons, or their husbands' sons, or their brothers,
or their brothers' sons, or their sister's sons, or their women, or
those [captives] which their right hands shall possess, or unto
such men as attend [them] and have no need [of women], or
unto children:” “and let them not make a noise with their feet,
that their ornaments which they hid may [thereby] be discovered.”1
The last passage alludes to the practice of knocking
together the anklets which the Arab women in the time of the
Prophet used to wear, and which are still worn by many women
in Egypt.
1 Chap. xxiv. ver. 31.
I must here transcribe two notes of eminent commentators on
the Kur-án, in illustration of the above extract, and inserted in
Sale's translation. This I do, because they would convey an
erroneous idea of modern customs with regard to the admission,
or non-admission, of certain persons into the hareem. The first
is on the above words, “or their women,” which it thus explains:—
“That is, such as are of the Mohammadan religion: it being
reckoned by some unlawful, or, at least, indecent, for a woman
who is a true believer to uncover herself before one who is an
infidel; because the latter will hardly refrain from describing her
to the men: but others suppose all women in general are here
accepted; for, in this particular, doctors differ.” In Egypt, and,
I believe, in every other Muslim country, it is not now considered

improper for any woman, whether independent, or a servant, or a
slave, a Christian, a Jewess, a Muslim'eh, or a pagan, to enter
a Muslim's hareem.—The second of the notes above alluded to
is on the words “or those captives,” and is as follows:—“Slaves
of either sex are included in this exception, and, as some think,
domestic servants who are not slaves, as those of a different
nation. It is related that Mohammad once made a present of a
man-slave to his daughter Fátimeh; and when he brought him
to her, she had on a garment which was so scanty, that she was
obliged to leave either her head or her feet uncovered: and that
the Prophet, seeing her in great confusion on that account, told
her she need be under no concern, for that there was none
present but her father and her slave.” Among the Arabs of the
Desert, this may still be the case; but in Egypt I have never
heard of an instance of an adult male slave being allowed to see
the hareem of a respectable man, whether he belonged to that
hareem or not, and am assured that it is never permitted. Perhaps
the reason why the man-slave of a woman is allowed this
privilege by the Kur-án is, because she cannot become his lawful
wife as long as he continues her slave: but this is a poor reason
for granting him access to the hareem, in such a state of society.
It is remarkable that, in the verse of the Kur-án above quoted,
uncles are not mentioned as privileged to see their nieces unveiled:
some think that they are not admissible, and for this
reason, lest they should describe the persons of their nieces to
their sons; for it is regarded as highly improper for a man to
describe the features or person of a female (as to say, that she
has large eyes, a straight nose, small mouth, etc.) to one of his
own sex, by whom it is unlawful for her to be seen, though it is
not considered indecorous to describe her in general terms, as,
for instance, to say, “She is a sweet girl, and set off with kohl
and henna.”
It may be mentioned here, as a general rule, that a man is
allowed to see unveiled only his own wives and female slaves,
and those females whom he is prohibited by law from marrying,
on account of their being within certain degrees of consanguinity
or family connexion, or having given him suck, or being nearly
related to his foster-mother.1 The high antiquity of the veil has
been alluded to in the first chapter of this work. It has also been
mentioned that it is considered more necessary, in Egypt, for a
1 See the chapter on Religion and Laws. Eunuchs are allowed to see the
face of any woman; so also are young boys.

woman to cover the upper and back part of her head than her
face; and more requisite for her to conceal her face than most
other parts of her person. For instance, a female who cannot be
persuaded to unveil her face in the presence of men, will think it
but little shame to display the whole of her bosom, or the greater
part of her leg. There are, it is true, many women among the
lower classes in this country who constantly appear in public with
unveiled face; but they are almost constrained to do so by the
want to a burko' (or face-veil), and the difficulty of adjusting the
tarhah (or head-veil), of which scarcely any woman is destitute, so
as to supply the place of the former; particularly when both their
hands are occupied in holding some burden which they are carrying
upon the head. When a respectable woman is, by any chance,
seen with her head or face uncovered by a man who is not entitled
to enjoy that privilege, she quickly assumes or adjusts her
tarhab, and often exclaims, “O my misfortune!” or “O my sorrow!”
Motives of coquetry, however, frequently induce an
Egyptian woman to expose her face before a man when she thinks
that she may appear to do so unintentionally, or that she may be
supposed not to see him. A man may also occasionally enjoy
opportunities of seeing the face of an Egyptian lady when she
really thinks herself unobserved; sometimes at an open lattice,
and sometimes on a house-top. Many small houses in Cairo
have no apartment on the ground-floor for the reception of male
visitors, who therefore ascend to an upper room; but as they go
upstairs they exclaim several times, “Destoor!” (“Permission!”),
or “Yá Sátir!” (“O Protector!” that is, “O protecting God!”),
or us some similar ejaculation, in order to warn any woman who
may happen to be in the way, to retire, or to veil herself; which
she does by drawing a part of her tarhah before her face, so as to
leave, at most, only one eye visible. To such an absurd pitch do
the Muslims carry their feeling of the sacredness of women, that
entrance into the tombs of some females is denied to men; as, for
instance, the tombs of the Prophet's wives and other females of his
family, in the burial-ground of El-Medeeneh; into which women
are freely admitted; and a man and woman they never bury in
the same vault, unless a wall separate the bodies. Yet there are
among the Egyptians a few persons who are much less particular
in this respect: such is one of my Muslim friends here, who generally
allows me to see his mother when I call upon him. She is
a widow, of about fifty years of age; but, being very fat, and not
looking so old, she calls herself forty. She usually comes to the

door of the apartment of the hareem, in which I am received
(there being no lower apartment in the house for male visitors),
and sits there upon the floor, but will never enter the room.
Occasionally, and as if by accident, she shows me the whole of
her face, with plenty of kohl round her eyes; and does not attempt
to conceal her diamonds, emeralds, and other ornaments,
but rather the reverse. The wife, however, I am never permitted to
see, though once I was allowed to talk to her, in the presence of
her husband, round the corner of a passage at the top of the stairs.
I believe that in Egypt the women are generally under less
restraint than in any other country of the Turkish empire; so that
it is not uncommon to see females of the lower orders flirting and
jesting with men in public, and men laying their hands upon them
very freely. Still it might be imagined that the women of the
higher and middle classes feel themselves severely oppressed, and
are much discontented with the state of seclusion to which they
are subjected; but this is not commonly the case. On the contrary,
an Egyptian wife who is attached to her husband is apt to
think, if he allows her unusual liberty, that he neglects her, and
does not sufficiently love her; and to envy those wives who are
kept and watched with greater strictness.
It is not very common for an Egyptian to have more than one
wife, or a concubine-slave, though the law allows him four wives
(as I have before stated), and, according to common opinion, as
many concubine-slaves as he may choose. But though a man
restrict himself to a single wife, he may change as often as he
desires; and there are certainly not many persons in Cairo who
have not divorced one wife, if they have been long married. The
husband may, whenever he pleases, say to his wife, “Thou art
divorced;” if it be his wish, whether reasonable or not, she must
return to her parents or friends. This liability to an unmerited
divorcement is the source of more uneasiness to many wives than
all the other troubles to which they are exposed; as they may
thereby be reduced to a state of great destitution; but to others,
who hope to better their condition, it is, of course, exactly the
reverse. I have mentioned, in a former chapter, that a man many
divorce his wife twice, and each time receive her again without
any ceremony; but that he cannot legally take her again after a
third divorce until she has been married and divorced by another
man. The consequences of a triple divorce conveyed in one sentence
are the same, unless the man and his wife agree to infringe
the law, or the former deny his having pronounced the sentence;

in which latter case the woman may have much difficulty to enforce
his compliance with the law, if she be inclined to do so.
In illustration of this subject, I may mention a case in which
an acquaintance of mine was concerned as a witness of the sentence
of divorce. He was sitting in a coffee-shop with two other
men, one of whom had just been irritated by something that his
wife had said or done. After a short conversation upon this affair,
the angry husband sent for his wife, and as soon as she came,
said to her, “Thou art trebly divorced;” then addressing his two
companions, he added, “You, my brothers, are witnesses.” Shortly
after, however, he repented of this act, and wished to take back
his divorced wife; but she refused to return to him, and appealed
to the “Shara Allah” (or Law of God). The case was tried at
the Mahkem'eh. The woman, who was the plaintiff, stated that
the defendant was her husband; that he had pronounced against
her the sentence of a triple divorce; and that he now wished her
to return to him, and live with him as his wife, contrary to the
law, and consequently in a state of sin. The defendant denied
that he had divorced her. “Have you witnesses?” said the
judge to the plaintiff. She answered, “I have here two witnesses.”
These were the men who were present in the coffee-shop when
the sentence of divorce was pronounced. They were desired to
give their evidence, and they stated that the defendant divorced
his wife by a triple sentence, in their presence. The defendant
averred that she whom he had divorced in the coffee-shop was
another wife of his. The plaintiff declared that he had no other
wife: but the judge observed to her that it was impossible she
could know that; and asked the witnesses what was the name of
the woman whom the defendant divorced in their presence?
They answered that they were ignorant of her name. They were
then asked if they could swear that the plaintiff was the woman
who was divorced before them? Their reply was, that they could
not swear to a woman whom they had never seen unveiled.
Under these circumstances, the judge thought it advisable to dismiss
the case, and the woman was obliged to return to her husband.
She might have demanded that he should produce the
woman whom he professed to have divorced in the coffee-shop,
but he would easily have found a woman to play the part he required,
as it would not have been necessary for her to show a
marriage certificate; marriages being almost always performed in
Egypt without any written contract, and sometimes even without


It not unfrequently happens that, when a man who has divorced
his wife the third time wishes to take her again (she herself consenting
to their reunion, and there being no witnesses to the
sentence of divorce), he does so without conforming with the
offensive law before mentioned. It is also a common custom for
a man under similar circumstances to employ a person to marry
the divorced woman on the condition of his resigning her, the
day after their union, to him, her former husband, whose wife she
again becomes, by a second contract; though this is plainly
contrary to the spirit of the law. The wife, however, can withhold
her consent, unless she is not of age; in which case, her
father, or other lawful guardian, may marry her to whom he
pleases. A poor man (generally a very ugly person, and often
one who is blind) is usually chosen to perform this office. He is
termed a “Mustahall,” or “Mustahill,” or a “Mohallil.” It is often
the case that the man thus employed is so pleased with the beauty
of the woman to whom he is introduced on these terms, or with
her riches, that he refuses to give her up; and the law cannot
compel him to divorce her, unless he act unjustly towards her as
her husband; which of course he takes good care not to do.
But a person may employ a mustahall without running this risk.
It is the custom of many wealthy Turks, and of some of the people
of Egypt, to make use of a slave, generally a black, their own
property, to officiate in this character. Sometimes, a slave is
purchased for this purpose; or if the person who requires him for
such a service be acquainted with a slave-dealer, he asks from the
latter a present of a slave, signifying that he will give him back
again. The uglier the slave, the better. The Turks generally
choose one not arrived at puberty, which the tenets of their sect
allow. As soon as the woman has accomplished her “'eddeh”
(or the period during which she is obliged to wait before she can
marry again), the husband who divorced her, having previously
obtained her consent to what he is about to do, introduces the
slave to her, and asks her if she will be married to him. She
replies that she will. She is accordingly wedded to the slave, in
the presence of witnesses, and a dowry is given to her, to make
the marriage perfectly legal. The slave consummates the marriage,
and thus becomes the woman's legitimate husband. Immediately
after, or on the following morning, her former husband presents
this slave to her as her own property, and the moment that she
accepts him, her marriage with him becomes dissolved; for it is
unlawful for a woman to be the wife of her own slave: though

she may emancipate a slave, and then marry him. As soon as
her marriage is dissolved by her accepting the gift of the slave, she
may give back this slave to her husband: but it seldom happens
that the latter will allow a person who has been a mustahall for
him to remain in his house. The wife, after this proceeding,
may, as soon as she has again accomplished her 'eddeh, become
reunited to her former husband, after having been separated from
him, by the necessity of her fulfilling two 'eddehs, about half a
year, or perhaps more.
That the facility of divorce has depraving effects upon both
sexes may be easily imagined. There are many men in this
country who, in the course of ten years, have married as many as
twenty, thirty, or more wives; and women not far advanced in
age who have been wives to a dozen or more men successively.
I have heard of men who have been in the habit of marrying a
new wife almost every month. A person may do this although
possessed of very little property: he may choose, from among the
females of the lower orders in the streets of Cairo, a handsome
young widow or divorced woman who will consent to become his
wife for a dowry of about ten shillings; and when he divorces
her, he need not give her more than double that sum to maintain
her during her ensuing 'eddeh. It is but just, however, to add
that such conduct is generally regarded as very disgraceful; and
that few parents in the middle or higher classes will give a daughter
in marriage to a man who has divorced many wives.
Polygamy, which is also attended with very injurious effects
upon the morals of the husband and the wives, and only to be
defended because it serves to prevent a greater immorality than it
occasions, is more rare among the higher and middle classes than
it is among the lower orders; and it is not very common among
the latter. A poor man may indulge himself with two or more
wives, each of whom may be able, by some art or occupation,
nearly to provide her own subsistence; but most persons of the
middle and higher orders are deterred from doing so by the consideration
of the expense and discomfort which they would incur.
A man having a wife who has the misfortune to be barren, and
being too much attached to her to divorce her, is sometimes
induced to take a second wife, merely in the hope of obtaining
offspring; and from the same motive, he may take a third and
a fourth; but fickle passion is the most evident and common
motive both to polygamy and repeated divorces. They are comparatively
very few who gratify this passion by the former practice.

I believe that no more than one husband among twenty has two
When there are two or more wives belonging to one man, the
first (that is, the one first married) generally enjoys the highest
rank; and is called “the great lady.” Hence it often happens
that, when a man who has already one wife wishes to marry
another girl or woman, the father of the latter, or the female
herself who is sought in marriage, will not consent to the union
unless the firs wife by previously divorced. The women, of
course, do not approve of a man's marrying more than one wife.
Most men of wealth, or of moderate circumstances, and even
many men of the lower orders, if they have two or more wives,
have, for each, a separate house. The wife has, or can oblige her
husband to give her, a particular description of lodging, which is
either a separate house, or a suite of apartments (consisting of a
room in which to sleep and pass the day, a kitchen, and a latrina)
that are, or may be made, separate and shut out from any other
apartments in the same house. A fellow-wife is called “durrah.”1
The quarrels of durrahs are often talked of: for it may be
naturally inferred that, when two wives share the affection and
attentions of the same man, they are not always on terms of amity
with each other; and the same is generally the case with a wife
and a concubine-slave living in the same house, and under similar
circumstances.2 If the chief lady be barren, and an inferior,
either wife or slave, bear a child to her husband or master, it
commonly results that the latter woman becomes a favourite of
the man, and that the chief wife or mistress is “despised in her
eyes,” as Abraham's wife was in the eyes of Hagar on the same
account.3 It therefore not very unfrequently happens that the
first wife loses her rank and privileges; another becomes the chief
lady, and, being the favourite of her husband, is treated by her
rival or rivals, and by all the members and visitors of the hareem,
with the same degree of outward respect which the first wife
previously enjoyed: but sometimes the poisoned cup is employed
to remove her. A preference given to a second wife is often the
cause of the first's being registered as “náshizeh,”4 either on her
1 Commonly thus pronounced (or rather “durrah,” with a soft d) for
“darrah”; originally, perhaps, by way of a pun; as “durrah” is a common
name for a parrot.
2 The law enjoins a husband who has two or more wives, to be strictly impartial
to them in every respect; but compliance with its dictates in this matter is rare.
3 See Genesis xvi. 4.
4 This has been explained in the 3rd chapter, page 88.

husband's or her own application at the Mahkem'eh. Yet many
instances are known of neglected wives behaving with exemplary
and unfeigned submission to their husband, in such cases, and
with amiable good nature towards the favourite.1
1 In general, the most beautiful of a man's wives or slaves is, of course, for
a time, his greatest favourite; but in many (if not most) cases, the lasting
favourite is not the most handsome. The love of a Muslim, therefore, is not
always merely sensual; nor does the relative condition and comfort of his
wife, or of each of his wives, invariably depend so much on his caprice or her
own personal charms, as on her general conduct and disposition.
Some wives have female slaves who are their own property,
generally purchased for them, or presented to them, before
marriage. These cannot be the husband's concubines without
their mistress's permission, which is sometimes granted (as it was
in the case of Hagar, Sarah's bondwoman); but very seldom.
Often, the wife will not even allow her female slave or slaves to
appear unveiled in the presence of her husband. Should such a
slave, without the permission of her mistress, become the concubine
of the husband, and bear him a child, the child is a slave,
unless, prior to its birth, the mother be sold, or presented, to the
The white female slaves are mostly in the possession of wealthy
Turks. The concubine-slaves
2 in the houses of Egyptians of the
higher and middle classes are, generally, Abyssinians, of a deep
brown or bronze complexion. In their features, as well as their
complexions, they appear an intermediate race between the
negroes and white people: but the difference between them and
either of the above-mentioned races is considerable. They themselves,
however, think that they differ so little from the white
people, that they cannot be persuaded to act as servants, with
due obedience, to their master's wives; and the black (or negro)
slave-girl feels exactly in the same manner towards the Abyssinian;
but is perfectly willing to serve the white ladies. I should here
mention, that the slaves who are termed Abyssinians are not from
the country properly called Abyssinia, but from the neighbouring
territories of the Gallas. Most of them are handsome. The
average price of one of these girls is from ten to fifteen pounds
sterling, if moderately handsome; but this is only about half the
sum that used to be given for one a few years ago. They are
much esteemed by the voluptuaries of Egypt; but are of delicate
constitution: many of them die, in this country, of consumption.
The price of a white slave-girl is usually from treble to tenfold
2 A Muslim cannot take as a concubine a slave who is an idolatress.

that of an Abyssinian; and the price of a black girl, about half or
two-thirds, or considerably more if well instructed in the art of
cookery. The black slaves are generally employed as menials.1
1 The white female slave is called “Gáriyeh Beyda;” the Abyssinian,
“Gáriyeh Habasheeyeh;” and the black, “Gáriyeh Sóda.”
Almost all of the slaves become converts to the faith of El-Islám;
but, in general, they are little instructed in the rites of
their new religion; and still less in its doctrines. Most of the
white female slaves who were in Egypt during my former visit to
this country were Greeks; vast numbers of that unfortunate
people having been made prisoners by the Turkish and Egyptian
army under Ibráheem Básha; and many of them, males and
females, including even infants scarcely able to walk, sent to
Egypt to be sold. Latterly, from the impoverishment of the
higher classes in this country, the demand for white slaves has
been small. A few, some of whom undergo a kind of preparatory
education (being instructed in music or other accomplishments,
at Constantinople), are brought from Circassia and Georgia.
The white slaves, being often the only female companions,
and sometimes the wives, of the Turkish grandees, and being
generally preferred by them before the free ladies of Egypt, hold
a higher rank than the latter in common opinion. They are
richly dressed, presented with valuable ornaments, indulged, frequently,
with almost every luxury that can be procured, and,
when it is not their lot to wait upon others, may, in some cases,
be happy: as lately has been proved, since the termination of the
war in Greece, by many females of that country, captives in
Egyptian hareems, refusing their offered liberty, which all of
these cannot be supposed to have done from ignorance of the
state of their parents and other relations, or the fear of exposing
themselves to poverty. But, though some of them are undoubtedly
happy, at least for a time, their number is comparatively
small: most are fated to wait upon more favoured fellow-prisoners,
or upon Turkish ladies, or to receive the unwelcome
caresses of a wealthy dotard, or of a man who has impaired his
body and mind by excesses of every kind; and, when their
master or mistress becomes tired of them, or dies, are sold
again (if they have not borne children), or emancipated, and
married to some person in humble life, who can afford them but
few of the comforts to which they have been accustomed. The
female slaves in the houses of persons of the middle classes in
Egypt are generally more comfortably circumstanced than those

in the hareems of the wealthy: if concubines, they are, in most
cases, without rivals to disturb their peace; and if menials, their
service is light, and they are under less restraint. Often, indeed,
if mutual attachment subsist between her and her master, the
situation of a concubine-slave is more fortunate than that of a wife:
for the latter may be cast off by her husband in a moment of
anger, by an irrevocable sentence of divorce, and reduced to a
state of poverty; whereas a man very seldom dismisses a female
slave without providing for her in such a manner that, if she have
not been used to luxuries, she suffers but little, if at all, by the
change: this he generally does by emancipating her, giving her a
dowry, and marrying her to some person of honest reputation;
or by presenting her to a friend. I have already mentioned, that
a master cannot sell nor give away a slave who has borne him a
child, if he acknowledge it to be his own; and that she is entitled
to her freedom on his death. It often happens that such a
slave, immediately after the birth of her child, is emancipated,
and becomes her master's wife: when she has become free, she
can no longer lawfully supply the place of a wife unless he marry
her. Many persons consider it disgraceful even to sell a female
slave who has been long in their service. Most of the Abyssinian
and black slave-girls are abominably corrupted by the Gellábs,
or slave-traders, of Upper Egypt and Nubia, by whom they are
brought from their native countries: there are very few of the age
of eight or nine years who have not suffered brutal violence; and
so severely do these children, particularly the Abyssinians, and
boys as well as girls, feel the treatment which they endure from
the Gellábs, that many instances occur of their drowning themselves
during the voyage down the Nile.1 The female slaves of
every class are somewhat dearer than the males of the same age.
Those who have not had the small-pox are usually sold for less
than the others. Three days' trial is generally allowed to the
purchaser; during which time, the girl remains in his, or some
friend's, hareem; and the women make their report to him.
Snoring, grinding the teeth, or talking during sleep, are commonly
considered sufficient reasons for returning her to the dealer.—The
dresses of the female slaves are similar to those of the
Egyptian women.
1 The Gellábs generally convey their slaves partly over the desert and partly
down the river.
The female servants, who are Egyptian girls or women, are
those to whom the lowest occupations are allotted. They generally

veil their faces in the presence of their masters, with the
head-veil; drawing a part of this before the face, so that they
leave only one eye and one hand at liberty to see and perform
what they have to do. When a male visitor is received by the
master of a house in an apartment of the hareem (the females of
the family having been sent into another apartment on the occasions),
he is usually, or often, waited upon by a female servant,
who is always veiled.
Such are the relative conditions of the various classes in the
hareem. A short account of their usual habits and employments
must be added.
The wives, as well as the female slaves, are not only often
debarred from the privilege of eating with the master of the
family, but also required to wait upon him when he dines or sups,
or even takes his pipe and coffee in the hareem. They frequently
serve him as menials; fill and light his pipe, make coffee for him,
and prepare his food, or, at least, certain dainty dishes; and if I
might judge from my own experience, I should say that most of them
are excellent cooks; for, when a dish has been recommended to
me because made by the wife of my host, I have generally found
it especially good. The wives of men of the higher and middle
classes make a great study of pleasing and fascinating their
husbands by unremitted attentions, and by various arts. Their
coquetry is exhibited, even in their ordinary gait, when they go
abroad, by a peculiar twisting of the body.1 In the presence of
the husband, they are usually under more or less restraint; and
hence they are better pleased when his visits, during the day, are
not very frequent or long: in his absence, they often indulge in
noisy merriment.
1 The motion here described they term “ghung.”
The diet of the women is similar to that of the men, but more
frugal; and their manner of eating is the same. Many of them
are allowed to enjoy the luxury of smoking; for this habit is not
considered unbecoming in a female, however high her rank; the
odour of the finer kinds of the tobacco used in Egypt being very
delicate. Their pipes are generally more slender than those of
the men, and more ornamented; and the mouth-piece is sometimes
partly composed of coral, in the place of amber. They
generally make use of perfumes, such as musk, civet, etc., and
often, also, of cosmetics, and particularly of several preparations
which they eat or drink with the view of acquiring what they

esteem a proper degree of plumpness:1 one of these preparations
is extremely disgusting; being chiefly composed of mashed
beetles.2 Many of them also have a habit of chewing frankincense,
and labdanum, which impart a perfume to the breath.
The habit of frequent ablutions renders them cleanly in person.
They spend but little time in the operations of the toilet; and,
after having dressed themselves in the morning, seldom change
their clothes during the day. Their hair is generally braided in
the bath; and not undone afterwards for several days.
1 The Egyptians (unlike the Maghrab'ees, and some other people of Africa
and of the East) do not generally admire very fat woman. In his love-songs,
the Egyptian commonly describes the object of his affections as of slender
figure and small waist.
2 I observed here,—“It would seem that these insects were eaten by the
Jews (see Leviticus xi. 22); but we cannot suppose that they derived this
customs from the Egyptians, who regarded the beetle as sacred.”—A learned
friend, however, has informed me, that the word rendered “beetle” in our
version of the passage of Scripture which occasioned this remark properly
signifies a kind of locust.
The care of their children is the primary occupation of the
ladies of Egypt: they are also charged with the superintendence
of domestic affairs; but, in most families, the husband alone
attends to the household expenses. Their leisure-hours are
mostly spent in working with the needle; particularly in embroidering
handkerchiefs, head-veils, etc., upon a frame called
“menseg,” with coloured silks and gold. Many women, even in
the houses of the wealthy, replenish their private purses by ornamenting
handkerchiefs and other things in this manner, and
employing a “delláleh” (or female broker) to take them to the
market, or to other hareems, for sale. The visit of one hareem
to another often occupies nearly a whole day. Eating, smoking,
drinking coffee and sherbet, gossiping, and displaying their finery,
are sufficient amusements to the company. On such occasions,
the master of the house is never allowed to enter the hareem,
unless on some particular and unavoidable business; and in this
case, he must give notice of his approach, and let the visitors
have sufficient time to veil themselves, or to retire to an adjoining
room. Being thus under no fear of his sudden intrusion, and
being naturally of a lively and an unreserved disposition, they
indulge in easy gaiety, and not unfrequently in youthful frolic.
When their usual subjects of conversation are exhausted, sometimes
one of the party entertains the rests with the recital of some
wonderful or facetious tale. The Egyptian ladies are very

seldom instructed either in music or dancing; but they take
great delight in the performances of professional musicians and
public dancers; and often amuse themselves and their guests, in
the absence of better performers and better instruments, by beating
the “darabukkeh” (which is a kind of drum) and the “tár”
(or tambourine); though seldom in houses so situated that many
passengers might hear the sounds of festivity. On the occasion
of any great rejoicing among the women (such as takes place on
account of the birth of a son, or the celebration of a circumcision,
or a wedding, etc.), “'A'l'mehs” (or professional female
singers) are often introduced; but not for the mere amusement
of the women, on common occasions, in any respectable family;
for this would be considered indecorous. The “Gházeeyehs”
(or public dancing-girls), who exhibit in the streets with unveiled
faces, are very seldom admitted into a hareem; but on such
occasions as those above mentioned, they often perform in front
of the house, or in the court; though, by many persons, even
this is not deemed strictly proper. The “A'látees” (or male
musicians) are never hired exclusively for the amusement of the
women; but chiefly for that of the men: they always perform in
the assembly of the latter; their concert, however, is distinctly
heard by the inmates of the hareem.
When the women of the higher or middle classes go out to
pay a visit, or for any other purpose, they generally ride upon
asses. They sit astride, upon a very high and broad saddle,
which is covered with a small carpet; and each is attended by a
man on one or on each side. Generally, all the women of a
hareem ride out together; one behind another. Mounted as
above described, they present a very singular appearance. Being
raised so high above the back of the “homár 'álee” (or the
“high ass”—for so the animal which they ride, furnished with
the high saddle, is commonly called1), they seem very insecurely
seated; but I believe this is not really the case: the ass is well
girthed, and sure-footed; and proceeds with a slow, ambling
pace, and very easy motion. The ladies of the highest rank, as
well as those of the middling classes, ride asses, thus equipped:
they are very seldom seen upon mules or horses. The asses
are generally hired. When a lady cannot procure a homár 'álee,
she rides one of the asses equipped for the use of the men; but
has a “seggádeh” (or prayer-carpet) placed over its saddle; and
1 It is also called “homár mughattee” (covered ass).

the inferior members of the hareem, and females of the middle
orders, often do the same. Ladies never walk abroad, unless
they have to go but a very short distance. They have a slow
and shuffling gait, owing to the difficulty of retaining the slippers
upon their feet; and, in walking, they always hold the front edges
of the habarah in the manner represented in the engraving in
page 38 in this volume. Whether walking or riding, they are
regarded with much respect in public: no well-bred man stares
at them; but rather directs his eyes another way. They are never
seen abroad at night, if not compelled to go out or return at that
time by some pressing and extraordinary necessity: it is their
usual rule to return from paying a visit before sunset. The ladies
of the higher orders never go to a shop, but send for whatever
they want; and there are numerous dellálehs who have access to
the hareems, and bring all kinds of ornaments, articles of female
apparel, etc., for sale. Nor do these ladies, in general, visit the
public bath, unless invited to accompany thither some of their
friends; for most of them have baths in their own houses.

[Back to top]

DOMESTIC LIFE—continued.

THE domestic life of the lower orders will be the subject of the
present chapter. In most respects, it is so simple, that, in comparison
with the life of the middle and higher classes, of which
we have just been taking a view, it offers but little to our notice.
The lower orders in Egypt, with the exception of a very small
proportion, chiefly residing in the large towns, consist of Felláheen
(or Agriculturists). Most of those in the great towns, and a few
in the smaller towns and some of the villages, are petty tradesmen
or artificers, or obtain their livelihood as servants, or by
various labours. In all cases, their earnings are very small;
barely sufficient, in general, and sometimes insufficient, to supply
them and their families with the cheapest necessaries of life.
Their food chiefly consists of bread (made of millet or of
maize), milk, new cheese, eggs, small salted fish, cucumbers and
melons and gourds of a great variety of kinds, onions and leeks,1
1 See Numbers xi. 5.

beans, chick-peas, lupins, the fruit of the black egg-plant, lentils,
etc., dates (both fresh and dried), and pickles. Most of the
vegetables they eat in a crude state. When the maize (or Indian
corn) is nearly ripe, many ears of it are plucked, and toasted or
baked, and eaten thus by the peasants. Rice is too dear to be
an article of common food for the felláheen; and flesh-meat they
very seldom taste. There is one luxury, however, which most
of them enjoy; and that is, smoking the cheap tobacco of their
country, merely dried, and broken up. It is of a pale, greenish
colour, when dried, and of a mild flavour. Though all the
article of food mentioned above are extremely cheap, there are
many poor persons who often have nothing with which to season
their coarse bread but the mixture called “dukkah,” described
in a former chapter.1 It is surprising to observe how simple and
poor is the diet of the Egyptian peasantry, and yet how robust
and healthy most of them are, and how severe is the labour
which they can undergo.
1 Page 122.
The women of the lower orders seldom pass a life of inactivity.
Some of them are even condemned to greater drudgery than the
men. Their chief occupations are the preparing of the husband's
food, fetching water (which they carry in a large vessel on the
head), spinning cotton, linen, or woollen yarn, and making the
fuel called “gelleh,” which is composed of the dung of cattle,
kneaded with chopped straw, and formed into round flat cakes:
these they stick upon the walls or roofs of their houses, or upon
the ground, to dry in the sun; and then use for heating their
ovens, and for other purposes. They are in a state of much
greater subjection to their husbands than is the case among the
superior classes. Not always is a poor woman allowed to eat
with her husband. When she goes out with him, she generally
walks behind him; and if there be anything for either of them
to carry, it is usually borne by the wife; unless it be merely a
pipe or a stick. Some women, in the towns, keep shops; and
sell bread, vegetables, etc.; and thus contribute as much as their
husbands, or even more than the latter, to the support of their
families. When a poor Egyptian is desirous of marrying, the
chief object of his consideration is the dowry, which is usually
from about twenty “riyáls” (or nine shillings) to four times that
amount, if consisting only of money; and rather less, if, as is the
case throughout a great part of Egypt, it comprise certain articles
of clothing: if he can afford to give the dowry, he seldom hesitates

to marry; for a little additional exertion will enable him to
support a wife and two or three children. At the age of five or
six years, the children become of use to tend the flocks and
herds; and at a more advanced age, until they marry, they assist
their fathers in the operations of agriculture. The poor in Egypt
have often to depend entirely upon their sons for support in their
old age; but many persons are deprived of these aids, and consequently
reduced to beggary, or almost to starvation. A few
months ago, the Básha, during his voyage from Alexandria to this
city (Cairo), happening to land at a village on the bank of the
Nile, a poor man of the place ran up to him, and grasped his
sleeve so tightly, that the surrounding attendants could not make
him quit his hold: he complained that, although he had been
once in very comfortable circumstances, he had been reduced to
utter destitution by having his sons taken from him in his old
age as recruits for the army. The Básha (who generally pays
attention to personal applications) relieved him; but it was by
ordering that the richest man in the village should give him a cow.
A young family, however, is sometimes an insupportable burden
to poor parents. Hence, it is not a very rare occurrence, in Egypt,
for children to be publicly carried about for sale, by their mothers
or by women employed by the fathers: but this very seldom
happens, except in cases of great distress. When a mother dies,
leaving one or more children unweaned, and the father and other
surviving relations are so poor as not to be able to procure a
nurse, this singular mode of disposing of the child or children is
often resorted to; or sometimes an infant is laid at the door of a
mosque, generally when the congregation is assembled to perform
the noon-prayers of Friday; and in this case it usually happens
that some member of the congregation, on coming out of the
mosque, and seeing the poor foundling, is moved with pity, and
takes it home to rear in his family, not as a slave, but as an
adopted child; or, if not, it is taken under the care of some person
until an adoptive father or mother be found for it. A short
time ago, a woman offered for sale, to the mistress of a family
with whom a friend of mine is acquainted in this city, a child a
few days old, which she professed to have found at the door of a
mosque. The lady said that she would take the child, to rear it
for the sake of God, and in the hope that her own child, an only
one, might be spared to her as a reward for her charity; and
handed, to the woman who brought the infant, ten piasters (then

equivalent to a little more than two shillings): but the offered remuneration
was rejected. This shows that infants are sometimes
made mere objects of traffic; and some persons who purchase
them may make them their slaves, and sell them again. I have
been informed, by a slave-dealer (and his assertion has been confirmed
to me by other persons), that young Egyptian girls are
sometimes sold as slaves from other countries, either by a parent
or by some other relation. The slave-dealer here alluded to said,
that several such girls had been committed to him for sale; and
by their own consent: they were taught to expect rich dresses and
great luxuries; and were instructed to say, that they had been
brought from their own country when only three or four years of
age, and that they consequently were ignorant of their native
language, and could speak only Arabic.
It often happens, too, that a felláh, in a state of great poverty,
is induced, by the offer of a sum of money, to place his son in a
situation far worse than that of ordinary slavery. When a certain
number of recruits are required from a village, the sheykh of the
village often adopts the plan that gives him the least trouble to
obtain them, which is, to take the sons of those persons who are
possessed of most property. Under such circumstances, a father,
rather than part with his son, generally offers, to one of his poorer
fellow-villagers, a sum equivalent to one or two pounds sterling, to
procure a son of the latter, as a substitute for his own; and usually
succeeds; thought the love of offspring prevails among the Egyptians
as much as filial piety; and most parents have a great horror
of parting with their children, particularly if taken for recruits, as
is proved by the means to which they have recourse for the prevention
of such an occurrence. There is now (in 1834) seldom to
be found, in any of the villages, an able-bodied youth or young man
who has not had one or more of his teeth broken out (that he may
not be able to bite a cartridge), or a finger cut off, or an eye pulled
out or blinded, to prevent his being taken for a recruit. Old
women and others make a regular trade of going about from
village to village, to perform these operations upon the boys; and
the parents themselves are sometimes the operators. But, from
what has been said before, it appears that it is not always affection
alone that prompts the parents to have recourse to such expedients
to prevent their being deprived of their children.
The Felláheen of Egypt cannot be justly represented in a very
favourable light with regard to their domestic and social condition
and manners. In the worst points of view, they resemble their

Bedawee ancestors, without possessing many of the virtues of the
inhabitants of the desert, unless in an inferior degree; and the
customs which they have inherited from their forefathers often
have a very baneful effect upon their domestic state. It has before
been mentioned that they are descended from various Arab tribes
who have settled in Egypt at different periods; and that the distinction
of tribes is still preserved by the inhabitants of the
villages throughout this country. In the course of years, the descendants
of each tribe of settlers have become divided into
numerous branches, and these minor tribes have distinct appellations,
which have also often been given to the village or villages,
or district, which they inhabit. Those who have been longest
established in Egypt have retained less of Bedawee manners, and
have more infringed the purity of their race by intermarriages with
Copt proselytes to the Muslim faith, or with the descendants of
such persons; hence, they are often despised by the tribes more
lately settled in this country, who frequently, in contempt, term
the former “Felláheen,” while they arrogate to themselves the
appellation of “Arabs” or “Bedawees.” The latter, whenever
they please, take the daughters of the former in marriage, but
will not give their own daughters in return; and if one of them
be killed by a person of the inferior tribe, they kill two, three, or
even four, in blood-revenge. The prevalence of the barbarous
Bedawee law of blood-revenge among the inhabitants of the villages
of Egypt has been mentioned in a former chapter: the
homicide, or any person descended from him, or from his great-grandfather's
father, is killed by any of such relations of the
person whom he has slain; and when the homicide happens to be
of one tribe, and the person killed of another, often a petty war
breaks forth between these two tribes, and is sometimes continued,
or occasionally renewed, during a period of several years. The
same is also frequently the result of a trifling injury committed by
a member of one tribe upon a person of another. In many instances,
the blood-revenge is taken a century or more after the
commission of the act which has occasioned it; when the feud,
for that time, has lain dormant, and perhaps is remembered by
scarcely more than one individual. Two tribes in Lower Egypt,
which are called “Saad” and “Harám,” are most notorious for
these petty wars and feuds;1 and hence their names are commonly
applied to any two persons or parties at enmity with each
other. It is astonishing that, in the present day, such acts (which,
1 Like the “Keys” and “Yemen” of Syria.

if committed in a town or city in Egypt, would be punished by
the death of, perhaps, more than one of the persons concerned)
should be allowed. Some other particulars respecting blood-revenge
and its consequences have been stated in the chapter
above alluded to. The avenging of blood is allowed by the
Kur-án; but moderation and justice are enjoined in its execution;
and the petty wars which it so often occasions in the present age
are in opposition to a precept of the Prophet, who said, “If two
Muslims contend with their swords, the slayer and the slain will
be in the fire [of Hell].”
The Felláheen of Egypt resemble the Bedawees in other respects.
When a Felláhah is found to have been unfaithful to her
husband, in general, he, or her brother, throws her into the Nile,
with a stone tied to her neck; or cuts her in pieces, and then
throws her remains into the river. In most instances, also, a
father or brother punishes in the same manner an unmarried
daughter or sister who has been guilty of incontinence. These
relations are considered as more disgraced than the husband by
the crime of the woman; and are often despised if they do not
thus punish her.

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THE respect in which trade is held by the Muslim greatly tends
to enlarge the circle of his acquaintance with persons of different
ranks; and freedom of intercourse with his fellow-men is further
and very greatly promoted by the law of the separation of the
sexes, as it enables him to associate with others, regardless of
difference of wealth or station, without the risk of occasioning
unequal matrimonial connections. The women, like the men,
enjoy extensive intercourse with persons of their own sex.
The Muslims are extremely formal and regular in their social
manners; though generally very easy in their demeanour, and free
in their conversation. Several of their most common usages are
founded upon precepts of their religion, and distinguish them in
society from all other people. Among these is their custom of
greeting each other with the salutation of “Peace be on you!”

to which the proper and general reply is, “On you be peace, and
the mercy of God, and His blessings!”1 This salutation is never
to be addressed by a Muslim to a person whom he knows to be
of another religion;2 not vice versâ. 3 The giving it, by one Muslim
to another, is a duty; but one that may be omitted without
sin: the returning it is absolutely obligatory: the former is a
“sunneh” ordinance; and the latter, “fard.” Should a Muslim,
however, thus salute, by mistake, a person not of the same faith,
the latter should not return it; and the former, on discovering
his mistake, generally revokes his salutation: so also he sometimes
does if a Muslim refuse to return his salutation; usually
saying, “Peace be on us, and on [all] the righteous worshippers
of God.”
1 “'Aleykumu-s-selámu wa-rahmatu-lláhi wa-barakátuh,” or merely
“'Aleykum es-selám” (On you be peace!); but the longer salutation is
more commonly used, in accordance with an injunction in the Kur-án, chap.
iv., ver. 88.
2 Very few Muslims in Egypt do so. A European traveller, not disguised
by Turkish dress, often fancies that he is greeted with this salutation, when it
is really intended for his Muslim attendant.
3 A Muslim, however, when he receives this salutation from a person of
another religion, sometimes replies, “And on you” (Wa-'aleykum).
The chief rules respecting salutation, as dictated by the Prophet,
and generally observed by modern Muslims, are as follow.—
The person riding should first salute him who is on foot; and he
who passes by, the person or persons who are sitting down or
standing still; and a small party, or one of such a party, should
give the salutation to a large party; and the young, to the aged.
As it is sufficient for one party to give, so is it also for one only to
return, the salutation. It is required, too, that a Muslim, when
he enters a house, should salute the people of that house; and
that he should do the same when he leaves it. He should always
salute first, and then talk.—But, to the above rules, there are some
exceptions. For instance, in a crowded city, it is not necessary
(indeed it is hardly possible) to salute many of those whom one
may pass; nor on a road where one meets numerous passengers.
Yet it is usual for a wealthy or well-dressed person, or a venerable
sheykh, or any person of distinction, to salute another who
appears to be a man of rank, wealth, or learning, even in a
crowded street. Among polite people, it is customary for him
who gives or returns the salutation to place his right hand upon
4 Herodotus speaks of the respect paid in Egypt to the aged, and of the
polite salutations of the Egyptians to each other. (Lib. ii., cap. 80.)

his breast at the same time; or to touch his lips, and then his
forehead, or turban, with the same hand. This action is called
“teymeeneh.” The latter mode of teymeeneh, which is the more
respectful, is often performed to a person of superior rank, not
only at first, with the selám (or salutation of “Peace be on you!”),
but also frequently during a conversation, and in the latter case
without the selám.
A person of the lower orders, on approaching a superior, particularly
if the latter be a Turk, does not always give the selám,
but only performs this teymeeneh; and he shows his respect to a
man of high rank by bending down his hand to the ground, and
then putting it to his lips and forehead, without pronouncing the
selám. It is a common custom, also, for a man to kiss the hand
of a superior (generally on the back only, but sometimes on the
back and front), and then to put it to his forehead, in order to
pay him particular respect: but in most cases the latter does not
allow this; and only touches the hand that is extended towards
his: the other person, then, merely puts his own hand to his lips
and forehead. To testify abject submission, in craving pardon
for an offence, or interceding for another person, or begging any
favour of a superior, not unfrequently the feet are kissed instead
of the hand. The son kisses the hand of the father; the wife,
that of her husband; and the slave, and often the free servant,
that of the master. The slaves and servants of a grandee kiss
their lord's sleeve, or the skirt of his clothing.
When particular friends salute each other, they join their right
hands, and then each kisses his own hand, or puts it to his lips
and forehead, or raises it to his forehead only; or merely places
it on his breast, without kissing it: if after a long absence, and on
some other occasions, they embrace each other; each falling upon
the other's neck, and kissing him on the right side of the face or
neck, and then on the left. Another mode of salutation is very
commonly practised among the lower orders, when two friends or
acquaintances meet after a journey: joining their right hands,
each of them compliments the other on his safety, and expresses
his wishes for his welfare, by repeating, alternately, many times,
the words “selámát” and “teiyibeen:”1 in commencing this
ceremony, which is often continued for nearly a minute before
they proceed to make any particular inquiries, they join their
hands in the same manner as is usually practised by us; and at
1 Meaning, “I congratulate you on your safety,” and “I hope you are

each alternation of the two expressions above mentioned, they
change the position of the hands: in repeating the second word,
each of the two persons turns his fingers over the thumb of the
other; and in repeating the first word again, the former position
is resumed.
In polite society, various other formal salutations and compliments
follow the selám. To most of these there are particular
replies; or two or more different forms of reply may be used in
some cases; but to return any that custom has not prescribed
would be considered as a proof of ignorance or vulgarity. When
a person asks his friend, “How is your health?” the latter replies,
“Praise be to God!” and it is only by the tone of voice in
which he makes this answer, that the inquirer can infer whether
he be well or ill. When one greets the other with “Teiyibeen,”
the usual reply is, “God bless thee,” or “God preserve thee.”
A friend or acquaintance, on meeting another whom he has not
seen for several days, or for a longer period, generally says, after
the selám, “Thou hast made us desolate [by thy absence from
us];” and is usually answered, “May God not make [us] desolate
by thy absence.”—The ordinary set compliments in use in
Egyptian society are so numerous, that a dozen pages of this
work would not suffice for the mention of those which may be
heard almost every day.
When a person goes to the house of another, to pay a visit, or
for any other purpose, he never enters unawares; for this is expressly
forbidden by the Kur-án:1 and particularly if he have to
ascend to an upper apartment; in which case he should call out
for permission, or announce his approach, as he goes upstairs, in
the manner which I have had occasion to describe in a former
chapter.2 Should he find no person below, he generally claps his
hands, at the door, or in the court; and waits for a servant to
come down to him; or for permission to be given him to seat
himself in a lower apartment, or to ascend to an upper room.
On entering the room in which the master of the house is seated,
he gives the selám. The master returns the salutation; and welcomes
the visitor with courteousness and affability. To his
superiors,3 and generally to his equals, he rises. Persons more
or less above him in rank he proceeds to meet in the court, or
between the court and the room, or at the entrance of the room,
1 Chap. xxiv., ver. 27.
2 Chap. vi., p. 162.
3 That is, to those who are above him either in office, wealth, or religious
or literary reputation.

or in the middle of the room, or a step from the place where he
was sitting: but often, to equals, he merely makes a slight motion,
as if about to rise; and to most inferiors, he remains undisturbed.
To his superiors, and often to his equals, he yields the most
honourable place, which is a corner of the deewán: it is that
corner which is to the right of a person facing the upper end of
the room. This end of the room is called the “sadr;” and the
whole of the seat which extends along it is more honourable than
those which extend along the sides; each of which is called
“gemb.” Visitors inferior in rank to the master of the house
never seat themselves at the upper end, unless invited to do so
by him; and when so invited, they often decline the offered
honour. His equals sit at their ease, cross-legged, or with one
knee raised; and recline against the cushions: his inferiors (first,
at least) often sit upon their heels; or take their place upon the
edge of the deewán; or, if very much beneath him in grade, seat
themselves upon the mat or carpet. In strict etiquette, the visitor
should not, at first, suffer his hands to appear, when entering the
room, or when seated; but should let the sleeves fall over them;
and when he has taken his place on the deewán, he should not
stretch out his legs, nor even allow his feet to be seen: but these
rules are not often attended to, excepting in the houses of the
great. Various formal compliments and salutations are given
and returned after the selám; and some of them, particularly the
expressions of “teiyibeen” and “eysh hál'kum,” are repeated
several times during the same interview.
Sometimes the visitor's own servant attends him with his pipe:
the former takes his tobacco-purse out of his bosom, and gives it
to the servant, who folds it up and returns it after having filled
the pipe, or after the termination of the visit: otherwise, a servant
of the host brings a pipe for the visitor, and one, for his
master; and next, a cup of coffee is presented to each;1 for
“tobacco without coffee,” say the Arabs, “is like meat without
salt.” On receiving the pipe and the coffee, the visitor salutes
the master of the house with the teymeeneh, which the latter
returns; and the same is done on returning the cup to the servant.
The master of the house also salutes his guest in the same
manner, if the latter be not much beneath him in rank, on
receiving and returning his own cup of coffee. Servants often
remain in the room during the whole period of a visit, stationed
1 The visitor, if superior, or not much inferior in rank to the master of the
house, receives his pipe and coffee before the latter.

at the lower end, in a respectful attitude, with their hands joined
(the left within the right), and held before the girdle. The usual
mode of summoning a servant or other attendant who is not
present is by clapping the hands, striking the palm of the left
hand with the fingers of the right: the windows being of open
lattice-work, the sound is heard throughout the house.—The
subjects of conversation are generally the news of the day, the
state of trade, the price of provisions, and sometimes religion
and science. Facetious stories are often related; and, very frequently,
persons in the best society tell tales, and quote proverbs,
of the most indecent nature. In good society, people seldom
talk of each other's hareems; but intimate friends, and many
persons who do not strictly observe the rules of good breeding,
very often do so, and in a manner not always delicate. Genteel
people inquire respecting each other's “houses,” to ascertain
whether their wives and families are well.—Visits not unfrequently
occupy several hours; and sometimes (especially those
of hareems), nearly a whole day. The pipes are replenished,
or replaced by others, as often as is necessary: for, however long
a visitor may stay, he generally continues smoking during the
whole time; and sometimes coffee is brought again, or sherbet.
The manner in which the coffee and sherbet are served has been
before described. A person receives the same compliment after
drinking a glass of sherbet as after taking a draught of water,1
and replies to it in the same manner.
1 Mentioned in Chap. v., p. 136.
In the houses of the rich, it used to be a common custom to
sprinkle the guest, before he rose to take his leave, with rose-water
or orange-flower-water; and to perfume him with the
smoke of some odoriferous substance; but of late years this
practice has become unfrequent. The scent-bottle, which is
called “kumkum,” is of plain or gilt silver, or fine brass, or china,
or glass; and has a cover pierced with a small hole. The perfuming-vessel,
or “mibkhar'ah,” is generally of one or the other
of the metals above mentioned: the receptacle for the burning
charcoal is lined, or half filled, with gypsum-plaster; and its
cover is pierced with apertures for the emission of the smoke.
The mibkhar'ah is used last: it is presented by a servant to the
visitor or master, who wafts the smoke towards his face, beard,
etc., with his right hand. Sometimes it is opened, to emit the
smoke more freely. The substance most commonly used in the
mibkhar'ah is aloes-wood, or benzoin, or cascarilla-bark. The

wood is moistened before it is placed upon the burning coals.
Ambergris is also used for the same purpose; but very rarely,
and only in the houses of persons of great wealth, as it is extremely
costly. As soon as the visitor has been perfumed, he
takes his leave; but he should not depart without previously
asking permission to do so, and then giving the selám, which is
returned to him, and paying other set compliments, to which
there are appropriate replies. If he be a person of much higher
rank than the master of the house, the latter not only rises, but
also accompanies him to the top of the stairs, or to the door of
the room, and then commends him to the care of God.

KUMKUM AND MIBKHAR'AH.—Each is about eight inches high.

It is usual for a person, after paying a visit of ceremony, and
on some other occasions, previously to his leaving the house, to
give a small present (two or three piasters, or more, according to
circumstances) to one, or to several, of the servants: and if his
horse or mule or ass be waiting for him at the door, or in the
court, one of the servants goes with him to adjust his dress when
he mounts: this officious person particularly expects a present.
When money is thus given to a man's servants, it is considered
incumbent upon their master to do exactly the same when he
returns the visit.
Friends very often send presents to each other, merely for the

sake of complying with common custom. When a person celebrates
any private festivity, he generally receives presents from
most of his friends; and it is a universal rule that he should
repay the donor by a similar gift, or one of the same value, on a
similar occasion. It is common for the receiver of a present, on
such an event, even to express to the giver his hope that he may
have to repay it on the occasion of a like festivity. An acknowledgment.
accompanied by such an allusion to the acquitment of
the obligation imposed by the gift, which would be offensive to a
generous European, is, in this country, esteemed polite. The
present is generally wrapped in an embroidered handkerchief,
which is returned, with a trifling pecuniary gratification, to the
bearer. Fruit, laid upon leaves, and sweetmeats and other
dainties, placed in a dish or on a tray, and covered with a rich
handkerchief or napkin, are common presents. Very frequently,
a present is given by a person to a superior with a view of obtaining
something more valuable in return. This is often done by a
servant to his master; and the gift is seldom refused; but often
paid for immediately in money, more than equivalent. It is
generally with the expectation above mentioned than an Arab
gives a present to a European. The custom of giving money to
the servants of a friend, after paying him a visit, is not now so
common as it was a few years since; but it is still observed by
most persons on the occasion of a visit of ceremony; and particularly
on the two 'eeds, or religious festivals, and by the guests
at private festivities. Other customs of a similar nature, which
are observed at these festivities, will be described in a subsequent
chapter. To decline the acceptance of a present generally gives
offence; and is considered as reflecting disgrace upon the person
who has offered it.
There are many formal usages which are observed in Egypt,
not merely on the occasions of ceremonious visits, or in the
company of strangers, or at the casual meetings of friends, but
also in the ordinary intercourse of familiar acquaintances. When
a man happens to sneeze, he says, “Praise be to God!” Each
person present (servants generally excepted) then says to him,
“God have mercy on you!” to which the former generally
replies, “God guide us and guide you!” or he returns the compliment
in words of a similar purport. Should he yawn, he puts
the back of his left hand to his mouth, and then says, “I seek
refuge with God from Satan the accursed!” but he is not complimented
on this act; as it is one which should rather be

avoided: for it is believed that the devil is in the habit of leaping
into a gaping mouth. For a breach of good manners, it is more
common to ask the pardon of God, than that of the present
company; by saying, “I beg pardon of God, the Great!”
When a man has just been shaved, or been to the bath, when he
has just performed the ablution preparatory to prayer, when he
has been saying his prayers, or doing any other meritorious act,
when he has just risen from sleep, when he has purchased or put
on any new article of dress, and on many other occasions, there
are particular compliments to be paid to him, and particular
replies for him to make.
It is a rule with the Muslims to honour the right hand and foot
above the left: to use the right hand for all honourable purposes;
and the left, for actions which, though necessary, are unclean: to
put on and take off the right shoe before the left; and to put the
right foot first over the threshold of a door.
The Egyptians are extremely courteous to each other, and
have a peculiar grace and dignity in their manner of salutation
and their general demeanour, combined with easiness of address,
which seem natural to them, being observable even in the
peasants. The middle and higher classes of townspeople pride
themselves upon their politeness and elegance of manners, and
their wit, and fluency of speech; and with some justice: but they
are not less free in their conversation than their less accomplished
fellow-countrymen. Affability is a general characteristic
of the Egyptians of all classes. It is common for strangers, even
in a shop, after mutual salutation, to enter into conversation with
each other with as much freedom as if they were old acquaintances;
and for one who has a pipe to offer it to another who has
none; and it is not unusual, nor is it generally considered unpolite,
for persons in a first, casual meeting, to ask each other's
names, professions or trades, and places of abode. Lasting
acquaintances are often formed on such occasions.1 In the
middle and higher ranks of Egyptian society, it is very seldom
that a man is heard to say anything offensive to the feelings of
another in his company; and the most profligate never venture
to utter an expression meant to cast ridicule upon sincere
religion: most persons, however, in every class, are otherwise
1 Acquaintances, and even strangers, often address each other as relations,
by the terms “Father,” “Son,” “Paternal uncle,” “Son of my paternal
uncle,” “Brother,” “Mother,” “Daughter,” “Maternal aunt,” “Daughter
of my maternal aunt,” “Sister,” etc.

more or less licentious in their conversation, and extremely fond
of joking. They are generally very lively and dramatic in their
talk; but scarcely ever noisy in their mirth. They seldom
indulge in loud laughter; expressing their enjoyment of anything
ludicrous by a smile or an exclamation.

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THE metropolis of Egypt maintains the comparative reputation
by which it has been distinguished for many centuries, of being
the best school of Arabic literature, and of Muslim theology and
jurisprudence. Learning, indeed, has much declined among the
Arabs universally; but least in Cairo: consequently, the fame of
the professors of this city still remains unrivalled; and its great
collegiate mosque, the Azhar, continues to attract innumerable
students from every quarter of the Muslim world.
The Arabic spoken by the middle and higher classes in Cairo
is generally inferior, in point of grammatical correctness and
pronunciation, to the dialects of the Bedawees of Arabia, and of
the inhabitants of the towns in their immediate vicinity; but
much to be preferred to those of Syria; and still more, to those
of the Western Arabs. The most remarkable peculiarities in the
pronunciation of the people of Egypt are the following:—The
fifth letter of the alphabet is pronounced by the natives of
Cairo, and throughout the greater part of Egypt, as g in give;
while, in most parts of Arabia, and in Syria and other countries,
it receives the sound of j in joy: but it is worthy of remark, that,
in a part of southern Arabia, where, it is said, Arabic was first
spoken, the former sound is given to this letter.1 In those parts
of Egypt where this pronunciation of the fifth letter prevails, the
sound of “hemzeh” (which is produced by a sudden emission of
the voice after a total suppression) is given to the twenty-first letter,
excepting by the better instructed, who give to this letter its true
1 It seems probable that the Arabs of Egypt have retained, in this case, a
pronunciation which was common, if not almost universal, with their ancestors
in Asia.—See De Sacy's Grammaire Arabe, 2nde ed., tome i., pp. 17 and 18.

sound, which I represent by “k.” In other parts of Egypt, the
pronunciation of the fifth letter is the same as that of j in joy, or
nearly so; and the twenty-first letter is pronounced as g in give.
By all the Egyptians, in common with most other people who speak
the Arabic language, the third and fourth letters of the alphabet
are pronounced alike, as our t; and the eighth and ninth, as our
d.—Of the peculiarities in the structure of the Egyptian dialect of
Arabic, the most remarkable are, the annexation of the letter
“sheen” in negative phrases, in the same manner as the word
“pas” is used in French; as “má yerdásh,” for “má yerda,” “he
will not consent;” “má hoosh teiyib,” (vulgarly, “mósh teiyib”),
for “má huwa teiyib,” “it is not good:” the placing the demonstrative
pronoun after the word to which it relates; as “el-beyt
dé,” “this house;” and a frequent unnecessary use of the
diminutive form in adjectives: as “sugheiyir,” for “sagheer,”
“small;” “kureiyib,” for “kareeb,” “near.”
There is not so much difference between the literary and vulgar
dialects of Arabic as some European Orientalists have supposed:
the latter may be described as the ancient dialect simplified, principally
by the omission of the final vowels and other terminations
which distinguish the different cases of nouns and some of the
persons of verbs.1 Nor is there so great a difference between the
dialects of Arabic spoken in different countries as some persons,
who have not held intercourse with the inhabitants of such
countries, have imagined: they resemble each other more than
the dialects of some of the different counties in England. The
Arabic language abounds with synonyms; and, of a number of
words which are synonymous, one is in common use in one
country, and another elsewhere. Thus, the Egyptian calls milk
“leben;” the Syrian calls it “haleeb:” the word “leben,” is
used in Syria to denote a particular preparation of sour milk.
Again, bread is called in Egypt “'eysh;” and in other Arab
countries, “khubz;” and many examples of a similar kind might
be adduced.—The pronunciation of Egypt has more softness than
that of Syria and most other countries in which Arabic is spoken.
1 The Arabs began to simplify their spoken language in the first century of
the Flight, in consequence of their spreading among foreigners, who could not
generally acquire the difficult language which their conquerors had hitherto
used. For a proof of this, see “Abulfedae Annales Muslemici, Arab. et Lat.”
vol. i. pp. 432 and 434.
The literature of the Arabs is very comprehensive; but the
number of their books is more remarkable than the variety. The

relative number of the books which treat of religion and jurisprudence
may be stated to be about one-fourth: next in number
are works on grammar, rhetoric, and various branches of philology:
the third in the scale of proportion are those on history (chiefly
that of the Arab nation), and on geography: the fourth, poetical
compositions. Works on medicine, chemistry, the mathematics,
algebra, and various other sciences, etc., are comparatively very
There are, in Cairo, many large libraries; most of which are
attached to mosques, and consist, for the greater part, of works
on theology and jurisprudence, and philology. Several rich merchants,
and others, have also good libraries. The booksellers
of Cairo are, I am informed, only eight in number;1 and their
shops are but ill stocked. Whenever a valuable book comes
into the possession of one of these person, he goes round with
it to his regular customers; and is almost sure of finding a
purchaser. The leaves of the books are seldom sewed together;
but they are usually enclosed in a cover bound with leather; and
mostly have, also, an outer case of pasteboard and leather.
Five sheets, or double leaves, are commonly placed together, one
within another; composing what is called a “karrás.” The
leaves are thus arranged, in small parcels, without being sewed,
in order that one book may be of use to a number of persons at
the same time; each taking a karrás. The books are laid flat,
one upon another; and the name is written upon the front of
the outer case, or upon the edge of the leaves. The paper is
thick and glazed: it is mostly imported from Venice, and glazed
in Egypt. The ink is very thick and gummy. Reeds are used
instead of pens; and they suit the Arabic character much better.
The Arab, in writing, places the paper upon his knee, or upon
the palm of his left hand, or upon what is called a “misned'eh,”
composed of a dozen or more pieces of paper attached together
at the four corners, and resembling a thin book, which he rests
on his knee. His ink and pens are contained in a receptacle
called “dawáyeh,” mentioned in the first chapter of this work,
together with the penknife, and an ivory instrument (“mikattah”)
upon which the pen is laid to be nibbed. He rules his paper by
laying under it a piece of pasteboard with strings strained and
glued across it (called a “mistar'ah”), and slightly pressing it over
each string. Scissors are included among the apparatus of a
writer: they are used for cutting the paper; a torn edge being
1 These are natives. There are also a few Turkish booksellers.

considered as unbecoming. In Cairo there are many persons
who obtain their livelihood by copying manuscripts. The expense
of writing a karrás of twenty pages, quarto size, with about
twenty-five lines to a page, in an ordinary hand, is about three
piasters (or a little more than sevenpence of our money); but
more if in an elegant hand; and about double the sum if with
the vowel points, etc.
In Egypt, and particularly in its metropolis, those youths or
men who purpose to devote themselves to religious employments,
or to any of the learned professions, mostly pursue a course of
study in the great mosque El-Azhar, having previously learned
nothing more than to read, and, perhaps, to write, and to recite
the Kur-án. The Azhar, which is regarded as the principal university1
of the East, is an extensive building, surrounding a
large, square court. On one side of this court, the side towards
Mekkeh, is the chief place of prayer, a spacious portico; on each
of the other three sides are smaller porticoes, divided into a
number of apartments, called “riwáks,” each of which is destined
for the use of natives of a particular country, or of a particular
province of Egypt. This building is situated within the metropolis.
It is not remarkable in point of architecture, and is so
surrounded by houses that very little of it is seen externally. The
students are called “mugáwireen.”2 Each riwák has a library
for the use of its members; and from the books which it contains,
and the lectures of the professors, the students acquire their
learning. The regular subjects of study are grammatical inflexion
and syntax, rhetoric, versification, logic, theology, the exposition
1 The Azhar is not called a “university” with strict propriety; but is regarded
as such by the Muslims, as whatever they deem worthy of the name of
science, or necessary to be known, is taught within its walls. Its name has
been translated by European travellers, “the Mosque of Flowers,” as though
it had been called “Gámë' el-Azhár,” instead of “El-Gámë' el-Azhar,” which
is its proper appellation, and signifies “the Splendid Mosque.” It is the
first, with respect to the period of its foundation, as well as in size, of all the
mosques within the original limits of the city.—The preceding portion of this
note (which was inserted in the first edition of the present work) appears to
have escaped the notice of Baron Hammer-Purgstall, for he has remarked (in
the Vienna “Jahrbücher der Literatur,” lxxxi. Bd., p. 71) that, instead of
“Azhar,” I should have written, in this case, “Esher” [or “Ezher”]; the
former, he says, signifying “flowers.” The name of the mosque in question
(synonymous with “neiyir,” or “splendid,” etc.) is pronounced by almost
all the natives of Egypt, and the Arabs in general, as I have written it, “Azhar,”
with the accent on the first syllable; and the plural of “zahreh” (a
flower), “azhár;” but by the Turks the former word is pronounced “ezher.”
2 In the singular, “mugáwir.”

of the Kur-án, the Traditions of the Prophet, the complete science
of jurisprudence, or rather of religious, moral, civil, and criminal
law, which is chiefly founded on the Kur-án and the Traditions,
together with arithmetic, as far as it is useful in matters of law.
Lectures are also given on algebra, and on the calculations of the
Mohammadan calendar, the times of prayer, etc. Different
books are read by students of different sects. Most of the students,
being natives of Cairo, are of the Shaáfe'ee sect; and always
the Sheykh, or head of the mosque, is of this sect. None of
the students pay for the instruction they receive, being mostly of
the poorer classes. Most of those who are strangers, having
riwáks appropriated to them, receive a daily allowance of food,
provided from funds chiefly arising from the rents of houses bequeathed
for their maintenance. Those of Cairo and its neighbourhood
used to receive a similar allowance; but this they no
longer enjoy, excepting during the month of Ramadán; for the
present Básha of Egypt has taken possession of all the cultivable
land which belonged to the mosques; and thus the Azhar has
lost the greater portion of the property which it possessed: nothing
but the expenses of necessary repairs, and the salaries of
its principal officers, are provided for by the government. The
professors also receive no salaries. Unless they inherit property,
or have relations to maintain them, they have no regular means
of subsistence but teaching in private houses, copying books, etc.;
but they sometimes receive presents from the wealthy. Any person
who is competent to the task may become a professor by
obtaining a licence from the Sheykh of the mosque. The students
mostly obtain their livelihood by the same means as the
professors, or by reciting the Kur-án in private houses, and at the
tombs and other places. When sufficiently advanced in their
studies, some of them become kádees, muftees, imáms of mosques,
or schoolmasters, in their native villages or towns, or in
Cairo; others enter into trade; some remain all their lifetime
studying in the Azhar, and aspire to be ranked among the higher
'Ulama. Since the confiscation of the lands which belonged to
the Azhar, the number of that class of students to whom no endowed
riwák is appropriated has very much decreased. The
number of students, including all classes excepting the blind, is (as
I am informed by one of the professors) about one thousand five
1 Many persons say that their number is not less than three thousand; others,
not more than one thousand. It varies very much at different times.


There is a chapel (called “Záwiyet el-'Omyán,” or the Chapel
of the Blind), adjacent to the eastern angle of the Azhar, and one
of the dependencies of that mosque, where at present about three
hundred poor blind men, most of whom are students, are maintained
from funds bequeathed for that purpose. These blind
men often conduct themselves in a most rebellious and violent
manner; they are notorious for such conduct and for their fanaticism.
A short time ago, a European traveller entering the Azhar,
and his presence there being buzzed about, the blind men eagerly
inquired, “Where is the infidel?” adding, “We will kill him!”
and groping about at the same time to feel and lay hold of him;
they were the only persons who seemed desirous of showing any
violence to the intruder. Before the accession of the present
Básha, they often behaved in a very outrageous manner whenever
they considered themselves oppressed, or scanted in their allowance
of food; they would, on these occasions, take a few guides,
go about with staves, seize the turbans of passengers in the streets,
and plunder the shops. The most celebrated of the present professors
in the Azhar, the sheykh El-Kuweysinee,1 who is himself
blind, being appointed, a few years ago, Sheykh of the Záwiyet
el-'Omyán, as soon as he entered upon his office, caused every
one of the blind men there to be flogged; but they rose against
him, bound him, and inflicted upon him a flogging far more severe
than that which they had themselves endured, and obliged him to
give up his office.
1 Since this was written he became Sheykh of the Azhar.
Learning was in a much more flourishing state in Cairo before
the entrance of the French army than it has been in later years.
It suffered severely from this invasion, not through direct oppression,
but in consequence of the panic which this event occasioned
and the troubles by which it was followed. Before that period, a
sheykh who had studied in the Azhar, if he had only two boys,
sons of a moderately rich felláb, to educate, lived in luxury:
his two pupils served him, cleaned his house, prepared his food,
and, though they partook of it with him, were his menial attendants
at every time but that of eating: they followed him whenever
he went out, carried his shoes (and often kissed them when they
took them off) on his entering a mosque, and in every case treated
him with the honour due to a prince. He was then distinguished
by an ample dress and the large formal turban called a mukleh;
and as he passed along the street, whether on foot or mounted
on an ass or mule, passengers often pressed towards him to implore

a short ejaculatory prayer on their behalf; and he who
succeeded in obtaining this wish believed himself especially
blessed: if he passed by a Frank riding, the latter was obliged
to dismount; if he went to a butcher to procure some meat (for
he found it best to do so, and not to send another), the butcher
refused to make any charge, but kissed his hand, and received as
an honour and a blessing whatever he chose to give.—The condition
of a man of this profession is now so fallen that it is with
difficulty he can obtain a scanty subsistence unless possessed of
extraordinary talent.
The Muslim 'ulama are certainly much fettered in the pursuit
of some of the paths of learning by their religion; and superstition
sometimes decides a point which has been controverted
for centuries. There is one singular means of settling a contention
on any point of faith, science, or fact, of which I must give
an instance. The following anecdote was related to me by the
Imám of the late Muftee (the sheykh El-Mahdee): I wrote it in
Arabic, at his dictation, and shall here translate his words. The
sheykh Mohammad El-Baháee (a learned man, whom the vulgar
regard as a “welee,” or especial favourite of heaven) was attending
the lectures of the sheykh El-Emeer El-Kebeer (sheykh of the
sect of the Málikees), when the professor read, from the Gámë'
es-Sagheer1 of Es-Suyootee, this saying of the Prophet: “Verily
El-Hasan and El-Hoseyn are the two lords of the youths of the
people of Paradise, in Paradise;” and proceeded to remark, in
his lecture, after having given a summary of the history of El-Hasan
and El-Hoseyn, that, as to the common opinion of the
people of Masr (or Cairo) respecting the head of El-Hoseyn,
holding it to be in the famous Mesh-hed in this city (the mosque
of the Hasaneyn), it was without foundation; not being established
by any credible authority. “I was affected,” says Mohammad
El-Baháee, “with excessive grief, by this remark; since I
believed what is believed by people of integrity and of intuition,
that the noble head was in this Mesh-hed; and I entertained no
doubt of it: but I would not oppose the sheykh El-Emeer, on
account of his high reputation and extensive knowledge. The
lecture terminated, and I went away, weeping; and when night
overshaded the earth, I rose upon my feet, praying and humbly
supplicating my Lord, and betaking myself to His most noble
apostle (God favour and preserve him!), begging that I might see
him in my sleep, and that he would inform me in my sleep of the
1 A celebrated compendious collection of the Traditions of the Prophet.

truth of the matter concerning the place of the noble head. And
I dreamed that I was walking on the way to visit the celebrated
Mesh-hed El-Hoseynee in Masr, and that I approached the kubbeh,
1 and saw in it a spreading light, which filled it: and I entered
its door, and found a shereef standing by the door; and I saluted
him, and he returned my salutation, and said to me, ‘Salute the
Apostle of God (God favour and preserve him!);' and I looked
towards the kibleh,2 and saw the Prophet (God favour and preserve
him!) sitting upon a throne, and a man standing on his
right, and another man standing on his left: and I raised my
voice, saying, ‘Blessing and peace be on thee, O Apostle of God!'
and I repeated this several times, weeping as I did it: and I
heard the Apostle of God (God favour and preserve him!) say to
me, ‘Approach, O my son! O Mohammad!' Then the first
man took me, and conducted me towards the Prophet (God favour
and preserve him!) and placed me before his noble hands; and I
saluted him, and he returned my salutation, and said to me, ‘God
recompense thee for thy visit to the head of El-Hoseyn my son.'
I said, ‘O Apostle of God, is the head of El-Hoseyn here?'
He answered, ‘Yes, it is here.' And I became cheerful: grief
fled from me; and my heart was strengthened. Then I said, ‘O
Apostle of God, I will relate to thee what my sheykh and my
preceptor El-Emeer hath affirmed in his lecture:' and I repeated
to him the words of the sheykh: and he (God favour and preserve
him!) looked down, and then raised his head, and said,
‘The copyists are excused.' I awoke from my sleep joyful and
happy: but I found that much remained of the night; and I
became impatient of its length; longing for the morn to shine,
that I might go to the sheykh, and relate to him the dream, in
the hope that he might believe me. When the morn arose, I
prayed, and went to the house of the sheykh; but found the door
shut. I knocked it violently; and the porter came in alarm,
asking, ‘Who is that?' but when he knew me, for he had known
my abode from the sheykh, he opened the door to me: if it had
been another person, he would have beaten him. I entered the
court of the house, and began to call out, ‘My Master! My
Master!' The sheykh awoke, and asked, ‘Who is that?' I
answered, ‘It is I, thy pupil, Mohammad El-Baháee!' The
sheykh was in wonder at my coming at this time, and exclaimed,
‘God's perfection! What is this? What is the news?' thinking
1 The saloon of the tomb.
2 That is, towards the niche which marks the direction of Mekkeh.

that some great event had happened among the people. He then
said to me, ‘Wait while I pray.' I did not sit down until the
sheykh came down to the hall; when he said to me, ‘Come up:'
and I went up, and neither saluted him, nor kissed his hand, from
the effect of the dream which I had seen; but said, ‘The head of
El-Hoseyn is in this well-known mesh-hed in Masr: there is no
doubt of it.' The sheykh said, ‘What proof have you of that?
If it be a true record, adduce it.' I said, ‘From a book, I have
none.' The sheykh said, ‘Hast thou seen a vision?' I replied,
‘Yes;' and I related it to him; and informed him that the
Apostle of God (God favour and preserve him!) had acquainted
me that the man who was standing by the door was 'Alee the son
of Aboo-Tálib, and that he who was on the right of the Prophet,
by the throne, was Aboo-Bekr, and that he on his left was 'Omar
the son of El-Khattáb; and that they had come to visit the head
of the Imám El-Hoseyn. The sheykh rose, and took me by the
hand, and said, ‘Let us go and visit the Mesh-hed El-Hoseynee;'
and when he entered the kubbeh, he said, ‘Peace be on thee, O
son of the daughter of the Apostle of God! I believe that the
noble head is here, by reason of the vision which this person has
seen; for the vision of the Prophet is true; since He hath said,
“Whoso seeth Me in his sleep seeth Me truly; for Satan cannot
assume the similitude of My from.”' Then the sheykh said to me,
‘Thou hast believed, and I have believed: for these lights are
not illusive.”'—The above-quoted tradition of the Prophet has
often occasioned other points of dispute to be settled in the same
manner, by a dream; and when the dreamer is a person of reputation,
no one ventures to contend against him.
The remark made at the commencement of this chapter implies
that there are, in the present day, many learned men in the
metropolis of Egypt; and there are some also in other towns of
this country. One of the most celebrated of the modern 'Ulama
of Cairo is the sheykh Hasan El-'Attár, who is the present sheykh
of the Azhar. In theology and jurisprudence, he is not so deeply
versed as some of his contemporaries, particularly the sheykh El-Kuweysinee,
whom I have before mentioned; but he is eminently
accomplished in polite literature. He is the author of an “Insha,”
or an excellent collection of Arabic letters, on various subjects,
which are intended as models of epistolary style. This work has
been printed at Boolák. In mentioning its author, I fulfil a promise
which he condescended to ask of me: supposing that I
should publish, in my own country, some account of the people

of Cairo, he desired me to state that I was acquainted with him,
and to give my opinion of his acquirements.—The sheykh Mohammad
Shiháb is also deservedly celebrated as an accomplished
Arabic scholar, and elegant poet. His affability and wit attract
to his house, every evening, a few friends, whose pleasures, on
these occasions, I sometimes participate. We are received in a
small, but very comfortable room: each of us takes his own pipe;
and coffee alone is presented to us: the sheykh's conversation is
the most delightful banquet that he can offer us.—There are also
several other persons in Cairo who enjoy considerable reputation
as philologists and poets.—The sheykh 'Abd-Er-Rahmán El-Gabartee,
another modern author, and a native of Cairo, particularly
deserves to be mentioned, as having written a very excellent history
of the events which have taken place in Egypt since the
commencement of the twelfth century of the Flight.1 He died in
1825, or 1826, soon after my first arrival in Cairo. His family
was of El-Gabart (also called Ez-Zeyla'), a province of Abyssinia,
bordering on the ocean. The Gabartees (or natives of that
country) are Muslims. They have a riwák (or apartment appropriated
to such of them as wish to study) in the Azhar; and there
is a similar provision for them at Mekkeh, and also at El-Medeeneh.
1 The twelfth century of the Flight commenced on the 16th or 17th of
October, A.D. 1688.
The works of the ancient Arab poets were but imperfectly
understood (in consequence of many words contained in them
having become obsolete) between two and three centuries, only,
after the time of Mohammad: it must not therefore be inferred,
from what has been said in the preceding paragraph, that persons
able to explain the most difficult passages of the early Arab
authors are now to be found in
Cairo, or elsewhere. There are,
however, many in Egypt who are deeply versed in Arabic Grammar,
rhetoric, and polite literature; though the sciences mostly
pursued in this country are theology and jurisprudence. Few of
the ‘ulama of Egypt are well acquainted with the history of their
own nation; much less with that of other people.
The literary acquirements of those who do not belong to the
classes who make literature their profession are of a very inferior
kind. Many of the wealthy tradespeople are well instructed in
the arts of reading and writing; but few of them devote much
time to the pursuit of literature. Those who have committed to
memory the whole, or considerable portions, of the Kur-án, and
can recite two or three celebrated “kaseedehs” (or short poems),

or introduce, now and then, an apposite quotation in conversation,
are considered accomplished persons. Many of the tradesmen
of Cairo can neither read nor write, or can only read; and
are obliged to have recourse to a friend to write their accounts,
letters, etc.: but these persons generally cast accounts, and make
intricate calculations, mentally, with surprising rapidity and correctness.
It is a very prevalent notion among the Christians of Europe,
that the Muslims are enemies to almost every branch of knowledge.
This is an erroneous idea; but it is true that their
studies, in the present age, are confined within very narrow
limits. Very few of them study medicine, chemistry (for our
first knowledge of which we are indebted to the Arabs), the
mathematics, or astronomy. The Egyptian medical and surgical
practitioners are mostly barbers, miserably ignorant of the
sciences which they profess, and unskilful in their practice;
partly in consequence of their being prohibited by their religion
from availing themselves of the advantage of dissecting human
bodies. But a number of young men, natives of Egypt, are now
receiving European instruction in medicine, anatomy, surgery,
and other sciences, for the service of the Government. Many
of the Egyptians, in illness, neglect medical aid; placing their
whole reliance on Providence or charms. Alchemy is more
studied in this country than pure chemistry; and astrology,
more than astronomy. The astrolabe and quadrant are almost
the only astronomical instruments used in Egypt. Telescopes are
rarely seen here; and the magnetic needle is seldom employed,
excepting to discover the direction of Mekkeh; for which purpose,
convenient little compasses (called “kibleeyehs”), showing
the direction of the kibleh at various large towns in different
countries, are constructed, mostly at Dimyát: many of these have
a dial, which shows the time of noon, and also that of the 'asr at
different places and different seasons. Those persons in Egypt
who profess to have considerable knowledge of astronomy are
generally blind to the true principles of the science: to say that
the earth revolves round the sun, they consider absolute heresy.
Pure astronomy they make chiefly subservient to their computations
of the calendar.
The Muslim year consists of twelve lunar months; the names of
which are pronounced by the Egyptians in the following manner:—
1. Moharram.
2. Safar.

3. Rabeea el-Owwal.
4. Rabeea et-Tánee.
5. Gumád el-Owwal, or Gumáda-l-Oola.
6. Gumád et-Tánee, or Gumáda-t-Tániyeh.
7. Regeb.
8. Shaabián.
9. Ramadán.
10. Showwál.
11. Zu-l-Kaadeh, or El-Kaadeh.
12. Zu-l-Heggeh, or El-Heggeh.1
1 It is the general opinion of our chronologers, that the first day of the
Muslim era of “the Flight” (in Arabic, “el-Hijrah,” or, as it is pronounced
by most of the Egyptians, “el-Higreh,” more correctly translated “the
Emigration”) was Friday, the 16th of July, A.D. 622. It must be remarked,
that the Arabs generally commence each month on the night on which the
new moon is first actually seen; and this night is, in most cases, the second,
but sometimes and in some places the third, after the true period of the new
moon: if, however, the moon is not seen on the second or third night, the
month is commenced on the latter. The new moon of July, A.D. 622, happened
between five and six o'clock in the morning of the 14th: therefore the 16th
was most probably the first day of the era. This era does not commence from
the day on which the Prophet departed from Mekkeh (as supposed by most
of our authors who have mentioned this subject), but from the first day of the
moon or month of Moharram preceding that event. It is said that Mohammad,
after he had remained three days concealed in a cave near Mekkeh,
with Aboo-Bekr began his journey, or “the flight,” to El-Medeeneh, on the
ninth day of the third month (Rabeea el-Owwal), sixty-eight days after the
commencement of the era. Thus the first two months are made of thirty days
each, which is often the case when the calculation from the actual sight of the
new moon is followed; and the flight itself, from the cave, may be inferred to
have commenced on the 22nd of September. It may be added, that this
record, by showing that each of the first two months consisted of thirty days,
strengthens the supposition that the era commenced on the 16th of July. On
the eve of the 15th, the moon was not visible.
Each of these months retrogrades through all the different
seasons of the solar year in the period of about thirty-three years
and a half: consequently, they are only used for fixing the anniversaries
of most religious festivals, and for the dates of historical
events, letters, etc.; and not in matters relating to astronomy or
the seasons. In the latter cases, the Coptic months are still in
general use.
With their modern names I give the corresponding periods of
our calendar:—
1. Toot commences on the 10th or 11th of Sept.
2. Bábeh commences on the 10th or 11th of Oct.

3. Hátoor commences on the 9th or 10th of Nov.
4. Kiyahk (vulg. Kiyák) commences on the 9th or 10th of Dec.
5. Toobeh commences on the 8th or 9th of Jan.
6. Amsheer commences on the 7th or 8th of Feb.
7. Barmahát commences on the 9th of March.
8. Barmoodeh commences on the 8th of April.
9. Beshens commences on the 8th of May.
10. Ba-ooneh commences on the 7th of June.
11. Ebeeb commences on the 7th of July.
12. Misra commences on the 6th of August.
The Eiyám en-Nesee (Intercalary days), five or six days, complete
the year.
These months, it will be observed, are of thirty days each.
Five intercalary days are added at the end of three successive
years; and six at the end of the fourth year. The Coptic leap-year
immediately precedes ours: therefore the Coptic year begins
on the 11th of September only when it is the next after their leap-year;
or when our next ensuing year is a leap-year; and, consequently,
after the following February, the corresponding days
of the Coptic and our months will be the same as in other years.
The Copts begin their reckoning from the era of Diocletian,
A.D. 284.
In Egypt, and other Muslim countries, from sunset to sunset is
reckoned as the civil day; the night being classed with the day
which follows it: thus the night before Friday is called the night
of Friday. Sunset is twelve o'clock: an hour after sunset, one
o'clock; two hours, two o'clock; and so on to twelve; after
twelve o'clock in the morning, the hours are again named one,
two, three, and so on.1 The Egyptians wind up and (if necessary)
set their watches at sunset; or rather, a few minutes after;
generally when they hear the call to evening-prayer. Their
watches, according to this system of reckoning from sunset, to be
always quite correct, should be set every evening, as the days
vary in length.
1 Consequently the time of noon according to Mohammadan reckoning, on
any particular day, subtracted from twelve, gives the apparent time of sunset,
on that day, according to European reckoning.
The following Table shows the times of Muslim prayer,2 with
2 The periods of the 'eshë, daybreak, and 'asr, are here given according to
the reckoning most commonly followed in Egypt. (See the chapter on
religion and laws.) Mo. T. denotes Mohammadan Time: Eur. T., European

the apparent European time of sunset, in and near the latitude of
Cairo, at the commencement of each zodiacal month:—
Sunset. 'Eshë. Daybreak. Noon. 'Asr.
Mo. T. Eur. T. Mo. T. Mo. T. Mo. T. Mo. T.
h. m. h. m. h. m. h. m. h. m. h. m.
June 21 12 0 7 4 1 34 8 6 4 56 8 31
July 22 May 21 12 0 6 53 1 30 8 30 5 7 8 43
Aug. 23 Apr. 20 12 0 6 31 1 22 9 24 5 29 9 4
Sept. 23 Mar. 20 12 0 6 4 1 18 10 24 5 56 9 24
Oct. 23 Feb. 18 12 0 5 37 1 18 11 18 6 23 9 35
Nov. 22 Jan. 20 12 0 5 15 1 22 11 59 6 45 9 41
Dec. 21 12 0 5 4 1 24 12 15 6 56 9 43
A pocket almanack is annually printed at the government-press
at Boolák.1 It comprises the period of a solar year, commencing
and terminating with the vernal equinox; and gives, for every
day, the day of the week, and of the Mohammadan, Coptic,
Syrian, and European months; together with the sun's place in
the zodiac, and the time of sunrise, noon, and the 'asr. It is
prefaced with a summary of the principal eras and feast-days
of the Muslims, Copts, and others; and remarks and notices
relating to the seasons. Subjoined to it is a calendar containing
physical, agricultural, and other notices for every day in the year;
mentioning eclipses, etc.; and comprising much matter suited
to the superstitions of the people. It is the work of Yahya
Efendee, originally a Christian priest of Syria; but now a
1 More than a hundred books have been printed at this press: most of them
for the use of the military, naval, and civil servants of the government.
Of Geography, the Egyptians in general, and, with very few
exceptions, the best instructed among them, have scarcely any
knowledge; having no good maps, they are almost wholly
ignorant of the relative situations of the several great countries
of Europe. Some few of the learned venture to assert that the
earth is a globe; but they are opposed by a great majority of the
'Ulama. The common opinion of all classes of Muslims is, that
our earth is an almost plane expanse, surrounded by the ocean,
which, they say, is encompassed by a chain of mountains called
“Káf.” They believe it to be the uppermost of seven earths;
and in like manner they believe that there are seven heavens, one
above another.
2 As the Greeks believed in the age of Homer and Hesiod.


Such being the state of science among the modern Egyptians,
the reader will not be surprised at finding the present chapter
followed by a long account of their superstitions; a knowledge
of which is necessary to enable him to understand their character,
and to make due allowances for many of its faults. We may
hope for, and, indeed, reasonably expect, a very great improvement
in the intellectual and moral state of this people, in consequence
of the introduction of European sciences, by which
their present ruler has, in some degree, made amends for his
oppressive sway; but it is not probable that this hope will be
soon realized to any considerable extent.1
1 It has been justly remarked, by Baron Hammer-Purgstall, that the
present chapter of this work is very deficient. I should gladly have made its
contents more ample, had I not felt myself obliged to consult the taste of the
general reader, upon whose patience I fear I have already trespassed to too
great an extent by the insertion of much matter calculated to interest only
Orientalists. With respect to recent innovations, I have made but few and
brief remarks in this work, in consequence of my having found the lights of
European science almost exclusively confined to those servants of the Government,
who have been compelled to study under Frank instructors, and European
customs adopted by scarcely any persons excepting a few Turks. Some
Egyptians who had studied for a few years in France declared to me that they
could not instil any of the notions which they had there acquired even into the
minds of their most intimate friends.

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THE Arabs are a very superstitious people; and none of them are
more so than those of Egypt. Many of their superstitions form a
part of their religion; being sanctioned by the Kur-án; and the
most prominent of these is the belief in “Ginn,” or Genii— in the
singular, “Ginnee.”
The Ginn are said to be of preadamite origin, and, in their
general properties, an intermediate class of beings between angles
and men, but inferior in dignity to both, created of fire, and capable
of assuming the forms and material fabric of men, brutes, and
monsters, and of becoming invisible at pleasure. They eat and
drink, propagate their species (like, or in conjunction with, human
beings), and are subject to death; though they generally live

many centuries. Their principal abode is in the chain of mountains
called “Káf,” which are believed to encompass the whole
earth: as mentioned near the close of the preceding chapter.
Some are believers in El-Islám: others are infidels: the latter are
what are also called “Sheytáns,” or devils; of whom Iblees (that is,
Satan, or the devil) is the chief: for it is the general and best-supported
opinion, that he (like the other devils) is a ginnee, as he was
created of fire; whereas the angels are created of lights, and are impeccable.
Of both the classes of genii, good and evil, the Arabs
stand in great awe; and for the former they entertain a high degree
of respect. It is a common custom of this people, on pouring water,
etc., on the ground, to exclaim, or mutter, “Destoor;” that is, to
ask the permission, or crave the pardon, of any ginnee that may
chance to be there: for the ginn are supposed to pervade the
solid matter of the earth, as well as the firmament, where, approaching
the confines of the lowest heaven, they often listen to the
conversation of the angels respecting future things, thus enabling
themselves to assist diviners and magicians. They are also believed
to inhabit rivers, ruined houses, wells, baths, ovens, and
even the latrina: hence, persons, when they enter the latter place,
and when they let down a bucket into a well, or light a fire, and
on other occasions, say, “Permission!” or “Permission, ye
blessed!”—which words, in the case of entering the latrina, they
sometimes preface with a prayer for God's protection against all
evil spirits; but in doing this, some persons are careful not to
mention the name of God after they have entered (deeming it
improper in such a place), and only say, “I seek refuge with Thee
from the male and female devils.” These customs present a Commentary
on the story in the “Thousand and One Nights,” in
which a merchant is described as having killed a ginnee by throwing
aside the stone of a date which he had just eaten. In the
same story, and in others of the same collection, a ginnee is represented
as approaching in a whirlwind of sand or dust; and it is
the general belief of the Arabs of Egypt, that the “zóba'ah,” or
whirlwind which raises the sand or dust in the form of a pillar of
prodigious height, and which is so often seen sweeping across the
fields and deserts of this country, is caused by the flight of one of
these beings; or, in other words, that the ginnee “rides in the
whirlwind.”1 A charm is usually uttered by the Egyptians to
1 I measured the height of a zóba'ah, with a sextant, at Thebes, under
circumstances which insured a very near approximation to perfect accuracy
(observing its altitude, from an elevated spot, at the precise moment when it
passed through, and violently agitated, a distant group of palm-trees), and
found it to be seven hundred and fifty feet. I think that several zóba'ahs
which I have seen were of greater height. Others, which I measured at the
same place, were between five hundred and seven hundred feet in height.

avert the zóba'ah, when it seems to be approaching them: some
of them exclaim, “Iron, thou unlucky!”—as genii are supposed
to have a great dread of that metal: others endeavour to drive
away the monster by exclaiming, “God is most great!” What
we call a “falling star” (and which the Arabs term “shilháb”) is
commonly believed to be a dart thrown by God at an evil ginnee;
and the Egyptians, when they see it, exclaim, “May God transfix
the enemy of the faith!” The evil ginnees are commonly termed
“'Efreets;” and one of this class is mentioned in the Kur-án in
these words, “An 'efreet of the ginn answered” (chap. xxvii. ver.
39): which words Sale translates, “A terrible genius answered.”
They are generally believe to differ from the other ginn in being
very powerful, and always malicious; but to be, in other respects,
of a similar nature. An evil ginnee of the most powerful class is
called a “Márid.”
Connected with the history of the ginn are many fables not
acknowledged by the Kur-án, and therefore not credited by the
more sober Muslims, but only by the less instructed. All agree
that the ginn were created before mankind; but some distinguish
another class of preadamite beings of a similar nature. It is commonly
believed that the earth was inhabited, before the time of
Adam, by a race of beings differing from ourselves in form, and
much more powerful; and that forty (or, according to some,
seventy-two) preadamite kings, each of whom bore the name of
Suleymán (or Solomon), successively governed this people. The
last of these Suleymáns was named Gánn Ibn-Gánn; and from
him, some think, the ginn (who are also called “gánn”)1 derive
their name. Hence, some believe the ginn to be the same with
the preadamite race here mentioned: but other assert that they
(the ginn) were a distinct class of beings, and brought into subjection
by the other race.
1 According to some writers, the Gánn are the least powerful class of Genii.
Ginnees are believed often to assume, or perpetually to wear,
the shapes of cats, dogs, and other brute animals. The sheykh
Khaleel El-Medábighee, one of the most celebrated of the 'ulama
of Egypt, and author of several works on various sciences, who
died, at a very advanced age, during the period of my former visit

to this country, used to relate the following anecdote.—He had,
he said, a favourite black cat, which always slept at the foot of his
musquito-curtain. Once, at midnight, he heard a knocking at the
door of his house; and his cat went, and opened the hanging shutter
of his window, and called, “Who is there?” A voice replied,
“I am such a one” (mentioning a strange name) “the ginnee:
open the door.” “The lock,” said the sheykh's cat, “has had the
name [of God] pronounced upon it.”1 “Then throw me down,”
said the other, “two cakes of bread.” “The bread-basket,” answered
the cat at the window, “has had the name pronounced
upon it.” “Well,” said the stranger, “at leas give me a draught
of water.” But he was answered that the water-jar had been
secured in the same manner; and asked what he was to do, seeing
that he was likely to die of hunger and thirst: the sheykh's
cat told him to go to the door of the next house; and went there
also himself, and opened the door, and soon after returned. Next
morning the sheykh deviated from a habit which he had constantly
observed: he gave, to the cat, half of the fateereh upon which he
breakfasted, instead of a little morsel, which he was wont to give;
and afterwards said, “O my cat, thou knowest that I am a poor
man: bring me, then, a little gold:” upon which words, the cat
immediately disappeared, and he saw it no more.—Ridiculous as
stories of this kind really are, it is impossible, without relating one
or more, to convey a just notion of the opinions of the people
whom I am attempting to describe.
1 It is a custom of many “fukaha” (or learned and devout persons), and
some others, to say, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,”
on locking a door, covering bread, laying down their clothes at night, and on
other occasions; and this, they believe, protects their property from genii. The
thing over which these words have been pronounced is termed “musemmee
(for “musemma”) 'aleyh.”
It is commonly affirmed, that malicious or disturbed genii very
often station themselves on the roofs, or at the windows, of houses
Cairo, and other towns of Egypt, and throw bricks and stones
down into the streets and courts. A few days ago, I was told of
a case of this kind, which had alarmed the people in the main
street of the metropolis for a whole week; many bricks having
been thrown down from some of the houses every day during this
period, but nobody killed or wounded. I went to the scene of
these pretended pranks of the genii, to witness them, and to make
inquiries on the subjects; but on my arrivals there, I was told that
the “regm” (that is, the throwing) had ceased. I found no one

who denied the throwing down of the bricks, or doubted that it
was the work of genii; and the general remark, on mentioning
the subject, was, “God preserve us from their evil doings!”
One of my friends observed to me, on this occasion, that he
had met with some Englishmen who disbelieved in the existence
of genii; but he concluded that they had never witnessed a public
performance, though common in their country, of which he had
since heard, called “kumedyeh” (or comedy); by which term he
meant to include all theatrical performances. Addressing one of
his countrymen, and appealing to me for the confirmation of his
words, he then said—“An Algerine, a short time ago, gave me an
account of a spectacle of this kind which he had seen in London.”
—Here his countryman interrupted him, by asking, “Is not
England in London? or is London a town in England?”—My
friend, with diffidence, and looking to me, answered that London
was the metropolis of England; and then resumed the subject of
the theatre.—“The house,” said he, “in which the spectacle was
exhibited cannot be described: it was of a round form, with many
benches on the floor, and closets all round, in rows, one above
another, in which people of the higher classes sat; and there was
a large square aperture, closed with a curtain. When the house
was full of people, who paid large sums of money to be admitted,
it suddenly became very dark: it was night; and the house had
been lighted up with a great many lamps; but these became
almost entirely extinguished, all at the same time, without being
touched by anybody. Then the great curtain was drawn up:
they heard the roaring of the sea and wind; and indistinctly perceived,
through the gloom, the waves rising and foaming, and
lashing the shore. Presently a tremendous peal of thunder was
heard; after a flash of lightning had clearly shown to the spectators
the agitated sea: and then there fell a heavy shower of real
rain. Soon after, the day broke; the sea became more plainly
visible; and two ships were seen in the distance: they approached,
and fought each other, firing their cannons; and a variety of other
extraordinary scenes were afterwards exhibited. Now it is
evident,” added my friend, “that such wonders must have been
the works of genii, or at least performed by their assistance.”—
He could not be convinced of his error by my explanations of
these phenomena.
During the month of Ramadán, the genii, it is said, are confined
in prison; and hence, on the eve of the festival which follows that
month, some of the women of Egypt, with the view of preventing

these objects of dread from entering their houses, sprinkle salt
upon the floors of the apartments; saying, as they do it, “In the
name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
A curious relic of ancient Egyptian superstition must here be
mentioned. It is believed that each quarter in Cairo has its
peculiar guardian-genius, or Agathodaemon, which has the form of
a serpent.
The ancient tombs of Egypt, and the dark recesses of the
temples, are commonly believed, by the people of this country, to
be inhabited by 'efreets. I found it impossible to persuade one
of my servants to enter the Great Pyramid with me, from his
having this idea. Many of the Arabs ascribe the erection of the
Pyramids, and all the most stupendous remains of antiquity in
Egypt, to Gánn, Ibn-Gánn, and his servants, the ginn; conceiving
it impossible that they could have been raised by human hands.
The term 'efreet is commonly applied rather to an evil ginnee
than any other being; but the ghosts of dead persons are also
called by this name; and many absurd stories are related of
them; and great are the fears which they inspire. There are
some persons, however, who hold them in no degree of dread.—
I had once a humorous cook, who was somewhat addicted to the
intoxicating hasheesh: soon after he had entered my service, I
heard him, one evening, muttering and exclaiming on the stairs,
as if in surprise at some event; and then politely saying, “But
why are you sitting here in the draught?—Do me the favour to
come up into the kitchen, and amuse me with your conversation
a little.” The civil address, not being answered, was repeated
and varied several times; till I called out to the man, and asked
him to whom he was speaking. “The 'efreet of a Turkish
soldier,” he replied, “is sitting on the stairs, smoking his pipe,
and refuses to move: he came up from the well below: pray step
and see him.” On my going to the stairs, and telling the servant
that I could see nothing, he only remarked that it was because I
had a clear conscience. He was told, afterwards, that the house
had long been haunted; but asserted that he had not been
previously informed of the supposed cause; which was the fact of
a Turkish solider having been murdered there. My cook professed
to see this 'efreet frequently after.
The existence of “Ghools” likewise obtains almost universal
credence among the modern Egyptians, in common with several
other Eastern nations. These beings are generally believed to
be a class of evil ginnees, and are said to appear in the forms of

various animals, and in many monstrous shapes; to haunt burial-grounds,
and other sequestered spots; to feed upon dead bodies;
and to kill and devour every human creature who has the misfortune
to fall in their way. Hence, the term “ghool” is applied,
in general, to any cannibal.
That fancies such as these should exist in the minds of a people
so ignorant as those who are the subject of these pages cannot
reasonably excite our surprise. But the Egyptians pay a superstitious
reverence not to imaginary beings alone: they extend it to
certain individuals of their own species; and often to those who
are justly the least entitled to such respect.1 An idiot or a fool is
vulgarly regarded by them as a being whose mind is in heaven,
while his grosser part mingles among ordinary mortals; consequently,
he is considered an especial favourite of heaven. Whatever
enormities a reputed saint may commit (and there are many
who are constantly infringing precepts of their religion), such acts
do not affect his fame for sanctity: for they are considered as the
results of the abstraction of his mind from worldly things; his
soul, or reasoning faculties, being wholly absorbed in devotion; so
that his passions are left without control. Lunatics who are
dangerous to society are kept in confinement; but those who are
harmless are generally regarded as saints. Most of the reputed
saints of Egypt are either lunatics, or idiots, or impostors. Some
of them go about perfectly naked, and are so highly venerated,
that the women, instead of avoiding them, sometimes suffer these
wretches to take any liberty with them in the public street; and,
by the lower orders, are not considered as disgraced by such
actions, which, however, are of very rare occurrence. Others are
seen clad in a cloak or long coat composed of patches of various
coloured cloths, which is called a “dilk,”2 adorned with numerous
strings of beads, wearing a ragged turban, and bearing a staff with
shreds of cloth of various colours attached to the top. Some of
them eat straw, or a mixture of chopped straw and broken glass;
and attract observation by a variety of absurd actions. During
my first visit to this country, I often met, in the streets of Cairo,
a deformed man, almost naked, with long matted hair, and riding
upon an ass, led by another man. On these occasions, he always
stopped his beast directly before me, so as to intercept my way,
recited the Fát'hah (or opening chapter of the Kur-án), and then
1 As is the case also in Switzerland.
2 Also (and, I believe, more properly) written “dalik,” but commonly
pronounced as above.

held out his hand for an alms. The first time that he thus crossed
me, I endeavoured to avoid him; but a person passing by remonstrated
with me, observing that the man before me was a
saint, and that I ought to respect him, and comply with his
demand, lest some misfortune should befall me. Men of this
class are supported by alms, which they often receive without asking
for them. A reputed saint is commonly called “sheykh,”
“murábit,” or “welee.” If affected with lunacy or idiotcy, or of
weak intellect, he is also, and more properly, termed “megzoob,”
or “mesloob.” “Welee” is an appellation correctly given only to
an eminent and very devout saint; and signifies “a favourite of
heaven;” but it is so commonly applied to real or pretended
idiots, that some wit has given it a new interpretation, as equivalent
to “beleed,” which means “a fool” or “simpleton;” remarking
that these two terms are equivalent both in sense and in
the numerical value of the letters composing them: for “welee”
is written with the letters “wä'w,” “lám,” and “yé,” of which the
numerical values are 6, 30, and 10, or, together, 46; and “beleed”
is written with “bé” “lám,” “yé,” and “dál,” which are 2, 30,
10, and 4, or, added together, 46. A simpleton is often jestingly
called a welee.
The Muslims of Egypt, in common with those of other countries,
entertain very curious superstitions respecting the persons
whom they call welees. I have often endeavoured to obtain information
on the most mysterious of these superstitions; and have
generally been answered, “You are meddling with the matters of
the ‘tareekah,”' or the religious course of the darweeshes; but I
have been freely acquainted with general opinions on these subjects,
and such are perhaps all that may be required to be stated
in a work like the present: I shall, however, also relate what I
have been told by learned persons, and by darweeshes, in elucidation
of the popular belief.
In the first place, if a person were to express a doubt as to the
existence of true welees, he would be branded with infidelity;
and the following passage of the Kur-án would be adduced to
condemn him: “Verily, on the favourites1 of God no fear shall
come, nor shall they grieve.”2 This is considered as sufficient to
prove that there is a class of persons distinguished above ordinary
human beings. The questions then suggests itself, “Who, or of
what description are these persons?” and we are answered,
“They are persons wholly devoted to God, and possessed of
1 In the original, “owliya,” plural of “welee.”
2 Chap. x., ver. 63.

extraordinary faith; and, according to their degree of faith, endowed
with the power of performing miracles.”1
1 A miracle performed by a welee is termed “karámeh:” one performed
by a prophet, “moagiz'eh.”
The most holy of the welees is termed the Kutb; or, according
to some persons, there are two who have this title; and again,
according to others, four. The term “kutb” signifies an axis;
and hence is applied to a welee who rules over others: they depending
upon him, and being subservient to him. For the same
reason it is applied to temporal rulers, or any person of high
authority. The opinion that there are four kutbs, I am told, is a
vulgar error, originating from the frequent mention of “the four
kutbs,” by which expression are meant the founders of the four
most celebrated orders of darweeshes (the Rifá'eeyeh, Kádireeyeh,
Ahmedeeyeh, and Baráhimeh); each of whom is believed to have
been the kutb of his time. I have also generally been told, that
the opinion of there being two kutbs is a vulgar error, founded
upon two names, “Kutb el-Hakeekah” (or the Kutb of Truth),
and “Kutb el-Ghós” (or the Kutb of Invocation for help), which
properly belong to but one person. The term “el-Kutb el-Mutawellee”
is applied, by those who believe in but one kutb, to
the one ruling at the present time; and by those who believe in
two, to the acting kutb. The kutb who exercises a superintendence
over all other welees (whether or not there be another kutb
—for if there be, he is inferior to the former) has, under his
authority, welees of different ranks, to perform different offices;
“Nakeebs,” “Negeebs,” “Bedeels,”
2 etc.; who are known only
to each other, and perhaps to the rest of the welees, as holding
such offices.
2 In the plural forms, “Nukaba,” “Angáb” or “Nugaba,” and “Abdál.”
The Kutb, it is said, is often seen, but not known as such;
and the same is said of all who hold authority under him. He
always has a humble demeanour, and mean dress; and mildly
reproves those whom he finds acting impiously; particularly such
as have a false reputation for sanctity. Though he is unknown to
the world, his favourite stations are well known; yet at these
places he is seldom visible. It is asserted that he is almost constantly
seated at Mekkeh, on the roof of the Kaabeh; and,
though never seen there, is always heard at midnight to call
twice, “O thou most merciful of those who show mercy!”
which cry is then repeated from the mád'nehs of the temple, by
the muëddins: but a respectable pilgrim, whom I have just

questioned upon this matter, has confessed to me that he himself
has witnessed that this cry is made by a regular minister of
the mosque; yet that few pilgrims know this: he believes, however,
that the roof of the Kaabeh is the chief “markaz” (or
station) of the Kutb. Another favourite station of this revered
and unknown person is the gate of Cairo called Báb Zuweyleh,
which is at the southern extremity of that part of the metropolis
which constituted the old city; though now in the heart of the
town; for the capital has greatly increased towards the south, as
it has also towards the west. From its being a supposed station
of this mysterious being, the Báb Zuweyleh is commonly called
“El-Mutawellee.”1 One leaf of its great wooden door (which is
never shut), turned back against the eastern side of the interior
of the gateway, conceals a small vacant space, which is said to be
the place of the Kutb. Many persons, on passing by it, recite the
Fát'hah; and some give alms to a beggar who is generally seated
there, and who is regarded by the vulgar as one of the servants
of the Kutb. Numbers of persons afflicted with head-ache drive
a nail into the door, to charm away the pain; and many
sufferers from the tooth-ache extract a tooth, and insert it in a
crevice of the door, or fix it in some other way, to insure their
not being attacked again by the same malady. Some curious
individuals often try to peep behind the door, in the vain hope of
catching a glimpse of the Kutb, should he happen to be there,
and not at the moment invisible. He has also many other
stations, but of inferior celebrity, in Cairo; as well as one at the
tomb of the seyyid Ahmad El-Bedawee, at Tanta; another at
El-Mahalleh (which, as well as Tanta, is in the Delta); and
others in other places. He is believed to transport himself from
Mekkeh to Cairo in an instant; and so also from any one place
to another. Though he has a number of favourite stations, he
does not abide solely at these; but wanders throughout the whole
world, among persons of every religion, whose appearance, dress,
and language he assumes; and distributes to mankind, chiefly
through the agency of the subordinate welees, evils and blessings,
the awards of destiny. When a Kutb dies, he is immediately
succeeded in his office by another.
1 For “Báb El-Mutawellee.”
Many of the Muslims say that Elijah, or Elias, whom the
vulgar confound with El-Khidr,
2 was the Kutb of his time; and

that he invests the successive kutbs: for they acknowledge
that he has never died; asserting him to have drunk of the
Fountain of Life. This particular in their superstitious notions
respecting the kutbs, combined with some others which I have
before mentioned, is very curious when compared with what we
are told, in the Bible, of Elijah, of his being transported from
place to place by the spirit of God; of his investing Elisha with
his miraculous powers, and his offices; and of the subjection of
the other prophets to him and to his immediate successor.1 Some
welees renounce the pleasures of the world, and the society of
mankind; and, in a desert place, give themselves up to meditation
upon heaven, and prayer; depending upon Divine Providence
for their support; but their retreat becomes known; and the
Arabs daily bring them food. This, again, reminds us of the
history of Elijah: for, in the opinion of some critics, we should
read, for the word “ravens,” in the fourth and sixth verses of the
seventeenth chapter of the second book of Kings, “Arabs:” “I
have commanded the Arabs to feed thee”—“And the Arabs
brought him bread,” etc.
2 This mysterious person, according to the more approved opinion of the
learned, was not a prophet, but a just man, or saint, the Wezeer and counsellor
of the first Zu-l-Karneyn, who was a universal conqueror, but an
equally doubtful personage, contemporary with the ‘patriarch Ibráheem, or
Abraham. El-Khidr is said to have drunk of the Fountain of Life, in consequence
of which he lives till the day of judgment, and to appear frequently to
Muslims in perplexity. He is generally clad in green garments; whence,
according to some, his name.
1 See 1 Kings xviii. 12, and 2 Kings ii. 9–16.
Certain welees are said to be commissioned by the Kutb to
perform offices which, according to the accounts of my informants
here, are far from being easy. These are termed “Asháb
ed-Darak,” which is interpreted as signifying “watchmen,”
or “overseers.” In illustration of their employments, the following
anecdote was related to me a few days ago.—A devout tradesman
in this city, who was ardently desirous of becoming a welee,
applied to a person who was generally believed to belong to this
holy class, and implored the latter to assist him to obtain the
honour of an interview with the Kutb. The applicant, after
having undergone a strict examination as to his motives, was
desired to perform the ordinary ablution (el-wudoó), very early
the next morning; then to repair to the mosque of El-Mu-eiyad
(at an angle of which is the Báb Zuweyleh, or El-Mutawellee,
before mentioned), and to lay hold of the first person whom he
should see coming out of the great door of this mosque. He did
so. The first person who came out was an old, venerable-looking