Title: Oriental Cairo : the city of the "Arabian nights" [Electronic Edition]

Author: Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton, 1856-1947.
Statement of responsibility:
Creation of machine-readable version: TechBooks,
Creation of digital images: Digital Media Center, Fondren Library, Rice University,
Conversion to TEI.2-conformant markup: TechBooks,
Parsing and proofing: Digital Media Center, Fondren Library, Rice University,
Distributor: Rice University
Funding from: Funding for the creation of this electronic text provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Fondren Library, and the Enriching Rice through Information Technology (ERIT) program sponsored by the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI), Rice University.
File size or extent: 0.98 Megabytes
Publisher: Rice University
Place of publication: Houston, Tx
Publication date: 1911
Identifier: TIMEA, SlaOrie
Availability: Publicly available via the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA) through the following Creative Commons attribution license: "You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work; to make derivative works; to make commercial use of the work. Under the following conditions: By Attribution. You must give the original author credit. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above." (Status: unknown)
Part of a series: This text is part of the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA), funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Fondren Library, and the Enriching Rice through Information Technology (ERIT) program sponsored by the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI), Rice University.
Note: Illustrations have been included from the print version.

Title: Oriental Cairo : the city of the "Arabian nights"

Author: Douglas Sladen.
File size or extent: xvi, 391 p. front., plates, fold. maps. 23 cm.
Publisher: J. B. Lippincott Company
Place of publication: Philadelphia
Publisher: Hurst & Blackett, Limited
Place of publication: London
Publication date: 1911
Identifier: From the collection of Dr. Paula Sanders, Rice University.
Description of the project: This electronic text is part of the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA), developed by Rice University.
Editorial practices
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. All electronic texts have been spell-checked and verified against printed text. Quotation marks have been retained. Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved. No corrections or normalizations have been made, except that hyphenated, non-compound words that appear at the end of lines have been closed up to facilitate searching and retrieval. Footnotes have been moved to the end of the paragraph in which they are referenced. Images exist as archived TIFF images, one or more JPEG versions for general use, and thumbnail GIFs.
Classification system(s)
Taxonomy LCSH Library of Congress Subject Headings
Origin/composition of the text: 1911
Languages used in the text:
  • English (eng)
Text classification
Keywords: (Library of Congress Subject Headings)( Library of Congress Subject Headings )
  • Cairo (Egypt) -- Description and travel.
  • Egypt -- Description and travel.
Revision/change: December 2005
Statement of responsibility: LMS
Spellchecked, corrected tagging errors, verified and enhanced metadata.
Revision/change: October 2006
Statement of responsibility: LMS
Automatically added place name markup.

Oriental Cairo : the city of the "Arabian nights" [Electronic Edition]












I have to thank my friend Stanley Lane-Poole, Professor
of Arabic at Trinity College, Dublin, and Messrs.
J. M. Dent & Co., for the permission to print at the end of
my book Prof. Lane-Poole's admirable Chronological Table
of the Rulers and Monuments of Mediaeval Cairo which
appeared in his indispensable little volume, The Story of Cairo
in Dent's Mediaeval Towns Series. It will be found
most useful, because it gives a summary of the chief mediaeval
buildings of Cairo.
The list of Artists' Bits in Cairo, with directions how to
find them, on p. 361, will, I hope, be found helpful by painters
and the great army of kodakers. The illustrations for this
book are all of them enlargements of photographs taken by
myself with a No. 1 a folding kodak.
And many people will, I think, be grateful for my pointing
out to them the new facilities for getting to Egypt afforded by
the combination of Thomas Cook & Son with the P. and O.
Company, which I have tabulated on p. 351.
The types described in my various chapters on street life
in Cairo are depicted inimitably in Mr. Lance Thackeray's
new book, The People of Egypt, published by A. & C.
Black, too late for me to mention it in the text of my book.
They could not have fitted my text more completely if they
had been executed for it. No one ever caught the humours
of the Egyptian life so faithfully as Mr. Thackeray, and now

we have him in the streets of Cairo as we had him before
in Upper Egypt.
The water-carrier, the arbaghi who drives your cab, the
policeman, the Egyptian boy, the peep-show man, the sellers
of cakes and vegetables and syrups, the boy with the monkey,
the donkey-boy, the dragoman, and many others, with just
the sort of tourists looking at them who would be looking at
them, and the scenery of time-worn Cairo in the background—they
are all there, painted in the most life-like colours, and
with a wonderful intuition, into form and expression.
I have to thank Miss Margaret Thomas, the well-known
writer upon Syria, for compiling the index.



The City of the “Arabian Nights”




Country Life round Cairo




From Photographs by the Author








ARABS LUNCHING IN THE ATABA-EL-KHADRA, THE SQUARE WHERE NEARLY ALL THE TRAMS IN CAIRO START. Observe in the foreground a boy selling rings of bread, and a man in the ordinary dress of the Arab town labourer. The carriage is one of the victorias drawn usually by two white Arabs, which are called arabeahs, and constitute the cabs of Cairo.





is the reflection, with which I console myself when I
am scolded by critics, chiefly in superior papers, for the views
I have expressed about Egyptians.
A very great paper—I think it must have been The Daily
—scolded me dreadfully for giving absurd examples
in my Queer Things About Egypt, of “English as she is
wrote by the Egyptians.” How, it asked, would Mr. Sladen
like his own mistakes in Italian to be held up for ridicule?
To show how glad I should be to provide innocent amusement
in this way I will tell a story against myself which has
never appeared in print.
The padrone of a hotel in Sicily, to which I was in the
habit of going, was a handsome young engineer who was
notorious for his conquests among the fair sex. His wife,
who was very devoted to him, met me at the door on my
return to their hotel after an absence of some years. When
I had asked about her own health, I continued, “And how is
your husband, the Ingannatore?” I could not have said a
more unfortunate thing, for Ingannatore means not an engineer
but a deceiver. I should have said Ingegnere. The lady
coloured painfully, but she knew what I meant and was equal
to the occasion.
After this I hope that in a book, which has the saving
grace of making no political comment upon Egyptians, I
may be allowed to print a bouquet of the finest flowers of
Egyptian English which have ever been collected on one
sheet of notepaper. It was addressed to the Secretary of one
of the most important companies in Cairo, who vouches for
the authenticity of the entire document.
That your honour's servant is poor man in agricultural
behaviour which depends on season for the staff of life, therefore
he proposes that you will be pitiful upon and take him
into your sacred service, that he may have some permanent
labour for the support of his soul and family. Whereupon he
falls upon his family's bended knees, and implores to you on
your merciful consideration to a damnable miserable like
your honour's unfortunate petitioner.
That Your Lordship's honour's servant was too much poorly
during the last years and was resusitated by much medecines
which made magnificent excavations in coffers of your
honourable servant whose means are circumcised by his large
family consisting of five female women and three masculines,
the last of which are still taking milk from mother's chest,
and are damnable noiseful through pulmonary catastrophy in
their interior abdomens besides the above named an additional
birth is through the grace of God shortly coming to my
beloved of bosom.
That your honour's damnable servant was officiating in
several passages during all his generations becoming too much
old for absorbing hard labour in this time of faded life, but
was not drunkard nor fornicator nor thief nor swindler nor
any of this kind but was always pious, affectionate to his
numerous family consisting of the aforesaid five female women
and three males the last of whom are still milking the
parental mother.
That your Gracious honour's Lordship's servant was entreated
to the Magistrate for employment in Municipality to
remove filth etc., but was not granted the petition; therefore

your Generous Lordship will give me some easy work in the
department or something of this sort apart which act of
kindness your honourable lordship's servant will as in duty
bound pray for your longevity and procreativeness.
I have etc.
Having made this protest I will not detain the reader with
further examples, but proceed to set forth my reason for
writing yet another book upon Egypt.
Egypt is an inexhaustible subject. When I saw that if I
included in my Queer Things About Egypt the chapters I
was preparing upon the glorious mediaeval Arab city at Cairo
and its unspoiled native life, half the book would have to be
devoted to them, I decided to omit the descriptions of Oriental
Cairo altogether and to make them the subject of a separate book.
I was confirmed in this intention by the fact that nine out
of ten English visitors who go to Egypt spend their entire
time in Cairo and its vicinity. A book on Oriental Cairo
seemed badly wanted, for there has been no adequate book
which attempted to conduct the reader round the sights of
the native city,1 and the innumerable monuments of mediaeval
Arab architecture, which were in existence in Cairo when it
supplied the local colour for the Arabian Nights, and still
exist. It is computed that of ancient mosques and shrines
alone there are nearly five hundred.
1 Mr. Lane-Poole's “The Story of Cairo ” is historical rather than topographical.
Few visitors to Cairo ever see them, and I felt that there
were many who would love to wander about them if they had
their attention drawn to them in a chatty and interesting
book. This is what I have tried to achieve in my “Oriental
Cairo, the City of the Arabian Nights.”
It is the custom of the swallows of London Society, who go
to Cairo for the season, and spend their entire time between
the hotels, the Turf Club, and Ghezira, to complain that Cairo
is almost as European as London or Paris. You would
gather from their conversation that the one thing they really
yearned for in Egypt was to see unspoiled native life, and

that Cairo was inhabited entirely by the unlovely effendi in
his cheap, ill-fitting parodies of European clothes tempered
by the use of a tarbüish.
But beyond the excursion with a dragoman to the Turkish
Bazar they never think of going into the native city, which is
as Oriental as Granada was in the days of the Moors, and not
totally different to the Baghdad of the Arabian Nights.
It was as a city which still maintains the atmosphere of
the Arabian Nights that Cairo appealed most to me; and
while I was there I converted here a gay officer, there a
society butterfly into an ardent mosque-hunter or an enthusiastic
observer of the mediaeval life in the Arab city.
The kodak certainly played no small part in the conversion
of most of them, for there are few well-off people
who go to Egypt without a camera, and they were fascinated
with the photographs I took for the production of the
illustrations of this book. When my converts were once
bitten with the mania for photographing in the Arab city,
they generally went there every day, regardless of the
bargaining in the bazars and the fleas of the Market of the
I often had to go alone when I had exhausted the
enthusiasms or the muscles of all my friends. But I never
felt lonely, even if I was in the wrong part of the city for
Ali my faithful guide to find me and accompany me.
Nothing could induce Ali to come to the hotel for me
when I wanted him in some other direction than the Babes-Zuweyla.
Two or three times he made appointments
to come when I pressed him. But as he never kept them
I understood that he had some reason, which he would
not disclose, for objecting, such as Ramidge's servant had
against taking him to a native theatre.
But I never, if I could help it, went inside a mosque
alone. It was so difficult to get any atmosphere without
the sympathetic society of others interested in its art and
its romance. The attendants and the worshippers in the
mosques never seem to think about these aspects. To them,
even a mosque like El-Merdani is nothing but a place of

THE SÜK-EN-NAHASSIN. The most beautiful, romantic, and mediaeval street in Cairo, with the most exquisite street fountain in Cairo at its end. Left and right the meshrebiya-latticed Oriels. In front are a forage-seller and a bread-seller.

THE OCCUPATION OF EGYPT—SLEEPING. The Egyptian has a genius for going to sleep at unreasonable hours in the most unsuitable places. This man was lying asleep, with one knee in the air, on the top of a narrow parapet in the Place Mohammed Ali, near the Market of the Afternoon.

worship and a club, a building in which they could not
understand a Christian's wishing to enter for any purpose
except the assertion of the right to intrude. Yet the mosques
of Cairo are among the flowers of the earth. They are
as rich in colour and variety as the blossoms of the garden
and the field. They look as if they might have been grown
and not been built by hands; they are full of fine curves
and gracious flourishes; and all through the Arab city they
spring beside one's path.
I do not know how many mosques I have entered and
perused in Cairo. It must be fifty, it may be a hundred
or two hundred. I know them as familiarly as men and
women. I scan their gentle and lovable features like the
faces of friends. They seem to pass the time of day to
me whenever I am in their neighbourhood.
Few types of the world's architecture are as irrespective
of age as the mosques of Cairo. I know mosques that
were building when Louis Quinze was king, in the golden
sunset of France, which look as old as fifteenth-century
Gothic. The mosque builders did not lose their grip of
style, their ideals did not fail. The mosque of El-Bordeini
has not lost the magic of Kait Bey's architecture, though
it was built two centuries later. It may justly be compared
to the delightful Stuart Gothic at Oxford, built two
centuries after mediaeval Gothic passed with the feudal
chivalry of England in the Wars of the Roses. In the
array of mosques marshalled before the eyes of the observer
in Cairo, he can compare the glories of a thousand years.
In El-Azhar itself, the University of the Mohammedan
world, there are inscriptions that declare the handiwork
of Gohar, the General of the Fatimides who conquered
Egypt, and, listening to the crafty son of Tallis, founded
the Oxford of the East ten stormy centuries ago.
The mosque of El-Amr is almost as old as Islam itself,
though hardly one of Amr's stones is standing on another,
and the stately colonnades of its fifteenth-century restorer
are half of them lying, like images of the Pharaohs, in the
The minarets of El-Hakim, another of the primitive
mosques, rise like the pylons of Edfu in the midst of
mediaeval Cairo. They have the solid simplicity of the
temples of ancient Egypt; and religion has left them as
lonely. No pageant of faith ever brightens the liwân of
El-Hakim's mosque. For a while, as a museum, it was the
shrine of Arabian art, now it is but the storehouse of the
great old-fashioned lanterns used in the illuminations of the
Faithful. But it keeps company worthily with the Gate
of Victory and the Gate of Conquests and city walls as
old as our Norman castles.
Ibn-Tulun's mosque is tremendous; its huge courts, the
grandest spaces in Cairo, are a thousand years old as they
stand. The story of its building is a romance. The plaster
tracery of its innumerable windows is still unmatched. It
was the Court mosque of a more ancient Cairo. It has
walls beside it which belonged to its luxurious founder's
Palace of the Air.
I will not unfold here the glories of the great mosques of the
later Middle Ages, Sultan Hassan's (the St. Peter's of Islam),
Sultan Kalaun's (the St. Mark's), El-Moayyad, El-Merdani,
El-Mase, the Blue Mosque, Sultan Barkuk's, El-Ghury, Abu
Bekr's, El-Chikkun, Kismas-el-Ishaky, Kait Bey's, Sultan
Selim's, El-Bordeini, and Sitt' Safiya—all but the last two
built, and in their full splendour, when the world's chief
romance was crystallised into a volume of Arabian Nights
with the colour of Cairo.
I have written enough of them, I hope, in this volume, to
make the reader, who visits Cairo with the desire to explore
the mediaeval Arabic city, leave not one of them unentered.
From my pages, too, he will gather that the Cairo of the
Arabian Nights does not live by mosques alone, but by
palaces of Caliphs, and mansions of Mameluke Beys, and
ancient schools and fountains reared by both, in the munificent
spirit of Mohammedan charity, in the centuries which filled
Europe with her Gothic churches and convents and colleges.
In Cairo there are still whole mediaeval streets in which
huge oriel windows, latticed with exquisite meshrebiya-work,

rise in triple tiers on both sides of the road, each tier projecting
over the tier below, till the sky threatens to vanish.
The Gamaliya has ancient overhanging timber porches
which would grace a Japanese temple. The Sukkariya and
the streets which continue it are as fantastic as a willow-pattern
plate, with their arcaded fountains and Koran schools
of bygone centuries. The Bab-es-Zuweyla, crowned with
flamboyant minarets, hung with the weapons of still credited
giants, fluttering with the offerings of the Faithful, hardly ever
without a ragged water-seller at its threshold and a fikee
reciting the Koran in its dark recesses, is mediaeval enough
for a background for Saladin prancing out with his emirs to
do battle with the Crusaders.
But this is only the half; for though there is no longer the
pomp of princes and nobles in the splendour of Oriental
luxury or barbaric mail, the great religious pageants, like the
celebration of the Birthday of the Prophet and the Procession
of the Holy Carpet to Mecca, are celebrated with much of
their ancient grandeur, and the life of the poor in the
unspoiled parts of the native city is hardly changed from
the days of the Caliphs, except for the intrusion of the
gifts of science and of the protecting arm of the beneficent
Power, which decrees that none shall suffer violence to his
person or his goods save in the execution of righteously
administered laws. Half a mile of streets is still festooned
with red and white pennons and lanterns to welcome a
pilgrim from Mecca or a marriage cortège, each heralded by
bands of barbaric music, camels in scarlet caparisons, palanquins
of ivory and silver, and a troop of friends riding on fine
white asses.
As you are watching the coppersmith holding a beaten
vessel with his toes while he chases the brim, or a silk-weaver
buried to his middle, you may hear those barbaric hautboys
and drums. But more often you will hear a chanting so
mournful and dignified that its memory will stay in your ears
for ever; and soon, borne on the shoulders of friends, foreshadowed
by banners, a high-horned coffin strewn with a noble
shawl crosses your vision to the last rest in the Eastern desert.
On every side the poor are working patiently for the little
gains of the Orient with tools unchanged from the dawn of
commerce. The wood-turner, who creates the exquisite
meshrebiya lattices, has a loose-strung bow for his lathe;
the cotton-carder flicks the down from the fibre with a
fainéant lute; the tarbûsh-maker does his felting with teasels
from the hedge. This is the city of the Arabian Nights.


To avoid being taken to task for calling Cairo “A city of the
Arabian Nights,” I shall shelter myself behind the
authority of the two most eminent writers in our language on
Arabic Egypt. I refer, of course, to Edward Lane, whose
translation of the Arabian Nights is, after the Bible, perhaps
the greatest “foreign classic,” and to his nephew, Stanley
Lane-Poole, whom I am proud to remember as one of my
literary friends at Oxford. He was a recognised authority on
the subject even when he was an undergraduate, and it was
he who first brought home to me how extraordinarily romantic
is the art of the Saracen.
Since then I have been enraptured with it, face to face, in
three continents and many lands, and have turned to his
writings for fresh inspiration times literally without number.
From the passage which I quote in the Appendix from
Lane it will be seen that it was sixteenth-century Cairo which
supplied the local colour of the Arabian Nights, though the
stories themselves have some of them been in existence for
centuries longer, and some of them are not Arab at all.
No one who means to study Oriental Cairo seriously
should go there without the three precious volumes of Lane's
Arabian Nights (published by Chatto & Windus). Its
notes throw a direct light on the Arabic Cairo of to-day,
and it clothes with life a multitude of grand old mosques
and palaces, neglected, decayed, or in ruins, by showing the
tragedies and comedies and everyday existence which went
on in them 350 years ago.



Read Lane's Arabian Nights, and Lane's Modern Egyptians
through before you go, and you will dip into them
every day while you are there to corroborate from your
own observations the lessons which you have laid to
The books which deal most directly with mediaeval Cairo
itself are of course Mr. Lane-Poole's two books— Cairo and
The Story of Cairo , the latter improved upon the former.
Until quite recently there was no other book to be mentioned
beside them, but only a few years ago Messrs. Chatto
& Windus brought out a volume, with coloured illustrations,
on Cairo, Jerusalem, and Damascus by one of the greatest
scholars Oxford has ever produced—Professor Margoliouth.
This threw a quantity of new light on the subject by laying
under contribution in the most critical manner the Arab
historians and topographers. I feel myself, however, amply
sheltered behind the names of Lane and Lane-Poole in calling
Cairo The City of the Arabian Nights.
Mr. Lane-Poole uses the actual words in the passage which
I have quoted in my Appendix. He says: “Cairo is still to
a great degree the City of the Arabian Nights,” and, in the
second passage which I quote from him, gives a most brilliant
description from the old Arabic chronicler El-Makrizy of the
life led by the Mameluke Sultans and their Emirs, of their
falconry, their racing, their polo, their archery, their brilliant
festivals, their love of personal splendour.
I had this passage of Mr. Lane-Poole's in my mind when I
used to wander off to muse at sunset among the Tombs of the
Caliphs, or at night, when the bazars were deserted and the
moon was high, to gaze upon the fairy lineaments of those
three royal mosques in the Street of the Coppersmiths.


THE Introduction is followed by a preliminary chapter
entitled “A Drive Round Cairo,” which is intended for
those who need to use the book as an itinerary. And this

is followed by a chapter of a general order on the Old-world
Oriental Life of Cairo.
Chapters II—XII deal with the humours of street life,
chiefly in the Arab city. The poor city Egyptian is as naïve
and amusing as the fellah. He gives the amateur photographer
endless opportunities of securing humorous subjects.
The chapters show explicitly where each kind of unspoiled
native life is to be found.
Chapters XIII—XX deal with the incomparable mediaeval
monuments of the Arab city, which yield, to the student and
the photographer alike, the noblest subjects.
Chapters XX, XXI, XXII, deal with the great religious
processions; the Celebration of the Birthday of the Prophet,
and the Procession of the Holy Carpet being two of the
finest religious pageants in the Mohammedan world.
Chapter XXIII deals with the extraordinarily interesting
and highly mediaeval domestic processions of the Arabs.
Chapter XXIV summarises the marvellous monuments
of ancient Egypt preserved in the Cairo Museum. Chapter
XXV describes one of the ancient Arab Baths. Chapter
XXVII the old Coptic Churches in Cairo; the remaining
Chapters the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Memphis, Heliopolis, and
other sights near Cairo. The Appendices give my authorities
for calling Oriental Cairo the City of the Arabian Nights,
Mr. Roosevelt's Guildhall speech, a chronological table, etc.
Though the book gives the necessary practical advice to
sightseers in Cairo, it is as full of amusement for the general
reader as Queer Things About Egypt was; the only difference
being that it gives the humours of the poor natives in the
city, with their taint of touting, instead of the unconscious
humours of the fellahin.
January 1, 1911.

EGYPTIAN INFANTRY MARCHING PAST. Their uniforms are light blue and their tarbûshes (caps) are scarlet.

THE EGYPTIAN CAVALRY BAND. There is only one native regiment of cavalry, kept chiefly for escorting the Khedive and his guests. They wear a very bright light-blue uniform.



I — Europeanised Cairo
I. The Ismailiya Quarter: the District of the Foreign Hotels,
Shops, Business Offices, and Chief Residences
II. Route for Seeing the Ismailiya Quarter 13
III. The Kasr-el-Dubara Quarter Sights 14
II.—Oriental Cairo
IV. From the Opera House round the Esbekiya Gardens to the
Ataba-el-Khadra; Scenes of Native Life
V. The Sharia Mohammed Ali; Native Life of the Bab-el-Khalk;
the Approach to the Bab-es-Zuweyla by the Oriental Taht-er-Reba'a
and its Mosques
VI. The Drive through the City of the Caliphs from the Bab-es-Zuweyla
to the Bab-el-Futuh
VII. Mohammedan Funerals 17
VIII. Saladin's Gates and Walls 17
IX. The Gamaliya and the Palace of Sultan Beybars 18
X. The Mameluke Houses of the Gamaliya Quarter 19
XI. The Hill of the Beit-el Kadi and its glorious Architecture 19
XII. The Turkish Bazar and the Mosque of Hoseyn 19
XIII. The University of El-Azhar and the Okelle of Kait Bey 19
XIV. The Beit-Gamal-ed-Din 20
XV. The Coptic Churches of the Bazars; the best Bazars 20
XVI. The Greek Cathedral 20
XVII. The Tombs of the Caliphs 21
XVIII. More Coptic Churches and Mameluke Mansions 21
XIX. The Antique Mosques and Mansions of the El-Giyûchi District 21
XX. Old Mosques and Mansions of the Sûk-es-Zalat 22
XXI. Clot Bey Avenue; the Coptic Cathedral; Little Sicily and the
XXII. The Sitt' Safiya, El Bordeini and Kesun Mosques 23
XXIII. The Ancient Arab Streets. From the Sharia Serugiya to the
Tentmakers' Bazar
XXIV. The Beit-el-Khalil—an old Arab Mansion 24


XXV. The Bab-es-Zuweyla and the Ancient Buildings round it 24
XXVI. From the Bab-es-Zuweyla to the Citadel; the Kismas-el-Ishaky
Mosque and the Fountain of Mohammed Katkhoda
XXVII. The Magnificent old Mosque of El-Merdani 25
XXVIII. The Palace of the Haret-el-Merdani—the finest Courtyard in
XXIX. Old Arab Mansions on the Way to the Armourers' Sûk; and
an old Arab Bath
XXX. The Armourers' Sûk; Sultan Hassan's and the El-Rifai'ya
Mosque; First View of the Citadel
XXXI. The Drive from Sultan Hassan's Mosque to the Citadel and
back to El-Merdani's Mosque
XXXII. The Mosques of the Sharia Bab-el-Wazir; the Kheirbek
Mosque, the Blue Mosque, and Sultan Sha'ban's Mosque
XXXIII. An Example of the Windows called Kamariya 28
XXXIV. The Sights of the Citadel 29
XXXV. The El-Hilmiya and Ibn-Tulun Districts 29
XXXVI. The Derb-el-Gamamise and its Sights 30
XXXVII. The Antique Arab Palace of the Sheikh Sadat 30
XXXVIII. The Sharia El-Hilmiya and its Mosques 31
XXXIX. The Sharia Es-Chikhun and its Mosques 31
XL. The Mosque of Ibn-Tulun 31
XLI. Old Mameluke Houses near Ibn-Tulun's Mosque 32
XLII. The Mosque of Kait Bey 32
XLIII. The Ancient Houses of El-Katai and the Tombs of the Mamelukes 32
XLIV. The Mosque of Imam Shaf'yi 33
XLV. The Mounds of Fustat—the First Arab City on the Site of
XLVI. The Mosque of Amr 34
XLVII. The Coptic Churches of Der Abu Sefen 34
XLVIII. Old Cairo 34
XLIX. The Gizeh Ferry; The Nilometer; Moses on Roda Island;
The Origin of the Egyptian Babylon
L. The Coptic Houses and the Famous Coptic Churches of
LI. The Residence of the Holy Family in Egypt 35
LII. The Mo'allaka—the Hanging Church of Babylon 36
LIII. The Church of the Virgin; Der Todros and Der Bablun 36
LIV. The Old Greek Cathedral of Babylon 37
LV. Bulak, Shubra, Rod-el-Farag, and Abbassiya 37
LVI. The Drive across the Nile Bridge 38
THE first thing to do when you get to any town that
you wish to study is to take what the Italians call
a drive of Orientation. The most convenient point to select
for the centre of Cairo is the Place de l'Opera between the

Opréa, the Hôtel Continental and the Esbekiya Gardens.
It is not really so central as the Abdin Palace, geographically
speaking, but it is at the crossing of the principal routes.


I. The Ismailiya Quarter: the District of the Foreign Hotels,
Shops, Business Offices, and Chief Residences

The first quarter of Cairo you drive round takes very little
time; it is the smallest, bounded by the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil,
the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, the Ismailiya Canal,
and the Sharia Kamel, which changes its name to the Sharia
Nubar Pasha as it approaches the railway station. This is
the European business quarter. In it are situated the Cairo
Head Offices of the Suez Canal Company, on the last named
street; and the office of Thomas Cook & Son, Shepheard's
Hotel and the Hôtel Continental on the Sharia Kamel. The
Savoy Hotel, the Consulates General of France and Russia,
and the three chief banks are all situated on or just off
the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil; while the Turf Club, the Hôtel
d'Angleterre, the British Consulate Offices, the English Church,
and the Office of the Eastern Telegraph Company are all
situated in the centre of the block; and the Abbas Theatre,
not very far behind Cook's Office. The best foreign shops
are in the Sharia Kamel, the Sharia El-Maghrabi, the Sharia
Manakh, the Sharia Bulak, and the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil, all
in this quarter, and most of the other foreign business houses
are near them. In other words, this is the quarter of Cairo
where most of the well-off foreigners live and move and do
their shopping, called vaguely the Ismailiya quarter.

II. Route for Seeing the Ismailiya Quarter

The best way to see it in a carriage is to drive from the
Sharia Kamel to the Sharia Suleiman Pasha down the Sharia
Bulak and up the Sharia El-Maghradi, down the Sharia
Manakh and up the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil, finishing up with a

drive along the fine Sharia El-Madabegh, and a drive down
the bottom part of the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil to see the Nile
bridge, the Kasr-el-Nil barracks (which generally have
soldiers drilling or playing on the parade ground), the
Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and the Maison Zogheb,
the finest modern private house in the city in the Arabic
style. The only two buildings in the whole quarter which
need be visited from the art point of view are the Museum
and the Maison de France, the house of the French Consul-General,
constructed out of the materials of old Arab houses
and mosques.

III. The Kasr-el-Dubara Quarter Sights

The second quarter to explore is not much more interesting.
The most important part of it, from the point of view of the
artist and the historian, is known as the Kasr-el-Dubara.
This contains the houses of the British Consul-General and
the British General Commanding the Army of Occupation;
an English Church; the palace of the Imperial Ottoman
Commissioner and the Khedive's mother, near the river; and
near them the offices of the Minister of Public Works, the
Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance and the Interior,
and the War Office. On the other side of them, a little
farther off, is the Abdin Palace, the principal residence of
the Khedive, guarded by barracks.
This quarter may be said to begin at the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil
and to end at the great Kasr-el-Aini Hospital on the
Nile side, and the Mosque of Seyyida Zeynab on the inner
side. It is not much more interesting than the Ismailiya
quarter. More than half of the part of it on the river bank
consists of grubbed-up gardens and foundations, a memento
of the great land-boom, in which this was to have formed
the most fashionable residential part of Cairo. The new
Egyptian University is situated near the Ministry of War
and the Wakfs, a handsome building, in which the administration
of Mohammedan charities and the repair of Mohammedan
monuments is vested. But none of the buildings are

A GRAND JEWISH FUNERAL IN CAIRO (I). Boys in velvet robes edged with gold braid. In the background is the Opera-house.

A GRAND JEWISH FUNERAL AT CAIRO (II). The hearse drawn by six horses caparisoned in white. The two Arabs with wands are saises—the grooms who run before a carriage.

worth a visit. They are merely handsome edifices in the
style of French or English public buildings, which are surrounded
with dull gardens. This is a portion of Cairo which
the visitor may safely neglect. But it takes very little time
to make your cabman drive round these public buildings
of the Administration in the order in which I have given
I have taken these two quarters first, to get them out of
the way before proceeding to the Arabic quarters centring
round the Citadel, which fall into the natural scope of my


IV. From the Opera House round the Esbekiya Gardens
to the Ataba-el-Khadra; Scenes of Native Life

Visitors wishing to drive round Oriental Cairo should start
at the Place de l'Opéra, say, from the statue of Ibrahim
Pasha, the famous fighting son of Mehemet Ali, who had so
much to do with Egypt's throwing off the Ottoman yoke.
Instead of driving direct to the Ataba-el-Khadra, the square
from which nearly all the tramways of Cairo start, he
should drive right round the Esbekiya Gardens, for in the
road on the other side, called the Sharia El-Genaina, he will
see much native life, the best donkey boys' restaurants, the
best street stalls.
The Ataba-el-Khadra, in the angle of the Mixed Tribunals
and the Post Office is the best place to observe another kind
of native life. The Arabs are extremely fond of using tramways
and omnibuses, and take them as seriously as we take
catching a train. As they are bustling-in they are waited
on by a swarm of vendors of tartlets, Turkish delight, seditious
newspapers, and tinkery and turnery, not to mention the
swarm of water-sellers, lemonade-sellers and shoeblacks, or
the donkey-boys and the arabeah-drivers, who deafen you
with their noise, and the forage camels and stone-carts who
jostle into everybody.

V. The Sharia Mohammed Ali; Native Life of the Bab-el-Khalk;
the Approach to the Bab-es-Zuweyla by the
Oriental Taht-er-Reba'a and its Mosques

At the far corner of the Ataba-el-Khadra there is a long
straight street called the Sharia Mohammed Ali, which goes
right down to the Citadel and affords a splendid view of it.
Drive down this as far as the Place Bab-el-Khalk, on which
stand the handsome Saracenic building of the Arabic Museum,
and the Governorat and office of the Commissioner of the Police,
where you are apt to see interesting groups of bound prisoners
being brought in, and of natives hanging about to have a
case tried. From this point you begin to strike the real
native town, if you drive down the little street called the
Sharia Taht-er-Reba'a, for it takes you past charming little
old mosques and schools and purely native shops, chiefly
carpenters', to the Bab-es-Zuweyla, which is always considered
the centre of the native city. Just before you get to it you
have on one side, approached by a stairway under a house,
the little Blue Mosque, and on the other side, the great
mosque of El-Moayad. You can see the old blue tiles which
cover the façade of the former gleaming under the archway
as you pass down the street. It belongs to Dervishes, and
is unlike anything else in Cairo. El-Moayad is one of the
chief mosques of Cairo, and one of the best restored; its
two soaring and fantastic minarets are built on to the towers
of the Bab-es-Zuweyla, which is one of the three old gates
of Cairo, and owes its inimitable picturesqueness to them.

VI. The Drive through the City of the Caliphs from the
Bab-es-Zuweyla to the Bab-el-Futuh

The portion of Cairo which lies south and north between
the Bab-es-Zuweyla Gate and the Bab-en-Nasr, between the
El-Moayad Mosque and the El-Hakim Mosque, and west
and east between the line of the old canal and the Tombs of
the Caliphs is far the most picturesque part of Cairo, and
on the north, south, and east sides it occupies almost exactly

the site of the original city of El-Kahira. If you drive in
a straight line down the street, which changes its name
thirteen times between this gate and the Bab-el-Futuh, the
gate on the other side of the city, you will pass some of
the noblest, most ancient, and most beautiful mosques in
the world, such as El-Moayad, El-Ghuri, El-Ashraf, Sultan
Kalaun, Sultan-en-Nasir and El-Hakim, not to mention
smaller mosques, which are gems, and fountains like the Sebil
Abd-er-Rahman, and the Sheikh's house next to the Barkukiya.
I only give the names of the buildings which are still
perfect, but the mosques, and palaces, and baths, and fountains,
which are falling into decay along this street have a pathetic
and artistic beauty of their own.

VII. Mohammedan Funerals

I consider this the most wonderful street I have ever
been in, and there is much native life in it, due not a little
to the fact that it is one of the principal routes for the
solemn and picturesque Mohammedan funerals. You hear
the death chant, and soon there comes into view a little
procession headed by religious banners and closed by a
horned coffin covered with a pall of brocade borne high on
the shoulders of the mourners, who surround it, and take
their turn in the work of merit. Sometimes there will be
a bread camel, or students of El-Azhar carrying a Koran
upon a cushion, or fikees reciting. But in principle it is
always the same—a little foot procession of men wearing their
ordinary dress surrounding the picturesque coffin, and preceded
by banners and chanting.

VIII. Saladin's Gates and Walls

The great mosque of El-Hakim stands between the Bab-el-Futuh
and the Bab-en-Nasr, the two oldest gates of Cairo,
chefs d'oeuvres of the military architecture of the Saracens,
hardly altered in their outward guise since Saladin himself
rode out of them to fight the Crusaders, and flanked by

a splendid stretch of the most ancient wall of Cairo full of
towers and secret passages.

IX. The Gamaliya and the Palace of Sultan Beybars

Drive out of the Bab-el-Futuh yourself and into the Bab-en-Nasr.
You come almost immediately, on the right, to an
important building, a ruined okelle of Kait Bey, and almost
immediately you are in the Gamaliya, the chief Arab street of
Cairo, between the Mosque and Palace of Sultan Beybars.
The mosque is ancient, but it is duly restored; the palace,
which you approach through a gate off the main street, in the
little lane called the Darb-el-Asfar, is the finest domestic
building in Cairo, the residence of a rich Turk, who preserves
it hardly altered and appropriately furnished.

X. The Mameluke Houses of the Gamaliya Quarter

There are other great mosques in the Gamaliya, but they
are more or less in ruins, and nearly all the princely khans
of the Red Sea merchants, which line this famous street,
have been spoiled by being cut up into offices. But many
of them have fine antique bits preserved, and, as you pass
out of this street into the Sharia Habs-el-Rahba, which
is a continuation of it, you come upon a stretch of street
architecture difficult to match in the world. Not only the
main street itself, but the by-streets running off it, are full of
tall mameluke palaces, which stretch farther and farther over
the street, as their stories rise, until you can hardly see the
sky between them, at the top. The upper stories are full of
huge oriel windows covered with lattices of rich and ancient
meshrebiya work for the use of the ladies of the harem, while
the lower portions have splendid overhanging porches.
Windows and walls and doors all being of wood-work, have
warped to every angle of picturesqueness and taken the
colour of Rome. The old wood-work of the mameluke houses
can best be seen in these streets; the stone-work is better seen
farther on.

XI. The Hill of the Beit-el-Kadi and its glorious

From here you drive through a most impressive old gateway
to one of the most favoured squares of Cairo, which has
the five superb arches of the Beit-el-Kadi, the old palace of
the Grand Kadi, on the left, and the mosque and the equally
ancient hospital of Sultan Kalaun in front. The façade of
Sultan Kalaun's mosque is Gothic in its richness.

XII. The Turkish Bazar and the Mosque of Hoseyn

Between the Beit-el-Kadi and the continuation of the
Muski called the Sikket-el-Gedida is the only bit of the
native city which most foreigners know at all familiarly, the
Khan-el-Khalil, which most of it is taken up with the so-called
Turkish Bazar. This, with the exception of a hand-some
khan built by Ismail Pasha, is more European than
Arab, full of the stalls of the dealers in precious stones
(chiefly turquoises), lace, pottery, enamels, enamels, carpets, and brass,
and very appropriately has at the back of it the mosque of
Hoseyn, which looks as if it had been furnished from the
Tottenham Court Road, though it is deemed too sacred for
Christians to enter its door.

XIII. The University of El-Azhar and the Okelle of Kait Bey

Just across the Sikket-el-Gedida is the gigantic and famous
mosque of El-Azhar, the chief University of Islam, only
picturesque outside for its six mad minarets, but full of
venerable beauty in its great liwân crowded with ten thousand
students. Beside it are the mosque of Mohammed Bey and
the okelle of Kait Bey, which must be inspected, the former
for the exquisite meshrebiya pavilion over its fountain, the
latter because it has the finest mameluke façade of any
mansion in Cairo. It is almost as handsome and as much
decorated as a great mosque, with its splendid porch and
windows and panellings.

XIV. The Beit-Gamal-ed-Din

From here tell the cabman to drive to the Beit-Gamal-ed-Din
in the Sharia Hoche Kadam, the house built for the
chief of the merchants in the bazar a little before 1650, which
the Wakfs have put into thorough order for exhibition to the
public, with a caretaker at the door to demand mosque tickets
for admission. This is a beautiful, perfect, and very richly
decorated building, only inferior to the Palace of the Sultan

XV. The Coptic Churches of the Bazar; the best Bazars

While you are in this neighbourhood tell the cabman to
drive to the two antique Coptic churches—which are quite
near, in a little back street called the Haret-er-Rum on the
same side of the Sharia El-Akkadin, one of which is dedicated
to St. George, and the other to the Virgin—if you are going
to make a study of Coptic churches. Then turn back into
the Sharia El-Akkadin, and, sending your carriage round to
meet you in the Sikket-el-Gedida (which is the continuation
of the Muski), turn to the left yourself up the Sharia El-Menaggidin,
which leaves the Sharia El-Akkadin where
it joins the Sukkariya. This will take you through a
little maze of the oldest and best bazars, the Cotton
Bazar, the Scentmakers' Bazar, the Silk Bazar, and the
Tunisian and Algerian Bazar, and bring you direct to where
your cab is waiting by the mosque of El-Ashraf. You only
have to walk straight on past the tiny dens of the silk-weavers
and scent merchants, and between the gaudy stalls of the
Tunisian Arabs, and follow the windings of the street.

XVI. The Greek Cathedral

You will pass quite close to the Greek Cathedral, but it is
not interesting; it is merely like a handsome congregationalist
church hung with the devotional pictures of the orthodox
saints. The chief difference is that the gallery here is
reserved for the women and the women are reserved for the


BEDAWIN AT THE GIZEH MARKET. In front is a fall Narghileh or hubble-bubble pipe. Observe the Bedawin head-dresses.

gallery. The old Greek Cathedral out at Old Cairo , on the
other hand, is magnificent, and embodies a stately Roman

XVII. The Tombs of the Caliphs

When you get back to your carriage, drive down to the
gap in the city walls opposite the mounds called the Windmill
Hills. Climb the hills—they are not high, and are full of
fragments of old Arab pottery—and from the top of them
you get one of the most splendid views in the world—the
whole panorama of the Tombs of the Caliphs, with the Citadel
towering above them, and the eastern desert rolling away
to the horizon behind them. Here are dozens of mosques,
some of the most romantic examples of the art of the

XVIII. More Coptic Churches and Mameluke Mansions

Then return to your carriage and drive right up the street
till you get to the Sharia Ben-es-Sureni, which runs parallel
to the line of the old canal, now filled up and occupied by a
tramway. In this street are some of the finest mameluke
houses, and in one of the streets at the back of it on the side
away from the canal are two extremely ancient and interesting
Coptic churches, and a number of Levantine churches,
such as the Armenian, the Syrian, and the Maronite.

XIX. The Antique Mosques and Mansions of the El-Giyûchi

Drive along the continuation of this street, called the
Sharia Esh-Sharawi-el-Barani, to the corner of the Sharia El-Giyûchi,
and turn down that street, one of the best old streets
in Cairo of the humbler sort, containing old mosques, old
Arab houses, one of which, half pulled down, has glorious
woodwork; and a splendid antique Arab bath, with many
chambers panelled with white marble and adorned with marble
fountains. When you get to its end take the first turning to

the right into the Sharia El-Marguchi, and then the first to the
right again into the Sharia Birgwan, which winds round until
it brings you to one of the most beautiful, most perfect, and
least-known mosques of Cairo, the Mosque of Abu-Bekr
Mazhar-el-Ansari, built in the best period of the fifteenth

XX. Old Mosques and Mansions of the Sûk-es-Zalat

Then tell the cabman to drive you back to where the
Sharia Emir-el-Giyûchi meets the Sûk-es-Zalat, where they
are cut by the tramway which runs over the dried-up canal.
The Sûk-es-Zalat and its continuation towards the railway
station has some splendid old mosques and mameluke
houses and interesting shops of the humbler order, in which
natives are carpentering or brass-mending. Continue through
the typical and picturesque Sharia Bab-el-Bahr to where it
runs into the Sharia or Boulevard Clot Bey, close to the
railway station.

XXI. Clot Bey Avenue; the Coptic Cathedral; Little Sicily
and the Fishmarket

You will have wandered away from what I may call the
Bazar Quarter, but it is easy to get back to it, if you drive
down the Boulevard Clot Bey, and you will be able to make
some interesting excursions off the direct route. Just off the
Avenue, for instance, half way down, is the present Coptic
Cathedral (not, of course, to be compared with the old Coptic
churches, though it is the chief seat of this ancient religion);
and, as you get near the Esbekiya, you can make your cabman
drive you through Little Sicily and the Fishmarket, two of the
most disreputable, though they are not the least interesting
districts of Cairo. Little Sicily is almost like a Sicilian town
and full of the lowest-class Italians; the Fishmarket is the
quarter of the houses of ill-fame patronised by the Arabs,
which at night are a blaze of Oriental vice, and by day have
the flamboyant denizens of the quarter, the strange women of

the Bible, lolling about in sufficient numbers to give some
idea of the place to those who could not endure its shamelessness
at night.

XXII. The Sitt' Safiya, El-Bordeini and Kesun Mosques

Drive on through the Ataba-el-Khadra and down the
Sharia Mohammed Ali as far as the corner of the Sharia Es-Serugiya,
after dismounting to walk up to the beautiful little
old mosque known as Sitt' Safiya, which has one of the most
picturesque situations in Cairo, at the top of a broad and high
flight of steps, which make a fine plinth for its cluster of little
domes. Be sure to go back and see this mosque afterwards,
for it is unlike any other in Cairo. Before you go back to
your carriage now walk a few yards farther to see the mosque
of El-Bordeini built in the style of Kait Bey's mosque
admirably restored, and considered the richest in its decorations,
and, by many also the most beautiful, of any mosque in
Cairo. It is in an ancient street called the Daudiya, which
contains the best Arab restaurant, but few old houses except
near the corner of the Sharia El-Magharbilin.
When you are back in your carriage driving down the
Sharia Mohammed Ali you will pass the great Kesun Mosque,
which one of Khedives cut in half to carry this street straight
through from the Ataba-el-Khadra to the Citadel. You need
not dismount to look at it, for he not only cut it in half
but restored it in what corresponds to our Early Victorian

XXIII. The Ancient Arab Streets. From the Sharia
Serugiya to the Tentmakers' Bazar

When your carriage turns into the Sharia Serugiya and its
continuations, the Sharia El-Magharbilin and the Sharia
Kasabet-Radowan, tell your cabman to drive slowly, for there is
something to see every minute, beginning with the Dervish
tekke near the corner of the Sharia Mohammed Ali. There
are other tekkes of Dervishes; there is an ancient fortified
gateway; there is an old bath; there is a succession of little

ancient mosques with fascinating mameluke domes, with the
beautiful lace-work decoration; and in between there is much
native life to be observed in the marketing done at humble
shops. Where the Sharia Kasabet-Radowan draws in to the
Sûk of the Tentmakers there is an avenue of stately buildings,
native mansions with rich portals and balconies, and mosques
with pattern'd stonework and massive bronze grills clustered
together. The Sûk of the Tentmakers is a blaze of colour;
it is also a blaze of vulgarity and impudence.

XXIV. The Beit-el-Khalil—an old Arab Mansion

Just at its beginning, notice on the left a huge gateway
admitting to the courtyard of what must have been one of the
stateliest mansions in Cairo, though what remains of it
is given over to tenements and tentmakers. But it still
has its mak'ad or open hall of the harem, with vast
moresco arches soaring almost from the ground to the roof.
It is called the Beit-el-Khalil.

XXV. The Bab-es-Zuweyla and the Ancient Buildings round it

Where the Bazar of the Tentmakers debouches opposite
the Bab-es-Zuweyla, are two ruined mosques—that on the
right very odd, and that on the left exquisite in its decay.
It is worth getting out to examine the former and to have
another look at the Bab-es-Zuweyla, with its towering
minarets and its weapons of the Afrit giant high on its
mighty sides, its rags shredded to its door-nails by those
who have sick children, its humble water-sellers, its fikees
reciting the Koran, and its crowds of people, who look as
if they had stepped out of the Bible. If you go just
through the gate and take the first turn to the right, you
will find yourself in an alley which I could not define, indescribably
picturesque, edged with stalls of bread in uncouth
shapes—an alley wedged between superb and soaring
mosques and fountains, the very breath of the East.

XXVI. From the Bab-es-Zuweyla to the Citadel; the
Kismas-el-Ishaky Mosque and the Fountain of Mohammed

But go back to your carriage and drive down another of
Cairo's most inimitable streets called here the Sharia Darb-el-Ahmar,
and later on the Sharia El-Tabbana, the Sharia
Bab-el-Wazir, and the Sharia El-Magar. I hardly ever saw
such a street, though it begins plainly enough with the Bazar
of the Donkey-harness Sellers, men who deal in brocaded
saddles, and necklaces of silver and turquoise blue glass,
and gaudy reins and head-stalls; for they show but little on
their shop fronts. You pass nothing of note but one of
Cairo's most ancient shops till you come to a place where
the whole street seems to be stopped by a mosque standing
across it, the Kismas-el-Ishaky Mosque, one of Kait Bey's
best, restored to its pristine splendour with too lavish a hand,
though no lack of taste. Its severity is softened by the
exquisite wooden gallery which connects it, I suppose, with
some educational building—here in Cairo a mosque had its
school as regularly as a church had its convent in Rome.
A little below on the right, at the beginning of the Sharia
El-Tabbana, is one of the most exquisite fountains and
schools in the city. In Cairo a fountain always has its Koran
school for the little ones above. This Sebil of Mohammed
Katkhoda is almost as exquisite in its colouring as the
interior of St. Mark's, and, inside, its fountain chamber is
lined with old blue Oriental tiles like the great and little
Blue Mosques.

XXVII. The Magnificent old Mosque of El-Merdani

Not very much lower down, of notable grandeur, elegance,
and charm, is the great fourteenth-century Mosque of
El-Merdani, which outside has lofty walls, pierced with
gracious moresco windows and topped with battlements,
retreating in echelon. They have long since mellowed from

the perpendicular; their stone has gone golden; there is
a certain castle look about them. The two great doors
of the mosque, north and south, are invitingly open. Alone of
all Cairo's mosques El-Merdani shows you its whole heart,
a gleaming white court surrounded by a noble arcade and
graced with an ancient fountain; an old liwân with mighty
columns: mimbar and mihrab and marble-panelled walls, all
rich and old and beautiful, and a roof painted with the
gay hues in which the Saracen delighted, sobered by five
hundred years. El-Merdani is one of the most lovable
as well as one of the most magnificent of mosques.

XXVIII. The Palace of the Haret-el-Merdani—the finest
Courtyard in Cairo

Here, on this first drive of Orientation, you must leave
that inimitable street which sweeps up to the Citadel from
El-Merdani to see the finest mansions of the Arab city.
There is one right behind the never-opened west door of
the mosque, but it is maimed of its splendour. But in
the Haret-el-Merdani, a few yards off, is another, beloved
of postcard-makers, which must in its day have been a
rival of the Palace of Sultan Beybars. No mansion in Cairo
has such a beautiful mak'ad, for the stairway which admits
to it leads up to a portal almost as high as the three
great arches which soar to the roof, and the gallery from
which they spring has two exquisite little pavilions of
meshrebiya work for the ladies of the harem to use when
they wished to look on the courtyard unveiled. Other
portions of the court's façade are richly ornamented; vast
antique stables and outhouses lead out of it; and below the
noble meshrebiya'd windows and sunken panels is painted a
most absurd wall-painting of the experiences of a Hadji
who seems to have met a fat-winged Cupid on his way to
Mecca. The street door of this house with the Khedivial
badge in a lozenge is a typical specimen. Close by is
another fine old mansion not quite so good.

XXIX. Old Arab Mansions on the Way to the Armourers'
Suk; and an old Arab Bath

From here drive to the Sûk of the Armourers which
contains a number of typical old Arab mansions belonging
to very conservative people, who still keep their front doors
shut, a very rare thing in Cairo—I have no doubt that
some of them have splendid courtyards. One day I found
one of these doors, which was nearly always shut, open,
and went in. It opened on to a garden with a superb
teak-wood trellis pergola and a luxuriant garden. Lower
down there were at least two houses like the famous palace
in the Haret-el-Merdani, but not so good. Near them were
the famous baths of the Emir Beshtak, the handsomest in
Cairo, very old, with their pavements, and the panelling of
their walls and their octagonal fountains all in antique
white marble.

XXX. The Armourers' Sûk; Sultan Hassan's and the El-Rifai'ya
Mosque; First View of the Citadel

Just beyond this you will find the Armourers' Sûk commencing
in earnest There is no armour to be found in
it nowadays, and very few weapons of romantic Arab patterns,
though there are a few of the long-barrelled Bedawin guns,
which have their stocks ornamented with almonds of bone or
mother-of-pearl. The Armourers' Sûk lives by the sale of
what are described as Sheffield knives, but come from some
German Sheffield. The Armourers' Sûk runs into the Sharia
Mehemet Ali at its finest point, where the great mosques
of Sultan Hassan and El-Rifai'ya tower up right and left,
and Saladin's Citadel, crowned by Mehemet Ali's Mosque,
faces them.
I have written of these two great mosques in my chapter
on mosques; both are like mighty castles.

XXXI. The Drive from Sultan Hassan's Mosque to the
Citadel and back to El-Merdani's Mosque

Time yourself to arrive in the Place Rumeleh, in which
the Sharia Mohammed Ali terminates, at sunset, when the

glare of an indescribable colour between purple and orange
makes the rock of the Citadel and Mehemet Ali's Mosque,
with its soaring domes and minarets, shine with an unearthly
radiance. Look at them long and well, and then
drive up the hill past the romantic-looking Mahmudiya and
Emir Akhor mosques, gay little things with arabesqued
mameluke domes, to the principal gate of the Citadel, the
Bab-el-Gedid, and walk round the great mosque to stand on
the terrace beside it and see the Pyramids standing out
purple against the afterglow. Leave the Citadel, before
the darkness falls, to drive down the steep, winding street
called in its different parts the Sharia El-Magar, the Sharia
Bab-el-Wazir, and the Sharia El-Tabbana, till you get to
the Merdani Mosque again. You will then have completed
the round of the most notable streets and buildings of the
quarter between the Muski and the Sharia Mohammed Ali,
north and south, and the Citadel and the line of the filled-up
canal east and west.

XXXII. The Mosques of the Sharia Bab-el-Wazir; the
Kheirbek Mosque, the Blue Mosque, and Sultan Sha'ban's

But before I dismiss this part of Cairo I must recapitulate
the glories of that hill-street from the Citadel to El-Merdani.
Nearly the whole of the Bab-el-Wazir portion of it is full of
ancient mosques and Arab mansions, and there is a curious
cemetery just outside the Bab-el-Wazir. Three of the
mosques in this street are large and magnificent, the Kheirbek
Mosque, which, when restored, would be worthy of a place
beside mosques like El-Bordeini; the mosque of Ibrahim
Agha, famous as the Blue Mosque, which has its liwân lined
with magnificent old blue tiles, and one of the largest courtyards
in Cairo; and the fourteenth-century mosque of Sultan
Sha'ban, which is now in the restorer's hands.

XXXIII. An Example of the Windows called Kamariya

Almost next to it, divided from it by a beautiful old
wooden arcaded gallery, is an old Arab mansion, which has

A STORY-TELLER RECITING FROM THE “ARABIAN NIGHTS.” In the background are the ramparts of the Citadel.

A SNAKE CHARMER, The snake is coiled in the sand just below his tambourine—doing nothing, as usual. The audience is a little distrait. In the background are the ramparts of the Citadel.

in its harem, often shown to strangers by the courtesy of
its proprietor, a large hall with a tessellated marble pavement
and walls, splendid meshrebiya'd windows, and about the best
examples to be found in any domestic building of the
fretted plaster-work windows set with little gems of coloured
glass which are called kamariya.

XXXIV. The Sights of the Citadel

There are, of course, many things to see in the Citadel
besides Mehemet Ali's Mosque and the view. There is,
for example, the winding rock-girt lane between the Bab-el-Wastani
and the Bab-el-Azab, which was the scene of the Massacre of the
Mamelukes; there is Joseph's Well, three
hundred feet deep, which one set of archaeologists attribute
to Saladin, whose name was Joseph, and who built the Citadel,
and another set attribute to the Pharaohs; there is the huge
shell, noble in its decay, with its splendid colonnade, of the
En-Nasir Mosque, which was the royal mosque of the Caliphs
when they lived in the Citadel; and there is the beautiful
little mosque of Suleiman Pasha, the best sixteenth-century
mosque in Cairo.
There are also the Palace of the Khedives, a very shabby
affair, and the massive ruins of the Palace of the great
Saladin, destroyed to make way for the Palace and Mosque
of the Khedives. And there is that inimitable view of the
El-Giyuchi Mosque on the Mokattams above. Look long
at that, because, as it rises far away and high, connected by
ruinous stairways and causeways, it is a gaunt skeleton of
the Middle Ages outlined against the desert and the sky,
and it has twice sealed the fate of Cairo. Napoleon first,
and Mohammed Ali afterwards, silenced the guns of the Citadel
from its dominating height.

XXXV. The El-Hilmiya and Ibn-Tulun Districts

There is another very ancient quarter of Cairo, lying between
the Sharia Mohammed Ali on the north and the Bab
Ibn-Tulun on the south, the Citadel and the Place Mohammed

Ali on the east, and the Sharia Seyyida-Zeynab and
the Derb-el-Gamamise on the west. It divides itself naturally
into two parts, the El-Hilmiya district and the district
round the mosque of Ibn-Tulun, which at the time that this
great Sultan established his palace there was called El-Katai.
This is very high ground; it was the Citadel of Cairo as
well as Royal Palace, until Gohar founded El-Kahira on the
site of the present Beit-el-Kadi. Gohar was the General who
conquered Egypt for the Fatimite Caliphs of Tunis.

XXXVI. The Derb-el-Gamamise and its Sights

It is convenient to take the Hilmiya district first. Drive
down the Sharia Mohammed Ali till you come to the site
of the old canal, which divides Cairo into two portions. The
next street beyond it and parallel to it is the old Derb-el-Gamamise,
which is called the Sharia Habbaniya as it approaches
the Sharia Mohammed Ali. It contains some fine
old mameluke houses and a Dervish tekkiya before you
come to the palace of the Derb-el-Gamamise, which is now
occupied by the Ministry of Instruction, and one of the three
great Royal Colleges which have staffs of English University

XXXVII. The Antique Arab Palace of the Sheikh Sadat

A little beyond this a small street called the Haret-el-Sadat
leads to the palace of the late Sheikh Sadat, who was a
lineal descendant of the Prophet, and the most holy personage
in Africa. His palace is in some ways the most notable
in Cairo; it has a large and splendid courtyard, immense old
stables, a wonderfully picturesque harem, and is noted for the
hall of its Selamlik. This is lined with blue porcelain tiles,
and in it the late Sheikh bestowed titles of honour like “Well
of Truth” on Mohammedan notables. It is the largest and
most unique hall in Cairo, if it is not comparable in beauty,
architecture, and decoration with those of Sultan Beybars and
the Gamal-ed-Din.

XXXVIII. The Sharia El-Hilmiya and its Mosques

From here tell your cabman to drive back to the Sharia
Mohammed Ali and proceed down it till you get to the street
called the Sharia El-Hilmiya, another of the best streets in
Cairo, for this contains two beautiful old tekkes or mosques of
dervishes; the El-Mase Mosque, one of the most beautiful,
most perfect, and most reverend of the fourteenth century
mosques; a school which has two very handsome loggias;
and the magnificent fountain erected by the present Khedivial
family, before you reach the Sharia Chikhun, with its
continuations, the Sharia Es-Saliba, the Sharia El-Khederi,
and the Sharia El-Karasin, which divides it from the Ibn-Tulun

XXXIX. The Sharia Es-Chikhun and its Mosques

On the other side of the Sharia Es-Chikhun are the north
and south Chikhun mosques, the latter being the best of all
the dervish tekkes in Cairo, and possessing a charming little
triangular leafy courtyard, and an exquisite and unrestored
old roof to its very fine liwân. Farther on there are two
other very picturesque mosques of no great size, and at the
end is the mosque of Seyyida Zeynab itself. This is large
and modern, with no pretensions whatever from the point of
view of art, and very difficult for a Christian to enter on
account of the fanaticism which it inspires. Nor is it worth
taking any trouble to try to enter it.
The southern half of this district contains a number of old
Arab mansions of a humbler class, besides the street of
splendid mameluke palaces which overlook the Tulun
Mosque, and some very beautiful old fountains and schools.

XL. The Mosque of Ibn-Tulun

Drive from the Chikhun Mosque down the Sharia Er-Rukbiya,
which contains some old buildings, to the Sharia
Ibn-Tulun, from which you gain admission to the great
mosque of the same name. The mosque of Ibn-Tulun in

several ways is the most notable in Cairo. It is one of the
very largest, it is the oldest but one in foundation, and is
the only mosque in Cairo which remains at all in its original
condition. Instead of preserving an original feature here and
there, it nearly all of it remains as Ibn-Tulun built it, except
for the ravages of time and weather. Here you have an
immense area of the durable Arab plaster-work. Here you
see the first use of plastered piers instead of marble columns
taken from temples and churches. Here you have magnificent
examples of the fretted plaster, window tracery, and wall
ornament, for which the Arabs are so justly famous, a
thousand years old. And historically it is equally interesting.

XLI. Old Mameluke Houses near Ibn-Tulun's Mosque

Round the mosque there are some remains of the fortifications
of Ibn-Tulun's citadel, and in the long street down
which you have to drive, skirting the walls of the Ibn-Tulun
Mosque, on your way to the mosque of Kait Bey, there are
some grand old mameluke houses, with the harem windows of
the upper stories hanging far over the street, and latticed with
splendid meshrebiya work.

XLII. The Mosque of Kait Bey

The mosque of Kait Bey, which lies behind the Ibn-Tulun
Mosque on the edge of the city, is considered the gem of the
many mosques and palaces which we have remaining of that
famous building Caliph. It was built about the end of the
fifteenth century, and has been admirably restored, and its
old mellow colouring and the soft lines of its architecture are
unimpaired. Its painted roof is especially beautiful, and presents
some of the most elegant and characteristic effects of
Saracenic decoration.

XLIII. The Ancient Houses of El-Katai and the Tombs
of the Mamelukes

There are several other little mosques with picturesque
exteriors and many ancient houses in this quarter of Cairo

But when you have seen the Kait Bey Mosque, instead of
driving back through it, drive round it, and skirt the
Mohammedan cemetery till you reach the famous Tombs of
Mamelukes. The best of these mameluke tombs, which are
practically mosques, are not to be compared with the best of
the Tombs of the Caliphs on the other side of the Citadel.
But they are mightily picturesque many of them, and noble
little pieces of architecture. And this cemetery is particularly
rich in picturesque minor tombs, built in the style of our altar
tombs or classical stelae, and enriched with Arabic inscriptions
in the gayest colours.

XLIV. The Mosque of Imam Shaf'yi

The ancient and famous mosque of Imam Shaf'yi to which
Saladin attached the first medressa, or collegiate mosque-school,
lies on the edge of the Tombs of the Mamelukes.
I have seen pictures in the office of the Wakfs of very
ancient and beautiful decorations in this mosque, but I have
never been able to gain admission to it. It is one of the
three mosques from which Christians are supposed to be

XLV. The Mounds of Fustat—the First Arab City
on the Site of Cairo

From here you can skirt the range of hills, for the mounds
virtually amount to hills, which cover the ruins of the first
Mohammedan city on the site of modern Cairo, generally
called Fustat. This was built by El-Amr, the general who
conquered Egypt for the Arabs soon after the establishment
of the Mohammedan religion, and was burnt in the middle of
the twelfth century to prevent its falling into the hands of the
Crusaders. Any one is allowed to excavate in these mounds,
and beautiful pieces of Arab pottery anterior to the fire are
discovered there. Many of them may be seen in the
Museum at South Kensington, and I have a collection of
pieces which I dug out myself, in company with Dr.
Llewellyn Phillips, the brilliant Cairo doctor. You can

drive round this way to old Cairo, which practically consists
of three parts, all of them embraced in the noble sweep of the
aqueduct of Saladin, which looks like an Imperial Roman
aqueduct carried on Gothic arches.

XLVI. The Mosque of Amr

First visit the portion of Old Cairo which consists of
the great mosque of Amr and various old Coptic churches
embedded in tiny citadels at the edge of the mounds of
Fustat. In its present condition the best parts of the mosque
of Amr date from the fifteenth century; the liwân is of great
size, with noble colonnades, whose hundred and twenty columns
come from ancient temples. But the old mosque is very
ruinous in spite of the prophecy that whenever it is destroyed
the Mohammedans shall cease to be the rulers of Egypt.

XLVII. The Coptic Churches of Der Abu Sefen

Three of the best Coptic churches in this part, including
Abu Sefen, the Church of the Virgin (Sitt' Mariam), and Anba
Shenuda, and a convent, are all of them contained in the little
brick citadel with the fortress gateway called Der Abu Sefen.
Abu Sefen itself, which is being restored, is the best example
of a Coptic basilica, and contains many beautiful decorations.
Anba Shenuda is almost equally interesting, and also contains
magnificent antique decorations. Sitt' Mariam, the remaining
church in this der, is very old and curious. There is another
der quite close to it called the Der-el-Berat, but it only
contains a convent.

XLVIII. Old Cairo

Next visit the long low street which runs from here to the
old Roman Citadel of Cairo called Babylon. There are two
or three rather picturesque little mosques in it, and for the rest
it consists of small characteristic native shops. It is a good
place for observing native life, and an excellent place for
photographing, because the houses are so low that they do
not get into the way of the sun.

XLIX. The Gizeh Ferry; The Nilometer; Moses on Roda
Island; The Origin of the Egyptian Babylon

At the end of this street the Nile suddenly becomes interesting.
All sots of odd native craft, laden with poor
Egyptians with the most kodakable attitudes and occupations,
come across from Gizeh to the Old Cairo landing. And from
it you are ferried across to the Island of Roda to see the famous
and beautiful mediaeval Nilometer, some charming old Pashas'
gardens, a fifteenth-century mosque of Kait Bey, and the
alleged site of the landing of Moses in his ark of bulrushes.
Such a popular Arab saint as Moses had of course to have the
scene of his adventure somewhere in Cairo, and this site had the
advantage of including the claims of Heliopolis, if we are to
believe that the Roman Citadel of Cairo kept on the name of
Babylon because it occupied te site of Bab-el-On—i.e. the
Gate of On—the ancient Egyptian name for Heliopolis, the
City of the Sun.

L. The Coptic Houses and the Famous Coptic Churches
of Babylon

Babylon itself is not an easy place to drive about, but it
contains several buildings of the highest interest; it has for
example the most ancient Coptic settlement in Cairo, consisting
of a solid block of houses with streets diving underneath them,
lighted here and there by spaces like the interior of a courtyard,
and containing hidden away in its most secret part,
without any proper entrances, magnificent old Coptic churches
like Abu Sarga and Sitt' Barbara—that is, St. Sergius and
Santa Barbara, both of which are of very high antiquity and
hardly altered in their interior.

LI. The Residence of the Holy Family in Egypt

Abu Sarga goes so far as to have a crypt in which they
show the niches occupied by Our Lord and His Mother
and Joseph when they were sojourning in Egypt.

LII. The Mo'allaka—the Hanging Church of Babylon

The best of all the Coptic churches is outside of the
honeycomb which contains these two. It is called the
Mo'allaka, the Hanging Church of Babylon, because it is
built high up in a Roman bastion. It had the same sort
of entrance as Abu Sarga once, but it has had a new and
very beautiful entrance built for it, with a charming garden
and a ceremonial staircase, and a courtyard like a Tunisian
palace. It is one of the most beautiful churches in Christendom,
not unworthy of mention in the same breath with
the Royal Chapel of Palermo, or portions of St. Mark's.
All these Coptic churches have the most exquisite panelling
of old dark wood, inlaid with disks of mother-of-pearl and
ivory, the latter exquisitely carved in some of them, and
El-Mo'allaka has, besides, a glorious Byzantine marble pulpit,
and perhaps the richest of the ancient paintings of saints,
with which these old Coptic churches abound. Their services
are highly picturesque, but they and their worshippers swarm
with fleas. The Copt is a proverb for vermin.

LIII. The Church of the Virgin; Der Todros and Der Bablun.

Adjoining the Mo'allaka in a bastion of the magnificent
Roman gate unearthed a few years ago, is another ancient
Coptic chapel dedicated to the Virgin.
Those who wish to make an exhaustive study of the Coptic
churches of Babylon will find two other ders containing
their ancient churches a little farther on—the Der Bablon
i.e. of Babylon, which encloses “the Church of the Virgin by
Bablon of the Steps,” called for short Sitt' Mariam, which has
ancient features, and the Der Todros, which contains the
Church of St. Theodore, Abu Todros, and the Church of
St. Sirius and St. John, Abu Kir-wa-Hanna. The churches
are not very ancient in their present form, but there are some
fine ancient things preserved in them in the way of vestments
and plate.

LIV. The Old Greek Cathedral of Babylon

Besides the Coptic churches, Babylon contains the splendid
Greek Church of St. George, formerly the Cathedral, built in
and around another Roman bastion, and recently admirably
restored, both inside and out; it is now very fine, and from its
roof you get perhaps the best view of Cairo, the Nile, and the

LV. Bulak, Shubra, Rod-el-Farag, and Abbassiya

There are three other districts of Cairo to which I have not
yet alluded, Bulak, the ancient port of Cairo, to which you
drive down by the Sharia Bulak, which commences close to
the Continental Hotel; Shubra, and Rod-el-Farag, to which
you drive past the railway station; and Abbassiya, to which
you drive from the other side of the railway station. Heliopolis,
in which an attempt is being made to provide Cairo
with a new suburb, can hardly be considered part of the city;
it is more to be classed with the country suburbs like Matariya,
which it adjoins. It is also quite new.
Bulak is an unsavoury part of Cairo, but contains some old
mosques, and some interesting native life and streets. But
except where they concern water life, these can better be
studied in the Arab city under the Citadel.
Shubra formerly contained the most charming Pashas' villas
and gardens of all Cairo; the drive along the Shubra road was
famous, but they have most of them been sacrificed to the
jerry-builder, and present a hideous spectacle of grubbed-up
trees and foundations. Rod-el-Farag, adjoining Shubra, is
the corn port of Cairo, and, as that, has some picturesque
features, such as the forest of tall masts of the gyassas or
Nile boats, which bring the grain. Some people might consider
the low dancing-booths, where fat Levantine women
posture before Arabs, picturesque; to me they were only
Abbassiya is chiefly important for the British military
cantonments, where they have Cavalry, and Infantry, and
Horse-Artillery, and a few minor units. Here on the edge of

the desert is the parade ground on which the great reviews
are held, and beyond it are the observatory, a couple of
palaces of the Khedive, Matariya, and Heliopolis. Driving
out to Abbassiya you pass the vast and beautiful shell of the
Es-Zahir Mosque, one of the most ancient in Cairo, though
nothing remains of it except its splendid exterior.

LVI. The Drive across the Nile Bridge

The principal drive of Cairo I have left to the last. When
any resident in Cairo says she is going for a drive she means
that she is going to drive across the Nile Bridge, beside which
stands another of the chief British military stations, the Kasr-el-Nil
barracks. Whenever you are over the bridge, which at
certain hours of the day cannot be crossed owing to the turn-bridge
being opened for shipping to pass through, you find
yourself in a sort of square, with two main roads running out
of it, one of which leads down to the Khedivial Sporting Club,
the chief pleasure resort of Cairo, and the Ghezira Palace
Hotel, while the other leads to Gizeh, the Zoological Gardens,
the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and the Mena House. As drives
these are the pleasantest in Cairo. For nowhere else can you
drive more than a few yards away from bricks and mortar.
Some day, doubtless, there will be a proper motor road out to
the baths of Helwân and the ruins of Memphis, which are a
better distance, for the Pyramids of Gizeh are only eight
miles from the heart of Cairo.

A CAMEL BAND IN A PROCESSION WHICH HAS GONE TO MEET A PILGRIM RETURNED FROM MECCA, OUTSIDE THE RAILWAY STATION. The accoutrements of the camel are of scarlet cloth decorated with pieces of mirror and small cowrie shells.

A SILVER-AND-IVORY PALANQUIN SUSPENDED BETWEEN CAMELS IN THE PROCESSION OF A PILGRIM RETURNED FROM MECCA. Notice the wonderful head-dresses of the camels made of scarlet cloth encrusted with cowrie shells and pieces of mirror.



The Old-World Oriental Life of Cairo

ALL Egyptians are born with a natural desire to please.
The rich Egyptian in the intervals of putting on a
swagger which he imagines to be English, and the frothing
Nationalist, when he is not Benjamin-Franklin-ing to
audiences of students, are as anxious to please as a spaniel,
while the poor, whether in the villages of Upper Egypt or in
the Arab city at Cairo, show the smiling good-nature of the
Orient. I thought the unspoiled Egyptian poor delightful
people; they are Nature's gentlemen, kind, adorably simple,
with natural good manners. Even the Egyptian is not
specially untruthful when it involves an automatic loss of
bakshish. The life of the poor in the Arab city still preserves
the grace of the Middle Ages. The men wear turbans and
the long blue gowns called galabeahs; the women, whose faces
are shrouded by the burka, wear a sort of black bridal veil,
which makes them look as if they walked about with a bag
over them, coming nearly down to their feet, bare, except
for the heavy anclets, which give them a biblical finish.
The black muffled women of the city look like walking
mysteries as they shuffle along the street. You lose nothing
by their being veiled; when you see them unveil, which is
a matter of no consequence and frequent occurence, you
see a fat round face, pointed at chin and forehead, with the

features and expression of the sun on Old Moore's almanack—that
is to say, with hardly any expression, or the expression
of an unconsidered female drudge. The country women,
on the other hand, especially where they have a strong
admixture of bedawin blood, are often charmingly pretty,
and seldom wear the face-veil, though they sometimes draw
their head-veil closer if you want to photograph them, till
they understand that they will get a penny for being immortalised
by the camera. The children of the city are
made hideous by their parents' pride in adorning them with
European slops. I daresay they would be quite pretty if
they walked about in blue cotton nightgowns like their
At Cairo one often sighs for the mediaeval grace and
colour imparted to Tunis by her rich Arabs wearing their
native dress, made with the costliest materials, the most
delicate colours, and the most elegant draperies. The rich
Tunisian, when it is warm enough, dresses like a courtier
of the Alhambra. The Cairo effendi wears English clothes
made by Greeks, kept in countenance by a tarbùsh if he is
particular about showing that he is not an infidel.
But to return to the mediaeval poor of Cairo. The water-seller
stands in the van. Sometimes he is resplendent in the
old national dress and carrying brass cups, that shine like
beaten gold, made in the shape of sacramental chalices,
into which he drops aniseed from the curled and tapering
spout of a shining brazen urn. But usually, in the fine old
crusted parts of the city, he looks like a dirty beggar. His
body is in rags, his legs are nearly black and nearly bare
(which last is not surprising, as he walks right into the Nile
to get his water), and he carries his water in a black skin
slung round his body or a huge earthenware pitcher in a
net upon his back. He sells his water in a cheap black
earthenware saucer. He is the type of charity, for, though
he is desperately poor, he often gives his water away to
those who cannot afford to pay. He is wonderfully adroit
at pouring his water out with a bend of his back: the clear,
cool spurt leaps over his shoulder into the saucer without

spilling a drop. He is quite a picturesque object when he
is walking about with his water-skin, a swollen amorphous
mass with its legs tied, hanging round him like a hurdy-gurdy;
but he is at his best when standing waist-deep in
the river letting his skins expand and sink in the shallow
water. The sign of his presence is the clinking together
of brazen saucers; they give a note as clear as a bell,
especially when they are made of fine thick brass. There
are always one or two of the sort that look like beggars
hanging about the Bab-es-Zuweyla; their richer brothers
haunt the Ataba-el-Khadra in company with the lemonadesellers.
It is the lemonade-seller who is most reminiscent of the days of the
good Harun-ar-Raschid. He is inconceivably
resplendent. His lemonade urn is sometimes six feet high,
with its huge glass globes surmounted by domes of beaten brass,
which make it look like a doll's mosque. His brass
cups look like the golden goblets of a king, though his
European customers generally prefer tumblers. He has
slung round his waist a wonderful brass tray about six inches
deep, with a frame like the fiddles of a ship for its top, to
hold bottles and glasses. And he dresses like the sais of a
Khedivial princess, with a blue silk tassel like the tail of a
horse trailing from the jaunty little fez stuck on the side of
his head, a gold embroidered waistcoat, open, to show his
fine linen, wide breeches stiff with braiding, and stockings
as well as shoes. He is the pride of the street, or at all
events looks proud enough to be—to his other finery he sometimes
adds a scarlet apron.
The sherbet sellers are much humbler people; they have
rather peculiar pitchers and goblets. Most sherbets look
like muddy water; their essential feature is sugar, and they
contain some fruit juice. The sherbet shops always look as
if they were being got ready for an illumination, for their
fronts are hung all round with little brass buckets shaped
like the pitchers of the Pignatelli Pope. Their rivals are
the cheap restaurants, which have two enormous brass jugs
of the shape of Arab coffee-pots sitting up like a pair of

Phoenixes in the ashes of the humble fire. They have quite
gigantic beaks. They are used, I believe, for hot water, but
I never saw any human being using them. They are the
most imposing pieces of brass you see in Egypt, the land of
brass in more senses than one.
Two very mediaeval people are the cotton carder and the
man who turns the little pegs used in making meshrebiya
screens. The turner does his turning with a bow like the
pigmies use for shooting poisoned arrows, and when you see
the carders sitting on the mastabas outside the mattress-maker's
shop, you imagine that you have a row of lovers
who cannot get any sound out of their lutes. The instruments
they use for flicking out the cotton look much more capable
of evolving a sane melody than most musical instruments of
the twanging Orient.
I often went into the Armourers' Sûk, in the hopes of
seeing its apprentices doing up a Crusader's suit for a stray
survivor of the Mamelukes, but I generally found them
sharpening carving-knives; their principal business nowadays
is in table-knives labelled Sheffield. One or two of them
have pieces of armour in glass cases, and if the bedawin
wants his own preposterous guns, with barrels like fishingrods
and stocks inlaid with bone almonds, he must come
here for them.
The weaver, on the whole, is most faithful to the Middle
Ages, as he sits, with his legs through the floor, in front of
a loom which looks like the inside of a superannuated piano,
throwing his shuttle across the warp threads and pressing
each line of weaving down with a comb. The workers in
precious metals are mediaeval everywhere, till they condescend
to the mechanical multiplication of watches and
silver-backed hair-brushes for shop-girls. In Egypt they
crouch on the floor over a dish of grey ash, with a lump of
live charcoal smouldering in its midst, till it is fanned into
white fury by a blow-pipe. In this the gold or silver is
heated till it looks almost transparent, while it is decorated
with delicate filagrees and rosettes; or you see a tiny
hammer doing its work on a toy anvil.

A DONKEY-BOYS' RESTAURANT. The customers are sitting about the pavement eating their lunch.

FORAGE CAMEL Near the picturesque fountain given by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the square in front of the Governorat at Cairo.

The coppersmith, the brass-worker, and the weavers of
matting and baskets have time-honoured ways; the basket-maker
and the basin-maker alike hold what they are making
with their toes, so as to have both hands free. With baskets
this does not seem so unnatural: a monkey might be taught
to make a basket; but to hold a brass vessel with your toes,
while you hammer it into curves like a mosque's dome, and
chisel it into arabesques, is a work of art in itself.
It is barbaric rather than mediaeval, I suppose, to iron
the washing with your feet, using such a very large iron
and to stand under the thing you are sawing, drawing the
saw towards you.
The primitive crafts, which make photography so extravagant
at the Market of the Afternoon and the two country
markets near the Pyramids, must be described in their own
setting. So much for trades.
There is nothing in which mediævalism dies so hard
as in religion, and the law is mixed up with the prophets
among Arab populations … It adds greatly to the picturesqueness
of the streets when an earnest Mohammedan says
his prayers in them. But Mohammedans who are strict in
this matter are becoming rare in Cairo.
The whole life in the mosques is romantically mediaeval.
The people you see there praying or reading the Scriptures,
with their shoes and their water-bottle beside them, look as
if they might have been there for a thousand years. When
you have looked at them you feel that this is none other
than the House of God.
In the chief mosque of El-Azhar, which is the central
University of all Islam, the teaching has changed little in
its thousand years of existence; it is still the Koran and
what is necessary for the teaching and understanding of
the Koran. No attempt has been made to bring it into
line with modern institutions. And I understand that the
administration of the law1 in the Kadi's courts and the
1 In this very year of grace one of the Grand Mufti's excuses for refusing to
sanction the execution of the murderer of Boutros Pasha was that the revolver
(with which the murder was committed) was not mentioned in the Koran.

administration of the profits of ecclesiastical property in
Cairo interfere with our notions of civilisation. But these, I
suppose, are the most important elements in preserving a
perfect mediaeval city for us in Cairo.
I was never tired of watching the life of the really poor,
whether I was rambling in the Arab city at Cairo or in
the villages of Upper Egypt. In Asia and Africa the poor
are as natural as animals.
I have heard many tourists complain of Cairo being too
European, as I have heard them making the same complaint
against Yokohama. Round the chief hotels the charge of
course is true; but you need not go more than a mile in
either city to find yourself in the undiluted Orient, where
clothing is one thickness of cotton, and shopping is done
with sub-divisions of pence.
In Cairo there are several Arab quarters: Old Cairo is
one of the best for seeing the humours of poverty, but not
so good as the bazars for seeing the colour of Cairo.

Street Life in Cairo as seen from the Continental Hotel

CAIRO is a kodaker's paradise not quite so elastic as
Omdurman. For in hot countries people are apt to
carry on their occupations in the shade, and in Omdurman
there is no shade, as the Khalifa would not allow any one
to have a two-story house but himself.
Fortunately, Cairo is full of wide sunny spaces, and the
Arab always makes a shop of the street, so there is an
immense amount of street life in full sunshine.
There is one great advantage in staying at the Continental
Hotel for the two or three months of the Cairo season:
you can see, without dressing to go out, the most roaring
farce ever presented off the stage. The great hotel has a
nice sunny terrace with a balustrade which looks out on
the Street of the Camel—the Regent Street of Cairo—and
the Eskebiya Gardens and a regular museum of touts.
It is doubtful which could be satirised more successfully
as a human Zoological Gardens, the people who sit on the
terrace behind the railings, Americans chiefly, with a strong
dash of Jews, Turks, and Infidels, which last name the
Mohammedan applies to the Levantine with singular felicity—or
the extraordinary collection of parasites in the street
Those of the parasites, who are not dragomans have
something to sell, generally something that no sane person
would want to buy.
The street Arab who walks about with a stuffed crocodile

on his head must by this time be convinced of its
unsaleability. He exhorts you ‘to buy it, but so soon
afterwards, without a real bargainer's delay—invites you to
take his photograph with it for a shilling. His price for
being photographed comes down to a small piastre if you
are obdurate.
I have seen stuffed crocodiles offered often, and once at least
a live boa-constrictor put up in a glass-fronted box like honeycomb,
and a live leopard—not a very old one—in a cage.
Pigs in cages are comparatively common, and, as weight
presents no difficulty to the Egyptian educated as a porter,
men carry round all sorts of furniture for sale. I have
seen men with quite large tables and cabinets on their
backs patiently waiting for purchasers. I once saw a man
with a palm-tree fourteen feet high on his head. I photographed
him; less adult trees and shrubs are common.
Strawberry sellers are insistent in February, in spite of
the fact that every foreigner knows or believes that their
Egyptian vendors moisten the strawberries in their mouths
whenever they look dusty. There are many sellers of dates
and figs, though dates are things which I should not like
to buy from an Egyptian in the street—he might have
bought damaged ones. It is the custom of the various
parasites to stand in rows in front of the terrace of the Continental,
pushing their wares through the balustrade as ladies
poke their parasols into monkey-cages at the Zoo. The monkeys
in this cage are fairly safe from the attention of postcard-sellers,
newspaper-boys and dragomans, and, without moving
from their exalted position, they may examine and buy Syrian
picture-frames, ostrich feathers, bead necklaces, fly-switches,
hippopotamus-hide sticks and whips, lace, braces, beans,
pastry, suspenders, tarbushes, air-balloons, birds in cages,
roses, narcissi, carnations, hyacinths, coat-stretchers, Indian
boxes, and, when they are on the market, leopards and boa-constrictors. …
If you want to encounter the postcard- and paper-boys
you must go down into the street, first refusing the services
of two or three dozen dragomans who wish to take you

that very instant to the Siwa Oasis or the Peninsula of
Sinai, both of which mean journeys for weeks on camels.
Of course you do not wish to come to a decision of such
magnitude while you are only on your way to buy a news-paper,
so you mutter some feeble excuse about going
to-morrow perhaps, or something like that, and pass on to
the pavement. There is an instant rush of boys for you,
all waving papers at you. “You buy Egypt, Egyptian
Gasette, Egyptian Standard, Spinkiss
, good paper for Cairo—nice
one? Daily Mail comes from London—yes, nice. Paris
New York Herald, Mr. American?” You buy a paper—papers
are cheap in Egypt, a halfpenny one only costs a penny
farthing—and having one in your hand secures you the right
to breathe for a minute or two before the postcard-sellers
have organised their campaign. The Cairo postcards are
fascinating. But the same postcards cost you anything
from three piastres to six piastres a dozen, according to
your ignorance. I never saw more charming coloured postcards;
there is one of the tombs of the Caliphs which
makes you believe that the Caliphs are still going, and that
all the talk about the Khedive and the British Occupation
is mere moonshine. The Egyptian sunset is introduced into
nearly all of them with the very best effect. Most people
suffer from postcard fever badly for about a week. I never
got over it.
Every postcard-dealer tries to thrust a collection into
your hands. He wants to know how many dozen you'll take,
offering them at twice the price he means to accept. If you
could have one dealer at once in a quiet corner you might
enjoy the inspection, but you are the victim of trade rivalries,
in which there is one advantage—that the rivals are
perfectly shameless about cutting down each other's prices.
You begin to think that the dragomans, clean, handsome
men, with charming manners and robes of silk, or spotless
white with fine black cloaks, are very nice, though they do
want to hurry you to the uttermost ends of Egypt.
The boys who attack you with “I say matchess” are very
persistent. They consider that every foreigner ought to be

smoking. While I was expostulating with one I felt my
hand taken in a confiding way in cool, soft fingers. I looked
round to see who my friend was, and found that it was a
huge dog-faced baboon, with grey chinchilla-like fur, the
exact counterpart of the baboon which plays such a prominent
part in the Judgment of Osiris, and is among the
mischievous monsters of the under-world combated by Osiris
in his passage. There is a row of them painted in one of
the tombs of the Pharaohs, all using their tails as the third
leg of a tripod seat. The Arabs speak of it familiarly as
the “seenosefarl”—I am spelling phonetically. He was an
appalling-looking beast; he looked like a bad-tempered
gorilla. But his master indicated that I ought not to be
frightened. He said: “ Good monkey—shake hand—like to say
good-bye to you.” It is rather the Nubian's habit to say
good-bye when he means how-do-you-do? I ought to have
felt flattered: this was a very grand monkey, with a little
Sardinian donkey to ride and various weapons and accoutrements
for taking soldier-parts in his performances. The
discouraging part of it was that nobody ever wanted to see
him perform, though they paid piastres to photograph him
as he rode along the street in the little red flannel trousers
which a well-meaning American missionary of the female
sex had given him. This garment certainly does make a
“seenosefarl” look more presentable, and is tolerably true
to Nature. For one thing I was grateful to that baboon;
he established the accuracy of the artists of the Pharaohs,
who always represent him balanced on his tail in the attitude
of a living chair. When he was not on his donkey, and had
nothing particular to do, he always sat on the rim of his
tambourine in the correct Pharaonic attitude.
I took two or three kodaks of him, and he showed a far
greater objection to having his photograph taken than the lax
Egyptian-Mohammedan shows. He was a sulky performer
at best, who took no such interest in his work as that shown
by the lemur monkey which rode about the streets on a
The snake-charmers were very jealous of the master of the

THE CYNOCEPHAL, The performing dog-faced baboon in the trousers made for him by the American lady missionary. This is the animal which occurs in all the pictures of the Judgment of Osiris. It is standing in the Street of the Camel.

WOMAN CARRYING A HUGE IRON CAULDRON ON HER HEAD In the Sharia Camel, the principal street of Cairo, just outside the Hôtel Continental.

“seenosefarl”; they did not see why their serpents—cobras
about seven feet long—had not as good a right to perform
on the pavement of the principal streets as his baboon. But
this was one thing which the police would not allow, though
they had no objection to a turkey-herd driving four or five
turkeys along the pavement as the easiest way to take them
for some hotel's dinner, or a man walking about carrying two
armchairs for sale.
The street tumblers, in the approved acrobat's dress of
skin-coloured tights, with a red velvet join between the
legs and the body, were far more insistive, because nobody
wanted them. That they should turn cart-wheels in front
of people, who merely wanted to get along quickly to Cook's,
and were compelled to pass Shepheard's Hotel, seemed to
give no one any pleasure.
The actual hawkers are chiefly Egyptians or Nubians.
The people of third-class nations in the Turkish Empire
and the Balkans, or of no particular nationality, are too
proud to be seen hawking—their profession is swindling.
But some of them are good for the street from the kodaker's
point of view. Albanians and Montenegrins, for instance,
are inclined to high boots and an armoury in their waist-belts.
If you stood on the steps of the Continental you
might see specimens of fifty different nations in a morning,
including many citizens of our Indian Empire intent on
selling you sandal-wood boxes and the embroideries of the
Later in the year, when the season in Upper Egypt is over,
a fresh crowd of entertainers arrive—the people who have
been selling pillaged and fabricated antiquities to the tourists
on Cook's Nile steamers. They are at once more original
and more picturesque; they vary from dragomans as immaculate
in their dress as Members of Parliament, to Arabs
in the fellahin station of life from the villages round Der-el-Bahari.
All antiquities, which pretend to Pharaonic antiquity,
are supposed to come from Der-el-Bahari, which is
devoted to tombs and renowned for the richness of its treasure-troves.
Feeling that it could not supply the world for ever

with the mere accumulations of the past, eager and industrious
Der-el-Bahari has started manufactories for producing the
same kind of objets But as there is a prejudice against
modern scarabs and mummy-beads, these manufactories are
kept as private as unlicensed whiskey-stills in Ireland. There
is, however, no exciseman to confiscate these privately produced
antiquities; so they are sold openly at Der-el-Bahari
itself, and Luxor, and anywhere else where the tourist can
be induced to take any interest in beads and beetles.
It gave me genuine pleasure when I was having tea
one afternoon in April, on the terrace of the Continental,
to see so many old swindlers of my acquaintance from
Upper Egypt. To do them justice, most of them recognised
me. They did not ask me to buy their wares as genuine;
they only said in an unobtrusive way, “Do you want any?”
meaning did I want to buy any as imitations or ornaments.
And here I think that people make a great mistake. Many
of these scarabs and mummy-beads and blue saucers and
little gods, which make no pretence of being genuine except
to the “mug” class of tourists, are objects of great beauty
and distinctly desirable as ornaments. Furthermore, if you
only pay their market value as imitations, they are preposterously
cheap. I bought a lot of them, intending to give them
away to people with a savage taste for bright ornaments
about their persons, when I got home. But, when I did
get home, I kept nearly all of them. A bright blue scarab
is much more ornamental to hang on the end of a blind-cord
than a nutmeg of turned boxwood.
Some of these deceivers, of course, had not met me on the
plain of Thebes, or the causeway to Sakkara, and started
trying to deceive me in the Street of the Camel at Cairo.
The first offered me a scarab for £2. I confess that I am
unable to detect a well-forged scarab. Some of the most
valuable scarabs in the Cairo Museum look like clumsy and
garish forgeries. But I knew that if he offered it to me
for only £2 it must be a forgery, so I offered him two piastres
for it. He said, “Don't pay me now. Take it to the
Museum, and if they say it is a forgery I will give you £10.”

This man had not got £10, and had never had £10, and
never would have £10, and he knew that if I took it to
the Museum the director would sweep it away in instant
contempt. But he thought that if he “bluffed” me like
this, I might try to buy it from him for some smaller price,
a pound, or ten shillings, or even two shillings. But I said,
“For an imitation one piastre is enough. But this is a very
cleverly made imitation, so I will give you two for it. Do
not bother me any more until you wish to take two piastres.”
Of course he picked me up farther down the street and let
me have it for two piastres; he was making a hundred per
cent on it, or more, and probably had a pocketful.
I may have readers so unfamiliar with Egypt as to have
to ask what scarabs are. Scarabs are the little beetles made
of glazed earthenware, or stones like cornelian and amethyst,
which in the case of the former always bear the cartouche
or oval name-hieroglyphic of the person for whom they
were made. All are singularly faithful copies of a real beetle
still to be found in Egypt.
The tiny statues of the gods—only an inch or two long
many of them—are much easier to convict if they are chipped,
for the colour which a chip assumes after twenty or thirty
centuries is totally different from an artificially coloured
chip; and the glaze itself, even when buried in the dry
sand of Egypt, goes a bit grey in that immense period of
time. These little gods are absolutely fascinating. They
are mostly blue or green, and the animal heads, of ape or
ibis or hippopotamus or what not, make them the quaintest
little things. In museums you find them of bronze or,
occasionally, gold; but even the bronze seldom pass into
the hands of the humbler curio-dealers. There are plenty
of genuine earthenware gods in the Cairo shops, but the
street hawkers do not offer them much even in imitations.
They incline more to rather ingenious forgeries, made, in
a coarse, effective style, of clay, about six inches long, of
which the real value is a small piastre, a penny farthing,
each, but which the guileless American sometimes purchases
at two hundred and forty times the proper price. They

are also much addicted to excellent imitations of the little
wooden images of slaves and scribes which were buried with
the dead. It is only their perfectness and the fact that they
are not in museums which make you suspect them. Gay
pieces of mummy-cases, and small mummies like hawks or
cats, are also popular temptations for these street antiquaries
to produce from their bosoms.
Some of the antiquity-sellers I had known at Thebes had
the good grace to bring out pocket handkerchiefs full of
genuine antiquities (they carry their whole stock-in-trade
in pocket handkerchiefs) and offer them to me at the prices
we had established in many bargains. I am not ashamed
to confess that I bought many forgeries that afternoon as
ornaments, because, when I had come down from Luxor I
regretted that I had not done this.
It was rather droll to see the paraphernalia of mummy
hawks, and mummy arms, and little plaques of rough clay
a few inches long, with religious emblems on them, and blue
saucers, and bits of mummy cases and mummy linen, and
beads and ushapti images and wooden archers and barques
of the dead, spread out on the pavement round the corner
from Shepheard's Hotel. But the Berberine from Assuan
was more daringly human in his designs on the guileless
tourist, for he encumbered the entrance to the leading photographer's
with rows of battle-axes and maces and assegais
and stray bits of armour which were supposed to have come
from Abyssinia, and by others supposed to have been manufactured
in Birmingham. You could have selected a set of
railings for a respectable-sized garden out of his collection,
which would have made the finest park railings decorated
with the fasces of a Roman lictor look tame.
The Berberine bead-boys buzz round worse than ever
now, though there are always a sufficiency of them on Cairo
pavements. They wear every species of preposterous and
un-African-looking glass beads. The odd thing is that, though
these beads are of English and German manufacture, the
inhabitants of Nubia adore them and decorate their persons
with them whenever they can afford them, so that if you

dared to buy them you would be the possessor of an African's
fancy if not of his handiwork.
When the blue-gowned agriculturists from Thebes, who
claim to have dug up all their wares their own hands,
while they were cultivating the soil of Der-el-Bahari—certainly
the only kind of cultivating they were likely to
do was robbing tombs—when these Upper Egyptians, I say,
began to infest the pavement in front of the Continental,
this favourite promenade of the lounger of the Cairo season
no longer swarmed with Americans in expensive flannels—which
offered no suggestion of participation in active sport—and
super-dressed Americanesses. Their couriers had told
them that it was time for all self-respecting tourists to be
out of Egypt. The pavement had quite a deserted appearance,
for though there were plenty of “the best English
people” in Cairo on their way back from the Equator and
the bahr-el-Ghazal and other winter resorts which they
affect, they do not favour the promenade in front of the
Continental—they hardly ever pass it except when they are
on the way to Cook's, the universal banker of travellers in
To tourists who insist on the company of other tourists
Cairo grows dull as April grows old, but there are others
who rejoice to see the city return to its normal condition.
It is interesting for a little while to see this part of the city
looking as if it was arranged for the stage of the Gaiety.
Then if you are easily bored you get tired of the army of
performing parrots and the vulgarians for whom they cater,
and the noise and the bustle and the garishness and the
But I am not easily bored with the human comedy, and
I could go on being amused by the buffooneries of the
“Continental” pavement, just as I was never tired of watching
the poor playing at being back in the Middle Ages in the
Arab city.

The Humours of the Esbekiya

THE Esbekiya, which lends its name to doubtful proceedings,
is believed to be a garden. It certainly has
railings, which are among the accepted features of a garden,
and you pay to go into it, the penny-farthing small piastre.
Also there are some trees, some grass, and some birds—crows
and others. Here the resemblance ends except that nursemaids
use it.
Why it is not a garden in a land where anything will
grow with a little water (which they have on the spot)
Heaven knows—perhaps if Cairo had a municipality1 its
public gardens would have flowers. But the Law of Capitulations,
or the religious law of the Mohammedans, or
something, stands in the way of there being a Municipality,
so the Esbekiya instead of being a glorious tangle of
tropical vegetation, like the gardens at the Delta Barrage, is
like the dullest bit of Hyde Park—railings and all. The
railings are the most popular part of it, as will be seen
1 The Cairo Municipality may be a fait accompli by the time that these words
see the light.
Not so many years ago it was a birket, which means
that it was a pool of stagnant water, whenever the Nile was
high enough to soak into it. At other times it was a sort
of common, where they held popular festivals like the Birthday
of the Prophet. Traces of its birket days remain in
a meandering ditch, which serves to collect mosquitoes, and to
show that it is not the water difficulty which prevents the



desert from flowering as a rose. Once a week an Egyptian
regimental band plays in the Esbekiya. An Egyptian
regimental band is like a very bad German band, who have
forgotten the rules of the European music which they play.
But more nursemaids pay their penny-farthings when the
band is there; and Greek tradesmen take their wives to it,
and expand like dusty frogs in front of the bandstand,
where Pharaoh's Guards play The Geisha in Koran time.
The Esbekiya has its inspired moments, in the very early
morning, when only nice natural natives as simple as wild
animals are about, and the big falcons sail over it with
their musical twitter of prée-o-lo, prée-o-lo, and the Egyptian
doves coo in the tops of the palm-trees.
But I love the Esbekiya—the outside of it; its pavement
and its park railings, as exhibitions of native life rank
next to the bazars. The primitive native employed in the
European city loves them. He can do all his little foolings
and shoppings there, except on the side which faces the
Continental Hotel. For some reason that is almost deserted.
His favourite piece faces the street called in Cairo Directories
the Sharia el-Genaina. You could write a whole book
about the sights of this two hundred yards of pavement if
you had rooms opposite, as we once had.
It begins with a donkey-boys' stand opposite the American
Mission depôt. Perhaps the donkeys consent to stand there,
so that their masters, when they don't need them, may step
across and study English. Donkey-boys always go to the
American Mission school, where, I fancy, they must be
taught free. They do it without any view of improving
their future state. Most of them remain unbaptised. There
is little traffic in the street, or it would be seriously incommoded.
The donkey-boys treat it as their own. The
forage camels dump huge stacks of green berseem on to the
road for the asses' dinners; the asses lie about the road and
the pavement; or stand with two feet on the curbstone
and two in the gutter, showing their contempt for any one
who might be inclined to hire them; and the people who
subsist on the patronage of donkey-boys, such as peripatetic

restaurateurs and peripatetic dealers in turquoises, take up
any of the pavement that the donkeys are not using. Every
self-respecting donkey-boy wears a turquoise ring with a
turquoise the size of a plum-stone, for luck, and offers to
sell it to every foreigner who looks at it. As the price, if
the setting is silver, is about three shillings, it follows that
turquoises and jewellers' labour are cheap. The inexperienced
may give him double this price. In any case, he is
always selling rings, and therefore always buying them.
The turquoise-seller has a flat case, which would do equally
well for selling sweets except for its glass lid, and the stones
he sells are generally dome-shaped, soft, low-grade stones of a
delightful Cambridge blue. Sometimes they are set in silver
rings of charming workmanship, for which three shillings
seems a ridiculously low price. Sometimes they remain in
the gilt brass rings in which they came from Arabia. Agate
and cornelian are almost too cheap to sell.
The pavement restaurant is one of the most fascinating
bits of native life. The man who keeps it has a circular
tray a yard and a half across, with rings of bread stuck on
nails all round the rim, and little blue-and-white china
bowls filled with various kinds of sauces and pickles taking
up most of the area, the rest being devoted to unpromising
parts of meat hushed up in batter. Donkey-boys eat very
nicely. It is quite a pretty sight to see them squatting
like birds round this tray, dipping their bread in the sauces.
They often bring their own bread, looking like puffed-up
muffins, and buy pieces of pickle or fry and put them inside
the bread as if it was a bag. If there is a bottle standing
on the tray at all, it will contain vinegar. The donkey-boy
does not drink with his meals. He waits till he passes
a fountain where he can get a drink of water for nothing.
I used to wonder that the restaurateur had not moved
nearer to the pump or the suck-tap. The suck-tap is a great
institution in Egypt. It does away with the necessity for
a fountain and saucer, which might be stolen. You put your
lips, that is to say, the Egyptian pauper puts his lips, to a
sort of brass teat let into a wall. The poor Egyptian is not

troubled with sanitary forebodings. I have seen one take his
child to have a drink of green water out of a ditch at Marg.
The donkey-boys invite custom for the moment, and, for
the entire period of his stay in Cairo, from every foreigner
who passes. But I never saw a foreigner hire one. A
donkey costs a foreigner as much as a cab and a pair of
horses. You can take this carriage and pair a short distance
for sevenpence-halfpenny, and any distance in the town for
a shilling and a half-penny. The donkey-boys are not
discouraged. If you will not ride their donkey they ask
you to photograph it, which implies a small piastre. You
feel inclined to photograph every donkey you see in Cairo;
they are dear white beasts, clipped as close as a horse, and
beautifully kept. Their saddles are of red brocade, and they
usually have a silver necklace with blue beads. The donkey-boy
seems unnecessary; the donkey looks wise enough to
hire himself out and take the money. I wonder they don't
have donkeys which start off when you put a piastre in the
slot, and stop of their own accord when the time is up.
Just beyond the donkey-vous is one of the chief ornaments
of the Esbekiya—the row of postcard-sellers who make shops
of the railings. Here they hang up side by side the most
incongruous pictures—olegraphs of Levantine saints surrounded
by indecent postcards, and postcards of Cairo
in every variety, plain and coloured; oleographs of the
Massacre of the Mamelukes and incidents in the Greek
War of Independence vie with those of the Madonna and
St. Catherine. The real business is done in questionable
Then succeed a variety of trades, noticeable among them
man the who combines the business of rag-picker and sugar-candy
seller. The tray of sugar-candy stands on a sort of
cage, in which he puts the treasures he collects from dust-heaps.
It is not a nice combination, but he has plenty of
rivals in the sweet trade, all at popular prices; the Arab
has a sweet tooth. One man brings a huge cheese of nougat;
many have trays of Turkish delight and caramels resting
on the coping; and occasionally the man comes who has a

stick of Edinburgh rock several feet high, striped like a
barber's pole. But he prefers the rond-pont in the Musky,
or the Market of the Afternoon.
Early in the season there were Nubians squatting on the
pavement with mandarin oranges piled like cannon-balls on
the pavement in front of them, ten for a penny farthing.
The nut and dried-bean sellers had to have costermongers'
trucks: their wares were so numerous. The chestnut roasters
pleased me very much. The Esbekiya is surrounded by
young trees, which have circular spaces about a yard wide
cut in the pavement to receive them. To guard their roots,
these spaces are covered with gratings except for a few
inches round the trunk. The chestnut-seller lights his fire
in this hole, which is as good as a stove; no one interferes
with him or sees any harm in it. The trees don't seem to
mind it either: perhaps they are glad of the warmth in the
winter. At night the coffee-sellers and the men who sell
cups of hot sago bring their steaming wares here; but they
have proper stoves and do not use the gratings.
The whipmakers, who congregate on the G.P.O. side,
prefer a tree with palings to tie their lashes to while they
are being plaited, and to hang them on for sale. This is a
great place for cabs, and the Arab cabman uses his whip
the whole time. Whenever he breaks it he drives furiously
up to a whipmaker, who hands him a new one, as a groom
hands a fresh club to a polo player in the middle of a
chukker. No money passes, just as no money passes when
the cabman dashes up to the candle-seller at lighting-up
time; but I am sure that the humble vendor only keeps
his books in his head.
The Arab shops in the street more than most people. The
Esbekiya railings are a rent-free shop in a busy thorough-fare;
uncommonly handy for displaying a two-penny-half-penny
stock-in-trade. Everything the unsophisticated native
requires is here. The barber sits on the railings while his
patients stand patiently in front of him to have their heads
shaved. The tailor sometimes hangs his temptations on the
railings, but more often keeps them folded on his shoulders.



The poor Arab tries his coat on in the street, and would
doubtless try his trousers on if he ever wore them. It would
not signify; he would be sure to wear his other rig underneath.
He likes his coats dark and thick and thoroughly
unsuitable to the climate. The tarbûsh-seller pleased me
much more. He had an engaging habit of fitting fifty or a
hundred tarbûshes, one inside the other, forming a column
several feet high, which he carried in front of him balanced
like a Highlander balancing his caber for tossing. You live
in a pleasing expectation of his throwing them over his
head to see how far they will go, like his Caledonian prototype
He might just as well, for all the custom he seems to
get. But perhaps he is only an advertisement.
None of the professions of the Esbekiya interested me more
than that of the fortune-tellers. Sometimes they were men.
More often they were Nubian females of uncertain age, whose
faces were closely veiled, though their hunched-up, skinny
legs were bare to the knee. They sat in the attitude of
stage witches. Sometimes they told fortunes with cards, but
more often with desert sand spread on a cloth. Perhaps it
was only street sand, but I prefered to think that it came
from the desert. Fortune-telling itself was not interesting to
those who did not understand it. The witch made cabalistic
marks in the dust with her claw of a finger till it looked as
if poultry had been walking on it. Then she shook it up
or smoothed it with her palms and began again, clawing,
muttering calculations, and staring at her handiwork in rapt
contemplation. She asked few questions, and her prophecies
were terse. If the believer, who was consulting her, was someone
as poor as herself it looked all right, but if he happened
to be an effendi in handsome Arab robes or a prosperous
Cairo tradesman in a frock-coat and black trousers, yellow
boots, and a tarbûsh, who wished to consult the oracle before
he embarked on an important business-deal, he tempted the
humorist as he squatted like a frog on the pavement, much
in the way of bedawins in cloaks of sacking and gorgeous
head-dresses flying past with a desert stride; or fat-tailed
lambs for the passover, or other incidents of Cairo traffic.

I have often photographed such a party without being
But if a poor and primitive native was consulting the
soothsayer, and the darkness had fallen, and the traffic had
ceased, the sight was truly impressive, especially in contrast
to the cafés opposite. The Sharia el-Genaina has a row of
cafés for Arabs and mean whites, because they can hear the
music coming round the corner from the cross street, the
most blatant in Cairo. These cafés were not interesting;
people really went to them for refreshment; most of them
only bought their drinks from the café and their doubtful
delicacies from the peripatetic restaurateurs. There was one
rather amazing café along here: it was kept by a retired
British sergeant, who had married a Greek woman, and was
the favourite resort of Tommy Atkins. We had rooms over
that café once, so I am in a position to give it a character.
The Tommies who frequented it never made any particular
noise except with their sing-songs; the women who served
them were good enough for Grundy, and the place had a
reputation for decent liquor. The most striking feature was
the number of Tommies who could play the accompaniment
to the latest music-hall and comic-opera songs, and play with
verve. It was a sort of concert by the audience. It gave me
a great idea of Tommy Atkins.
The street behind the Sharia el-Genaina, the Sharia
Wagh-el-Birket, and the cross street which joined them, are
the most unblushing in Cairo, except the parades of the
Fishmarket. But the Sharia Wagh-el-Birket is picturesque
in its way, for one side of it is taken up by arcades with
compromising cafés under them, and the other has its
upper floors tenanted by gay women who aspire to the
better-class. Every floor has its balcony, and every balcony
has its fantastically robed Juliet leaning over. As the
street, in spite of its glare, is not well-lighted, you cannot
see how displeasing they are; you get a mere impression
of light draperies trailing from lofty balconies under the
lustrous night blue of Egypt, while from the rooms behind
lamps with rose-coloured shades diffuse invitations.

In this street is the famous café with the female band who
are said to be white slaves; perhaps they are; they would
not please any one but an Egyptian. The Arabs like
drinking their beer there; possibly on the same principle
as it is the chief ambition of the negroes of the United States
to have a white servant.
Not far from the Clot Bey end of the Sharia Wagh-el-Birket
lies the Fishmarket, the worst of the purlieus of the
Esbekiya, the gay quarter of Cairo, to which I have refered
elsewhere. I have never seen such a repulsive place; the
houses are squalid; the women are most of them appalling;
they positively flame with crimson paint and brass jewellery
and have eyes flashing with every kind of mineral decoration
and stimulant, and far too much flesh. If you walk through
the Fishmarket when they are prowling for victims, your
clothes are nearly torn off in the agonised attempts to
secure your attention. There are the usual accompaniments
of drink and mechanical music, and police.
How different to the Yoshiwaras of Japan, with their
quiet, and their perfect orderliness, and the fairy-like beauty
of their surroundings. I know nothing so like fairyland
as a street in the Yoshiwara overhanging the bay of
Tokyo, with its fantastic architecture, its exquisite gardens,
and its human butterflies. There you are never solicited;
you are welcome to enjoy the artistic beauties of the scene,
and go, if you do not wish for more.
Business claims part of the Esbekiya, which has a couple
of well-known hotels, the Eden and the Bristol, and a
couple of pensions, the Suisse and the Anglaise, overlooking
it. The shops are mostly like an Edgware Road bazar,
with articles of cheap value and often of cheap price. But
there is one notable exception in the corner occupied by
Walker & Meimarachi, the Harrods of Egypt. And further
on is the Post Office with a fresh crop of street idiosyncrasies.
The buildings here are new and un-Egyptian, but the
illiteracy of the land dashes in the local colour. Facing
the Post Office are a row of seal-makers and scribes. To

the man who cannot write a seal is a signature, and ninety
per cent of the population of Egypt cannot write. The
opening for scribes is obvious, and in their train come a fresh
row of small dealers in stationery—people who sell abominable
paper at a few pence a packet and half-penny pencils
for a penny. But they have an interesting assortment of
cheap notebooks, a matter of moment to one who was never
without a notebook in his pocket in a country like Egypt.
The modernity of Egypt is represented by the wet rollers
hanging up outside the Post Office for people who are
against licking stamps. I doubt if either London or Paris
has got so far on the road to civilisation in this particular
Here there is a big Arab café of the kind where they never
seem to be doing anything; where the waiters might be dead,
and the customers seem to be asleep, or at all events not
taking anything but a newspaper. It is really quite a
popular institution; it is so good for watching funerals.
It commands one of the great avenues of Cairo—that which
leads up from the Opera House, which also is on the Esbekiya,
to the Citadel—from the purely European Ismailiya quarter
to the mediaeval Arab city. This is a great street for
processions. I saw all sorts, the strangest being a bedawin
village on the march, with men and their wives and all
their belongings, including enormous carpets, piled up on
camels. The women sat on the top of the luggage and
looked as if they were going to fall off; the men had their
camels to themselves; and the whole of them rode past
the Continental Hotel and the Opera House, in the middle
of motors and furiously driven arabeahs, as if they were
out in the desert with not another human being in sight.
It was really rather majestic.
I forgot the entertainments of the Esbekiya Garden.
There is a kind of open-air theatre, half café, where they
have some sort of melancholy performance occasionally.
Once in a way there is a sort of fair. But the only time
that Cairo Society ever enters this lackadaisical garden is
when the General Commanding the Army of Occupation

orders all the regimental bands to go and play there for
the benefit of some charity. The regimental officers go
with them, that is, they think it is the correct thing to be
present, and Cairo Society follows in their train. As it is
always at night, when the electric light lends a glamour,
the forlorn Esbekiya looks, with its smart soldiers and well-dressed
women, like the Champs Elysées. In many ways
Cairo is a spasmodic imitation of Paris.
NOTE.—The types described in this and the following chapter are
depicted inimitably by Mr. Lance Thackeray in his The People of Egypt,
just published by A. & C. Black.

The Approach to the Native City: The Ataba-el-Khadra
and the Musky

WHEN the kodaker goes to the Ataba-el-Khadra he
finds a fresh lot of subjects. All Egypt seems to
be eating sugar-cane, while there is any, and nowhere is
one more conscious of this than in the Ataba-el-Khadra,
where any Egyptian pauper, who isn't munching it, is
selling it.
The Ataba-el-Khadra is the epitome of the unmediaeval
and unlovely native life. Here, instead of spending their
lives in doing next to nothing for next to nothing in a
dignified and picturesque way, every one is hurrying or touting.
There are a few immense shops kept by German Jews,
which tempt the native issuing from the Musky with
resplendent European hosiery; a jostle of nearly all the trams
in Cairo—this being their chief starting-point; a crowd of
arabeahs and donkeys; and an ever-changing crowd of
natives trying to sell European articles to each other, or to
clean each other's boots.
Here the real native life begins. Women in black,
showing hardly anything of themselves except their ankleted
legs, are getting in and out of absurd native omnibuses; here
the pedlars are more numerous than the pedlars in front
of the Continental, but they cater for a different class.
Stuffed crocodiles would be no use to Egyptian paupers
with only small piastres in their pockets. Here they are
more practical. You see a man looking like a human
hedgehog, with bristles of brushes and combs and hat-racks


THE CORNER OF THE ATABA-EL-KHADRA AND THE MUSKY. In the foreground are the boy shoeblacks—the original street Arabs. To the right is a peripatetic draper.

and sponges and button-hooks and braces and bootlaces
and blue glasses and anything in the turnery department.
Walking-sticks are very popular here, too, but the dealers
in them would not do much business in hippopotamus-hide
sticks and riding-switches. Here they are very particular;
they want dressy-looking canes. Every Arab who is above
the rank of a porter carries a cane; it is as much a
badge of respectability as wearing shoes.
The two leading industries are selling pastry and selling
Nationalist newspapers. Arabs make delicious pastry and
sell it like hot cakes.
The shoeblack is quite a feature of Cairo, and especially
of the Ataba-el-Khadra. The Arabs seem to go to the
big café at the corner of the Musky not to order things
from the establishment but to have their ridiculous boots
cleaned. They are generally brown, somewhere, even if
their tops are sky-blue. The little shoe-browns who clean
them might have been the origin of our term street Arabs—they
are noisy, mischievous, cussed, independent, and
inefficient. While their patrons are waiting for them to
begin, they are turning the whole pavement into a scrambling
and gambling hell, making dives for each other at the risk
of torpedoing short-sighted foot-passengers, and every other
person in Egypt is short of sight in some way. He may
only be in need of powerful spectacles, or he may be minus
an eye altogether, having lost it in defending himself from
having to defend his country. When they do at length
clean their patron's boots they stain them with a brown
fluid and are satisfied at seeing the boot change its colour.
They only use their brushes to throw at each other.
This café at the corner is full, at any hour of the day,
of Arabs patronising it in their own way. As I have
said elsewhere, when the Arab goes to a café he does
anything rather than order coffee—he generally does nothing,
or reads a paper, or plays dominoes—the only thing he
is likely to do for the good of the house is to hire a pipe.
The Arab's pipe is so inconveniently large that he has to
hire one or hire a man to carry his own if he smokes a pipe

out of doors, for he cannot carry the hose and the water
jar about himself.
This café is at the point where the Musky debouches,
the artery up which the natives come when their business
takes them to the European city, and down which the
Europeans go when they invade the bazar. Here, as soon
as the weather grows hot, the ranks of the hawkers are
swelled by an army of ice-cream sellers, lemonade-sellers,
water-sellers, and sponge and loofah sellers. The clang of
the trams and the water-sellers never ceases; the fly-whisk
sellers are incessant.
The Ataba-el-Khadra is a wonderfully busy place; there
is a never-ending stream of tramways and native buses
and native funerals, and people hurrying to the trams, and
forage camels, and porters carrying enough for a camel.
The forage camels and the stone carts knock against
everything; they have really good opportunities, for the
tramways start from haphazard places, so every one is
staring at the tram-boards. To see this sport at its best
you must choose a day when it has rained several hours.
Cairo can be quite a rainy city; has not Pierre Loti
written that the barrages are ruining its climate? and an
Irish M.P. said, “The Assuan dam is making a damn mess
of its climate”? Egyptian mud is worse than Egyptian
darkness. The dust in which Egypt is so prolific readily
makes a fine paste, which may be spread over the footpath
as well as the road to the depth of several inches.
While you are wading through this hasty-pudding to catch
a tram which only goes once in half an hour, and shows
signs of wanting to go without you, and another tram is
bearing down upon you on each side, you are nearly
knocked down every minute by carts laden with building
materials driven by men almost blind with ophthalmia,
camels with stacks of green forage on their backs, flocks
of passover sheep, galloping cabs, and reckless motors.
Then you learn the full capabilities of forage camels. All
the cabmen and donkey-boys lunch their animals on green
forage, and camels with stacks on their backs slouch in

over the Nile bridge all the day long to supply them.
They come nicely into a kodak, but they are not nice for
anything else.
In the Ataba-el-Khadra every one who is not trying to
catch a tram or fly across it in an arabeah, is standing
about, whether he is porter on the edge of the market
waiting for a job, with a knot of rope over his shoulder and
a blue gown down to his ancles, or a bedawin sheikh.
The firemen of the big fire-station on the Ataba generally
go to sleep on the pavement. The occupation of Egypt, as
Sir Eldon Gorst said, is going to sleep in unsuitable places.
No place can be too unsuitable. The poor Egyptian will go
to sleep in any place at any time. He will even sleep in
the road in Cairo, trusting to the traffic's avoiding him. The
gutter is a very favourite place; it is as dry as anywhere
else, and the sleeper cannot roll off it as he might off the
railings of the Esbekiya. But he uses the pavement most.
It was sometimes quite difficult to get along on account
of the number of men lying about with their faces covered
like corpses, sleeping as soundly as the dead. It would
have reminded me of Messina if I had gone to Egypt after
the earthquake. And the Egyptian takes his siesta in the
morning as well as the afternoon.
The Egyptian adapts himself to circumstances. I saw an
Egyptian adapting himself to circumstances in the Ataba-el-Khadra,
which is the most public place in the town, by
taking off his trousers because it was raining. He was
afraid of spoiling them.
It is only in really native streets that your way is blocked
up with fat-tailed sheep except at the Greek Passover.
The Arab loves to keep a fat-tailed sheep tied up outside
his shop. Why, I never could learn, but the dragomans
thought it was to eat the garbage like a pig. In any case
the fat-tailed sheep is a disgusting object even when it is
painted in stripes and wears a silver necklace with a child's
shoe tied to it. Its tail is like a bladderful of melted lard.
If the Ataba is a tangle of trams, buses, carriages,
donkeys, camels, firemen, soldiers, police, pedlars, sugarcane-sellers

and bedawin, it has at any rate a certain
spaciousness which is denied to the Musky.
The kodaker will have plenty of time to photograph the
humours of the Musky even if he is driving, for the traffic
is never untangled. The Musky of Cairo is a familiar name
to many who have never, and will never set foot in the
city. It was once, in the days before the flood—of tourists,
the principal shopping street of Cairo; it is still the chief
avenue leading down to the native city, and not so many
years ago was full of picturesque native houses.
Now it is as shoddy as it is squashy. Where it debouches
into the Ataba it has shops like the hosiers' and jewellers'
in the Strand would be if they were kept by Levantines.
But as it approaches the bazars it gets lower and lower in
the scale of commerce. What scanty remains there are of
the old mansions are faced with shallow shops of the toy,
button, and baby-ribbon type; shops where German socks
with undeveloped heels and music-hall umbrellas are flanked
with scarlet cotton handkerchiefs and shoes on strings; shops
of slop-tailors and chemists who live by the sale of noxious
drugs and other less reputable commodities, for chemists
cannot live by drugs alone in the Musky. Tarbûsh-sellers
of course there are: that stamps a cheap street.
There are almost as many stalls as there are shops, though
there is no room in the street at all; the most popular are
the spectacle stalls—spectacles are almost as much part of the
costume as watches and chains in Egypt. Stalls for nougat,
Turkish delight, Arab sugar, small cucumbers and oranges,
lemonade, boots and shoes, idiotic cutlery, coffee cups and
glasses, turquoises and mousetraps are their nearest rivals.
The street is absolutely packed with Arabs flowing from
their city to goodness knows where. They are all of them
incapable of getting out of your way, and the worst are the
women, whether they are Egyptians with veiled faces and
rather unveiled legs, or the pretty Arish women, who have
skirts like trousers coming right over their feet but leave
their faces uncovered except for jewellery. The Egyptian
woman is content to adorn her face with the little gilt

cylinder which joins her veils. But the Arish woman is not
content unless she has a silver head-band with a row of
little chains falling down on each side, half-concealing her
face, or a necklace of two or three strings of huge gold
and coral beads, and another string tied round her forehead.
She is addicted to fine bracelets also, and her bare
face is often very pretty.
Alternating with the women are porters carrying anything
from a piano downwards, lemonade-sellers, men with ladders,
forage camels, sheikhs on donkeys, and friends walking
two or three abreast, only concerned with their conversation.
Not only the pavement but the whole street is full of them
and looks as if it would congeal if it were not for the
arabeah drivers, who charge them like snow-ploughs, crying,
Owar riglak!” In the midst of all the shoddy shops and
stalls, here and there a noble Mameluke gateway, which once
had a mansion behind it, rears its head. But the whole effect
is one of cheap shops kept by Greeks, to which the European
goes for certain odds and ends, and the native for cheap
splendour in his apparel. Where a Mameluke house still
survives it has generally been hopelessly transformed.
Until he gets close down to the bazar there is nothing
to make the tourist put his hand in his pocket. At first the
shops have fairly good stocks. Mingled with jewellers' are
shops where boots and hosiery, fly-whisks and footballs, dispute
priority. The traffic of carriages, carts, porters, native
women, lemonade-sellers, and sheep is inconceivable. You
would never get through it unless your coachman with a yell
of “Owar riglak,” which means “mind your legs,” charged the
crowd with his game little Arab horses. The effect is much
heightened if you get a shower of rain, which turns any street
in Cairo into a lake of mud in a quarter of an hour. But rain
is rare; on twenty-nine days out of thirty you can reckon on
enough sunshine to photograph any good subject like an
Arish woman, that is, a woman from the Eastern Desert, in
trousers and fine bracelets, and the odds are, with her face
uncovered. Very pretty they are sometimes, with lithe,
majestic figures.
Soon you pass into the cheaper belt of shops, where they
sell toys, buttons and ribbons, shoddy hosiery, umbrellas
and spectacles, mingled with small drug stores and the
abodes of slop-tailors; in the midst of all which is the
entrance to Hatoun's—one of the principal shops in Cairo
where Europeans buy native wares. There are stalls impeding
the traffic all the way, in case you want to buy sticky sweets,
or small cucumbers, or cheap china. Finally, when you have
passed the rond-pont where cabs and donkey-boys wait to
be fetched from the bazar, you strike a belt of very cheap
shops which seem to do most of their trade in shoes hung on
strings across their fronts, and pocket handkerchiefs violently
coloured, while near the entrance of the bazar you see native
cottons and silks hung up to attract tourists.
It is the life, not the shops, at which the tourist looks in
the Musky. The Arabs are a nomad race—they migrate in
droves about cities as they do in little tribes about the desert.
There are such swarms of them passing up and down the
Musky that carriages can hardly get along. Not only will
the tourist see multitudes of men carrying the implements
of their trade or going to their café, but numbers of women
with considerable variation in costume. The Cairo woman
of the lower class may forget her veil, but she never forgets
her anclets, which are made of silver and often very heavy.
Perhaps she never takes them off; it is certain that she often
wears them inside her stockings with a disastrous effect.
The principal variety of her costume lies in the veil, for she
is fairly certain to be dressed in black of some kind, cotton
or crêpe or satin, according to her condition. The Egyptian
woman's veil is a sort of banner of black stuff, three feet
long by nine inches wide, suspended from a little gilt cylinder
with three rings round it, which hangs from the forehead
to the point of the nose, and is said to be intended to
keep the veil away from the nose and make an air-funnel
for the mouth.
The Turkish-Egyptian woman has no nose-pipe and
wears a white veil, which becomes more and more transparent
as she becomes more and more emancipated. You see

plenty in veils so transparent that they only differ from
those of foreigners by the fact that they leave the eyes
uncovered. This veil is a legal fiction: the rich Egyptian-Turkish
ladies go so far as to wear one of these ridiculous
veils with a foreign hat when they are going on board the
steamer at Alexandria to proceed to Europe. The veil is of
course discarded the moment they are out of sight of Egypt,
and never resumed till they return.
The most interesting veils are those of the country women,
especially the bedawins who take the trouble to veil, for they
hang all sorts of mysterious things round their veils. Sometimes
they incline to ropes of big gold and coral beads,
sometimes to festoons of gold coins, sometimes to a row of
little chains hung vertically down the face.
In the course of half an hour you plough your way through
the migrating Arabs and the street hawkers and donkey-boys
to the corner of the Khordagiya. There is no difficulty
in knowing when you are there. There are beautiful old
mosques on both sides of the street—the gates of the City
of the Caliphs—and there is a sort of banner hung across
the street, like those which assured King Edward of the
continued loyalty of his subjects when he was going to be
crowned, only this one merely welcomes the tourist to the
entrance of the Khan-el-Khalil and Cohen's shop.
He receives a personal welcome also; for the touts who are
the skirmishers of the bazars spring upon his carriage from
all sides offering their services as guides.
“Sir, I do not want any money.”
“What do you want, then?”
“Well, you can give me anything you like.”
And so you enter the bazars.

The Bazars of Cairo: the most Picturesque in the

FEW of the brainless rich who go to Cairo for the
hotel and club life, and hardly realise that they
are in Egypt, fail to visit the bazars. They talk a good
deal about the bazars, but they only see one little bit of
them, and that so demoralised by foreigners that if it were
not for the old-world gateways of the khan put up by Ismail
Pasha, you might think that you were not in the bazars
at Cairo but at a Cairene bazar at the Earl's Court Exhibition.
The Khan-el-Khalil is only one corner of the bazars,
and the most interesting parts of the bazars to the kodaker
and student of native life are right at the other end, near
the Bab-es-Zuweyla.
The best way to approach the gloriously Oriental bazars
of Cairo is from the Sharia Mohammed Ali. Go by the
tramway which passes the Continental Hotel, or drive, to the
corner of the Sharia Serugiya, which will be described in
the chapter on native streets. You are surrounded by really
native shops immediately, and pass mosques, hammams
(baths), and Dervish tekkiyas in swift procession, until the
two sides of the street almost meeting overhead warn you
that you have reached the Tentmakers' Bazar, through
lovely lines of mosques and minarets and old palaces with
meshrebiya'd oriels. It is always cool and dark and
picturesque in the Tentmakers' Bazar, just the right environment
for the gay awnings and saddle-cloths and leather
work that are made in its tiny shops. One of the great


A WOMAN'S BURDEN. The man sitting at his ease, beside her is one of the porters who carry such immense weights. The scene is close to the Esbekiya Gardens.

mediaeval mansions, to be described in the chapter on Arab
houses, opens out of this bazar; it is known as the Beit-el-Khalil.
There are a good many leather-workers at the
beginning of the bazar, who make the gay saddle-bags and
pouches and purses that the foreigners love to buy. The
tentmakers are the most hopelessly vulgarised of all the
denizens of the bazar; elsewhere I have inveighed against
them for prostituting their art by substituting coarse caricatures
of the ancient Egyptian tomb paintings for the beautiful
texts and arabesques which are on the awnings and tent
linings they make for Arabs. They talk incessantly to every
foreigner who passes:
“Look here, sir, you want to buy very nice. Come in—no
sharge for examine”—and so on.
The Tentmakers' Bazar carries you up to the Bab-es-Zuweyla—one
of the old gates of Cairo. Most of the
bazars lie just inside it.
There are ten leading bazars at Cairo: the Tentmakers'
Bazar, the Silk Bazar, the Cotton Bazar, the Tunisian and
Algerian Bazar, the Scentmakers' Bazar, the Silversmiths
and Goldsmiths' Bazar, the Sudanese Bazar, the Brass Bazar,
the Shoemakers' Bazar; and the Turkish Bazar or Khan-el-Khalil.
But the Sukkariya, which means Sugar Bazar,
though you do not see a single sugar shop in it, and the
Sharia el-Akkadin, which succeeds it, constitute practically
the bazar of cheap hosiery.
For the kodaker, the Tunis Bazar and the Scentmakers'
Bazar and the Silk Bazar are the best. They, at any rate, are
as Oriental as the bazars of Tunis. Here the shops are
mere cupboards, and the owner squats on his counter and
fills the entire front There are benches for customers
running along the outside of the shops like a curbstone
covered with carpets. The Tunis Bazar is roofed over
like the bazars at Tunis, and is a blaze of colour, with
its festoons of red and yellow shoes, gaily striped blankets,
white shawls, embroidered saddle-bags and tasselled praying-carpets.
The shops themselves are lined with shelves
divided into squares. A fine note of colour is struck

by the auctioneers, who walk about with strings of the bright
yellow shoes of Tunis hung all over them like necklaces;
and the carpet-covered dikkas or benches outside the shops
have gay Arab figures reposing on them, or sitting up with
their hands clasped round their knees.
The Silk Bazar and the Sûk-el-Attarin, or Scentmakers'
Bazar are the most truly Oriental of all, and their shops are
the smallest and most cupboard-like; their proprietors the
most addicted to sitting on the counter and filling up the
whole front. Dikkas and conversation are the features here;
shoes and blankets supply the colour.
Unless the tourist knows something of the value of scent
there is friction in the Sûk-el-Attarin, or Perfume Bazar—rather
a glorified name for the row of half-empty dark
cupboards which constitute it. In Tunis the shops of the
scentmakers are the handsomest in the bazars, with their
brass, and their glass, and their panelling, their gorgeous
phials, and their dandies descended from the nobles of
Granada. Here an ordinary shopkeeper sits in his dark
recess, with a few dirty bottles of gilt glass on the shelf
beside him, and a few cheap and gaudy gilt bottles of a
smaller size, and ivory balls with cavities for scent on the floor
in front of him. As you pass, the spider pulls the stopper
out of one of his scent-bottles and rubs it on your sleeve.
“There!” he says. “Smell it. Is it not beautiful? There
is no scent like it in the world. What will you have?
Otto of roses, jasmine, amber, or banana scent?” As
if anybody wanted to smell of eating bananas! He could
make a much better scent of orange-peel. The Portogallo
made by the monks of Santa Maria Novella from orange-peel
is as fine as eau-de-cologne.
The shop looks so humble that the tourist generally says
that she will buy some scent, probably jasmine, which is really
delicious. “How much?” says the man. “An ounce?”
An ounce bottle is a modest-looking affair, so she says, “Yes,”
and is requested to pay about a sovereign. She refuses.
The dragoman says, “You must buy it now, because he
has poured it out for you. Each drop costs so much, that

he will lose two or three shillings if you do not take it now.”
If it is a well-off Englishwoman she weakly consents from
a sense of noblesse oblige; if it is an American she says,
“Yes; I will buy it, but two shillings is plenty for that little
lot. Tell him I shall only pay two shillings for it.” The
shopkeeper blusters, and the dragoman flusters, but he does
not say too much, for he has learned that the proverb, “If
you scratch a Russian you find a Tartar,” applies with
special force to Americans who have risen from trade.
Perhaps, as a parting shot, she recommends the scentmaker
to put each kind of scent up in ounce bottles and label it
twenty shillings. I side with the Americans against the
scentmakers all along the line. The scentmakers' game, as
played in Cairo, is an organised conspiracy. Their bazar
is not worth visiting except for what you pass through on
the way to it; there is nothing beautifully Oriental about it
except the duplicity of its shopkeepers, and nothing beautiful
about their shops except the brown stains on scent-bottles
that are never washed.
For myself, I enjoyed looking at the scentmakers' shops;
the black den, the Arab spider, the dusty shelf with its row
of stained bottles from which the dusty gilt was wearing
off; the little affected foolery of pulling out the stopper and
stroking my sleeve with it formed a quiet bit of the life
of the East which gave me a subtle satisfaction. But as the
spider generally turns into a blustering swindler, and there
are no noticeable Oriental effects for the casual tourist, I have
said what I have said.
The beauty of the amber perfume, the scent merchant
informs you, is that you can use it for flavouring your coffee.
But what civilised being would wish his coffee to taste like
the smell of the inside of a four-wheeler? You can buy the
amber also in the form of paste for filling little ivory boxes
the size of the capsule in which you take phenacetin. These
are hung round the neck under the clothes in a way that
would be useful if they were febrifuges. It is to be hoped
that you will escape without being made to buy anything
from this child of the Serpent. The last time I was in the

Scent Bazar I was attracted to an Arab cabinet, a little
mahogany box about a foot long, with six little drawers and
decorated with ivory and bronze, altogether rather Japanese.
I asked the price, knowing that five shillings would be a
liberal offer for this battered old affair. “Two guineas,” he
said, true to his hereditary instincts. At that moment an old
woman with a face which evidently had been lovely passed
through the bazar singing to the accompaniment of a
tambourine. “She has been a beautiful woman once,” I said
to the scentmaker. “Yes, sir,” he said, “but she is a wreck
I gave a look at his box, and went on to the Silk Bazar,
which is always picturesque, with yarn-spinners using the
same primitive descending peg-top as the yarn-spinners of
Sicily use to this day, an inheritance from the Saracenic
lords who left the Isle not much short of a thousand years
Nothing pleased me more in the Silk Bazar than the
weavers, who sat with their legs buried under the floor,
working the treadles of the tiny looms which produced
such beautiful results. Here they make the women's veils;
here they have their silks put up in quires on book-shelves
as they do in Japan. There is so little difference between
the shops in an Arab bazar and a Japanese street. Both make
counters of their floors, and you sit on the dikka outside your
bazar-shop in Cairo as you sit on the edge of the floor of the
Japanese shop. Both are raised about a foot from the
In the same bazar they sell the Arab soap that is made in
spheres like Tennis balls, and is said to have merits which
certainly do not advertise themselves on the babies' skins.
The Sudanese Bazar is on the other side of the Sukkariya.
It is not worth going into for its wares, but it has some
picturesque houses, and it leads up to the great mosque of
El-Azhar, the University of the Moslem world.
The Sudanese, if they are Sudanese, though I have
never seen any there, sell little but mangy leopard skins
and the cheap painted boxes which you see in any Arab or

Turkish town, with a few Tunisian drums, tambourines, and
But there was a worker in the inlaying of mother-of-pearl
here whom it was interesting to watch. I did not see him
cutting his disks of pearl, but I imagined that he did it with a
fret-saw . The dark wood-work of Cairo inlaid in this manner
is very effective.
I will not describe the effect of the great mosque here. I
will leave that to its own chapter; but the book market
beyond was worth a visit, though its merchants were so
fanatical. Once I saw a Koran there whose cover attracted
me. It was not antique, but it was very Oriental. I told
Ali, my interpreter, to ask how much it was. The shopkeeper
flatly refused to sell it to a Christian.
Not far from here is the back entrance to the Turkish
Bazar, passing the great modern mosque of Hoseyn, to which
no one but a Mussulman is supposed to gain admittance.
It is fortunately not worth seeing, being quite modern, with
Tottenham Court Road carpets, and “nothing to it” but an
uncorroborated assertion that it holds the skull of Hoseyn,
son of Ali, nephew and heir of the Prophet. The Turkish
Bazar is described in this chapter; it is the most vulgarised
and Europeanised of all.
But into the Silk and Scentmakers' Bazar I often went. I
liked those little dark cupboards, six feet high and six deep
and four feet wide, with the owners filling up their fronts like
idols in niches. The way the narrow lanes were boarded
over from the sky had something delightfully Oriental about
it. I liked the large brown bottles criss-crossed with gold in
which the scent-sellers kept their perfumes; I liked the rows
of foolish otto-of-roses bottles, cut and gilt, but with hardly
more inside than a clinical thermometer. Unsophisticated
Arabs used to come to these bazars with things to sell in
camel-bags and donkey-bags, and all the time the proprietors
squatted on their counters, with their legs crossed underneath
them, smoking cigarettes and never seeming to be doing
anything, whether they were pretending to be awake or
frankly asleep.
There were odd little restaurants in these bazars, with two
or three of the grand brass jugs, holding three or four gallons
each, which they use for hot water. These form a sort of
sign-manual of the bazar restaurant, and are about all you see,
except richly worked brass urn-stands. From time to time
their servants hurried past, carrying coffee in glasses with
enamelled knobs to some merchant who was doing a deal
with foreigners, and the sun filtered through the boards above.
This part of the bazars was always Oriental, always full of
subjects for the kodaker whose lenses were strong enough to
take things in the shade.
To go into the bazars at Cairo is as good as going to
Japan. They are topsy-turvy land; they are a paradise for
kodakers; they are as exciting to a woman as the summer
sales. The whole district between the Citadel and the dried-up
canal is called loosely the Bazars. This is the chief
commercial part of the Arab city; here are the best mosques
and baths and the most unspoiled old houses and streets.
This is the best place for seeing the natives at their trades
and for picking up bargains, and it is excellent for seeing
native life.
The travellers who divide their time between expensive
hotels and the Khedivial Sporting Club, and only go to the
bazars to buy the stereotyped curiosities, see little beyond
the Turkish Bazar and the Scentmakers' Bazar. These pay
the dragoman best; but they are among the least interesting,
for the scentmakers have nothing to show, and the others
are too cosmopolitan in their shops and their ways and their
You feel the glamour of the Orient when you only drive
down the Musky to the Turkish Bazar, in charge of the
hotel dragoman. There is nothing really Turkish about
it. Hardly any of the shopkeepers are Turks and hardly
any customers are Turks, and not many of the wares are
Turkish. But from the time that you enter the Musky
you are impeded by a crowd of Orientals so thick that
your carriage can hardly plough through them—blue-gowned
porters carrying prodigious burdens, and black-robed women

who muzzle their faces, and make a most unconcerned display
of ancles in silver fetters. And though the shops are only
Oriental in their customers there is a general glow of colour,
and a braying of Eastern voices.
When you turn into the Khordagiya just before you
enter the bazar, the scene is truly Oriental. There is a fine
old mosque at the corner which overhangs the street, and the
street itself is lined with the show-cases of the native goldsmiths,
who are working in the narrow lanes of their bazar.
These cases are full of the flimsy and barbaric workmanship
which the natives love—made of very pure metal—bracelets
and anclets of great weight and solidity, these
being forms of investment; and rings and earrings and
charms—natives love to wear charms.
Except the rings, there is little to attract a European in
these cases. But the black-robed ladies find them irresistible,
and spend hours in the Jewellers' Bazar, where the paths
are hardly a yard wide. Europeans generally lose as little
time as possible in pressing past the Shoemakers' Bazar
into the Turkish Bazar, which is quite demoralised in appearance;
its open stalls would look more in place at Earl's
Court, and their Levantine owners have many of them visited
Earl's Court.
But it is to these stalls and the shops behind them that
the dragoman conducts the tourist. For there are plenty
of baits to unloose her purse-strings: lace and embroideries,
rough turquoises, peridots, opals, brass- and silver-ware; neat
little silver-gilt parodies of jewels from the graves of the
Pharaohs; various articles supposed to have come from the
graves themselves; Persian pottery and enamels and lacquer;
carpets, and articles less likely to be immediately useful, like
old Korans and Crusaders' armour.
The dragoman prefers large shops like Andalaft's or
Cohen's to stalls—they are less inconveniently public; the
tourist has less chance of escaping without making a purchase.
But the tourist, unless her ideas are too high and mighty,
prefers stalls. She does not know what she wants till she
sees it; and it is better fun to pick out things with her own

eyes than to look at what the shopkeeper thinks she might
be induced to buy. Furthermore, the good shops have an
etiquette of fixed prices, round which they have been known
to wriggle when the tourist is going away without purchases;
while the stalls expect to do the bargaining for which the
Orient is distinguished. The dragoman reminds them that
in a shop they can take tea and coffee and Turkish delight
all the time they are shopping.
To me it was always discouraging to see a shopman giving
ladies relays of almond-stuffed, rose-scented Turkish delight
at three shillings a box, and relays of caravan tea—coffee
does not count. In a business conducted upon such principles
percentages must rule high.
I shall not describe here the rarities and bargains to be
looked for in the shops of the Turkish Bazar. This is a
chapter of impressions, and the impression I got of the
Turkish Bazar was one of a few shops and spiders' dens
with good things in them, and a long row of stalls where they
sell trinkets and more or less precious stones, terminating
in a cross-alley where elegant brass objects are sold at much
above their proper price. Beyond this are a number of
Persians selling amber necklaces and pipe-mouthpieces and
Persian lacquer-boxes. Their prices are fixed at double
what they ought to be, for Europeans.
The Turkish Bazar has only a veneer of the Orient; its
Turks are Jews, and other Levantines, in black frock-coats
and tarbûshes. But it is a good exhibition. As you pass
along it, with its saucers of glittering gems, its lumps of
turquoise, its Oriental and tourist's-Oriental jewellery, its
festoons of lace and embroidery, its flashing and densely
chased brass- and silver-ware, and its gaudy keepsakes of
Crusaders and Pharaohs—everything seems so theatrical that
you expect the young guardsman who is being bored by a
bargaining American millionairess to turn into Mr. Haydn
Coffin and sing “Queen of my Heart,” and keep looking for
Mr. Edmund Payne. There is a bit of the real Orient in the
middle of it all—a beautiful gateway from a palace of Ismail
When the typical tourist has spent all the money she
means to spend in the Turkish Bazar, the dragoman takes her
on to the Scentmakers' Bazar. This, if he would only let
them know it, is in a true Eastern bazar, where things have
hardly altered since the time of the Crusades, and the shopkeeper
sits in the cupboard where he keeps his goods and
takes up nearly all the room, and if he wants to do any work,
such as weaving, has a hole in the floor to accommodate his
But your dragoman cares for none of these things; he does
not think Arab life worth a glance; he wants the children
(he regards all tourists as children) to spend their money as
quickly as possible and get back to the hotel. He does not
take them to the bazars for fun; he takes them to earn
commissions on what they spend, as well as his six-shilling
fee. There are exceptions, of course, but only to the extent
of throwing in a mosque or two.
One of his happy hunting-grounds is the Tentmakers' Bazar,
which might have been designed for tourists. Its shops, in a
sort of arcade which has a College behind it, are larger and
opener, and there is enough colour here for the whole of Cairo.
Most of its shops have their owners hard at work embroidering
till a victim passes; the floors are covered with embroidery
in the making, the walls with canvases appliqued with texts
from the Koran and caricatures of the tomb-paintings of the
Pharaohs. If you want colour you buy texts; red, white,
and blue blended are the quietest tints used for texts; they
may have yellow added, and a violent violet and a gaseous
green are also very popular. The colours of some of the
new texts intended for purchase by tourists are crude enough
for a factory-girl's summer hat. But the faded texts which
have done duty for mosque or marriage for many years
are exquisite. Their colouring was probably flowerlike in its
beauty when they were fresh; they have faded into tints like
nature's own.
The parodies of the pictures of the Pharaohs are soberer
in their colouring; the black of hair and the Venetian red
of naked bodies play such a large part in these compositions.

They are odiously vulgar, because their faces and attitudes
are caricatured to make the tourist like them as much
as Mr. Lance Thackeray's satirical postcards of Germans on
donkeys and spinsters on camels. They are always in
shocking taste and bear hardly any resemblance to their
originals. The tourists buy them as greedily as they buy
the smoked sky-blue and scarlet statuettes of European
The attractions of the Tentmakers' Bazar for the Philistine
of Philistia do not end here. When they are tired of
bargaining for tent-linings and are no longer to be attracted
by the broiderer's blandishments of “No sharge for lookin,”
there are saddlers to be encountered, not like the irresistible
saddlers of the sûk at Tunis, whose sabre-taches, and school
children's satchels, and purses and mirror-bags are so fascinating
that you buy them for all your relations and end by
keeping them all for yourself, or the barbaric leather-workers
of Omdurman. The saddlers of Cairo are saddlers who
devote themselves to the production of donkey-saddles of
red brocade and camel-trappings adorned with cowries and
little bits of looking-glass. There is not much that any
reasonable Philistine can buy from them except embroidered
canvas saddle-bags, which make good antimacassars for
suburban homes; the little leather cases, which look as if
they contained opera glasses but really hold passages from
the Koran, which are considered good for binding on the
arm when you have a headache; Greek purses, or a stray
paper case which costs you about two shillings, and looks as
if it had cost twenty, and makes a delightful blotter with
its quaint arabesquings.
This is all of the bazars which the dragoman allows the
tame tourist to see; and even that goes a long way, because
you cannot pass from the Turkish Bazar to the scentmakers'
and tentmakers' without passing some of the unspoiled bazars
like the silkmakers', and you are surrounded by picturesque
native life.
But that is not the way in which I love to do the bazars.
I generally approach them from the other side, going down

the broad Sharia Mohammed Ali till I come to the Sharia
Serugiya a little below the Kesun mosque. This is an unspoiled
native street, natural enough for Japan. Its shops
are not old buildings, but they are low and the street is broad,
so you have good opportunities for kodaking. The shops
are quite uninteresting; they cater for humble native wants.
But if there is nothing for the European to buy in the shops
there is plenty for him to photograph among the shoppers,
and the street is rich in picturesque small mosques, and
zawiyas, tekkiyas or colleges of Dervishes, ancient baths,
vistas of old rows of dwellings, and a stranded city gate.
The Serugiya changes into the Sharia el-Magharbalin, and
the Sharia el-Magharbalin changes into the Sharia Kasabet
Radowan, which admits to the Tentmakers' Bazar. Only
the name is changed. As you draw near the bazar, the
street makes lovely lines of little old mosques with Mameluke
domes and ancient dwelling-houses with arabesqued
Here you enter one of the great old palaces of Cairo, the
Beit-el-Khalil. You can see how vast it was, though there is
little left now except the great gateway and the mak'ad, the
hall with an open front, whose majestic arches rise as high as
the roof. Here the beauty of these old streets culminates in
an unbroken succession of mosques and minarets and old
palaces, with meshrebiya oriels, which nearly meet across the
We must not linger here; we must hurry through the
Tentmakers' Bazar, which is always cool and dark and
picturesque, just the right environment for the gay awnings
and saddle-cloths and leatherwork that are made in its shops,
though the enjoyment of it is spoiled by the incessant “No
sharge to look,” “Sir, you want to buy—very nice,” “Look
here, sir,” “Come in,” and so on. It ends between two
perishing mosques, sentimentally beautiful in their decay, at
the Bab-es-Zuweyla, the old city gate, the heart of that Cairo of
which I have written that it is still an Arab city of the Middle
And here at the Bab-es-Zuweyla you will do well to remind

mind yourself that the bazars afford not merely infinitely
picturesque specimens of Oriental shops and shopkeepers;
they constitute the most characteristic part of the native
city, where you must go to look for your glimpses of the poor
living in the atmosphere and with the methods and customs
of the City of the “Arabian Nights.”


A STREET SCENE IN THE SERUGIYA. The figure looking like an old woman is a Bedawin Sheikh. The three other men are in the blue gown called a galabeach, and the white turban folded round a crimson tarbúsh, which is the ordinary costume of the poor Cairo Arab.

Our Dragoman

The first time I ever visited the bazars of Cairo we
were in the Tentmakers' Sûk with the Major, who
was buying a pair of Arab slippers. The Major is a very
big man and takes a very large shoe. The shoemaker drew
attention to his infirmity and wished to charge him double
for it. Suddenly an unfamiliar and guttural voice said, as we
thought, “These very large shoes made for the Irish.” As the
Major was an Irishman, the remark seemed appropriate; but
we knew afterwards that Ali meant the Arish—or Bedawin
of the Eastern Desert, who enliven the streets of Cairo.
The voice belonged to a tall, strange Arab, with a face
like the hawk-headed Horus. He was dressed in a neat
turban and a fine blue cloth galabeah, but no socks, only
very pointed scarlet shoes. This was Ali.
As he made the cobbler charge the Major a single fare
for his shoes, we allowed him to accompany us. He said
that he wanted no money. But I knew that it was only
Arab duplicity to represent that the pleasure of our company
was sufficient reward for the morning's work, so I said that
I would give him a shilling at the end of the morning, and
that if this was not satisfactory to him, it would be more
satisfactory to us for him to leave us at once. He said:
“I come; money no matter.” He may have expected
money off commissions, or he may have had nothing
particular to do, and been interested in our caravan, which
included two well-dressed women. Arabs are very susceptible
to feminine smartness.
He proved to know a good deal of English and possessed
the valuable quality of saying, when he was asked a question
which puzzled him: “I not know; I ask somebody.” This
meant that he would ask everybody round us till he elicited
the information we required, which was generally the name
of some ancient and adorable building that had escaped the
mesh of the guide-books.
When we parted, Ali took his shilling with an air of
politeness and content, and said that he was always to be
found between the Bab-es-Zuweyla and the Tentmakers'
We saw nothing more of him till we returned many weeks
later from our trip to Khartûm.
Then, one day as we were issuing from the Tentmakers'
Bazar, a voice saluted us: “Hallo; I not seen you lately.”
“No; we have been away in the Sudan.”
“Well, olright; I come with you now.”
We did not need him, but he told us the story of the giant,
seven or six metres high, who had hung the clubs half-way up
the towers of the Bab-es-Zuweyla with such an air of conviction
that we thought it would be our loss if we did not
engage him to babble to us at the same modest fee of a
shilling for the morning. After that he always accompanied
us when we passed the Bab-es-Zuweyla, and we used to take
that route to the bazars on purpose. It did not cost us anything,
for he saved more than his own fee in preventing us from
being overcharged by others. He forfeited his commissions
at shops by the resolute way in which he beat down prices
for us. If the shopkeeper refused to be equitable, he said:
“Come away; that man no good,” or, “I know cheaper place.”
When I insisted on paying the man's price, because I wanted
that particular thing, I used to say: “Now, Ali, go back
to that shop afterwards and make him give you commission
for taking us there,” and he used to answer, “If you not mind,
I try.”
He was the most honest Arab I ever struck: he never once
tried to get the better of us, and he had another useful
quality. He was, as I have said, a big, strong man, and he

was very courageous. More than once when my ardour in
sight-seeing had carried me to places in the Arab city where
it was not really safe for English people to go, and the Arab
hooligans began to hustle, they found they had a lion to
deal with in Ali. One could go anywhere with him.
One day I could not find him. Next day he told me
that he had been in prison, waiting to be tried. He
had had to fight a man while he was out with a foreign
gentleman. “This morning tried,” he said. “The man have
to go to prison for two months. I have to pay a hundred
piastres for constructing a disturbance.” I offered to pay his
fine, but he said, “English gentleman I with paid it.” When
I told the Commissioner of Police about this afterwards, he
made a note of it in Ali's favour, though Ali had to go
to prison for it. It is the Commissioner of Police who issues
dragomans' licences.
Ali was delightfully devout and sentimental. Sometimes
when we went into a mosque—the mosque of the Sultan
Shab'an for one—he said: “This very holy person's place; I
say my prayers here.” Once as we were coming back from
the Tombs of the Caliphs he stopped beside a little enclosure
of graves and wept. “All I have in the world here,” he said
simply. “I all alone now.”
Sometimes when I asked him for a place like the Mosque
of Abu-Bekr, which is not near any other, he said: “I think
no such place; but you know.” I told him the directions
they had given me for finding this mosque at the Wakfs
(where they had recommended me not to miss it), and it
was marked in a vague way on one of the maps, printed
right across a nest of small streets. I took my bearings
as well as I could and steered for it. Ali asked every
one we met, but nobody knew it by that name, though
gradually Ali began to receive hints that there was a very
old and beautiful mosque in the district, and this mosque
we eventually ran to earth. Then we discovered that it had
a name about a yard long, with the words Abu-Bekr coming
in the middle! Europeans had not selected the significant
words—that was all.
Ali was delighted. After this he would never give up
looking for a building I asked for.
He always accompanied me in my street-to-street visitations
of the Arab city. I did my best to visit every old
street in Cairo. I used to stalk down the middle of the street,
note-book in hand, with my camera slung round my waist.
Ali carried my stick, which gave him great pleasure, as
dragomans do not bring their own sticks when they are
engaged: they must have their hands free for carrying things.
I went into every mosque that was open, and wherever I saw
a house that looked old I sent Ali into its court to see if it
had any old architecture, and if there was anything to prevent
me going in. I was seldom refused: the permission was
generally given cordially. The Cairenes are naturally obliging
and polite: they know that it is quite safe to leave their
houses open under the British rule; and they have few
Mohammedan prejudices, except the artificially fostered idea,
which the Mohammedans of Asia do not share—that it is
wrong to live in any country not ruled by Mohammedans.
Ali used to dart out again like a rabbit, and say “Come on”;
and somebody would smile a permission as I entered, or
very often the courtyard was left to take care of itself. The
facades of the house round the courtyard are generally its
oldest and best preserved parts. We were often invited to
look at the selamlik and the mak'ad, the hall with the open
front, and once in a while, if the master of the house were in,
he would send his women out of the way and show us any
fine rooms there were in his harem.
Ali took me into various interesting old baths, which may
form the subject of a chapter; various khans once the caravanserais
of merchants, now used as warehouses; various
schools, some of them in beautiful mediaeval buildings; oil
mills and mosques.
The oil mills were very curious. They were almost
invariably in very old buildings with arched chambers; and
the mills were driven, like sakiyas, by oxen walking round
and round. The oil was made from cotton-seed, and the
presses used were something like the old wooden presses of

the seventeenth century, still used in out-of-the-way parts of
Italy for making wine.
Many small mosques are always kept shut, and even the
persistent Ali, who questioned every one in the street, could
not always discover where the key was kept. And they did
not always have overshoes to go over your boots, which
implied taking off your boots. And they were not invariably
interesting when you had succeeded, with much loss of time,
in getting them open. But there is generally something
ancient or beautiful in every mosque-interior in Cairo; and
the smaller mosques sometimes do not follow the accepted
pattern, but break out in their own way, like that mosque of
Abu-Bekr. They are apt to have very beautiful meshrebiya
work, and sometimes you come across a fine old pulpit or a
delightful courtyard.
We used to have the same fun at most of them over
our mosque-tickets. Admission to mosques for ordinary
Christians is by little brown tickets, which you buy at Cook's
or any of the large hotels for fivepence—two piastres each.
But as an author with proper introductions and writing a
book about Egypt, I had received from the head of the
Wakfs, who look after the Mohammedan monuments, a
printed letter admitting me to all their mosques and monuments
free, with permission to photograph or sketch. The
difficulty was that, even at quite large mosques, the attendants
at the gate could seldom read; so we had to wait while some
one who could read, and whom the attendants could trust,
was found. They did not like foregoing the little brown
tickets, which meant fivepences for the mosque treasury. So
badly educated were the attendants that I had been going
to all sorts of mosques—including El-Azhar itself—for two or
three months before it was discovered that the clerk who filled
in my pass had dated it from November 1907 to May 1907,
which, of course, made it invalid from the first of December.
Ali was very useful over this question of tickets. He
always told the incredulous attendants a long list of mosques,
from El-Azhar downwards, where the pass had been accepted,
and forced them to send for some one who could read.
When we left the mosque Ali caused them fresh annoyance
by informing us that the regulation fee for the use of overshoes
was a small piastre—a penny farthing a pair. Inexperienced
Americans are often deceived into giving a
shilling. I much prefered to give the proper fee for the
shoes, and to give the shilling to the attendant who had shown
us round, if he had been intelligent and obliging. But if he
had been sulky and hostile, as is sometimes the case, I gave
him nothing. As a class, mosque attendants are the surliest
Arabs you meet, which may be due to fanaticism.
I think that Ali enjoyed himself most when I was shopping.
He admired my experienced bargaining. One learns a thing
or two in the course of twenty years of curio-hunting in the
East and South. When a shopkeeper with whom one had
not dealt before asked an outrageous price for anything, Ali
would say, “Not a tourist, this my gentleman”; and explain
that I was too old a bird to be caught with chaff; also that
I did not waste time with men who would not proceed to
business at once, but always went to another shop. This
generally did away with the preliminary stages of the bargain.
If the man was incredulous, we went on. If it was a secondhand
thing—say an old piece of brass, or Persian embroidery,
or jewellery—I used to tell Ali the price he could offer for it
as we passed. While he was making the offer—even that
takes many words in the Orient—I wandered on, looking for
fresh treasure-troves.
Sometimes as a variant I held up a piece of money and
pointed to a thing as I passed. It was in this way that I
bought some of my Persian embroideries, and the beautiful
Persian bowl that always stands on our sideboard filled with
lemons, because we like the contrast of the pale lemon and
the deep-gold brass.
It is an antique brass bowl, the size of an ordinary pipkin,
richly stamped and chased with Persian hunting scenes, and
used to stand in the back part of the shop kept by an old
Turk from Assuan, who, contrary to the habit of Turks,
loved to bargain over his goods. He lived at the end of the
Tentmakers' Bazar, and always brought out chairs into the

street for us when we commenced looking at things in his
window, which had no glass. He kept his change and his
spectacles and his snuff-box in that bowl, so my attention
was constantly drawn to it. One day as I passed I held up
an Egyptian two-shilling piece and pointed to that bowl.
He had evidently bought it cheap, so he emptied out its
contents with grave politeness and handed it to me. He saw
by my eye that I was not going to buy any rings or daggers
or Ethiopian necklaces that day. These were his specialities.
So the bowl was handed to Ali, and we pursued our march
through the bazars. When we got to the Turkish Bazar,
where the brass-shops are, all the shopkeepers asked Ali how
much I had given for it; he told them this, but he would not
tell them where I had bought it, lest he should spoil my
future bargaining with the old Turk. They at once began
to bid for it, and one man offered me as high as ten shillings
for the bowl I had just bought for two.
Another time I bought from the old female fiend in the
brass market, the brass milk-dipper which is now in my
Moorish room—an embossed and very solid sort of pint-pot,
with an upright handle about eighteen inches long. We
were walking about the old Arab streets for a couple of hours
after this. Every restaurant keeper we passed asked Ali
how much I had given for this, and when he learned that I
had only paid fifteen piastres offered me an advance. One
man had a thing I wanted more, but only worth about half
as much—an old solid brass coffee-saucepan of rather an elegant
shape. I offered to exchange. He wanted me to give
him twenty-five piastres as well as my milk-dipper. I knew
better, and the next day bought just such a saucepan in the
Market of the Afternoon for a shilling. Next time we passed
the crafty restaurateur he offered to make the exchange for
nothing. Ali was magnificent. “Your saucepan was only
worth a shilling. My gentleman bought one like it, only
better, for a shilling.” The restaurateur grew very heated
over the bargain he had missed, and told Ali never to enter
his shop again. The pugnacious Ali made some withering
retort about the class of his business.
Ali was very useful at the Market of the Afternoon. He
could tell me about the games people were playing. But he
prefered the Brass-market second-hand stalls. We never
passed them without stopping for a few minutes. He was
amused at the tantrums of the fat old Moslem who kept the
chief stall—a great character. She was old, awful, and closely
veiled, and sat in a recumbent position, stretching out towards
the customers her solid but shapely bare ancles in a pair of
very heavy gold anclets. They may have been gilt brass,
but they were at any rate very handsome. Her bracelets, of
which she wore many, were certainly gilt brass. What you
noticed most were the extraordinary, expressive eyes between
her face-veil and head-veil. She was generally smoking,
almost always contemptuous, and flew into fierce passions on
small provocations. Sometimes she did not want to have anything
to do with a dog of a Christian who dared to dispute the
extravagant prices she would put on. She would yell at me
and almost throw things at me if I attempted to bargain with
her. At other times she would let me put my own prices on
anything in the extensive stock she spread on the ground.
And she had covetable things—such as a fine assortment of
the elegant brass ewers called ibreek, which the Arabs use
for pouring water over the hands with the tisht—the quaint
basins and water-strainers which go with them—fine old
brass coffee-pots, coffee-saucepans, coffee-trays, coffee-cups,
coffee-mills, fine brass-work for the Narghileh pipe, chased
brass lantern-ends, brass open-work toilet-boxes, incense-burners,
inkpots, scales, tall candlesticks for standing on the
ground—all of good old patterns and workmanship. It was
from her that I bought my delightful little chased brass
box pierced like the plâtre ajouré of mosque windows. On
these occasions she would smile and jest quite flirtatiously
behind her rigorous face-veil. You could see it by her eyes,
which were generally so furious. This did not seem to please
Ali so much as when she was playing the spit-fire. I could
hardly get him away then.
He had a friend at the next stall—a poor old man with a
humble stock that was often quite interesting, for besides brass

ware he sold second-hand the jewellery worn by the poor Arabs
and Sudanese, brass and copper and glass bangles, base-metal
anclets of various patterns, well-worn rings, sometimes exceedingly
interesting and sometimes highly elegant, Mohammedan
and Jewish charms and lucky-bags, and various clasps,
and so on, but not many brooches or necklaces. Ali told me
what to give him for any article that took my fancy, and it
was always impossibly cheap. His prices were far below the
old woman's. For though she sat on the ground under a
temporary awning, and her goods were spread out on the
ground, she regarded herself as a shop-keeper, not a stall-keeper,
because she was always there. Higher up, in front
of the beautiful five-arched arcade of the Beit-el-Kadi itself,
the stalls degenerated into selling bottles and bits of old
One thing I never succeeded in doing—visiting a Mohammedan
festival with Ali. He was going to take me to the Ashura, to the
Molid-en-Nebi, to the return of the Holy
Carpet, and I don't know what else. But when the day
came he did not come—I suppose he had a prejudice against
going with a Christian, and was too polite to say so.

How to Shop in Cairo

TWO friends may assure you with equal truthfulness
that Cairo is a good or a bad place for shopping in.
Either is true according to your object in shopping. Of
one quality or another you may buy almost anything in
Cairo. And if it is an article you can buy from a Levantine's
shop it will not be very dear, but if it is something that
you can only find at the special shops kept by Europeans,
who come to Cairo to make a fortune quickly, it may be
very costly. There are, for instance, what the regular shopkeepers
scornfully call “butterfly shops”—i.e. the shops in
the neighbourhood of the Savoy Hotel, which are open only in
the season and are kept by dressmakers, milliners, and what
not from Paris. They are like the Riviera shops—they often
have lovely things in the very latest fashions, but their
prices are naturally enormous. In this chapter I shall not
deal with necessaries. One can buy any necessary in Cairo.
I shall confine myself to the kind of things that people
take back for their collections, or as mementoes of Egypt—such
as gems, curios, silver-ware, embroideries, photographs
and postcards.
I will not pretend to say which is the best of the curio
shops that cater for the very wealthy. A shop where the
plausible young man talks in pounds instead of piastres is
no place for me. Such shops often ask more pounds than I
would pay piastres for some little bit from the tombs of Der-el-Bahari.
They have lovely objects in their windows, objects
that would be a grace even if they were not a prize to a

museum. There are a couple of them opposite the Savoy,
and another kept by a superior American opposite Shepheard's,
which has for its chief objet one of the glorious old mosque
lamps of enamelled glass made towards the end of the Middle
Ages, the collection of which is the pride of the Arab
Museum at Cairo. He asked £1,200 for this: what he
would take did not transpire. It is to shops such as these
that one would go for the jewellery worn by princesses in the
days of the Pharaohs, which is so curiously modern in its
effects. For example, one might take a gold bangle with
its circle as stiff and true as if it had been made yesterday
with a band of enamels in various colours running round
it—all unchipped—and half a dozen little enamelled discs
hanging from it by fine chains an inch and a half long.
This looks just as modern and perfect as the copies sold
for about £20 a piece in the Musky or in the shops kept
by Orientals on the front near the Continental Hotel. The
imitation (in eighteen-carat gold, mark you) is so like the
original, if original it be, that it is much safer to buy the
The extremely modern appearance of so many Egyptian
ornaments, whether jewels or scarabs, constitutes one of the
great difficulties in the way of buying them. It is almost
impossible for any one but an expert to detect an imitation
if it is made in genuine materials. The makers of imitations
are wise enough to imitate the ancient goldsmiths' work
in fine gold, and to employ the best workmen to execute
it. The intrinsic value of the imitations is often very
considerable. The forger risks this amount of capital on
the chance of bringing off a coup. Two copies made by
the same forger, if he has no shop of his own with plate-glass
windows in the right quarter, but works to the order
of wealthy shopkeepers, may one of them be sold as modern
jewellery in the antique style for £20, and the other for
£200 as having come from the wrist of the mummy of
Queen Nefertari or Princess Bint-Anat. Such is life; and
such is luck.
The leading curio-shopkeepers, however, give guarantees of

the genuineness of their goods, and if an article were proved
to be a forgery would at once refund the money rather
than destroy the reputation of a well-founded business. There
is always a risk in buying an expensive piece from a man
who might not be found if you had come down on him
for his guarantee; you have to take as much care in the
choice of a man to buy valuable antiques from as you
have in the choice of a trustee.
At the same time, you have far more chance of buying
a bargain from a stray individual than from a large dealer:
the former may not know the value of what he is selling. The
dealer would be sure to know. Twenty pounds down to such a
man might mean more than the chance of eventually getting
£2,000 if he kept his prize for several years. And he is
hampered by the unwillingness of people to buy an expensive
article without the guarantee of a well-known dealer. I am
speaking of a purchaser who has not sufficient expert
knowledge to be able to appraise the genuineness and value
of the article for himself. If he is an expert he will be
on the look-out for the opportunities of buying from unlikely
people. As I have often pointed out, there are two
golden rules in curio-buying: (1) If you know when a
thing is genuine and know its real value, buy it at the
wrong shop; (2) If you don't know the value of a thing
only pay what you think it worth as an ornament to your
house or your person; don't give one penny for any special
value that may be supposed to attach to it.
By buying it at the wrong shop I mean buying it from
some one who does not know the value of its materials or
workmanship. A rag-dealer has no respect for mediaeval
fabrics or embroideries.
For curio-buying at moderate prices you will have to
depend on the bazars and the markets, and I will tell you
how to do your bargaining when the time comes.
If you are not expert, it is best to buy your mummies, your
mummy-cases, superb with gilt and hieroglyphic paintings,
your wooden models of soldiers and workers in the field, your
little clay soul-houses, your alabaster canopic jars, as well as

A BEDAWIN TRIBE ON THE MARCH THROUGH CAIRO. The entire community with all its goods and animals follows behind.


your ancient Egyptian jewels, from the Museum, if it has what
you require in its sale-room, or from the great European curio-shops.
Never forget that the Museum has a salle de vente,
where the prices are much more moderate than they are at
shops, and where nothing is sold that is not undoubtedly
genuine, found by the excavators in the employ of the
Down in the bazars there are at any rate two great shops
whose guarantee can be respected, Andalaft's and Joseph
Cohen's. But they do not deal so much in ancient Egyptian
jewels and curios as in choice Oriental things of the last two
or three centuries, mixed, of course, with showy modern things,
sold at a good but not inordinate profit, to tourists too ignorant
to appreciate choice pieces. Of Hatoun's, a shop in the
Musky which sells the same sort of things and has an
enormous stock, I cannot speak from personal knowledge.
To show how necessary it is to take care, I will tell what
happened to Belsize at the most swaggering shop in Cairo.
He bought a Bokhara carpet which the proprietor guaranteed
“perfect” and “absolutely unique.” When it had been down
a few weeks it showed a big split which had been skilfully
repaired, and Belsize went to demand his money back from
the proprietor. “No, no, Mr. Belsize; I cannot do that. But
I tell you vot I vill do. I have plenty more exactly like it,
and you shall have vhichever you like.”
Joseph Cohen, who has the largest shop in the bazars,
has a reputation for fair dealing. He has fixed prices, and
the prices he fixes for the brass boxes and bowls inlaid
with silver, the spangled Assiut shawls, the harem embroideries,
and the cloisonne umbrella-handles, in which the
untrained tourist delights, are as moderate as any one's in
Cairo. His firm is of international repute, and has large
dealings with museums. Fine rugs and carpets rising in
value to a thousand pounds are his speciality. But he also
has splendid old Persian embroideries and enamels and
various Arab antiques of great value from the old Mameluke
houses. Cohen's is a good place for the inexpert tourist
to go to who means to spend large sums of money on

buying Oriental trophies for his home, because Cohen has
fixed prices and believes in the motto of a famous London
caterer, “Give your customer good value and he'll come
Andalaft has a smaller shop than Cohen. He has only
a small stock of tourists' brass and embroideries: he affects
enamels, and earthenware, old illuminated Korans, mediaeval
armour, and beautiful jewellery, chiefly Persian, which last is
not very expensive as such things go. Mr. Andalaft is a man
of remarkably good taste, indeed fine taste is the characteristic
of his shop. The old Persian arm amulets which he has
collected—flat, heart-shaped gold and silver boxes set with
large turquoises for containing a verse of the Koran, make
delightful ornaments. These and other jewels fill the locked
cases in the front part of his shop. But it is when he takes
you to the back, and commences fingering lovingly old
Persian lustre-ware that you see how different he is from
the other traders in the noisy Khan-el-Khalil. For he is
an enthusiast, and while he shows you his old illuminated
Korans, he stops to point out and translate the passages
which were borrowed from a Christian saint. You ask if a
suit of antique armour is Crusader's armour that has been
hoarded in the Sudan. “Alas, no,” he says, and tells you
the points to look out for in armour that has been in Egypt
since St. Louis and all his chivalry surrendered to the
Saracens, where the great city of Mansura stands to-day.
But his heart is chiefly with the old enamels and lustre of
Persia; and his old Persian pictures, and his Persian boxes
— painted with the portraits of famous beauties of Ispahan
and Shiraz, which glow like the lustres and enamel—and his
jade. Mr. Andalaft always strikes one as the artist rather
than the trader; and he speaks such good English that he
is a valuable aid to a collector. When you have bought
all you care about in his own stock, it is worth while asking
him to step across to Irani's with you. Irani is a good man,
but he speaks no English, and if left to himself opens his
mouth very wide to foreigners.
There are plenty of shops in the Khan-el-Khalil which

have fine or charming pieces, suited to pockets of varying
depths, especially in the direction of old brass-ware, embroideries
and lace, enamels and pottery. The trouble is
that without interminable bargaining you will be outrageously
swindled. Few of these traders have fixed prices like
Andalaft and Cohen, and nearly all of them fix their prices,
not according to the value of the article, but according to the
value of the purchaser. They gauge how rich or otherwise he
is, how shrewd or foolish, how eager or unwilling, and the price
moves accordingly. With most of them you have the feeling
all the time that you are dealing with a dirty, chuckling
Oriental spider.
When you come upon genuine Persians they are not so
bad. They are dignified, and often, like the Turk, have fixed
prices; but they have one price fixed for the tourist and
another for the native, so if you are wise you do not buy from
them at all, since they are certain to be asking you far above
the value of the article, and will not budge from their price.
Amber is the speciality of the Turks; lacquered boxes and
turquoises are the specialities of the Persians. You often
see fine pieces of amber among the beads and pipe-mouth-pieces;
but they are not comparable in beauty with the
old amber, which has gone opaque and golden, or clear
and sherry-coloured, to be found in the necklaces of odd
beads, which descend from generation to generation in the
The number of Persians in the bazars seemed to me really
extraordinary. Mr. Andalaft told me that it was not hard
to explain. “Persia,” he said, “is a very difficult country
to get to for tourists, so the Persians have to look about for
a market outside of their own country, where the duties are
low, and there is a good Government like the English, that
does not allow people to have their money taken away from
them, and where many tourists come. Egypt is the tourist's
of Persia.”
Here was another testimony to the value of the British
One of the great bargainings in the bazars at Cairo is

over precious stones, above all, turquoises, though there is a
determined effort to make people buy peridots, which are a
monopoly taken over from the Khedive, and various cheap
stones, such as rose-crystals, chrysoprases, and poor amethysts.
A good deal of this trade is in the hands of Persians and
what Belsize called “our Indian fellow-subjects.”
The Indians are the easier to bargain with; they know
the trading of the West as well as the East, and are aware
of the value of a quick turnover. But they are by way of
having fixed prices. Ladies get over this difficulty if the
dealers have named a price far above what it would pay
them handsomely to take, by picking out something of
sufficient value, and saying that they will buy the first article
if they receive the second article as bakshish. But this is
of no use if you have a dragoman or guide with you to
see the trader's weakness and get his bakshish. That word
bakshish is unusually potent in the bazars. It covers the
heavy commission demanded by any native who is taking
you about, on every article which you purchase. He demands
this as his reward for bringing you to the shop. If the
merchant does not give it, the guide does all he can to
prevent any foreigners, whom he may be accompanying in
the future, from going into that shop. Knowing the prejudices
of the English, he says that the man who keeps the shop
has many imitations among his goods, and that he is a
liar. This last is a beautiful trick, for of course the guide
himself is a liar. He glories in it. He is telling a lie over
this very thing, and he exults in deceiving you.
And now as to the quality of turquoises—the best, the
hard, well-polished, deep blue stones, which have no flaw and
are of a beautiful, regular shape, you can buy only in the
jeweller's shops, of which there are some in the bazar as
well as near the big hotels. But there are many fascinating
stones of lower grades which the Indians and Persians sell.
To begin with, there are large stones not so hard, not quite
free from flaws, not so well polished, not of the most esteemed
turquoise blue, which are even more beautiful than the best
turquoises. They are of a colour which is never sold in

London, a beautiful deep Cambridge blue, quite distinct
from the sky-blue of the best turquoises, and the very pale
blue of the low-priced turquoises from Australia which the
Italians use in making their cheap turquoise jewellery. I know
of no more exquisite blue. You will find extremely
beautiful effects also among matrix-stones flecked over with
black or brown. If you place one alongside of the dull blue
matrix-turquoises which are sold in London, you will never
want to buy the latter again.
These you can buy from the Indians in the bazar at a very
moderate price, if you are a good bargainer; and they are not
outrageously dear things to buy if you pay three times the
proper price for them. Their fault is that they are apt to go
green or pale.
From the Indians also you can buy matrix-turquoises,
from the good Persian mines, hard stones, of a beautiful
bright blue which does not change its colour, and some
of them with very few flaws, and not very dear. These
“Persian” matrix-stones are most covetable. Very covetable
also are the matrix-stones of a dark bright blue, darker than
cornflowers. I do not know where they come from, but,
when they are beautiful, they are the dearest of all the matrix-stones
to buy from these Indians.
Below them come the common turquoises, mostly set in
large brass rings, and some of them quite green, but really
rather pretty. They are found in Egyptian territory, and I
have bought large ones for as little as sixpence each.
There remain the very soft turquoises, badly cut, badly
polished, but without flaws, and often of a beautiful turquoise
blue, shaped almost like a beehive, which the Arabs are so
fond of wearing in their large silver rings: these are almost
as cheap as the last, but they sometimes go green and dull
directly, and hardly ever keep their beauty. Buy these
rings from the donkey-boys and hawkers you see wearing
them. Three shillings each is a good price for them, and
the settings are often old and beautifully worked by Sudanese
silversmiths. You can easily have another stone set in
The first thing to do when you go into a bazar is to
saunter through it, and ask the price of everything you
like, saying that you don't mean to buy anything until you
have seen everything. The Oriental is perfectly agreeable
to this: he is polite as well as wily; it is to his interest for
his stock to be examined. In the Tentmakers' Bazar the
shopkeepers call out: “No sharge for looking,” as you pass.
The moment when you have said that you are not going
o buy anything is rather a good time to buy. They put
the prices down very low to tempt you. They don't mind
if you do break your word—in this way. Price the same
sort of thing at different stalls which are a long way from
each other. It helps to give the real price and to show
which stall is cheapest. Do not be afraid of giving
trouble. Orientals do not mind how much trouble they take
for a prospective customer, or how much trouble they give
by asking three times what they mean to take. Leave
your dragoman behind when you really mean to do your
buying. Then they will do extra bargaining to the extent
that his commission would come to. The ordinary dragoman
expects commissions on all sales when he accompanies the
tourist. In bargaining there are certain other conditions to
remember besides leaving the dragoman behind. Upon new
brooches and trinkets and photograph-frames they will not
come down much, because they will have been afraid to put
too much profit on an article which has a fairly regular
price. But for second-hand lace and turquoises they may
ask ten times the proper price, and are pretty certain to
ask three times. It is on objects for which they ask,
not the value, but whatever they think you will give, that
you can beat them down most. They will often come
down one half and nearly always one third on such things,
if you are firm with them.
But to return to bakshish. If no native is with you to
demand his commission, and you know that the merchant
is making you pay too much, demand a bakshish. If the
merchant demurs, say: “If I had brought a dragoman with
me you would have had to pay him bakshish.” Thus

adjured, the merchant generally gives in. He does not
of course return you a commission in money, but offers
you some worthless article among the goods which you
have been examining. Say right out: “No; I don't want
that—it is not worth anything.” Choose a thing of about
the value which you consider you ought to get, and you
will generally get it. If you do, promise to come back again,
and the next time the prices he asks will be more moderate.
In dealing with the “fixed-price” Indian, the best plan
is first of all to make your choice of all the turquoises or
other articles that you require, then to make up your mind
as to the price at which you would consider them a
sufficiently tempting bargain, and offer it. He will at once
attempt to bargain with you. He will tell you that a lady
paid him for one piece, the exact counterpart of one of
the objects which you have selected, more money than you
offer him for all the pieces together. He will pick out
this and the other piece and tell you how specially good
it is—that the price is going up for this kind of thing,
that if you came back in a fortnight's time he could not
sell it for the same price as he could take now, etc. Let
him talk himself out and use up as many of his arguments
as he can before you commence talking again. It weakens
him in answering you back. Then say:
” I'm very sorry; but so much (naming the sum you
offered him before) is all that these things are worth to
me,” and get up to go.
If it gives him a moderate profit to take your price, he
will take it, saying, “You will come back again. You will
recommend me to your friends. But I cannot take the
same prices from them. I only take them from you because
you are very clever. Nothing escapes you. It is a pleasure
to deal with such a person,” etc., etc. “You are so different
from Americans.”
“How?” you ask.
“They are my best customers,” he replies, with a beautiful
Oriental smile. “But it is no pleasure to serve them,
though I take much money out of them, for they do not

know anything. They do not know a fine piece when they
see it—they are sure to like the wrong thing, if it is a
little—a little grand.”
He will, of course, be refering to the common, rich
Americans, who flood Egypt. When an American working
man becomes suddenly wealthy by a mining discovery or
keeping a shop in a mining township, which “strikes it rich,”
and launches out into travel, Egypt is unfortunately one
of the first countries he is likely to honour with a visit,
perhaps because it is mentioned in the Bible, the book he
knows best. The Americans who go to Egypt are, on
account of the expense, generally the best and the worst.
As a nation, all over the world, they lack discriminating taste
and let shopkeepers decide for them, though, when it comes
to prices, their native sagacity declares itself. They want
nothing worse than the best, and they mean to pay only
“bedrock” prices for it. But these common people have
no notion of what is good, or what is the proper price to
pay for it.
To return to the Indians in the bazars. If the price you
offer them does not pay them at all, they say, “I am very sorry,
sir, but it is not possible,” and begin to put all the things
back. Then get up and go. If it is possible, and they are
bluffing, they will call you back. If you have mentioned too
low a price, there are two courses open to you. Either to go
away and leave the things, which will gain you the respect of
the bazar as a man of your word or to say, “Well, what is
the lowest price you can do them for? I have told you all I
think they are worth to me, and if you increase the price much,
of course I cannot buy anything.” It may be that only a
very small percentage separates you. And you will be wise
to pay that. You were not allowing him enough margin.
To pay him the little extra for his profit won't spoil your
bargain with him next time.
But if you go away you stand to win in two ways. If
the man has been bluffing he will call you back, and accept
your offer—and if he is not, and you go away without buying
anything, you will have impressed him and all the neighbouring


THE FAMILY OF A PILGRIM RETURNING FROM MECCA. Notice the elaborate Cashmere shawl spread over the back of the carriage.

shopkeepers with the idea that you are not a man to bluff
I promised to give the recipe for bargaining with the
various Levantines who have shops and “bazars” in the
bazars. The Levantine is a tough nut to crack. He relies
on wearing down your patience. You have to wear down his.
He commences by asking twice or three times what he is
willing to take. You offer him what you consider the proper
price. He comes down a fraction. If you really covet the
article and mean to buy it before you leave the shop, so as
not to run any risk of its being gone before you can come
again, you go on bargaining inch by inch. Look at a
whole lot of other things, but keep up a steady fire of depreciation
about this, and go on refusing his gradually diminishing
prices for it. If it is only a thing which you want
mildly, the odds are that you will get it at your own price in
the end. Stick to your own price, and every time you pass
the shop ask: “Well, are you going to let me have that—for—piastres?
(naming your original price). One day, seeing
that you do not mean to weaken, he will say “Yes,” or tell
you the real amount at which it will pay him to sell the article.
And, as I have said above, paying him a small margin of
profit where you have named less than he gave for it, will not
lower your credit as a bargainer.
As these people are such sharks, so rapacious and mean,
you should avoid a frontal attack on the object you really
want to buy. Approach by traverses. Bargain earnestly and
eagerly over several things which you do not want; and when
he says that they are the best things in the shop, say, “Well,
what will you let me have cheap—this, or this, or this?” running
through about two dozen things, and ending up with the
thing you really want. Then prepare to leave the shop, and he
will say you can have the last thing cheap. “What do you call
cheap? Do you mean 5 piastres or 50 piastres?” (as the case
may be). “Yes; you can have it for that, and won't you have
that mummy-case (or whatever it was) too,” he asks, mentioning
the thing you priced first, for which he asked such a hideous
sum. You shake your head and retire, carrying off the

purchase you wanted for something like its proper price. I
suppose that if you lived in Cairo and they got to know you,
they might understand some day as Italians, who are also
great bargainers, get to understand very readily, that you
want to know the ultimo prezzo—the last price, i.e. the lowest.
But running straight is not natural to a Levantine.
The sûk of the second-hand clothes is a very interesting
place to go shopping in, for there, when you are lucky, you
pick up for mere songs the lovely old Persian shawls which are
hand-worked as close as if they were woven, and the gossamer
veils of silk coloured like the rainbow worn by dancing
women, and wonderful Arab dresses which have done duty
for bedawin sheikhs and will do duty for many fancy-dress
balls. Embroideries, too, can be bought here, the patient
embroideries of the harem, done before harem doyleys and
cushion-covers became a regular line with London drapers.
And nearly every day there are auctions, in which the
auctioneers carry their goods piled on their shoulders.
You cannot leave Cairo without visiting the Tentmakers'
Bazar, which leads from the Bab-es-Zuweyla to one of the
most beautiful and ancient streets, the Sharia Kasabet
It is here that they make the superb awnings used in the
huge pavilions in which the Khedive's Ministers and the
great dignitaries of Islam hold receptions at the Molid of
the Prophet, and on similar occasions. These awnings, like
the Satsuma jars and painted umbrellas of Japan, are made
by boys. Men and boys sit working at them all day long
in a hundred shops. You would think that all Egypt
abode in its tents, like the Israelites of the Bible; but
immense quantities of them are needed for the pavilions
of the Molid, and the decorations of a rich Arab's house, and
hotels like the Cataract at Assuan, where they know the
value of local colour and use hundreds of yards of them.
They are sometimes made of real tentmakers' canvas,
sometimes of silk. They are rather dear things to buy,
and the tentmakers are so accustomed to tourists that they
always ask twice the real value from a foreigner.
Except in large masses, or very high up, the new awnings
are often garish and unattractive; in purchasing them always
look out for fine old second-hand pieces. Specially hideous
and touristified are the awnings, hangings, portieres, etc., which
imitate in coloured cottons the paintings in the Tombs of the
Kings: they are coarse, and ill-coloured, and in execrable
taste; they bear no more resemblance to the originals than
a music-hall caricature would; they are hateful, and as
you drive or walk down the Tentmakers' Bazar the shopkeepers
call out to you incessantly to make you buy them.
Much the most effective designs are the texts from the

Cairo at Night

CAIRO presents curious contrasts at night. Large portions
of it are plunged into outer darkness, with every
door locked and human beings as scarce as they are in the
city of London after business hours, while other streets are as
gay as the Yoshiwara quarters in Japan.
The native tradesman closes much earlier than the European;
the bazars are closed long before dinner time, and
with them most places of business in the native streets except
food shops. For the Arab loves to spend his time at cafés
and the Arab theatre. The foreign European residents also
love to spend their evenings at the Opera, and the English
are domesticated here as elsewhere; while the wealthier
tourists spend their time in dining out and dances at the
If you are neither at the Opera nor at a hotel entertainment,
there is surprisingly little to do at Cairo in the evening; the
one outdoor amusement is to watch the fast life in the streets
at the back of the Esbekiya Gardens.
This, at any rate, is very interesting, if not very edifying;
in some places like the Haret-el-Roui it is simply appalling.
That is the quarter where the lowest houses of ill-fame are
situated. The women in them are mostly Jewesses, but
there are a certain number of Italians and many Levantines
among them. The Jewesses are mountains of flesh; the
Arabs admire obesity, but how they tolerate these creatures
I cannot understand. For they have cruel, bestial, ill-tempered
faces flaming with rouge, and their eyes blaze,

and their huge forms are arrayed in cheap and tawdry
finery and sham jewellery. They are everything that is
repulsive to an Englishman, and they live in the most
horrible little dens, some of which have cage fronts like
similar quarters in Japan.
Among the Levantines you see occasionally much more
attractive women, wild-eyed, lithe creatures—human leopards,
who sit on the ground outside their houses with their straight
strong legs, locked in heavy anclets, thrust out of their robes
without shoes or stockings.
They all solicit you, and pluck you by your clothes in
the most impudent way. Indeed it would be hardly safe to
go down these streets after nightfall without a dragoman,
for they are full of night-birds seeking whom they may
devour. They are the kind of creatures you see in the cafés
chantants, to which you are taken to witness the celebrated
danse à ventre, which is an intolerably tiresome performance.
The musicians tum-tum on native drums and drawl out
a monotonous sing-song, and the women stand in front of
the footlights and wriggle their bodies in the most ungainly
attitudes. It is difficult to imagine how they prove alluring
to any one.
The other notorious quarter in the Sharia Wagh-el-Birket
and the Sharia Bab-el-Bahri is far more entertaining, and
really pretty in its way. The former leads from the Hôtel
Bristol to the square by Cook's offices, and the latter
runs at right angles to it, connecting it with the Esbekiya
In the Sharia Bab-el-Bahri are the principal Arab theatre,
and other places of amusement, and there are always piano-organs
or bands playing the latest music-hall or comic-opera
airs. The whole street is a blaze of electric light. Its ends
are taken up with cafés, and its pavements are crowded with
vendors of tartlets, sweetmeats, meat on skewers, and sago in
teacups; while the cigarette-sellers have stalls that are works
of art.
The scarlet British uniforms of Tommy Atkins recall you
to a sense of reality. Tommy is for the most part behaving

very well, doing nothing worse than singing uproariously in
chorus, though occasionally he grows so “blind” that he has
to be taken home in a cab by his fellows. And an odd
sight it makes to see half a dozen or even a dozen Tommy
Atkinses, some “blind” and some leading the blind, crowded
into a Cairo arabeah with a tarbushed negro on the box
lashing a pair of white Arabs into a gallop. If Tommy
is too uproarious, sooner or later he will attract the attention
of the British military police riding majestically through
the city in pairs. His favourite haunt is a bar at the corner,
kept by a retired British sergeant with a Greek wife, which
has an excellent name with the authorities, and a piano
to accompany his choruses. It is surprising how well the
Tommies can play an accompaniment.
The Sharia Wagh-el-Birket is a more dissipated street,
though it is not so noisy or glary. For the whole of one side
of it is taken up with the apartments of the wealthier
courtesans, each with its balcony, over which its denizens hang
in negligés of virgin white. In the half-light the tall, Eastern-looking
houses, with their tiers of balconies with houris
hanging over them in all sorts of fantastic garments and
postures, loom up weird and romantic. Here you may see
an occasional “scene” or fracas, but it is the exception.
The opposite side of the street is arcaded—and under its
arcades are a succession of cafés, most of them filled with
Arabs consuming strong liquors indirectly forbidden by their
The Arab who wishes to break these ordinances without
defying them, assures himself that champagne is a mineral
water, and that spirits and ale and stout are not wines—perhaps
because they are under a separate heading on the
wine lists of restaurants. At these cafés he is generally
drinking bitter ale or stout, and sometimes eating little dishes
of meat or vegetables bought from the hawkers; if he is
not smoking. In some of the cafés there are noisy bands
of depraved-looking girls in comic-opera uniforms. The
most dazzling glare comes from the great open bars where
they sell cigarettes. The pavements are so crowded with

chairs that you can hardly pass along them; and the road
near the cafés, where the Arabs are sitting, is crowded with
their gay little white asses patiently waiting for them. All
sorts of street musicians wander about, many of them little
boys about ten years old, who pick out popular airs on
tinkling instruments. Sellers of foreign stamps are much in
Were it not for the little white asses standing with their
forefeet on the pavement, or speeding down the street with
a pitter-patter of their tiny feet and a jingle and flash of
their silver neck-chains, and for the galloping white horses
of the arabeahs, the Arab-haunted cafés of Cairo would be
woefully inferior in picturesqueness to the cafés of Tunis;
the street is so confined compared to the broad Avenue Jules
Ferry, up which the Tunisian Arabs seem to float like
gorgeous butterflies in their light, bright, elegant robes. The
Cairo Arab does not dress elegantly—at his best, his clothes
are only clean and dignified. And one misses the trees.
There are other streets, like the Sharia Kamel, which have
long lines of brilliantly lit cafés; but the dullest kind of
people frequent them. The glittering bars of Cairo are not
really more interesting than other bars, though they are
florider, and are tended by very grand young ladies. The
Abbas theatre has its Covent Garden Balls. Here the British
subaltern, especially he of the Guards, is fancy-free; and he
is sometimes extremely funny when he is “ragging” to the
top of his bent.
When the moon hangs out her lantern, people make up
large parties to ride out on donkeys to the Pyramids or the
Tombs of the Caliphs. This is both picturesque and charming,
though it is a long ride for donkeys to the Pyramids. The
Tombs of the Caliphs look fairylike in the cool, white light
under the dazzling sapphire sky; and if you see it by
moonlight, you know the full pregnance of the saying, As
mysterious as the Sphinx.
The thing I enjoyed most in Cairo by moonlight was
to take an arabeah and drive to the deserted streets of
the Arab city. To sit in the Sharia el-Nahassin with not

one other human being in sight—or at the most two or
three figures from the “Arabian Nights” stealing silently
away in the shadows, has a simply magical effect. Never
do the hoary windows and minarets of the ancient Kalaun
Mosque look so like lace-work, threaded out of marble by
the hands of a Genie. Never does that procession, long
drawn-out, of mosque and palace and fountain, present to
the sky such a playful fancy of dome and minaret, balcony,
arch, and meshrebiya'd oriel. I felt as if they had fallen
asleep five hundred years ago, when Sultan Barkûk was
carried to his long rest here, and as if I were the magic
prince, privileged to look upon them for the last time before
they awoke to all the world. There is nothing more
romantic than a street purely mediaeval by the light of an
Egyptian moon.
From the Sharia el-Nahassin I used to drive up past the
fine soaring arches of the Beit-el-Kadi, once the palace
of the Fatimide Caliphs and under a mysterious archway to
the Gamaliya. There is no street in Cairo like the Gamaliya
at night. As you drive slowly down it to the old El-Nasr
Gate, you pass here a street full of overhanging harem
windows shuttered with meshrebiya centuries old; there a
mediaeval fountain with an arched Koran school above it,
and a little farther on a mosque of the great period of
Saracen building. Here you still find a gate to close the
end of the street, which leads down to the Palace of Sultan
Beibars; the tall khans of merchants, and the okelle of
the poor are black and silent in the night. But the charm
of the Gamaliya lies in this, that instead of being deserted
it is apt, where the bright lights are streaming from a
basement, to have a popular restaurant. On the night of
the Ashura it is to the Gamaliya that the actors in that
grim tragedy repair for supper, while the blood of their self-inflicted
wounds is still pouring from their scalps. Even the
Sharia el-Nahassin is hardly richer in old, forgotten buildings
of the fantastic Middle Ages.
The Molid-en-Nebbi is the celebration of the birthday
of the Prophet. We drove back to Abbasiya to a splendid

spectacle late that night, for the richly decorated tabernacles
which surrounded the vast square were a blaze of light, and
full of holy men reciting the Koran, and of dancing and
singing of religious natures, I supposed, the costumes being
very fine. I have never seen Ramadan in Egypt. In a
rich city like Cairo the Arabian nights of Ramadan must
be worth a book to themselves. About the most Arab and
the least Arab spectacle I ever went to was the Opera in
the Arab theatre. It was un-Arab, because it was all
so perfectly done. It might have been a chef d'oeuvre of
mimicking the Orient in a Paris theatre. It was so Arab
because its plot depended on a breach of Eastern etiquette.
The scene was laid in the Sheikh's house in Mecca, and the
actors all wore the dress of pure Arabs of Arabia. The
scenery was very simple, the costumes were very gorgeous.
Where the cloven foot of Christian civilisation showed was
in the sentimental sentiment of the love-songs and the importance
accorded to the women. The end would have
come so much sooner in real life.

The Entertainments of the Arabs

IT is the Arab, not the Englishman, who takes his pleasures
sadly: his only regular amusement is hearing recitations
from the Koran. When Arab boys go out for a jolly walk
together, if they happen to start singing as boys will, they
sing bits of the Koran, not bits of comic operas; if you
pass down any of the Arab quarters by night and hear music,
it will be the Koran again. This is the chief kind of music,
which you hear in the street except when a marriage party
or a pilgrim from Mecca is being escorted home.
But the Arabs have charmingly written love-songs. The
love-songs of the fellahin women in Upper Egypt are known
to a few fortunate people from Mrs. Breasted's Translations.
They are delicious poetry, but the solemn Arab spoils their
effect by singing them in the same sort of voice, and with the
same sort of music, as he sings the Koran. You imagine that
he is limiting himself to hymns, when he is really indulging
in passionate serenades.
They have their singing women of great charm, and their
dancing women of no character, but you hear nothing of
them by chance and nothing of them by design unless you
take a good deal of trouble. The dancing women were all
supposed to have been banished to EsnaEsna of all places—by
a former Khedive. But you can see them in the Fishmarket
and the El Dorado cafés performing the danse à ventre
and other alluring exercises—the best of their kind.
Rod-el-Farag, the lower port of Cairo, has a row of cafés on
the banks of the Nile where dancing goes on, but here the


ARAB SANGFROID. Effendis sitting down in the middle of the road to read a letter. In the background on the right is a human mat-shop.

performers are European, though the danse à ventre is
generally part of their programme.
As far as can be seen by the naked eye, the Arab does not
share the Jap's enthusiasm for the drama, though every Arab
was born an actor. There is ostensibly but one Arab theatre
in Cairo. Here they incline to a kind of operatic melodrama,
on the lines of our comic opera without the fun or the scenery
or the girls, but a similar mixture of music and dialogue.
I went there once with a Syrian friend and a rich young
Egyptian, a man-about-town, who was very musical. The
theatre was not much more substantial or costly in its fittings
than a Japanese theatre, which is little more than a shed
in the shape of a circus-tent, with matchwood partitions
between its boxes. Half the boxes here had harem-grills
like Sicilian nuns' churches. There were hardly any women
visible; only tarbûshes in front and turbans behind. They
were playing dear mad Oriental music when we went in. The
Syrian was apologetic. He said, “These people have no
music: it is all half tones.” The Egyptian took up the cudgels.
“What is music to you is not musical at all to them.
If an Arab goes to the Opera he asks, ‘What are they
shrieking at?’” The Syrian retorted with a story about the
Arab who went to the Opera at Paris, and did not care for
any of the music except the tuning up of the orchestra.
But they were the best of friends. The play began half an
hour late. The audience had spent that half-hour in clapping
for it. Its title pleased me very much. It was called
The Pardon that Killed.
When the play opened five men in the Arab costume (of
Arabia) were sitting on each side of the stage, with a black in
a red dress, and another Arab always putting his head out of
the door looking for something that was supposed to be
going on behind the stage. They were sitting quite naturally.
The King reclined on a sofa with a sham leopard's skin;
the others were sitting up. There was an old man, with a
long white beard, to show that he was the funny man; his
sallies were much appreciated—everybody always clapped
before they heard what he had to say. Then there was a

burst of Oriental music, and the King's wives came in. The
chief wife was distinguished by wearing a dressing-gown,
with a wide blue sash round her waist which had little red
ends. She was an Egyptian-Jewess; the King, I should
have said, wore a grand green satin dress under his red
burnouse. They had a prologue which lasted a long time.
In the first act you were given to understand that the King
was a good man, who protected all the villages round him.
His cousin, whose father had been killed by the King's father,
was plotting revenge. But he would be punished by the old
man with the white beard. I slept through the rest of that
act and only woke when they began to play Algerian music
between the acts. The music was very like the tum-tumming
you get in Japanese theatres, but it seemed appropriate. In
the second act there was a tree in the middle of the stage,
and the man who was believed to be killed came in dressed
all in white. The last thing I remember of that act was our
Syrian friend's protesting to the Egyptian that there is no
Oriental music, that there are only Oriental tunes. The
Egyptian's reply was so long that I went to sleep again.
Then came a harem scene with two slaves talking. They
went on and on. I slept for the rest of the play.
Yet I believe it was quite a good play for those who knew
enough Arabic to understand the dialogue. Unfortunately
for the ordinary tourist, there was very little action or scenery—it
was all talk. Some Arabic plays have almost as much
singing in them as a comic opera, and the singing is generally
There is one very famous Arab actor in Cairo who seems
to be quite a Danjuro in the privileges he can give himself
with the public.
I have been told that there are quite a number of secret
theatrical performances, where the play always stops directly
a European enters. The dramas may of course be Nationalist
ebullitions of a kind which requires keeping secret. A
friend of mine had a Berberine servant who was devoted to
him. This Berberine was very fine and large about these
secret theatres, and was always making appointments to take

my friend there “to-morrow night,” but to-morrow night
invariably fell through on some pretext. “The chief performer
was ill,” or anything else that was necessary when the
actual time came to go. There cannot be anything about
them to make them more immoral than hashish dens, and
the love-shops of the Fishmarket, and the gambling hells
kept by Levantines. I don't know how much of a gambler
the Arab is. Cairo swarms with gambling dens kept by
Levantines, who change their nationality like a chameleon,
when they are raided, so as to involve proceedings in one
consular court after another. All sorts of swindling goes on,
the favourite games being baccarat and, save the mark! backgammon.
It seems clever to gamble over backgammon; it
must be so hard to get a run for your money.
Of still more concern to the police are the hashish dens
and houses of ill-fame. The use of hashish is prohibited
with savage earnestness, but it is not prevented if an
important personage is giving a dinner-party. The highest
compliment he can pay his guests is to take them to hashish
afterwards, instead of a theatre or music-hall, as he would in
England. And he can get served without difficulty. But
it is almost impossible for an Englishman, in the ordinary
way, to get served at a hashish den; he is at once suspected
of being in league with its suppressors. Much
caution is preserved with any customer. There are various
doors to pass, with little wickets in them, through which the
porter can survey the intruder. The keepers of hashish
dens are more often raided and change their nationality
oftener than any other servants of the devil, though there
was a famous member of the demi-monde, living opposite
Shepheard's Hotel, who almost established a record for the
number of nations to which she had belonged.
One is impelled to the conclusion that the Egyptian
seeks entertainment for his body rather than his mind. In the
evening, which he devotes to amusement, his ordinary
recreations are talk, drink, and vice. To do him justice, he is
mean about his vices. If he drinks the forbidden stimulants
of the foreigner, he does not spend much on them.

It is only his regularity at the cafe that makes him worth
considering as a customer, and he spends much more time
on talking to his men-friends than the female charmers of
the Fishmarket and the Sharia Wagh-el-Birket, popularly
known as the Esbekiya Street.
The Egyptian pays interminable calls upon his friends,
with nothing to enliven them but conversation, coffee, and
tobacco. It is indeed lucky for him that tobacco is cheap
in Egypt.
How the café-keeper lives in Egypt is a mystery to me,
unless the Egyptian subscribes to a café as he would to a club.
He never seems to be doing anything for the good of the
house, except hiring a pipe for some pitiful coin. He smokes,
reads the café's newspaper, plays dominoes, talks to his friends,
or ogles the foreign ladies. He seems to do anything rather
than order drinks—except in the Esbekiya Street, where
he sits and sips the beverages forbidden by the Koran,
with a dear little white donkey waiting for him in the
When he is in a more licentious mood he goes to the
café in the Esbekiya Street, where a band of white female
slaves discourses the lowest class of music, or to see dancing
women whose dancing consists only of suggestive movements
of their bodies—an ineffably dull performance in any other
respect. The Fishmarket appeals more powerfully to him
than to a European. This is a quarter of Cairo infested by
the Ghawazee dancers and Jewish and Levantine and Italian
women of pleasure. Some of them are beautiful and fascinating
women. But most of them are monsters, with no
attraction but their great passionate eyes. The Arabs like
large women. I have said elsewhere what a horrible sight it
is to go through the Fishmarket when these women are
hanging about for patrons. It is bad enough to see the
Oriental Jewesses sitting on the pavement, with their handsome
bare legs heavily ancleted and stretched out to attract
attention, but it is worse to see a pretty Italian woman with
her slender, neatly stockinged legs confined in anclets to show
that she is Orientalised—a creature at the beck and call of

Egyptian debauchees. The Italian women of pleasure have
their names on brass plates outside their doors.
The Arab goes a good deal to the sort of open-air theatre
which is run during the summer at the Ghezira end of
the Nile Bridge with European performers, who do the
usual music-hall turns.
A café with plenty of electric light and a gramophone
or a piano-organ or, better than all, a female string band
is exciting enough for the Arab in the ordinary way. To
make up for this he has a passion for attending weddings
and the receptions of pilgrims from Mecca, who are always
welcomed like prodigal sons.
In either case you know that something is on foot, because
the street leading up to it hung, sometimes for half a mile,
with little red and white flags, of the Khedivial emblem and
the inevitable texts, mixed with large tin lanterns to attract
the attention of friends by night. There is no difficulty
about identifying the house at which the celebration is
taking place, because a sort of marquee will have been
erected outside it—a most picturesque affair—lined with
brilliantly coloured texts from the Koran and packed with
chairs. The entertainment which goes on in this tent is of
the most sombre gaiety—selections from the Koran, sedate
and dignified conversation and speeches. The speeches are
delivered with fluency, feeling, and graceful motions; the
Egyptian is a speechifier born.
An Arab procession, which is much the same, whether its
object is a pilgrim or a wedding, is a highly picturesque
affair. By day it consists of mirror-bearers, bands of barbaric
music mounted on camels in gorgeous scarlet trappings
decorated with cowrie shells and bits of looking-glass, bagpipe-players
and standard-bearers on foot, sumptuous palanquins
of old dark wood inlaid with ivory and silver and
mother-of-pearl slung between two camels, a swarm of
sheikhs on white asses, and a troupe of jesters and mountebanks
to amuse the crowd.
I always seized my kodak when I heard the bagpipes
and cymbals and tum-turm drums of Oriental thanksgiving

There are night processions too, but they are much simpler;
there is often not even a band—chanting taking its place.
The picturesque feature is the use of the mesh'al, a staff
with a cylindrical frame of iron at its top filled with flaming
wood; there can be any number up to five of these cressets
on one staff. The pilgrim from Mecca and the bridegroom
on his zeffeh are alike lighted by these mesh'als. There is a
still grander affair of a frame with four circular tiers of
small lamps—the top one revolving, which is used in a high-class
zeffeh to the accompaniment of hautboys and drums—the
favourite time being in the middle of the night. We used
to be awakened by them in Cairo itself at the back of the
Hotel Continental. And I shall have more to say about
them in the chapter on Arab domestic processions.

An Arab Bank Holiday: the Shem-en-Nesim

WE put off seeing the Barrage at the head of the Delta,
the Barrage par excellence, till the end of our visit
to Cairo, because we wished the vegetation to be as forward
as possible, and we had been told that the Shem-en-Nesim at
the Barrage was one of the sights of Egypt. Shem-en-Nesim
means “The Smelling of the Zephyr,” and it is a Christian
feast held on the Easter Monday of the Copts and Greeks;
but the Arabs all keep it, and every one goes out into the
country for a picnic on that day, because the Shem-en-Nesim
is supposed to mark the beginning of the season of the
Khamsin, the dreaded hot winds.
We had been promised a private launch for the trip, but
the launch behaved like a motor car when it is wanted, so we
went down in the ordinary steamer of the tramway company,
and would not have missed it for anything; it was so very
It was pleasant to go on the Nile again just before leaving
the country, for it brought back our old days in Upper Egypt
so vividly, the gyassas flying before the
stiff north wind, the usual woman doing her washing on the shore of the Nile,
with her silver anclets gleaming through the water, the
usual water-sellers filling their skins were there at the start as
the Levantines were crowding on board, bringing their lunch
in stay-boxes and cardboard hat-boxes.
When the boat had once started we were soon in an
atmosphere of palm-groves and sakiyas and buffaloes. The
white-winged gyassas were gay with the little scarlet flags

used for marriages and the return of pilgrims from
The villages here are debauched with foreign-looking villas;
they are almost suburban compared with the villages of the
Upper Nile, which look as if they had been put up by the
To make up for this we have on the one side the embattled
front of the Citadel, with the soaring dome and minarets of
the Mehemet Ali Mosque, and on the other the hot desert
with the two great Pyramids behind it purpling above the
acacia avenues. These hardly ever left us till we approached
the Barrage. It was all so like the Upper Nile; the great pied
kingfisher flew beside us; the buffalo was wallowing in the
water like a hippopotamus. But the sakiyas and shadufs all
had shelters of trees and boughs. What a windy place the
Nile always is!
Arabs are easy people to cater for on a steamer; they
require no seats, as they always squat on the ground, and
they don't mind how bad the accommodation is so long as it
is cheap. We sped down past low green banks and pink
deserts with the Citadel Mosque and the Pyramids growing
more fairy-like than ever in the distance which enchants, and
all of a sudden saw the Barrage rising up before us. It is
typically French, rather like the miniature Lourdes put up by
the pious French in the gardens of the Vatican as an apology
for their nation. It is an imposing castellated sort of affair,
with minarets in the centre and a campanile at each end,
and more minarets and more campanili in the woods. But it
was not of the slightest use as a barrage until an English
engineer, Sir Colin Scott-Moncrieff, made it practicable at a
cost of four hundred and fifty thousand pounds rather than
allow such a picturesque landmark to be taken down.
I believe that it does its work well now, and accept
common report as to that. I was much more occupied with
the exquisite gardens into which the fort built to guard the
Barrage has been converted. The bastions lined with
flowers had quite an Alma Tadema effect. The first thing
we saw on landing was the performing dog-faced baboon



with his master, and the marionette show, which looks like
a doll's house, that we had so often seen at the various festivals.
Over every hedge poured fragrant flowers like roses and
honeysuckle. I was curious to see how the Egyptians, Arabs
by religion but not by race, took their pleasures. A favourite
form of amusement for a Gyppy was to sit with his coat off,
singing and drumming with his heels. The Arab groups crowding
these lawns were nearly all men and boys. I thought at
first that half of them must be acrobats. For they brought
squares of carpet with them; but it appeared that they were
merely good Mohammedans who were going to say their
prayers at the usual times. The favourite actual game of
the Egyptians was playing at sideways-leapfrog.
The Greeks were decidedly more interesting to watch, for
they were dancing their national dances as they do on Easter
Monday in the temple of Zeus Olympius at Athens, which
has arrangements for such base uses. They danced very
well, and some of their young women were extremely beautiful.
These girls were in their national dress, in which a fine
lawn chemisette plays a great part; with their classic faces,
elegant figures, and spirited dancing they made a charming
contrast against the bamboo groves and trees tangled
over with bougainvilleas. The Greek men are good-looking
too, but unfortunately inclined to the shiny black clothes and
black wideawake hats dear to the hearts of plebeians all over
the world. The Greek men took their coats and waistcoats
off to dance, but they were distanced by the Levantines, who
some of them came dressed like gymnasium professionals,
while their women took their dresses off and sat in their
petticoats because they were hot. The effect of a Levantine
woman, usually adipose by the time that she is thirty, sitting
with her dress off in a public garden, letting off steam, is
simply paralysing, especially when she wears a white wreath
instead of a hat. There is no reason why any one should
feel thirsty in Egypt, for, whenever it is hot enough, there are
boys selling lemonade, boys selling oranges, boys with water
kullas balanced on their shoulders every few yards. I saw

one Levantine paying a pretty Biblical attention to a friend:
he was anointing his beard.
As the day grew hotter all the Arabs took off their coats
and hats and some their trousers as well. This does not
signify in an Arab, who wears such things over his national
costume. When they had shed their clothes they sat down
in rings under the trees. They did not put their clothes on
again when it was time to move, they simply carried them
away on their heads. A few Levantine women had come
in black satin dominoes; they did not take them off, though
they felt far too hot in them. The Arabs seemed to bring
anything they liked into the gardens with them, even a camel,
so long as they kept it muzzled to prevent it lunching off the
cascades of bougainvilleas and the heavy-scented white
blossoms which were hanging on the daturas like fairy lights.
I was sorry for this; I wished to know if a camel's stomach
could stand datura poison. In one place we came upon
quite a cotillon of Greeks dancing in rings to the music of a
base viol and two fiddles playing an Oriental tune. The viol-player
had a feather. When they had done dancing they
took off their boots and sat down under a cabbage tree.
The blaze of flowers here was simply wonderful. The
prickly pears were covered with blossoms which looked like
yellow sea-anemones; the roses were growing in thickets as
azaleas grow in Japan, and everywhere was the little mauve
flower like thrift, which takes the place of the daisy in Egypt.
The pools were gay with the ancient emblems of Lower and
Upper Egypt, the papyrus and the lotus. The Greek man
takes off his coat to play games, the Greek woman ties up
her head. Which is the most sensible?
I shall not readily forget that day at the Barrage. I have
seldom seen lovelier gardens, bordered as they are by the
broad blue waters of the Nile, and broken by little green
valleys containing clear streams and rich thickets of bamboo.
Every rise and depression is taken advantage of, and there
is hardly a level rood in the gardens. The trees are linked
together with flowering creepers and lianas, as the elms are
linked with vines in Lombardy.
One of the chief charms on the day of the Shem-en-Nesim
was the way in which every alley was filled with natives in
brilliant dresses and their stalls and their asses and beggars
and water-sellers. It was as if the Ataba-el-Khadra had
emptied itself into the Barrage gardens. We ate our lunch,
which Ramidge's precious Mustapha had been carrying
behind us, in an arbour of tropical lianas flaming with
On the way back the boat was a pandemonium. The
reis, who takes the place of a captain on a Nile boat, kept
shouting the same thing down the tube to Mist’ Ibrahim
and Mohammed somebody. At intervals he blew a whistle
to attract their attention. I asked Ramidge, who had
acquired a remarkable familiarity with Low Arabic in the
Sudan, what the captain kept saying. One imagined that
it must be to tell them to make the boat go faster, as she
was only going about three miles an hour. But what he
really was saying was “May you be eaten by fleas!” which
was probably another way of telling them to get up more
steam. This was not the only thing he said, but the curses
were too picturesque to translate for publication in England.
To add to the noise, several steamers were returning to
Cairo side by side, and most of the Arabs on them, however
well-dressed, were enjoying themselves characteristically
by chanting the Koran with the drawn-out hoarseness of
a railway whistle. Even people in golf-collars were chanting
the Koran. But if collars were a qualification for Parliamentary
suffrage Egypt would be ready for it at once.
While this awful noise was going on, while the boats, were
so crowded with squatting Arabs that there was hardly room
to put your feet down for standing, I was saved from swearing
by hearing a sweet little girl about four say: “By the grace
of God what a number of people there are!” She said it
in Arabic—I give Ramidge's translation.
Many of the boats which flew past before the wind were
decorated with palm-leaves. It was very pleasant running
up before a strong north breeze, with sakiyas under green
mimosas reminding us of those unforgettable days when we

were going up the Nile to Khartûm; and with the horizon
on our left bounded by the aerial domes and flying
minarets of the great mosque on the brow of Saladin's
Citadel; and the horizon on our right bounded by the misty,
purple forms of the two great pyramids of Gizeh soaring above
the palm groves. The Pyramids and the Citadel! It was
pleasant to have an hour to gaze at them and meditate
about this wonderful half year of my life on this, our last
excursion in Egypt.

The Cairo Zoo

THE Cairo Zoo has many things to recommend it, and
the best of all is that you only have to pay a small
piastre—an Egyptian penny—to go in. This is because the
natives would not pay any more, and it is supposed to
exist for their education.
A more futile supposition there never was. The Egyptian
mind that is to say, the mind of the Egyptian masses, has
not got beyond the afrit stage. They do not go to see the
animals as zoological specimens, which have nearly all of
them the further interest of being found in their sovereign's
dominions; they look upon them as evil spirits whom the
Khedive has compelled to assume the form of animals and
shut up in cages. I was there one day with an Arab-speaking
friend when we came upon an Egyptian shaking
his fist at a crocodile, an innocent young thing of about
seven feet long. I asked my friend to interpret his remarks,
because I saw that he was cheeking the crocodile. “You
eat my brother,” he said, “and pretended that he was
drowned.” Now we have got you! Yah! Yah!
“That's nothing,” explained my friend, to a man I saw
being hustled away by the police from the giraffe cage.
He was accused of creating a disturbance by incessantly
opening his umbrella in front of the giraffe. As every
Englishman in Egypt takes the police to task when he thinks
that they are exceeding their duty, my friend—it was
Mr. Perkins—stopped the policeman while he asked the man if
he had any explanation of his conduct to give.
“Yes,” said the prisoner. “I wanted to make the giraffe
grow as small as a rat.”
“What!” said Perkins.
“It's a well-known thing,” answered the native,” that the
giraffe expands with the sun to his present size, and that
he is really only as small as a rat at night. It is believed,
but it is not proved, that if you can get him into the shade
during the day he rapidly decreases in size, and I wish
to try.”
The police told Perkins that the man had been arrested
more than once for having broken into the gardens at
night. Perkins questioned him and found that he had only
broken in to see the giraffe as small as a rat. The police
said that this idea is very prevalent among natives.
The Zoological Gardens of Cairo are an adorable place.
The garden is an old royal garden; it belonged to the
Gizeh Palace of Ismail Pasha, so it has old trees and
gorgeous wildernesses of flowering shrubs and all the gim-crack
Oriental pleasaunces of a popular holiday-making
temple in Japan, like the Temple of Kwannon at Asakusa.
The Japanese would have put a temple into it boldly;
the Egyptians were content with toy bridges and delicious
little summer-houses on the tops of wooded knolls; not to
mention aberrations of taste like paths with coloured pebbles
cemented on them in patterns. There was something very
appropriate about turning Ismail Pasha's palace into a Zoo.
The gaudily attired blacks, who acted as keepers to the
animals, looked like part of an Exhibition themselves.
They and the climate give the Cairo Zoo a chance which
is denied to the collections of London, Antwerp, and Paris.
In any Zoological Gardens the chief interest lies in the
tropical animals—the largest beasts of prey and pachiderms
and the most outrageous birds, all come from the tropics,
and the humans which go with them are blacks. At Cairo
you see them as nearly as possible under their own conditions.
Directly you enter you are surrounded by enormous macaws
and toucans and hornbills of metallic blues and reds and
greens, chained to perches. They look as if they ought to

be there without being put there. A little way farther on
was a porcupine with rather a human little baby, and the
gentleman egret went up to relieve the lady egret from her
duties of sitting on the nest with the politeness of an
American husband. The sandgrouse were almost pushing
themselves through the floor of their cage in their anxiety
to be invisible in the rather scanty sand. I should have
said that the lady egret, directly her husband took her
watch, went to the food box, and, picking out a sardine,
washed it before she ate it. Perhaps it went down more
easily when it was wet. The Secretary bird, with its wicked
little eye and great horny bill, stood in the attitude of a
man who was going to take a dive, wondering if a snake
would turn up before he was too utterly bored. He is as
sacred as the birds and beasts which had the good fortune
to be gods in the days of the Pharaohs. You are fined I
don't know how much if you kill a Secretary bird, because
the Secretary bird, which has very long horny legs, spends
his entire time in hunting up snakes and eating them. In
captivity it is hard to keep him supplied with cobras and
horned vipers, so he is fed with something more ordinary,
sardines, perhaps. I forget.
If I had seen that idiot of a native keep opening his
umbrella in front of the giraffe, I should have thought he
was trying to take a photograph of the baby giraffe, which
ought to grow up a very tall child, because his father was
seventeen feet high and its mother only a foot or two less.
They spent most of the day standing in the blazing sun
in front of their sleeping-apartments, with their little one
between them. He was only about twelve feet high, but
they were very proud of him, quite human in their pride and
affection. Sometimes the father put on a determined air and
stood with his four legs planted firmly out like a propping
horse, on each side of the water trough. But as a rule his
expression was as mild and foolish as that of the people on
the other side of the railings, who were making remarks about
The prettiest parts of the garden—which had thickets of

red and rose hibiscus in flower and bridges with bougain-villeas
pouring over them like the arbours trailing with
wistaria round the lakes of Japanese temples—had no wild-beast
cages in them, and the gardens are badly off for crocodiles
and hippopotami, which is inexcusable in Egypt, where
they can be sent down by river from places where they are
positive nuisances.
We went into one of the little summer-houses on a knoll
which was a perfect maze of flowering tropical trees, and
then we realised to the full what a paradise these royal
gardens were. For on the one side we seemed to be almost
touching the Pyramids, though they were some miles off, and
on the other the Mokattams and the mosque—crowned
citadel, which forms one of the finest skylines in the world,
and the Tombs of the Mamelukes, with their fantastic domes
and minarets, formed the horizon.
The first time we went to the Zoo we were anxious to
learn as much as we could about the fauna of the Sudan,
because we were just about to start for Khartûm. I remember
that my first impression was one of disappointment at
finding that there were no parrots from the Sudan in the
collection, because one of my joys in the Australian forest
used to be to watch the communities of brilliant parakeets
that would collect under the thick foliage of the light-wood
trees, or to see a big flock of parrots or cockatoos come down
on a crop—not much fun of course for the farmer, but thrilling
for the sportsman who was prayed to shoot them down or
scare them off. Whether the Sudan has them or not, there
were none in the Zoo. But there were dhurra-birds and fire-finches,
with their brilliant patches of red, and darling little
palm-doves and yellow-headed spotted sand doves.
For birds the Cairo Zoo is especially rich in the larger
falconidae and in the crane tribe. The grey heron soon
becomes your intimate friend as you go up the Nile, but they
had here a purple heron, the most pompous ornithological
person I ever saw . He maintained the attitude of having
known Rameses the Great quite well when he was young.
You saw this in the expression of supernatural wisdom which

he adopted as he sat on one leg, though he was really looking
into the little cemented pool in his den, which was only
about two inches deep, to see if any fish had suddenly come
into the water. Even he was not so antediluvian-looking as
the Baleniceps Rex, the Whale-headed King in the garden of
the palace at Khartûm.
A bird which interested me very much was the francolin,
which looks something like a small guinea-fowl. It is the
Shah of Persia's favourite game-bird, and it would have
required all the influence of Russia to prevent the last Shah
but one, Musaffer-ed-Din, from executing any person who was
rash enough to kill one. It did not seem to me much of a
zoological specimen to get excited about in a country to
which lions and tigers occasionally stray.
I never knew any lions and tigers and leopards on such
good terms as these were with their keepers. The big lion
came to the rails to be scratched the moment his Nubian
came near him; the Nubian got into his cage with him and
lay down and pretended to be asleep with a hand outstretched.
The lion was very angry; he wished to play, and insisted on
the Nubian waking. Whereupon he became all leonine
smiles. He obviously loved his keeper. Even the leopards
were most friendly. The keeper went into a cage with a
large leopard and punched him like gentlemen of the fancy
punch a bull dog. The leopard thought it awful fun, but it
seemed an odd way of getting to a leopard's heart.
Evidently from the pride with which the keeper of that
section conducted us to the reptile house, the most popular
feature of the Zoo with most people was seeing the chameleons
shoot out their disgusting tongues at flies. They had comparatively
few reptiles for a land in which there must be a
good many; the most interesting being the gecko, a kind of
lizard which looks like its own skeleton, and Cleopatra's asp,
the tiny cerastes, or horned viper, never more than a foot or
two long, though it is tolerably fat and flat. It is the same
pinky, gold colour as the desert sand itself and its horns look
more like glorified eyebrows than anything else, but it is a
wicked little beast. We were glad to escape from that

horrible reptile-house back into the gardens, where the
unsentimental banana was flowering gorgeously side by side
with our English jessamine, and to look at oddities like the
enormous crown pigeons of New Guinea, which are about the
size of turkeys; the crimson cardinal birds of Brazil, and
the orange capuchin, and the blue, ruby-cheeked finch. But
the funniest specimens of all were the babiroussa, half pig
and half deer, one of the three animals which forgot to be
destroyed in the flood, being preserved on some very high
mountains in Celebes which rivalled the feat of Mount Ararat,
though the fact is not mentioned in the Bible; the porcupine
and her baby, and the brindled gnu, with its extraordinary
As it only costs a penny farthing, some Egyptians do go
to the Zoo, especially the women, and trail about like poor
Japanese in a temple. But its principal use is to make a
promenade for Tommy Atkins. It is within a walk of Cairo
if he is too hard up to pay for a tram, and I think he is
admitted free if he is in uniform, a proviso which does not
really signify, as he is never out of his uniform, except when
he is playing lawn Tennis . Tommy thoroughly enjoys it.
He is never tired of watching the black keepers making the
animals play tricks, which they do whenever a well-off-looking
foreigner passes. They only expect a tip of a penny. I used
to go there with my pockets full of small piastres, and if I
had only lived near enough I should have liked to have gone
into the Zoological Gardens of Gizeh every morning after
breakfast for the little airing I take as a pick-me-up before I
begin the serious business of the day.
P.S.—There was one other adorable feature about this
place. So many wild birds, huge Egyptian kites, and a fine
variety of water-fowl from storks downwards, thought the
enclosures in which the specimens from other countries were
imprisoned such nice places that they came and settled there
of their own accord. It was a pity that crocodiles could not
imitate their example; the place was rather short of crocodiles,
and the few they had were not long enough.

The Arab and Bedawin Markets of Cairo

THE Market of the Afternoon, which takes place in the
early part of every afternoon, the Tuesday market
at Gizeh, and the Monday market at the village behind—some
miles behind—the Mena house, are the best places
in Cairo for studying, that is for kodaking, primitive native
The Market of the Afternoon is a fascinating place. I often
wandered there alone, and generally found no other European
in the place. It is held in the huge square beyond the
Meidan Rumeleh under the walls of the Citadel. And here
the East asserts itself untrammelled by the conventions of
Some people are frightened of its pickpockets and its
hooligans; its dirt and its fleas are more formidable, but
I did not find that I carried many of these reminiscent
little animals away with me from here, not more than I
might collect in a tramway—a drop in the ocean beside
the consequences of a visit to the Coptic churches in Old
The market begins to unfold itself almost directly you are
past the great Mosque of Sultan Hassan, which is so leisurely
in rebuilding itself. There are people lying asleep in the road;
and huge cakes of dates and dirt which have been crushed
into lumps in camel bags. There are people selling bread
slung in rings on their arms; people selling long and juicy
lettuces; people selling fried meats of uncertain origin; and
there are Eastern noises.
The market itself is held on a raised platform, raised, I
think, by the accident of level roads being cut round it.
You climb the steps and you find yourself in a scene more
suggestive of a Nile village than the capital of the Caliphs.
All the beggars in Cairo seem to be enjoying the make-believe
of selling and buying.
The favourite form of shop and shelter is an empty warehouse
packing-case laid on its side. It is high enough for
people who sit on the ground to squat in (and conduct a
restaurant if need be). The barbers' shops are mostly umbrellas.
The patients who are having their heads shaved sit
as close to the stick as possible. The barber hops round like
a sparrow.
I can't say much about the old-clothes sellers: their neighbourhood
smelt too close for me to go very close to it. The
garments were hung on some sort of racks under some sort of
shelter, and the tout ensemble was really not so very unlike a
sale of costumes at a Kensington shop. The metal merchants
were much more to my taste than the rag merchants. They
knelt on the ground and arranged their wares in the dust in the
true Eastern jumble-sale style. The dust makes a nice soft
counter, and you can do your accounts on it if you can
Rough tools and agricultural implements, battered lamps
and second-hand brass are the staples of the metal merchant;
but old bottles play a not unimportant part. Brass enters so
largely into the furniture of the Egyptian that there is an
extensive business to be done in its remnants. He has brass
lamps, brass fittings for pipe and waterpipe, brass-handled
knives, long-handled brass saucepans for making coffee, brass
coffee-sets (pot, tray, cups, and saucers), brass censors
and candlesticks; the water-seller has brass essence sprinklers,
goblets, saucers, and tumbler-carriers; the lemonade-sellers
have resplendent brass fittings; the noble brass hot-water
jugs of restaurants are not much more likely to come to the
rag market than the Kursee, the chased brass tables and
stools, and the fine braziers and stands of the rich; all Arabs
use the brass basins called tisht, and the brass jugs with narrow

curling spouts called ibreek 1 for their ablutions. But there
are a variety of smaller brass objects which you may pick up
out of the dust at the Market of the Afternoon—such as little
chased boxes, fantastic scissors, openwork cigarette cases,
old-fashioned scriveners' inkpots, manacles for the punishment
of harem women, bangles, and charms.
1 The regular Brassmarket is in the sort of piazza between the Sûk-en-Nahassin,
the Bazar of the Copper- and Brass-workers and the Beit-el-Kadi, the
grand old Arabic palace just restored, which was once the court of the Grand
Kadi, and earlier still was the palace of the Caliph. The number of stalls in it
varies: the most important is the bottom except one, almost under the shadow of
the Kalaun Mosque; it is always there, as is the bottom stall, a much humbler
affair, but the others are only there at certain market hours.
Most people enjoy the bargaining more than what they
buy in such places. The bargain-hunter in the Market of the
Afternoon will do best if he looks out for damaged objects

which have seen much better days. Brass will always mend,
and the more it has been used the better it will clean.
Never ask the price of anything. The impulse of the pauper
dealer at the Market of the Afternoon is to put an impossible
value on anything of which a foreigner asks the price. He
thinks at once that the object is one on which foreigners set a
value, and he thinks that all foreigners are fools. Glance
over his stock, settle in your own mind the price at which a
thing will be a real bargain, tap it with your stick and show
him the small piastre or piastre, or the few piastres which
you intend to give for it, and if he will not take it go and
start bargaining for something with the man at the next
stall. You are sure to have offered him too much for it
according to the native ideas, and he will call you back. If
he hasn't called you back before you leave the market offer
him a little more if you covet the article to that extent.
Everything takes time in the East: a man may be perfectly
willing to take your price, but he likes to do a little talking
and chaffering over it. Don't waste time talking to him; do
your photographing; look at the professional story-tellers in
their rings of listeners, the snake-charmers, the gamblers, the
people with performing monkeys, the donkeys having their
parties as they roll in the dust at the edge of the market.
While you are amusing yourself the dealers to whom you
have made offers are making up their minds. It worries
them when you shop in this inadvertent way. They are
afraid that you will forget them and not come back to make
another offer. Quite often they curse you instead. I like
being cursed: I try and photograph them while they are
doing it.
I was never molested at the Market of the Afternoon.
Sometimes a policeman would follow me about in a friendly
way to see that I had no trouble. The police, though they
are Nationalists in their sympathies, are very polite to Englishmen:
they will even listen to his advice in the execution of
their duty. It was a wonderful sight that market, with its
long rows of ragged dealers with various expressions of
cunning engendered by their hard struggles against prices,

squatting in their picturesque rags in the dust with their poor
little jumble-stock spread on the ground before them. The
paths between them were as regular as streets. In the
centre of the market were all manner of odd restaurants.
Some like our coffee stalls but with grand eaves, others on
the ground in front of the packing-cases in which their keepers
sat, others wandering round on trays. All very neat and
with an inordinate collection of pickles. From the relative
proportions of them which you see you would think that the
Arabs eat pickles as we eat meat and meat as we eat pickles.
And I don't blame them, considering the look of their meat.
On the further edge were the ineffable stalls of used and
abused clothes.
Not at all late in the afternoon buyers and sellers got tired
of business and went to the shows, which included a large
collection of Persian pictures in mother-of-pearl frames. I tried
in vain to buy these. The story-teller was much the most
popular of the performers. The policeman said that he was
giving them the “Life of Abu'Zeyd,” who married Kar, the
daughter of Karda, the Shereef of Mecca, and had a son
called Barakat, who went through marvellous adventures. It
is always the story of Abu'Zeyd when you ask what these
people are telling. The performing monkeys were very much
like the performing monkeys are anywhere else. The snakes
were as dull as any other educated snakes. The salient
feature in nearly any snake-charming is the boredness of the
snakes. They will do anything they are told which is not
much trouble; they don't mind lying on their backs pretending
to be dead for any length of time. A snake knows
when he has to die because his master breathes down his
throat a great puff of his malodorous breath. Some day the
master will go too far and won't be able to bring the snake
round. The moment he smells his master's breath the snake
faints and goes quite stiff and is laid on the ground, belly
upwards, like a stale eel. It is when they really are wanted
to do something more than hang from their master's nose, or
wrap round his throat like a fur boa, or stand upright to half
their length, that snakes are disappointing. I never saw one

even try to dance: the only thing I ever saw a snake try to do
in these performances was to sneak back into his bag when his
master wasn't looking. Only a mongoose can lend him any
animation, and the mongoose has to be carefully watched
lest he should eat the poor seven-foot cobra. The mongoose
would make short work of these formidable-looking cobras
without their poisoned fangs. The Egyptian snake-charmers
generally use the cobra-naja, about six or seven feet long and
as thick as your wrist.
A European misses the best part of the snake-charmer's
performance, which is his conversation. He talks incessantly,
and almost as incessantly passes the tambourine round for
It is only now and again that he remembers that he has any
snakes, and picks them up from where they are lying trying
to get to sleep in the sand. So convinced are the crowd that
the snakes have had their fangs extracted and will not do
any harm that the charmer often has considerable difficulty in
preventing the crowd from encroaching. I wonder shall I
ever see snakes swaying their bodies gracefully and manifesting
signs of pleasure when the charmer pipes to them. It may be
that the music is at fault, and that the snakes would do more
if the charmer had a piano-organ and played two-steps.
The favourite gambling games they used to play at the
Market of the Afternoon were a game which needed a board
with squares marked on it—their roulette or fantan, I suppose—and
a game played with sticks. There were four small flat
sticks about eight inches long and not quite an inch broad,
with one side white and the other side dark, and a board with
four rows of squares on it; the sticks were thrown against a
wall or a tree or anything handy, and something happened
according to the number of them which turned up white. The
dark side didn't seem to count unless they turned up all dark,
which was the best throw, like zero at roulette. According
to the throw the players move their bits of brick and red tile,
a sort of beggars' draughts. It is dreadfully dull to watch, but
the Arabs find it absorbing to play.
One sunny Tuesday morning I went to the cattle-market at

A STALL AT THE GIZEH MARKET. In the background is a woman with a mattress on her head.

A COPPERSMITH'S STALL AT THE GIZEH MARKET. This market takes place once a week at the village of Gizeh on the way to the Pyramids.

Gizeh, half way to the Pyramids. It is not only a cattle sale.
The people, I suppose, like farmers in other parts of the world,
enjoy spending their hard-gotten gains on cheap fripperies,
therefore one half of the fair is divided up into lanes of squatting
figures selling beads of scarlet celluloid, to suggest the
coral of bedawin heirlooms, and kohl bottles, gay cottons,
sweets, spices, and household articles like copper water-vessels
of fine fantastic shapes. But really the most interesting things
were the cheap attempts at jewellery, which were most
The camel-market was the most fascinating part of the
cattle-fair; camels when they are about a day old, with white
hair as fluffy as wool and an innocent expression, are such nice
little beasts. And the people who come to sell camels are
mostly Arish men and other desert Arabs, hawk-faced, hawk-eyed,
sun-blacked, mightily picturesque in their striped head-shawls
and garments of coarse wool.
But the other country market in the village beyond the
Mena House is far and away the most striking of the three,
for it is held in a grove of palm-trees on the edge of the
inundation when the Nile is high, and the people who come to
it are chiefly bedawins of a very handsome tribe. I saw
lovelier women here than anywhere in Egypt, wearing a
striking and unusual costume with a great deal of handsome
jewellery. There was nothing for a foreigner to buy here—nobody
thought of his existence; but there was fascinating
row of native linen drapers sitting on the ground under cloths
stretched on sticks, and this market was primitive enough for
the natives who came to it to empty their produce—onions,
and corn or any other grain—in heaps on the ground. I
wondered how they took away what they did not sell. They
sat round their heaps in families; there were no well-kept
lanes here—the whole thing was higgledy-piggledy, and the
only outstanding figure was the donkey-barber, who was doing
a roaring trade. The donkeys maintained their usual attitude
of indifference while they were being clipped, but the camels
grumbled and scolded and threatened the whole time.
It was really rather an extraordinary sight, worthy of the

Sudan, all those dark, handsome Arabs in their extraordinary
costumes sitting in that exquisite palm-grove round their
piled-up heaps of grain with a background of kneeling camels
and tethered asses. It was a photographer's paradise—the
women had no objection to being photographed, and were so
primitive in their ideas that they did not know that a negative
of a pretty savage is worth a small piastre to the artist.
You have to ride out there on a donkey from Mena. It is
not wise to lose your donkey-boy at the fair, as I did, for your
saddle may come to pieces half-way back, as mine did.
Great was the fall therefrom; I left the ass and his property—I
had a train to catch—and walked back into Mena, where
I reported the occurrence to the Sheikh, who took the donkey-boy's
fare, and made dignified apologies to me for the insecurity
of the saddle and the inattentiveness of the boy in
not being visible when I wanted to start. I was not to trouble
my mind about the boy; the donkey would be sure to find

The Old Arab Streets of Cairo

WEST of Suez no city has more interesting streets
than Cairo. They are as distinguished by mediaeval
buildings as Venice, mosques taking the place of palaces,
and they are full of the coloured life of Africa. In Kyoto,
of course, every house is Oriental and the temples are very
ancient, though mostly isolated in gardens. In Tokyo the
great temples of Shiba, Ueno and Asakusa are in parks
on the outskirts, nor is Buddhist architecture as noble as
Saracenic. It is to India that one must go for buildings
which are more sublime, with a population which is more
Even the Street of the Camel, the Piccadilly of Cairo, is
gay with native life. I have elsewhere described its picturesque
parasites, who make a living out of selling Oriental
trash to glorified American shopkeepers, the herdsmen
herding, the porters carrying cart-loads, the bedawin villages
on the march, the buses without roofs or sides, which carry
dumpy native women like carboys on their floors. The
Street of the Camel is also a favourite one for the pageants
of pilgrims returning from Mecca, for weddings, and for
funerals, diversified occasionally by the rapid passage of
the Khedive to the railway station from his chief palace
on the Abdin Square. Here, too, the charging white horses
of the arabeah, and the Sheikhs pattering along on white
saddled asses are most in evidence.
Here the Ismailiya quarter, the Parisian part of Cairo, ends
at the Esbekiya Garden. It has not a single Arab building

of any importance except the new offices of the Wakfs (the
sort of Ecclesiastical Commissioners who administer the
revenues of the mosques) and the villas of the French
Consul-General and one or two others in the ancient style.
To the Maison de France I shall return; the other great
foreign buildings of Cairo are distinguished by their unsuitability
to the climate and the landscape.
Few of them have verandas, in a land which has an
almost tropical sun; very few make the slightest attempts at
Arab arts and graces. Most of them are as ugly as the
Hôtel Ritz in Piccadilly, and as ill-adapted for their purpose
as the Parisian boulevards, and the London finance offices,
which they copy, would be, if transfered bodily to Cairo. Yet
though the buildings individually are ugly and unsuitable,
their size and costliness give an effect of magnificence to
the principal cosmopolitan streets of Cairo. It does look
like a great European capital.
I would much rather it looked like a great Oriental capital,
an effect not difficult to secure in a land where plasterwork
has been carried to such a high pitch of perfection, and
where it happens to be correct for the style of architecture.
The right style of architecture is obvious—the mameluke
house, which does not require isolation or semi-isolation,
but looks best in streets. Its tiers of oriel windows are
good for window-seats and pleasing to the foreign eye; and
the fixed meshrebiya work could be replaced by meshrebiya
lattices, which would be strikingly beautiful and ornamental.
For really native streets one has to go to the quarters
round the Citadel, or the quarters round the river ports of old
Cairo and Bûlak, though there are pleasant Pashas' villas on
the Chûbra road.
There is nothing to be seen at Bûlak which cannot be better
seen in the bazars, except that some cafés still have their
mastabas and that there are a few old mosques. The long
native street of Old Cairo is a good one. It is low, and
therefore suitable for photography; it is broken by an
occasional minaret; its shops are thoroughly native and
in a state of tumble-down picturesqueness; and its half-rural

half-river population is engaged in many occupations which
are unfamiliar to the European eye, and prizes to the
kodaker. It is a great advantage that the poor Egyptian
should not mind being kodaked, though he likes to make
money out of it when he can. There is the shipbuildingyard,
for instance, where Nile boats are built of rough
pieces of wood not much bigger than bricks, nailed together,
and the shipbuilders do their sawing and so on by
the upside-down methods of the Orient. Apart from its
unspoiled Arab life and buildings, Old Cairo has a superlative
interest in its magnificent old Coptic churches, its
Roman ruins, its proximity to the most ancient mosque in
Cairo, and its place in history from the date when it was
founded as the river outpost of ancient Heliopolis, to the
dates when its Arab conquerors founded their first capital at
Fustat, and three centuries later burnt it to prevent it
becoming a prize to the Crusaders.
There is an Arab quarter with a very holy mosque, that of
Seyyida Zeynab, on the road from Old Cairo to the Citadel.
But it is not rich in old buildings. For them one must wait
till one gets to Katai, the quarter round the mosques of Ibn
Tulun and Kait Bey, the Gamamise and the Hilmiya, and
the quarter of the bazars and its vicinity. All the great
mosques lie there: all the mameluke houses are there; there
the bulk of the Cairo Arabs live and perform the amusing
operations of their every-day existence. There we have
streets and streets of the undiluted Orient: this is where
Cairo is an unspoiled Arab City of the Middle Ages, with
stately dwelling streets of lofty houses still spell-bound in
dignity and calm, and with covered sûks seething with the
life of natives at work and shopping.
This part of Cairo is one of the most delightful places I ever
was in: for three months I went to it nearly every day,
attended by Ali, an English-speaking Arab of the Sûks, who
pointed out little bits of life to me, and took me into all sorts
of native buildings and institutions, which I should never have
had the impudence to enter alone.
This is the Cairo where water-sellers take the place of

public-houses; where half the population is sitting down,
waiting for Allah to provide business for it, and the other half
is blundering along like a buffalo, doing a buffalo's work, or
enjoying Egypt's climate and Egypt's sugar-cane in idleness.
This part of the town abounds in ancient buildings, whose
exteriors have never been spoiled by restorations; its bazar
life alone is a matter of never-ending interest and oddness
to the intelligent tourist; there he may soak himself in
Saracenic art.
To return to the Maison de France. In the days of the
Khedive Ismail, an enterprising Frenchman, named M. de
Saint-Maurice, wanted some concession from the Khedive.
To secure it he hit upon the idea of building out of the most
ancient and beautiful materials a noble Arab mansion and
presenting it to the Khedive, who would not have liked it half
as much as a European barrack of a palace in the worst
German princeling's style.
In those days there was no prejudice against pulling down
old mosques and old mameluke houses to sell their painted
ceilings and meshrebiya screens, their marble fountains, and
old Persian tiles, to French art dealers. So M. de Saint-Maurice
had plenty of superb materials to hand, and produced
an Arab mansion which has been the envy of collectors ever
since. The Khedive did not come forward in the manner
that was expected of him, and the mansion never became his,
but passed through various hands to the French Republic,
who have made it the official residence of their Consul-General
in Egypt.
The Maison de France stands in the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil.
It is a sort of a cross between an Egyptian mosque of the
Kait Bey epoch and Lord Leighton's house in Kensington.
The Arab “fakes” of Lord Leighton's house are executed
with more knowledge and good taste, but M. de Saint-Maurice
had far better chances than Lord Leighton, and made excellent
use of them in the acquisition of materials. In the
palmy days of Ismail Pasha a Frenchman with influence in
Cairo could strip mosque after mosque, mansion after mansion
of its mediaeval decorations. The Maison de France reminds

one of a mosque in many ways—for example, in
its porch, in its portal, which has a glorious bronze door taken from a
mosque, and in its Hall of Fêtes. Directly you get inside you
see a charming fountain at the head of the staircase, but the
two tours de force of the house are the Hall of Fêtes and the
Hanging Garden. The former is perfectly delightful; it is
built in the form of a fifteenth-century mosque, with a floor of
tessellated marble, sunk in the centre under a cupola. The
liwân and the other recesses have deep soft carpets and
cushions; the walls have a panelling of rare old marbles taken
from mosques, the antique painted timber roof, as I was told,
has actually done duty in a mosque. At every point where it
could be applied, there is a lavish display of splendid old
meshrebiya work. The cornice is covered with old Arabic
decorations; the ivory inlaid doors were made from mosque
pulpits; there are windows of plâtre ajouré, gemmed with old
stained glass, old mosque lamps a-swing from long chains, the
pendentives, which are the chief grace of Arab architecture, old
Arabic inscriptions of exquisite lettering; the inlaying of ivory
and mother-of-pearl, and antique Persian tiles, are used with
delightful effect. The music gallery, high up at one end, is
not well done when you examine it closely, but it has a good
effect from below, and is the best point for examining the
beautiful old fifteenth-century roof. Once upon a time the
Minister gave a fancy-dress ball in this hall, with musicians in
the gallery above. It is finer than the upper hall of the Zisa
itself; it has all the picturesque little appurtenances of an
Arab mansion, such as the arched sort of altar called the
Suffeh, on which the water pitchers stand.
As charming in its way as the hall is the Hanging Garden,
with its tall palms and its sunk Arab fountain, and its lovely
gallery of old meshrebiya, and panels of old plaster work and
old tiles let into the walls. Everything, to the flying gallery
round the top, is charming.
The fault of this house is that where old Arabic materials
are not used, there is no attempt to make the modern work
worthy of them. Some of it is very vulgar and poor. It
would pay the French Republic to take the house down and

re-erect it on the banks of the Nile, with the modern portion
made worthy of the exquisite old Arabic materials. The
price they would get for the site of the house and garden
in the Sharia Kasr-el-Nil would pay for the new site, and
the taking down and rebuilding, and leave a very large
surplus. A business quarter has grown up round its present
The chief streets of the Citadel quarter for architecture are
the Gamaliya, the Sûk-es-Nahassin, the Sûk-es-Zalat, the
Sharia Emir-el-Giyûchi, the Sharia Khordagiya, the Sharia el-Akkadin,
the Sharia el-Menaggadin, the Sukkariya, the Sharia
Kasabat-Radowan, the Sharia el-Magharbelin, the Sharia el-Serugiya,
the Sharia el-Merdani, the Haret-el-Merdani, the
Sharia Darb-el-Ahmah, the Sharia Bab-el-Wazir, the Sharia
el-Magar, the Sharia Sûk-es-Sullah, and the Sharia Gamamise.
What are the characteristics; what is the kodaker and
sightseer to look for in one of these Arab streets? Mosques,
schools, fountains, baths, old palaces, khans, sûks, oil-mills,
Dervish tekkes, and people engaged in the common round
and trivial tasks of native life.
A good street to begin with is the Sûk-es-Zalat, which
becomes the Sharia el-Emir-el-Giyûchi, and can be approached
from the Esbekiya at the back of the Bristol Hotel by the
street known as Little Sicily, or from the railway station by
the highly picturesque Sharia Bab-el-Bahr. The latter is
preferable unless you have a desire to explore the Fishmarket.
Several times had I cast hungry eyes on the Sharia Bab-el-Bahr
before I explored it, when I had seen pilgrims or
marriage processions disappear between its beetling houses
and shops of strange wares.
When I went down it I was a little disappointed. It was
only semi-Arab till it reached the first of the two sûks, but
the Sûk-es-Zalat is a typical native street with all the points.
A shower of rain converts it into a red sea of mud. It is
bordered with humble shops under, and in between, fine old
mameluke mansions, and it has old mosques and baths and
oil-mills. There are brass-workers here who do a little

dealing in old brass. I have bought choice pieces here. But
the charm of the street lies in its beautiful buildings, hardly
important enough to be monuments, and in its placid native
life. The artist finds some of his choicest bits here. There
is one old mameluke house with three long tiers of meshrebiya'd
oriels facing the street and a graciously arabesqued
courtyard; another, in which the hand of the destroyer has
torn down one side-wall of the court, revealing screens and
ceilings of woodwork which no other house in Cairo can
boast. There is a bath with marble-panelled chambers and
marble fountains and arches, which would have done for a
Caliph of the Middle Ages; and an old oil-mill with pointed
arches which ought to have belonged to Westminster Abbey.
The mosques are not on the grand scale, but they have
mellowed out of the perpendicular with age, and their façades
are graciously arabesqued and their courts old and romantic.
There is hardly anything in the street thought worthy of
mention by Baedeker or Murray, yet it is all paintable from
end to end.
The Haret-el-Merdani behind the great Merdani mosque,
has a couple of splendid old mansions; the adjoining road,
leading down to the Sûk of the Armourers, has several, but
both of them are too native to have any life in the streets.
The houses mostly belong to Arabs of the old school, who
keep their front doors shut and locked, whereas Cairo
generally, in the security of the British Occupation, leaves
its courts open to the passer-by. I speak from experience:
under Ali's audacious escort I tried to get into every courtyard
that gave hopes of having any architectural pretensions.
Streets like these are not easy to find, for commerce
has intruded into most of the streets which are rich in old
buildings, and the courtyards are the first things which are
turned into business premises. The Gamaliya is an example
of this; few streets in Cairo are so rich in old buildings, but
hardly one of them is a private mansion any longer.
The mameluke houses may be taken as the type of the
best Arab mansions in Cairo. I only know one foreigner who
has had the sense to take one and do it up in the old style.

It makes one of the most fascinating pleasure-houses that
man could devise. The only points against them are that
few of them have gardens now, and that they are generally
undetached on either side. To the street they present a high
wall with a door, strong enough for a castle, in a richly
decorated archway, the only opening on the ground floor.
Over this there is a row of corbels or brackets to allow the
first floor to project a couple of feet in the style of our
sixteenth-century houses in England, and the rows of oriel
windows in the upper floors carry the harem women another
two feet over the street, to let them see all that they saw of
the world in the old days. The windows are closely screened
with meshrebiya work; but it is easy to see out through this
woodwork net, and many of them have a little wicket that
can be lifted up, though Arab damsels do not throw roses to
serenaders, like the daughters of Sicily. The exterior of one
of these mansions, with its triple row of oriels, is very picturesque,
especially in a street like the Gamaliya, where it is set
off by mosques and porches and fountains, each more
picturesque than the other. If the door is open and you
peep through, the odds are that you will see nothing. The
entrance passage winds, with the object of concealing from
the street what is going on in the courtyard. The first
chamber which you enter is the porter's room, with mastabas
round it for the servants. Off the courtyard also opens the
mandar'ah or reception-room, which generally has a sunken
marble floor where you enter and a daïs at the back with the
large cushions, which are called divans, for seats. If the
visitor is of sufficient distinction for the master of the house
to invite him on to the daïs he leaves his shoes on the marble
floor, which is called the durka'ah. If the house is grand
enough the durka'ah will be charmingly paved with black and
white marble and little pieces of fine red tile, and may have
in its centre one of the little fountains called faskiya, playing
into a small shallow pool lined with coloured marbles like the
floor. There is generally, close by the door, a suffeh, which
looks like an arched Gothic altar, made of stone or marble,
about four feet high, containing the washing-vessels, pitchers

of water and so on, while the pipes and coffee-sets and water-bottles
are placed above. The daïs in this room, like the
daïs in a mosque, is called the liwân; the ceiling is of wood
decorated with arabesques in overlays of hard wood, or gaily
painted. There are at least two other places where the
master of the house may receive a visitor—the takhtabosh and
the mak'ad, the latter often being on the top of the former.
The takhtabosh is one of the most charming features in the
courtyard: if the house is handsome the stone-work all round
the court may be carved with arabesques, but the best
decoration is reserved for the takhtabosh, which is a recess
with a fine wooden ceiling supported in front by a single
column and with a mastaba of carved wood running round its
walls to sit on.
The mak'ad is one of the most beautiful features of these
beautiful courtyards, consisting as it does of a lofty room,
separated from the court by from two to five tall stilted arches
carried almost as high as the roof. It frequently has also one
or more meshrebiya pavilions projecting over the courtyard,
from which the harem ladies can satisfy their curiosity without
being seen. Mak'ads generally have richly decorated ceilings,
and often have their walls painted with views of Mecca.
Some houses, like that of Sultan Beybars, have in addition on
the ground floor (besides the usual domestic offices) a superb
Hall of Fêtes, very large and high, in the style of the Hall
of the Fêtes of the Harem. This is a magnificent chamber,
carried up as high as the roof, having a cupola in the centre
like a mosque, with a sunken floor below it inlaid with
tessellated marbles and sometimes containing a fountain. This
chamber is called the ka'ah, and has generally a suffeh like the
mandar'ah below. A ka'ah like that of the house called
Gamel-ed-din in the Hoche Kadam is as fine as a mosque. It
is lined all round with cupboards of hardwood inlaid like a
mosque pulpit, and decorated at irregular intervals and
elevations with arched recesses to hold china. The walls
above are inlaid with precious marbles or beautiful old blue
tiles; its ceiling, laid on massive beams, is richly carved and
painted; the cupola rests on angles cut away into clusters of

the pendentives, so characteristic of the best period of Saracen
art, and the broad daïs at each end and the narrow daïs at
each side of the sunken marble durk'ah, are divided off from
it by bold moresque arches. The carpets and divans are very
rich, but there is hardly any furniture except a few of the
octagonal brass tables or stools called kursi, which are
exquisitely chased and often inlaid with silver.
Where the pottery on the shelves is noble Oriental lustreware,
and the walls are richly inlaid, and the colouring on the
ceiling is three or four hundred years old, the effect is indescribably
rich, especially if there are long ranges, high up on
the walls, of the windows called kamariya, which consist of
little pieces of richly coloured glass set in panels of pierced
plaster, taking the shape of arabesques or flowers, or even a
phaenix, to throw on the floor a coloured reflection when the
sun shines through them.
There is one respect in which the reception halls of a Cairo
palace are distinctly less appropriate than a Tunisian palace.
The Moors of Tunis prefer vaulted ceilings rich in pendentives,
which they cover with exquisite plâtre ajouré, the fretted plaster-work
so much used in the Alhambra at Granada, the most
elegant decoration in Arabic architecture.
Nearly the whole of the upper portion of the house is given
up to the harem; the rows of meshrebiya windows looking
over the street are for the amusement of its inmates, and to
relieve them in the heat of summer. Because these windows,
except where European ideas have crept in, contain no glass,
there is such a draught through them that water-vessels stand
in them to cool, and this gives them their name. The sun
hardly penetrates them.
There is another feature in which the old-fashioned Cairo
mansion differs from the Tunisian, which has an elaborate
chief bedroom for its master. In the mameluke houses they
have no proper bedrooms in our sense of the word. Any room
which is not being used for anything else serves, the bed consisting
only of a few cushions, a pillow, and a padded blanket,
which can be rolled up in the daytime and put in the sort of
cupboard called the khazna, which in winter is itself used for

sleeping in for the sake of warmth. For these Cairo houses,
with no glass in their windows, can be deadly cold on account
of their draughts and the prevalence of marble and plaster
floors. Where the floors are made of wood they are covered
with plaster.
Here, as in Italy, the summer is the enemy, not the winter.
All provisions are made against heat, the principal being a
kind of screen of boards called a malhaf, made to meet the
north wind and force it down into the feshah, or some other
apartment underneath it on the same principle as the ventilating
funnels of a steamer. To warm themselves they use
nothing but charcoal braziers, often of very fine and artistic
patterns. I wanted to buy them and bring them home whenever
I saw them, but was deterred by the cost of transporting
such a heavy and cumbrous thing. They look like mosque
domes standing on three legs.
The poor people have a much better idea of warming themselves,
though their houses are very poor, made of mud, one or
two stories high. Even they often have enough room to keep
up the harem idea. Being made of mud, it is only the site of
the house which can present any serious expense. The poor
Egyptians' idea of warming themselves is to build an oven
right across the innermost room at its far end and to sleep on
the top: the thick mud of which it is made prevents them from
being burnt. Sometimes the whole family sleep on the top,
sometimes the father and mother make the children sleep on
the floor. They probably sleep right against the oven; the
sweet little cherub who sits up aloft takes special care of poor
Egyptians. These poor people's houses I speak of are perhaps
more characteristic of Upper Egypt, for in Cairo the raba
system prevails. The raba is a tenement consisting of one or
two sitting- and sleeping-rooms, a kitchen and a latrine. It
must be remembered that both sexes, except the wealthy
people, who have a Turkish bath in their own house, go to
public baths constantly. These rabas are built over the shops
in the poorer streets. They are easy to recognise from outside,
because they are generally built at an angle to the street—that
is to say, instead of there being a flat wall with a window

in the middle over the shop there is a sort of street corner
over it with windows looking both ways. As the women pass
most of their time indoors they spend an inordinate time at
their windows, grated with meshrebiya like those of better-off
people. By having this succession of angles the occupant of
each raba can look up and down the street. Streets of rabas
are nearly the ugliest things in the world, but to their inhabitants
they present the same attractions as the oriel'd palaces
of the mamelukes.
One thing they do miss, not having a wooden lock to their
door. The Egyptian woman loves the idiotic wooden lock of
her ancestress in the days of the Pharaohs, and she loves to
carry about with her a wooden key almost as long as her
baby. It may be literally nearly a foot long, and two inches
wide, with a few iron pins like the nails round which piano
strings are strained, stuck in one end. When this is put into
the lock, the pins which keep the wooden bolt in its place
are raised, and it can be drawn back. The lock consists
practically of the bolt and a transverse piece of wood, which
makes it look like a Chinese puzzle in the form of a cross.
The wooden bolt of a street door lock is about fourteen
inches long; rooms and cupboards have small ones, not
more than seven or eight or nine inches long, but the lock
of the door which closes the courtyard will be more likely
two feet long, and if it is a very fine house or a public building
it may be any length. Lane remarks that it is not difficult
to pick this kind of lock—it is a fatuous survival of the Middle

The Characteristics of the Gamia or Egyptian

THERE is no happier man in Cairo than the intelligent
tourist with a passion for old Arab architecture,
who can throw the same zest into hunting for prize mosques
as others throw into hunting for bargains in the bazars. For
Cairo is full of ancient mosques, great and small, ruined
and perfect, each with some gem of beauty. I have been
into nearly all of them, for Ali, my dragoman, knew that
the easiest way to keep me employing him was to find
antique mosques and palaces which had escaped my observation,
and, unless I was tied for time, I never passed
either without trying to get into them. It was not always
possible to find out their names. If a mosque has fallen
into ruin and disuse, its nearest neighbours soon forget its
name. They take no interest in its architecture, however
beautiful. If it is very enormous, they may be proud of
its size, but in the main they regard a mosque as a place
to use, and when it is no longer in use, it ceases to exit
for them. And, unfortunately, mosques which are not in
use are generally very difficult to get into, I suppose for
fear of their decorations being stolen.
What are the characteristics of the far-famed mosques of
Cairo? The oldest are mere cloisters with open colonnades,
the eastern colonnade being deepened into a hall. In the
later mosques the central court is roofed over by a cupola,
making the whole building closed instead of open.
The idea of a mosque is delightfully simple and rational;

in its simplest form it is merely a bit of the desert walled
in from intruders. You have it in its simplest form in the
mosque of the Mahdi and the Khalifa at Omdurman, now
used as a drill ground. The next step was to give the
worshippers shelter from the merciless sun of Egypt. Instead
of a mere enclosure the mosque became a courtyard surrounded
by colonnades or apses, the eastern recess being
so deepened as to afford shelter wherever the sun might be.
This made the building cruciform, the long arm of the cross
being its head and the other arms frequently being quite
When the fashion set in of attaching schools or universities
to mosques, the scholastic buildings were erected in
the angles of the cross and sometimes all round them.
The mosque of Sultan Hassan, the premier mosque of
Islam, is even in its ruin an excellent example of this. It
belongs to the order of mosques which have their courtyards
surrounded by four great arches with apses or shallow
chambers behind; the Barkukiya and the tomb mosque of
Sultan Kalaûn are other notable examples of this style of
architecture. But most of the great old mosques, especially
the larger ones, were surrounded by colonnades instead of
single arches. There was an obvious reason for this: only
the very finest buildings could be given arches of such tremendous
span. The arches of Sultan Hassan's mosque are
almost as large as the arches of St. Peter's or the Basilica
of Constantine at Rome.
The other type of medresa, or college-mosque, which
replaces these gigantic arches by long colonnades is, as a
rule, far more beautiful. There are many examples of that
in Cairo, El-Azhar (but its colonnade is modern and vulgar),
the mosques of El-Moayyad, El-Merdani, Ibn Tulun, Amr,
and El-Mas, and the Blue Mosque are sufficient to cite,
for they are the glory of Cairo. Sometimes the sanctuary,
which is generally two and a half or five times as deep as
the northern, western, and southern colonnades, is separated
from the courtyards by a vast oaken screen as at El-Moayyad.
Sometimes it has a balustrade, as at the Blue Mosque or

El-Mas. The worshippers frequently use the other colonnades
as well as the sanctuary, which is called the liwân. In the
medresa, with arched courtyards, the liwân (sanctuary)
is a deep hall open to the west. In the other type of
medresa this hall is sometimes divided into aisles by a
forest of columns supporting arches, which may or may not
have cross arches. The mosque of Amr, the oldest of all
in its foundation, is a good example of this, though its
present buildings belong to a late restoration. Where there
are no cross arches, wooden rafters stretched from column
to column may take their place, as at the mosque of Amr.
They were used of course for suspending the crystal lamps,
which are now, if of fine workmanship and in good condition,
worth a thousand pounds apiece. One mosque formerly
had eighteen thousand of them. The few survivors are the
pride of the Arab museum of Cairo. Hundreds of chains
for suspending them still hang from the roof of Sultan
Hassan's liwân.
In the east wall of every liwân near its centre is the
mihrab, the empty recess sometimes called the kiblah, because
it marks the direction of Mecca; and near it is the mimbar
or pulpit. The mihrab, which is a little apse about the height
of a door, often has a text from the Koran in the beautiful
Arabic writing round it. Sometimes it is quite plain, but
it is generally decorated either with mosaics, or with the
plaster carvings in which the Arabs delight, or with tessellated
marbles. The introduction of mother-of-pearl into the
mosaics, and tiny engaged columns of turquoise-blue faïence
are constant features. In the miniature arcading used as a
decoration the trefoil-headed fourteenth-century arch employed
is almost exactly like our trefoil-headed arch of the
The mimbar is a curious-looking affair. It consists of a
very narrow steep stair leading up to a canopy only just wide
enough to contain the preacher, and generally surmounted by
a large ball. The space between the staircase and the floor is
always filled in with panels of hard, dark wood, generally
inlaid with ivory, or mother-of-pearl. The balustrade itself is

so low that any one could step over it at the bottom, which is
nevertheless guarded by a tall doorway with an inlaid door,
whose function is therefore purely ceremonial. This pulpit is
used for preaching; a few yards in front of it is the dikka,
a platform for reading the Koran, which is sometimes made
of wood like the mimbar, sometimes of white marble covered
with bas-reliefs, as at El-Moayyad. These dikkas are like the
long pulpits used in early Romanesque churches. They have
one extraordinary feature: though they may be a dozen feet
high, they have no staircase leading up to them; they are
ascended by a common ladder.
The floor of a rich mosque is sometimes covered with a fine
Turkey carpet, but more often with simple matting. The
walls up to a considerable height should be covered with the
panelling of tessellated marbles, which the Arabs obviously
copied from the Norman buildings of Sicily, in which strips
and disks of porphyry and serpentine play a great part.
Above this panelling, instead of mosaic pictures they have
plaster carved with exquisite arabesques and inscriptions from
the Koran. Kamariyas, windows of carved plaster set with
bits of stained glass, form another notable feature. The
northern, western, and southern recesses have their floors
either left bare or covered with matting.
The central courtyard, like the walls, is sometimes covered
with tessellated marbles; it is more often of glittering white
marble. In the centre usually stands a fountain of lustration
under a highly picturesque canopy. But El-Azhar has no
fountain in its courtyard, and where the courtyards are large
they are sometimes, as at the Blue Mosque, not paved.
In the fifteenth century a new type of mosque came in, in
which the college idea was generally lost, the mosque of
what we call the Kait Bey type being more in the nature of a
chapel attached to the founder's tomb. They were consequently
very much smaller, and, being smaller, were easy to
roof over with a cupola. The central portion of the floor,
which would have been the courtyard in one of the older
mosques, is still sunk below the level of the recesses, and
almost invariably paved with richly tessellated marbles. The

other decorations are also usually correspondingly rich, and
their roofs are masses of colour, delightfully mellow where
they have not been restored. Like the Cappella Reale at
Palermo, the best mosques of the Kait Bey type leave hardly
an inch of wall or floor undecorated. The band of windows
round the base of the cupola, often of coloured glass set in
small pieces in pierced plaster-work, sheds a chastened light.
The tomb, for which the mosque was founded, generally
stands under a dome beside or behind the liwân.
It is sometimes more richly decorated than the mosque
itself, great features in the decoration being the noble inscriptions
from the Koran in the exquisite Arabic lettering.
The tombs, which often have very rich screens, are themselves
the least worthy features in the building—two-decked altars
of white marble with inscriptions crudely coloured, and a
stele at head and foot, surmounted by an ill-carved turban.
There is probably some convention to account for their
About the finest specimen of this fifteenth-century type, on
account of its great size, its solemn colouring, and its freedom
from meretricious details, is the mosque of El-Ghury. The
most beautiful, for the elegance of its exterior, and the richness
of its interior, is the mosque of Kait Bey, out at the
Tombs of the Caliphs. The mosque of Kait Bey, in the city
is a gem of mellow decoration; other splendid examples of
this style are the mosque of Kismas-el-Ishaky, El-Bordeini,
and Abu-Bekr.
Most mosques of any pretensions are approached by a
sweeping flight of steps, with a marble balustrade. This leads
up to a narrow apse of great height, with its head ornamented
with matrix work. The door is of no great size, but it is often
extremely beautiful, being made of bronze, adorned with
conventional patterns which bear a singular resemblance to
Japanese patterns, the chrysanthemum, which probably
here represents the conventionalised sun of Ancient Egyptian
monuments, forming the most conspicuous feature. Every
mosque has a lavatory attached to it, and many formerly had
a hospital as well as a college.
Finally, I may mention that, with the exception of three,
all the Cairo mosques are open to Christians who choose
to pay two piastres (about fivepence) for a mosque ticket.
But visitors are required either to take off their shoes or
put on overshoes, to prevent them from making the floor

THE HEART OF CAIRO. The old gate called the Bab-es-Zuweyla, which has the minarets of the El-Moayyad mosque on its towers. In front is the street called the Sharia Darb-el-Ahmar.


The Mosques of Cairo

I SUPPOSE that in India there may be a class of
buildings comparable to the noble order of mosques
at Cairo. Elsewhere there cannot be. No city in Japan
or China can match it either in the number or the size
or the material of its temples. There is nothing in Europe
to compare to it except the churches of Rome.
What are the features or elements which make the mosques
of Cairo so world-famous and so irresistible? They are
charming alike in form and colour and decoration; they
have the distinction of age—even up to a thousand years;
they have often the tenderness of ruin and decay, the
romance of solitude and desolation. They are historical
too, some of them, and all have the true atmosphere of
religion confered on them by the simplicity and sincerity
of their worshippers.
Before I went to Egypt I had a conviction that the
Saracenic architecture of Cairo would appeal to me more than
the architecture of the Pharaohs, that the mosques of Saladin
would give me more pleasure than the temples of Rameses II.,
and I was not mistaken; for the former are romantic and
the latter have the severity of the Old Testament.
There are at least a hundred of the 264 mosques and 225
shrines in Cairo with some grace that arrests the eye. All of
them I know by sight, though I do not know all of their
names. Most of the great mosques are within a few minutes'
walk of the Citadel. There are few with any graces a mile
away from it, and those few, with I think but one exception,

are in the port of Cairo, Bûlak, with one or two in Roda
Island and in Old Cairo ; the Bûlak mosques especially are
very old.
The exception is the oldest of all, the mosque of Amr in
the destroyed quarter of Fustat.
I commenced my pilgrimages to mosques on my very first
day in Cairo. A friend, the Major Fletcher who has illustrated
three of my books, and who had been in Egypt before,
took us down the Musky and along the Sûk-en-Nahassin.
In these two streets I saw two of the most lovable types of
mosques, the little old mosques frequented by the people,
and the royal mosques of the Early Middle Ages.
At the very corner of the Musky and the crowded Khor-dagiya
which runs past the Turkish Bazar, is the old, old
Motahhar mosque.
It may chance to be not so old as it looks, but no mosque
could look more venerable. It has a charming minaret
and overhangs the street with brown Saracen masonry
fantastic and decayed. There is another near, a mere zawia
or shrine, half-boarded up, and with its roof fallen in, whose
fabric and masonry are as beautiful as precious stones. The
first mosque has a long narrow courtyard of unusual shape
crowded at most times with the picturesque poor.
We did not linger over those: our friend was so breathless
to hurry us on to the three great mosques of the Sûk-en-Nahassin.
The Sûk-en-Nahassin is to me the most beautiful street
I was ever in; look whichever way I would, my view was
bounded by objects, which were a dream of beauty, a dream
of the Middle Ages. It is not like a street but a piazza, for
its ends seem blocked, one by a sudden bend, one by the
most adorable sebil in Cairo.
A sebil is a fountain-house, whose boldly curved sides
are guarded with grills of exquisite metal-work, and whose
upper story is graciously arcaded for air and curtained from
the sun, to accommodate one of the kuttabs, where little
children receive their first lessons in the Koran. There
are many sebils in Cairo, so beautiful that they almost rank

with mosques as' examples of the architectural grace of the
Saracens. This one depends neither upon its architecture
nor its decorations, so much as upon its incomparable
position between two little old streets at the rising end of
the Sûk-en-Nahassin. At the same time it is “just right,”
in the language of artists and kodakers, who never fail to
carry away a picture of it.
In the centre of the more important side of this wonderful
street is a group of three royal mosques, which with the old
buildings attached to them, make up one of the most beautiful
masses of architecture in the world; the mosque of Sultan
Kalaûn, the mosque of Sultan en-Nasir, and the mosque of
Sultan Barkûk are joined together as closely as the nave
and transept and choir of a cathedral; and built on to them
are the mûristan or hospital of Sultan Kalaûn and the
Sheikh's house of En-Nahassin, which artists love. This
is not as old as the rest, but its superb meshrebiya window
and graceful portal make it worthy to come into the picture.
Into the picture, from the front, the mûristant hardly enters
except for its high dark portal between the mosque and the
tomb of Sultan Kalaûn, and the interior of the mosque is
neglected for the splendours of the tomb. The façade of the
three mosques has the beauty of a Gothic cathedral, with the
fantastic grace of the Orient added in porch and minaret.
There is one bit of true Gothic in it, the portal of the church
of St. John at Acre in Palestine, carried off as a trophy from
the Crusaders at the capture of the city. Its clustered and
receding columns are not out of harmony with the rest, for
the mosque windows with their pairs of delicate arches under
a rose-window, “contained” in arched recesses, have caught the
spirit of the Lombard and imprisoned it in hoary Saracen
masonry crowned with its own flower-like battlements. The
noble minaret of the Kalaûn mosque is eclipsed by the
beauty of its neighbour, the minaret of the mosque of
Mohammed-en-Nasir, for there is none in Cairo to be compared
with En-Nasir's for the delicate lace-work into which
every inch of its walls are carve,d and the flowing pendentives
which support its balconies.

The Barkûkiya is in absolute contrast to the other two
mosques: the impression you derive from its courtyard is one
of plain majesty from the loftiness and simplicity of its four
great arches. Inside it is handsome rather than exquisite;
everything is rich but nothing is very lovable.
Of the interiors Sultan Kalaûn's comes first. Not only is
the mûristan full of the unspoiled if ruinous architecture of an
Arab hospital of the thirteenth century: not only have we
the little-altered court and liwân of a thirteenth-century
mosque; but in the tomb-chamber we have a mortuary
shrine only surpassed in India. Its richness and elegance
are marvellous. Its mighty windows of white fretwork, its
mighty screens of carved wood, its walls inlaid with precious
marbles, and its stately tomb make a feast for the eye not to
be matched even in Cairo. And its windows are filled with
cunningly coloured glass which throw rich lights across the
shadowy splendour.
En-Nasir's mosque is little more than a shell. Its back is
in ruins; its finest window is cut off by an open space, where
the workers in copper and brass who give the sûk its name
hammer and chase the rose and golden metals into forms so
quaint that they might be for the service of the mosques, if
one did not see them carried outside to the bazar as they are
finished. That window of En-Nasir might have belonged to
the lady-chapel of Fair Rosamond's nunnery.
The Barkûkiya as it is called—the mosque of Sultan Barkûk—though
it blends so truly with the others, was not built till
they had been standing for a century, and inside it has little
in common with them; but it gives us unspoiled the type of
the fifteenth-century mosque before mosque-building lost all
its old forms in the hands of Kait Bey, though already the
liwân was a deep chamber and no longer the deepened side of
a colonnade. In the lofty liwân of the Barkûkiya, which on
its western side is only severed from the court and sky by
three stilted arches with vast old granite monoliths, all the
details are fine, but none of them except the bronze doors and
the ivory-inlaid reading desk are inspired.
The side of the Sûk-en-Nahassin facing the royal mosques

is to the unthinking so cumbered with ruins as to have no
meaning. But to those who stop to think it has a peculiar
fascination; for here are the mighty remains of mosque and
mansion and Caliph's palace held together by the lowly line
of shops, which burrow into their ruined façades and are
tenanted by sellers of brass sherbet cups and Arab grocers,
with here and there a fat-tailed sheep, tethered against the
shop front to be fed up for the sacrifice.
At the end where the sûk approaches the Turkish Bazar
are the vaults where the great brass water-vessels are sold,
noble in their forms but neglected by tourists as too large to
carry away; at the far end are the pipe-sellers. The street is
always full of native hucksters and carters, biblically primitive
and the passing quick and dead.
You cannot spend a morning there without seeing a funeral
because the sûk lies on the way from certain crowded quarters
to the vast cemetery outside the Bab-en-Nasr.1
1 The mosque is En-Nasir, the gate is En-Nasr.
The mosques of the Sûk-en-Nahassin are not typical
mosques for studying the beauty of Mohammedan holiness:
they have not the spaciousness and retirement; they have not
the beauty of solitude. Therefore I have not described the
general aspect and conditions of a Cairo mosque interior.
These are better to be seen in mosques like El-Moayyad or
El-Merdani, El-Mase, or El-Ghury, as I shall show, while I
am taking my readers through the principal streets for
The Gamaliya is, contrary to what one would expect of
such a noble architectural thoroughfare, not a good street
for mosques; it has only one great antique mosque which is
not in ruins and that has lost its ancient features. But the
whole long street extending from the Musky to the Bab-es-Zuweyla,
and called in various parts the Sharia el-Ashrafiya,
the Sharia el-Ghuriya, the Sharia el-Akkadin and the
Sukkariya is full of stately mosques and so is the long
winding street which leads from the Bab-es-Zuweyla to the
Citadel. The former contains El-Ghury, El-Moayyad, El-Ashrafy,
and others of the finest mosques in Cairo; the latter
contains the Kismas El-Ishaky mosque, El-Merdani, the
Sha'ban Mosque, the Blue Mosque, and others of note and
magnificence, and a whole row of perfectly delightful little
El-Moayyad and El-Merdani are typical as two of the
most popular and magnificent of the old mosques of Cairo
restored to their ancient splendour; and it was English
influence which effected this. I shall not describe both in
detail because they are rather similar, though El-Merdani is
much the older and more beautiful, if less handsome. El-Ghury
for size and beauty combined is the finest mosque
in the city of the Kait Bey type, and I shall have to speak of
others of special interest.
I will not say more of El-Ashrafy, the mosque lifted
high above the turmoil at the corner of the Ashrafiya and
the Musky, a noble mosque in the grace and dignity of its
architecture. It is so near El-Ghury, which I shall be taking
as a type. I will pass on to the other end of the street to

enter the grand mosque of El-Moayyad, built in 1422, so
close to the Bab-es-Zuweyla gate, the centre of ancient
Cairo, that its minarets were reared on the two old towers
of the gate.
El-Moayyad is as glorious as a cathedral. It is of great
size. Its lofty, battlemented walls, designed to rival Sultan
Hassan's, and exquisitively decorated in Saracen fashion
with sunken panels, run for many feet along the busy
thoroughfare of the Sukkariya.
Like Sultan Hassan's mosque, too, it has a noble portal
at the head of a marble stairway, and its bronze gates
taken from that mosque are the finest in Cairo. The
entrance is on the east side close to the founder's tomb,
which is under a superb dome, but has no regular tomb-chamber.
When I was there last purple-robed professors
were addressing little classes all round the tomb. The
nobility and dignity of these first chambers is seldom
properly appreciated. Every visitor hurries on to the
splendid coup d'aeil formed by the great liwân, with its vast
and rich screen looking across the glittering courtyard to
the garden. Alone of all the mosques of Cairo, El-Moayyad
has a garden as large as a London square and planted
with gay flowers, soaring palms, and eucalyptus. As a
garden, in a land where anything will grow with Eden
richness by the free use of water, it would not be worth
mentioning were it not that it is the only real garden in
a Cairo mosque. Very restful to the eye, against the blaze
of marbles.
El-Moayyad, with its open court and garden, is absolutely
lovely inside. It is distinguished by the immense screen of
massively carved dark wood which runs the entire length of its
liwân, and by the richness of its decoration; it has a glorious
painted roof; the marble panelling and plâtre ajourae and
arabesques of its long eastern wall are superb. The mimbar
is as richly inlaid as an Indian workbox; the mihrab stands
between glorious antique porphyry columns; the cool marbles
of the main columns and dikka make a refreshing note;
and perhaps the crowning touch is the grand gilt lettering

round the cornices. The stucco tracery of the windows
representing cypresses and arabesques is hardly to be
matched. The mosque may be a trifle too done up, but
it has more of the magnificence of a cathedral than any
mosque in Cairo.
As you mount up the winding street which leads from
the Bab-es-Zuweyla gate of El-Kahira to the main guard
of the Citadel your whole route is full of the colour of Egypt.
Right at the beginning of the street called here the Sharia
Derb-el-Ahmah is the entrance to the gay awninged Tent-makers'
Bazar, guarded by a tiny ruinous mosque of gay
masonry. Passing the brightly coloured wares of the
donkey-harness maker you soon come to a mosque built
across the street, Kismas-el-Ishaky. It is worth examining,
for it was built in the Egyptian Renaissance, the era of Kait
Bey, and its restorations are perfect though a little hard and
fresh. It is typical alike in its plan and its decorations,
a little gem of the fifteenth century. On its left as you
ascend the street it is connected with further buildings
by the most delightful open woodwork gallery in Cairo.
You pass on, and soon, where the street is renamed Sharia
el-Tabbana, you come to a delicious sebil of rather an unusual
pattern. It looks more like part of a mosque, but the voices
of the kuttab children intoning the Koran in the arched
upper chamber betray it. Its facade has charming old
arabesques and inscriptions on its dark masonry, and its
fountain chamber is lined with rich old blue tiles.
I used to halt and feast my eyes and meditate there
before I passed on to the wholly delectable Merdani mosque,
a little lower down the street on the right. The Merdani
mosque is one of the most precious relics of the fourteenth
century in Cairo. You can see it well; from up or down
the street you get its long line of walls built in echelon,
surmounted with Saracen battlements, pierced with most
picturesque Saracenic windows. Its stone is mellow, its
walls are bent with age.
El-Merdani has one special charm. Except El-Azhar
itself, it is almost the only mosque you can see into from the

street. If you walk up to its door, your eyes rest on its great
white sunny court, surrounded south, west, and north by elegant
colonnades in the old Saracen style, while the eastern side is
filled up to its stilted arches with a massive screen of carved
dark wood, many yards long. In its lofty colonnades, like the
aisles of a cathedral, there are always pious men lying prone
or sitting on their haunches, reading the Koran.
Behind that glorious screen is a very noble liwân, with
everything to satisfy the eye. The pulpit is very old, fantastic,
and rich; the delightful mihrab is as gay as a jewel
of the Pharaohs, with its blue enamel and mother-of-pearl
mosaics; there are many beautiful arabesques cut in the
mellow stone above the marble panelling of the walls. The
carpets are old, and soft, and fine; the dikka, standing on
twelve pillars, is just like the pulpit of Palermo or Siena, but
with carvings instead of a wealth of inlaid marbles; the
cupola is supported by granite pillars from an ancient
Egyptian temple; and the roof was painted in the fourteenth
century, with a stately Arabic inscription running round the
cornice below it.
The antique arches of the peristyle are stilted like the
Arabo-Norman arches of Palermo and Monreale, and in its
centre is the old, old fountain from Sultan Hassan's mosque.
Round the entrance doors are richly carved and coloured
arabesques. The outside of this mosque is very unspoiled;
its moresco windows, divided into twin lights by slender
shafts and filled in with pierced marble panels in the old
Cairo style, are delightful. They are not required to give
much light, as the mosque consists only of court and colonnades.
Exquisite as it is, El-Merdani left me still seeking for the
ideal place for solitary worship. It was too superb, too like a
temple to invite the simple-hearted.
A little below El-Merdani's mosque, and where the Sharia
el-Tabbana becomes the Sharia Bab-el-Wazir, is the Sha'ban
mosque, also of the fourteenth century, whose fine architecture,
when I entered it last, was obscured with the scaffolding of
the restorer. It was this Sha'ban, perhaps, who instituted the

sending of the royal equipage, represented now by the mahmal,
on the Mecca pilgrimage. At all events, her tomb is much
reverenced by Moslems. Ali, my dragoman, would never pass
it without going into the mosque to mutter a prayer. One of
the few charming wooden galleries left in Cairo, belonging to
a kuttab, connects it with the beautiful old Arab mansion,
which has a unique ka'ah, very dilapidated, lacking in some
of the important features, but with splendid meshrebiya and
the best kamariya, high lights of pierced plaster and coloured
glass, set like gems, of any room I saw in Cairo.
We saw this room, with its crumbling tessellated pavement
of rich marbles, by the courtesy of its owner, an Arab civil
servant, who saw us examining the beautiful courtyard of
his palace, whose door stood invitingly open. He came down
to the handsome recessed and arabesqued doorway of the
harem, and said that if we would wait a minute while he
warned its inmates to keep out of the way, he would be able
to take us over the ka'ah of his harem, which foreign artistes
always admired. There was a scuffle of slippered feet, and
then he called us up to see a noble chamber forty or fifty feet
long, with its floor and walls panelled with marble, and those
splendid meshrebiy'd and kamariya'd windows.
Nearly opposite this house is the famous Blue Mosque
which the natives call the Mosque of Ibrahim Agha, Ak-Sunkhur,
and various other names. Foreigners know it on account
of its wonderful blue tiles, and because the caretaker tries to
make them give up two mosque tickets if they wish to see the
tomb as well. The entire eastern wall of the mosque up to
the level of the windows is covered with blue tiles like the
interior of the Valideh mosque at Constantinople. Notice
the two singularly beautiful cypress-trees of the large panel,
the elegant cipollino balustrades of the liwân with their
charming arabesques in high relief, the pulpit of carved
marbles in faded colours, and the delicately carved arcading
of the mihrab. The dikka for reading the Koran is like the
pulpit of an unspoiled Arabo-Norman church in Sicily.
Kodakers love the red-and-white arcading of old stilted
arches round the irregular court of the great mosque; they

love its little palm-garden round the ancient fountain in the
centre. There is a pitiful something about this mosque: it is
so unrestored; it has such an air of semi-wild and gentle
decay. Next to it, quite in ruins, is a huge and splendid
mosque, the Kherbek, which has a picturesque washing-pool,
and, in the little bit saved from ruin for use as a mosque,
has an original window with soft old glass and a charming old
pulpit and dikka. The walls are panelled with tessellated
marbles like El-Bordeini. If it were restored judiciously
it would become an object of great beauty.
From here to the Bab-el-Wazir gate, and from thence
to where the Sharia el-Mager ends on the Citadel hill, the
whole street on its eastern side is a bewildering succession of
beautiful little mosques, with sculptured mameluke domes, and
other ancient buildings. There is no better bit in Cairo for
an artist who seeks mediaeval Oriental effects. The reader
must understand that the Sharia Derb-el-Ahmah, the Sharia
el-Tabbana, the Sharia Bab-el-Wazir and the Sharia el-Mager
are practically one long winding street leading from
the Bab-es-Zuweyla to the Citadel.
The walk down the hill past the Mahmudiya and Emir
Akhor's mosque to the two vast mosques of Sultan Hassan
and the Rifai'ya sect, under the shadow of the mighty Citadel,
is quite as beautiful in another way. But though each of
these mosques is a gem of colour and form, you do not get
the melee of old Oriental domes and houses, the feast of
fantastic curves and mellow masonry, which surrounds the
The two grand mosques of the Place Rumeleh are in size
and magnificence almost unequalled in Cairo. The El-Rifai'ya
mosque, to which I devote a separate chapter in another
volume, is a remarkably successful imitation of antique
masonry. It is hard to imagine that its gigantic walls, with
their sunken matrix-headed panels and their dignified
windows, are not coeval with the Sultan Hassan.'mosque
opposite, and an earthquake, by cracking the walls, has completed
the likeness. This mosque was to have been much
higher, for it was built to be the mausoleum of the reigning

family, but if the plans of the architect had been carried out
a very troublesome quarter of the city would have been
shielded from the guns of the Citadel. The Khedives have
always contemplated the possibility of having to turn the
guns of the Citadel on the city for the maintenance of their
Napoleon did turn the guns of the Citadel on the Cairenes,
and some of his cannon-balls caught, and are still embedded
in, the hundred-feet-high wall of the great mosque of Sultan
Hassan on the opposite side of the Sharia Mohammed Ali.
By many this is regarded as the finest building of the Western
Mohammedans. This is reflected in the Arab story about
Sultan Hassan having cut off the right hand of the architect
so that it might remain the finest building in the world.
The story is of course told of various other Arab chefs
Finished about 1360, this is really one of the noblest
mosques in existence. Elsewhere I have compared it to the
palace of the Popes at Avignon. It is far more impressive
than the Vatican. It covers a vast area; its walls, with their
tremendous battlements, are far over a hundred feet high.
The portal at which you enter at the top of a sweeping flight
of steps with a white marble balustrade is eighty feet high,
nearly as high as the arches of St. Peter's, and the head of its
sunken panel is decorated with the rich matrix ornament in
which the Arabs delight. The same ornament makes the
cupola'd hall into which you step dignified and beautiful.
The long, cool passage which leads to the mosque proper was
doubtless intended to be emblematic of its origin. It was
built, like the rest of the mosque, of stone purloined from the
Pyramids and has the characteristics of the passages in the
The sanctuary is in the old style, the eastern recess of a
courtyard surrounded by four great arches. Though it is
only the recess of a single archway it is nearly seventy feet
wide, ninety feet deep, and ninety feet high. It is very
simple; it owes its beauty to its vast red-and-white arches
with a grand Cufic inscription round each arch, to the marble

THE MARKET OF THE AFTERNOON: THE RAG AND METAL MARKET OF ARAB CAIRO, Held in the Place Mohammed Ali under the ramparts of the Citadel. It is here that one picks up the best bargains in old brass.

A BARROW RESTAURANT. With the ramparts of the Citadel behind. The Egyptian woman's black silk head-veil is very well shown.

panelling of its walls, to the richness of its chased bronze
Arab artificer, for, thanks to Lord Cromer, the premier
building of Islam is being restored to its former dignity.
Unless you have an expert with you there is little to be
gained by exploring this part of the mosque, but if you
can smother your aesthetic emotions there is much to be
gleaned from a visit to the tomb-chamber under the great
brick cupola, a hundred and seventy feet high, the finest
in shape and size of all the hundred domes in Cairo. It
is of the usual type, with the two-tiered altar tomb of the
founder, in a cage of massive oak bars eight feet high.
Here, too, under the dome are splendid Arabic inscriptions,
and under them the rich marble panelling which the Arab
copied from the Norman of Sicily. The matrix and pendentive
ornamentation of the cut angles on which the vast dome
rests were very rich and beautiful in their day. They were
made with wood and leather and masses of colour. One
corner has been restored to show what it will look like, and it
left the impression on me that the restorations will look
crude for another hundred years, which was probably exactly
as the mosques looked when they were new. But it is
distressing to the eye accustomed to the artistic restorations
of Italy; no one could tell what is old and what is new on
the south front of St. Mark's; which reminds me of old
Nosy the Italian barber who used to cut my hair at Geelong.
Signor Noseda, for that was his real name, though no one
ever called him by it, used to ask all his customers, “Shall
I cut your hair to look as if it had been cut a week?” It
would be well if the restorers of Sultan Hassan's mosque
would try and make it look as if it had been restored for a
Just off the Sharia Mohammed Ali, a little below the
Governorat, are two other notable mosques, Sitt' Safiya,
which was built in 1604, and is supposed by the Egyptians of
to-day to earn its name from a resemblance to the great
mosque of Santa Sofia in Constantinople, whereas it is
really called after the Venetian wife of Sultan Amurath III.
It was built by one of her eunuchs, but the Validê Safiya
took the credit of it as Henry VIII. took the credit of

Cardinal Wolsey's Christ Church and Hampton Court.
It stands at the head of an imposing flight of steps, and
should certainly be seen, because it differs from all the
other mosques of Cairo in its rather elegant arrangements
and decorations, and has a fine flavour of antiquity about
it, though it is only half as old as most of the finest mosques.
If Sitt' Safiya only owes its name to a Sultana its pulpit at
any rate is copied from Santa Sofia. It is the finest sculptured
marble pulpit in Cairo. The mihrab here is lined
with fine blue Persian tiles. Domes are the feature of Sitt'
Safiya: there are half a dozen minor domes clustered round
the charmingly arranged central dome with its elegant
gallery. The dikka is of meshrebiya work, of which there
is a good deal in this mosque.
It is, however, extremely difficult to tell the age of any
Arab building by its architecture, for their architects often
built in the style of two or three centuries earlier, and Arabs
never restore anything, so that a flavour of decay and antiquity
is easily acquired. All the mosques in Cairo which
have been restored owe their restoration to English influence.
Among them there is no more conspicuous instance than
the exquisite little mosque of El-Bordeini, built A.D. 1630 in
the style of the fifteenth century and restored in 1885.
Nowhere in Cairo except in one mosque in the Citadel is
the Sicilian-Norman marble-panelling of walls more beautifully
imitated: it has a richly painted raftered roof in the
style of the Kait Bey mosques, and windows of the pierced
plaster-work, set with fragments of coloured glass, in which
the Arabs excel. The pulpit is of the carved and inlaid
and overlaid dark wood used in the screens of the old
Coptic churches and cost, it is said, four thousand pounds.
The mihrab or Mecca niche is very rich and the minaret
is a fantasia in stone; hardly any mosque in Cairo is so
richly decorated.
The Kesun mosque in the Sharia Mohammed Ali, a
little below Sitt' Safiya, founded in 1330, was almost the
finest in Cairo till Ismail Pasha cut the Sharia Mohammed
Ali right through it.
One might have excused this piece of vandalism for
the sake of the mile-long view of the majestic Citadel if
Ismail had only left as it was the part of the mosque which
had not to be pulled down. Instead of this he rebuilt it
in a sort of Early Victorian way, leaving hardly a trace of
its original grandeur. It was a mosque of the type of El-Merdani.
The first important street between this and the Citadel
called successively the Sharia Serugiya, the Sharia el-Mag-harbilin
and the Sharia Kasabet Radowan contains a
number of charming little mosques and zawiyas on its
right-hand side, generally with elegant sculptured domes
of the Mameluke period. I never succeeded in getting into
any of them, because they are only open when they are
being used for prayers, and no one in the neighbourhood
ever knew who kept the key, even when they were cross-questioned
by my pertinacious Ali. It is quite likely that
they were not worth going into. These less important
mosques are generally decorated in the crudest way inside
with aniline colour washes. The lower-class Arabs seldom
have any taste.
The same remarks might be applied to the mosques of
the long street called in its various parts Sharia Bab-el-Bahr,
Sûk-el-Khasher, Sûk-es-Zalat and Sharia el-Emir-el-Giyûchi.
There are several delightful-looking old mosques in this street,
and one of them at any rate has satisfactory architectural
features inside, but the colour washes used inside those
which I was able to visit were generally appalling. There
is one exception—a mosque situated just off the main street
in a cul-de-sac, very difficult to find, that of Abu Bekr Mazhar
el-Ansari. This is one of the best small mosques in Cairo,
and can best be reached from a turn on the left-hand side
of the Sharia el-Marguchi, which is a continuation of the
Sharia en-Nahassin as you go towards the mosque of El-Hakim.
It is a mosque of the Kait Bey type built in 1480.
It has one of the finest pulpits in Cairo, made in the Coptic
style of dark wood, with ivory inlays carved with extraordinary
delicacy and with ivory matrix work round its canopy, and

delicate ivory mosaics on the door at the foot of its stair.
None of the painted ceilings of Cairo mosques are more
unspoiled, hardly any is so beautiful, and its dikka, in the
style of the music galleries in our mansions of the fifteenth
century, is a most charming affair supported on brackets with
fine matrix carving. The walls and pavement are panelled
in the Sicilian-Norman style with tessellated marbles, in
which porphyry and verde antico are the chief ornaments.
It has two liwâns with three elegant stilted arches, and
its restored windows of plâtre ajouré set with coloured glass
are very effective. Not only is the mosque itself unique in
type, very beautiful and very unrestored, but it is surrounded
by picturesque and interesting old houses.
I now come to another group of mosques which I may call
the Gamaliya group, and in which the Abu Bekr mosque
might almost be included. The rest are disappointing
because the Gamaliya and the streets leading off it form with
their houses one of the most unspoiled bits of mediaeval Cairo,
but do not contain a single mosque to rave over. The finest
mosque of the Gamaliya is closed and at present in ruins, but
it looked to me capable of being restored to a worthy rival of
El-Moayyad and El-Merdani. The mosque of Sultan Beybars
on the opposite side of the road is of high antiquity; it was
founded in 1308, but it is in a very uninteresting condition;
its restorations in its six centuries of existence have all been
In the mass of ruins between the Gamaliya and the Sharia
En-Nahassin there are the ruins of two or three fine mosques,
one of which, almost opposite the Barkukiya, is being restored
and looks as if it might be made beautiful.
In this group must be included the great old mosque of El-Hakim,
the fourth in antiquity of the mosques of Cairo, for it
was founded in 1012 and restored in 1359. It is of great
size. It is interesting as being the most ancient in form of
the mosques of El-Kahira, the city of Gohar, for El-Azhar,
which was founded thirty years earlier, has been restored out
of recognition, though it preserves a few bits of its original
fabric. It stood outside the walls of El-Kahira, being a

formidable fortress in itself, though it is inside the walls of
Saladin, midway between his two great gates, the Bab-en-Nasr
and the Bab-el-Fûtûh. It is perhaps due to its position
that its minarets are not true minarets but mabkharas,
structures like the pylons of the ancient Egyptian temples.
This mosque is spoiled by the factories and so on established
in its interior. It is of the same type as Ibn Tulun, having
long arcades of stilted arches resting on piers; its liwân,
which formerly sheltered the Cairo museum, is now used for
storing thousands of the large lanterns used in Mohammedan
festivals. There are a good many inscriptions on the walls.
From the mosque of El-Hakim it is natural to pass to the
mosque of Ibn Tulun, though it is in the Katai quarter, more
than two miles away, for they are built in the same style.
El-Azhar, the University of Islam, must be left to a separate
On the road to Katai one may take in the old street called
the Hilmiya, which runs out from the Sharia Mohammed Ali
to the Chikkun mosque, and is rather noted for its Dervish
tekkes. Here is the delightful old mosque called El-Mas,
which makes one more in love with the simple beauty of
Mohammedan worship than any other mosque I know. It
stands rather below the level of the road. It is very old,
built in 1330; its gracious little dome and minaret, its deeply
recessed entrance, and its windows look as if they were
covered with lace, so exquisite is the plaster fretwork with
which their masonry is decorated. Their whole form is lovely
and antique, and the thoroughfare is quiet and dignified.
When we entered the mosque our impression of delight was
heightened. The courtyard is so peaceful and old and
beautiful. It is one of those mosques which only consists of
courtyards and colonnades separated by low balustrades of
stone, so we could watch the worshippers easily without
disturbing them, and they were so pious and wrapt that it was
not difficult to photograph them unobserved. Its shafted
windows are filled with lovely old carved and pierced teak;
its columns are Roman monoliths of cippolino marble; its
stilted arches are braided with arabesques; its walls are

arabesqued too, and its liwân has a screen like El-Merdani.
The colonnade round the front court is delightful; the dikka,
like an ancient Norman pulpit, with eight columns, is on the
top of the screen; the mihrab is old and fretted; a richly
painted but perishing Arab inscription runs round the cornice,
and in the court there is a fair fountain. The tomb-chamber
is quite unrestored and has a rare old mihrab with very rich
This mosque was full of the pious at prayer and meditation
in every attitude of devotion. Every one was silent
except the birds. The mosque has two serious rivals—Dervish
tekkes. The beautiful gateway, numbered 7, which
we passed on our way to it from the Sharia Mohammed Ali,
belongs to the tekke where the Dervishes could till recently
be seen dancing every Friday. Ali, my dragoman, gave it a
pregnant definition, “Turkish people, tall hats, sleep here.”
The tekke has a courtyard like Santa Caterina at Taormina,
and a praying platform; it is quite a mosque really; it has
some lovely old Roman columns with matrix arches springing
from them and a charming court with a big vine all over it
and a garden like an Arab cemetery. There were mastabas
all round under the colonnade with men lying on them. In
the summer the Dervishes sleep on them. The gate has a tall,
narrow portal like a bath, with an inscription in a very
beautiful and curious writing on it under the matrix-headed
A little beyond the El-Mas mosque at No. 33 Sharia Es-Siyûfiya
is a fifteenth-century Dervish tekke with delightful
fretted stone-work outside. The Dervish monastery behind
has a cloister round a palm-garden with a fountain in the
centre and a vine-arbour in front of the closed tekke and
fountain of lustration. There is a picturesque outside stair
leading up to the gallery. Here, too, all the Dervishes were
Turks. Leaning against the door, taking no more notice of
us than if he had been a statue, in his striped dress and
Dervish hat was a Dervish of the sleepy Turkish type looking
like a caricature of the late Sultan. Both the minaret and the
dome have charmingly fretted stone panels. I had often

passed the tekke, taking it for an ordinary mosque. Close
here, too, is the Mohammediya school, chiefly interesting to
strangers as having a lovely four-arched antique mak'ad or
court arcade. The exquisite little loggia on the street must,
I suppose, belong to the same house.
And soon after this you find yourself beside the gorgeous
new sebil of the Abbasides, the Khedivial family, and the
famous Chikkun mosque, which is now two mosques, though it
is spoken of as one. The southern building, though it is one
of the most charming and typical mosques in Cairo, is seldom
visited by foreigners.
It is very old, founded in the fourteenth century, and the
best portions of it have not been restored. Added to this it
is of an unusual form, it is a popular place of worship, and it
contains the best Dervish tekke left in the capital.
I loved it from the moment that, after threading a passage,
I entered its paved triangular courtyard, graced with a
tumble-down old fountain of clear water and shady trees,
and came to the long side of the triangle formed by the open
liwân, an adorable place, with deep colonnades of antique
stilted arches and an antique painted roof, which looked none
the less picturesque because it was left in its pristine state
and fading and perishing in parts. The long liwân was richly
carpeted. My eye wandered from pulpit and mihrab to the
iron gates, through which one could see the chambers of the holy men—the old Dervishes. They had little furniture
except fine praying carpets, and their water-bottles. The
Dervishes inside, walking about and muttering (prayers I
suppose) or lying down, and resting on their elbows to read
the Koran, glared at us resentfully, looking like caged lions.
But it appeared that they had no objection to our seeing
over their quarters, for when we had finished with the mosque
the attendant who had provided us with over-slippers asked if
we should like to see the tekkiya and conducted us through
the old men's little court and handsome mandara or reception-hall
to their chambers, where they received us with perfect
politeness but cold dignity. For an artist wishing to paint a
fine liwân with a beautiful court, fountain, and trees and

open air in front of it, there is no mosque in Cairo better than
the southern Chikkun mosque. This is a good mosque also
for seeing the pious poor at worship. It is not so easy to find
the pious rich praying, because they do it at home. The
Egyptian attaches no extra value to prayers offered in a
The northern Chikkun mosque is not popular with worshippers;
it is altogether rather deserted, but it has interesting
features, such as the three black glasses twenty-four inches by
twelve, and extraordinarily thick, which came from Mecca in
some such way as the miraculously transported column of
El-Amr. Its beauty arises chiefly from neglect. It retains
its old marble pavement; it has a pleasing and wholly unrestored
painted roof; it has curious old tiles in its mirhab
which have grown fewer year by year. And the meshrebiya
cage for its tomb and plâtre ajouré of its antique windows
are very, very quaint.
The mosque of Ibn Tulun, finished in 878, is delightful; it
is far the oldest building in Cairo which retains its ancient
form in anything like completeness, and it is also vast,
majestic, and picturesque. It belongs to a different city, which
was city and citadel in itself before El-Kahira was founded
or the Citadel of Saladin dreamed of. It stands on high
ground between the Citadel and Old Cairo .
Its walled-in height was called the Castle of the Air and
the Fortress of the Ram. Ibn Tulun himself, the first
independent Caliph of Egypt, called it Katai, the wards. All
round it were grouped his fabulously rich palace, the cantonments
of his troops, the palaces of his Emirs, his race-course,
and the very necessary fortifications. Extensive traces of
these last are visible still. He determined to build a mosque
that should be the finest in the world, in the style of the two
great sanctuaries of Islam at Mecca and Kairwan. To build
it he employed a Christian slave who, thinking that if he
employed columns, every church in Egypt would be robbed
to supply them, conceived the idea of substituting brick piers
covered with the marvellous Arab cement, which is as indestructible
as stone. The Caliph allowed him to carry out his

ideas, and between 876 and 878 the mosque was completed,
being opened in 879.
The glory of Arab plaster-work is that instead of being
hideous, like the stucco of the baroque architect, it has the
graciousness of marble. While it is wet they carve it into the
delicate fretwork which looks like lace netted out of threads
of stone. This is applied either to the decoration of solid
surfaces or for the formation of windows with light and air
passing through the crevices; this, the plâtre ajouré of the
French, sometimes has its crevices filled with gems of coloured
glass. Columns can be made of it which have the finish
and durability of marble; arches can be moulded in it as
beautiful as the ogive arches of Venetian windows. This is
the material in which the gloriously beautiful inscriptions in
Cufic or old Arabic characters stand out so splendidly in the
mosques of Cairo. The Arab owes his mastery over sculpturing
in plaster, to working at it like a fresco painter before
it sets. And the mosque of Ibn Tulun is a veritable museum
of every phase of this conjuring in plaster, most of which
has defied the elements for a thousand years.
There we have it. The greatest and most romantic of the
mosques of Cairo standing on its hill-side a thousand years
Until the English came and decreed its salvation, it was
built over with all sorts of unsightly habitations for paupers
and was a regular Lazare House. Now we have it in its
original outlines if not its original splendour. It was time
the English came. Only in the last few years the panels of
the pulpit of 1297 were removed to the South Kensington
Museum and replaced by unworthy successors.
The mosque of Ibn Tulun is glorious whether you see it in
a fierce Egyptian noon, when the shadows are bright purple
against the glare of the sunlight on the sand; or at sunset,
when the courts are flooded with the light from the west and
you see magic from the gallery of the minaret. There is a
great ruined rampart round its battlemented walls with a
broad waste between. A flight of steps sweeps up into one
of those long quiet arcades. The bays of the liwân are

outlined with great piers, whose fantastically stilted arches are
bordered with rich arabesques. Along its back wall is a
clerestory of hundreds of those lace-like windows of plâtre ajouré,
with white light filtering through. Some, alas, are
falling into decay. Twenty yards to the left of the pulpit is a
mihrab of that plâtre ajouré so perished that it looks like a
moth-eaten Oriental shawl. The mimbar has the airiest woodwork
of them all—a grated criss-cross, and all so perishing.
On every side are mighty spaces, and the hoary lace-work of
sculptured plaster. Here again the chrysanthemum or sun-disk
emblem is much in evidence.
The mosque of Ibn Tulun is superlative. Its size is so
splendid; it has such a broad Alhambra and Kairwan effect,
and the dome in its centre is charming. More than any other
building, it shows the marvellous “capabilities” of plaster,
so majestic, so enduring, so lovely. And now I come to
the minaret of many legends. It is like a round lighthouse,
with a spiral stair winding round it, rising from a square
tower. It is not a pure minaret, but a mabkhara of the pylon
type something like those of the El-Hakim mosque. It
owes its peculiar shape, according to legend, to the fact
that it was Ibn Tulun's boast that he never wasted time.
One day his Vizier caught him making a spiral with a piece
of paper. Rather than admit that he was idle he said that
the spiral was to be the model for his new minaret.
Be that as it may, its shape is unique; and what a view
there is from it at sunset. Near in there are ancient palaces
and gardens, a few left perfect, the majority in the throes
of destruction by the jerry-builder. Their very destruction
is instructive, for you get sections of harems like the plans
in books about Pompeii. Mosques and minarets are dotted
all round, but not in hundreds; only one here and there,
mostly embellished by decay. In the long street outside
almost overhanging the mosque walls, are stately old
mansions with vast projecting harem windows enveloped
in rich screens of meshrebiya, browned and warped by
centuries. Farther afield, on one side is the vast expanse
of modern Cairo bounded by the Nile, a blue ribbon; the

desert, a brown cloak spread upon the ground; and the
Pyramids purple against the overpowering Egyptian sunset.
It is good to see the Pyramids from the ancient hill where
the ark is said to have grounded, and Abraham to have
found the ram caught in the thicket, sent by the Lord to
save the life of Isaac. To this day the embattled brow of Ibn
Tulun's hill is called the Fort of the Ram.
But for pure physical delight all this is as nothing when
you turn your back on the sunset to see the picture it
paints on the east. First you have the thousand-year-old
arcade and the arabesques flooded with liquid gold, and
behind that you have the fantastic domes and minarets
and altars of the Tombs of the Mamelukes and Saladin's
Citadel carried up to heaven by the towering dome, and
minarets of Mehemet Ali's mosque, dyed a wonderful colour
that is not gold and is not pink and is not orange and is
not purple but is the essence of them all. And away in
the distance, with the skeleton of a mosque on the skyline,
are the grim Mokattams, the mountains which are the overlords
of Cairo.
From Ibn Tulun's mosque it is natural to turn to the
only mosque in Cairo of still more ancient foundation,
the mosque built by El-Amr, who conquered Egypt for Islam.
In its foundation it is one of the oldest mosques in Islam,
having been founded in 643, but it was rebuilt in the
fifteenth century and has often been restored since on
account of the prophecy that, with its destruction, Egypt
would be lost to Islam. Like Ibn Tulun's, it is built round
an open court, but only the single colonnade on the entrance
side and the liwân of six aisles remain. The two side
colonnades have fallen. The courtyard is like a bit of
the desert with a nice old fountain and two ancient palms
in its centre. The liwân is as venerable as anything in
Egypt, with its six rows of antique marble columns, which
have all done duty in temples of Greek and Roman Egypt,
and not a few of them in churches as well. This mosque
is full of pathetic touches, with the fallen columns of its
courtyard, its air of desertedness—it is so seldom used

for regular worship—and its evidences of superstition and
What could be more pathetic than the sort of antique
altar, with its two little columns worn into holes the size of a
cuttle-fish because generations of mothers have rubbed those
spots with lemon so that their babies might cry when their
mouths were held to it; for if they went away from Amr's
Mosque without a cry they might be dumb?
Close by the entrance again are a pair of columns so close
that a man can hardly squeeze through them. Every good
Mohammedan was supposed to squeeze through them. When
the custom was prevalent many miracles must have been
needed if adipose was as common in the Cairo Arab as it is
Outside this grand old mosque is only a low whitewashed
wall with two plaster minarets like stumpy lighthouses.
Such a poor old red-and-white striped affair, so modern.
One is unprepared for that fierce Kairwan square and that
forest of noble arches behind.
I have purposely left to the end the mosque which of
all those in Cairo itself comes nearest to our preconceived
ideas, that of Kait Bey in the city, not to be confused with
his exquisite mosque out in the Tombs of the Caliphs.
It is difficult to find. It lies away behind the mosque
of Ibn Tulun, whose long battlemented wall has to be
skirted. After this you find yourself in an old street with
the best overhanging meshrebiya'd harem windows in Cairo.
Few foreigners must visit it, for the people in the quarter,
which is a very low one, almost mob a stranger yelling
for bakshish. But when you
do get to the mosque you are amply repaid: it is the most perfect in conception
and condition of all the fifteenth-century mosques of Cairo
and is the most richly decorated.
It is the Mohammedan-renaissance type of mosque,
resembling the mandara or reception-hall of a palace,
with a cupola over the durka'a in the centre, a liwân at
each end, and hardly any colonnading at the sides; the
floor of its durka'a is resplendent with tessellated marbles;

the great single arches which divide the liwâns from it
are of striped stone pleasantly mellowed; the side walls
are decorated with various types of graceful arches delightfully
fretted and full of all the architectural ornament in
which the Saracens delighted. The two liwâns have the
paintings of their four-hundred-years-old ceilings quite unspoiled,
delicious masses of soft, rich colouring. The pulpit is
a chef-d'oeuvre of hardwood carved and inlaid in the Coptic
style: it is said to have cost a thousand pounds four hundred
years ago.
The charm of this chef-d'oeuvre of Kait Bey lies in its
exquisitely harmonious proportions, its extraordinary wealth
of architectural ornament, and its soft old colouring. The
marble panelling of its walls is worthy of Sicily. Columns
play only a small part in the scheme, but the matrix and
pendentive ornaments are used with wonderful effect; every
useless angle has been cut off to make room for pendentives.
I must not close this chapter without an allusion to the
perfect mosque of this same Kait Bey out in the Tombs of the
Caliphs, where there are no surrounding buildings to interfere
with its effect. The admirably restored interior has lost the
mellow sanctuary effect of the Kait Bey mosque in the city,
but the exterior for harmony and airy grace and Saracenic
poetry of conception is unmatched even in Cairo; it is
absolutely delightful from the broad flight of steps that
lead up to its graceful porch to the arcaded belvedere in
the corner, the fretted mameluke dome and the fantastic
minaret. The mosques of Cairo form a book of poetry in
stone which is without a match.

El-Azhar, the University of the Mohammedan

THE mosques of Cairo are like the colleges of Oxford.
Both began as half religious, half educational foundations,
though religion is dying of decline in the Western city
and education in the Eastern.
It is a far cry from the city on the banks of the Isis to the
river, on whose banks the other Isis was the Madonna in
the primæval days, when the world looked to Egypt for
illumination in religion. The world of those days meant
the countries which had the Mediterranean for their highway.
But there is another world, which stretches from the sunrise
in the south of Asia to the sunset in the north of Africa—from
Yünnan in China to Morocco, which still looks to
Egypt as the fountain-head of Mohammedan learning. In
the vast and ancient mosque of El-Azhar at Cairo is a
University of nearly ten thousand students from every
corner of Islam. Nor is this the only mosque devoted to
education. Every mosque in Cairo which is not a mere
tomb is a college, and if their dormitories for students
are not like Oxford rooms, a cell over which the sun cannot
tyrannise is all the Oriental asks, especially where he is
not called upon for fees, and may even receive a daily dole
of bread.
The resemblance between the quadrangles of learning in
Cairo and the quadrangles of learning at Oxford is heightened
when one compares their buildings. For the magic of the
Middle Ages is enshrined in both.
But there is one prime difference between them, that
whereas the colleges of Oxford have lost all trace of having
been founded for the poor, all Moslem mosques, universities,
colleges, and schools are more or less charities.
Mr. Margoliouth, the greatest scholar that Oxford ever produced,
in his learned book on Cairo, Jerusalem, and Damascus,
derived from Arab sources, and published by Chatto & Windus
a year or two ago, gives the following account of the foundation
of El-Azhar, the principal University of the Mohammedan
world, which is established in a vast and ancient mosque at
“One of the earliest cares of Jauhar, the conqueror of Egypt,
for the Fatimides, was to build a mosque for public worship,
and this project was the commencement of the famous Al-Azhar.
It took about two years to erect, and was finished
June 14, 972. It was not at first a literary institution any
more than any other mosque; all such places had from the beginning
of Islam served as rendezvous for savants, and places
where those who undertook to interpret the Koran or recite
traditions could establish themselves. The line between
religious and secular studies was not drawn during the early
centuries of Islam; men made circles in the mosques for the
purpose of reciting verses, or telling literary anecdotes, as
well as for instruction of a more decidedly edifying character.
The first mosque ever built in Islam, that of the prophet at
Medinah, had served a number of purposes, for which separate
buildings were deemed necessary in more specialising days:
it had not only been church and school, but town hall,
hospice, and hospital as well. Since politics and religion
could not be kept distinct, the mosque was the place where
announcements of importance respecting the commonwealth
might be made. The ideas connected with it in some ways
resembled those which attach to a church, in others were
more like those which are connected with a synagogue, but
the peculiar evolution of Islam furnished it with some which
those other buildings do not share.
“The person who conceived the idea of turning the first
mosque of the new city into a university was the astute

convert from Judaism who had suggested to the Fatimide
sovereign that the time was ripe for the conquest of Egypt,
and had been rewarded for his advice by being made vizier.
… In 967 he embraced Islam, and took into his house a
tutor who could give him regular instruction in the matters
which a Moslem gentleman should know. Once vizier, he
followed the example of many who had previously held that
high office in becoming a patron of learning and belles lettres;
on Thursday evenings he regularly held a salon in his house
for the recitation of his own compositions but also for the
reunion of all the savants of Cairo.
“The notion, however, of Jacob, son of Killis, in encouraging
learning was somewhat deeper than that which had
inspired many other viziers. Since the Fatimide dynasty
had succeeded in virtue of its religious claims, it was necessary
to provide for its maintenance by a body of literature comparable
with that which the supporters of the rival Caliph
could display, and which enjoyed widespread respect and
authority owing to the long series of venerated names
concerned with its composition and perpetuation. These
authoritative books once provided, and arrangements being
made whereby their study could be encouraged and maintained,
no mean dam would be provided against inundation
from without. The books, therefore, he composed himself;
the University was to secure that they should be properly
studied and interpreted.
“In 988, when the second Fatimide Caliph was reigning,
Jacob Ibn Killis requested his master to provide a grant for
the maintenance of a fixed number of scholars. The Caliph
Aziz assented; provisions were made for thirty-five students,
and a house adjoining Jauhar's mosque secured for lodging.
“Thus began Al-Azhar, whose name is thought to have
been selected out of compliment to the supposed foundress of
the Fatimide line, Fatimah, honourably called Al-Zahra (the
luminous), of which Azhar is the masculine. This year's
statistics give 9,758 as the present number of students, with
317 professors. At times the numbers of both have been still
There seems to be a consensus of opinion that El-Azhar
cannot be taken very seriously as a means of general education.
Lord Cromer upon this point quotes Hughes's “Dictionary
of Islam.” The chief aim and object of education
in Islam, Hughes says, “is to obtain a knowledge of the
religion of Mohammed, and anything beyond this is considered
superfluous and even dangerous.” And commenting upon
this Lord Cromer makes this caustic confession as to his own
action: “Under these circumstances, it was clear to the
British reformer that the education imparted at the famous
University of El-Azhar could not be utilised to raise the
general standard of education in Egypt.”
He therefore left that institution alone, and the editor of one
of the leading Arabic newspapers in Cairo declared to me in
1908 that the only use he could see in El-Azhar was that its
students were exempted from the conscription. It is a fact
that the so-called Liberal party in Egypt has for one of its
planks the reform of El-Azhar into an active means of education.
There are at the present moment over three hundred
professors and ten thousand students—the latter come from
all parts of the Mohammedan world. The students are much
better treated than the professors from our point of view, for
they get their board and lodging free, and some of them
get doles of money; whereas the professors of El-Azhar are
many of them not as well paid as the ordinary working-man.
But some of them, judging from their appearance—their
prosperous look and grand purple robes—whom I saw at the
Khedivial reception when the Mahmal came back from
Mecca, and at the Sheikh El-Bekri's pavilion at the Molid of
the Prophet, must be quite well off, judged by these standards.
The head of El-Azhar is called the Sheikh of Islam. The
students spend three, four, or six years at the University; the
professors are called sheikhs. I have several times watched
the students at El-Azhar, and each time was more convinced
that the El-Azhar of to-day is like Oxford or Paris in the
Middle Ages. There is of course great similarity in the subjects
taught, for at Oxford six or seven hundred years ago the
theological philosophy of the nominalists and realists was the

only thing that signified, a most elementary knowledge of the
three R's sufficed; and at El-Azhar to-day they are taught
little but Mohammedan dogma. The ordinary information
they receive is very meagre.
Also I imagine that the actual way of teaching in the
Oxford of those days must have been very similar to what I
saw at El-Azhar, though I do not suppose that Friar Bacon
sat cross-legged on the top of a chair that looks more suitable
for a washing-stand—the best comparison I can find for the
dikkas on which the professors of El-Azhar sit when they do
not take a more congenial seat on the ground. There is a
professor with a class to every pillar in the liwân, and there
are a hundred and forty of them. The other hundred and
eighty professors take their classes wherever they can find
room to sit down. Furniture is of no consequence to the
Arab, who really prefers to sit on the ground.
It is a very curious sight to go into a building like El-Azhar
and see thousands of men and boys employed in
intellectual pursuits sitting on the ground or lying on their
sheepskins, some under the sky, some in the various arcades.
Very often only the teacher has a book. The boys, where
they have anything at all, seem to have detached leaves and
quires of books. They write industriously on “slates” of tin
or yellow wood. They are not all learning: many of them
are lying about sleeping or eating the dole of bread they
receive from the University. They take their boots off at
the door, but as it would be hopeless for any porter to try and
look after ten thousand pairs of boots, they carry them in
with them and stand them on the ground beside them while
they are attending lectures, or studying, or resting, or sleeping.
If they were not so desperately in earnest it really would
be rather funny, this spectacle of a class of grown-up men
squatting on the ground, with their boots and their bread and
their water-bottles beside them, scribbling down on tin slates
the remarks of a man seated on the ground like themselves,
and seemingly poorer than any of them. The Sheikh or
Professor reads from a sacred book, and explains each phrase.
When a student knows a book by heart he receives a written

permission to deliver lectures in his turn. Law as well as
religion is taught at El-Azhar, for Mohammedan law is
administered in the Kadi's Courts, an anachronism which
has been allowed to survive as a concession to Mohammedan
feeling. The post of assistant-kadi is much coveted.
The doors of El-Azhar are always open. You can see the
life of the University from the street, but you cannot enter
if you are a Christian without being at once surrounded by
attendants, who demand your mosque ticket, and when you
have given that up, and written your name, and had your
overshoes put on, you are very closely attended while you
are walking about, and rather hurried through unless you are
with a resident who is acquainted with his rights. The last
time I went to El-Azhar I went with the editor of an Arab
paper, and found it made all the difference in the world.
We were allowed to stay as long as we liked everywhere, and
were shown things I had never seen before. Each Moslem
nation is entitled to have its own apartments and own
teacher or teachers at El-Azhar. I stopped to see students
from Morocco, Somaliland, Turkey, and India being taught.
One of the students of Morocco was a man a good deal over
sixty. I inquired through my friend why such an old man was
going through a University course. I thought he might be
the sheikh of a Morocco mosque, but he said that it was not
so, that he lived at Mogador, which is on the west coast, and
that he had come to El-Azhar because it was the only place
where the epexegesis of the Koran was satisfactory. I
wonder what epexegesis was in Arabic! But I was very
much impressed with the earnestness of this old man, who
looked very poor. The Turks a few yards on were young
and wealthy-looking, and one of them was singularly beautiful.
I asked my friend if he could find out something about
this boy—was he the son of a Circassian harem beauty?
But whether he was of too high rank or what, he did not
seem inclined to answer any questions. When we came to
the place where the Somali were being taught, they fled
upstairs to their dormitory at the first question.
El-Azhar is so like and so unlike Oxford. The great

quadrangle and porter's lodge, the notice-board at the door—these
were like Oxford, but the quadrangle, full of squatting
and reclining students, was more like a Japanese wrestling-booth,
and the fantastic minarets, the most fantastic in Cairo,
formed an incongruous element. It was very noisy, for the
Moslem boy repeats his lessons aloud while he is learning
them, and sways his head and body all the time. Some of
the classes were of very small boys, and there were both little
girls and little boys at them. The girls are on the increase;
but they must not speak—they are only allowed to listen.
The lecture-hours in the morning are from nine to one, and
they begin again at 1.30. Work, however, did not seem to
be proceeding arduously. Until the age of fifteen the
students are only allowed to learn to read the Koran.
After that they may take a scientific course. It is only
quite lately that the boys have been allowed to come in
tarbûshes instead of turbans. Most of the boys are dressed
in black, but a few wear white. The red-and-yellow slippers
of Islam are largely in evidence. All the students use the
brass Turkish inkpots. Their books, where they have any,
have only a narrow line of text on the right of the page; the
broad part on the left is commentary. Generally, as I have
said, they have to be content with a few leaves. Although
no one is allowed to wear boots in El-Azhar, the stone of
the pavement is as worn and as polished as ivory.
El-Azhar is an enormous building, as may be imagined,
and its buildings are of all ages, from that of Sultan Jauhar,
who founded the mosque in 970-972, to the present Khedive,
who has built rather a handsome mosque for it, which reminded
me of our school chapels. It is not much used: the
Mohammedan does not need a chapel. The oldest parts are
therefore getting on for a thousand years old. They are
built of the extraordinarily durable Arab plaster. The
mihrab is original, and probably the cupola of it also. Their
plâtre ajouré is almost filled up with the whitewash of many
centuries. There are some other pieces of plaster-work,
which appear to be of about the same age, scattered about
the liwân. The courtyard, which is made rather picturesque

by the split Arab battlements, has been recently done up.
There is, as might be expected, a Kait Bey building in
El-Azhar—a beautiful little mosque. There is also, opposite
a street entrance to the liwân, a magnificent building of the
Kait Bey period, with the finest exterior of any palace in
Cairo, which is now an okelle, or tenement house. This
clearly ought to be acquired by the University for a students'
boarding-house, because they have not sufficient accommodation
for all their students; and so noble a building, with its
grand recessed portal, fretted façade, and beautiful window
arches, should be devoted to some public purpose. It
was a perfect delight to stand by the open door opposite
and look into the liwân, with its forest of marble antique
columns and its graceful stilted arches, and its old, old carved
ark pulpit, always looking so shaded and cool, no matter
how fierce the sun was outside; always full of earnest
students with such bright, intelligent faces, and some of
them so intent, kneeling in rings round their teachers. It
was easy here to realise the force of the saying of Solomon
“Black but comely.” Sometimes the even tenor of the
scene was broken by something strange, such as the group
of princes, in bright striped burnouses, from the shores of
Lake Chad, who took their lecture standing. Once I saw
about twenty Abyssinians drawn up in two rows like military
drill. One thing I noticed in particular was that their religion
seemed an absolute bond of Freemasonry between them;
another was the universality of the Arab language in various
dialects; for, different as these dialects may be, the language
serves as a common meeting-ground. It was quite a shock
for me to pass from the liwân and the battlemented court
packed with Oriental humanity, into the office, a purely
western room with a telephone.

Old Cairo and the Wonderful Coptic Churches
of Babylon

OLD Cairo is not a mere term of effect. It is not a
summarisation of mediaeval remains—it is the name
of the quarter of the city built on the fringe of the Roman
fortress and the original capital of the Caliphs. This original
capital was not called Cairo—Amr-ibn-el-Asi, the victorious
general of the Caliph Omar, who conquered Egypt in A.D. 638
called it Fustat, perhaps from the leather tent which he used
while he was besieging the Roman fortress, though etymologists
believe that the name is the Byzantine corruption of the
Roman fossatum—an entrenched camp.
Old Cairo itself is of no great interest except as a rather
unspoiled patch of native life with quaint little mosques. But
it is surrounded with bonnes bouches for the kodaker and the
It stands right on the Nile. Men, women, and children,
primitive enough in their simplicity for the wilds of Upper
Egypt, swarm down its steep bank into the battered gyassa
which is to take them across the swift current to the village
of Gizeh, which gives its name and nothing more to the
Right under the bank is the island of Roda, where, according
to tradition (and to be near enough to Cairo), Moses was
found in the bulrushes. Across the Nile is the long line of
the Pyramids from Medum to Abû Roasch, the famous Field
of the Pyramids.
Right above the streets of Old Cairo rises the Egyptian
Babylon, the fortress of the Romans besieged and taken by

Amr, and monopolised, since its ruin, by the Copts. And
beyond that are the vast mounds which contain in their
bosoms all that was left of Fustat, when it had been burnt
in 1168 to prevent it falling into the hands of the Crusaders.
It is of Fustat and Babylon that I must write, for neither
receives its meed at the hands of the tourist.
Fustat began to lose its importance when the Caliph Ibn
Tulun built his mosque, which still survives, and his palace in
the quarter now called Katai. A new city sprang up round
them; Fustat grew still further neglected.
When Gohar el-Kaid conquered Egypt for the Fatimite
Caliphs, and founded the new palace known as El-Kahira, or
the Splendid, in 969, it lay between the Citadel and the
Governorat, and the bazars and the native streets surrounding
them stand upon its site. The noble old loggia of the
Beit-el-Kadi just above the Sûk of the Coppersmiths is part
of the Palace of El-Kahira, though built long after the days of
When the Crusaders were sweeping down on Cairo, since
the Saracenic forces were not sufficient to hold so large an
area, Fustat was committed to the flames. The fire burnt
steadily for fifty-four days. Those who have seen, even the
day after, the débris of a great fire, can understand how the
dust-storms and the intermittent rain of seven or eight
centuries have turned the smouldering ruins of the city of
Amr into the fortress-like mounds of the Fustat of to-day.
These mounds of Fustat are extraordinary even in a land
of marvels. They are of vast extent, stretching from the Coptic
fastnesses and churches of Babylon, almost to the mosque of
Tulun and the Tombs of the Mamelukes—they look like a bit
of the desert. Their sandhills are regular cliffs and valleys,
and you expect them to contain the tombs of the functionaries
of the Pharaohs. There is hardly one trace of a building to
be found in them, so deadly was that prototype of the burning
of Moscow in the face of French invaders. But where walls
and houses perished, the little things of household use survived.
Fustat is full of precious fragments of the early Middle
A few enterprising foreigners, curious tourists or antiquaries,
a few Arabs promised piastres for interesting fragments, come
and dig wherever a landslip or a storm of wind lays bare a
load of pottery. I myself have been several times, and with
the aid only of knife and stick, have collected fragments of
ancient faïence enough to fill another case like that in the
South Kensington Museum, which is filled with these fragments
from Fustat. They are mostly portions of lamps, or
bowls, or vases. The lamps, of a kind of green majolica, are
the most perfect, but not so interesting as the brilliant pieces
of broken glass and earthenware vessels. The earthenware
is of the richest colours, and frequently of intricate and
beautiful designs. I picked up a few pieces with Arabic
writing on them; many with delightful arabesques. Some
of the most beautiful were in dark blue on that rich sky-blue
ground which stamps a thing as Arabic or Persian. I
found a good many pieces also of Chinese china. Some of
the colours were glorious; many had patterns inside; some
were of large size; the glaze on some was like glass, the sixteenth
or the thirty-second part of an inch thick, very shining.
I never found any of the tiles from Fustat which collectors
prize; probably they came from deeper levels. The glass was
most interesting. I found some pieces, especially in dark
blue, which looked as old as Roman glass, and a great many
fragments of enamelled glass bracelets.
One day I was lucky enough to strike a dump of Ancient
Egyptian remains, from which I got a perfect little specimen
of a ram-headed sphinx, about an inch and a half in length.
It was only towards the end of my stay in Cairo that I
started fossicking in the mounds of Fustat. Dr. Phillips, one
of the leading Cairo doctors, who had antiquarian tastes like
myself, hearing that I had never explored Fustat, took me
there in his motor, and from that time forward I went there
about twice a week. Quite apart from the treasures one
expects to find there, Fustat is fascinating. Its square mile
of the wind-swept sand and dust hardening into rock is honeycombed
with the shafts of treasure-seekers. Its bluffs are
steep and contorted; as the shades of night fall you might

take it for a lava field of Etna or one of Doré's illustrations
to the Inferno. A Japanese would be delighted with it—he
would see in it the Himalayas in miniature; he would lay it
out into a mountain landscape like his inimitable miniature
Chinese gardens.
Here and there, in a cave scooped out by the treasure-seeker,
a miserable Arab is encamped with his cooking-pot
and his water-pitcher for his sole furniture, to add to
the note of solitude. It looks the very place for foot-pads,
but I never heard of a foreigner being molested.
Some portions of Fustat are quite high and command a
really magnificent view, for this grave of a city, is bounded
on two sides by the Roman-looking aqueduct of the famous
Saladin, and on a third one has the Citadel with its soaring
mosque, and the fantastic domes of the Tombs of the Mamelukes,
while on the fourth side there is the Nile, with the
most ancient works of man silhouetted on its horizon.
Such is Fustat. At its foot lies one of the most ancient
mosques in the world—the mosque of Amr, though most
of its present buildings, antique as they are, belong to a
later date than his. It has ancient company, the fortress-like
ders of the Copts, and the Babylon which was the
Citadel of the Romans.
The mosque of Amr has no external graces; its low
plaster walls, washed red and white, hardly emerging from
the sandhills, might enclose a camel-market; there is but
one short, plain minaret to break two hundred yards of wall.
Inside it is impressive by its size and its simplicity. It
comes so very near nature, with the sand half-burying its
fallen columns, and the wind and the dust wandering through
its long colonnades; it might almost be a bit of Karnak.
Your first impression is a great dusty whitewashed
quadrangle with poor little trees. You see a plain octagonal
fountain with antique columns and a tall single palm in
the centre, but the fountain is empty. The old cippolino
columns of the mosque are peeling, like the onions which
gave them their name. The mihrab is only painted, and
the pulpit is a very plain affair. The fretwork of the

minaret is sugared over with whitewash. Yet the effect of
the huge open colonnade, with its hundred and twenty-six
columns from Roman temples retreating in six stately rows,
is very restful, and some of the details are delightful; its
miraculous properties fall into another chapter.
At the back of the mosque of Amr, between it and the
lovely pointed arches of Saladin's aqueduct, lie the deformed
and distorted sandhills which mark the site of the Fustat of
the precious fragments, the earliest Cairo except the citadel
of Babylon, which still survives by the crossing of the Nile
to the island Nilometer.
And now of Babylon, which contains the finest Roman
masonry of Egypt: long curtain walls which have defied
time and assault and conflagration, one splendid gate, and
more than one grand round bastion. Two of these bastions
shield churches of rival Christian faiths: a Greek cathedral
is in one, the secret chapel of the Hanging Church of
the Copts is in the other. The cathedral is no longer the
metropolitan church; the cathedral of to-day is in the
crowded Greek quarter at the back of the Musky, and has
an interior like a Roman Catholic church of Nonconformist
plainness. You hardly see the exterior.
But the old cathedral out in Babylon, with only its
masonry restored when I saw it, had the beauty and solemnity
and majesty of a temple. Its effects were secured with
simple features, a graceful arcade carried round the exterior
of the bastion, loftiness and the appearance of antiquity
within. It reminded me for some reason of the classical
Roman buildings which survive as churches in Rome itself—S.
Costanza or S. Stefano Rotondo.
From the roof you have the most charming view in
all Cairo—right under your feet are the vineyards which
veil the seven ancient churches of Babylon, and the little
citadels, like squares of infantry on Wellington's battlefields
defying sudden onslaughts, in which the Copts sheltered
their religion in the days of Moslem oppression. The Nile,
with Moses's Isle and Gizeh and the desert and the Pyramids
across its waters, seems but a stone's throw away. It must

have washed the walls in the old times before, when Babylon
was the outwork of the City of the Sun.
Turning round, you have Saladin's aqueduct stealing
across the edge of the Arabian desert like the works of
Rome's first great emperors. And if you follow its line
round the troubled sea of sandhills which we call Fustat,
always with a background of desert, you have Cairo with
its long line of minarets and domes and its towering Citadel
crowned by Mehemet Ali's soaring Turkish mosque, framed
in a glorious triptych which has for its unfolded wings the
Tombs of the Caliphs on the north and the Tombs of the
Mamelukes on the south, and the mosques and rugged
slopes of the Mokattams for its central screen. Choose
sunset for your time, and this whole pageant of Cairo lying
between the sandy sea and that background of fantasy
will be lit with an unearthly splendour of gold and crimson
and purple, hung over everything like a transparent garment
cast from heaven by invisible hands.
Here you will see best that Cairo is a city of the desert
which would be overwhelmed like an army cut off in an
enemy's country, if it were not for the Nile, an impregnable
line of communication.
It is best to explore the seven Coptic churches before
you go to the roof of the Greek cathedral for the view,
because Coptic churches are, in the nature of things, dark,
being buried from the sight of the oppressor in fortresses or
masses of private buildings. The only one that has an exterior
is the Mo'allaka, the famous Hanging Church of Babylon.
This is one of the most beautiful churches in Christendom. It
is not wrong to mention it in the same breath as the Cappella
Reale at Palermo, and St. Mark's at Venice itself. Its mosaics
are not extensive; it has not their wealth of marbles, though
it is richly adorned with both, transfused with the mellowness
of antiquity, but it has the finest ancient woodwork in the
world; it is lined throughout for several feet from the ground
with screens of dark polished wood inlaid with ivory and
ebony medallions chased with inimitable Byzantine carvings;
the screens are broken by antique stilted arches of ivory.

The effect of this dark polished mysterious screening gives a
new significance to the words “dim religious light.”
Al Mo'allaka is small, like that Royal Chapel of Palermo,
but its very smallness is a beauty, for it brings you near to
the dark screen crowned with golden ikons, and the antique
columns of marble taken from some Roman temple, which
break it up into the place of the women and the place of the
men and the place of the priests. Behind the glorious screen,
which goes all round the church, are various little cabinets or
chapels. One has an image of the Virgin, soft and lovely
enough for a Greuze, painted by Roman hands before the
dour Byzantine ideas crushed human outlines out of holy
faces. Another has a most curious painted cabinet with a
lamp swaying in front of it, and wooden drums like the shells
for modern artillery, containing the relics.
At every point the Hanging Church of Babylon is the
queen of all the seven churches. The apse of the sanctuary
has still its ancient richness of marble; the baldacchini are in
the ancient basilica style, and the chief baldacchin has still its
ancient marble columns. The pulpit is, after the screen, the
gem of the whole building. More than any mosque lectern in
Cairo, it is the rival of the oldest and quaintest pulpits of
Lombard Italy. It is very long and very narrow, only just
wide enough to walk in; it stands on fifteen delicate shafts
of rare marbles; its panels are a medley of inlay and
bas-relief; it has hardly a straight line in it; its colours are
melted into a harmony.
The fantastic and richly carved reading desks of Al
Mo'allaka face the screen instead of the congregation. There
is a fine old barrel roof above, bolted to open woodwork like
the timbers of a ship.
It is not easy to describe succinctly such a God's House as
the Hanging Church of Babylon. But one can never forget
the elements of its dim splendour: the antique swinging lamps
with their tiny flames, the golden ikons, the slender outlines of
the delicate marble pulpit standing out against the overpowering
richness of that dark screen, the low moresco arches outlined
with ivory which lead into the sanctuary.
A door on the right admits one to a church as ancient,
built into the embrasures of the Roman bastion; this, too,
preserves many antique features, but has none of the splendour
of Al Mo'allaka.
Al Mo'allaka is fortunate in another respect; that it is the
only Coptic church of Cairo which has a beautiful and
imposing exterior, a clever addition to replace more worthily
the old secret entrance.
You enter it now by an octagonal gatehouse which has
mastabas decorated with fine meshrebiya work all round its walls
inside. This admits into a narrow palm-tree court with a
fountain in its centre, separated by an Arab trellis from the
garden of the Convent and decorated with ancient Egyptian
carved stones. At the end of the court is a handsome sweeping
staircase leading up to the doors of the atrium. The
atrium is like the courtyard of a Tunisian palace, with walls
and pavement of tessellated marbles, and niches with rich blue
Oriental tiles. The church opens out of this. It is fortunate
that the modern approach should be so in harmony with this
ancient and exquisite church, the cleanest—mark that—of all
the Coptic churches.
Al Mo'allaka gets its name of the Hanging Church because
it was built high up into one of the ancient Roman gateways of
the Egyptian Babylon. The gateway, which is one of the
finest Roman gateways in existence, was exhumed in 1901.
Parts of the church are as old as the third century after
Christ, so it is one of the oldest in Christendom. Some
of its carvings are now in the British Museum. It is a
wonder that the grand old ivory slab, seven feet long and
a foot high, covered with little figures, which is one of the
glories and mysteries of this ancient church, escaped the
rage of the collector.
Next in beauty after Al Mo'allaka comes Abu Sefen, one
of a group of churches clustered for defence in one of the
little Coptic citadels called ders, close to the mosque of
Amr. When you have been admitted at the gate of the
fortress by one of the family of the Coptic priest, who is
as dirty as a beggar, you see in front of you a picture

THE GARDEN OF THE COPTIC CHURCH AT Old Cairo , CALLED EL-MO'ALLAKA Or the Hanging Church of Babylon, which is one of the most beautiful churches in Christendom, and dates back to beyond the Mohammedan Conquest of Egypt.


which reminds you of the sections of old basilicas in handbooks
to Roman architecture. This church, like other Coptic
churches, never had a front, but they have pulled down the
houses which stood in front of it and left the interior open.
Under the dry Egyptian skies it does not signify leaving
an interior open for the slow Egyptian workman to muddle
at. If Abu Sefen was open to inspection in this way it
would be most interesting, for Abu Sefen is a basilica as
basilicas were in the early days of the Church. But from
this example you do not gather much except that the
architraves of the early Egyptian Church were made of
palm-trunks just split in half and with their furry bark
left on.
Abu Sefen is kept locked, and the man who has the key
is always away when you ask for him, but once upon a time
I was lucky enough to strike one of the architects on
the staff of the Wakfs, who are engaged in cataloguing,
photographing, conserving, and restoring the monuments of
mediaeval Egypt. Officially they have charge of Mohammedan
religious properties and monuments, but the Coptic
monuments and other bits of mediaeval Cairo seem to have
been lumped in. He overheard the dirty priest telling me
that the man who had the only key had gone into Cairo,
and told him to unlock the door at once. A key was
produced from somewhere in less than a minute; it had
probably been in the pocket of the pries's skirt all the
time. It does not follow that because a Copt is a Christian,
even when he is a minister of Christ, that he should so far
forget that he is an Egyptian as to tell the truth. Under
that polite German's aegis we revelled in the architecture
of Abu Sefen. And here I must interpolate that Coptic
churches have screens covered with small pictures of saints
very like the ikon-covered screens of the Greek orthodox
Church. Abu Sefen had a rich one painted on a gold
ground in the Middle Ages, much in the style of the small
pictures framed round a central picture of the Madonna,
painted in the fifteenth century, before the revival of Antonello,
which I saw in Messina some years ago.
Behind this screen is a perfect basilica presbytery, semicircular
in form, with seats rising in tiers like the lecture
theatre of a hospital, and fine mosaics on the apse behind.
The Christ under the cupola is like the great mosaic Christs
of Palermo and Monreale. Abu Sefen has other screens, a
fine baldacchin like a Roman basilica, and a beautiful specimen
of the octagonal font set in a marble pavement, used
for baptism by immersion. The other Coptic churches of
old Cairo have mostly deep tanks covered over carelessly
with boards, for this ceremony. Baptism plays such a very
important part in Coptic religious ceremonials. Here, too, is
a lovely old narrow pulpit resting on fifteen marble columns,
with panels of mosaics and rare marbles. This church is
also very rich in paintings. There are sixty-five very ancient
pictures of the saints, bordering the screen round the square
in front of the choir. Abu Sefen, the Father of Two Swords,
is St. Mercurius. Guide-books have very little to say
about this church, which in some ways is the best after the
The little church of Sitt' Miriam adjoining is perfect, and
it is ancient and characteristic, but it is very dirty and not
very beautiful. I shall describe it because it was the first
Coptic church we saw , and it is so typical. In the first
chamber we entered were two black sheep—the Egyptians
love to fatten sheep in incongruous places. The Copts
perhaps do not demand that their sacrifices should be
without blemish. The second room was surrounded with
mastabas with very dirty coverings, upon which perhaps the
faithful sleep; the third room looked like a mosque with a four-of-hearts
design on its matting. It was divided into three
parts by screens, the first and second being of rude meshrebiya,
the third of some hard dark wood inlaid with almond-shaped
pieces of bone—a poor specimen of the favourite
woodwork of the Copts. It had a row of small pictures of
the saints along its top, and a good Byzantine ikon hanging
on it. In the chapel to the left of the sanctuary were various
old pictures, one of St. Mary suckling the infant Christ.
The room corresponding to it on the other side was a sort

of chapel with a square sacramental altar. Behind the screen
in the centre was a wooden tabernacle, very like the baldacchin
in a Roman basilica. The altars are just block tables, and
ostrich eggs were hanging as usual in front of the centre
altar. The pulpit was of carved wood and the church had
a barrel roof. The font looked like a cross between a well
and a Pompeian kitchen. On the other side was the total
immersion tank, more dangerous than usual—I nearly fell
into it. There was one charming old wooden arch inlaid
with ivory and two good old meshrebiya seats. In the half-light
the church was quite fine and mysterious-looking if you
peered through its triple screens. Its fifty feet square carry
you back to the earliest times, as do the six old Byzantine
columns of the nave. But the entrance is so filthy; the
monastery, with frowsy women hanging about, is so squalid;
the garden has trees so few and so sickly, and the finest thing
about the whole der is its gigantically thick door faced with
iron and secured with a mighty sliding beam in a low fourth-century
The Copts themselves are much more concerned about
Abu Sarga, the Church of St. Sergius, than the Mo'allaka.
The guides take you straight to the former and do not take
you to the latter at all unless you force them to. Abu Sarga
is a typical Coptic Church, for you have to dive through a
tunnel under a dwelling-house to get to it. Once inside you
are amply repaid. It is a charming place, quite unrestored
and primitive; its ancient wooden pulpit is entered by a
ladder, which is only brought when it is wanted. Here again
the church has a wooden architrave supported on antique
columns. But the wooden screen of the altar here is perfect.
It is of carved dark wood with a pattern of delicately carved
ivory mandorla—almond-shaped geometrical patterns. It
contains a sort of Roman baldacchin. Inside there is an
amphitheatre of shallow steps of inlaid marble, terminating in
the inevitable mihrab with a spandreled arch of rather pleasing
mosaics, behind the tinsel-covered altar under the baldacchin—a
lovely unrestored affair.
There is nothing much funnier than to observe a common-place

guide taking a common-place American round a church
like Abu Sarga. As guides always expect to get paid more
when they produce dirty bits of candle from their pockets and
light them, and hold them in front of some obscure detail,
they have seized upon that glorious screen of Abu Sarga
as a subject. Such a guide and such an American came
in while I was studying it. She was the kind of American
who cared nothing for Coptic churches or any old churches;
she had only gone there because Baedeker expected it of her,
and her township in the United States would examine her
when she got back to see that she had got up her lessons
The match was struck, the candle was coaxed into burning
up, and held between finger and thumb opposite a tortured
Byzantine figure.
Dragoman. “Look at that work, madam.”
American. “I did” (nasal). “Inlaid ivory” (nasal), “and
wood” (nasal).
The dragoman, still with his candle, and not in the least
disappointed, without any further words led the way down to
the crypt.
American. “Need we go down there?”
Dragoman. “Yes. Biklam, where Jesus Christ was born.”
He meant Bethlehem. The American pricked up her ears
at the idea of seeing the place where our Lord was born,
though she ought to have remembered that the Bible does
not lay it in Egypt, and descended.
I followed them down the double descent to a crypt which
has good columns in pairs, with romanesque arches above them,
but no capitals. At the apse end the columns are replaced
by walls which contain niches. It was too crowded to see
much, but it seemed to contain a font.
“Come here, Mister,” said the dragoman to the American
lady. “This is the baptise for Coptic children. No scharge for
Copts, so we cannot get near. Joseph has only a little side
apsey. Opposite Joseph's residence is a nichey for washing
of Jesus Christ.”
The idea of the native guide-books is that the Holy Family

took refuge here, and that a little bed was made for our Lord
in this niche. As the American lady didn't seem to be quite
taking in what he was saying he explained: “This is where
whole Holy Family come from Mecca one time.”
Even then that crypt was not convincing to the American
lady, nor, I may add, to myself.
I reascended to the nave: that, at any rate, was ancient, and
holy, and convincing. It had such old, old columns with the
usual Coptic architraves of split palm-trees and horse-shoe
openings above under a blocked-up gallery with antique
marble columns like the gallery of S. Agnese, or the Four
Crowned Saints at Rome. Abu Sarga, with its exquisite
screens and its atmosphere of antiquity, is a delightful church.
But the American could not enjoy it, for she had heard that
Coptic churches were full of fleas, and she had been in such
an ants' nest of Copts while the guide was insisting on showing
her the place of the Nativity. I could have told her
something about fleas, in which the church of Abu Sarga is
not the most eminent. When I got back that day I had only
taken two or three fleas with me, whereas once upon a time
going back from the Mo'allaka, I caught twenty-two while I
was in the tramway. But I have more to say about that in
another chapter.
Sitt' Barbara is just such another church as Abu Sarga,
except that it is not quite so large, and has not the reputation
of ever having enjoyed attentions from the Holy Family.
There are two other old churches in Babylon. They are in
ders within the Citadel, fortresses within a fortress: they look
more like a couple of farmyards. One is called Der Bablun,
the other is called Der Todros. Todros sounds as if he ought
to have something to do with Uncle Remus, but it is really a
corruption of S. Theodore. The church in Der Bablun is
dedicated to Sitt' Miriam, meaning the Virgin. Der Todros
is the most difficult to get into of all the Coptic churches;
you might be creeping through a drain. Both have old
features and both have many fleas. It is quite necessary to
see them if you are making a study of Coptic churches, and
quite unnecessary if you are only a student of the picturesque
Some of the ancient Coptic mansions in Babylon must be
almost as interesting as the churches, for they are the accretions
of centuries. But who would dare to go into them
unless he was protected by an ant-eater that had been taught
to catch fleas. For this reason old Cairo is very unexplored.
People get wild enthusiasms for it which break off suddenly,
like this chapter.

The Citadel of Cairo

THE Citadel of Cairo was constructed by the order of
Saladin, the chivalrous foe of our Richard Cœur de
Lion in the Crusades, whose exploits are immortalised in
“The Talisman.” It was begun in 1166, and its materials
were stripped from the smaller pyramids of Gizeh. If stones
could see, their eyes would rest on the place from which they
were torn, for the Citadel is the eastern horizon from the
Pyramids, and the Pyramids sit enthroned on the western
horizon from the Citadel.
Within the Citadel, on the site of Mehemet Ali's palace
and mosque, rose the stately palace of Saladin, Joseph's Hall,
which was blown up in 1824 to make room for the buildings
which occupy its place. One cannot say unworthily, because,
in spite of all its faults, it is the mosque of Mehemet Ali
which confers on the Citadel of Cairo the fairy grace of the
sky-line of Stamboul.
The Citadel of Cairo is one of the most imposing objects
in my memory. The mosque is only the culmination of a
mighty mass of masonry formed by the ramparts, and the
two great round towers of Saladin, and the Bab-el-Azab, and
the majestic double flight of steps which connect this gate
with the Meidan Rumeleh.
It was the closing of the Bab-el-Azab which was the signal
for the massacre of the Mamelukes, one of the massacres
which made history like the Sicilian Vespers, for it was the
annihilating of those turbulent Beys which made the strong
rule of Mehemet Ali possible.
The massacre took place on the 1st of March, 1811.
Mehemet Ali invited the Mamelukes, 460 in number, to a
reception in the Citadel, and, when it was over, suggested
that they should ride through the town in state, escorted by
his troops. The Mamelukes assented, and proceeded between
two lines of the Pasha's troops down the steep and narrow
lane, hemmed in between rampart and rock, which leads from
the Bab-el-Wastani to the Bab-el-Azab. Suddenly the Babel-Azab
was closed, and, at this preconcerted signal, the
troops who were escorting the Beys fell on them, while others
shot them down from above. Only one escaped, and tradition
still points out the place where he leapt from the battlements
on his horse, and, alighting in safety, galloped off to Syria.
But history declares that he arrived too late, and was shut
out by that closing of the Bab-el-Azab, which was the signal
for the slaughter of all his peers. He did fly to Syria—the
ray of truth which generally illuminates a tradition.
The ramparts sweep away to the right and left of the
Bab-el-Azab in grand masses, but the eye is riveted by the
soaring dome and minarets which crown the brow of the rock.
There is an effect, not much less fine in its way, at the back
of the Citadel, when, as you lift your eyes from the retreating
ramparts, you see in front of you, a mile or less away,
the El-Giyûchi mosque, which crowns the lofty Gebel-el-Giyûchi,
reached by a causeway that climbs its golden rocks.
The Gebel completely dominates the Citadel. Mehemet Ali
saw this, and mounted a battery on it, which made the Citadel
untenable at once.
Saladin, who chose the site so pictorially magnificent, is
said to have been guided by the prosaic fact that meat kept
longer on that rock than in any other part of El-Kahira.
But the presence of the mighty well of the Pharaohs is more
likely to have influenced him. He had other military considerations
on his side, for before the days of artillery the
Gebel-el-Giyûchi was too distant to dominate this rock, which
hung right over the city of the Caliphs. If Egypt had ever
been a great military power in the last three centuries, its
Sultan would doubtless have connected the Citadel with the

Gebel-el-Giyûchi by containing-walls in which a large army
could be accommodated, making the Gebel-el-Giyûchi mosque
the keep of the Citadel. Before that, artillery did not signify,
or such a stupendous work would have appealed to monarchs
like Saladin.
There are three chief ways of entering the Citadel, either
by the Bab-el-Gedid, the gate on the hill above the Tombs of
the Caliphs, which is now the principal gate, and the only
entrance for carriages and guns on the city side, or by the
Bab-el-Azab, or by the causeway from El-Giyûchi. The
man who took me over the Citadel on my first day in Cairo
made me enter by the Bab-el-Gedid gate, because he thought
it would impress me more. One certainly gets a side view
of the mosque of Mehemet Ali, but there is nothing in that,
because the chief value of the mosque is as a horizon effect.
Whenever I went to the Citadel again I took care to enter by
the Bab-el-Azab: it is so much more interesting to climb the
crumbling steps, and pass through that frowning gate, up the
steep path walled in with rampart and rock immortalised by
the slaughter of the mamelukes. Here, as your path winds
up, you have the aspect of an ancient Citadel, and when you
suddenly turn into the great square inside the middle gate,
the Bab-el-Wastani, I think you make as much of the side-view
of the great mosque.
Let us enter it, and have done with it. Its glittering
alabaster court is rather fine. Its very size has a certain
nobility; its fountain has a certain fascination. But the
interior is deplorable; it has nothing to recommend it except
its height. It is built in bad taste of bad alabaster, and some
of that is imitation. Its architect was a Greek renegade. Its
lamps are hung on atrocious gilt crinoline hoops. The huge
Turkey carpet which covers its floor has a pock-marked
effect; its decorations are in the style of a nineteenth-century
hotel. It would be unjust to compare it with the Brighton
Pavilion, which is in better taste. The effect of the interior
is much inferior to that of the dining-room at the Cataract
Hotel at Assuan. The coloured-glass windows are appalling;
the painting of the dome and the upper parts, including the

gilt foolscap pulpit, is almost worse. This is Mehemet Ali's
punishment for massacring the Mamelukes just below, and
the punishment is almost more than he can bear.
But fortunately having seen the interior once, one never
enters it again, while the majestic outlines of its exterior on
the Citadel rock cheer the eye from Memphis to Gizeh and
Gizeh to Heliopolis.
Around it is a scene of woe. First there is the En-Nasir
mosque, a shell whose stately courts, built by Ibn Kalaûn's
prodigal son, have been stripped of their decorations for
museums, but whose architecture is so fine that Max Hertz
Bey could restore it into a noble monument with his sure
hand. Its antique courtyards, arched in the fourteenth
century, make a fine contrast against the minarets and
clustered domes of Mehemet Ali's mosque. Its own minarets,
gleaming with old green tiles, are among the gems of the
Citadel—lovely old woodwork inscriptions are still left
where the fallen dome once sprang from the great liwân.
The liwân still has its graces, for some colour remains on
the coffers of the roof, and there are three rows of black-and-white
arches rising in tiers, though the mihrab and pulpit
have disappeared. The main court has its arches and its
clerestory and its zigzag Arab battlements complete; very
noble are some of the columns of the royal mosque, which
only a century ago was the crown of the Citadel, as
Mehemet Ali's mosque is now.
On the other side of Mehemet Ali's mosque is the deserted
palace of the Khedives, in which the commander of the
British Artillery has his headquarters and could, if he
chose, have his residence; but its vast and not unpleasing
rooms in the nineteenth-century Oriental-palace style would
cost so much to restore and so much to keep up.
Beyond are the remains of the palace of Saladin, which
in their utter ruin show the nobility of his conception by
the tremendous masonry of the fragments. The views from
the garden and the office of the C.R.A. are the finest in
Cairo. The windows command a view of the fantastic
tombs of the Mamelukes and the Mokhattam hills, with

their ancient mosques, and afford glimpses of the desert,
the Nile, Old Cairo , and the mounds of Fustat. The view
from the garden and from the windows on that side is
the same as that which all visitors go to see from the terrace
of the mosque of Mehemet Ali, for here at one's feet is
ancient Cairo, with its hundred minarets, severed by the
gleaming belt of the Nile from the golden hem of the
sunset, with the Pyramids rising up from it in royal purple.
And day after day the sunset is a pageant here.
Few visitors, as they stand upon the terrace apostrophising,
pay enough heed to the spectacle at their feet, for down
below the battlements on which they stand is the Meidan
Rumeleh, bounded by the vast fabric of the mosque of
Sultan Hassan and the mosque of the Rifai'ya sect and the
little old mosques on the shoulder of the Citadel hill. In
the forest of minarets beyond them it is easy to pick out
the old tower-like minarets of Ibn Tulun's mosque at one
end and El-Hakim at the other, the two oldest mosques in
the city, while in the centre are the lofty and fantastic
minarets which rise from the Bab-es-Zuweyla and El-Azhar,
the chief University of Islam. In between the minarets the
flat roofs of the old houses have their Biblical outline
broken by dark little gardens—mere courts filled with
cypress and palm, for the ladies of the harem, and away
on the left are the long-drawn arches of Saladin's aqueduct
looking like a work of Imperial Rome.
The Citadel of Cairo abounds in ancient remains. How
much of the ramparts may be ascribed to the famous and
knightly Saladin history has not yet established. If there
are no great remains of his actual masonry it is because,
for military reasons, the fortifications have had to be
repaired and strengthened. There are large portions of
the walls in the style of his day, which was the inspiration of
the Edwardian castles of England, but it is always difficult
to tell the age of Saracenic architecture, because its builders
were conservative in their ideas and admirable copyists.
Most authorities are willing to allow Saladin the honour of
giving its picturesque form to Joseph's Well. Joseph the son

of Jacob was of course a great man in Egypt: his reputation
in the traditions of the country is fully equal to his Bible
reputation. He is credited with having drained the Fayyum
and cut the Bahr-el-Yussuf, which scientists have pronounced
to be really a backwater of the Nile. But history says that
he is not the Joseph of the Joseph's Well in the Citadel
of Cairo, since Saladin also—and it seems rather prosaic for
him—bore the name of Joseph, which is still very popular in
But it is not chronologically impossible for the Joseph of
the Bible to have been the Joseph of this well, for archaeologists
think that the well may date from Pharaonic times, since
there was an ancient Egyptian town, which Mr. H. R. Hall
calls Khri Ahu, on the site of the modern city.
Joseph's Well is an astonishing piece of construction. The
easiest way to conceive it is to imagine the fallen campanile at
Venice carried three hundred feet down into the earth instead
of up into the air; for the ascent of the later and the descent
of the former are on the same principle. A ramp, carried
round and round spirally, replaces the usual staircase. Only
here the ramp has steps cut in it in places, and the upper
portion, which is all that can be seen, is perfectly empty and
open to the sky; the lower half, which had become unsafe, has
now been closed. It could never be properly seen. One of the
most curious features of the well is that it is not in one direct
vertical line. A hundred and sixty feet down the shaft takes
a sharp bend to the left of about its own width. This is why
it was worked by two sakîyas—one at the top and one half
way down. It is capable of supplying the entire garrison
with water, but since the waterworks have been laid, the
Citadel has been supplied by them. The ramp is lighted by
windows, cut through to the central shaft, which show that the
layer of stone left between the ramp and the shaft is in some
places no thicker than a door. The well is 290 feet deep,
and is supposed to go back at any rate to Roman times,
though the ramp may have been constructed by Saladin's
orders. The gem of the Citadel is the little mosque known
as Sultan Selim's, dating from the sixteenth century, which

stands behind the hospital. This is one of the most beautiful
mosques in all Cairo; it has such charming faded paintings,
such elegant arabesques. Its white marble pulpit is graciously
fretted, and it is lined throughout with fine marble panelling
in the style of Arabo-Norman churches, and there is also a
painted gallery like a Tuscan music gallery and a fine black-and-white
Arabic inscription running all round it. The
mihrab has rather charming mosaics; its panels are decorated
with porphyry and serpentine; there are ancient bronze
candlesticks a yard high, which have been richly gilt and
bear inscriptions, standing on the floor. I think this mosque
distinctly more beautiful than the much-talked-of Bordeini
mosque; it is so cool, so gracious; one of the nicest mosques
we saw in Cairo.
At the back of it is a charming little white-domed. Turkish
cloister, with the same marble panelling round its walls, and
a marble pavement, fast breaking up, like that of St. Mark's
at Venice. You enter it by a good marble portal. There are
also a fountain court with one of the handsome Arab trellises
round the fountain and other courts and a tomb and a queer
little garden.
The Citadel presents the strangest contrasts: on the one
hand we have noble mediaeval monuments like the walls of
Saladin, the En-Nasir mosque, and the El-Giyûchi mosque
enthroned on the height above. The El-Azab gate, identified
with the romance of the Massacre of the Mamelukes,
though not of the same antiquity, is completely Oriental.
On the other hand, the Citadel is a fortress garrisoned by
British soldiers. You hear British bugles, British drums,
British words of command; you see Tommy Atkins doing
sentry-go, little bits of drill in progress, the officers in their
breeches and boots returning from polo, the men in quite
decent flannels with racquets in their hands going off to
play Tennis , or maybe a little knot of ladies going to afternoon
tea with some officer in the Infantry Regiment or the Royal
Artillery, the descendants of Richard Caeur de Lion in the
Citadel of Saladin.

Concerning the Tombs of the Caliphs and the
Mamelukes; and Mohammedan Funerals

THERE are certain spots in the world so beautiful that,
to use the touching old Bible phrase, your heart leaps
within you when you behold them. Of such are the Piazzetta
between St. Mark's and the Doge's Palace at Venice; the
Forum of Rome, or the Acropolis of Athens at sunset; the
Hall of the Giants at Karnak by moonlight; or dawn in
the Rocky Mountains. And hardly any of them displays the
quality of pure beauty to a higher degree than the Tombs
of the Caliphs at Cairo.
The first morning that I stepped out into the Street of the
Camel at Cairo a vendor of postcards dazzled me with a
picture of a gorgeous and fantastic mosque, with its noble
flight of steps hung with rich carpets. It was grand enough,
antique enough, Oriental enough for Saladin and his Court.
And the colour of the atmosphere in which it was bathed
was incredible. I looked at the inscription idly, Tombes des
I put it aside as sheer exaggeration and never gave
it another thought till months afterwards, when I had visited
Khartûm and had lingered long among the marvellous tombs
and temples of the Pharaohs at Thebes and Karnak. Then
a soldier friend who had come down with us from Khartûm,
wishing to have a sort of picnic with us, suggested that we
should take donkeys and ride out to the Tombs of the
In Cairo foreigners do not ride donkeys nowadays, and
officers in uniform are not allowed to ride them inside the

city walls, though officers in uniform seldom move an inch
without a donkey at Khartûm except when they are on
duty or on horseback. A man who keeps several chargers
generally has a black or white donkey as well for going
to balls and garden parties and other odd jobs. You can
leave a donkey so much more unceremoniously than a
Donkey riding is the best way of going to the Tombs
of the Caliphs for those who are too idle to walk the mile
or so between the first and last tomb, and you can always
get donkeys in the square under the Citadel where the trams
But if you can manage a little exertion, the way to see
the Tombs of the Caliphs to the best advantage is to drive
down the Musky in a cab and dismiss it at the gate opposite
the Windmill Hills, at sunset. There is a level footpath
which winds between the hills. Do not take that, but
climb the highest, and do not look before you till you get
right to the top. Then lift up your eyes and you will see
as beautiful a spectacle as there is to be seen in the whole
world. I shall never forget the first time I saw it. That
postcard, instead of seeming an exaggeration, fell pitiably
short of the unearthly splendour of that long line of ancient
and fantastic mosques illuminated by the deep glare of the
Egyptian sunset. Instead of being hung with mere carpets
from old Oriental looms, behind each mosque was a
flashing veil which seemed to be woven of threads drawn
out from rubies. Every inch of masonry, every foot of the
desert was tinged with the richest hues in God's paintbox.
The desert sand and the sandstone of the mosques seem to
inhale the splendour and breathe it forth again.
I did not pay my sunset visit to the tombs till after
the first long ride through them in the heat of a Cairo
morning; but to take in their magic you should pay the
sunset visit first and drink in your full of the spectacle,
without heeding that the swift-falling Egyptian darkness will
not give you time to visit the tombs individually; that can
be done on another day.
Individually, indeed, they sacrifice some of the charm.
The tomb mosque of Kait Bey out in the desert, admirably
restored, like his city mosque, is the best of all mosques in
Egypt to photograph. It is wonderfully beautiful; its dome
laced with arabesques is almost incomparable; it is approached
by a noble flight of steps; its loggia is a monument of antique
grace, and its minaret is chaste and fine and royal. So
many hundred yards away the great tomb-mosque of Sultan
Barkuk is falling into sentimental decay, and has its imposing
fortress-like form flanked with charming and fantastic arcades.
Further on still are the mosques of other fifteenth-century
Sultans, deserted, locked up, almost Gothic in their habiliments.
But to get to these miracles of the dead Art of the Middle
Ages from the Citadel one has to pass through an unseemly
village of ghouls, who live among the dead in poor little
houses and callous commonness, to make what living they
can, I suppose, by sextoning and keeping unclean things
from tombs, and guiding visitors, or selling melons and
other native delicacies to the Arabs whose business or fancy
takes them to the cemetery of the Caliphs. This squalid
village extends its soiled arms almost to the threshold of the
grandeur of Kait Bey's Palace of the Dead.
I suppose it must be so: in Egypt squalor always waits
on ancient State.
To examine the tombs one must approach them on foot,
donkey, or carriage from the Citadel. There are so many
that one cannot examine them all; but Kait Bey's must
be visited as the most perfect and the most beautiful: El-Azraf's
for the charming decoration of its rather church-like
interior, and to wander through the vast ruins of the college
and the almshouses which surround it, and formed one of
the most celebrated institutions of their time; and Sultan
Barkuk's because it forms a fine mosque of the open-air type
which has one side of its colonnade deepened into a liwân.
It has, too, a fine tomb-chamber with an imposing array
of tombs, and its exterior is of a noble and uncommon type,
suggestive of one of the great square mediaeval castles of

Italy. Still farther on visit the last great group of mosques;
there are three of them in it, the tomb of the Sultan El-Ghury,
and the funerary mosques of Sultan Inal and the
Emir Kebir, though they seem to form one great red building,
which looks almost like a Gothic monastery with its beautiful
pointed arches. The door to this group is always locked,
but it does not signify, for there is a breach in the wall at the
back through which you can enter them. There is something
church-like even in the interior. This is not surprising: there
is no doubt that mosque architecture and church architecture
reacted upon each other on the shores of the Mediterranean,
where the intercourse between Christian and Saracen was
constant. In Tunis the oldest mosques have most of them
actually been churches, and look none the less mosque-like.
In Palermo there are old churches so like mosques—San
Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Martorana, and San Cataldo
among them—that half the people in the city believe them
to have been built as mosques, though archives prove that
they were built for the Norman kings.
There are other charming tomb-mosques and zawiyas,
perhaps a score of them, well worthy to be examined or
kodaked. But it would be idle to recapitulate them, and
indeed it is not easy to fit their names to them, because the
guides can identify only four or five of them.
The Tombs of the Caliphs have a double charm; their
intrinsic beauty is rivalled by the matchless beauty of their
setting as they stretch along the rim of Cairo's eastern desert.
I have noted elsewhere the fact that the Moslems, ever looking
to Mecca, choose the desert on the Mecca side for their
tombs as they choose the eastern wall of their mosques for
their mihrabs. While the Egypt of the Pharaohs, with its
belief of Osiris dying daily in the west, put its dead under the
earth in the western desert for their passage in the Soul
The Tombs of the Mamelukes are, as I have said, not equal
to those of the Caliphs, and their immediate setting is not so
picturesque, for they are entangled in a humble part of the
city. But viewed from above, as for example the windows

of the palace of the Khedives on the Citadel, they are strikingly
beautiful, for they stretch a long finger into the desert
under the shadow of the rocky Mokattams, whose skyline is
broken once twice, by ancient ruins, and beyond them you
can see both the western and the eastern desert with the steely
ribbon of the Nile between.
The kodaker will find both the Tombs of the Caliphs and
the Tombs of the Mamelukes paradises, for they are full of
fantastic buildings in unbroken sunshine, and he can generally
secure a clean background of desert. And this is, oh, so
important in Egypt, where the strength of the light and the
clearness of the atmosphere frequently make an object which
is a good distance off, come right behind and clash with the
object he is photographing.
And here perhaps I ought to say something about Mohammedan
funerals. Their prime feature is that there is never any
hearse. The body is invariably carried upon a bier. In
theory the bier is always borne by the friends of the deceased,
who acquire merit by performing so pious an office. It is a
plain wooden affair, shaped like a coffin, with a high horn at
one end, on which the turban is sometimes hung. The bier is
nearly always covered, including the horn, with a rich cashmere
shawl as a pall. The women of the family are allowed
to accompany it if they wish, but the women who wail round
it are generally hired mourners. The procession is sometimes
limited to a few friends, who surround the bier, taking turns
in carrying it. It is generally headed by banners, and its
presence becomes known before it is seen by the noble and
dignified chanting.
In my novel, “The Tragedy of the Pyramids,” I give a
description of the funeral of the Descendant of the Prophet
with all the ancient ceremonies, using Lane's inimitable translations
of the words of the prayers. One hardly ever sees
such a funeral nowadays, although many thousands of people
attend the funeral of a popular hero, and the whole route is
lined with crowds, who make demonstrations of grief, which
are striking and picturesque when they are delivered by men
with flowing beards and Oriental robes, but seem extravagant,

THE TOMBS OF THE MAMELUKES. In the background are a tomb mosque and the great mosque of Mehemet Ali on the Citadel. In front are various types of Moslem altar-tombs.


and even childish, when they come from Effendis in European
clothes with tarbûshes. The one thing which dignifies the
proceeding is their unmistakable sincerity and anguish. I
will not describe such a scene, but I venture to quote my
description of the funeral of Hoseyn Hassan, to show what
Mohammedan funerals were like in the great old days.
“First came four camels bearing bread and water to be
distributed to the poor at the tomb; then came the
Yemeniyeh—twelve blind men, who chanted without ceasing
in sorrowful tones: ‘There is no deity but God; Mohammed
is God's Apostle; God favour and preserve him.’
“There were no male relations. Hoseyn Hassan was the
last of his race; his children were only girls of tender years.
But he had friends innumerable—devoted personal friends,
as well as colleagues like Mulazim Bey and Ahmed Mahdi.
Then came the public officials—the grand Kadi and the
Grand Mufti in their robes of state; and the Sheikh and
all the Ulemas of El-Azhar in their purple; and many other
learned and devout men, who were followed by four groups
of fikees, chanting different soorats from the Koran, and
munshids chanting the Burdeh, the celebrated poem in honour
of Mohammed, the dead man's ancestor. Then, with their
resplendent banners half-furled, and raising strange chants
came representatives of all the Dervish Orders in Cairo,
followed by schoolboys, one of them bearing a Koran on
a cushion, and all of them chanting the ‘Hashriyeh,’ the
song of the Day of Judgment, which begins:
“‘The Perfection of Him who hath created whatever hath form;
And subdued His servants by death:
Who bringeth to nought His creatures, with mankind:
They shall all lie in the graves:
The Perfection of the Lord of the east:
The Perfection of the Lord of the west:
The Perfection of the illuminator of the two lights;
The sun, to wit, and the moon:
His Perfection: how bountiful is He!
His Perfection: how clement is He!
His Perfection: how great is He!
When a servant rebelleth against Him He protecteth.’
“Then came the body of Hoseyn Hassan. A mere merchant
would have had his bier covered with a rich cashmere
shawl. But it was the tradition for the descendants of the
Prophet to be carried to their burial on a plain wooden
bier, decorated only with the sacred green turban. Each
few yards of the journey its bearers were changed; not only
did every one in the procession, from the Grand Kadi, who
stands next to the Khedive, to the poorest fellah, or porter,
take his share in bearing the sacred burden; but for the
whole eight miles the bystanders pressed forward to gain
the merit of having borne so holy a person.
“Behind the bier walked the female mourners, a sad
spectacle, for not one of them was distinguished by the fillet
of blue cotton, which marks the relatives of the deceased,
though among them were those who had been his wives
till he divorced them to woo the American. As the late
Sheikh was so holy a personage, it was forbidden for these
bereft women to mourn; they had to rend the air with the
shrill and quavering cries of joy, called Zaghareet.
“Last came the buffalo which was to be sacrificed at the
grave, and the carriages of the dignitaries who were walking
in the procession.
“The neddabehs, as they tore their
hair and rent their garments and threw dust upon their
heads, and beat their tambourines, uttered loud cries of ‘O my
Master!’ ‘O my Camel!’ ‘O my Lion!’ ‘O my Glory!’ ‘O my Resource!’
‘O my Father!’ ‘O my Misfortune!’ … The effect of
this multi-coloured, unarmed army marching at mourners'
pace past the irresponsive Pyramids, was indescribably
grand. And as the melancholy cortège pursued its slow
way under the long avenue into Cairo, and through the
Cairo streets, its route was lined with ever-thickening
crowds, all showing hopeless grief in the ancient forms of
the Orient …
“The funeral service in El-Azhar was as pathetic as the
death of a nation. The bier was borne into the vast and
dimly lighted liwân, and laid in front of the mihrab, with
the right side of the dead in the direction of Mecca. The

Sheikh-ul-Azhar stood behind it with his hands raised to
his head. ‘God is most great!’ he cried, and recited the
opening chapter of the Koran. Then he cried again: ‘God
is most great!’ and prayed aloud, ‘O God, favour our Lord
Mohammed, the Illiterate Prophet and his Family and
Companions, and preserve them!’
“A third time he cried: ‘God is most great!’ And said:
‘O God, verily this is Thy servant and son of Thy servant;
he hath departed from the repose of the world, and from its
amplitude, and from whatever he loved, and from those by
whom he was loved in it, to the darkness of the grave, and
to what he experienceth. He did testify that there is no
deity but Thou alone: that Thou hast no companion; and
that Mohammed is Thy servant and Thine apostle; and
Thou art all-knowing respecting him. O God, he hath gone
to abide with Thee; and Thou art the best with whom to
abide. He hath become in need of Thy mercy; and Thou
hast no need of his punishment. We have come to Thee,
supplicating that we may intercede for him. O God, if he
were a doer of good, over-reckon his good deeds; and if
he were an evil-doer, pass over his evil doings; and of Thy
mercy grant that he may experience Thine acceptance; and
spare him the trial of the grave, and its torment; and make
his grave wide to him; and keep back the earth from his
sides; and of Thy mercy grant that he may experience
security from Thy torment, until Thou send him safely to
Thy paradise, O Thou most merciful of those who show
mercy!’ Then, for the fourth and last time, the Sheikh-ul-Azhar
cried: ‘God is most great!’ adding: ‘ O God, deny
us not our reward for him, and lead us not into trial after
him: pardon us and him and all the Moslems, O Lord of
all creatures!’ Thus he finished his prayer, greeting the
angels on his right and left with the salutation of ‘ Peace
be on you, and the mercy of God.’ And then addressing
the friends and dignitaries present, he said: ‘Give your
testimony respecting him.’ And they replied: ‘He was of
the virtuous.’
“Then the bier was taken up and placed by the Tomb

of the Saint of El-Azhar, while the fikees once more recited
the opening chapter of the Koran, and the passage in the
second chapter beginning: ‘Whatever is in heaven and on
earth is God's.’
“While the service was proceeding in the liwân the shades
of night had fallen, and torches were brought into the great
court of the mosque from all the surrounding streets and
markets. When the bier was carried out into it, it looked
almost unearthly in the glare of the torches which filled it,
with its six wild minarets and innumerable arches. The great
procession re-formed, and swept down the street of Es-Sharwani,
and round to the Bab-el-Ghoraib, where the road
to the Tombs of the Caliphs runs through the low hills outside
the eastern wall.
“The moon had now risen, and showed these hills to be
black, white, and blue with the masses of human beings, the
frequency of black showing that it was here, where the slope
let them see over the heads of those in front, that the women
had gathered. As the cortège emerged from the city with its
torches and banners and bread-camels, the cries of the people
on the hills ascended with the smoke to the deep-blue,
million-eyed skies of Egypt: ’ O my Father!’ ‘O my Lion!’
‘O my Misfortune!’ till the volume of sound seemed to smite
the stars.
“And so the procession passed, winding between the hills,
then threading its way through the City of the Dead, till
it came, at the edge of the desert, to the Mosque of the
Descendants of the Prophet.
“The grave was ready for them. At the spot where
Hoseyn Hassan had indicated to Lucrece on that afternoon
of trouble, the earth had been removed by a score of willing
hands, revealing a plain vaulted chamber with a little square
cell in front of it. It was a tomb that had never been used,
specially prepared for the Sheikh when his time should
“The grave-digger and his assistants lifted the holy body
down into the tomb, and turned it on its right side, facing
Mecca, supporting it in its position with new unbaked bricks.
Then the precious cashmere shawl, in which the body was
wrapped, was rent in twain, and a little earth was gently
placed upon the corpse by the dignitaries, as there were no
relations, and the Instructor of the Dead began his solemn
“‘O servant of God! O son of a handmaid of God! know
that at this time there will come down to thee two angels
commissioned respecting thee, and the like of thee. When
they say to thee, “Who is thy Lord?” answer them, “God is
my Lord,” in truth; and when they ask thee concerning thy
Prophet, or the man who hath been sent unto you, say to
them, “Mohammed is the Apostle of God,” with veracity, and
when they ask thee concerning thy religion, say to them,”
El-Islam is my religion”; and when they ask thee concerning
thy book of direction, say to them, “The Koran is my
book of direction, and the Moslems are my brothers”; and
when they ask thee concerning thy Kibleh, say to them,
“The Kaabeh is my Kibleh; and I have lived and died in the
assertion that there is no deity but God, and Mohammed is
God's apostle”; and they will say, “Sleep, O servant of God,
in the protection of God.”
“And then the buffalo was sacrificed, and its flesh, with the
camel-loads of bread and water, was distributed to the poor
sitting in the dust with dust upon their heads.
“And then the body of Hoseyn Hassan, the Descendant of
the Prophet, was left for the visit of the Angels Nakir and
Nekir, to whom he would have to account for his actions.”
Probably there is no one alive in Egypt to-day who would
receive such a funeral if he died; but some features of it are
preserved in every Moslem funeral that you see winding its
way through the Arab city.
Except for the presence of the Cross, Coptic funerals are
very like those of Moslems.
I once had the opportunity of seeing the funeral of a rich
Jew, more magnificent than any funeral I ever saw , except
the procession of a dead monarch or a national hero. I will
not describe it in detail. Everything about it was not only
sumptuous but in charming taste, from the little boys chosen

for their beauty, dressed in purple velvet edged with gold,
who carried the tapers at the head of the procession, each
with a white band of mourning on his arm, to the hearse
itself, drawn by six white horses, with nodding white ostrich
feathers on their heads, and white caparisons of silk and
velvet, as rich as those of knights in tournaments.
The hearse was covered with magnificent white ribbons and
flowers, and the coachman's livery and hammercloth were of
rich white, but some odd freak—inobservance perhaps—had
entrusted the driving of this milk-white hearse to a jet-black

The Birthday of the Prophet

By far the best of the Mohammedan festivals we saw
in Cairo, better even than the return of the Mahmal
and the Pilgrims from Mecca, was the Molid-en-Nebbi—the
Birthday of the Prophet.
For some days all the Arabs had been in a ferment. I
asked them what was in the air. They told me “The
birthday of the Prophet,” but, Arab-like, they did not
know on what exact day it would happen. The only means
by which I could find it out was by inquiring on what
day all the public offices in Cairo were to have their
For about a week before, booths were erected in the
principal thoroughfares, especially on the road to Abbassiya,
in which, in spite of the admonitions in the Koran against
making images of living things, they sold figures, in red
and white sugar and jelly: here an elephant, there a camel,
there the old hero Ihrahim Pasha on his charger; and
absurd sugar dolls dressed in paper. The booths had
special decorations, but I could not discover their significance.
When the day came the editor of the principal native paper
came to drive us to the Molid, for he had procured an
invitation for us from the Sheikh-el-Bekri, the nearest
descendant of the Prophet in all Egypt.
The festival of the Molid takes place on the waste plains
of Abbassiya, which serve as a kind of Campus Martius for
military reviews and occasions like the present. In the
two or three miles' drive which separate it from Cairo I

noticed hardly anything out of the common except the
great crowd, the sweet stalls, and, in one place, in the
garden of a café, a pavilion made of four great cloths
stamped or painted with scenes of the extraordinary
religious life of the Persians.
Presently the long line of blocked tramcars showed us
that the plot was thickening, and when we suddenly swept
round them we came upon an extraordinary spectacle—a
vast rectangular space, about the size of the Stadium,
surrounded by enormous pavilions broidered with the most
brilliant specimens of the tentmaker's art. Some of them
must have been a hundred feet long and fifty feet high;
their fronts were open, the flaps being turned up like the
starched flaps of a French nun's coif, flinging to the sunshine
and the breezes the gleam of the red and blue and gold
in which the texts from the Koran were emblazoned on them.
Across the open fronts were festooned loop below loop,
scores of the great lamps, stored for the festivals of Islam
in the halls of the old El-Hakim mosque, which once did
duty for the museum of Arabic treasures. Across, and in
between them, fluttered more festoons of the gay little white
and vermilion emblems which are hung across a street to
proclaim a marriage of the Faithful, or the return of a pilgrim
from Mecca.
Inside these pavilions were rich deep carpets and scores of
easy chairs, with here and there one of the little brass and
silver Kûrsi, tables of mediaeval workmanship shaped
like a Roman altar which are the pride of the collector.
All was richness, colour, hospitality. Dignified Arabs in
their gayest robes were standing or wandering about, with
the airs of expectation breaking through the stolid calm
of the Orient. From unseen quarters came the clash of
barbaric music. Excited police galloped hither and thither
on their beautiful white Arabs, waving back the traffic; they
told us magnificently that we could proceed no farther;
but when our editor mentioned the magic name of the
Sheikh-el-Bekri, we were escorted, with something approaching
to humility, to the finest of all the pavilions, coloured

a rich green. Was it not the tent of the Descendant and
Representative of the Prophet? Beside it, all the other
great pavilions belonging to the Ministers of the Khedive and
the various Mohammedan Orders were as nothing.
The Sheikh came forward to receive us, a small, thin, white-faced
man, who looked an ascetic and a student in his
plain black gown. His turban was, of course, of the
sacred green. When he rose to meet us he had the Prime
Minister sitting beside him, and on either side of them were
the Sheikh-ul-Azhar and the Grand Mufti. A little lower
down was the Governor of Cairo. The posts of our grand
green tent were red.
The Sheikh has nearly every distinction, open to a non-military
subject, of the Turkish Empire. He has the highest
order of the Osmaniya and the Sultan's new Order; he
is head of all the religious bodies of Islam in Egypt; he
is Sherif of the Asraf, the relations of the Prophet, but
his son, if he has one, will be a far holier personage than
himself, for the Sheikh married a daughter of the late
Sheikh Sadat, who was much nearer the Prophet in descent.
Presently the brother of the Khedive drove up with an
escort of Lancers on grey horses. He was offered a penny
cup of coffee in a shabby cup on a shabby tray by a shabby
man, and a glass of water, just as we had been. The
contrast between the Sheikh, with his ascetic face, which
might have been worn by fasting, and his moth-eaten beard
and severe black gown, and the handsome, plump Prince,
a European in face and in dress, except for the tarbîsh
of his country, was striking. The gilt easy chairs in our
pavilion were covered with pink satin for the Prince and the
Ministers and the Mohammedan magnificoes, and with green
plush for the rest of the Sheikh's guests. Magnificent crystal
chandeliers hung down from the lofty roof; festoons of
red and white electric lights were looped all round it. The
tum-tuming of drums from various points kept us in a flutter
of excitement.
I noted that the police, who had been so ready to stop
a carriage of Christians, took no notice of the bakers with

large rings of bread slung round their arms, the native omnibuses,
the water-sellers, and the Mohammedan crowd generally.
Relays of men with water-skins came up and splashed their
water over the sand in front of our tent like human water-carts.
I noted also that for this great festival of the Prophet,
the presumably Mohammedan police were commanded by
Christian officers.
As soon as the Royal Highness was seated, the heads of
the various Moslem Orders came to receive tokens from the
Sheikh-el-Bekri. They were escorted, each of them, by a
highly picturesque procession. The custom is not a very old
one, nor is there any sanctity attached to the present site.
Until recently the Molid was held at the Kasr-el-Aini.
The daylight reception of the great Moslem Orders is not
universal in Moslem countries. In Syria they only have the
illumination by night. I was thankful that they have both in
Egypt, because this was a magnificent sight. The droning
on the drums, the tinkle of cymbals drew nearer, and soon we
learned what they betokened. For three functionaries in
green turbans stepped to the front and, heralded by the
barbaric band we had heard approaching, and escorted with
tall green banners resplendent with texts and designs in red
and yellow and white — the mottoes of the Order, the deputation
of the first great Order arrived, raising the weird chant
from the Koran which makes a Moslem funeral so impressive.
We could catch the Allah-Allah which came so frequently,
and the sun, which had been behind the clouds until this,
streamed down on the glittering brass-work of the heads of
the flagstaffs. In the middle of the procession on a magnificent
Arab horse, saddled with leopard-skin, rode the Sheikh
of the Order in flowing and venerable white robes. He
dismounted to make the formal declaration to the Sheikh-el-Bekri,
and the deputation made grave and profound Oriental
salaams with a breathless chant of Oh, salaam! Oh, salaam!
Everything was most dignified until the salutation was finished.
Then the magnificent lack of perception of the fitness of things,
which is the weak point in the Arab mind, asserted itself.
There was no dignified routine plan for getting this procession

THE BIRTHDAY OF THE REPORT. A deputation of one of the Mohammedan Orders on its way from saluting the Sheikh-el-Bekri

THE MOLID-EN-NEBBI the Feast of the Birthday of the Prophet. The pavilions of the Khedive's Minister,

away to make room for the next, so the police almost
hustled its members off. The second procession was particularly
fine. Its banner-bearers were all in white, with
Moslem green sashes, and there were a number of pilgrims
home from Mecca, waving censers and singing their solemn
chant. The musicians, who led the way, held their tambourines
hieh in the air and danced like David in the familiar
picture. The Sheikh-el-Bekri himself stood up to honour
them—he had remained sitting while the first procession
passed; there was quite a litany of chanting, and more
white-robed attendants with green belts and shoulder-sashes
played weird tunes on weird bagpipes. There were hundreds
of banners by this time fluttering round the square.
More processions followed. Each halted in front of our
tent, and droned with its drums or its bagpipes. Only a little
thin tune came from the pipes; but as there were bands all
round the square the effect was indescribably impressive.
Sometimes the head of a deputation began to recite as it
halted. One was a very old man, in blue robes, quite blind.
Many of the processions walked up hand-in-hand with the
simplicity of children: some came with a loud beating of
Nubian drums; all chanted incessantly. As procession after
procession came up, each with a fleet of banners and waving
incense from quaint censers, I slipped out from the tent and,
taking my position with the sun behind me, took photograph
after photograph. As I was stepping out with my camera,
our editor, who had taken us, warned me to be very careful
not to be seen. He said that although Egyptian Arabs were
not ordinarily fanatical, they might resent it very much on
such a holy occasion. I do not think that he had taken many
photographs, certainly not as many as I had of Egyptian
Moslems. I anticipated no trouble with them, but I thought
that the police might be troublesome, and that it was not
improbable that I should have to use the fact that we were
guests of the Sheikh-el-Bekri to get over their scruples. I
picked out the officer in command, used my argument, and
requested him to select a good position for me to photograph
from. He said to me impatiently,” I can't speak English,” and

added something in Italian. I replied, “That won't help you,
for I can speak Italian.” And I repeated what I had said in
his own language. He at once became all smiles. “So
few Englishmen who come here speak my language,” he said,
“Stand where you like, and I'll move up beside you!”
At first I rather shielded myself behind his horse and took
my pictures with as much appearance of inadvertence as
possible, but I was cured of that when the men from a procession,
which had already passed, came back to know if I
would not photograph their procession also. My commandant
translated for me. I secured some photographs which I value
very much. It took me right back to the Crusades to see
these hundreds, and I suppose thousands, of splendid banners
sweeping round the great square with such barbaric music,
and chanting which seemed to carry the name of Allah right
up to heaven.
I should have felt profoundly affected, if it had not been
for the little interludes of comedy, as when a baker carrying
a Greek laundry-basket full of bread-rings, or a Greek lady
in her Sunday best of flaming silk and white kid, or a performing
troupe with snakes or monkeys cut in between two processions.
I took my photographs as quickly as possible, and sped
back to the Prophet's tent, where the notables of Egypt, the
great Riaz Pasha among them by this time, sat with a background
of tall kûsi, tables inlaid with pearl, and superb
crystal chandeliers. I made my way to my editor to tell him
of my good fortune. “I should not have believed it,” he
said. He explained to me that these guilds, who were filling
the square with the text-broidered banners of Islam, were
half religious, half civil; that they were generally Sufists who
had taken a certain text or a certain sentence to follow.
Their banners were simply wonderful; they were so enormous,
so gloriously gay with brass-work and inscriptions and
arabesques in red, yellow, green, and black. But some of
the men who carried the banners reminded me of the tag-rag
and bob-tail, who put on the livery and carried the insignia
of a Chinese Taotai or city Governor, when he was going to

pay a visit of state, in my Far-Eastern days. Evidently the
supply of handy men from the bazars had been severely taxed
by the innumerable banners that had to be borne. But some
of the processions had brought their own bearers, dignified-looking
men, with the enthusiasm of religion distinguishing
them as much as their white robes with sashes of the Prophet's
green. It was a lesson in deportment to see an important
Arab walk straight down the middle of the space in front of
our tent, exchanging salutes with the Pashas and Sheikhs, on
his way to address the Sheikh-el-Bekri, or the brother of his Sovereign.
Our editor translated for me a very amusing conversation
which was taking place between one of the Khedive's Ministers,
representing Liberal thought more or less, and one of the
religious dignitaries representing the hide-bound prejudices
of Islam. The dignitary was protesting against the erection
of a statue of Dante in Alexandria, because he had put
Mohammed in hell. But perhaps Dante would have been no
better than the dignitary in the matter.
The whole of the reception was stage-managed by an
under-secretary in a blue-grey galabeah, with the most
humorous twinkle in his eye. When each procession halted
he marshalled its principal members in a row, and they
chanted to the Sheikh-el-Bekri.
As the afternoon wore on, most of the processions had to
be hustled away before they had quite finished. One in
special, which had big drums and commenced a sacred dance,
was quite hurriedly stopped. As the darkness fell, and the
electric lamps flashed out like stars, I felt as if I were in the
tent of Saladin surrounded with the personages of the Talisman.
Darkness was the signal for departure. A Sheikh
came forward and said in sonorous tones: “We are celebrating
the birth of the Lord of the Arabs and the non-Arabs,”
and raised a prayer for the Khedive.
After this all rose, and the Lancers clattered up, and the
Khedive's brother stepped into his carriage and drove away,
leaving us in the centre of vast crowds of the Faithful of
Islam, with the tall pavilions of the Pashas outlined by the

gay festoons of electric-lamps, and with the desert behind
them outlined by the domed Tombs of the Caliphs looming
darkly against the clear starlit sky, as if to imprison our
imaginations in the Middle Ages. …
The Sheikh-el-Bekri very hospitably invited our editor and
myself to come back to the banquet at which he was going to
entertain all the dignitaries in the evening. But the ladies
see the evening celebrations of the Molid. So I expressed
my sense of the honour and excused myself. We rather
wished we had been like the Arabs, who, wanting to be present
at the evening festivities, simply sat down on the ground
where they were standing. The Arab is never hard up for a
seat, for he is always willing to sit on the ground, and the
ground in Egypt is nearly always dry.
We came back after dinner and felt rewarded, for the effect
of the great pavilions with their front flaps turned up to the
sky, like the trunks of trumpeting elephants, and their
interiors ablaze with crystal chandeliers and rows of red and
white electric lamps was monstrously fine. Also a long line
of fresh stalls, where they were selling those preposterous
sweets, seemed to have sprung up by magic. It was like the
Ginza of Tokyo on old year's night. The effect of the stalls
from behind was remarkable, for they had screens like the
windows of pierced marble set with coloured glass which you
have in old mosques. The crowd by this time was enormous,
and there were ever so many police. The pavilions shone
out splendidly. They only lacked a hecatomb of Levantines
as the finishing touch to that barbaric pageant. We went
into a few tents—none of them showed anything more exciting
than a religious dance; most of them were content
with recitations from the Koran.
I shall never forget that vast ring of flaring lights, or the
genuinely religious aspect of the whole festival, or the solid
masses of human beings with one thought in their minds.
But picturesque as it is, the Molid is nothing to what it was
a few years ago.
The Doseh, which was the most extraordinary feature of
the day, is no longer permitted, though whether it is forbidden
by more civilised sentiments or by the English advisers I
cannot say. It consisted of dervishes prostrating themselves
for the Sheikh-el-Bekri to ride over their bodies, and is thus
described by Lane: “In the way through this place, the procession
stopped at a short distance from the house of the
Sheykh El-Bekree. Here, a considerable number of darweeshes
and others (I am sure that there were more than
sixty, but I could not count their number) laid themselves
down upon the ground, side by side, as close as possible
to each other, having their backs upwards, their legs extended,
and their arms placed together beneath their foreheads. They
incessantly muttered the word Allah! About twelve or more
darweeshes, most without their shoes, then ran over the backs
of their prostrate companions; some beating ‘bazes,’ or little
drums, of a hemispherical form, held in the left hand; and
exclaiming Allah! and then the sheykh approached. His
horse hesitated for several minutes to tread upon the back of the
first of the prostrate men; but being pulled, and urged on behind,
he at length stepped upon him; and then, without apparent
fear, ambled, with a high pace, over them all, led by two
persons, who ran over the prostrate men; one sometimes
treading on the feet, and the other on the heads. The
spectators immediately raised a long cry of ‘Allah Id lá Iá Iá
Iáh!’ Not one of the men thus trampled upon by the
horse seemed to be hurt; but each, the moment that the animal
had passed over him, jumped up, and followed the sheykh.
Each of them received two treads from the horse; one from
one of his fore-legs, and a second from a hind-leg. It is said
that these persons, as well as the sheykh, make use of certain
words (that is, repeat prayers and invocations) on the day
preceding this performance, to enable them to endure, without
injury, the tread of the horse; and that some not thus prepared,
having ventured to lie down to be ridden over, have on
more than one occasion, been either killed or severely injured.
The performance is considered as a miracle effected through
supernatural power, which has been granted to every successive

sheykh of the Saadeeyeh. Some persons assert that
the horse is unshod for the occasion, but I thought I could
perceive that this was not the case. They say, also, that the
animal is trained for the purpose; but if so, this would only
account for the least surprising of the circumstances; I mean,
for the fact of the horse being made to tread on human
beings—an act from which, it is well known, that animal
is very averse. The present sheykh of the Saadeeyeh refused,
for several years, to perform the Doseh. By much entreaty,
he was prevailed upon to empower another person to do it.
This person, a blind man, did it successfully; but soon after
died; and the sheykh of the Saadeeyeh then yielded to the
request of his darweeshes; and has since always performed
the Doseh himself.”

The Return of the Holy Carpet from Mecca,
and the Celebration of Bairam.

The two greatest processions of the year at Cairo are
those which celebrate the departure of the Mahmal
for Mecca and its return from Mecca, or, as it is generally
spoken of in the conversation of the foreigners, the departure
and return of the Holy Carpet. I shall not attempt to
be very precise in my definition of the Mahmal, because
authorities, good authorities, contradict each other flatly on
the subject, Lane, the greatest of all writers on the customs
of the Egyptians, saying that the Mahmal contains nothing,
while Mrs. Butcher, who has been in Egypt thirty years, says
that the Kisweh, or Holy Carpet, is packed and taken in
the Mahmal to salute the Khedive before starting on the
pilgrimage, and that the Mahmal is brought to salute him
again on the return of the pilgrims, when the carpet which
was taken to Mecca the year before is brought back to
Cairo. One of them must be wrong, and it hardly signifies
which to the tourist, because it is the Mahmal itself which,
full or empty, is the central feature of the procession. There
is one point about which there is no dispute — the Carpet
is not a carpet at all but a piece of tapestry made to go round
the Kaaba at Mecca, “of the stiffest possible blacksilk — black
because that is the colour of the Abbasside dynasty —
embroidered heavily with gold.” The making of the Kisweh
is a hereditary privilege in a certain family, and Egyptians
estimate its value at eighty thousand pounds. The Khedive

cuts up the part of it that is returned to him to present
pieces of it to great Mohammedan personages. I have myself
only heard of one Christian receiving a piece; and I have only
his authority for it.
Lane's description of the Mahmal seemed to me to be
absolutely correct, and I had a very good opportunity of
judging, because the functionary in charge to whom I had
an introduction from Mansfield Pasha, stopped it for me
that I might take a photograph of it. That nobody seemed
to object seemed to me another extraordinary example of
the liberality of feeling shown by Egyptian Mohammedans
in the matter of photography, which in many Mohammedan
countries is fanatically resented. Lane's description of the
Mahmal is as follows:
“It is a square skeleton frame of wood with a pyramidal
top, and has a covering of black brocade richly worked with
inscriptions and ornamental embroidery in gold, in some parts
upon a ground of green or red silk, and bordered with
a fringe of silk, with tassels, surmounted by silver balls.
Its covering is not always made after the same pattern with
regard to the decorations; but in every cover that I have
seen I have remarked on the upper part of the front a
view of the Temple of Makkah, worked in gold, and over it,
the Sultan's cipher. It contains nothing; but has two copies
of the Kurán, one on a small scroll, and the other in the usual
form of a book, also small, each enclosed in a case of gilt
silver, attached externally at the top. The five balls with
crescents, which ornament the Mahmal are of silver gilt. The
Mahmal is borne by a fine tall camel, which is generally
indulged with exemption from every kind of labour during
the remainder of its life.”
Whether the Carpet is or is not conveyed in the Mahmal,
it is pretty clear that the Mahmal in any case represents
Egyptian royalty in the pilgrimage. Hughes, who is very
well informed, says:
“It is said that Sultan Az-Zahir Beybars, King of Egypt,
was the first who sent a Mahmal with a caravan of pilgrims
to Makkah in A.D. 1272, but that it had its origin a few


THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY CARPET with Sultan Hassans's mosque in the background, and the Mahmal to the left of the policeman standing at attention.

years before his accession to the throne, under the following
“Shaghru d-Durr, a beautiful Turkish female slave, who
became the favourite wife of Sultan As-Salih Najmu d-din,
and who on the death of his son (with whom terminated the
dynasty of Aiyub) caused herself to be acknowledged Queen
of Egypt, performed the hajj in a magnificent litter borne by
a camel. And for successive years her empty litter was sent
yearly to Makkah as an emblem of State. After her death,
a similar litter was sent each year with the caravan of pilgrims
from Cairo and Damascus, and is called Mahmal
or Mahmil, a word signifying that by which anything is supported.”
I was unfortunately away at Khartûm at the time of the
departure of the Holy Carpet, so I only witnessed its return.
I imagine that the earlier procession is much the finer of
the two. The procession was of no great extent; it depended
on quality rather than quantity, but the audience
was gigantic and the auditorium not easily to be matched
in the world.
By the kindness of Mansfield Pasha, the late head of the
Egyptian police, who made Arabic history and institutions a
study in many languages in order to understand the bearing
of Mohammedan law and custom upon the code which he had
to administer, we had a place given us for our carriage right
opposite the permanent kiosk erected for the Khedive and his
Ministers when receiving the Mahmal, which looks like an
open-air stage. It stands far down the sort of Campus
Martius under the Citadel, the upper part of which is occupied
by the Market of the Afternoon and the Meidan Rumeleh.
The position is magnificent, for many thousand people can
be accommodated in this huge open space, and its surroundings
make such a noble background for the pageant. Behind the
pavilion of the Sovereign, whose family, like the Caliphs before
them, have associated themselves so intimately with the
Mecca pilgrimage (the Khedive himself having made the
pilgrimage), rises the noble old Citadel of Saladin, a castle
on a rock culminating in the soaring dome and obelisk of
Mehemet Ali's mosque, the Crown of Cairo. And its lines

are carried in a bold sweep like the curve of a scimitar from
the crest of its hill down to the two great mosques which
stand right and left where the chief thoroughfare of the city
debouches on the Citadel square. The whole curve between
the Citadel and the mosques of Sultan Hassan and Al
Rifai'ya is occupied by a climbing chain of smaller mosques
yet more picturesque, with their arabesqued mameluke domes
and their slender rose-tinted forms.
As we stood gazing towards the city waiting for the procession
to appear, I thought that earth had had few things
more fair to show me than this rising sweep of domes and
minarets towering over the trees from the great old dome put
up at the command of Sultan Hassan more than five centuries
ago, to the great new dome put up five centuries later in
honour of Mehemet Ali.
These fantastic shapes of the Orient wore the colour of
pearl in the early morning sunshine. Pageants are early in
Egypt to avoid the fierceness of the noon-day heat; the people
hoped against hope that the Khedive was to receive Mahmal
at 9 a.m., and we were recommended to be there an hour or
two earlier. Most of the inhabitants of Cairo were there before
us. Most of the tourists had left Egypt. The soldiers on
parade were all drawn from the Egyptian Army and must
have used up all the Egyptian Army quartered in Cairo.
They made a fine showing; Egyptian soldiers are big men,
well set up, and admirably drilled; no European drills better
than the Egyptian. A sort of sky-blue is the Khedive's
favourite colour for uniforms, which, with white spats, yellow
faces, and scarlet tarbûshes, makes a parade look as gay as a
They were drawn up so as to keep a large space clear in
front of the Khedivial pavilion. The police on their white
Arab chargers did the actual clearing; the soldiers acted as a
sort of fence, and behind them were all the poor natives in
Cairo. On this occasion most of them had brought seats
with them and improvised a sort of auditorium, not so much
to sit on—the ground does for that—as to stand on when the
procession came past. The usual comical hawkers of provisions

and other necessaries (to the perverse native mind) wandered
round with the connivance of the police. The bands did not
play; natives do not need to be amused while they are waiting;
Arabs would take a prize for waiting anywhere.
A place had been roped off for the carriages of foreigners
and unofficial Egyptian notables opposite the Khedivial
pavilion. The official Egyptian notables stood in front of the
pavilion, and there was a sort of tribune for the Diplomatic
Corps, who most of them had, or pretended to have, left Cairo.
They had seen too much of the Mahmal.
The soldiers, horse, foot, and artillery, had all arrived; the
cavalry very smart in their light blue, the staff conspicuous in
white and gold; the steps of the pavilion were getting lined
with court uniforms and gay sashes. The pavilion was a
three-arched mak'ad, like one sees in the court of a great
Arab palace; it was filled with chairs occupied by dignitaries,
such as Pashas with gold bands round their turbans, in the
midst of whom, clad in his robes of the sacred green, was the
Sheikh-el-Bekri, the Descendant of the Prophet.
The Khedive was not to be present; he had grown tired of
waiting for the Mahmal; he had something which he wished
to do in Alexandria; and various things had conspired to
postpone the arrival of the Carpet until long after its usual
time. The pilgrims were suspected of bringing back cholera,
and the wild Mohammedans of Arabia had no respect for the
sanctity of the pilgrimage, and had exposed it to incessant
skirmishes. So when the band played the Egyptian Anthem —
no more like the original than jugged hare—Egyptian
bands have no idea of music—and the guns thundered out,
and the Army stood at the salute, it was only the Prime
Minister driving up in a green sash to take the Khedive's
This was at nine-fifteen, a quarter of an hour after the
Mahmal ought to have made its appearance, and almost
immediately afterwards a burst of Oriental kettle-drums and
hautboys from the entrance of the square proclaimed that
the procession was approaching. As it came into sight the

spectacle was wonderfully picturesque; for it had for its background
a sea of stolid Arabs, dressed in every colour under
the sun, with the light green of the trees and that marvellous
sky-line of mosques behind them rising in three tiers.
The procession was headed by the Mahmal itself, nodding
gravely on its camel, a sort of square tent twelve feet high, of
crimson and cloth-of-gold, with gold balls and green tassels.
From the nature of the camel's walk it was very seldom
upright, but it jogged solemnly along, surrounded by religious
banners gorgeous with Arabic texts. I never saw anything that
looked more Oriental. It was followed by a standard-bearer
and five drum-beaters mounted on fine camels with very
gorgeous trappings, the same band probably that had played
into Cairo every important pilgrim who had lately returned
from Mecca. I daresay I should have recognised the faces if
I had studied them. I was more occupied with their gorgeous
trappings, especially reserved for the occasion perhaps; they
looked cleaner than usual. The camels were led by people in
picturesque dresses, who did not at all look as if they had
been to Mecca; they did not even look respectable; they
looked as if they were men who did odd jobs about the bazars,
hired for the occasion. Their business was to lead the band
camels, not to have been to Mecca. There was even a sort of
jester, who seems to go to Mecca every year, and therefore
must be a very holy person. The incongruousness of this
man, and of the riff-raff camel attendants, did not strike the
Arab spectators at all; their eyes were all on the Mahmal,
the emblem which meant so much to them.
My eyes were for everything, not least for the escort, black
with the suns of the Arabian desert, the famous screw-gun
battery which Lord Kitchener wanted to buy for the Boer
War, followed by one-half the Fourth Battalion, dressed in
British khaki, a troop of cavalry, and a couple of machine
That escort meant something, for they had had almost to
fight their way from Mecca to the sea, so persistent was the
skirmishing with which the Desert tribes had harassed the
pilgrimage this year. They marched with splendid precision.
When the Mahmal came abreast of the Khedivial pavilion
it went through various evolutions while it described seven
circles—the prescribed number. At the conclusion it
advanced right up to the pavilion steps, which were crowded
with great officials in brilliant uniforms. The Prime Minister
came forward and received it on behalf of his Prince with
deepest reverence.
After this it was proceeding at a much livelier pace, when
suddenly the great functionary, to whom I had received an
introduction, very politely held up his hand and stopped the
procession for a few moments for me to photograph the
Mahmal, which, as I have said, I considered the highest proof
of Egyptian wide-mindedness. Then the procession swept
on under the Citadel and was lost in the crowd, which no
longer made any pretence of keeping in its place, but surged
round those seven camels trapped with barbaric gold and
crimson that had such a profound significance.
To me the procession of the Mahmal was not to be compared
with the Molid-en-Nebbi for either variety or impressiveness.
One of the most interesting features was having the
principal functionaries in the robes of their office pointed out
to me by Mansfield Pasha. Cabinet Ministers in Egypt are
not unlike Cabinet Ministers in England in their uniform
except for the tarbûsh. The Grand Kadi, the Grand Mufti,
and the Sheikh-ul-Azhar were much more remarkable-looking
I have never been in Egypt during Ramadan, and the
Bairam I have only seen at Luxor. It was most interesting
even there. It began in the early morning. It threatened to
begin at six, but it was nearly two hours late. I did not repine,
because every minute the light was getting better for photography
and it is none too good before eight in January even
in Egypt.
The young Mohammedan who had volunteered to take me
led me into a large enclosure behind the mosque near the
Mamuriya. Perhaps it was a mosque; it was quite as much of
a mosque as the Khalifa's at Omdurman, where Slatin Pasha
had to pray for so many hours every day with the Khalifa's

malignant eyes on him to see that he was looking as if he
liked it.
There was an immense number of people there, all men,
all dressed in white, arranged in long parallel rows. The
deformed dwarf who was the official incense-shaker at Luxor,
wandered up and down the line sprinkling them as they
squatted waiting for the Sheikh of the chief mosque.
Presently he came surrounded by scores of men carrying
splendid banners, white, blazoned with texts from the Koran
in green, yellow, and black, purple, red, and blue. This little
cortège halted opposite the centre of the line, the banners
clustered in a sort of semicircle enveloping the Sheikh, who
prayed and preached. The long lines of white-robed
Moslems stood up and flung themselves down at intervals,
praying vigorously; the incense-shaker set to work again,
and I went with him taking photographs. I had won his
countenance completely with a large piastre (2 1/2 d), and he
invited me through the young man, my interpreter, to
accompany him. Finally the Sheikh, escorted by his banners
and followed by a large proportion of the worshippers, left
the enclosure very hurriedly. A little while later, as I was
going towards the hotel, I met the Sheikh alone. “Wait,” said
the young man, as he saw me eyeing the Sheikh wistfully,
“don't take him in a hurry; I will ask him to stand for you.”
And he did.
The whole ceremony was very beautiful; the costumes
were satisfying; the devoutness was most impressive, and the
low early light of a winter morning was a good atmosphere
for poetical effects if it was capable of improvement for
After breakfast, at the suggestion of that same Mohammedan
young man, the interpreter, we went to the principal
Arab cemetery of Luxor to see the people making offerings
at the graves and enjoying themselves. The proportion of
women was unusually large, and they were not very
particular about veiling themselves. The offerings were
rather make-believe. There was much more atmosphere of
enjoyment. Besides shows of a Punch-and-Judy character

and the “medicine man,” decked out in rags like a scare-crow,
there were various vendors of bread and sugar-cane, and
other sugar stuff, which mostly took the form of poles of
Edinburgh Rock eight or ten feet high, striped like barber's
poles. The ceremony at the cemetery was a bore; nobody
seemed to be taking it very seriously; it resolved itself into
listless touting.

The Ashura and its Mutilations

THE world would be dull without its religions—and the
loss would fall more heavily on Cairo than most
places, for its races are as mixed as a resurrection-pie, and
the Government places no restrictions upon their religious
exercises, except that the English, who are always interfering,
will not allow fanatics to lie on their faces for the Descendant
of the Prophet to ride over them at the Molid-en-Nebbi
any longer. The Molid-en-Nebbi, I should explain, is the
Festival of the Birthday of the Prophet.
I am glad to have been in Cairo before the abolition of
the Ashura, which can be only a matter of time, and ought
to have taken place long ago. Now that the dervishes are
no longer allowed to dance or howl themselves into epileptic
fit, let alone hang themselves up on meat-hooks stuck
between their shoulder joints, there would not seem to the
ordinary mind any reason why the Shia, or unorthodox
Mohammedans, should be allowed to go about the streets
on the night of the Ashura slashing their heads with swords
and scourging their backs with chains until the blood spurts
over them in small fountains.
But to the Egyptian mind the affair presents a different
aspect. The Shia Mohammedans are mostly Persians, and
the Persians are the capitalists of the Bazar, and somebody
receives two thousand pounds for allowing the Ashura to go
on. I cannot say whether the two thousand pounds go in
fees to the authorities or in bakshish, but it is a perfectly
well-known thing that the Persians are allowed to indulge

in this anachronism for the definite payment of this large
I think that if I was a Persian I should like to be relieved
of the responsibility; it would be worth coming to Egypt
for this only, not to mention the advantages of trading in a
country where the taxation is low and fixed, and the English
are present to prevent rich men being squeezed.
The Ashura is the tenth day of Muharram, the first
month of the Mohammedan year. The Shia Mohammedans
observe all ten days as days of lamentation. But the Sunnite
Mohammedans observe the tenth day only as being
the day on which it is said that God created Adam and
Eve, Heaven and Hell, the Tablet of Decree, the Pen, Fate,
Life, and Death. The Ashura procession takes place on
the tenth day, because on that day the Imam Hoseyn, the
son of Ali, the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet, was
assassinated on the Field of Kerbela. His head is supposed
to be kept at the Mosque of the Hassaneyn in Cairo, where
immense crowds used to assemble to see the dervishes
shouting and whirling, eating glass and fire, and wagging
their heads for hours to the name of Allah. The women
used to go in large numbers on that night.
In Queer Things About Persia, the book in which I collaborated
with M. Eustache de Lorey, there is an elaborate
account of the miracle play which is acted in Persia
with so much ceremony on that day.
In Persia, which is the principal seat of the Shia Mohammedans,
the feeling against the foreigner's watching this holy
procession used to be so strong that he had to sit back in a
room to look at it if he was on the line of route, or betake
himself to a distant roof, but now the presence of foreigners
is rather encouraged if they keep out of the crowd.
The Egyptian can be dangerously fanatical on occasion,
but, to do him justice, he is quite large-minded about allowing
infidels who are interested, to watch the Moslem processions
and ceremonials and even to photograph them, and if any
amusing incident occurs, he is generally ready to share a
laugh about it. I think that the Egyptian has a real appreciation

of foreigners' being intelligently interested in the
ancient customs and monuments of his country.
I love all processions and ceremonials which have the
charm of antiquity, picturesqueness, and barbarism. I do
not, I confess, like the sight of bloodshed, but I should not
allow that to keep me away from an occasion like the
procession of the Ashura.
We saw it one February night in the Musky, restored
for once by the occasion and by the friendly shades of night
to its ancient rôle of chief street of Arab Cairo. The time
was, not so very long ago, when the Musky was bordered by
unspoiled Arab mansions and was a sort of bazar. Nowadays
the mansions have been pulled to pieces for commercial
uses, almost beyond recognition, and the shops have been
usurped by slop-selling Levantines. The street has no majesty
left, and would have no colour if it were not the main
thoroughfare up which the natives pass to the European
We had been down there in the afternoon. No one could
have told then that anything was going to happen. All
the shops looked exactly the same as usual. But Ramidge's
boy, Mustafa, who was always going to take him to one
of those Arab plays which are supposed to be treason in
disguise, wished to make up for his remissness in that
direction, and he urged Ramidge to take us to the Ashura,
and volunteered to take seats for us overlooking the procession
at five piastres (a shilling and a half-penny) each. When
we got there we found the Musky almost in a state of darkness,
because it is lighted chiefly by the flares in its shops,
which were all packed with people shutting out the light.
We were advised to go early, because the police would stop
the traffic an hour before the procession. When we got there
we found the traffic stopped already and a chain across the
street. But the Egyptian policeman does not think it any
part of his duties to act against foreigners. The constables
at once made a passage for us and escorted us to our
destination, headed by Ramidge's Mustafa, who explained
that Ramidge would be with us in a minute. The pavements

on both sides, as well as the houses, were packed with
spectators. When we got to our seats we found that they
were on the first floor of an Arab restaurant, which had a
veranda over the pavement for its customers, that quite
precluded our seeing anything of the street. It was so like
an Egyptian to let a room, from which nothing could be
seen, to foreigners. Mustafa suggested that we should sit on
the roof of the veranda: he had his face to save for having
been taken in. But it would certainly have given way, and
the police thought of a much better idea. They directed
the restaurant keeper to put chairs for us out in the road,
which their own patrols were keeping clear. They warned
us, however, that the people in the procession might be
annoyed by the proximity of infidels and might try to hustle
us. They said we were not to mind that, because they
would move them on. They asked Mustafa if the English
ladies would be afraid. Mustafa himself was the most afraid,
probably because he knew more about the risks we were
running. We decided that as Captain Archer was willing to
let us take the risk it was quite worth taking it, especially as
we were going to get a view of the proceedings beyond our
wildest hopes.
Ramidge had not turned up.
It was quite exciting, even before the procession came
along. The splendid-looking police troopers on their white
Arabs charged the crowd at short intervals to keep them in
their places, and sometimes they came down the streets at a
gallop. We were surrounded by evil, evilly-behaved people.
But as the police had put our chairs well out into the road it
did not matter much till the crowd began to close on us
behind. Then another brilliant idea struck the police: they
made the restaurant keeper clear his counter, and put out
chairs upon that, but we declined this inglorious safety; it
was more fun in the street. And just then Ramidge turned
up, and as he spoke Arabic fluently we were in a better
position to understand the temper of the crowd. It was no
wonder if they were in a temper, because the police were
charging up and down the street incessantly. It turned out

that Ramidge had been to the police-station to give his
coachman in charge. This is one of the humours of Egypt;
if your cabman cheats or insults you you make him drive
himself to the police-station, and the officer in charge
generally refuses to let you pay any fare.
Though the police kept charging the crowd back, anybody
who had anything handy to sell, such as melon seeds or
pistachio-nuts, was allowed to ply his trade. And after a
while the police got tired of keeping order altogether and
allowed the crowd to take care of itself, which it did with
great success and good-humour. The natives began to
squat in front of the pavement; they became very amusing.
A man who kept a library had a flight of steps of which
he was proud. He would not allow any one to sit on
them, and when they did, brought out basins of water and
threw over them to make them move. They always went
back again directly afterwards, though they would not face
the actual swish of the water. At last he had used all his
water up, and they sat on his steps in peace while he
threatened them in vain with empty basins.
Then cats began to come out like dogs on a race-course,
and tried to get back, but found the crowd too close, and flew
up and down while the crowd hissed and clapped. Then the
supply of cats ran short, and the crowd pretended that a
passing Arab was a cat, and hissed and chivvied him, and
then a woman really did lose herself like a cat and made
futile dives to get back again, and the crowd got into a state
of holiday enjoyment.
All of a sudden there came the unearthly noises which
precede a Moslem procession, and a cart appeared between
two cressets of blazing wood held very high. The cart
contained only a fat man, who addressed the crowd about
the martyrdom of Hoseyn at the hands of the wicked
usurper. As the crowd were nearly all orthodox
Mohammedans, they were on the wicked usurper's side, and
were not much depressed. They were out for a holiday
almost as much as we were. There was no religious fervour
on the fat man's face; Mustafa recognised him as the fire-wood

contractor to the hotels. He borrowed a water-bottle
at our restaurant, and he and his attendants all took a long
drink to nerve them for fresh exertion. We were beginning
to be afraid that the affair would be a fiasco, when suddenly
the procession proper burst upon us. First came twelve
men bearing aloft cressets full of flaming wood. They were
followed by ten police troopers, magnificent men, on stately
white Arabs, and a crowd of men carrying tall banners and
more cressets flaming in the wind. In the midst of long
lines of the faithful bearing lanterns were horses for the two
Imams, Hoseyn and Hassan, the sons of Ali, and then came
what to us constituted the Ashura, the half-naked men
lashing themselves with chains and with their shoulders and
shaven heads and faces horribly gashed, and streaming
with blood, enhanced by the fact that what garments they
did wear had been white when they started. They made all
sorts of hoarse noises—religious noises half way between
shoutings and intonations, chiefly, I think, to assist their
frenzy, and those who were not flogging themselves with
chains were beating their breasts.
The most conspicuous figure in the procession was the
child covered with blood riding on a white horse, who
represented the Imam Hoseyn's little son, Ali Akbar. We
hoped that the blood was not his own.
Then came more foot-police, more horse-police, and the
procession was ended. I saw no fanaticism except in the
faces of the performers: the crowd did not appear to be any
more interested than we were, and the climax was the
announcement of Mustafa, which he had from a policeman,
that the people who had been mutilating themselves in the
procession were all going to have supper together at a
restaurant in the Gamaliya, the chief Arab street of Cairo.
We spent some time trying to find that restaurant, but
without success: if they did have that supper they took
precautions to keep its whereabouts a secret. The
Gamaliya was almost in darkness: its residents do not
spend their evenings at Gamaliya cafés; they go to places
where they can see more life, such as the Esbekiya street.
I was disappointed with this Ashura procession; there is
no reality about it in Egypt except the flow of blood; it is
an exotic of the Persian colony. What lends such dignity
to the processions of the Holy Carpet and the Molid-en-Nebbi
is that they are expressions of the national religion.
All the millions of Sunnite Mohammedans in Egypt breathe
fervour into them. In Persia the Ashura is the most
important of religious ceremonies, because the fervour in
the Shiite millions of Persia is behind it. The Shahs and
the Mollas have always done all they could to foster the
national excitement over it to prevent Persia falling under
the influence of Sunnite Constantinople.

Arab Domestic Processions

CAIRO is full of prizes for the photographer. The Arab
loves pageants, and is as fond of being the central
figure in a show as Mr. Roosevelt himself. His two great
opportunities for it are getting married and going on a
pilgrimage to Mecca, or rather returning from one. I imagine
that there must be a sort of undertaker; perhaps there is a
whole profession of them to supply the palanquins and camel-trappings
and banners and bands which characterise the processions
of both kinds. At any rate, the same procession did
duty for a number of pilgrims, as I know from my own kodak.
Sometimes the processions are much longer and more elaborate
than at others, I suppose in proportion to the amount of
money which the family is willing to pay the undertaker.
Large or small, the processions are always gorgeous and
barbaric, and their approach is always heralded by a tum-tuming
and cymballing of wild Oriental music.
I hardly ever went out in the streets without my kodak,
and if I was in the hotel when I heard those weird sounds I
always flew for my kodak and flew out into the street. And
it was seldom that there was not something worth photographing
even when one had scores of photographs of
palanquins and camel bands.
There is a regular pilgrim season in Cairo, just before the
return of the Holy Carpet from Mecca. The private pilgrims
move more quickly. Their arrival causes great excitement.
In the old Arab part of Cairo making a pilgrimage to Mecca
is still such an event that, when the pilgrim returns, they paint

the supposed incidents of his journey on the outside of his
These illustrations do not always bear any relation to facts.
The trains and steamboats, drawn and painted as a child of
six might execute them, have the basis of the railway journey
to Suez and the voyage from Suez to Jeddah. Palm-trees of
course he would see at every oasis; lions and leopards are
unlikely, though faintly possible, on such a frequented route.
The artist generally puts one in. The robber tribes, who form
the real peril, are never introduced, though dragons would
appear to form part of the fauna of Arabia. The artist
always puts in the most marvellous and out-of-the-way things
he has heard of; it is only because aeroplanes and