Title: New Egypt [Electronic Edition]

Author: Guerville, A. B. de 1869- (Amédée Baillot de)
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Note: Illustrations have been included from the print version.

Title: New Egypt

Author: Guerville, A. B. de 1869- (Amédée Baillot de)
Revised and Cheaper Edition
File size or extent: xiv, 360 p. front. (port.) illus. (incl. pl.) 23 cm.
Place of publication: New York
Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Company
Place of publication: London
Publisher: William Heinemann
Publication date: 1906
Identifier: From the collection of Dr. Paula Sanders, Rice University.
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Origin/composition of the text: 1906
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  • Egypt -- Description and travel.
  • Sudan -- Description and travel.
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New Egypt [Electronic Edition]




[Frontispiece Image]




Printed in England
All rights reserved





H.H. The Khedive Frontispiece
The Harbour at Alexandria 1
The Rue Cherif Pasha, Alexandria 4
A Sais (runner) 6
Statue of Mohamed Ali 9
Shoemakers 11
A Coffee-seller 12
On the road to Cairo 15
Tomb of a SheikTo face 16
Ghamousahs 17
Arabi 18
Fruit-seller at a Railway Station 20
A bit of Country 21
H. E. Abani Pasha, War
Place de l'Opera, Cairo 24
Gate of Bab ez Zuwêleh, Cairo
To face
A Native “Omnibus” 26
Shariah el TabbduehTo face 28
Sakkas (water-seller) 29
M. Charles Baehler 30
Ghezireh Palace Hotel 31
G. Nungovich Bey 32
Dome of the Savoy Hotel 33
A Dragoman 34
Lady CromerTo face 36
Madame de Martino 38
Nile at Cairo 40
Arab Woman and Donkey-boy 42
The Earl of CromerTo face 44
Sir Vincent Corbett 46
The Nile 47
H. E. Moustapha Fehmy
Pasha, Prime Minister
Sir Ernest Cassel 51
View of the CitadelTo face 52
M. Raphael Suarès 53
The late Sir E. Palmer 54
Door to Sebîl Montahar 56
Pyramids at Sunset 58
Ghezireh Bridge 60
Flower-seller 61
H. E. Mazloum Pasha 63
Nile Barrage 64
Father Cottet 66
Sugar-cane Market 68
French Diplomatic Agency 70
A Sword-makerTo face 72
M. de la Boulinière 74
Madame de la Boulinière 75
Racecourse, Cairo 77
Native MinstrelsTo face 78
“Danse du Ventre” 79
Street in Old Cairo 80
The Sphinx and PyramidsTo face 82
The Pyramid Road 84
Dancing Girl 88
Pyramids of GizehTo face 90
Nubar 91
Tomb of the Kalifs 94
Khedive Ismail 95
General Thurneyssen Pasha 99
Mosque Mohamed AliTo face 102
Khedive Tewfik 105
Dr. Comanos Pasha 106
The Khedive's Stud-farm 108
H. E. De Martino Pasha 111
H. E. Boutros Pasha, Minister
of Foreign Affairs
The Children of H.H. The
A TurnerTo face 116
Pupils of the Khedive's Private
A Canal 120
Exterior of a Mosque, Cairo
To face
Khedive's Dahabeah 122
Levelling land with bullocks 124
H.H. The Khedive watching the
Palace of Montazah 126
The Court of a Mosque, Cairo
To face


H.H. The Khedive and a Train
on his new Railway
130 & 131
Palaces on the Nile 132
H.H. Prince Mohamed AliTo face 134
H.H. Prince Hussein Kamel
H.H. Prince Fuad Pasha 136
H.H. Princess Nazli 139
Tombs of the MamelukesTo face 140
Native Village 144
An Egyptian Girl 145
Entrance to an old Native
HouseTo face
Veiled Woman 148
Mother and Child 153
Arab Mansion 155
A Mummy 157
El Azhar UniversityTo face 158
The late Grand Moufti, Sheik
Mohamed Abdou
Mosque el Azhar 160
The ReformatoryTo face 162
Boghos Nubar Pasha 165
Gymnastics at the Police
SchoolTo face
The Strong Man of the Police
A Kouttab school 171
A Boys' school 172
A Class of CheiksTo face 172
Late Lady Cromer's Home for
Loaded Camels 176
S.S. Rameses. 178
Statue of Rameses II. 180
Country scene near CairoTo face 182
Native Boats. 183
Team of Camel and Bullock 185
Pigeon-houses 186 & 187
Sakiyeh for pumping Water
To face
Palaces at Assiout 193
AssioutTo face 194
Calm Day on the Nile 195
Temple of Denderah 196
Karnac 199
Karnac, Pylone of Ptolemy 201
Great Columns at Karnac
To face
Obelisks at Karnac. 204
Landing-place, Luxor 207
Queen Tia's Mummy 208
Gold Mask of Queen Tia's
Blue enamelled and gold
Coffer, with name of King
Amenhotep III.
A Chair found in Queen Tia's
Gilded Head to Bedstead representing
the god Bes
Assouan and the Cataract
Shâdûfs 216
Temple of Kom Ombo 217
Elephantine IslandTo face 218
A Sheik's Tomb in the Desert
near Assouan
Nubian Village, Elephantine
IslandTo face
Besharins' Encampment 223
Kiosk of Philæ during the Flood 225
Philæ before the Assouan Dam
was builtTo face
H.E. Fahkry Pasha, Minister
of Public Works
The Barrage at Assouan 228
Lock, Barrage at Assouan 228
Sir William Garstin 230
PhilæTo face 230
Tusks of last Elephant killed by
Sir W. Garstin
Flooded Palm-grove 233
The Second Cataract of the Nile 235
A Nubian Woman.To face 238
Empress Eugenie's Dahabeah 240
Temple of Abou Simbel 242
Sudanese Children 244
Grand Hotel, Khartoum 248
Khartoum, the Palace 252
General view of Khartoum
To face
Lord Kitchener 259
Omdurman, Ruins of Mahdi's
Slatin Pasha as a Dervish 264
Gordon Memorial College 266
Gardens in Khartoum 269
Sir Reginald WingateTo face 270
War Office, Khartoum 274
Sudanese WomenTo face 276
Workshops, Gordon College 279
Cairo Citadel 283
Slatin's House 285
The Nile at OmdurmanTo face 286
Shaigi Girl 288
Sudanese Dancing-girlsTo face 290
Grinding Dhurra 292


Gordon's Statue 296
H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught
To face
Taufikia 300
Sir Reginald Wingate at Kama 302
Our boat, The Abbas Pasha
To face
After-dinner Pipe 307
Camels at El Duem 309
Sudanese Family and Hut 312
The American Mission on the
Sobat River, Central Africa
To face
Panorama of Fashoda 318 & 319
English Ladies shopping in a
Shilouk VillageTo face
Shilouk Settlement on the Sobat
Shilouk Head-dress 322
Prince Okokwan and his retinue 325
Shilouks 326
Fashoda — the Governor's
Lord Edward Cecil and Captain
OwenTo face
Gordon's Tree at Khartoum 337



IN the autumn of last year, whilst spending a few days at
Caux, that ideal resort overlooking Territet with its
lovely bay on Lac Leman, I chanced to meet an old
friend of mine, a diplomatist, who had passed some
ten years or so of his life in Egypt.
“I have just been reading ‘Au Japon’,”1 he
said to me, “and my mind is now made up. I can
resist no longer. I am off for a trip to the land of
the Chrysanthemum. Won't you come and have
another peep at your old loves?”
“No, my dear fellow,” I replied. “I am going
to flirt with yours. You are bound for the land of the
‘Mousmé,’ I am bound for the land ‘of mummies.’”
A far off look came into his eyes, a sigh escaped his lips,
whilst he added:
“I envy you. It is an ideal winter spot. But you will
find yourself greatly mistaken if you expect to meet only
mummies there. As to the fair sex, I can tell you … But
what's the good? … You will have the pleasure of discovering
for yourself all the treasures which Egypt offers in winter
to those who have eyes to see and the wisdom to understand.
I have half a mind to come with you, but Japan is too seductive.
Go, my dear chap. Not your first visit, is it? Ah!
you will find the proverb says truly: ‘He who has once tasted
of the waters of the Nile will surely return to drink thereof.’
But tell me, what are you going for—amusement?”
“To amuse myself? Rather not. I'm going to write
another book.”
1 “Au Japon,” par A. B. de Guerville, 1904. 1 vol. in 16mo
Frs. 3.50. Lemerie Editeur, Paris.


“What! on Egypt? … Poor fellow!”
It would be impossible to describe the expression of pity,
half surprised, half amused, of my friend the diplomatist.
“I envy you no longer,” he said. “I only pity you,
The most terrible, brain-splitting Chinese puzzle is simple as
A, B, C, compared with the Egyptian question.”
“But I don't intend to have anything to do with the
Egyptian question. It is the country, its inhabitants, their
customs, which—”
“Yes, but that's the rub. I defy you to write of all
that without touching on the thousand and one financial and
political questions in which Egypt is to-day head over ears.
Listen! I have passed years there, and behind the scenes, as
you know. Very well. I tell you frankly I cannot say that
I know Egypt a whit better now than before I went; in fact, I
believe the longer one lives there the less one sees clear. We
no more understand the Egyptians than we understand the
Japanese; and, besides, there is this difference that, whereas the
latter understand themselves, the former do not, any more than
we do. Ah! It is a pretty mess, as you will see for yourself.”
There is no mistake; my friend was right. I had no idea
as to the difficult task I had undertaken.
To understand Egypt, to describe in a single volume its
past glorious but in ruins, its present full of energy and work,
its future of hope and promise, is humanly impossible. “New
Egypt” has not been written for my Egyptian friends, for
those who know thoroughly this lovely land. Herein will be
found only impressions, such as may strike the traveller as he
makes his way from Alexandria to Fashoda, with here and there
some remarks on matters political, financial and religious, which
I have been able to obtain from good sources. These sources
are the highly placed personages in the Egyptian world, English,
French, native and others; these men, keen and talented, who, in
palaces, ministries, legations, schools, hospitals, banks or large
industrial concerns, are working without ceasing for the regeneration
of Egypt. I have knocked at all doors, rich and
poor, high and low, and everywhere a warm welcome has awaited
me. “Enter, observe, criticise. Here are our attempts, and,
alas! here also are our failures.”


And to-day an easy task would await me if, instead of
twenty chapters, I could write twenty volumes. On each
subject, on each page, the fear is always with me that I may
not have written enough to give a clear idea of Egypt to those
who know it not, and yet I fear also to overstep the limits
I have set myself in this small book.
To all those who have aided me, in Egypt and in the Soudan,
I now express my most sincere gratitude and thanks. I give
no names: they are modest folk, and, besides, have no need
of my little advertisement.
Amongst the illustrations are a certain number of photographs
taken either by myself or by friends, and others
kindly placed at my disposal by Messrs. Dittrich and Lekégian
of Cairo, M. Béato of Luxor, M. Fiorillo of Assouan, M.
Veniéris of Khartoum, and Herr Turstig of Omdurman.
There are very few good photographers in Egypt, and I
should advise those amateurs who do not develop their own
work to be very careful. I have had many plates and films
absolutely ruined by ignoramuses calling themselves “prize
photographers.” To those in Cairo I can thoroughly recommend
either M. Lekégian or M. Dittrich, photographer to the
Court. The latter has a wonderful collection of portraits,
admirably done, of all the more important persons. His rooms
are a real museum of all the celebrities, masculine and feminine,
whom Cairo has known in the last five-and-twenty years. As
to M. Lekégian, he has, besides some remarkable portraits,
a unique collection of views and native types both in large
prints and in post-cards.
And finally, amongst the other illustrations, will be found
many photographs, veritable little gems, signed by Mr. David
Gardiner, of New York, an amateur whom I do not hesitate
to call a real artist.
My only regret is my inability to make use of all the negatives
kindly placed at my disposal by Mr. Gardiner. However,
I trust that some day he will take my advice and publish
an album of “Egypt Illustrated,” unless, indeed, I can avail
myself of them in a future work. In fact, in the present
volume I find that I have not been able to include all that I
could have wished, and therefore I hope at some future date

to supplement the present book with another entitled “Egypt
Intime,” which I hope will not be without interest to my
At present my object will be attained if those who read
these pages, and who have not already seen the Nile, will feel
a desire to pass a few months in the land which, without doubt,
for a winter holiday is one of the most charming, agreeable,
and interesting.



First impressions—East and West—Poverty and riches—The
Stock Exchange—Every man a speculator—Rolling in money
—Wild extravagance—Women's hearts and men's purses—
Place Mohamed Ali—The statue of a great man—How he
founded his dynasty—English soldiers—Here since 1882—The
bombardment of Alexandria—The rôle of France—Did
Admiral Seymour exceed his orders?—Kitchener's presence
—An admiral's fears—The decline of French influence.

Al Vista

“WHAT! you miserable person, sailing for Egypt under the
German flag?”
Such was the greeting of one of my friends at Marseilles,
whilst he added ruefully:
“Heavens! What are we coming to? After having
abandoned Egypt to the English, we allow the Germans to
make themselves masters of the Mediterranean, the famous
French lake, and these Teutonic devils have actually the
audacity to start a line of fast steamships between Marseilles
and Alexandria.”
This loyal son of Marseilles was deeply in earnest, and not
without cause. In fact, whilst ever renewed strikes are
threatening the large French ports with certain ruin, paralysing
all their efforts, all their energies, and all their
schemes, the English, the Germans and the Italians are working

continuously to gain a footing where the French were yesterday
In establishing this new service between Marseilles and
Alexandria, with a stay of twelve hours at Naples, and in
setting aside for it two of their finest boats, the Schleswig
and the Hohenzollern, of 8000 tons, the Norddeutscher Lloyd of
Bremen have made a master-move.
It was because I had heard so much said of the pleasure
and comfort of this new line that I determined to try it myself
and find out how far it was true. I can now say that, from
every point of view, all the praise was thoroughly deserved,
and it must be admitted that, for the present, it is undoubtedly
the service de luxe of the Mediterranean.
Before even arriving at Marseilles, I had proof of the energy
and enterprise of the German shipping companies. I travelled
down by the new P.L.M. express train, the “Côte d'Azur,”
the finest and most rapid train, I believe, not only in France,
but in the world. As usual, the restaurant car attached was
divided into two compartments, for smokers and non-smokers,
between which was a door with a large glass panel. Here,
on the glass, a magnificent picture of a huge steamship had been
engraved, with, surrounding it in letters of gold, the name of
a German Company, the “Hamburg-American Line.”
So, whilst from Marseilles to Cairo the best service to-day
is that of Lloyd of Bremen, the other powerful Company will
not allow itself to be forgotten; and to the thousands of
strangers making their way South for the winter, they draw
attention to their magnificent steamers, and their motto,
After five days of wind, rolling and pitching seas, came
absolute calm. We had just entered the outer port of Alexandria,
the famous town founded by Alexander the Great,
the town which, in the time of Cleopatra, reigned queen of the
The calm was of short duration. A noise, atrocious,
infernal, indescribable, rose on every side. The Schleswig
had hardly cast her anchor before she was surrounded by
hundreds of small boats crammed with Egyptians, Turks and
Arabs, who howled and gesticulated frantically. In a few

seconds the boat was invaded by this extraordinary crowd,
dragomans, interpreters, porters from different hotels, boatmen,
touts from different agencies, &c. &c. It was pandemonium,
a Tower of Babel gone mad; whilst the poor tourist, at his wit's
end, saw fifty devils, black or brown, throw themselves on to
his luggage. But at this moment a stentorian voice was heard:
“All right, gentlemen, all right! Here are Cook's men, they
will look after everything.” And on the deck, a huge Arab,
in a superb costume, suddenly appeared, surrounded by a crowd
of sturdy porters. Tight red jerseys covered the chests of these
men, on which in white letters was sewn “Thos. Cook and
Sons.” As if by magic quiet was restored: like a general on
the field of battle, Cook's agent took command, answering
politely the numerous questions put to him by the travellers;
and to those anxious about the formalities to be gone through at
the Custom House, he explained that, severe as these were, they
need not trouble: “There is no Custom examination for you,”
he said, smiling quietly; “we have obtained special permission
to pass the luggage of all our passengers without being opened.
You have only to give us your luggage tickets and let us know
where you wish it sent, either to your hotel or to the station,
and you will find it there awaiting you.”
Nothing could have explained better the justice and
appropriateness of the title given to the directors of Messrs.
Cook, “the uncrowned kings of Egypt and the East!” Was
not the Emperor William himself, when he wished to visit the
Holy Land, obliged to confide himself and all his belongings to
Messrs. Cook, like the most ordinary of tourists? The white
boats of the Agency lay alongside the Schleswig, and we soon
found ourselves installed in one of them with all our baggage.
A few minutes later, a victoria with a couple of excellent
little horses, took us swiftly along the streets of Alexandria.
First of all came the Arab quarter: its streets muddy
and filthy, its shops open to all the winds of heaven, its houses
dark and mysterious, its swarming crowd, the negro, the
brown-skinned, and the white; its beggars, its cripples, its
children almost naked, crying, running, shouting; its veiled
women; and above all, its smells, acrid and indescribable, the
odour of the East, which at first sickens and disgusts.


But our little horses going hard, all that was soon passed,
and the quarter inhabited by the Europeans and the rich
Egyptians came into view, with its large and beautiful
streets, its huge houses, superb palaces, its gay cafés, and its
shops, worthy of the
Parisian Boulevards.
More than anything
else, this is the
land of contrasts.
Here a palace where
reigns unbridled
luxury, there a hovel
swarming with beings
scarcely human.
We slacken our
pace as we enter the
famous “Place Mohamed
Ali,” in the
middle of which rises
the equestrian statue
of the founder of the
reigning dynasty, a
fine piece of work by
Jaquemart. This is
the centre of the
European life, the
Hyde Park Corner of
Alexandria, where at
certain hours of the
day all the rank and
fashion of the town
may be seen.


Here and there, in passing, I get a shake of the hand from
some old friend, business man, banker or broker. As for
speculators, every one, more or less, is that.
For several years the mania for speculation seems to have
attacked the whole population, and the Stock Exchange at
Alexandria is, as it were, the heart of the body politic, full of
life, of hopes and fears, where every one large and small,

rich or poor, strong or weak, meets on common ground. Cotton,
its rise or fall, that is the predominant thought in the minds
of all those men amongst whom are so many familiar faces.
Indeed, after nine months' scraping and hoarding, these
good Alexandrians troop across to Paris and the best known
watering-places on the Continent, to disgorge in the remaining
three their accumulated gains.
All have the look of men well pleased with the world, and
all explain themselves thus: “My dear fellow, business is
A 1. Egypt has entered on an era of prosperity hardly credible.
We are making money hand over fist, every one is in the swim.
You will see for yourself, from one end of Egypt to the other
you will hear the same story. The Government has been able
to reduce taxation and increase the salaries of its employees,
big and little. The golden age has arrived!”
Can this be possible? Can it be that, whilst in Europe and
America every one cries poverty, there is only prosperity here,
in this land of Egypt, which scarcely twenty years ago was in
a state of bankruptcy?
And, strange as it may seem, not one of these men will
speak to you of Egypt, of its history, of its artistic treasures,
not one of them will advise you to visit a museum, a monument,
or a park.
The Stock Exchange and Cotton, these are the be-all and
end-all of existence. If by chance they do advise you to go
to the theatre, it will not be because there is something particularly
good to be seen, but simply because “X receives
£4000 for three performances, and that the stones and jewels
in the hair or round the necks of the élégantes represent a sum
of £10,000,000 sterling!”
When he talks cotton or diamonds, your Alexandrian is a
bit of a braggart. In a word, his head is a money-box, and his
heart a purse, and they are both crammed to repletion with
bank notes. All the same he is a good fellow, pleasant, hospitable,
and generous. If he has the faults of the confirmed
gambler he has also his good qualities.
As to his better-half, it is difficult to judge. Admiration
has perhaps blinded me, for the “Alexandrine” is so pretty,
so elegant, and so chic, that criticism is quite disarmed. One

would have to travel far to find a town where there are so
many young women whose good looks and perfect elegance

David Gardiner

continually charm the eye. It may be said, of course, that
they are somewhat shallow, that their dresses, their jewels,

and especially their flirtations are of more interest to them
than the graver questions of life; but what does that matter
when they are so charming, and so deliciously feminine?
Certainly we are far from the time when in Alexandria
there was a famine of femininity either “d'un monde ou de
In a town in which the upper classes are composed of so
many different nationalities, Egyptians, Greeks, Levantines,
Italians, French, English and Germans, there are as a
matter of course many cliques, more or less jealous of one
another; but there is one common ground where all unite and
all help—Charity, which, here as elsewhere, seems to bring out
all that is best in our common humanity.
The Greek colony, rich, numerous and powerful, is at the
head of all those good works whose end is the alleviation of
human suffering; and amongst those whose efforts in welldoing
are continuous I would mention the Salvagos, the
Zervudachis, the Em. Benackis and the Sinadinos.
The first-named family has just given to the town the sum
of £20,000, in order to found a School of Art, a step in the
right direction, and one which, I trust, will help considerably
to raise Alexandria from its present state of rather sordid
Immense as the progress of the town has been in the last
quarter of a century, and brilliant as its present position is,
I have not a doubt that, in the near future, it will be called
upon to occupy a position much more important.
To do so, however, it must, above all, render its port safer
and more accessible, make its quays and docks considerably
larger, its facilities to international trade greater, and reduce
its port dues, to-day standing at much too high a figure.
Great efforts have been made, I know, and the Egyptian
Government have already expended a sum of over £200,000
on important works, whilst an equal amount has just been set
aside for new works. Only last winter, the situation was such
that ships, after having tried in vain to unload their cargoes,
were obliged to leave without discharging. There was no room
on the quays. This state of things, deplorable as it seems, is
not due, as one might think, to any slackness on the part of

the Government, but simply to the fact that the trade of the
port has grown so enormously and so rapidly that it has been
impossible for the Minister of Public Works to keep pace with
it with the means at his disposal.
If Alexandria cannot assert the possession of the remains
of her founder (Alexander the Great), she can at least boast of
having a statue of the greatest man which modern Egypt has
seen. I refer to Mohamed Ali, the founder of the Khedivial
dynasty, and a hero of whom his descendants and Egypt
have every reason to be proud.
The story of his life reads like a most captivating romance.
This man, of humble origin, thanks to his extraordinary talents
and iron will, became Pasha of Egypt at a time (1805) when
the country, a Turkish province, was governed and sucked
dry by the Mamelukes. With a small sum of money, lent
to him, it is said, by an Armenian, uncle of the future great
Egyptian Nubar, and accompanied by a handful of adventurers
as hardy as himself, he landed in Egypt, and commenced
that epic which lasted forty years, and in which he
made himself, in a way, the arbiter of the destinies of the
Mussulman world.
Thanks to him and to his genius, Egypt played the part of
a great Power and made Turkey tremble.
Great diseases sometimes require drastic treatment, and,
without hesitation, he caused the Mamelukes to be massacred,
and commenced the pacification of Upper Egypt. Whilst
he thus waged war in a far country the English landed at
Alexandria (1807), and advanced on Rosetta. But Mohamed
Ali was cast in a different mould from Arabi and the insurgents
of 1882. Returning rapidly he fell like a thunderbolt on the
English, driving them back on Alexandria, where, thanks to
the protection afforded them by their fleet, they were enabled
to re-embark.
A faithful vassal of the Sultan, he helped him in his wars
against Greece, and also against England. For Turkey he
conquered Crete (1823), and recovered Morea (1824). His
army, at one time only 20,000 strong, had now been raised
to 100,000.
His son Ismaïl, ascending the Nile, had planted the Egyptian

flag at Sennar, at the junction of the White and Blue Niles,
and conquered the rich Sudanese province of Kordofan, whilst
for the first time Egypt possessed two powerful fleets, one on
the Mediterranean and another on the Red Sea.
In the interior the country was quiet and prosperous, whilst
this great man, unable himself to read or write, founded schools
and universities.
Round him he gathered a number of talented Frenchmen,
of whom one, Colonel
Sèves, known in Egypt
under the name of Soliman
Pasha, worked
hard to improve the
army; whilst another,
the engineer Bessan,
directed his energies to
increasing the fleet, of
which he was the


Placed at the disposal
of his Sovereign,
Sultan Makmoud, this
fleet was entirely destroyed
at Navarin
(1827) by the united
navies of France and
England, to the great
surprise of Mohamed
Ali, who could not understand that the former should ally
themselves to the latter in order to sink the very ships which
they had just sold to him. With each year the power of the
Pasha increased, and with it the jealousy of the Sultan. At
last the Sovereign thought that the “removal” of the vassal
would be decidedly for the best, and war broke out between
Egypt and Turkey.
It was then that these Egyptian soldiers, so despised by
Turks and Europeans, astonished the world.
Commanded by a man endowed with true military genius,
Ibrahim, son of Mohamed Ali, they invaded Syria, captured

St. Jean d Acre, routed the Turks at Damascus and Aleppo,
invaded Asia Minor, and finally crushed the enemy at Konieh
The road to Constantinople was open and the Turkish
Empire at its last gasp … but the Powers, the famous Powers,
were there, full of their pitiful ambitions, and ready to sacrifice
Egypt, as well as Armenia, Crete and Greece, in order to maintain
the Ottoman Empire and all the crimes committed in its
Thus then the Powers stopped the victorious Egyptian
army at the very doors of Constantinople, as in 1897 they
stopped the Greek troops at the frontier of Turkey, at the
moment when they were about to enter Ottoman territory,
a move which would undoubtedly have led to a general rising
in the Balkans against the Sultan. Thanks to the Powers,
the latter had time to concentrate a formidable army and
crush Greece.
Even so in 1832 the Egyptians were held back at the time
the Empire of the Sultan was about to succumb; but the Powers,
as usual, could not agree amongst themselves, and for seven
years the negotiations continued. Taking advantage of the
delay, the Sultan massed his troops, and at last, believing in
certain victory, he threw them suddenly against the army of
Ibrahim (1839). The result was disastrous. The Turks were
once more overwhelmed, whilst 15,000 prisoners and all
their artillery fell into the hands of the Egyptians. At the
same time the Turkish fleet surrendered to the victorious
The Sultan Makmoud died of rage; but once more Egypt
was cheated of the just fruits of victory, and, after negotiations
and conferences without end, Mohamed Ali was obliged to
renounce Syria and Asia Minor, to restore the fleet, and content
himself and his descendants with the Vice-Royalty of Egypt
under the generous, enlightened, and civilised Sultans of Turkey!
Superb on his horse of bronze, Mohamed Ali dominates
the grand Square, where all the busy life of the town concentrates.
Some few steps further on another statue, this time
a living one, caught my eye. On a beautiful well-groomed
half-bred, an Egyptian cavalryman, erect and unmoving,

stiff in his sombre uniform, mounted guard. A finer soldier
one could not wish to see. His bronzed skin, black
moustache, dark eyes, slender body, straight and supple,
made up the ideal of a cavalry soldier. It was with men
such as these that the
great Pasha made of
Egypt a Power.
My thoughts are
quickly disturbed.
Across the Square,
with the dull tread of
marching feet, comes
a company of English
soldiers. They are
boys, beardless boys,
almost delicate looking,
clad in unbecoming
khaki, and their
childish faces almost
swallowed up in immense
helmets. Can
it be that these
youths are the conquerors
of this dark
and warlike figure
seated unmoved on
his lovely steed?

D. Gardiner

Whilst the khakiclad
company file
smartly past him, I
take a keen look to
see if any trace of
feeling is shown on his dusky face. In vain, not a muscle
moves; and if the sight of these foreign soldiers, trampling
with their heavy boots the soil of his country, awakens in
him any sense of bitterness, it is carefully hidden in a heart
where for long the spark of patriotism has been if not extinct
at least deeply hidden.
As I glanced once more towards the statue of Mohamed

Ali the thought struck me: if only your spirit could return
and endow the bronze with life, what spasm of fury would seize
you at the sight of these alien soldiers wending their way at
your feet! But against whom should your wrath be hurled?
Against the English, who have established order in Egypt,
who have snatched the country from certain ruin, and who,
by means of an extraordinary
wise, prudent
and energetic, have
assured her present,
and, I dare hope, her
future also; or against
those fools, imbeciles,
criminals, all that line
of Pashas, greedy for
gain and feeble of
character, who, having
sucked the land
dry, threw her madly
into the adventures of

David Gardiner

There can be no
doubt that the interior
situation of
Egypt at that time
was such that some
kind of intervention
on the part of the
European Powers was
absolutely necessary
to re-establish order and protect foreign interests. But if
this Concert des Impuissances had discussed and shuffled less,
and had acted with a little more energy and decision, it is
certain that the famous massacres of Alexandria and other
events would have been avoided.
As to the massacres, they have been considerably exaggerated.
A scuffle between an Arab and a Maltese, followed by a general
row leading to a riot, in the course of which a band of Arabs

pillaged several houses and killed forty or so Europeans.
Worse has happened in many a civilised town in Europe. It
was in no sense a general rising against the foreigners, and the
Egyptians themselves restored order. But whilst for weeks
and months the Powers were discussing the best method of
interfering in Egyptian affairs, and whilst France urged an
Anglo-French military expedition, it is natural enough to find
that the Egyptians wished to leave nothing to chance, and
began therefore to take precautions.
The defences of Alexandria were put in order and the building
of new forts commenced.
It was then that the French and English admirals summoned
the Egyptian authorities to cease constructing all
works, under pain of bombardment.
And now, as to subsequent events, we find two versions:
the Egyptians declare that work was stopped; the English
admiral, on the other hand, declares that, from reports received
by him, he learnt that the Egyptians had mounted new
guns in other positions. From whom did these reports
come which decided Admiral Seymour to open fire? From
a Scotchman, Mr. John Ross, who lived in Alexandria, and
who supplied the two fleets with coal. Intimate with the
admiral and the English officers, he kept them informed of all
that took place on shore, and it was he who, in describing
the new defences, more or less imaginary, was the cause of
the bombardment. It was he also who, called in regard to
coaling arrangements on board the French vessels, assured
Admiral Seymour, up to the last moment, that the French
were ready to back him up, and it was with the greatest
astonishment that the latter saw the French squadron up
anchor and go.
It is whispered in certain usually well-informed circles that,
several hours after the bombardment, Admiral Seymour
received orders from his Government not to open fire unless
he considered his ships in danger from the new works made
by the Egyptians, and that he passed a very bad quarter of an
hour, wondering anxiously whether or not his action would be
Few people are aware that Lord Kitchener, who, seventeen

years later, was to vanquish the Dervishes and reconquer the
Sudan, was on board the flagship as a simple spectator.
Immediately after the bombardment which opened Egypt
to the English, he landed with Mr. John Ross, and going to his
house indulged in a brandy and soda, just as he drank another
with Captain Marchand at Fashoda on the morrow of the
events which definitely assured the supremacy of England in
the Valley of the Nile.
The bombardment was the first act, as Fashoda was the
last, marking the decline of French influence, the decline which
began on that memorable day when the French fleet disappeared
on the horizon, and, abandoning Alexandria to the English
cannon, carried with it the last hope of those who dreamt of
an Egypt, great, strong and prosperous, under the guiding
hand of France.

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Country villages and inhabitants—Story of the ghamousah
Curious sights, fortifications built to check the English army
—Arabi's Revolution—Was he the cat's-paw of England?—
Condemned to death, reprieved, exiled to Ceylon, pardoned,
and now living at Cairo on a pension of £1000 a year!—In
the train—Anecdotes—Japanese and Egyptians—Why the
latter, like the Turks, are pro-Japanese.

Al Vista

AT midday the assault on the express for Cairo takes place.
The train is thoroughly up-to-date: corridor carriages of the
most comfortable type, and a restaurant car of the International
Sleeping Car Company. One might imagine oneself
in Europe if it were not for the numerous passengers wearing
the fez, the Arab passing us the hors d'œuvres, and above all
the extraordinary racket made by the servants. Through the
small opening by which the dishes are passed, the cooks and
waiters apostrophise one another, dispute and discuss in an
outlandish gibberish. This noise seems all the stranger as the
Arab as a rule goes about his work almost as silently as a
Chinese or Japanese. Their chief failing, however, is the
insatiable curiosity which the presence of a white woman in
the house arouses. To enjoy a glimpse of beauty unadorned
in the form of a fair European, be she young and beautiful,
or old and ugly, they have recourse to every ruse and every
stratagem. The key-hole is the point of observation most
in vogue, but when that has been carefully plugged by the

wily person au courant with their little ways, a hole drilled
with a large gimlet in a quiet corner does equally well. The
door of the bath-room is naturally most frequently threatened.
At my table, three gentlemen, each wearing the fez, and
evidently well educated men, were discussing the Russo-Japanese
War. I took part in the conversation, and had not
done so long before I became aware that all three Orientals
were strongly pro-Japanese. Questioned as to the reason
for their feelings, one of them said to me:
“We are pro-Japanese because the Japanese are an extraordinary
people, young, brave, and full of energy, who have
already done marvels, and who are struggling now for their
existence.” Undoubtedly these are good reasons, but there
were others which he was careful to keep to himself, which I
shall take the trouble to put into words for him: “We are
pro-Japanese, we Mussulmans, Turks, Egyptians, because the
Japanese are an Eastern people, whose religion is not that of
Christ; because they are struggling against a nation which
represents the two things in the name of which we have undergone
most humiliation and most suffering, Western civilisation
and the Christian faith.”
That, in a word, is the thought of every Asiatic, every
African; and the Japanese victories are awakening in Asia
and Africa feelings which have long lain dormant,—the hope,
lively but carefully hidden in their heart of hearts, that the day
will yet dawn which shall see their final victory, and our final
Moderate in speed, the train crosses the vast highly cultivated
plains where the maize crop predominates. One might
almost imagine oneself on the Western plains of America, if
from time to time high palm-trees, like huge feathers, did not
raise their tufted heads. Then there are the little villages of
yellow mud-built huts, of which the flat roofs, covered over
with thatch, serve as stable and poultry-yard; goats, sheep,
chickens, dogs and pigs, all seem to prefer this exalted position,
from which indeed the view is much finer than from below.
Over the wretched roads come the camels, loaded in fearsome
fashion, with step slow and measured, the head high and
small, and the neck so long, so very long! The gravity of their

David Gardiner

movements is in striking contrast to the paces of the asses,
of which hundreds are to be seen. Ah! these Egyptian
donkeys! How elegant they are, how smart, how full of life
and grace, and how different from their European brothers!
They have a chic indescribable, and to see them is to love
“What horrible cows!” cried a young American girl,
pointing from the window of the carriage to some huge animals


with black and glossy skins, whose looks were, in fact, rather
“These are not exactly cows,” explained an Egyptian.
“That is the ghamousah, the female buffalo, whose milk is
quite excellent. There is in our country a tradition that, after
God had made the cow, the Devil, coming to have a look, burst
out laughing, and declared that he could do better himself
with his eyes shut. God took him at his word. The Devil
set to work and produced—the ghamousah!
The old Egyptian who related this little tale was a man of
charming manners, and one who, some twenty years ago, played
an important part in Egypt. Seated by my side, he drew my
attention to many objects of interest.


“Do you see,” he said to me, “these hillocks of sand?
These are all that remain of the defence works erected by
Arabi to stop the English in 1882. After landing at Alexandria
it was thought that they would march directly on Cairo.
But, as you know, they did no such thing. General Wolseley
preferred to disembark at Ismailia, to the great surprise of the
Egyptians, who believed firmly, after the words pronounced
by M. de Lesseps, that France
would not permit the English
to enter the canal. At any
rate, Wolseley's army, some
13,000 strong, with forty guns,
landed at Ismailia on August
22, 1882, crossed without a
hitch the thirty-six miles of
desert, and on September 13
attacked the Egyptians entrenched
at Tel-el-Kebir. We
had 26,000 men and seventy
guns, commanded by Arabi
himself. Wolseley lost fifty
men! Arabi was the first to
decamp, followed by his
broken army. He continued
to run until he reached Cairo,
where, as soon as the advance
guard of the English cavalry
appeared, he promptly surrendered.”


“To what do you attribute this ridiculous defeat?” I
asked. “To the cowardice of the Egyptian troops?”
“Not a bit,” he replied. “The best troops in the world
will turn tail when their officers and their commander-in-chief
decamp as if the devil were at their heels.”
“Arabi had no military genius, he was simply a colonel,
ambitious and vain, with a very ordinary intelligence, the man
of straw. …”
“Of the English?”
“Ah! who knows? Personally I do not think so. He

played their game unconsciously, whilst doing the work of
those equally ambitious but more intelligent than himself.
Remember that the revolution of 1882 was a very serious affair,
and a very excusable one. It was not at first against the
foreigners, but against the Government, against the Turkish
Pashas, who occupied almost all the high military and civil
posts, and who were crushing the country under their despotism.
With a leader more intelligent, and employing other means,
the movement might have succeeded, and had the sympathy
of the whole world. Arabi missed being a hero, he became
simply a rebel.”
“What has happened to him?”
At this question a smile came to his lips, and, with a roguish
twinkle in his eyes, he replied:
“What has happened to him? Why, he lives in Cairo,
happy and peaceful, on a pension of £1000 a year, generously
granted him by the Government. Certainly it has not been
granted to him for having raised a revolution, for having been,
if not the leading spirit, at least the cause of the massacres
at Alexandria, nor for having fled ignominiously at Tel-el-Kebir.
But you must admit that, from the English point of
view, the man who supplied a reason for the bombardment of
Alexandria, who opened the doors of Egypt for England, and
who, having at his disposal 26,000 men and seventy guns,
only managed to kill fifty English, and allowed Cairo and its
citadel to fall without a blow, is well worth a pension of £1000
a year. Think of the trouble England might have had, had
he been made of other and sterner stuff.”
“And from the Egyptian point of view?”
“Ah! from our point of view it would seem natural that
we should hate and despise the man whose cowardice and
incapacity have resulted in our country being now under the
yoke of England … but, as a matter of fact, it is not so;
for if apparently we have lost an independence which we really
did not have, we much prefer to be governed by the English,
thanks to whom Egypt has attained to a degree of prosperity
hitherto unknown, rather than to be misgoverned by Turkey.
That is quite worth the £1000 a year which we pay him on
the advice of England.


“On the advice of England?” I asked.
“Of course! Ever since that day on which he surrendered
at Cairo, Arabi, chief revolutionist, rebel against his Sovereign,
has been taken by England under her wing. His trial was a
farce, conducted not by the Egyptian judges, but by the
‘counsel for the defence,’ two English lawyers sent from
London by means of a private subscription, and a third Englishman,
Sir Chas. Wilson, representative in the Court, of England.


Lord Dufferin, who had just arrived in Egypt as Special Commissioner
charged with the task of Adviser to the Khedive,
began by applying all his energies to better the condition of
Arabi in prison. ‘Sir,’ he said one day to the Khedivial
Councillor Borélli, ‘I cannot allow Arabi to be treated with such
cruelty. I have just been informed that there are holes in his
mosquito-curtain!’ Several days after, the ex-rebel having
complained of the noise made by the sentries, which prevented
him from sleeping, the night guard was immediately supplied
with felt shoes! But, in spite of all the English efforts, Arabi
and four of his companions were condemned to death. England,
however, would not permit the sentence to be carried out,

and the five prisoners were exiled to Ceylon, where for eighteen
years they lived surrounded by every comfort … at the cost
of the Government which they had tried to overthrow. ‘But
there was a revolution, they were rebels. We absolutely
must hang some one, or what will become of the authority of
the Government?’ shouted Borélli. So they hanged three unfortunate
devils, amongst whom was Commandant Soliman Sami,
who acknowledged having with his troops set fire to certain
buildings in the Square of Mohamed Ali, under the orders of
, whilst he, pardoned and repatriated, lives at Cairo on
a Government pension,
and may be seen
any day driving round
at the fashionable

D. Gardiner

The old Egyptian
ceased. Through the
windows of the carriage
the sunshine
streamed as I reflected
on my friends, the
English, and their tenderness
for rebels.
Even the famous
Colonel Lynch, who fought against them in South Africa, is
to-day as free as Arabi, though, so far, I have not heard that
the English Government has granted him a pension of £1000
a year.
Far off, in the plain, green and bathed in sunshine, a blare
of trumpets sounded, and I perceived in the distance a
company of infantry at exercise. Pointing to these splendid
troops, I asked: “Are they worth more now than in the
time of Arabi?”
“We have,” he replied, “an admirable little army, of which
England has as much right to be proud as we; for it is owing
to the brilliant English officers who, in the last twenty years,
have given themselves heart and soul to its regeneration,
that Egypt to-day has an army worthy of it.
“I know that in recent years much criticism has been

directed in England against their army, against the Society
life led by their officers, and their apparent ignorance.


“It is not for me to
offer any opinion. The
young English officers
are so active and so
energetic that they
must have continual
occupation. They are
splendid when the conquering
of some savage
country is in hand; but
in London, what outlet
have they for their
energy but laying siege
to the hearts of fair
ladies? In Egypt,
and now in the Soudan,
a vast field has been
opened for their activities.
With untiring
zeal, with unflagging
patience, with admirable
intelligence and
extraordinary tenacity
they have succeeded
in giving to Egypt a
new army, worthy of
the warmest praise,
and at a relatively
small cost. In 1882,
when Arabi was Minister
of War, his Department
cost Egypt
almost £864,000. The
English wisely considered
that, for a
country weighed down with debts, the first thing to be done
was to reduce the expenses, and the War Budget was consequently

lowered each year, until in 1886 it amounted to
£336,000. After that, as the prosperity of the country
increased, the grants for the army were again raised, the
Sudan re-conquered, the Dervishes annihilated, and yet, at
the present day, our excellent army costs us less than the
bands of Arabi. Amongst Europeans the belief seems general
that the Egyptians, like the Chinese, will only fight well when
commanded by European officers. … We Egyptians, however,
like to think that to-day our soldiers would do their duty
equally well when commanded by Egyptians.”
This is undoubtedly the opinion of men in a position to
know, and amongst these his Excellency Abani Pasha, the
amiable and charming Minister for War.
Three o'clock! The hundred and ten miles separating
us from Cairo have been left behind, and now the Capital of
Egypt rises up before us, a mass of white under a sky radiantly
blue, sparkling with gold under the rays of a sun which, on
this the first day of December, recalls the lovely days of May
in France.

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Arrival—Impressions—Population and types—The building
mania—Extraordinary prosperity—Unheard-of riches—Life—
The hotels—Napoleonic hotel-keepers—Stories and anecdotes
—Tourists—Society, high and otherwise—Scandals—True
history of certain great fortunes—Effect of climate on
femininity and femininity on Arabs.

Al Vista

WHAT changes in the space of a few years! One hears of the
mushroom growth of American towns, but where before has
one seen an ancient Eastern capital suddenly take a fresh lease
of life, born again, as it were, to a new existence, as if touched
by a magic wand? At first sight the traveller who revisits
Cairo after a few years' interval will not notice any great
difference. At the huge station there is the same hurly-burly,
the same cries, the same native porters seizing your luggage.
On leaving, the same smell of the East, of the towns innocent
of drains, the same terrible dust. But all this is soon forgotten
and one comes once more under the indefinable charm which
enters into every traveller who finds himself in the midst of
these new and strange scenes.
The principal street, Shariah-Kamel, and the Place de
l'Opéra, have not greatly changed. This is still the liveliest
corner of the town, where from morn to eve a huge and
strange crowd presses and pushes its way along the pavements.
It would be impossible, even in dreams, to picture anything

David Gardiner

more animated than this living panorama, where East meets
West, and meeting seems to mix one in the other.
The eye is first struck by the thousands of little red spots
on which hang tassels of black silk. It is the tarbouche, headcovering
of so many different types that it seems as if all
Africa had given rendezvous here. The majority are of the
sterner sex, with nothing Oriental in their dress but the tarbouche;
otherwise they are clothed as the ordinary European,
whilst many of them attain to the last thing in elegance.
In this extraordinary crowd are negroes, Arabs in their
flowing robes, Jews with shifty eyes, eunuchs, Egyptian
soldiers, well set up; and, making their way amongst all
these Orientals, tourists of every country and speaking every
tongue, young foreign girls with a knowing look about them,
mondaines and demi-mondaines, the latter with a smile indifferently
for black or white. Here and there a native woman,
hidden beneath her veil, passes rapidly, silently, mysteriously.
The terraces of the cafés are crowded, and here one drinks
the eternal Turkish coffee whilst smoking the eternal Egyptian
cigarette. But to talk is difficult, for the street-hawkers make
an unholy din. They sell everything. Nothing comes amiss:
lottery tickets, post-cards, wax vestas, dates, fruits, newspapers,
honey, even fish and meat. Some exhibit trained monkeys;
others, Italians, scrape an outrageous fiddle; an army of bootblacks
swarms round; and also, as in front of the Grand Hotel
in Paris, a crowd of guides, ready, for a few piastres, to show
the stranger all the curiosities of Cairo. In the roadway also
all is movement. Victorias with smart pairs, the little carts
serving as omnibuses to the natives, some crowded with
men, others with women and children, bicyclists, occasional
motors, a countless multitude of donkeys ridden by every
kind of two-legged being, camels loaded to within the last
proverbial straw,—all these cross and re-cross without end.
With an ear-splitting clang of bells, the electric trams
remind us that Cairo is now a modern town. These tramways
belong to a Belgian Company, who, whilst making a
very good thing out of them, simply ignore the comfort of the
public. The cars are dirty and the conductors uncivil. There
is a compartment reserved for “ladies of the harem,” but

foreign ladies are not permitted to use them. To sit next a
flea-bitten negro is anything but pleasant, and in Alexandria,
where first- and second-class compartments are provided,
things are much better.
In the Shariah-Kamel, the Place de l'Opéra, and the neighbouring
streets there are magnificent shops. The shop windows
of the jewellers are particularly fine; perfumery and chemists'
shops abound, but more numerous still are the cake-shops.


There you will find delicious nougat and “Turkish delight,”
but to get them you will have to search far; the whole of the
fronts of the shops are invaded by Swiss chocolates. Gala
Peter and milk chocolates have conquered Egypt with her
sweet tooth.
Amongst the shopkeepers, the palm undoubtedly must
go to the chemist. Their name is legion, and they grow
fat in robbing a patient public with a most charming grace.*
Their cynicism surpasses belief, and their business in life may
be summed up as stealing always and poisoning often. Last
winter, when a native child happened to be run over by a
* I should strongly recommend all travellers to carry with them
any medicines they may be likely to require, especially as those may
be had from Messrs. Burroughs and Wellcome in tabloid form, and
will keep indefinitely.

carriage, the bystanders wished to carry the poor little creature
into a chemist's shop; but the chemist, hard as it is to believe
it possible, shut his door in their faces. The child died; if
immediate help had been available he might have been saved,
but—a native! What is that? And this chemist now continues
happy and content to pocket his ill-gotten gains.
But if this corner of Cairo, so picturesque and lively, has
not changed, it is not so with the rest of the town. The whole
population seems to have been bitten with a mania for building.
The streets are crowded with builders' carts, full of material,
and on all sides, surrounded by scaffolding, are houses under
construction. Huge flats, immense palaces, superb hotels,
have arisen where, a year or two ago, nothing but gardens
were to be seen.
Egypt, at this moment, is passing through a period of great
prosperity. Every one is coining money, and as the value of
land and property is increasing daily, all those who have
capital, and they are many, hasten to build.
A short time ago Egyptians of the middle-class were either
ignorant of or indifferent to comfort. Families of twenty or
twenty-five lived together in a miserable dwelling of a few
rooms, in insanitary quarters. To-day all that is changed:
families divide; the married children now wish a home of
their own, choosing when they can the new parts of the
town, healthy and airy. Thousands of persons who formerly
slept on the floor of their rooms in the Turkish fashion,
prefer now to have European beds, whilst knives and forks
have replaced the more primitive instruments of thumb and
The extraordinary growth of the town shows no sign of
teasing, and it still advances even into the surrounding desert,
to the conquest of which energetic capitalists have set their
minds. Boghos Nubar Pacha, son of the celebrated statesman,
is at the head of a syndicate which has recently acquired
huge tracts of land in the desert, at the gates of Cairo, where
they intend to build a new quarter, which will, in time, be a
small town in itself.
Two things above all Cairo formerly lacked, water and drains.
I do not know if the latter will ever exist, but the question of

the former, thanks to Messrs. Suarès, the wealthy bankers,
has already been solved.
In 1898, having obtained a concession for supplying water
to the town of Tantah, they brought over from Switzerland
an engineer, M. Abel, of Zurich. This gentleman one day
announced that, following on the observations he had made,
he was convinced that under the Nile, at a great depth, and
following the same course, there was another river, a second
Nile, not a Nile thick and muddy, but a Nile made clear and
pure by the beds of sand and other formations through which
it had passed. Capital was wanted to make sure of the correctness
of these theories, and to ascertain the quantity of water
available, in good and bad years, from this underground river.
Messrs. Suarès did not hesitate to supply the necessary
funds, and the works then undertaken by M. Abel soon proved
that he had not been mistaken. The subterranean Nile was
proved to exist, its water to be excellent, and its volume
sufficient to furnish drinking water, if necessary, to the whole
of Egypt.
After Tantah and Mansourah, Cairo is to-day supplied
almost entirely by the new Water Company, and now, in
nearly every house, the turning of a tap is sufficient to obtain
a supply of pure water ad libitum. Messrs. Suarès had the
satisfaction, besides the very pleasant one of making money,
of learning from the statistics of the Sanitary Department
that in each of the quarters where the new water supply had
been introduced the death rate had decreased enormously.
One shudders at the thought that only yesterday the inhabitants
of Cairo, rich and poor alike, were dependent on the
muddy water of the Nile, brought to their doors in goat-skins
by the Sakkas.
Strange as it may seem, this underground Nile, which comes
from the depths of the Sudan to lose itself in the Mediterranean,
is not the only river of its kind in Africa. Marquis di
Rudini, the brilliant statesman who for so long and so often
has directed the destinies of Italy, told me one day in Cairo
that, in the course of his travels in Erythrea, he had been
struck by the existence of several subterranean rivers. At
the bottom of deep wells he had heard the sound of their

David Gardiner

rushing waters. At that time neither the marquis nor I had
heard of the underground Nile.
In the course of the following pages I shall have much to
say of the charm of a winter sojourn in Egypt, and I can recommend
that sojourn so warmly to all those who wish to pass the
winter under the most
comfortable conditions,
in a country
covered with historic
relics and rich in
artistic treasures, that
I think I can be permitted,
without fear
of being accused of
doing Egypt a wrong,
to express the hope
that a serious and
sustained effort will
be made to remove
from Cairo the worst
plague of the Land of
the Pharaohs—the

David Gardiner

And if for this the
water supply of the
town prove insufficient,
then I trust
other means will be
tried to put an end to
these whirlwinds of
dust and filth, which are not only exceedingly disagreeable
but positively dangerous.
When Cairo has less dust and some drains, when the trams
are clean, the chemists more human, the drivers less brutal to
their poor horses, and living a little cheaper, it will be a Paradise
for the winter months.
* Matters have greatly improved since these lines were written.
Last winter, the main streets and avenues of Cairo were well watered
and kept in very good order indeed. There was certainly much less
dust than in many places between Nice and San Remo.


During the few months which constitute the season, the
hotels are the centre of the fashionable world, and for the time
Cairo approaches nearer to a ville d'eau than a capital. One
must also recognise that these hotels have an irresistible
attraction. Large and beautifully furnished, they combine
the comforts of the West with the luxury of the East. It is
only a few years since Cairo possessed only one really good
hotel, Shepheard's, built in the centre of the town, in the
middle of gardens which at one time formed part of the Palace
of Princess Kiamil, daughter of Mohamed Ali. The place is
historic, for the Princess, so it is said, was a modern Marguerite
of Navarre, amorous, and lover of strong young men.


For many years Shepheard's was the meeting-place of all
the best known people who passed through Cairo, and its name
is a household word throughout the
world. Its destinies are to-day in the
hands of a man who knows his business
well—M. Charles Baehler, who is
the head and leading spirit of the Egyptian
Hotel Company, Limited, which also
own the Ghezireh Palace. This Palace!
what memories cling around it! In a
few weeks, at the command of Khedive
Ismail, and as if by magic, it rose from
the ground, in the centre of the magnificent Ghezireh Park on
the banks of the Nile, a fitting dwelling for its guest, the
Empress Eugénie, who had arrived in order to be present
at the opening of the Suez Canal. It was there that those fêtes,
the finest the world has ever seen, had their being. What a
setting for a hotel! Shepheard's and the Ghezireh, these two
alone might have sufficed for the glory of hotel life in Cairo,
or even in a town of ten times the size. But one day there
arrived on the scene a man with brains, and the courage to
back them, who said to himself: “That is very fine, that is
very beautiful, but there is room in Cairo for more great
hotels.” And he built the Savoy Hotel. This man was
George Nungovich Bey, the Napoleon of the Egyptian hotel
industry, and to-day one of the most influential and richest
men in Cairo.


Besides the Savoy, M. Nungovich has in Cairo two other
hotels, the Continental, in the Place de l'Opéra, and the
Hôtel d'Angleterre, in a quieter situation, but quite up-to-date.
M. Nungovich is a well-known figure in Cairo. Like many a
millionaire he began life at the bottom of the ladder, in the hall
of an hotel. Far from seeking to hide this, he is proud of it.
Some years after, several English officers, who had noticed
his smartness and honesty, placed the management of their


mess in his hands. Later he became director of the Hôtel
d'Angleterre, and it was at this time that he rendered to the
English army a service which the officers have never forgotten,
and which created him, as it were, hotel-keeper by appointment
to the officers of Her Britannic Majesty.
For some reason or another, an English regiment arrived
unexpectedly at Cairo. No arrangements had been made to
receive them, and no quarters prepared for the officers, who
found themselves turned adrift. At the station they were
surprised to find M. Nungovich, who informed the Colonel that
he had prepared at the Hôtel d'Angleterre rooms for all the
officers. During the few days of their stay they were royally
entertained, and when, on leaving, they called for their bills,
the reply was given, “There are none! M. Nungovich is only
too happy to have had the honour of entertaining Her Majesty's


Nearly all the crowned heads who have passed through
Cairo in later years have honoured M. Nungovich. The
Queen of Portugal, at a picnic organised for her and her
suite, invited him to her table. The story goes that when
the Crown Prince of Germany arrived in Egypt, he noticed at
the landing a small thin man, who, coming and going, seemed
to direct everything. “That,” he said, “must be the Prefect
of Police, he ought to have a uniform!” It was M. Nungovich;
and if he does not possess a uniform, he has at least
a title and many decorations, of which he has reason to be


Naturally there is keen rivalry between the Hotels Baehler
and the Hotels Nungovich; but this
rivalry is healthy and all to the advantage
of strangers, for in all of them
everything possible is done to please
and to earn their praise. Besides, this
rivalry, more imaginary than real, is
without cause nowadays, when these
hotels have made their reputation and
assured their future, and when other
huge caravanserais are being built in
all the quarters of the town to compete with the old-established
As a matter of fact the hotels hardly suffice to lodge the
enormous crowd of Europeans and Americans who flock to
Cairo for the winter. Last season they were hard pressed
to find lodgings for all, and I have been told that at one time
the old sleeping-cars were requisitioned and played the rôle
of improvised hotels. The people who thus invade Egypt
represent what the hotelkeepers call “une clientèle de grand
luxe.” One must, in fact, have money and plenty of it to
pass the winter in Egypt, and those who come from all the
corners of the earth to enjoy the delicious climate have a long
purse and spend with a free hand. Luxury and display, an
uninterrupted succession of balls and fêtes, such is the life
of Cairo in winter.
There is something in the air of Egypt, a something
which seems to excite every one, more or less, which almost

maddens certain natures, especially of the weaker sex, and
which seems to drive them to a continuous pursuit of all the
pleasures of the senses. The result is that all the world flirts,
and the most extraordinary stories run the round of the hotels.
Young girls seem to
have a very pronounced
weakness for
the Egyptian, a weakness
which sometimes
seems to lead to an
entire absence of any
idea of les convenances.
A young Egyptian,
glib of tongue and an
excellent dancer, once
said to me:


“I assure you I
could write a volume
of adventures which
come the way of us
young Egyptians in
winter, and the way
in which these young
girls throw themselves
at our heads would
astonish the world.
Several of us, for sport,
formed a society which
we called the ‘terrassiers,’
because we
‘did’ the terraces of
the various hotels; but it was no use, we had to give it up;
no constitution could stand the success which crowned our
But the adventures of these young blades pale before those
of the Dragomans, these splendid men, built like Hercules,
strong as horses, and so picturesque in their native costume.
Their duty is to serve as guide and interpreter, to organise
everything for their masters, excursions and parties of all

sorts. Like the Arabs, the Egyptians, and all the Orientals
from the lowest to the highest, the Dragomans are mad where
a European or an American woman is concerned. For them
they represent the acme of sexual attraction, and, at least for
the lowest class, age and looks
are quite unimportant. One can
then perhaps understand, if not
forgive, the woman whose looks
have suffered from the passing of
the years, or who, born with a lack
of the fatal gift, has lingered long
in the cold shades of neglect, seizing
eagerly the opportunity of becoming
an object of adoration, in
engaging an Egyptian Dragoman.
Whilst writing these lines I
have in my mind a charming blonde
who for several years has wintered
in Egypt with her rich but invalid
husband. They possessed one
of the finest Dragomans in the
country; and such was the conduct
of Madame with this Hercules, that
an English chaplain did not hesitate
to preach a violent sermon in
his church on the subject, which
was “understanded of the


Every day, on the road to the
Pyramids, there is to be seen a
smart victoria and pair with a
magnificent coachman on the box, his fez cocked rakishly on
one ear, a flower in his button-hole, and his face shining with
satisfied vanity. Why not? The noble lady, seated majestically
in the carriage, and whose beauty is passing ripe, is his
mistress in more senses than one.
Speaking of Dragomans reminds me of a story of the director
of one of the hotels, a good Alsatian but “a little slow in
the uptake,” as they say in Scotland. One evening, a young

foreign girl, whose reputation was not of the best, rushed
into his office and said: “Monsieur, I absolutely must have a
mousquetaire in my room to-night!” The director raised
his hands in astonishment and cried: “But, Mademoiselle, where
the devil do you imagine I can get one? … Dragomans,
yes, as many as you wish, but a mousquetaire—at Cairo!”
Collapse of the lady, who desired nothing more than a moustiquaire.
The way in which foreigners seize on all occasions an opportunity
of cultivating their French is most amusing, but, fortunately
for them, they are as a rule blissfully unconscious of
the extraordinary things which they occasionally say.
At one of the most brilliant of last season's balls, on a very
warm night, after a mad waltz, a young diplomatist led
his charming partner on to the balcony. When they had
reached the open air, wiping his brow with his handkerchief,
he cried, “Quelle chaleur! With the most innocent air
in the world, and fanning herself vigorously, the charming
creature replied, “Oui, vraiment, et moi aussi je suis en
It was this same young lady who, that winter, introduced
tobogganing into the Ghezireh Palace. One evening, in the
grand hall at the foot of the immense staircase, a young Englishman,
newly arrived from Switzerland, was boasting to a group
of charming girls of the joys of winter sport, and especially
the delights of tobogganing, and told them how, in a few
minutes, one could do the run from the Palace Hotel at Caux
down to the Grand Hotel at Territet.
“Oh, that is nothing!” cried Miss B. “We have tobogganing
here, and without any risk of getting our noses frost-bitten.”
Calling an Arab, she demanded a tray. A few moments
after, seated on this improvised toboggan, she shot down the
marble stairs like an arrow. The sport caught on at once,
and, for many evenings after, ladies in evening dress might
have been seen tobogganing gaily down the staircase, whilst,
at the foot, a regiment of black-coats with wide-opened eyes
enjoyed the unusual and piquant sight. Ah! these hotels!
I can guarantee you need not be bored.
Besides the rich clique of the hotels, Cairo society has others,

of which the most important are the “Official,” the “English,”
and the “Native.” It is difficult to give to the last a suitable
name. It is composed of all the foreign families, rich and hospitable,
for the most part Greeks and Levantines, settled in
Egypt for many years, and in whose hands are most of the
large commercial and industrial concerns, as also, in a special
degree, the financial. They possess magnificent houses, almost
palaces, and live in the greatest luxury. There are in this
group many charming women, very interesting and decidedly
elegant, whilst the men are remarkable for their intelligence.
The origin of many of these fortunes, though not unknown
or even forgotten, is wisely hidden by a thick veil, which old
residents occasionally amuse themselves by lifting for the
entertainment of curious persons like myself. Then it is that
they tickle your ears with stories of which the heroes, bearers
of names well known and respected, proud of their titles
and decorations, strong in their relationships and friends,
appear in the early stages of their careers as nothing more nor
less than robbers, smugglers and coiners.
Charming, indeed, is the tale of the bad Egyptian coins
of which millions, stamped in Europe, entered Egypt in
the hollow legs of iron bedsteads. When the Government,
unable longer to recognise its own money, decided to issue a
new coinage, and when the coiners, in too great a hurry, put
into circulation their imitations of the new money before the
real coins had been issued by the Government, the Minister
of Finance was obliged to declare that the new money issued
was not his, and that he was quite unaware of where it had
come from.
Then there is the story of the foreign Consul, poor as a church
mouse, who one fine day locked up a whole family of his own
compatriots, a family immensely wealthy, whose little crimes he
had found out, but whom he released at dawn, one does not
of course know quite why—but the poverty-stricken Consul
sent in his resignation, and is to-day the proprietor of several
of the finest villas in one of the most charming spots on the
Adriatic. Nice little tale, is it not? But after all, what
does it matter? The elders, those who have struggled and
succeeded at a time when every one robbed more or less, are


to-day very old. To-morrow they will have gone, and another
generation, well brought up, highly educated, elegant, fashionable
to the tips of their fingers, will not be responsible for the
kind of money which their fathers used. Do not let us dig
too deep. Out of a dunghill a rose may grow—and many
another beautiful thing. And besides, as every one knows,
money has no smell, and less even in Egypt than elsewhere.
The English set (I do not refer here to the official world),
numerous and important, look down with contempt on the
native families. In their eyes, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks,
Armenians, all are niggers. I am not joking, and, extraordinary
as it may seem, Englishmen, intelligent, educated and
charming, will speak of a Greek as “that black man,” or “that
nigger.” And there is no way of changing them.
Looked down upon in its turn by the official set, the English
colony suffices unto itself and lives, as it were, cut off, enjoying
all the sports on which it dotes. It drives, rides, sails, it
has football, Tennis , polo, and remains happy, contented
and healthy.
The official world is pretty much what it is in all the capitals
where foreign Powers are represented, and where the head of
the country has ministers and officers of all kinds, and in his
family princes and princesses. Lord Cromer and his charming
young wife are not, perhaps, quite worldly enough to please
every one; but every work, be it artistic, literary or charitable,
every effort to better the condition of the people, finds in them
a ready help.
At the French Legation, a palace in the purest Arabic style,
M. de la Boulinière, a diplomatist of sterling worth, looks
strenuously after the interests of his country, whilst Madame
and Mesdemoiselles de la Boulinière give all the time which
social duties allow to these numerous and worthy works of
charity with which the name of France has always been
The doyen of the Diplomatic Corps, M. von der Does de
Willebois, son of the celebrated Dutch statesman, is almost as
popular as his wife, a perfect hostess and bridge-player, or his
daughters, keen sportswomen, and that is saying much.
The Marquis Salvaggo Raggi, representing Italy, was at

Pekin at the time of the Boxer troubles and the siege of the
Legations, whence he returned with an unlimited admiration
for the administrative qualities of the English and Japanese,
whom he had observed working side by side with the other
nationalities. The marquise,
a beautiful woman,
is one of the most sought
after and admired in
In another gem of
Arabic art, the Danish
Legation, under Count
de Zogheb, is a fashionable
centre, presided over
by the countess and her
charming daughter.
Then there are the
bachelors, Count T. B. de
Koziebrodzki, the Austrian
Hungarian Minister,
just arrived, but who has
already succeeded, so
they say, in capturing
all the feminine hearts
and not a few of the
masculine. Baron Oppenheim,
a writer and a
savant, whose old Arab
palace contains many a
treasure, artistic and
literary—not to mention
some delicious liqueurs and enormous cigars!


But there is a limit to the pages which I could devote to
Cairo and its society. I should like to describe many a salon,
to talk of many a mondaine, but time and space forbid. I
cannot, however, finish without a mention of the salon of
Madame de Martino, lady of honour to her Highness the
Khedivah, a lady of perfect charm, and one of the best of


And in this continual round of fêtes and pleasures, of dinners,
balls, and suppers, all the world of Cairo and his wife amuse
themselves and flirt. As to this flirtation, I am convinced that
in no other city in the world does it play so large a part; and
yet, it seems, I was not there at the proper time. I left too
soon. Winter, it seems, is nothing compared with spring, when,
as we know, a young man's fancy lightly turns …
“I am leaving Cairo,” a friend of mine wrote me in April,
a lady whom one could not describe as a prude, “I am leaving
Cairo, for I cannot stand any longer the sight of these eternal
couples, who, now that the hot weather has come, seem to have
lost all notion of les convenances.
Well, chère amie, we must not be too hard on poor Cairo.
Spring is the great sinner in all lands; and if he seems somewhat
more alive there than elsewhere, is it his fault, is it not rather
the fault of the climate and the sun?

[Back to top]



The resurrection of a country—Prosperity of Egypt explained
—Lord Cromer's work—What Egypt owes to England—What
England obtains from Egypt—Comparison between 1882 and
1905—The opinion of the Prime Minister, his Excellency
Moustapha Fehmy Pasha—Sir William Garstin—The work of a
great engineer—Egyptian finance—The banks—Speculations
—Messrs. Suarès, Cassel, &c.—The dance of the millions—
History of the Daira, the Assouan Dam and the National Bank
“England has rendered an undoubted service to the cause of
civilisation.”—DE FREYCINET, La question d'Egypte.

Al Vitas

ONE cannot judge and dismiss in a few lines the admirable
work of England in Egypt during the last twenty-three years.
To those who wish to know it in all its details I should advise
the reading of Lord Cromer's annual reports, which can be
procured in London for a few pence. These are not simply
pages full of figures and statistics, tending to prove that what
has been done has been done well. The reader will find, on
the contrary, in these reports, written in simple, clear and
vigorous language, a story, alive, interesting and fascinating,
of Egyptian progress in the last quarter of a century, of errors
committed and quickly rectified, and of successes obtained.
I have read several volumes of these reports, some thousand
large quarto pages, and my interest was as great at the end as

at the beginning. These reports, in themselves, are a work
of the greatest value, of which Lord Cromer, were he less modest
than he is, would have every reason to boast. Thanks to them
I obtained a clear idea of the situation of Egypt, past and
present, the efforts accomplished, and the future schemes, the
rôle of England, the moral, mental and physical state of the
population, and a thousand and one things of interest as regards
the life of the country and its inhabitants. Events are treated
with impartiality, and Lord Cromer does not hesitate under
certain circumstances to repeat the criticisms delivered with
regard to certain acts of the Government, whilst explaining
clearly his reasons for them. The reports are read with the
greatest interest by the Egyptians themselves, and the local
papers quote them in extenso.
In the course of several conversations which I had with
him, and before I had read his reports, Lord Cromer did me the
honour of explaining the situation. His Excellency has the
reputation of being brusque and of having a cold manner. On
the contrary I found him on every occasion most courteous,
pleasant and agreeable. His voice is soft, his manner simple,
and his personality charming. He is not a man after the heart
of an interviewer. If he allows one question, it is useless to
ask two. Either he simply refuses an answer, or in a few words
he will tell you everything which concerns the question in which
you are interested. From the first, he grasps exactly what you
desire to learn, and if he vouchsafes a reply it is given clearly
and without any superfluous words. It is best to go straight
to the point, and he will do the same. I shall not seek to expound
on the political and financial situation of Egypt since
1882. I shall content myself with showing the results obtained.
At the time of the events of Alexandria and the defeat of
Arabi, Egypt was, so to speak, bankrupt. Her debts
amounted to over one hundred millions sterling, and her
income was not sufficient to pay the interest and supply the
necessary funds for Government. The fellaheen, or peasants,
representing the great majority of the people, were crushed
by the taxes, ill-treated by the Pashas, and reduced to a
state of abject misery. All the offices were in the hands of
men who sought by every means in their power to enrich

themselves, whilst the administration in all its branches was
corrupt, incapable and rotten.
To-day we find Egypt well-governed and prosperous, in
a condition financially
which might
be envied by many
a great Power. The
Government, honest,
firm, enterprising,
enjoys the confidence
of high and low,
foreigner and native.
The fellaheen, released
from excessive
taxation, work hard,
are happy and prosperous.
The revenue of the
Government, which
in 1882 amounted to
£9,000,000, last year
(1905)reached almost
£15,000,000, whilst,
numerous most important
works which
have been undertaken,
thelast Budget
showed a surplus of
£2,668,000. At the
same time the sinking
funds of the Government
showed a total
of £13,400,000. And these millions have been saved
whilst taxation has been reduced, and enormous works and
costly enterprises undertaken by different branches of the

David Gardiner

The opinion in Egypt is unanimous in declaring that this
excellent state of things is due to England. I believe that it

is due, above all, to Lord Cromer. Having placed the lot of
Egypt in the hands of a man capable beyond others of saving
the country and in whom they had absolute confidence, the
English Government had the good sense to give him a free
hand, and to leave him alone, simply letting the world know,
from time to time, that behind him and his acts stood the British
Empire. Even in the darkest days when Gordon was
murdered at Khartoum, when the Sudan passed entirely into
the hands of the Dervishes, even then England would not
disavow by a single word a single act of her representative.
Instead of attempting to direct or thwart his schemes, the
English Cabinet based its entire Egyptian policy on the foundation
which Cromer had laid, and on which, little by little, arose
the edifice the solidarity and permanence of which London
has never doubted. What a lesson for those countries whose
representatives are at the mercy of the whim of a Minister,
the interpellation of a deputy, or a campaign of the Press!
Certainly Lord Cromer has not entirely and with his own
hands created the present situation. Egypt owes much to the
international institutions which the Powers have created, the
Caisse de la Dette, which for many years acted as a brake
on the finances, and the Mixed Tribunals, which, dispensing
for the first time equal justice, and in making the law respected,
established order and confidence. Egypt owes much to France,
from whose breast she has imbibed the best of her civilisation
and the ideas of her best institutions.
But to Lord Cromer is the glory of having brought order out
of chaos, of having re-organised the services, of having purged
the administration of its vices, of having established a Government
at once homogeneous and honest, of having had accomplished
or commenced all these immense works which are
to-day, and will be even more in the future, the fortune of the
country. In a single word, he and he alone has known how
to unite, concentrate and apply all the resources of the land
to the regeneration of its inhabitants.
In the simplest of language Lord Cromer explains to
what point the first effort has advanced: “The resources of
Egypt lie almost entirely in her agriculture, and that again
depends on two things, the labour of the peasant and the rising

of the Nile, whose fertilising waters overflow each year the
cultivated fields, supplying them at the same time with
moisture and manure. For years the peasant hardly worked,
as all the fruit of his labours was snatched from him by the taxcollectors,
who left him little or nothing, making him disgorge
his last penny by blows or, if necessary, by torture. One
can hardly conceive the sufferings and privations which the
unfortunate people underwent. The water of the Nile itself
was monopolised by the rich Pashas, the powerful landowners,
and against them it was impossible for the poor peasant to
obtain justice. The first effort was made to reduce taxation,
to distribute it in a fashion at once just and equitable,
to protect the fellaheen from robbery, official or otherwise,
and ultimately to assure to him his share in the water of the
Nile, at all times and in all places. Time and patience, a
great quantity of both, were necessary to convince the unfortunate
peasant that a new era of justice had at last arrived; but
little by little he began to understand, until at last, though still
suspicious, he set himself to work. When, in the course of
time, he found that after many years he could now enjoy in
comfort and in peace the fruits of his toil, then and only then
did the deep-born love of the soil reassert itself, and he became,
though, alas, how little! more human, found once more his
long-lost energy, and Egypt began to revive.”
The encouragement and protection afforded to the fellaheen
was extended, in one way or another, to the other classes of
society. I shall content myself with giving a few examples.
The Nile, being the great artery of the country, passing from
end to end, and having on either side the cultivated land, the
greatest asset and the greatest wealth of Egypt, serves naturally
as the means of transport for most of the agricultural produce.
Innumerable sailing boats serve for this traffic, and thousands
of families thereby earn a living. Taxes without number crushed
these unfortunate boatmen, but the most iniquitous of all was
that which obliged them to pay a certain sum each time they
passed one of the bridges. Pedestrians, carriages, flocks,
cattle, for whose benefit these bridges had been mostly built,
paid nothing; whilst the unfortunate boatmen, stopped for
hours by the bridges, too low to permit of their passing beneath,


sometimes lost entire days, and when at last a passage was
opened for them they had to pay for the privilege. It was
stupid and shameful, but this tax brought in a considerable
sum. Lord Cromer did not hesitate to abolish it completely.
There were other taxes, almost as iniquitous, amongst which
were those affecting the fishermen, by whose labour part of the
population was fed; but these have all been abolished.
All these acts of justice resulted in confidence being restored,
and from this confidence sprang the new era of work and prosperity
which Egypt to-day enjoys. Lord Cromer has had the
gift to choose, and the good fortune to find, assistants of first-rate
quality. Certainly Egypt is governed by his Highness
the Khedive and a Council of Ministers. At the head of each
of the Ministries is a distinguished Egyptian statesman, to
whom is attached an Under-Secretary. The latter is an Englishman,
who is in fact inspired and directed by Lord Cromer, the
moving spirit.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Egyptian
Ministers are simple figure-heads, pocketing their large salaries
and doing nothing. They are, as it were, the connecting links,
necessary and indispensable, between Egypt and England,
between the Egyptian people and their English advisers. It
is through them that England governs, or, to use a less diplomatic
phrase but perhaps more just, they govern in the name
of their Sovereign, following the advice of Lord Cromer, transmitted
through their English advisers. Almost all of these
advisers have been men of remarkable character and intelligence.
The names of many of them will be written in letters
of gold on the pages of the history of modern Egypt, along with
that of Lord Cromer. The Financial Adviser is considered
generally to be the most important Ministerial personage.
This post has been occupied successively by Sir Edward Vincent,
Sir Auckland Colvin, Sir Eldon Gorst, Sir Edwin Palmer,
and finally by the present occupant, Sir Vincent Corbett, a
valuable authority on finance.
At the Ministry of Public Works Egypt and England were
fortunate when, at the side of the talented Minister, His
Excellency Fakry Pasha, they placed one of the greatest
engineers of our time, and one of the most gifted men, Sir

William Garstin. His study and his work on the huge river
which, rising in the centre of the Dark Continent, supplies the
life-blood of Egypt, have placed him far above all the men
of science who before him or with him have occupied themselves
with these questions. I shall refer later on, in another chapter,
to the works already accomplished and to those contemplated
by Sir William Garstin; but I should like to explain briefly
here that the present-day
prosperity of Egypt would not
exist, notwithstanding the reformed
and honest administration
given by Lord Cromer,
without these works, thanks
to which the one and only
source of wealth, the Nile, wayward
and uncertain, has been
conquered, its volume considerably
increased, and its
delivery so admirably controlled
that its fertilising
waters moisten the soil each
summer at a time when formerly
there was not a drop to
be obtained.

Elliott and Fry

For the Nile has always
been the best friend and the
greatest enemy of the fellaheen.
Without it Egypt, deprived
of water (the rainfall is almost nil), would be a barren
and uninhabitable desert. Even yesterday, if, at the time
of the annual flood, the river was too low, large tracts of
land remained unwatered, and their owners were reduced
to misery; whereas, if it were too high, its waters, rushing
furiously over the irrigation canals, ruined almost the whole
of the country. At the time of the floods, the entire riverside
population passed its nights watching the defence
works, ready to strengthen the walls where most threatened;
but in this struggle for existence victory rested many
times with the river, and the man, vanquished, could

only await the returning season, gnawing the crusts that were
left him.
To-day all that is altered, and the Nile, followed, studied,
from its source in Darkest Africa to its outfall in the Mediterranean,
is firmly held in hand. The works already executed
are such that the lands under cultivation are never without
water even in the leanest years, whilst any possible mischief
is quickly mastered when an extra high flood threatens to break

David Gardiner

down the defences. When one considers that not an acre of
land would be productive did the Nile not supply it with its
precious waters, and that Egypt is, in consequence, a long
and narrow valley of irrigated land, bordered by unproductive
desert, which, however, could also be brought under cultivation
as far as the water could reach, one can understand that the
more water the Nile has to dispense, the more extensive will
be the area cultivated, the greater the agricultural wealth of
the people, and consequently the more productive the revenue
of the Government. I believe, therefore, that I am justified
in saying that the efforts of the Ministry of Public Works have
been directed and continue to be directed towards the following


(i) To give to each farmer in the cultivated zone or in
the zone which it is possible to cultivate the water to which
he has a right, be he rich or poor, humble or powerful.* (2) To
control the volume of water by means of immense dams.
(3) To extend the network of irrigation canals to the regions
still uncultivated. (4) To increase the volume of water, either
by preventing all possible loss from the source onwards, or by
diverting from their beds other rivers, in the region of the
equatorial lakes, which at present flow in a different direction.
(5) By the creation of huge reservoirs, containing millions
of cubic metres of water, to store water at the time of the
flood, which, during the dry season, can be released, and
which will enable crops to be raised at a time when formerly
the land lay in enforced idleness, useless and unproductive.
This brief account gives but a faint idea of the immensity
of the task which, covering each square yard of arable land in
Egypt, stretches back into the depths of the Sudan, a length
of over 4000 miles, to the sources of the White Nile in Central
Africa, and of over 400 miles more to the sources of the Blue Nile
on the elevated plateaux of Abyssinia.
All these works are well in sight, whilst the huge reservoir
of Assouan, the work of Sir William Garstin, completed some
five years ago, has already proved for the whole of Egypt a
source of incalculable wealth. I repeat for Egypt, and not for
England, for it is the welfare of the first and not of the second
which Lord Cromer has always in view. His Excellency has
many times said: “I have considered always, and before
everything else, the interests of Egypt, and the welfare of her
people. In every case where it was necessary to decide on a
question in which English and Egyptian interests clashed, I
have never hesitated to decide in favour of the latter. England
has never attempted to profit by her presence here to obtain
personal advantages, or to favour her subjects at the expense
* I am not an engineer, and am unversed in technical matters. I
shall try simply to give an explanation for the benefit of those who are
ignorant of these most interesting questions. I make my apologies to
Sir William Garstin if I have forgotten any important points, or confused
in any way the lucid explanations which he so very kindly
gave me.

of those of other nationalities. The same protection is
extended to all. All honest endeavour, whatever it may be,
or wherever it may come from, is treated with the greatest
consideration. The English Advisers are the servants of the
Khedive; they do his work for his country and not for their
To be sure, in the long run England benefits also, since in
an Egypt rich and prosperous she has a large market for her
goods, a magnificent training ground for her officers, her
savants, and her young officials, whilst, more important still,
she has the certainty that nothing menaces the Suez Canal,
the great artery of the world's commerce. To gain the confidence
of the country in proving that she governs for its
interests and not for her own, that in a sentence is the keynote
of British policy in Egypt.
An immense majority of Egyptians appreciate thoroughly
England's work, and the number of the grumblers is so insignificant
that their existence would be unnoticed were it not
that they number amongst them certain journalists, native
and foreign, good debaters and glib talkers, who excel in the
art of making a mountain out of a molehill.
Then, amongst the younger generation, there are those
who, more or less brilliantly, have finished their studies, and
who, forgetful of the early days of struggle, seeing only the
present-day prosperity, say to themselves: “This machine
is simplicity itself, why may we not work it?” Alas! to
how few of these to-day could the reins of government be
safely trusted! The Egyptians are still like plants which
without support cannot be expected to grow straight.
One of the men who knows them best said to me: “Twenty
years ago, I thought it would have been sufficient to educate
them. I was wrong, it is their entire character which must be
The clear-seeing amongst the Egyptians themselves understand
that this is the case, and none better than his Excellency
Moustapha Fehmy Pasha, President of the Council and Minister
of the Interior, a man who, under a manner of extreme simplicity,
hides remarkable talents, and whose counsels have been
of inestimable value to England, as Lord Cromer has been

quick to acknowledge. “The work of England here,” his
Excellency said to me, “is a monument to her glory. Look
at what Egypt was in 1882, and what it is now! Then,
anarchy, misery, ruin; now, order, justice and prosperity.
I have seen both, and I am able to make comparisons. The
change has been so rapid, so thorough, that sometimes I could
shut my eyes and ask myself—Is
it not all a dream?
The greatest wonder, however,
is the way in which
England, in such a short time,
has made herself respected,
appreciated, and not only
supported, but recognised as
indispensable. It does not
do to forget that she entered
Egypt by force, breaking
down the doors by cannon
balls, in fact as an enemy.
Think of the tact she must
have employed to have
settled herself down amongst
us with hardly a hitch, hardly
an unpleasantness. I do not
believe there is another
Government in existence
whose machinery works more
smoothly than ours. You
ask me if Egypt will one day be able to do without England?
That is a delicate question, and one which time alone will
answer. But this much I can say, that at the present moment
we cannot do without her. The work is far from being finished;
the foundations have been solidly laid, the building is rising
full of promise. … But the point has not yet been reached
when it can be left to its own resources. Of what can we
complain in regard to England? To her we owe our wealth
and our prosperity, she has treated us with a consideration
and a justice to which none of the great Powers had
accustomed us.”



It is in talking with men like his Excellency that one arrives
at a comprehension of all the difference between the past and
the present.
“Look,” he said to me one day, “at that land covered
with hotels and palaces, sprung from the ground as if by magic.
Twenty years ago one might have offered it for nothing, and
no one would have accepted,
for it was not worth the
amount of the taxes which
one would have had to pay.
To-day it is worth millions
sterling, but what would it be
worth to-morrow if England
quitted Egypt?”
And to my question as
regards the capacity of the
younger generation, he


“Great progress has been
made. Morally and physically
our youth is much superior
to that of the last two generations.
But we are still in a
state of transition. Not to
day, not even in the near
future, shall we be able to
find amongst ourselves all the
elements necessary for the administration, the guiding and
directing, of a great and rich nation.”
Since confidence was restored, foreign capital has flowed
into Egypt, where opportunities of placing it favourably are
numerous. Naturally the English were the first to have a
finger in the pie, but the importance of their capital invested
was considerably less than that of France, until the time when
one of the most famous English capitalists, Sir Ernest
Cassel, suddenly appeared on the banks of the Nile. With
M. R. Suarés, the Egyptian banker, he is responsible
for three enormous enterprises, “The Daira Saniah,”
“The Assouan Dam,” and “The National Bank,” the lastnamed

giving birth shortly afterwards to “The Agricultural
The establishment of a National Bank had been a crying
necessity for some time, and its success was assured. Its
influence to-day in all which vitally concerns Egypt is enormous.
The affair of the “Assouan Dam” was another masterstroke.
Sir William Garstin having completed all the plans for the
huge reservoir, there arose the question of finding the £3,000,000
necessary for its construction. The Caisse de la Dette,
composed of members representing France, England, Germany,
Austria, Russia and Italy, who controlled at that time all the
capital of Egypt, threw difficulties in the way, and demanded
that the contract should be put up for tender. The Government
objected for the following reasons: “To firms tendering
at least two years' study of the question would be necessary:
on receipt of their offers another six months would be required
by us to study the plans; in that way three precious years will
be lost, whilst we have in hand the offer of a firm whose reputation
for honesty is world-wide, Messrs. Aird and Co., who are
ready to carry out the plans of Sir William Garstin. They do
not ask for a penny of the cost, but are willing to accept an
annuity of £100,000. Why hesitate?” The question was
decided. The contract was placed with Messrs. Aird, but as
they required the money to carry out the work, they applied
to Sir Ernest Cassel, who thereupon furnished the money
required. And as the announcement that the scheme was to be
carried out was noised abroad the value of land in the whole
of Egypt rose by leaps and bounds. Messrs. Suarès and
Cassel brought out at the same time a third affair, that of
the “Daira,” a land company, out of which they made over
The “Daira Saniah” was one of the properties belonging
to the Khedive Ismail, which this Sovereign was made to hand
over to Egypt and his creditors. The working of the estate
was difficult and costly, and was far from bringing in what
had been hoped. One day it was announced that the Government
had sold it for £6,250,000 to Messrs. Suarès and Cassel,
with whom were associated a group of French capitalists, headed


by M. Cronier, a group who had just taken over the Sugar
Works and Refineries.
These three huge affairs, brought out suddenly by the same
men, created a considerable stir, especially when it was learned
that the Government had in their possession a report of Crookshank
Pasha, representing the
English bondholders, which
declared that the “Daira”
was worth at the lowest
computation, £10,000,000.
No one was in a position
to know the value of the
estate better than Crookshank
Pasha, and it must be
acknowledged that he had
not deceived himself, since
the “Daira,” resold by
Messrs. Suarès and Cassel,
fetched over £13,000,000.
The deferred shares issued at
£I are now quoted £108, ex
£78 which were paid to the
holders last October. As to
the profit of over £6,000,000
made on the sale of the land,
half of it was paid to the
Government, the remaining half going to the Cassel group,
who had agreed by the terms of their contract to remit
to Egypt one-half of any profit accruing at the final liquidation.


In this way millions were made; but they are as nothing
compared to the millions gained by those, rich or poor, who
bought, some large, others small, tracts of land from the Cassel
group. These sales being made, if desired, at so much down,
and the balance in bills at a certain date, people bought and
sold, rebought and resold, without ever having entered into possession
of the land, which, as a matter of fact, was only handed over
this year.
Boghos Nubar Pasha informed me that he had purchased

lands in the “Daira” for £60,000, and for which he has to-day
been offered £300,000.
Scarcely had these three huge affairs which I have briefly
described been granted to Messrs. Cassel and Suarès than the
Financial Adviser, Sir E. Palmer, on whose advice the Egyptian
Government had acted, retired, and was nominated manager
of the National Bank. There
was some ill-natured comment
on this appointment, but
I have been unable to find any
confirmation of the suggestion
that it was connected in some
way with the Daira's transactions,
though I took the
pains to inquire about it even
at the offices of the Caisse de
la Dette, where “Financial
Advisers” are not in great


Human nature would not
be what it is if this nomination
had been allowed to pass unnoticed,
and being misunderstood
no hesitation was shown
in certain quarters in launching
all kinds of accusations
against the Financial Advisers
in general and Sir E. Palmer in particular. The reputation of
the latter is so great that I should not have troubled to
mention these insinuations had I not heard them repeated
within the precincts of the Caisse de la Dette itself, that
institution which has done such yeoman service for Egypt but
whose rôle is now over. One morning I betook myself to their
offices. On entering I felt as if I had suddenly penetrated into
the abode of the dead. The long cold corridors, the empty
rooms, the unoccupied offices, all gave an impression of
sadness and gloom. The representatives of the six Great
Powers who, under the title of Commissioners of the Debt, have
for twenty years controlled and directed the finances of

Egypt, are men of remarkable intelligence and ability. Now
even amongst those who have consistently voted against France
and in favour of England the greatest discontent is manifest.
“Look how one thing leads to another,” they said to me
at the Caisse; “they have withdrawn from us the millions
which we administered wisely and well for Egypt, under the
pretext that they are required for the carrying out of certain
great works, amongst others the raising of the Assouan Dam.
Now that the money has been handed over, these projects
have been abandoned or postponed till the Greek kalends.
Where are those millions now? At the National Bank, which
will allow Egypt 21/2 per cent, interest on money which it can
employ profitably at 8 per cent, to 10 per cent.! Is it any
wonder that tongues will wag and insinuations be made?”
There are, of course, in this, as in most disputes, two sides;
and the other side I had the opportunity of hearing when a few
days later I received a visit from Harari Pasha, one of the
greatest authorities on Egyptian finance, who ought to be well
up in the question, seeing that at the Finance Ministry he was in
charge of the department whose business it was to look after
the “Daira Saniah,” and who, resigning his post after many
years of excellent service, now directs the Daira Estate in
the interests of the Cassel group.
Having told him of all I had heard, I will give word for
word his reply: “There is in what you have said a grain of truth,
but much that is false; and it is this grain of truth which has
given rise to so much talk. The Financial Advisers have never
made use of their position for their personal profit, never! And
Sir E. Palmer is the last man in the world to do so. Only he
left the Government service to take up a brilliant position;
hence the trouble. Palmer was poor, why should he refuse
such a good berth? As to making him responsible for the
sale of the ‘Daira,’ the thing is ridiculous, for, powerful
as the Financial Adviser may be, he can do nothing without,
on the one hand, the approval of the Council of Ministers, and,
on the other, that of Lord Cromer. The idea that Lord
Cromer would allow any suspicious deal whatever is so absolutely
impossible that one does not stop even to consider
it. The truth of the matter is, that the thing was done with the

complete approval of all the members of the Government,
Egyptian and English. No one could foresee that the estate
would increase in value to such an extent, and in so short a
space of time. £6,250,000 was considered a very good price
for the ‘Daira,’ and, besides, the buyer said, ‘I relieve you of
all the trouble, all the
anxiety, all the expense
which the estate
has brought you. On
my part I shall do the
best I can for myself,
and if at the finish of
the business there is a
profit, we shall share
equally in it.’ It must
be admitted that the
offer seemed a good
one, and one cannot
blame the Adviser who
recommended it and
had it approved by
the Ministers.”

David Gardiner

Some time after, I
had occasion to discuss
these matters with M.
R. Suarès, the well-known
banker and
financier. “The thing
won't hold water,” he
said, “and I can prove it. It was I, and not Cassel, whom
I had only seen once in my life and with whom I had had no
business relations—it was I, I repeat, who obtained first the
concession for the founding of the National Bank and the
option of purchasing the ‘Daira’ for £6,000,000. Our house,
Suarès Brothers, not wishing to supply all the capital necessary,
I left for London with the intention of offering a share in the
business to one of my friends On the boat, Mr. D., well known
in Egypt, advised me to immediately see Cassel, who, he
believed, was anxious to enter into business relations with

Egypt. I took his advice. When I offered 50 per cent.of the
‘Daira’ to Cassel he said: ‘I know nothing about this class of
business, what do you think it ought to yield?’ I told him
I looked for a profit of something over £1,000,000, when he said
he would trust to me; and the affair was concluded. The
concession for the Bank seemed to please him more, and he
asked who we should place at the head. It was then that I
proposed Palmer, whose name, so well known as Financial
Adviser, was bound to carry weight. You will see, therefore,
that there was absolutely no arrangement between Sir E.
Cassel and Sir E. Palmer.”
One thing is certain, and that is that the financiers
and speculators are to-day in Egypt a formidable force to
reckon with. Lord Cromer, who has a horror of everything
in the nature of a gamble, and who sees clearly the danger
which threatens his work, has, unfortunately rather late in
the day, clipped their wings.
As long as he holds the reins he will apply the brake which
will keep Egypt safely and surely from the mad rush which
would lead to a crash such as the world has never yet seen—
whilst he is there—yes, but when he is gone?
That is the question which many thoughtful men are asking
to-day, and they naturally fear that through political and
other influences a man of less experience may be given the
place so brilliantly filled by Lord Cromer, when the day comes
for him to exchange for a well-earned rest the field of battle
and of progress on which he has covered himself with glory.

[Back to top]



Serious faults and great errors—Story of the sale of the Suez
Canal shares—The Anglo-French Treaty—French interests—
Small faults and small errors—The schools—The sugar
works—Commerce—The Caisse de la Dette—Antiquities—
M. Maspéro—Work commenced by the French: Irrigation—
Canals—Dams—English engineers invented nothing—They
carried out the plans of French engineers—Cromer and France.
“It is from our officers, our engineers, our sailors, our agronomists,
our jurists, that Egypt for many years has borrowed her instructors,
her masters, her methods, and her laws. Moreover, our colonists,
industrial and commercial, have settled in great numbers in the valley
of the Nile. They consider themselves almost on French soil, and for
them life in Egypt is no exile. Thus is explained this flow of capital
which we have directed into the coffers of the Pashas, and this marvellous
Suez Canal which seemed destined to be the work of French
hands. Our position during three-quarters of a century has been
superior to that of any other nation: an unheard of combination of
circumstances has been necessary to lead to its decline, which, I dare
to believe, is but a temporary one.”—DE FREYCINET, La question

Al Vista

ALAS, M. de Freycinet, this “unheard of combination of
circumstances” was brought about by the errors and weakness
of the statesmen who, at different times, controlled the destinies
of France, and above all by those who, after having extolled
the idea of armed intervention by France and England in
Egypt, drew back, leaving the latter Power a free hand in
cette terre à moitié française. I am quite ready to recognise

that on this occasion the responsibility rests less on the Government,
which proposed loyally to act with England, than with
the parliamentary majority who forbade it.
France, you say, still weakened by the awful struggle of
1870, alone in Europe, feared lest events in Egypt might lead
to a general conflagration, and wished therefore to preserve
intact the defences of the country. That, evidently, was
M. Clemenceau's idea when he carried with him the parliamentary
majority, holding up before them the terrible spectre
of war, crying:
“Truly, it seems as if, somewhere, there were a hand
preparing an awful cataclysm in Europe. Who will dare to
take the responsibility of what is coming? Who will say,
when the day comes for diplomacy to settle the Egyptian
question, that it is better for France to take her place by the
side of England against Europe, than to join with Europe,
claiming her just share of influence over Egyptian affairs?”
The misfortune was, that once France had refused to follow
England, Europe, in her turn, refused to follow France, and
not a voice in the European Concert was joined to hers in
protesting against the English occupation, unless from time to
time, but feebly and without conviction, that of Russia.
Where, then, lies the good in recrimination? Besides, as
M. de Freycinet recognised himself, the most violent reproaches
levelled at England had no foundation; she had no desire to
enter, manu militari, into Egypt, she did everything which lay
in her power to avoid doing so, but, forced to do so, she sought
to have France with her. I will add that the same “combination
of unheard of circumstances which led to the
decline of French influence” forced England to remain in
Neither this French decline nor this English ascendancy
is “temporary.” The time of dreams is passed. It must
now be recognised that English influence in Egypt is so deeply
rooted that she has nothing to fear, and that, politically
speaking, French influence has ceased to exist. I say politically,
for the Egyptian, who formerly had two countries,
“his own and Paris,” will always have for France feelings of
friendship and affection, such as he will never have for any

other people. In his character, his tastes, his ideas, and his
inclinations, he approaches much nearer to the French than
to the English. He can become a sincere and devoted friend
to the former, who treats him as an equal, but never to the latter,
who, on every occasion, asserts his superiority and treats him
as an inferior. The Egyptian appreciates what England has
done for his country, he is grateful, but coldly, and without
enthusiasm. Lord Cromer is feared, respected, admired, but


not loved: he is the saviour and the judge in whom he has
absolute confidence, but he is also the man who, whilst saving
him, has left on his skin the marks of a strong hand.
The Egyptian owns to a gratitude without bounds, an
immense admiration, a blind belief—but not to that affection
which he will willingly extend to the first Frenchman he meets,
who shakes him by the hand and treats him as a brother. If
he studies French, it is from choice; if he studies English, it is
from necessity; for, from top to bottom of the social scale, the
latter is the language which he will find most useful. In the
Ministries, where the Advisers are English, in the Posts, Telegraphs,
Telephones, Railways, English is imperative; in the

hotels and business houses it is the same, for it is the English
and Americans who form the great majority of the tourists,
the source of considerable wealth to Egypt. When acquainted
with the two languages, he will be found making use, of English
in his office, French in his home, the first for business, the
second for friendly and affectionate intercourse. He prefers
the goods and the
products of France,
he loves French literature
and art, for
these he understands,
these he can assimilate
and appreciate,
whilst even the masterpieces
of English
genius are for him
too heavy and too
But, in spite of all
that, the Egyptian
has no desire to see
England replaced by
France, and if, to-morrow,
his feelings
on this point were put
to the vote, I have
no doubt whatever
that the status quo
would be demanded
by an immense majority.

David Gardiner

The feelings of the better-class Egyptians with regard to
France were very clearly explained to me one day by one of
the most intelligent and up-to-date men in Egypt at the
present moment. I refer to the Minister of Finance, Mazloum
“Well,” he said to me, “whom can France blame but
herself? It is by her own faults that she has lost Egypt—
and such faults! She accomplished the construction of the

Suez Canal after a homeric struggle with England, who would
have none of it, but who by the mouth of her Prime Minister
declared it to be a Utopian idea, a will o' the wisp. The work
was done with the aid, moral and material, of the Khedive
Ismail, a magnificent work which should have remained for
ever her inheritance and ours, but at the time of the downfall
of Tsmail, she could not, in time, make up her mind to prevent
England acquiring the shares which enabled her to have a voice
in the affairs of the Canal and Egypt. Besides, it was to
France that these shares were offered by the Khedive.* Why
did they not take them? Who was to blame? Why in 1882
did she refuse to follow England after having agreed to an armed
“You see the great errors committed in the past the French
continue to make to-day on a smaller scale in those affairs in
Egypt where their interests are affected. Take, for example, the
sugar works and refineries, an enormous business and an excellent
one, which had a marvellous future before it. They constituted
part of the ‘Daira.’ When that was sold and a French group
had acquired the works, they were offered, at a very low price,
the lands necessary for the growing of the sugar cane, without
* A group of Paris bankers to whom the shares were offered decided
to buy them, after considerable hesitation, on the condition that the
Government should lend to them a kind of moral support. Whilst the
Government, on its part, hesitated, or simply took its time, Mr.
Oppenheim of London, who had a Paris correspondent and one in
Cairo, had Lord Beaconsfield informed by Mr. Greenwood of what was
going on, and of which the British representative in Cairo was still
ignorant. Mr. Oppenheim declared to Lord Beaconsfield that the sum
of £4,000,000 was necessary to purchase Ismail's shares, and that, by
going into the market for the amount, the affair might get to the ears of
the French bankers, who would thereupon immediately close. In his
opinion it was necessary to act at once, and Rothschilds alone could give
the four millions. Lord Beaconsfield did not hesitate; he sought the
Rothschilds, and said to them: “I need four millions on the spot for a
certain affair. I have no security to offer. As soon as Parliament
meets, I will present a bill for the sum necessary to repay you. If Parliament
approves, good and well; if not” … The Rothschilds
agreed at once. They advanced the £4,000,000, and, that same
day, the English agent in Cairo, to his great astonishment, received
a telegram ordering him to announce to the Khedive that England
would buy his shares.

which the works were useless. With a lack of foresight almost
incredible, the Board refused the offer. What is the result?
Up to now the supply of cane has been sufficient because, in
the contract, the Government undertook to have under cultivation*
on the lands leased by it enough cane to supply
the works. But the Government has now sold these lands,
and the peasant, finding it
more profitable to cultivate
cotton and onions, does not
wish any longer to plant cane.
What will the refineries do
when they can obtain no


Mazloum Pasha was now
started, and in the most perfect
French he proceeded to
discuss all the French affairs
in which he was interested,
for it is well-known that, at
the bottom of his heart, he
entertains a feeling of the
warmest affection for France.
“Naturally,” he continued,
“when we see the admirable
way in which England conducts
her business, and compare
it with the way in which
France here conducts hers, we
cannot but congratulate ourselves, in spite of our sympathies for
her, that she does not direct and control ours. I will give you an
example of the lack of tact of which we complain. You know
that the French schools in Egypt under the direction of the
Jesuits have rendered an immense service to our country.
Up to the present they are the only really good schools which
we have possessed. To them has been entrusted the education
of the children of almost all the best Egyptian families. We
owe them much, but they also owe us much, for without us they
* In leasing the land in Egypt, the farmer is often obliged to cultivate
a certain quantity of a particular crop.

would not exist. Our tolerance has enabled them to establish
themselves here. Would you believe it then that the Jesuits
have, for us and our feelings, absolutely no consideration?
We Mussulmans have two feast-days in the year on which we are
accustomed to have a family gathering. Naturally, we like
to have our children with us; but it is impossible, we have
never been able to have it, because these feast-days do not exist
in the Christian Calendar.
Now, look at the Christian feast-days


they cram down our throats! How many times in the
year are our children at home because it happens to be the
Feast of the Virgin, or Easter, or Christmas, or St. Joseph, or
St. Nicholas, or Ascension, or the birthday of the Rector, or
a visit from Monsieur the Bishop of some place or other? We
do not complain. We keep our children on those days of lost
study, for which, all the same, we have to pay, but surely
we might be allowed to have them on the two occasions we
“Then there is something still more ridiculous. It is well
understood that our children, when they attend the French

schools, belong, and will continue to belong, to the Faith of
Islam, and that no effort will be made to turn them from their
religion. No effort is, in fact, made, but they are obliged to
take part in religious services, and to learn the Catechism.
Can you imagine anything more ludicrous than a Jesuit asking,
‘Are you a Christian?’ of a child which he knows perfectly
to be a Mussulman, and who must reply, if he wishes to earn a
good mark, ‘Yes, I am a Christian, by the grace of God.’
“Frankly, what do you think of it? You may ask me,
‘Why send your children there?’ Simply because, in spite
of this, they are the best schools we have, and at no others can
our children obtain such a good education. It was so yesterday,
but it is hardly so to-day, and it will no longer be to-morrow.
In fact, the English, the Germans, above all the Americans,
and even the Jews, have set to work, and the schools which they
are opening, and of which many are excellent, are beginning
to tell on the Jesuit colleges, for in these schools they have the
good sense not to make little Mussulmans repeat by heart, ‘Yes,
I am a Christian, by the grace of God.’ And that is how,”
concluded his Excellency, “the French, whom we love so much,
muddle up their affairs great and small.”
Faithful to my resolution to hear always both sides of a
question, I betook myself one morning to the Jesuit College
of the Holy Family, at Cairo, where I was cordially received
by the Rector, the Rev. Father Cottet. The two hours' conversation
which I had with this man, so well read, so frank,
so liberal minded in his ideas, so absolutely sympathetic, will
remain amongst the most pleasant recollections of my stay
in Egypt. I recounted to him the criticisms which I had heard,
without, however, giving the name of my informant. He
listened with the greatest attention, then smiling frankly, he
“Your discretion availeth not. I know very well from
whence that criticism comes. Mazloum Pasha is a man whom
I love and admire. He is a Mussulman, up-to-date and liberal.
To come to the point which interests you, I can tell you that
the children of whom his Excellency spoke to you are not here.
They are in a college situated in another town, and it is not
for me to criticise what they do there. What I can say is this,

that here religious instruction is in no sense obligatory, nor
is it general.
“Our consciences, as men and as priests, will not allow
us to force children belonging to a different faith to assist at
our religious services. On the
contrary, it would be against
the commands of the Church of
Rome. You must observe that,
leaving aside the question of
religion, there would be an excellent
reason for insisting in the
French schools that the pupils
attending them should be taught
the salient points of the Christian
religion, without which it would
be impossible to understand the
great French classics, such as
Racine, Bossuet, Fénélon and La
Fontaine. We Christians learn
heathen mythology in order to
understand the ancient literature.
Put on these grounds the question
ought not to trouble any Mussulman,
and the proof that it does
not do so lies in the fact that
many of them attend voluntarily
the religious classes. Our Church
in Egypt is much more liberal
than people believe.


“We should like to see the
ignorant and backward population
of Upper Egypt, of which a large part possesses neither
religion nor schools, raised from the state of brutishness in
which it exists. Hundreds of villages are begging for teachers,
not having the necessary £15 a year to pay for one. It is
nothing to them to what religion he belongs, they ask only a
little light in their darkness. This population, morally speaking,
belongs to those who take to them the first elements of
civilised instruction. We are so convinced of the necessity of

immediate effort being made that we are searching everywhere
for Christian help, even outside the Church of Rome. We are
attempting to raise the Coptic Church, and we have actually
founded a small Coptic seminary, whence have gone forth the
Bishop and his priests.”
I then questioned Father Cottet as to what he thought of
the decline of French influence in Egypt. “It is Fashoda,”
he said, “which has done us most harm. Twenty years of
British occupation has not shaken French influence as much
as this unfortunate event. Marchand abandoning his position
at Fashoda, that was the symbol of France abandoning the
position in Egypt which she had held for a century. After
Fashoda, in the Government schools, the children gave up
the study of our language and chose that of England; it was
then understood that England was, once and for all, mistress
of Egypt. But the popularity of the French schools has not
diminished; on the contrary the number of pupils is increasing
“Far from having encountered any opposition on the part
of the English, we recognise that Lord Cromer has invariably
treated us with the greatest justice and consideration. We
have nothing but praise for him. Times have indeed changed.
Only a few years ago, a priest dared not show his face in the
crowded quarters without being grossly insulted, whereas,
to-day, wherever he may go, he is treated with respect. Order
has taken the place of anarchy.”
All those representing French interests in Egypt have
spoken thus of Lord Cromer. At the offices of the Sugar
Works and Refineries, the Administrator, M. de la Bouglise,
said: “The policy of Cromer has always been just and liberal.
He defends his position, but, at the same time, he is always
ready to recognise the rights of others. The representative
of England, all powerful here, has always been most considerate
to us; we cannot say the same of every one. We have certain
powerful enemies who spend their time in waging against us a
violent campaign of slander and lies. Last year when the
chiefs had left for their holidays they did not hesitate to spread
the report that they had left for good, taking the cash of the
Company with them.”


It is certainly true that war is being made against the Sugar
Company, and a person well up in the question enlightened
me as to the reasons. They are:
(1) Not having bought, whilst they were still to be had
at a low figure, the lands necessary for the growing of the cane.
(2) Having spent money lavishly and needlessly on the
building of offices, stores, and houses for the employees, &c.

D. Gardiner

(3) Having alienated the peasants by treating them
harshly. These, for example, complain bitterly that the
order for cutting the cane is given too soon, so that, instead of
having it weighed immediately, it is allowed to dry for several
days, thus diminishing the weight and the amount due to the
grower. As it is, cane bringing him in very little, he prefers
to raise other crops.
(4) That the system in vogue of allowing the agents of the
Company to make a personal profit upon purchases, is detestable,
as there will always be found some ready to rob the
peasant or the Company, or both, for his own benefit.


(5) Above all, the Society is accused of speculating in its
products, and with its shareholders' moneys, in the European
markets, and of running the risk of a formidable smash.
The above was written by me in the month of May last.
Before leaving Cairo, I had mentioned the five indictments
against the Company, which I have here enumerated, to M.
de la Bouglise, who promised me a detailed and categorical
answer. In spite of continual requests on my part for this
reply, I was still without it when the suicide of M. Cronier,
the death of M. de la Bouglise, and the crash of the Sugar
Company came to confirm all that had been prophesied.
I should like, however, to warn my readers against two
things to which these events seem to have given rise in certan
quarters, the first a tendency to believe that the Sugar Works
and Refineries of Egypt is a rotten concern, and the second,
a belief that Egyptian investments in general are risky.
Nothing is more unjust. The Sugar Works were led. on
by a man of undoubted talent, but rash to the verge of madness,
towards that abyss at the bottom of which he himself found his
death. But that does not prove that the business itself is a
bad one. Two of the best-known men in Egyptian financial
circles spoke to me last spring as follows: “The situation is
far from being a desperate one … it may become brilliant
… to do so one thing only is required which up to now has
been wanting: a good Manager.”
With that, undoubtedly, the Sugar Works can still recover.
At the time of writing this (November 1) I understand that
Sir E. Cassel, M. Raphael Suarès, and other capitalists have
promised assistance on condition that the shareholders and
creditors remain calm, and do not force a liquidation.
To judge Egyptian investments by this unfortunate affair
would be folly. There are in Egypt hundreds of concerns
absolutely safe, and which are returning excellent profits;
but of course, these are bound to suffer from the fact that for
some time a number of companies have been floated whose
shares, flooding the markets, are not worth the paper they are
printed on. Nevertheless, I state that there is not another
country where better investments can be made, or safer, but
naturally one has to know how to choose.


There is no doubt that Lord Cromer's policy has always
been to conciliate French interests, as far as is compatible with
the future of those he represents. Desiring strongly an
entente with France in Egypt, and understanding that to obtain


his compensation must be granted elsewhere, he has worked,
perhaps harder than any other, towards a general understanding
between the two peoples. The Anglo-French agreement
was the first step towards the entente cordiale. In certain
quarters it has been alleged that this agreement has been
entirely to the advantage of England, and that France has
sacrificed interests in Egypt which were real, to interests in
Morocco which are imaginary, or, at least, almost impossible
of realisation; that England, whilst keeping to herself Egypt,

a country rich and peaceful, has handed to France Morocco,
a country poor and restless. But, when the agreement was
signed, no one supposed that the Emperor William would
appear on the scene in the way he did. It is only natural that
England should have retained the fruits of her twenty years'
labour in Egypt; and, besides, it must be pointed out that,
when England first entered Egypt, her position there was quite
as difficult as that of France in Morocco. If France, once an
understanding is reached with Germany, will follow in Morocco
the policy which has so well succeeded with Lord Cromer in
Egypt, it is quite probable that her success will be equally
great. As to the real interests which France has sacrificed,
I confess I cannot see them. Her commerce, the capital
invested by her merchants and financiers, her schools and her
subjects established in Egypt, enjoy all the liberties, all the
protection, all the facilities possible, and continue to give every
sign of abundant prosperity. The one thing which France has
renounced is the right which she formerly possessed of having
a voice in the conduct of Egyptian affairs, and to control, first
with England alone, later with the co-operation of the other
great Powers, the finances of the country. Since England had
shown that it was impossible for her to leave Egypt, France
had recourse to what has been called “the policy of pin-pricks,”
which consisted in opposing and thwarting all her
With their minds made up beforehand, the French and
Russian representatives voted against most requests for money
made by the Egyptian Government for the carrying out of the
great projects of Cromer and his Advisers.
The Caisse de la Dette had certainly every reason for
insisting on the greatest economy when the country trembled
on the verge of ruin; but it is impossible to approve of its
extreme niggardliness when its coffers were running over with
gold, or the hoarding of millions when the entire future of
Egypt depended on the intelligent use of the money. If the
Caisse de la Dette had at the time given up the funds necessary
for the construction of the Assouan Dam, Egypt would not
have been to-day so firmly in the hands of English financiers.
The event which, undoubtedly, decided England and Egypt

to withdraw the finances definitely from the control of the
Caisse, took place at the time of the Sudan campaign.
To reconquer her possessions, given over to fire and bloodshed
by the Dervishes, Egypt, who had been silently preparing
for several years, required the sum of £500,000. This she
demanded from the Caisse, and, after a violent discussion, the
representatives of England, Germany, Italy and Austria
decided to grant the money. The French and Russian representatives,
on the other hand, voted against, appealing to the
Tribunals, pleading that the unanimous consent of the Commissioners
was required, and that a majority of four voices out
of six was insufficient. They won their case, and Egypt had to
surrender the money, her money, with interest! What happened
then? Without hesitation, the English Parliament voted
the amount required by Egypt and placed it at her disposal,
thus consolidating her position, and giving her an excellent
reason for placing herself side by side with Egypt in the Sudan,
reconquering that province with Anglo-Egyptian troops and
English money.
It is pertinent to ask whether, in refusing this money, and
in attempting, in consequence, to delay the campaign in the
Sudan, France and Russia had not in view the possibility
that it might fall into the hands of Colonel Marchand and the
strong Abyssinian force which should have joined hands with
his, and enabled him to overcome the Dervish hosts? It
must be admitted that the policy of thwarting England in
refusing to Egypt the use of her own money was one unworthy
of a great nation, and was, besides, much more prejudicial to
Egypt than to England. No one understands better the
foolishness of this policy than the present representative of
France in Egypt, M. de la Boulinière, a man of sterling qualities
and intelligence, and a keen and energetic diplomatist.
I have been able to divine in M. de la Boulinière two feelings,
at once natural and just. The first, a great regret at the recollection
of the privileged position, a position quite unique, which
France occupied on the banks of the Nile twenty-five years
ago, but lost now through many errors and the consequences
following on them; the second, the danger of the policy of
pin-pricks, from which no good could possibly come.

David Gardiner


The real opinion of the representative of France was,
I believe, from the start that “France would either have to
eject England forcibly from Egypt, or come to an understanding
with her.”
It is certain that one or the other had to
be done, and as France did not wish, even for Egypt, to let
loose the awful dogs of war, it was necessary to come to an
“In view of the position obtained by England in the latter
years,” said M. de la Boulinière to me, “the agreement cannot
be considered a bad one. England first of all asked considerably
more. She desired, for example, the complete abolition
of the Caisse de la Dette. We obtained its retention, not,
certainly, to control the entire Egyptian finances, but to watch
over the interests of the bondholders, and over the reserves
which guarantee the payment of the interest. That was a
great point gained, for, with the new policy of spending up
to the last penny, and the possibility that England might,
more and more, make use of Egyptian funds for the needs of
the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the danger was always present
of money running short, when the temptation would arise to
dip into these reserves, at present locked up in the coffers of
the Caisse. The new treaty places on the same footing the
employees of both nationalities, and, as the Frenchmen to-day
occupying posts in the Government have given the
greatest satisfaction, nothing would seem to threaten their
“The ‘antiquities,’ that is to say all which concerns art
in Egypt, the museums, the monuments, the temples, are also
left to France. M. Maspéro, Director of this important Department,
continues the work of Mariette and other French
Egyptologists, who have earned renown in bringing to light
the ancient Egyptian civilisation.
“In spite of the advantages which a knowledge of English
procures for an Egyptian, to whom it is necessary in all the
Government posts, and although in the purely Egyptian
schools English is much in demand, in spite of this, I say, the
French tongue continues to gain in popularity, thanks to the
Congregational Schools, who struggle manfully and successfully.
The Jesuit Colleges and the schools of the Brethren are overflowing,

their success is enormous and continually increasing,
at Alexandria as at Cairo.
“At Assiout, where the Austrian mission have important
schools, they have been obliged to open a French department,
so great and so pressing is the desire of their pupils to learn
our language. Besides, the French School of Law has a great


and well-earned success. It would be much easier, simpler, and
cheaper for the Egyptians to study at the Khedivial School,
for then they could pass their examinations at Cairo, whereas
those who study in the French school must present their
thesis in French, at their own cost. Notwithstanding this, our
school is the more popular, and the Egyptian students, each
year, pay in entrance fees £2400. To sum up, the study of

the French language in Egypt is far from being on the
M. de la Boulinière also recognises the high qualities of
Lord Cromer, his powers of concentration, his oneness of aim,
his iron will, and the courtesy which he has always shown
towards French interests even when opposing them.


The representative of France also drew my attention to
the fact that the most important works lately executed in Egypt
had been suggested, often even begun, by Frenchmen. It must
not be forgotten that the first dam across the Nile was made
by French engineers near Cairo. This huge work, built of
granite, has considerably increased the wealth of Lower Egypt,
and will resist the ravages of time as the Pyramids have done.


I cannot better close this chapter than by quoting a passage
in a letter which I have lately received from an eminent Frenchman,
and one well acquainted with Egyptian affairs:
“… Your book on Egypt, where, in spite of everything,
France has left her mark. Cromer, in a statement, very
cleverly but very incompletely presented, of contemporary
history in Egypt, wishes to show that, for anarchy and waste,
England has substituted order and wealth. He would not
have detracted a whit from the glory of England if he had
stated that the work already accomplished by the French
had served as a point of departure for all the important improvements
which they have been able to accomplish.”

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Amusements of Cairo—The clubs—Sports—Mena House and
the Pyramids—Helouan and the Desert—The Fish-market—
Dances—Immorality—The lowest depths—Roulette—The
Greeks—Guilty officials—The capitulations—The tribunals—
Justice—Nubar's work—Situation difficult and often ridiculous.


THE amusements of Cairo, numerous and varied, cater for
every taste. I have already spoken of the balls and fétes given
by the hotels, each one endeavouring to outdo the other in
lavishness and ingenuity.
The climate on the one hand, with its warm and sunny
days, and, on the other, the Anglo-American element keen on
all manner of sports and very numerous, naturally lead to
many out-of door meetings. At tea-time, the terraces of the
Ghezireh Palace are invaded by a fashionable and cosmopolitan
crowd, who amuse themselves listening to the music
and still more to scandal. The Palace is situated on the
Island of Ghezireh, a park in itself, of which one part only
belongs to it. A huge space is set aside for the Khedivial
Sporting Club, to which any visitor to Cairo may belong. There,
there are excellent Tennis -courts and croquet lawns, a golf
course, polo ground, and lastly a racecourse. Matches of all
sorts, besides races, are continually taking place, and attract
a large crowd of players and pretty women. This is one of the
most charming and popular spots in Cairo. At the entrance to

Ghezireh there is a curious roofless building of white stone,
made up of a stage and boxes, which is used, I believe, in
summer as a café-concert. An enterprising gentleman
attempted a year or two ago to establish there a miniature
Monte Carlo. He arrived one day with his luggage,
composed exclusively of roulette boards and pretty women,
the latter more charming than virtuous, and was convinced
that, armed with such irresistible weapons, he would experience
little difficulty in plucking the rich visitors and spoiling
the Egyptians. It was an old game; but this time he had
reckoned without his host, Lord Cromer. Little did it matter
to him that the tourists should be done if they chose to be;
but what he did care about was, that such a place of perdition
should be established in Cairo, where all the Egyptian employees
in the Government, and others besides, should gamble away
their all too insufficient salaries.
The conflict was a short one; the roulette boards left for
home, whilst the pretty sinners, stranded without a sou,
endeavoured in vain to establish themselves in the fashionable
A Japanese passing through Cairo asked, I presume for
curiosity, if there was such a thing as a “yoshiwara” in the
town. “My dear sir,” said the English officer to whom the
question had been put, “it would be quite unnecessary. We
have here so many ladies quite comme il en faut.
In place of the official “yoshiwara,” there is, however,
a whole quarter where vice reigns and flourishes—the
Fish-market. It is here that in the cafés and other houses
one can see the famous danse du ventre, whilst in the very lowest
places, for a few francs, one can assist at scenes of the most
revolting immorality.
The danse is far from being as interesting as people imagine.
I do not know whether these extraordinary contortions were
ever artistic, but if they were so they must have sadly fallen
off. To-day, the majority of the women who twist and turn
their bodies in public are ugly, old, repulsive, and rolling in
fat. I have said the majority, for there are without doubt
a few exceptions, at least there were some dozen years ago.
Finding myself in Cairo in January 1893, I made an arrangement,


rather a risky one I believe, with a donkey boy to take
me to one of the houses in the Fish-market. On arriving, I
seated myself on a stool in a small chamber lighted by two
smoky lamps. In the opposite corner, three ugly and dirty
women played infamous music on impossible
instruments. Disgusted and
rather scared, I thought of beating a
retreat when the dancers made their
appearance, and I remained, astonished
and charmed. I was young in those
days, and perhaps apt to look at things
through rose-coloured spectacles,
especially where the fair sex was concerned.
The three women were young
and exquisitely made. One was black
as ebony, a Nubian, I suppose; a
second had a skin of marvellous whiteness,
her I took to be a Circassian;
whilst the third, like bronze, was an
Egyptian. It was extraordinary. The
three, who formed such a striking
contrast, advanced, retired, returned,
with heads and breasts now thrown
back, now thrown forward to within
a hand's-breadth of my face, their flesh
quivering, the scent of their bodies in the
air, their harsh cries joined to the wild
music. I was completely overcome,
and, for once, I believed that I had
really assisted at a scene worth seeing.


As to the houses where one can witness indescribable orgies,
I pass them by in silence, simply remarking that they would
not exist a day were it not for the tourists who support them.
At Cairo there are two excellent clubs: the Turf and the
Khedivial. The first, although numbering amongst its
members several Europeans and Americans, is essentially
English; and, considering the contempt which they profess for
the Oriental races, it goes without saying that its doors are
closed to all Egyptians. The Khedivial, on the other hand,

counts amongst its members, not only well-known foreigners,
but numbers of Princes, Pashas, Egyptians and Turks. Play
is high. When Lord Cromer consented to be a patron of the
Turf Club it was, I am told, on one condition, and that was that
there should be no gambling. The promise then made has no
doubt been forgotten, for card-playing is now very much in


The Khedivial Theatre, much criticised but much frequented,
has generally each winter a
remarkably good programme.
The season is divided into two
parts, the one given up to
Opera, the other to Comedy
and Drama. The theatre,
built in a few weeks when the
Khedive Ismail wished to give
a representation of “Aïda,”
has served its purpose, and
now a loud cry is heard for a
more modern house, the
building of which, I believe,
has been decided on. The
interior, of white and gold,
very pretty, is surrounded
with two tiers of boxes, let
by subscription to the élite of
Cairo society; and it must
be admitted that when the
feminine rank and fashion of
the town are gathered within
its walls, dressed in the latest mode, and flashing with superb
jewels, real or otherwise, the sight is a magnificent one.
The Arab quarter and the bazaars are always interesting
for strangers, but ladies ought never to go there alone, under
pain of being handled by fingers more expert than clean. The
mere fact of being in the bazaars is for a foreigner a curious
sensation. The narrow streets, bordered with shops open to
the air, filled with gaudy goods; the indescribable smells,
mixture of attar of roses, fried fish, scented tobacco and filth;

the strange swarming crowd of Orientals and Africans with
skins tawny or black who invade the narrow pavements and
the roadway, the drivers crying, shouting, cracking their
whips to make a way through the midst of the indifferent mass,
and with difficulty avoiding running them down, presents a
striking and unforgettable picture of life, movement, colours
and smells. The bazaars themselves are long alleys, passages
where one has to watch one's feet, and on each side of which
are the shops, where all the products of the East are exposed
for sale, not to mention the German imitations, very cheap
and very nasty. Here are carpets, curtains, carved wood
inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory, old weapons; there
again perfumes, jewels, precious stones; whilst a little further
on the eye is attracted by sandals of brilliant red leather
and graceful form, cloths, Arab robes, fez; and lastly the vendors
of objects in exquisitely carved bronze and copper. Here also
are vases, lamps, huge trays, coffee services, flower-pots of
varied and charming designs. At certain places the carvers,
seated at the doors of their shops, are seen busy at their work.
The scene is intensely interesting, though the bazaars
at Cairo are much inferior to those of Constantinople. It is
also necessary to remark that it is not in the bazaars that the
finest work of the East is to be found, but only the cheapest,
and not even that if the buyer has not all his wits about him,
for in no place in the world is there to be found a bigger thief
and cleverer rascal than the bazaar merchant. Those who wish
to purchase anything first-class will find it outside the bazaars.
Opposite the Savoy Hotel, for instance, there is the shop of
Spartali and Co., where the most exquisite rugs and carpets
can be had. These, of course, are not manufactured in Egypt,
but in Smyrna from where they are sent all over the world.
It is safe to say, however, that some of the finest specimen
of the modern, as well as of the ancient, art of carpet weaving
are to be seen in Cairo.
To all those who are interested in Arabic art, so dainty
and so exquisite, I should advise a visit to the “Musée Arabe,”
and the Mosques, where they will find many treasures in the way
of sculptures in stone, wood, and metal, paintings, and wonderful
gilt work. There is, for me, an immense charm in entering

these houses of prayer and of hope, these temples where reigns,
calm and dignified, a religion which has inspired so many
beautiful things, and which continues down the ages to be the
moving influence with so many millions, whose souls, like our
own, live in the hope of an everlasting bliss.
The domes and minarets of these Mosques, piercing with
their graceful forms the intense blue of the sky, produce an
exquisite effect when seen from the Citadel, on the hill which
overlooks Cairo and its surroundings. This can be reached
by carriage, and at the same time will give the visitor an
opportunity of seeing the tomb of Mohamed Ali in the Alabaster
Mosque, a building begun by the founder of the Khedivial
dynasty himself. This Mosque is not remarkable for anything
but its size and the marvellous way in which it is lit. It is a
wondrous tomb, and worthy of the greatest sovereign of Egypt.
From this coign of vantage, the view of Cairo, white and
grey, surrounded with gardens through which flows the Nile
in all its majesty, is one never to be forgotten. It lies, an
oasis of verdure and habitation, in the midst of the surrounding
Desert, which stretches far away into the distance, until
lost to view in the infinite. And if, dreaming, you have let
your eyes wander towards where the sun is setting in a purple
glow, of which the reflections light up the white walls of the
city, and if you feel oppressed by the thought of all the centuries
which are gone and their profound mystery, of the future
which lies before, all unknown, then lower your gaze, and at
your feet, on the huge place where religious processions setting
out for Mecca are wont to start, you will see the youth of
Egypt vigorously enjoying a game of football, and, waking
from your dream, you will once more return to an Egypt
à l'anglaise.
It goes without saying that in the country par excellence
of excavations and discoveries archæological and historical,
the Museum is intensely interesting. That of Cairo is a French
work in every way, and one of which to be proud. It was
founded some forty years ago by the famous French Egyptologist,
M. Mariette, on whose death, in 1881, it was taken over
by M. Maspéro, who after five years gave up the post to M.
Grebaut, he in turn being succeeded by M. de Morgan. Once

David Gardiner

more M. Maspéro has taken up the work, and never has there
been a head of a department more esteemed and better loved.
The Museum occupies to-day an immense building, admirably
situated, and only recently finished. There are to be
found the treasures without number which the picks of the
savants have unearthed from their hiding-places, where for
centuries they have rested in peace. Here can be seen in the
crowded halls all the history of Egyptian civilisation stretching
back for thousands of years B.C. Her kings and queens,
her princes and princesses, her soldiers and priests, warriors
and conquests, her funerals and her feasts, all are there in the
shape of mummies with golden masks, statues of stone, granite
and bronze, of bas-reliefs wonderfully worked, of commemorative
tablets, of animals, flowers, furnishing, and tools of every
manner and kind.
I know nothing more affecting than these temples of the
past, where, brought together, lies all which has constituted the
life and, alas! the death of nations once great and powerful;
all that has constituted the glory, the happiness, and the
sorrow of those who, it may be thirty, it may be forty, or it
may be fifty centuries ago, drank of the brimming cup of life
under the same sunshine which warms our blood to-day, and
who have now passed to the great unknown.
The statues, the vases, the altars, the sacrificial stones,
the sarcophagi, the bas-reliefs, all these, I confess, left me cold;
but I was drawn by an invincible power towards the cases
where lay these little things which, thousands of years ago,
had been daily touched by hands then supple and alive, to-day
cold and withered, the hands of these silent forms whose deathly
sleep in their narrow mummy cases has been to-day rudely
disturbed, brutally interrupted by a curious folk, searching,
seeking everywhere, unmindful of the dead. Here lie the
little objects which have graced the toilette of some great
dame, their exquisite jewels which prove how cunning was the
worker in those far-off days. Rings and earrings, charms and
crowns, diadems and pendants, lovely pieces of gold finely
chiselled and incrusted with gems, ornaments, once upon a
time, of princesses and lovely women, powerful and beloved.
Speak of the art nouveau, and the horrors perpetrated to-day

in its name, and I will say to you, “Come hither and see what
these old Egyptians could do, and with what a sure and exquisite
taste they did their work.”
And my emotion increased still more when my eyes, astonished,
rested on those flowers dried and wonderfully preserved,
those flowers which
perchance, one sunny morning, centuries
, springing from
the rich earth, were
plucked by a hand
eager and quick with the joy of life, flowers,
may be, to whom
lovers' lips had whispered
words of tenderness and hope.
God! Can it be
that all that, the
essence of the life of
a people, has come to
recall to us across the
centuries the vanity
of earthly hopes?
Amen! you will cry.
So be it, we shall say
no more. Let us
leave the dead to
M. Maspéro and his
fellow savants and let us go forth into the sun, the air, and the
fulness of life.


There is, to my mind, no more delicious road in the world
than the large and lovely avenue which leads from Cairo
to the Pyramids of Ghizeh, constructed at the entrance to the
Desert. Along its length of seven miles are superb and lofty
trees. At all hours of the day it is full of life: in the morning,
ladies and gentlemen out for a canter; mules, donkeys
and strings of camels, going and coming from the market.
In the afternoon, fashionable Cairo, walking, driving or

motoring, and on the left the electric tramway with its note of
modernity. This magnificent road was made in a few weeks
at the time of the opening of the Suez Canal by the Khedive
Ismail, in order that the Empress Eugénie might drive comfortably
to the Pyramids. The Pyramids! what varied
spectacles they have seen in the forty odd centuries before the
exploits of Napoleon and since! Egyptians, Greeks, Romans,
Turks, French, English, all have come, one by one, to pitch
their tents and unfurl their flags; whilst to-day, tourists of
these and many other nations congregate in their thousands,
fraternising and happy, joining in a pilgrimage of curiosity
and pleasure.
Many are the reasons for which they come. First of all
because they are the Pyramids, and it is necessary to “do”
them; secondly, because it is an object for a very pleasant
outing, and the Desert air, so pure and invigorating, acts as
a tonic on all. Then again there are others who come to be
photographed with the Pyramids, in order to prove to any doubting
person at home that they have really been there, but, alas!
how many of these have been deceived by the pseudo-photographer,
whose outfit has consisted of an empty cigar-box,
a black cloth, and a specious manner. After having posed
with the neck stiff and the body uncomfortable, and having
given his address and a sovereign, he is surprised to hear a
few days later that he has quite spoilt the picture by having
The precincts of the Pyramids are infested with an army
of Bedouins, these devils of the Desert who, I believe, fear neither
God nor man, and who live for two things only, and which they
often obtain—plunder and women. Clothed in their long
robes, wearing a turban, and armed with a stout stick, they
surround the unfortunate tourists, making them the most tempting
offers to show the Sphinx and the Pyramids, or to ascend
the latter.*
The greatest prudence should be exercised, especially by
ladies, at least by those who are not on the look-out, as it seems
* It is incomprehensible to me that the Government does not
put a stop, once and for all. to the disgraceful behaviour of these

sometimes happens, for a disgusting experience. The ascent
of the Great Pyramid is difficult and tiring. The rapidity
with which the Bedouins accomplish it is truly extraordinary.
Many tourists of both sexes resign themselves to the more
sober joys of watching the performance from below. Two
Bedouins are as a rule sufficient to hoist up a man, but three
at least are required where a lady is concerned. Whilst one of
these miscreants takes her by the hands, the other two push
from behind, and it is then that they find an opportunity for
playing their tricks.
At the foot of the Pyramids, on the borders of the Desert,
is one of the finest hotels in Egypt, Mena House. At the
tea-hour its terraces are crowded with a gay and brilliant
throng. The large and comfortable salons, the delicious
Moorish dining-room, the excellent food, the open-air swimming
bath, the golf course, the Tennis -courts, the croquet lawns,
all go to make a stay at Mena House one of the most pleasant
incidents of a trip to Egypt. The stables are excellent, and
the charges reasonable. Carriages, hacks, donkeys, camels,
and sand-carts, the last small vehicles, with wide flattened
wheels, enabling them to pass over the sand without sinking,
and by their means many a pleasant excursion can be made
into the Desert. There are often at Mena House sporting
meetings, which are very, popular. The camel races are
particularly amusing. These animals seem to understand
perfectly what is going on, and are as keen on winning as
their riders. Last winter, a camel, furious at being passed,
seized in his teeth the leg of the jockey of his more speedy rival,
and bit it with fury.
It is by moonlight that a stroll in the Desert is so charming
when the Sphinx and the Pyramids rise mysteriously from out
the Desert. It is the lovers' hour, and after a good dinner at
Mena House, couples arm-in-arm seek the solitude and the
shadow of the huge monsters of stone who, for thousands of
years, have served as a shelter for their kind. What a thousand
pities that they cannot speak! or perhaps, it is just as well.
There is another charming and popular spot, within half
an hour's rail from Cairo, also in the Desert, but in an opposite
direction. This is Helouan, celebrated for its sulphur waters.

The baths, as well as the Grand Hotel and the Hôtel des Bains,
belong to the “Société des Hôtels Nungovich,” and are perfect
in every way. Here there is no dust, no noise, no dirt; the
air is dry, bracing, and pure, and the calm ideal. There is
another excellent hotel, the Tewfik Palace, besides numerous
Helouan lies at the foot of the mountains, on one of which
a sanatorium, El Ayat, has recently been opened. In this
wonderful situation, invalids and convalescents can find every
comfort and convenience. There are, of course, the ubiquitous
golf links, also a racecourse, which, now and then, attracts
the fashionable crowd from Cairo.
So, briefly, I have described the principal amusements of
Cairo. It only remains to say a word or two on those infamous
gambling-hells which are one of the most abominable plagues
of the town.
Places of debauchery, ruin, and perdition, all the efforts
of the Government have not yet succeeded in stamping them
out, simply because the Egyptian Government in the year of
grace 1905 is not master in its own house. Ridiculous as it
may seem, Egypt still remains a Turkish province, whilst the
Ottoman Empire and its dependencies are still bound to the
Foreign Powers by the Capitulations.
In a word, and for those who are ignorant of them, the
Capitulations are clauses in certain treaties, entered into
between Turkey and the Christian Powers, defining their
rights and privileges in Ottoman territory. According to these
Capitulations, foreigners living in Egypt do not come under
Egyptian jurisdiction; they cannot be arrested without the
consent of their Consul, whilst the police may not enter any
house or building belonging to a foreigner unless a representative
of the Consul be present. Egyptian police, standing at
the door of such a house, and hearing the owner being murdered
inside, would have no right to enter to his assistance.
One can easily understand to what abuses such a state of
affairs can lead. I have, in a former chapter, had a good word
to say of the Greek colony in Alexandria. Then I was speaking
of the upper classes. There is another class, that of the
merchants, of whom good also can be said. Admirable men of

business, pioneers of civilisation, they have helped very considerably
in the development both of Egypt and the Sudan.
There is, unfortunately, a third class of Greeks, thieves, smugglers,
fancy men, of the worst description, who are masters
of the lowest depths
of Cairo. For reasons
best known to themselves,
the representatives
of Greece
have given only a
very lukewarm help
to the Government to
put an end to this
shameful state of
affairs. Besides, this
Greek Brotherhood
of vice and crime
seem to have spies
even within the walls
of their Consulates;
for, in a mysterious
and inexplicable
fashion, they continually get wind of
a police raid, officially
accompanied, long
before it takes place.
It is really to be
desired, for the good
of Egypt herself, and
of the respectable
foreign element residing
there, that the Powers should renounce their rights in
this matter of the Capitulations, and leave to the English
and the Egyptians the framing of a system of justice less

D. Gardiner

One can easily imagine the state of things which existed
before that great statesman, Nubar Pasha, established the
Mixed Tribunals in 1875. Until that date there were in Egypt

seventeeen different Consular jurisdictions, before whom it was
impossible to obtain justice, when, as often happened, a native
or two Europeans of different nationalities were opposed. The
native had, in some instances, to appear before two or three
different Courts, according to the nationalities of the various
defendants. The claims of foreigners against the Government
increased; and, in the absence of any Court where such
could be adjusted, they were taken in hand by the Consuls,
and, thanks to the feebleness of the Government, led to the
disbursement of many and heavy indemnities.
From the judicial point of view absolute confusion reigned—
a state of things which, at last, could no longer be tolerated,
and which had arisen less from the Capitulations themselves
than from the errors which had gradually been allowed to enter
into the interpretation of the texts, and which had altered their
spirit. To put an end to this Nubar saw but one remedy,
—the establishment of Courts in which European and native
judges should sit together, and to induce the Powers to accept
on behalf of their subjects Courts thus composed, giving every
possible guarantee of impartiality. He did not try to disguise
the difficulty of obtaining the consent of the Powers to a reform
which would tend to lessen the importance of their Consulates,
and from the first he warned the Khedive that, in order to
bring it about that all Europeans should submit to these Courts,
it would be necessary to inspire confidence and give every
guarantee, to do which it would be necessary that the Khedive
should set the example, and that his Government and he himself
should submit themselves to the same Tribunals. This was,
it is true, a lessening of his absolute power, but no one could
object that the rights of the European population were not
protected by these tribunals as against the Government.
The Khedive was the first to suffer from the existing state
of affairs, both as the reigning power and as a private individual
and owner of about one-fifth of all the cultivated land
in Egypt; it was therefore to his own interests to see these
Courts established, and he did not hesitate to give his approval.
The negotiations with the Powers commenced in 1867. In
London, the scheme was warmly welcomed, as also in Berlin.
In Paris, the Emperor was personally all in its favour: “The

idea is great in its simplicity,” he said to Nubar, who had come
to him to explain matters; then he added textually: “But it is a
moral revolution which you are introducing into Egypt, and one
which will exercise a great influence on affairs in the East.”
The audience closed with the promise of the Emperor to recommend
the scheme to his Government. Unfortunately, his
Ministers were not of the same opinion, and the reform encountered
in M. de Moustier, Minister for Foreign Affairs, a
strenuous opposition. This opposition on the part of France
was continued for eight long years, in the course of which the
negotiations suffered many interruptions, but were taken up
afresh on each occasion, thanks to the energetic perseverance
of Nubar. But France was not alone in her opposition to the
reform: the Khedive himself, who had welcomed the scheme
enthusiastically, a scheme by which he had seen a means of
getting rid of the continual interference of the Consuls, and of
establishing an independent Government in Egypt, was not
slow, influenced by interested parties, to see a danger for himself
in the weakening of his absolute power, of which Nubar had
from the beginning advised him.
So, profiting by the difficulties with which the project was
being met in Europe, he stopped more than once the course of
the negotiations. Thence sprang these divergences of opinion
with Nubar, who could not reconcile himself to the abandonment
of a scheme which in his eyes was inextricably bound up
with Egypt and her future welfare. These differences in time
assumed a character so bitter that Nubar, who from the beginning
of the negotiations lived almost constantly in Europe,
was several times completely ignored, in disgrace with the
Khedive. Without allowing himself to be discouraged, he
did not cease to persevere in order to win over Ismail to his
ideas and to obtain his consent to the renewal of the negotiations
with the Powers. At last his efforts were crowned with
success, and the reform took place in 1875.
But Nubar had made many bitter enemies amongst those
who had everything to lose by the establishment of justice,
and who did not hesitate to accuse him of ingratitude, accusations
as unmerited as they were unjust. These enemies relied
above all on the influence exercised by Nubar on the abandonment

David Gardiner

of the properties of Ismail to the State. But this abandonment
was claimed in. 1878 by the Commission of Inquest,
and it was because Nubar saw no other means of escaping from
a catastrophe that he placed it in his programme as one of
the conditions of his agreeing to form a Ministry, when, on the
eve of bankruptcy, the Khedive, as a last hope, appealing to
his patriotism, recalled him from Paris, where he was living in disgrace.
Egypt was at the end
of her resources, the Government
was being worried by
its creditors, whilst the Commission
of Inquest insisted
on the giving up of the
Khedivial lands, in order to
conclude the loan necessary
for the payment of the most
pressing demands, and thus
avoid bankruptcy. This abandonment
alone could save the
country and the Khedive himself,
and Nubar had the
courage, which no other
Egyptian then possessed, of
telling Ismail so, and advising
his acceptance, adding that
he himself could not otherwise
undertake the responsibility
of forming a Ministry. The
Khedive understood, and after some days' hesitation, natural
enough in the circumstances, he handed over his properties to the
State. And it is certain that if after this statesmanlike and
patriotic act, thanks to which Egypt escaped the threatened
catastrophe, Ismail had kept his promises and had governed
loyally with the Ministry in which, under the presidency of Nubar,
Sir Rivers Wilson and M. de Blignières took part, he would have
remained on the throne to the day of his death, and neither the
revolt of Arabi nor the subsequent events would have taken
place. After the cession of the land and the raising of the loan,
a wise administration, inspiring confidence, would have been


sufficient to re-establish the finances in a few years, and to save
the country from the crisis through which it was passing.
Events have amply proved the soundness of these precautions,
and the excellence of the remedy in which Nubar had insisted
as the price of his co-operation. It was on account of ignoring
these and refusing to submit himself to the carrying out of
this programme that Ismail was obliged to abandon his power.
After having been absolute Lord and Master of Egypt, he could
not bring himself to accept the much more modest rôle of an
almost constitutional Sovereign created by the new régime.
Therein lay his error and the cause of his fall.
Can one in good faith base an accusation of ingratitude
on a measure which Nubar advised the Khedive to accept in
such critical circumstances as being the only one by which he
and the country could be saved? If Ismail had reflected,
he would not have been long in realising the truth, and I can
quote this phrase, uttered by him to several Egyptians whom
he had invited to meet him at Naples, whence he had retired
after his deposition: “My error has lain in not having listened
to Nubar, if I had followed his advice I should still be Khedive
of Egypt and the Sudan.”
The enemies of Nubar, undoubtedly the greatest statesman
Egypt has had, have spread many of the most ridiculous
rumours with regard to him. They have even pretended,
and it is still repeated in Cairo, that he had become a naturalised
Frenchman, but that after the war of 1870 he had
become a German! Needless to say that this stupid accusation
was absolutely unfounded, and that Nubar lived and died
an Ottoman subject. He has also been bitterly reproached
for having favoured England in Egypt, and opposed France.
I do not believe that Nubar ever favoured the policy of
either one country or the other, unless, indeed, by so doing,
he could obtain an immediate benefit for Egypt. Egyptian
first, and loving his country passionately, having dedicated all
his powers to her service, it was natural that he should incline
to those whose assistance he found useful to Egypt. By
training, education, and tastes, he was certainly more French
than English; he had been brought up at the College of Sorreze
in France, where he had contracted many firm friendships:

and it was in France, at Paris, that he sought rest on each
occasion when politics had left to him some leisure moments.
Why not frankly recognise that the policy of different
Governments which have succeeded one another in France
have been unlucky for Egypt?
To conclude this subject, it has, I think, been clearly proved
that Nubar has rendered to Egypt very great and very real
services, and that the most important of these has been the
establishment of the Mixed Tribunals.

[Back to top]



Ismail and his reign—Dreams of empire—Follies of a
Sovereign—Fêtes at the opening of the Suez Canal—Rivers of
gold—The Empress Eugénie—Anecdotes—Unpublished history
of the Abyssinian War—Ruin—Mysterious death of the
Finance Minister—European intervention—Exile—Sad death
of a man who, in spite of his faults, was a great Sovereign,
and to whom Egypt owes much—Khedive Tewfik—His life
and death as told by his doctor—The famous accusation of
“My country is no longer in Africa, we now form part of Europe.”

Al Vista

THUS did the Khedive Ismail, grandfather of the present
ruler, one day express himself. He might have added: “By
my folly I have thrown my country into the arms of Europe;
she holds it, and will never release her hold.”
After the formidable effort which Mohamed Ali had made
on behalf of Egypt to cast off the yoke of Turkey, and to play
the part of a great Power, the latter, under the reign of the
Sultans Abbas, and Said, had fallen into a profound lethargy.
She would thus, no doubt, have continued, not to live but rather
to vegetate, had not that madman of great ideas, that illbalanced
genius, that Sovereign, magnificent and unfortunate,
Ismail Pasha, roused her from her torpor, and drawn on her
and on himself the attention of the world. At the same time

for his happiness and for his misfortune, destiny decreed that
the Suez Canal, the concession for which had been granted by
his predecessor, Said, to M. de Lesseps, should be carried out
during his reign.
This magnificent achievement, the glory of France and of
M. de Lesseps, who, with undaunted energy, had brought it
to completion in spite of the
furious opposition of England,
this work, I say, marked the
crowning point of Khedive
Ismail's reign. He wished
that the entire universe should
be a witness to the glory which
the genius of France had shed
on his country, and he brought
together, from every clime,
thousands of important personages,
to witness the opening
of the Canal, and to take
part in the fantastic fêtes
which he had organised.


One had never before seen,
nor, probably, will one ever
see again, anything to equal
these. The four thousand
guests of the Khedive,
amongst whom were the
Empress Eugénie, the
Emperor of Austria, and the Crown Prince of Prussia, took
part at Cairo and Ismailiah, in uninterrupted fétes, banquets,
balls, operas, fireworks, gala performances, on the most
lavish and reckless scale. The guests had to spend nothing;
railways, steamers, hotels, carriages, even washing was paid
for them with incredible prodigality. No control was exercised
on the expenditure, and, for weeks, champagne flowed in
palaces and hotels. The latter were paid when they wished,
and as they thought proper, at the Ministry of Finance, where
no one questioned their bills.
The three outstanding figures at these fêtes, of which the

echoes reached to every corner of the earth, were Ismail, the
Empress Eugénie, and de Lesseps. Clothed in a cloud of glory,
the triumph was theirs, and who shall say how many mortals
there were who looked with envy on them? Sic transit gloria!
How short a space of time was necessary to overwhelm and
destroy all their lofty hopes and gorgeous dreams! Who
would have foretold that Ismail, deposed and exiled, would
have died heart-broken, far from his native land; that de
Lesseps, broken down by years, and even more by mental
suffering, would have expired, stricken with grief at the sight
of his name linked to a work which had failed and sown ruin
broadcast; or that that proud and superb Empress, having lost
throne, husband, and child, alone surviving would still be
wandering across the world in mourning and sorrow?
At this time the influence of France in Egypt preponderated.
The sad events of 1870 had not changed the situation,
and two years later we find Ismail still surrounded with
men whose sympathies were altogether French, and who exercised
on him much more influence than his Ministers. Amongst
these intimate advisers of the Khedive must be mentioned:
Barot Bey, his secretary, whose lovely wife had great influence
in Cairo; Dr. Burguiéres Bey, his doctor; Gaston de St.
Maurice, Master of the Horse, come to Cairo on the recommendation
of General Fleury, and who had fitted up magnificent
stables, copied from those of Napoleon III.; Count della Sala,
his equerry, who had served as a captain under Maximilian
in the Mexican War, a man exceedingly popular, especially
with ladies. The Count was the first European to have a
liaison with a Turkish lady of very high rank.
To these three men, forming the immediate entourage
of the Khedive, must be added the name of Count Koszielski,
a Polish gentleman, who, after having served in the Prussian
army, had installed himself in Paris. A man of the world,
of charming manners, living the life of a grand seigneur, and
with great influence, he obtained the post of chef d'escadron
of the Imperial Horse Guards. At the same time it was
reported that he had conquered the heart of an Imperial
Princess and became her lover.
Following on events too numerous to be detailed here,

he gave up his commission in the Imperial Guards and arrived
in Constantinople, at a time when the Poles, like the Hungarians,
all enemies of Russia, were received with open arms.
At the time of the Crimean War he was a Colonel in the Turkish
army, when, on his becoming a General, he took the name of
Seffer Pasha.
Prince Napoleon having been given command of an army
corps, Turkey appointed General Seffer Pasha as his aide-decamp,
and thereafter Prince and General lived together in
perfect harmony, as far as possible from cannon balls and
bullets. At the conclusion of the war, Seffer Pasha, invalided,
was obliged to relinquish his command, and, the doctors advising
a warm climate for the winter, the Sultan recommended Cairo,
asking him at the same time to keep an eye on the Khedive,
whose fancies towards independence were causing him some
anxiety. But Ismail had his own spies at Constantinople,
and, knowing the object of Seffer Pasha's visit, found means
to gain him over by the present of a house, grounds, and
Seffer, French by taste and inclination, joined the clique
of St. Maurice, Burguières and Barot, forming round Ismail
a barrier of French influence which seemed likely to resist
every assault. The first breach occurred when Ismail, driven
by the immediate necessity for money, sold his shares in the
Suez Canal. The £4,000,000 paid him by England opened the
door to English influence.
The Khedive's histoires amoureuses would fill a big volume;
but with all his love for fêtes, pleasures, and recherché suppers
(it was at one of these that he had brought to him on a huge
silver tray a young and celebrated horsewoman) he seldom
sought the company of foreign ladies. From Constantinople
he brought slaves of every type of beauty, and, accustomed
to do everything on a big scale, his harem was composed of
four legitimate wives, with the title of Princess, and
250 concubines.
The fourth wife of Ismail was, they say, a common slave,
quite unknown, who one evening when Ismail had supped not
wisely but too well, having brought his bed to lay on the floor
in Turkish fashion, found favour in his sight. Whether or

not the Khedive ever regretted his action is not known, but
the law of Islam is strict in these matters, and the slave, about
to become a mother, was elevated to the rank of Princess.
The fashion with regard to these things was a curious one.
When one of the wives of the Khedive became enceinte, she was
sent to the Palace of Kasr-el-Nil, known to the wits as the
“Nursery.” After the birth of the child took place, Ismail
gave to the mother a well-furnished Palace supplied with
eunuchs and all the attendants due to her rank. From time
to time he came to pay a visit, bringing with him a sack of
gold, which was placed in a press, and out of which, without
any control, hands full of money were taken for the needs
of the house. And the number of these houses was many.
But the dream of Ismail was the creation of an African
Empire, great and powerful, which, freed from the yoke of
Turkey, would stretch from the Mediterranean to the Equator.
One knows how the Egyptian soldiers conquered the Sudan
and the equatorial provinces. The power of Ismail, at this
time, stretched as far as the Great Lakes, and his dream would
perhaps have taken a definite form had it not been for an
unfortunate event, which marked in a way the commencement
of the setting of his star. I refer to the war against Abyssinia,
of which the particulars are, to this day, wrapped in
One knows that a strong Egyptian army sent into Abyssinia
never returned. A few officers only, for the most part
foreigners, having carved a way at the point of their swords
through the masses of the enemy, regained Egypt. One of
these was General Thurneyssen Pasha, a distinguished officer,
a well-known horseman, and celebrated duellist. Thurneyssen,
who is to-day equerry to his Highness the Khedive, first saw
fighting in Mexico under his leader and compatriot, Maximilian
of Austria. After that heroic but unfortunate war he entered
the service of the Khedive Ismail, whom he served with the
greatest devotion, a devotion which he has continued to display
under Tewfik and Abbas Hilmi.
It was from his lips that I heard the details of the Abyssinan
campaign, which I can only briefly recount: Towards the end
of 1874, Munzinger Pasha, a Swiss in the service of Ismail,

was Governor-General of the Egyptian Provinces of the Red
Sea. One day he took by surprise, with only two battalions,
the Abyssinian province of Boghas, situated to the north-west
of Massowah. Munzinger pretended that Egypt had rights
over this province, from whence the Abyssinians were in the
habit of making raids into Egyptian territory. The truth of the
matter is, that, having married
an Abyssinian from this part,
a Christian like most of her
compatriots, and desiring to
please her, he wished to place
the province of Boghas under
Egyptian rule, in order that
he might live there with his
wife during the hot season,
this province lying high above
sea-level and possessing a cool
and bracing climate.


On news of this attack
reaching the ears of King
John, he was seized with
fury, and sent out several
armed bands, who, entering
Egyptian territory, massacred
a number of the inhabitants.
Irritated by these doings, and
egged on by Munzinger Pasha,
supported by Nubar, the
Khedive Ismail determined to despatch a military expedition
to Abyssinia. The object, presumably, was the punishment
of the Abyssinians; but, in reality, Ismail then at the height
of his power, thought to conquer the country, which, joined
to the equatorial provinces, already occupied in his name
by Sir Samuel Baker, would have formed with Egypt and
the Sudan the vast Empire of his dreams.
The courtiers and flatterers surrounding him, assuring him
that one Egyptian regiment was worth 30,000 Abyssinians,
and Munzinger boasting of his ability to conquer Abyssinia
with two battalions, the Khedive sent a force ridiculously

feeble. It was composed of 4000 men, commanded by a Dane,
Colonel Armdrupp, a distinguished artilleryman, but one
whose knowledge was theoretical rather than practical, as he
had never before seen active service. He was accompanied
by Arakel Bey, a nephew of Nubar, who had just been appointed
Governor of Massowah. This small force, entering Abyssinia,
leaving, here and there, small posts, and reduced by the end of
October to 3000 men, was suddenly attacked by King John
in person, at the head of 30,000 men. The Egyptians were
wiped out to a man, Armdrupp and Arakel Bey perishing
whilst bravely defending themselves. The Abyssinians gave
no quarter, whilst the wounded were finished by thrusts of
a lance. Almost all the corpses were mutilated.
When the news of this disaster arrived in Cairo, Ismail
announced his intention of taking a terrible revenge, and
decided to immediately despatch a powerful force. Organised
with extraordinary rapidity, this consisted of over 15,000 men,
under the command of Ratib Pasha, a Circassian, Sirdar of the
Egyptian army. Thurneyssen, then a Major, was his aide-de
, and there were in addition eleven American officers, one
Swiss, one Austrian, one Italian and one Belgian. The Chief
of Staff, and second in command, was General Loring, an American,
and under him was Colonel Dye, also from the States.
The artillery comprised thirty-four cannon and twelve fusées.
On January 24, 1876, the Egyptian army left Massowah,
accompanied by an enormous baggage train, and entered into
the unknown and mysterious country, of which nought was
to be seen but a mass of mountains, seeming in the clear air
to be surrounded with bluish clouds. On March 7 they
encountered the enemy, under King John, and victory seemed
assured when unfortunately one of the Egyptian battalions was
seized with panic. Sword in hand Thurneyssen and the other
officers stopped the fugitives, and were about to re-form when the
cavalry, taken in turn by a mad panic, fled pell-mell through
the infantry. The rout was complete, and seven entire battalions
were, massacred by the enemy. Thanks to the precaution
which had been taken to construct a fort some distance
in the rear, several battalions and most of the foreign officers
managed to save themselves. There they made a stubborn

defence against the 100,000 of the troops of King John, who,
in the end, gave up his prisoners and allowed the Egyptian
force to retire. So ended this unfortunate campaign, which
cost Egypt 10,000 men, and an immense sum in money.
Ismail's financial condition became at this time more and
more critical. Egypt, sucked dry by the Khedive and his
agents, had given up all her resources and all her savings,
everything indeed which the unfortunate people could sacrifice.
Unable to meet his creditors, almost entirely Europeans, to
whom he now owed some £80,000,000, and who were noisily
insisting on the protection of their various Governments,
Ismail was obliged to open the door to European intervention
as represented by England and France.
I have no intention of repeating here the long story of his
difficulties or the efforts of the two Great Powers to restore
order out of chaos. I will rest content with recalling an
event which at the time created a great sensation, and which
is, to this day, much discussed and misrepresented, and in
which a Minister, still living, is made to play a part which
was never his.
I refer to the disappearance and mysterious death of the
Minister of Finance, the Moufetish Ismail Pasha Sadik. This
man, the creature, par excellence, of Ismail, had been the instrument,
clever but cruel, by which Egypt had been bled white.
He alone knew by what awful tortures the millions had been
amassed, and how they had been squandered, not only the
millions of which Ismail had had the use, but those also which
he and his friends had divided amongst themselves.
When England and France had appointed their Commissioners
to inquire into the state of the finances of Egypt,
Ismail understood that his Minister would be amongst the first
to undergo examination, and that there was every probability
that he, to use a vulgar term, would give the show away. The
only possible solution was to have him removed. There are
not lacking those who affirm that he was killed in a mysterious
fashion by order of Ismail. After conversations which I have
had with persons closely connected with this tragedy, I am
convinced that the intention of the Khedive was not to have
his Minister killed, but only kept out of the way. Ismail has

committed faults enough without accusing him of being an
assassin, and at the same time blackening the reputations
of those who were mixed up in the affair.
The following was told me by a person who was present
when the Moufetish was arrested: Under some pretext or
other, Ismail called his Minister, and after having chatted
with him for a short time, he invited him to accompany him
to the Ghezireh Palace, occupied by Prince Hassan. In the
best of humours the Khedive laughingly said: “I must go
and see my daughter-in-law,” whilst, in the carriage, he cracked
jokes and seemed to be particularly happy.
Arrived at the Palace, he entered the apartments of the
Princess, telling the Moufetish to await him, for coffee, on board
a boat, moored in the river opposite the garden. It is at this
point that the versions of the story differ. It is asserted that
the officer on guard was Moustapha Fehmy, to-day Prime
Minister, and that he had received orders to arrest the Moufetish
and, if necessary by force, to take from him his seal of office.
A terrible scene, so says this story, was enacted between the
two men, in the course of which, coming to blows, Moustapha
Fehmy was bitten severely on the hand. Certain persons in
high places in Cairo have assured me that the mark of the
wound is still visible.
According to my informant, who was actually present,
this did not occur. In the first place, Moustapha Fehmy was
no longer then an officer. He had quitted the army on his
appointment as Grand Master of Ceremonies, becoming later
Director of the Daira Cassa. He could not, therefore, have
commanded the guard which arrested the Moufetish. The
truth is that when the latter arrived on board the boat, of
which the officers, devoted to the service of the Khedive, had
received orders not to let him escape, Moustapha Fehmy, by
order of the Khedive, came to him to announce that he was a
prisoner, and to demand his seal of office. The latter refused,
and, mad with rage against the Khedive, the world in general,
and the messenger in particular, he shouted, “You serve an
assassin! May he be damned! Your turn will come … today
it is I, to-morrow it will be you. Curse you, and if harm
comes to me, may my blood be on your head!”



To all those who know the Prime Minister, and who know
him not only incapable of any unlawful violence, but to be of
a character of which the chief traits are kindness, gentleness
and sensitiveness, the effect produced on him by these words
will easily be understood, when his rôle had consisted in
simply announcing to Moufetish that, by order of his Sovereign,
he was to consider himself under arrest. Reaching his house,
he was seized by a violent attack of nerves, and for several
days his reason, even his life, hung in the balance. The
greatest care had to be taken to ensure his ultimate recovery.
During this time the boat had weighed anchor and, ascending
the Nile, had arrived at Dongola in the Sudan. There was
on board a guard under a Colonel named Ishak Bey, whose
orders were to treat the Moufetish well, but to prevent him
from escaping, and, above all, to obtain possession of his seal.
The Colonel could find nothing better to do than induce the
unfortunate Minister to drink, knowing that in his state of
health, and under the rays of the Sudanese sun, alcohol was
fatal. Some days after their arrival in this town, Ishak Bey
received imperative orders to recover the seal, and when he
endeavoured to do so a terrible struggle took place betwixt
him and the Moufetish. It was in the course of this struggle
that the officer was severely bitten on the hand, and being
unable to shake off his adversary, he was obliged to kill him.
The wound which he received was of such a nature that, after
his return to Cairo, and for many years after, he was obliged to
wear a glove.
Whilst this tragedy was being enacted at Dongola, official
bulletins, published in Cairo, announced to the public that the
Moufetish, on account of his delicate condition, had ascended
the Nile for the benefit of his health!
Such is the story as it was told to me by a person who is in
a position to know the truth. My impression is that neither
Ismail nor his entourage had thought of an assassination, but
simply of an enforced exile, which the Sovereign considered
indispensable for his interests.
On the fatal road which was leading him to ruin Ismail
was unable to stop, and the hour came when, on the demand
of France and England, who represented the principal creditors,

the Sultan, his Sovereign, deposed him, and, with tears in his
eyes, he entered into exile. First he took refuge at Naples,
in the Palace of La Favorita, which the King of Italy had
placed at his disposal, whilst later he retired definitely to
His son, Tewfik Pasha, who succeeded him, died before
him, when the present ruler mounted the throne, almost a
stranger to his grandfather. It was a touching scene when,
one day, the young Sovereign and the ancient exile met.
When the Khedivial yacht which carried Abbas Hilmi cast
anchor before Constantinople, a superb boat, urged forward by
many stout oarsmen, advanced rapidly, whilst in the stern,
trembling with emotion, the ancient Khedive sat. He had
come to embrace his grandson, the living representative of his
country; for if there was one thing which Ismail loved even
more than himself, it was the land where he had been born—
Egypt, which, in his dreams, he had seen grow great and powerful.
So, when he felt the end drawing near, he had but one
desire, one thought, to die on the banks of the wondrous Nile,
where he had known joy and sorrow, triumph and humiliation.
He wrote to his grandson, asking humbly for a corner in his
native land, a corner, distant and solitary, where he could
render up his soul to God. Abbas Hilmi would willingly have
consented; but, from high political reasons, the request was
refused by England. The days drew on. The old Khedive
wrote once more. He was dying, the most celebrated physicians
had placed it on record, and to their written word was
attached a photograph, showing, alas, that he was at the gates
of death. He begged that he might be allowed to be carried
to his beloved land. But policy, which knows no sentiment,
gives way not even to death: the refusal was curt and brief,
and Ismail died in exile—far, as they said, from the country
which he had ruined.
Ruined? I often ask myself if Ismail has done to Egypt
all the wrong which is alleged. Certainly he led his country
to bankruptcy and ceased to meet his bills. But, if we examine
his balance-sheet carefully, we are forced to recognise that his
credit was not far off his debit. His huge properties, the Sugar
Works, the State Railways, the Telegraphs, his Palaces, the

Ghezireh Park, the State lands, all represented a colossal
sum, the value of which could not have been far short of the
£100,000,000 which he owed. As the private accounts of
Ismail and those of the State were really one, it must be recognised
that, foolishly as he squandered money on fêtes and amusements,
he also devoted enormous sums to public works, whilst
almost all the greatest and
most important works which
to-day constitute the wealth
of Egypt were begun during
his reign.
The best proof of what I
have just said is that, after
all, no one has lost anything,
and many of the creditors
have been paid sums well over
the amounts actually due to


How many millions has
England herself gained owing
to the temporary embarrassment
of Ismail? I shall
give one example only: The
Suez Canal shares, for which
she paid £4,000,000, are to-day
worth £32,000,000. What a
pity for Egypt that England,
who insisted that all the personal property of the Khedive should
pass to the country, and that the Princes, his heirs, should give
up what would have come to them, what a pity, I say, for
Egypt, that England has not considered that these shares
belonged also to the country and that she would give them
up on payment of the £4,000,000! That, indeed, would have
been un beau geste!
Apropos of this, when the affairs of the Daira, once the private
property of Ismail, were wound up, this year with a surplus of
£6,400,000, the heirs of the Khedive, who had abandoned their
rights in favour of the creditors, expressed the opinion that
it would be only right that they should share in this brilliant

operation. But Lord Cromer, with his usual frankness, sent them
about their business.
I had an opportunity of discussing this question with the
Financial Adviser, Sir Vincent Corbett, at the time when
many foreigners were expressing their sympathy with the Princes,
and I now give his reply.
“This is no question of sentiment but one of law, and
which the law alone can decide.
Let us take a simple
example. X. owes £1000 and
cannot pay; he says to Z.,
‘I have a property worth
£1000, will you purchase it
and pay off my debts?’ Z.
does so, arranges with the
creditors, but, instead of reselling
the property at once,
he keeps it, works it up, and
at the end of a certain number
of years, sells it at a big
profit. Has X. any right to
demand a share in that profit?
Evidently not.”

V. Gaintini

The reasoning is apparently
just, but to it the reply can
be made that the engagements
entered into with the Princes
when they renounced their
rights have not always been
kept. I am assured, for example, that his Highness Prince
Hussen Kamel Pasha ought to have received for land which
he gave up to the State £24,000 per annum in lieu of
£40,000 which the estate would have brought him in. A
short time afterwards this sum was declared to be too high,
and was reduced to £18,000, whilst scarcely a year later it
was further reduced to £12,000, on the plea of the poverty of
If the folly and prodigality of Ismail led to the intervention
of France and England in the affairs of Egypt, so the weakness

of his successor Tewfik Pasha, who was unable to repress the
revolution led by Arabi Pasha, led to the armed intervention of
the English. Tewfik was gentleness and kindness personified.
At the time of his death, which was rather sudden, the rumour
spread abroad that he was on bad terms with the English, who
would willingly have seen him out of the way. From that to
the assertion that he had been poisoned was a short step, and
belief in it spread rapidly.
I had occasion to speak with Dr. Comanos Pasha, physician
to the Khedive, to whom was entrusted the official inquest
on behalf of the Government, when he made the following
“It is quite wrong to suppose that the Khedive was on
bad terms with the English. They had, on the contrary,
complete confidence in him; and the understanding was so
good between them that, had Tewfik Pasha lived a little longer,
it is almost certain that England would have evacuated Egypt.
His Highness has often said to me in speaking of them, ‘Certainly,
I do not love them; but I am deeply grateful, for it is
to them I owe the fact that, to-day, I am Khedive of Egypt.
Without them, where should I or my children have been?’
Therefore, far from wishing his removal, the English, who knew
that they could count on him, desired that his reign should
According to Dr. Comanos Pasha's official report, Khedive
Tewfik died of influenza, complicated by double pneumonia
and acute nephritis. Had Tewfik Pasha the presentiment of
coming death? One would almost believe so when one remembers
that, a few months before his death took place, taking
advantage of the holidays which the heir apparent Abbas
was then enjoying in Egypt, he decreed him to be of age,
although he had not reached the customary number of years.
It was this decree which avoided a Regency, and permitted
the present Khedive to ascend the throne on the death of his
father, although, legally, he had not attained his majority.

[Back to top]



His Highness Khedive Abbas Hilmi—The man and the
Sovereign—His accession—His feelings as regards France
and England—First interview at the Abdine Palace—Story
of his Highness' railway—An afternoon at the Palace of
Koubbeh and visit to the estates—Excursion with his Highness
on the Ismailia Canal—Visit to the Palace of Montazah
and lunch with his Highness—Excursion with the Khedive on
his Mariout Railway—The opinion of his Highness on the
present state of affairs and on England's policy in Egypt.

Al Vista

CALLED suddenly in 1891 to ascend the throne, his Highness
the Khedive Abbas Hilmi left Vienna, where he was finishing
his studies, and arrived in Egypt, with, in spite of his youth,
very clear and decided views in regard to his rights and duties
as a Sovereign. Not having been able to appreciate personally
the rôle which England played in his country, it was only
natural that he should resent the presence of a foreign army
on the soil of his native land, and it was with a heart full of
misgiving that he returned.
A certain number of his entourage, along with several
foreigners, more or less connected with friendly Governments,
all fishers in troubled waters, took advantage of this state of
affairs to urge the young Sovereign, then without experience,
to a complete rupture with England, assuring him that, on the

day of the struggle, French bayonets and Russian Cossacks
would be there to back him up.
Very brave, very sure of himself, the Khedive one day took
the great step and showed England the door; then, looking
round for his backers he found … space. Those even
who had most strongly persuaded him had quietly disappeared.
In 1878, at the gates of Constantinople, England had cried
to Russia, “So far, and no farther!” And the Colossus of the
North had stopped.
Twenty years later, at Fashoda, England cried once more,
this time to France, “Halt!” And the Republic, rich and
powerful, recoiled before the Mistress of the Seas.
So, in reply to the move of the Khedive, the English replied,
“We are the strongest, here we shall remain.” And Egypt,
very weak at this time, had to submit.
It is true that England had the good taste to add: “We
desire nothing more than your welfare, we recognise your
title of Sovereign, and we seek simply to help you with all the
means at our disposal to regenerate your country.”
The blow was a hard one, but it was worth more than ten
years' experience to his Highness. The young Prince knew
then the value of friendships, he understood the weakness of
his country and his own power. He accepted the advice of
England in regard to the administration of his affairs, whilst
jealously guarding all his prerogatives as a Sovereign, and
making them respected.
At first he refused the hand of friendship which had been
held out to him, for he desired before giving his confidence to
the English to see them at work, so that relations at that time
were cold, official, and distant. With extraordinary determination
and energy he set himself to study the needs of his
country; and, little by little, the knowledge dawned on him
that England was keeping her word, and was working sincerely
and honestly for the good of Egypt.
Then, and only then, was peace made, and the year which
saw the rapprochement between England and France also saw
his Highness paying a friendly visit to King Edward, fêted
and petted by London.
In the course of many conversations I have had with the

Khedive, he has himself assured me that his relations with
England, with his English Advisers and other Councillors
and employees, are excellent, and that there is no desire on his
part or on that of his Ministers to thwart in any way the work
of civilisation and regeneration, with which he associates himself
with his whole heart. I am also able to declare that his
Highness is satisfied with the existing condition of affairs,
and that, until Egypt shall have attained to a degree of civilisation
and power which will permit her to stand by herself, she
infinitely prefers to lean on England and to profit by the advice
of the greatest colonising nation on the face of the earth, than
seek help from any other of the great Powers. This does not
prevent Abbas Hilmi from having for certain of these Powers
a real affection and a profound admiration. His Highness has
a special liking for France, where each year, at Divonne, he
spends a summer holiday, living quietly there the life of an
ordinary French gentleman.
The popular imagination which would like to represent the
Khedive in a luxurious Palace, passing his days lolling on a sofa
in the midst of a mass of cushions, eating sweetmeats or smoking
a hubble-bubble, inhaling the perfume of flowers—the popular
imagination I say would receive a severe shock in learning
that the Khedive is in fact the busiest man in Egypt. It
would be difficult for any man to lead a fuller, more active
and more energetic life. Official duties, laws to study,
decrees to sign, Ministerial Councils to preside over, audiences,
receptions, reviews, all the occupations, in fact, of a Sovereign
would be considered by most to be work enough. Nevertheless,
besides these, his Highness finds time for breeding live-stock
and for farming on a large scale, for improving his properties,
for constructing entire new quarters in both town and village,
for bringing under cultivation huge tracts of land up till now
arid and abandoned, for travelling over by rail, yacht, dahabeah,
carriage and motor, on horseback or camelback, his vast
estates, and above all, for constructing, with his own money,
a line of railway, destined to unite Tripoli with Egypt. Neither
must it be thought that the Khedive only occupies himself
with the outlines of these schemes, leaving to others the filling
in of details. That would be a great error.


His Highness certainly possesses advisers and employees
of undoubted value, such as the Head of his Daira Kassa
(Household), his Excellency de Martino Pasha, who renders
him great services; but it is none the less true that the Khedive
studies deeply all questions which
touch on his interests, and makes
himself master of every detail.
The principal residences of the
Khedive are: the Palace d'Abdine,
at Cairo, where all official receptions
take place; the Palace of Koubbeh,
in the country, six miles from town,
where his Highness spends the greater
part of the year with his august
spouse, the Khedivah, and their
children; the Palace of Alexandria;
and finally, the Palace of Montazah,
situated on the sea-shore some few
miles from that port.


It was at the Palace d'Abdine
that I had first the honour of being
received by his Highness in company
with the Hon. W. Riddle, the
United States Minister. The time
is long since past when any unimportant
Consul could present himself
at the Palace in short jacket and soft
hat, asking audience, whether it
suited the Khedive or not. What
the weakness of Tewfik had allowed
had short shrift when he was gone,
and Abbas Hilmi knew from the first
day how to play the part of Sovereign, and as such to demand
the respect due to him. It is hardly needful to add, therefore,
that, as in all the Foreign Courts, the representatives of other
countries must address their demand for an audience to the
Grand Master of Ceremonies, who transmits it to his Highness,
and that one cannot be received except in full uniform or
frock-coat and tall hat. Below, in the Hall, the soldiers of

the guard are lined up, whilst at the head of the staircase we
find the Masters of the Ceremonies and Chamberlains, who
introduce us into a huge ante-room. After a few minutes have
passed we are conducted into the reception-room, where his
Highness awaits us. He comes towards us smiling, his hand
outstretched, and after a vigorous shake, we seat ourselves,
and, cigarettes lighted, begin
our conversation, first of all in
English, then in French. The
Khedive speaks both languages
perfectly, besides German and,
naturally, Turkish and Arabic.
Even his bitterest political
enemies acknowledge willingly
the personal charm of this
Prince. One of them had said
to me: “Certainly, you will
find him charming, that is just
the word one would apply, he
is a charmer and he will charm
you, but—look out!” I did
not “look out,” nor do I find
myself any the worse.


The conversation turned
to the voyage which I contemplated
taking into the
Sudan and on the African
railways. I took the liberty
of asking information from his Highness in regard to the line
of railway which he is constructing at his own expense between
Alexandria and Tripoli.
He replied as follows: “The country which extends to the
west of Alexandria towards Tripoli is quite unknown to
travellers. It is generally thought to be an immense desert,
with a few oases, distant twenty or thirty days' camel march.
Nevertheless, a huge number of caravans cross this desert, either
from these oases or from Tripoli, bringing all manner of goods
to the Alexandria markets.
“I decided one day to make a long trip on horseback

through this unknown land. To my great surprise, instead of
finding a sandy desert as I had expected, I found a rich soil
excellently suited to cultivation. The soil is not as dark in
colour as that watered by the Nile, but it is evident that it
has, under the Romans, supported a large population. Everywhere
we saw the remains of towns, villages, and farms,
occupied at one time by the Romans. There are in this
supposed desert enough stones to build a hundred villages.
“One evening I pitched my camp by the side of the great
track. I had not a wink of sleep. The whole night through
an uninterrupted procession of caravans passed. So, whilst
listening through the long hours to the heavy, slow tread of the
camels, and the shrill whistle of their drivers, I thought of the
hours, days, weeks, even months which these Bedouins
spent on the journey, and I said to myself: ‘Since there are
so many of them why not make a railway? It will be a
good thing for them, and, very likely, a good thing for the
“When later on, far away towards Tripoli, I saw the rich
oases whose products were tied up, the cattle which could not
be sold, the animals fed on figs and dates for which there was
no market, my mind was soon made up, I set to work immediately
and began the construction of the line.”
“And the results have been satisfactory?” I asked.
“Satisfactory? I am delighted. So far I have only laid
down about sixty miles, but already, in goods alone and for the
first year, we have carried 1000 tons, this year we shall reach
6000 and more. At the beginning I put down a narrow-gauge
track, but that I soon found out was a mistake, and now
we have the standard gauge. As we proceed towards the oases,
traffic will become more and more important. Lately I was
present at a large market held at the terminus of the line.
Caravans had come in from Tripoli itself, and to give you an
idea of the importance of the meeting, I can tell you that there
were no less than 22,000 sheep there. The market itself was
most picturesque, for there the Bedouins in the most primitive
state had come together. Much of the business done was
simple barter, very little money being current. A horse could
be had for forty francs. My intention is to encourage the

population to open in the villages served by the railway
markets and fairs on fixed dates.”
“And finally,” I said, “to where does your Highness
intend to extend the line?”
Quite excited, his face lit up with mingled energy and hope,
the Khedive replied:
“To where? Why certainly in time to the frontiers of
Tripoli, when I hope that there will then be men intelligent
and enterprising enough to construct a line from there
which will join with mine. Think how one could then come
to Egypt, with a sea passage from Messina to Tripoli of only
fifteen hours, instead of the three days necessary from
Brindisi to Alexandria, or the five days from Marseilles to the
same port.
“A train de luxe leaving Paris and Berlin would carry
passengers to Messina, whilst another would conduct them from
Tripoli to Cairo. This service could run twice or three times
a week or even daily in the high season.”
Talking of railways led the Khedive to tell us the following
story of his sister, the Princess Hadidja Hanum, who with her
husband, Prince Abbas Alim, had visited the St. Louis
“I have always had a great desire,” he said, “to visit the
States, and never dreamed that my sister would go there before
me. When she returned she brought me a magnificent collection
of photographs, several of which were taken under anything
but ordinary circumstances. Once, for instance, the
Princess had the bad luck to meet with a railway accident,
but, instead of losing her presence of mind like most of the
people round her, she calmly photographed the unusual scene.
Then again when she found herself on board a petrol boat
which had taken fire, she did the same.”
So this Egyptian Princess, in the land of the strong-minded
and independent woman, showed her calmness and presence
of mind.
It is not only towards the frontier of Tripoli that his
Highness has directed his energies. In the heart of Cairo itself
he has shown an example to his subjects of how to build. I
have already mentioned in a previous chapter how the entire

population of this city has been bitten by the mania for building.
On all sides new erections are springing up; but, as the builders
are anxious only to make money and make it quickly, the houses
are badly constructed, and as cheaply as possible, so that
as rents are very high, 12 to 15 per cent. is easily returned on


the capital expended. But how long will these miserable
barraks last?
His Highness decided to build and create an entirely new
quarter, but not on the lines of the jerry-builder. The flats
which he is erecting on his property will be the first thoroughly
up-to-date houses in Cairo, containing every modern comfort,
lift, telephone, bath-room, &c. But they will only return
7 or 8 per cent. However, there is every chance that they will
continue to yield this long after the 15 per cent. tenements
will have collapsed.


A short time after my return from the Soudan, I had an
audience of the Khedive at Abdine, where his Highness very
kindly invited me to spend an afternoon with him at his Palace
of Koubbeh. A pleasant drive of about an hour brought me
to my destination. I had scarcely mounted the marble steps
before I saw his Highness approaching, without any ceremony,
one hand outstretched in welcome, the other in the pocket of
his flannel jacket.
“Charmed to see you in my real home,” he said, leading
me into a salon, where, seated on a large sofa, he added, “for,
you see, this is where I really live, never at Cairo. The Palace
d'Abdine only serves for official receptions, and I have never
once slept there. Even after the annual ball which I give,
in the middle of the night I return here.
“I love this country, where, though within easy reach of
town and my Ministers, I can find quiet, and where, laying
aside etiquette and form, I can live the life of a gentleman
On a table at his side his Highness unrolled a large coloured
plan of his property, on which he showed me the tour which
we were to take together. Within a huge circle all the land
belonged to him, whilst a mile or two further on, on the banks
of the Ismailiah Canal, his Highness possesses another magnificent
estate. His dream had been to join this up with that of
Koubbeh, but the value of the ground had increased to such
an extent and with such rapidity that he has found it
“These lands,” explained his Highness, “are the best in
Egypt. I purchased mine a few years ago for £30 a feddan
(about 4400 square metres), to-day I cannot buy a feddan
more for £200.
“You will no doubt have noticed,” he continued, “that
my family has no old castles, no old palaces, with the
exception of the official one at Cairo, and it is impossible for
me to speak of the homes of my ancestors. Custom decrees
that the Palaces inhabited by them during their lives
always in the country, shall at their deaths be destroyed.
This property is the only one which has been more or less
inhabited since the time of Ibrahim Pasha, but it was then only

David Gardiner

a small building. I have myself had this huge Palace erected,
and all the outbuildings which I am about to show you.”
From the top of the steps I noticed that the garden was
in a state of confusion, huge ditches, heaps of stones and a
hundred or so of men busy with pick and shovel.
“I am entirely remaking my garden,” explained the Khedive
,”and for the work I have brought from France the
greatest master of modern gardening, M. Andre.”
At the foot of the marble staircase a small basket phaeton,


shaded by a huge umbrella and drawn by a couple of smart
little ponies, awaited us. His Highness took the reins, I seated
myself by his side, and, accompanied by a single groom perched
behind, we drove off at a rattling pace, under the practised
guidance of the Khedive. Following a long shady avenue,
consisting of old trees, and passing a little mosque whose
minaret shone clear against the deep blue of the sky, we entered
a charming garden, in the centre of which rose a building of
bright and pleasant appearance.
“I am taking you,” explained his Highness, “to the
private school which I have founded, and where I have some
two hundred children educated at my expense. Their course
of study continues for five years, at the end of which I find
them billets on one or other of my properties. In a word, I
manufacture here all the servants and employees I require.”
I had never before seen a school-house so airy, so sunny,

and so gay, and I could hardly hide my surprise. The lightcoloured
walls were covered with pictures and designs, whilst
air and sunshine streamed in at the immense windows. The
children of the first and second classes wear the fez and white
Egyptian robes, whilst in the other three classes, the scholars,
now almost grown up, wear a uniform of white linen with
gilt buttons. Everything was so clean, so dainty, that I
quite envied these little urchins with their clever and happy
The curriculum is a special one, having for its object the
making of good stewards and bailiffs. Reading, writing and
arithmetic are taught, also care of man and beast, surveying,
&c. It is an exceedingly interesting work, and does honour to
his Highness and to the teachers, who evidently have at heart
the maintenance of a very high degree of efficiency.
Re-entering the carriage we visited successively the huge
buildings in which are stored the cotton crops, the record
offices, the fire-brigade station, and at last, after the ponies had
given us a taste of their galloping powers, the huge stud-farm,
where his Highness rears innumerable horses, amongst
which I caught a glimpse of some beautiful young Arab
thoroughbreds. Further on, in the green pastures, were the
lovely Swiss and Jersey cows, and, huge and wonderful, the
ghamousahs. Those who have only seen the thin miserable
ghamousahs of the poor peasant would hardly recognise
as the same animal the beautiful specimens of his Highness.
Leaving the Koubbeh property and preceded by a mounted
gendarme, we rapidly covered the country separating us from
the second estate. In the villages which we passed through,
the inhabitants ran forward to greet their Sovereign with a
graceful salute, bowing low and laying their right hands on
their hearts. We arrived shortly at a large stretch of land
lying considerably higher than the surrounding country, at
the end of which was a large brickfield.
“This land,” explained the Khedive, “lay so high that it
was always impossible to irrigate it, and it was therefore considered
good for nothing. However, I found out that the
earth was excellent for brick-making, so I purchased it, and now,
whilst making bricks, I am gradually bringing it down to the

level of the surrounding country. These bricks bring me in
more than the cost of the land and the work.”
Passing through the highly cultivated fields and plantations
of cotton, the growing of which the Khedive, himself an expert,
clearly explained, we arrived at the Ismailia Canal, where his
Highness has placed a steam-engine which, after pumping
water during the day, supplies the power for the electric light
at night.
At last, after a visit to the little villages constructed for
his labourers, we stopped on our return in the garden, where an
immense tree, broken down with age, spreads its branches,
many of which are dead. It is the tree of the Virgin, the tree
under which tradition says the Holy Family rested.
“What do you think?” said the Khedive. “In his guide-book
on Egypt, M. Joanne relates that the tree of the Virgin
is situated in the garden of an old Copt! I had the pleasure
of meeting M. Joanne one summer at Divonne, when I said
to him, ‘My dear Sir, I am willing to pass the “old,” but a
“Copt,” no, thank you!’”
Entering the Palace once more, ices were brought us, and
whilst for an hour I sat there, under the charm of his conversation,
of the historical recollections which he brought to
life, I admired his keen wit, his power of sound criticism,
and his large and broad-minded outlook on affairs. He has a
truly wonderful memory, and a circle of acquaintances as varied
as it is numerous.
Some time after this visit, the Khedive invited me to make
another and very interesting excursion with him. Leaving the
Palace of Koubbeh at nine in the morning, we drove as far as
the Ismailia Canal, where one of his Highness's yachts awaited
us. Standing on the bridge, he took the wheel and we began
our voyage.
“This canal,” remarked the Khedive, “runs from Cairo
to Ismailia, whence it carries the fresh water of the Nile. Like
so many other important works it is due to the initiative of
French engineers. They even thought of widening and
deepening it in order to make Cairo a seaport. Ah!” added
his Highness, “how many things in this country are due to the
enterprise and labour of France! I was calculating the other

day that her material interests in Egypt must amount to over
£200,000,000, and she has abandoned all that for Morocco,
in which she has none.”
Whilst he was speaking I took the opportunity of watching
this Sovereign, so simple, so wholly un-oriental, clad in a suit
of tweeds, yellow boots, not a jewel, not a decoration, with
every look of the perfect gentleman, to which was added,
for the time being, that of the skilled yachtsman.
Soon we passed the prison of Abou Zabaâd, the largest in
Egypt, where several hundreds of convicts, strictly watched

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over by armed guards, are employed in breaking stones. Under
the sand of the Desert, at a depth of a few yards, are beds of
stone, much in demand at Cairo and elsewhere. The convicts,
at the approach of the Khedivial yacht, were drawn up alongside
the canal, with backs turned, for those poor wretches
have not even the right of looking on their Sovereign. The
guards alone fronted and saluted. The prison passed, the
Khedive handed over the wheel to the captain, and making me
sit at his side, he said:
“I am going to tell you now the history of the estate
which we are about to visit. Some years ago, travelling on this
canal, I noticed, as you may now, that on the left bank
the lands, properly irrigated by the Nile water which the
canal has brought for many years, are highly cultivated and
very rich. Look at them. Have you ever seen a richer or more
fruitful soil? The villages are numerous and the people

David Gardiner

prosperous. On the contrary, to the right there lay nothing
but pestilential swamps, holes and hillocks, quagmires stretching
back for one or two miles, and after that, the Desert, rising
to a certain height, for, as you know, the Desert is far from
being always flat and low.
“Suddenly an idea struck me. You know how it is only
necessary to bring the Nile water on to the sand of the Desert
to make it fertile. I thought then, that in filling up these
marshes, in levelling them and covering them with sand brought
from the Desert, and finally in making the necessary irrigation
works, I could obtain excellent land.
“Etiquette alone prevented those to whom I spoke of my
scheme from laughing in my face and calling me a fool, but they
could not prevent my seeing that they considered it impossible
. In spite of all these adverse opinions I set to work,
buying the land, and appealing to the population on the other
bank. Hundreds of bullocks and mules were employed in
doing the work.
“At last, to make a long story short, the experiment,
begun on a small scale, has succeeded far beyond my hopes.
To-day I have an estate of 2500 feddans. Everything included,
the land had cost me £15 per feddan. What happened then?
The villagers on the other side of the canal are fighting for who
shall have the use of the land, and I now lease it at about £5
per feddan, an operation which brings me in a clear 30 per
“Content? Of course I am; but my satisfaction comes
less, I can assure you, from my success as a financier than from
the pleasure I have gained in seeing these dead lands brought
back to life, and to see the crops green or golden stretch out
to-day where yesterday was arid sand or hideous swamps.
Look around you. Formerly there was nothing here but
marshes and quagmires.”
And, in fact, as far as the eye could see, to the beginning
of the Great Desert, the canal was bordered on our right by
fields admirably tilled, and giving all the signs of a great
“And think,” said his Highness, “that from the first year
we took crops off this land, which yesterday was sand, and that

without a trace of manure! The waters of the Nile and the
sunshine of Egypt were all that were required to perform this
Towards mid-day we arrived at the outskirts of the estate,
where the Khedive is at present building huge stables and
cattle-sheds, also a large dwelling-house for his steward and his
employees, a house in which he is reserving for himself a very
comfortable pied-aà-terre. As the building is not yet ready,
his Highness, who pays a visit every week, keeps a superb


dahabeah, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, on board
of which he has a large bedroom, bath-room, drawing-room,
dining-room, &c.
It was on the dahabeah that we lunched en teâte-aà-teáte,
a deàjeuner simple but good, to which his Highness, a famous
trencherman, did due honour; whilst I, with an appetite whetted
by our long journey, played an excellent second. The Khedive
touches no alcohol, does not smoke, and will not gamble.
“Believe me,” he said, whilst leaving me to enjoy a liqueur
alone and to smoke a rare cigar, “I do not pose as a saint.
Wine does not agree with me, nor does tobacco, and gambling
is a thing I simply fail to understand. I have passed hours at
Ostend watching the players lose and gain thousands, but
nothing on earth would have persuaded me to do the same.
With me dislike of gambling is instinctive, I take no credit
for it.”


Conversation having thus turned to the subject of vice
we spoke of Cairo, when his Highness informed me that in this
town prostitution is hereditary, descending from mother to
daughter! This awful condition of affairs is due to atavism,
these women resembling beasts rather than human beings.
They are in all things absolutely ignorant, except, unfortunately,
in what concerns vice. At that, alas, they are expert, before
the age of puberty.
“And what is most terrible,” he said, “is that at the age
of twelve or fourteen years these girls are affected by the most
terrible diseases, which they spread amongst our soldiers. We
are obliged to examine all those whom we send into the Sudan,
in order that the germs of these diseases should not be spread.”
His Highness went on to talk of his last visit to England
and of the many amusing incidents which had occurred. He
often closed his eyes … to see clearer. What a thousand
pities it is that he cannot publish his impressions! Ce serait
“But of all these pleasant recollections,” he said, “the
pleasantest is that left on my mind by King Edward, for
whom both as a Sovereign and a man I have a deep and
sincere admiration.”
During the lunch, heavy black clouds, such as I had never
before seen in Egypt, had swung overhead, the wind whistled,
and soon there came down a perfect deluge. But the Khedive
fears neither wind nor rain, and, without overcoats, we mounted
our horses and proceeded to visit the different parts of the
estate. In the course of our ride I saw land already two years
under cultivation, with young crops of wheat, barley, or onions,
others newly sown, others again, on which the levelling had
just been completed and finished, which were now being irrigated
, and, lastly, those which were still in the course of being
Animals are no longer being used for Bringing the sand
from the desert, a small railway of the Decauville type having
been laid down. Two trains, each composed of twenty waggons,
come and go continually. The thirty-five journeys a day made
by these trains are calculated to do the work of 400 mules.
But to me the most interesting sight was the way in which the

sand, once deposited at the required spot, was levelled by a
process certainly unknown elsewhere. Thirty bullocks, harnessed

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to what appeared to be huge boxes, each with an arm
allowing them to be raised or lowered, turn in a circle, their

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boxes being filled where the earth is raised, and emptied where
it is hollow. The contrast between the railway, so modern
and so noisy, and the silent bullocks with their ancient but

effective leveller, was most striking. The Khedive loves thus
to visit his estates, far from the noise of the town, and to take
a run over them, accompanied by his steward.
After having returned for a snack on board the dahabeah
we proceeded on horseback through a drenching rain to the
station of Euchas, where the special train of his Highness
awaited to take us back to Cairo.
At the beginning of this chapter I had something to say
in regard to the railway at present being laid down, at Abbas
Hilmi's private expense, between Alexandria and Tripoli.
Knowing my interest in these questions, his Highness expressed
the desire that, before my departure from Egypt, I should pass
the day with him in making a short tour of inspection of the
new line. On this occasion it was at the Palace of Montazah
that I was received by the Khedive, shortly before 9 A.M.
Of all the Khedivial Palaces Montazah is the least known.
In fact, with the exception of his intimate friends, a few
advisers and others invited there for special purposes, no one
knows Montazah: it is considered as a sanctuary, where the
public is not admitted, and where official functions are generally
taboo. What is vaguely known of it is that, only a few years
ago, the ground covered by this property was a wilderness
of sand dunes, which Abbas Hilmi, with his customary energy,
has transformed into a garden of delight. My train took me
to the private station at Montazah, where I found a carriage
The entrance to the estate is guarded by immense gates of
stone, in the semblance of a citadel; behind lie beautiful
avenues of trees, lined with flower-beds and nurseries, at the
end of which, and in the midst of clumps of trees. two white
Palaces overlook the sea, whose blue stretches far into the
distance to mix with the deeper azure of the sky, whilst between
the two gleam the white and graceful sails of many native
craft. On the immense terrace of the Palace his Highness
awaited me and led me into his study, a large room, bright and
sunny. Here everything speaks of the works which interest
the Sovereign. The walls are covered with maps and plans
of his estates, the tables loaded with reports and estimates.
Behind his desk I noticed a large photograph of a powerful

locomotive, “belonging,” his Highness explained, “to the
Northern Railway Company of France, and on which, between
Paris and Calais, I once did seventy-eight miles an hour.”
A few minutes later we were seated in a small trap drawn by
two very old ponies.
“These are the first I ever had,” said the Khedive, “given
to me as a child to teach me to drive. Would you believe it
that they are twenty-five years old? They live here happy and

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peaceful in quiet retirement. I only use them now for short
drives, but you will see what pluck they still have and how
they rush their hills.”
Following a beautiful road, planted with trees, we reached
a quay of dressed stone, which runs round the entire bay of
Montazah, and forms an excellent harbour.
“Here,” said the Khedive, “I have wished to have a home
for spring and autumn. I began modestly, buying a few acres
of sand dunes. To them I brought the water of the Nile, and
immediately, the sand, transformed into soil, became fruitful
trees and flowers sprang up. Then, little by little, I added and
added, until now I have created quite an estate, consisting
to-day of 4000 feddans.
“First of all I built a small Palace for my own use; later
I had a second Palace built for my family in a veritable oasis.

The children are so happy here and enjoy their perfect liberty
so much that it is a pleasure to bring them.”
Round about the Palace, scattered in the grounds, are
summer-houses, grottos, masses of flowers, wild and cultivated,
and in a little creek, shallow and sheltered, the salt-water bath
for the young Princes. Further on are large hen-houses and
rabbit hutches, the latter on a rocky piece of soil where the
rabbits cannot burrow and escape; a monster dovecot, containing
thousands of birds, from the top of which can be had a
superb view of the estate and the Mediterranean coast line as
far as Alexandria. Across the fields, ablaze with poppies,
the road leads past fir plantations to a small park where
fifteen thousand mulberry bushes have been planted, the leaves
of which serve for food for innumerable silkworms. Thence
we passed to the farms, the stables, and, lastly, to the engine-house,
where two enormous dynamos furnish the electric light
“I will show you,” said his Highness, “the use to which
we put this power in the daytime. Come in here and have a
look at the joiners' shop and the saw -mill. Here we make the
doors, windows, all the woodwork required by all the houses
on all my estates, as well as the finer class of work, such as the
Arabic carving for my Palaces.”
It was a pleasant sight, this up-to-date carpenters' shop,
with its workmen smiling and happy, stopping their work to
greet us. His Highness had a word for all, examining their
work, praising, criticising. Many of the workmen had been
in his service for more than ten years. With his workmen
as with his servants, if they do their work well, the Khedive
is an excellent master. He does for them all that he can, but
he is exacting and expects everything in return. The workmen
were well-dressed, and I noticed with astonishment that
one of them was indulging in beautiful socks and patent leather
pumps. “Don't be surprised,” said the Khedive; “he comes
from Alexandria, and the Alexandrians are the most coquettish
people in the world. They would rather starve than be illdressed.”
And I, astonished at the elegance of the fair ladies
I had seen there!
We stopped for a moment before a small building containing

the private telegraph and telephone of his Highness. The
Khedive has found means to be independent of the English
in this matter, and is able to wire to any place in Europe without
making use of the English cables. This has been accomplished
by the simple expedient of uniting Montazah by a private
wire with the Ottoman telegraphs, which run from the frontier
to Constantinople by way of Asia Minor. Montazah being
connected by telephone with the other Khedivial Palaces,
his Highness is thus quite independent.
Through an avenue bordered with orange-trees in flower,
and lined with nurseries of young apricot and peach-trees,
we returned to the Palace for lunch. In the large dining-room,
the enormous table was bare, but at a small table in a bow
window two places were laid. The lunch was excellent, and
during its course I had occasion to admire the exquisite service
of gold, which I was glad to hear had come from Paris, from
Leroy in fact. It was during this lunch that I had the opportunity
of discussing the question of religion with his Highness.
I was aware that the Khedive was very religious, and that
on this question his intransigeance was extreme. Whilst
respecting the other religions which are established in Egypt,
he absolutely forbids any foreign interference in the affairs
of the religion of which in Egypt he is head. The English are
well aware of this fact, and have clearly declared that they
have no desire to interfere.
“It is a question,” he said to me, “on which I consult
my conscience alone, and nothing can influence it. They could
cut my head off before I should renounce one of these rights
or duties which I consider sacred. In this question I have
my whole people with me, and they, no more than I, would
permit the smallest attack on our beliefs.”
“I have heard it asserted, Sir, in certain quarters, that
you had a dream of replacing, with the help of England, the
Sultan as the head of the Mussulman world, of seizing Mecca,
and being proclaimed Chief of Islam.”
“That is nonsense,” replied his Highness, shrugging his
shoulders, “a slander put into circulation by men to whose
interest it is to harm me in the eyes of the Sultan.”
“Then, Sir, to put it in a different way, do you not believe

David Gardiner

that England may have thought of making use of your High-ness
and of the Mussulmans of Egypt and India to counteract
German influence at Constantinople?”
“Thoughts come and thoughts go. Englishmen may have
had such ideas, but I doubt it. They should know by this time
that I would not lend myself to any combination which would
have the effect of allowing a Christian nation to influence the
destinies of Islam. And besides,” he added, “I fail to see in
what way England would benefit.”
My own opinion is that it would be no advantage to England
to increase the power of the Khedive and to put into his hands,
with the hope of controlling it, the immense power of Islam,
which would enable him one day to rise, if he wished, against
his protectors with a very real chance of success—for we know
what Mussulman fanaticism can do once it is roused.
Immediately after lunch we left the Palace for the station,
where we found the train of which his Highness makes use
on his excursions along the Mariout line. It was composed of
a locomotive, almost entirely covered with brass, brilliantly
polished, whilst the latter part was formed by a glass-panelled
salon, from whence the Sovereign himself could drive the
train. To this unique engine was attached a large saloon car
and an ordinary carriage for the servants, who had brought
with them our five o'clock tea, or rather ices.
Rapidly covering the distance between Montazah and
Alexandria with its suburbs, we arrived at the terminus of the
State Railways, the station and sheds of which serve equally
for his Highness's line. On all sides lay enormous heaps of
rails, bolts, and nuts, for use on the new line. At a short
distance from the station, the railway crosses, by an embankment
some three miles in extent, the Lake of Mariout, composed,
as one could tell from the enormous blocks of salt alongside
the embankment, of salt water. The new line has now a
length of sixty miles, not, as many suppose, across barren
desert, but through highly cultivated land, a large quantity
of which his Highness has bought.
We were now in the land of the Bedouins, those terrible
freebooters, armed with their long guns, who, far from being
opposed to the railway, are intensely interested in it. Many

of them work on the line as well as on the construction of the
telephone, of which over one hundred miles were then complete.
Business is brisk, and the trains which we pass, carrying
men, animals and goods, are crowded.
Charming little villages, constructed by his Highness,
replace here and there the wretched tents in which the Bedouins
lived; and there is no doubt that the inhabitants of this lost


and forgotten land are only too pleased that the Khedive has
come to call them to another and a better existence. If at
first they were somewhat shy, to-day they have become quite
friendly, and they await with impatience the time when the
line shall be completed, and a regular and paying trade established
between the rich country of Tripoli and the markets
of Alexandria and Cairo.
We had our refreshment at the actual terminus, in the door-way
of a small house, simple as the tent of a soldier, in which
the Khedive resides occasionally when inspecting the works,
and from which we could hear the Bedouins, under the direction
of his Highness's officers, singing at their task of completing
the two hundred miles which still separates them from the
frontier of Tripoli.
Whilst seated in the saloon car on our return journey the
Khedive explained that this line, entirely a business one and

a private one in every meaning of the word, had not, and could
not have, any political purpose; only certain people, who have
now awakened to the commercial importance of the scheme,
would like to create trouble by hinting that the Khedive has
political ends in view. But the two most interested Powers,
Turkey and Italy, know perfectly that the Mariout Railway
is not and will not become a menace, but will constitute a

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rapid outlet for the products of which this lovely country is
It is with regret that I must close this chapter on a Sovereign
whom, I trust, it will enable my readers to understand and
appreciate. At an age when many a Prince has thought only
of enjoyment and the squandering of a fortune, Abbas Hilmi
works without ceasing to increase his, hand in hand with the
development of his country. He gives to his people an excellent
example of hard and intelligent work, and shows to them,
whilst following it bravely himself, the road to power, wealth,
and regeneration. The Khedive, by his character, his life,
his conduct, has redeemed the follies of his grandfather Ismail,
and the weaknesses of his father Tewfik. Egypt to-day
possesses a Sovereign of which she has every reason to be

[Back to top]



Prince Mohamed Ali—Prince Hussein—Prince Fuad—Prince-Poet
Haidar—Impressions—Anecdotes—Her Highness Princess
Nazli—Her Palace—Afternoon tea—Her opinion on men
and affairs—Luncheon party—Discussions on society, politics,
religion in presence of the late Grand Moufti—Personal
souvenirs of her Highness.

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YOUNG, smart and good looking, his Highness Prince Mohamed
Ali, brother of the Khedive, is a man of charming manners,
whose company is much sought after by his friends. Holding
firmly to etiquette and the protocol in all that is official, he is
simplicity itself in his private life.
In the garden of his huge Palace in the Place Soliman,
the Prince awaited us one Sunday afternoon, when he had
invited the United States Minister and myself to visit him.
Coming towards us with outstretched hands, he said, smiling:
“So sorry to receive you in such chaos, but I am leaving, I
have sold my Palace. The whole charm of the place consisted
to me in this delicious garden, with its high walls protecting
one from prying eyes, at a time, it seems only yesterday, when
this quarter was free from these huge buildings. But to-day,—look!”
And the Prince pointed to the immense blocks of
modern flats overlooking his garden.
“I am off,” he said, “to build elsewhere, far from here,
and in a few months' time this garden will be covered with
houses. Confound this mania for building!” Then, leading

us into a small salon and offering us cigarettes, the Prince
said, addressing me:
“I know that you have seen a great deal lately of my
brother (the Khedive); I do not know what he has said to
you, and his position obliges him to measure his words, but
with me the case is different; I have no reason for holding my
tongue, and I don't mind telling you that we are living in sad
times. Can you imagine a people, numbering twelve million
souls, allowing themselves to be kept in leading strings by a
handful of strangers, or who in business allow Greeks and Jews
to amass all the wealth of the country? It is shameful and
it is sad.”
This conversation, begun in English, was continued in French.
The Prince speaks both these languages fluently, as well as
German. His first studies were undertaken at Chateau de
Lancy near Geneva, and continued at Vienna.
“The worst feature of the present situation,” he remarked,
“is that the English have treated us Egyptians with such
contempt, that the people have now lost all respect for
the educated, intelligent and leading classes of the country.
Formerly the tarbouche* was held in respect: to-day it is the
foreign hat which is worshipped. The police, who are so brutal
to the weaker classes, but who will lick the boots of the stronger,
are paralysed at the sight of a hat, whilst they will not even
salute a Prince or a Minister whose head is covered with a
tarbouche. I can tell you a little story about this. When the
Duke of Connaught left Cairo, I went to the station to bid him
good-bye. After the train had left, I stood for a few minutes
chatting to one of my friends. I saw Lord Cromer leave,
saluted by all the police; but when, in my turn, I passed in front
of them … not a salute. On the other hand, the crowd at
the doors, who had received Cromer in silence, greeted me
with cheers, but not a policeman saluted. I was accompanied
by the Prime Minister, Moustapha Fehmy Pasha, by the Financial
Adviser, Sir Vincent Corbett, and by the Chief of Police
himself, Captain Mansfield. His men, who had saluted Cromer,
refused to render the same salute to our tarbouches. I turned
* The national head-dress of Egypt.

to Mansfield and said to him: ‘I compliment you, your men
do not even know you!’”
“Prince,” I said, “you do not seem to be particularly
fond of the English?”
“Well,” he replied, “I can like them in their own homes,
but not here. When I was in England I met many
charming people, who treated me with perfect courtesy. It
made me ask myself continually, can these people, with such
charming manners and so well-bred, be the same brutes we
have in Egypt? Why are they so perfect at home and so
ill-mannered with us? And, take my word for it, they are
making a great mistake. It is because of their bad manners
that they are not liked. A little more consideration and politeness
towards us Egyptians would gain for them many friendships
and much devotion, but what we cannot stand is their
boorishness, their lack of tact, and their coarseness.”
The Prince is strong on the question of the respect due
to the tarbouche, which is worn equally by the English officers
in the service of Egypt, and he recounted many an amusing
story about it. And it certainly seems as if there were a sad
lack of good taste on the part of many of the English officers
in Egypt, even amongst those occupying the highest posts.
Happening to speak of horses, he kindly offered to show us
his, which are celebrated; and proceeding to the stables the
Prince, a perfect horseman, put some of his favourites through
their paces. Amongst these was a black, an Arab thorough-bred,
which the Prince had taken with him on one of his trips
to Paris. It was much admired there, and the Comtesse de
Castellane begged the Prince to sell him, but in vain.
Riding is not the only accomplishment the Prince can boast
of. He is also an excellent swordsman, musician and artist.
I have no idea here of giving the biographies of all the
Princes of the Khedivial family, for they are many; but I should
like to jot down a few impressions of those whom I have had
the honour and pleasure of meeting. I must make an exception,
however, in regard to one of the best loved and most
popular, Prince Hussein Kamel Pasha, who, much to my regret,
had quitted Cairo when I returned from the Sudan, and
whom, therefore, I did not meet.



Second son of Khedive Ismail, his Highness Prince
Hussein was sent as a boy to France, where he was received as
a friend by the Emperor Napoleon III. The Empress Eugénie
treated him like a son. He became one of the fashionable set,
and his father, having bought for him a superb house, he received
his friends there with a grace and charm of which Paris still
speaks. Brilliant, distinguished,
every inch a Prince
and generous to a fault, he
was very popular at the
Tuileries. On his return to
Egypt he became Minister of
War, a position which he occupied
at the moment when
the war with Abyssinia broke
out. It was he who did
wonders in organising in a
very short space of time
the army which left Egypt
for Abyssinia, excellently
equipped. His Highness was
married in 1873 at the same
time as his brothers Tewfik
and Hassan; and it was on
the occasion of this triple
wedding that their father,
the Khedive Ismail, gave the
fétes which have not to this day been forgotten.


The three marriages took place at a distance of one week
from each other, being followed shortly after by a fourth, that
of their sister, Princess Zenah Hanum, with Prince Ibrahim
Achmet. The festivities lasted for a month. Wonderful
processions, escorted by numerous regiments, wound their
way through the town, exhibiting the presents. Special
kiosques were erected in the gardens of the Palace, where huge
dinner parties were given, whilst, in the Place du Palais,
immense tents sheltered buffets, where night and day all comers
were served with meats, cakes, ices, wines and liqueurs. No
other city in the world has ever witnessed such feasting.


Considerably impoverished by the giving up by himself
and his brothers of the property of their father in favour of his
creditors, Prince Hussein lives to-day very quietly, looking
after his estates, and taking the greatest interest in agricultural
and horticultural questions.
His brother, Prince Fuad Pasha, was studying at Geneva
in 1879, when recalled by
his mother. When the exiled
Khedive Ismail settled at
Naples, Prince Fuad was admitted
to the Military School
in Turin, where he finished his
education entering, as an
officer, the Italian Artillery.
For several years he was
stationed at Rome, and was
a persona grata with King
Humbert, who treated him
with the greatest affection,
and was fond of talking with
him in Piedmontese, a dialect
with which the Prince is
well acquainted. Wishing to
be near his father, who had
retired to Constantinople, he
sent in his papers and took a
commission in the Turkish

P. Dittrich

After having been some time Military Attaché at Vienna
he retired, returning to Egypt to look after his estates. Cheery,
hospitable, and a good friend, he is much liked and much sought
after. He is everything which is Parisian, witty and amusing.
In a drawing-room at Cairo two ladies were discussing their
summer plans, when one of them said, “I think we shall pass
it quite quietly at Enghien.” Hardly had the last word left
her lips before a stentorian voice at her back shouted,
“Enghien, sixty trains a day!” It was the Prince, who knew
the suburbs of his beloved Paris as well as the boulevards.
Meeting him one evening at a reception, I showed him, in

a quiet corner, certain photographs which I had brought with
me from the Sudan. One of these happened to be of a
Shilouk, a perfect giant, completely naked, and whose various
members were of elephantine dimensions. The Prince seized
it and, turning to the ladies with whom the room was filled,
he cried, “Mesdames, look at this charming little Shilouk
woman!” Immediately the ladies thronged around. The
terrible photograph was passed from hand to hand, amidst
exclamations and who knows what mental comparisons.
I have passed many very pleasant hours with her Highness
Princess Nazli, aunt of the Khedive. A woman of great intellect,
of large and liberal ideas, she speaks with a frankness
rare amongst Orientals. Quite contrary to the general rule,
Princess Nazli enjoys and, I believe, has always enjoyed,
absolute liberty, receiving in her salons gentlemen as well as
ladies. At Constantinople, at Cairo, and in the course of many
wanderings through Europe, she has met the best known
men and women of our time. In meeting with all these different
intellects, that of the Princess has been developed, polished,
and in a way moulded by contact with them. Being also
a great reader and blessed with a retentive memory, there are
very few subjects in the discussion of which she cannot take
an intelligent part. I was rather astonished on my first
visit, for example, to find out that, although the Princess
had never been in Japan, she knew the country almost as well
as I.
We took tea in the large salon, where the furniture, the
tables and the walls are covered with photographs of relations,
friends, Sovereigns, and celebrities, of whom the Princess,
whilst smoking uninterruptedly cigarette after cigarette, spoke
volubly, sometimes in English, sometimes in French.
“Tell me all you know of Oyama,” she said to me, “for I
have an intense admiration for him. … What a man! If
only Egypt possessed a few of his kind we should not be where
we are. But, sad as it is, we must recognise that in this unfortunate
land of ours we possess no men worthy of the name.
Without energy., without courage, without character, without
initiative and without patriotism, there you have our


“But, Princess, that will change … the new generation
…” Her Highness stopped me:
“The new generation is not worth the rope to hang itself
with. It thinks of nothing but the cut of its clothes, the shape
of its boots, or the possession of a European girl for its mistress,
who sucks them dry physically and morally, as well as emptying
their purses. The influence which these women exercise
over our youth is fantastic and deplorable. They ruin them
in every way, and make of them nothing more nor less than
human scarecrows.
“If,” cried the Princess, “I were only a man, to be allowed
to live my life in the fight for fame and fortune! My father, as
you know, gave all his money to the poor. I have nothing
therefore but the pension which the Government grants me.
Believe me, I should like to work for that pension, and I pass
my time in urging and encouraging our men, trying to make
them a little more worthy of the name, but, alas! it is an ungrateful
task, for they change and turn like weathercocks.”
“Then, Princess, it is clear that the Egyptians are not yet
fit to govern themselves!”
“Govern ourselves! but, my dear Sir, we are children
still, babes in bibs, unable to stand … No, no, we cannot
be left alone. Here Cromer does everything, everything.
Without him we should have to return to the guardianship of
the Powers. Cromer is a great man, and Egypt owes him everything,
but in the last two years he has become too lenient,
too kind. I should like to see him smother all these speculators,
to-day who are the plague of Egypt. In all the capitals of
Europe there is a huge building on which is written ‘Stock
Exchange.’ Here the whole country is one vast Stock Exchange,
which saps its civilisation at the roots.”
From time to time a woman entered, bringing Turkish
coffee, and I asked the Princess if her servants of to-day were
her old slaves.
“For us, there is no difference,” she replied; “we treated
our slaves like children, they were part of our life. It was our
duty to care for them well, to clothe them, to show them kindness
and affection. They lacked nothing, and often made good
marriages, when we gave them their trousseaux. If they were

not happy, they could always return and find a home with us,
where they found protection. Not a man would have dared
to harm them, either they had to marry them or leave them
alone. Now any man, no matter who, although he might
despise them even to the extent of refusing to drink a glass of
water from their
hands, can seduce
and abandon them.
That comes of civilisation
badly applied.
The result
most in evidence of
the abolition of
slavery is the making
of thousands of prostitutes.
These girls,
once happy with us,
now drag out a miserable
existence in the


Rising the Princess
showed me excellent
photographs of Bismarck,
Kitchener and
Li-Hung-Chang, all
with the most flattering
“Are you fond of
music?” asked her
Highness, as she seated herself at a Pianola attached to a
Steinway grand.
“I play for hours on this marvellous instrument. I should
like to see one in every family, to teach them the love of music
and harmony.”
Twilight was falling, but the Princess continued to play
piece after piece, keeping up a running commentary of remarks
and recollections:
“Ah! this is the National Anthem of Russia. How exquisite,
but how sad! … My mother was Russian, yet I

detest them like poison. … I remember an old sheik, it
was at the time of the Russo-Turkish War, who predicted that
the Russians would not be beaten by the Turks, but crushed by
a yellow people.”
Then came “God Save the Queen,” and the Princess continued:
“That brings back to me a great emotion; I was in London
at the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, when I heard it sung
by an immense crowd. It was superb and heart-wringing,
coming from these thousands of throats, and I confess I wept.
… I shall never forget it, never!”
The women entered, and the lamps were lit. The
Princess quitted the piano, and resuming her cigarettes
“Listen to me, you Christians, you do not understand us
Mussulmans. You ignore all there is that is good, beautiful,
noble, and generous in our religion. It is our past rulers who
have ruined Islam. With Princes more enlightened and more
energetic Turkey would to-day have been at the head of the
nations. … It is not the people who are bad but their leaders,
their Sovereigns.”
The last word seemed to suggest something to her Highness,
and, laughing, she continued:
“I have never been able to understand the love you Europeans
have for Royal personages. In the hands of a King
or an Emperor you are as clay in the hands of the potter.
When Sir Z. X., the celebrated English diplomatist, passed
through Constantinople once, he whispered terrible things
to me against the Sultan. I replied, ‘Wait until you have
seen him and spoken with him, and your opinion will soon
change.’ ‘Never!’ he cried; but a few days later, when we
happened to meet at dinner on the day he had had his first
audience, he could not say enough in praise of the Sovereign
who, only a short time previously, he had professed to
I could fill a volume with the thousand-and-one anecdotes
related by the Princess, but here space will not permit. I shall
content myself with a note on a lunch to which her Highness
invited me together with her brother, M. and Mdme. Hussein

David Gardiner

Rouchdy Bey, the late Grand Moufti of Egypt, Prince Haidar,
the well-known poet, and several others.
I was seated between her Highness and the Grand Moufti,
who had opposite him Prince Haidar, and it would have been
difficult to find a greater contrast than that presented by these
two men: the first small, simple, calm, and gentle; the second
stout, strong, with an enormous head set on enormous shoulders,
noisy and excitable: the one expressing his thoughts clearly
in a few words, the other using extravagant language, speaking
of sun and moon, flowers and stars, as becomes a poet. The
Prince possesses a huge mouth, out of which, stretched to
its utmost, comes a laugh like a peal of thunder, making
the wall shake. He is a great talker, and, I must admit, an
interesting one:
“I hate,” he said, “your colonising people. I consider it
a sin to penetrate into these countries, turning them upside
down and bothering the wretched inhabitants, all in the name
of civilisation. What can England boast of? Of being a
nation of shopkeepers, of manufacturers and colonisers? Yes,
but don't look to them for art, science, or enlightenment!”
“Well, Prince,” some one cried, “one cannot find much
of that in Egypt either.”
“Certainly not; I admit that, for we have fallen into the
gutter, where we lie and wallow. We have no more patriotism,
no more anything. For five years I have looked for a spark,
one only, to show that we were alive, but, alas, not one have I
Prince Haidar has a horror of the clergy, and he cried:
“They represent not religion but all the baseness, all the
weakness, all the deceptions. …”
“All the hypocrisies,” a voice added sweetly. It was the
Grand Moufti.
The Prince drew him into our conversation, and led up
to the question of education, which the Grand Moufti wished
to see made general throughout the country; but Princess Nazli
would have none of it. “I much prefer the old system. Let
the son of a coachman be a coachman, and the son of a butcher
be a butcher. Where shall we get our servants from when
every one has a certificate?”


Love was a subject which appealed to the poet-Prince.
“I know of a writer,” he said, “who had his mistress slung up
by the armpits so that he might cover her feet with kisses in
the intervals of composing.”
“And that reminds me,” said the Princess, “of the old
Minister for War in Turkey, X. Pasha, before whom the army
trembled, but who was insanely in love with a certain fair
lady, whose feet he kissed saying, ‘Madam, I, who have the
army at my feet, am content to grovel at yours.’”
In the midst of the buzz of conversation, the servants
continued to hand round an extraordinary number of Eastern
dishes, very well cooked, but too rich for my taste.
“This dish which is being served is a historic one,” said the
Princess, “dating from the time of Noah. When the water
was disappearing, and the Ark had at last touched earth,
Father Noah planted corn, and when it was green he took it
and made of it a cream into which he put almonds, raisins,
and lots of other things which he had brought with him. The
recipe for this celebrated dish was handed down by Noah
to future generations, and ever since, through all the centuries,
it has been the custom in Egypt to send enormous platefuls
from one family to another.”
In the intervals between the courses, the guests, with a
practised dig of the fork, extracted, in true Turkish fashion,
a hors d'æuvre from one of the many dishes on the table.
Some time after this lunch, I had occasion to travel from
Cairo to Alexandria in the compartment reserved for Prince
Haidar, who happened to be travelling at the time, and invited
me to accompany him. The Prince, who wields a dainty pen
as a poet, recited several charming little poems of his own,
which he promised to send me. I should have liked to publish
them here, but, alas, they have never arrived!
In his carriage the Prince was surrounded by many volumes,
the masterpieces of ‘French literature. His greatest pleasure
is to dip into these pages, written, as he says, in “the most
beautiful language in the world.”
Drawing my attention to the beauties of the country, he
spoke of the fellaheen, those patient tillers of the soil.
“These unfortunate people,” he said, “who for centuries

have lived in oppression, cannot be expected to revive in a day.
But, for the last fifteen years, a great change has been working
in them, and to-day there are signs of an awakening intelligence
where, before, they appeared as so many beasts of burden.
No longer oppressed, they are beginning to raise their heads,
and they have now arrived at the point when they are asking
with surprise, in seeing the dawn of a new era, Is it possible?
I believe that in time, a long time, one will at last obtain
‘men,’ but a long course of education will be required to develop
their feeble intellects. What a magnificent work for some
Minister of Public Instruction, who understands his power!”
For the first time, I believe, in the history of Egypt a foreign
lady has made part of the Khedivial family. In fact, his
Highness Prince Ali Fazil, cousin of the Khedive, married,
some few years ago, a Frenchwoman, the step-daughter of
M. Raphael Suarés, the Cairo banker. This unprecedented
event encountered great opposition in the Khedivial family;
but, thanks to her intelligence, Princess Fazil has captured
the hearts of many of her relatives-in-law, including the Khedive,
who fully appreciates all her qualities.

[Back to top]



The woman in Egypt—The harems—Europe's ideas of them—The
real Mussulman home—Morality—Marriage and concubinage—Adultery
and divorce—Past and present—Classes
and races—Our ideas and theirs.

Al Vista

A HAREM! There was a time in my life when this simple
word raised in my mind, as in that of most men ignorant of the
East, visions of mysterious beauties and delicious joys. As in
a dream I pictured to myself magnificent palaces, marble
courts, chambers on whose floors were spread soft thick carpets,
brilliant curtains, and huge divans on which reclined, some
unrobed, others clad in fairy gauze, women of the most
exquisite form and tempting beauty. In my ears was the
splashing of cool fountains. I inhaled the perfume of attar
of roses mixed with that of the perfumed cigarette, and I
envied these Pashas who passed their days in the midst of
such a paradise.
Alas! my imagination since these days has received many
shocks. The first was received some years ago when, searching
for some reference in regard to Egypt in the Encyclopædia
, my eyes fell on this passage:
“These women had immense shoulders, deep abdominal
lines and enormous masses of fat on the hips and thighs; long

hair covered the lower part of the face, as well as the greater
part of the body.”
This dainty description of the first inhabitants of the Valley
of the Nile some seven thousand years before our time left
me pensive. The Encyclopadia had certainly the grace to
add that this extraordinary type of. person disappeared completely,
giving place to a
creature more approaching
the European. But my
visions were ruined. In the
atmosphere of attar of roses,
of the regular fall of the
waters of the fountains, on
those soft sofas covered with
silken cushions, the apparition
would arise of enormous
females, rolling in fat and
covered with long hair.


In Egypt, where everything
is complicated, there
is, perhaps, no question more
difficult to understand than
the position of woman. In
the first place, the Egyptian's
manner of seeing and
of thinking is entirely different
from ours, and, besides,
woman and the harem are
two subjects which he never cares to discuss with a stranger.
That which concerns his family life is essentially private,
mysterious, in a way sacred, and no one but he has a right
to view it. On the other hand, it is impossible to generalise
in speaking, I will not say of the Egyptian woman, but of
the woman who lives in Egypt. The only true Egyptian
women are the peasant women, wives of the fellaheen, as the
fellaheen are the only real Egyptians. Of the life of
the latter, poor creature who works like a beast of burden,
and brings up a numerous offspring, there is little to say,
and she is so far removed from us and our civilisation

that the subject would lack all interest for the majority of
If we take Cairo as our field of study, or rather of our remarks
and impressions, we find there various elements considered
rightly or wrongly as Egyptian. There are, first of all, numerous
families of Greek, Austrian, or Italian origin; Catholics,
Jews, of the Greek Church, settled for many generations on the
banks of the Nile, and who, though without a drop of Arab
or Turkish blood in their veins, are none the less considered
as natives, though their tastes, manners, and ways of living
are altogether European. Of them also there is nothing special
to be said.
There remains then the element essentially native. Now,
in regard to this, more than in any other country, it is necessary
to make distinctions. At the top of the social scale we
find the Princesses of the Khedivial House, or allied to it by
ties more or less close. If the time is not yet long passed when
these Princesses lived in the seclusion of the harem, and if
there are some amongst them who do so still, nevertheless
is it true that the majority are quite emancipated. Many of
them travel regularly in Europe, speak other languages than
their own, surround themselves with all the comforts and
conveniences of the West, and for them our civilisation has no
secrets. It is therefore amongst the people and in the large
class corresponding to our middle-class that we find women
whose lives differ entirely from those of ours. The vital differences
are found in the seclusion in which they live, the ignorance
in which they are kept, the insecurity of the marriage tie, and
their position of absolute inferiority in regard to man. One day,
lunching at Montazah with the Khedive and speaking of the
condition of women in Mussulman countries, his Highness said:
“It is generally believed in Europe that it is our religion
which enjoins the women to veil themselves and to live in
retirement; but that is an error, and religion has nothing whatever
to do with it. It is an ancient custom, and dating from
the time, far distant, when each man in the East had to defend
his property, and especially his wives and his daughters. The
more beautiful and attractive these were the more was it necessary
that their beauty should be hidden.”



“Sir,” I asked, “this custom which you have set aside
of having several legitimate wives* and numerous concubines
and slaves, is it still general in Egypt?”
“No,” he replied; “and you will find, especially in the
upper and middle classes, that the custom of having several
wives is disappearing rapidly. The principal reasons of this
change are, first of all, the abolition of slavery, which makes
it more difficult to obtain wives, and, secondly, the enormous
increase in the cost of living. Several wives mean several
different establishments; and as our religion insists on each
one being treated with equal generosity, the expenses are
naturally very great, and, as you know, the price of living and
lodging has risen within the last few years in an incredible
fashion. To-day it takes ten times the amount formerly
required to live in the same fashion.”
“In a word, Sir, it is economy and not virtue that has
led to the change?”
“How you talk!” cried his Highness. “Virtue? but, my
dear fellow, we must first of all define virtue. Tell me, how
many married men do you know in Europe or America who are
faithful to their wives in every acceptation of the word, and
who never deceive them?
“The religion which permits a man to have several wives,
whom he must treat with the same kindness, puts an end to
a very bad side of monogamy, a system which drives many a
man to become a libertine, seeking for pleasure which he can
only find in the dangerous vice which he purchases, or in criminal
“Only,” added his Highness laughing, “it is certain that
having several wives has its little inconveniences. If one man
sometimes finds it difficult to satisfy one, what would he do
with three or four?”
“And as many mothers-in-law into the bargain!”
On the same subject, his Highness Prince Mahomed Ali
once remarked to me:
* The Mussulman is permitted by his religion to have four legitimate wives,
but the number of concubines is not limited.
H.H. Abbas Hilmi, up to date in all things, has only one wife,
H.H. the Khedivah, mother of his children.


“Our law does not oblige a woman to veil herself, but it
does say, ‘If thy beauty cause strife amongst men, inspiring
them with love or jealousy in others, then were it better for
thee that it should be hid.’”
If this law were taken literally, beautiful women alone would
veil themselves, whilst those not so highly favoured would
expose their lack of it to the world; but by the grace of God,
there never yet was a woman who believed herself really ugly,
the result of which is that the
yellow and wrinkled faces of
the veriest old hags are still
shrouded in veils. The thickness
seems to vary with the
social standing of the wearer.
Whilst the woman one meets
on foot in the street has
an impenetrable veil hiding
the lower part of the face,
those whom one sees passing
rapidly in a smart brougham
or landau wear only the
lightest white gauze, which in
no way hides their features.


Religion or custom as the
case may be, the fact remains
that for many centuries the Mussulman woman has lived the
life of a recluse behind the iron gratings of the harem, to which
came only a faint echo of the world outside, its progress, its
struggles and its civilisation. Seeing only her women, her
children, the eunuchs, and now and then her lord and master,
her intellect remained childish and undeveloped. Her sole
amusements came from outside, from the women, more or less
degraded, who, under the guise of fortune tellers, dancers,
singers, or story-tellers, brought to the harem scandals, cancans,
superstitions, suggestive dances and lewd tales.
Naturally women living in such an atmosphere and ignorant
of any other life are mentally much inferior to their husbands,
who cannot find in them any mental or moral stimulus, and
who therefore seek the company of their fellow men or European

women. It is by their brain power and intellect, far more
than by their bodily beauty, that foreign women, even ignorant
and vulgar, attract Mussulmans so strongly or, perhaps to be
more correct, it is the happy mixture of both.
Now that we have spoken briefly of the women, let us
glance at the harem. The word is a Turkish one meaning
“woman,” but, in a wider sense, the family and the fireside,
in fact, the home. A Mussulman's house is divided into two
parts: the “harem’ lik” and the “salem’ lik.” The first is
the private dwelling, sacred in a way to the wife, the children
and the eunuchs, these calm, inoffensive, devoted, and useful
beings. No man is admitted here except the master of the
house, who uses the other part, or “salem’ lik,” to receive his
friends. This division exists amongst all classes, and even in
the case of the very poor who possess but one room, that room
is considered the “harem’ lik”: the head of the family will
give rendezvous or invite his friends to meet him at a café.
One sees then that, speaking generally, the word “harem”
has not, for the Mussulman, the signification usually attached
to it by Europeans. Two things, I believe, have contributed
to that reputation for gaiety, little merited. Firstly, to a monogamist,
accustomed to see his one wife move about in every
one's sight, these houses, locked and guarded, in which a single
man possessed several wives, many concubines and slaves,
appeared to him as so many mysterious Edens. Then again
the harems of certain wealthy Mussulmans were formerly kept
up on the most extravagant scale, and echoes of the fetes
that took place within reached the outer world, not lessened
but much exaggerated in the coming. But the pashas who
possessed hundreds of concubines and slaves, dozens of musicians
and singers, a corps de ballet, and artists attached to their
households, were very rare. Still they did exist, and the
rumours of their orgies, far away in the mysterious East, were
well calculated to inflame the popular imagination.
Some days after my arrival in Cairo I lunched with a
foreign doctor, a well-known man, who has passed the last
quarter of a century in the country, and who, talking of
harems, said:
“We foreign physicians are the only men admitted. We

are allowed to enter alone the chamber of a woman who is
suffering, whilst a native practitioner would not be admitted
except in the presence of the eunuchs.”
“Which looks, my dear doctor,” I said, “as if you and your
confréres had a great reputation either for virtue or indifference.”
“No virtue is necessary,” he replied, “and indifference is
natural. You see, the temptation is nil. The Egyptian woman
as we see her, without her garments, is to us Europeans far
from attractive. There is not one good-looking one in a thousand,
and, besides, they live in a state of incredible filth. I do
not remember having seen the bed of a single woman which
did not swarm with vermin.”
I repeated this conversation one day to the Comtesse della
Sala, widow of one of the most devoted servants of Khedive
Tewfik, a woman of strong character and bound by many ties
of friendship to the greatest Egyptian ladies.
“It is a horrible calumny,” she cried. “All the young
women I know, Princesses or otherwise, are daintiness and
refinement personified. They take the greatest care of their
persons, and as to their houses, with the exception of a certain
untidiness very oriental, they are perfectly clean and well
kept. I should very much like to know what class of woman
your doctor is in the habit of visiting. Believe me, the
Egyptian lady of good family does not cede a point to those of
any other country, and some of those I know are the quintessence of elegance.”
To my mind one of the most extraordinary features about
these Egyptian ladies is, that after living a perfectly free and
unrestrained life at Carlsbad, Lucerne, or Paris, they will,
immediately on their return to Cairo, take up their old life
of seclusion. Is it the fear of being criticised by the oldfashioned
Mussulmans, or not to give to those to whom freedom
is denied a sight of their liberty?
A certain person who knows Egypt thoroughly spoke to me
“It would be impossible to give at once complete liberty
to all our women. For centuries they have lived apart,
knowing nothing of life, without the necessity of defending
themselves or even of thinking for themselves: if you granted

them their freedom they would become the prey of the first
man who cared to abuse their weakness.
“The slaves, happy and petted by their mistresses, conducted
themselves well; the day the door was opened to them
they became prostitutes, not because they were vicious but
because they did not know how to look after themselves. If
you did the same for their mistresses the result would be
It seems certain that the woman in Egypt is passing at
this moment through a period of transition, both critical and
dangerous. I know that his Highness the Khedive and other
intelligent Egyptians recognise the backward condition of the
Egyptian woman, but they are convinced that the moment has
not yet come to emancipate her completely and absolutely, and
that in such a delicate matter it is necessary to proceed slowly
and with the greatest prudence.
I read on my return from Cairo a very interesting book,
whose author, Niya Salima (Mdme. Rouchdy), had kindly
forwarded to me. Married to an Egyptian occupying an
important official position, and highly connected, she has the
entrée to the best houses, and her volume, “Harems et Musulmanes
d'Egypte,” gives an excellent idea of the condition of
women in the valley of the Nile at the present time. There are
many interesting things in these pages; but, though I do not
know quite why, the thing which struck me most was the declaration
that such a thing as an “old maid” is unknown; that, no
matter how ugly or repulsive a woman may be, she need never
lack a husband, even though she may be without fortune. It
is true that the state of connubial bliss may be only an ephemeral
one. The Egyptian loves a change: he Hits like a bee
from flower to flower, and the ease with which he can obtain a
divorce admirably suits his tastes and temperaments. Should
one of his wives displease him, he has only to repudiate her,
and if he wishes to make an end of things, the repudiation
becomes final on his repeating three times, “Thou art
divorced!” That is all, and, as one can see, the method is
simple and convenient. If all divorces are not settled quite
so rapidly it may be because of the fact that, when thus pronounced
by the husband, he must return the money which his

wife brought him, and pay her a pension for three months, or,
in case of her being enceinte, until the weaning of the child.
Many men of the less respectable kind, in order to evade these
expenses, in lieu of repudiating the wife, make her life so unbearable
that the retched creature seeks the separation
herself. First she will apply to the Cadi, or religious judge,
who will try to bring about a reconciliation; but after his
sermon the bad treatment becoming worse and worse, she is
forced to fly, leaving her goods behind her. Her widowhood
probably will be of very short duration, and she will soon pass
into the service of some other man.
The precepts of the Koran concerning repudiation and
divorce are interesting and edifying, and will be found scattered
here and there throughout the book of Niya Salima. I shall
content myself with quoting a few passages, from which we
learn that:
“Repudiation may take place twice, after which, if the wife
be kept, she must be treated honestly, or, if sent away, treated
“If a husband repudiate his wife thrice, he is not permitted
to take her back until after she shall have married
another man, who in his turn has repudiated her.”
It is true that in every case the wife repudiated must
“allow three months to elapse before remarrying, for they
must not hide that which God may have created within
But the good and just Prophet commands, “That the rich
man shall give according to his riches, and the man who has
only what he requires according to that which God has given
Just as in Paris the middle-class wedding-parties drive
in processions of rickety landaus for a turn in the “Bois,”
so the Egyptian trails through the town a long train of musicians,
camels, cars and impossible carriages. But the fêtes
given on the occasion of a wedding are much longer, more
important, and more complicated than with us, except in the
case of a widow or divorcée. One would require a volume
to describe all the quaint ceremonies, the feasts, receptions
and fêtes of all kinds.


I transcribe from the book I have mentioned the following
passage descriptive of a great feast:
“Little is said … hunger is too pressing. Not a sound
of a dish: fingers take the place of forks, and each one dips
into the middle of the bowl. … A pretty little hand shining
with butter meets another sticky with
sugar in a dish filled with an atrocious
mixture called ‘tourchis.’ … Every
one munches noisily, quite at his ease;
for is one not at home, and it is only
due to the Creator to enjoy the good
things He has sent us, without fuss. …
Each one leaves the table when he wishes,
and makes his way towards the copper
basin at the end of the table. Ablutions,
casual before dinner, are now made
complete. Standing there, ewer in hand,
the servant pours into the palms of
the hands a stream of clear water.
The lather of the soap covers the hands,
and finally finds its way to the mouth
by means of the index finger, serving
as an impromptu tooth-brush. Then
come gurglings and garglings, highly
hygienic no doubt, but rather inconsiderate
… all the room is full of


These gurglings after dinner are
known in other civilised countries, and
the rince-bouche, once upon a time
popular in France and elsewhere, was, in my humble opinion,
much more disgusting.
At Cairo the guests leave the table and gargle at the
other end of the room; not as with us, when, not so very
long ago either, the performance took place at table and in
It seems almost incredible to us that a young man should
marry a girl on whom he has never set eyes, and yet that is what
happens at this moment in Egypt. The following lines of

Niya Salima give an excellent idea of the end of the marriage
rites, which sometimes last an entire week.
“The husband, escorted from the Mosque by friends of his
own age, with lighted torches, music, and uproar, is at last
announced. The young bride descends from the platform,
and supported by two matrons, veiled and trembling, awaits
the conclusion of the final rites. The eunuchs appear followed
by the bridegroom, blind with confusion, who walks nervously
towards the praying carpet prepared for him, and
there prostrates himself. When he has thus publicly made
his devotions he approaches the bride, and, raising her veil,
looks at her. On her breast he pins with his own hands a
jewel, and as she lifts his hand to her lips he kisses her on
the forehead: then he throws a handful of gold to the
matrons, who promptly vanish. Ascending the steps of the
throne they seat themselves for a moment, and at last
enter together the nuptial chamber, where the bride commences
the duties of her new life by giving her husband something
to drink.
“How does this first interview pass, and with what strange
sensations do these two so unexpectedly united regard one
another? Curious folk might wish to know, but the doors
are jealously guarded, until proof is given to the anxious parents
that all is well.”
As to the happiness of the couple, that depends, it seems,
on many things. I shall mention only two: the first, which
impels the mother of the bride to place in the nuptial bed a
pair of scissors, a means of ensuring the love of the bridegroom;
the second, which recommends that the young wife, if she desires
that “the grey mare should be the better horse,” must place
her foot on that of her husband and spit into the glass of
sirop which she offers him!
I have already mentioned that the authorities most competent
to judge are opposed to the idea of emancipating too
rapidly the women of Egypt. I know equally that Lord
Cromer is of opinion that the Egyptians will never attain the
mental and moral development which he desires for them,
so long as their women remain the ignorant and childish
creatures which they are. In spite of this decided conviction,

which he has himself mentioned to me, Lord Cromer advises
deliberation and prudence.
In his last report he recalls to the reformers the old Arab
proverb, “Speed is of the devil, Slowness of God,” and his
opinion is that rushing matters might lead to a veritable
There is no doubt that the entire country is beginning to


understand the necessity of educating its women folk. The
best proof of this is the increasing number of young girls being
sent to the schools. Almost nil a few years ago, there were in
1900, 2050; four years later, that is last year, the number had
increased to 10,462.
I have paid a visit at Cairo to the elementary school for
girls, presided over by Mrs. Johnston, a woman of strong
character and keen sympathy. I was charmed with the place,
bright and sunny, and with the hundred little things by which a
woman can transform a bare school-house into a real home.
The subjects of study are well chosen and practical, but the
difficulty is to retain the scholars after the age of thirteen or

fourteen years, as then they are almost women, and the
parents are already planning their marriage.
Although the Mussulman may consider a woman as an
inferior being, he, none the less, is capable of the great passions
As in all other lands, the weaker sex has inspired the poet,
of the valley of the Nile, and above all the Arabs, these grands
M. Ferdinand de Martino Bey has published a very interesting
volume, entitled “Anthologie de l'Amour Arabe,” in which
I have found some delicious little poems, not to speak of others
well calculated to alarm Mrs. Grundy. The author declares
that the Arab is a great wit, and certainly many of the amusing
stories which he rattled off gave good reason for his opinion.

[Back to top]



The rising generation—Education—The schools—Religion—
The Grand Moufti of Egypt and the University—Lord Cromer's
opinions—The Arab University—Technical schools—School of
Medicine—School of Police—Reformatory—The hospitals—
Works of charity.



“… Since your departure I have been so unwell that the doctors
prohibited me from all work. During the last two days I have felt
somewhat better, so I take the opportunity of this momentary respite
to send you these few lines as promised.
“… I intend sailing for Marseilles on the 14th inst. … I
hope I shall have the strength and time to come and see you. We can
then have a talk at our leisure on the subjects on which you have asked
me for information.”
Alas, the Grand Moufti of Egypt, Sheik Mohamed Abdou, who
wrote the above on June 6 last, had neither the time nor
the strength to carry out his intentions. Death claimed him,
whilst still a young man, five weeks later. His physician,
the celebrated Dr. Comanos Pasha, forbade him to leave, “for
he would have died on the journey,” as he wrote me in a letter
announcing the end of the celebrated Sheik, adding, “He was
the greatest man in modern Mussulman Egypt.”
At Cairo I had several important conversations with the
Grand Moufti on religious and educational questions. On
* Grand Moufti, i.e., Chief of the Laws of Islam, Patriarch of the

the eve of my departure he came to see me, and promised to
send me a note on each of these subjects. The first, of
which he speaks in his letter, has in fact reached me, and
is probably the last piece of work which he did, with the
exception of a beautiful poem, which, I have learned,
he dictated on his death-bed before rendering up his soul to
I had promised the Sheik that in making use of any notes
which he might send me I should not divulge the source from
which they came, doubtless to avoid any unpleasantness with
the Government. Now that he is no more, and that this
important document is in my hands, I feel that I am right in
publishing, just as it came to me, what may be considered
as a last appeal, a clause, as it were, in the political will and
testament of this good man, who had so thoroughly at heart
the welfare of his country.
The following are his words:


“The Egyptian Government spends annually on Public
Education the sum of £200,000 at a time when its Budget,
amounting to over £12,000,000, would allow of its disbursing
a larger amount. From time to time it raises the sum which
each family must pay for the instruction of its children; and
that in such a continuous fashion and in such proportions that
the education of the children becomes an expense too crushing
even for the middle class of the nation. If this increase continues,
education will become a luxury within the reach of
only the wealthy families. It is a principle with those directing
our affairs that the children of the poor have no right to be
instructed. This principle they loudly proclaim. In their
conversation, in their reports, in their books, one finds it everywhere.
One can admit that up to a certain point the father
of a family who sets aside a part of his income for the education
of his children will see that he gets value for his money; he
will see that his children should profit by the instruction which
costs him so dear. But to pretend from this that all free education
is useless is inadmissible and is refuted by experience.

David Gardiner

It should be observed, in fact, that from the time of Mohamed
Ali up to the year 1882, entrance into the Egyptian schools was
almost always free. That has not prevented those schools
from producing a certain number of men really well educated,
and who belonged for the most part to the poorest class of the
people. In Europe education is free in many countries which
do not do badly. But what
is the experience of the past
and the example of Europe
when one has made up one's
mind to have one's own way?


“It is pitiful to see, each
year, the spectacle of fathers
and mothers of families bringing
their little boys to the
Ministry for Education, asking
as a favour that they may be
accepted free, invoking their
poverty, and often the services
rendered to the State by one or
several of their family, hoping
always that Providence or pity
will relax the rules for once,
but obliged ultimately to return
to their houses or to their
villages deceived, disheartened,
discontented, not knowing
what to do with these little children for whom they had dreamed
so many things. What should be done? We are told, we
have rich fellow countrymen who could well afford to erect
free schools for the poor. Certainly, our rich compatriots
could do that and more. But Egypt does not yet possess
philanthropists, and above all enlightened philanthropists.
There are those who sometimes build mosques of which we
have no need, considering the already excessive number which
we possess: there are others who leave part of their fortune to
a saint, but privatein itiative has not yet turned towards education.
Our people have too long looked to the community
in everything and for everything.
“If we consider now the instruction given by the Egyptian
Government from the point of view of its worth, we are obliged
to state that it hardly enables a man to acquire the means for
earning a living wage. It is impossible that it could turn out,
not a genius, but a scholar, a writer or a philosopher. The only
schools which represent higher education in Egypt are the
Schools of Law and
Medicine, and the
Polytechnic. Of all
the other sciences of
which human knowledge
is composed, the
Egyptian may sometimes
obtain a superficial
notion at the
preparatory schools,
but it is almost impossible
for him to study
them thoroughly, and
often he is compelled
to ignore them. For
example: Social
Economy, with its
branches, historical,
moal and economical;
Philosophy, ancient
and modern; Literature,
Arabic and
European, and the
Fine Arts are not taught in Egypt in any school.


“The result is that we possess judges and lawyers, physicians
and engineers more or less capable of exercising their
professions; but amongst the educated classes one looks in
vain for the investigator, the thinker, the philosopher, the
scholar, the man in fact of open mind, fine spirit, generous
sentiments, whose whole life is found devoted to the ideal.
“To sum up, the line of conduct which the State has
mapped out for itself and which it seems resolved to adhere to
is this: (I) To encourage summary education in the small

schools called Kouttab, where the child is taught to read and
write, and learns the four rules of arithmetic. (2) To spread
education as little as possible amongst the people. (3) To
reduce secondary and higher education to the smallest limit.
Egyptians are persuaded that those who direct their public
affairs are not doing all they can to raise the moral and intellectual
level of the rising generation. This opinion is deplorable
from every point of view; it will create, sooner or later, a
current of discontent in public opinion. We cannot see what
the English will gain by allowing such a conviction to continue
in the minds of the inhabitants. If there is a common standpoint
on which we might meet it is Public Education. Between
the interests of the English and the interests of the Egyptians
there can be no difference. To develop Egypt it is necessary
that every force should be employed, and especially man, above
all man. For that, the combined work of Europeans and natives
is necessary. In weakening, reducing, and mentally impoverishing
the natives, the English are acting against their own
interests. It is to their advantage that the Egyptians should
become powerful, free and rich; their own prosperity and their
own wealth depend on ours.


“The Egyptian Administration has no need of great
reforms in its organisation. Nevertheless, it leaves much to
be desired. Its principal fault lies in the unsatisfactory choice
of its officials. As a rule one thing alone is exacted in a candidate,
and that is that he should possess a nature entirely
passive. A man in the smallest degree independent will not
be admitted, or if by mistake he should be, he will not remain
long. Why is it so? Simply because the English mistrust
too much, and without reason, men of independent thought.
They find officials ready to do all that is asked of them, and
even more if by doing so they can gain favour with their superiors.
And they seem to be satisfied with this condition of
things. Unfortunately, the result is that those in charge of our
affairs are seldom well informed on the men and affairs of the
Administration. The Egyptian officials dare not tell them the

truth, they take no initiative, approve all that is wanted, and
never oppose any measure. One example from a thousand:
“An Egyptian moudir in a province is assisted by an English
inspector. Normally the moudir should administer, and the
inspector control his work. But it is not so. The moudir
takes no responsibility, he submits everything, however
insignificant, to the inspector and awaits his orders, which he is
ready to carry out. The more he effaces himself, the more
he does, so he believes, to please his inspector. If the latter
should commit an error, he will allow it to pass rather than offer
an observation which might be badly received.
“And so it is all over. It is notorious that the English
will not put up with an Egyptian official unless he is willing
to play the part of dummy. The country is in this way deprived
of the services of those of its children who have an
opinion on her real needs, and who have the courage to express
that opinion.
“In the Department of Justice the same fault exists, with
the aggravating circumstance that with an Egyptian judge
of a passive disposition, easily influenced by his English
colleague, the danger may arise that he will not give an opinion
according to his conscience. This danger is very great, and
the evil a very serious one.
“Another danger is the ease with which the law of the
country is made. Each Englishman [constitutes himself a
legislator, and attempts to modify the law as it suits him.
He submits his work to the Ministerial Council, which, as every
one knows, is an assembly of mutes, who sign whatever is put
before them. The only control exercised is by the Legislative
Council. But this assembly has only a consultative power,
and the members of it who are up to their work are very few.
“What is required is a kind of State Council, before which
would come all proposals in regard to the Law. There they
would receive serious consideration. The good would pass,
the bad would be rejected.
Grand Moufti of Egypt.
I have given the Grand Moufti's remarks. I leave to those


more competent than myself the task of approving or refuting
his criticisms.
Egypt possesses the greatest Mussulman University in the
world, El Azhar, established for nine centuries, and whose reputation
throughout Islam was at one time enormous, and is still
to-day very great. It is there that the Sheiks and Uelmas
of the Mussulman religion are turned out. It would be difficult
to imagine an institution more backward, more routinière,
more impossible. The pupil passes eight, twelve, perhaps
fifteen years in reading ancient Arab books, in discussing the
exact meaning of certain words, or in comparing the construction
of “ideal phrases,” whilst remaining crassly ignorant of
every latter-day question or of the progress of civilisation.
After their long and useless studies are completed, these men
become professors or Sheiks in their villages, where they can
only spread the vain knowledge they have acquired. Knowing
to what an extent his Highness the Khedive interests himself
in all which relates either to the religion or the future of his
country, I have no doubt that he will take in hand, at the
moment which he judges opportune and with his usual energy,
the question of the reform of the University.
On the occasion of the centenary of the accession of Mohamed
Ali, founder of the present dynasty, several Princes of the
Khedivial family and other distinguished Egyptians decided
to collect the amount necessary to found a great University
on modern lines. It is certain that an institution of this kind
would render a very great service to the cause of civilisation in
Egypt, and it is to be hoped that the efforts of the generous
promoters of the scheme will succeed. A large sum has already
been subscribed principally by the Khedive and the Egyptian
Princes. This sum being still insufficient for the founding of
a University, it has been decided to employ it in creating a
certain number of bursaries, by which young Egyptians will
be enabled to undertake their studies in the different European capitals.
Just as the idea of the University is a good one, so is that
of sending the students abroad a bad one. In the opinion of
those best able to judge, and I have questioned Egyptians,
English and French, the results obtained by this method are

detestable. With very few exceptions the young Egyptians
sent to Europe, finding themselves far from home, in a strange
land, badly looked after, take on only a veneer of our civilisation.
Pleasures attract them, and too often their studies
and their duties are forgotten. In France the temptations are
very great; and in England, where College and University life
is more strict, the young Egyptian, considered without reason
as an inferior, is badly treated by his English comrades, and
returns with a heart full of hatred and bitterness.
It is then in Egypt and at their own doors that modern
means of education must be provided. The primary and
secondary schools (all paying) have already made great progress,
as much from the point of view of learning as from that of
behaviour, discipline, hygiene and cleanliness. Those which
I have visited produced on me an excellent impression. The
children, clean, well behaved, and, above all, well fed, looked
smart, contented and happy. I found amongst them children
sent from Java and Zanzibar to be educated. The majority,
as is natural, are Mussulmans; but there are, besides, Christians,
Copts, Greeks, Armenians and also Jews. The study of
the Koran is not compulsory; but the greater part of the Copts
take the course, for it is the best, almost the unique book of
Arabic literature. The native teachers seemed well qualified
for their task except in the teaching of English, where their
pronunciation left much to be desired. They seemed also to
be enthusiastic in their work.
Things are very different, so I have been told, in the provinces,
where the small village schools, the Kouttabs, are nests
of dirt, ignorance and even brutality. From the tenderest
age, the Egyptian child is threatened with the schoolmaster
and his rod, as with us we threaten the appearance of the
bogey man, with the result that the school for him becomes a
vision of all that is terrible.
When the Grand Moufti wrote to me that in Egypt there
were no philanthropists willing to set aside part of their fortunes
for the advancement of education, he was ignorant, no doubt,
of the work which Boghos Nubar Pasha, son of the celebrated
statesman, has just founded, and which he describes in these
“My object has been to come to the aid of these young men
who, on account of recent events in Turkey, have been obliged
in the last few years to emigrate to different parts of Europe,
snd of whom a large number, entirely without resources, have
aought refuge in Egypt. I have thought that in giving facilities
to some of these to study commerce, for which our race (Armenian)
has a special aptitude,
they would find themselves
better equipped for the struggle
for existence, and would enter
on a career with much better
chances of success. I have
therefore decided to establish
a School of Commerce, which,
although founded for
Armenians, will not close its
doors to young men of other
nationalities and religions. I
have made one restriction only
in order to preserve an Armenian
majority, and that is
that two-thirds of the total
number of pupils shall be of
that nationality. The teaching
will be given in English
and French, and the course
of study shall approximate to
that of Schools of Commerce
in Europe. In order to give stability to my school and a
guarantee for its future as regards the funds necessary
for its upkeep, I intend to invest a sum in real estate, the
income from which will belong to the school, and I shall constitute
everything—school and gift—as what our Ottoman
law calls a Wakf, that is to say a property which shall be
inalienable, and the management of which shall be controlled
by an Administration of the State.


“I shall add in conclusion that I am exceedingly grateful
to the Government and Lord Cromer, who have given me every
encouragement, and who have promised to facilitate, the

acquisition of the necessary site, and to lend me later the
assistance of several of the Professors attached to the Government
That is, I think, an example worthy of the highest praise,
and it is to be hoped that it is but the first step, followed by
many others, towards the generous and philanthropic effort
desired by the Grand Moufti.
There is another institution in which Lord Cromer is particularly
interested, the Reformatory, situated in the country
on the road to the Pyramids, where the little vagabonds and
children who have committed some crime or other are sent.
Admirably thought out and managed, this institution, a model
of its kind, renders an immense service, and will be called on
to render greater.
“Think of it,” Lord Cromer said to me one day, “the
Egyptians, convinced that the Reformatory is the best school
which we have in Egypt, ask to have their children sent
I must say I was delighted with the visit I paid to it. The
Director, an excellent fellow with a cheery face, showed me
round and proved to me that, although under strict discipline,
the children are perfectly happy and take well to the life which
they must lead. Besides reading, writing and arithmetic, each
one is taught a trade, shoemaking, tailoring, bookbinding, carpentering,
&c. &c. I visited the workshops, and was able to
admire the excellent work done. The children are paid for
their work, and, on their leaving the establishment, the amount
is handed over to them.
After having visited the buildings, the Director asked me
to seat myself in a chair which had been placed in an immense
courtyard, where I witnessed a most interesting military and
gymnastic display. These children, admirably trained, had
a strength, agility and a power of endurance which was really
remarkable. During the whole of the performance a band of
sixty-five musicians, made up of children of ten to fifteen years
of age, performed various pieces con brio incredibile. I had
seen nothing like it, and my enthusiasm getting the better of
me, I was about to applaud, when all these little reformés in
their uniform of striped blue and white, marched past me,


music in front, preceded by a drum-major about the height of
my riding boot, and aged eight years!
For a long time now complaints have been rife in Egypt
with regard to the police, and certainly they are far from what
they should be. Brutal towards the weak, cringing towards
the strong, utterly ignorant, and always willing to shut their
eyes and open their hands—that, I believe, is a perfectly just
description of the police as they existed only yesterday. To-day
they are far from being brilliant, but at least some progress
has been made, and, thanks to the energy of the Under-Secretary,
Adviser to the Minister of the Interior, Captain Machell,
there is reason to hope that in the near future a great improvement
will take place.
The whole trouble arises from the fact that, through lack
of necessary funds which at present it is impossible to obtain,
the police is recruited from the army, and this, owing to the
detestable system of recruiting in vogue, is composed of the
dregs of the population.
According to the present law any Egyptian able to pay the
sum of £20 is exempt from military service. When Egypt
was still very poor, the number of families who were in a position
to pay this amount was very small, and the Government was
able to choose amongst the “condemned” the best specimens
from a physical and mental point of view. I say “condemned,”
because for the Egyptian to be taken from his family
and his land, and to be enrolled in the army, is a punishment
quite as great as being put in prison, with the difference that
the latter only happens to him when he is guilty of some
crime, whereas in the former case his only crime is his
inability to pay his £30.
It must be remembered also that for centuries the unfortunate
fellaheen were forced to serve in the army, where, badly
clothed, badly fed, badly treated, and the greater part of the
time unpaid, sent to the centre of Africa, from which they seldom
returned, they could not but receive a very poor opinion of a
military career. Many preferred to lose an eye or cut off the
index finger, rather than serve. To-day, without being quite
such a nightmare to him, service in the army is the thing above
all others which he wishes to avoid; and to do so he will sell

all that he and his family possess, and when those who have
been unable to pay the amount must leave their village all the
relatives turn out, sobbing, crying, and shouting in their grief.
It naturally follows, therefore, that with the increasing
prosperity of the country, only the most miserable and destitute
are unable to pay the tax of exemption, and that the recruits
obtained for the army represent the dullest, most ignorant
and lowest type which it is possible to find.
Lord Cromer and the Egyptian Government are well aware
of the evil effects of this law, which deprives the poorest families
of the labour of which they are in need, whilst supplying Egypt
with very inferior soldiers, and it is probable that measures
will shortly be taken to alter it. It can be easily understood
that the soldiers taken from the army to fulfil the duties of
police are far from possessing the necessary moral or intellectual
qualities. It is to remedy this state of affairs that
Captain Machell has founded a “Police School,” which has
already given excellent results, and which is to be considerably
enlarged. The object of this school is the training of officers
and non-commissioned officers, to give them a thorough knowledge
of their work, so that they will be able not only to command
the men under them, but also to train and instruct them.
It is necessary for entrance to the school to possess a primary
education certificate, and when the school was founded the pupils
accepted received a sum of £2 per month, besides food, lodging
and washing. But as Egypt is the land of paradox, it was soon
found that the fact of a payment being made to the pupils,
far from attracting the class desired, repelled them. The
system was therefore changed, and instead of being paid
the pupils were asked to pay the sum of £30 for their education.
The result was excellent, and a large number of young
men present themselves each year for enrolment.
The school at present consists of twenty-four officer pupils
and forty non-commissioned pupils, but when the new buildings
are completed the figures will be raised to sixty and seven
hundred respectively. The classes are taught by professors
from the School of Law, and the instruction given is of a practical
kind, consisting of the duties of the police, the law and its
application, the manner of drawing up a report, and criminal

investigation. On quitting the school they are equipped
with a thorough knowledge of administrative and police regulations.
Moral training goes hand in hand with a complete system
of gymnastics. Shooting, riding, and care of their mounts
are also taught. I do not believe that a race exists so open
to physical development
as the Egyptians. The
results obtained at the
Police Schools are really
marvellous. In a few
weeks, chests develop
and expand, enormous
muscles appear on arm
and leg, and the men go
through their exercises
with a strength and
agility unsurpassed. I
have been present at
these exercises, and
found them most interesting
and worthy of a
Hippodrome. The pupils
are well treated, food is
plentiful, the dormitories
comfortable, whilst excellent
bathrooms and
douches are provided,
the daily use of which is obligatory.


In a country in which everything was in need of alteration
and reconstruction, and in which the police were such as I have
briefly described, one can imagine the condition of the prisons
The prisoners lived in an atmosphere that was putrid and were
not even fed. If their relations or friends thought of bringing
them something to eat, so much the better; if they forgot so
much the worse. Many of these unfortunate people were
imprisoned on some trumped-up charge made by an enemy.
In the case of the prisons, as in everything else, it was necessary
to alter, reconstruct and reorganise everything. Close

on £220,000 has been expended on improvements within the
last few years, and progress still continues to be made. But
no time should be lost; for, strange as it may seem, crimes and
offences have considerably increased along with the increased
wealth and prosperity of the country. That is one of these
phenomena for which Egypt is celebrated, and which I can
match with another.
At Cairo there existed formerly an octroi or customs, to
which all produce and provisions entering the town were
obliged to pay tax. Living having become very expensive,
it was decided to abolish the octroi. On the very day on which
this was done, the prices of provisions increased considerably,
and have continued to rise to this day, when one has to pay
50 per cent, more for everything than was the case a short time
Lord Cromer takes the greatest interest in educational
questions, and his opinions are well known. Contrary to the
idea current in France, he does not believe that any political
influence whatever can be obtained in a country like Egypt
by forcing the tongue of the protecting nation on the people.
He is, therefore, strongly opposed to the teaching of English
in the purely Egyptian schools. Neither is he in favour of
increasing the primary and secondary schools on European
lines, from which the pupil issues despising industry, agriculture
and trade, and seeking only to commence life as a clerk in a
Government office or an employee in a Company, with the
appearance of a gentleman.
Lord Cromer advises establishing in each village or in each
quarter of the large cities a Kouttab or primary school;
and a school of the same kind, but giving a more advanced
education, in the principal towns, and the affiliation of these
with industrial and professional schools, also colleges of
horticulture and agriculture. According to him, and his view
certainly seems the right one, what Egypt most requires is not
a supply of clerks, but of agriculturists, up-to-date horticulturists,
mechanics, electricians, carpenters, skilled workmen,
in fact, whose hands will be guided by a trained brain, developed
by a practical and modern education.
There is at Mansourah an excellent technical school, where

joinery and cabinet-making are taught to about seventy
pupils. The work executed in the workshops by the children
is sold, and last year brought in a sum of £1000.
Finally, in connection with this subject, model workshops
will be opened in all the towns in Egypt. Cairo already
possesses an important one, whilst another is in course of construction
at Assiout, which will cost no less than £16,000.
There remain to be said a few words on the School of Medicine
founded by the celebrated Dr. Clot, a Frenchman, who, I believe,


came to Egypt in 1825, and whose bust is to be seen in the garden
of the school. Little by little the school has become Anglicised,
and the faculty is now entirely composed of English
doctors. I believe the reason of this change to be that most
of the Egyptian students prefer to study in English, which,
in view of the actual condition of affairs, they find most useful
to them, and that it would be impossible to have classes in
both that language and French.
Under the able guidance of Dr. Keatinge, the School of
Medicine to-day counts one hundred students, who give one a
most favourable impression. All the arrangements for study
are excellent, and the pupils possess a club where meals are

provided for 7½d. a day. Alcoholic liquors, cards and politics
are taboo!
At the side of the school is the great Hospital of Kasr-el-Ainy,
to which are attached schools for nurses and midwives,
also a most interesting museum. The buildings of the hospital
are in a shocking state, and I must admit I cannot understand
why large sums are continually being expended in patching
them up when no amount of patchwork will do the slightest


good. There is only one solution, and that is to pull down the
entire building and rebuild. Money is wanted, but money can
be found. The different wards of the hospital are arranged as
in Europe, but the greatest difficulty is experienced in making
the patients stay in bed; they much prefer to squat on a
blanket placed on the floor. The men are looked after by male
nurses; the presence of women, they tell me, would quite upset
Most of the unfortunate creatures who come for treatment
are in a state of disgusting filth and swarming with vermin.


It is necessary, therefore, to evacuate the wards one by one,
and re-paint them from top to bottom—which reminds me
of a story told to me by a young Egyptian one day when we
happened to pass in the street a poor beggar who, having made
a suitable aperture in his garments, was searching diligently
for something which was evidently annoying him, a common
enough sight in Egypt.
“He is seeking his fortune,” said my friend.
“His what?” said I.
“His fortune of course,” he repeated; “don't you know
that one of the Rothschilds has been making a collection of
fleas? Now he has succeeded in obtaining almost every type
known. Only two specimens are still lacking, and for these
he is ready to pay an enormous sum. Lately he came to Egypt,
land of the flea par excellence, in the hope of finding them. In
spite of the help in his researches of a doctor well-known in
Cairo, he has not succeeded; so you can understand that every
flea-bitten native in the valley of the Nile now lives in the hope
that one day he may find between his thumb and his first ringer
that precious flea to sell to the ‘Baron des Puces,’ as they call
the gentleman here.”
And to think of teaching them after that the advantage
of getting rid of such aids to fortune!
One of the best of the works of charity has been founded in
memory of the late Lady Cromer, the Home for Foundlings,
the number of which, alas, is very numerous in Cairo. The
mothers usually leave them immediately after their birth,
absolutely naked, in some waste piece of ground or uninhabited
alley. The little unfortunates, found, perhaps several hours
after in a terrible state, are taken to the Home to be cared for
with a kindness which would have brought joy to the heart of
the lady in whose name the good work is carried on. The
children thus saved are generally adopted by those women who
have none. In fact, their religion teaching the Mussulman
women that they cannot enter Paradise unless they have had
a child, those who for one reason or another have had none
do not hesitate to adopt one, in the hope that this act, in default
of the other, will open to them the gates of Heaven.
Dr. Keatinge, who accompanied me in the course of my

visits to the School of Medicine and the Hospital, and who
spared me no detail, took me also to see the museum. We
made our way through rooms full of jars containing all the organs
of the body, attacked by the most unlikely diseases, rooms
where hundreds of entire mummies, or of heads, arms or legs
lying pell-mell, gave one a weird impression. In another room,
in fine show-cases, lay teeth and hair centuries old, stomachs
and other mummified organs in perfect preservation. From


there we passed into the laboratories, where gentlemen celebrated
in the medical world were performing various unpleasant
feats of cookery over electric furnaces, and with stills full
of blood.
“Now,” said Dr. Keatinge, “come and have a look at our
brains, we are rather proud of them!”
Brains! Heavens! There were thousands of them, of all
sizes, of all colours—I had almost said cooked in every way—
in immense glass jars. One was enormous, taken from the skull
of an Egyptian killed by the tram last winter, the largest
brain known, and belonging—to the disgust of the savants

to a man who died unknown, his identity never having been
But why these brains? Simply because the famous Professor
Elliott Smith, in the service of the Egyptian Government
and the greatest authority on the subject, has given himself
up for some years to important studies in regard to them.
Surrounded by all these bottled brains and dried brains,*
I found mine working badly; but I understand that Professor
Elliott Smith has at last discovered that we possess at the
base of our brain a point which up to now has been found
only in monkeys (or perhaps it is the other way round, I am
not sure), which proves conclusively, of course, that we all
belong to the same family. Leaving the room I could not
resist putting one hand to my head to make sure that I had
not left it behind in a glass jar, and the other I carried to my
— back, with a vague suspicion that I might there meet with
a long and hairy tail!
One o'clock struck. In his softest tones Dr. Keatinge
turned to me and said, “Let's have lunch. Are you
“Um!” I replied. “I certainly feel as if my inside was
mummi—I mean empty. Yes, I believe I could do with something;
but, doctor, if you love me, no brains!”
* I also saw these brains dried by a new system, which preserves
their size, their weight, and their elasticity.

[Back to top]



The Nile by day and night—The fellaheen and their fields—
Wealth and fruitfulness—The ruins, temples and tombs—Memphis.
Sakkara, Beni Hassan and Assiout—Missionaries, Catholic
and Protestant—Influence of the American Missions—Evangelising
and living—The marvellous Lake—Ancient history.


“THE ascent of the Nile!” These words, in all languages
and since the world began, have suggested the ideal voyage of
man. The Greeks and the Romans dreamt of it centuries
ago, and the millionaires of the time undertook what was then
a long, difficult and costly journey, in order to visit the ruins of
Thebes, and the Elephantine Island. The desire is still present
with us, and there is no more ideal way of passing the winter
months than by slowly ascending the famous river on board a
dahabeah. These boats, easily hired at Cairo, are furnished
with every comfort. Only a few years ago all the dahabeahs
were provided with sails, and one journeyed slowly at the
pleasure of the wind, stopping here and there as one wished.
To-day, when all the world is in a hurry, steam dahabeahs
have been built, quite as comfortable as the others, and with this
advantage, that, no matter what the weather, progress can
always be made, and those parts which are of little interest
quickly passed.


But dahabeahs are not within the reach of every purse;
according to the number of persons travelling together they
cost from £400 to £600 a month, everything included. If the
party consists of eight or ten it is not much; if only two or three,
it becomes costly; whilst if one is travelling alone (which
happens sometimes even in Egypt), it is too expensive and too
lonely. Fortunately there are Cook's famous services of
express boats* between Cairo, Luxor and Assouan, besides
their tourist steamers. The latter are very popular and
deservedly so, for it is impossible to wish for greater comfort.
The Rameses, the Rameses III. and the Rameses the Great,
which undertake the service, are fine boats, built, of course,
on a very different plan from our ocean steamers. Their
draught is almost nil, scarcely three feet, I believe, and the
whole of the boat is therefore above the level of the water, like
a large house of three stories. Besides sleeping accommodation,
dining-room, library and smoking-room, there is on the upper
deck, in the centre of the boat and occupying the entire width,
a fine open space which forms a large hall. Tables, arm-chairs,
easy-chairs, soft Eastern carpets and green plants make a
charming resort and a favourite one with all the passengers.
It is there that after meals coffee is served, there that afternoon
tea is taken, there where one can chat or play cards or
enjoy music, whilst able at any moment to glance out on the
banks of the river. If the evenings are chilly, large awnings
are let down round the deck, and by means of these an
immense salon is quickly made, brightly lit by numerous electric
lamps, and where impromptu dances can be held. The
food is excellent and unlimited.
Wherever there is something of interest to be seen the boat
stops, and donkeys, guides, or, if desired, chairs with porters,
await the passengers, the cost of which is included in the ticket.
The most important person on board is the Dragoman,
* These express boats, although very comfortable, cost much less.
and the voyage is shorter.
For some years Cook has no longer had the monopoly of the
steamboat service on the Nile. The Anglo-American Nile Co. has a
similar service, the comfort of which leaves nothing to be desired. The
prices are the same, and vary, according to the cabin, from £40 to £60,
for a voyage which lasts about twenty-one days.

who arranges the excursions and gives all the explanations
desired, in many languages. Somewhat shorter than these
polyglot performances, I give below a few extracts from my
“On board the Rameses,
December 20, 1904.
“What weather! Can this be Egypt? The heavens
are black, and rain descends in torrents. In spite of the

S.S. “RAMESES” Sanderson

carriage hood I have been drenched between the hotel and the
landing stage. Why the devil don't they have closed carriages
in Cairo? Certainly days like this are few, but still they do
exist, and every now and then we are reminded that it is
After the lovely sunny days we have had the sudden
change; short as it is, it is severely felt, and no one coming to
Egypt should neglect to bring warm winter clothing. It is a
* It must be borne in mind that the winter of 1904-5 was a severe
one everywhere. Even Algiers and
Tunis were visited by snow.

detestable climate for those with weak lungs, at least as far as
Cairo is concerned; too much dust and dirt in the air, and too
relaxing. An old resident said to me yesterday, ‘To send
consumptives here is a crime.
’ This year there was a lot of fog
at Cairo, and they say that the climate is changing, the irrigation
and the number of trees planted attracting a quantity
of dampness and rain hitherto unknown. The grumblers
pretend that it is the effect of the English occupation, which
has brought fog and influenza in its train!
“At the landing stage I am surrounded by a crowd of Arabs,
all of whom claim to have brought my baggage. I have twelve
packages and there are forty Arabs. They are insupportable.
I am not really a bad-tempered fellow, but I must own I have
a strong desire to smack them over the head with my cane.
“All the flags soaked and hanging miserably, the Rameses
started sadly on her voyage, and we leave Cairo, wrapped
in a grey veil of mist, far behind. It is freezing! Seated on
the bridge, smothered in coats and rugs we gaze on the flat
melancholy banks. Here and there, enthusiastic fishermen
watch their lines, oblivious of the drenching rain. In the fields
the peasants, seated at the side of the cut cane, shiver and utter
wild cries as we pass.
“One o'clock. An excellent lunch has warmed and consoled
us. We have just arrived at Bedrachen. From here a
start is made to visit Sakkara and the ruins of Memphis.
Bravely, armed with mackintoshes and umbrellas, we leave the
Rameses, and men and women straddle the donkeys. The
situation is so ridiculous, and there are amongst us some such
curious specimens, that we end by laughing. To come to
Egypt to be soaked, and to have the end of your nose red,
—this is indeed the height of pleasure. However, for once
there is no dust!
“Two hours' donkey ride across flooded fields, past clumps
of palm trees, that would be delicious if only the Egyptian sunshine
would favour us, but, alas, no such luck; all the same
we must be fair, such days are almost unknown in Egypt.
“Now we are on the site occupied thousands of years ago
by Memphis, the celebrated city, founded, so they say, by

Menes, the capital of the Sovereigns of the ‘Ancient Empire,’
and the immensity of which was such that half a day's journey
was necessary to traverse it. Some mounds of earth sheltered
by palm trees, that is all to be seen to-day. Before arriving we
pass, lying under the palms, the immense statues of Rameses II.,
over twenty-five feet high.
“At last we find ourselves before a small house, quite
modern, with a large terrace. It was here that Mariette
lived, the famous French Egyptologist, who, in 1851, discovered


the tomb of Apis, and, later, the immense necropolis of Sakkara.
Mariette who, for thirty years, directing the excavations
in Egypt, re-discovered this ancient civilisation, and did
more to reconstruct the history of Egypt than any other man.
“Apis, whose tomb has now been discovered, was the sacred
bull worshipped by the inhabitants of Memphis, as in other
villages dogs, cats, or even crocodiles, are objects of adoration.
Tastes differ, we shall not discuss them.
“At Memphis the tombs of the sacred bulls are celebrated
monuments, which one must see: each tomb has its chapel.
History informs us that Apis was born of a cow, whose time of
producing calves was over, but on whom one day a flash of
lightning descended from heaven, and … Apis was born:

quite black with a white mark in the centre of the forehead,
an eagle on the back, and the hairs on the tail double. Nowadays
Apis would have been sent to Barnum; in those days they
made a god of him.
“And this is the City of the Dead! The necropolis of
Sakkara is five miles long by half a mile in breadth, and this
immense space is covered with the most extraordinary monuments.
Here and there, scattered amidst the ruins, are wonderful
masterpieces. The bas-reliefs, carved and painted, are most
interesting, showing as they do the whole life of a great people;
how, thirty centuries ago, they sowed and reaped, how they
built their boats, made their furniture, prepared their meals,
and, lastly, stuffed … their geese! Truly, for I am not
joking, and I saw a charming little bas-relief where a gentleman,
whose tailor's bill cannot have worried him much, stuffed with
ful hands the unfortunate birds whose livers were destined to
supply the succulent pâtés. Oh, Strasbourg, thou who
possesseth not bas-reliefs to illustrate the industry which
is thy glory, who will think of thee and thy foies gras six thousand
years hence? Follow my counsel, ancient city of Alsace,
and provide thyself immediately with bas-reliefs. May
Memphis serve thee as a model! Taken by assault by Cambyses,
B.C. 525, occupied by the Persians, sacked by the
Christians under Theodosius, razed to the ground by Mahomedans
and heaven knows what else, the bas-reliefs still exist,
and show us to this day how at Memphis man triumphed over
the goose!
December 21.
“This morning I experienced a shock, a violent shock,
and it was the waters of the Nile which caused it. There are
on the Rameses excellent bathrooms, and I had promised myself
matutinal ablutions pleasant and comfortable. Wakening
early I ordered my bath from the Arab servant at six o'clock.
A few minutes later. I entered the bathroom, and it was then
that I received the shock. The magnificent bath was full
of dark yellow mud, very dark, almost black, thick and repulsive.
Questioned, I heard the Arab vaguely murmur as he
closed the door behind him, ‘Nile water, very clean.’ Very

clean! I turned the tap and from it oozed the same liquid
mud; and then this problem, difficult to solve, presented itself
to my mind: ‘Shall I be not cleaner, but less dirty, by going
without my bath, or by steeping myself each morning in this
mud?’ I calculate that we shall not arrive in Assouan for
twelve days … in the first case I shall have on my skin
the accumulation of two hundred and eighty-eight hours, and
in the second, I shall have twelve superimposed coatings of
fertilising mud. The idea of the latter rather amuses me;
knowing its wonderful properties I begin to speculate on what
crops I am likely to raise, and begin to imagine that I shall
find in time on my person small plantations of sugar-cane,
with here and there, perhaps, a stray mushroom! I hesitate
no longer, and make the plunge. The sensation is not disagreeable,
but unfortunately the idea suddenly strikes me that
the Arab, born lazy, could very well save himself the trouble
of changing the water, and that there never will be anything
but mud. The thought is not a pleasant one, and I jump from
out the bath.
“No one is about, and I venture on to the deck in my
pyjamas. The rain has ceased, but the fog is still around us.
Suddenly, in the grey of the distance, I can see, as through a
thick veil, the tall chimneys of a manufactory,* then a number
of roofs, and, finally, a forest of masts. We are evidently
approaching a town of some importance, and, upon my word,
we might be on the Thames rather than on the Nile.
“Hardly had I formed this opinion when a ray of sunshine
striking through the fog rested on a high minaret brilliantly
white. Thanks be to God, who alone could so transform the
scene! As by a miracle the mist dissolves, and far as the eye
can reach the land of Egypt, pulsing with life, lies bathed in
the golden beams of the glorious sun.
“Set in a girdle of green, the town appears gleaming in
pearly white, with, here and there, a spot of rose or blue, where
the walls of some large house shed a tender colour through the
green of the trees. But the Egyptian towns are best seen at
a distance. What, afar off, appears to be a superb palace, is
often naught but a miserable building with dilapidated walls,
* Sugar-works.


and at the windows of which one need not be surprised at the
sudden apparition of the horned head of a goat.
“Hundreds of boats are moored to the banks, and on every
side donkeys, camels, men wonderfully loaded, bring up the
gram onions, vegetables, sugar-cane, goods of every sort
including bales of old rags, descending the Nile en route to
Cairo, Alexandria, Europe and America.
“Yes, even here come the agents of the large paper-making


firms in the States to buy the loathly rags from the poorest
peasants; and these remnants some day will return to us
to you and to me, under the guise of a perfumed billet doux
or a magazine. Nothing certainly seems to be lost in this world.
Look, for instance, at these huge dovecots, of which you will
see thousands along the banks of the Nile. Would it sunrise
you to learn that these millions of birds are raised simply that
they may supply guano for fertilisation?
“The town has now dropped astern. On the left, in the
distance, curious mountains, parched and bare, rise towards the

blue of the sky with their steep and even outlines. Not a point
is visible, the summits here are flat as tables. From the river
to their base the desert stretches, too high to allow of the
fertilising waters of the Nile to overspread them. To the
right, on the contrary, lies the lovely Egyptian land, flat and
fertile, where, far as the eye can see, stretch the fields which
constitute the wealth of the country. Men and women are
working furiously, whilst swarms of children, all naked, disport
themselves on the banks of the river. Everywhere the activity
is extraordinary, and life seems intense.
“Here and there we pass little villages of mud huts, surrounded
by palms, huts which look poor and miserable in the
midst of the rich and fertile land. Across the fields or on
the banks of the stream, long strings of donkeys, buffaloes,
camels, or women wrapped in black shawls carrying on their
heads immense jars, come and go without ceasing, their
outlines cutting with a strange sharpness the line of earth
and sky.
“On the left, the Desert and Nature … dead; on the
right, cultivated fields … fertility and wealth. More than ever
are we in the land of contrasts. High chimney-stacks vomiting
forth black smoke at the side of a graceful minaret; here a
modern steam-pump supplying the neighbouring fields with
the water of the Nile, there naked men working without a
moment's respite, raising the precious fluid by means of an
ancient sakkhies. Far off a goods-train disappears rapidly
in a cloud of dust, and, slowly winding its way alongside
the track, a long procession of leisurely camels.
“A few yards away from a modern factory the peasant
labours lovingly on his land with an ancient cart to which are
harnessed a bullock and a camel, strange combination! centuries
old. Here stands a Mosque cheek by jowl with a Christian
(Coptic) Convent, on whose rounded dome there shines a
cross. On the Nile itself the contrast is no less: the Rameses
with her engines, her electric dynamos, her comfort and her
luxury, meets or rapidly overtakes native craft, loaded to the
gunwale, the same craft which have passed up and down on
the bosom of the river for twenty or thirty centuries.
“‘I am certain that that is just as it was in the time of our

Saviour!’ This exclamation, uttered a few paces off, came
from an elderly lady, very bigoted, who, since we started, had
been diligently studying Egypt as described in the Bible.
Suddenly her eyes fell on my pyjamas, when she gave me one
look, shocked and angry, which I am sure our Lord would not
have approved of, but which, making me realise the somewhat
scanty nature of my attire, drove me to seek the friendly
shelter of my cabin.
“An hour later we passed a large dahabeah, stranded on


a sandbank. The whole of the crew, completely naked, were
directing all their efforts to refloat her, whilst the lady already
mentioned put on her glasses to get a better view. The doctor of
the Rameses turned on me laughing and said, ‘My dear fellow,
your sin this morning was appearing in pyjamas; if you had
had nothing, she would probably have honoured you with a
second look through her glasses.’ Which reminds me of the
story of the rich Bostonian, who, a few winters ago, hired a
large dahabeah, on which he had, amongst his other guests, five
or six charming young girls. Shortly after leaving, the boat
touched on a sandbank, and immediately the crew, without any
garments whatever, sought to heave her off. On the deck
the passengers looked on. Our American, who had never
before seen an Arab in a state of nature, was horrified at the

sight, and, rushing to the manager, he exclaimed, ‘Look at
those men, how dare they, and those young ladies on board!’
‘But, sir,’ said the manager, ‘we take no notice of those things
here.’ ‘No notice!’ said the other, furious. ‘How can you help
it? Send at once to Cairo for bathing-drawers for all these
men.’ And gathering the bevy of fair damsels under his wing,
he drew their attention to other and less exciting things. I
believe the gentleman had his fiancée on board, which may
have increased his anxiety.
December 22.
“To-day has been ideal. On deck, up till six o'clock in the


evening, we have enjoyed a delicious sun-bath. One might
have imagined that it was the month of June. I cannot
understand those who say that the Nile is monotonous; for
me, every minute, it has a different charm, and I could voyage
on its waters for weeks without fatigue.
“Our Dragoman has just seated himself beside me. He is a
fine-looking man, a superb type of Arab, and very intelligent.
He speaks four or five languages fluently, and passed several
months of last year at the St. Louis Exhibition. The Yankees
did all they could to astonish him, but without success. After
having shown him sleeping-cars, lifts, machinery of all sorts,
the products of American genius, and some of which was
destined for Egypt, he remarked quietly, ‘I see, I see; it seems

you make all that, and we buy it. You are the workmen who
do the work, we are the gentlemen who pay!’
“One day when some particularly powerful machine had
been shown to him, he shook his head and said to the horrified
and shocked Americans, ‘All that is nothing, nothing, I can
assure you, compared with the natural power which God has
given to us. He has made us males, powerful males, beside
whom you are nothing but weak little children. That is
why your women when they come to Egypt despise you and
make gods of us!’ And this terrible man proceeded to
tell me stories of the various beautiful foreigners whom he
had met, and, producing a pocket-book, he showed me

David Gardiner

letters from women, with well-known names and of good
family, which if published would give the world something to
talk of.
“‘For us,’ he said, ‘woman is all in all. It is she who,
whilst we are on earth, gives to us glimpses of heaven!’
“Then he spoke to me of hashish, that extraordinary drug
which excites the passions and ruins the constitutions of its
devotees. What ravages has this hashish not committed in
Egypt! Extracted from a plant grown in Greece, it is smuggled
into the country in spite of all the preventitive efforts
on the part of the Government. It kills, or makes mad,
thousands of human beings, and Egypt has appealed in vain
to Greece to put a stop to its cultivation. What does it matter

to the Greeks what may happen to a people, if only they can
make their thousands?
“This morning has been perfect, and on the deck of the
Rameses we are enjoying to the full the beauty and the joy of
life with every breath we draw. Numbers of wild birds,
thousands of duck, disport themselves on the water or pass
overhead in dense masses. That maddens a young Belgian,
a great sportsman it seems, who passes his time in repeating,
‘Ah! If I only had my gun!’ ‘Well,’ I said to him, ‘what
would be the use of your gun if you had it? The Rameses
would not stop to allow you to pick up your birds.’ He looked
at me astonished, and replied in the most natural way, ‘But
I should have had the satisfaction of killing them. Look!
what a grand shot!’ There was the real man, with his inborn
instinct to kill and destroy … ‘the satisfaction of killing
“Towards mid-day it clouded over, a strong wind got up,
and immense whirlwinds of sand rose in the Desert threatening
and terrible. At the moment, we were arriving at Beni
Hassan, where, on the banks, donkeys and donkey-boys
awaited us, whilst a large number of the inhabitants, adults
and infants, sought to board the boat with their cry of ‘Backsheesh, backsheesh!’
“Ah! this backsheesh, there indeed is one of the plagues
of the East in general and Egypt in particular. It is the tip,
the palm-oil, that, with open hand, every one awaits. It is
the bribe that formerly was pocketed always, and to-day often,
by the Pasha, the Minister, or any one else in whose power lay
the blessing or the damning of a scheme. Backsheesh! that
is the word that from one end of Egypt to the other accompanies
the outstretched hand; and the thoughtless tourist,
enjoying life, showers right and left the little white coins;
foolish and stupid act, for thousands, harvesting thus in winter
the small sum necessary to keep them the entire year (the native
lives on so very little in Egypt), abandon all labour and live in
idleness and vagrancy.
“Lord Cromer, whom nothing seems to escape, has lately
had a circular printed, which is distributed to all tourists and
placarded everywhere, explaining the extent of the evil, and

David Gardiner

asking, for the good of the natives themselves, that the traveller
should put a curb on his generosity and give only in return for
some service rendered.
“The wind is now blowing half a gale, and the donkeys,
which had been drawn up facing the steamer, refuse absolutely
to keep the line and insist on turning tail to the
storm. ‘Backsheesh,’ yell the Arabs, until two or three policemen,
armed with enormous cudgels, fall on them with upraised
arm, and, hitting out unmercifully, put them to flight.
“Immediately after lunch we mount our donkeys, and, not-withstanding
the awful storm, we make our way to the tombs,
cut out up there in the rock. There are in all thirty-nine,
opening on to a terrace at the summit of the mountain, and
dating back 4500 years. They are exceedingly interesting,
not only because of their remarkable construction, but above all
on account of the scenes of Egyptian life of the period carved
on the walls, and which are to-day almost as fresh as when they
left the hands of their creators forty centuries or so ago. Some
of these enable us to realise a Desert hunt or a dance, or an
attack on a fortress; others depict military reviews or assaultsat-arms.
We see women weaving, shepherds leading their
flocks to sacrifice, barbers, artists, wrestlers, dancers, and,
lastly, homely pictures of the life of the man who here lay in
his last long sleep. The most interesting tomb of all, in my
opinion, is that of Ameny, who lived 2400 years before the
Christian era. On column and wall, paintings and sculptures
show to us all the events of his life of which he was proud.
The inscriptions are numerous, and, in one of these, he begs
those who may visit his tomb to pray that numerous gifts
may be offered to his shade. ‘Oh! ye who love Life and hate
Death, pray that thousands of loaves and jars of beer, thousands
of oxen and fowls may be sacrificed in remembrance of
the Prince and Duke Ameny, triumphant!’ A little further
on he sings his own praises, and tells us ‘that he was kind and
generous, that he loved his town and his country, that all the
great works were undertaken under his guidance, and that
his successes were so great that the praise of his people mounted
even to Heaven.’
“Ameny, my friend, I shall take your word for all that:

my means, unfortunately, will not permit of my sacrificing
thousands of oxen to your remains; but if you can, from that
far-off heaven in which you will certainly be seated unless you
were a terrible old liar, make this infernal wind which is cutting
us in two cease, and lay that dust which blinds us, I vow that,
as soon as I return safely to the Rameses, I shall drink a bottle
of the best in your honour.
“Alas! Ameny evidently did not appreciate my generosity,
for the gale redoubled its fury, and we had considerable trouble
in getting to the boat.
“Whilst we were seated on the well-sheltered deck having
tea, a rumour spread that the passengers would assist in the
evening at some native dances. Great excitement! The
Dragoman was unearthed, but he, with a sad shake of his head,
declared that such dances no longer exist. Only a few years
ago, two or three evenings in the course of a voyage were given
up to this class of entertainment, but many of the dances were
of such an obscene character that the authorities put a stop
to them. The story goes that a young Englishman who had
become enslaved during one of these trips by a young American,
was horrified with the realism of a certain dance. He awaited
with fear and trembling the bitter remarks which the young
lady should address to him for his having taken her to see it.
When they had got outside, she did, in fact, open her lips and
quietly remarked, ‘Well! I guess that woman had the most
wonderful command of her abdominal muscles I ever saw !’
“Towards evening the wind died away, the palm-trees
ceased to furiously shake their plumed heads, and we became
the entranced spectators of one of those wonderful sunsets
which are the glory of the Nile. What poet's pen or artist's
brush can ever render this scene which Nature presents to our
wondering eyes, to our awed and chastened minds? Little by
little the daylight died, night fell, whilst on the horizon the
sun descended in a blaze of purple and gold, a blaze which,
first of a rich radiance, softened slowly into a tender echo of
its former self. A profound silence covered the darkened land,
the birds themselves ceased their flight, and, perching, seemed
to await with a last look the sinking of the sun. The East
lay black, there already the night had come; whilst the West,

steeped in a rosy glow, changed slowly to glimmering gold,
paling more and more to a spectral white, until, strange and
wondrous sight, darkness, sudden and complete, covered the
December 24.
“To-day we arrived at Assiout, a large town of 45,000
inhabitants, excellently situated at one of the widest parts of
the Nile Valley, and surrounded by land wonderfully rich and
fertile. At this place, across the river, there stretches an
important dam, constructed at the same time as the reservoir
at Assouan, and thanks to which the waters of the Nile are
controlled. The landing-place is invaded by a crowd of Arab
traders offering for sale the numerous products of the country;
red pottery, shawls of extreme fineness embroidered with gold
or silver, ebony canes with ivory handles, and a fabulous quantity
of ‘antiquities,’ mostly from Birmingham or Germany.
“The finest donkeys in Egypt are at Assiout, so our Dragoman
informed us, and, in fact, we found some splendid specimens
and excellent saddles. The Egyptian donkeys are extremely
elegant, and I admire them enormously. And such workers!
They seem gifted with powers of endurance which no fatigue
can conquer, and they are so frugal. This, alas, is obligatory.
Poor beasts, my heart often bled to see the meagre fare given
to them and the heavy blows they received. As for the donkey-boys,
they are brutes, and I should have had the greatest
pleasure in treating them as they treated their beasts.
“Carriages are also to be had, victorias with spirited
little horses; and it was in one of these that I made a tour
of the town, a mixture of large palaces, dilapidated houses
and miserable mud huts, in which live, promiscuously, beings
half-clad, men, women, and children, with their pigs, dogs,
goats and hens. Almost all the shops exhibit signs in various
languages, where as a rule abominable English rivals impossible
French; whilst over the whole city huge bills announce
in stirring type the ‘Greatest Hypnotiser in the World,’ just
arrived from Paris!
“The bazaars are large, and one can find in them most of
the products of the East. The serene air of the merchants,

seated Turkish fashion, smoking and drinking their coffee,
absolutely unconcerned, contrasts strangely with the hawkers
on the landing-stage who pursued and worried us.
“The Arab is a wit, without doubt. I was bargaining with
one of these for a shawl, for which he had asked four times the
value, and we had just arrived at the price which I was willing
to give when, seizing a necklace, he wrapped it up quickly in the
shawl, and, handing them both, he whispered, ‘Here, take,
backsheesh!’ Then, alluding to the famous Ministerial
circular, he added, ‘But, sure, not tell Cromer Pasha!’
“Of course there are tombs at Assiout. Where in
Egypt are there not? Here they are situated high up on a
barren mountain, on the side of which are to be seen, from far
off, the gaping holes of various sizes, according to whether they
are the tombs of man, or of dog, cat or wolf, animals formerly
held sacred at Assiout. Under the blazing rays of the sun
we mounted the hill, covered with bleached bones, and arrived
at the entrance to the first great tomb. Against the grating
a hideous mummy stands erect. One of the keepers, putting
his right arm around it and stretching out his left hand, said to
us, ‘Photograph the two generations … five piastres, if you
please!’ The tombs of Assiout are really not worth the trouble
of a visit. They are ordinary caves, in which some holes indicate
the places from which the mummies have been taken.
In a corner of one of these there is a heap of mummy cloths,
and the Dragoman offers us pieces as a souvenir. ‘Extraordinary,’
he says, ‘how this stuff has been preserved for
ages.’ Outside, one of the party, observing a bundle of filthy
rags, and drawing the guide's attention to them, asked, ‘And
that, is that also mummy-cloth?’ To which the other glibly
answered, ‘Oh no, that is filth that comes from Birmingham!’
“In one of the caves one can just perceive on the walls
some designs, almost obliterated, and the Dragoman, with
his voice of a child reciting a lesson, tells us, ‘These are the
women of the harem who are inhaling the perfume of the lotus.’
‘Vieux farceur, va!’ And a little further on he cries: ‘That,
that is the dead man with his mother behind him … proof
that he respected his mother and was proud to be her son.
The ancient Egyptians respected their women … the

modern Egyptians also do so … only, they have got a bad
reputation, that is all!’ ‘Yes, my friend,’ I could not help
saying to myself, ‘there is no smoke without fire.’
“We descended by another path and came to the City of
the Dead, the great Arab cemetery, lying white beneath the
sky, with its thousands of tombs covered with graceful domes.
From a distance the scene is a beautiful one; from close by it


is less pleasant. Certain graves are open, the bones lie uncovered,
and the vultures eye them as they hang aloft.
“I took the opportunity of my short stay at Assiout to
pay a visit to the American Mission, which possesses a church,
a hospital, and two important colleges for boys and girls.
Very warmly received by the Director, Rev. Dr. Alexander,
I visited in his charge the well-appointed buildings. Established
for half a century in Egypt, these Presbyterian Missions
have undoubtedly rendered a great service to civilisation.
“I still continue to think that the results, from a purely
religious point of view, are almost nil, although, from a civilising
and humanitarian point of view, they are enormous. The

colleges at Cairo and Assiout have each some seven hundred
pupils. The girls' school at Cairo has four hundred. Altogether,
the different schools belonging to the American Mission
in Egypt give an excellent and practical education to 12,387
boys, and 3521 girls.
“At the college in Assiout the course of study lasts six
years. On leaving, the graduates become some (the number
is very limited) missionaries, others teachers, whilst the great
majority return to their villages, where they obtain situations
in the post, telegraph, or telephone offices, &c.
“Now these thousands of Orientals who have passed six
years of their life in daily contact with their Western teachers
contribute in no small degree to better the relations between
Mussulmans and Christians. Scarcely twenty years ago it was
impossible to speak to a Mohammedan of the Bible; to-day
many of them study it, some through curiosity, others with the
desire of instruction, and they will willingly discuss questions
of religion with Christians. The efforts of the American,
French, Austrian, and other missionaries have certainly had the
result of rendering intercourse between the natives and
foreigners much more frank and friendly. Indirectly, they have
had another result. They have taught appreciation of many
of our ideas and our customs, which lead to a better and
healthier life. The men educated at these colleges give up
polygamy, and get a better understanding of the meaning of
family life, the affectionate ties which bind parents and children
together. The women also on leaving the schools know better
how to guard their position with modesty and firmness, and
their houses are better kept and cleaner.
“‘Our endeavour,’ Dr. Alexander explained to me, ‘is
to turn out better men, and not to convert them to Christianity.
Certainly we leave no stone unturned to impress on them all
that is beautiful and noble in our religion, which comes as a
surprise to many of them. If we do not succeed in making
them Christians, at least we do succeed in making them our
friends, and in inculcating a respect and an appreciation for
our ideas.’
“I believe that most of the American missionaries are
married, and they seem to me to have an extraordinary number


of children. Is it the climate, or because, as I believe is the case,
the stipend is increased with each new arrival? Anyway, if
the missionaries do have abundant offspring, they are only
following, but in a more moral fashion, in the path of their
predecessors, the first monks of Rome, who entered Egypt in
the reign of Theodosius. They were knowing fellows, these
monks, and believed firmly in the divine command to ‘go
forth, increase, multiply and replenish the earth.’
“At Assiout the tourist is shown a small lake whose fame

David Gardiner

has been sung in ancient days by many poets, and whose
miraculous waters ‘made fertile the women who bathed therein.’
But these ancient writers have failed to give an explanation
of the miracle; not so my Dragoman, who thus delivered
himself: ‘At that time,’ he said,’ there were many monks
living in the caves at the foot of the mountain. These holy
men were consulted on all things, and when a woman was barren
what more natural than that she should seek the monks to
find a remedy? These sly fellows, they recommended a bath
in the lake, and took care that they should be having their
own dip at the same time. Ah! they were merry bucks these
monks, and sterility had little chance whilst they were about!’

And a strong inclination came to me to say, ‘And what about
the Dragomans!’”
“December 26.
“Yesterday was Christmas Day, and the Rameses was en
The two decks were covered with flowers, plants and
wreaths, and the company offered the passengers a monster
dinner, excellently served. We had toasts and speeches; but
it. is certainly a great pity that my bigoted lady, of whom
I have already spoken, had not raised her voice, so that the


general public might have had the benefit of the story which
she was telling a lady at her side, and which I could not but
overhear. I give only one extract: ‘Madame B., one of my
greatest friends. When I return to Cairo she is going to take
me to see the harems; all the doors are open to her, you know;
she has married a Pasha, a very wealthy and influential man,
whose grandfather was a eunuch to the Khedive’!
“This morning early we landed at Keneh (420 miles from
Cairo). Donkeys were awaiting us, and we set off at a gallop
across country to visit the famous temple of Denderah, dedicated
by the ancient Egyptians to the goddess Athor. It was
a delicious ride in the cool of the morning over the land just
beginning to catch the first rays of the sun. Hundreds of men

and women were at work in the fields, cutting the Egyptian
maize, whose tall stems, twelve to fifteen feet high, bent under
the weight of a huge pear-shaped head, in no way like the
Indian plant. Numbers of donkeys heavily loaded ran to and
fro betwixt the fields and the boats moored to the banks. All
of them seemed happyand contented. What a change for the
peasant between yesterday and to-day! Not only is he no
longer oppressed and down-trodden, but he is able even to
borrow money, at a small rate of interest, to free himself from
the grip of the usurers. With the awful misery which formerly
existed in Egypt, there were very few peasants who had not
fallen into the hands of the Greek and Armenian money
lenders—another plague of Egypt which has now passed away.
“When the Government authorised the Cassel-Suarès group
to establish the National Bank it was with the condition
attached that a certain sum should be set apart each year for
loans to the peasants at 9 per cent., a small rate compared with
that charged by the money-lenders. Notwithstanding the
suspiciousness of the fellaheen, this move met with great
success, and the National Bank then decided to create ‘The
Agricultural Bank,’ whose object is to come to the aid of
peasants who are in need of money, either to pay off the money
lenders, or in hypothecation of their crops. Admirably
managed by Mr. G. Scott Dalgish, this bank has been a great
success. The total amount outstanding on December 31,
1905, was £5,914,000, an increase of £1,908,000 over 1904.
There is no mistake as to the great good done by this institution.
The Founder's shares of a nominal value of £5 are now
worth £800. In the course of 1905 the Agricultural Bank was
authorised to issue 284,000 new ordinary shares at £5 each to
its old shareholders at par, thus raising its share capital from
£2,500,000 to £6,570,000. The Bank was also authorised to
increase its debenture capital from £2,500,000 to £6,570,000.
“Speaking of the poorer class, I should like to say a word
in regard to a philanthropic work which is due to the generosity
of Sir Ernest Cassel. As is well known, eye diseases attack
an enormous number of Egyptians. It is a veritable scourge,
which deprives thousands of any possibility of gaining a living.
Sir E. Cassel, two or three years ago, placed at Lord Cromer's

disposal a sum of £40,000, the interest on which is employed
in the treatment of those who suffer from these diseases.
Sir Horace Pinching, Director of the Sanitary Service,
advised the equipping of travelling dispensaries, which should
move from town to town and village to village, carrying
succour to those in need. Two of these were organised, with
Drs. MacCallan and Miller in charge. Thousands of unfortunate
sufferers have already been treated or operated on without
charge; and the success of the scheme has been so great that
the authorities would not hesitate to increase the number of
dispensaries, if only funds were forthcoming.
“The temple of Denderah is one of the most interesting
in Upper Egypt. These ruins, wonderfully preserved, are
superb and magnificent, and one cannot but stand in awe before
the colossal work which they represent. I shall stop here
without attempting to describe them; for has not Mariette
himself written in his ‘Description générale de Dendérah,’
‘It would take several years to copy all this vast mass, and
twenty volumes to describe it’? Evidently my stock-in-trade
is insufficient for such a task, and I can only console myself
in listening to the lamentations of a lady on board who is complaining
of the want of a maid. ‘And it is terrible for me,’
she said, ‘because all my dresses button or hook or lace down
the back. I can't do it myself, so of course I've got to call
the Arab, and his cold clammy finger wanders continually
all over my back, and gives me the most horrible feelings!’
Poor lady, I know these Arabs by reputation and I can understand.”

[Back to top]



Ancient Thebes—A visit to the temple of Karnac with M.
Legrain—To the tombs of the kings with M. Quibbell—A new
discovery—The tomb of Queen Tia discovered by Theodore M.
Davis, Esq.—An unpublished lecture by M. Maspéro.


“LOOK over there,” a gentle voice said to me, “do you see
these heaps of masonry? These are the ancient walls of
Thebes! When I was a boy, and read that chariots drawn by
many pairs of horses galloped on these walls, and met and passed
and overtook each other, I looked at the walls of our villa
in the suburbs of Paris half a yard thick, and I said to myself,
‘That is a joke.’”
So said to me M. Legrain, that charming, learned and distinguished
Egyptologist, who, for ten years, has worked with
such intelligence and will at the reconstruction of the famous
temples of Karnac.
“But,” he continued, “to-day I believe in these famous
walls, for, centuries after, I can still drive my little carriage on
their ruins.”
I could not help asking myself which of the two one should
most admire—the Ancients who created such marvels, or the
Moderns, like M. Legrain, who devote the best part of their
lives to bringing them to light? One must visit Luxor, the

ancient Thebes, and the temples of Karnac to obtain an idea
of the creative power of the ancient Egyptians, as well as of
the moral strength and patience of the man who, little by little,
gradually rebuilds what was perhaps the greatest temple in the
If Mariette considered that it would require twenty volumes
to describe the temple of Denderah, how many would he have
required to give a just idea of Karnac? They are to-day
the most wonderful ruins in Egypt, as, in the time of their
full splendour, they were one of the wonders of the universe.
Picture to yourself a space of about 900,000 square yards,
which, during more than two thousand years, was the sacred
place where Egypt, her sovereigns, and her people, came to
pour out their treasures on the altars of their gods! Temples,
full of statues in gold and ivory studded with precious stones,
obelisks of granite cut from a solid block, taken from the
quarries of Assouan, hundreds of miles of walls covered with
bas-reliefs and paintings, innumerable immeuse columns
carved from base to summit, avenues lined with mysterious
sphinx. … Imagine all this and a thousand times more, and
still you will fail to realise what Karnac was forty centuries ago.
In the middle of this temple you will find a hall so vast that
St. Paul's could easily be placed within. It is the hall in which
a veritable forest of enormous sculptured columns raise towards
heaven their lofty capitals. In the centre there rise twelve,
having a height of close on 60 ft., and a circumference of 34 ft.,
and at the sides one hundred and twenty-two, measuring 37 ft.
by 28 ft. It is a superb and wondrous sight.
Since the day when Cambyses destroyed Thebes, the
ruins of Karnac became gradually covered over with sand,
earth, and rubbish, and they had completely disappeared,
until the day when the Egyptologists commenced their excavations.
Then when they had cleared the avenue of the
Sphinx and the great hall, the enormous sculptured columns
began to give way, and later, in 1899, eleven of them came
down with a terrible crash. The foundations, sapped by the
change in the level of the Nile which runs close by, were no
longer sufficiently solid. The disaster seemed irreparable;
but M. Legrain was there, and vowed that, cost what it might,

these columns, prostrate and broken, should once more be set
up, and set up they now are.
“How in all the earth did you manage it?” I asked.
“Well,” he replied, with his charming smile, “it was
really the simplest thing imaginable, only it took a long time
and a great deal of labour. First the fragments of the columns
were gathered, numbered, and stored. This done, we
strengthened the foundations, and when these were ready we
took the pieces of column one by one, and set them up. Afterwards,


we had to pull down those columns, which threatened to
collapse, and restore the foundations. It was really nothing
more difficult than that.”
Wondering, I looked on this man who, for ten years, has
combined the rôles of mason, engineer, carpenter, architect, and
archaeologist; then, raising my eyes towards these enormous
piles of stones, I asked what power could have raised them
to such a height.
“That also was very easy, and, besides, we used no mechanical
means, no mechanical power. We simply did what very

probably the ancient Egyptians themselves did … we used
“Certainly, earth. As the column or the wall continued to
rise, so we raised the earth round it. We brought earth, more
earth, always earth, until slowly but surely we created a gradual
incline, over which stout ropes and strong arms were sufficient
to move the blocks into their places. Thus we moved sections
weighing fifty tons, without the slightest accident. As to
the earth, this immense hall has been filled and emptied three
times during the last year. The task of bringing it or taking it
away is performed by hundreds of children, to whom we pay
3 1/2d. a day; the men receive 5d. When three children of one
family are each earning 3 1/2d., the father retires from business!”
“But all this earth, where does it come from?”
“Ah! there you touch on an interesting point. We take
it from those parts of Karnac which have not yet been laid bare,
and thus we kill two birds with one stone, for we find in the
course of our excavations numbers of small objects which we
sell, and the income from which helps us on with our work.
Come with me, and I shall show you a hiding-place from which
we have already taken 698 figures in granite, chalk, alabaster,
racîne c'émeraude, petrified wood, &c., and 12,000 other statues
and statuettes in bronze.”
I followed M. Legrain, who led me to the opening of an
immense hole, at the bottom of which some naked men dabbled
and dug in the mud and water. This was the famous hiding-place,
but at the depth to which it has now attained it has
become full of water, and the work in consequence much
harder. Further on I had a look at the excavations. The men
with picks loosened the earth and filled the baskets' which
were then carried off by squads of children, running and singing,
towards the place where the columns were in course of erection.
Historians have always been of the opinion that Thebes
and Karnac date from the same time, but it seems that this
is not so.
“In fact,” said M. Legrain to me, “we have now discovered
under the foundations of Karnac the ruins of a temple much
older, and which dates back to B.C. 6000 or 5000. It was


evidently a temple of great importance, and we found on its
stones sculptures of the greatest beauty. For instance, look
at this small piece of bas-relief.”
And the Director of Karnac showed me one of the most
exquisite little bits of carving which I have ever seen. It
was the representation of a charming head, of flowers, and a
small hen beautifully modelled.
“We label all that,” continued M. Legrain, “and shall
endeavour to reconstruct this underground temple, as we are
doing Karnac. Last year, we discovered in that corner down
there a small temple, dedicated to an old and awful goddess,
who, it seems, was in the habit of eating children. I have
managed to put it together; come inside and see, it is rather
There, in fact, in the centre of a small temple, stood a
hideous image, lit up in fantastic fashion.
“The Arabs are horribly afraid of it,” continued M.
Legrain, “and not one of my men will enter unless I am here.
They are only big children, and believe thoroughly in fairy
tales and ghosts. One of my workmen declares that each time
he passes the cemetery, he is beaten by awful beings without
heads, and whose bodies vomit forth fire, and the others believe
him! There is also a legend of a boat which glided over the
sacred lake, and they declare that I shall yet find it.”
It is hardly to be wondered at that the poor Arabs regard
their Director, the only European amongst them, as a being
slightly out of the ordinary. It is only necessary for him to
point to a place for things to be discovered there the existence
of which no one had suspected. Last year, on returning from
his holidays, M. Legrain said to one of his foremen, “Look
round about here, there ought to be a staircase,” and the
staircase was found.
“Yes,” said M. Legrain, “I had discovered the existence
of this staircase in some old documents in the Louvre!”
We had reached, at this moment, a superb obelisk, the
letters of which, graven in gold, informed us that it had been
erected by Queen Makeré; that the huge task of cutting the
single block from the quarry at Assouan, of bringing it to Thebes
(it weighs about 1800 tons), of carving the characters, and

erecting the stone, occupied seven months! It is almost certain
that, even with modern appliances, it could hardly be done
to-day. The Queen, it seems, was quite prepared for the incredulous
astonishment of future generations, for, on the
obelisk, she declares that she had undertaken the work in order


that in time to come people should exclaim: “Is it possible?
What a magnificent work!”
“Come and see my garden,” said M. Legrain; and following
him into a place surrounded with walls, I looked about
in vain for flowers.
“No, no,” he said. “Don't look on the ground, look on the
And there, carved on the stone with wonderful delicacy,
I saw every imaginable plant, a complete collection, a veritable
“Horticultural Exhibition!”
It was quite to be expected that all the thieves in Egypt,
all the sellers of antiquities, false or stolen, should have been on
the look-out for the discoveries made at Karnac, and it is no

light work to supervise all the workmen engaged. Last year
some thieves, with the connivance of a few of the watchmen,
one night broke through the wall of M. Legrain's study, entered
and carried off with them two very valuable statues, which after
many wanderings were at last recovered. I would advise
travellers strongly to be on their guard against these sellers
of antiquities. One of them has a celebrated plan.
Consul at Luxor of a certain country, he invites any rich
strangers he may meet to a dinner in true Arab style. At
dessert, the door-bell is heard to ring, and the servants announce
that some natives have just arrived with some remarkable
antiquities discovered that day. They are brought in, and,
on the advice of the Consul, the rich foreigners, unable to resist
the temptation, buy what really belongs to the host himself.
Karnac, at the height of its magnificence, was connected
with the great temple at Luxor by an avenue over a mile
long and 100 feet broad lined with Sphinx. It was from
this latter temple that the obelisk erected in the Place de la
Concorde was obtained, and one exactly similar still remains
in the midst of the ruins.
Luxor, in itself an uninteresting town, is, thanks to the
proximity of the royal tombs and other ancient monuments,
one of the most attractive places in Egypt. The climate in winter
is charming, and there are several good hotels. The Luxor
Hotel, belonging to a very obliging Frenchman, M. Pagnon,
is the best and most popular. Although not a new building,
it is comfortable, and the food and attendance all that one
could wish. It is situated in a fine shady garden, a rare thing
in Upper Egypt. The situation of Luxor is perfect, and the
ancients could not have chosen a finer site for the city, which
for several centuries was destined to be the capital of the
Emperors of Egypt. Here the Nile flows majestically through
a vast and fertile valley, surrounded by high and barren
According to Diodorus, Thebes was the most ancient city
of the Nile Valley, and is believed to have been founded, like
Memphis, by Menes B.C. 4400. Homer has sung its praises,
and described to us its greatness and its glory, its 100 gates
and 20,000 chariots of war. This celebrated town stretched

not only on the right side of the Nile, where to-day we find
Luxor and the ruins of Karnac, but also on the left bank,
where, in the midst of the fertile fields, superb ruins are still
to be seen.
The Ramesseum, an immense temple built by Rameses II.,
the Colossi of Memnon, two extraordinary statues whose heads
seem to threaten heaven itself, the famous temple of Medmit
Habu, all these are still standing, and are of the greatest
interest. Formerly, when Thebes flourished, the Necropolis
was on this side of the Nile as well as the houses of the priests,
the embalmers, the craftsmen and workmen engaged on the
tombs, the buildings containing the sacred animals, the schools
and libraries. At the foot of the valley rose the Lybian
mountains, whose sides are honeycombed with tombs. On
the left, in a small valley, are the tombs of the Queens, whilst
on the right, in another valley, bare and narrow, lie those of
the Kings. These are to my mind the most interesting and
marvellous sights in all Egypt, and I shall never forget the
impression left on me by my visit.
Accompanied by Mr. Quibell, a Scotsman, Inspector
General of Antiquities, and a charming companion, I set off
early one morning from the Rameses. The day was sunny and
the air delicious. Crossing the Nile by sailing-boats we mounted
the donkeys which awaited us, and, for nearly an hour, galloped
across the fertile country until we reached the entrance to the
Valley of the Kings, narrow and hemmed in by barren yellow
rocks. The contrast between the land which we had just left,
teeming with life, changed in a moment to this road to Death,
where not a bird, not an insect, not the shadow of a living
creature could be seen, was most striking. This was truly the
Gate of Death, the Valley of Nothingness, at the end of which
lay the gaping tombs of once powerful Kings who, wishing to
pass in peace their last long sleep, had hollowed out, above and
below in the side of the barren rock, marvellous caves, carved,
painted and chiselled, where their mortal remains might at
last rest.
“Oh, Kings! Vanity, vanity, all is vanity! Ye who had
ordained to be buried here with thy jewels and precious stones,
thine ivories and gilded furnishings; ye did not understand

that the day would come when thy priests who defended the
entrance to thy tombs should vanish away, and thy people
be destroyed, that thieves should break through to steal,
should burst the doors and break down the walls, should pierce

David Gardiner

even the shell itself, and carry away with them from the sacred
precincts of the grave thy royal remains!”
But so it came to pass. According to M. Maspéro, some 966
years B.C., robbers had become so powerful, and could so easily
defy the Government, that they had desecrated several of the
royal tombs, until Aauputh, son of Shashank, decided to have
all the caves opened, and the coffins with their remains removed
to one vast cavern, where, some thirty centuries later, they
were destined to be once more brought to light in a strange
It seems that in 1871 an Arab, named Abd er Rasul Ahmad,
found by chance the entrance to this cave, and understanding
the rich find which it contained determined to profit by it.
He announced his discovery to his two brothers and his son

New Royal Tomb discovered by Mr. Davis

and for several years he
and his accomplices sold
to tourists objects of great
value but small size,
which they could easily
carry from their hiding
place to their homes. At
last, in 1881, the Egyptologists
wakened up, and
M. Maspéro, at that time
Director of the Museum
at Cairo, came to Luxor
to make inquiries. After
difficulties without number,
and too long to recount
here, the hiding-place
was discovered, and
the royal mummies took
the road to Cairo, where
they finally made their
appearance at the
Museum under glass
cases. Two years later
the mummy of Queen
Mes-Hent Themebubegan
to emit an odour which
was far from being agreeable,
and it was found
necessary to unswathe
her. Soon it was the
turn of Queen Nefartari,
who after being unrolled
completely putrified, and
had to be buried. It was
then decided to undo all
the mummies and air
them, and a beginning
was made with Rameses
II. He was the first of

the Egyptian Sovereigns whose form was revealed to the
world, 3200 years after his mummification.
Though emptied of their mortal remains, of the furniture
and utensils with which they were adorned, the tombs of the
Kings are still of extraordinary interest. The sculptures and
the bas - reliefs are
admirably preserved,
and a number of the
paintings, even after
so many centuries,
are of incredible
freshness and vividness.
Of the fifty and
odd royal tombs
mentioned by historians,
forty - three
have, I believe, been
discovered, and are
to-day open to the
public. All are hewn
out of the solid rock,
and are composed of
long passages leading
to vast chambers, of
which the last, containing
the sepulchre,
is situated some 300
to 500 feet from the


To the ancient
Egyptians their tomb was not simply a coffin laid in a grave,
but a huge apartment, beautifully ornamented and decorated
by the greatest painters and sculptors of the time, and in
which the dead could walk at his ease and enjoy all the
comforts to which he had been accustomed. Thus we find on
the walls and on the pillars scenes, wonderfully depicted, of
the life which he had led, and the future life as he imagined
it, to be.


Mr. Quibell conducted me first of all to the tomb of Meremptah
discovered only a few months ago, and which had not yet
been opened to the public. The passages and ante-chambers
were lighted by electricity, which enabled one to admire all the
details; but the sepulchre itself, the sanctuary, was, when we
entered, in complete darkness. Suddenly the sombre cave
was filled with light, and, under the brilliant glare of the electric
lamps, I saw before me an immense and beautiful granite figure
of tender grey colour, lying
on its back, with hands
crossed on its breast. The
effect produced by this
wonderful carving of the dead
cut on the cover of his coffin,
is unforgettable.


For me, however, of all the
tombs which I saw , that
which impressed me most
was of Amenhotep., probably
because it was the
only one in which the mummy
still remained. In the middle
of the sanctuary is a superb
and enormous coffin of red
marble, the covering of which
has been removed, and in
which rests the corpse. A part of the bands which enwound
it has been undone, and the head, the neck and the shoulders
appear black and dry. It is impossible to describe the effect
of the sight of this once powerful monarch, who, 3500 years after
his death, reposes, so small, so withered, under the rays of the
Edison lamps. Mockery of human desires! After piercing
the very bowels of the mountain, where he believed that,
inaccessible and still, he would sleep his eternal sleep, he is
to-day exposed to the gaze of thousands of curious tourists.
A short time after my leaving Luxor, another royal tomb
was discovered by Mr. Theodore Davis, an American, who is
also a distinguished Egyptologist, and who passes his winters
in archaeological research. One can easily imagine his joy

when, after his long, difficult and costly researches, he at last
saw his efforts crowned with success, and a royal tomb lay
open before him.
If I was unlucky to leave Luxor before this new discovery
I had, at least, the good fortune to hear, a short time after, the
lecture given on the subject by M. Maspéro. With the greatest
simplicity, in a clear and
easy style, with a soft and
winning voice, the Director
of the Museum explained
to us that this was the
tomb of Queen Tia, wife
of Amenhotep III., who
lived B.C. 1500. M.Maspéro
rendered well-merited
praise to the rich foreigners
who, like Mr. Davis, with
their time and their money,
lend aid to his Department,
then he continued:


“The excavations made
by Mr. Davis took place in
a corner of the Valley of the
Kings, where the majority
of Egyptologists did not
consider that anything interesting
would be found.
Destiny decreed that just
there Mr. Davis should make one of the most interesting and
important discoveries of our time. The tomb of Queen Tia
was in fact intact, although at the time of the Roman period
it had evidently been visited by robbers. But these contented
themselves with taking the jewels, and left the rest untouched.
We were so keen to see this tomb without altering
anything that we penetrated by a little hole just large enough
to admit a child, a thief … or an archaeologist.
“Near the entrance we found a superb scarabee, and some
elaborate vases evidently lost en route by the thieves, a bad sign,
which showed us that the tomb had been opened. Great was our

joy therefore when we discovered that the sanctuary was intact,
and full of a thousand objects which recalled the past. On the
brick wall which had until to-day separated it from the world, we
could still see the marks of muddy hands—hands of men, now
for centuries dead, who had sealed it up, as they thought, for
eternity. The dead centuries rose up before us as though alive.
On the middle of the coffin a pink cushion lay carelessly thrown;
at the side was a chair of modern appearance, rather in the
Empire style, yet with I know not what of Egyptian. Further
away was a gilded arm-chair with straight legs, which
recalled the style of Louis XVI., and, facing it, yet another
quite Egyptian. Here too was a chariot, covered with leaf
gold, complete with its wheels, pole and yoke. Here also a
complete suite of furniture, large chests of black wood, and
seventy-two jars containing offerings and provisions, ducks,
haunches of venison, meat dried or mummified, bread, wheat,
and in others traces of the wine and perfumes which they had
contained. One large vase was overturned by accident, and
from it came a thick yellowish matter, honey, and strange to
say, at that very moment, we saw , alighting on it, a bee
which had entered from without. At the side were objects
of gold, ivory, silver, not to mention an enormous bunch of
Then M. Maspéro proceeded to give us some charming
details of the life led by these ancient Egyptians in general,
and Queen Tia in particular, who, it would seem, was a remarkable
I have tried my very best to obtain a photograph of M.
Maspéro: the place for one in a book on Egypt was naturally
marked off, but, alas, I have only succeeded in obtaining part
of the head of the Director of Antiquities. To my first request
for his portrait, M. Maspéro replied: “I regret I cannot satisfy
you. My last photograph was taken in 1883. Since then I
have never been taken except by a fluke, in accidental groups
or at the side of a monument in order to give an idea of its size.
In these I usually measure about one-eighth of an inch. I'm
afraid that would hardly do for you.”
Evidently not. M. Maspéro is not a giant, but really one-eighth

of an inch is a trifle small. One would need a magnifying
glass to find him in the middle of the page! Being an
obstinate person, I returned to the charge, and begged M.
Maspéro to allow Dittrich of Cairo to photograph him. His
reply is as follows. I give it as typical of the man:


“CAIRO, July 3, 1905.
“DEAR SIR,—If Dittrich photographed me for you,
to-morrow I should be for sale at all the photographers in
Cairo. I have found a copy of a photograph which X.
took of me at Karnac this winter. The likeness is a good one,
but the picture has been badly balanced, and one side of my
head is wanting. Your photographer can easily put that right.
The portrait is not beautiful, but then, neither am I, and it

is more natural than if I had been taken by a professional
“Yours very sincerely,
Alas! dear Monsieur Maspéro, even the most talented
photographer cannot put in pieces of a head, especially when
the pieces are lacking, and he has not even seen his subject.
I prefer not to publish your portrait with the half head lacking,
rather than chance having added a lump which, in the eyes of
a phrenologist, would turn the great Egyptologist into something
unlooked-for and terrible!

[Back to top]



The First Cataract—Society—The famous reservoir which
gives water and wealth to Egypt—Is it strong enough?
Possible devastation of the entire Valley of the Nile—Sir
William Wilcox and the pet ideas of a great engineer—The
future schemes of Sir William Garstin—Is Philae, the most
graceful monument in Egypt, doomed to certain oblivion?

Al Vista

ALTHOUGH the distance separating Luxor from Assouan is
only 130 miles, the trains take no less than eight hours to do the
journey over the narrow-gauge track, and through a country
where King Dust holds his sway unchallenged.
I returned from Assouan to Cairo by rail, and I do not think
I ever swallowed so much dust as between the first-named
station and Luxor. On the contrary, between Cairo and Luxor
one has the train-de-luxe of the International Sleeping Car
Company, which is most comfortable. It is one of the best
trains I know. Leaving Cairo in the evening it arrives at
Luxor the next morning. There is an excellent dining-car
attached, and the sleepers are first-rate. I believe that the
widening of the track between Luxor and Assouan has already
been begun, and that in this coming winter, or at latest by the
next, one will be able to travel comfortably to the latter town.


Naturally, I did the journey between Luxor and Assouan
on board the Rameses, which, after having given us three
days to visit the ruins of Thebes, continued her voyage in
perfect weather,
the weather which
gives to Upper
Egypt a delicious
springtime in the
midst of winter.
Whilst we were
basking in the
warm sunshine,
telegrams advised
us that the whole
of Europe was
shivering, that the
Riviera was covered
with snow, and
that even Algiers
had seen the white

David Gardiner

The Nile seemed
to us wonderfully
busy. Large numbers
of boats ascended
and descended;
and on the banks,
every few yards,
men, clad simply
with a piece of
cloth round the
loins, worked with-out
a pause in raising the water by means of ancient shâdûfs.
Who would believe that these poor fellows manage to raise
about 8000 gallons in a day? It is true that they work from
sunrise to sunset … for 5d. per diem.
Between Luxor and Assouan, Cook's large boats do the
distance in two days, with stops at Esneh, Edfu and Kom
Ombo. The first of these places is a town of some importance,

with large houses, streets swarming with people, and good
bazaars and markets. The temple is only partially excavated,
and one hall alone is visited by tourists.
At Edfu, however, there is an immense temple which was
begun in the reign of Ptolemy III., B.C. 237, and which took
no less than 180 years 3 months and 14 days to build. Completely
covered over with sand, earth, and rubbish, on which

David Gardiner

huts and stables had been built, it was discovered and brought
to light by Mariette.
The sculptures of the temple of Edfu are very interesting,
and some of them were to me inexplicable. For instance, on
the bas-reliefs which we saw there, as also in those we visited
next day at Kom Ombo, were men, in profile, with a breast
like that of a woman, with this difference, that in the case of
the sculptures representing the female the breast was hanging,
long and slack, whereas that of the male was straight and firm.
According to our Dragoman this male with the extraordinary
breast was symbolic of the Nile, and the breast the symbol
of fertility.
I must admit that if these ancient Egyptian carvings
faithfully represent the ladies of the time, they left something
to be desired. Arms and legs like drum-sticks, immensely

large shoulders, and no hips. That is a pretty picture of
feminine beauty! I have my suspicions that the Egyptian
sculptors of the period had some reason for wishing to keep us
in ignorance of the true form of their womenfolk. It is likely
enough though that the number of those able to make a
pleasant impression without the aid of the dressmakers' art
was, as is the case to-day, extremely limited. In spite of all
that these sly dogs, the poets, ancient and modern, have told
us on the subject, and the efforts of painters and sculptors
who show us the exceptions, I thank my stars that I live in an
age when women no longer go unclothed, but when they allow
artists like Doucet and Redfern to cover with their art all
their imperfections. When I saw , as I did in the Sudan,
negresses exhibiting their revolting nakedness, I pictured to
myself with dismay the sight of a Paris or a London where all
the women without exception, young and old, thin and fat,
long or short, walked the earth as their Creator had made them,
exposing to our horrified eyes their angles, or their lack of them,
We have on board the Rameses a superb specimen of the latter
type, and the beds being somewhat narrow, she has to be
wedged in each evening … she lies there through the night,
unable to move, and in the morning her husband, with the aid
of the Arab, puts her on her feet again. She insists on mounting
a donkey straddle, when the poor animal completely disappears
beneath the mountain of flesh, which is, I may mention,
surmounted by a huge hat, trimmed with a bird with impossible
waving plumage. Well, even so, I prefer her thus to
au naturel. And then it gives her husband reason for congratulating
himself that he has only one wife! I know an
Englishman who was in the habit of travelling about with his
four sisters, all very plain looking, and who only ceased to do
so when one day a donkey boy, at Assouan, said to him:
“Three of your wives have just gone out. I have not yet
seen the fourth!”
The temple of Kom Ombo, where the boats only stop for
one hour, is full of interesting sculpture, where the women
without hips and the men with breasts rival the beings of
double sex who offer dishes, covered with all manner of things,
to personages, kings or gods, who receive them with open hands.

David Gardiner

Ah! that open hand! … one sees it throughout Egypt, in
the streets as well as in the temples. Backsheesh was evidently
popular with the Pharaohs themselves.
Some yards away from the ruins of Kom Ombo rises a
colossal brick chimney, surrounded by hideous modern buildings,
indicating the site of the new enterprise launched by
the group of capitalists at the head of which are Messrs. Cassel
and Suarès. No one had ever thought of buying the land
situated round Kom Ombo, because, considering its high
elevation above the Nile, it was thought impossible to irrigate
it. To-day, however, there are steam-pumps of such great
power that raising water to a height of 45 feet is mere child's
play. The Kom Ombo Co. purchased from the Government
30,000 feddans (about 27,250acres) for four shillings a feddan
(4400 square yards), the agreement being that the company
would spend all the money necessary to irrigate these lands.
On the other hand the Government agreed not to levy any
taxes during a period of five years, and to sell 35,000 feddans
more to the company whenever this one asked them. Very
remarkable works have been executed, which so far have cost
£300,000, and it is anticipated that £300,000 more will have to
be expended before the land yields. The irrigated feddan
would therefore come to £20, and there are good reasons to
believe that it will be worth £40 or more a feddan within a
few years. As to the Government, it will receive some
£30,000 from yearly taxes when the 65,000 feddans have
become productive.
At last, twelve days after leaving Cairo, the Rameses has
arrived at Assouan, the celebrated town situated at the First
Cataract of the Nile. From all time Assouan and the Elephantine
Island opposite it have been considered amongst the most
important and interesting places in Egypt. It is the frontier
town, the extreme south, where the Egyptians, Persians,
Romans, and finally the Anglo-Egyptians have established
garrisons. Beyond the cataract lies Nubia, and beyond Nubia
the Sudan, immense and even now mysterious.
To-day Assouan is a modern and important town, which
in winter is full not only with the tourists whom boats and trains
daily disgorge, but with a large number of foreigners, who, in

ever-increasing numbers, come here to spend the winter. The
climate has a reputation rather overdone. Very dry, warm
and sunny, rain and fog are almost unknown; but it must be
remembered that this great dryness of the air makes the climate
enervating, and also that a cold piercing wind sometimes
makes itself felt. The danger for delicate persons is great. In
the sun, and sheltered from the wind, one can “bake” very

David Gardiner

comfortably in the month of January; but when the wind blows
hard, it pierces through one's clothes, and makes one shiver.
It is not an uncommon thing to see people with flannel suits
and sun-helmets, armed with a parasol, and carrying an
overcoat and a thick rug. With a little intelligent care one can
avoid a chill, but it cannot too often be repeated that even the
strongest ought to take the greatest precautions.
With these disadvantages, I am ready to admit that
Assouan is, in winter, an ideal spot for those who wish to lead
an out-door life. Whether one chooses to pass the day sailing

on the Nile, visiting the ins and outs of the Elephantine Island
and Philoe, or in playing Tennis , croquet, or golf, in riding over
the Desert either on donkey or camel, there is no need to weary,
and every moment in the life-giving sunshine can be enjoyed.
At Assouan there are three excellent hotels, two of which
are large modern houses. The “Cataract,” belonging to Cook,
is admirably looked after by M. Pagnon (proprietor of the hotels
at Luxor). It is ideally situated on rising ground, and facing
south. The salons, halls, terraces, libraries, billiard-room,
&c., are perfectly furnished, and the immense Moorish dining-room
is delicious. It is easy to understand the enormous
difficulties which have to be overcome to conduct really well
such a place, and to offer daily, at six hundred miles from Cairo,
a varied and excellent menu worthy of any of the big Paris
restaurants, to hundreds of guests with appetites whetted
by an open-air life. It is really extraordinary to find on the
frontiers of Nubia, at a reasonable price, all the comforts
and luxuries to which we are accustomed, and for which we are
willing to pay a large price, at Ostend, Baden Baden, Nice,
or Monte Carlo.
On the Elephantine Island, in the midst of a charming
garden, there is another palatial building, the “Savoy Hotel,”
belonging to the Anglo-American Company, and which enjoys
equal popularity with the “Cataract.”
Finally, in the town itself, and near the landing-stage, is
the “Grand Hotel d'Assouan,” belonging to M. Pagnon, less
pretentious than the others, less costly, but all the same very
comfortable. Just as in Cairo, the hotels are the centre of all
that is going on. During the day there are sports of all sorts,
and in the evenings, concerts, balls, and bridge-parties.
From time to time gymkanas, donkey and camel races,
paper-chases, &c., are held, when ladies, gentlemen, children,
young and old, take part with extraordinary enthusiasm.
One afternoon, when writing in my room, with wide open
windows, I heard suddenly a fearful uproar, and rushing on to
my balcony I witnessed a spectacle not to be forgotten.
Hundreds of donkeys arrived at the gallop, donkeys of every
colour and size, mounted by the most varied types of riders
that one could meet with under the same sky. Every one had

come for a paper-chase, the start and finish of which were to
take place at the “Cataract.” Never in my life have I seen
such an extraordinary collection of men of all ages, their heads
covered with sun-helmets, panamas, straw and felt hats,
their legs encased in putties, gaiters, and riding-boots of extraordinary
shape; the women adorned with strange head-dresses,
from which streamed immense veils, with short skirts, excellent
for walking but a trifle airy for the saddle. All this host,
gathered from the four corners of the world, shouted and
gesticulated in all the tongues, and I wondered at the quietness
of the donkeys, excellent animals if ever there were.
A little further on, squatted on the sand, their necks out-stretched,
the camels looked on with the greatest interest
at this stirring scene; and when the signal to start was given,
and the immense cavalcade careered off with yells and cracking
of whips, some of them, furious at being left out in the cold,
emitted the most awful groans—and the groaning of a camel
is none too musical.
If I am not mistaken, all the Assouan and Luxor hotels
have now been formed into a single company, the “Upper
Egypt Hotel Company,” managed by M. Pagnon, and
in which are interested the two large hotel owners in Cairo,
Messrs. Nungovich and Baehler. The number of tourists
increases so rapidly that the “Cataract” and “Savoy” are
both building annexes, which will be composed almost entirely
of single rooms. It seems that tourists ask less and less for
double rooms. I do not think one need go far for a reason for
this state of things. There is no doubt that two people are
more comfortable in two communicating rooms, each of which
has a bed, a table, a wardrobe, toilet-table, &c., than in a
double room; and as the price asked is the same for two single
as for one double, the public is not such a fool as to demand
the latter.
At Assouan last winter no one wished a double room, even
the couples most undoubtedly married, but there was always
a rush for the single ones. A Frenchman who was there suffering
from some illness of the limbs, and accompanied by a buxom
nurse, was put with her into a double room. Every day he
lamented the state of things, and said to the Director:

David Gardiner


“But, Monsieur, it cannot go on. Think of my reputation.
… I am the father of a family. What will people say when
they hear that I have had this young woman sleeping in my
“But, Monsieur,” said the Director, “since she dresses


you and undresses you, and puts you to bed, what does it
“Matter!” shouted the Frenchman, “it matters everything!”
“And to think,” murmured the Director, glancing towards
certain groups, “that there are so many who would willingly
change places!”
Assouan is undoubtedly the most picturesque spot in Upper
Egypt. On both sides of the Nile, high and rocky mountains

almost entirely covered with a golden sand of a warm, almost
indescribable tint, and topped here and there with ancient
ruins, raise against the background of sky their blackened
Between the town and the Elephantine Island, covered
with verdure, the Nile flows swiftly, dotted with hundreds of
dahabeahs and other craft, the crews of which chant their eternal
and monotonous song. A little higher up is the First Cataract,
with its rapids, where the water comes roaring down between
the rocks.
I have never seen elsewhere more glorious sunsets than at
Assouan; but it would require a more gifted pen than mine
to describe the wonderful and fantastic colours in which heaven,
earth, river and mountains are bathed. Camels are in great
request here. Ladies especially seem to like this enormous
steed, and it certainty has its attractions, but it is violent
exercise, and it is not every one who can stand it.
With camel or donkey the excursions to be had round
Assouan are exceedingly interesting. The camp of the Besharins,
situated half an hour's ride away, and close to the Arab
cemetery, is a favourite one. These Arabs (of the camp, not the
cemetery), with long hair and strange faces, live in miserable
tents made of matting, and of such primitive construction
that they succeed in being picturesque.
Needless to say that at Assouan there are celebrated tombs,
as everywhere else in Egypt; and here also are these famous
quarries of granite, whence the Egyptians have taken their
obelisks, their statues and their sarcophagi. To this day an
unfinished obelisk, measuring some ninety feet in length, can
still be seen.
At some distance from Assouan, not far from the head of the
cataract, is the temple of Philae, the most graceful and elegant
of all Egyptian temples. Situated on the island of the same
name, the “Pearl of Egypt” is really in Nubian territory.
The natives call it “Gesiret Anas el Wogud,” after the hero
of one of the chapters of the “Thousand and One Nights,”
who, in the Egyptian version, there found his bride. The
Island of Philae is in the centre of the space which forms the
immense reservoir of Assouan, of which I have already spoken;

and at the time when this is full the entire island, and almost
the whole of the beautiful temple, disappears under the muddy
waters of the Nile.
The savants and archaeologists of the entire world rose in
arms when the construction of the reservoir was decided upon,
and demanded that another site should be chosen. It was,
however, impossible to find in the whole Nile Valley another
spot equally suitable; and between the graceful temple and the

David Gardiner

works which were to double the agricultural wealth of Egypt,
the engineers did not hesitate, and Philae was sacrificed. Nevertheless,
it must be remembered that very important works
were’ executed in order to consolidate this remarkable monument,
the Government spending no less than £22,000 in doing so.
The curious thing is that the water which it was presumed
would destroy the celebrated temple has probably saved it.
In his 1904 report, Lord Cromer remarks that, having visited
the works whilst in course of execution, he was struck with the
deplorable state of the old foundations, which would shortly
have resulted in the collapse of certain parts of the temple.
M. Ed. Naville, some two years ago, wrote thus to the
Journal de Genève:


“I am one of those who, on many occasions, either in the
press or at scientific congresses, protested against the construction
of a dam at Assouan. … I think now that archaeologists
have reason to be satisfied. The monument is out of
danger for years, and it does not seem that the water has
any bad effects on the stone, except perhaps in a few chambers
which, having as sole opening a low door, necessarily remain
damp, and have become covered with saltpetre. One can
even believe, in certain regards, that the temple of Philae is
to-day in better condition than most of the other Egyptian
monuments. For some years the great temples have been
passing through what I may call a crisis of senile decay. Is
it the excavations which are the cause of this? I cannot deny
it. It is certain that too often in the haste to bring to light
these magnificent remains, sufficient inquiry has not been
made as to whether they are strong enough to stand by themselves,
and whether they were not in absolute need of the
support given them by the mountains of rubbish, or of the
villages which had been built midway between the columns.
At Philae the same thing might have happened as with
the others. The temple would have sunk gradually; here
and there a column would have fallen, then an arch, and it
might have been necessary to wait until sufficient funds were
available before the foundations could have been strengthened.
Now that has been done lastingly; and whilst grateful
to the Egyptian Government for the ready way in which they
made the pecuniary sacrifice, we also like to think that
the protests which we made were not without weight in their
Lastly, in his latest report, M. Maspéro declares: “I am
happy to state that the condition of Philae is quite satisfactory.
The sandstone, instead of crumbling away under the influence
of the water as had been feared, has consolidated and hardened;
it has greater consistence, and in consequence more chance of
holding out than before.”
One had grounds for hoping then that, in spite of its
annual bath, Philae; would endure still for many centuries,
and the archaeologists were happy; but, alas! their peace has
been of short duration, for the engineers have begun to talk of

David Gardiner

raising the level of the water in the reservoir some twenty
feet. That would be the end of Philæ!
The raising of the reservoir is a question of the greatest
importance for Egypt, and, ignorant as I am of these matters,
I must try and briefly explain the reason. The two great aims
of the Ministry of Public Works (at the head of which is his
Excellency Fahkry Pasha,
an Egyptian of great intelligence,
having as Under Secretary
Sir William Garstin)
are firstly, to increase by the
means already mentioned in
Chapter IV. the quantity
of Nile water, on which the
agricultural wealth of
Egypt depends, and, secondly,
to store at the time of the
flood millions of cubic yards
of water which, released in
the dry season, will render the
soil twice as productive as


People at a distance who
hear speak of the reservoir
of Assouan imagine vaguely
a certain huge tank containing
a quantity greater or
less of water. But that, of
course, is hardly correct,
and it is exceedingly difficult to describe to those who
have not seen it, the immensity of the work. In a word, a
colossal barrier, formidable, a veritable mountain of granite,
has been constructed across the river, at the head of the First
Cataract. The water, arrested by this powerful dam, spreads
over the space between the mountains which rise on either side
some distance off, thus forming an immense lake, under which
the plain and the villages formerly there have completely disappeared.
Here and there the tops of some lofty palm-trees
appear on the surface of the water: of the island of Philæ

only the tops of the pylons and a few columns can be seen.
The dam is pierced with 180 enormous sluices, by which the surplus
water is carried off, roaring with a thunderous noise. The
quantity of water retained is over one billion cubic yards, and
Mr. MacDonald, the distinguished engineer, who is in charge of
the works, told me that in evaporation alone they lost one
hundred millions of cubic yards of water in each twenty-four
hours. One can easily understand the enormous pressure
placed on the dam by this vast quantity of water, and the force
of resistance required to counteract it.
As I said above, the engineers now desire to raise the level
by some twenty feet, which would almost double the quantity
of water contained. The whole of Egypt is crying out for water,
always water. The raising of the dam at Assouan would mean
millions added to the wealth of the country.
The well-known engineer, Sir William Wilcox, only last year
was crying out loudly for the work to be done. A man of great
talent, with the powerful and fertile brain necessary for great
enterprises, his motto seems to be, “De l'audace, de l'audace, et
au diable les conséquences!” And, treading on his heels, all those
who possess land in Egypt, or are speculating in it, demand
that the work should be undertaken without delay. But
Fahkry Pasha and Sir William Garstin are prudent men, and
although themselves in favour of the scheme, which appears,
as far as all the data obtainable can prove, to be feasible, they
were not inclined to risk anything without having the matter
studied on the spot by the greatest authorities on the question,
especially as two well-known savants, Messrs. L. W.
Atcherley and Karl Pearson, have lately expounded theories
which completely overturn all those entertained up till now
as to the solidity and resisting power of a dam.
After a thorough study of the question it was at last
decided to drop the scheme for the present, to continue certain
works of consolidation and protection at the base, and to wait
two years longer before deciding whether the proposed elevation
is possible or not. If then it is thought that it is impossible,
a second dam will be erected above Assouan, on some
site not yet fixed. The engineers are at present studying the
various likely places.

David Gardiner

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David Gardiner


Egypt, therefore, must wait three or four years before she
obtains a larger quantity of water for her lands. I do not think
that this is an evil. Her present prosperity is so great that a
period of relative calm in which she can recover from the fever
of speculation from which she at present suffers cannot but
be an advantage.


In certain circles, the reservoir of Assouan is much criticised,
and its solidity placed in
doubt. A celebrated archæologist
said to me: “It is an
error, a terrible error, to have
constructed this immense
rampart, which, one day or
other, will be broken down by
the waters. Several smaller
dams would have done equally
well without running any
risks, and the act of barbarism
in connection with Philæ
would not have been committed.
The English engineers
will not admit the possibility
of constructing a barrier on
any other foundation than
rock. They therefore chose
the actual site because the
bed of the Nile at that point
is rocky; but the Assouan
rock is hard only on the surface, this hardness coming
from the action of the water: underneath it is soft, in a
way rotten. For two years, under the continual pressure,
the rock on which the foundations rest has sunk, and the
darn itself has already shifted about eight feet. My opinion
is that it will not last, and unless it is decided to abandon
it, and create several smaller barriers, the world one of
these days will assist at a most fearful cataclysm.
Imagine, if you can, what will happen when, the dam giving
way, a hundred thousand millions of square yards of water
will rush down the Valley of the Nile, carrying with it entire

Marques Fiorillo

towns and villages, and completely wiping out the population.
That is the danger which Egypt is running. Assouan is threatened
by another sword of Damocles. I am, in fact, convinced
that the road which leads actually from the reservoir (Shellal)
to Assouan is an ancient arm of the Nile. I have studied the
land, and I have not the slightest doubt on this subject. I will
even add that there are already serious infiltrations on this
side. Very well, it is quite possible that in a year of high flood,


the Nile, stopped by the dam, will hurl itself into this dry
arm of its ancient bed … and that will be the end of Assouan,
which will be swept by a monster wave which will not leave
one stone standing on another.”
When I retailed to Sir William Garstin these terrible predictions
he quietly shrugged his shoulders, and replied:
“It is useless to say that my own opinion is that the dam
is not in the slightest danger; but here is another opinion, which
is worth quite as much as that of your distinguished archæologist.
It is a report which has been sent to me by Sir Benjamin
Baker, the famous engineer whose authority on these questions

is recognised throughout the world, and from which you can
take this passage: ‘I leave the dam (after fifteen days' study)
with the most absolute confidence that you need not have the
slightest fear as to its permanent stability, and that for centuries
to come.’”
Last summer, the dam at Assouan was the means of saving
Egyptian agriculture from ruin, and the entire country from
famine. The Nile flood was in 1905 so late and so low that
the crops of cotton and rice would have been lost had it not been
for the water stored in the reservoir, which assured such a
satisfactory supply for irrigation that the cotton harvest was
an excellent one.
Sir William Garstin has lately made a voyage of inquiry
in Upper Egypt, the Sudan and the Bahr-el-Gazal. A keen
sportsman, he combines the pleasures of the chase with the
studies which have made him celebrated. In the course of
this trip he had the good luck to kill the largest elephant so
far shot in the Soudan. The tusks of this giant are enormous,
the left measuring 7 ft. II in., and weighing 159 1/2 lb., the
right 8 ft. 3 in., and weighing 135 1/2 lb., in all 295 lb. of ivory
from a single animal.
One last word on the subject of Philæ. I am assured that
an American has offered to buy the temple for £40,000, and to
carry it off to Chicago, an offer which naturally has no chance
of being accepted. But why not do in Egypt what this enterprising
spirit offered to do in America? I mentioned the matter
to M. Maspéro, who first of all shook his head, but finally said:
“Give me £40,000 and I will undertake to do it.” £40,000!
Why, one could get that sum easily, and, if I were allowed carte
, I would undertake, to save Philæ, to collect it in a very
short time.

[Back to top]



From the First to the Second Cataract—Abu Simbel—The
return of the Empress Eugénie—A last pilgrimage—Sovereign
and woman—Wadi Halfa to Khartoum by train de luxe—The
famous baths for travellers in the Desert—How the line was
made—Its future—Without it France and Abyssinia might
perhaps to-day have been in possession of the sources of the


ONE can travel to-day into the heart of the Sudan, to Khartoum
or to Omdurman, the town which, only a few years ago,
was the capital of the Dervishes, as easily as one can to St.
Petersburg or Chicago. I can even say that in winter the voyage
from Assouan to Khartoum is one of the most interesting,
pleasant, and comfortable journeys which one could undertake.
The temperature is delicious, neither too hot nor too cold;
rain and damp are unknown, and from morn till eve one can
revel in the brilliant sunshine which no cloud ever comes to
The voyage is divided into two stages: the first by the Nile
as far as Wadi Halfa; the second from that town by rail to
Khartoum. Three different boat services are at the disposal
of the traveller, who has only to make his choice.
Cook have two magnificent steamers, which, with halts
at all the most interesting points en route, cover the distance

in four days. The Prince Abbas, on which I did the journey,
is the pleasantest and most comfortable of all the boats on which
I sailed in Egypt. I preferred it even to their large boats on
the Cairo-Assouan line. The cabins are larger, attendance
excellent, and the food superior.
The Anglo-American Nile Company has a similar service
equally popular, and, lastly, the Government of the Sudan
has some first-rate boats leaving Assouan twice a week, and
doing the journey in two days instead of four. They steam
day and night, instead of halting in the evening and continuing
next morning as the boats of the two companies do, and their
one intermediate stopping-place is Abu Simbel, the only really
interesting point between the First and Second Cataracts.*
Those, therefore, who are pressed for time can, by going from
Cairo to Assouan by train, from Assouan to Wadi Halfa by
Government steamer, and from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum by
train de luxe, accomplish the journey in four days and a half.
Cook's boats leave Shellal, near Philoe, in the morning,
crossing the lake formed by the reservoir, and entering the Nile
at the other end, where it flows between steep banks. The
level of the river, raised by the dam, is such that the villages
formerly situated on the banks are now entirely covered with
water. Here and there palm-trees, evidently planted on more
elevated ground, expose their tufted heads, which rest on the
water like huge baskets of ferns. The unfortunate Nubians who
inhabited these villages have been indemnified by the Government;
but what is the small sum of money which has been
paid them compared with the home which, generation after
generation, was theirs, and to which they were attached by ties
so stron?
The Valley of the Nile is at this point much more picturesque
than between Cairo and Assouan. Three hours after
leaving Philoe, the steamer makes its way between gorges,
shut in by barren and wild mountains. Now and then, betwixt
stones and steep rocks, one gets a glimpse of an oasis, of a
* I made the return voyage on board one of these Government
steamers and was charmed with it. The price of the return ticket is
about £13 instead of £20 to £23 charged on the other boats, but the
voyage is shorter, four days as against seven.

clump of waving palm-trees. The scenery is magnificent,
and, comfortably settled on deck, the passengers admire it at
their leisure. Amongst these is the Marquis de Rudini, the
celebrated Italian statesman, with charming manners and
exceedingly sympathetic, an ideal fellow-traveller. In spite
of the years which have whitened his beard, his tall figure
is still erect and full of vigour. With his eyeglass fixed, he


admires the country, for, alas! there is nothing on board to
admire, and we have come to the conclusion that nine-tenths
of the ladies who travel are ugly. It is really remarkable
the number of plain-looking women in the world. I know that
all men are not beautiful, but who minds that?
At sunset we pass a large village built amidst the green
fields and clumps of palms, and which the Nile has not yet
devoured, but which it assuredly will, should the dam at
Assouan be raised. Makhmoud, my black servant, whom so
far I have always believed to be a Sudanese, but who turns out

to be a Nubian, rushes up to me crying: “There is my village,
that is where my wife and children live!” I accompany him
on to the bridge, whence, with all the force of his lungs, he
shouts to the people working in the fields, “Hi! down there,
here I am, Makhmoud! “In their turn they shout, “There's
Makhmoud, there's Makhmoud!” and from all sides, from
men, women and children, there rises a cry of “Makhmoud,
But his wife and children are not there, for his house is far,
far up on the hill. He points proudly to it, and to the palm-trees
which, he says, belong also to him, and adds: “It is the
finest and richest village in all Nubia.” He is quite moved,
poor devil, and I cannot help asking myself why it is that the
white man is always inclined to treat the black so badly. I
have had Makhmoud with me for five months, and he has
served me with a devotion and honesty which one very rarely
meets with nowadays at home.
Shortly after engaging him, having a certain sum in gold,
too heavy to carry with me, I hid it amongst my shirts. Some
days later, as I was dining in town, I left behind in a drawer
several silver coins: on my return, rather late, I found that they
had gone. Somewhat scared, I began to look for my bag of
gold, but taking out each shirt separately, and shaking it well,
I found nothing.
“It is that miserable nigger who has robbed me,” I
When Makhmoud appeared next morning I asked him, with
a severe look:
“Did you take any money from this drawer?”
“Yes, sir,” he replied calmly, “and a bag of gold from that
one, and some scarf pins from the pin-cushion, and sleeve-links
out of this box. Very bad. Some one come and steal, and
my master say, ‘It is Makhmoud!’”
“And,” I asked rather ashamed, “what have you done
with them?”
He took a key from his pocket, and showing me a trunk,
“All shut inside,” he said simply.
Makhmoud is black as the ace of spades, but I have discovered
that he is quite unconscious of it. After passing his

village, he continued to speak of himself and his belongings,
and told me, “My wife white.”
I admit I was astonished.
“What? White, do you say?”
“Yes, sir. White, quite white, not brown like me!”
Makhmoud brown! It was a delicious idea; and if he calls
ebony black brown, his wife, a shade lighter, has no difficulty,
I presume, in looking white.
I asked him why he had only one wife. “Oh!” he replied,
“I cannot feed more!”
I believe Makhmoud is really fond of me, though I am not
always in the best of tempers. When a lady once asked him
if I was kind to him, he looked very serious, very solemn, and
replied: “Master not copper, master not tin, master not silver,
my master all pure gold!” Dear old Makhmoud, no one ever
paid me a prettier or less deserved compliment!
On the second day the valley opens out, and far off we can
see a range of high rocky mountains, barren and black, burnt
by the sun. Scattered here and there lie wretched villages,
half buried in the sand. The inhabitants live miserably on
what they can grow on the narrow strip of land fertilised by
the Nile, and which, at certain points, is not more than three
or four feet wide. We paid a visit to a more important village,
but equally poverty-stricken in appearance. The children
were naked, the men clothed in rags, and the women draped
with long black shawls, with which they also covered their
heads. The men were as black as Makhmoud, but I did not
notice that the women were any less so!
The sunset is wonderful, and the wild-looking mountains
are bathed in an exquisite glow. After the warm sunny days
the nights are very cold, almost freezing. In the evening
the crew don large overcoats with hoods, giving them the
appearance of monks. Naturally they are Arabs, and we have
on board certain elderly females … and yet, when I think
of it, not so very elderly, who conduct themselves with them in
a very extraordinary fashion. Yesterday evening two of them,
each with an Arab for company, left the boat, and in the moonlight
set off to explore … the unknown. From the deck
we watched them disappear. If the white women who conduct

themselves thus with the Arabs would think for a moment
of the harm which they are doing to the work of civilisation
throughout Egypt, they might perhaps hesitate. They do
not seem to realise that the native, convinced that all foreign
women act in the same manner as these fools, despises them
profoundly, saying to himself, “If that is the result of a Christian
education, of their Western civilisation, of the emancipation
of women—no, thanks! better be as we are, and keep our
women safely shut up in the harem.”
Before six o'clock on the morning of our third day out,
I was abruptly awakened by some one whistling “Viens!
Poupoule!” I had some difficulty, at the sound of this
abominable noise, to realise that I was in the centre of Nubia,
and between the First and Second Cataracts of the Nile. But
it was not long before I was blessing the unknown person who
had awaked me, for, leaving my cabin, I saw unrolled before
my astonished eyes a scene of wondrous beauty. No more
wild and savage rocks, no more yellow and barren sand, but
superb vegetation. It was an exquisite vision, and I could
hardly have believed it possible that one could experience such
pleasure at the sight of a landscape so fresh and verdant. I
no longer wondered that green should be the symbol of hope.
What joy must be theirs who, crossing the immense sandy
Desert on the backs of their camels, and under the burning rays
of the sun, see at last the long-looked-for trees, promising
pleasant shade and cooling waters!
Is it imagination or is it the contrast between the Desert
we have just left, and all this freshness, that makes it seem
that never before was anything so ideally beautiful?
For long we glided 'twixt the enchanting banks, till once
again we entered the rocky hills. At one place stretching across
the Desert they rise like immense ramparts whose summits
are lined with colossal fortifications. These are the ruins of
the ancient Roman fortress on which Ibrahim erected forts
to stop the inroads of the Nubians. The weather is superb,
and the man who to-day does not feel it good to be alive must
have a gloomy mind or a very sad heart.
At 4 P.M. we arrived at Abu Simbel, one of the most interesting
places in the Valley of the Nile. On the right bank of the

David Gardiner

river there rises a formidable barrier of rock, in which Rameses
II., the most celebrated of Egyptian monarchs, caused to be
carved, thirty-two centuries ago, those temples which were
justly considered one of the wonders of the world. No other
temple in Egypt produces a greater impression of grandeur,
and those who have had the good fortune to see it on a lovely
moonlight night are not likely to forget the unique sight. At
the entrance to the great temple are four colossal statues of
Rameses II., measuring over sixty feet in height, and hewn from
the rock itself. In spite of their enormous proportions the
carving is very fine, and the expression life-like.
In the interior, scenes from the life of the great Egyptian
monarch are depicted on the walls, and gods, men, women and
horses are hewn and cut in the solid rock. It is a fantastic
piece of work, and one can understand the adoration and
veneration paid by the ancients to the man who, during his
reign of sixty-seven years, had erected these wonderful buildings,
which cover the lands of Egypt and Nubia, the temples of
Abu Simbel, of Luxor, of Ramesseum, of Abydos, of Bubastis,
and a large part of the temples of Karnac and Memphis.
Covered by mountains of sand Abu Simbel was discovered
by Burckhardt. and in 1817 Belzoni brought the ruins to light;
but they were again conquered by the sand until in 1844
Lepsius, and in 1869 Mariette himself, finally cleared them.
It was at this time that the Empress Eugénie, at the height of
her power, and in all the glory of her beauty, came to visit
Last winter she returned to Egypt, and this time pushed
on as far as Khartoum. I shall never forget a certain evening
on my return from the Sudan. It was the hour of sunset,
when, a short distance above Abu Simbel, our boat passed
a large dahabeah covered with green plants. In the midst
of these, on the deck, a lady with white hair gazed dreamily
across this land of Nubia which she had once before looked on
thirty-six years before. It was the Empress. Who can
explain the desire which had urged this woman to come at
the close of her life, almost unknown and unrecognised, to
revisit those places which were witnesses of her beauty and
her power, of the adoration of the thousand flatterers who

surrounded her? Who can explain the state of mind which
had led her, robbed of all of which she was proud, to these scenes
which had witnessed her days of triumph? … Suez, Ismailia,
Cairo, Abu Simbel, Paris! Have you ever seen her at a window
of the “Continental,” regarding the site of the palace where she
once reigned? Have you ever seen her walking, with Grief
and Sorrow as her companions, in the gardens which saw the
first childish games of
the Prince Imperial?
Ah! what a Calvary
that must be … or
is it possible that with
the passing of the
years, Time, the great
Healer, has endowed
the ageing heart with
the power of forgetting
all the sadness
and all the sorrow,
and remembering the
joy alone?


These were the
questions I asked
myself, whilst this
white dahabeah, with
its plants and flowers
carried silently towards
the setting sun,
sinking in the fast fading gold of the Western sky, her who
was Empress of the French, and who now is only a woman in
the evening of her life, a life which belongs to the history of
the world.
At four o'clock in the afternoon of the fourth day we arrived
at Wadi Haifa, head of the line of the Sudan Railway. Accompanied
by several young officers, Commandant Midwinter Bey,
Director of Railways, came to meet me, and very kindly invited
me to take tea with him and to visit, not the town, which is
uninteresting, but the military camp, and the railway buildings.
It is here that the engines come to be repaired, and that all the

work necessary for the upkeep of the line which unites Khartoum
with the civilised world is undertaken. Amongst the
workmen was pointed out to me a young apprentice, nephew
of the Khalifa (successor of the Mahdi), that powerful leader
of the Dervish hosts. He was a thin little negro, looking
scarcely ten years old, who was working hard, filing a bar of
iron. Fifty convicts, amongst whom was a man convicted
of murdering his wife, work out their sentences here. Their
conduct, it seems, is very good, and some, content with their
life, ask to remain when their time is finished.
At Wadi Halfa there is a company of engineers almost
entirely composed of the maimed. As I have mentioned elsewhere,
in order to evade military service, many Egyptians
cut off the first finger of the right hand, which, in former days,
exempted them. Since the laying of the Sudan line things
have changed, and when these gay deceivers arrive minus a
digit, the official smiles and says, “Exactly, you are quite
unable to shoot, but you can wield a pick-axe,” and they are
promptly enrolled in the engineers!
The train-de-luxe leaves Wadi Halfa at 8 P.M., and takes
twenty-seven hours to reach Khartoum. It is made up of
sleeping-cars, a restaurant-car, and third-class carriages for
the servants. It is without doubt one of the most comfortable
trains in existence. The compartments are much roomier
than those of the European trains: the sleeping berths are
like small bedrooms, in which, besides the bed, are a table
and comfortable arm-chairs. The train is lighted throughout
by electricity, and in each cabin an electric fan supplies continually
a current of fresh air. The restaurant is first-rate,
the meals well served, and all imaginable drinks, wines, beers,
liqueurs and mineral waters are sold at reasonable prices …
happily, for there is no country in the world where one drinks
as one does in the Sudan. Whether this is due to the dryness
of the air or to another cause, I do not know; but it is none the
less certain that once Wadi Halfa is left behind, the most sober
folk are attacked with a consuming desire to consume and
develop a thirst comparable to no other thirst that ever was.
I agree entirely with the opinion of that brilliant English
war-correspondent, the late G. W. Steevens, who declared that

no one can ever really know what thirst is until they have
entered the Sudan. In other countries such a thirst would
kill a man in a few days; but here, strange and inexplicable
fact, one can consume bottle after bottle without the slightest
danger. Upon my word I do not believe that the greatest soaker
who ever lived could every get any “forrarder” in the Sudan!


Dinner is served immediately after leaving Wadi Halfa;
and the sensation is certainly a strange one of feeling oneself
carried along by a powerful locomotive across deserts which
some eight years ago were virgin, whilst discussing a dinner
which would do honour to one of the best modern hotels. As
a matter of curiosity, I give the menu:
Potage Julienne.
Poisson bouilli, Sauce hollandaise.
Grosse pièce de bœuf garni.
Petits pois à l'Anglaise.
Poulet rôti.
Salade de laitue.
Crême renversée.
Dessert et Café.


I certainly did not expect to find such a menu eight hundred
and fifty miles from Cairo. Every table is occupied, and all
the passengers are talking with the greatest animation. At
the table next to mine sits the Grand Moufti of Egypt, who is
on his road to Khartoum at the invitation of the Governor-General
of the Sudan, and with him is a short thick-set man,
with a large bushy moustache. Questions of education are
being discussed, and, very excited, the little gentleman recounts
his experiences whilst visiting a number of Egyptian
schools. With a strong English accent he exclaims in French:
“No, no. They must not be taught English. I cannot too
often repeat it, and I have said the same thing to every one
at Cairo: I am utterly opposed to the teaching of English
in the schools!” I naturally imagined that I was listening
to the Egyptian Minister of Education … but I was in error.
The gentleman, it seems, was an English M.P., a trifle talkative,
and decidedly aggressive; it was Mr. Gibson Bowles.
During the night the train covered two hundred and thirty
miles of Desert, and at 7 A.M. we arrived at Abu Hamed, situated
a short distance from the Nile, and where, much to their
astonishment and joy, the travellers found a bathing establishment
fitted up for their use. Men and women, enveloped in
dressing-gowns or coats thrown hastily over their pyjamas,
tumbled out of the sleeping-cars and took the bathrooms by
storm. These were most comfortable. As large as an ordinary
bedroom, they contained an immense bath, and a washstand surmounted
by a looking-glass; water, hot and cold, was supplied
by large taps, and fine soft bath-towels were also at hand.
As the train halts here for over an hour there is ample time
to enjoy a thorough wash, which, needless to say, is much
appreciated. During the stay here the carriages are thoroughly
cleaned, and after one's tub places are taken once more in
the restaurant car, where not a speck of dust remains, and the
train moves off.
The day quickly passes in spite of the monotony of the
journey. At first almost every one plays bridge, but continual
interruptions are caused by some one crying, “The mirage;
look! a mirage!” And every one gazes on the extraordinary
spectacle. One could swear that across there on the Desert

were shining lakes. We seemed to see their curving shores,
their calm waters, and here and there picturesque little islands
dotting the surface … and yet it was only the mirage, and,
in reality, there existed only sand, sand to infinity!


Towards 2 P.M. the train arrives at Berber, a town which,
from the earliest times, has been one of the important trading
centres in Africa. Here it is that gum, ivory, ebony, gold and
slaves were brought in from the Sudan by way of the Nile,
and whence again huge
caravans departed on
their long journey
across the Desert to
Suakim on the Red
Sea. Berber is only
some eighteen miles
from the junction of the
Nile and the Atbara,
an important river,
which, rising in the
high Abyssinian
plateaux, is at this
point nearly 600 yards wide, and at the time of the rains of a
depth of 20 to 30 feet.
The country round Berber is rich, and with irrigation
would become exceedingly fertile. A wealthy American,
Mr. Leigh Hunt, well-known in Corea and Manchuria, where
he has acquired important interests, has bought a vast tract
of land round Berber, and is working hard to convert it into
an immense estate. He intends to cultivate not only the native
products of the country, but also, they say, on a very large
scale, cotton and cocoa. Depopulated by famine, epidemics,
and the Mahdi wars, the Sudan to-day lacks labour. It is
said that Mr. Hunt intends to import negroes from the States.
He believes that the climate would suit them perfectly, and
that they will prove superior as workers to the Sudanese.
In a country where polygamy is allowed (unless Mr. Hunt
should prohibit it on his estate), the American negroes
would work at the repopulation of the country with an energy
not to be despised


By the time this book shall have appeared the line of railway
connecting Berber and Suakim will have been completed, and
the Sudan, having then acquired a rapid outlet towards the
sea, will be independent of the Egyptian lines. This is one of
the most important events in its history, and to which I shall
return in another chapter. The distance between Suakim
and Berber is under two hundred and fifty miles, and the
passenger trains will without doubt do the journey in less than
twelve hours. Travellers going by steamer to Suakim, or
rather to Port Sudan,* will be enabled to reach Khartoum
in less than twenty hours.
Nothing in this world is perfect, and the journey from Wadi
Halfa to Khartoum, in spite of all the comfort of the train, has
a disadvantage which it is impossible to overlook. The dust
is terrible, and enters the carriages even when the windows
are shut. No one having a weak throat or delicate chest
should attempt this trip. The carriages, whose internal
arrangements and large size make so much for comfort, might
be made more dust-proof than they are.
There are in the United States trains which cross the great
sandy deserts between Omaha and San Francisco, and which
are composed of waggons built specially to exclude the dust,
but which at the same time are thoroughly well ventilated.
I am almost ashamed to grumble. … It is really so wonderful
that one can reach the very heart of the Sudan by a train-de-luxe,
with sleeping-cars, restaurant, baths and iced drinks,
… that it would perhaps be generous not to mention the
dust. Besides, I believe the trouble will only be a temporary
one, and that some day the Government of the Sudan will
purchase other waggons into which not a grain of dust shall
enter. It must be remembered that the Sudan Railway is a
military line, built for strategic purposes, constructed primarily
for the needs of the Anglo-Egyptian army, which was advancing
towards the reconquest of the Sudan, and not for travellers
and tourists.
The idea of this line across the Nubian deserts seemed a
* The harbour at Suakim being so dangerous, the authorities have
decided to run the line to Sheikh Borghout, which is quite close to
the town, and which will be known in future as Port Sudan.

dream, a chimera. It required all the energy of Lord Kitchener,
Sirdar of the Egyptian Army, and the genius of the Canadian
Girouard, to bring the affair to a successful issue. Convinced
that the only way to destroy the power of the Khalifa and his
Dervish hosts, and to reconquer the lost province, consisted in
bringing to the field of battle troops which had not been worn
out by long and weary marches, an army in fact which could
count not only on immediate reinforcements, but which
without the hindrance of thousands of camels and porters,
would have its supplies assured; convinced that that and only
that could make victory certain, Lord Kitchener decided that
the railway should be made, and made it was. He had the
good fortune to be backed up by first-rate men, amongst whom
was Girouard the engineer, who pushed forward the work with
extraordinary energy and intelligence. Thanks to this iron
road, the Anglo-Egyptian army, commanded by Kitchener,
succeeded where others had been annihilated; he proved
victorious, and none too soon, for who can say what would
have happened had Kitchener been overcome, or even if he
had delayed?
Marchand had planted the French flag at Fashoda: he had
signed a treaty with the powerful Shilouk tribe, and he might
possibly have received reinforcements from Abyssinia and the
French Congo. Where he had passed others also could have come,
and there is no reason to suppose that he could not have held
out in his entrenched camp. Was it because England understood
all this that Lord Kitchener made his grand effort, and
threw his troops forward in the middle of summer instead of
waiting until the autumn?
Whatever the reason may have been it is certain that it was
owing to this military line, which to-day is thronged by tourists
travelling by train-de-luxe, that the brilliant victory of the
Anglo-Egyptian army at the gates of Omdurman, September 12,
1899, was due, a victory which gave back to Egypt her Sudanese
possessions, made her with England mistress of the entire Nile,
rendered the position of Marchand at Fashoda untenable,
and put an end once and for all to the dreams of those who
had seen the sources of the Nile in the hands of France and
Abyssinia, her friend, almost her ally.


And that barely six years ago! What changes since then!
The pacification of the Sudan achieved, a coolness between
Menelik and the Republic, and, lastly, the entente cordiale
between France and England!
And thinking thus in the restaurant-car of the train-de-luxe,
my eyes fell on a large map hung on the wall, and on which I
read in large letters “Map of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan”—
a Sudan “Anglo-Egyptian,” a country belonging to two
countries at the same time, there truly was something to cause

[Back to top]



A modern town on ancient ruins—The end of Gordon and the
heyday of the Dervishes—Reign of terror and famine—Battle
of Omdurman and conquest of the Soudan—Slatin
Pasha, former prisoner of the Mahdi, to-day Inspector-General
to the Sudan Government—Anecdotes and souvenirs.


IT is towards seven in the morning that the traveller catches
his first glimpse of Khartoum. As the train-de-luxe arrives
late in the evening, the night is passed in the sleeping-car,
an arrangement which suits all the better, as the terminus of the
line is not in Khartoum itself, but exactly opposite, on the other
bank of the Nile.
White Nile, Blue Nile, or simply Nile; as few besides Egyptians
and geographers know exactly which is which, it may
be as well to briefly explain the difference. The Blue Nile,
which rises in the highlands of Abyssinia, flows through the
north-east portion of the Sudan, and after a journey of
four hundred and twenty miles joins, just below Khartoum,
the White Nile. This latter, flowing from the great lakes of
Central Africa for a distance of some fifteen hundred miles,
runs through the entire Sudan from south to north. By
the joining of these two rivers the Nile is formed, which

continues its way towards Egypt and the Mediterranean,
into which it empties itselfso me twenty-seven hundred miles
further on.
Khartoum is built on the Blue Nile, a short distance above
the point of junction with the White Nile. The passage between
the station, situated on the right bank of the river and the town,
situated on the other, is made by steamboat. Coming out of
the dusty sleeping-cars the traveller takes a long breath of
the fresh air, dry and invigorating, and is astonished that at
such an early hour, and in mid-winter, the sunshine should be
gilding with its rays the lovely scene before him. On the wide
river, boats with white sails pass rapidly, whilst in others the
negro oarsmen chant their monotonous song, struggling against
the current, whilst steamers, with decks high above the water
and painted white, fill the air with the noise of their engines
and the shrieks of their sirens.
Opposite lies Khartoum, in a perfect oasis of vegetation.
One can see the white and stately palace of the Governor-General,
over which float the English and Egyptian flags,
the long brick buildings of the Government offices, the huge
college, and the charming little villas nestling in their gardens.
The boat stops at the landing-stage of the hotel, “The Grand
Hotel, Khartoum,” opened, I believe, only two years ago.
It is a long, two-storied building, surrounded with immense
galleries on to which all the rooms open—a most delightful
arrangement for those who like to see in passing what their
neighbours are doing, and which also makes it very easy in
the dusk to mistake one's room. For those, however, who
prefer a quiet life, and object to prying eyes, the arrangement
has less charm.
Travellers were loud in their complaints last winter in regard
to this hotel. The prices are high, attendance very bad, and
the food detestable. Of course, one must remember that one
is in the Sudan, but as the town has resources of which the
officers and residents know how to make good use, it is absolutely
inexcusable that the hotel should not obtain them for
their guests. I have good reason to believe that the Government,
which has let to the Directors of the Company the
extensive and beautiful garden in which the hotel is built

for the ridiculous sum of £50 per annum, has taken them
to task, and it is to be hoped that very great improvements
will be made. The trouble no doubt comes from the fact that
the men who direct the business are no more hotel keepers
than the Shah of Persia. They are capitalists who, immediately
after the reconquest of the Sudan, came to Lord
Kitchener asking for concessions for working certain mines
in the existence of which they then believed. Thoroughly
practical, the Commander-in-Chief said to them: “I shall
give you the concession, but on the condition that you build
an hotel of the first class.” As the mines proved a myth,
the concessionaries now attempt to extract from the hotel
the immense dividends which they had dreamed that their
mines would yield, whilst giving to their guests the minimum
possible at the maximum price. The question of price is
relatively unimportant. People who undertake a trip like this
do not think of paying a few francs more or less per day, and they
would willingly part with it in order to have the comfort which
Cook and the Sudan Government give them on board their
steamers and trains.
On the boat which took me from Khartoum into Central
Africa I had every possible comfort, and the food was excellent.
In fact, the only place between Alexandria and Fashoda
where I have been badly fed and badly served, is the Grand
Hotel at Khartoum, the Director of which, nevertheless, is a
charming man, to whom the company, I have been told, does
not give quite enough means.
The principal avenue of Khartoum is on the bank of the
Blue Nile: large, planted with young trees, lit at night by
electricity, and lined with the gardens of the most important
buildings and private houses, it runs alongside the river for a
distance of about two miles. Following it, one comes first to
the Botanical and Zoological Gardens, where lions and other
wild animals are confined in cages in the midst of a beautiful
park, planted with the finest specimens of the African flora.
Then come the hotel, numerous private residences occupied
by the English officers, the Post and Telegraph Offices, the
large building containing the offices of the various branches
of the Government, the Governor's Palace, the Italian

Catholic Mission, the Club, still more private houses, the Gordon
College, &c.
All along this fine avenue are to be met “tommies” of the
English regiment clad in khaki: Sudanese soldiers black as
coal, immensely tall and perched on calf-less legs of a length
and thinness incredible, Arabs and negroes engaged in some
business or other, and negresses, straight as the letter I, carrying
on their heads immense jars of water, or enormous baskets,
their figures gracefully draped in long black cotton shawls,
for is there not a regulation in force in Khartoum that all
natives shall be clothed? It is no doubt this habit of carrying
heavy burdens on the head which gives to these negresses
such a straight and erect carriage, this appearance of strength
and grace. Far off they look charming, but near at hand they
do not look beautiful, and one could wish that the wide opened
shawl would not show these terrible breasts, wrinkled and hanging.
Only the very young have firm and round breasts, but
they are rare in the streets of Khartoum. It would seem that
all these black beauties who thus work, carrying water or stones
on their heads, are doing it in the service of the Government,
and in the hope of obtaining a divorce. Unsatisfied with their
married state, they petition the authorities to undo the tie,
but, not having the small sum necessary to pay the fees, they
are made to do a certain quantity of work instead. Divorce
plays a great role with the Sudanese, who love a change,
and who are not satisfied even with the four legitimate wives
which, if they are Mohamedans, they are allowed.
Apart from the question of climate, it must be remembered
that for the Sudanese and the Arab living on the land, the
possession of several wives is an absolute necessity. He must
have a sufficient number to enable him properly to cultivate
his fields, to watch over his flocks, to look after his house, and
above all in order to have a numerous progeny who, from their
youth, will lend their help. A large offspring means a powerful
family, and numerous powerful families in the same tribe
mean for that tribe a preponderating influence.
Here, evidently, is the weak point of the Christian religion
in Africa. To ask a negro to have but one wife, is to say
to him that he must give up all hope of being rich, strong or

respected. The Mussulman religion is much more logical, better
adapted to his needs, and much more easy to understand.
“Allah is God, and Mahomet is His prophet!” That is simplicity
itself; but try and make these poor negroes understand
the doctrine of the Trinity! As well tell them to fly to the
Khartoum not only stretches along the bank of the river,


but also inland towards the Desert. Fine large avenues cross
each other at regular intervals, but here you will find only
houses of more unpretentious appearance, or offices and banks.
Carriages are almost unknown in the capital of the Sudan.
The hotel possesses a pony-trap: a few officers have a cart or
a buggy, whilst the Governor-General alone possesses several
carriages and a motor. Saddle-horses, and especially donkeys,
are the chief means of locomotion.
Whilst awaiting the day when Khartoum shall posses
cabs one can find at the hotel a dozen jinrickshas, but, alas!
the long Sudanese are quite unable to go like the brave little

Japs, for hours at a steady trot. Puffing, groaning, perspiring,
they haul the little carriage with difficulty, and one always
feels one is wasting time, however little one may have to do.
With two men the pace is a trifle faster, but better still is to
harness a donkey to one of these ‘rickshas; then one becomes
a child again, and memories arise (Heavens! how far off it
seems!) when one drove a little cart harnessed with a goat in
the Avenue des Champs Elysées. The donkey and the ‘rickshas
I found charming, and for twopence I could have halted in the
Desert to build sand castles.
When the traveller has had a good look at the Palace, the
villas, the gardens where the birds are singing amongst the
trees, and the sweet-scented flowers, the large avenues where
Sudanese, male and female, very civilised, pass and repass;
when he has thoroughly inspected this pretty little modern
town planted far off in Africa, and where peace, order and
industry reign, he will ask himself with astonishment and
unbounded admiration: “Can it be that I am on the same spot
where Gordon and his followers were massacred by the fanatical
and bloodthirsty followers of the Mahdi, and where, scarcely
seven years ago, there was naught but a heap of ruins? Is
it possible that this flourishing town can have arisen only
yesterday on the site of the old Sudanese capital which
witnessed the glorious period and the bloody drama known
in history as the ‘Conquest and Loss of the Sudan’?”
Yes, incredible as it may seem, it is nevertheless here, on this
spot, that the conquering Egyptians under Ibrahim planted
their flag when Mohamed Ali was on the throne. The immense
empire of the Sudan was the fruit of victories gained during the
reign of the Great Pasha, and in that of Ismail, who extended
its boundaries even to the Great Lakes of Central Africa.
Oppressed and exploited by their conquerors, whom they
thoroughly despised, the Sudanese were ripe for revolt, when
in 1881, there appeared in their midst a young religious Sheik,
by name Mohamed Ahmed, whose reputation for holiness,
added to a vague halo of mysterious power, spread throughout
the country with extraordinary rapidity. Knowing well that
in the state of subjection in which they were living, the Sudanese
would follow him as one man on that day when he should

make appeal to the religious fanaticism smouldering in their
breasts, and always ready to burst into flame, he proclaimed
himself the Mussulman Messiah, the long-awaited leader, El
Mahdi el Muntazer. This was the origin of that awful drama
which for eighteen years drenched the Sudan in blood, crushed
all the military expeditions sent to end it, drove back the
Egyptians to their proper frontiers, and established in the
country a reign of terror, bloodshed and slaughter.
At the call of the Mahdi, innumerable hosts flocked to his
standard, and annihilated the first Egyptian troops sent
against him. Having already at his disposal a formidable
army, he invaded the province of Kordofan, and attacked the
capital, El Obeid, one of the largest and richest towns in Africa.
Repulsed, with enormous losses, by Said Pasha, a true hero,
and Governor of the town, the Mahdi gave up the idea of taking
the place by storm, but laying siege to it for five months, the
population, dying of hunger, gave in, and were massacred almost
to a man.
Egypt then sent against him an army of ten thousand men,
under the English General Hicks, accompanied by several
European officers, amongst whom were Colonel Farquhar,
Baron Seckendorff and Major Herlth. In order to reach El
Obeid across a country offering no supplies, not even a supply
of water, and covered at that time of year with grass higher
than a man, the army had as transport for its supplies, ammunition
tents, &c., six thousand camels which marched in the
centre of a square formed by the men. One can easily understand
what a target was offered to the guns of the Dervishes
by these six thousand camels surrounded by ten thousand
soldiers, the whole massed in as small a space of ground as was
After great difficulties and terrible sufferings, Hicks' army,
discouraged and demoralised, was attacked on November 3,
1883, by thousands of the enemy, who, hidden in the scrub,
poured in on the enormous square a hail of lead. It was a
terrible scene. Surrounded by this circle of fire, men and beasts,
wounded or dying, lay groaning, whilst the survivors, terrified,
cried,* “Egypt, Egypt, where art thou? Oh! our Lady
* “Fire and Sword in the Sudan,” by Sir Rudolph R. von Slatin Pasha.


Zenab, now come to our aid!” To this cry the Sudanese,
in the brushwood, replied by fresh volleys, shouting, “It is
the Mahdi who comes!”
At daybreak firing ceased, and the army of Hicks', dying
of thirst and leaving heaps of corpses behind, resumed its
march in the hope of finding a well, and being able to construct
a fortified camp near it. Hardly had it accomplished
half a mile before it was suddenly attacked by a hundred
thousand fanatics, who threw themselves on the Egyptians
with indescribable fury. The butchery was horrible, and,
with the exception of a few men made prisoners, the ten
thousand Egyptians, Hicks himself and his officers, met their
The moral effect of this victory throughout the entire
country was naturally immense. Thousands of men, women
and children came hurrying from far off to see this wonderful
being, who in their eyes appeared nothing less than the Heaven-Sent.
The whole of the Sudan was at his feet, and although
Egypt still occupied the north, including Khartoum, Senna,
Kassala, Berber and Dongola, her position had become exceedingly
critical, all the more so, as, whilst these distant
events were taking place, a crisis, not less grave, rage! at
Alexandria and Cairo. The bombardment of Alexandria,
the Revolution of Arabi, and, finally, the English occupation,
rapidly succeeded each other.
It was very necessary that England, now mistress of Cairo,
and arbiter of the destinies of Egypt, should come to her aid
in this terrible situation. The plain fact of the matter was
that Egypt, weighed down with debt, had neither money nor
army left. But England desired to give neither the necessary
funds nor the necessary men for a war against the Mahdi
and his hordes, against the Sudan up in arms and formidable.
There was, therefore, but one solution to the question, and that
was to abandon temporarily the Sudan. But it was impossible
to leave the Egyptian garrisons, who still occupied
various posts, or the Consuls, merchants and foreign missionaries.
At any cost it was necessary to attempt to save these.
It was then that the English Government, in agreement with
Tewfik Pasha, decided to confide to General Gordon the

difficult,. almost impossible, task of bringing all these people,
willy-nilly, from the Sudan back to Egypt.
Gordon, that hero already covered with glory, who had
suppressed the famous Taepin rebellion in China, had formerly
been Governor of the Sudan. Adored by the black soldiers
and the population of Khartoum, admired and respected by
all the Sudanese, he seemed to be the man par excellence
for the work. He went alone, without reinforcements.
I shall not attempt here to retell the story of the deplorable
events which followed. Finally shut up in Khartoum, surrounded
by the wild hosts of the Mahdi, he defended himself
for months with an ingenuity and a courage worthy of a better
fate, waiting always for those reinforcements which he had asked
from England. Reinforcements! “One English regiment,”
he wrote, “only one, to give back courage to my men, and to
prove to the Mahdi that we have not been abandoned; one
regiment only, and we are saved!”
It is impossible to study the subsequent events without
being filled with an immeasurable indignation in seeing the
inertia shown for some time by the English Government,
the hesitation, the slowness, the errors committed by those
whose duty it was to rescue Gordon and his followers. Sad
as it is, it must be recognised that the army of rescue commanded
by Lord Wolseley could have had ample time to arrive
at Khartoum in order to save Gordon, if its leader, at the beginning,
had shown more energy and decision, and if he had only
followed the instructions which Gordon, knowing the country
thoroughly, had sent him. Certainly the difficulties were
great, but they were not insurmountable.
Gordon managed to hold out considerably longer than he
had thought possible; but the fatal day came at last, when
tens of thousands of Dervishes rushed furiously on the defences
of the town; and Gordon, who twenty times might have saved
himself, but who would not desert those who were with him,
fell at his post, dying a hero's death. The victors gave themselves
up to the savage joy of massacre, then, after sacking the
town, they reduced it to ruins.
The Mahdi and his hosts were now masters of the Sudan.
At the junction of the two rivers, on the left bank of the White

Nile, they settled down at a place called Omdurman, then
consisting of a village and a small fort. From all parts of the
Sudan the population flocked in, and the village soon became
an enormous town, towards which all the produce of the
country made its way.
Fourteen years rolled by in which the Mahdi, and at his
death the Khalifa his successor, with their Emirs, gorged themselves
on what they could squeeze out of the unfortunate people
who had followed them. At times they would menace the
Egyptian frontier, at others carry the war into Abyssinia,
where they succeeded in defeating King John himself, whilst
continually crushing the tribes whom they considered were
not paying enough into their coffers, seizing women and
children, encouraging the slave-dealers, and living on a scale
of the wildest extravagance. By these means the Mahdi,
and after him the Khalifa, succeeded in ruining the country,
which then became the prey of famine, and the most terrible
By hunger, by disease, by fire, sword and torture, millions
of Sudanese, men, women and children, perished; I say
millions. The population of the Sudan, which twenty years
ago was about 10,000,000, is to-day reduced to 2,000,000, and
that in spite of the fact that the Sudanese are a prolific race.
Hundreds of villages, once prosperous and populous, no longer
exist. I believe it would be impossible to imagine anything
more terrible than the last years of the Khalifa's reign. One
must read the admirable pages written by Slatin Pasha,*
who for twelve years was a prisoner of the Dervishes, twelve
years of suffering moral and physical almost indescribable,
in order to obtain some idea of the horrors which were enacted
at Omdurman at the time of the famine. One evening, a
donkey dying of hunger fell in the street before his cyes;
hardly had the unfortunate animal ceased to live before the
women fell on him, cutting open his belly, and devouring his
Whilst the Sudan, delivered over to the awful rule of the
Khalifa and his Emirs, marched towards certain ruin, Egypt,
guided by the firm hand of Lord Cromer, gradually revival.
* “Fire and Sword in the Sudan.”


Little by little as the finances recovered and prosperity returned,
the military forces were increased. I cannot say that the
Egyptian army was reorganised, for, properly speaking, in
1883 it had ceased to exist. The new army has been practically
created entirely by English officers, whose worth is undoubted,
and who have given themselves heart and soul to the task.
They have succeeded beyond all expectation, and the results
obtained are really wonderful.
At last the hour struck when Egypt could think once more
of reconquering the Sudan, and England of redeeming her
errors, and avenging Gordon. The young army was at last
capable of taking the field and fighting gloriously, side by side
with the best of Britain's soldiers. The work begun by General
Sir E. Wood, and continued by General Sir F. Grenfell, had
been brought by General Kitchener to an unlooked-for degree
of perfection. Whilst the troops were being prepared, the railway
advanced rapidly across the Desert and at last, during the
summer of 1898, the Anglo-Egyptian army, which was destined
to break the Dervish power, was concentrated between Berber
and the Atbara. It was composed of one division of English
infantry, one division of Egyptian infantry, one regiment of
English cavalry, ten squadrons of Egyptian cavalry, one field
battery, one battery of howitzers, two 40-pounder siege guns,
four Egyptian field batteries, twenty maxims, eight companies
of the camel corps, and lastly, on the Nile and protecting the
left flank of the army, six gunboats followed by eight steam
transports, and a number of boats fully loaded with supplies
and ammunition, in all over 22,000 men, of whom about 9000
were English and the rest Egyptian and Sudanese.
In the middle of the month of August the army commenced
its march on the left bank of the Nile, and on September I
it had reached Kerreri, seven miles or so from Omdurman.
It was here that the terrible battle took place which finally
crushed the Dervish power, and put an end to Mahdism. With
their nsual disdain of death, with the reckless insolent courage
which had so often before brought victory, forty thousand
Dervishes threw themselves furiously against the Anglo-Egyptian
lines; but these remained firm, not a Briton, not a
Sudanese, not an Egyptian wavered. Under the rain of

bullets, of shrapnel and shell from 20,000 rifles and fifty guns,
the Dervishes charged and recharged, seeking death rather than
defeat. It was only when the sand was strewn with corpses,
when almost all the Emirs had fallen beside their standards,
when a handful only of men still surrounded the Khalifa,
that these fanatics quitted the field of battle and fled.
The Anglo-Egyptian
troops had at last
obtained their revenge
for past defeats. Omdurman
and the ruins
of Khartoum were
reconquered. The
losses amounted to
only fifty killed and
some 300 wounded.
The enemy lost in
killed 11,000 men,
whilst almost 15,000
wounded perished for
lack of aid or were


Once master of
Omdurman, Lord
Kitchener had the
tomb of the Mahdi
destroyed, and his
remains thrown into
the Nile.
M. de Freycinet,
in his “La Question d'Egypte,” thus describes the events
which followed the Battle of Omdurman:
“On the following day a decisive battle took place in which
not only the soldiers of the Mahdi,* but a defenceless multitude
were exterminated. It is better to throw a veil over this
terrible day, of which it is difficult to appreciate all the circumstances.
But the glory of the General-in-Chief would certainly
* Of the Khalifa, successor of the Mahdi, who had died several
years before.—(A. B. de G.)

have been greater had a little more humanity been shown in
the hour of victory. Why that scene of the profanation of the
tomb of the prophet? Why that mutilated skeleton thrown
into the Nile? Such acts, which we should like to believe
were those of subordinates, do not enhance the fame of their
authors, and leave behind them a terrible legacy of hate.”
These are grave indictments, all the more so as they are
written by an eminent man, and which I think it only just to
refute and explain.
M. de Freycinet has been led into error when he accuses
Lord Kitchener of having been guilty of a lack of humanity;
and he will be the first, I am sure, to regret the paragraph in
which he speaks of the extermination of a defenceless multitude.
On the field of battle of Kerreri there were none but armed
men, and not a single shot was fired against the population
of Omdurman, who, by the Sirdar's orders, were left absolutely
unharmed. This leniency was even criticised, for it enabled
a certain number of fanatics to hide in the town, and to suddenly
attack the Egyptian soldiers as they passed. There is
not a shadow of truth in the reproach levelled at Lord Kitchener.
As to the thousands of wounded who perished of their wounds
and of thirst, and of which many were killed, it is necessary,
before uttering cries of horror, to try to understand the situation.
Having themselves never given quarter, having never forgiven
or pardoned, having invariably massacred their enemies, the
wounded Dervishes waited only to be finished off. With their
terrible fanaticism, their inveterate hate of the infidel, their
belief that the death of an enemy would open to them the gate
of Paradise, their one and only thought, even when at the last
gasp, was to strike yet another blow before they died.
Woe to the English or Egyptian soldier who offered his
water-bottle to a wounded Dervish burning with fever, and
parched with thirst! woe to the Red Cross soldier who thought
to render aid! woe to the officer or soldier who passed carelessly
by a fallen enemy! With one supreme effort, the Dervish
would raise himself, and, pressing the trigger of his pistol,
or hurling with all his remaining force his deadly spear, he
killed whomsoever sought to succour him. With such ferocious,

beings nothing could be done, and no help could therefore
be given to the wounded. They had to be left to die under the
burning sun, whilst those who rose, seeking a victim, had to
be despatched.
As to the desecration of the tomb of the Mahdi, it took place,
not only under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, but
following the advice given to him by the highest Mahommedan
authorities in Egypt, who considered that it was impossible

Marques Fiorillo

to leave standing a monument erected to the man who had posed
as a prophet sent by God and who had imposed on the unfortunate
peoples, simple and ignorant, whom he had crushed with his
bloody tyranny—to the memory of the man who commanded
the massacre of the defenders of El Obeid, of the ten thousand
men under Hicks, of the population of Khartoum, and tens of
thousands of other unfortunate creatures, and who caused
to be exhibited on the ends of a lance the heads of Hicks and
Gordon—to the man, ignorant and savage, in whose name the
entire Sudan had been devastated by sword and fire.
In all the countries into which the English have penetrated,
they have respected the religion of the inhabitants. They even
push this so far to-day in Mahommedan countries as to forbid

their missionaries to proselytise. Mahdism could not be considered
as a religion, but only as a bloodthirsty fanaticism
which attacked Mussulman Egypt as well as Christian Abyssinia,
and which, from every point of view, it was absolutely
necessary to crush, and leave no trace visible. To respect the
tomb of the Mahdi would have been to spare the symbol of
what they had come expressly to destroy, the symbol to which
the looks of all those who had followed him either through
fear, ignorance or fanaticism, would have continued to turn.
The tomb destroyed, and the bones of this man, in whose name
so many crimes had been committed, thrown to the wind,
was for these simple minds the proof of the feebleness of his
doctrines, and of the power of those who to-day have assured
to the Sudan prosperity and peace.
That was, indeed, an impressive ceremony which marked the
taking possession of the ruins of Khartoum by Lord Kitchener
and his staff, followed by a religious service, conducted in the
open air, on the very spot of the Palace where Gordon had
fallen. That was civilisation's revenge, the revenge of
England and of Egypt, the revenge of these officers to whom
Gordon had so often cried, “Help!” and who had heard the
cry too late.
Whilst the cavalry pursued the Khalifa and what remained
of his army, picking up here and there the hundreds of women
of his harem who had fled, Lord Kitchener and his officers
set themselves to rebuild Khartoum. The Sirdar thought for
a moment of bringing in the entire population of Omdurman,
and of destroying that town root and branch; but later he gave
up that idea, and decided, instead, that Khartoum should
become the official town, the Anglo-Egyptian town par excellence,
the city of palaces and mansions, and that Omdurman
should remain the native town with its important markets to
which long caravans of camels should bring the produce of the
entire Sudan. To-day there is, opposite Khartoum, on the Blue
Nile, a third town whose importance is increasing with incredible
swiftness. This is Khartoum North, where are the
warehouses and yards connected with the railway and the
steamer traffic, also the docks, the Government stores, &c.,
&c.—in fact the manufacturing district of the town. Who

would have blamed Lord Kitchener if, planting the flags of
England and Egypt over the ruins of Khartoum, he had said:
“All this belongs to us”? This, however, he did not do,
as he had no desire to alienate in any way the old inhabitants
of the town, and the land was bought at four times its value
from all those who could prove their claims. In six years
modern Khartoum has arisen, healthy and pleasant, on the
ruins of the old, and is to-day the town which I briefly described
at the beginning of this chapter.
The Mudir (Governor) of the town and the province, Colonel
Stanton, a talented officer and an administrator of great worth,
works, with a perseverance and intelligence worthy of the
greatest praise, towards the improvement and development
of Khartoum. What a pleasure and what a reward it must
be to him who saw the ruins of yesterday, when he sees to-day
what has been accomplished with such marvellous rapidity!
There is at Khartoum another man whose feelings it would
be interesting to analyse when, in his uniform, covered with
decorations, and on a superb charger, he gallops along these
lovely avenues. That man is Slatin Pasha, the former prisoner
of the Mahdi, to-day Inspector-General to the Government
of the Sudan. What a romance his life has been! Read
his book “Fire and Sword in the Sudan,” and you will be
astonished to learn what a human being can endure and suffer
morally and physically. He must indeed have had the constitution
of a horse and the heart of a lion to have passed
through such awful experiences. Born an Austrian entering
the service of the Sudan when Gordon for the first time was
Governor-General, Slatin, when the country rose in revolt
to follow the Mahdi, was Governor of the Province of Darfour,
which he defended with all his might. He certainly did his
duty up to the moment when all resistance became impossible.
At the beginning of the crisis, learning that his men hesitated
to follow him on account of his being a Christian, he publicly
embraced the faith of Islam before all his troops.
Gordon, on his return to Khartoum, where he was fated to
perish, was indignant on learning this; and in his “Journal”
he speaks with bitterness of those foreign renegade officers
who were ready to change their religion to save their skins.

I believe sincerely that Slatin was thinking less of his life
than of his province and the Egyptian soldiers who were
under his orders, and whom he wished at all costs to save,
up to the moment when, as he believed, reinforcements would
reach him.


These failed to arrive, and,
at an end of his resources,
Slatin, to whom the Mahdi
promised his life, surrendered.
At first he was well treated;
for, speaking the language of
the country, he might have
proved useful in the opinion of
the Mahdi as a means of communication,
should the occasion
have arisen, with the infidels at
Khartoum. Taken along with
the army which laid siege to
that town he had the grief of
seeing it succumb. What awful
feelings must have torn his heart
when there was brought to him,
in a blood-stained cloth, the
head of Gordon, the chief whom
he had admired and loved!
He himself, put into irons and
loaded with chains, suffered
for weeks all the physical and
moral tortures imaginable. The
Khalifa ended nevertheless by
taking him into his service,
and for twelve years Slatin was
his slave, crouched at his door or running with naked feet after
his horse!
At last, in March 1885, he succeeded in escaping, and
gaining Assouan. Scarcely had he returned to civilisation than
he once more offered his services to England and to Egypt,
and helped considerably towards the success of the final expedition
commanded by Lord Kitchener. Knowing the Sudan

thoroughly, its inhabitants and their language, the strength
and the weaknesses of the Dervishes, he was naturally in a
position to give the most valuable assistance.
Khartoum reconquered, he desired to remain there with the
pioneers who had set themselves to restore the town, and to
engage in the work of civilisation which in such admirable
fashion, and in the short space of six years, has made of the
immense Sudan a country where, after so much strife, calm
and tranquillity now reign. It is undoubted that he has
rendered great services, services which are highly appreciated
by the Governor-General, Sir Reginald Wingate.
Astonished that he should have desired to return to a
country where he had so terribly suffered, certain persons have
said that he was induced to do so by the desire of revenge, of
a vengeance terrible and formidable against not only the
Khalifa and his Emirs killed in battle, but also against all
those, strong or feeble, men or women, who, in some way or
other, had added to his sufferings and his humiliations. There
are people in this world cursed with fantastic imaginations.
That Slatin should desire to be avenged on the Khalifa, and that
he was filled with joy when he beheld him dead, when the tomb
of the Mahdi was destroyed, and when thousands of Dervishes
lay heaped on the battle-field of Kerreri, of that I have no doubt,
and I consider that it was only natural. That was victory
in which every soldier rejoices. But from that to believing
that he has remained in the Sudan to hunt down and destroy
all those who, more or less, were concerned in his suffering, is
a far step indeed.
Slatin Pasha has remained there because he occupies
a position which is unique, and in which he can render
great services to the Government: because he loves the
country, and is interested in the work of civilisation being
accomplished; because he is well paid, respected and esteemed
by the Governor-General … and, lastly, because he naturally
enjoys the sensation of being free, rich, powerful, surrounded
by every luxury, in the place where he passed some twelve
years of his life in terrible suffering as the slave of the Khalifa.

[Back to top]



The future of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan—What it has cost,
and what it will cost—What it will yield—The Governor-General,
Sir Reginald Wingate, and his work as judged by the
Khedive himself—The right man in the right place—Concessions,
lands, mines, and companies—The concession-hunter
on the war-path—The future railways—The wealth of the
country—The waters of the White and Blue Niles—The
Marquis di Rudini—His personal impressions—Financial
questions—Colonel Bernard Bey, Financial Secretary, and his
genius—The Francophile sentiments of the Governor-General
—Commercial relations with the Congo—New outlets and
new routes.


“THE Sudan,” wrote General Gordon in 1884, “is an absolutely
useless possession, has always been so, and will always
be so.”
The opinion of the celebrated General was shared by those
of his officers who knew the country best, and amongst others
by Colonel Stewart. It is evident to-day that they were
mistaken, and that Lord Cromer has excellent reasons for
ending his annual report for 1903 with these words:


“Without incurring a charge of excessive optimism, it may
be anticipated that, with the judicious expenditure of capital,
and the continuous application of a system of government such
as that which is now being very skilfully directed by Sir
Reginald Wingate and his staff, the future of the country will
be far less gloomy than was predicted by the two high authorities
quoted above. But progress will be slow.”
Slow? Lord Cromer is modest, both on his own account
and on that of those who, for seven years, have laboured at
this work of civilisation. Considering the difficulties of the
task, and the meagre resources available, I find that progress
has been made with extraordinary rapidity, and that what has
been already accomplished is simply marvellous. I am not
alone in my opinion: it is that of all the foreigners whom
I have met in Egypt, and amongst them the Marquis di
“I have discovered Khartoum,” he said to me, “and I
am filled with astonishment. Certainly Khartoum is not the
entire Sudan; but from what I have seen and heard here, I
can form a very good idea of what England has accomplished—
and in no other place has she better earned her title of the
‘greatest colonising nation in the world.’ The English have
an extraordinary power of organisation, but what in my eyes
is the most admirable feature is, that they have accomplished
this gigantic task with such economy that one can hardly
believe that it has only cost them some two and a half millions
sterling. And we foolish folk have spent twenty millions in
conquering our unfortunate little colony of Erythrea!
“The English have already found means of obtaining
revenue from the Sudan; and notwithstanding the immensity
of the country, and all the works which they are executing, it
costs only a couple of hundred thousand or so to Egypt …
and nothing at all to England. Erythrea, did you ask me?
Alas! my dear fellow, £280,000 a year it costs us now, and
heaven knows if it will ever yield anything … whereas the
Sudan! In a quarter of a century it will be one of the finest
provinces in Africa!”
Not only did the conquest of the Sudan cost not more than
two and a half millions, but better still, immediately after the

Battle of Omdurman, Lord Kitchener (speaking, I suppose, as
Sirdar of the Egyptian Army) was able to declare that this money
had not vanished in smoke, but that the campaign, in reality,
had cost nothing. These are his words:
“You may take it that during the two and a half years'
campaign extra military credits to the amount of two and a
half millions have been expended. In this sum I have included
the recent grant for the extension of the railway from
Atbara to Khartoum, the work on which is already in hand. Well,
against this large expenditure we have some assets to show;
we have or shall have 760 miles of railways, properly equipped
with engines, rolling stock and a track with bridges in good
order … well, for this running concern I do not think that
£3000 a mile will be considered too high a value. This represents
two and a quarter millions out of the money granted,
and for the other quarter of a million we have 2000 miles of
telegraph line, six new gunboats, besides barges, sailing crafts
and—the Sudan.”
The question I ask myself is: Was there ever a campaign
which relatively cost so little, and brought so much? I
believe not. The situation of the Sudan was in 1898 more
than discouraging. The country was completely ruined,
three-quarters of the population had perished, and those
remaining, still quivering under the recollection of the crisis
through which for almost twenty years they had been passing,
were actively hostile to their conquerors. They had not
forgotten all the suffering through which they had gone at
the hands of the representatives of Egypt at the time of the
first occupation. It was necessary to create all the details
of a Government which should respond to the needs of the
country, and an administration which should stretch to the
outskirts of this immense territory, covering a total area of one
million square miles. It was necessary to re-establish order,
reconstruct Khartoum, organise law-courts and the police,
abolish slavery, regulate commerce, found schools, watch over
sanitary affairs, and struggle against the epidemics from which
the country was suffering. All that required to be done, but
above all it was necessary to convince the half savage population

that these things were for their good, that it was they who
would profit by them, and that a new era of justice and peace,
work and prosperity had begun.
Egypt being unable to support the cost of such a Government
it was absolutely necessary to create a Budget, and to
impose taxes. But it was quite as necessary that these taxes
should be imposed in a manner so equitable and so just that


the population, still very poor, should be able to support them
without hardship, and thus have no reason for complaint.
All that has been accomplished and much more, and so well
that not only are the natives satisfied and content, but the
resources of the country have developed with a rapidity quite
unlooked for.
I shall give one example only. In 1898 the revenues of
the Sudan were estimated at £8000, they produced £35,000.
The revenues for 1904 were estimated at £429,000, they produced
£540,000! Certainly, no one six years ago would have
dreamt that such a result could have been obtained in so short
a space of time.


In spite of this almost incredible progress, the Sudan
cannot yet meet its expenditure, which amounted last year
to £840,000. The Egyptian Government contributes annually
a sum of nearly £400,000 towards the expenses of the Sudan.
It is only right to note, however, that the burden is not such a
heavy one as the figures would suggest, for it is necessary to
deduct: (1) £160,000 for the upkeep of the Egyptian soldiers
stationed in the Sudan, instead of as formerly on the frontier;
(2) almost £80,000 obtained by the Custom-House at Alexandria
on goods sent from abroad to the Sudan, and (3) almost
£90,000 paid to the Egyptian Railways, Posts and Telegraphs
for goods and passengers whose destination is the Sudan, as
well as postage and telegrams which are sent to them there.
It follows, therefore, that the real annual contribution of
Egypt is reduced to about £80,000.
Certainly, the Sudan is worth that, and much more since,
now that it is in the possession of Egypt, she has no longer
on her frontier that volcano of fanaticism—Mahdism—with
which she was for so long threatened, and, besides, it is in the
Sudan and not in Egypt that the huge works proposed by
Sir William Garstin will be undertaken, which will be the means
of doubling the quantity of water available to-day for Egypt.
When one considers that these works, estimated to cost
£22,000,000, will double the agricultural wealth of Egypt,
the £80,000 which the Sudan costs seems a very small sum.
Besides, it is certain that the Sudan will continue on its path
of progress already so bright, and that the day will come when
not only will its Budget balance, but a surplus will be shown.
In the same way that Egypt is indebted to the wise administration
of Lord Cromer for its present prosperity, so is
the Sudan indebted to its Governor-General for the marvellous
progress which has been made. Sir Reginald Wingate, who is
at the same time Sirdar (Commander-in-Chief) of the Egyptian
Army, has brought to bear on the Sudan all his qualities
of a great administrator.
His Highness the Khedive, who is certainly no mean judge
of men, and who is in a position to judge of those whom England
has sent him, once said to me:
“The Egyptian Army has never had a better Sirdar, and

W. Crooke

as Governor-General of the Sudan he has rendered, and is
rendering, invaluable services. It is thanks to his zeal, his
intelligence, his energy, his will power, and his profound knowledge
of the country and the needs of its inhabitants, that the
Sudan has in so few years taken this enormous bound. I am
deeply grateful for the admirable way in which he has undertaken
his task, and I admire to the full what he has accomplished.
He is the right man in the right place, and I trust
that he will remain in his post for many years to come.”
General Wingate is one of the most attractive men I have
met. Simple and pleasant, his manner is full of charm, a
charm under which one can recognise a great strength of will
and immense energy. He expresses himself fluently in French,
and enjoys speaking that language. I had several interesting
conversations with him in regard to the future of the Sudan,
which lies very near to his heart, and he foresees for the country
a progress, if not rapid, at least sure.
The rapidity of this progress,” he said to me, “depends
on three things, which, unfortunately, we cannot hope soon to
have: labour, increased means of communication, and water.
These are what are wanting to the Sudan. Think that to-day
we have barely 2,000,000 inhabitants, with much too large a
proportion of women and children, whereas some twenty years
ago it numbered over 10,000,000. Of course, Arabs and
negroes are prolific races, and with peace, re-population will
advance rapidly; but still, the improvement is not one which
you can see from day to day. Perhaps the Egyptians may
emigrate to us in a few years, when the Sudan shall have lost
the bad reputation which past events have given her. Future
means of communication and lines for increasing our commerce
have been well studied, and, as you know, in a few months
we shall be in touch with the sea through the ‘Nile Red Sea
Railway.’ We shall then have direct railroad communication
with the sea, and a port which shall be in Sudanese territory.
It is by this means that goods will now be delivered in the
Sudan, and that our products will be exported.”
“Is it not said in certain quarters, General, that this line,
constructed with money lent by Egypt, will do the latter very
considerable harm, since it will draw away all the traffic which

to-day passes through the port of Alexandria, and reaches
Assouan by the Egyptian Railways?”
“Quite true,” replied the Governor; “that theory has been
advanced, but it will not hold water. As long as the Sudan
is dependent on this one and costly road of communication
by Egypt and the Nile, her commerce can take no great step
forward. Things will remain as they are to-day, and Egypt
will continue to pocket the small sum of which you speak,
with very little hope of ever seeing it increased. On the other
hand, as you remarked, the new railway will undoubtedly take
away from her this small revenue. But the Sudan Treasury
will profit by it, and as our revenues will increase because of
the rapid growth of our commerce, thanks to this new outlet,
we shall first of all be able to pay to Egypt interest on the
money advanced by her, and, ultimately—and this is the important
point—the quicker the development of the Sudan,
the sooner will the time arrive when we shall be able to do
without her financial aid.”
“And as to the water, General?”
“In regard to that, the Sudan will benefit by the great
schemes of Sir William Garstin … but, so far, they are only
proposals, the realisation of which may not take place for years.
Nevertheless, the Egyptian Government has sent a special
commission, which, in collaboration with my officers, is studying
the question, and it will certainly have a result, small to
begin with, whilst we await the future great reservoirs. Some
minor irrigation canals have already been made, and the Sudan
can now take water from the Nile, in summer, at a time when
our doing so cannot harm Egyptian agriculture. For Egypt
does not permit us to take this water on which her existence
depends. You see that when, speaking in her name, England
declared that she could not permit another Power to establish
itself on the Upper Nile, and to monopolise the water without
which Egypt could not exist, she was acting in good faith.”
“General,” I said, “before my departure from Paris I
heard rather a curious story. One of my friends, Baron B.,
informed me that he had met a French merchant, a colonist
I believe, who possesses large estates in the Congo Colony,
and who told him that he had made many attempts to obtain

permission to send his products by the Sudan via the Nile
and one of its tributaries, the Jur, which is navigable to within
a short distance of his place. He said that such an outlet,
much more rapid and less costly than the one of which he made
use, viz., the route by the Congo to the Atlantic, would give
an enormous impetus to his business, and to those of the other
colonists whose plantations lie on the borders of the Sudan.
… But he assured my friend that his request had been very
badly received, and that it was clear that no encouragement
would be given to the commerce of French Congo to pass by
the Nile.”
Whilst I was speaking General Wingate's face assumed
an expression of astonishment which quickly changed to
indignation. “That,” he said, “is how history is written!
What you have just told me is an abominable lie, and, curiously
enough, I have here, in my desk, a document which will prove
to you that there is not a word of truth in the whole story.
Before showing you the passage in my official report in regard
to this, let me just tell you what has happened.
“Last year, we received a letter from a Monsieur Pierre,*
a colonist in the French Congo, explaining that he intended
returning to France by the Sudan, in order to study the route
from the point of view of an outlet on Suakim. As the idea
appeared to me to be an excellent one, I gave orders to the
officers commanding the frontier posts and the stations in the
interior to place themselves entirely at M. Pierre's disposal.
The latter, in fact, undertook the journey, and arrived here,
at Khartoum, where we discussed the question. Far from
opposing his scheme, I declared to him that I would do everything
in my power to encourage the forwarding of the products
of the French Congo by way of the Sudan, and to consider the
commercial relations between the two countries. In order
to give him indisputable proof of my good faith, I promised
to order without delay a steamer of very shallow draught, which
would be able to ascend the River Jur to the point indicated
* My friend not having given me the name of the colonist who
had related to him his failure to secure an outlet by way of the
Sudan, I am quite unable to say if it was M. Pierre, but naturally
the Governor was led to believe that it was.

by M. Pierre, a boat which would be set aside for this international
service. This boat will be completed almost immediately
and will be ready to sail for the Jur, but of M. Pierre
we have no further news.”
Having thus spoken, the General made me read the part
of his official report in which he briefly related these facts,
announced the construction of the boat, and his intention to


encourage every effort which should tend to increase the traffic
by the Nile and the new railway, then he added:
“Our greatest desire is to live on the friendliest terms
with France and her Colonies, our neighbours more or less
Having heard that a large number of capitalists, foreseeing
the future wealth of the Sudan, were already on the look-out
for concessions of land, and that requests were pouring in on
the Governor-General, who invariably refused them, I asked
if such was the case.
“Numerous requests,” he replied, “are in fact addressed
to me, which I am obliged to reject for several reasons, of which
I shall give you the two principal. The first is that the men
who are asking us for land, being unable to do anything with
it unless irrigated, ask us also for water and for the present

we cannot give them that. The second is, that we do not yet
know exactly what land belongs to us, or over how much of it
natives may have rights, and, as you know, we are most particular
not to wrong any one. We are working on a survey of
the Sudan, which is already well advanced. When it is finished
we shall be in a better position to grant concessions.”
To these explanations of the General I believe I may add
that he is firmly resolved to keep out of the Sudan, by every
means in his power, the speculative element, which has done
such harm to Egypt. As long as Sir Reginald Wingate is
Governor-General, no one, large or small, will pluck the Sudan.
As I have mentioned, the work which is being accomplished
in the Sudan is certainly due to the excellent administration of
the Governor-General, but it would be unjust not to recognise
that he has colleagues of the greatest value, amongst whom
I shall name Colonel Henry, Adjutant-General, a brilliant
officer, and one of the best soldiers England has lent to Egypt;
Mr. Bonham-Carter, Legal Secretary, to whom has fallen the
difficult task of establishing a system of justice in keeping with
the degree of civilisation attained by the country, and which
shall be easily understood by all these simple-minded, ignorant
natives, these big children which the Sudanese are. You
will find in his reports some excellent examples of the state of
intelligence of these beings, such as:
Kwat Wad Awaibung, a Shilouk, accused of having assassinated
Ajak Wad Den, acknowledged the crime, but excused
himself in the following fashion:
“‘Ajak,’ he said, ‘owed me a sheep, and not only did he
refuse to pay me, but he declared that he would show me what
he was fit for. Next day my son was devoured by a crocodile.
That was evidently the work of Ajak, and that is why I killed
him. For a long time things had gone badly between us,
because I am a better hippopotamus hunter than he, and for
this reason he bewitched me and my family too.’”
It certainly cannot be expected that the laws of a civilised
country can be understood by this Shilouk as if he were a
common hooligan!
The “Sudan Penal Code,” copied from the Indian, but
with modifications which the state of the country seemed to

demand, is in force, and gives every satisfaction. Although
the government of the Sudan is a military one, it has the
assistance of many civilians, and amongst others of four
civil judges.
The extraordinary increase in the revenues of the country,
which in seven years have increased from £35,000 to £560,000,
as well as the cheap and economical manner in which the administration
is conducted, have astonished many great men
of business, who have at last discovered that the Sudan
possesses a “Master of Finance,” a real genius, in Colonel
Bernard Bey, the Financial Secretary. The art with which
he balances his Budget, increases each year his credits, and
manages to meet all the most pressing calls, in short to obtain
the maximum of results with the minimum of expenditure,
is marvellous. The Colonel is one of those men whom the
large financial companies would willingly take into their
service at his weight in gold, but whose interest in the work
begun keeps at his modestly rewarded post.
Amongst the English to-day in the service of the Egyptian
and Sudanese Governments there are men who could earn
an income twice or three times as large if they cared to quit
their posts to-morrow; and I mean by that not only those
whose salaries are small, but those who are receiving £1200
to £2000 per annum.
In France, as in Germany and most of the European countries,
the majority of men who interest themselves in Colonial
policy advise “centralisation,” all the reins of government
of the Colony in the hands of a man who directs more or less
well, at a greater or less distance. To all these students of
Colonial affairs I would recommend the reading of the last
report of Lord Cromer, covering the report of Sir Reginald
They will read there, on page 110, that the system adopted
in the Sudan has been to push “decentralisation” to the
furthest limit. These are interesting and instructive lines,
which explain the success of England as a colonising nation.
I will quote one passage:
“It is recognised that any attempt to govern the Sudan
in detail from Cairo would be as disastrous as to endeavour


to manage Egyptian affairs from London, and this, I am glad to
say, has never been done and, I trust, never will be done.”
To establish order and tranquillity and develop the resources
of the country was a formidable task, and one which necessarily
went hand in hand with another not less difficult and important,
the raising of the population from its terrible ignorance
by establishing schools where the rising generation should be
Lord Kitchener understood this, and after the victory of
Omdurman he proposed that a great College should be founded
at Khartoum in memory of Gordon. The appeal was responded
to, and a public subscription opened in England
realised £140,000. Of this sum £30,000 was employed in the
construction of an enormous building of outwardly unpleasing
appearance, but inwardly admirably fitted up. The remainder
of the subscription brings in annually £3600. Under the able
direction of Mr. James Currie, who is at the head of the Gordon
Memorial College, as well as the Department of Public Instruction,
great progress has been made. Four years ago the
object in view was simply to create a small class of artisans,
to spread elementary education amongst the bulk of the people,
and to create a native administrative class, which could furnish
men capable of filling the subordinate official posts.
The College is to-day divided into three departments.
The first consists of a normal school, from which issue the
teachers and judges for the Mahommedan Tribunals, and which
last year contained eighty-five pupils; the studies are conducted
entirely in Arabic. The second is a primary school,
the classes of which are attended by one hundred and fifty boys,
who receive instruction in Arabic and English, and who will
easily find subordinate positions in the Government Offices;
and, lastly, a third consisting of workshops, where artisans are
In view of the great schemes of irrigation projected by Sir
William Garstin, which, as I have already explained, will be
almost exclusively executed in the Sudan (but for the greater
benefit of Egypt), and which will extend over several years,
it is certain that a large number of young men having an
elementary knowledge of geometry and construction will be

required, and it has been decided to considerably increase the
schools. The intention, I believe, is to establish a secondary
school, two other primary schools, and to enlarge the classes
of the Gordon College.
Interesting as were the classes for the Sheiks and those
of the native children, I admit that it was the workshops for
the young artisans which interested me most. The facility
with which they learn to imitate all that is shown to them
recalled to me the similar talent of the Chinese and Japanese.
Last year the work turned out by the eighty pupils of these
workshops, children of twelve to sixteen years of age, brought
in over £200.
It is evident that the Gordon College is a very powerful
factor for civilisation, and that it will play an important rôle
in the future of the Sudan. Other schools have been opened
at Omdurman, Wadi Halfa and Suakim, and the inhabitants
of the numerous villages seem disposed to pay a monthly education
tax in order to procure one. Research laboratories of
great importance are attached to the Gordon College. These
have been established through the generosity of Mr. Henry
S. Wellcome, their objects being:
(1) To promote technical education; (2) to promote the
study, bacteriologically and physiologically, of tropical disorders,
especially the infective diseases of both man and beast
peculiar to the Sudan, and to render assistance to the officers
of health, and to the clinics of the civil and military hospitals;
(3) to aid experimental investigations in poisoning cases by
the detection and experimental determination of toxic agents,
particularly the obscure potent substances employed by the
natives; (4) to carry out such chemical and bacteriological
tests in connection with water, food-stuffs, and health and
sanitary matters as may be found desirable; (5) to undertake
the testing and assaying of agricultural, mineral, and other
substances of practical interest in the industrial development
of the Sudan.
Directed by a scientist of great worth, Dr. Andrew Balfour,
these laboratories, which are admirably fitted up, render daily
the greatest services, and without doubt will play a most
important part in the development of the country.




The restricted compass of this volume forbids me, much to
my regret, from writing further in regard to the Gordon
Memorial College. I should like to have described the up-to-date
classes, the dining-halls bright and well-kept, the model
kitchens, the most interesting museum, containing specimens
of the products of the Sudan, &c. &c. Only a word: Mr.
James Currie agrees entirely with Lord Cromer that the teaching
of English in the Sudanese schools would be disastrous.
“It is a curious but undoubted fact,” he said to me, “that
as soon as a native changes his dress—I speak of Arabs, and the
civilised Sudanese, not of the Shilouks and savages—as soon,
I say, as he changes his native costume for European trousers,
he becomes in appearance an ape. The study of English
has on his intelligence a similar effect to that produced by
trousers on his person: in a word, he ceases to be a man, and
becomes a ridiculous being, half monkey, half parrot. We
teach English in certain classes because we require for subordinate
Government appointments a number of employees who
know this language, but we are absolutely opposed to its being
taught in the artisan classes, and in the elementary schools
which we have opened or will open throughout the entire
country. It is not by teaching them a few words of English
that we shall draw the population closer to us, but in governing
them with wisdom and firmness, kindness and justice; and
in proving to them that we are working for their good.”
I had no intention of attempting to describe the Sudan
and its progress in four chapters, but I have simply attempted
to give those who are ignorant of it an idea of the work accomplished.
Some will, no doubt, ask, what at first seems difficult
to explain, viz.: why is the Sudan Anglo-Egyptian, and how
is it possible that a country can belong at one and the same
time to two masters, King Edward and Khedive Abbas Hilmi?
This same question was put to me by an Italian friend on
board the boat which brought me back to Europe, and our
conversation will explain the situation as well as anything I
could say.
“The English give as a reason,” I said, “that above all
they desired to have the Sudan free from the famous ‘capitulations.’
In fact, if the Sudan had been simply Egyptian,

it would have been equally under the sovereignty of Turkey,
which again would have meant that all the nations who were
signatories of the capitulations would have had the right to
erect their Consular Courts in the country. Very wisely, in
my opinion, England wished that the innumerable difficulties
which have strangled Egypt for so many years, and which
even now hinder her work of civilisation, should be spared
to the Sudan.”
“Then,” remarked my friend, “England is proprietor of
the Sudan on joint account. You have told me that it cost
Egypt a few hundred thousands each year … does England
not pay half that bill?”
“No, and for an excellent reason. England does not seek
to draw any direct personal advantage from the Sudan. All
these immense works which will be undertaken on the
Upper Nile will benefit Egypt and her agriculture. They will
double, triple perhaps her wealth, but not that of England.
The advantages which the latter draws from the situation are:
(1) To have under her rule an Egypt rich and prosperous,
where English capital and commerce will find a ready outlet,
but equally with all other nations; (2) To have an immense
field of study and training for her officers and administrators;
(3) To prevent any other nation establishing itself on the Nile;
and (4) To hold Egypt much more surely and irrevocably than
if she simply occupied Cairo. Note that she has given for the
reconquest of the Sudan £800,000 and seven or eight thousand
men, and that it was English officers who, having reconquered,
it, have also pacified it, and led it to the point where it to-day
is on the road to civilisation and progress.”
“Then you consider England works for …?”
“Egypt. Naturally.”
“Egypt!” My friend whistled with an incredulous air,
and added: “In former days they said, ‘For the King of
Prussia!’ … Hum! … I cannot see the English working
for that, but the explanation they give is certainly very
plausible. There is nothing more to be said of it than ‘Si non
è vero, è ben trovato!’”
I believe that, in spite of all that England will say, and all
that I have repeated, her reputation is not so blameless that

many will not continue to say, with the mouse in Lafontaine's
fable: “Ce bloc enfariné ne me dit rien qui vaille … attendons!”
Let us wait and see. That will not hinder the Sudan
from progressing rapidly under the protection of the two
flags which for the present float together from Wadi Halfa to

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Society in Khartoum—Lady Wingate's garden-parties—Slatin
Pasha's dinners—The fétes in honour of their Royal Highnesses
the Duke and Duchess of Connaught—Scarcity of ladies—The
young officers dance with one another—The paradise of marriageable
daughters—Expulsion of the demi-mondaines—Oh!
for a Sapho!—Black and white and white and black—The
English officers have no relations other than official with the
Egyptian officers—They are “separated by a gulf which no
number of whiskies and sodas can ever bridge”—The English
officers' preference for the black soldiers.


YES! Society—with a large S, please, for Society has its rights
even in the Sudan. Certainly the amusements of Khartoum
are neither so numerous nor so varied as those of Cairo; still
one manages very well, and there is no reason to be bored.
In imitation of the “Palaces” of Cairo, the Grand Hotel
gives … I shall not call them balls, but let us say “hops.”
These take place on Saturday evenings, and are preceded by
a dinner more ambitious than good. Many English officers
attend, whilst the foreigners invite on these evenings all those
whom they know. The large dining-room is crammed, and
the hotel must fill its pockets, judging from the fabulous
quantities of empty bottles which one sees.
At the first of these “hops,” in which I took part, there

were present nine ladies; at the second only seven. The
stronger sex was represented by a hundred or so of uniforms,
amongst which one saw here and there a black coat. That
must be shockingly slow, I thought to myself, if only nine
couples dance at a time in that immense room, and then all
these men will be fighting to obtain the hands of these unfortunate
ladies, only half of whom are still at an age when one
dances in civilised countries. And wisely I retired to the
terrace to smoke my cigar in peace. Suddenly, I was aware
that from the ball-room there was proceeding an extraordinary
noise, which certainly could not come from nine couples of
dancers. The music (and it was powerful military music too)
was almost drowned, swallowed up in the frightful roar of a
frantic stampede, to which was added the sound of wild cries.
“The devil!” I said to myself, “a battalion of ladies must have
arrived, and now every one can dance. I must look at this.”
Ladies! yes, certainly, there were just nine who were dancing
for all they were worth, but who were only responsible for a
very small fraction of the noise. It was the officers, who, in
default of lady partners, were dancing with one another;
lieutenants, captains, majors, even colonels in full war-paint,
medals, decorations and all, ran, hopped, bounded, hustled
and bustled in the wildest quadrille I have ever seen. Officers,
did I say? Well, they were really just great big infants of
twenty to fifty years of age, laughing, shouting and enjoying
themselves li