Title: A ride in Egypt, from Sioot to Luxor in 1879: with notes on the present state and ancient history of the Nile Valley, and some account of the various ways of making the voyage out and home. [Electronic Edition]

Author: Loftie, W. J. 1839-1911. (William John)
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Title: A Ride in Egypt

Author: W. J. Loftie
File size or extent: xix, 399, [1] p. incl. front., illus. 19 cm.
Place of publication: London and New York
Publisher: MacMillan and Co.
Publication date: 1886
Identifier: From the collection of Dr. Paula Sanders, Rice University.
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Origin/composition of the text: 1886
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  • Egypt -- Description and travel
  • Nile River Valley -- History
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A ride in Egypt, from Sioot to Luxor in 1879: with notes on the present state and ancient history of the Nile Valley, and some account of the various ways of making the voyage out and home. [Electronic Edition]




The Oldest Statues in the World.
A. Dawson, Photo-pc




HOUSE,” &c., &c.

London and New York: MACMILLAN AND CO. 1886. The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved.



IN the following sketches an attempt is made to
give some account of the present aspect of Egypt.
They are the result of three visits to the Nile valley,
comprising in all about fifteen months' residence.
It may be matter of surprise that another writer
should venture to publish a book about Egypt. But
I find two excuses both so good that the hesitation
naturally felt at first thought is much diminished.
The recent progress of events under the
viceregal government, and especially the terrible
famine of the past winter, have excited a new
interest among English readers, who want to have

the latest particulars of the state of the country.
And, moreover, while the history of Egypt seems to
have been growing with such rapidity at the present
day, that is, the latter end, the researches and discoveries
of the past few years have added so much
to our knowledge of the other, the further end, that
books published even three years ago are already
behind the times.
I have endeavoured as much as possible to avoid
details which have already appeared in English
books: and have confined my historical chapters as
much as I could to the times of the Early Monarchy,
that remote and mysterious kingdom, of which the
date is unknown, but which is so vividly before us in
the monuments left us of its architecture, portraiture,
and literature. About Rameses and his dynasty I
have said as little as possible consistently with my
desire to give some account of This and Thebes. Of
the later times, down to the present dynasty, I have
said nothing. Indeed, I was minded when my book
first began to take shape, to call it “Egypt, Ancient
and Modern,” for such a title would have clearly
described its contents.
I have used as it was convenient the substance
and sometimes the actual words of various articles

contributed during the past four years to the Saturday
and other periodicals. I have to thank
the editors for leave to use them, and have many
acknowledgments to make to friends who have
helped me with sketches, with information, and with
I am particularly indebted to Miss Evans and Mr.
George Grahame the artists, to my American friends
E. W. L. and Mrs. L., and to M. L. M. their comrade
on the Nile voyage, for charming little bits of scenery.
I have availed myself to the utmost of Mr. Roland
Michell's stores of knowledge respecting the present
condition of Egypt. From Mr. Greville Chester I
have also received information of which he was
in many cases the exclusive repository, but which
was as ungrudgingly given as it is here gratefully
On my second voyage out I remained some weeks
at Malta, and then made an abortive attempt to see
Naples again, after an interval of nearly thirty
years. I have thought it better to include my
notes of these wanderings in the Mediterranean,
as some parts of them at least will answer to
the yearly experience of travellers who winter in


Although since this book was written and, indeed,
partly printed, the reign of Ismail Pasha has come
to an end in the country he so terribly oppressed—I
have not thought it necessary to alter any of the
passages in which I refer to him and his acts. It
is well to show to what a condition he had reduced
his unhappy country as a justification of the extreme
measures just taken against a prince for whom, not
twenty months ago, the English press and English
public had very little but praise. It is well, also, that
we should remember, lest disappointment come upon
us, that Mohammed Towfik Pasha is a Turk and his
father's son: that what has happened may happen
again: and that, above all, though I write it with regret
and hesitation, an Anglo-French alliance where an
unselfish and benevolent policy towards an oppressed
people is what most of us desire to see, must end
in failure.

W. J. L.




The P. and O.—The Bay—The Company—Gibraltar—An Orange
Tree—The Sieges—The Signal Station—Approaching Malta—
The Fear of Quarantine—What Quarantine is—Gozo and Malta
from the Sea—Valetta—Pratique—The Government—The Palace
—A Debate in Parliament—The Old Nobility—The Dome of
Mosta—How not to get from Malta to Naples—A Night between
Scylla and Charybdis
From Malta to Suez—Backsheesh—The Railway Station—The
Dervish—A Testimony—Cairo—The Rule of the Turk—Palaces
—Oppression—Difficulty of telling the Truth


Heliopolis—The Delta—The Peasant Cultivator—Towfik Pasha—The
Obelisk—The Inscription—Other Obelisks
The Coptic and Muslim Calendars—The Egyptian Saints' Days—The
Dervish is not a Monk—The Colours of Turbans—The Descendants
of Mohammed—The Pilgrims' Return—The Mahmal—The Doseh.
The Peculiarity of the Collection—M. Mariette's Researches—The
most Ancient Art in the World—Enumeration of the Chief
Examples of the Early Period—Conclusions as to Life and
Manners under the Ancient Kings—A Discourse of Scarabs.
How English Tourists see the Pyramids—The Great Time-passage
Theory—The True History of Pyramids—A List of Pyramids
from the Papyri—Their Identification—Pyramids now remaining
—Their Comparative Heights—The Riddle of the Sphinx unsolved
—The Question of the Tablet—Its Want of Authority—The Use
of the Sphinx in Hieroglyphs—The Table of Thothmes—
Description from Charlotte Brontë—An Irreverent Sightseer.


The Chains of Egypt—Nicopolis, the Roman Camp at Ramleh
Turkish Demolitions—El Kab—Dakkeh—Kasr e' Shemma—The
Churches—The Walls—Comparison with the Walls of London.
An Abortive Scheme—Government Schools—Missions—The University
of the East—College Life in Cairo—Ordinary Schools in Cairo
In Country Villages—Blind Guides—Coptic Schools—Towfik's
Schools for Girls.
The Steamer—Bedreshayn—A Difficulty—An English Beauty—An
Egyptian Beauty—Corkscrews—The Children at the Stations—
Maydoom—A Thirsty Journey—Beni Hassan
The Town—The Mountain—The Tombs—The Caravan Started—The
Arabs—The Copts—Our First Camping Place


Tahta—Anteeka-hunting—A Disappointment—Luncheon—Benhow—
Sunset—A Ride in the Dark—A Forced March—Dangers—The
Scot Abroad—The Country Disturbed—Soohag—Another Disappointment
Importunate Beggars—St. Christopher—The Character of William
Rufus—The other Donkeys—Arab Towns and Villages—Girgeh.
An excited Antiquary—Egyptian Chronology—Arabat-el-Madfooneh—
The Temples—The Sacred Windhover—Edfoo—The Table of
Abydos—Casabianca—A Hill of Tombs—An Old Brick Fort.
French Antiquaries—A long Delay—A Messenger—A long Walk—
Rumours of the Famine


The Morning Scene—A Starving Family—A Deserted Child—How—
Shocking Sights in the Market-place—How to acquire an Estate—
How to Buy and Sell Land—The Assessment of the Taxes—The
Famine easily Prevented—Mr. Rivers Wilson—Semaineh—
Marashteh—A Young Gentleman—A Deserted Village—A Dinner
Party—Good Manners
The Desert—A Prize—Dendera—The Ferry—Camping Ground at
Keneh—The Cook's Estate—The Inevitable Potentate.
KenehCoptos—Copts—“Backsheesh Keteer”—The Ruins of Gypt
—The Name of Egypt—A Lecture—Goos—Early to Bed—A
Rembrandtesque Effect
Shenhoor—A Martyr's Grave—A Mirage—A Sandstorm—The View
of Karnac—The Dedication of the Temple—Amen, Lord of
Poont—Hymn to Amen-Ra—Karnac, a Christian Church—The
Obelisks of Hatasoo—The Ride ended


Dwelling in Tents—Native Society—Poets—Music—An Arabian Night
—The Remains of the 18th and 19th Dynasties—Bulls' Eyes—A
Fright at Dinner—Hiring a Boat—Death at the Hotel—A Funeral
—The Copt Church—The Cemetery
The Voyage to Sioot—The Famine District Again—Belianeh—A
Hospitable Sheykh—A Concert—Sioot
APPENDIX Pages363–391
INDEX Pages393–399










The P. and O.—The Bay—The Company—Gibraltar—An Orange
Tree—The Sieges—The Signal Station—Approaching Malta—The
Fear of Quarantine—What Quarantine is—Gozo and Malta from
the Sea—Valetta—Pratique—The Government—The Palace—A
Debate in Parliament—The Old Nobility—The Dome of Mosta—
How not to get from Malta to Naples—A Night between Scylla
and Charybdis.


IT is quite impossible to winter out of London—so
one thinks rebelliously, when the doctor's doom has
been pronounced. But there is no appeal—go you

must. When you have gone, when you have tasted
of the pleasures of a climate in which the air is not
damp, in which the sun is warm at Christmas, in
which you are strong and happy, able to breathe and
see, able to go about, to work and play, to learn and
teach, to take long walks and join pic-nics, all at a
season in which you would at home be confined to
one room, artificially heated and lighted: even the
charms of the village of St. Marylebone, near London,
cease to prey upon your memory.
Another thing which mitigates the terror of wintering
abroad is to find that people at home get on very
well without you. There are of course two sides to
this aspect of the subject. It is a little mortifying to
observe that the charitable or the learned society
which, as you thought, you were carrying on by your
own strivings with recalcitrant committees, and which
was prospering solely through your constant tact and
management, prospers even more swimmingly when
you are away. It is not altogether pleasant to hear
when you are abroad that one who, &c., is able to
enjoy an evening party or a run through the old
Masters at the Grosvenor, just as well with that silly
fellow Blank, who fortunately for him possesses the
art of making her laugh, as she ever did with you.
But after a time even these memories lose their poignancy,
and you reflect, perhaps wisely, that to breathe
her name you must retain the use of your lungs, and
that rheumatism will give you worse beatings of the

heart than she can ever cause, be she never so beautiful
or so cruel.
But apart from the question of health, I confess the
prospect of spending four or five months in Egypt had
no charms for me. True, I had read half a dozen
books about that ancient land, and, like everybody
else, had my own theory of the Exodus. I knew that
some pre-Adamite kings had heaped up cairns at a
place called Gheezeh, and that little boys in the streets
of Cairo were but scantily clad, and had eyes full of
flies. I was also acquainted with the use of the word
backsheesh, and had so far progressed in Oriental languages
that I knew it came, like khedive, from the
Persian, and that both words were looked upon as
disagreeable by people who love Egypt. Hieroglyphs,
too, like all the things “which no fellow can understand,”
had a certain fascination for me, but I was not
competent to distinguish between a determinative and
a cartouche.
Under these circumstances, it was with no lively
feelings that on a miserable morning in November,
1876, I commenced my first journey to Egypt—a
journey repeated every winter since. I drove to
Waterloo Station as the sun was going through
what must be called, for want of a fitter term,
sunrise. It only consisted, on this sad morning, in
making more visible the dinginess of closed shop-fronts
and deserted streets, followed by a rapid retirement
as the regular midday darkness set in. I

loved the fog: would that it had loved me in return.
What are the golden sands of Libya, or the crimson
peaks of Cush, to one who knows the mud of Regent
Street and the ruddy vapours of Hyde Park?
It does not take many hours to reach Southampton;
and the journey, once we were in the open country,
was not exactly unpleasant. I was rather curious to
make my first acquaintance with actual life on board
a great mail steamer.
The French say, with some truth, that Englishmen
can express about half their ideas by the use of two
words—namely, “fast” and “board.” To be on
board a fast mail steamer is an experience very
common with Englishmen; but the actual feelings
of those who travel in this way must vary in every
case, not only according to a man's mind, but according
to his stomach. To be lodged with some hundreds
of people in a great floating hotel, cut off from
all the disagreeable excitements of civilised life, the
postman's knock, the afternoon visitor, the telegram
—to be face to face with nature in one of its grandest
aspects, as we are constantly reminded by the sentimental
portion of our fellow-travellers—is to see life,
it might be thought, under very favourable conditions.
But the reality is not so sweet. As we float down
the Solent on a calm sea, a lovely view of the Isle of
Wight in front, the sun setting behind the trees of the
New Forest, and nothing to disturb the peaceful beauty
of the scene but the long and hideous redness of Netley

Hospital and the sound of the dinner-bell, we are likely
to anticipate more enjoyment than will really fall to
our share. The first interruption to our dream of
happiness is probably caused by seeing the visitors
leave by the little Southampton steamer. Husbands
parting from wives, parents from children, lovers from
lovers, are an interesting sight, but one which we do
not care to see twice. The comic aspects are so mixed
up with the tragic, the kisses with the tears, that the
indifferent looker-on is doubtful whether to laugh or
cry. Here is a man coming on board in a state of
semi-intoxication, not drunk enough to be happy,
and evidently struggling with the imperfect recollection
of some secret which he wishes to impart before
he and his friend are finally separated; or a father and
mother bidding their son farewell with the look of being
heartily glad to get rid of a prodigal, and the young
man weeping while even the mother's eyes are dry.
There may be a trace of repentance in his face, and
he has probably found life at home too pleasant to be
willingly given up. A bride with floods of tears, a
red nose, and redder eyes, parts from her sisters with
frantic embraces, her husband looking on helplessly
and but half pleased. But a great rush of steam, a
groan and a fizzle combined, and we are off; the little
steamer disappears in a cloud of waving handkerchiefs,
and those of us who have suffered no bereavement
are at leisure to observe with disappointment
that the prettiest face has departed, and that the

ladies who remain have almost all the appearance of
suffering from colds in the head. Such are my
first impressions.
Presently I begin to take stock of my surroundings.
The sleeping-cabin is very small for four. My large
portmanteau can only be crushed under the sofa, and
a surgical operation may be needful for its extraction.
The washing appliances seem very deficient. The
bed is very hard, and as narrow as a coffin. It
suddenly dawns on my memory that a favourite
cigar-case is at the bottom of the box under the
bed, and my mind is disturbed by the thought that,
of the companions of my cabin, one is sure to be
sick, and at least one to snore.
Before rough water is reached the dinner-bell rings,
and there is a contest, not altogether good-tempered,
as to a seat near the captain. By degrees, however,
settlements take place; those who cannot get near
the captain endeavour to sit opposite a pretty face, or
near the door, or where there is a chair, and so on,
until everybody is satisfied, or at least, seated. But
dinner is not a success. A pallor attacks my next
neighbour's countenance. In the middle of my best
anecdote he smiles at me vacantly for a moment, then
hardly pausing to mutter an excuse, he rises, and disappears
to return no more. One by one, about half
the guests at table leave it before the conclusion of
the banquet, and the survivor feels a sense of personal
injury when ominous sounds, as of a human being in

distress, reach him from the neighbouring cabin.
Perhaps his turn follows, perhaps he escapes; but,
next to being ill yourself, it is worst to witness the
sufferings of others, even if sympathy has no place
among your moral qualities; and your first evening
at sea closes in gloom. My own sufferings at sea
have always been slight, but the motion of the ship
causes qualms. For the first two days I have a
feeling of being subjected to indignity as the rolling
rudely shakes me from my seat, or takes my feet
from under me. There is something humiliating in
running down the deck and staggering up again as if
you were very drunk indeed. Of this first voyage
my chief recollection is that we had a gale in the Bay
of Biscay. I had long wished to see the great waves
of which I had heard so much, but it is a question
whether it is worth going through a gale to see them.
In other respects, for I must not attempt to describe
great waves, one voyage is much like another.
As the days pass, and calmer latitudes are reached,
the whole company of passengers meet again, and
various phases of sea-going character present themselves.
Some pace the deck in solitary meditation.
Some seat themselves in a shady corner and observe
what goes on around them with sleepy eyes. The
ladies lie back on the chairs with which the quarterdeck
is crowded, and make oft-repeated remarks on
the sea and sky. A smoking-tent has been rigged
up, and there the men assemble to talk as they take

tobacco, and give their opinions to the little world on
things in general. It is there that the universal
traveller holds forth, he who has surveyed the world
from China to Peru, and who has apparently brought
back only a knowledge of the iniquity of the British
Government, the discomfort of foreign hotels, the loss
of money by exchange, and the comparative venom
of different breeds of mosquitoes. You ask him if he
has been in Ceylon, or Norway, as the case may be,
and he tells you of the price of wine at Colombo, or
the bad tea they gave him at Christiana; or you ask
him about the latest revolution among the South
American States, and he replies with the remark that
all Portuguese settlers are rascals, and proves it by an
account of how a Spaniard cheated him about a horse.
If you inquire as to the customs of the Dyaks of
Borneo, he begins a series of criticisms on the steamboat
arrangements of Rajah Brooke. To him travelling
in itself is an end. He does not boast of the
lands and cities he has “done,” but talks as if doing
them had been an unmitigated annoyance to him.
He complains of the world because it is too easily
exhausted, and laments that there are so few regions
left to be traversed. He can tell you nothing about
any place he has visited, except how to get there and
how to get away again, and if you devote an evening
to cross-examining him in the hope of obtaining some
information, you are continually disappointed, and
find in the end that you have lost the time you might

have much more profitably devoted to reading a
geography book.
Beside him is a gentleman whose brogue, coupled
with his irregular use of will and shall, betrays
his origin, who informs you in five minutes of all
the particulars you care to hear of his birth, parentage,
and education, of his relationship to Lord
So-and-so, and the name of his wife's first husband.
He allows to having been born in Dublin, but
vows he never set foot in it since. If in return you
think to shame him by saying that you also are an
Irishman, he only tries to startle you by confessing
that he was convicted of Fenianism, and soothes you
again by an interminable anecdote, told to show you
that he was or is a man of property, and that in a
hand-to-hand fight he can lick all before him. He
knows every celebrated author in the three kingdoms,
despises most of them, and wonders how any one can
read their works, for he cannot. It is indeed soon
evident that in the last particular he tells the truth.
How far his other stories are to be believed you
cannot easily decide.
On the whole, however, he is a more agreeable
companion than the argumentative voyager, a man
who always takes the other side, whatever may
be your view, who invariably breaks down in the
main point of his argument, and seldom fails to
forget before he has done which was the side he
originally undertook to support. Then there is

the serious traveller, who makes it a business to go
abroad, who would not visit any country without an
object, who sighs deeply as he tells you he has to get
to Japan before the middle of January as it is his
duty, evidently a painful one, to investigate the history
and practice of Go Bang in its native country. You
cannot play chess with him because he knows every
gambit and opening, and tells you when you have
made three moves that he must checkmate you in
twenty-one or twenty-two more as the case may be.
He has also made whist a special study, and informs
you that when he lived in India he hired a pundit at
so much a month to play double dummy with him.
This man of serious purpose, who takes his pleasure
moult tristement, contrasts in my recollections
with the young lady who travels for no earthly
purpose or reason, who does not know whence she
is coming or where she expects to go: who begins
the Last Days of Pompeii on the first day of the
voyage, and is well into the second chapter by the
time she lands, under the impression that she will
be able to get up the Bay of Naples from its pages,
and so combine amusement with instruction. As
a rule, however, she does not read much, nor, though
she looks constantly at the sea, does she seem to see
much. She admires the coast of Portugal, thinks
Cintra very romantic, has never heard of the
Convention, and forgets whether it is Madrid or
Lisbon which lies at the mouth of the Tagus. On

the whole, unless that wistful gaze over the taffrail
betokens a pre-occupation which betrays itself on
calm days in excessive letter-writing, she affords
entertaining company to the traveller, and his mind
is not much wearied in any effort to direct the course
of a conversation with her.
I have always found children on board a great
resource, and am at times tempted in consequence
to imagine myself very amiable. Perhaps I am,
but they certainly amuse me better than their
elders, and keep up a constant excitement in my
mind, as I am always expecting one of them to
fall overboard. Perhaps the young soldiers going
to fight the battles of their country come next in
interest. The children are scarcely so simple as
the officers: for they lay little plots to capture a
good-natured passenger, lie in ambush for him in
the companion, ruin his repeater by constant striking,
and break his back by making a horse of him from
morning to night. The young heroes are less
troublesome, but less pleasing. They smoke incessantly,
perhaps in the vain hope of colouring their
scanty moustaches. They talk of their regiment
though they have never seen it, and are curious in
boot-jacks and cigarettes. They go to their destination
with a feeling that they may have to bleed in
their country's cause, which helps to ennoble them.
In moments of fancied seclusion—there is no real
seclusion on board—a photograph book is brought

out from the recesses of a portmanteau, and when
the boy's eyes are raised from his mother's or his
sister's likeness they are full of tears. He need
not feel ashamed of them though he wipes them
away so fast. It is to such young Englishmen that
England may have to look in time of need.
Such are the minor accessories of life on every
voyage. I remember that on this voyage in particular,
two brown gentlemen who had been aides-decamp
to the Prince of Wales during his Indian tour
were returning home. One of them was a Mahommetan:
the other a Hindoo. They used to play
a good deal of chess, and were much admired for
their personal beauty and gorgeous costumes. They
studied a complete letter-writer with great assiduity,
and brightened up very much when addressed in
We had also opportunities for studying the natural
history of the ship's stokers. They are indeed a
strange race, much blacker than anybody can paint
them—so black indeed that the coal-dust looks like
pearl powder on their faces. They sit, when not
at work, on the gratings near the funnel, and twang
the light banjo or sew long seams in grey shirtings.
There are many other blacks of various degrees of
darkness and obscurity, physical or social, on board
and I was much startled in the grey dawn of the
second morning to find one of them standing over
my lowly pillow with a drawn razor in his hand.

He had been told, it seems, that I wanted a shave,
and so I rose when I had sufficiently composed my
countenance, and putting on a dressing-gown followed
him to a big box near a porthole, where he set
me up like a model, and standing afar off at each
lurch of the vessel—for it was blowing a gale—made
a lunge at me, after a very moderate exhibition of
soap. Strange to say when my presence of mind
returned sufficiently to enable me to refuse any
further assaults of the kind, I found myself extremely
well shaved and perfectly smooth, my features no
more chiselled than when they were turned out
originally by mother nature.
The noise on board is incessant. First, there is
the throbbing of the engines. The beating of my
own rheumatic heart is nothing to them. Then there
are innumerable chains which are dragged through
holes, the holes all seeming to be just under my
pillow. Then at night there are uneasy spirits who
seem to start from every wave, and walk the deck
over our heads. In the early morning there is the
deck swabbing and the holy-stoning. Finally the
irony of fate is exemplified in the barrel-organ from
Saffron Hill which a grinning Italian grinds all the
evening. It seems as if the street music which has
contributed so much to your nervous breakdown in
London, had been specially commissioned by your
ghostly or literary enemy to follow you to sea. But
the organist is too sick to play for the first three

days, by which time the absence of postmen's knocks
and railway whistles has so far braced your nerves
that you can bear him with equanimity.
So passed the voyage. I omit the amazing anecdotes
I heard, and the pleasant chats I had with
acquaintances from the antipodes, the new world, the
dear knows where, and many other out-of-the-way
places. We rounded the ruddy cape of St. Vincent,
which looks as if its rocks were stained with the
blood of British seamen. We were shown afar off
the blue and brown headland of Trafalgar—the last
land which Nelson saw . And on the fourth morning
we perceived, as the mist cleared away, on the right,
the mysterious snow-clad mountains of Atlas; and
on the left Tarifa, the first landing-place of the
Moors in Spain, near the scene of Don Roderick's
disappearance in the lost battle.
Already, as we turn into Gibraltar Bay, we are in
a different climate. English ways, dresses, neatness,
soldiers, and advertisements are all about us as we
land; but the sky and the sea have a foreign look.
Yet it is hard to realise the fact that we are really on
a foreign soil. The rows of prickly pears, the aloes,
a shovel-hatted priest or two, only remind us of the
scenery of the Italian Opera. We pass through the
gateway known from Charles V.'s cognisance over the
arch as the Ragged Staff, and are at once in the town.
Except for the brilliant daylight there is nothing very
outlandish about it. Suddenly, in a shady lane of

the town, I glance up an archway, and immediately
I feel the reality of the difference. There, growing
twenty feet high in its native soil, with great green
leaves and golden fruit and white blossoms, is a
magnificent orange-tree.
The orange-tree behind the library at Gibraltar is,
to my mind, whether in itself or its surroundings, one
of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen.
It stands in a magnificent landscape. Towering up
nearly perpendicular behind it are fourteen hundred
feet of grey limestone, ragged and rough, but dazzling
in the sunshine to Northern eyes. The skyline
is sharply defined by the white saw -teeth against
the deep blue. Here and there a spot of dark green
vegetation affords a scanty browsing place to half-a-dozen
long-eared goats. Below, the purple waves
dance and sparkle, white-sailed feluccas cross the
bay, and the brown hills beyond look down upon
Algeciras—the Green Islands of the Moors. The
waters of the bay have swallowed all but one, now
no longer green, but white with fortifications and
bristling with guns, a standing menace to the English
fortress opposite. Some ninety years ago the anxious
eyes of Elliot and his little army were turned on the
Spanish preparations for the famous siege; they had
to watch in silence while their fiery trial was prepared
for them before their faces. Nearer we may recognise
the New Mole, on which, under Rooke, the
seamen of Hicks and Jumper landed in 1704; the

Lines, which bore the attack of the Spanish fireships
in 1780; the Old Mole, the Alameda, and all
the little piers and landing places which together go
to make up the port of Gibraltar. The red-tiled
roofs, the white walls, the many-coloured shutters of
the windows glow in the warm winter sunshine.
High up on the steep side of the bare rock, at the
angle which may be said to form the pass from the
mainland to the town, stands the Moorish castle, one
of the few fragments of antiquity which the place
contains. Where everything is in working repair,
fortifications and barracks, batteries and churches
alike, the ancient walls, zigzagging down the hill
from the tall square tower above to the old port
below, look strange and out of place, the sole surviving
witnesses besides the rock itself of the days
when Taric, the Persian freedman, led his Africans
into Spain. Some part of the buildings may date
from the time when the Moors colonised the barren
slope, bringing with them, no doubt, the apes from
Barbary and the orange-tree from the orchards of
Andalusia. Their dominion lasted for seven centuries
and a half where no Phœnician, Roman, or Goth had
thought it worth while to build so much as a fort.
It has been remarked that what one Roderick lost
another regained. Roderick the Goth forfeited life
and realm at the Guadalete in the eighth century,
and Roderick of Arcos took Gibraltar in the fifteenth
from Mohammed IX.


But, though Gibraltar may, strictly speaking, be
reckoned among the possessions of the last Gothic
King, there is no evidence that it had, ever been
inhabited before the coming of Taric ibn Zeyad. The
apes have dwindled to the little flock preserved, like
pheasants in England, by the keepers of the signal-station.
The castle, where it is not in ruin, has been
worked into the modern fortifications. But the “tree
is living yet,” and flourishes in many a hanging garden
of the little city, to Northern eyes, at least, among
the most beautiful of its adornments. The simple
harmony of natural colouring may be studied to advantage
among its well-laden branches, for the leaf
offers exactly the scientifically correct contrast to the
fruit. The brilliant tint of the orange is best set off
by the dark green of the foliage. It seems like destroying
the balance of a finely-painted picture to
pluck a single orange. When the leaves were still
young and pale, the fragrant white blossoms appeared.
Next, as the foliage assumed a deeper hue, the light
green fruit became visible. Then, as the leaves darkened,
as more and more of the blue of the sky was
absorbed, the yellow tone was transferred, until at
length the full glory of both leaves and fruit was
attained, and the cold harmony of spring became
the ripe contrast of autumn.
Though the orange-tree may be the most beautiful
thing in Gibraltar, there is no want of beauty and
interest in the scenery, circumscribed as it is, of the

famous Rock. The English visitor expects to see
a fortress. He finds a wild mountain, rich gardens,
a busy city, a summer sea, cliffs which rival Shakspeare's,
panoramas of folding hills, and a population
formed of the most picturesque constituents the
world affords. Dark-eyed Spanish ladies, with the
graceful mantilla round their proud heads, contrast
with the bustling English merchants' clerks. Soldiers
in the scarlet uniform of England march briskly
through the streets to the enlivening music of fife
and drum. Here and there may be seen the white
capote of the Arab lounging in a sunny corner, or
the crimson burnouse, the turban, the yellow slippers
of a people who, whatever they may have done in
the eighth century, certainly never hurry themselves
in the nineteenth. The seeker for antiquities may
be disappointed. He will see the arms and badges
of Charles V. over a gateway; may trace some
ancient masonry in the old sea wall, now masked
by a line of white limestone batteries, and may
observe that the Old Church, hideously modern as
it is, contains at one end some features of the Pointed
style of the fifteenth century. He may remark over
another gate the name of the Earl of Chatham.
That was William Pitt's elder brother—the dilatory
hero of the epigram—
“The Earl of Chatham with sword drawn
Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,
Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham.”


The castle, indeed, is there, with its rough yellow
keep, its pointed arches, and the walls, with their
six towers, descending like steps, which once protected
the port. But even here he can find few
features of sufficient importance to be worth a nearer
inspection. He is driven to pass it by, wondering
how much of its remains date from the Moorish
conquest and how much from the time of Abdul
Mumen, who in 1160 fortified the town.
The view from above the castle is fine, but it is
well worth the walk to go up to the signal-station.
By rising early before the sun has come over the
Rock, we managed to have a cool pleasant walk.
After passing the castle, which stands at the extreme
northern end of the town, we went by roads cut
in the rock, past a guard-house and a magazine of
undoubtedly modern construction; and, after walking
a few yards, found ourselves already high above
the roofs and gardens. A short but steep ascent
brought us to one of the highest points of the Rock.
All along the path constant changes of view are
afforded. Looking back, the Castle forms a foreground
to the distant mountain, the first on Spanish
territory, and locally known as the Queen of Spain's
Chair. Beyond it, a little to the left, gleaming white
on a hill, is San Roque, whither the Spanish inhabitants
of Gibraltar removed when Sir George Rooke
took their town. It was impossible not to hazard
the guess that they called it after him as a

“sarcassum.” Just below is the beautiful Alameda,
and at one end the still more beautiful spot where
the victims of the great siege were buried. Among
the monuments and the cypresses stands, at the top
of a flight of steps, the green bronze bust of Elliot.
Perhaps this was the scene of a famous tragedy—
“When Elliot, called the Salamander,
Was stout Gibraltar's famed commander;
A soldier there went to a well
To fetch home water to his Nell:
“But fate decreed the youth to fall
A victim to a cannon-ball.
They straightway ran to tell his spouse:
She trembling heard, and fled the house.
“The husband slain, the water spilt,
Judge ye, fond females, what she felt!
She looked, she sighed, she melting spoke—
‘Thank Heav'n! the pitcher is not broke!'”
Full in front is the bay, rolling its blue waves up
to the foot of the rock. Beyond, on the western
shore, is Algeciras, a more ancient town than Gibraltar;
and not far from it, but invisible from the
Rock, are the remains of a Roman station. The
background is filled with mountains as far as the
eye can see; those in front dotted with limestone in
regular strata, those beyond marked here and there
with a white village, here and there topped by a tower.
As the signal-station is reached, a still finer view is
obtained. Looking due south along the axis of the

Rock, the height known as O'Hara's Folly, with its
ruined tower standing on the sharp ridge of limestone,
here bleached into marble whiteness, offers a strong
contrast to the blue sea on either hand, the blue mountains
across the Strait beyond, and the sky, bluer
than all, above. I felt a thrill as I gazed into Africa,
so to speak, over those mysterious mountains. They
rise precipitously from the water, the highest being
the ancient Abyla, the “Mountain of God,” according
to the Phœnicians. The Saracens called it after
Musa, as they called Calpe after his lieutenant,
Tarik; and the modern English soldier, outdoing
even the Moor in his want of sentiment, has given
it the familiar name of the Ape's Hill. Below, but
hardly visible, is Ceuta, the Spanish convict settlement
of which so shocking an account appeared
recently in the English papers. The seven hills
which gave it the ancient name Sebta, from which
the modern Ceuta is corrupted, cannot be made out;
but we could hardly help contrasting the horrors
which go on, so to speak, under our very eyes
across the Strait, with the orderly, if stern, rule of
the “state of siege” in Gibraltar.
Turning to the eastward, we looked over a parapet
fourteen hundred feet down into the Mediterranean.
Steep as is the giddy height, it is still steeper a little
further north, where a long sloping bank of loose sand
extends almost from the very summit to the sea below,
and cuts off the communication from north to south

upon that side. The coast-line eastward curves
gradually towards Malaga and the snowy Sierra,
ranges of mountains appearing and disappearing in
the blue distance as the sunlight comes and goes.
Just below the signal-station may be seen, nestling
at the foot of the cliff, the summer residence of the
Governor, where two summers ago the children were
startled from their games by the apparition of a
dozen tailless “monkeys” which the dry weather
had driven from their fastnesses in the rocks above.
North of the slope of sand is Catalan Bay, a colony
it is said, of Genoese fishermen. They are cut off
from all communication with the outer world, except
by sea or when a dry season allows them to make
a path along the shifting sands.
Bleak and rugged as is the view, the sunshine, the
colouring, the glowing purple of sea and sky impart
a beauty which enabled me to understand, if I had
not done so before, why people talk as they do of
the Mediterranean and its supremacy among inland
seas. We turned reluctantly as the signalmen announced
the approach of an ironclad from the West,
or ran up the ball which tells of the coming of the
mail from England. A distant bugle-call catches
the ear, and we look down to the parade-ground,
a thousand feet below, where we see the soldiers
moving as on a chess-board, or watch the artillery
practice from one of the forts at the water's edge.
The ledge of earth on which the town stands is interrupted

by the public gardens, which include the
parade-ground; high above them, but far below the
station, a few villas are perched among stone-pines
and vine-clad terraces, wherever there is standing-room
for a house. The cultivation of the Rock
contrasts strongly with the desolate bareness of the
Spanish coast across the bay. The English energy
which has held Gibraltar against such fearful odds
has also made it into a garden. The roadway above
the Alameda might have been transplanted bodily
from Surrey, if it were not for the prickly pears
and the aloes here and there. There are English
yachts in the bay; English steamers come and
go; English carriages drive along the street as if
it were Piccadilly, and as the parade breaks up, the
troops march to their barracks to the sound of
“Obadiah” and “Tommy, make room.”
I stayed one week only on my first visit to
Gibraltar, and should have gladly stayed longer
but that one of the dreaded “levanters” broke over
the Rock, and the damp became unbearable. When
a levanter blows, the rain comes down from the steep
cliff in a cascade, and though carefully drained, the
town becomes so damp in a few hours that you are
in a steam bath.
The voyage to Malta commenced in the dark,
and it was not till another year that I enjoyed the
beautiful views of the African and Spanish coasts
which are afforded from within the Straits in

daylight. We took our passage in the weekly Peninsula
and Oriental steamer; and once out of the
reach of the “levanter,” spent a few very pleasant
days. Then came a cloud.
The inexperienced traveller is sometimes puzzled
by his fellow-voyagers' anxiety about pratique. He
does not fully understand their dread of quarantine,
and has no idea of the penalties incurred by a “foul
bill.” Yet these terms belong to usages which may


cause him the greatest inconvenience, usages against
which the best viséd passport and the warmest letters
of introduction cannot protect him. Precautions
against epidemics of a kind which may be described
as superstitious and traditional rather than scientific
or efficacious have been devised at every port, and the
unfortunate tourist has no escape. Quarantine may
mean for him the full forty days of abstinence from
the joys of society or he may get off with a less

protracted period; but he who has once undergone
even the shortest probation in a Lazaretto will ever
after fear to incur it.
Now, Malta is a place full of interest for many different
kinds of travellers. Soldiers may want to see
the forts, artists to sketch the up and down stairs
streets. The ordinary tourist even may have many
things to see in the three little islands which form the
group. He has read St. Paul and Josephus, and
would visit the scene of the wreck of “a certain ship
of Alexandria.” He may have an interest in the
history of orders of chivalry, and desire to examine
St. Elmo, and fight over on the spot the famous siege
of 1565. He has studied architecture, and would verify
Mr. Fergusson's account of the wonderful dome of
Mosta. If he is a botanist, he may propose to judge
for himself as to the genus of a so-called Centaurea,
about which Linneans are in doubt. The language
of the natives has not yet been successfully reduced
to writing. The statistical problems offered by the
thickly-populated islets are but half worked out
There are, in short, few places of the same size in
Europe—for the Maltese reckon themselves Europeans
—in which so many objects of interest, social, political,
geological, geographical, or only picturesque, may be
found; and the traveller easily makes up his mind
to land, and, after seeing something of Valetta and
its environs, to go on by the next steamer. He may
be sorry to leave pleasant company on board, but

pleasant company may be encountered again, and
there is but one Malta. There may be even a melancholy
pleasure in persuading himself that bright eyes
are a little dimmed as he announces his heroic intention.
He is not altogether displeased to find
that he will be missed, and his own sorrow is much
mitigated by the regrets he hears expressed at the
prospect of parting.
Should this, then, be your case, the accounts you
hear of the quarantine and the danger of being
trapped there are not pleasant. Before we sighted Gozo
a discouraging rumour spread among the passengers.
It was told at first as a profound secret; but many
hours had not elapsed before everybody knew it.
Small-pox was on board. A sailor had developed
the disease in a mild form, and before it was recognised
he was almost well. We all felt sorry, in a
modified way, for the poor man, and wondered why
he had not been properly vaccinated; but there we
should probably have ceased to think of the matter,
only for the look of our more experienced friends.
They were not afraid of infection, but they were
afraid of quarantine.
After much debate, a deputation waited on the
captain to ascertain the truth. Every member of it wore
the longest face possible as they emerged again from
the deck cabin. A “clean bill” is hopeless at Malta:
passengers landing will almost certainly be detained
in quarantine: there is just a chance that, as the case

is of the slightest, and as the disease has not spread,
pratique may be granted after a little delay: smallpox
is not cholera, nor even measles. Such were the
captain's words. But the chance is very slender, and
those who proposed to land must make up their minds
to the worst. They must prepare to undergo all
the mystic and inconvenient ceremonial annexed to
going ashore from an infected vessel. How many
days, we inquired anxiously, will seclusion be enforced?
The answer makes our hearts sink. Not
more than twenty-one; yet we had not intended to
stay more than seven. Three weeks in a quarantine
hospital! the prospect is sufficient to appal the
stoutest heart. Would it not be better to go on to
the next port? The “case” will be landed. The
quarantine at Alexandria or Suez will be shorter, if
there is any. And then we shall not have to part
quite so soon from our new friends.
There were several of us in this situation, and it
was easy to see that the prospect of going on was not
wholly disagreeable to a gentleman or two on one
side and a lady or two on the other. Even with a
mild and isolated case of small-pox on board, lovemaking
went on briskly under the favouring rays of
a full moon. Their minds, poor things, were evidently
torn between contending emotions. Eventually they
decided that it would be foolish to pack up with such
a prospect: and so I believe their young hearts were
not sundered till the ship reached Suez.


Meanwhile I confess to having had a great feeling
of curiosity as to quarantine. The love of knowledge
impelled me to seek the curious experience. I had
never met anybody who had undergone it. I was not
unwilling to see what it was like. Is there a prison—
a kind of combination of the old sponging-house and
a sanitarium? And where is it situated? Do the wild
waves beat upon a sea-girt rock? or is it perched upon
a lofty peak whence the islands may be surveyed at
leisure, and twenty-one sunsets admired? Perhaps
it would be as well, after all, to submit to fate. I
might take the opportunity of mastering Mr. Browning's
latest poem, or that charming treatise on pre-historic
culture, or the wave theory in musical tone,
which I have so long intended to study. One might
write in the enforced solitude a work which will immortalise
him. Another might, if there is a piano in
quarantine, practise that difficult passage of Bach,
and astonish his musical friends on his return. Another
might paint a whole picture in three weeks and
have it ready for the next Academy. Thus I reflected
taking one side of the question first. But the other
side was not to be neglected. Here were merry companions,
a comfortable cabin, fine weather promising
to hold out, a good ship, and, above all, no trouble
of packing and disembarking only to pack up and
embark again. I was still undecided as Malta came
in sight, and I went on deck to see the view.
The three islands do not look very attractive from

the sea. Gozo is the most westerly; and after the
blue haze has turned to brown, and the bare rocks
and parched hills are clearly seen, there is little to
make one wish to land upon it. There is a narrow
green strait, over which something like a castle
seems to keep guard, and then Comino gradually
develops itself, a mere islet, and almost featureless.
Beyond it is the so-called Bay of St. Paul. Malta
itself is now alongside, and soon the white fortifications
of Valetta begin to appear over the hill-top.
In the valley is the dome of Mosta, looking very
like a haystack from a distance. The shore is dotted
with villas, and the mouth of the harbour has the
appearance of a second-rate watering-place in
England. Not a tree is in sight, and everything is
either white oolite stone or brown sunburnt moor.
Valetta itself is well situated on a peninsula of the
limestone which divides the harbour into two parts.
The town stands very high, and, as it faces north,
looks higher and shadier than it is against the
glowing southern sky. As the steamer enters two
deep bays present themselves, and the three great
forts, one on either side and one on the promontory
between, look very impressive in their strength. The
eastern harbour is the chief naval port; but the
steamer, keeping to the right, enters the western,
passing close to an island which lies within the
harbour, and still bears its old Arabic designation of
“Jezirah.” Two buildings only are upon it. Fort

Manoel was built in 1726, and forms part of the
system of defences, looking to seaward; the Lazaretto
is behind the fort, and looks the other way—a
long low building, at the sight of which, and the
prospect of passing three weeks or a month within its
dingy walls, my heart sank. Turning away, I caught
sight of a yellow flag at the mast head of the steamer.
Those wise passengers who had decided not to
land had a great advantage in the calmness with
which they could look on. The scene, was very
unlike what would be presented by an English seaport.
There was stir and bustle enough, but it did
not wear the aspect of business. Numberless green
boats, with prows like gondolas, are being rowed
round the steamer at a short distance by sailors who
stand and row forward. There are great black coal
barges, orange boats, flower boats, pleasure boats, all
putting off from the “Marsamuscetto Gate” at the
foot of a steep street of steps. The rocky promontory
on which Valetta stands is full in view, and you may
observe that it is divided transversely by a deep
ravine, down the sides of which are other long
flights of steps, as well as to the water-side. Along
the dorsal ridge, the axis of the peninsula, is the chief
line of street, and all the others run parallel or at
right angles; for Valetta is no ancient and irregular
town, but was all built upon a settled plan after the
repulse of the Turks from St. Elmo. La Valette laid
the first stone in 1566, and in 1571 the city was

completed. From the water's level it still looks new,
and this look is increased by the number of villas
which on all sides fringe the shores of the Quarantine
Harbour—Sliema, the principal suburb at that side,
being just so near that you can see the carriages
coming and going along the dusty road.
While the officer of health is coming we may
glance at a local guide-book which gives us particulars
of the quarantine regulations. Here are
some pleasing extracts:—
“In regard to food, should the person not possess
the means of ordering a breakfast and dinner at the
high rate charged by the Trattoria connected with
the Lazaretto, he stands a good chance of suffering
from hunger.” Nor does the cheerful prospect thus
held out improve when we read on:—” As the
Guardiano placed over you is not allowed to serve
in any way (though you are obliged to pay him a
salary, besides supplying him with food), one must
almost necessarily hire a servant, who may charge as
much as 2s. 3d. per day.” Your ideas as to the
pleasant leisure of a life in quarantine fade insensibly
as you proceed. In case the traveller “wishes to
hire furniture over and above that provided by the
Government, consisting of a table, two chairs, and two
bed-boards and trestles, he may do so from a person
privileged for the purpose, who at a pretty high rate
will supply him with anything he may require.”
Such are some of the quarantine regulations in

what may be considered a civilised country. What
must they be in Turkey or in Spain? Three weeks
at Suez would probably make Jezirah seem a little
paradise by contrast. For no fault of your own,
unless it is a fault to travel, you may be imprisoned
and very heavily fined, at the option of an official
who probably does not know the difference between
endemic and epidemic, or typhus and typhoid.
Apart from actual experience you might suppose
that, if a community like that of Malta thinks
quarantine needful, it would at least take care that
the unfortunate traveller who suffers for its sake
should not suffer at the expense of his own pocket,
since it is not for his own good. If he is not actually
recompensed for his imprisonment, at least care will
be taken that he has nothing to pay. But unless our
Guide is strangely misinformed, he has to pay, and to
pay heavily too, for the privilege of undergoing
quarantine. His bill at a Brighton hotel in the
height of the season would probably about equal that
incurred at the Lazaretto on Jezirah. One might at
least have expected that the custodian placed over
him would be paid by the Government, that his
rations would be supplied at cost price, and that a
soldier from the Hospital Corps would be told off to
wait on him. I do not go at all into the question
of the efficacy of these or any other quarantine
rules. If people who have the right to make such
rules choose to do so, it is no concern of mine.


As we survey the unfortunate passengers who are
obliged to land, we feel that the present working of
those rules at Malta is needlessly severe, and indeed
disgraceful to the executive of a British dependency.
Here is a timid little governess without a friend;
how is she to support three weeks' quarantine? She
has been months scraping up her passage-money. In
the words of the Guide, she stands a good chance of
suffering from hunger. There is a second-class
passenger with a wife and two children. He has
made up a little purse to keep the family going till
he gets work. It will suffice them for about a week.
And of a different character, but deserving also of
sympathy, are the other cases—the anxious wife,
who descries her husband afar off in one of the
boats, which still keep out of reach; or the midshipman
about to join his ship; or the young
tourist of rank who is going to stay a week with
the Governor.
As we endeavour by condoling with these unfortunates
to make the best of our own case, the
officer of health appears. He is a pompous-looking
man in uniform, and is rowed out from the gate
under an awning. The anxious passengers augur
well or ill from the expression of his face as he nears
the steamer. The surgeon stands to meet him at the
foot of the ladder and hands him the fatal bill. He
receives it with a pair of tongs, at which there is a
laugh and a cheer, and puts it into a box full of

holes, which he places over a little brazier to be
fumigated. There are a few moments of intense
anxiety as he pushes off and reads the paper at
a safe distance. Some of the passengers endeavour
to keep up the spirits of the others, but with slight
success. The captain speaks hopefully of pratique,
and his words are eagerly received and commented
upon. At last the officer of health returns. He
speaks for a minute with the surgeon, who mounts
the ladder and speaks to the captain. The captain
descends; five minutes pass. Some of the ladies are
in tears; the men look pale. The captain suddenly
comes up again with a smiling face. “You must all
be fumigated,” he says, “and then you can go
ashore; he grants us pratique.”
Thus happily ended a scare. There is enough to
see at Malta to make a fortnight pass very rapidly.
Few countries have undergone so many changes of
rulers. Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans,
Goths, and Arabs, all held it in turn before the close
of the ninth century of our era. Since Roger the
Norman in 1090 drove out the Moslems the series of
Christian dynasties has included German emperors,
Aragonese kings, French princes, and Spanish dons.
History records few stranger transactions than that
by which in 1350 the islanders freed themselves from
the grasp of Don Gonsalvo Monroi, to whom they
had been pledged by King Martin of Sicily for
30,000 florins; but not even by buying their own

freedom and taking themselves out of pawn did they
secure independence; and when in 1530 the Knights
of Rhodes were seeking a new habitation, Malta was
given up to them by Charles V. at the peppercorn
rent of a falcon to the King or the Viceroy of Sicily.
For the first time in their existence, perhaps, the
Maltese enjoyed the blessings of home rule under
the sovereignty of the Grand Master, but we have no
reason to suppose that they were satisfied with what
was only a tyranny tempered by the Inquisition.
Even Roger the Norman had respected the conscientious
scruples of such Mohammedans as remained
after his conquest; but the order of St. John
enforced the strictest orthodoxy, and before the
French expelled the Knights and the Inquisition
with them, Malta had become what she is still, more
completely Romish than Rome itself. Even the Grand
Master fell completely under the terrible rule of the
Dominicans, and a window is pointed out at a street
corner close to St. John's Church, where executions
took place, in sight of the crowd assembled in the
adjacent square.
The French abolished the Inquisition as well as
the Knights, but with that strangely short-sighted
policy which has made them hated wherever they
have come, in Egypt, in Syria, in Germany, as in
Malta, they plundered the unhappy people and their
churches to an incredible extent. I was shown
curious-old silver treasures at Citta Vecchia in the

cathedral, and heard wonderful stories of how they
were preserved during the French occupation.
The English are not, however, very popular: but
the example of the unhappy Corfuegians may well
be held up to the Maltese. The Ionian islanders
were constantly petitioning to be given up to Greece.
Now that they have attained their wish, and the
prosperity which Englishmen and money brought to
the island have disappeared together, they lament
their hard case, and abuse us for our selfishness in
turning them off.
It will be the same with the Maltese if we ever,
during the reign of some future Gladstone, take it
into our heads to hand the island over to Italy.
There is, I believe, an Italian party in Malta. Their
objects are about as definite as those of Home Rulers
in our own Parliament.
The experiment, first tried in 1849, of calling
together a local legislative body, would be more
interesting from a political point of view if free discussion
involved equal freedom in decision. But the
members of the Government are always ranged on
one side and the elected members of the Assembly
on the other, and the Government, having a majority
of votes, can always carry its measures. It may be
questioned whether the existence of a permanent
Opposition is to be attributed to the impotence of
the local vote, or whether it is not rather to be
accounted for by the religious and social condition

of the native electors. When education has reached
the lowest classes we may hope for clearer political
views among them; meanwhile it is curious to notice
that, though all educated Maltese talk Italian, many
French, and most English, yet not one of these languages
is the vernacular. A dialect of Arabic—till
within the last few years unwritten and unstudied—
prevails among the whole population, and is preferred
for conversation by the members of every private
family. Thus far, indeed, its existence has been
ignored by the successive rulers of Malta; but not
the less it exists, and the traveller on his way
homeward from the East is surprised to find himself
understood when he uses words picked up in the
bazaars of Cairo or Damascus.
The debates of the local Parliament are carried
on, however, either in Italian or English; and the
stranger present at a sitting has often the gratification
of hearing Southern eloquence in his own
Northern tongue, and of listening to English spoken
with a grammatical correctness and a distinctness
of utterance which he might miss in the House of
Commons at home. Some members of the Council,
however, refuse to speak in English; it is not
easy to see on what grounds, for English is not more
foreign to the native Arabic than Italian. In the
judicial tribunals and the schools Italian only is employed;
but difficulties constantly occur, and many
other questions turn upon this one of language. In

education particularly, the necessity, hitherto deemed
insuperable, of teaching Italian rather than Maltese
has had a retarding effect on the growth of the young
idea. With the help of great natural abilities, many
of the islanders have succeeded in obtaining prominent
places in politics, commerce, and the arts; but
it is confessed by all Maltese of enlightenment that
the bulk of the population is sunk in a condition
of almost hopeless ignorance. It might have been
supposed that, with Arabic for a foundation, and with
Italian and English as early acquisitions, the young
Maltese would have been turned to account in our
administration of more distant and more purely
Oriental countries; but I never heard that a single
native of these islands has entered the Civil Service
in India, although scores, perhaps hundreds, are interpreters
in English consulates and mercantile offices
throughout the Levant, and every second courier or
dragoman is a Maltese.
The “Council of Government,” as it is called,
assembles daily between November and June, in the
Governor's palace at Valetta. It is composed of
eighteen members, of whom ten are appointed by the
Crown, being the holders of such offices as that of
Crown Advocate, Collector of Customs, or Treasurer,
and including the Governor himself, who is thus at
once Sovereign, Speaker, and Prime Minister. All
the Government offices are open to natives, except
those of Chief Secretary and of Auditor; and of the

nine members of the Council now sitting on the
official side, only two others besides the general
commanding are English. On the opposite side all
the elected members are natives. They include one
Roman Catholic priest, two ecclesiastics only being
allowed to sit at the same time, together with three
lawyers, and several members of the old Maltese
I attended a sitting of this miniature Parliament.
It is held in the palace, a building situated on
the brow of the noble peninsula which Valetta
crowns. Built in 1571 by Peter del Monte, Grand
Master, it contains, like so many houses in the same
city, a series of fine apartments, designed rather for
coolness in summer than comfort in winter. They
are decorated in the “rococo” fashion, which prevailed
after the first blush of the Renascence had
passed away, and before classical architecture was
affected. Two fine, but hardly picturesque, courtyards
are surrounded by a series of corridors and
galleries which contain not only pictures and portraits
of Grand Masters and other potentates, but a
magnificent collection of ancient arms and armour,
in many respects almost worthy to rival that in the
Tower of London, and comprising nearly a hundred
suits of complete mail. From the corner of the
principal court a magnificent marble staircase of
ingenious design, winding at an easy slope; conducts
the stranger to one of these galleries. Half way up,

in a recess, his feelings of awe at the august presence
of viceroyalty are quickened by the sight of the
books in which visitors to “their Excellencies” record
their names. At the top he finds himself at once
near a tall mahogany door, where an imposing
official, accompanied by soldiers, messengers, and
the other attendants appropriate to a Court, gives
him admission after certain formalities and a caution
as to breaking silence. The Council sits in the
Tapestry Hall, a chamber some sixty feet long and,
perhaps, not less than thirty-five in height. The
walls bear the Gobelin hangings which give a name
to the chamber. They are of good design and in
brilliant preservation, though a hundred and fifty
years have passed since they left the loom. The eye
seeks in vain for signs of the English domination.
The roof is supported by cross beams carved and
gilt, as well as the panels between; but the patterns
employed are without political significance. Above
the tapestry and below the cornice there is a zone
filled with emblems more or less warlike—shields,
cuirasses, and trophies of arms—but they allude only
to the extinct glories of the order of St. John, and
are completed at the further end of the room, where
we should look for the Queen's arms, by a vast
crucifix, standing out with startling distinctness just
above the throne of the Governor. Even the carpet,
where one might expect Axminster or Glasgow, is
apparently contemporary with the tapestry, and

bears the golden fleur de lis of old France. The
most English feature in the room is a set of desks
for the deputies, of new varnished yellow oak, which
must at some not very remote period have left their
native Tottenham Court Road.
On the right of the spectator sit the Ministers.
On the left—that is, on the Governor's right—are the
elected members. The Governor himself is supported
behind by two gentlemen in gorgeous uniforms,
and fortified in front by two secretaries. He is in
plain clothes, but wears the diamond star of some
exalted order on his breast. Dignified as is his
position, nevertheless he is not to be envied. He is
set on high to be spoken against, like Naboth the
Jezreelite; and it almost made my hair stand on end
to hear the whole character of the Government, including
its august head, called in question in a torrent
of warm eloquence. The orator sat on the Opposition
side. His appearance was foreign, but his
English was excellent, and neither the heat of passion
nor the alien tongue disguised the rich tones of his
Southern voice. As he proceeded, the subject under
discussion was gradually unfolded. The old question
of language was at the bottom of it. Somebody
had made a deposition in a Maltese court of law.
The case had gone on appeal to the Home Government,
and the deposition had been translated by an
official whom the speaker did not hesitate to denounce
as having given certain sentences or certain words

a turn such as materially to alter their meaning. I
was carried away in spite of myself while he spoke.
His manner was as good as his voice. An air of
injured innocence was followed by an outburst of
generous indignation, and that again by an appeal to
the eternal principles of right and justice. Only a
person accustomed to such a power of words could
see that the honourable gentleman had no case; and
that all these flowers of rhetoric and refinements of
action were only employed to cover the nakedness of
the argument.
It was with feelings by no means favourable to
my own countrymen that I saw a member of the
Government rise to reply. His voice was somewhat
low. The words did not come rapidly. There
was a total absence of gesticulation. But in an
instant the whole edifice of the previous speech
toppled over, as it were, and disappeared. After all,
I could not but reflect, English common sense is
better than any amount of southern eloquence. The
speaker had evidently the judicial faculty born in him,
as in all Englishmen, and was not to be disturbed
from his English centre by the most fervid declamation
to be found in Malta. As I went out I felt satisfied
that it is well these people should be ruled by
an English majority, and with a laudable patriotic
pride I asked of the doorkeeper the name of the
“That,” he replied, “is a Maltese gentleman from

a village at the other side of the island. He is called
Sir Adrian Dingli.”
The old Maltese families are rather proud of their
titles of nobility, and at the time of the Prince of
Wales's visit there was some offence given because
they were not duly recognised at the Vice-regal
Court. Since then a Commission was appointed to
go into the claims, and the Blue-Book which was
issued gives some strange particulars on a subject
which interested me very much during my stay.
There are marquises, counts, and barons in the
Commissioners' list, but they are all to rank among
themselves according to the seniority of their titles;
and Madame Damico, “Baronessa di Diar el Bniet e
di Bucana,” whose barony dates from 1350, will rank
before Dr. Delicata, to whom the Commissioners have
confirmed the title of Marquis of Ghain Kajet, conferred
by the Grand Master de Rohan in 1796.
The task before the Commissioners was one of
great difficulty, and their report is not altogether
satisfactory from an English point of view. The
“titolati,” to use the Commissioners' phrase, who
reside in Malta, consist of three distinct classes.
There are some whose titles were conferred by
ancient kings before the Order of St. John assumed
the sovereignty of the islands. There are some whose
titles were conferred by the Grand Masters, who
appear in the eighteenth century, after they had been
nearly two hundred years at Valetta, to have suddenly

discovered that they were able to make grants of
nobility to their subjects. Lastly, there are titles
granted by foreign potentates to Maltese subjects,
and recognised by the Grand Masters. Besides these
three classes, which are easily defined, the Commissioners
notice a number of titles “conferred by
foreign authorities, but never recognised in Malta.”
Following this list, again, we have one of “claims
referred to the decision of Her Majesty's Secretary
of State for the Colonies.”
Among the questions thus submitted were some of
extraordinary complication and difficulty. For example:
—the Commissioners allowed the claim of
Amadeo Preziosi to a county conferred by Victor
Amadeus, King of Sicily and Duke of Savoy, in
1718; and they reported to the Secretary of State
that the said Amadeo was the senior male representative
of the original grantee, and therefore
undoubtedly a count; but the further questions arise,
whether Count Amadeo alone of all his family is
entitled to that distinction, whether it does not extend
to all the first Count's descendants, whether it is
limited to his male descendants, and whether male
descendants of females are included. There were
nine gentlemen of the house of Preziosi who thus
claimed to be called counts; but, if the right extended
to descendants of daughters, the number of
Counts Preziosi would be fifty-nine. It is not to be
wondered at if Lord Carnarvon refused to adjudicate

upon such a question, and the case was referred back
to the Commissioners for a further report: In their
reply they came to the following conclusion, which so
well illustrates the nature of their inquiries that I
quote it entire:—“This title, originally granted to
Giuseppe Preziosi and to his male descendants, is
claimed not only by Amadeo Preziosi, the first-born
son in the grantee's primogenial line, but also by
four other gentlemen who contend that it may be
enjoyed by all the grantee's contemporary male
descendants, whether descending from the male or
female lines. We beg respectfully to refer to our
remarks on the claim to the title of Marchese conferred
by the said King Victor Amadeus, in 1717, on
Mario Testaferrata. It will be seen that the grant by
Victor Amadeus to Mario Testaferrata was made
under the law respecting titles of the Sicilian nobility,
and that it is consequently descendable to the firstborn
son only, according to the order of succession
prescribed by the jus feudale francorum. Applying
these remarks to the present case, it is obvious that
the title of Conte granted to Giuseppe Preziosi
cannot be enjoyed but by Amadeo Preziosi, whose
name has been included in our list of titolati
in our former report, and that the other gentlemen
who have asserted a right to this title have not succeeded
in making out their claims.” The secretary
may well ask, after this second report, why it could
not have been made at first; but we can understand

that, after the settlement of the Testaferrata case
referred to in the second report, the Commissioners
may have felt themselves exhausted. In this case a
marquisate was claimed by twenty-four gentlemen
simultaneously, and indirectly by some ninety others;
but the decision is adverse, not only to twenty-three
of the claimants, but to the whole two dozen. The
reasons on which the decision is founded cover twelve
pages of the report, and in the end the Commissioners
come to the conclusion that the title is “inheritable
only by the first born,” and that the possession
rests with one or other of two claimants, who will,
it is presumed, have to go to law and try the question
formally before the courts. The Commissioners came
to a similar conclusion in another case, in which a
marquisate conferred by Philip V. of Spain was
claimed by one of the Testaferrata claimants, and by
two other gentlemen of the same family. Here the
title was never registered in Malta, but it was expressly
recognised by one of the Grand Masters. One
of the claimants asserted that the eldest branch of
the family was disinherited by the original grantee,
and one might have supposed the Commission quite
capable of deciding how far such an act of disinheritance
would be valid in the case of an hereditary
title. The Testaferrata family, indeed, may justly
complain that they have much litigation laid up for
them for many days, but at least they are better off
than some of their neighbours. The existence of

two marquisates in the family is acknowledged; but in
the cases of the Azzopardi, who claimed to be barons
of Buleben, of Signor Gatt, who claimed to be Count
of Beberrua, and of a gentleman who, as honorary
secretary of the Committee of Maltese nobles by
whose action the whole question has been opened,
signed himself “Marquis,” the Commissioners decided
that the claims were not made out.
There were, in all, twenty-four titles acknowledged,
held by twenty-one “titolati”; and, in addition, four
titles were recognised as existing, but disputed between
two or more claimants. The list does not
tally either with that of the Committee of Nobles or
with that of the Marquis Crispo-Barbaro, published
in 1870; but it must be allowed, even by those who
have lost titles which they fancied to be their own,
that the result of the Commissioners' Report will be
to place the position of a Maltese noble on a footing
of security very satisfactory to the families concerned,
and calculated to give the titolati of the island a place
in European society denied to the doubtful marquises
and counts of France or Italy.
The Commissioners seem, in one case at least, to
have been too easily satisfied, and in another to have
required proof nowhere possible; but, on the whole,
little fault can be found with the Report, except in
the points indicated above. A Maltese Peerage will
doubtless soon appear; and we may hail among the
nobles of our realms such picturesque names as those

of the Baron of Ghariescem and Tabia, the Count of
Ghain Toffieha, and the Marquis of Gnien Is Sultan.
Even the ancient marquisate of Carabas pales before
the name of Serafino Ciantar, Count Wzzini-Paleo-logo,
and Baron of St. John.
It is true a majority of the titles are of very modern
origin, but it will not become Englishmen to sneer at
Maltese nobles on this account. So many members
of our own peerage date their honours since the dethronement
of the Knights in 1798, that they can
scarcely afford to despise a series of titles the first of
which was conferred in 1350, even though the last
was only granted in 1796.
It is not very clear what advantage the Maltese
nobles hope to gain by this Government recognition
of their existence. In the time of the Grand Masters
even a marquis was as the dust of the earth before
the lowest of the knights. They will now, if any
special precedence be granted to them among their
fellow-subjects, be in a better position than that they
occupied while under the rule of the Order; but, so
far as we are aware, no warrant, royal or other, has
been issued assigning to them any place or privilege
at the Vice-regal Court. Her Majesty, whose dignity
as a great Asiatic sovereign has been frequently
noticed in the past few years, appears in a character
new to many of her subjects, and we may perhaps
before long witness the creation of counts and marquises
by a sovereign of Malta whose power is at

least as great as that of any of the military monks
her predecessors.
The Dome of Mosta, a village some four miles
from Valetta, was an object I wished very much to
see. The history of the church has often been told.
The villagers, finding their place of worship too small
for the requirements of an increasing population,
determined some fifty years ago to build another.
The priest and village mason seem to have been
enterprising people. They resolved that the new
church must be built, but that the old one could not
be removed until another was ready. The site of the
two churches must be the same. These apparently
inconsistent propositions were ingeniously reconciled.
The new church was built over the old one, and as
soon as it was ready the old church was carted out,
so rapidly that not even a single Sunday's service
was omitted. The dome was built without scaffolding
within; yet it is one of the largest in Christendom.
Here is a list of the principal domes of the world,
and the importance of Mosta may be seen from it
in an instant:—
The Pantheon at Rome is only 146 feet high, but
the interior diameter is 142 feet.
St. Peter's is 333 feet in height, and the interior
diameter is 137 feet.
St. Maria, Florence, height 275, interior diameter
137 feet.
St. Paul's, London, height 220, diameter 108 feet.


Santa Sophia, Constantinople, height 182, diameter
107 feet.
The dome of Mosta is not less than 200 feet in exterior
height, 160 feet in interior height, and 124 feet
in diameter, so that it is 16 feet wider than St. Paul's,
With these may be compared the dimensions of
the dome of the Gol Gumuz, at Beejapore. I had the
particulars from an Indian civil servant who was on
board the steamer in which I came out, and as they
are not generally known, I give them here in full.
The interior is 124 feet in diameter, and 175 in
height. It therefore ranks, like Mosta, between St.
Peter's and St. Paul's. The exterior height is 198
feet. The dome covers the tomb of Mohammed
Shah, the sixth king of the Moslem dynasty in
Beejapore, who died in 1689, so that the building is
nearly contemporary with St. Paul's. The name
signifies the “Rose Dome.” The king is buried
under it with the simple inscription, “Sultan
Mohammed, a dweller in Paradise.”
Internally the extreme plainness of the Mosta
dome greatly increases its appearance of size. It is
perfectly smooth, and if the exterior was as simple
the building would be much more satisfactory. But
it is disfigured by a number of large coarse honeysuckle
scrolls, calculated to dwarf it to the utmost,
and the Ionic or quasi-Ionic capitals which support
the portico are in a style too debased to be even


The village is small and miserable, but built, like
the dome, of the beautiful yellow stone of which the
whole island consists. The drive from Valetta seems
to be all made through streets or between walls, and
the mud is something wonderful in its putty-like
and clinging character.
I did not expect much from Mosta, and so was
not disappointed. The interior was certainly above
my expectations: while the ugliness of the exterior
was all the more apparent because Malta abounds
in handsome domes, and that of Mosta is only one
of thirteen I counted all in view together from a
single hill above Sliema.
All I saw besides in Malta, except a silver-covered
MS. of the eleventh century in the Cathedral at Citta
Vecchia, the old town locally called Rabbat, are they
not fully described in various guide-books? I will
therefore refrain from further details of my visit, and
proceed at once to an unfortunate attempt I made
with a friend to reach Naples, there to pick up the
French steamer for Alexandria. The difficulties
of so direct a voyage are strange between two such
civilised parts of the world, and still more strange
is it that English mails are suffered to pass through
the hands of people with no stricter ideas of punctuality
than the Italians. A recent writer in the Times
complains, not unjustly, of the irregularity of the
Maltese postal arrangements, and repeats the story,
universally accepted at Valetta, that the mail boat

only leaves port when a naked candle will burn on
the forecastle. While unhappy people are anxiously
watching for letters, the Italian steamer lies safely
in Syracuse or Messina, and to all remonstrances the
Company only replies that the subsidy is too small
to cover risks. We have an insular idea that a mail
steamer must keep time. Nothing more foreign to
the Italian view of things can be conceived. Unfortunately,
too, while the sailors who convey the
mails to and from Reggio are charged with so
much care of themselves and their boat, they bestow
no such care on their precious freight, and there
is always a feeling of doubt as to letters, not so
much whether they will reach their destination a
week or a month after their time, as whether they
will get there at all. During the recent rumours of
wars the officers of the army and navy at Malta
were left for ten days at a time without letters from
home, in a state of the most unpleasant suspense.
These irregularities and others of a similar character
add an air of adventure to the voyage from Malta
to Naples which the tourist in delicate health may
prefer to dispense with; and nothing but a hope
of seeing the glories of Etna, of visiting sites with the
historical interest of Syracuse, Taormina, and Messina,
should tempt an unwary Englishman, except in the
finest weather, to run the gauntlet between Scylla
and Charybdis in an Italian steamer.
Fair laughed the afternoon over the great harbour

of Valetta as I descended to the water's edge and
took a boat to the steamer. The yellow freestone
of which the city is built rising in terrace above
terrace contrasts brilliantly with the intense blue-green
of the sea. At the mouth of the harbour a
slight surf dashes on the rocks at either side, and
the spray as it rises into the air is whiter than snow.
Though there is a calm below, the flag at the
masthead floats on the breeze, and I had been told
that if it does not hang down perpendicularly the
packet will not start. Nevertheless it does start,
not more than an hour or so after the advertised
time, and I had ample opportunities of admiring
the old Borgo or Vittoriosa, which was the seat
of the Knights' government till 1571; of seeing the
evening gun fired from St. Angelo; and of amusing
myself by British sneers at the affectionate kisses
two grimy Italians bestowed on each other as the
bell gave fallacious warning of departure.
At last, while a sunset glory in the sky turned
the domes on the height from yellow to purple, the
steamer got out of the harbour and the first plunge
was over. Already I had proof that the boat was
badly trimmed, badly steered, and manned by a
gibbering crew of gesticulating natives, who did the
least amount possible of work with the largest
amount of noise. The wind freshened, and an
experienced sailor would have suggested the use
of a small fore and aft sail to steady her. But a

fellow-passenger to whom I made the remark shook
his head. There is not, he said, a sailor on board
who would go aloft in such a breeze. Meanwhile the
company considerably thinned, and two passengers,
or three at the most, sat down to dine in a saloon
so handsomely decorated that one saw at once that
the boat was not new, a suspicion confirmed by the
subsequent discovery of a date some twenty years
old, together with the name of a firm of shipbuilders
long forgotten on the Clyde. I turned in early, as,
though it seemed tolerably smooth after the Bay
of Biscay or the Dover Channel, the ship had an
awkward way of veering to avoid a wave, and
ducking every one who had been so foolish as to
remain on deck. Taking a farewell look at the
hospitable shores of Malta, now represented by a
long dark line, decorated at frequent intervals with
brilliant lights, I descended. A hideous noise on the
deck above, a few hours later, continued at intervals
throughout the night, announced the arrival of the
packet at Syracuse, and marked the various stages
of opening the hold, raising the cargo, swinging it,
and lowering it into a barge alongside; the whole
performance carried on to a running accompaniment
of the choicest nautical Italian.
I rose with the sun, and reach the deck in time
for a glorious view. The harbour appears to have
no exit, for the town occupies a kind of promontory
between it and the sea. This was the scene of the

famous battle of the ships described by Thucydides.
There the Syracusans drew their chain of boats across
the harbour mouth. From that shore the unhappy
Athenians watched the destruction of their hopes.
I sought in vain through the misty air of the morning
for some vestiges of the quarries where the Greek
prisoners perished by slow degrees, but there, as
if floating in the sky, thousands of feet above the
town and the bay, I saw a great white cone dimly
visible through the grey morning air, its summit
just touched by the golden light. You must be hard
to please indeed, if you grumble because no smoke
proceeds from the crater; but Etna long showed
that he was still awake by an occasional puff, and
on this occasion I was fortunate to see him at all.
By degrees as the steamer neared Catania the base
came into sight, a little darker in colour than the
blue sky on either side of it. The steamer waits
at Catania till evening, and we had time for sightseeing;
but the best sight is the nearer view of Etna
which may be obtained from the public gardens, and
there, while a band plays, the afternoon passes away
pleasantly. Before many hours of the evening are
gone, we have sailed under the cliffs of Taormina,
identified Mount Hybla with its slopes covered by
dark olives, and watched the melting snow as it
gives off great white clouds, until, when night falls,
we enter the Straits of Messina and see the lights of
Reggio on the right.


And now our troubles began. The next morning
was cold and cloudy. The town did not look inviting,
yet we had to land, as the Company will not give one
breakfast on board. If you insist on some refreshment,
you have to pay double for it. By an ingenious
arrangement, which must save thousands whenever
the weather is rough, you are only fed if the ship is
actually in motion. Forty-eight hours were to be
spent at Messina before a boat would be ready to
take us on to Naples, unless we were willing to go on
board a coasting steamer. This we agreed to do, as
Messina affords few attractions, though we did go
ashore and visit a cathedral which exhibits some
traces of the architecture of Roger the Norman,
chiefly exemplified in a long series of granite columns
taken from a Roman basilica. You may visit a
picture gallery in the half-deserted University, and
try to discern the hand of the great Antonello under
the neglect and dirt of ages, but on the whole, it is
more pleasant to stay on board. We tried in vain
to remember that the immortal Dogberry was “as
pretty a piece of flesh as any in Messina,” and,
“which is more, a householder.” The town did not
interest us. From the deck we could at least look
at the mountains, now partially obscured by the
clouds of the impending storm that, hushed in comparative
repose, expected us as its evening prey.
The harbour, with its semi-circular, sickle-shaped,
natural breakwater may give the geologist food for

speculation as to the probability of its having been—
long before Etna rose from out the azure main—the
crater of a volcano; a probability increased by the
great depth of the soundings close to shore. The
historian also may amuse himself by recalling the
various scenes in which Messina has played a part,
since the Mamertine brigands here commenced the
first Punic war, and down to the days when the brave
Essex admiral, George Walton, wrote his famous
despatch to Byng from Messina:—“Sir, we have
taken and destroyed all the Spanish ships and
vessels which were upon the coast—number as per
But as the afternoon waned, the wind rose. A
little way out to the north we could descry Scylla,
the waves breaking angrily at its foot. We watched
with misgiving as an Italian wine schooner was
caught by the current of Charybdis, and hardly succeeded
in making the mouth of the harbour. At
length, after several false alarms, we were off; first,
across the strait to Reggio, for it seems to be a
rule with every steamer leaving Messina to make
a preliminary trial-trip so far. Then back again
to Messina—nobody knows why. By this time
it was dark and stormy, and the rain drove us
below. We felt sure we should never care to see
Messina again, and were decidedly of opinion that
the beauties of the Straits were overrated. Once more
we felt the whirling tides of Charybdis, and as our

fellow-travellers dropped off one by one and shouted
in vain for help from stewards who were themselves
powerless with fright, and would not cross the deck
to save our lives, we retired to the lowest and narrowest
berths we ever tried to sleep in. I thought involuntarily
of Schiller's Diver. Was he not Cola of
Catania, and was it not Frederick II. of Sicily who
made him plunge into these very waters? Listen
how the waves wash over the deck, or rush along the
side, a thin board only between us and perhaps
Der entsetzliche Hai, des Meeres Hyäne,
or the nameless horror with the hundred arms. Such
happy visions mingled with my broken slumbers, and
it was well nothing else was broken, for with every
roll of the vessel my nose came in contact with the
roof of the berth, and if I dreamed at first that I
shared the terrors of the Diver, I ended by thinking
myself nailed down in a coffin.
As the night went by, in spite of these miseries
and a thousand others, I comforted myself with the
thought that I should be in Naples next day. There
was no sound of anchoring in a port by the way.
Evidently the violence of the gale had driven the
captain to go forward at once; and, as calmer sea is
reached, we thankfully fancied ourselves in the lee of
Capri, and turned in our cribs for a last attempt at
sleep. When I wakened it was to hear the rain
pattering on the deck above. No other sound broke

the stillness. We must be at Naples. Even through
a shower I must hasten to have a look at the famous
Bay. Hurrying on the few clothes taken off the
previous night, I made my way to the staircase
and emerged. It is scarcely daylight, but there
can be no mistake as to where the steamer lies.
There is the familiar fort; there is the lazzaretto;
there is the cemetery; beyond, through the wind
and the rain, across the rough sea outside, is Reggio.
We are back in Messina, and it is all for nothing
that we have spent the night between Scylla and


[Back to top]



From Malta to Suez—Backsheesh—The Railway Station—The Dervish
—A Testimony—Cairo—The rule of the Turk—Palaces—Oppression
—Difficulty of telling the Truth.


THE voyage from Malta by Port Said through the
canal to Suez is very uneventful as a rule, but very
pleasant. The only scenery is the ever-changing
view of the turquoise sea, tinted with a depth of
colour elsewhere I am sure unknown. Port Said I
have often heard described as “a beastly hole,” and
I think the description only too mild. The canal
is a long ditch, nothing more, but the lakes are not
so unpleasant, except for a want of vegetation on
their margins, as I had expected. The clearness of
the deep green water in Lake Timsah I have never
seen equalled. Still there is nothing especially
oriental in the scenery, and the traveller is well into

Egypt before he knows it. The usages, the civilisation
, the steam and the iron of the West, are still
before his eyes until he finds himself at Suez.
When he lands all things are changed at once. The
East and the West meet indeed, but their meeting
is like the meeting of fire and water. They do not
coalesce. The railway, the consuls, the post-office, the
hotel, have not made the slightest mark upon Suez. It
is an oriental city, narrow, sunny, odoriferous, though
the engine whistles and the church-bell rings in its
streets. On this account it is peculiarly interesting
to the observant stranger. He sees for the first time
the contact of the old world with the new. The contrast
between the two is put before him in its most
startling aspect. Hitherto there has been little except
the blue sky and the sunset to remind him that he is
no longer in Europe, and the first view of Suez is
from a distance. The harbour is some miles from
the town, a glorious bay—or rather, as it is called on
the maps, a gulf—with fine mountains on both sides,
and the entrance to the canal, where an endless procession
of noble ships goes up and down—great floating
barracks on their way to and from India, mail
steamers, long and low, tall black colliers, now and
then a vessel full of pilgrims for Mecca, with a Scottish
name on the bow and stern—but they do not bring
Europe to Africa. The constant traffic leaves Suez
as it was, and English eyes miss there, as much as in
Cairo or Constantinople, the flourishing appearance

which would be worn by a seaport of equal importance
at home.
There is a railway from the harbour to the
hotel; but the carriages have had no new paint or
upholstery since they first left their maker's hands
at Manchester. The trains run—or rather the train
runs, for there is evidently but one set of carriages—
on a simple system; as soon as they are nearly full
the whistle sounds a note of interrogation; the note
is repeated at intervals, and eventually, after one or
two false starts, the train goes on at a leisurely pace.
When it has proceeded about half way an official
gets in and endeavours to sell some tickets; but no
one buys, and those passengers who can talk Arabic
taunt him for trying to make them pay. Such a thing
was never heard of. Are they not in Government
employ as well as himself? He looks incredulous at
first, then crestfallen, and as the jokes increase in
number and brilliancy, to judge by the laughter, he
retires to the footboard outside. Presently the train
comes to a standstill. There is a railing on one side
and the sea on the other, all enveloped in a blaze of
blinding sunshine. The traveller steps out on a dusty
platform, repels a host of donkey-boys, and rushes to
hide in the cool darkness of the hotel.
When he ventures to sally forth again he obtains,
without going far, a very complete idea of an Egyptian
town. He finds a heap of mud hovels, here and there
a stunted minaret striped like a zebra, an awful smell

everywhere, a few yellow dogs covered with mange, and
sitting along a shady wall a row of native women, each
in a single garment of dark blue cotton, her brown
face partly hidden by a fold which she draws across as
you pass, holding it in her teeth. They crouch in the
dust like barn-door fowl, and, as the stranger walks
by, each extends towards him an attenuated baby
covered with black flies, and feebly, almost mechanically
, cries “Backsheesh.” When I heard that magic
word I realised for the first time that I was at length
in the East, the land of romance, the scenery of the
Arabian Nights, the glorious country of the rising
sun, which poets have sung and artists have painted;
where religion and civilisation, and all things rare and
beautiful and costly, have had their birth; of which
I had thought and dreamed, wondered and read,
talked and even written, till, all my gorgeous imaginings
about to be fulfilled, I had made the pilgrimage
at last and set foot in Egypt: “Backsheesh!”
The next morning when the mosquitoes had closed
my eyelids, but not in slumber, and when my experience
of the salle aà manger had made me sceptical
of holy writ and quenched my desires for the flesh-pots
of Egypt, I found my way to the station; for,
after all, there is a station of which the railing is
only an offshoot. As we went through the sharp
morning air—for, though the thermometer deceptively
points to something like fifty-five, we felt
quite chilly—threading some passages among the

mud hovels, and seeing more filthy infants and more
brown mothers; through a wide market-place, in the
midst of which a negro was droning out ballads, and
crowds of half-clothed men, women, and children
were performing a morning toilet, which consisted
chiefly in examining their garments for fleas, we
reached at last the platform by which the train stood.
Facing the train was a kind of shed running the
whole length of the platform. A crowd of loungers
stood or sat in rows under the shadow. There was
another crowd of disappointed donkey-boys, orange-girls,
dragomans, Arabs in white shirts and brown
capotes, dandies with white turbans, embroidered
dressing-gowns, red stained nails, and yellow slippers,
all walking up and down as if seeking something.
Round the door of the ticket-office were a few men
in uniform, apparently Custom-house officers or railway
guards. Each of them wore a red fez, a long
coat, and a shepherd's plaid. The scene, as we
discovered later, is the same at every railway station
in Egypt. Here perhaps the great bay, the rugged
pink mountains, the mighty steamers making for the
mouth of the canal, divert your attention from
things nearer the eye; but wherever you go afterwords
you find that the despatch of a train is a great
public occasion at which all the inhabitants must
assist, and that between whiles a majority think it
necessary to sit motionless in the shadow of the
ticket-office, watched by an official in a red fez and a

shepherd's plaid. If you go to Egypt asking why is
this? or why is that? you will get no reply; you will
be thought mad, and you will weary yourself. It is
better to take Dante's line to heart and merely record
passing impressions. But while one sentimentalises,
perhaps, watching the strange medley of men and
manners from the carriage window; or observing the
incongruity of a puffing steam-engine with the sandy
desert, the domed mosques, the lofty palms, and the
solemn camels, there is a sudden motion of the
crowd. It divides, and an open path is made along
the platform. Is it some great pasha, or a kicking
horse, or a funeral? But we forget for a moment
that we are in the east. It is a dervish.
First came a lofty standard, about as high again as
regimental colours, but otherwise very like them. It
was borne by a tall mild-looking negro, who was also
laden with a gourd, a brass pannikin, a pipe, and
various other articles for personal use. While we
wonder what or who he is, he stops, and a kind of
ring is formed by the crowd. Into the open space
steps the dervish.
He is undersized, like most great men; but his
mien is majestic. His complexion is quite white,
of which one can easily judge, for he wears no
clothes to speak of, except that round his naked
shoulders and chest is coiled a heavy chain, supplemented
by half-a-dozen rings of solid iron. His
hair, black and curly, hangs half-way down his.

back, but rises nobly from his magnificent forehead.
His beard, like John the Baptist's, has evidently
never been touched by a razor, but flows, well
combed, over his heaving breast. He stops, looks
down, then up to heaven. There is a shudder among
the silent crowd. Then he casts up his arms and
begins to speak in a deep, solemn voice, and in
measured phrases which to our unlearned ears sound
like verse. As he waves his arms, it is apparent that
he has but one hand. The other has offended him,
and he has cut it off; but he raises the stump to
heaven in protest against the men of this generation;
and we think we see one of the old Hebrew prophets
as he speaks, and a thrill runs through us also. The
scene is deeply impressive. The crowd reply to his
eloquence by a groan, and then he takes a step or
two forward. His gait is perhaps too much of a
strut to satisfy a critical eye, and there is an expression
of cunning in his face which mars his otherwise
magnificent features.
At the moment we did not perceive this. He
walked up and down, gesticulating, but with dignity.
As he strode along he seemed to perceive no
one in his path, and all made way for him. We
hoped he would not walk into our carriage. An
official duly decorated with the shepherd's plaid
came out to him, but approached him respectfully.
He endeavoured to reason with him, to draw him
aside, to expostulate. Evidently he would be more

at home in a neighbouring mosque. His costume
was not suitable to a railway station. There were
Europeans in the train, perhaps ladies. But no, the
prophet cared for none of these things. He turned
round and lifted up the voice of his testimony
against that official, and, so to speak, withered him
up. He retired discomfited; but another came out,
greater than himself. The gymnosophist is at last
persuaded. He turns, shakes the dust of the platform
from his unshod soles, and passed out of the gate.
There is a moment of stillness, and then the bustle
breaks out again till the train starts.
After such a scene we thought we could understand
the fanaticism of the East. We saw how the dervish
could carry with him the sympathies of the crowd.
His word seemed to sway them as a wind sways the
grass. He was a man who had suffered for his
mission. He was not clothed in soft raiment. He
had mutilated his body. He was naked and maimed.
And though we understood not a word he said, yet
we could not but perceive in the well-adjusted
balance of his sentences and the full pronunciation of
every syllable that the speaker was an educated,
perhaps a learned, man. Had he commanded those
superstitious Mussulmans to kill every Frank in the
train, would they not have obeyed? Had he ordered
them to pull down the ticket-office and tear up the
rails and break in pieces the locomotive, can there be
any doubt it would have been done in an instant?

Fortunately he was merciful, though he was so
powerful; and as the station was left behind, and
we were safe out in the desert, and could see again
the red mountains, and the great ships entering
and leaving the Canal, we breathed a sigh of relief.
The prophet had not hurt a hair of our heads. The
voice of his testimony had rolled off our backs. But
one day, we felt sure, his cry would be heard further.
The fanatics might rise at his bidding. The hordes
which swept away the civilisation, such as it was,
of the seventh century might attack it again in the
nineteenth. What will they care for Mr. Rivers
Wilson, or the Daira debt, or the Canal shares?
Once the fire has been lighted, will not hundreds of
prophets like this one come forth out of their
hermitages, out of the holes and caves of the earth,
and preach defiance from the Ganges to the Nile?
So I reflected, still under the spell of the full-toned
voice and the strange weird look of the prophet on
the platform. As the train drew to a station I took
the opportunity of asking the guard what it was he
had said. After his answer I wished I had refrained.
The dervish, he told me, had demanded a free
passage by rail to the next village, and the stationmaster
had refused it. That was all.
Such was my first experience of Egypt, and it
afforded me food for reflection during the rest of a
very hot, dusty, and disagreeable journey. Soon we
left the desert, stopping a few minutes at Ismailia,

and then entering the Delta by the land of Goshen,
were at Cairo shortly after dark, and put up at one
of the best inns to be found in Europe, Asia, or
Africa—the Hotel du Nil.
Although Cairo is, strictly speaking, in Africa, it is
the most typically and intensely Asiatic city in the
world. Except, perhaps, at Damascus, there is no
other place in which the character of the Mahometan
races can be so well studied. The natives all over
Egypt call themselves not Egyptians but Arabs,
except the Copts. They talk only Arabic, and are
of the religion of the Arabian prophet. It would
not, as we shall have many occasions to remark
further on, be easy to tell what is the true source of
their race. The Copts, indeed, are easily distinguishable
from the ordinary “Arabs” by their superior
appearance. But they may be taken to represent the
ancient governing classes, those who compelled the
construction of the great monuments, and whose
features are found in the statues of the mighty
monarchs of thirty and forty centuries ago. The
lower ranks are Mahometans, and possibly many of
them are Arabs; but they are a down-trodden race,
the servants of servants, the toilers, and cannot differ
very much from the people of whom Herodotus says,
truly or falsely, that a hundred thousand of them at a
time were forced by Cheops to build his pyramid. But
Masr el Kahira, “the victorious city,” is altogether
Arab. The Roman fortress, erected to overawe

Memphis, and still known as Babylon, is tolerably
1 See page 171.
but it lies some miles south of Cairo, and
was not even included in the early Arab town, Fostat,
now called Old Cairo . As Egypt was one of the first
conquests of Mahomet's disciples, one of the earliest
seats of the great Caliphs, and long the centre of
Arab civilisation, it has more features of purely
Arab type than Constantinople, or indeed any other
Oriental city of its size either in Asia, or Africa.
The traveller, therefore, who desires to see the Mahometan
at home cannot do better than seek him in
Cairo, and he finds in the narrow, picturesque streets
of the old parts of the town scenes of interest which
he may seek in vain elsewhere. When he emerges
into the modern quarters the change is remarkable.
Though all the tyranny of the Turks has not sufficed
to alter the indelible characteristics of the place, and
though the wide squares, the fountains, the gardens,
the arcades, the watered roads, the rows of villas
have a half-French look, the people who crowd every
thoroughfare are as unlike anything European as
they can be. Here, a long string of groaning camels
led by a Bedouin in a white capote, carries loads of
green clover or long faggots of sugar-cane. There,
half-a-dozen blue-gowned women squat idly in the
middle of the roadway. A brown-skinned boy walks
about with no clothing on his long, lean limbs, or a
lady smothered in voluminous draperies rides by on a

donkey, her face covered with a transparent white
veil, and her knees nearly as high as her chin. A
bullock-cart with small wheels, which creak horribly
at every turn, goes past with its cargo of treacle-jars.
Hundreds of donkey boys lie in wait for a fare,
myriads of half-clothed children play lazily in the
gutters, turbaned Arabs smoke long pipes and converse
energetically at the corners, and every now and
then a pair of running footmen, in white shirts and
wide short trousers, shout to clear the way for a
carriage in which, behind half-drawn blinds, some fine
lady of the Viceregal harem takes the air. She is
accompanied, perhaps, by a little boy in European
dress, and by a governess or nurse whose bonnet and
French costume contrast strangely with the veiled
figure opposite. A still greater contrast is offered by
the appearance of the women who stand by as the
carriage passes, whose babies are carried astride on
the shoulder, or sometimes in the basket so carefully
balanced upon the head. The baskets hardly differ
from those depicted on the walls of the ancient
tombs, and probably the baby, entirely naked and its
eyes full of black flies, is much like what its ancestors
were in the days of Moses.
In the older quarters of the town the scenes are
much the same, only that there is not so much room
for observing them, for the streets are seldom wider
than Paternoster Row, and the traveller who stops to
look about him is roughly jostled by Hindbad the

porter, with his heavy bale of carpets, or the uncle of
Aladdin, with his basket of copper lamps, or the
water-carrier clanking his brazen cups, with an
immense skin slung round his stooping shoulders.
It is now (1879) more than two years since I wrote
these first impressions of the streets of Cairo home to
a literary journal. Since then I have resided for four
months together in the heart of the town at one time,
and then at another; and though my first surprise at
the strange sights I saw has worn off, and the Moosky
is as familiar to me as Regent Street, I am more than
ever convinced that I was correct in saying that those
sanguine people who believe in the possibility of reformation
and improvement under Turkish rule should
visit Egypt. We are so often told of the enlightened
policy of the Khedive, that some of us, especially
those who only look at Cairo through the windows of
a comfortable hotel, are inclined to think that nothing
but the incorrigible stupidity of the people prevents
their improvement. But a little inquiry soon demonstrates
the truth.
Two years ago the viceroy was still popular in
England. It was impossible to get at the ear of the
public about him. In spite of the fact that he is so
completely a Turk that in his own family and court
he speaks Turkish, a language as foreign to Arabic as
it is to English, I was constantly told that he was not
a Turk, and that he had identified himself completely
with the country he rules. As to what constitutes a

Turk by descent I cannot say. It would require the
genius of Swift to unravel his pedigree: But as to
his identifying himself with Egypt, it is a kind of
identification similar with that by which the cat may
be said to be identified with the mouse she has
swallowed. His development of Egypt has ended
in reducing her to a state of poverty unknown elsewhere.
No doubt he has had money to spend, and
equally, without doubt, he has had money to hoard;
and has laid up his wealth where neither moth nor
rust corrupts, and where no Turk may embezzle—perhaps
in Paris or London; but of the vast sums
which have passed through his hands it is perfectly
safe to say not one single Arab peasant on the Nile
has been in any way the better.
Some years ago an apology for the Khedive and
his family was published in London, and to their endless
shame be it spoken, most of the London papers
reviewed it favourably, although in full possession of
the real facts. The apologist, among other things,
asserted the conjugal purity of several members of
the family, which read strangely where crowds of
black eunuchs, and carriages full of half-veiled ladies,
were well-recognised sights. If Prince — has only
one wife, which is very possible, how many concubines
has he? Why did his grandmother make him a present
of three Circassian slaves on his birthday? What
on earth can his one wife want with two housefuls of
attendants who rival or surpass herself in beauty?

About the works of such apologists it would be possible
to write any number of similar questions. I
would ask them two: Is it true that black slaves
are imported now with only as much disguise as deceives
people who wish to be deceived? Is it true
that the Khedive's chief eunuch—for nobody can
deny that he has a chief eunuch and hundreds of
others—keeps an establishment for the production
and education of these ornaments of the hareem?
All round about Cairo there are vast lath and
plaster buildings, chiefly standing in wide gardens
and surrounded by high walls; if you ask what they
are, the answer is always the same—palaces of the
Khedive. Three years ago it was reported that his
Highness had thirty-three palaces, and he still went
on building. A few days ago a friend of mine and I
counted twenty on our fingers. A magnificent but
flimsy villa, surrounded by a large park, has just
been furnished at Gheezeh, in sight of the Pyramids.
Another is in process of completion on the opposite
side of the road. There is a long, low house, round
three sides of a square, in the heart of the city. There
is a long red wall made of hoarding painted to imitate
brickwork, facing the island of Roda. There is
a splendid but tawdry plasterwork palace at Gezireh,
on the west bank opposite Boolak. There is a half-built
“hotel” in the French style near Old Cairo .
There is a vast series of irregular halls and rooms
of state in the citadel. In fact, everywhere you turn

there is some such house building, or built, or abandoned
and closed; and every one is a “palace of the
Khedive.” It is the same as you ascend the river,
until it becomes one of the standing jokes of the
Nile voyage wherever a house, or gardens, or white
walls appear, to ask, “Is that a palace of the Khedive?”
And in nine cases out of ten the answer is
in the affirmative, while in the tenth case it is that
the building in question belongs to one of the Khedive's
sons, or sons-in-law, or stepmothers, or cast-off
concubines. The money that has been spent on
them would have built the pyramids of Gheezeh,
yet in any climate but Egypt they would not stand
a single winter. They are all made of the same
durable materials, namely, lath and plaster. Yet I
heard lately that a single staircase in one of them
cost 20,000l., and that the Khedive took a dislike to
it as soon as it was finished, and so it was pulled
down and another built at a similar cost.
When we arrived from the upper Nile in a dahabeeah
we anchored our boat near the road to the
Pyramids, and remained in her for some days. Every
morning when we looked out of our windows early we
saw a long and melancholy procession on the bank. First
came an ill-looking man in a red fez and a long white
shirt, carrying a cane. Then came two or three dozen
boys and girls, half naked, footsore, weeping as they
limped along, or trying to sing a kind of slow chorus,
and following them another man with a cane, which

he freely used to encourage the loiterers. This was
a gang of day labourers. The Khedive was filling
up some low-lying land with earth taken from the
river's bank, and these poor little wretches had been
requisitioned from the villages and suburbs to carry
the soil from one side of the road to the other. They
were paid a microscopic sum—at least it was paid to
the taskmaster—and we may hope against hope that
they ever got any of it. In the hot midday we passed
by the scene of labour and saw them at work, and

after sunset we heard the sad chant of the morning and
saw the same processions, without the canes, going
home. It was shocking to see young girls carrying
huge burdens of earth, or baskets of lime for the
builders, or running up and down to the Nile for water
for the workers, their feet and often their bare shoulders
bleeding. Their lives were indeed “bitter with hard
bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of
service in the field.” Forced labour is still the rule
all through Egypt, as it probably was thirty centuries
ago. All the great works have been performed by it.

At the sugar factories in Upper Egypt, at the Canal
works, at the railways, and, above all, at the palaces
of the Khedive, the labourers are driven to their
tasks, and are paid as their masters please.
There has of late been a little improvement in the
arrangements at sugar factories, and in one I was
recently assured that some small payment was made
once a month in silver, but this is under the new
management. Under the old the workmen used to
receive a portion of treacle, valued at the highest
market price, for their wages; and, if they liked, could
sell it back again at the lowest price. Just as we may
suppose the great pyramids on the long line of hills
above the ancient Memphis to be symbolical of the
tyranny which afflicted the labouring population of
the vast city so many centuries ago, so the earth-works,
the long walls, the high roadways, and the
palaces of the Khedive are signs of the afflictions
which English money enables the Turkish rulers to
lay upon Cairo and all Egypt.
To write as the Khedive's apologists have written
an Englishman must divest himself of all the ideas in
which Englishmen glory. He must blind his eyes to
oppression and injustice, must close his ears to the
cries of children bleeding from the taskmaster's lash,
must steel his heart against pity, lest haply he should
see extortion and cruelty and slavery, and be moved
to protest against them. I have nothing to say
against the view that it is inexpedient we should

become the owners of Egypt. I do not wish to
meddle in political questions; but the Englishman
who can think or speak favourably of the Turkish
rule in Egypt has not seen how the money is made
up which is to pay the debt. He knows nothing of
the domestic institutions by which money, soldiers,
slaves, eunuchs, even estates, are obtained. He has
not stood by while land has been seized; sugar
mills built by the forced labour of men and women,
and little boys and girls; railways made by a
requisition of beasts of burden; cane for manufacture
grown in spite of the cultivators' wishes, paid for at a
price fixed by the buyer, and finally turned into sugar
by a conscription of all the able-bodied hands in the
district. It is unfortunately but too true that this
is the rule and not the exception wherever a manufactory
has been started; and yet the apologists
wonder that the people are averse to improvement,
and prefer agriculture to skilled industry and commerce.
Cotton and sugar might be very profitable
to them; but as things are at present managed, cotton
and sugar stand to them as a cause of ceaseless
oppression, of poverty and starvation, of tears and
death. No book on the political condition of Egypt
can be considered trustworthy which omits to explain
that the Turks have turned an elective government
into a despotism, have helped themselves to the land
where and when they pleased, have by wars and conscriptions
deprived the country of the population

which the gain of life over death would have led us
to expect, and have, by oppression, extortion, injustice,
taxation, forced labour, torture, and every form
of misgovernment, rendered themselves so hateful to
their subjects that the family of the beneficent ruler,
whom English writers extol, cannot appear in the
streets without a guard; and that, after fifteen years
of his beneficence, the fellah is afraid to have any
money or to appear richer than his neighbours.
It cannot be from any inherent defect in the mental
constitution of the people of Egypt that they are
unable to amass wealth, or to excel in manual industry,
or to improve in their system of agriculture. On
the contrary, it is easy to see that at a period not very
remote their forefathers raised beautiful houses,
adorned with cunningly-carved woodwork, carpeted
with needlework in divers colours, and built with that
idea of permanence so wanting in all the Egyptian
houses of to-day. It is easy to see that not long ago,
even under such rulers as the Mamelukes, there was
a public spirit, an enterprise, an independence now
wholly gone.
Personally, no doubt, the Khedive is all he is described
by his apologists, indefatigable, humane, well
educated, and, above all, hospitable; at least, I have
no authentic information to the contrary. But allowing
that he is personally the most honest and honourable
of men, has he, among all the Turkish officials
under him, one who deserves the same character? It

is an insult to common sense to tell us that the slave-trade
has ceased on the Nile, or that the Government
are doing their best to suppress it, or that
the imported negroes are “infinitely better off than
the free-born fellahs.” How is it that in the streets of
Cairo the European traveller is everywhere shocked
with the sight of hideous beings who have been mutilated
to fit them for the service of the harem, and
who swarm at the doors of the innumerable palaces
of the Khedive? It is easy to point out the mildness
of Oriental slavery, and one recent writer makes a
curious statement as a palliation of the crime of employing
eunuchs—namely, that they are no longer
brought from Assioot, but from Kordofan and Darfur.
But it would be instructive to hear what apologists
have to say about Sadyk, a man who had been a
fellah himself, and who was, therefore, the better able
to squeeze the fellahs. The Viceroy was enriched by
Sadyk, and when he had done his part he was thrown
aside, as a Tudor three hundred years ago in England
threw aside his Chancellors.
One would like to know what they have to say
about the public sale of Sadyk's domestic slaves at
Cairo, a sale almost as abhorrent to the native Egyptian
mind as it would be to the English. The fact
was officially “explained,” but not denied. It would
have been interesting to know that the vast estates
accumulated by the Minister were returned to their
rightful owners. Had it been possible to give an

example of such a reparation, we may feel sure
the most would have been made of it. Indeed, it is
somewhat surprising that none of his advisers recommended
the Viceroy to make such an example for
the benefit of his foreign apologists. But the history
of Sadyk and the beneficent Government of which
he was for so many years the head, is precisely that
of the two polypes, of which one reads that they
found a worm, and commencing at either end, swallowed
and swallowed till they met. Then the larger
polype swallowed the smaller.
To say that the Viceregal Government is unpopular with the lower orders would be to speak too
favourably of it, as we understand the unpopularity
of an English Minister. A recent traveller had occasion
to ask a well-to-do fellah if he could say to
whom one of the suburban mansions belonged. “It
is, of course,” was the reply, “a palace of the Khedive
now, but it was built by the man who has gone to
open the gates of Gehenna for him.” Thus a prosperous
man, as the Egyptians count prosperity, spoke
of his Sovereign and the late Finance Minister.
“But,” he was asked again, “Sadyk Pasha was
banished, not put to death?” “Well, it comes to the
same thing,” was the answer; “he went to Dongola,
and there the coffee did not agree with him.” Every
traveller who has come into contact with the lower
orders in Egypt can tell similar stories if he likes;
and it may be asserted broadly that the Turk is quite
as much disliked by the Egyptian, be he Copt or

Arab, as by the Greeks or the Armenians. He
offends their religious prejudices as well as their sense
of justice. One of the first objects seen on arrival at
Cairo is a statue representing, in bronze of colossal
size, Ibrahim Pasha, the Khedive's father, on horse-back.
To make statues is a crime of great magnitude
to the Moslem mind. It is characteristic of the
bastard civilisation grafted upon Egypt by its present
rulers, that, though the statue is bronze and a
fine work of art, the lofty pedestal is of wood,
painted in imitation of stone. A similar and equally
typical example of the way in which public works
are carried out may be seen in the mosque in the
citadel. The walls are lined with slabs of alabaster
for about twenty feet from the ground, and above
that height are painted and grained in imitation.
Immediately below this monstrous monument of
Turkish taste is the mosque of Sultan Hassan, an
edifice contemporary with our own Salisbury cathedral,
and worthy of careful study by every lover of
simplicity and beauty in architecture; and here,
while countless sums have been laid out on a French
Alhambra kind of mosque close by, the whole building
is going to destruction from neglect; its exquisite
fretwork of precious inlays dropping from the walls,
the roof of the central kiosque stripped off in great
patches, the beautiful Syrian lamps, so much praised
in the guide-books, all gone, and the vane of the graceful
minaret bowing to its fall. Yet it may be safely
predicted that something of Sultan Hassan's building

will remain long after every palace of the Khedive
has disappeared.
English bondholders may wonder where their
money has gone, but a few days in Cairo would
soon settle their minds. Let them look at the
palaces, as aforesaid; let them walk past two or three
of the vast barracks, each filled with black regiments,
every man of which has been bought from a slave-dealer
in Central Africa and transported at immense
cost, in spite of all treaties with the abolitionists.
Let them stand aside as two grooms in purple and
gold and fine linen clear the way for a magnificent
pair of English high-stepping horses, drawing the carriage
in which one of the Viceregal family is seated,
while a couple of hussars trot at the wheels; let
them, in short, see Cairo as it is, and not through the
false gloss of half French civilisation which its Turkish
conquerors have imposed on it.


[Back to top]



Heliopolis—The Delta—The Peasant Cultivator—Towfik Pasha—The
Obelisk—The Inscription—Other Obelisks.


THE greenest drive near Cairo and the shadiest is to
On, the place to which the Greeks gave the name of
Heliopolis. Of the city and temple nothing visible

remains, except a mud wall and the famous obelisk,
an obelisk on which English visitors always make the
remark that Joseph must have seen it. To my mind
it is more interesting to reflect that it was where it
still stands full 1,000 years before Joseph came into
Egypt. The obelisk is there still, and many other
things remain just as he saw them—the green fields,
the degraded labourer, the wide, flat expanse stretching
away towards the north, the yellow sandy hills
closing in towards the south, and the silver waves of
the river here dividing into the great arms which
encompass and water the rich districts of the Delta.
It is well worth while to climb the Mokattem Hill
above Cairo, for the sake of seeing this view alone.
The position of Heliopolis is seen as on a map, and
the old site of Memphis, ten miles higher up, is easily
made out from the fringe of pyramids which stretches
between it and the western desert.
This view and the drive or ride to Heliopolis will
give a stranger a very good idea of the immense
fertility of all the land upon which the annual inundation
comes. If the level is one inch, nay, half an
inch above the inundation, the soil is sandy and
On the road the great palace of Abbas Pasha
is passed, and close to it an enormous barrack,
which a year ago was crowded with soldiers. The
tall octagon towers are signal stations, which Abbas
built to protect him from any danger of insurrection.

He had a morbid dread that he would be assassinated.
Perhaps conscience made a coward of him
for, though by no means a bad ruler, he was addicted
to the most hideous vice, and in the event his fears
were but too well justified. While he was residing at
a palace at Benha, in the Delta, a quarrel or intrigue
among his wretched favourites led to the entrance
of two of them into his chamber at night, when
they put him to a death of such cruelty that the
fate of Edward in Berkeley Castle was comparatively
Past the Abasseeyeh the road enters a grove of
cactus, while feathery sont-trees arch overhead.
Half a mile further and we are on the soil of the
Delta, and surrounded by a beautiful greenness to
which no painter can do justice.
The land, as its peasant cultivators say, is gold, not
mud. For ordinary crops it requires no manure and
little labour. The yield, with the most primitive
tillage, is enormous. Two crops of corn may be
grown in a year, or even three. The moment a canal
is made, the ground in its vicinity grows green. It
needs no preparation for the seed but a little surface
scratching and small watercourses for irrigation.
Along the Nile the shadoof goes all day long, except
during the inundation, when it is not required. In
some places the sakia, with its rows of graceful
earthen jars, raises water both day and night. At
the wheel two yoke of patient oxen relieve each

other, driven by a child who ought to be at school.
The Khedive spent a great deal of money in putting
up large pumping-engines; but they have turned out
useless, partly because of the non-existence of fuel,
partly because the smaller parts wear out, and cannot
be replaced by native workmen. There was lately
some talk of cutting a canal and floating wood down
from the Upper Nile. M. Lesseps has lately been
over the ground, but bondholders have by this time
become chary of their help. Meanwhile the old
labour-wasting methods must be retained. New
canals might be multiplied indefinitely, always with
splendid results, but, under the present system of
forced labour, they can only be cut at the cost
of the lives of many bread-winners. The Fellah,
drafted away from his home, hard worked, ill-fed,
harshly treated, dies of the slightest illness. It used
to be said that, when a new canal was begun, the
Khedive secured the land nearest to it, his officers what
came next, and the Fellah who made it got little or
no benefit. He is obliged still to stand at his bucket,
and, with only a rag round his loins, work the water
up to his little tenement, while the intense sun blazes
down on his bare back and shaven head. It is unlikely
that any private enterprise can spring up
amongst the people to improve the cultivation of
their farms. They are too poor, and have not time
to learn about new inventions. The fine climate
prevents them from being braced to exertion and

rebellion, as would be the case in a more northerly
country. But they do feel very sore to see the land
slipping into the hands of large proprietors who take
all the finest ground for sugar-canes.
The name of Fellaheen is properly only applied to
the inhabitants of the Delta. The true Fellah is a
very different person from the proud Arab of the
Constant ill-usage has made him a coward and a
liar, but he has courage and endurance when suffering
is inevitable. You may see a man at work in heavy
irons, yet he wears a cheerful countenance, and
greets an old acquaintance with a pleasant laugh.
He has committed no crime, and everybody knows
it; but a crime had been committed, and somebody
had to be punished. “Khismet” willed that he
should be charged, and, having no money to bribe
the judge, he is condemned. So, too, the old story is
still true that rather than pay an increased tax, he
will submit to the bastinado, and may be heard to
boast of the number of blows he can bear, and the
weeks during which he was unable to put his feet to
the ground. He looks upon the Government as his
natural enemy, and with good cause regards taxation
as a Border farmer must have regarded black mail.
To him the Khedive is the lineal successor of the
Bedouin freebooter who robbed his forefathers. He
has no remedy against an overcharge, and no voice in
the assessment of the tax. If there were a printed

form setting forth his liabilities, it would be useless,
for he could not read it. By nature he is gay,
sober, and saving, yet he can be lavish on occasions,
and does not grudge money spent in hospitality or
His own wants are few, but among them is music.
Nothing can be done without singing. He sings at
work, at play, in the field, at the wedding, at the
funeral, as he rows his boat, as he rides his camel, in
fact everywhere. Sometimes, as when he works the
shadoof, there is a great beauty in the oft-repeated
cadence; but generally the European ear can find no
melody in his music. The scale differs so much from
ours that it cannot be played on any of our keyed
instruments; and the principles on which it is founded
are so involved that it is hardly possible even for a
trained musician to unravel it. There is probably a
mixture of the Greek and Asiatic scales; possibly
there is a remnant of old Egyptian harmony. The
scientific musician finds much to interest him in
following a song on the violin, but to the vulgar
musical ear it is distracting. It may be roundly
asserted that the attempts made by Lane and by
others to write Arab melodies in our notation are
ludicrous failures. The native performers sometimes
show great skill in manipulating an instrument
with two strings, and some Egyptian Paganini may
blush unheard and waste his sweetness among dusky
sailors on the Nile. At Cairo a leaning towards the

European scale is sometimes very perceptible, owing
to the opera companies which go there every year;
and the military bands practise a kind of compromise
which is most distressing to hear: but a concert of
expert native performers in the Esbekeeyeh Gardens
is well worth hearing. In the country, singers extemporise
to a tune, but have special airs appropriate
to all possible occasions. No other art is practised,
and life goes on under the most simple conditions.
The Fellah wears but one garment, and suffers
from cold in winter, for he has no fire and no bedclothes,
except perhaps a kind of quilt. He lives
on unleavened bread, sour milk, raw vegetables, but
sometimes for weeks together has nothing but dried
dates. In towns the food is sold ready cooked, and
consists of different kinds of haricots and lentils. His
house is roofless, except for a few canes laid across
the low mud walls. It contains no furniture; but in
Upper Egypt there is generally a mat at the door
and a sort of raised divan made of mud. He can
afford but one wife, who, like himself, has but one
garment and a hood or veil, while his children go
naked. In this respect, indeed, travellers remark
greater poverty year by year. There is immense
mortality among the children, partly, no doubt, from
the dirt in which they are kept, as they are never
washed before they are seven years old, but partly
also from the absence of medical aid and the universal
ignorance of the causes of disease. The women

are in every respect inferior to the men. They are
too poor to have employment; they have no stockings
to darn, no house linen to mend, no furniture or
cooking implements to clean. They wash their one
garment in the river, cleaning it with a piece of mud
which acts like soap and pumice combined. They
wear their bracelets and necklaces in the field where
they pull corn or herd the cattle. They carry all the


water required in their houses from the river in heavy
jars, and sit long on the bank gossiping and catching
fleas. Their highest idea of life consists in doing
nothing. The daughters of a family are kept at
home as long as possible, as it is a mark of respectability
to retain them at least till they reach fifteen;
but this advanced age is only attained in comparatively
wealthy homes.


Before his door is a row of round mud bins like
barrels for storing corn; and there are separate
pigeon-houses. The pigeons everywhere eat more
than they are worth, and contribute greatly to the
dirt of the houses in Lower Egypt. Fever is rare,
considering the filth, but there are stomach complaints
and innumerable skin diseases of great severity.
Ophthalmia is said to be decreasing in Cairo
since the opening of wider and better-watered streets,
but everywhere else it is very common, and seems to
be carried by the flies from child to child. There
is also a mysterious sleeping sickness, about which
doctors differ; it is always fatal. A man comes
home from his work, lies down, and sleeps for three
days, when he dies. It is impossible to get leave
to make a post-mortem examination, though English
physicians have repeatedly attempted it.
It is hard to imagine a more dreary existence than
that led by the ordinary Fellah. He is born, works
hard all his life for wages of which he is robbed at
intervals under the name of government, and dies in
his birthplace, his whole view through life having been
bounded by the table-topped mountain at his own
side of the river and the table-topped mountain at
the other, under whose rocky sides a few little mud
domes, a few little heaps of shining pebbles, mark
the nameless graves of his people, the place to
which, when the end comes, his body will be rowed
across the Nile to a chant from the Koran, just as five

thousand years ago his forefathers were ferried over
to the mummy pits, while a hymn was sung to Osiris,
the Judge of the Dead.
The agriculture of the ordinary Fellah of the Delta
is carried on under the simplest conditions. His year
begins on the 11th of September, when the Nile is
generally at or near its highest level. The thick,
turbid water flows over thousands of acres and gives
back in purple shadows the scintillating blue of the
cloudless skies. Scattered amidst this sea of liquid
mud rise hillocks, most of them artificial, covered
with one-story mud huts, which look ready to melt
away into the flood below. On the roofs sit rows of
naked children, surrounded by pigeons, barn-door
fowl, and perhaps a few young kids, all basking in
the vivid sunshine. The only subject of conversation
amongst the men in the village is the height to
which the river has risen or is likely to rise. A few
feet more or less to those poor people makes the
difference between abject misery and comparative
plenty, for their wants are few and easily supplied.
If the overflow is too scanty, the desert
comes creeping up and remorselessly swallows the
fields where luxuriant crops are wont to wave. If
the river rises too high, great damage is done, not
only to the wretched villages which it carries away,
but to the dykes, which are made at considerable
expenditure of time and labour, and which serve
both as pathways and defences from a flood. The

palm-trees, which, like the Irishman's pig, are often
counted upon to pay the rent, are frequently swept
away, and in some cases the cattle also. It is a
deluge without rain. The field mice must leave their
haunts, and, accompanied by the bright lizards, take
refuge on any high ground that offers. Enormous
numbers of frogs and toads are drowned or eaten by
the flocks of water and marsh birds which come from
the Mediterranean and the lakes of Lower Egypt as
soon as the inundation has become general. The
Fellah is relieved from the hard toil of the shadoof,
and can lie for a considerable part of the day at the
door of his hut, smoking, chatting, or fondling his
little children.
Dr. Klunzinger gives such a good account of the
method of raising water by the shadoof that I
must quote it in full. It is the best I have ever
met with, and is an example of the painstaking
accuracy which characterises the whole of his book
on Upper Egypt:—
“In the soft and steep banks of the river, or of a canal, a
number of trenches, with terraces behind them, are dug above
each other, the number depending on the height of the bank;
at the top a reservoir is constructed, the bottom of which is
often strengthened by layers of reeds or palm-stems. The principle
of raising the water is similar to that of a draw-well,
perhaps still more practical. On the upper ends of two pillars,
formed of rough palm-stems, or more commonly of clay, a crossbeam
is firmly attached; and, under the middle of this, a long
beam is balanced by means of a cord and bar joint (so that it
may move freely up and down). Behind, that is, at the shorter

end, the end further from the river, this beam terminates in a
colossal ball of clay; from the other end hangs a palm-twig, to
the lower extremity of which a bucket, usually of leather, is
fastened. It is the duty of the labourers standing on the terraces
to fill the bucket in the lowest basin and to empty the contents
into the next above it. The bucket is raised by the weight of
the clay ball on the arm of the lever, and the workman has only
to guide it. Thus even in ancient times did men discover how
to save labour by mechanical means. Having reached the
highest basin, the water flows by a small channel on to the
border channels of the fields that are to be watered. When the
river rises, one terrace after another is swept away; and, when it
sinks again, as many new ones are constructed every year.
The motive-power in these water-raising apparatus is a class of
men called ‘fathers of the shadoof,' who, in classical brown
nakedness, enliven at intervals the banks of the Nile, and every
now and then utter shrill and plaintive cries, while the beams
groan and the buckets splash.”
Although written about Upper Egypt, this passage
is true of the Delta, and indeed of every place where
water comes, whether by river or canal.
As the Nile recedes, the peasant's short holiday
comes to an end. It is time to begin to plough or
scratch the fertile deposit left on the fields. His
spade is the adze of his forefathers, and his harrow a
palm-trunk cut from the nearest grove. The water
which has saturated the land is so impregnated with
ammonia and organic matter that no further manuring
is necessary, and no deep steam-ploughing is required,
as the air reaches the soil through the cracks made by
the burning sun. The large number of canals which
have been cut lately mitigate the loss caused by a bad

Nile, but only to a certain degree. If, however, they
could be cut high up the country and above their present
level, the necessity for artificial irrigation would be
enormously lessened. In October begins the sowing of
the numberless trefoils, which produce fodder in abundance
both for man and beast, as the shoots of some
of the species are eagerly eaten by the natives. Flax,
wheat, and barley are also planted, most of them
being slightly sheltered from the keen north wind by
tufts of dry grass stuck in the ground. As the days
shorten, the nights become very cold, particularly
towards sunrise; and about the end of November the
European often finds himself wishing for a fire as he
heaps coverings on his bed in the clear rose-coloured
During this autumn weather the durra, a sort of
maize which stood during the inundation, is gathered
in. The women may be seen at the doors of
their houses, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups,
“grinding at the mill,” singing monotonous ditties, or
retailing to each other the gossip which is even more
plentiful in an Arab village than in an English one.
It was the failure of this crop in the Saeed which
caused the famine of this year. After the durra is
reaped most of the winter crops of lentils, chick peas,
wheat, barley, beans, peas, lupins, safflower, lettuce,
flax, poppy, durra, are sown, and soon the bands of
emerald green, so remarkable in an Egyptian landscape,
begin to fringe the river, growing broader as

the water recedes, leaving each week a few more
inches of arable land to the industrious cultivator.
In December some of the clover is ready for its first
cutting, much to the satisfaction of the animals, who
have had little but dry forage for months. The poor
beasts have not much enjoyment in their lives, for
they are half starved, and worked to death. The state
of the donkeys and camels in the small villages is
sometimes pitiable. It is impossible to ride them
with the least pleasure, as they are almost sure either
to have broken knees or galled backs. Still, with a
heap of fragrant clover before them and a deep bed
of sand in which to roll, they, like their masters,
forget their real troubles in a momentary bliss. The
children, too, are enjoying themselves, and sit sucking
the fresh sticks of sugar-cane which are now being
cut down. Indeed the idle moments of all the inhabitants
seem devoted to tearing the cane in pieces
with their strong white teeth and crunching the crisp
juicy stalks. The quantity which the sailors of a
smart dehabeah consume during the voyage up and
down the Nile is scarcely credible. The atmosphere
is now sometimes unpleasant when there is not a brisk
wind, for evaporation is going on rapidly, and mists
may be seen in the morning all along the river banks,
but only rising a few feet as a rule. The dews are
often excessive.
By the end of January the Nile water becomes
much clearer, the greatest cold is over, and a delicious

fresh warmth gives new life to the invalids who
have suffered somewhat from the great difference of
temperature between midday and midnight. In the
following month the birds begin to pair, the lambs
dot the fields, and in the ground watered by the
canals and not submerged by the inundations some
flowers may be found. It is interesting to watch
the great flocks of waterfowl as they go to and from
their feeding-grounds, sometimes in long strings,
sometimes in clouds which almost darken the air.
Then with a good opera-glass one can examine the
habits of the various tribes of waders which fringe
the shallow reaches of the river where there is no
traffic, or study that most repulsive of all birds, a
vulture, as he squats gorged on the burning sand.
The swallows skim about overhead in the clear air,
their plumage shining with an iridescence never seen
in our grey atmosphere. The sand-martins dart out
in clouds as they are disturbed by a passing boat or
raft laden with earthenware jars.
After Easter come the south winds, so much
dreaded by the natives, to which they attribute
most of their illnesses. The Khamseen (literally
“fifty,” so called because it is said to last for fifty
days) is certainly most oppressive to Europeans,
for the same height of thermometer which with a
northerly breeze only means comfortable warmth,
with a southerly wind means exhausting and oppressive
heat. The harvest is begun, and, owing

to the graceful oriental dresses, is, to a certain
degree, a picturesque sight, but not for a moment
to be compared to an English field with its
hedgerows and trees, its wild roses and bramble-berries.
There is no harvest home, no thanksgiving
when all is safely gathered in, only the visit of the
tax-collector, whose rapacity is not satisfied until
he is sure he has not left the Fellah anything beyond
a bare subsistence in return for his year of hard
work. All through the summer irrigation must be
carried on, but in Upper Egypt a large acreage is
allowed to lie fallow; hence the finer crops of wheat.
Only a portion near the river bank is cultivated for
the melons and cucumbers which form the staple
diet of the Arabs during the hot season. Perhaps
June is the most unhealthy month, as it is that in
which the river is at its lowest, and when the smells,
always bad, are at their worst. But soon the tropical
rains in Central Africa begin to swell the stream
thousands of miles below; the rapid flow carries
away the miasma that had begun to affect the
usually healthy population, and the ever-recurring
question again arises, whether there will be a
“good Nile.”
Before Heliopolis is reached, a great palace, that
of Choobra, is passed. Here Towfik, the Khedive's
eldest son, generally resides. He has a good name
among the people in comparison with his brothers:
but it may be accounted for by remembering that

he was not born in his present elevated position
as heir to the Viceregal throne. His mother, as I
have heard, was a slave. Her master's second wife—
the Khedive has now the full number allowed by the
Prophet—besides, it is said, and probably with truth,
three hundred concubines,—the second wife was the
first to present him with a boy. Soon afterwards
the slave also presented his highness with a son,
named Mohammed Towfik, and in compliance with
the usual Moslem custom, she was eventually added
to the number of his wives, making the fourth. Then
commenced the negotiations and intrigues for altering
the succession, to make it hereditary in Ismail's
family. The second wife was her husband's
favourite, and her son would be his heir. Fabulous
sums have been named as having been
spent on the Sultan and his “advisers” in order
to obtain this favour. Of course, the unhappy
Fellah has now to pay the bill. Just as the
arrangements were brought to a successful conclusion,
the son of the second wife died, and so the
son of the bondwoman became heir to the throne,
It may be guessed that this unfortunate conclusion
did not please the Khedive, especially as, within
a few years, his second wife presented him once
more with a son, Ibrahim, the same who was lately
in England.
Towfik Pasha and his mother live at this white
house near Heliopolis; and the gardens and the

luxuriant trees add much to the beauty of the
The famous “Virgin's Tree” is the next object
of interest. It was presented by the Khedive to
the Empress of the French: and I suppose she
leases it out to its present keeper, who has put a
fence round it, and makes it a paying show. He
has a kind of public house or café adjoining, and
altogether there is something so disgusting in the
surroundings of what should be a sacred spot, that
I have never been able to bring myself to visit it.
Baedecker, indeed, says positively that the tree was
only planted a couple of hundred years ago, but I
am informed by a competent judge that it may
really be as old as the Christian era, and that,
at all events, the story that it was only planted
in 1672, is the most incredible of the two.
The obelisk is a little further on, the nearest
village being Mataarieh, which stands on an ancient
site. It is in the centre of one of the greenest fields
I ever saw , and is buried some six or seven feet
in the rich black soil. All its ruddy companions,
for there must have been a dozen or more in the
time of Joseph, are gone. I was amused to see
at one of my visits, a little, hawk, of the kind which
the ancient Egyptians worshipped as Horus, perched
close above the representation of the sacred bird
in the inscription.
The whole inscription is as follows:—


“The Horus of the Sun,
The life of all who are born,
The lord of the Upper and the Lower Land,
‘The Creator, the living image of the Sun' (Cheper Ka Ra),
The King of the Double Crown,
The life of all who are born,
The Son of the Sun,
The beloved of the spirits of On,
The Golden Horus,
The life of all who are born,
The beauteous god,
‘Cheper Ka Ra'
Has made this work
In the beginning of the thirty years cycle,—
He—the dispenser of life for evermore.”
There is a certain poetry in all this bombast.
“The beloved of the spirits of On,” the king who
favoured the wise men, the wits of the temple where
all the learning of the Egyptians was stored, shows
himself in a not unfavourable light. He is known
to have restored the temple of the sun here, after
the troublous times of the eleventh dynasty. Probably
he drove out the strangers who had colonised
the Delta, and became once more, what he here
calls himself, “Lord of the Double Crown.” But
the old simplicity is gone. The inscriptions of the
pyramid builders were very different, not only in
their style, but also in the very letters with which
they were written.
In the dark ages between the fall of the old

monarchy of the pyramid builders and the accession
of the twelfth dynasty, the worship of the gods had
entered on a new stage; and this temple of Heliopolis
must have become a regular menagerie of sacred
animals. Here Apis himself abode on his way to
take up his permanent residence with Ptah at Mennofer,
over the way. Here Menevis was accounted
the living emblem of Ra, the sun. Here were also
the two yellow lions, the ruddy hawk, the cats, the
white sow, and above all, the mysterious Vennoo, or
Phoenix, a bird represented on the monuments as
something like an egret.
The question is sometimes asked, What is there
wonderful about an obelisk? It is not an unreasonable
question. Our ideas of the architectural art
have never been made to include any reference to
the size of the materials of a building. It does not,
at first sight, occur to us that it can matter very
much whether a temple is made of bricks a few
inches thick, or of stones as many feet, so that the
temple itself is a work of magnitude. The ancient
Egyptians and the so-called Cyclopean builders
thought differently. And it must be allowed that
if they erred, it was in a right direction. People
often boast that there are few pieces of architecture
in any European city more satisfactory than the
Quadrant in Regent Street; but they do not reflect
that from an Egyptian point of view it would fall far
short of architecture. It is built of miserable little

bricks, and covered over with plaster and paint in imitation
of pilasters. It is little, if at all, better than a
piece of theatrical scenery. But, judging in this way,
we have no great building in London. Perhaps the
portico at the British Museum may be called great
from the magnitude of the stones of which the pillars
are made. They are forty-five feet in height, and
each shaft consists of only eight drums. But the
column of Diocletian at Alexandria has a shaft,
probably an obelisk rounded, seventy-three feet high,
consisting of a single block of granite taller than the
whole of one of the Ionic columns at the British
Museum, from base to entablature.
The earliest building in the world of which we have
any authentic account is a temple near the Pyramids,
recently discovered. This was made of blocks of red
granite in a rude style which may remind the English
traveller of Stonehenge; but each block is of such a
size that Stonehenge shrinks into nothing beside it.
Some of them are eighteen feet long and seven feet
high. It is evident, in short, that to the Egyptians
of all ages, from the age of the Pyramid builders to
that of the Roman Emperors, the size of the materials
of which a building was to be made was a powerful
consideration. Unquestionably they secured stability.
The difficulty which English engineers recently experienced
in moving Cleopatra's Needle gives us a
reason why so many obelisks and temples are still
standing. There are stones at Karnac forty feet

long. On the roof of the temple at Edfou there are
stones twenty feet by twelve, and more than three
feet thick. Such a roof may fall of itself; but there
is probably no engineer in Egypt who could pull it
down without gunpowder or steam. We have nothing
of this sort in England. The architects of such
buildings as Salisbury Cathedral early taught us that
greatness of parts is not necessary to grandeur of
effect; but this lesson never seems to have occurred
to the Egyptians, though the Greeks knew it, as the
little Parthenon proves, and the Romans acted on it,
but without the same success. The wonder of the
obelisk then is that it consists of a single stone.
Every writer on the subject has speculated as to
the mechanical means by which these great masses
were moved. There were shrines and colossal statues
as heavy as obelisks. The description given by
Herodotus of a shrine, “an edifice built of a single
block,” which he saw at Sais, will be fresh in the
reader's memory. It was twenty-one cubits long,
fourteen broad, and eight high, and 2,000 men were
employed for three years in transporting it by boat
from the quarry to its destination. In the tomb of
an official of the court of Usertasen, not far from Beni
Hassan, there is a representation of the removal of
such a colossus, a statue about twenty feet high
Four rows of foreign captives, forty-three in each
row, are made to drag the sledge, and seven companies
of men are waiting to take their turn at the

ropes. If so many slaves could be secured for the
service of a subject, how many more would be
employed by a king like Rameses or a queen like
Hatasoo. Mr. Poynter has saved us the trouble of
trying to realise the scene which must have been
presented when one of these exhibitions of brutal
power took place; but it will be impossible for any
one who has actually visited Egypt and seen obelisks
at home not to remember, every time he looks at our
own obelisk on the Embankment, the scenes through
which it must have passed on its way from the ridge
of the granite hill behind Syene to an island in the
West of which the Egyptians had never heard.
We have made a terrible mistake in putting this
obelisk on the said Embankment. It is literally lost
there. The only absolutely suitable site in London
was the front of the British Museum, where we should
have had a measure by which to judge of it in the
eight-drum columns of the portico, and where, moreover,
it would have been a curiosity among curiosities,
instead of a monstrous anachronism, a heathen
emblem of questionable decency, in the midst of a
so-called Christian city.
The Egyptians always put their obelisks close to
buildings of great size. Four obelisks were placed
within the temple at Karnac, and two are still
standing. Here we find them, not in a wide open
space, nor among buildings which they overtop, but in
narrow courts. The taller of the two is the tallest

now remaining perfect. It measures ninety-two feet
from the ground, and its companion is not much less,
being about seventy-five. At Luxor, a few miles off,
another pair remained till lately; but one of them
now graces the Place de la Concorde. These two
were in a wider space than the four at Karnac,
but they were close to the face of the great propylons,
by which it might have been expected that
they would be completely dwarfed. But the ancient
builders knew better. The wall behind them is
composed of enormous blocks of sandstone. Yet this
single piece of granite reaches nearly to the top of
the wall. Such is the reflection suggested by their
situation. At Karnac you see the point of the tall
pillar appearing above the tops of the palms, and of
the gigantic buildings close to it; but you see only
the point until you are near enough to recognise that
it is a monolith. The whole world cannot show such
another block, yet it is a small thing, considered
merely as a building. To see it aright you must,
said its designers, see it near; or, if any of it is to be
revealed to the world at large, it must be the extremity
only, and that surrounded by great columns
and lofty gates, so that a scale is ready to assist your
eye in estimating its size when at length you enter
the narrow precincts of the court from whose floor it
shoots up into the blue sky above your head. This
evidently was the idea of the obelisk-makers, and
they were undoubtedly right. An obelisk built up of

little bits of stone is not really an obelisk; and at
Paris the great open place, the fountains, the bridge,
the distant portico, all go, not to enhance the size of
the monolith, but to diminish it. So, too, the wide
roadway and gardens, the magnificent sweep of the
granite quay, the great breadth of the river, the
mighty span of the railway bridge, all dwarf Cleo-patra's
Needle, and deprive it of everything but its
purely antiquarian interest.


[Back to top]



The Coptic and Muslim Calendars—The Egyptian Saints' Days—The
Dervish is not a Monk—The Colours of Turbans—The Descendants
of Mohammed—The Pilgrims' Return—The Mahmal—The Doseh.


IT is almost impossible for a stranger to know
beforehand the date at which any Coptic or Muslim
ceremony will take place. Mr. Michell's Calendar will
help him, no doubt; but even this most able and
careful work will not prophesy a delay in the return
of the pilgrims, or in the rising of the Nile, or the

cloudiness of the first night of a moon. Moreover,
in addition to the European ways of counting time,
in Egypt both the Copts and the Mahometans have
their respective almanacks, and go by them. The
Coptic is of the greatest interest to students of the
ancient remains, and the most curious part of the
Coptic calendar is formed of the Ephemeridal Notices
for every day in the year. These quaint sentences
remind us of the remarks in Partridge and other
almanacks of a hundred years ago; but they are of a
much more important character than might be supposed
at first sight. When we read that the 23rd of
January is a “good season for marriages,” or that on
the nineteenth of August there is “feebleness of bile,”
we are only disposed to be amused. But Mr. Michell
reminds us that these notes have been in use for
thousands of years, and have survived all revolutions.
“They are the echoes,” he says, “of a distant past,
and they sum up the wisdom of ages in matters of
agriculture and hygiene.” The modern calendar, in
short, is the old calendar of the days referred to
even under the Ptolemies as ancient, and “with its
paternal, and often naive, advice has embalmed the
thoughts and observations of some of the most
ancient of mummies.” The modern Copts date from
what they call the “era of Martyrs,” that is, the
second year of Diocletian, A.D. 289; and the present
year, 1295 of the Hejra, corresponds with parts
of the two Coptic years 1594-1595. Their bissextile

system starts from the so-called era of Menophres,
their leap-year always preceding ours. This
era of Menophres is of an antiquity so remote that it
takes us back to the time of Moses. Whether or not
Menophres was the Menephtah of some writers and
the Pharaoh of the Exodus, his era is B.C. 1322. In
that year it was observed that the first day of the
first month, which had, as it were, been travelling
backwards through the seasons, fell exactly upon the
day of the heliacal rising of the star Sothis. It was
ascertained that 3651/4 days elapsed between two
such risings at the latitude of Memphis. This Sothic
year, the annus quadratus of Pliny, was known to the
Ptolemies as the Alexandrine, and was converted
by Sosigenes into the Julian year. Sosigenes, an
Egyptian himself, merely transferred the New Year's
Day from autumn to winter, taking the reputed date
of the foundation of Rome as his era. But in Egypt
the first day of the year has remained the same, and
the Copts actually keep the same New Year's Day
and call their first month by the same name as the
Pharaohs more than thirty centuries ago.
Before this Sothic year was discovered, however, at
least two other systems are ascertained to have been
in use. The earliest of which we have any knowledge
consisted of 360 days, and was the first unintercalated
solar year. It seems probable that this ancient term
was employed down to a late period for registering
the dates of kings, and the festivals kept according to

it must be the most ancient. A second system was
that of 365 days, also of remote antiquity. It was
looked upon as a great discovery, with its five intercalary
days; and it became and continued the sacred
year, many festivals being celebrated according to it.
An interesting subject for research is here offered.
The comparative antiquity of some customs and
observances might be ascertained by a reference to
their places in one or other of the three systems.
But the era of Martyrs is, as we have seen, regulated
according to the Sothic period; and, beginning as
it does with the month dedicated to Thoth, and now
called Tout, it follows, no doubt, the original nomenclature
of the months. Thus Babeh is the old Paopi;
Hatour is Athor, the Egyptian Venus; Kyhak is
Koiak; Abib is Epiphi, and so on. The only things
that have changed apparently are the names of the
festivals; but Mr. Michell points out in several places
that some modern celebrations, not Coptic only,
but also Muslim, are survivals of the great days of
the ancient Pharaonic Empire. In some districts
of Upper Egypt the old division of three seasons is
still kept up, and the directions, strange and quaint
as they are, in the Coptic Calendar, are still useful as
an agricultural guide.
The Muslim Calendar is wholly different, although
it would seem that many Muslim festivals are of
Coptic origin. The lunar system is in use, an attempt
made before the time of Mohammed to modify it

and to adopt a “luni-solar” system having failed to
satisfy the conditions of either set of astronomical
phenomena. The names of some of the Arab months
betray their origin by referring to the changes of the
seasons. Ramadan, for example, signifies “Great
Heat.” But in the course of a single generation the
Arab festivals revolve through the whole year, and
the “Great Heat” falls alternately in every season
The ordinary Egyptian Almanack of the present day
is a little book of some fifty or sixty pages: For the
month of Ramadan—when the long fast, answering
to Lent, is kept—special diaries are prepared, printed
on single sheets of coloured paper, or on silk for
presentation. The Muslim Calendars are, however,
so irregularly kept that it is only by comparing
several and striking an average that Mr. Michell
was enabled to form his version. As it is, he confesses
himself unable in several cases to do more
than approximate to the date of a “Moulid.”
The Moulid E'Nebi is the great festival of all the
year for the dervishes.
Our ideas of dervishes are rather confused by our
knowledge of monasticism in Europe. But a dervish
is not a monk. He is only a devotee. To belong to
an order of dervishes only gives a man religious
privileges like those possessed, or supposed to be
possessed, by the elders of a dissenting church in
England. On certain days in the year the members
of an order assemble in certain mosques where they

recite certain prayers. All dervishes excite themselves
particularly about the time of the Prophet's
birthday, and gathering from their different employ-ments,
devote themselves during the “octave” to the
performance of their peculiar rites, generally termed
Zikrs, in his honour. The most important of these
zikrs or services is that called the Doseh or treading,
which I witnessed in 1878, and shall describe further on.
The chief outward distinction of dervishes is the
colour of the turban. The descendants of Mohammed,
a large class, form a kind of religious order themselves.
They have certain endowments, left at different ages
by the faithful, and their chief, whose appointment is
confirmed by the Khedive, has a good house in Cairo
and another on the island of Roda, as well as ample
revenues. He and all his fellow-descendants wear
green turbans. Whenever you meet a man with a
green turban you know he is descended in the female
line from Mohammed. The descendants are distinguished
into two principal families, the saeeds or
“lords,” and the shereefs or “sacred.” In addition
to these there is a family descended from Aboo Bekr,
the head of which is known as the Sheykh el Bekr.
The present sheykh holds the responsible office of
chief of all the dervish orders in Egypt: and the
treading takes place when the Sheykh of the Saidieh,
one of the orders in the Sheykh el Bekri's jurisdiction,
comes to pay a ceremonial visit to his superior on the
Prophet's birthday.


In Lane's time the Sheykh el Bekri had an official
residence near what is now the garden of the Esbekeeyeh:
but the house has been removed, and now
the visit is paid to the Sheykh in a tent which is
placed in a hollow near the road to Boolak.
The most numerous dervishes are those of an
offshoot of the great Ahmedieh order, the sect of
Bayoomeh. They wear red turbans, and are common
in the streets of Cairo, on the Nile boats, and everywhere
in short. The black turban used to be the
distinctive sign of Jews and Copts, but it is now
worn by the members of the Roofayeh order. I have
seen a bright blue turban at one or two places in
Upper Egypt, but have not been able to discover if it
was the uniform of a dervish order, or a relic of the
blue turban which Copts used to be obliged to wear.
At the zikrs, dervishes of each sect have their own
class-leader, and tents in which they “howl”: standing
in a circle and calling upon God, to the sound of slow
music, bowing at each utterance of the sacred name.
I have heard much ridicule cast upon the performance
by English visitors, but the men are evidently sincere,
and, in truth, the zikr is no more ridiculous, religiously
speaking, than many a performance I have
witnessed in Methodist meeting-houses or Papist
As if to make up for the want of the Roman
Carnival in 1878, tourists had an extra treat at Cairo.
By a fortunate coincidence the solemn return of the

pilgrims happened in the same week as the birthday of
the Prophet. From the number of Europeans present
at the great ceremonies it might almost have been
supposed that they were got up for the entertainment
of strangers. But both the procession of the Mahmal
and the horrible Doseh are strictly religious observances.
Though mixed up with much that we should
consider almost profane, they are in reality not more
foreign to the ordinary religious sentiment than many
of our Christmas and Easter customs, and are
certainly better than much which usually goes on at
the Carnival in Florence or Paris.
The return of the pilgrims from Mecca is in many
respects an affecting and solemn sight. It culminates
in the procession of the embroidered litter which has
been carried with the caravan and comes back to its
place in the citadel. This procession commemorates
the pilgrimage of a famous lady, and is an emblem
of female sovereignty. The great sultana, Shegeret
e' Door, widow of Saleh, who died in 1249, made her
pilgrimage in a magnificent camel litter, and since her
time such a litter has been carried with each annual
caravan. It has been renewed at intervals, and is
now resplendent with scarlet and gold; but it is not
to be confounded with the Kisweh, a black and white
pall made every year for the temple of Mecca, which
travels with it, and is used until the next pilgrimage,
when it is brought back, cut in pieces, and distributed
among the faithful.


The return of the pilgrims, with the Mahmal and
the Kisweh, usually takes place some ten days or
more before the Moulid e' Nebi, the festival which
commemorates the birth and death of the Prophet,
on the 12th day of the month of Rabeea el Owwal;
but in 1878 the fear of cholera and quarantine
delays made the pilgrims late. The use of the lunar
calendar for Muslim festivals fixes the date of these
celebrations twelve days earlier every year, according
to our computation. Ceremonies which for thirty
years have been performed in autumn or summer
when few Europeans were in Egypt now take place
in the height of the tourists' season, and will for
some years to come add to the attractions of a
winter at Cairo. Horrible as the Doseh seems, it is
but seldom any one is hurt by the horse's hoofs.
He wears flat plates, like an English race-horse,
instead of shoes, and is carefully led; but the performance
is not approved by orthodox Muslims,
and it must be allowed that it savours unpleasantly
of Juggernaut.
There is an open space known as the Rumeyleh
below the citadel, where in old times executions took
place. It now communicates with an arid waste of
great size called the “Place Mohammed Ali,” and the
two form a public parade-ground where many ceremonials,
reviews, and processions are held. The
small, half-ruined mosque of Mahmoud at the northeastern
corner offers a shady place on its steps from

which the English traveller who wants to see the
people as well as the Mahmal, and who prefers to
avoid the European and to study the native sightseer.
may take his stand. On his right is the mosque of
Sultan Hassan, the beauties of which he may examine
at his leisure while waiting. On his left is the lower
gate of the citadel, the walls of which extend in a long
perspective towards a row of consular tents and
pavilions erected for distinguished visitors and the
ladies of the hareem. Facing the tents is the railway
station, and the whistle offers a strange accompaniment
to the droning of Arab songs and the thumping
of tarabookas. Beyond are the rubbish heaps of Old
Cairo, and on the pink horizon the angular forms of
two of the Pyramids are clearly visible beyond the
domes and minarets of the middle distance.
The seated part of the crowd consists chiefly of
women and children. The men are in the procession,
or walking about in the roadway, their gay dresses
looking brilliantly gorgeous in the sunshine. The
women sit under the shadow of the citadel, some on
carpets, some on the bare ground. Even the battlements
above are, so to speak, manned by women.
The traveller who has heard much of the seclusion of
the sex is surprised at their number and their apparent
freedom from restraint. Veils, more or less transparent,
are worn by most of them; but when some
twenty carriages, with English horses and liveries, but
black drivers and footmen, come down from the

palace, he observes that the ladies of the hareem
are hardly veiled at all. A gauze “yashmak” only
enhances the brightness of black eyes, and lends a
delicacy to other features which without it they might
want. But the carriages, the ladies themselves, the
horses, the crowds of eunuchs, the outriders—who
pays for them? It was impossible not to think of the
number of stories everywhere afloat that year, of
tradesmen ruined, of officials unpaid, of such small
fry as teachers and governesses from Europe left to
starve; stories which, it is to be feared, had only too
much foundation in fact.
It was pleasant to turn away from this extravagance
and observe the behaviour of the people close at
hand. The women were of all classes. Ladies in
black silk, orange-girls in blue cotton, negro nurses
in white linen, sat along the wall or on the steps of
the little mosque. The water-seller came up with a
great full skin slung round his shoulders and two
clinking cups in his hand, or a tall Arab with a tray
of sweetmeats on his head, or an old wrinkled woman
with a basket of beans, or a fine-looking girl with a
long blue dress and a gold necklace carrying a bundle
of sugar-canes and selling them at so much a foot
Every child has-a large piece to suck; and a very
moderate outlay in sugar-plums put us at once into
favour with the mothers. One of them offered me
her little girl very cheap, but would not part with her
boy on any consideration. Another made tender

inquiries for my family at home, and asked the number
of my wives and children.
At last a flourish of trumpets announces the approach
of the procession. First come troops. Four
regiments of brown or black soldiers in white uniforms
march past, and again you think of the pockets of the
bondholders, and, even sadder thought, of those
thirty thousand taken away from their fields and their
families to perish in the Balkans. Now the bugles
cease, Arab music begins, and the dervish orders,
each headed by its sheykh, with embroidered banners,
go by chanting, while twenty-one guns from the fort
above salute the coming Mahmal. Here and there
an enthusiast howls wildly, waving his hands and
rushing along through the crowd of his fellows, or
lies half insensible from heat and excitement in their
arms. At last the high red litter, glittering with gold
embroidery, and rocking from side to side at each
long step of the camel, comes in sight round the
minaret of Sultan Hassan. It is greeted with wild
cries, waving of drapery, and ejaculations of” Allah!”
Every one starts up. There is a great roar of many
voices, a great cloud of white dust, and you can
hardly command your faculties sufficiently to look for
the principal characters in the procession. There is
the owner of the holy camel, wrapped in shawls and
riding on a donkey. There is the so-called Sheykh
of the Camel—a naked dervish with long black hair
and a shining skin that glows in the hot sunbeams.

There, in gorgeous yellow and scarlet, is the old sheykh
with the scourge, who warns intending pilgrims of the
pains and trouble before them; and the official
awakener, who calls late - sleeping pilgrims, and
punishes the lazy. And among them are such great
men as the Sheykh el Sadat, who is chief among the descendants
of the Prophet in Egypt, and the Sheykh el
Bekri, who is the head of all the orders of dervishes.
But before all the lions are exhausted, the blinding
midday heat, the noise, the dust, and especially that
terrible smell which pervades all things Egyptian,
have done their work, and we are glad to escape to the
quiet of the hotel.
The interval of a day at least was necessary to brace
our nerves for the great ceremonial of the Prophet's
birthday. In Lane and other authors I had seen
accounts of it. The pictures which showed the long
row of bodies, and the horse pacing over them, were
familiar among my childish recollections. Somehow,
a Doseh had never appeared to my mind to be a
reality. It was a traveller's tale, or at best a thing
long ago abolished and forgotten. But, in truth,
fanaticism among Muslims in Egypt was never
stronger than at the present moment. Every second
Arab in Cairo belongs to some religious order, and
not one Doseh, but three at least, take place in the
course of the year. At the festival of Sultan Hanafeh,
and that of Tashtoosheh, the Sheykh of the Saidieh
dervishes rides over the bodies of his devoted

disciples, as well as on the great day of the Prophet.
The horse on which he makes his fearful journey from
the Hassaneyn to the Esbekeeyeh is used for no other
purpose. For seven years at least no less sacred
personage has mounted him than Ahmed el Kudari,
the chief of the order.
As we waited under a tent in the full noontide
heat, crowds of all classes and countries around
us, carriages full of beautiful Circassians opposite,
banners flying, drums beating, and policemen
in blue walking up and down to keep the way
clear, we found it hard to realise that we were
assisting at a religious ceremony and not at a horserace.
The few historical and local particulars we
could learn helped the truthfulness of our impressions;
but, though one or two learned Europeans can give
information, it is for the most part extremely difficult
to obtain anything better than vague tradition from
a native. On the ceremonies of his religion he is
studiously reticent. Here on the spot, you may
interrogate him in vain. He is altogether taken up
with the enthusiasm of the occasion. To him the
Doseh is a miracle, a great proof of the power of
Allah, whose name must be exalted, and proves that
the faithful are superior to the ordinary laws of nature.
In spite of the excitement visible on every brown face,
the crowd is perfectly orderly; and, what is more extraordinary,
the hundreds of infidels present are never, at
least openly, insulted. As the crowd became greater,

the noise more deafening, the sunshine more blinding,
a sudden movement far away to the right announced
the approach of the procession. The entrance to what
you cannot help calling the racecourse is close to the
English church. The open space formerly used has
been built over, and the present one is surrounded by
the new quarter and by European houses. At the
Moulid e' Nebi this open space is covered with booths
and tents as if for a fair. Every night during the
festival the faithful assemble, each under his own
religious chief in his own conventicle, and revival
meetings are held, lasting far into the night.
Foreigners are fond of visiting the show, and a
dragoman or a donkey-boy who is a dervish, can
generally place them where the religious exercises
may be witnessed. Exercises they literally are. No
Ranter, or Shaker, or Methodist of the wildest sect,
ever set his hearers harder physical tasks. When the
great day comes all are excited to the highest pitch,
and, if necessary, hasheesh does the rest.
Fighting my way with difficulty to the edge of the
living pavement, I saw some two hundred men lying
close, side by side, all their bare feet turned one way,
all their faces hidden in their folded arms. A man
walked along on them, and jammed them closer and
closer. Then, one after another, six men, bearing tall
standards, trod heavily past. The road was not quite
straight, the crowd pressed closer, and we could not
see more than a few yards in either direction. By the

feet of the prostrate dervishes their best friends stood
chanting a hymn, and fanning them with a regular
motion. At length the sheykh appeared. He was
preceded by a standard-bearer. The horse was led
by two men. His gait was very unsteady, and the
sheykh, a large dark man of middle age, appeared to
be asleep or fainting in the saddle, and, though he
was supported by two men, rocked heavily from side
to side. The horse, a fine grey Arab, went very
slowly, as if impressed with the solemnity of the
occasion. They were past in a moment, but not
before I had heard the sound of the horse's hoofs
on the men's bodies, a hollow thump which haunted
my ears all the rest of the day.


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The Peculiarity of the Collection—M. Mariette's researches—The most
Ancient Art in the World—Enumeration of the chief Examples of
the Early Period—Conclusions as to Life and Manners under
the Ancient Kings—A Discourse of Scarabs.


IT is a subject for constant regret that the Egyptian
collections in European museums are wanting in the
characteristic most likely to make a museum useful

to the student. At Boolak they know whence every
piece came. They know where and how it was found.
It follows that they can always at least approximate
to its chronological position—not perhaps to its actual
date, for dates, as we count them, do not apply to the
early periods of Egyptian history.
Mariette Bey, the curator of the museum, has gone
to work in a very simple and intelligible way as
regards this difficulty. He has adopted, merely for
experimental purposes, the chronology of the only
authority that can in any way be called contemporary,
and has provisionally used the narrative of Manetho,
which at least gives the student a succession of names
and events. I use the word provisionally because his
system is like a working theory in astronomy; it
squares, so far as his investigations have gone, with
the testimony afforded by the ancient documentary
evidence of contemporary inscriptions, while the others
all require a certain allowance, a margin of doubt, a
possibility or probability of error, which, although
we may prefer one or another, render them at present
less easy to use in the working of problems. The
lists of Manetho have been adopted of necessity
by most of the theoretical chronologists, but with
modifications more or less serious. Some of these
modifications may be reasonable, others are wholly
untenable, and of most it is enough to say that
further information would be necessary to a decided
opinion. Meanwhile, for practical purposes, M.

Mariette Bey, whatever his private views may be, has
placed his sole reliance on Manetho, as he stands,
modified only by the monuments.
The work of Herr Brugsch has been to form a
connected history from those monuments, a work
he has admirably performed. M. Mariette has not
trespassed on this ground, but has simply brought
together and catalogued all the remains of ancient
art he can find, or can get money enough to dig for.
He looks upon the monuments as the “only trustworthy
source of history:” and, preserving his
judgment unwarped by what has been written in
ancient or modern times, endeavours by straightforward
investigations to learn the truth from them.
There is this advantage about his method, that
Egyptian history during by far the longest period,
is like the great Egyptian river. The Nile has no
affluents for the first twelve hundred miles from its
mouth, and the history runs alone from the time of
the first dynasty, which M. Mariette Bey provisionally
places five thousand years B.C., to that of Abraham,
a period of perhaps three thousand years.
There is probably no parallel, even in China or
Japan, to this early course of Egyptian history.
The student is troubled with no side issues. Before
the world began for other nations there was life
and intellectual activity at This. Where did it
come from? Was Menes of the people of the land,
or did he and the first dynasty which he founded

come from the scene of some still older civilisation
to introduce order and law to the Nile valley?
Before him there had reigned sixteen demigods, so
Manetho says, and Menes would seem to have been
the first king who claimed to be only a mortal.
When he had sat on his throne for sixty-two years,
he was killed by a hippopotamus. His successor,
Athothis, reigned for fifty-seven years, and was a
physician. There were after him six more kings of
the first dynasty. I confess to a feeling of pleasure
in lingering over these records. They are so far
unproved by any evidence. M. Mariette has worked
back to the third dynasty, but of the first he says
that he is certain only of one thing, that Menes is
a real historical personage. No monuments remain,
or rather, none have been discovered, that can with
certainty be attributed to him or his family. M.
Mariette has long been seeking anxiously at Abydos,
on the site of This, and has no doubt found a few
evidences that Manetho is as much to be depended
on here as later; but it is not until the reigns of
the fourth dynasty that anything like historical
succession of events can be illustrated from the
monuments. The one great fact which we deduce
from his researches is that the lists of Manetho,
where they can be tested by external evidence,
are in the main perfectly correct. Where they
differ from authentic inscriptions the difference is
easily accounted for, and the drift of all the recent

discoveries has been to confirm them in a manner
which can only be called startling. When we read
that at a period which he places seven or eight
centuries before the Creation, according to our
ordinary reckoning, Binothris of the second dynasty
decided that women might hold the imperial government,
or that Tosorthrus of the third dynasty built
a stone house and greatly patronised writing, we
feel sure that some historical event is indicated,
perhaps obscurely, and cannot but hope M. Mariette
may come upon evidence to confirm it, as he has
come upon evidence to confirm statements of a
later date but equal antecedent improbability.
When we visit the Boolak Museum, then, we find
an arrangement, so far as anything can be arranged
in the wretched building, which enables us to trace
the history of Egypt and Egyptian art back step by
step from the latest Roman bust to the earliest statue
portrait. There is no flaw in the chain, though there
are so many blanks in the chronology. It is perfectly
continuous and unbroken; and when you apply to it
a question which M. Mariette asks with respect to the
pyramids, you arrive at a very definite but very startling
conclusion. M. Mariette asks where are the signs
of the infancy of Egyptian art? The further back we
go the more complete it appears. The magnificent
diorite statue of Chafra—once considered the oldest
portrait in the world—has been superseded from its
priority by the wooden figure from Sakkara, The

want of conventionality in this amazing portrait
places it above the noble but stiff statue of Chafra.
But the wooden man has himself been superseded by
the oldest monuments yet discovered, which are still
more life-like, still more unconventional, still more
truly artistic than anything yet found of a later period.
In short, the further back you go, the better the
style. It is evident the style grew up by degrees.
It is the result of centuries of study and practice.
The two life-like figures found at Maydoom were not
modelled in the infancy of art.
Such is the question suggested by a visit to
Boolak; and there only can the ancient arts be
studied with trustworthy facts before us. It is hopeless
just yet to expect any improvement at the
British Museum. The theory of Sir Gardiner Wilkinson
evidently was, that all the people whom he
classed as “ancient Egyptians” lived much about
the same time; and his system has been pursued in
the mixture of the minor objects, while the larger
are only recognised by their inscriptions, nothing
being known about the places where the majority
were found. Had the statues of Ra-hotep and
Nefert been brought to England in this way, it is
more than probable they would have been catalogued
as Ptolemaic, possibly as Ethiopian, while it is
quite certain that the fresco of the Pasturing Geese
(see p. 209)—a picture contemporary with the statues
—would have been considered Greco-Roman.


These marvellous statues are placed apart from the
other objects belonging to what M. Mariette calls
l'Ancien Empire” in a chamber not so near the
damp of the river's bank as that in which the rest of
the very early remains are arranged. They are rather
less than life-size, but otherwise absolutely life-like.
After you have gazed into the depth of Nefert's eyes;
you feel, in spite of their being made of crystal and
marble, that you have personal acquaintance with her.
The beautifully-fitting linen dress, the feet guiltless of
shoes, the absence of all ornament except a necklace
of emeralds and rubies, the neat “snood” which binds
her hair—all, you are convinced, are as much portraits
as the face itself. The figure is full of a quality of
reality which, seeing it is almost all we have of the
earliest art, is better for us than a more idealised
style of work. It is impossible even to approximate
to the age of this and the companion work. Lepsius
gives B.C. 3122 as the probable date of the reign of
Seneferoo; but as he makes that monarch the first
king of the fourth dynasty, while most of the recent
authorities place him toward the end of the third,
these statues of the son and daughter-in-law of
Seneferoo may be even older. But all chronology is
guesswork before the twelfth dynasty—a fact but
too often, to be acknowledged in the present state
of our information.
The companion statue is not so interesting, but
even more life-like; and the hieroglyphics on the

seat, viewed as the earliest examples of the art of
writing yet identified, possess an interest for me, I
confess, out of all proportion to their subject.1
1 I have gone more at length into the meaning of this inscription
in an article in the Archæological Journal, vol. xxxv.
p. 126.
The assemblage of objects of the period of the
early monarchy in its own salle—that of the third,
fourth, fifth, and sixth dynasties — at the Boolak
Museum, is the best that has ever been brought
together. M. Mariette has made extensive searches
through the grave-mounds of these periods at Gheezeh,
Sakkara, Maydoom, and Abood. After the
statues I have just mentioned, the wooden man and
the statues—for there are nine of them, of different
degrees of merit—of Chafra, the most interesting of
these early monuments are in a room reserved for
specimens of the same period. Among them is the
heavy granite sarcophagus of Shoofoo-anch (the life
of Shoofoo), which stands in the centre of the chamber.
Apart from the value of a relic of so ancient a
time, this great coffin has a double interest. The
personage buried in it was attached to the court of
the monarch, after whom he was called, as superintendent
of the royal buildings. He must therefore
have had a large share in the erection of the great
pyramid itself, if indeed he did not actually design
it. The epitaph states that he was a priest of Apis
and of Isis. His tomb stood to the south-east of

the great pyramid, and the sarcophagus itself offers
us the most complete model of what one of these
enormous mummy cases was under the early monarchy.
The cover, vaulted in the centre, has on it
an invocation to Anubis. The four sides are modelled
from what was no doubt the form of the ordinary
wooden houses of the period. In the centre is the
doorway, and over it a round log as if for the suspension
of a roller or curtain. All the old tombs have false
doors of this kind evidently imitated from wooden
constructions, and two very complete and large examples
are in the same room. On the cross-bar
the name of the deceased is written generally with
nothing but his name and rank. Possibly in these
old times the great men of Egypt had their names
thus placed over the doors of their houses.
The representations, of which we hear so much, of
agricultural and domestic scenes, are well illustrated
here in a number of bas-reliefs arranged like pictures
round the walls. The sculpture is very good, and by
no means betrays that stiffness we are accustomed to
connect with Egyptian work. We seldom see such
pictures in European museums, and derive our ideas
from copies and casts of the comparatively debased
art of the time of the nineteenth and twentieth dynasties
at Thebes. It will be well to keep these two
periods, as remote from our time as they are from
each other, carefully separate in our own minds.
Among the other treasures in this room is a small

sitting statue of an ancient gentleman whose name
was Assa. It is not above three feet high, but delicately
cut in limestone and coloured. Beside Assa
his wife stands, dressed in white, her dress covered
with spots, like what ladies now call “Swiss muslin.”
She places her arm round his neck. Her name is on
the pedestal at her feet. She was a member of the
royal family, and was called Athor-en-Kaoo. Her
little boy stands between his parents, and bears like
his mother the title of “royal cousin.” His name is
Tat-as-as-poo-er. Some Vandal, since this charming
domestic group was in the Museum, has broken off
the head of the child. A statue nearly equal in
delicacy of execution is in the great room, but there
the deceased is represented sitting by himself. Several
groups of a similar antiquity, but not of such a delicate
execution, are in the western chamber; and the
visitor who desires to cultivate a knowledge of hieroglyphs
cannot do better than commence work by
spelling out the epitaphs in these the oldest inscriptions.
Among the most beautiful examples are some
panels of wood. They are carved in delicate relief,
the inscriptions relating to a royal scribe and “trusty
cousin and councillor,” who lived about the time of
Shoofoo. His name, which is very clearly spelled
out in a very archaic but beautiful form of hieroglyphic
writing, seems to have been Hosy. The
panels were inserted in as many of the false portals

of which I have already spoken as being in all these
early tombs.
The finest stone portal is that of Sokar-ka-baoo.
It was evidently erected by his wife, who is represented
on the two outer wings or side posts. She
has a remarkably ugly face, but is very fair, and on
her checks are green marks, which some have accounted
for on the supposition that they were an
early way of denoting grief, and others that the
green stain is caused by the oxidisation of a bronze
plating. over the eyes. Be this as it may, the
mark only occurs on monuments of the highest antiquity.
The lady's name seems naturally to have
been too long for every-day use—Athor-nefer-hotep,
and she had for household convenience a pet name
Behind a sitting statue of Chafra, one of the nine
found in the tomb near the Sphinx, is another very
old portal of the same character, but smaller. It is
also from a tomb at Sakkara. Its interest lies chiefly
in the fact that Shery, its occupant, served as priest
for the temples attached to the pyramids of two very
ancient kings, one of whom may be identified with
the Sethenes of Manetho and the Senta of the table
of Abood. The name is here spelt Sent. He was
a king of the second dynasty. The other king's name
is unknown in this form. It appears to read Perhebsen,
and may, be the second title of a Pharaoh
known in history by another name.


I have dwelt at some length on these vestiges of
the earliest civilisation, both because of their intrinsic
beauty and because they do not occur even as the
greatest rarities in our European museums. They
belong to a period so remote that it is perfectly futile
to guess at the date. In the long perspective of ages
such minute marks as years can hardly be perceived.
These ancient people tell us little of themselves in
their simple writing. Few grammatical forms appear.
Vowels are almost wholly omitted. But what is
wanting in words is made up for in pictures. Their
daily life is brought before us; their families, their
homes, their professions, their agriculture, their arts;
and we can conjure up, when we know the climate
which they enjoyed and the soil they cultivated, a
very complete picture of what they were, and how
they lived.
The chief thing that strikes us about them, as we
read of them in these monuments, is the absence of
any worship, almost of any mention of their gods.
They are often attached to the service of a king who
is spoken of as a divinity, and in many cases they are
employed in perpetuating that service after his death.
Occasionally a name betrays to us the existence of
a god to whom one of them was specially devoted.
Ptahsokari, Ptah, Athor, Isis, Anubis, Shoo, Ra, Osiris,
are among the names that occur, but none of them
very often. These gods and goddesses were reverenced,
but which of them was thought the greatest,

whether they had any distinct idea of theology,
whether they actually worshipped the king, or Apis,
or the white bull, or the golden hawk, or only looked
upon them as sacred representatives of God, we know
not. The monuments are nearly or altogether silent.
Of Osiris at this time we have but little contemporary
evidence that he was looked upon as the judge of the
dead. Anubis is addressed by Shoofoo-anch as the
god of the under-world. But many of the monuments
of which we have been speaking are much older than
his time—how much older we know not—and in them
there are no such allusions. Investigators are agreed
that pictures or sculptures representing the gods are
all but unknown before the time of the twelfth dynasty.
I say “all but,” as there is a conspicuous but more
than doubtful case to the contrary in the tablet of the
Sphinx. But with regard to their ordinary employments
and daily life we have, as I have said, much
evidence. They lived in timber houses, the windows
of which were small in comparison with the wall
space, and the doorways narrow. Provision was made
everywhere for awnings and curtains to keep out the
midday heat and the midnight cold. Their clothing
was but scanty, but they were careful to cover the
head, either with a kerchief or a wig. The women were
very modestly clad, and wore more than a single garment
—the outer one reaching nearly to the feet. The
hair was plaited, and probably made up with artificial
chignons and cushions, but was tied round the forehead

by a simple riband. Tight-lacing had not been
invented, nor the use of shoes.
In domestic life our ancient Egyptian was a family
man. He loved his wife and his children intensely.
The wife was sometimes the superior of her husband
in rank, and retained her title, as in England we still
distinguish peers' daughters who marry commoners.
She had sometimes private property, and widows were
often women of substance, and raised costly monuments
to the memory of their lords.
This independence of women is often strongly
brought out, and goes to confirm, were other proof
wanting, the assertion of Manetho, that under a king
of the second dynasty “it was decided that women
might hold the imperial government.” Yet the wife,
even the wife of superior rank, is represented as treating
her husband with respect. She usually stands by
his side, or clasps his knees, but often too she also is
seated, and her arm embraces his neck.
These ancient folk were keen sportsmen. In one
picture a widow is represented as enjoying at a little
distance the pleasures of the chase.1
1 P. 208.
They shot, they
hunted, they fished, they went on the Nile in pleasure
boats, they tamed wild animals, and trained falcons.
2 This is probable, but not altogether certain.
Manetho speaks first of the existence of warfare
when he tells us “the Libyans revolted from the
Egyptians; but, on account of an unexpected increase

of the moon, they surrendered themselves for fear.”
This was under the first king of the third dynasty;
and we have evidence that under the eighth king there
was something resembling a standing army. But up
to this time had the valley been in peace? Had the
civilisation, which is already so great when we first
come upon its vestiges, been permitted to grow up
amid profound quiet, unbroken by foreign invasions or
internecine strife? It is impossible to say that there
was never war, but there is much evidence that long
periods of complete quietness nourished the security
and wealth in which arts are perfected, and the
strongest proof exists that one art at least must have
been brought to a high degree of perfection without
the interference of war.
This is the art of writing. The oldest inscriptions
are those of Maydoom. Yet here we find not a complete
alphabet, but two or three alphabets, and all the
apparatus which in after ages became so like ordinary
writing. But the signs used are signs of peace.
Hieroglyphics and the cartouches of kings have been
compared to heraldry, but there is this very important
difference—for the shields, the lions rampant, the swords
and spear-heads—the whole armoury of heraldry is
warlike and the invention of people engaged in constant
warfare. But what are the oldest hieroglyphic
signs? The first letters of the first inscription I saw
at Maydoom were as follows:—A sickle, a guitar, a
plank, a smoothing-stone, a man's mouth, a ball, an

onion, a zigzag line, a necklace, a foot, a loop of cord
containing a king's name which was spelled with a
bent reed, a guitar, a human mouth, and a partridge.
Such are the hieroglyphic signs of the times. They
show, if we may argue from them at all, that
they were invented by an agricultural and peaceful
Or we may take the ovals of the early kings in
evidence. It is, of course, a question whether the
names of Mena and Teta, and the other kings of the
first dynasty, were ever actually written in their own
day. Still, scarabs occur of such distinctly marked
antiquity, that it has often been supposed they are
the oldest “documents” in Egypt; and they are some-times
inscribed with the cartouches of kings of the
early dynasties. Among the collection of scarabs at
Boolak is one of Seneferoo. I have another, and the
doubtful name of a still older king on a cylinder.
But a glance at the oldest cartouches as they were
written at a later period serves our purpose almost as
well. The name of Mena is spelt with a chess-board
(Men), a zigzag line (N), and a pen or feather (A).
That of his successor Teta consists of two smoothing-stones
(T), and a feather (A). That of Atoth has
a feather (A), a stone (T), and a bulbous-plant (T H).
Ata is spelt with the feather (A), the stone (T), and a
bird (A). The next king has two harrows on his
cartouche, which the learned read as Husapti. It is
not till we get to the eleventh king in the Table of

Abydos that anything that can by any means be
called warlike occurs. Here we have a ram (Ba), a
jar (N), an axe (Neter), and the zigzag N, as before.
An axe is not necessarily warlike, but nothing more
offensive or defensive is in this list till we come down
to the eleventh dynasty.
Such were the people of that remote yet not wholly
prehistoric time. I have avoided all mention of the
question of race because the best authorities are not
agreed about it, or rather, have come to no sufficiently
clear judgment on the subject. But one thing, from
a purely critical point of view, I may be permitted to
say. There is a marked difference in the features of
the great lord who is the king's friend and cousin, and
who sits in the door of his dwelling, represented by
the mouth of his tomb, to receive the homage and
rents of his serfs, and those of the common people who
attend his levée bringing him revenue in kind from his
estates. There is a clear difference between the two
classes as represented on these monuments; no one
can for a moment mistake them. Chafra had a
high Roman nose, so had his cousin Chafra-anch, so
had Assa, so had a round dozen of the great men of
the court of the fourth dynasty. Rahotep had a less
prominent nasal organ, and the same may be said of
Thy, but both were far from exhibiting the type of
the common labourers who surrounded them. It
seems to me, merely using my eyesight, that in this
old time there was in Kam a dominant but benevolent

race of rulers and legislators, and an inferior, downtrodden
subject race, light-hearted, perhaps acquiescing,
as some African races do, in their own subjection,
but of very distinct blood from their masters. All
this, and more, on which it would be easy to enlarge,
may be seen in these marvellous relics of an age so
remote that we cannot date it; relics which show the
signs of long and gradual improvement before they
emerge at all into the light of our modern day.
It is rather strange to observe that no trustworthy
guide, indeed, no guide at all, has been printed, so
far as I am aware, to the choice and arrangement of
a collection of scarabs. The Boolak Museum has
several classified cases of them, and I strongly recommend
them to the attention of visitors who wish
to collect a few genuine specimens. Those which
contain kings' names are labelled, but the rest are
not even catalogued. Still it is well when you have
made your first venture to take your purchases to
the museum and compare them with examples of
whose genuineness there can be no question.
Scarabs seem to have been cast by the mourners
into the open grave, and to have also been strung
with beads in the network which covered a mummy.
It is probable that on the great anniversary of the
dead, the All Souls Day of ancient Egypt, visitors
came provided with appropriately inscribed scarabs
and deposited them in the tombs. Certain it is that
immense numbers have been found. I do not know

whether I heard or read of 3000 being thus distributed
in a single tomb.
Kings' scarabs were perhaps provided by or for
the priest attached to the cult of each monarch's
memory. We meet cartouches of great antiquity upon
them. At the Boolak Museum, for example, the following
kings of the old monarchy (dynasties 1–6) are
represented:—Seneferoo and Nebuka (Mesochris), of
the third dynasty; Menkaoora and Userkaf of the
fourth; Ratatka, Oonas, and Raneferarka, of the fifth:
and there are two examples of Papi, of the sixth
dynasty. Dr. Grant, of Cairo, has very fine examples
of Shoofoo and Chafra, and several other early kings.
In a few months I was able to obtain, by gift or
purchase, examples bearing the ovals of Chafra,
Ranefer.., Oonas (three with two different spellings),
Raenuser, Ramera, Raka.., Ranebtaui, Sebekhotep
V. (two), and many more of later kings, including one
of Rameses in amethyst.
For some reason not very clearly made out, every
second scarab offered to the collector bears the title
of Thothmes III., Ramencheper. Perhaps this king,
as Brugsch asserts, was held in special reverence after
his death. Perhaps the representation of the beetle
(cheper) was thought appropriate on a beetle, and in
favour of this view it may be observed that the oval
of Amenhotep II. (Ra-a-cheperoo), occurs nearly as
often, and that the same “throne-name” was used by
after kings.


At Thebes the next most common inscriptions on
scarabs relate to Amenhotep III. At Goos, in the
same region, I remember to have been offered one
made of mother-of-emerald, bearing that king's name,
The gods most often mentioned are Amen and
Ptah. The names sometimes occur alone, but more
often with an addition. A large number of not very
rare examples have the name or emblems of Osiris;
and all, or almost all, the names of the gods are to
be found. Sometimes, too, the inscription records the
devotion of some town or place to a divinity, or the
presentation of some land to a shrine—presumably
by the deceased for whose burial rites the scarab is
I may take at random a few examples. On one
string I find first, a little delicately-finished coffee-coloured
scarab bearing the words Neferaneb—“good
Lord.” Next the name Oon-nefer, a title of Osiris.
Then the name of a “Royal scribe,” on a green
scarab of very good and probably very early workmanship.
Then a little green stone bearing the words
Ra se—“son of the Sun.” Then a white scarab of a
very common type, Nefer-ma-neb—the “good Lord of
Justice.” Then a blue highly enamelled example
bearing the bee, or seket, emblematical of Egypt.
Then a yellow one with the name Amen-neb, a blue
one with a lotus flower; three, very small and delicately
cut, with the words suten-rech—“cousin of the

King,” and lastly—besides many which surpass my
scholarship—a pale-green scarab with a sitting figure
of Osiris on it and the words “good Lord.”
Such are a few of the ordinary inscriptions, but the
variety is almost infinite. Sometimes the people
bring you many examples closely resembling each
other, all made about the same time. This is probably
caused by the opening of some tomb containing
a great number of a single period. Sebekhotep
V. Ra-nefer-cha, is so far a rare scarab that it
does not occur among those at Boolak; yet I was
offered four examples in a week.
In spite of the number of old scarabs in existence
a large and very thriving trade in imitations is carried
on. Nothing but actual knowledge and comparison
will enable the collector to distinguish the genuine
from the imitations, and no hard and fast rules can be
given to which exceptions may not be found. The
oldest often look the freshest. The figures are cut to a
uniform but generally very slight depth, and the form
of the signs is very delicate. Scratchy-looking inscriptions
are either forgeries or belong to a late period.
The oldest scarabs are often made of white stone, but
generally of earthenware glazed; often of the most
beautiful blue. There is an old green which looks as
if it had been painted on a white ground and half
rubbed off. Sometimes the colour, generally a dark-blue,
appears to be all through the paste. Ivory
scarabs are rare and should never be passed, but a

number of forgeries in this material are in the market.
Large granite scarabs seldom have inscriptions, but I
have seen several on which an inscription had been
very well copied by a modern hand. It is very hard
to detect these frauds unless you have a smattering of
hieroglyphic knowledge. Of course, if you have, you
may be sure that when an inscription will not read it
must be false.
The Luxor forgeries are the best, the hieroglyphics
being very deceptively copied. The glaze, however,
betrays itself, and the collector should look cautiously
at a kind of tortoiseshell green, which is the nearest
thing they can make there to the genuine turquoise.
It is very seldom, too, that the inscription is cut
Another and large class of forged scarabs is known
by its dirty-grey colour, and a splitty look in the
glaze. They are chiefly offered for sale at Cairo; I
have seen several hundreds in one shop in the bazaar,
and have reason to believe that in many cases the
dealers are themselves taken in.
A few ancient scarabs occur covered with gold—
sometimes the gold is so thick as to form a perfect
cast, and occasionally you may find this gold case
The Arabs of the Pyramids do a great trade
in genuine scarabs, which they import from other
places, and sell on the spot. One franc is a sufficient
price for an ordinary example uninscribed, or

only bearing the name of Amen-Ra or Thothmes
III., but for well-coloured specimens and for old
kings' names, a higher price is asked, even a napoleon,
or £1, being sometimes demanded, and not
unfrequently paid by enthusiastic collectors. Before
you give so much you should borrow the scarab for a
day and obtain warranty for its genuineness from a
good judge.


[Back to top]



How English Tourists see the Pyramids—The Great Time-passage
Theory—The True History of Pyramids—A List of Pyramids
from the Papyrus—Their Identification—Pyramids now remaining—
Their Comparative Heights—The Riddle of the Sphinx unsolved—
The Question of the Tablet—Its Want of Authority—The Use of
the Sphinx in Hieroglyphs—The Table of Thothmes—Description
from Charlotte Brontë—An Irreverent Sightseer.


IT is only after repeated inspection that an adequate
idea is obtained of the so-called Pyramid-field. Familiarity
brings the most wonderful sights into their
proper perspective. After a third or fourth visit, the
bigness of the Pyramid of Shoofoo no longer weighs
upon the mind, the height of the Pyramid of Chafra

no longer overshadows it; the whole platform begins
to assume its true aspect. It is the Kensal Green of
Memphis. The traveller who comes to Egypt with
a preformed theory about the Great Pyramid and its
purpose, and who canters out from Cairo on a glaring
day, is dragged up to the top, hustled through passages
of the diameter of a gas-pipe, alternately exposed
to the brightest sunshine and the blackest
darkness, who is next hurried down across the hot
sand to stare at the Sphinx, and finally chased
through the dust by a yelling donkey-boy the long
seven miles back to Cairo, supposes he has thoroughly
“done” the whole thing. He fondly imagines that in
all his after-life he will be an authority on Pyramids,
and will be capable, in the home circle, if not in a
wider sphere, of giving a valuable opinion on the
theory of Mr. Taylor and Mr. Smyth. One need
not be surprised if he pronounces strongly in its
favour. The performance he has gone through is
calculated alike to fatigue his body and confuse his
mind. His attention has been wholly concentrated
on the Great Pyramid. Its height, its rugged stones,
the vociferations of the Arab guides, the giddiness
which the steep slope or the sun's rays induced when
he was on the summit, the broken shin acquired in
the exploration of the interior, the temporary blindness
after he came out, the grand chorus of backsheesh
which signalised his departure, and a thousand other
impressions equally vivid, mingle admirably with the

ignorance or prejudice he brought out, and conduce
to the formation of what he boasts is a cool and unwarped
opinion. He has certainly seen something,
superficially, of one Pyramid; but what did he see of
the nine or ten which are near it, of the fifty-nine
which are further off? He has not read, supposing
he could read, a single hieroglyph. He has not the
vaguest knowledge of early Egyptian history. He
is perfectly certain that the world was created B C.
4004, and believes that the odd four years were part
of the original revelation. He has probably never
heard of Lepsius, certainly never of Lieblein. He
is not acquainted with the name of a single Pyramid,
and has no more knowledge of the table of Sakkara,
or the table of Abydos, than of the Turin papyrus.
He considers it best to keep his mind free and unfettered,
and is all the more positive as to what he
imagines he does know. The man who, after a personal
visit to the cemetery of Gheezeh, can continue
in the nurture and admonition of those who believe
in the Sacred Cubit, the Time-passage theory, the
Meteorological theory, or any other tenet of the
sect of which Mr. Smyth is presumably the prophet,
must have been convinced on evidence very different
from the evidence of the senses. I should be sorry
to disturb a faith which is so wholly ethereal that it
is independent of facts, and whose votaries are as
much beyond the influence of argument as of plain


Rightly understood, a Pyramid is neither more
nor less than a cairn. It grew up from a cairn,
and it was resolved into a cairn again. When it
first emerges on the stage of history it is sufficiently
rude and incomplete. If antiquaries are right in
ascribing the Pyramid in steps at Sakkara to Vanephes,
a king of the first dynasty, this is by far the
oldest building in the world; but, in spite of some
recent assertions to the effect that his name has been
found in it, the point is more than doubtful. Vanephes
lived at least as long before Shoofoo as William
the Conqueror lived before Queen Anne. It is certainly
recorded by Manetho that he built Pyramids;
and, further, that they were situated at a place
called Kochome, which M. Brugsch identifies with
the northern part of the cemetery of Sakkara. Many
heaps, more or less well defined, exist here, and any
of them may be the Pyramids of Vanephes as well
as the Pyramid in steps. There is an irreconcilable
discrepancy between the two passages of Manetho in
which, under the name of Vanephes, he speaks of
the first Pyramids, and under Kaiechos, more than a
century later, of the first setting-up of the sacred
bulls, if this Pyramid was built, as has sometimes
been supposed, for an Apis mausoleum. In fact, it
differs so much, with its two entrances, its thirty
chambers, but chiefly in its not facing the points of
the compass, from all the seventy Pyramids found
here and elsewhere, that it must be looked upon as

belonging to a wholly different class from the ordinary
funeral monuments of kings. If the votaries of
the Pyramid religion want a building which may
perhaps not be a tomb, and which may have been
built with a theological object, or as a record of faith
for the benefit of posterity, let them turn to this remarkable
and anomalous heap of stones. It will
answer their purposes far better than one among a
well-defined class of unquestionably sepulchral cairns.
All the Pyramids except this one face the four cardinal
points of the compass; all have their entrance
on the north side; all contain provision for a single
king's burial. Many are identified with the names of
kings of whom it is recorded that they did build
Pyramids in various places; and the Great Pyramid
is, without any doubt which a reasonable man can
entertain, the burial mound of one of a long line of
kings who all erected similar mounds.
In the lists it is not even distinguished by a name
differing in character from the others. If we identify
it, as we may very safely do, with Shoofoo, the second
king of the fourth dynasty, and therefore the third king,
possibly the fourth, who built a Pyramid, or Pyramids,
we find that it was only called the “Splendid,”
while to the Pyramid of Chafra is given the name of
the “Great.” To make more of it than a mausoleum,
a royal “folly,” involves making something at least of
the Pyramids which succeeded it, and a great deal
of those which preceded it. It happens to be the

broadest, if not the highest, of those in the same
group; it is by far the most conspicuous, owing to
its situation on a corner of the plateau and in
advance of its companions, so that the visitor from
Cairo recognises it—
“Broad based amid the fleeting sands,”
long before he sees any other. As we shall observe
when we come to speak of Maydoom, the great
building in stages which the Arabs name “Haram el
Kedab” is even more imposing, no doubt on account
of its lonely situation, and the absence of smaller
monuments by which to measure it. Though it stands
on no such elevated platform as that of Gheezeh,
and though it rises but 122 feet above the heap of
débris which surrounds it, yet it is only by actual
measurement that one is convinced that it does not
surpass, nay, does not equal, in dimensions at least,
the Pyramid of Menkaoora, the third in size among
the so-called Great Pyramids.
The tomb of Shoofoo has, therefore, an adventitious
advantage enjoyed by few of its neighbours in being
the first we see, as well as really the largest. To this
fact, almost as much as to its actual size, we must
attribute the effect it produces on the minds of people
who have never seen a Pyramid before. In truth, to
the superficial observer it appears to hide all other
Pyramids, and it is not until a second or third visit
that he perceives that it is at present only a foot

higher in actual masonry, and considerably lower in
real height above the level of the river, than the
adjoining Pyramid of Chafra. Had Chafra's Pyramid
been at the edge of the platform, had it been the first
seen by the visitor, and had the true relative proportions
of the two been unknown, it may safely be
questioned whether the Pyramid of Shoofoo would
have become a subject of so much industrious, if
futile, speculation. In the researches of early investigators
this is very apparent. Champollion, for
example, only examined one tomb in the whole
necropolis, and Rosellini the same. All attention
was engrossed by the monument of Shoofoo. It
was reserved for Justus Lepsius to examine eighty
tombs here, and to find the remains of no less than
sixty-seven Pyramids.
The word “Pyramid” has been a matter of considerable
questioning among antiquaries. A great
authority derives it from the ancient Egyptian form
Abumer, a great tomb, of which the Greeks transposed
the syllables, just as they turned Hor-em-Khoo, the
title of the Sphinx, into Armachis, and Sestura into
Sesostris. This is more than plausible; but the name
has also been derived from Pi-Rama, the mountain,
and, as if to give Mr. Smyth the shadow of an excuse,
from puros, wheat, and metron, a measure. So, too,
pur, fire, and puramis, a pointed cake, have been
suggested, and a hieroglyphic expression has been
read, or attempted to be read, as br—br. We cannot

so far, however, say for certain whether the Egyptians
of the ancient Empire had any general name for such
buildings, though every king's tomb had its own title,
and in the picture-writing a triangle represented, as
determinative, all kinds of royal burial places, whether,
like the grave of Oonas, they were merely square platforms
or, like the southernmost monument at Dashoor,
were almost dome-shaped. Upwards of twenty of
these titles are found in the printed list of Lieblein,
the Norwegian antiquary. They all betray the unbounded
admiration in which each king held his own
last resting-place, and illustrate remarkably the real
nature of the Egyptian faith in a life, not beyond, so
much as actually in, the grave.
This is amply proved by the following list which
gives nearly all the names known. It was originally
compiled by the indefatigable Lieblein, but has been
increased in late years:—


Tat-setoo, “the most abiding place,” Teta, I, vi.
The following have been identified:—the Pyramid
of Seneferoo at Maydoom, those of Shoofoo, Chafra,
Menkaoora, and Hentsen, a daughter of Shoofoo,
at Gheezeh: those of Sahoora and Raenuser, at
Abooseer; and the Mastábat el Faroon of Oonas;
but it is known that the Pyramids of Vanephes and
Menkaoohor were at Sakkara, while those of Amenemhat
and Usertasen, the founders of the Labyrinth,
must be identified with the two Pyramids of Illahoon
and Howara.
Pyramids, or the remains of them, exist at or near
a large number of villages which must nearly all be
on some part of the site, or in the immediate suburbs,
of Mennefer. The most northern are those of Aboo
Roash, where one may be clearly made out. At
Kafr are the so-called Pyramids of Gheezeh, nine in
number, possibly ten. At Zowyet there is one: at
Rigga a mere heap, at Abooseer, four, and some
nearly obliterated remains; at Sakkara, nine clearly
distinguishable. There are five at Dashoor, of which
two are larger than the third Pyramid at Gheezeh

There are two shapeless heaps, probably once Pyramids,
at Lisht, and the brick Pyramids on the site
of the Labyrinth are one at Illahoon, one at Howara,
and two at Biahmoo. Besides these there is the
Mastábat el Faroon between Sakkara and Dashoor,
and the three-staged tomb of Seneferoo at Maydoom.
The following are the heights in feet of the principal Pyramids:—Gheezeh, Shoofoo, 460; Chafra,
447; Menkaoora, 203; Sakkara, Pyramid in steps,
190; Dashoor, 326 and 321; and Maydoom, 122,
above the mound which surrounds its base. The
original heights have been estimated as follows:—
Shoofoo, 482 feet; Chafra, 454; Dashoor, 342 and
335; Menkaoora, 218; Sakkara, 200; and the now
ruined pyramid of Abooseer, 228.
To resume: Seneferoo, it will have been seen, called
his Pyramid “the Crown”; that of Asseskef is
“Refreshment”; that of Papi, the “Lovely Place,”
a name identical with the name of Memphis itself.
Teta, perhaps playing on his own name, called his
Pyramid Tat-setoo, “the Most Abiding of Places.”
Others are the “Rising of the Soul,” the “Most
Holy Place,” the “Good Rising,” the “Beautiful,”
the “Great and Fair,” the “Pure Place,” the “Place
of Rest”; while the monument, already mentioned,
of Oonas, which the Arabs call the Mastábat el
Pharoon, is described as the “Best Place”; and the
unidentified tomb of Neferkara as the “Abode of
Life.” Such are the evidences, among others, that

to the men of that remote time—a time variously
estimated as seven, six, and five thousand years
ago—death was not looked upon with the horror
which in later ages invested the grave with ideas of
gloom, and recorded rather the despair of mourners
than the rest of the departed.
Near each Pyramid was the temple consecrated to
the worship, or at least the honour, of the sleeping
divinity of the Pharaoh. The foundations are still
visible of such temples near the Pyramids of Chafra,
Menkaoora, and Raenuser. Even in the days of the
Ptolemies the endowments which some of the oldest
kings had conferred upon the priests of their shrines
continued to enrich officials who, after the lapse of
some four thousand years, perhaps enjoyed sinecures.
No writing or sculpture remains on any Pyramid.
Herodotus tells us of the hieroglyphs on the Pyramid
of Shoofoo. He curiously observes that they give the
sum expended in supplying the workmen with onions
and garlic; a statement on which I have ventured
to hazard the conjecture, more than probable in itself,
that the king's titles as lord of Upper and Lower
Egypt were engraved with the lotus, the papyrus,
and the bulbous plant, which in other places enter so
largely into similar inscriptions.
Historically speaking, the Pyramids, apart from
their antiquity, are of the highest interest. They
represent a time of profound peace. They point to
the existence of a dominant race, and of a population

which could be called on for unlimited labour. They
tell us little of the finer arts, in sculpture and painting,
which even then flourished, but much of skill in
engineering, quarrying, building, as distinguished from
architecture, and all that could be done by mere
multitudes working together and bringing brute force
to bear on stubborn materials. Whatever of higher
art those early kings lavished on their “fair resting-places,”
whatever of portraiture and painting, of gold
and jewels, of carving and ornament, of epitaphs and
funeral odes they could command, were bestowed on
the temple; the tomb itself was vast, solid, enduring,
nor is it at all certain that the actual burial-place of
Shoofoo or Chafra has been reached and rifled. Those
who have spent most time in searching through
the labyrinths of the interior are of opinion that the
two great Pyramids are still but half explored. It
may be that these old kings still
“Lie in glory—
Cased in cedar and shut in a sacred gloom;
Swathed in linen and precious unguents old;
Painted with cinnabar, and rich with gold.
Silent they rest, in solemn salvatory;
Sealed from the moth and the owl and the flitter mouse—
Each with his name on his brow.”
The coffin of Menkaoora is in the British Museum,
and his name is on it, but there are doubts and
difficulties with regard to the third Pyramid, on
which I have no intention of touching here, There,

is a possibility, at least, that it is not the coffin of
Mycerinus, but that of another king—perhaps not a
king, but a queen,
“The Rhodope, who built the Pyramid;”
who knows? And perhaps Menkaoora is yet sleeping
in quiet “in his own house.”
In the aftertime, when the kings of the twelfth
dynasty fought against the northern strangers, when
Aahmes led his people against the Shepherds, when
Seti I. subdued the Hittites and his grandson pursued
Israel, when fortresses and treasure cities, Pi-Tum and
Rameses, had to be built on the border, we no longer
hear of such great cairns as the Pyramids. The
tombs in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, great as
they are, required rather skilled labour than mere
force. No vast multitude was needed to decorate
them in beaten gold and glorious red. The peaceful
artist and his staff worked quietly in the dark
corridors, while the people whose ancestors had
heaped up the tombs of the older Pharaohs, now
followed the later Pharaohs to the battle-field.
A smaller waste of human life than that by which
Bonaparte ruined France would have built him a
pyramid greater than Shoofoo's. About half the sum
lavished by Ismail Pasha on plastered palaces would
have made him a monument more enduring than
Chafra's. But the Pyramid-builders had neither
enemies abroad nor rivals at home.


A comparison of the different Pyramid-fields, and
a little research into documentary evidence about
them, bring out one fact very clearly in opposition to
many recent theorists. The dynasties under which
they were erected were successive, not contemporaneous.
It was not as their rivals, but as their
successors, that the kings of the fourth dynasty made
their tombs beside those of the third, and the
kings of the sixth dynasty beside those of the fifth.
The last Amenemhat of the twelfth dynasty was
probably descended from Seneferoo, possibly from
Vanephes, with as much directness as Queen
Victoria from our Angevin Kings, or from the early
Athelings of Wessex.
Next in interest at Gheezeh to the Pyramids is the
Sphinx. About it, too, a great deal of nonsense has
been written; and I am afraid many people will think
I am adding to it in giving my reasons for doubting
the remote antiquity of the figure. I am convinced
that in its present form it dates from the reign of one
of the kings of the eighteenth dynasty—an origin old
enough, but a third less than that of the Pyramids.
To different people the name of the Sphinx
conveys very different impressions. To some it is
the graceful Greek ornament, the lovely woman's
face, the greyhound's body, the lion's claws. To
others it suggests the myth of Œdipus, and, as a
corollary, the reflection that people “gave up” very
easy conundrums in those days. To others, again, the

Sphinx is part of the great “Time-passage Theory,”
and a convincing proof that the Pyramids are a
petrifaction of all the great truths of revealed religion.
But to any one who has climbed the hill to the
cemetery of Ghizeh, and walked across a slope of
blazing sand to get under the shadow of the Sphinx
for an instant's respite from the heat, it is a mighty
fact, standing wholly by itself, unconnected with any
other sphinx, not even the image of a god, but the
god himself. The ancient Egyptians called him “neb,”
lord—a name applied generally to all the gods in
their populous pantheon, but specially to the Sphinx
alone. In his present condition he is a ball of stone
rising on a neck some forty feet above the sand. The
features he once had, features variously described as
terrible, beautiful, hideous, expressionless, mocking,
and so forth, are now chiefly to be made out by a
process of the imagination, though red paint still
marks the eyebrows, and there is the trace of a blush
on the right cheek. At midday his shadow falls only
under the deep chin, whose beard, long shorn by the
Arabs, is now in the British Museum. As you creep
under it you observe the stratification of the stone,
and perceive that the Sphinx was never brought
there, but grew where he is. The second Pyramid is
immediately behind him and square with him, or
nearly so, as if they had some connection one with
the other. If you take the two into the same view,
you will be puzzled by the nearness of the Pyramid,

which in the clear desert air seems close against the
Sphinx. If Thothmes IV. made the Sphinx, it can
have no connexion with the Pyramid; for Thothmes
was of the eighteenth dynasty, and the Pyramid
builders were of the fourth.
The discovery of a tablet purporting to be a record
made by Shoofoo was supposed for a time to set the
question at rest. It was found built into a wall
near the most southern of the three small Pyramids,
which are, so to speak, satellites to that of Shoofoo.
It is rectangular and has a heavy border, the whole
border and a kind of base being covered with hiero-glyphs.
It is almost impossible to read a considerable
part of them, for, not only are they very indistinctly
cut, but the stone itself is bad. The part within
the border or frame contains pictures, very roughly
executed, of a number of gods and goddesses, among
them a Sphinx, and a little inscription is over each
figure. Chem, Anubis, another dog-headed god,
perhaps Tap-heroo of Ssoot, Horus, Thoth, several
forms of Isis and Athor, Osiris, the bull Apis,
Nepthys, Selk, the youthful Horus, the triumphant
Horus, Ptah, Pasht, Toom, the setting sun, represented
by his proper emblems, and finally the Sphinx,
all are figured in this table, which, if it is contemporary,
would be almost conclusive as to the worship
of the ancients.
But is it contemporary—that is to say, was it
written in the time of Shoofoo?


To this question I think but one answer can be
returned—it is not. An expert in writing has no
difficulty whatever in distinguishing between the
pages of two mediæval manuscripts written, say, in
the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries. He cannot
perhaps tell what the differences are, but he can have
no hesitation in making his decision. It is just the
same with hieroglyphics. No one who has seen the
“Tomb of Numbers,” with the long inscriptions commemorating
the riches of Chafra-anch, or the tombs
of Apa, of Ata, of Asseskef-anch, or of any other
of the many containing writing which lie scattered
so thickly over the Pyramid hill, can have a moment's
hesitation in saying the “stela of the Sphinx” was
not cut in the reign of Shoofoo, not even in the
reigns of any of his successors down to the end of
the Ancient Monarchy.
The question as to its age has been variously
answered—one of the best authorities attributing it to
the time of the twenty-sixth dynasty. I cannot but
think it is older, as even a forger of that period, in
making so long a list of gods, would not have omitted
1 See chapter xix.
The worship of Amen was introduced, in
all probability, under the later kings of the eleventh
What this stela says about the Sphinx has been
often quoted, and may be found at some length in
the Boolak Catalogue. “The place of the Sphinx of

Hor-em-Khoo is to the south of the temple of Isis.
.... The paintings of the god Hor-em-Khoo are
conformed to the specifications.”
On this M. Mariette makes the following curious
remark — I quote again from the Catalogue:—
“Whether the stone be contemporary with Cheops
(which is admitted to be doubtful), or whether it
belongs to a later age, it is not the less certain that
Cheops restored a temple already existing,” &c.
Herr Brugsch, in his History, makes a similar observation:
—” Although the monument … is not
contemporary with the time of Khufu (Shoofoo),
and dates from a later epoch in the history of
Egypt, nevertheless this witness of antiquity loses
nothing of its historical value.”
Now, to the ordinary mind the conclusion would
be precisely the reverse. If the stone is not contemporary,
and it certainly is not, it is altogether and all
the more, and that much the more, uncertain that
1 Herr Brugsch himself, in another part of his book, attributes the
Sphinx to Chafra. Geschichte Aegyptens. Leipzig, 1877, p. 395.
restored a temple and the Sphinx.
It is of course possible that the inscription may be
a copy of an older one, but that possibility does not
give it authority. We all know what restorers have
done in falsifying records in our own day. No one
would think of arguing from a modern carving “in
the style of the fourteenth century” as to a carving
actually of the fourteenth century. And until we

can find some portion, be it never so small, of the
original inscription, this stela is absolutely without
authority as contemporary evidence. A forged
scarab is often an accurate copy of a genuine
original. But unless you know of the existence of
the genuine original, you would throw aside the most
interesting inscription on the forgery.
It is almost useless to conjecture what the original
of this stela was. Perhaps the copier, having a certain
space to fill, put in all the gods and goddesses
he knew of, and where Hor-em-Khoo was mentioned,
added a picture of the Sphinx of his own mere
motion. The picture of a Sphinx had become the
hieroglyphic determinative of Hor-em-Khoo, when
the stela was cut. There are plenty of theories which
will account for the existence of this record, and for
its peculiarities, but until we have some corroboration
of its statements from other monuments, they must
be received with caution, if not actually rejected.
So far, then, as we can tell, the Sphinx was in existence
in the time of Thothmes IV., and perhaps earlier.
The authority of the granite tablet between the forepaws
of the great figure is unquestionable: “The
majesty of the God, Hor-em-Khoo, speaks with his
own mouth as a father would speak with his son,
while he says, Look at me, my beloved son;
Thothmes, I am thy Father!”
The use of the figure of a Sphinx in hieroglyphic
inscriptions is found for the first time, if we except the

forged stela, in the jewellery of Queen Aah-hotep in
the Boolak Museum, where it occurs in connection
with the cartouche of King Ahmes, the grandfather of
Thothmes III. From that time on it is of common
occurrence, and both on obelisks and on scarabs King
Thothmes is represented as a Sphinx.
One consideration must be taken into the account
in estimating the antiquity of the Sphinx. He is
carved out of the natural rock, and stands on no
pedestal, but springs directly out of the ground. If
we endeavour to picture to ourselves the appearance
of the plateau of the Pyramids before any tombs
were placed upon it we can have little difficulty in the
task. Many similar platforms exist all along the Nile
in Lower Egypt. There is a broad expanse of black
alluvial soil, dotted with occasional palms, and green
here and there with corn or clover. Beyond the reach
of the inundation rises a wall of stone, thirty, forty,
perhaps fifty feet above the lower level. The top is
flat, and covered with loose sand, which blows over
on the fields below at every storm. Behind is yet
another ridge of higher rocks, and a third step may
be still further. On the intermediate level the Pyramids
are placed. But if we follow the track of the
first Pharaoh who came up from Memphis to find a
suitable place for his tomb, threading his way by the
side of the Nile, through the network of canals,
towards a hollow in the long line of low cliffs, the first
object which would meet his eye, standing up by itself

out of the sand-drift, half-way on the slope between
the lower and the higher platforms, would be a great
mass or column of rock some sixty or seventy feet in
height, and backed by a low ridge running for a
couple of hundred feet towards the face of the hill.
Such isolated rocks are common in Egypt. One of
them stands to the Pyramid of Dashoor just as the
Sphinx stands to the Pyramid of Chafra. The rock
may have already appeared to bear the semblance of
a human face. But it could not be overlooked. The
first rays of the morning sun would strike it, and the
Sphinx, it is very possible, may have been rough
hewn by the earliest occupiers of the tombs of the
ancient Empire.
A great deal of sentimental rubbish has been
written about the Father of Horror, as I have heard
the Arabs call him; but he is very impressive. It is
impossible to think of him except as an individual, a
person, not a block of stone. I remember at one of
my visits a member of the party pulled out a note-book
and read a passage from Charlotte Brontë's preface
to her sister's novel, Wuthering Heights, where
she speaks of her creation of the character of Heathfield
in words which with slight change describe the
maker of the Sphinx. His work was “hewn in a wild
workshop, with simple tools out of simple materials.”
He found the block of sandstone in the solitary desert,
and, “gazing thereon, he saw how from the crag
might be elicited a head, savage, swart, sinister; a

form moulded with at least one element of grandeur
—power. He wrought with a rude chisel and from
no model but the vision of his meditations. With
time and labour the crag took human shape; and
there it stands, colossal, dark, and frowning, half
statue, half rock; in the former sense, terrible and
goblin-like, in the latter almost beautiful.” But the
concluding lines of Currer Bell's wonderful picture do
not apply to the Sphinx; though its colouring is “of
mellow gray,” no moorland moss clothes it; no
“heath, with blooming bells and balmy fragrance,
grows faithfully close to the giant's foot”; an Arab
sits astride on the ear and offers to chop a large piece
out of the eyeball for you for half a franc, or a small
piece for a piastre.
My sentiment received a rude shock another day.
I remarked to an American friend that the Sphinx
grew upon me. “Well,” he replied, mockingly, “I'm
glad it doesn't grow on me. It's too heavy.”

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The Chains of Egypt—Nicopolis, the Roman Camp at Ramleh
Turkish demolitions—El Kab—Dakkeh—Kasr e' Shemma—The
Churches—The Walls—Comparison with the Walls of London.


IN a country which has been compared for its
length without breadth to a serpent, the government
which holds the neck controls it all. When all the
world except Egypt was sunk in barbarism, the
throat of the Nile Valley was at the southern end;
the savages of Ethiopia were nearer and more
dangerous than the savages of Syria, or Greece, or

Italy. In days so far gone by that their exact
date is a matter of conjecture, or at best of approximation
only, to secure the peace of the country it
was needful to garrison Nubia. In less remote
times the other end of the vast length must be
guarded and protected. Accordingly, we find that
when the strong-minded lady who raised the great
obelisk of Karnac to the memory of her father
Thothmes sought to hold the whole valley in subjection,
she made her fortress beyond the First
Cataract. When Cambyses, or one of his Persian
successors, sought to hold the Delta, he placed his
garrison at Fostat between Memphis and its sources
of supply. When the Cæsars ruled Egypt from
beyond the Mediterranean, they fortified their camp
on the highest ground within reach of Alexandria.
The chains of Greece were said by the last Philip
to be Corinth and Chalcis and Demetrias; but the
chains of Egypt were Nicopolis and Babloon and
Dakkeh; yet of the three only the oldest is left.
Babloon was replaced under the Romans by a
building of great antiquarian interest, though comparatively
so modern; and of the camp at Ramleh
it may be said, as of a camp nearer home which
bore the same name, that within a very few years it
has disappeared. The walls had seen, in all probability,
the defeat of Anthony's last army. Augustus
himself had encamped on the spot; and here, just
seventy-seven years ago, Sir Ralph Abercromby

“fell in the arms of victory.” In order to
build one of his numerous and ephemeral palaces,
the Khedive, in spite of many appeals, and in
contempt of many promises, pulled away almost
all that remained of the old walls, and suffered a
tesselated pavement to fall to pieces and disappear
through mere carelessness and neglect. Strange to
say, like the fabled apple of Sodom, he never enjoyed
it. A few days, or weeks, after it was finished, and
before the Viceroy himself had been able to visit it,
his little daughter died in the new palace, and, though
on one or two occasions balls have been given there
for Alexandrian folk, the Khedive has never slept a
night in it. All that now remains of Nicopolis is a
single column on a cliff overhanging the sea; though
a few years ago a dozen were standing, it is easy to
see that a few months hence even this one will
have fallen.
The present dynasty, in an age of lath and plaster,
will have left some great public works complete, and
more begun; but it has not failed to mark its power
by a large number of demolitions, of which this is
only a specimen. Under Mehemet Ali the hall
erected by Saladin in the citadel was removed, with
its two-and-thirty columns of rose granite. In 1822
the temple of Elephantine was destroyed in order
to build a palace for the Governor of Assouan with
the materials. It need hardly be said that the
palace was never built; but of the temple only

single granite doorway is left. In Cairo itself, while
a vast and hideous mosque of modern Greek design
is gradually creeping up on one side of the street,
in honour of the Sheykh who founded the Roofayeh
order of Dervishes, and to mark the burial-place of
the child that died at Ramleh; on the other the
beautiful mosque of Sultan Hassan—a building contemporary
with our Westminster Abbey, and in
many respects comparable with it—is falling into
irreparable decay. It must be allowed that, under
the present ruler, the antiquities of Egypt have been
made subjects of Government solicitude; and the
researches of M. Mariette and his fellow-labourers
have become possible. But, comparatively modern
as the Roman and Arab remains appear, they are
sometimes quite as interesting to the student as the
older works, though so far they have excited little
interest, and some of them are but seldom visited.
The old walls of El Kab, a fortress of the thirteenth
dynasty, about fifty miles south of Luxor, the curious
forts hereafter described,1
1 See p. 285.
at Arabat-el-Madfooneh,
and the fort of Dakkeh, all present the same characteristics;
but that of Dakkeh, both from its situation
on the southern border, and its comparative state of
preservation, is the most interesting. It is strangely
like another type of military architecture with which
we are familiar in England. The voyager who
ascends beyond the
First Cataract finds himself in

a narrow valley shut in by granite hills, and only
sees here and there a space wide enough for cultivation.
There are buildings of all ages and kinds,
chiefly temples; and at intervals, where the sandstone
ridges approach the Nile, he finds vast grottoes
carved in the face of the cliff, the greatest of all
being the farthest—namely, the temple of the Sun
at Aboshek, better known as Ipsambool. Amid this
wealth of architectural remains, the best of them
on the western bank, the castle opposite Dakkeh,
on the eastern bank, is very often passed by unvisited.
Yet it well repays a visit, though the visitor
wishes in vain for some one competent to describe the
defences as Mr. Clark would describe a Norman Keep
in England. For, though it is built of crude brick—
that is to say, of mud—and though it is seven hundred
miles from the sea, and though it is one of the
oldest buildings in the world, having been erected
2,500 years at least before the White Tower, yet to
the eyes of an English traveller it resembles nothing
in the world so much as the Keep of Rochester or of
Guildford. There is the ditch, with scarp and counterscarp.
There are square towers overlapping the
corners. There are flat buttresses not reaching the
top of the wall. There are gates with narrow walls
and signs of drawbridges. There is a covered way
down to the water's edge. We might be exploring
a castle on the Thames or the Dee, except for the
material of which it is built. The walls, some fourteen

feet thick at least, and still in places not less
than forty in height, are all formed of great blocks of
sun-dried mud, very like the sods of peat one sees in
Scotland or Ireland. Here and there the impress of
the maker's hand may be found, and you may lay
your fingers into the very marks left by a man of
flesh and blood, of nerves and muscles, of skin with a
thousand delicate lines such as you see in your own
palm, yet who lived and laboured and died more than
three thousand years ago. Some of the marks are
small, and must be those of a woman's hand; for
female labour, by which to-day the new streets of
Cairo are built, was, no doubt, the rule in Egypt
under Hatasoo as it is under Ismael. It is very
possible that the “prehistoric” Lake-dwellers whose
hands were lately found impressed on pottery in
Switzerland, did not live at so remote a period as
these oppressed Nubians of three thousand years
ago. Of the history of the fortress opposite Dakkeh,
of its very name, we know nothing. Centuries before
Joseph or Moses, centuries before the siege of
Troy, tens of centuries before William the Norman,
monarchs had castles built for them, and employed
the labour of their subjects to forge and strengthen
their own chains.
The ride to Kasr el Shama takes the sightseer
through a labyrinth of small streets to the southern
gate of Cairo, named after the lady Zeynab, or
Zenobia, a grand-daughter of the Prophet, and thence

over immense heaps of rubbish, the ashes of Fostat,
burnt in 1168, until the open country is reached. The
mounds on the left are of amazing size. Nothing is
more difficult to believe than that they are wholly
artificial. Yet it cannot be doubted, and no digger
into them has come to anything more solid than an
occasional stone wall.
Expeditions to hunt in the mounds are sometimes
made by the English residents—not to hunt wild
beasts, or creeping things, but to search for old Arab
beads and beautifully coloured fragments of pottery.
Many interesting objects have been found in this
way. You do not dig, but simply walk over the
mound, and pick up what you find on the surface.
Every wind lays bare a fresh stratum, every shower
washes the dust from the glass or pottery; and you
may search in the same place time after time, almost
day after day, and always find something more. One
hillock abounds in beautiful beads. Perhaps it marks
the site of the bead bazaar of Fostat. As Fostat was
burnt in the twelfth century, most of the things thus
found date from beyond six hundred years ago.
Behind these mounds, and extending in a continuous
belt along the foot of the mountain between it and
Cairo, is the ancient Arab cemetery. It is interrupted
where the approaches of the Citadel reach down to
the city. Some of the tombs, especially those erected
by the Mameluke kings, are well worthy of a visit;
the burial-place of the present dynasty being

conspicuous among so many beautiful minarets
and mosques by a dome of black iron set crooked
on a whitewashed wall.
Keeping well to the right, we avoid these sepulchres,
but pass the European burial-grounds; that in which
many English travellers are laid is very well kept and
shaded with a number of fine trees, especially funereal
cypresses. The wall round it is high, and it has a
strange—I had almost said a pre-Raphaelite—look,
reminding one of the old Campo Santo pictures in
Italy, or the conventional pictures of a walled garden
in a manuscript of Chaucer or Froissart.
The heaps extend for miles in a southerly direction,
and may mark the site of cities older by far than the
tabernacles which Amer pitched on the spot in 638,
and which supply a meaning for the Arabic name.
This was Babylon, not indeed Babylon the Great, but
the town which Cambyses is said to have founded,
and whence, according to some, the Epistle of St.
Peter was written. Whether Strabo, when he speaks
of a Babylonian colony here, refers to the extradition
of a number of families by the Persian king, or
whether, as his words seem to imply, a much older
settlement is described, cannot now be decided. In
the twenty-sixth Dynasty there was a town here. It is
curious, however, to note that other authors have
spoken of the colony in very similar terms, and that
it is sometimes ascribed to “Sesostris,” or Rameses
II., who is here said to have placed his captives from

Babylon, and sometimes to Semiramis. The most
recent writer who has touched on the subject is Mr.
Roland Michell, and in his volume on the Egyptian
Calendar, to which I am already indebted, a conjecture
is mentioned which would account for the
modern name of the Roman fortress at least. Kasr
el Shama—or, as it is pronounced, “esh Shemmah”
—is, in English, the Castle of the Flame or Light,
and may mark the site of a temple of fire-worshippers.
Be this as it may—and no more plausible
derivation has been suggested—there are no Persian
remains now to be seen at Babloon, and the unobservant
traveller might very easily pass by the
Roman walls half buried in grey mounds, though they
would well repay, what they have never yet received,
a careful survey.
The western face now consists of a long wall of
large stone blocks, under which a low entrance has
been burrowed, leading into a very rabbit warren
of miserable dwellings, Coptic churches, Moslem
mosques, monasteries, synagogues, and bazaars, uniform
only in dirt and darkness. To the ecclesiastical
antiquary there is much worth seeing among the
strange piles of mud and brick.
Of the remains the most interesting is a church
built in the eighth century, where they show in the
crypt a kind of cave in which the Holy Family is said
to have lain concealed during the flight into Egypt.
A plan of the church is in Baedecker, but the best

description is that contributed by Mr. Greville Chester
to Murray's Handbook. Another church, appropriated
to the members of the Greek communion,
contains, far up stairs in one of the bastions, some
of the most beautiful old tiles I have ever seen.
There are also some very ancient ivory carvings
and pictures, and a little stained glass. This church
is dedicated to Sitt Mariam (St. Mary), and is locally
called the Hanging Church, on account of its elevated
The Roman antiquary will feel inclined to pass by
the door and to trace as best he can the circuit of the
walls. They would be of the highest antiquity almost
anywhere but in Egypt. Here they are among the
most recent of architectural remains. Continuing along
the outer wall, two well-defined semicircular bastions,
once pierced with arched windows, or embrasures, recall
similar buildings at York, in London, at Trèves—
anywhere, in fact, where the military engineers of old
Rome built their fortresses. There is no mistake
about the banded masonry, the thin bricks, the hard
mortar, or any other of many marks by which Roman
work may be identified; though high up, with the
wall for a foundation, a tall whitewashed dwelling
looks over, and seems tottering to a fall. This
western, front is perhaps two hundred yards long,
and ends with another semicircular tower facing
south. This tower is very perfect to a height of
perhaps twenty feet, and is the first of a series of

three, each some fifty feet in width, which range
along the same side—the side, that is, which looked
towards Memphis. If we climb the mound in front,
the wide green plain with its palm-groves across the
river stretches for miles over the site of the vast city,
and the tombs of the inhabitants still cluster round
the pyramids on the hill beyond. From the gate
between two of the bastions, now sunk in ashes to
the top of its pedimented archway, the soldiers of
Cæsar watched the Nile and held the chief link in
the chain which bound Egypt and Memphis to Rome.
A few years ago there was still a trace of an eagle
carved beside the arch, and everything is in a style
wholly foreign, and different from the native
Egyptian work.
To the English archæologist this Roman castle is
peculiarly interesting. Just as our Royal Engineers
build a barrack at Agra and one at Armagh on the
same lines and in the same style, so the Romans
had but one general pattern for their pretorium,
whether it was situated at Colchester or Paris, on
the Danube or on the Nile. Just such a fortress as
this formed the kernel of old London. Its foundations,
with the banded masonry and the semicircular
bastions, were discovered when the soil of Cannon
Street was upturned for the new station. Long
before the wall was drawn round the outer ring of
suburbs, before the British London had become the
Roman Augusta, a fortress which must have closely

resembled this at the Egyptian Babylon crowned
the hill on the eastern bank of the Walbrook, and
commanded the little port at Dowgate below.1
1 I have expounded my views on this subject in a paper printed in
volume xxxiv. of the Archæological Journal, to which I must refer
the antiquarian reader.


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An abortive scheme—Government Schools—Missions—The University
of the East—College Life in Cairo—Ordinary Schools in Cairo—In
Country Villages—Blind Guides—Coptic Schools—Towfik's Schools
for Girls.


AMONG the other schemes by which Europeans were
persuaded that Ismail Pasha was engaged in improving
his people was a comprehensive proclamation
establishing a magnificent system of free schools—
magnificent, that is, on paper. Here and there, in
the suburbs of Cairo, one comes upon a vast, empty,
half-finished building, glaring across a waste of broken

stone. This is one of a series of “normal schools,”
begun with a grand flourish of trumpets, but never
developed beyond the normal stage.
Yet in two directions education was pursued with
some diligence. A year ago as many as thirteen
hundred boys were being educated in Government
schools. These boys were chiefly destined to serve
in the army as officers, or in the post office, the telegraph
office, as railway servants and as Government
clerks. Mehemet Ali was their original founder. He
started them for the purpose of improving the state
of his army. To carry out his ambitious projects, he
found that it was necessary to have officers of intelligence,
trained doctors, able heads of the commissariat.
He must train his soldiers by educating them. So
successful was the college to which he sent his own
sons that at one time it contained fifteen hundred
students. But the Hatti Sherif of 1841 was the
death-blow to education in Egypt for the time being.
The schools rapidly deteriorated, for they had taken
no hold upon the national life. When Abbas Pasha
ascended the throne, he commanded a general examination
of both pupils and masters to be held.
So grossly ignorant did he find them, that he ordered
all the schools to be at once closed. Ismail Pasha,
however, perceiving that it was not alone for the sake
of the army that it was desirable to organise some
system of education, did all he could to encourage it;
and its abolition, among other ill-judged economies of

Mr. Wilson, contributed as much as anything else to
the fall of that “master of want of tact,” as I once
heard him called.
I visited this military school, and had opportunities
on many occasions of conversing with native gentlemen
educated in it.
There was a certain military and French tone about
the school, but the boys were well taught, and always
learned some language besides their own. They wore
a uniform; the principal number were boarders, and
the “externs” seem to have been paid to come. Half
the pupils, when they left, entered Government service
in some way or other. The experiment was
tried of sending a considerable number of the most
promising young men to finish their education in
Europe; but the plan did not succeed so well as
might have been hoped. They did not seem to have
energy or enterprise to make use of their advantages.
A young man would perhaps gain a good diploma in
medicine at Paris, but on his return would never
dream of setting up as a physician. On the contrary,
he would be much disappointed if not presented to
a lucrative Government situation.
Besides this Government school, in which a “liberal
education” was afforded to the native youth, a similar
training was—perhaps I may say, is—being given by
missions in Cairo and various provincial towns. Miss
Whateley's school in the Abbaseeyeh Road, the
American school at Sioot, the Franciscan school at

Ekhmeem, are all of this kind, and about nine thousand
children are brought up in them.
I remember at Belianeh, this year, two policemen
speaking to me in very fair English. They asked to
see a ring I was wearing, and were much interested
when I explained to them that it bore a coat of arms,
and had descended to me from my forefathers: all
which they understood. They had been brought up
at Sioot, if I remember aright, and had never been
even to Cairo. Two postmasters, one a Greek
Catholic, the other a Copt, were at Luxor last winter,
and had been educated at the same institution.
They both spoke and wrote English, and one of
them had a smattering of German. In the Franciscan
convent at Ekhmeem I found only one monk,
but he was bringing up fifty children of all denominations,
Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics, and
was teaching some of them French and Italian.
They were a clean, happy-looking party; the front
row consisting, if I remember right, of five Copts,
three Moslems, two Greeks, and a Jew.
Besides these schools, and others like them, education
is conducted in a very different fashion in the
mosques. There are some fifteen thousand at El
Azhar, the “university of the East,” and other schools
of this kind. It is not always easy to get into El
Azhar, but the stranger in Cairo should by no means
omit to make the attempt. The building is interesting,
and the simplicity of primitive university life will

strike the visitor who remembers his own college life
at home. There is a great court surrounded by
cloisters, as at Oxford or Cambridge,—a court not
very unlike Tom Quad in Christ Church. But it is
not surrounded with residential chambers. The
cloisters are the chambers: the open pavement under
the shady side of the fountain, is the chambers: the
many-pillared mosque itself affords sleeping room for
hundreds of students, from all Mahometan countries.
Very frequent among them is the green turban which
denotes a descendant of the Prophet. The student
works for work's sake only. The Khedive and his
family have long ago swallowed up the endowments,
and those of another great college in the mosque of
Kalaoon, but he affords each matriculated student, in
return, a piece of bread every day. There is water
at the fountain: and one thinks involuntarily of the
descendants of Eli: “Put me, I pray thee, into one of
the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”
The backsheesh of five hundred sheep sent one day
by the Viceroy on the occasion of a family rejoicing
was therefore not unacceptable. The school is, in fact,
a great free national university for the teaching of the
theology of the Koran. There are few rules; there
is no compulsory course of study; there is no roll-call
or classification of students. Curiously enough,
coffee and tobacco are forbidden within the walls:
but, no doubt, the students rich enough to have
rooms outside make up for the deprivation by an

extra allowance at home. With regard to the education,
Dor Bey, the late Minister of Instruction, holds
that the importance which is attached to the cultivation
of a mere mechanical memory is fatal to the
development of the intelligence of the pupils, and to
progress in general. He says that the stupid scholar
learns by rote without imbibing any ideas, and that
the naturally clever boy is entirely crushed and
suppressed by this system. The professors suffer as
much as their pupils; and he tells of one who could
repeat the whole of the Introduction of Porphyry to
the works of Aristotle, yet remains convinced that
the book itself was written by the great Sheikh
It is also well worth while to visit an ordinary
school in Cairo. It is probably held either in a kind
of open alcove adjoining a mosque, or in a vault
underneath. You open a door in the street, and find
a room about ten feet square. It is below the level
of the road, and lofty for its size. A grated window,
high up, gives a dim light; but a flood of sunshine
comes in at the open door, and strikes full on the
bright crimson robe of the fakeeh as he sits on his
cushion in the corner. At one end stands the only
piece of furniture in the room. It looks like a large
harmonium done up in brown holland; but turns out
to be a box containing the bones of a saint. In
front of this curious piece of school furniture squat
four-and-twenty little black and brown boys. One

or two are disguised as girls, to protect them from
the evil eye. All have dirty faces, and several are
suffering from ophthalmia. They sit in two rows,
facing each other, and simultaneously rock their
bodies violently backwards and forwards as they
recite the alphabet, or that verse of the Koran which
forms their day's task. The children shout at the
top of their little cracked voices in a nasal tone far
from musical. The noise they contrive to make is
astounding, considering how small they are. If they
cease their rocking and shrieking, even for a moment,
the master brings down his long palm cane upon
their shaven skulls, and they recommence with
renewed energy, and an even more violent see-saw .
The sentence repeated does not convey the slightest
meaning to their minds, nor is any attempt made to
explain it. Two or three older children are sitting
beside the fakeeh, getting lessons in the formation of
the Arabic characters. Their copy-book is a piece of
bright tin, and they use a reed pen called a kalam.
The ink bottle is a box containing a sponge saturated
with some brown fluid. A long row of tiny slippers,
of every form and colour, lies neatly arranged at the
door; for the place where the bones of a saint are
enshrined is holy ground, and no one may soil the
clean matting of the floor with outside defilement.
No register is kept of the pupils, or of their days of
attendance. Indeed, although the fakeeh can repeat
the whole of the Koran off book, it is highly probable

he would find some difficulty in counting up to the
number of his scholars. His acquirements begin and
end with a textual knowledge of the sacred book, and
unfortunately the wishes of his pupils' parents with
regard to the education of their children are bounded
by the same narrow limits.
It is very different to inspect a country school.
Whenever it was possible, on our voyage up the
Nile in the beginning of 1877, one of the ladies of
our party used to go and see the fakeeh of the village
near which we anchored. I am ashamed to say I
did not share her enthusiasm. I was ill at the time,
and did not like the bad smells. But I went with
her once or twice, and have since seen hundreds of
village schools. Our early experience was often
repeated. As soon as a stranger was seen coming,
all the inhabitants turned out en masse to follow
him about. They kicked up clouds of dust, brought
thousands of flies, and altogether made themselves
highly unpleasant. The visitor is jostled along
through several mud lanes with holes on either side,
covered by doors which seem to have been made by
a prehistoric carpenter with neolithic implements.
Nearly stifled, the sight-seer at last arrives at the
village academy. It is perhaps a mud-hole without
a door, and in it he finds three or four bright-eyed
boys, a turkey-cock, and a few pigeons. The show
pupil begins to read at the top of his voice the one
piece of his lesson-book which he has managed to

acquire. The other pupils listen admiringly. He
rocks backwards and forwards, as is the custom of
the country; but when he becomes fully conscious
how large and distinguished is his audience, the
rapidity of his pendulum motion becomes alarming.
It appears only a question of time how long it can
continue before he breaks in two. There is, however,
no appearance of any director to his studies, but a
blind man sitting on a stone in the street turns out
to be the village schoolmaster. The fakeeh's face
beams with a proper pride in his establishment. He
evidently finds nothing surprising in strangers from
a far country coming to call on him. They have, no
doubt, heard of his learning. He only regrets that
several of his pupils are playing truant because of
the great feast which is to be held the ensuing week.
These schoolmasters are miserably paid, mostly in
kind, for piastres are scarce; but they exercise
considerable influence, and no marriage or family
fête is complete without their presence. They sit,
on such occasions, on an elevated bench at the
entering in of the house, and recite chapters of the
Koran, with their blind eyes turned up to heaven,
and a look which reminds the Londoner irresistibly
of the man who used to read the embossed Bible on
Waterloo Bridge.
In better class Arab schools a little arithmetic is
sometimes taught, but not always. Boys who wish
to pursue that branch of their education, generally

learn from the public gabâni, a man whose business
it is to weigh merchandise. A child whose father
keeps a shop is taught by assisting in it. Geography
is also neglected, which is fortunate, as nothing
can be more ludicrous than the lessons when
they are attempted. The teaching is of course
entirely based upon the Koran, which upholds Mr.
Hampden's views with regard to the shape of the
earth. The children learn that it takes five hundred
years of travelling to get round the mighty plain,
whilst perhaps a few yards from the school door hangs
one of Mr. Cook's placards offering to do the whole
business in ninety days. It must be a little hard
to explain all about the seven earths and the seven
heavens, and the seven climates and the seven seas
of light, with their curtains; so it may be just as
well to leave it alone. The one important fact which
the children retain is, that Mecca is the centre of
the earth. The apparent want of discipline in all
Egyptian schools partly arises from simple confusion.
The children who are brought up to respect and obey
their parents are really entirely under the control
of the schoolmaster, and obey the slightest command
without hesitation. It is the loud continuous
hum of voices, and the constant going to and fro of
the pupils, which make the schools appear such
bear-gardens. Any one fresh from seeing an infant
school in England would feel a sense of utter

bewilderment in entering one in Cairo. Everything
is topsy-turvy. The children read and write from
right to left, and even begin to learn their sole
lesson-book, the Koran, backwards, because the
latter chapters are easier and more important. The
consequence is that, after a few visits to Arab
schools, one cannot help a feeling of surprise when
a child sneezes, or shows that he is changing his
teeth at the same age as a little European. Government
inspection used to be talked of for these
institutions, and one of the Khedive's English
apologists gave an elaborate account of it, as an
accomplished fact, some years ago in a Scotch
magazine—but I need hardly say even the Khedive
cannot reform the Koran, and that nothing was ever
really done.
Some of the Coptic schools are well worthy of
a visit. The principal one in Cairo is exceedingly
well attended. The boys look as if their intelligence
was cultivated, and many of them read and speak
either French or English with ease and a good
accent. They seem to have a great interest in each
other, and feel a genuine pride in seeing their companions
show off their small accomplishments to
strangers. The Copts take some pains to teach
their girls, and have two fairly well managed schools
at Cairo. The children are taught reading, writing,
arithmetic, singing, and needlework. They evidently

enjoy their lessons, and we may say, with Thackeray,
“He can't but smile who traces
The smiles on those brown faces,
And the pretty prattling graces
Of these small heathens gay,”
except that the Copts are commonly Christians.
One of the things to be heard to the credit of
Towfik Pasha, the Khedive's eldest son, is the
perseverance with which he has supported a girls'
school. There are now two such establishments,
of course under Christian teachers, at Cairo. The
larger of the two is in a fine old palace, which is
admirably suited to the purpose on account of the
number of large airy rooms it contains. There is
an inner courtyard, and perfect ventilation and shelter
from the summer sun. The dormitories are beautifully
clean, and each child has her own bed. The
kitchen, although savage-looking enough, would be a
treasure in a modern London house, because all round
there is a sort of double roof over the fireplaces which
draws the smell up the chimneys. The cooking
is by no means to be despised; nor does it discredit
the handsome Nubian cooks, who show their white
teeth with delight when their messes are tasted and
approved. The children look clean, happy, diligent,
and healthy. The punishments for bad conduct are
bread and water, forfeiting holidays, and standing
on a form. The bastinado seems to have disappeared

from nearly all the schools. One little Egyptian,
a model of beauty and grace, was on her stool of
repentance as my informant, an English lady, passed
through the courtyard. Her head, covered with short
curly hair, came out in high relief against the white-washed
wall, and might have been the original of one
of the statues in the Boulak Museum. The ugly
European dress could not conceal the beauty of her
lithe figure. Her small, delicately formed brown
hands were clasped together, and seemed to shine
on her white apron. She looked so appealingly out
of her long, thickly-fringed eyes that it was impossible
not to beg that she might be pardoned, particularly
as she did not look in the least naughty. The
directress of the school was a Syrian, and seemed a
person of remarkable character. Her least word was
law, and yet the children smiled when she spoke to
them as if they loved her.


[Back to top]



The Steamer—Bedreshayn—A Difficulty—An English Beauty—An
Egyptian Beauty—Corkscrews—The Children at the Stations—
Maydoom—A Thirsty Journey—Beni Hassan.


WE left Cairo at eight by a steamer from the bridge
of Boolak to Bedreshayn, on the morning of the 13th
January, 1879. The railway had been broken by the
inundation between the two places. The morning,

like most mornings in Egypt at this season, was lovely,
and we commenced our journey in high spirits, and
viewed with certain feelings of satisfaction the long
train of porters who carried our luggage, our tents,
and our cuisine on board. The whole deck was
crowded with Arabs of various ranks, and we were
politely invited to occupy one paddle-box. On the
other was a celebrated London beauty, attended by
her husband, maid, courier, and other satellites. The
steamer only ran every second day; its departure was
therefore a matter of some importance, and a large
crowd attended to see us off.
Our own party consisted of an Englishman, a great
collector of anteekas, who, having tried this way
before, was the chief conductor of the party, and our
principal dependence. We looked to him to decide
every question as to the value of what we bought, the
genuineness of every scarab, the place where our tent
was to be pitched, the day's menu, the amount of pearl
barley to be put into the soup, and the hour at which
we must get up in the morning. He carried our
common purse, as well as his own private purse, and
a third from which he drew for the purchase of rings,
scarabs, necklaces, and anteekas in general.
The second traveller was a Scottish lawyer, a
sturdy, Saxon-looking man, of imperturbable temper,
inquiring mind, and that general determination to
enjoy himself, especially under disagreeable circumstances,
which makes the best kind of traveller. He

enlivened our duller moments with recollections of
three universities, and relieved the monotony of a
noonday ride with a lucid exposition of procedure in
hypothec, or a passionate defence of the Scots law of
The third member of our party came from Ireland;
he came unwillingly, it may be said, for the benefit of
his health, and, whether from illness, or in order to
belie the traditions of his birthplace, he was the least
lively of the three, and constituted himself the critic
and grumbler in all times of doubt and difficulty. He
refused to touch the luggage, except a small bag
which contained his annotated Murray, which he used
seldom to let out of his sight, and for which he used
to ask before the needs of any one else could be
attended to at camping time in the evening. A
smattering of hieroglyphics and a devotion to the
art of the early period made him intolerant of the
universal taste of the Englishman; his serious views
of life prevented his enjoying the happy temper of
the Scotsman. We may, for convenience and distinction,
call him the Antiquary.
At Bedreshayn the steamer stopped, and we
entered the train, which consisted only of such
carriages as had happened to be at the southern end
of the line when the inundation cut off the continuity
of the communication with Cairo. The beauty's
courier was the only person, however, inclined to
object to the accommodation, and when he had

positively refused to travel in the second-class carriage
for which his ticket was taken, he was pushed by his
mistress's husband into the carriage which already
contained our party, plus a very large Arab gentleman
whose own servant was in a third-class compartment,
and came to the window at frequent intervals
throughout the journey to regale his master with
strong cheese, vegetables which smelt like a combination
of garlic and onions, oranges, but above all, with
copious libations of water. At intervals our companion
covered his face, and recited his prayers, turning
round on his seat so as to face Mecca. He was going,
he said, to Minieh, where there would be a “sook” or
fair the next day, and as Minieh was but a short way
short of Sioot, we were destined to have his company
nearly all day, so that when the courier was shunted
in upon us we discovered that neither the portly form
of the Englishman, the long legs of the Scot, nor the
rheumatic joints of the Irishman would have room or
range enough for comfort.
“If beauties must bring fat English couriers with
them to Egypt they must put up with their company,”
we stated as an abstract proposition and
general rule of the road for travellers. But not content
with its promulgation, which quite satisfied the
Scot, who cared only for the principle of the thing,
and did not much mind whether his journey was
made in comfort or not, his companions insisted on
turning the unhappy man out, and he was eventually

allowed to make himself as small as possible, and
share a remote corner of the beauty's carriage with
the lady's maid.
By degrees everything was settled, and the train
started. A grand pasha, going to his seat of government,
was with a secretary in the adjoining and only
remaining first-class compartment; a beautiful Circassian
in black, with a very transparent veil, which
rather enhanced than hid her alabaster complexion,
and set off her melancholy eyes, was in the second-class
compartment beyond, attended by a plump
negro wearing the smallest of square-toed boots.
Slavery is, of course, as every one knows, abolished
and unlawful in Egypt under the beneficent rule of
the present viceroy. It did not therefore appear how
the grand pasha next door could be in possession of
a Circassian slave, and not only of a Circassian slave,
but of a negro eunuch. The inquiring mind of the
Scot, who had never been in Egypt before, and who
started with a full belief in what we used to be told
about the Khedive by English newspapers and statesmen,
was much exercised at the propinquity of
two such complete contradictions to everything he
had ever heard. Before long he found there were
many stranger things in Egypt, and more untruth
among our English sources of information than he
had supposed possible.
The journey was long and trying; the heat insupportable,
the dust suffocating, and the carriage

windows broken or altogether deficient. When the
luncheon basket was produced, a little before the
orthodox luncheon time, perhaps, the Englishman
electrified his companions. “I have met with a
serious loss,” he cried, in a voice filled with despondency,
“a serious loss, and one which will, I fear,
hamper us all through our journey.” Meanwhile he
was searching into the bottom of a leather bag, two
saddle-bags, a small box, a basket, various pockets
situated in the lining of his waistcoat, and a fourth
bag made of canvas.
Our sympathies were deeply excited; so was our
curiosity. At last our friend found the word which,
in the intensity of his anxiety and in the extent of
his search, would not come to his lips at first:—
“The er—the corkscrew!” he exclaimed in a voice
faltering through the deepest emotion. True it was,
that in spite of his injunctions several days before at
Cairo, we had both forgotten to bring pocket corkscrews,
and had humbly to acknowledge the omission
while we were still on the steamer. Consternation
and repentance did not, however, prevent our suggesting
that our friend should look in that coat pocket
into which a corkscrew naturally goes, and into which
we both averred we had seen him put it that morning.
There it lay, and there he would have found it had
he tried at first.
Sand does not go well with sandwiches, and eating
is carried on under difficulties when your tumbler

tumbles over your plate and trousers every time you
fill it with claret; and when the chicken, though long,
perhaps too long, dead, repeatedly leaves the dish on
which you have deposited it, and takes refuge from
your knife among the bags and boxes and dust under
the seat.
Water is plenty, however, and refreshing. At
every station little girls in blue cotton robes and
hoods, with pretty bead necklaces round their brown
throats, crowd to the window, crying “Moia, howaga;
moia, howaga,” with a whispered “backsheesh” at the
end of the sentence. It is impossible not to look
curiously at their faces and their necklaces. The
collector accedes to a request that he would buy, and
becomes, for a piastre (2 1/2 d.), the proud possessor of a
singular string of the beads of all ages. The Scot
meanwhile scans the countenances of the little crowd.
One girl is the image of Nefert; another favours
Cleopatra; a third must be directly descended from
Queen Tya. The temptation to bestow backsheesh
soon proves too strong, and the grumbler is at once
provided with the texts of many a subsequent lecture
on indiscriminate charity, the selfishness of charitable
people, the comparative artistic merits of Egyptian,
Arab, and Roman glass, and the carelessness of English
scholars in hieroglyphs, who spell the name of
the wife of Amenhotep III. after the incorrect fashion
of the French.
We were now passing Maydoom, and the False

Pyramid was pronounced magnificent. Two of our
party had visited it before, and the third became the
victim of a discourse which occasionally took the form
of a duet.
“Never shall I forget,” said the Antiquary, “the
sufferings I endured at Wasta Station.”
“How was that?” asked the other two, innocently.
The Antiquary cleared his throat and began:—” It
was in April last, and very hot, that I came down
here by train, accompanied by an American artist, a
merry little fellow. We brought Achmet the Jackal
and his donkeys with us, and hired a guide in the
station, taking care to inquire the hour of the returning
train. They said it was due at three, but would
probably not come in till four; and so we started.
“The morning ride across the harvest fields skirting
the village was very pleasant. The pyramid was full
in sight during a great part of the way, and looked
so high, so strange, so fresh, that we kept constantly
repeating, ‘It is most imposing, more so than Gizeh,
more so than Sakkara.' The village, or town rather,
of Maydoom is about a mile from the pyramid by
the bridle-path, but not more than half-a-mile as the
crow flies. It appears to have been built on an
ancient mound, part of which showed red bricks,
but whether burnt bricks or bricks reddened by an
accidental fire I could not tell.
“Maydoom, as a town, has an interest apart
from anything now to be found in it. The name is

certainly the oldest local name now surviving in
the world. This used to be said of Damascus, and
I think also of Hebron. But Maydoom is mentioned
on monuments of the third dynasty. It may,
therefore, if we accept Mariette's chronology, date
from before the middle of the fifth millennium B.C.;
Abraham flourished, according to all accounts, in the
third. M. Mariette, in his great book of photographs
at Boulak, writes the name of the town Mer-toom,
the first syllable of which may be Meri, and the name
would seem to signify ‘Beloved of Toom.' Toom,
you know, was the sun-god worshipped at Heliopolis.
This would make the name Maytoom.”
“I think,” said the Collector, “you may go on
without further insistance on that point,” for he
dreaded anything which savoured of transliteration.
The Scot acquiescing, the Antiquary proceeded.
“The road turns a little to the left before you get
to the pyramid, and so you approach it from the
south, along a slope of sand, studded with green
bushes. Here and there a patch of darker green
appears, as if there had once been a series of ponds
or lakes, and near one of them is a mound which
seems to mark the site of a building, perhaps a
temple. The pyramid stands on a high hill of disintegrated
white limestone, which may conceal a
rock. Its surface is covered with great blocks, some
of them well squared and chiselled, others rough, as
if broken. The mound is fully 100 feet high, and

the building which rises from it is perhaps 100 feet
“It looks more,” said the Scot, putting his head
out of the window.
“Yes, it is literally one of the most imposing
buildings in the world,” said the Collector.
The Antiquarian went on without heeding this
flippant remark:—
“The southern face of the pyramid is very rich in
colour. It is like a slice of double Gloucester cheese,
quite shiny in places, and of very smooth masonry.
The other sides are hardly so perfect, and on the
north is a hole cut into the face about forty feet
above the top of the mound, about ten feet square,
but only showing the inner masonry to be perfect and
regular. The mound below on the same side has the
traces of a recent cutting, now filled with sand, made,
I presume, by M. Mariette, or some other explorer,
with a view to gaining an entrance, an object not yet
attained; its entrance is not known, and has hitherto
eluded investigation, but it is probably not far from
the cutting. M. Mariette says it should be compared
with the Mastabat el Faroon, as well as with
the pyramid of Rigga, a little to the north. It seems
to be a great mastaba surmounted by two smaller
ones, and is, therefore, neither a mastaba, as usually
found, nor yet a pyramid. The Arabs always call it
the ‘Haram el Kadab,' or false pyramid, asserting
that it is only a rock cased with masonry, and has no

interior chamber. This is incredible, and a rich
‘find' may be expected when M. Mariette penetrates
to a royal tomb.”
“I do not understand a word you are saying,”
remarked the Scot, “but what I want to know is,
who built it?”
The Antiquary was bursting with information,
and after this encouragement went on for ten minutes
at least without a pause:—
“There is every reason to believe that this strange
building is the monument and still contains the body
of a king who is described as the last, or last but one
of the third dynasty. Seneferoo was a predecessor
of Shoofoo, and his pyramid is older than the oldest
at Gheezeh. The name of Seneferoo is found written in
the tomb of Nefermat:—I looked at his monogram
with a feeling akin to awe. It is unquestionably the
oldest written name of a king in the world, yet it is
easily decipherable, and shows that already the
Egyptians were accustomed to the use of letters, and
distinguished the names of their sovereigns by a
cartouche. When we get to Abydos I will show you
the same name in the table of the kings. It means,
according to Brugsch, the completer, the finisher,
the establisher, or the improver. He was also the
first whose name is found written with a title, which
title is ‘the lord of justice.'”
“Are you sure he was not called Lord Chief
Justice?” asked the Collector.
“Or Lord Justice Clark,” suggested the Scot:

but the Antiquary had now well warmed to his
subject, and was not to be interrupted with mere
“His pyramid is described, like the other pyramids,
with a name or title of its own. It is Cha, the crown,
the same word which forms the first syllable of the
name of Chafra.
“But the most wonderful thing at Maydoom is not
the pyramid. About three hundred yards to the
north of it, across a hot slope of sand, we reached
the first of a series of mounds containing tombs
which have been opened and examined, and, I am
sorry to add, almost entirely defaced. It would
appear that the pyramid occupies the only rock, for
these tombs are formed of crude brick, and only the
sand and stony accumulations heaped over them from
the surrounding desert hide their form, which must
have been that of a long, low, flat-topped building of
rectangular plan, covered on its sloping faces with
white stucco, and having several entrances and small
porches, and other auxiliary structures along the
eastern face. It would almost seem as if when all
was finished and the body of the deceased duly deposited
in its last resting-place, among the rural and
home scenes prepared in his lifetime, that the sand
and stones were purposely heaped over it, and the
beautiful carving, the great square stones from the
quarry of Toora, the statues and the painting concealed
from view under an artificial hillock. Another
hillock stands a little further north-east.


“The first tomb we come to is that of Nefermat.
He was a functionary of the court of Seneferoo. His
name is clearly written above the door on the circular
crossbeam with which, in imitation of the lintel and
side-posts of a wooden doorway, the entrance is
furnished. This circular door head, which occurs
almost always in tombs of the ancient empire, and is
often copied in granite as well as in limestone, may
have been a roller on which to suspend a curtain.
Nefermat is described as ‘Suten rech,' or cousin of the
king, a title very frequent under the old monarchy,
and no doubt representing the fashion by which
noblemen in England have since the reign of Henry
IV. been addressed as ‘cousins' of the sovereign.
“Nefermat is represented with his wife Atet clasping
his knees. Behind her on the right of the short
entrance passage a procession of women is represented,
bringing offerings from the estates of the deceased.
Each of these estates is distinguished by its proper
name, with a determinative. To the left of the
doorway stand, one above the other, the three sons
of the deceased. Their names are much defaced, and
though I copied them I could not make them out
“These figures were incised on the stone and the
hollows filled with a kind of enamel, most of which
has been picked out by mischievous visitors. Here
and there a portion remains, which from the brilliancy
and beauty of the effect makes us long for more.

The red, with which the men are coloured, is very
hard, and has resisted the hands of marauders better
than the yellow colour of the women. There are
also sculptures in low relief, as in the better known
tomb of Thy at Sakkara. Above the portrait of
Nefermat himself are representations of his possessions,
each with a number attached, among other
things his falcons, which are on perches, four in a row.
“About twenty yards north, but in the same rectangular
mound, is the tomb of Nefermat's wife, Atet.
The building has been much defaced, but enough
remains to make it very interesting. She evidently
survived her husband, and perhaps succeeded him in
his possessions. She is represented at the door in an
act of adoration before the statue of Nefermat, and
on the outer face, above the entrance, seated with her
feet under her, in the modern Egyptian fashion, on a
platform or high stool, while three fowlers bring her
wild geese, carrying them by the necks, and she takes
one in her hand. Exactly over the door a hexagonal
net encloses a flock of the same birds, and on the left
a fowler is in the act of drawing it over them. It
was from this tomb that the marvellously life-like
picture of a flock of geese pasturing was taken, which
is now in the museum at Boulak.1
1 By the kindness of Miss Lenox, the artist, who made a
careful drawing of this picture, I am enabled to offer an engraving
of it, which is the more valuable as no photograph can
be taken from it.




“Some thirty yards further, and a little more to the
east is another mound, also of sand and flints, covering
a core of crude brick. It contains two double tombs,
both faced with masonry.
“The first is that of Chent and Mara his wife.
Chent, like Nefermat, was a functionary under Seneferoo,
and a ‘trusty cousin and councillor.' It is much
defaced, and contains little of interest.
“The second tomb is almost altogether gone. It
was about twenty yards further north, and apparently
consisted, like the rest, of an entrance porch of carved
stone, and a passage leading to interior chambers,
ornamented with frescoed stucco and basreliefs of
stone. Though so entirely dilapidated, this tomb is
of the highest interest. It contained the statues of
Ra-hotep and Nefert, which now form the greatest
treasures of the museum of Boulak.
“Ra-hotep appears to have been the son of Seneferoo,
and to have died before his father, while still
young. His wife, the beautiful Nefert, seems to have
died about the same time, and both were buried
in same tomb. It is possible that their deaths
may have left Seneferoo childless, and so led to the
extinction of the third dynasty.”
“Take care,” said the Scot; “conjecture is not
history; and you told us just now that Seneferoo may
not have been the last king of the third dynasty.”
“Yes,” replied the Antiquary, secretly pleased to
find his remarks so carefully listened to; “but for a

long time Seneferoo was identified with Soris, the
first king of the fourth dynasty in Manetho's list;
but the transliteration—”
“Look here,” said the Collector, “if you are going
not only into transliteration, but also into Manetho,
I must retire to my own corner.”
“Yes,” said the Scot, “and you have not yet got to
your sufferings at Wasta.”
“True,” said the Antiquary, humbly, “but first I
must remind you of the statue of Nefert, which you
saw beside that of Ra-hotep at Boulak. It is carved
in the same proportions as his, being slightly smaller
than life. She is seated like her husband, and wears
a white tight-fitting and exceedingly graceful garment,
slightly open in front at the throat; it only
rises to the points of her shoulders, and leaves space
for the display of an inner garment of which only the
sleeves or suspenders are visible. She has no shoes,
but her dress reaches to her ankles. Round her neck
she wears a necklace of six circles of green and red
enamel from which a row of emeralds and rubies
depended. On her head is an elaborately plaited
‘wig,' but possibly her own hair is intended to be
represented, and round her forehead a ribbon or
‘snood,' ornamented with roses and leaves, perhaps
meant for embroidery.”
“I remember,” said the Scot.
“You are giving us too much millinery,” criticised
P 2

the Collector. “What do you think of her face?
Some people admire it immensely.”
“So do I; judged even by a modern or a classical
standard, it is remarkably lovely. Her mouth is full,
but not too full, an incipient pout being changed
almost into a smile. Its sweetness of expression
baffles description. Her eyebrows and eyelashes are
black and rather heavy, but they are lighted up by a
clear grey eye, in which a merry twinkle seems to
contend with depth of feeling almost amounting to
sadness. In short, it is impossible not to feel that, in
spite of rude workmanship in places, in spite of a
somewhat coarse system of colour, in spite of the disguises
which the tyranny of fashion, even in that remote
age as now, loves to impose on natural beauty,
you stand in the presence of a great original work, by
the hand of a master devoted to his art. Although
this is the earliest effort of portrait sculpture known
to exist, it yields to no other statue of the kind which
I have ever seen in either of the two great qualities of
portraiture, life-likeness and expression. The artist
who made the figure of Queen Elinor in Westminster
Abbey could not have surpassed it in beauty, while
for expression it is worthy of the school of Michael
1 Some further details as to Maydoom were contributed to the
thirty-fifth volume of the Archaeological Journal, from which
these notes are condensed.


“The Antiquary is quite sentimental about the
lovely Nefert. Seeing she died about a thousand
years before the Creation—according to Archbishop
Ussher, at least—it seems a little absurd.”
“Well,” apologised the Antiquary, “I did feel sentimental,
when I stood before the earliest specimen of
high art, or any art, that the world has seen; and
indeed, on that occasion, at her tomb, I rather overdid
the thing. There were many fragments of white
bone scattered about the mouth of the desecrated
tomb. I took one of them up: ‘Can this,' I asked
myself, ‘be a rib of the beautiful lady?' At this
moment my American friend who had been sketching
the pyramid, came up, and kicking some of the bones,
stooped and picked up—what do you think?—the
jaw-bone of an ass!”
“I must say it was rather hard on you. Some
hyena had probably dragged a dead donkey there to
eat at his leisure.”
“Exactly. And I cannot help hoping that Nefert
and her husband, if he was her husband, for it seems
there is some doubt about it, still lie undisturbed in
the inmost recesses of the tomb, and that one may
apostrophise them as Miss Ingelow apostrophises her
‘Dead Year'—”
“Stop a minute!” said the Collector; “is the
quotation long?”
“Then go on.”


“‘Doth old Egypt wear her best
In the chambers of her rest?
Doth she take to her last bed
Beaten gold and glorious red?
Envy not, for thou wilt wear
In the dark a shroud as fair;
Golden with the sunny ray
Thou withdrawest from my day;
Wrought upon with colours fine
Stolen from this life of mine:
Like the dusty Libyan kings'”—
“That wouldn't apply to Beni Hassan, which is
not in Libya, but on the east side of the river,” said
the Collector; “but it will do very well for what we
may find when we get into Seneferoo's pyramid, and
for Maydoom, in general.”
“‘Like the dusty Libyan kings
Lie with two wide open wings
On thy breast, as if to say,
On these wings hope flew away;
And so housed and thus adorned,
Not forgotten, but not scorned,
Let the dark for evermore
Close thee when I close the door;
And the dust for ever fall
In the creases of thy pall;
And no voice nor visit rude
Break thy sealéd solitude.'”
“Very fine,” said the Scot, “and tolerably appropriate.”
“Hearing poetry repeated,” said the Collector,

“always makes me feel a creeping down my back.
Tell us about the suffering you ‘enjoyed' at Wasta
“Yes. We got there about 3.30. The train was
not yet in, and the station was awfully hot. Still it
was hotter outside, and we tried to sit on the floor
of the hall where we could get a kind of draught.
But the floor was hopping with fleas, and we soon
rose and tried to find some shade outside. A
moment on the platform was too much. You see,
it just faces the south-west.
“Some little girls brought in a goolla of water,
but I had seen whence they drew it, and could not
bring myself even to wash my mouth with it. The
American drank some, but very little, and said he
could die of thirst if necessary, but he preferred not
to be poisoned.
“An hour elapsed. Then another. The heat was
greater than ever. Our tongues literally were like
leather: perfectly dry. When we tried to talk our
voices were hoarse, and our utterance thick, as if we
had been drinking too much—instead of too little.
“At last the sun went down, quite suddenly,
having kept his heat till the last moment. The
artist was quite prostrate, and lay among the fleas
upon the floor. I crept out and went along the
platform further than I had been able to go while
the sun was on it. Two men were sitting in front of
a shed, playing dominoes. I went to them and found

they were at the door of a little Greek shop: I felt
my heart beat with anxiety as I asked if the shopman
could give me a glass of wine. He brought some
odious sour and bitter stuff, and with it a glass of
pure cold water. Oh! how good even the wine
seemed! I had two ‘goes,' and then rushed back to
tell my American. Poor little fellow, he was almost
insensible, and I could hardly get him roused to
come with me. A glass of wine and one of water
soon brought him round—and as he could talk
modern Greek he soon made friends with the
merchant, who came, he said, from Volo, where the
Turks had just murdered his brother. As he talked
he prepared us a savoury little supper, and we had
hardly done when the second bell rang.
“The first bell—that which rings five minutes
before a train is due—had sounded exactly four
hours before.”
The Antiquary had got so far in the story when he
was interrupted summarily, if unconsciously, by a
snore. The Scot had succumbed. It was twilight
now, and cooler, and we were approaching the river
again. On the opposite bank we could just make out
the cliffs of Beni Hassan.
“It would be very easy,” said the Collector, “to
visit Beni Hassan from Cairo, by bringing a portable
bed and sleeping in the railway station at Aboo
A long talk then ensued upon the marvels of Beni

Hassan, in which the Scot took no part. The Collector
and the Antiquary had both visited the famous
Though their conversation on Beni Hassan
only served to prolong their companion's slumbers,
I may insert a summary of it here—the
more so, because many travellers neglect to visit the
grottoes on the way up the river, hoping on the way
down to have more time; yet in truth, when you are
within a few days' sail of Cairo, after perhaps three
months' absence, you are very unwilling to stop even
to see these wonderful tombs.
It is most important to remember their date. The
twelfth dynasty reigned during a period of comparative
–nay, absolute,—civilisation, between two
long periods of confusion and barbarism. It was
under them that the family of the Nomarch of Sah
made these tombs. They were all made by the one
family—though there are some 35 of them. The
first is that of Amenemhat, who died in the thirty-fourth
year of Osirtasen I. The second is that of his
grandson Nehera, whose father, Noom Hotep, had
married Bekt, the daughter of Amenemhat. This lady
seems to have been of an energetic character, for she
went to court and obtained from Amenemhat II.,
then in the nineteenth year of his reign, the governorship
of the province her father had enjoyed. All this and
more of the same sort, is inscribed in rapidly perishing
characters on the walls of Nehera's tomb: and

though he honours his mother by narrating what she
did for him with the king, he adds a line recording
his veneration for his father, and his satisfaction at
having been able to render his name illustrious.
In these tombs we find the names of more gods
than in the tombs of the earlier dynasties, but as yet
no representations of them. Amenemhat dedicates the
north post of his door to Osiris of Abood: the south
to Anubis of Ssoot: and within mention is made of
Noom or Chnum of Ha-ver, and of Tater and Hor
of Heben-nu. Thus we see that every god was more
or less to be described as a local fetish.
The three figures seated at the back of the tomb
are not gods, but represent Amenemhat and his two
wives. His life is written on the inner side of the
door. The name of the tomb itself was “As.”
The greatest interest, of course, is excited by those
tombs which have pillars closely resembling what was
known some thousands of years later as Doric. The
first caves you come to show the best examples of a
style of which a contemporary example will be seen
again at Karnac. Here they are cut out of the rock,
and form entrances to deep chambers, of which the
tomb of Amenemhat is the finest. This gentleman—
for evidently he was a gentleman by birth, position,
education, tastes, and attainments—made the most
elaborate preparations for his own sepulture; and
could we but feel sure that he was ever buried in
his rock-cut monument, or that he was never dug

up again by some anteeka-seeking Arab, it would,
perhaps, increase the pleasure with which we contemplate
the decorations he has spent on wall and
roof, and the delicate eye, for form as well as for
colour, which enabled him in the reign of Osirtasen
I., to anticipate the design which should,
two thousand six hundred years at least later, be
adopted for the chief feature of the most perfect
building in the world. The two sixteen-sided columns
which support the roof of the porch, and the four
within the chamber, have all the characteristics of
the Doric. They resemble almost exactly, in fact,
the well-known columns of the temples at Pæstum,
near Naples; they have their flutings and their abacus;
the height is sixteen feet and the diameter five; the
pillar duly tapers towards the top, and it grows out
of the floor below without a base. There are people
who assert that the Greek column was devised without
any reference to these Egyptian prototypes, which
would be harder to believe were it not that a little
further on in another tomb we find a column which is,
if possible, more beautiful than the Doric, and which
was never imitated anywhere, although it also occurs
at Karnac. The shafts are formed of slender reeds,
coupled at intervals, and expanding a little above a
fillet near the top, to contract once more just as the
roof is touched. It is possible that the Egyptians
made these graceful columns from actual examples
in their own houses of canes supporting a wooden roof,

while the others imitated timber pillars, and that in
Greece, where the reed is shaken by the wind, only
the pillar which represented stability found full favour.
After all, the columns are only a part, and a small
one, of the show at Beni Hassan. The pictures on
the walls have been often described. They form the
staple subject of illustrations in all the books on
ancient Egypt. They have one great advantage, too,
over what the traveller afterwards visits at Thebes;
they may be seen in broad daylight, without any
trouble in lighting candles or aluminum wire, and
without any crawling on all fours through dark
passages infested with Arabs and Arab parasites.
The Antiquary was enlarging on the strange fact
that until very lately our writers on Egypt never
perceived that these wall-paintings belong to a totally
different style of art from either the works of the
early monarchy, before the sixth dynasty, or those
of the so-called Middle Monarchy of the eighteenth
dynasty—when the announcement was made that
Sioot was in sight.
There is no moonlight, and though the mountain
beyond is very plain, the minarets are hardly made
out, and there is no certainty except about the flashings
of a few lights and the gradually increasing
smell of Arab fuel.
Once launched in the dark upon the winding way
which leads from the station to the town a feeling
of depression, discomfort, and intense fatigue took

possession of us. We did not talk or laugh, but
silently followed our conductor along the silent
road under over-arching boughs of black sont, and
looked cautiously on either hand at the black water
of the canals. At length by the starlight and a
lantern dimly burning, we descry the picturesque
arch which forms the principal entrance to the town,
and passing through the court under the great trees
and over the bridge, we thread our way among the
sleepers in the market-place, avoid the snarling dogs
at every corner, and reach at least what looks like
a shop with the shutters up.
After some knocking we are admitted to a steep
and sudden stair which conducts us to a lofty and
bare room with many unglazed windows. Here we
shiver for a few moments while repeated orders
are addressed in Italian and Arabic mixed, to an
invisible “Husseyn,” who proves at length as he
appears bearing a candle, to be a short and ill-favoured,
but obliging and attentive Arab in a single
blue garment. He helps our men to bring in a
folding bed which is speedily set up in the middle
of the room. Beds already exist in adjoining rooms,
and within half an hour we are all asleep, and our
first day's journey is over.

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The Town—The Mountain.—The Tombs—The Caravan Started—The
Arabs—The Copts—Our First Camping Place.


IN the morning, for various reasons, among which
sufficient rest was not one, we were all early astir.
Before we were dressed and a partial wash attempted,
Hassan came to tell us breakfast was ready. The
announcement was received with some surprise:
but incredulity gave way to pleasure as we found a
table in another chamber loaded with the good things
of Egypt—eggs, milk, coffee, and hot bread; to be
supplemented presently by a great pot of “sherba”
or soup, and a small pot of strong “chay” or tea.


While breakfast went on our plans for the day
were settled. The first thing to do, said the Collector,
was to get up the tent, the next, to get up the mountain.
The site of our encampment must first be
settled, and Hassan, the intelligent donkey “boy,” or
rather man, whom we have brought with us from
Cairo, tells us he knows of a place which will be sure
to please “my gentlemen,” as, translating literally an
Arab phrase, he calls us.
Once arrived on the camping ground the tent rises
with amazing celerity. It is in the middle of a clover
field between town and mountain, with a canal winding
like a river round two sides, and on the other a
long road, in part an embankment, in part an arched
viaduct, which attested the engineering skill of the
ancient Arabs who were established here before ever
Cairo was built.
The face of the mountain, everywhere pitted with the
tombs of the ancient Ssoot, the Greek Lycopolis, was
very inviting from the tent door; and in the afternoon
we found ourselves on donkeys at its foot. The climb
to the first tomb was soon accomplished, but not
before we had been startled by the apparition of a
gaunt grey wolf which, stalking out of a cavern,
caught sight of us, and scampered off across the
rocks with the rolling gallop of which Russian and
American travellers have told us. A wolf at Lycopolis,
though it is the “correct thing,” is but seldom
seen; and all over the mountain we found pitfalls,

mud huts, traps and snares, intended by the Arab
hunters for the capture of the animal.
The tombs at Sioot have been often described, but
not, I think, very accurately, except by Brugsch, in
his Reiseberichte aus Aegypten.
The principal grotto is of enormous size. It commemorates
a governor of Ssoot under the thirteenth
dynasty whose name was Hap-Tefa. It must have
been a magnificent excavation at one time. The
colour is now all gone, and the arched roof, once
blue, powdered with stars, is now almost black. The
people call it “Stabl Antar,” after a hero of Arab
romance, who figures also in the name of a cave at
the other side of the river. A second Hap-Tefa, who
bears the sounding titles of “greatest among the
great, wisest among the wise, pious and a benefactor,
learned and a reader of rolls,” is buried in the
second great cavern a little higher up. He was also
“nomarch” of Ssoot. In a third tomb, that of Tefab,
son of Cheti, Brugsch found an inscription naming
King Ra-ka-meri, who had commanded the deceased
to rebuild the temple of Tap-heru, the wolf-headed
god of Lycopolis, and setting forth that he accomplished
his task to the satisfaction of the god; that
under him Ssoot was prosperous; that there was
neither strife, nor brawl, nor violence; that the child
rested by its mother, and the poor man with his wife.
This Ra-ka-meri, or Ka-meri-ra, has left no other
trace of his existence than this inscription, made

probably by the deceased Tef-ab, the son of Cheti,
in his own honour. M. Brugsch is inclined to identify
him with Mer-ka-ra, the forty-fifth king, or else with a
Ka … ra, whose name is partly effaced, and who
as the eighty-second king of the thirteenth dynasty.
There were some ninety kings or more, so great was
the interval, the dark age, between the glories of the
ancient monarchy and those of the middle period.
But it was impossible to stay long underground on
such a day. Even the Antiquary took more interest
in the view of the town, the river, the green fields,
and the vast shadow creeping slowly across the plain
as the sun descended behind us.
Every effort had been made by Hassan and the
cook for our reception on our return to the tent, but
to their politely expressed disappointment and probably
suppressed relief, the Collector had met an old
school-fellow in the market-place and we had all
promised to dine with him in his dahabeeah, which
was moored near the railway station.
That night was our first in the tent. In spite of a
somewhat uneven floor, and an insufficient supply of
mats to cover the deep cracks in the rich black earth,
we were extremely comfortable, and the voice of the
experienced Collector would have little effect in
rousing us at daybreak had he not added to his call
for a basin of water, a command to our attendants to
take down the tent.
Fortunately this was a work of some minutes, and

we had time to enjoy the view. The Scot muttered
disconnected lines from the 23rd Psalm, and the
Irishman quoted Watts. There were pastures sweet,
the quiet waters by, and fields beyond the swelling
flood all dressed in living green. It was here,
as the Collector reminded us, according to a Coptic
legend, the Holy Family abode, during their exile in
Egypt. Turning round we found a table prepared
before us: and the meal was increased by delicacies
designed for the dinner of yesterday. The morning
cold was intense, and though we sat at our table
under the full rays of the rising sun, a heavy ulster
or inverness, and a warm shawl over the tarboosh,
were by no means enough.
A long discussion had been held the night before
with the Sheykh of the donkey boys of Sioot. The
gentleman who bore this proud title had brought
with him, and presented to us, the chief donkey
owner, and negotiations after an hour's bargaining
were at length completed for the hire of eight
donkeys to come with us to Luxor. A mule was
at first proposed, or even a camel, for the tent,
but two donkeys were held by the faculty to
be preferable, and we had cause afterwards to be
Breakfast was but half over as we saw our cavalcade
descending from the town into the field. Eight
donkeys, of all shapes and sizes and colours, were
led, or rather chased, by Malek, Laessay, Mohammed,

Suleyman and Metwally, five stalwart “boys” of
ages ranging from Suleyman's eighteen years to
Laessay's forty. Malek was our “sheykh,” and as
he had personally conducted our Collector two years
ago, he was received as an old friend and presented
with a turban.
“Get up, my gentleman,” said Hassan, persuasively,
as he led towards the Antiquary a small red donkey
on which he had ridden the day before. He had
expressed satisfaction with its pace, and the careful
Hassan had noted its merits, and selected it for one
of our complement of eight. It is not always easy
to mount a donkey, especially when he is laden with
saddle-bags, and the Antiquary had nearly measured
his length on the ground as his donkey swerving
round began to bray loudly at another passing by on
the bank.
After five minutes of the most confusing vociferations,
in which Hassan, Mustafa the cook, and all the
five boys took part at the tops of their voices, and in
which the red donkey joined a second time in most
sonorous tones, we got under way, and rode along a
bridle path through fields of beans, already, as the
sun warmed the air, giving forth the most delicious
perfume. It would be impossible to convey the
slightest idea of the beauty of the scene. Our
course was nearly due south. Behind us were the
many minarets of Sioot. On the right the mountain
we had climbed yesterday caught and reflected

the rays of the sun, which, rising in full glory on the
left, precluded any observations in that direction. In
front the green fields seemed interminable. A delicate
veil of blue mist hovered here and there in the
distance, and the sparkling of dew drops constantly
caught the eye in the foreground. The mountain
ended, or seemed to end, in a bold bluff four or five
miles off, and the mountains at the other side of the
river, were dimly visible through the haze.
In one particular the scene was not as picturesque
as it might have been a little further north. The
people evidently belonged to a different tribe or race
from the fellah of Lower Egypt. The troops of
laughing girls in blue became fewer and fewer as
we advanced. There was an increasing shyness
among women and men alike. A great brown
capote hid every feature of most of those we passed;
and even the children in the fields often turned their
backs to us when we looked at them. A little further
south the Howara Arabs colonised the country at an
early period, and it is probable, or at least possible,
that these shy, dark-coated, stern-looking people
were of very different descent from the peasantry of
the lower country. Near and in the larger towns,
we found different manners; but in such remote
places as Arabat and Marashteh we stayed a whole
day and night in a village without seeing a single
female form except at a distance.
The few faces of women we did catch a glimpse of

had none of the feature or vivacity which in the
fellah of Lower Egypt is often so good a substitute
for beauty. On the contrary a dark skin, high cheek
bones, small dull eyes, a flat nose, and many similar
characteristics went to convince us that these were
not the people from whom Tya or Nefert sprung,
and in this particular, at least, to make us wish for
some of our merry little friends of the railway stations
further north.
The men, though often coarse-featured, were fine
stalwart fellows, and had at least the remains of an
independent expression, not yet wholly obliterated
by the oppressions and extortions of a dishonest
government. Not long ago they lived under their
own princes, and the Howara district, it is said, could
send more than 30,000 horsemen into the field. Now,
after half a century of Turkish rule, horses are few
and far between: the wealth is driven into the hands
of the Copts and of those fortunate individuals who,
by becoming consular agents to some European power,
have been able to obtain protection against robbery
under the name of taxation. The country Arab
grows poorer every year. He is not encouraged to
thrift. Far from it; he knows but too well that he is
safest when poorest, and unconsciously applies to his
own case the proverb that you cannot take the breeks
off a Highlander. Breeks, indeed, he has none, and
an expression which is rightly or wrongly attributed
to his present oppressor, that he would find it

impossible to govern Egypt if the fellah possessed
more than one shirt, has not only been reported
throughout the length and breadth of the land, but,
after years of hopeless struggle, is now being everywhere
acted upon:—
“Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator:”
for latro read Turk, and for viator, Arab.
Our road this day lay for the most part away from
the village, but we made some delay at Shobd, a
town on ancient mounds, whose name clearly points
out its origin in the days of the Pharaohs. A few
scarabs and beads were our only reward for half an
hour's delay, and we pushed on to Abooteeg, a clean,
tidy, and comparatively rich-looking town. As the
Collector was inquiring for anteekas at a goldsmith's
workshop, an elderly man in a shabby European
costume, with a plaid over his shoulders, came
by. He was followed or attended by a number of
men in ordinary Arab costume, one of whom explained
that this was the Governor. The Collector,
rather to our surprise, instead of receiving the information
with pleasure, cast a look of despair at us, and as
the governor shook hands with us all, whispered that
nothing could be more unfortunate. When we had
been longer on the road we understood the reason.
The neatness of a town like this always indicates the
presence of a large proportion of Copts. The Copts
are always indigo dyers and gold or silver smiths,

and in their blue-stained hands are to be found most
of the little hoards for which the Collector looks out
with anxious eyes. The Governor of Abooteeg conducted
us with dignified politeness to a divan in a
gateway, and telling us that the town contained plenty
of anteekas, and that all were ours, ordered coffee and
called the owners of curiosities to come forward.
Soon a crowd assembled, whose pale complexions,
intelligent faces, and superior clothes showed them to
be all Copts. But the arbitrary if polite way in which
the governor attempted to conclude a bargain soon
frightened them, and after the Collector had twice
refused to give a man less than he wished to receive
for a string of scarabs, it was evident that no business
could be done. Reluctantly we bade farewell to
the too, too civil potentate, and left Abooteeg very
The Coptic population must be very much in
excess of the estimates given by Murray and the
other books. We found them everywhere, and
wherever we found them in large numbers there
was a more prosperous appearance in the place.
They resemble, in Egyptian towns, the Jews in
Europe. They are the only native people who seem
to engage in commercial pursuits, and drive a considerable
trade in precious metals; every employment
which requires skilled labour, such as carving, inlaying
house-fronts, or coloured border-weaving, being in
their hands almost exclusively. They mend clocks.

make tin pots, are the best carpenters, embroiderers,
builders, tailors, jewellers, dyers, and butchers, in
every town in which they have a colony. No doubt,
it is not easy to recognize them. But whenever
we met a man or a boy who was exceptionally sharp,
or skilful, whose face was unusually handsome, whose
skin was white, whose dress was neat, and if not new,
at least well mended, we concluded with little fear of
mistake that he was a Copt.
It is difficult, especially in Upper Egypt, to avoid
wild speculations as to race. When we were at Sioot
on our way down, we met a man at lunch on board a
steamer who held the view that the Teutonic race, as
he called it, must eventually supersede all other races.
His chief arguments seemed to be that Egypt was in
decay, that the French were not able to found colonies,
and that he himself, an Anglo-Saxon, that is to say
a Yankee, had made a fortune in California before he
was twenty-five. It was in vain to point to Louisiana
and Canada as old French colonies, or to show him
that for the small population of Egypt, not equal to
that of Belgium or Ireland, more than enough was
even now being done, in spite of the Turks, to vindicate
the comparative claims of the country to importance
among other nations. He had thoroughly
done Egypt. He had been on every one of Cook's
excursions. He had taken an accurate and extensive
view of the whole country, including its social and
political aspects, from the deck of a steamer, and he

had not the slightest doubt that his estimate of its
position and prospects was correct.
Here as elsewhere, in spite of our acquaintance's
opinions, we found a remarkable difference between
the inland towns and those which border on the river,
and were more and more convinced that people who
only see Egypt from the Nile, derive a wholly
fictitious and, so to speak, one-sided, view of the
country. If only on this account, we did not lose
the time and trouble we spent on our journey.
Our wish was on this, our first day out, to push on
to Tahta for the night. But about half-past five the
sun went down, and within half an hour we were in
complete darkness. We were without moon, and
after a short period spent in wandering out of the
regular track, we made for the lights of a village.
Finding ourselves at last in a fine grove of palms,
close to Temneh, we resolved to pitch our tents and
rest for the night where we were. The village was
some way off. Our men did not yet understand the
mysteries of tent-pitching; and a very cold half hour
was spent in the afterglow, first trying for good
ground, and then to obtain water and “birseen” for
the donkeys, and finally to get the fire lighted.
The cold was already intense. The Irishman sat
shivering over a few embers of charcoal, while his
companions warmed themselves by exertions for the
common weal, but when at length the walls of the

tent were secured against the biting wind, and the
beds set up, we all acknowledged ourselves extremely
comfortable, and within a few minutes a dinner,
magnificent in quantity if not also in quality, was
smoking on our very rickety table. Eight o'clock saw
us all safe for the night, and if we did not sleep well
it was not for want of fatigue, warmth, and the recollection
that our first day's march had covered not less
than two and thirty miles of country.


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Tahta—Anteeka-hunting—A Disappointment—Luncheon—Benhow—
Sunset—A Ride in. the Dark—A Forced March—Dangers—The
Scot Abroad—The Country Disturbed — Soohag — Another Disappointment


EARLY the next morning we reached Tahta, a town
standing a little way from the bank of the Nile on
a kind of estuary of its own. Here, while the Collector
searched among the goldsmiths' shops for antiquities,
his companions found a Greek shop full of
the good things of other countries than Egypt.
Pickles, tea, sugar, jam, and various other stores
were successively produced and some of them were
bought; but the shopman was not satisfied till we
had tasted his bitter beer. Greatly to our astonishment

it was excellent: and then one of us observed
with satisfaction that the stone bottles which contained
it were labelled with the trade marks of two
North British brewers. The Greeks here, as elsewhere
in Egypt, have all trade of this kind in their
hands. Boats bearing the Greek colours are to be
seen at every stopping-place on the Nile, and dahabeeah's
can seldom want for stores while one of these
most convenient traders is to be met. We encountered
one at Luxor. It had on board besides the
jam, wines, and tea aforesaid, coats, hats, hosen and
other garments, including neck-ties and umbrellas of
the latest European fashion.
Hassan assured us that we need lay in no store of
these good things at Tahta, because in the evening
we should reach Soohag, and bottles were badly
suited for carrying on donkeys. At Soohag, he told
us, and was confirmed by the Collector, who on this
and other occasions might have been called the
recollector, that on the river's bank there was a still
better Greek shop, and that when we arrived we
should be able, if we liked, even to dine there. The
Antiquary had a dim remembrance of seeing some
such place from the deck of a dahabeeah two years
before. So we departed from Tahta after buying
one bottle of ale for luncheon.
While we had pursued our inquiries as to the resources
of Soohag the Collector had been busy elsewhere.
The Copts were numerous, and rich jewellers'

shops abounded: and at one, in a very narrow part
of the bazaar, he was seated for more than an hour
looking at hoard after hoard of anteekas, A crowd
stood around, and it was impossible in the press even
to catch a glimpse of him. Now and then a donkey
with wide bags would clear the street, or a camel
loaded with faggots sweep it. An old woman,
perhaps half blind, made, however the greatest sensation:
for she bore on her head a large bundle of
doorra straw—that is to say canes about six feet
long—we measured one “straw” afterwards which
reached ten feet—and walking along a crowded
bazaar about five feet wide from wall to wall, she
was a very formidable person, and received from the
inquisitive spectators of our friend's bargains, many
remarks which in England would have sounded like
the name of the parent of mankind.
Meanwhile after two or three successive strata of
scarabs, bronzes, beads, necklaces, and other anteekas
had been cleared off, the happy Collector came upon
a treasure. It was an ancient beaker of striped glass,
probably Arab. Most precious it was in his eyes
and those of the Antiquary, who was summoned to
look at it. Even the Scot could admire its delicate
form and harmonious colours, but—how could
it be carried? Hassan was called: and a moment
of intense anxiety elapsed as the question
was put.
“My gentleman,” he began, but seeing that the

Collector and at least one of his friends, had their
hearts set on this purchase, he gallantly undertook
to convey it safe to Soohag, or wheresoever else we
might pitch for the night, and immediately deposited
it in the bosom of his robe.
By this time the morning had waned considerably.
The Collector was hoarse with dust, heat, and anxiety,
to say nothing of shouting, and we bore him off to
pay a visit to our new Greek friend and partake of a
draught of Edinburgh ale. But he was destined never
to taste it. Hardly had he emerged from the jeweller's
shop, when “there came one running” to tell him of
fresh mines of treasure yet unworked. This time
the mysterious and awe-inspiring word, “Dahab,”
was whispered.
Now “dahab” always threw both the Antiquary
and the Collector into a state of wild agitation. Golden
antiquities are not common. Too many fine gold
ornaments and other relics have gone into the melting
pot, since M. Mariette commenced his operations.
The bastinado is not the remuneration which the
happy finders of hid treasure count upon for their
good luck: and it was but seldom that “dahab” was
offered us.
The messenger would allow only two of the party
to go with him. Them he swore to secrecy as to the
street and house towards which he was about to conduct
us. I have no intention of revealing the secret,
in fact I never heard the name of that street, and

have already forgotten the complicated road by which
we reached it. We sat down in a little shop which
appeared to be empty except of long basket benches,
but which, by its odour of hasheesh, betrayed its
ordinary use. Here we waited a long time. At last
patience beginning to fail, we sent a second messenger
after the first. Presently both returned and
with them a man who evidently had the “dahab.” We
felt our hearts beat as he took out a little bundle
and proceeded to untie it. Should this prove to be
a prize, perhaps a golden image, perhaps a necklace,
perhaps even some jewels like those of Queen Aahhotep
—our delay would not have been in vain. At
last it came out of the many folded and knotted
It was a worn-out impression of a common Byzantine
coin, of the worst period, and barely worth its
weight in gold.
Nothing more was offered. After we had mounted
and were some distance on our road, the Collector
“I wonder, if I had bought that wretched Basil,
would the Copt have produced anything more. He
looked too important to have nothing else.”
But the mystery can never now be solved, and, at
any rate, the owner demanded for his coin a sum
equal to what it would have been worth had it been
of the best period and the rarest pattern.
By two we were on the outskirts of a village called

Benhow. Here we seated ourselves on the grass
under some palms, where there was a well. In a few
minutes fresh cool water was brought to us, and with
our rugs spread under us we reclined luxuriously
and discussed sardines, hard eggs, cheese, milk, and
oranges; and fain we would have rested a little when
the bottle of Tahta-Edinburgh was finished, for the
sun was very hot, and the bazaar and an hour's ride
since, had been fatiguing. The Collector was, however,
inexorable. We must hurry on to reach Soohag
to-night. Then, once safe in the Greek café, we might
relax as we pleased.
He had not succeeded wholly in his efforts when
the Sheykh-el-beled came to pay us a visit. He
was old and grey, a thin but powerful-looking Arab,
clothed in the ordinary brown capote of the district,
and evidently quite poor. We pressed a loaf and
some eggs upon him, and he sat down and ate
with us very willingly, being especially pleased with
our cheese, which he evidently considered quite “le
He told us that there was much poverty about
Benhow; and that the taxes were too great for the
people. As he spoke we saw the first evidences of
the famine with which we were soon to make very
painful acquaintance. A woman, accompanied by
two children, came out of the village to beg from
us. They were all attenuated to the last degree.
That they should have been allowed to get into

such a state among a people so charitable puzzled
us at the time, but we understood better before
At last we started. Now, they had told us at
Tahta that it was full four hours' ride to Soohag,
and the sheykh of Benhow rather discomfited us
by saying it was still full four hours' ride. We
thought we knew better, and went on. Four hours
from 2.30 would be 6.30; but at that time of year
6.30 meant an hour at least after sunset, and there
would be no moon.
It is perfectly useless to try what is called “pressing
on” with donkeys. They can keep up a certain
pace all day. About three and a half miles in the
hour, on an average, is all they can do, but they will
do it without flagging for twelve hours at a time. If
we got ahead the luggage donkeys lagged behind,
and we had to wait for them. The afternoon went
on, the sun seeming to get hotter and hotter as he
neared the magnificent range of mountains which
stretched as far as eye could see on our right.
Every morsel of skin was burnt off the invalid's
face, but he did not yet feel the pain which came
next day when it seemed as if he had an attack of
We passed through a great field from which the
sugar cane had not yet all been gathered. The men
were delighted at the gift of a big piastre, to buy
some to suck by the way. It was a fatal gift. From

this moment there was no chance of reaching Soohag,
even in the after-glow.
Then came another serious consideration. Hassan
overtook us wearing a very long face. The people
had told him, he said, that owing to the excessive
taxation following on an unusually high Nile, there
was great distress in the district, and that many
robbers infested the roads by night. He was anxious
we should camp near the first substantial village we
came to: a proposition to which we wholly demurred,
for in the first place we had been promising ourselves
the flesh-pots of Soohag, and secondly we were very
sceptical as to the existence of robbers.
At any rate, we did not come to any large village.
One appeared in the distance, and we met many
villagers coming home from a fair, some riding, some
walking, all carrying things they had bought or had
failed to sell: but their village was at the other side
of a canal we had crossed with infinite trouble, and
we did not like to turn back.
Then came another prospective trouble. The
roads, these villagers told Hassan, were so much
broken down by the inundation that the boys from
Siout, who had been this way last year, would not
know the way this year. This was sufficiently
alarming, but just as the last quarter of an hour's sun,
by finger measure, was still shining on the sight, one
of us perceived, or thought he perceived, the minarets
of Soohag, straight ahead.


We were now on the bank of a wide canal, the
Moia-t-Soohag, an up-country repetition of the Bahr
Joosaf. In fact we were riding along the steep slope
with the water on our left, and a wide expanse of very
low-lying fields over the bank on our right. When
we had crossed, where the water was shallow and
partly dry, we expected to be at Soohag immediately:
and the sun had then nearly an hour to go. But
now the sun was rapidly disappearing, and of Soohag
we could give no better account than that one of us
thought he had seen a minaret.
The next moment down went the sun behind the
purple mountain; Ra had retired into the bosom of
nature, had become Toom, had begun to tread the
sinuosities of Apep, the serpent of the nether world.
It was all very well to attempt to veil the fact in
mythological fables, but our hearts misgave us sadly
at his departure. A few minutes after-glow, the
glimmer of a star in the purple west, a silver mist
trembling for a moment in the air, and we were
plunged into cold, dark night.
As the zodiacal light disappeared, the darkness
became literally Egyptian. Perhaps a little mist
increased it, but that must have been overhead, for
about us the air seemed dry and sharp. We crept on
along our ridge. The water on our left, so long as it
was in sight, which was not long, looked like ink.
We dismounted at last, for, after all, a fall from one's
feet is bad enough, but a fall from a donkey is that,

much more complicated and objectionable. The
Irishman was in front driving his donkey, reinless,
before him. The donkey disappeared suddenly, but
soon after emerged at the other side of a deep cutting
made for a shadoof. He had left his saddle-begs in
the abyss, which was fortunately dry. I have observed
that when a donkey carries saddle-bags, every
accident that can possibly happen to him dismounts
them. It is a law of his nature, perhaps, but we ha
much evidence this night of its stringency.
The donkey found in the darkness and the bags
replaced, we discovered next, to our dismay, that the
road, already too narrow, but unobstructed, was suddenly
made narrower still, and that in two directions,
one vertical, one lateral. A wall appeared, or rather
was felt, on the right, and trees with long branches
overhung it. The first of the baggage donkeys that
came up the slope of the shadoof cutting, immediately
struck his load against a branch, and incontinently
fell. A halt was called of necessity. He was unloaded,
set on his legs, the tree passed, and the load
put on again,—a work of twenty minutes, including a
long search with a candle in the sandy bank lest any-thing
had fallen out. The Collector was anxious for
his glass, but at such a moment hardly liked to
mention it, for Hassan, active, though lame from the
tread on his foot of a stumbling and benighted ass,
was already too busy. The second donkey bore the
tent-poles. Coming up from the depths he struck

one against the wall, and everything he carried rolled
down the slope into the darkness. And so on, till
every one of our train stood on the narrow path under
the wall. The Collector made a “cast” ahead hoping
to find a path. But no path was to be found
The wall seemed interminable except at one point
where there was an exit into a meadow half under
water. Meanwhile the Scot exhibited to the full
the qualities which have already made me praise him
as a travelling companion. At every catastrophe
his spirits rose. This was something like—he did not
say what. He pulled up the fallen donkeys. He
pulled down the wall that the baggage might pass.
He found the bundle of candles when the cook had
declared they must have been left behind. He reassured
the frightened boys who expected each
moment the apparition of a ghost or a robber. At
last his good spirits and evident enjoyment of what
he was so unfeeling as to call the fun, were too much
for the Antiquary, whose sluggish Ulster blood was
frozen in his veins, and who looked forward with
horror to rheumatism on the morrow, to say nothing
of fatigue to-night.
The Scot, however, was impervious to his most
sarcastic remarks, and it was not till after an oft-repeated
complaint that he was persuaded at last to join
feebly in a remonstrance addressed to the Englishman
whose carelessness of mere time and distance had led
us into the scrape. For the Englishman, however,

these expressions had little weight. The glass
was on his mind. It was hopeless to suppose that it
could survive the disasters which occurred every
The question of pitching where we were was
mooted. But you cannot pitch a tent on a bank of
loose sand sloping like the roof of a house, and the
ground outside the wall was a morass. We must
struggle on. At last a light was seen on the other
bank of the canal. Could it be Soohag? No,
Soohag was there, straight on in front. It must be a
village, but no, it moved, drew near, and then as we
called, rapidly grew less and disappeared.
A few minutes, it seemed to us a few hours, later,
another light came in sight. Hassan was for keeping
still, fearing robbers, but we insisted on his hailing it,
which he did “in a voice of ill-suppressed emotion.”
This time an answer came. We offered “backsheesh
keteer,” very much backsheesh, for a guide to Soohag,
and were told it was about an hour off, and that a
guide would come soon. Another long pause ensued,
and then three brown-robed men, each bearing a
great staff tipped with iron, appeared among us.
One of them was the village watchman, the other two
had come to take care of him, and for once we had
an answer to the question, “Quis custodiet ipsos
The country, he explained, was in a sad state. Men
had been killed for money, because the Khedive had

taken away all they had for taxes, and they were
starving. It was curious to observe how “Effendina”
was spoken of as if he was a thunderstorm or some
other devastating influence, or a visitation of Providence.
It was curious also to see how complete the
village government seems to be, even in remote
places, and how little the central government need
do to keep order in country districts. This man
had to take his turn of watching, and there were others
told off to take his place. We never had any difficulty,
either here or elsewhere, in obtaining guards
to sit round our tents at night. Sometimes, like our
guide this evening, they were only armed with big
sticks; but sometimes they carried guns, generally
fire-locks of an obsolete pattern, more likely to be
dangerous to the shooter than the shootee: and we
were always glad in the morning to discharge our
guard before he had discharged his gun.
Achmet the son of Ali told us that so far we
had come right, and that we must still proceed along
the bank on which we were then struggling. This
was not pleasant news, nor yet to hear that Soohag
was still distant “wahed sah,” one hour. Opportunity
had been taken during the halt to examine the men
and the luggage. The casualties were:—Hassan
trodden upon, the Collector rammed in the ribs
by a donkey carrying the tent-pole, and the iron
bar of a bedstead lost; but against these misfortunes
were put—the safety of the Arab glass,

though it had three times fallen out on the sand,
the safety likewise of the Antiquary's Murray, though
it had twice visited the bottom of a shadoof, and
the prospect on which we all insisted, comforting
each other by it, that we might repose comfortably
and drink coffee, or perhaps Edinburgh ale, in the
Greek café at Soohag—when we got there.
There were many falls before we got off the bank,
which we did after an hour's further march. Then
we emerged on what appeared to be a boundless
sandy plain, and followed Achmet the son of Ali
for about half an hour, the light getting a little
stronger as the sky cleared and innumerable stars
shone forth. We were all very tired; even the Scot
allowed that the repose of the Greek café would
be grateful to his stalwart limbs. But we had not
yet reached Soohag, and could not even descry
the lights of the town. We stopped the guide.
He had told us it was “wahed sah” to Soohag,
but now we had been marching for an hour and a
half and could see no sign of the town. Had Achmet
the son of Ali lied unto us?
No: Soohag was straight on, about “noose sah,”
half an hour off. It was rather a bewildering calculation
and we were too far through to examine it. If
an hour and a half is “wahed sah,” plus the distance
from where we were then to Soohag, what would
“noose sah” be? Meanwhile we once more turned
into a water-course, along which we walked for about

a mile, the riding donkeys going on in front and
the luggage donkeys following, no one talking: then
a donkey in front went so fast that he got out of
sight. At the same moment the last donkey behind
fell. The Antiquary being otherwise useless, pursued
the runaway, and the others, including the guide,
unloaded the fallen beast, dragged him up on his
feet, loaded him and set out once more. Mean-while
a loud shout in front told them that some-thing
had happened. The Antiquary had gone on
alone, leading two of the donkeys by the bridle,
when in the darkness he suddenly stumbled over
a body and nearly fell. Immediately the body
rose, and another like it. They were the guards
of Soohag, and had been seeking a shelter from
the biting north wind behind a low bank, from the
top of which the Antiquary had stepped down upon
them: Various salutations and congratulations followed,
the gate was close by, the dogs were barking,
the hens were cackling, and occasionally a light
flashed up and was reflected from a high wall, or a
whitewashed minaret. We entered a narrow windowless
street and wound along over dust heaps and
loose bricks, until we emerged upon an open space
surrounded on three sides by houses. The fourth
side was the river bank, here very high, the river
itself being invisible. A row of trees seemed to
overshadow the bank.
The last few steps, now that a haven of rest seemed

almost in sight, if any thing can be called “in sight” on
so dark a night, appeared the worst of all. We dragged
our weary limbs along, too tired to care where we
stepped. We longed for a drink, even of thick water,
but our tongues were too much parched to allow of
our saying so. Oh! for the Greek café! Oh! for a
bench to lie down on, be it never so hard! But before
we could seek the friendly Greek we had to find a
place to pitch the tent. Then there was half-an-hour's
work to get it up. The things were all misplaced, and
at first many seemed to be lost, though eventually they
all, except the iron bar, turned up. Thirst overcomes
hunger, but we were very hungry. It would take an
hour at least to get dinner ready—or supper rather,
for it was now ten. When everything had at length
been put in trim, we turned to the houses to find the
Greek shop. But it was not to be found. No such
place existed, apparently. At last a Soohagian told
us the terrible truth. The times had been so bad
that the Greek merchant had failed. He had shut up
his café, and had gone away, nobody knew whither.

[Back to top]



Importunate Beggars—St. Christopher—The, Character of William
Rufus—The other Donkeys—Arab Towns and Villages—Girgeh.


EARLY in the morning, before the sun was up, the
Collector by way, perhaps, of curing his injured rib,
ran down the bank with a piece of soap and had a
bath in the Nile. His account was that the water
was deliciously warm, and that he felt himself another
man. The Scot on this, woke up, and declared he
must have a swim. A few minutes later he returned.
The water was as cold as ice. He was chilled to the
marrow. The Antiquary prudently lay still, and after
listening to this diversity of opinion concluded at last
that it would be better to get some hot water from
the cook and perform his ablutions in the tent. To
tell the truth, he was rather surprised to find himself
alive, and not dead, but only stiff, after a night's march

which he would, prior to experience, have considered
certain to prove fatal.
Meanwhile the Collector called upon the others for
their sympathy. He had lost his towel. He took it
down the bank and thought he had brought it back.
But no: it was not to be found, and he had to
borrow for immediate use. His loss was supplied by
purchase at Girgeh, but it was eventually ascertained
that he had himself packed the missing towel at the
bottom of his saddle-bag.
It will be perceived from the above notes that our
evolutions the morning after our arrival at Soohag
were not of a very early or lively character. We
were all very tired; and were not at all sorry to hear
that the donkeys had not received enough birseen,
and that we must wait an hour till they got a fresh
supply, which we did.
Two of us, meanwhile, lazily surveyed the beauties
of Soohag. They were not many; but beggars were.
Nowhere had we seen such poverty. The professional
beggar, generally in Egypt a well-fed and luxurious
person, whose only serious labour in life is flea-hunting,
here appeared to be absolutely starving,
while another class, hitherto superior, had also taken
to demanding backsheesh.
On the river's bank the presence of dahabeeahs has
always a demoralising effect; but there must have
been great want at Soohag. The guards kept a ring
round our encampment: but outside it a circle of

many hundreds was assembled, and even- scraps of
crust, and the peel of an orange were eagerly
snapped up.
The Englishman was moved with compassion: and
very imprudently began to give away piastres before
the packing was finished. The importunities now
became overwhelming. The Irishman mounted,
hoping to ride on a little space, and in order to clear
the way one of the donkey boys was so foolish as
to throw a stone. Immediately the air was thick
with stones, and the unhappy Antiquary was very
glad to escape with one heavy blow at the back
of the head. His companions overtook him in a few
moments, and much backsheesh was distributed
before we reached the immense bridge and dam of
ornamental (?) brickwork, which during the days of
his prosperity the Khedive erected to regulate the
water supply of his sugar fields further inland.
The morning was now most lovely. On the left we
had long reaches of the river gleaming in the sunshine,
while the tall sail of a magnificent dahabeeah
rose like a white tower among the palms. We rode
along a high embankment then but recently finished,
for the inundation had destroyed the old one. The
road along which we had struggled so hard last night
had not yet been mended. The land lies low round
Soohag, but is very wide, and the yellow sand of the
desert on the right seemed full ten miles off. Above
it again were the grey flat-topped mountains, and the

Collector showed us, on the edge of the cultivated
land an ancient monastery, which, tradition says, was
founded by St. Helena. St. Shenoodeh is the patron,
and figures also in the Moslem calendar: a kind of
Janus among saints.
The hagiology of the Copts must be very interesting.
We suggested to the Collector that he should
write a book about it, and trace the connection which
some of the modern saints, as St. George, undoubtedly have with the heathen gods and demigods
of ancient Egypt. But collecting is a hard taskmaster,
and I doubt if ever he will take the leisure
for such a work.
Meanwhile our embankment suddenly came to an
end, having landed us on the brink of a wide canal.
Talking of saints, there on the opposite bank was St.
Christopher. What a giant he was! His wearing
apparel was microscopic, but his muscles were like
the muscles of an ancient bronze. He ferried us
across one by one on his own back. Then as we sat
on our rugs and surveyed the scene, he went back
for the luggage, and brought it over. Last of all,
amid the laughter of the donkey boys, he carried
Mustafa our cook, not heeding our wish that he
might drop him into the water. For Mustafa looked
as if a dip would not harm him: and his French
boots, we knew, concealed feet quite accustomed to
going bare.
We debated among ourselves what remuneration

would be sufficient for the mighty man. He was a
Christian, he told us, and might well have been the
descendant of the Christopher who carried the Holy
Family over a river on their flight into Egypt.
So, running two or three legends into one, we talked
until the task was complete, and our naked coreligionist came to claim his well earned reward.
Now what pay is sufficient for carrying three heavy
Englishmen, two Arabs, and eight donkey loads of
luggage over a canal forty yards wide, besides helping
to load and unload the said donkeys, and to force
them through the water? We gave him sixpence,
and he thanked us so warmly that it was quite
evident he had never done so good a morning's
work before in his life.
“If an able-bodied man,” reflected the Scot, who
was fond of putting two and two together, not having
been long in Egypt, “if an able-bodied man like
that thinks sixpence good pay for a morning's work,
it is evident that wages must be very low, and living
very cheap: it is also evident that where so little is
enough to keep a man, poverty must be very great
before so many are reduced to the edge of famine.”
Observations which, we told him, did equal honour
to his head and heart, and were cordially assented to
on our part.
The donkeys went all the better for their dip, but
they were unmistakably tired after last night's forced
march. Even the little red one on which the

Antiquary was mounted began to flag, and one of
those which carried the baggage seemed quite
knocked up. But we were only going to Girgeh today,
and expected to get there in time for a quiet
afternoon's rest.
The Scot generally led the way on a black spindle-shanked
animal, which, without any apparent beauty
or merit, yet had many excellent qualities, moral and
physical. He showed, for instance, a genuine talent
for leading the train; and was a steady goer, without
that curiosity about other donkeys' feelings and
opinions which characterised some of his companions.
Against these good features in his character must be
put an unfortunate habit of lying down suddenly
without warning or notice of any kind. This propensity
he showed more especially when he came to
a piece of dusty or sandy ground, and he tried it
once too often the afternoon we passed through
Farshoot. The Scot had dismounted and walked on
ahead, and Metwally, who was tired and footsore,
mounted the black donkey. When out of our sight
some strange accident occurred, which betrayed itself
in a pair of broken knees, and the black donkey lost
the lead.
The Collector bestrode a short stout ass which
he had ridden the same road two years before.
He considered it had visibly aged in the time, but if,
as is said, donkeys never die, I do not know why they
should show such signs of age. One thing was

possible, namely, that the Collector himself had grown
heavier in two years, and that the donkey felt the
difference. Still, as asses go, it was a good and stout
beast, and had what donkey-fanciers like as much as
horse-fanciers like a rat tail, videlicet, drooping ears.
But the red donkey differed entirely from all
the others in character, morals, and physique. We
very early conferred on him the name of William
Rufus, after
“William, called Rufus from having red hair,
and he unfortunately soon showed that he shared
other qualities of that vicious and unprincipled
monarch. He was argumentative, and brayed at
the slightest provocation, especially if he heard the
sound of another bray, be it ever so distant,'or saw
an ass feeding in a field, or, above all, if a young
donkey foal gambolled across the path. At the sight
of youth William was ever most deeply moved: so
much so indeed that sometimes he would superadd
a second bray to the tail of the first, and spin out his
“third and lastly” with an indefinite series of deep
drawn sighs. He was moreover very combative, and
when there was any disturbance in the equilibrium of
the tent-pole we recognised the presence of William
among the pegs; he would have broken his tether
and skipping across the ropes be engaged in showing
alternately his teeth or his heels to whichever
of the other asses had chanced at the moment to

offend his too tender susceptibilities. He had also
another bad feature in his total want of moral
principles, and would help himself to his neighbour's
birseen, or tread down the poor man's growing corn,
or endeavour to plunge his nose into the soup tureen,
or to steal a carrot without any sign of compunction.
Against all these faults must be put a remarkable
power of endurance, and a lively spirit. He was
alternately at the head or the tail of our procession,
for his rider, after a brief struggle for supremacy, gave
up the hopeless contest, and William wandered as he
pleased. He was always ready to trot, often to gallop,
and that too he performed with little or no reference
to his rider's views on the subject. But he never once
fell down during the journey, and “kept a trot for the
avenue” (of sphinxes) between Karnac and Luxor
on the last day of our ride.
On the way to Girgeh, this day, he was rather
depressed. He had brayed away all his voice at
Soohag, and only a hoarse whisper came in response
to his most vehement sighs. He contented himself
by refusing to allow his rider to converse either.
As soon as we got well into a story of the Collector's,
or one of the Scot's most cherished reminiscences
of St. Andrews, William would move off. He
was equally deaf to entreaties and to blows. The
Antiquary had been much moved at Soohag and
elsewhere by the changes undergone by ancient
names between Coptic and Arabic, but his views

on the subject are lost for ever to the world owing
to the frowardness of William, who, waiting until he
had got absorbed in his subject, took advantage of
the absence of mind incidental to such studies, and
carried the lecturer far ahead of his audience. When
he had gone on for some minutes without a response
from his companions, he divested himself of the covering which his raw face had made needful against the
roasting rays of the sun, and, looking round, found
that they were half a mile behind at least.
We were now almost at Girgeh, one of the most
picturesque of the Arab towns on the Nile. Picturesque
it is on the Nile, viewed that is from the
river; but entering it by the back-door, so to speak,
or from the landward side, it looks by no means so
Towns like Soohag, Girgeh, Sioot, Keneh, and a
few others differ much from the villages we pass in
the fields. The villages are of two distinct kinds.
Some are built on high mounds, the accumulations,
for the most part, of millenniums of crude brick
buildings. Some, on the other hand, are flat, but
protected from the inundation very imperfectly, I
fancy, by thickly buttressed walls, and a wide moat,
which is full of water in October, a fetid marsh in
December, and dry in spring: a place of bad smells
and air thickened with mist and mosquitoes. Every
here and there a house has fallen over the wall, and
an avalanche of crude brick is being melted into the,

moat. Here the children bask, naked, except for a
thick incrustation of flies, and the dogs sleep among
them. There are good watch-dogs, less than half
wild, in some of the villages of the Howara country,
of which the children seem particularly fond; but
a still more numerous breed are like the miserable
mangy creatures familiar in the streets of Cairo and
Alexandria. As you walk round the village to find
an entrance, you come, if it is on a mound, to what
looks like a newly extemporised path, leading up at
an angle so steep that your hands often touch the
ground as you climb. If there is no such mound, you
probably enter without any gate between two high
mud walls, and find yourself presently in the public
place, a square of perhaps fifty feet each way, with
mud seats or divans round three sides and the
sheykh's residence, sometimes a mere hut, at the
other. Sometimes there is not even so much of a
street in the village as this, and the sheykh's house
looks directly out on the open country. In this case
it probably has a whitewashed front and a great door,
or at least a doorway marks the entrance. Some villages
have beautiful greens of very fine small grass,
interspersed with palms, surrounding them; but the
tendency of taxation within the last few years has
been to cause these pleasant places to be desolated,
because the palms cost from five shillings to seven
shillings each a year, whether they bear or not, and
the grass is, like an English village common, often

only so much waste and unproductive land. It was
in these palm groves we usually found our best
camping-places. A sheykh's tomb, with its whitewashed
mud dome, is usually to be seen gleaming
through the shade, and near it there is often a well,
with a very primitive wheel made of sticks and cords.
Here the elders of the village sit and smoke, and the
women gossip as they fill their great pitchers. You
never see men and women talking together, and, in
the Howara country at least, the women seldom
approach near enough for the stranger to obtain
more than a passing glance. The children are
wretched-looking little objects: small of limb, and
large of stomach. There is an all-pervading smell,
too, which is very unpleasant, caused, for the most
part, by the use of camel's dung for fuel. You
wonder how people can live in such a stink, but
probably it is not so unwholesome as it seems, and
certainly the adult Arabs, those, at least, who survive
infancy, are very fine-looking men, tall, strong,
upright, but very spare.
Towns, such as that we were now approaching,
differ much from the villages. They stand often close
to the river's edge, and Girgeh in particular has lost
much from the fall of the bank on which it stands.
The long, windowless, and winding streets are full of
a smothering dust. Flies are numerous and troublesome.
The smell is even worse than in the villages,
though sanitary arrangements are not wholly neglected,

and every mosque has its public lavatory adjoining.
The town is divided into quarters, each entered by a
narrow arched gateway, with the name on a tablet
above. Girgeh, as its name imports, the town of St.
George, is a head centre of the Copts, and is full of
dyers and goldsmiths. The bazaars are spacious and
good, though we could not find a corkscrew anywhere
for sale. The beggars, too, were very troublesome
and importunate, perhaps all the more on account of
the famine, but we remembered them much the same
in former years.
When we had ridden through a kind of market-place
just within the walls, we passed for a few yards
through a narrow lane, and suddenly emerged on the
river's bank, close to which the houses were built,
room for a single donkey being all that intervened.
Stones have been thrown down the slope, as a measure
to prevent the strong current which here sweeps past,
from undermining the town any further. I do not
know that this expedient is of much use. Below, so
that we could look down perpendicularly on the decks,
were numberless boats and a dahabeeah or two.
Opposite was the splendid mountain which makes
Girgeh such a favourite place with the artist. We
rode south along the top of the bank until we had
gone past all the houses, and descended into a field
where the river bends away to the east, and there,
among growing plants of tobacco, we found a bare
place in which to pitch our tents.


The beggars did not molest us, and we rested on
our beds till sunset, enjoying the changing tints of the
mountain and river, deepening first into orange and
then into purple, as the evening grew first red, and
then dark.
As soon as the candles were lighted on our table
there came to us divers Copts, affecting great secrecy
as to the anteekas they had to sell. Their ideas of
value were very different from what we had found
further inland, and we were glad to let them go in
peace without any purchase more considerable than
a scarab or two and a glass bead.

[Back to top]



An excited Antiquary—Egyptian Chronology—Arabat-el-Madfooneh—The Temples—The Sacred Windhover—Edfoo—The Table of Abydos—Casabianca—A Hill of Tombs—An Old Brick Fort.

BEFORE daylight we were astir. The sun had not
yet risen over the table mountain towards which our
tent door was turned, but in a short time the grey
turned purple, then pink, reversing the order of
the night before, and by the time we were dressed
the sun came peeping round the southern headland,
and before breakfast was served his rays were dazzling
our eyes. This was to be a short day, so far as
riding was concerned, though a long one in other
respects, for to-day we expected to reach Abydos,
the Coptic Abood, the sepulchre of Osiris, the
oldest city of Egyptian history, the ancient This.


The Antiquary was strangely excited. He had
been up and down the Nile, but never to Abydos.
Health had failed him, and he looked forward and
deferred his visit to a more convenient season. That
season had now come, and his spirits rose in proportion.
He had been reading all the previous afternoon,
and as we passed through a glorious bean-field in full
flower, ten miles wide at least, he gave vent to his
feelings in a preliminary lecture to his companions.
First he spoke of Chronology. “When historians,”
he said, “have to measure time not by reigns, but by
dynasties, the modern student's mind faints. We
may reckon, perhaps, ten dynasties in England since
the days of Egbert, a thousand years ago; but it
is eleven hundred years since Egypt, conquered by
the Arabs, ceased to count the Empire as her thirty-fourth
dynasty. Fully fourteen hundred years have
to be reckoned back beyond Caesar and Cleopatra,
according to M. Mariette, to reach the reign of
Rameses II., the great Sesostris of the Greeks. But
Rameses was the third king of the nineteenth dynasty.
That is to say, roughly speaking, there were about
twice as many dynasties between Rameses and the
founder of the Egyptian monarchy as there have been
between Queen Victoria and Egbert. All recent investigations
go to prove the substantial truth of the
lists of Manetho. M. Mariette virtually adopts them,
for want of better, and all his diggings help to confirm
him in trusting them. According to Manetho,

there were eight kings of the first dynasty, nine of
the second, nine of the third, and so on, nothing in
their average of years differing from our own. So
that our English antiquaries have been very moderate
in placing the foundation of the Egyptian monarchy
back at a period so remote as 2700 B.C., and even
Bunsen, with his estimate of 3,000, and M. Mariette,
who does not hesitate to adopt Manetho with 5,000
at once, have something of proof on their side. To
attain therefore any adequate notions on the subject
of Egyptian chronology is by no means an easy task.
The mind accustomed to measure time by our short
English standards refuses to digest the nuts offered
by Manetho. There are evident faults in the copies
which are extant. They are themselves only quotations
made by ancient authors, and are manifestly
corrupt. One turns with almost a gleam of hope to
Manetho's assertion that King Apappus, of the sixth
dynasty was a giant, and reigned for a century. But
Papi means a giant in the ancient language of the
Nile valley, now represented by Coptic, and, in an
inscription now at Boolak which is undoubtedly of
the sixth dynasty, mention is actually made of the
hundred years of his reign. What are we to do?
Among other frantic efforts lately made to resist
evidence of this kind, some one has supposed that
these old Egyptians cut up one year into three or
four. But what can they make of King Papi's
nine cubits?”


Neither of his companions appealing anxious to
answer the question, and William being unusually
propitious, he went on,—
“The tablet of Oona, to which I have just referred,
was found in a tomb at Abood, the ancient This.
It records the life and services of the functionary
whose name it bears, and is among the spoils with
which M. Mariette has enriched the Khedive's museum.
By comparison with another tablet he has made out
the names of four kings of this sixth dynasty, which,
according to all historical analogy, ought to be wholly
fabulous. But this is only one among many examples
which could be given of the way in which
M. Mariette is working, and of the success which
has so far attended his labours. He has literally discovered
the remains of the place we are now going
to, This, or Thinis, the cradle of the Egyptian
monarchy. Their site was known, it is true; but
they were buried in sand and in the mud-heaps
accumulated by centuries of unburnt brick. Above
all, in the narrow passage between two walls of one
of the temples there, he has found the now famous
table of Abood, casts of which are in all the
museums. Here Seti I. and his mighty son Rameses
II. are represented offering sacrifices to seventy-six
of the kings who preceded them on the double
throne. The list begins with Menes. The names
are a selection from those given by Manetho, as are
the names on the Hall of Ancestors at Karnac

and those on the table of Sakkara. M. Mariette
speaks but slightingly of a fragmentary table also
known as that of Abydos, which is in the British
Museum; but M. Mariette's countrymen have unfortunately,
in matters of this kind, given the world
too many examples of what Mr. Herbert Spencer
describes as the bias of patriotism; and you will
probably go home without any diminution in the
reverence you feel for the thirty kings whose names
remain upon it. After the first shock is over, and the
mind has begun to judge with comparative calmness
of these stupendously long periods, they separate
themselves into distinct groups. Just as on the
tables selections were made among the too numerous
predecessors, so, in endeavouring to classify the
wonders of Egypt, we will find it convenient to
discard our original ideas of the ancient civilisation.
To some of our English writers the whole list of
Pharaohs from Menes to Ptolemy Physcon consists
of one long unbroken line; the religion, the language,
the habits, the dwelling-places, the burial-places, the
“anteekas” now dug up or manufactured, all belong
to one people, one succession of kings—nay, to judge
by what we hear and read, one period. Ancient
Egypt is contrasted with modern, as one might contrast
the Commonwealth with the reign of Charles II.
No attempt is made to remember that the period
which separated the first Seti from the last Ptolemy
was probably as long as the whole Christian era.

In that time all the kings were not great, powerful,
and rich. And in the old time before them, though
here, as we have seen, years fail us as a measure, were
there not eighteen dynasties, of which one at least
consisted of sixty kings?”
This was a favourite grievance of the Antiquary,
and we were not very sorry that at this point William
carried him out of earshot, and his wrath was
allowed to explode before he resumed—at least
before we heard his next remarks. When we overtook
him he was still speaking:—
“The great Rameses reckoned back to Menes at
This. The civilisation under which Thebes flourished
was a revival, tentative at first and slow to improve,
of what in the distant past had been the civilisation
of the pyramid builders. The great monuments of
Lower Egypt were there to tell men of the race
which had preceded them on the same ground so
many centuries before. Probably there were priests
and holy rites which had come down from the ancients
of This. Probably there were genealogists to prove
the identity of the races of Upper and Lower Egypt.
But the gods changed with the men, and the worshippers
of Osiris and Isis, of Phtah and Horus, of
Ra and Chem, of the Wolf and the Crocodile, were
like sects or like rival orders of friars.”
So he went on for some time longer. But I do
not think his audience was very attentive. There
was too much to see and enjoy by the way, as we

wound along the road towards Arabat “the buried,”
as the Arabs call it.
The land of Egypt is here very wide. There are
green crops everywhere—fresh with a greenness of
which in England, even in Ireland, one knows nothing.
There are flocks and herds in abundance, as
of old, “even very much cattle,” and at intervals
the intense emerald colour is relieved by wide fields
of corn in full ear, or immense tracts of beans in
pod, or lupins as high as a man's head, or clover
which conceals even the great carcase of the buffalo.
Here and there slingers, each like St. Simon Stylites
on his pillar, alternate the business of a scarecrow with
that of a cotton-spinner. Clothes are perhaps cheaper
in Egypt than they were when Sir Frederick Leighton
painted his “Slinger,” but, except in drawing water
with the shadoof, few such statues of living bronze
were to be seen. Another disappointment was equally
bearable. We were accustomed to think of Egypt
as a place devoid of flowers, as, in fact, the opposite
of the “Flowery Land” with which it is so often
compared. But in January, between Girgeh and
Aboos, there was no lack of flowers. A great orchis,
in particular, perfumed the air everywhere with a
scent like vanille, its tall spikes bearing white flowers
gradually changing into sulphur colour at the top.
The ground was starred with a little oxeye, a very
good imitation of our own “wee, modest, crimson-tipped
flower,” and many another might be mentioned.


“What is the meaning of Arábat el. Madfooneh?”
asked the Scot.
“I suppose,” replied the Collector, “it must be akin
to Rabbath, a Hebrew word for ‘city.' The old town
in Malta is called Citta Vecchia by the Italians, but
the natives name it Rabbat. Madfooneh is Arabic for
“I should prefer,” suggested the Antiquary, “to
see in Arábat an Arab corruption of the old Egyptian
name, Abood, or Abot, which the Greeks made into
Abydos. Now by transliteration—
“I beg your pardon,” interrupted the Collector,
“this is Bardees, where Osman Bey, the Mameluke
was born; and that is El Berbeh.”
“El Berbeh,” exclaimed the Antiquary, “of course
by transliteration that is Perpe, the old Egyptian or
Coptic for temple.”
“Yes,” said the Scot, quietly, “you will find it in
Now to be detected quoting Murray was humiliation
to the Antiquary, even though he did it unwittingly.
He liked, he said, to get his facts from firsthand
authorities, or from his own investigations. He
was therefore silent for a space; and indeed the view
was enough to require undivided attention.
They had been riding for some time along a straight
road which seemed to lead right up to the mountains.
Four or five miles of green land were still between
them and the broad dark belt of palms which, as the

Collector pointed out, concealed the buildings of
Abood. Beyond the palms, and at a higher level,
was a waste of yellow sand; beyond that again the
mountains formed an amphitheatre of nearly uniform
height, but ending on the left, that is, towards the
river, in a broken and picturesque cliff. On the right
the amphitheatre was closed in by a hill of peculiar
form, which stood forward from the rest of the range.
The pyramidal summit, now that we had passed its
“gable end,” seemed to be the front of a long houselike
ridge, built, so to speak, in storeys, familiar enough
in form to any one who has ever been up the Nile,
but unlike anything I have ever seen in England.
As we approached Arábat this hill came more and
more forward, until the semicircle seemed almost
artificial in its regularity.
“These mountains,” observed the Collector, “have
been but half explored. They are full of tombs, and
if you look to the extreme right you will see one which
must be of great importance, for it has an avenue or
double cyclopean wall leading up to it, like the tombs
of Beni Hassan.”
Travellers usually approach Arábat from the east.
We, as we had our tents with us, determined to go
the other way, the more so as the Collector had
promised to show us some things at the western
end of the place which he said were not mentioned
in any guide-book.
“If you look,” he said, “a little to the right of the

palm-grove, immediately under that house-like mountain,
you will see an Arab cemetery on the very edge
of the sandy zone. At either end of that cemetery
you will see a great brown mass which from here, in
the blinding sunshine, looks like a pair of great rocks.
That to the right, furthest from the palms, is a Coptic
dayr, or monastery, in which there is an ancient church.
The other one, to the left, is a mere ruin of crude
brick. The two are of great interest. I take them
to be both ancient buildings, one only having been
utilised in Christian troubles for the protection of
a Coptic community. No European traveller that I
know of has mentioned them, but I am sure our Irish
friend here will think them well worthy of antiquarian
An hour later we were seated on the grass near
the walls of Arábat, eating a frugal lunch while the
men put the tents up under the palms. It was now
one o'clock, and the short afternoon would hardly
suffice for all we had to see. A crowd of fine-looking
men soon assembled at our encampment, and we had
no difficulty in finding one to take charge of part of
the party to the temple—” el Berbeh,” as they called
it. We wound through the village by the usual
crooked lanes, past the inevitable pond, along the
edge of a second grove of palms, behind which we
could see the great heaps which mark the place of
the ancient city. As we went by we caught glimpses
of lines of old hieroglyphs built into walls and

cisterns, with here and there the serene face of a
goddess, or a pair of arms outstretched in prayer
to a vanished deity.
The temples have indeed been buried. Even now
a great heap encompasses them on every side, and
you have to make a steep descent to get into them.
The sculptures at Abood are said to be the best of
the time of the nineteenth dynasty. Brugsch Bey
has somewhere discovered the name of Hi, who was
sculptor to Seti I. and his son, Rameses II. But I
do not know that he can be identified with these
There are two distinct kinds of reliefs, those which
are incised round the outline, but not cut away, and
those in which the figures are wholly raised from the
ground. Both kinds occur here, the relief being
generally very low, as might be expected where light
is so intense. Much colour of a very gaudy and unpleasant
kind is to be seen, but here and there the
plain white marble shows alone, and, to an eye prejudiced
by the white statues of the north, is the most
pleasing. Yet many details are lost where the colour
has been wiped off; and the Antiquary was particularly
moved by the sight, in a chapel dedicated to
Horus, of representations of the shrine of the sacred
hawk, with all the details fully coloured.
It had long been a favourite crotchet of his that
the position of the kestrel among falcons, and among
gods, had never been properly recognised. As he

looked up from examining, in the blinding sunshine,
the details of the ornamental clothing by which the
unhappy little godhead was kept from ungodly movements
during the procession, from “baiting” off his
perch, or pecking at the hands of his too attentive
priests, he saw hovering high above him, suspended
as a lamp is suspended from the dome of a Caliph's
tomb, the little windhover whose direct ancestor may
possibly have sat for the portrait before him.
Falconers, who rank hawks according to their length
of wing and the colour of their eyes, despise the kestrel
as a counterfeit. His wings are long, as long as those
of the noblest peregrine; his eyes are large and
brown; his beak has the requisite notches. But he
is not a falcon. He is not noble. He preys on mice
and beetles, and even the all-slaughtering gamekeeper
spares him as perfectly innocent. People who care
neither for falconry nor shooting like to watch him
hovering in mid-air, as if suspended by an invisible
wire from the zenith. He has become a familiar
and pleasing feature in our recollections of many an
English landscape. He hovers over many a broad
Yorkshire valley, many a dark Welsh lake, many a
Devonshire glen. And for the English exile in Egypt
the windhover forms a happy surprise. No book of
travels I ever read warned me that I would see it.
Everything else was unfamiliar. The brown Nile
the low mud-banks, the blue-robed women drawing
water, the camels, the buffaloes, the tall palms, the

sandy desert background—all are strange. Even the
settled serenity of the pale blue sky, unvarying day
after day, has, in its perpetual sameness, a quality
which makes it differ toto coelo, so to speak, from our
English sky. There is something, then, delightful
in recognising as an old friend the little kestrel of our
own air, hovering over a wide plain blue with lupins,
or soaring above the highest cliff of the table-topped
mountains, just as he hovered when we saw him last
above a ploughed field in Sussex.
To my eyes he looks noble, even though he lets
the heavy kites chase him, and seeks no higher
game than a locust or a scarab. There is no region
in the world, it is said, where the peregrine falcon
is not found; everywhere he is, and everywhere he
is scarce. But the windhover is almost as widely
distributed, and in Egypt, at least, is one of the
most common of birds. If we watch him closely
while he sits for a few minutes on the pole of a disused
shadoof, we observe that his plumage seems
brighter than it is in England. The winter frosts
and summer rains have not bleached it; but otherwise
he is just the same.
One cannot but wonder if he finds times changed
since he sat to Hi at Abood, and since Amenuah-soo
painted his portrait: since the people of
Dendera worshipped him and ate the Ombite who
had eaten a hawk. Does he know that he is no
longer sacred, except to a home-sick English invalid?

and, as he rises in the air with a captured insect in his
claw, does he look back longingly to the days when
he had five hundred priests to wait on him and
tanks full of young crocodiles to afford him musky
cutlets? The black and white kingfisher hovers too,
but only poised a few feet above the muddy surface
of the stream. He does not soar towards the sun
like the hawk, and, though kingfishers must have
been as common of old as they are now, we do not
meet them in the sculptures, where the hawk is
always present. That he is the self-same bird we
never doubt. Was he not immortal? who, indeed,
until rifles were invented, could hope to shoot him?
When the ancient Egyptians worshipped him it was
as a fitting emblem of immortality.
There must have been sacred hawks in many places,
for the worship of Horus was as universal as that of
Osiris and Isis: though the best sculpture and painting
which relate to him are here at Abood. The Antiquary
well remembered, on his previous voyage up the Nile,
that among the most marvellous examples of ancient
art in Egypt was the shrine of the sacred windhover
at Edfoo. The temple has been often described. It is
the most perfect in Egypt, and though it only dates
from the Ptolemies, would be of hoar antiquity in any
other country. But the shrine of the god is more
ancient than the temple, and has had but little
attention from travellers. Like a very large sentry-box
cut out of a single block of blue granite, it is not

impressive for its beauty, and requires a few minutes'
contemplation before its size begins to tell on the
mind. It is carved all over in low relief with
hieroglyphs, which inform us that Nectanebo, of the
thirtieth dynasty, dedicated it to Hor-hat. It is fully
fifteen feet high, the chamber being nearly seven—a
square space of polished stone, bearing still the marks
of the bars which made it into a cage. Here in
the darkness must many a captive kestrel have
beaten out its little strength against the shining walls.
How gladly would its divinity have been given up
to soar once more in the clear air and hover again
over the sandy hills or the smooth Nile! On the
festal days its wings would be confined with what
falconers call a “brail” made of golden lace but
none the more pleasant on that account to wear—a
kind of strait-waistcoat in which the visible representative
on earth of Horus was carried forth in
procession. The brail may be seen plainly in the
sculptures at Abood, perhaps more plainly than
anywhere else, as so much of the colouring is left.
The two bows at its back, the golden fringe in front,
the tassels hanging down, are plainly to be seen, and
in one place the shrine itself is partly open, so that we
see the unhappy bird with his great, mournful, wistful
brown eye in strict confinement, while the priests
prepare for the procession.
There was probably a hawk's shrine at Dendera,
and another at Karnac. A granite one lay till the

other day neglected in the streets of Cairo, where
it served during the day as a dust-bin, and during
the night as a dog-kennel. Another has been made
into a Christian altar at Philae; for the degenerate
Egyptians of the fifth century, though they could not
quarry the granite rock for themselves, were able to
break the shrine in two and to incise a shallow cross
on its side.
When his friends joined him, the Antiquary was
still contemplating the sculptures of Horus, and was
with difficulty restrained from delivering the result of
his cogitations in the form of a lecture, but contented
himself with a few references to the connection which,
according to some archaeologists, exists between the
ancient Horus and the Mediaeval George. Here the
Collector came to his help. “There exists,” he said,
“among the uncatalogued treasures of the Louvre
a small stone statue, carved in a late and barbarous
age of Egyptian art, in which the god on horseback
killing the dragon Typhon is represented in such
a way that, as M. Clermont-Ganneau observes, if the
head of the figure had happened to have been wanting,
we might have supposed it a figure of St. George.
But fortunately the head is not wanting, and it is
that of a kestrel. This singular piece of sculpture,
and a bronze in the British Museum, in which Horus
appears in the armour of a Roman officer, afford intermediate
links by which to connect the old myth of the
hawk god and his combat with the crocodile and the

comparatively new myth of St. George and the dragon.
Mythologists throw in Perseus and Dagon, and many
other personages in different parts of the world, to
complicate the questions thus suggested.”
“I confess,” said the Scot, who seldom ventured
to criticise the antiquarian opinions of either of his
friends, “I confess I look upon attempts to identify
gods and saints, Isis and the Blessed Virgin, for instance,
or St. George and Horus, with very great suspicion.”
“Yes,” rejoined the Collector, “but is it not written
in the pages of Murray, that when the voyager passes
Bibbeh, a village on the western bank of the Nile
some 80 miles above Cairo, he may visit a Coptic
church, where, under the name of St. George, a hero
of the Moslem as well as the Christian is venerated, a
‘sheykh' of such power that the Arab sailor thinks
it no sin to recite a prayer before his likeness, and
to contribute a few small coins towards keeping up
the lights in his sanctuary? Girghis,” he added, “is
not uncommon even now as a Mahometan no less
than as a Christian name. The compiler of Murray
well remarks that, though Copt and Moslem alike
believe in St. George, it would be difficult to persuade
them that he is the guardian saint of England; and
he might have said that it would be probably more
difficult to demonstrate to the modern Egyptian that,
in venerating this saint, whom even Roman Catholics
have, we believe, given up, he is continuing the worship
of his forefathers thousands of years ago.”


Meanwhile the rest of the temple, the second
temple, the grave mound, and the crude brick fort
had to be visited. The Antiquary was charmed to
find that the chamber containing the famous table was
open, having long been bricked up for fear of wandering
tourist marauders, and promised himself an
early hour to-morrow to copy the list of kings. The
rest of this temple, the bas-reliefs of the early
life of the young Rameses, the famous lasso
scene, the figure of Seti I. making an offering to
Osiris of the golden image of Ma, the Goddess of
Justice, all these and many more were duly examined,
and then we crossed a mound and descended into
the second temple, which has hardly had the notice
it deserves from travellers. In some respects, as for
example in its granite portals and in the shrine lined
with blocks of alabaster and walled with red syenite,
it is superior even to the eastern temple. But it
is much ruined, and did not delay us, perhaps, as
long as it ought to have done. When in one reign,
or parts of two at most, two such buildings could
have been raised, the wealth of the country, or at
least of the crown, must have been enormous. Yet
we must add to them the still more marvellous Hall
of Columns at Karnac, the Temple of Goorneh, the
deep tomb known as “Belzoni's,” and many other
works of minor importance.
The best sculpture remaining now at the second
temple represents, apparently, a procession of animals

fattened for the sacrifice. In this scene, which is
very perfect, the low relief of the early period is
well imitated; but it is in the eastern temple that
the sculptures are worthy of the most careful study.
Much colour remains on them, and on the walls of
the inner hall the highest style of Ramesian art has
been employed. It is not often that the art of the
same period presents so many differing degrees of
excellence as does that of the reign of Rameses II.
At Gerf-Hossayn, for example, the acme of deformity
and shapelessness is reached. At Bayt-el-Welly,
not far off, on the other hand, there is some
exquisite work. Here at This we have several kinds
of sculpture in bas-relief side by side. In the outer
hall it is coarse, heavily outlined, the figures being
rounded within the outline, so as to give a false appearance
of relief. This is the style in vogue in the
later temples of the Ptolemaic time. In the second
hall, however, a delicate low relief, which belongs
only to the best work, covers the walls and columns.
Similar sculpture, but of a much earlier period, occurs
in the tomb of Thy at Sakkara, and a small example
of it is, from its accessibility, well known to travellers
at Silsilis.
Some of the figures at Abood are of enchanting
beauty. Osiris sits attended by goddesses, each
of them wearing on her face an expression of
sublime happiness and tranquil dignity, while the
King approaches humbly and offers a tribute of

incense. Exquisite borders of flowers hem in each
scene. Jewelry, in gold, gems, feathers, chains,
breast-plates, crowns, bracelets of various kinds,
dresses of elaborate patterns, the braiding of the
hair—all are carefully depicted, and each no doubt
was once in its proper tint, before the attacks of
the “squeezers,” who have, however, greatly spared
We were glad to miss the never-ending lists of
tourists, whose names disfigure so many of the best
sculptures in Egypt. The Scot had been much astonished
to observe that English names were more rare
than French or German. Considering that about
nine-tenths of the Nile tourists are English or American,
it was strange, he thought, to find so little of
their writing.
“Some years ago,” said the Collector, “I remember
to have seen it stated in the Times that the
‘practice was confined to our countrymen.'”
“Here,” observed the Scot, “I see a certain J. V.
Abargues has been at the trouble of recording visits
made in 1873, 1876, and the present year. It would
be difficult to decide on his nationality, but certainly
it is not English.”
“No; he is perhaps a Greek. The French are
the worst; but fortunately the French do not often
travel. When they do, they take care to let you
know it. The French Commission under Buonaparte
probably disfigured more monuments with inscriptions

recording their visits than all the English travellers
“I found one French name to which I did not
grudge the space,” said the Irishman. “On the
pylon at Edfoo, in a place where there was no carving
and where it did no harm, Casabianca carved his
name; this must have been but a few weeks before
“His boy stood on the burning deck.”
While we thus talked we traversed the space intervening
between the two temples and the great mound
known as Kom e' Sultan. There is reason to suppose
that this vast heap of sepulchres is the place
which in all ages of Ancient Egypt was so highly
venerated as the burial place of Osiris himself. Here
Mariette conjectures were interred the mummies of
the most ancient kings. It is often considered the
central feature of This, but it rises close to the
temples, and we could not help thinking that the distinction
which is always made between Abood and
This refers to those parts of the town which lay to
the east and the west of the grave of Osiris.
The whole hill, which is of great extent, is made up
of sepulchres, piled one on the top of the other. We
could imagine the lower stratum to be a flat-topped
tomb perhaps as large and as solid as the Mastába of
King Oonas, or perhaps no more substantial than
the crude brick tombs at Maydoom. As we rode

across it we started every here and there at seeing
a deep pit yawning in our path. This was an excavation
of M. Mariette, and displayed uniformly the
same honeycomb work of arches upon arches of
brick, each an Egyptian grave, and many of them
still containing evidence of their former magnificence.
It was distressing to see broken stelas lying about,
but I suppose none of them bore inscriptions of
importance. The few we examined were of a late
period and poor workmanship, generally mere outlines
in red paint or chalk on the stone. We did not
see any of the “flat-topped” form of the ancient
It was not very far from the foot of Kom
e' Sultan to the first of the crude brick buildings
of which I have already spoken. It stands on the
edge of the desert—as indeed does the Kom e'
Sultan. It looked very like a great Norman fortress
as we approached it. Both the Englishman and the
Irishman had been to the crude brick fort which
frowns over the Nile opposite Dakkeh in Nubia, and
both observed its remarkable likeness to the building
before us. I have already written something about
1 See Chapter XII.
and need not repeat what is there said. But
we were all much impressed with this strange fort, for
fort it must have been, whatever its age, and perhaps
it is the nucleus of the ancient This. Perhaps this

castle-like structure grew from the first defences
put up against the aborigines by the predecessors
of Menes, those local kinglets whose realm eventually
comprehended both “the Upper and the Lower
That it is built of crude brick and not of stone—
that its sides are plastered with “slime,” and white-washed
–these are circumstances rather in favour of
its antiquity than the reverse. We measured the
double walls. They are four hundred and fifty
feet long from west to east, and in places nearly
forty feet high. There is a space of twelve feet
between them, and the inner wall is strengthened
by flat buttresses which have a strange resemblance
to the Norman buttresses which used to be visible
round the old treasury at Canterbury Cathedral, but
which I hear have been altered in form by some Goth
of a restoring architect.
Within the walls we found an oblong space filled
with broken stones, heaps of sand, and an innumerable
assortment of brown earthenware jars.
“Every jar,” said the Collector, “contains or contained
the mummy of an ibis, and it would seem as if
some flock of sacred birds in the neighbouring
temples had a corner assigned to them in this castle
where, like the forty thieves, they lay concealed until
the recent excavations.”
“Perhaps,” suggested the Antiquary, “this was
a library, a place where records were kept, and the

bird sacred to Thoth, the secretary; bird of ancient
Egypt, was here interred to sanctify the place?”
The question had to be left unsettled. The sandy
slopes had been gradually assuming more and more a
golden hue. Now the shadows which had crept
across the desert from the encircling hills deepened
into purple, and we had only time to canter over
to the low portal of the second castle, the Coptic
Dayr of which the Collector had spoken in the
morning, when the sunset was upon us.
The Englishman went within the walls, while his
companions rode slowly back. The Antiquary was
struggling with that feeling of depression and
disappointment which seems always to visit us when
we have come a long way to see a famous sight
or site—it is immaterial how we spell it; but rather
because one feels so powerless to record one's
impressions, or to know all one ought to know, to do
justice, as it were, either by eating or digestion to the
mental food provided. About the middle of the
entertainment we find we can swallow no more. Yet
we labour on, and hope that some future day we may
be glad we at least saw all that was on the table.
As for the Scot, no such feelings troubled him. He
was anxious to get to the tent because he had promised
himself a hot bath before dinner, and because Hassan
had promised to find him a barber in Arábat.

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French Antiquaries—A long Delay—A Messenger—A long Walk—
Rumours of the Famine.


“THERE must,” exclaimed the Collector, with a
strong emphasis on the second word, “be wonderful
things here if one could only get hold of them.”
We were sitting at breakfast at the door of our
tent. The Irishman was thinking of the Table—not
of the breakfast table, indeed, though to it he did
ample justice, but of the list of kings at the further
temple. Should he have time to copy seventy-six
ovals in an hour?
The Lawyer was engrossed, besides his breakfast,
with his chin, which retained the smoothness acquired
last night. But when our Scottish friend stroked

that feature, it generally turned out that he was
cogitating some scheme for the good of mankind in
general, and any one but himself in particular.
“The fact is,” continued the Collector, “when the
French were here,—I don't mean the French army,
but some recent emissaries of the Khedive, to collect
anteekas for Boolak,—they treated the people
so shamefully that they are afraid now to be even
suspected of having found anything.”
“Please don't say a word against the Boolak
Museum,” exclaimed the Antiquary, to whom during
a whole winter in Cairo it had been a source of joy
and happy employment.
“Upon my word I'm afraid it's true. Your genuine
Frenchman has such queer ideas where anything
which he considers science is in question. One
Frenchman had no objection when the great Canal
was projected to accept the lives of thousands of the
fellahs, torn from their homes, to carry out his
scheme. If the other governments of the civilised
world had not cried out ‘shame!' I warrant you the
French would never have interfered. It was just the
same here. If I had a fortune I would willingly
spend it to have this Kom e' Sultan thoroughly explored
—but rather than force the people from their
fields to work, rather than have one man bastinadoed
to give up what he had found, I would never look at
another scarab.”
We thought the Englishman rather hard on his

fellow-collectors, the Boolak authorities, as well as on
the French in general—but he probably knew more
than he told us, and his sympathies were all with the
oppressed people. During the next few days there
was ample scope for the exercise of this feeling.
Now the Scot, still stroking his shining chin
and anxious to turn the conversation, propounded
the following scheme. “While you are here superintending
the packing up, the Antiquary and I
will walk on to the temple. Somebody may bring
you anteekas when we are out of the way, and
meanwhile the Antiquary can have a good look at
the Table. We cannot miss you, for you must pass
the temple on your way with the caravan, and in
any case I will look out from the top of the mound
while he is within.”
This good-natured proposal was too good to be
declined, and a few minutes later the Antiquary was
happily engaged copying ovals, while the Scot, surrounded
by a crowd of children, old men, and
especially sick people, who thought he must have
medicine to give them, stood on the dusty summit of
the mound looking out.
An hour he stood. The sun began to grow hot.
The Antiquary having completed his task joined
him. They prescribed as best they could for the
sick. They bought beads from the necks of the little
girls. They sent the little boys scrambling down the
slope for halfpence. But no caravan appeared, and

at last, when two hours had elapsed they began to
get uneasy. The Collector, they thought, must have
had a rare find: but if so, why did not he send to
tell them of the delay? They scanned the distant
fields in vain. No caravan of donkeys was in sight,
and every moment added to their anxiety and to
the blazing heat.
At length a naked Arab appeared running and
shouting from the direction of the river. He threaded
his way through the narrow paths, was lost to sight a
moment in some canal, emerged again on a green
hillock, dived through the dark belt of encircling
palms, and climbed breathlessly up the slope of
débris on which the travellers were standing.
As well as they could understand him he had been
sent to tell them the donkeys and the “great
howaga” were gone about “ethneen sah,” two miles
or two hours, and not overtaking them had sent
him back to look.
“We are hot enough already,” exclaimed the
Antiquary, dismayed at the prospect of two hours'
fast walking across the country: “how can we
have missed them? They should have come by this
way, surely.”
But there was no use in regrets, and the two, taking
off their coats, made the best of their way after
the Arab, already becoming a speck in the distance.
The Antiquary had one consolation at least. The
whole Table of Abood copied into his note-book

was now reposing in a compendious form in his
When the Scot and the Antiquary overtook their
friend he was sitting on a mud wall outside a little
and very dirty village. Mutual explanations
followed. The Collector was too good-tempered to
be unpleasant, but he allowed himself to point out
that the blame did not lie with him, adding, “for
my part, I knew that when the Antiquary got
fairly to work on the Table, there would be some such
mistake.” And with this not wholly pointless
sarcasm, the matter dropped.
But our morning was all gone, and after a few slow
miles we stopped for lunch. It was already two
o'clock, and we were nearing Farshoot. Everywhere
the Collector's melancholy at finding no anteekas
worth speaking of at Arábat was deepened by the
miserable appearance of the people. There were plenty
of sugar canes, but nothing to eat. The children who
gathered round our luncheon basket were literally
skeletons. Our stock of small silver was quite
exhausted before we reached the town. At last, our
minds full of distress, we reached Farshoot, the
afternoon turning into a hot, dusty evening. In
the town all was misery. It was fair day, and
the bazaars and market place were full, but full of
famine-stricken faces, shrunk limbs, and gaunt forms.
We rode quickly through the clouds of dust and flies,
merely pausing to change some small pieces of money.

Even this we could scarcely do, so poverty-stricken
were the market people.
In the distance, between us and the river, was,
we knew, a great sugar factory of the Khedive's.
Thither, through the sunset, we pointed our steps.
But it fell dark before we reached it, though the
chimney was in sight, and after some consultation we
agreed to pitch our tents in a palm grove and rest for
the night.
It took long to get everything in order, and our
rest was disturbed by the cry of the mourners in the
neighbouring village—a cry which hardly ceased as
we went on, except in the open desert, till we
were actually at the end of our journey.
There would be no object in my repeating the
stories of famine which were retailed to us by the
men who visited us that night. The little land left
to the villagers from the cane fields had been so
inundated that the doorra crop had been destroyed.
All last year's corn had gone to Effendina for taxes.
The beans would soon be ready, and those who
survived might hope for the best. But next Nile
might be as high as the last, and if so, who could
survive another year?
With these sad forebodings in our ears we lay
down to sleep.

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The Morning Scene—A Starving Family—A Deserted Child—How—
Shocking Sights in the Market-place—How to acquire an Estate—
How to Buy and Sell Land—The Assessment of the Taxes—The
Famine easily Prevented—Mr. Rivers Wilson—Semaineh—Marashteh
—A young Gentleman—A Deserted Village—A Dinner Party—
Good Manners.



OUR route next morning lay along the river bank.
Opposite, behind Ekhmeem, the ancient Chemmis, was
the line of mountains, blue and beautiful through the
morning air. We might have enjoyed the scenery,
the shining water, the tall white sails, the green fields
on the right, the clearing mist, the glorious light, but
for the wretchedness all about us among the people.
At one place, where we had to pause to pass a deep
shadoof-cutting, a woman with two children was
begging from the inhabitants of a little hut. They
appeared to refuse her: and she came out on the

bank, weeping. When the Arab refuses alms to his
fellow Arab, things must have gone very bad with
himself. This scene showed that not only were
the woman and the children starving, but also the
people who kept within their house. The two
children were naked, and looked like old women.
The skin hung in brown folds about their skeleton
frames. Their eyes were sunk. The younger was
carried on her mother's shoulder, but the elder
walked feebly and stooping in front. With all this
want they did not follow us, and, indeed, we had
some difficulty to make them come forward to receive
our alms.
A little further we passed round a village. It was
one of those of which I have already spoken, which
are protected from the inundation by a moat and
bank. The moat was now nearly dry, and as we
went across the villagers were repairing the bank.
About half way up it was a child lying alone, apparently
asleep, with a cloud of flies buzzing round
it. We stopped and asked about it. The child had
been deserted, the people said: its mother had cast
it down on the bank, and run away to get food. We
offered them some money to take charge of it, and
the Scot climbed the slope to put a piece of silver
into the poor little creature's hand as it lay. Here
again we had an indirect proof of the terrible state of
poverty to which the people were reduced. The Arabs
are so fond of children that such a scene will appear

incredible to any one who knows them. What
became of that child? We have often wondered.
This was by far the worst day of our ride. About
eleven we went through Ho, or How, —the name is
locally pronounced Hö-o, in two syllables—and there
it seemed as if the famine was at its greatest height.
The Collector went into the town while the others
kept in the outskirts. He overtook them with a face
full of horror. The streets were full of starving
people. They were picking up grains on the dunghills.
They were fighting over old bones. They
were chewing straw. In the market-place a man was
lying under the wall, actually dying, and a woman,
with loud lamentations, was pouring water over him.
Near him another appeared to be already dead. The
others had seen similar misery in the outskirts: naked
children whose bones were starting through the skin:
mothers carrying skeleton babies, themselves little
better: old men and old women lying hopeless
and helpless to die in the sunshine.
“What a pity,” remarked one of our party bitterly,
“the Khedive cannot tax the sunshine.” For the
story we heard was everywhere the same. It was not
the inundation which caused the famine. Similar
inundations had not caused famines, for the people
had always a little store, some of money, some of
corn. At the worst, neighbours could help each other.
But this year their stores had all been seized for taxes.
The curious mud bins which are built for holding

corn and keeping it dry were lying, tumbled over, and
empty, in every village we passed through. And
in this particular Howara district, the corn land was
but just sufficient for the people's wants in good years,
because so much had been taken for sugar by the
The Scot could not understand, he said, what his
companions meant by saying that the Khedive had
taken the people's land. Did he forcibly deprive
them of it?
The Collector enlightened him by anecdotes of the
different ways in which the matter was managed.
The late Moofettish, Sadyk, who was murdered three
years ago and his property appropriated, was an
adept at this form of government. In some places,
sufficiently remote, the land was simply seized. There
was generally some arrear of taxes to be pleaded in
case of any public notice being taken of the deed.
In other places the land was bought. This was a
very delicate operation and required several years'
management. The people were first assessed a little
more heavily than usual. Some remonstrance would
perhaps be made, for even the worm will turn. Then
the people would be told the land was wanted and a
certain price would be promised them. Being
perhaps reduced already to the lowest poverty they
would consent—that is, where their formal consent
was thought a matter of the slightest consequence.
Then the factory would be run up, and for this forced

labour would be necessary. People who did not want
to work for nothing could remit a part of the price of
the land: or by the same device escape a fine, or
a portion of the taxes. In many ways, such as these,
the price of the poor people's land was soon made up;
and when nothing can be recovered from the Khedive
by legal process even in Cairo, it will be understood
that up the country there was no remedy but resignation.
It was the will of God—Kismet.
The Antiquary had heard of a further illustration
of the working of the system, when he was up the
Nile two years before. A deserted factory stood on
the right bank: and one of the sailors who came from
the neighbourhood told him that when the Khedive
had acquired the land here in the usual way, that
is to say, buying it but never paying for it, he
found that sugar would not grow on it. So the
people were ordered to buy it back again, and
had to pay in hard cash.
The same man said that the whole performance
was carried out by means of a special sheykh sent
from head-quarters and put over the people instead
of their own elected chief. This is possible enough,
but I do not vouch for it.
He also told us of a man he knew who owned a
camel. The camel was requisitioned to carry cane:
and its owner started with it for the factory. But
when he got half way he stabbed the camel with
a dagger, and came home alone. The same man gave

us another illustration of paternal government. The
land used to be revalued for taxation every six years,
and if it was situated by the river, where the banks
are altered by every inundation, the unfortunate
farmer had often to pay for several years after his
land had disappeared. Land left dry becomes the
property of the village or “commune,” and two years
ago a sheykh was murdered by his own villagers
for appropriating some common land to his own use.
For this the village was burnt by the Khedive, who
seized the land of the whole commune himself;
and nothing can more plainly show the state of
political degradation to which Turkish rule has
reduced the country than that the punishment was
looked upon as just, and acquiesced in without a
It was not easy to make any complete list of the
taxes, or to understand the system on which they
were worked. The fact is, there is—or may I say
was?—no system. The Sheykh-el-beled was informed
how much his village had to pay: but he
assessed it among his people himself. Of course,
therefore, he spared those who were his friends, those,
that is, who had supported him when he was a
candidate for his present office, and put it all on those
who had opposed him. There was no appeal. A
man might, it is true, complain to the Mudeer: but
this would only be to make the sheykh his enemy for
life, and in a little village community it would be

impossible for him to go back to his home: besides
the chances were the Mudeer would give him a taste
of the bastinado for insubordination.
The actual amount every one pays is therefore
difficult to ascertain. No two accounts agreed. But
the following seems to be a fairly accurate list of the
payments to which a peasant in Egypt is liable.
First, there is the Land Tax. We used to be told
that the Khedive had abolished it. He certainly
some years ago professed to promise its abolition on
condition the people redeemed it. This forms the
iniquitous Mookabala. Many of them were taken in
by this device, and for years have been redeeming
their Land Tax. It is now, 1879, 150 piastres per
acre, or about 15s. This is called in Arabic “el
Kharajeh.” Secondly, there is the Occupation Tax, or
Wurkoh. This is paid through the sheykh, who
assesses it as he pleases, but it amounts on the
average to about 10s. a head. Thirdly, there is the
Tezkareh, a payment made by every man before he
can be counted a citizen, or have any legal rights.
This amounts to 31 piastres. Next there is the odious
Salt Tax: that is to say, every man has to buy
his salt from the Khedive, who has a monopoly of the
manufacture, and very bad brown salt it is. Every
man, woman, and child is bound to consume, or at
least to buy, 10 piastres' worth of salt in the year.
Nor is this all. Besides individual or poll taxes
like these, all the cattle are taxed, every article of

manufacture is taxed, and a man dare not wear even his
rough cotton garment without a stamp on it. Finally,
with true Turkish financial genius, a tax is imposed
on palm trees, and even those which do not bear
must be paid for. It has been well said that trees
will not grow where the Turks come. The traveller
in Egypt has but too many examples of the truth of
the saying.
It was, of course, in the larger towns like How that
we saw the worst cases of famine. The poor from
other districts crowded from the villages to Girgeh,
Soohag, Belianeh, or any place where there was a
chance of backsheesh or any relief from passing
strangers: and in this they were right, for, with few
exceptions, the tourists on steamers and dahabeeahs
did what they could to give relief. We afterwards
heard terrible stories of the scenes our various friends
saw , especially further up the Nile, but I am anxious
not to put down here anything of which I have not
actual personal knowledge. I do know, however, and
wish to record it to their honour, that several of the
dragomans sacrificed the greater part of their profits
to feed the hungry.
Regular relief committees were afterwards established
at different centres like Kench, Luxor, Esneh,
and others: but it was too late. The mischief was
done months before. Mr. Rivers Wilson afterwards
had the face to write to the Times that everything
possible had been done and relief sent “two months

ago.” This was in April, 1879. Yet in March, 1878,
the famine was foretold in at least one English paper.
The wicked liar who telegraphed to the English
papers that the accounts of the famine were greatly
exaggerated caused many deaths, and, rightly or
wrongly, the lie was put down to the only person
who could have benefited by it. But what are a
more lies, or lives either, to him?
I find I am getting abusive and will stop. Other
notes of the misery we saw are scattered through
this journal. Meanwhile I will resume the regular
narrative of our ride.
We lunched that day in a pleasant place, a long
way from any town, but about a quarter of a mile from
a little village called Semaineh. There was a well
under a great spreading tree. The villagers probably
paid for this unproductive lebbek tree on account of
some superstition attaching to it. Evidently it was
very sacred in their eyes. The great gnarled trunk
was decorated with little votive flags here and there.
In one fold of the bark there was quite a little
oratory, with a lamp set in a niche. The roots grew
above ground in large knees and formed capital seats
for us: and two women coming down from the village
to draw water were easily induced to draw also for
us and our men.
We had now turned rather away from the bank.
1 See Appendix.

Our idea had been to make two days march from
Arábat to Dendera, but the delay on the first day
rendered this hopeless now; and we were puzzled
what to do. As we got further from How the mountain
at whose foot the old city of Athor stood came
plainly in sight, but it was a long way off: and a
short cut across the desert for four or five hours would
not be practicable after dark.
Hassan, indeed, contemplated this desert ride with
great aversion, even in daylight: and did everything
he could to prevent our making it. But we were
determined on it, all the more because of the horrors
we had passed through in the inhabited country.
Besides, it was manifestly the short way to reach
Dendera, as we could easily see by looking before us
at the turn of the river and the prominence of the
mountains towards the east.
But it seemed impossible to get so far to-night, and
when it was only three o'clock we came to a clean,
tidy, well-to-do-looking village called Marashteh,
lying on the very edge of a sandy plain, backed by a
fine chain of mountains. We saw few beggars, and
when we stopped at the sheykh's house to ask his
advice as to going on, we were received with great
politeness. Altogether Marashteh dwelt long in our
minds as one of the pleasantest places we had visited.
The sheykh told us it would be impossible to get to
Dendera that night, as it was fully five hours' march:
and that there was no town or village along this

route at which we could stop for the night, except his.
He therefore wanted us to pitch our tents in his
garden. This we declined, but found a square space,
marked out by low mud walls, which suited our
purpose nicely.
The tent was no sooner up, with the open door
looking across the desert, towards the blue mountains,
than a little boy, about twelve, attended by a servant,
came to see us. This, we were informed, was the
sheykh's nephew; indeed, we understood that he was
the heir to the family estates, and that the sheykh
was only administering them for him until he should
come of age. We were a little puzzled how to entertain
him: but the Collector soon unpacked his
musical box: and we bethought us of a certain little
pot of cherry jam which had been regularly produced
for luncheon every day, and as regularly put back
untouched. Our young Arab looked supremely
happy, but perfectly quiet and dignified, as he sat on
one of our camp stools at the shady side of the tent,
the musical box tinkling and trickling on the table,
and a tin plate of cherry jam in his hand. He took
his leave at last: walking solemnly round to us, one
after the other, and kissing our hands.
Once more we composed ourselves to rest on our
beds. The Collector sorted over the scarabs and coins
he had bought in the last few days, the Antiquary lay
with his eyes closed, discoursing vaguely on transliteration
and the names of Dendera; the Scot

calculated the sheykh's probable income, and endeavoured
to guess at the Arab laws which control
the succession of property. It was very pleasant to
have no sights to see: and, in fact, to find that our
principal duty was to get as much rest as we could in
the only idle afternoon we were likely to have for a
long time to come. It was very pleasant, too, though
it seems harsh to say so, to be, for once, out of reach
of the sights and sounds which had beset our path in
the morning. Marashteh was but a little place. The
land was poor. There was no sugar cane. The level
was higher than about How, and the inundation had
done little harm. Then, too, the glorious dry air of
the desert came fresh to us, and the Scot, who had
never breathed it before, immediately began to feel,
so he said, as if his foot was once more on his native
heath. It was certainly most invigorating; and as
the sun began to go down we agreed to walk across
the sandy plain towards the mountains.
We soon passed under the telegraph wires which
cut up the view from the tents, and then turning west
walked towards the cloudless sunset, to where a few
sont trees, some little grave mounds, and a ruined
house, showed that a village and some cultivation
had once existed. A deep well with a now dismantled
wheel accounted for the traces of cultivation.
No doubt the whole hamlet had been deserted not
long ago; and it was but too easy to guess the
reason. Villages where land is difficult to water, or

where the desert comes very near, cannot be kept
going under the present pressure from the superior
powers; but this, according to English newspapers, is
to be called developing the resources of the country.
In the sont trees a magnificent peregrine falcon
and her mate, a slighter and smaller bird, were flying
about, and looked on us as strange intruders indeed,
where no one had come perhaps since the village was
When we got back Hassan's face was in a glow of
pride and satisfaction. The sheykh had sent in bread
for the boys, and had then called himself. Finding
we were out, he left word that he hoped we would
allow him to send us a dinner, and that he intended
to come and see us again. Even as Hassan spoke
the dishes began to appear, and we had just time to
send word that we hoped the sheykh would join us at
dinner, when he appeared with several attendants,—
a grave elderly man with a large hooked nose and a
melancholy expression.
He was accompanied by his nephew, and both
took their seats at our little table, with a quiet politeness
such as one seldom sees even in good society in
Europe. The Collector, who loved the Arabs, was
charmed. “Think,” he exclaimed, “of the grimaces
and shrugs a Frenchman would go through on such
an occasion. Yet the French are called polite.
Give me Arab politeness. No fuss,” &c., &c.
The first course consisted of our own soup, with which

the sheykh was greatly pleased. Then followed the
dishes he had sent in, which were excellent and many,
but as I did not write the menu down at the time, I
am unable to remember anything but a kind of
pickled radish, which both the Englishman and the
Scot liked greatly, but which the Antiquary could not
manage to eat.
They were surprised that the boy was allowed to
sit down with his uncle. True, he went round and
kissed his hand before he would sit down at the table,
and probably asked his leave beforehand: but it is one
of the prettiest features of Arab manners that sons
never sit in their father's presence. On a subsequent
occasion, when a young gentleman came to see us,
and sat smoking for some time till his father arrived,
he immediately rose and remained standing, and
could not be prevailed on to finish his cigar, till he
had gone formally and kissed his father's hand while
he asked leave.
When dinner was over we were amused at the
violent hiccoughs and eructations which the little
boy made. He had eaten very little, being evidently
shy, and unaccustomed to the use of knives and
forks, but it seemed that these noises were intended
to make us believe he had eaten so much that he
could hardly keep it down.
Here, I think, the Collector would have preferred
even French politeness.

[Back to top]



The Desert—A Prize—Dendera—The Ferry—Camping Ground at
Keneh—The Cook's Estate—The Inevitable Potentate.


THE next day was one of the most pleasant we had.
After everything had been got ready for the start,
and far more than the requisite number of guides and

guards had come together, we prepared to start. But
at the last moment the Collector was detained. The
others rode on, however, and he overtook them just
as they emerged from the cultivated country upon
the high sandy desert above the reach of the inundations.
His face was sad. Evidently something had
occurred, but he did not speak, and his companions
seeing that probably some remarkable bargain was
hovering in the balance, did not intrude on his secret
thoughts. Presently a man overtook us, and walking
beside the Collector's ass, talked to him in a low
voice. They fell behind, and soon after we saw the
Arab turn his back towards our cavalcade and take
the road home. We delayed for a minute, and the
Collector came up with his comrades. This time the
expression of his countenance was changed. It was,
so to speak, rippling with smiles, which, no matter
what the subject on which we conversed, every now
and then broke out at the lips and spread all over the
face. About an hour he kept the secret, riding the
while with his right hand every now and then thrust
within his waistcoat and at once withdrawn. Presently
he asked the Antiquary to ride a little apart with him
for a moment.
This was, however, not so easily done. William
hated secrets; and just at that point perceived in
the distance some dear familiar face, and after violently
agitating himself for a brief period with a see-saw
motion rather like that of a rocking-horse, he set

up the loud whisper which was all he had left of his
old bray, and starting off at an angle from the way he
should go, was not brought back until the Collector,
no longer able to contain himself, had told his story
to the Scot.
That gentleman only made the tantalising remark
that it was indeed very wonderful. The Irishman
dismounted, and, letting William go where he listed,
though he carried the annotated Murray in the
saddle-bag, walked alongside the Collector until he
had seen that wonderful thing. The Collector had
certainly made a hit. The Wonderful Thing—it deserves
capitals—was indeed such a treasure as few
Collectors can ever hope to find. Should nothing
else be found on the journey, this one treasure would
make it not in vain.
Our feelings of exhilaration were enhanced by the
desert air. On our right stretched the mountains—
not the flat-topped mountain of which we had got so
tired, but a range of varied outline, and showing here
and there a peak of considerable pretensions to a
decided outline. On the left our path sometimes approached
very near the river, the arable land being
here all at the opposite side. Ahead we saw the
mountains of the other bank tending away towards
the east, while the mountain on our side drew forward
and shut us in.
“Dendera,” said the Collector, “is just at the foot
of the foremost spur. Nearly opposite, on the eastern

side of the Nile, is Keneh. That break in the eastern
mountains, where they seem to dip below the desert
horizon, is the pass which leads from Keneh to Cosseir,
on the Red Sea. Formerly trade went to the
Red Sea from Coos. Previously, during the time of
the Pharaohs, it went from Gypt, or Coptos. They
lie side by side in the valley to the south of Keneh.
Soon you will see a row of whitewashed windmills
on a hill. Keneh is just below them.”
We were now once more on the black alluvial soil
and among the fields of beans and pease. The green
fields were full of life, swarming with herds, birds, and
children. Here a half-naked boy with a following of
little brothers and sisters, among whom one scanty
suit of clothes seemed to have been distributed, super-intended
the grazing of the family buffalo. There a
woman shrouded in blue, with an emaciated baby on
her shoulder, endeavoured to concentrate the attention
of her flock of sheep and goats upon one patch of
grass. The sheep were brown, the goats black, and
their human companions partook of both colours. A
causeway of earth heaped up from the flat fields on
both sides, wound among groves of lofty palms, and
under the shade of green tamarisks, whose foliage had
a soft feathery outline against the blue sky. A line of
laughing girls, each bearing on her head an enormous
earthen jar, caused us, with our donkeys, to draw
aside from the path for a moment. They drew their
hoods across their faces as they passed, but gazed at

us with unfeigned interest out of one black eye. Very
often the extemporised veil dropped and revealed a
brown, but not always ugly face, set off with necklaces
and earrings of coloured beads, and tattooed on chin
and forehead. A smiling mouth, and rows of magnificent
white teeth redeemed the otherwise expressionless
countenance, and our salute was returned politely
without any disturbance of the well-balanced water-jar.
It was evident we had reached the confines of
the Howara country, in which for days we had hardly
seen a woman's face, except that of a beggar.
At length, as one more heap of broken pottery was
surmounted, the temple came in sight. We resisted
long, but had to give in at last to the blandishments
of an old, but not venerable man, with one eye, who
seemed to have persuaded himself that he was the
authorised guide to the temple. It was better to
acquiesce, for he kept the others off; but his attentions
were not very troublesome. It needs no one to
point out the pylon, covered with life-sized kings and
gods, which gives admittance to a long, narrow passage
between modern brick walls, at the end of which
is the portico. Some great red bees have made this
pylon their own, and build little nests like thimbles
in every recess of the sculpture. They seem to use
the lime or sand from the stone, and burrow into its
surface, destroying all they touch. Cleopatra, whose
portrait at the back of the temple attracts many sightseers
to Dendera, is already pitted by them as if she

had suffered from small-pox, and soon there will be
few open-air sculptures left on the walls. Two of us
had seen the temple before, and we did not delay at
the pylon to spell out the memorials of such modern
monarchs as Domitian and Trajan. Roman emperors
are too recent to be of much account in Egypt.
At Dendera, though some of the emperors took
part in its completion, the Ptolemies are chiefly represented
on the temple walls; and, when we reached
the more ancient buildings at Thebes, we were able to
judge how little the later Egyptian style varied in the
thousands of years during which it prevailed. The
difference between Dendera and Karnac is not as
great as that between Westminster Abbey and St.
Paul's, yet a period of twelve centuries divides them.
At Dendera there is more symmetry perhaps than
at Karnac; there is more haste to erect a complete
temple, more regard to effect, and less to endurance.
The sculptures, too, have not the delicacy and, so to
speak, the sobriety of those on the older walls. Sometimes
the processions, the lines of trophies, the rows of
emblems, are arranged more with an eye to ornament,
and the walls are too distinctly divided by cornices
and dados. But the difference is not such as to prevent the later work from being a typical Egyptian
temple as much as the older one; a place in which
the arrangement may be studied with advantage,
and the features common to all alike traced out and
identified. The gloom of the interior, when once the

entrance with its four-and-twenty columns has been
passed, the vast size of the blocks of stone, the large
scale of all the architectural details, the simplicity of
the construction, and the lavish use of ornament, nowhere
prominent but everywhere present, are enough
to distinguish the style from that of any other country.
The portico itself is now underground. The ancient
city, made probably, like all Egyptian cities, chiefly of
crude brick, crumbled round the solid stone building;
and a second, an Arab town, rose on the ruinous
heaps, invading the sacred inclosure, and at length
climbing even over the temple itself. Such has been
the fate of Esneh and of Edfoo, as well as of Dendera,
and in each instance the temple, covered in and overlaid
by the mud huts of twenty centuries, has been
preserved until our own day. One of M. Mariette's
first antiquarian enterprises was to unearth Edfoo.
Esneh is still half buried in the midst of the modern
town. But at Dendera even the town has perished,
and only mounds, graves, and broken pottery remain
to tell of its having existed.
The columns, as we descended to the ancient level,
seemed to grow and expand, until, as we stood on
the floor in the half light, they rose like a gigantic
forest around us. As our eyes got accustomed to
the gloom we saw the images of old kings looking
down from the walls, everywhere praying to the
goddess, the beautiful Athor, who ruled the return of
the year and the rising of Sirius, to whom mortals

owed all that was true and loving and good, either in
earth or heaven. Here in the porch her priests
annually assembled from the dark chambers beyond,
and prepared to make their procession round the
outer court in the presence of the people. They
brought out the sacred barges from the sanctuary, the
banners and the standards from the store chambers,
the golden vases from the treasury, the shields and
halberds from the armoury. They threaded their way
among the dark passages and in single file up the narrow
stair to the little temple on the roof, where twelve
columns symbolised the twelve months, and where
sacrifice was done to the returning year. Next, passing
through the chamber where Isis wept for the dead
Osiris, they sang their long-drawn lament, exchanging
it at last into a hymn of joy as they passed
through the hall of the resurrection and descended the
stair once more. We peeped into the shrine in which
the emblem of the goddess was preserved, the golden
sistrum upon which only a king might look. We
clambered over the roof in the blazing sunshine, and
wondered how the priests could bear the heat of July
when in midwinter it was like this. We endeavoured
to make out the symbolism on the twelve columns of
Sothis, and to distinguish the chamber of Osiris dead
from that of Osiris alive again. We sought in vain
for the secret passages of which the guide-books tell,
for all the passages seemed to be more or less secret.
Then, as, weary of gazing, we sat down at the foot

of a pillar, we tried to realise the age of the
temple. It is modern, in Egypt. Yet was it not
begun before the dawn of history in that little island
of the north from which we have made our pilgrimage?
Ptolemy Auletes reigned in Egypt; Cæsar
was not yet born. And was it not finished during
that life from which we reckon our Christian centuries?
Tiberius was the master of Rome and Egypt
alike; England had not yet come into being. Yet
Dendera is modern.
We lunched under the pylon and then took
our way to the ferry. The green fields were pleasant
after the sandy desert, but not so a Fellah
village, a miserable heap of low mud walls, without
doors, roofs, or windows, but rising here and
there into a tall pigeon tower formed of crocks
embedded, tier over tier, in the mud wall. Fallen
houses were frequent, where pots, whole or broken,
lay half hidden in dust, and the wild dove flew
out, glancing in the sunshine as we passed. It
is a pretty bird, its colours bright and pleasing,
and though it “lies among the pots,” the appropriateness
of David's allusion is the more manifest.
Neither doves nor pigeons appear to be wholly
domesticated; the fellah seldom indulges in animal
food, but the passing tourist is at liberty to shoot for
himself the materials for a pie without the slightest
opposition. Close adjoining the village great mounds
of mingled earth and potsherds mark the site of the

ancient town, and present another example of the
form which Egyptian domestic ruins everywhere
take. The crude brick has crumbled away into
dry brown dust, and though stone and burnt brick
may in some places be concealed, digging among
such heaps seldom reveals anything to repay the
trouble of the task. The natives gather the mould
and sift or wash it for the nitre with which it is impregnated,
and great flat basins for evaporation are
near the mounds. They are part of a powder factory
which the Khedive has imposed on this part of the
country; and many naked Arabs on donkeys cantered
past with their panniers, or overtook us from
the ruins laden with the nitrous dust. One of them
stopped to offer some anteeka which he had found,
and whispered a sentence in which we only distinguished
“scarabee” and “backsheesh.” The donkeys
were now and then varied by a camel, who looked more
at home with his soft-cushioned feet, his noiseless
solemn tread, and the sneer which nature has imprinted
on his dry, dun-coloured face. He snarls like a dog
when his master touches him, and shows his formidable
teeth if the stranger comes too near. He is
ugly, cross, untameable, discontented, but to the
northern traveller at least, always interesting.
Far away, beyond the green fields, where the
stony heights come down in great buttresses to the
strip of sandy desert at their feet, we saw , while we
were on the roof, two or three young camels at home.

They trotted or even galloped through the burning
sunshine, chased each other for miles along the glowing
waste, throwing up behind them clouds of blinding
dust, till they looked like ghosts gliding through
a shadowless land. There is something strangely
fascinating about them—so unlike other animals,
yet so evidently suited to the country to which they
belong. Just as wild, but far less interesting, were
the dogs. In Upper Egypt at least, they are often
as fierce as they are hideous. In Cairo they are a
down-trodden race; but in the country they show
more independence. South of Thebes, indeed, they
are to a certain extent domesticated, and even as
low as Dendera they help to guard, if not to guide,
the flocks. Between them and the children there
is a kind of alliance. On the village dirt-heap both
sleep side by side in the shade of the same wall.
The same flies creep round the eyes of each, but of
the two the dog is the cleaner and the less disgusting.
At length, after half-an-hour's ride we reached
the bank. The baggage had gone before us, and
we expected as soon as we got to Keneh to find
our tents pitched and everything comfortable. Nor
were we disappointed. It took a long time to get
our donkeys into the ferry-boat, whose high sides
would puzzle even a hunter. William Rufus, when
once convinced that it was inevitable leaped in with
characteristic lightness. The others were lifted by the
fore-legs and their feet put over the bulwark. Next

their hinder parts were similarly hoisted by means of
the tail which must have been nearly pulled out in
the process. There was a moment of suspense, as the
unhappy donkey hung wavering across the gunwale,
but eventually all tumbled headlong in the right
direction, and only too soon we were landed at the
Sahil, or port of Keneh.
We found our tents at a place where the people
come to draw water from the wide canal which here
looks like the Nile itself. Overhead was one of the
magnificent lebbek trees which Turks have made so
rare in Egypt, and altogther the situation was well
chosen and pleasant, if a little too low and near the
water. When we asked why this spot had been
chosen we were told that it formed the modest patrimony
of our cook, who was a landed proprietor at
Keneh, though only a cook at Cairo: and he had
“personally conducted” our boys and baggage to
the spot.
We were not all very fond of the cook, though
he cooked well, but there was a little modest pride
about him at Keneh which was by no means displeasing.
When the inevitable governor came to
dine with us we made him acquainted with the fact.
He summoned the happy man into his presence, and
addressed to him a complimentary speech, upon
which our landlord struck an attitude and recited a
verse — just as they do in the Arabian Nights.
From this point on our journey governors and

other potentates were our lot and portion. They
all told the same tale about the famine. At Keneh
relief had been given to as many as 6,000 or more
at a time, for some weeks, but in this district things
had much improved: at least so said our informant,
and we hoped it was true. We certainly did not see
the same aspect of misery on the people's faces, and
it was only to be expected that the further we got
south the less we should see of famine. In this idea,
as it turned out, we were wholly wrong. The famine
was quite as bad a month later, and fifty miles further
south, at Erment. It is impossible not to put two
and two together, to argue post and propter, when
we remember that the largest sugar factory above
Farshoot is at Erment.

[Back to top]



KenehCoptos—Copts—“Backsheesh Keteer”—The Ruins of Gypt
—The Name of Egypt—A Lecture—Goos—Early to Bed—A
Rembrandtesque Effect.

THERE was not much to delay us at Keneh. Few
anteekas, and no sights are there, and the tent was
struck at an early hour next morning. We were
sorry to find that our road was to be all through the
lowlands. It was, however, as we pushed on, so
picturesque on both sides, and increased so fast in
antiquarian and historical interest, that our day was
very pleasantly spent, especially as neither at Gypt
nor at Goos did we see more than the average amount
of poverty to which the shortest stay in Egypt
familiarises a traveller. There was a pretty garden
on the left hand of our path for a long way, with
orange-trees, and even a few rose-bushes. This passed,

we descended to the river's edge, and stopped for a
few minutes in a little town where the weekly market
was being held. We bought a few bracelets and
scarabs, and the Collector found a glass coin or
weight, which pleased him very much. But the
Antiquary was anxious to press on, as he feared the
time allotted to Gypt would not be sufficient. The
Collector, who knew this district well, reassured him
on the point. He would find very little to delay
him, notwithstanding the paramount historical importance
of the place.
And so it proved. We stopped at Gypt for luncheon.
It stands on the edge of a wide canal. We
dismounted, after crossing an ancient bridge into
which a tablet of Ptolemaic date is built, and entered
the market-place. The “elders of Gypt” were
sitting in a kind of covered recess in a wall facing the
open place, smoking and chatting. Every second
person we saw seemed to be, as was only appropriate,
a Copt. We asked, as usual, for anteekas, but nothing
was brought, beyond a few coins and scarabs, one of
which, though it looked like a forgery, the Antiquary
bought. It must, if a cast, have been cast from an
older pattern, and was of interest as showing a
Christian Tau cross, supported by serpents.
After luncheon, which was much impeded by the
curiosity of inquisitive inhabitants, we set off to visit
the ruins. The “Arab” who conducted us announced
himself as a Christian. So did a boy who helped him

with his English. So did a beggar who followed in
our train. In short, whether from interested motives
or pride, from truth or falsehood, about two-thirds of
the people we met or spoke to professed the same
One of these Copts was very anxious to draw the
Collector aside and show him some remarkable
antiquities recently discovered. He was evidently
afraid any one should know where they were. At last
we arranged to separate. The Collector was to go
by himself with the Copt. His friends were to visit
the ruins. But as he disappeared towards a suburban
village, they perceived that half the crowd followed
him. It was evident that this arrangement would not
act, when a happy thought suddenly occurred to the
Scot. He sat down on a wall and loudly proclaimed
the immediate probability of a liberal distribution of
backsheesh. Fortunately his pocket was well-lined
with copper, and the first or second exhibition of a
coin worth three-quarters of a farthing reduced the
Collector's cortége to a couple of Copts.
The Antiquary and the Scot then proceeded, amid
vehement demands for more backsheesh, to an inspection
of the temple of Amen-Chem, or rather of the
few granite blocks bearing the name of Thothmes
III. which show its former situation, and the recently
uncovered pillars which indicate the existence of a
Christian church on the ancient site. Round the
whole precinct were the remains of a lofty brick wall,

which it was evident had for centuries formed a refuge
and free building ground to generation after generation
of Christians.
Amid this scene of utter ruin the Antiquary sat
down, and, time not being precious, held forth to a
congregation consisting of some fifty children, half-a-dozen
men loading donkeys with dust, and the Scot.
Gypt, he said, was to him the most interesting city in
Upper Egypt after Abood and This. What This was
to the ancient civilisation, Gypt was to the middle
monarchy. Here, facing the pass to the Red Sea, the
old monarchy was revived, and the glories of Thebes
were the direct offspring of the wealth of Gypt.
“But,” objected the Scot, “you surely do not mean
to derive the name of the whole country from that of
this wretched little place?”
“Seriously, I do. On this wise:— The old name
of Egypt—the country—was Ham, or Kam. You
cannot derive Egypt from Ham; neither can you
derive it from Misraim, the Hebrew name. Nor, I
conceive, does the derivation suggested by Signor
Maspero commend itself to your inner consciousness.
He makes it come from Mennefer.”
Memphis, do you mean?”
“Yes. Mennefer, or as Maspero spells it, Mannovver,
—the good place—was sacred to the god Ptah, who
gave it the holy name—for every Egyptian town had
its holy name—of haka-ptah, the dwelling of Ptah, and
of this, says Signor Maspero, the Greeks made Egypt.”


“I do not know anything about the words, but it
seems to me,” said the Scot, “twice as easy and much
more obvious to derive it from Gypt.”
“Yes. And there is nothing in Maspero's conjecture
to account for the existence and name of the Gypti
or Gypts, whom one meets not here in particular,
nor at Memphis, nor in Cairo, but everywhere from
Alexandria to Assooan.”
“Allowing the antecedent possibility of this derivation,”
asked the Scot, “can you account in any
way for the application of the name to all Egypt?”
“Yes, I think I can. You have only to look round
you to see the reason. There was a time in the affairs
of the old double kingdom of Kam when foreigners
held the Delta—”
“Oh! I know; the Hyksos, of course.”
“Not the Hyksos. No; long, many centuries,
before the Hyksos. I am speaking of the time after
the fall of the sixth dynasty, and before the rise of
the twelfth. The Hyksos were in Egypt under the
thirteenth dynasty. But after the sixth dynasty the
foreigners invaded the lower country, and the lawful
line, most of whom bore, it seems, the names of
Enentef, or Mentuhotep, reigned somewhere in this
region, being in very deed but princes or kinglets.
They seem, however, to have founded Thebes, as
the older kings of This had founded Memphis; and
the tombs of two or three of them have been opened
in the necropolis there. Gypt must have been their

chief town, or the chief town of several of them, for
they were many, perhaps as many as twenty, and in
troubled times they did not remain fixed in one place.
“Copt, or Gypt, then, was of importance on account
of its situation at the head of the valley
yonder. The foreigners in the Delta had shut up
the road to the Mediterranean, but while the kings
of Thebes held the Gyptian valley, they could get
out towards the Red Sea, and by this road the riches
of Arabia and India came to meet the still lingering
civilisation of Kam.
“Trade, in the course of centuries, made them rich.
Riches made them powerful. At length Mentuhotep
IV. arose. He is known also by two other names,
Ranebtavi, ‘the sun, the lord of the land,' and Nebkerra,
the title assigned to him on the Table of
Abood. He appears in many places, along this
valley, up at the cataract, in the graves of Thebes,
and his successor is known to have sent an armed
force to keep open this road.
“Thus it was that the old monarchy was identified
in the minds, not only of the dwellers in the Delta,
but also in those of the traders along the Red Sea
coast, with Gypt, and when, under the first kings of
the twelfth dynasty, a force which proceeded from this
upper region overcame and drove out the strangers, it
is no wonder that the newly-united kingdom became
known throughout the world by the name of this


“It strikes me,” said the Scot,” that you had better
leave off there. You will soon land yourself in the
maze if you go on to treat of the causes of Pelasgian
migration, of Phœnician settlements in the north and
west, of the influences of Egyptian learning on Athens
and Abraham, for I suppose the Pharaoh whom
Abraham visited was one of the kings of the Delta.”
Thus warned, the Antiquary stopped, reserving
some remarks on the worship of Amen till they
should be at Karnac.
At length the Collector appeared, but his face did
not wear that expression of quiet satisfaction which
betrayed a good find. Still hope remained, for a
Copt, who had passed us a few minutes before and
gone on along the road, was, it seemed, the owner,
or an emissary of the owner, of something “very
wonderful,” and only waited to get safe out of the
town in order to show the treasures he had for sale.
So we mounted and rode on.
We shortly overtook the Copt, and the Collector
waited behind with him. They conversed mysteriously
side by side for a long way, and when the
baggage came up we sent it on, and lingered ourselves
by the way. In the far distance behind us
we saw the Collector dismount and sit down under
a hillock with his companion. We were not unwilling
to delay. The donkeys, which had kept up
so bravely until now, began to exhibit plain signs
of fatigue. Why they should do so now, after two

comparatively easy days, we could not understand.
Even William showed his unquenchable vivacity only
by insisting on constantly creeping out of the road
to one side, and it took a whole drove of the most
attractive asses to extract from him more than a
pointing of the ears and a long-drawn sigh. We
did not know, till the end of the journey the next
day, what was the cause of this unwonted conduct.
Then we discovered, to our vexation, that owing to
the neglect of the donkey-boys, or to some cause
beyond their control, the poor brutes had, one after
the other, acquired galled withers; and it was a
shocking blister on one side that made our poor
William try to escape from his sufferings by going
to the other.
Presently our friend overtook us. His face still
wore an air of disappointment. The Copt either
would not, or could not, show anything except a
few beads and a little silver amulet of no value. “He
had nothing about him either,” added the Collector,
wearily, “for I insisted on patting him all over.”
We soon reached Goos, or Coos: and there, having
passed through a large but most desolate-looking
town, found our camp in a lovely grove of palms,
on clean, green grass; the table ready, and the
appetising fumes of a splendid dinner already scenting
the gale. But hot water was first the order of
the day. With a portion thereof we had each a
bath, and the residue made us a cup of tea.


Already we knew by certain clear indications that
we were approaching Luxor. One of these was the
increased price of the few anteekas we were offered
for sale, and another the constant presence, in
every string of beads, of the forged scarabs which
I have already described.1
1 See p. 146.
One Arab, or perhaps
Turk, for he affected European clothes, brought an
immense supply, several hundreds at least, and all
of them forgeries. We drove him away with such
open marks of ignominy that we were not much
troubled during the rest of the evening with what the
owners themselves knew to be false. I remember
very little after half-past eight, but awaking some
hours later saw the Collector still examining a
store of curiosities and two turbaned natives drinking
coffee and watching his expression with keen eyes.
The effect was Rembrandtesque in the extreme—
“Nicodemus,” or “Robbers dividing their spoils,”
—wonderful chiaroscuro,—but, nothing puts one
to sleep like staring at a candle.

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Shenhoor—A Martyr's Grave—A Mirage—A Sandstorm—The View
of Karnac—The Dedication of the Temple—Amen, Lord of Poont
—Hymn to Amen-Ra—Karnac, a Christian Church—The Obelisks
of Hatasoo—The Ride ended.


WE had not ridden many miles from Goos before
we entered the great circle of mountains which is
round about Thebes. Towards eleven o'clock we
reached a canal which seems to mark the corner
at which the river turns for its great bend past Keneh.
Northward of this point it runs towards the west—

southward, its, course is almost directly north. The
passage of the canal was found impossible till we
came down to the shore of the Nile, and even there,
though the mouth is very shallow to retain the water
after the inundation, the banks are so high that
we had to get off our donkeys and lead them over.
We now steered for Shenhoor, where the tall
minaret has been aptly compared to an Irish round
tower. These towers are common on the mosques of
the upper country, but this one, being the only tall
building in the neighbourhood; is very conspicuous,
It lies three miles or more from the Nile, and is little
visited by travellers, who in their upward voyage are
in a hurry to see Karnac, and on their return are
generally sick of temples. But the little temple of
Shenhoor, the “abode of Horus,” is worth a visit. It
is a mere miniature building, but wonderfully perfect.
It is not easy to understand how it escaped the
Christian iconoclasts of the fourth century, for a
Christian church, of which few remnants are now
visible, stood just in front. The Collector suggested
that it was because its precincts had been used as a
burial-place by the Christians, a theory borne out by
his discovery on the south wall of a little circular
wreath of laurel, which in his opinion marked the
grave of a martyr.
From the roof of the little temple, which bears in
many places the oval of Tiberius, we caught our first
eight of the great pylons of Karnac. They were

only visible to eyes that had seen them before, but a
few miles further the Scot, too, was able to descry
them, and then, indeed, under very surprising circumstances.
He had just observed to the Englishman that he
had not yet, since his coming to Egypt, seen a really
good mirage.
“The first time I came to Luxor,” he replied, “my
first view of Karnac showed it surrounded by an immense
lake in which the tall obelisk and the pylons
were reflected. As we came nearer, the lake seemed
to dry up before our very eyes, and we found it had
been a mirage.”
Hardly had he told us of it when we actually saw
the same vision, except that the water was a mere
strip, and there was no distinct reflection. I dare say,
owing to the low ground on the north side of Karnac,
such mirages are common enough when the hot wind
blows, and indeed no hotter wind ever blew than on
that very afternoon of the 23rd January.
It was, fortunately for us, the only very hot or
dusty day we had encountered on our long ride.
There had till then been always a cool wind to
temper the heat of the sun, and it was only from
about three o'clock till just before sunset that we had
ever found the heat oppressive. Indeed, during the
mornings up to ten or eleven, the wind was only too
cold, blowing as it did always from the north and on our
backs, which were often chilled, while the sun literally

ried our faces. Indeed the Irishman, whose native
climate had not accustomed him to much sunshine,
and who only wore a fez, or red felt cap, during the
ride, had been sunburnt to such an extent that at
sunset every day he had been obliged to wash his
bleeding face in milk, to mitigate the pain, and was
now riding into a civilised region and the society of
Europeans with the skin hanging in tatters from his
cheeks and forehead, while his nose presented the
appearance of an uncooked beef-steak.
These were among the worst annoyances of our
ride, for we were little troubled by flies, and not at all
by mosquitoes.
The saddle-bags, well stuffed out with clothes, were
by no means uncomfortable to ride upon, and a small
pillow, while it did not greatly add to the weight on
the donkey, was an occasional relief when blisters
were threatened.
But now, though the heat was greater than ever,
the sand made half the sky dark, and
“The sun's eye had a sickly glare.”
The pylons seemed to recede from us as we approached,
and when at length a turn of the road
concealed them for a few minutes, we had no idea we
were so close upon them. Then they burst on our
astonished gaze towering above our heads, and totally
dwarfing the minaret of a little mosque which
crouches at their feet.


In fact, this is the best side from which to approach
Karnac, as there is nothing for miles to obstruct the
view of the length of the great temple, except the
pylon of the smaller temple to the north, which only
serves, great as it is, to give the eye a measure for
the greater objects beyond. Far to the left is the
pylon of Nectanebo. Next, in the centre, rises the
great obelisk of Hatasoo looking pink and fresh
among all the ruins. To the right is the smaller
obelisk, almost concealed by the mighty mass of the
Hall of Columns, A long interval, marked only by
the solitary standing pillar of Psamtik, intervenes
between it and the unfinished but enormous pylons
of Ptolemy.
“I should like to ask,” said the Scot, with some
hesitation, “that is to say, I have forgotten, to what
deity this great temple is dedicated.”
“To Amen,” answered the Collector, promptly.
“Sir,” said the Antiquary, with great solemnity,
and in a dogmatic tone, “there is not a temple dedicated
to Amen in Egypt.”
This statement seemed to surprise his companions,
and though he at once went on to explain, I do not
undertake to promise for either of them that the long
lecture he delivered made nearly as much impression
on them as its text.
In effect his views were much as follows, and were
repeated when, a few days later, the Scot and he,
in company with a charming little party of very

inquiring Americans, revisited Karnac, and sat for an
hour on the top of the northern pylon; looking across
the Nile towards the Theban mountains, and endeavouring
by the golden light of a glorious sunset to
fill the middle distance with the buildings of a mighty
city, and to picture the procession of a king's funeral
crossing the blue river and winding on its way to the
narrow Valley of the Shadow of Death, whose rocky
gate they could but just make out on the face of the
yellow cliff beyond:—
The word Amen means the Concealed. His name
was never pronounced. We do not even know what
it was. In this respect it reminds us of the Hebrew
name of God. Amen entered into the composition
of the word Amenti, the under world, long ages
before it was used to designate the Invisible God by
the Egyptians of the eleventh and subsequent dynasties.
We meet with it in the Boolak Museum on
monuments, which may be as early as the eleventh
dynasty, in the name of Amenemhat; and in the
tablet (No. 44) which contains the epitaph of Enentef,
a dignitary of the court under first Osirtasen, where
his son is mentioned as Ameni. The same was also
the name of a lady, the mother of Ra-Kheper-Ka,
another courtier of this period. It also forms part of
the name, Amenemhat, of the occupant of the first
tomb at Beni Hassan, who had probably been called
after the founder of the twelfth dynasty. The worship
of Amen must have come in under the later kings of

the eleventh dynasty, but is not mentioned at all in
many stelas and other inscriptions of a long subsequent
How did this new religion—for it is nothing less—
of Amen come into Egypt, and why did it assume
such importance? There can be no doubt it came
from beyond the sea, because Amen, when he is referred
to alone, is often styled Lord of Poont. Poont,
as Brugsch has almost proved, is the opposite coast
of Arabia. It was, after this time, looked upon as a
holy land by the Egyptians, the land whence all
things good and sacred came. The road through the
hills from Gypt, along the valley of Hamamat, is
full of votive inscriptions, and the merchant princes of
the Thebaid, who prayed to the protector, the great
god Chem, Lord of Copt, recorded their vows on
the rocks in their outward journey. Perhaps it was
on their return that they first united with it the name
of Amen. Before the end of the twelfth dynasty
it had become customary throughout Egypt to acknowledge
the supremacy of the “hidden God,”
and all the old deities of the land were one by one
reckoned as his representatives, and, so to speak, as
incarnations or manifestations of the attributes of
From Poont also came his satellite Bes, whom
the Greeks and Romans identified, perhaps rightly,
with Bacchus, and in later times the hideous images
of Ptah, as a hydrocephalic infant, were often

confounded with those of the more mature, but not
less hideous Bes. But in his higher character Ptah
was sometimes called the father of Amen, and
often Amen-Ptah, just as we read of Amen-Ra,
Amen-Chem, Amen-Noom, and even Amen-Asar,
or Osiris, and Amen-Hor, or Horus.
Among all these forms of Amen, or visible attributes
of Amen, that of Amen-Ra, or Amen the sun,
is so usually supreme, that almost all modern writers
on the mythology of Egypt have treated this combination
as if it meant Amen alone. But, though
Karnac contains many representations of the god,
it is rather to Amen-Chem, the first of these unions,
that we must assign the dedication of the temple.
In this form, the most offensive to modern eyes, he is
sculptured, not only on every pillar of Seti's mighty
hall, but on every stone of the granite sanctuary.
Sometimes the so-called great triad of Thebes consists
of Amen-Ra, Maut, the universal Mother, and
Khons. Sometimes Amen is united with Noom, the
ram-headed local god, and under this form, which the
Greeks and Romans chiefly affected, he was identified
as Jupiter Ammon. It was in honour of Amen
Noom that Darius built the temple of Kargeh in
the great oasis, but there as in all the temples, Amen
is alternately joined with numberless other and, so
far, secondary deities. The fable which made Alexander
claim Zeus for his father further led, through
this god of the Egyptians, to the production of the

horns on the head of that king as shown on his well-known
In the smaller temples which surround the central
building at Karnac, Amen was worshipped in one
of the subsidiary forms, and to the veneration of
Knoom in particular the ram-headed sphinxes on
either side of the avenue to Luxor must be ascribed.
Some have endeavoured to see in this cult of the
Hidden God a proof that the “Ancient Egyptians”
had ideas of monotheism; others have considered it
indicative of their pantheism. I do not attempt to
decide, because I have not been able, apart from the
intrinsic difficulties of the question to discover what
these writers and others mean by the term, so often
loosely used, of “Ancient Egyptians.”
Certain it is that Amen is never worshipped alone;
that he was generally unknown in Egypt before the
time of the twelfth dynasty, when every district had
its own god, and also honoured Osiris; and that,
though the introduction of his name shows a foreign
influence—a reforming influence if you will—from without,
the religion of the ordinary native was originally
a fetish worship of some animal, and the new ideal
was very soon so debased through its influence that
the theology of the later Rameses and Ptolemies rose
no higher towards a monotheistic creed than that of
the Ancient Monarchy of the pyramid-builders.
In the magnificent hymn to Amen-Ra which Mr.
Goodwin contributed to the second volume of the

Records of the Past, and which must be as old as the
nineteenth dynasty, he is addressed alternately as the
sun (Ra), the bull of An (Heliopolis), the chief in
Thebes, the Prince of Poont, the chief of all the gods,
the son of Ptah; as Chem, as Cheper-Ra, as Toom, as
Horus, and as the ruler of men.
“Whose name is hidden from his creatures
In his name, which is Amen.”
The Scot and the Antiquary lunched very uncomfortably,
in a shower of blinding sand, just within the
pylons of Karnac. The wind fell a little before
long and they made a short tour round the principal
features of interest. Though the Irishman had often
“done” the temple before, he had never till to-day
observed marks, in what may be called the transept
of Thothmes, of its having been once a Christian
church. The columns bear in several places the
figures of old saints, and on two are grooves made
evidently for the insertion of a movable screen.
Though it is not easy at first to make out the paintings,
mixed up as are the features of the saints with
the hieroglyphs of older but more permanent workmanship,
when you have once caught sight of them
they seem to haunt you, and peep out from all kinds
of unexpected places.
After the Hall of Columns, the Scot was, I think
most impressed with the fallen obelisk of Hatasoo.
It is much more possible to judge of the size of the

standing obelisk by looking at the broken fragments,
for even the thin taper top is so wide that a man of six
feet high cannot reach from corner to corner of one
side. The inscription appears to have been identical
on both obelisks, which careful measurements show to
have been as nearly as possible of the same size.
Hatasoo erected them to the memory of her father,
Thothmes I., whom she seems to identify with
“The mistress of both crowns,
The good and great,
The female Hor,
The godhead of the diadems,
The queen and mistress of both worlds,
Ra ma Ka (the Sun, the living image of Justice)
Has erected this
As her monument
To her father Amen,
The lord of the thrones of the world:
She has set up for him
Two great obelisks
Before the beautiful pylon
Of Amen-Noom the Great.
Adorned with pure gold,
Thickly and plenteously:
She has enlightened Egypt,
Even as the sunshine.
Never the like
Has a ruler done
As she has done:
She the Son (sic) of the Sun,
Amen-Knoom-t Hatasoo
The dispenser of Life.”


On the other side she is more explicit:—
“The beloved of Amen Ra,
Her majesty has caused to be set
The name of her father
On this monument,
Which is the greater because it bears the praise
Of the king, the lord of the two Lands,
This is the throne name of Thothmes I., and
seems to mean “The likeness of the Sun, the
Creator.” The inscription on the base contains particulars
of the removal from Syene, which occupied
seven months, and from certain expressions leads us
to infer that the whole monolith was covered with
At length we turned to continue our way to Luxor.
Strange to say at the entering in of the Hall of
Columns we met the beauty and her husband, but
mindful perhaps of our refusal to receive the courier
on that memorable occasion, the lovely eyes were cast
down as we passed, and we were neither permitted
to bask in the sunshine of her smile, nor to receive
any recognition from her satellites.
I am afraid, to tell the truth, we did not know
the faces of our acquaintances till they were past, for
we were both anxious, though we had lingered in
Karnac, to reach Luxor, and see our friends and
receive our letters as soon as possible. But it seemed
a little strange not so much as to speak with the
first Europeans we had seen for two hundred miles.


Refreshed by the two hours' rest in the temple, our
donkeys were able to enter Luxor at a trot without
the ignominious stimulant of a thrashing, and we
were glad to find that the Collector, who had gone on
while we were lunching, had the tent already pitched
in a charming palm grove behind the new hotel,
well away from the town, and commanding a lovely
view of the three peaks of the eastern mountain.
Our ride had taken eight days, the actual distance
by river being two hundred miles and a half: so that
our daily average was about twenty-five miles, for
of course what we made in avoiding bends, we
lost by excursions like that to Abood.


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Dwelling in Tents—Native Society—Poets—Music—An Arabian Night
—The Remains of the 18th and 19th Dynasties—Bulls' Eyes—A
Fright at Dinner—Hiring a Boat—Death at the Hotel—A Funeral
—The Copt Church—The Cemetery.


I HAVE no intention of prolonging a detailed
diurnal of our eight days' stay at Luxor. We found
many people there whom we knew, in the hotel or
on board the steamers and dahabeeahs which were
constantly coming and going on the way up and
down the river, and in their company we “did”
the regular sights.
The chief excursions from Luxor, to Medinet
Aboo, the tombs of the kings, and Karnac, have all
been so well and so often described that I need
say little about them. We joined Cook's party
on more than one occasion and found old friends
among them: we dined with the native big-wigs and

little wigs; we entertained on our own account, for
everybody was anxious to inspect our tents and taste
even for a few hours of camp life: we bought
anteekas real and spurious: in short, we enjoyed
Luxor to a considerable extent, and should have
enjoyed it much more but for a mournful event which
occurred just at the end of our stay.
The native society amused us most, though we did
not take readily to eating with our fingers. At one
of these dinners we had an effendi present who passed
for a wit among his fellows. He showed his talent
by reciting a verse at the shortest notice, and considering
how easy verse-making is in Arabic purchased
his reputation very cheaply. On being asked for a
sentiment referring to us he replied at once,—
“One night when guests of honour are present is
in value better than a thousand.”
This remarkable intellectual effort certainly received
all the applause it merited. The Collector remembered
on one occasion that a great man had bidden
him, and “sent his servant at supper-time” to make
an announcement in the following terms:—
“The marriage has been celebrated, the feast is
ready, and we only wait for the rising of the full
We had many examples of Arabic poetry on our
journey very superior to these, and sometimes endeavoured
to translate them, but with indifferent success.
The point was usually very small. Our sailors, on the

way down, had a favourite song, which never failed to
encourage them during the fatigues of a hard day's
rowing. The whole “argument” was this, “A son
said to his father, ‘Get me the little white girl in marriage,
or I will go and enlist in the army.'” This not
very complicated story was so spun out with choruses
and other embellishments, many of them extempore,
as to last nearly an hour.
In Cairo, one day, during the Moolid e' Nebi, I
remember stopping to listen to an improvising singer,
and was much amused to hear him at once make up
a verse in honour or in derision, I was not sure which,
of El howaga: it was rapturously received by the
rest of the audience, and the refrain was chanted
with great vigour at short intervals until I retired.
The strange wild music of the Nile is like nothing
else I know, but every man, woman, and child seems to
have a natural gift, and you hear what we should call
glees and catches sung without difficulty—always in
admirable time, but as to tune, I, for one, do not feel
myself entitled to speak. I doubt, indeed, if any
European can learn the Egyptian gamut by ear, but it
has its merits, and is unquestionably preferable to
the best attempts made by one of the Khedive's
bands in the Esbekeeyah Gardens, to play Italian
opera music.
Men working at a shadoof have a beautiful wild
cadence, a single strain, ending in a trill, which is
more like the song of a bird than any human music.

It seems universal in Upper Egypt: but I heard it
best executed on the river-path between Karnac and
Luxor, and at Assouan, a little below the town. I
recommend any traveller who wishes for a new sensation
in music to listen for it. What an effect
such a song, delivered with the full lung power of a
bronze-like Hercules of the shadoof, would make at
a Monday Pop, especially if the singer wore his work-a-day
costume, that is to say, nothing!
A more scientific musician was Aboo Roayha,
whom we heard at Mustafa Aga's house at Luxor.
I suppose he is the fiddler whose performance is so
well described by Miss Edwards (Chap. 21). No
Paganini could have had more complete mastery
over his instrument, and we could but imagine
what he might have done on a Stradivarius.
Allowing for the difference of gamut, which makes
all Arab music sound at first strange and discordant
to English ears, nothing could be more moving than
the strains which came from under his bow. He
held his head on one side, his eyes half shut as he
played, a smile of triumph on his lips, while his distended
nostrils alone betrayed the emotions which his
own playing awakened in his soul. He had an assistant
or pupil, who sat behind him and kept time—
Arab music, even in the wildest passages, allows for
no “ad libitum” —while his chief went through all his
wonderful repertory of shakes and trills, single string
and double string performances, now breaking into

the most delicious melody, then into discords of
startling horror, then into slow dances or marches,
which made the hearer nod his head involuntarily,
and then pulling up suddenly, as if without knowing
it himself—all without any book or any guide but his
own wonderful power of memory, or of impromptu
One night, on our voyage down, we pitched our tent
on the bank where the crews of a number of country
boats were bivouacking, and I was much interested in
listening to a different kind of entertainment. A story-teller,
who went on into the small hours, was holding
forth to his audience round a fire, close to where, within
our canvas walls, my bed was set. The story broke
off at short intervals with a kind of refrain. I could
not understand much, but the whole point seemed
to consist in always ending the paragraph or the
passage with the same sentence. The effect was
marvellous. Sometimes the sentence would come
twice in succession after a short interval; then it
would be delayed till you thought it would never
come; but come it always did, and the more unexpectedly,
the more the audience laughed. The story,
so far as I could make out, was of the regular
Arabian Nights' type,—there was a barber and a
Caliph, and a man who remonstrated with his mother,
and a moon-faced lady, and a little casket. The
refrain had very much the effect which I have heard
produced by a preacher who works his text in

different senses and aspects, into every paragraph of
his sermon.
At this, my third visit to Thebes, I confess I took
but little interest in the remains of the architecture of
the nineteenth and twentieth dynasties. It is strange
but true, that we do not know so much about the
home life of the people of this perfectly historical
period as we do about that of the infinitely remote
and, so to speak, prehistoric, or at any rate, pre-chronological,
time of the Ancient Monarchy. The calm
blue or green gods, the king presenting his censer
with the same shooter's gesture, the stiff formal
drawing of features and limbs, the oppressive heaviness
of the massive lintel and doorpost style, did not
please me. “When you have seen one temple you
have seen all,” so people constantly say, and there is
much truth in the saying.
On the other hand, there is much of interest in the
historical narratives which sometimes occur, in the
names of old kings, in the enumerations of the royal
family, in the occasional poems, in the lists of conquered
countries. I sought out the record of Shishak's
campaign in Palestine, and copied the cartouche of
Judah-Merek or Melek; I gazed long at the great
Colossus—not Memnon, whose figure is a restoration,
but the mighty monolith beside it; I climbed into
an upper chamber at Medinet Aboo to see Rameses
playing with his daughters; but to me, the blue sky,
the clear air, the green fields, the yellow hills, the

shining Nile were more attractive than anything
art has to show at Thebes.
There is nothing so wonderful in the buildings
at Thebes, that a greater wonder does not exist
among the far older remains near Memphis. There
is nothing so beautiful among the sculptures in the
kings' tombs or at Karnac, that is not far exceeded
by the reliefs in the tomb of Thy at Sakkara.
There is nothing so ancient and mysterious as
the pyramid of Maydoom, and no goddess whom
Thothmes or Seti worshipped can compare with
the lovely Nefert.
Such are the grumblings of a disappointed and
wearied sight-seer, yet it must not be supposed we
had not a very pleasant visit to Luxor. One of the
party would start off for a quiet hour among the
anteekas, and would bargain over alabastar jars and
tiny scarabs through a whole morning, now and then
turning up a prize, and as often wasting his time.
Or another would be missing and eventually traced
into the stern gallery of the steamer, a spot pervaded
by the presence of fair Americans. Or afternoon
tea and curiosities at the door of our tents would
bring pleasant visitors into the palm-grove.
One of the few nights we dined at home alone
we were near coming “to utter and irreparable
smash.” While we were sitting at table, the door
open for coolness, though the night was intensely
dark, one of us saw what appeared to be two bull's

eyes turned on him from without. Immediately the
tent shook, the tent-pole seemed to hop up and
down on the ground, and the earth beneath us
quaked as if a volcano was about to open in Said's
“Gamoos! gamoos!” shouted Hassan from the
exterior, and immediately the mystery was solved.
A buffalo had been attracted by the light to look
in at our door. The sight of three men with knives
in their hands, gnashing their teeth, was too much for
his nerves, and forgetting the tent ropes he scampered
off. He very nearly pulled the tent down on our
heads, but when the guards had been well scolded,
and the ropes tightened, we sat down afresh, provided
with a subject sufficient for one night's laughter.
So passed a week and we began to prepare for
our return. Hassan knew a man who had a boat,
and one day when we went across to the other side
we happened to praise the vessel which took us over.
This was the very boat which we were offered—but
whether because we had praised it, or because it
was the very thing we wanted, or for some other
reason equally good, the friend of Hassan put such
a price on it that we refused even to make him
an offer. Meanwhile the conditions were altered
by the secession of the Scot. He had come with
us—indeed he had come to Egypt—to visit a friend
who was among the invalids now staying at the
hotel; and poor A., when it came to arranging

for our departure, seemed to cling to him, and to
be anxious he should stay a little longer.
A. was a well known literary man, and the friend
of us all three, but especially of our Scot, who had
known him intimately for many years. Here at
Luxor A. had hoped to get rid of an aguish fever
which had hung about him for many months and
had greatly added to the weakness induced already
by delicate lungs. But those of us who had seen
him but a short time before at the Hotel du Nil,
in Cairo, were shocked at his appearance and the
evident increase of his illness, and when the Scot
announced his intention of remaining with him, we
could not believe it would be for long, The end
was evidently approaching with rapidity, but we
had no idea it would come so soon.
Meanwhile, a smaller boat was found. The reis
was an honest-looking man, and his boat was beautifully
clean. It was certainly small—just thirty feet
from rudder to bow—and had only a kind of little
half-deck at the stern, and another forward for the
rowers. In the centre, I should say amidships, it was
undecked. In this part we installed our cuisine; on
the half-deck aft we fitted a low awning like a gipsy
tent, and placed our table in front of the half-deck,
so that we could sit at it, and keep the covered space
in which we spread our rugs for a divan.
At last, on the 1st February, our tents were struck,
packed, and carried down to the boat, with the beds

and our luggage, except that of the Scot, which was
sent to the hotel. The evening before, we had bidden
poor A. farewell, little thinking we should ever see
him again. He talked happily enough of an expedition
to Beyroot in the summer, and, concealing our
misgivings, we encouraged the idea, and helped to
make plans we never hoped to carry out. The three
travellers dined together for the last time, and endeavoured
to be as cheerful as they could under the
circumstances; but they were not destined to part
after all.
In the morning, after everything had been sent on
board, we returned to the hotel, partly to inquire for
poor A., partly to bring the Scot down to the shore
to see us off. As we were still lingering in the porch,
A.'s servant came down with a pale face. His master
was breathing very hard, he said, and did not seem to
recognise him. We ascended to his chamber, and
summoned the doctor in haste. But there was nothing
to be done. The rays of the morning sun entered
the open window, but the darkness of death had
already shadowed our friend's face.
We had little time to give way to sorrow. In that
southern land burial follows death within a few hours,
and before many of the sojourners in the hotel knew
he was gone, they were summoned to attend his
In the midst of the sunshine, under the trees of the
garden, two carpenters worked all morning at a huge

box, and the gay tourists who came and went did not
know that they were making a coffin. A. had died
at a quarter before nine. By half-past three all was
prepared, and we wrapped him in his plaid and laid
him reverently to rest. The landlady covered the
coffin with a white sheet on which wreaths of lovely
flowers had been arranged, and four stout Arabs took
up the light burden, followed by his three friends and
many of those who, but the day before, had conversed
with him as he reclined in his chair on the shady side
of the terrace.
The Coptic church at Luxor is a quaint building
entered from a narrow lane by a court, over the door
of which is a wooden cross. It has five aisles,
supported by pillars, and the apse is shut off by a
beautiful screen of carved woodwork, over which
hang an old “gold-ground” picture of two saints,
and a modern German lithograph of the Holy
Family. The body was borne into the sanctuary;
and while a kind clergyman from the hotel read the
solemn English service, the Coptic priest and his
assistants swung the censer round the coffin, and
stuck long candles at the four corners. The scene
was strange but very impressive, and tears were not
wanting among those who stood amid the shadows
of the dimly-lighted church.
We next took our sad way through the outskirts
of the town to the summit of a little knoll on the
road towards Karnac, whose colossal pylons and lofty

pillars were visible through the groves of palms.
Here is a little enclosure in which rest the bones of
those few English people who have died at Luxor.
In one corner was a vacant space, and here the grave
was dug, and when the last words had been said and
the last blessing pronounced, we left the body of our
friend departed in charge of the priests and officers of
the old Jacobite church.
The sun began to set as the last rites were finished,
and we returned sadly to the town. We made our
acknowledgments to the Coptic community at the
house of a native gentleman, and were gratified by
the sympathetic kindness with which the old priest
received our thanks. There was much to be done
and many letters to be written, and I was not sorry
when one of the most melancholy days I had ever
spent had come to an end.


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The Voyage to Sioot—The Famine District Again—Belianeh—A
Hospitable Sheykh—A Concert—Sioot.


THE Scot prepared to accompany his friends in their
little boat, and before day had dawned we were
ready to start, and saw our last sight of the Theban
mountains, “the Colossus, the Temples, and the lonely
hillock on the road to Karnac, by the time the sun
had fairly risen.
Of our voyage, which lasted eight days, there
might be much to tell, but the daily routine wanted
all elements of adventure. We slept that night at
Bellaseh, where the goolas, so universally used in
Egypt, are chiefly made. Here, as one of us remarked,
“we lay among the pots,” our tent being

pitched on the bank beside the heaps of jars, close to
the river, in a grove of magnificent palms. The
great jars of porous earthenware which were around
us are known all over Egypt as ballases. Query, has
our word ballast any connection with ballas? A ballas
is so called even in Alexandria. The bank here
was crowded with boats loading, and great stacks of
earthen jars. The moon, which had denied us her
countenance in our ride, was now in wonderful beauty
and radiance, and before turning in we had a walk
among the corn-fields and the palms, and so made up
for a day chiefly spent, except for an hour in the
market-place at Goos, in lying under the awning and
talking of our friend who was gone. It seemed so
strange—alive, intelligent as usual, full of interest in
our journey, questioning us as to what we had seen,
listening to our historical speculations, criticising our
views, forming plans for the summer, and within
twenty-four hours dead and buried! Some one remembered
and applied Mrs. Browning's lines—
“Just so young but yesternight,
Now he is as old as death.
He has seen the mystery hid
Under Egypt's pyramid:
By those eyelids pale and close,
Now he knows what Rhamses knows.”
By degrees, as the pink peaks of the Thebaid
faded from our view in the sunshine, and as turn after
turn of the river brought us once more to the table;

topped cliffs of Lower Egypt, the melancholy yielded,
and our minds recovered from the shock. But the
gloom cast over our recollections of Luxor will be
We were already, back in the famine district, or,
rather, it had crept further up the river. A little
later the relief, sent more than two months too late
by the government of Mr. Wilson, opened funds at
various places, including Luxor, and a short notice of
what was done there will be found among the letters
I have collected in the Appendix.1
1 See p. 378.
I have also placed there the descriptions of several
eye-witnesses, all of whom are known to me, and for
fairness' sake, the two very uncourteous replies,—the
only attempts at reply, indeed, which were made,—
by Mr. Wilson and Hamam Effendi.
It is hardly worth while now to show the fallacy
of either of these replies, as our reports are more
than justified by Professor Robertson Smith, by the
Times' own correspondent, and by the “trustworthy
informant.” But it may be well to observe that
Hammam Effendi does not mention the source from
which we derived our information: so that his letter
is beside the mark, and I can only suppose it refers
to events which took place after our visit. There is,
of course, an alternative interpretation.
Mr. Wilson's letter betrays a curious ignorance of
the state of the country he was supposed to govern.

But I will only notice here one sentence of it:—” Two
months ago
the government despatched two Englishmen
with carte blanche,” &c.
Unfortunately for this statement I can refer to an
article written in the best-known London weekly
paper in March, 1878, that is to say, twelve months
before the date of Mr. Wilson's letter. In the course
of that article mention is made of the belief prevalent
among all travellers in Upper Egypt during the
winter of 1877—78, that an extraordinary Nile must
result in a famine. It seems that what was visible to
any inquiring tourist was invisible to the government
of Mr. Wilson. Relief sent in the end of January
was at least three months too late.
But there is no use in going back through a
long series of mistakes and crimes to find first causes.
The first cause of the famine is the excessive
taxation: and though the famine itself was foreseen
a year before, no effort was made by the government
to anticipate the effects of a scarcity by any form of
relief. The effort made by Mr. Wilson in January,
1879, to send money, was no doubt praiseworthy, and
if he had not by his letter to the Times endeavoured
to make out that it was sufficiently early, I should
have nothing but praise to bestow on it. Unfortunately,
it is only on that account another example
of the failure he everywhere evinced to see the
true position of affairs in Egypt.
It was at Belianeh on the 5th February that we

saw the most miserable assembly of starving people.
Their aspect is fully described in some of the letters
I print in the Appendix (see p. 371), and I will now
but too willingly quit a most disagreeable part of my
subject, and briefly detail a few impressions of what,
but for these distressing sights, would have been a
most delightful voyage.
Though every day of our ride from Sioot to Luxor
is clearly impressed on my memory, I have but an
indistinct recollection of the events of the return
voyage. I remember long days of sunshine on the
river, days when we glided along with the stream
under tall cliffs of white limestone, marked here and
there with the square-headed doorways of ancient
tombs; or, while the crew sang their quaint love-songs,
swept past the high brown banks, watching the
patient labours of the shadoof, under the mounds of
old towns where low mud hovels clustered round
white minarets, and where blue-robed women in
long procession came to draw water in their tall
earthen jars. I remember evenings when we saw
the moon rise over the eastern mountains, gleaming
from behind some distant peak as if a volcano
had broken out, and gradually developing into a
glorious disk, shining with a radiance unknown
except in the clear dry air of Egypt. I remember
mornings when we watched the moon set behind the
western palm-groves while the sun rose above the
cliffs of the opposite shore and dispelled the white

mist which had hung about the dawn. We lay under
our awning and read: we studied the history and
the hieroglyphs of old Kam, or tried our scanty
Arabic in conversations with the sailors, or wrote
letters announcing our speedy return to Cairo.
Sometimes at a bend of the river we landed and
walked across to rejoin the boat through fields
already whitening to the first harvest of the year, and
lost our way among intersecting canals, or drank coffee
on the benches of rural villages, or ferreted out goldsmiths
and dyers among the Coptic quarters of larger
towns. Strange anteekas were brought to us,—broken
European candlesticks, very rare and fine, according
to the owners—a silver pencil-case in one place, a yard
measure in another. Sometimes a great steamer
would pass, puffing and rattling, sometimes a dahabeyah
in full sail before the wind, sometimes a fleet
of country boats on their way to market.
We pitched successively at Geseeret e' Shendoweel,
where we were alarmed in the night by the fall of
a portion of the bank close to the tent; at Michaela,
whose name preserves the memory of the archangel
of the Christians; and one night in a little
village on the eastern bank whose name I cannot
recall, but it seemed by its length out of all proportion
to a minute assemblage of about a dozen
houses. Here, as it was blowing hard, we availed
ourselves of the hospitality of the sheykh, placing the
tent in his court-yard for shelter: and returned his'

courtesy by a grand instrumental concert on the
musical box. I well remember the looks of awe with
which the brown faces beamed as one after another
each man present was allowed to hold it to his ear for
a moment, and the interminable hand-shakings which
marked the conclusion of the performance.

On the morning of the 8th February Sioot was in
sight, and before mid-day our voyage was over. We
felt quite at home in the old town, and had a hearty
welcome from our donkey boys who had made their
return journey in safety in five days. They must
have hurried the unloaded donkeys home at a
tremendous pace, but with the moon to light them
they were probably able in the night to make forced
marches, impossible for us. We sent our tents and
baggage to the railway station and roamed about the
bazaars till bed-time. The Scot adventured his body

in the public bath, but the Antiquary contented
himself with a survey of the curious old dome
supported on great granite pillars which may once
have formed the chief ornaments of a temple of Hapi,
the wolf-headed guardian of highways and the local
divinity of the ancient Sioot.
There was little sleep to be had in the well-peopled
beds of the Greek lodging-house: and we rose
with the dawn for a last packing up, before we betook
ourselves to the platform and commenced our
last day's journey.


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THE first letter was written on our return, and appeared on
the 13th March. It was pointedly referred to and confirmed
by two members of Parliament in the House of Commons
the following evening:—

To the Editor of the Times


—Having just returned from an excursion through
the Said from Siout to Luxor, I venture to ask your leave to
call the attention of your readers to the awful state of distress
in which we found the people. I cannot help thinking
that since it is by the encouragement that lenders in England
have given to the Khedive to spend the bread-money of his
unhappy people on distant wars and private extravagance,
it will be but fair that they should have an opportunity, if
they desire it, of doing something to alleviate the misery
they have not very indirectly caused. We rode on donkeys
200 miles through the more remote districts. Everywhere
the most heartrending state of poverty was revealed. Taxation
having taken from the Arab every reserve he may have

saved in years of comparative prosperity, the failure of the
dourra crop, through the excessive inundation of this year,
deprived him of any possible means of subsistence. Near
the sugar factories the famine was proportionately greater,
as the drain upon the resources of the people is, of course,
heavier where a large area of land has been seized for a
crop which returns nothing to the actual cultivator, and
where forced labour in the fields and factory deprives the
peasant of his most valuable time. It was sad, in the midst
of so much want, to see men driven with whips to labour
for the English bondholder, while the fields were lying untilled,
and the repeated asseverations of the French superintendent
that “every man was paid once a month in silver”
only showed by his vehement emphasis that such payment
was a new and remarkable feature. In the town of How
we saw men actually die in the street; but the skeleton
children were the most shocking sight. When children are
reduced to skin and bone, the famine must indeed be sore
in the land. In one place we saw a boy gnawing the husks
of sugar-cane left in the fields. At every village the cry of
the mourners was heard as we passed. No pen can describe
the condition of the crowd which used every day to assemble
as we took our luncheon on the roadside. Our very
crumbs and the oil of our sardines were greedily seized.
At Dendera we reached the river's bank and crossed to
Keneh. We were much impressed at the sight of a passing
steamer belonging to the Khedive, which looked to our
eyes glaringly and ostentatiously magnificent after the scenes
we had witnessed among his Highness's subjects. We
were told that two Englishmen were on board. ‘No doubt,'
we remarked, ‘they will survey the country through an
opera-glass and return thinking they know all about it.' At
Keneh we found the worst of the distress was over; but a

few weeks before a kind-hearted native gentleman whose
name I dare not mention, fed as many as 7,000 starving
persons for some days. We heard in several places of
similar acts of charity; and, but that I am afraid of involving
any of my informants in unpleasantness with the
authorities, I could give chapter and verse for many particulars
of the famine to which I can only allude. At one place
the Cook's tourists fed 1,000 people with bread. The first
news we heard when we reached Luxor was that the
Viceroy had given a magnificent entertainment to the
Europeans at Cairo. It is of course but right that money
should be spent in Cairo, but the account of these festivities
jarred unpleasantly on our feelings after the scenes
we had witnessed during the past eight days. We next
heard that the Khedive had sent two Englishmen to investigate
the reports of the distress, and a few days later
came the news that they had reported ‘the accounts of the
distress in Upper Egypt are greatly exaggerated.'
“I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

“W. J. L.

“CAIRO, EGYPT, February 27.
“P.S. I have just heard, on unquestionable authority, that
the two Englishmen sent to report on the famine were on
board the steamer which passed us at Dendera.”

I must refer to p. 378, for some remarks explanatory of
the reference in this postscript.
On the 26th March the following letter was published.
It was headed “From a Correspondent.” I have reason to
know that the writer accompanied Professor Robertson
Smith, whose account therefore repeats his in one or two
places, for the letters were written without collusion:—

February 24.
“‘Inshallah, in another twenty days, we shall have the
bean crop ready for the knife.' This is the answer always
given now when inquiries are made after the late distress,
of which, now that the worst is past, the fellahs do not
seem anxious to furnish details. They have patiently
borne want, then hunger, and lastly starvation, and now
that the end seems near, they are willing to forget it all.
But such a time as the last three months for the fellahs
must leave traces, and famine cannot pass trackless. From
Assiout upwards to Luxor the sufferings of the natives must
have been and still are in one or two of the less-visited villages,
appalling. Even in the large and comparatively flourishing
town of Assiout, some of the sights in the streets and by
the river bank were most distressing. Passing in the morning
we saw a wretched old woman and two children lying
on the river bank. The children were skin and bone, and
the woman scarcely distinguishable as a human being.
We gave her bread, but she seemed unable to eat it,
and after a few sighs and moans fell back into her semicomatose
state. She could hardly have lived through the
night, and there were several like her. At the same place
we noticed a handsome girl of sixteen or so standing on the
bank. On asking her what she wanted, she replied, ‘bread,'
and ate greedily a piece of the coarse bran bread of the
country. Her gratitude knew no bounds when presented
with a few piastres, and she unfolded her small history—
how she had walked from her native village, where her
family were all dead, in hopes of finding relief at Assiout,
but had found none, and was still another unit added to
the crowd of hunger-stricken Arabs flocking in daily. Poor
Werda (Rose)! She was, however, only one of thousands,
and this in a town in immediate connection with

Cairo by rail, and easy reach of any assistance should it
be proffered. The American missionaries are active here as
elsewhere, but they are only able to give help to comparatively
few—seven loaves among 5,000! But if the distress is bad
at Assiout, what can it be called higher up—at Haöu, at
Bagour, and such smaller villages on the left bank. Many
of the people there are past help, and sit naked, like wild
beasts, eating roots—the khelba that grows among the
clover, the clover-leaves themselves, and the wild sorrel;
while some solace the pangs of hunger with the refuse
sugar-cane after distillation. A lucky few, perhaps, steal
and furtively boil a bean or two, but such a feast is exceptional.
The look on the faces of these poor creatures is
almost superhumanly ghastly. Suffering, endurance, despair,
and madness, worked on by famine, stamp such a
brand on the starving fellahs as cannot be easily described.
If their faces are hidden, as they generally are, from the
intense heat and the tormenting flies, the shrunken limbs
and staring bones tell their tale plainly enough. There
are full-grown men whose legs are scarcely thicker than a
dog's, and whose arms are like chicken-bones. To see such
a man lying in the sun with the flies swarming on him as if
he were already dead, and the wasted hand without
strength to drive them from his eyes and lips, is sickening.
And this distress has come on them without possibility of
their guarding against it, through last year's inundations.
To understand this it must be first known that the fellah
lives from hand to mouth, from day to day, and never has
any store against a rainy day. He has no ambition to
acquire wealth, for it would be so highly taxed as to be
worth less than the ‘middle estate,' giving him much more
trouble and less returns.
“There is a Turkish saying very prevalent and very much

followed: ‘I have but a little pottage, but a head without
care;' and however small his possession, the fellah prefers
to enjoy it in peace rather than to acquire more and involve
himself at once in difficulties with his neighbours and the
tax-collector. The crushing taxes laid on the fellahs are, of
course, one great and primary cause of their universal
poverty. Scarcely a possession that does not come under
governmental tax. Firstly, there is the gharagh, or land-tax,
which is a never-ending cause of dispute. The assessment
now is 150 piastres per acre; but every farthing
over and above the 40 piastres paid in the time of Mehemet
Ali is considered a grievance and an extortion. Secondly,
the wurgeh, or occupation-tax, to which every man is liable.
The assessment lies chiefly with the Sheikh-el-Beled, or
head of the village, and is very nearly arbitrary, so that
a good deal of injustice naturally goes on. For instance,
the sheikh will require a sum of 2l. to make up his accounts,
and he has to deal with A, B, and C. A is wealthy and
ought to pay 1l. 15s., while B and C pay 2s. 6d. each; but
A, being a personal friend of the sheikh's, gets off with 10s.,
and B, having presented the sheikh with some figs or other
trifling present, pays 10s. more, while unfortunate C has to
pay 1l. Every male above the age of twelve is liable to this
tax, and taking a strong and well-to-do man and a little
boy at random, we found the man paid 13f. and the little
fellow 10f. per annum.
“In addition to these, every man has to buy his tezkereh,
or paper giving him his rights as a citizen, at a price of 31
piastres. Women and children pay no taxes except the
salt-tax, which, however, is ridiculously heavy, as every
man has to buy 10 piastres' worth for every member
of his family. Besides this there are the extra taxes on
cloth, cattle, boats, palm-trees, &c. All stuffs of inland

manufacture are stamped and paid for as if at the Customs.
Cattle are rated at various sums, according to their value.
Boats are taxed at so much an ardebb, equivalent to taxation
by tonnage, and this applies to every description of craft.
For the palm-trees about 2s. 6d. is paid for each small palm,
and twice as much for a large one. When we consider that
very often in a bad year the palms bear nothing, this tax
seems extremely high. Doubtless it is a very profitable one
for the Egyptian Government, but it is a very oppressive
one for the villages whose palm-groves present such a
pleasant border to the Nile.
“Forced labour is ostensibly abolished, but it doubtless
goes on still near the sugar factories, where the natives have
no chance of protecting themselves. The raids on villages
and the wholesale requisitions have been put an end to, but
secret pressing is undeniably going on. The same story
came from all we asked. They are all in expectation of
Rivers Wilson's scheme being put in force; but if asked
if it was not in operation, the reply would be, ‘Not just yet;
a little longer.' How much longer? is the question. It is
a notable fact that, of the many villages we have seen lately,
those containing sugar manufactories seemed always to be
in very bad, if not in the worst, condition. At Bagour, for
instance, there was but one decent house, guarded by a
strong post of soldiers belonging to the Mufettish. The
only other building worthy the name was the factory itself.
The streets were full of naked and wretchedly-dressed
people. The old and the very young were for the most part
like walking skeletons. A little inland the people were
timid, and ran away at the approach of the Frank, evidently
being afraid of ill-treatment of some kind. A great
many Nubians seemed to be employed in the trade, and the
bank showed activity, being lined with sugar-boats, but the

workers were despondent-looking and half-starved. One old
fellow had a moment's respite, and appealed to us for
backsheesh,' with a look of misery difficult to forget. The
same was the case at Erment, where there is a very large
factory. The distress is not nearly so great, and never has
been, as lower down; but there is the same degraded and
bullied look about the population which cannot fail to strike
one at the first glance.
“We found the population very busy here and there in
raising jisrs, or dams. This is forced work also, but is legal,
contributing, as it does, to the public good. Still it is an
opportunity for infinite embezzling and peculation, as the
requisition is sent simply to the sheikh and he is left to
himself to furnish the men. Let us suppose a sheikh receives
a requisition for forty men. He proclaims that he
has need of fifty men, and posts up his order, which no
one can read. He proceeds to choose fifty wealthy men,
who at once propose to get substitutes. He pockets the
clear surplus of the fictitious ten, and a handsome gratuity
from each of the forty, who pay both him and the substitutes.
This is the system on which most of the villages are
governed, and it will at once be seen how impossible it is
for any of them to flourish. Where there is no freedom and
no reward for business activity, there is no stimulus nor
inducement for any man to produce more than is actually
necessary for his daily wants. Thus it has happened that the
failure of the first wheat crop—or dourahshitawi—has plunged
the whole of Lower Egypt into a state of terrible famine
and distress, accompanied with sufferings which will never
be known. Now the wretched fellahs are in hopes of their
bean crops, which also have been retarded through the
waters lying so long over the face of the land. Once
started with that, let us hope that they will learn a lesson,

and their masters too. In addition to the failure of the
dourah shitawi, there has been partial destruction of the
barseem, a clover in which there is grub this year. After the
beans comes the second wheat crop, or dourah saïfi, and
this has to be reaped, and the ground prepared and sown
ready for the autumnal inundations. There is, consequently,
a season of great activity now opening before the Nile
population; the only question is whether there is enough
energy left, or even the small amount of capital necessary,
to enable them to take advantage of the growing harvest
which promises so well. So long have they been oppressed
and ground down, that it is very difficult for them to recover
quickly from their late misfortunes. As long as the administration
of the villages is left so much to the sheikh as it
is at present, and as long as that worthy has the same happy
opportunities of peculation, it is hard to see any definite
end to the evils which follow. If all the taxes except the
gharagh were removed from the small villages, and only
applied, in a more modified form even then, to the larger
country towns, there might be some hope for the fellah.
At present his life is one hard and protracted struggle for
his bread, with no encouragement and no future before him.
Even in a little village, consisting, perhaps, of ten hovels,
where the name of England surprised us on Arab lips, they
asked if ‘the Sultan had given the government of Egypt
over to the English, and if so, who was the English wakeel,
or deputy.' This speaks for itself.
“On returning we stopped at Belyaneh, where the people
are lying in the market-place and starving slowly without the
slightest attempt to help them. The children and the
women are the worst off, and they fought over scraps of
bread like wild animals. The stronger always took from
the weak, and it was impossible to help them much. The

inhabitants said that more than 1,000 had already died there.
The misery in the streets passes description. Half the
people were like walking skeletons—when they could summon
strength to walk. At Girgeh we found very much the
same—very nearly as bad as at Belyaneh. The people
seem to have no one to look to. No commissioners and
few Europeans have visited any of the larger towns by the
river even. No one ever thinks of the inland hamlets, where
the villagers are starving like dogs.
“At Edfoo we found an old woman who had been lying
two days and nights half in and half out of the water, with
not a soul to help her. She could not even swallow soup
without friction applied to the outside of her throat, and
when slightly recovered, moist bread had to be forced down
her throat in the same way.”

Professor Robertson Smith had access, from his exceptional
knowledge of Arabic, to sources of information denied
to most tourists. His letter appeared in the Times on the
31st March:—


—So far as I can gather from the papers which
reach me here, the English public is still imperfectly acquainted
with the gravity of the famine which has afflicted
Upper Egypt during the past winter. Nor is this surprising,
for even in Cairo one hears most contradictory accounts
of the state of things from those who ought to have
access to the best sources of information.
“Let me, therefore, send you some account of what I
have seen with my own eyes, and gathered from conversation
with the people during a journey from Assiût to
Edfû and back, which extended from the 10th of February
to the 12th of March. As I travelled mainly to study the
vernacular and observe the habits of the people, I visited a

great many villages, and lost no opportunity of conversing
with the peasantry.
“In 1877 there was “no Nile” above Assiût, and the
wheat and bean crops of the following spring were a total
failure. There remained the crop of dura planted on the
higher land, which ought to have been ripe at the beginning
of last winter. But this crop was in great measure
destroyed by the excessive inundation of 1878. These
successive strokes were the proximate cause of the famine.
But there has been no real scarcity of food in Egypt.
Wheat is cheaper than it was last year, and my sailors
purchased excellent grain at Esneh at the rate of a napoleon
and a half for the ardebb of five bushels. An occasional
failure of the Nile must always be counted upon in
Egypt, and where the peasantry are so frugal and industrious
the surplus of good years ought to be sufficient to meet the
deficiencies of a bad season. The existence of a widespread
famine, with numerous deaths from hunger when food was
not at an unreasonable price, can only be ascribed to the
fact that when the bad year came the stores of the peasantry
were already exhausted by oppressive taxation. That at
least is the explanation which I have invariably received,
not only from the peasants themselves, but from European
residents in Upper Egypt, who have been familiar with the
state of the people for years. I attach special value to
the testimony of Dr. Hogg, of the American Mission at
Assiût, who knows the natives thoroughly, and by whom I
was assured that the people are so exhausted by over-taxation,
that, even in ordinary years, many persons towards the
close of the winter are reduced to live on roots and herbs
gathered from the fields. To a population already so near
the verge of starvation, the loss of a year's crop was fatal,
and the suffering has been extreme through the whole

conntry south of Assiût, but especially, so far as I can
observe, in the district above Girgeh.
“In describing the aspect which the country presents to a
traveller, I must distinguish between the towns and the
small villages.
“When food began to fail in the country districts there
was a great rush of starving people to the towns in quest of
charity. The town of Assiût was the chief centre towards
which they collected, and here an attempt was made to relieve
their necessities by an organised distribution of bread
from a public makhbaz. But, in spite of this, the streets, as
I passed up the river, were full of poor wretches crawling
about in the last stage of emaciation or unable to rise from
the ground. A month later a great change was visible.
Many, no doubt, had died, and the survivors had scattered
through the fields to gather green beans, now sufficiently
near maturity to support existence. In other towns the
same sight was repeated on a smaller scale. One did not
see so many persons stretched in public places in the last
stage of hunger, but in every market-place there were children
and old people cowering in corners and chewing herbs
or straw, whose pallor and extreme emaciation showed how
real was their distress. In places little visited by European
travellers they often did not even ask for alms. In fact,
the magnitude of the calamity and the great rush of sufferers
to the towns seem to have paralysed the private charity for
which the Egyptians have generally a good report. ‘If a
man gave an ashara (a halfpenny) one day,' I was told, ‘he
had a hundred applicants next morning.' My own experience
showed me that it was in truth almost impossible
to give alms in the street. At Belianeh, amid a great
crowd of the ordinary professional beggars who congregate
wherever tourists stop, and to whom I, of course, paid no

attention, I was called by the bystanders to help a poor
creature lying ‘utterly broken' beneath a wall. Then quite
a crowd of real sufferers came up, chiefly children, some in
a state of ravenous hunger, others scarcely able to eat the
bread which, gathering them in a circle, I began to distribute.
The sight of bread roused them almost to frenzy,
and every cake was torn into morsels by contending hands.
Each moment the crowd thickened, till I had 200 or 300
people, of whom probably two-thirds were mere professional
beggars, jostling me, treading on one another, and tearing
the bread from weaker hands. I was at length compelled
to retire to my boat, seeing it to be hopeless to do anything
without the aid of the police. I apprehend that in cases
of serious famine the rush to towns must in this way paralyse
the ordinary Oriental system of almsgiving. Effective help
must be organised, and, except where there are Europeans
to direct, the management can hardly be organised except
by the Government. But what has the Government done?
The failure of last year's crops was known to be inevitable
in the autumn of 1877. The exhausted state of the peasantry
was known to all who took an interest in the people and can
hardly have been unknown to the authorities. Yet not a
single step was taken to meet a calamity the approach of
which was mathematically certain months before it fell. But,
worse than this. In Assiût a public collection was made
when the famine first approached, and a sum of (I think)
300l. was handed over to be administered by the Government
officials. Of this money nothing more has been heard, and
a few weeks ago the people in power at Cairo were unaware
that it had ever been collected.
“Let me now turn to the country districts. In these there
was much less visible distress. The flight of so many to the
towns made it easier for private charity to operate, and the

villagers are always helpful to one another. But everywhere
I heard the same story. A large number of the poor had
been living through the winter on roots and green fodder
(hashhîs), wild mustard, fenugrek, coarse lettuce, and the
like. Those who were strong enough to wander through the
fields and steal had survived, and as the spring crops approached
ripeness, and afforded more nourishing food, the
worst of their distress was past. The weak and the sick had
died. Those who know the East will understand that it was
impossible in a passing visit to collect any statistics as to
the number of deaths. In some villages, though many were
said to be ‘hungering' and to have no bread, it was not
admitted that any had died of famine. These better accounts
were chiefly from the northern villages, or in places
where some dura had been saved; but in most districts
it is certain that the deaths had been very numerous, and,
though the people's spirits were rising fast with the approach
of the harvest, I fear that in the worst places
many more must still die. This year's harvest promises
very well, except that in some places the later wheat and
the lentils have suffered from the grub, while many fields
have been nearly bared by the starving people, who tore up
the green crops for food.
“In conclusion, let me say a word as to the temper of the
people under the calamity. The blame was universally laid
on the Government, or rather on Ismail Pasha. It was impossible,
I was told, for the people to live under the present
exactions, and this, I believe, is strictly true.
“I generally went to the villages quite alone, finding that
in this case the people were ready to speak freely when their
first shyness was over. I was surprised to find how openly
and strongly they expressed themselves about the Viceroy.
This was, no doubt, partly due to the fact that they had

heard some vague rumours of a change in the Government.
They generally knew the name of Nubar, Pasha, and had
some notion that the Government was now in the hands of
an Englishman who was often identified with Nubar. They
were anxious to know whether Ismail Pasha was still in
power or had been removed by the Sultan. The idea that
the dynasty of Mohammed Ali has any legitimate and inalienable
claim to the throne of Egypt may prevail in
Europe, but has no place in the minds of his subjects. To
the peasantry the Viceroy is merely the Pasha, answerable
for his tyranny to the Chief of the Faithful and his ally, the
Queen of England. To the English the people are very
favourably disposed. They became more friendly when I
told them that I was English, and their hope rests at present
on English help. Of course the main thing they look for is
a reduction of taxation to a just footing. I am persuaded
that this is the first step in any real reform. But it will not
be easy to do justice so as to satisfy the peasants, who, with
the usual conservatism of the East, invariably referred to the
standard of taxation under Mohammed Ali—40 piastres the
faddan—as ‘the fundamental right' (el hakkelaslî) which ought
to be restored. The present tax is on the average from three
to five times that amount—a burden which the people cannot
bear in addition to all their other payments, but which in
view of the great rise in the value of agricultural produce can
never be reduced to what the peasantry think right.
“One thing, however, must be kept in view if anything is
to be effected that can help the country. Neither the
interests of the ruling dynasty nor the claims of creditors
can be allowed to interfere with the right of the people to
live by their labour. A system under which so hardy and
frugal a population are reduced by a single bad year to the
state which I have described cannot be allowed to endure.

If the Viceroy stands in the way of radical reform, he must
be put aside; no one except his creatures will regret his fall.
The question of the debt is more serious, but the country
can never prosper and develop its natural resources till the
peasantry are relieved; so that even selfish motives should
prescribe patience to the creditors of Egypt. And it is
certain that the present moment is Europe's opportunity.
If we can prove that our interference is on behalf of justice
and humanity, we shall acquire an influence with the people
that cannot be over-estimated. But if it appears that we
have no higher motive than to secure our own pecuniary
interests, leaving the people to languish in misery, we shall
earn the hatred that springs from bitter disappointment, and
need not expect for many years to have any influence in
Egypt beyond what is due to our material force. There will
be a strong reaction against all European ideas, and the
explosion which must come some day, unless the present
misery is relieved, will probably be turned against the
European residents in the country, with consequences which
one shudders to think of.

“Yours, &c.,

“CAIRO, March 15.”

The following letter was sent through the Times correspondent,
by an Oxford Fellow and Tutor, who has
travelled in Egypt annually for many years, and who is
well acquainted with colloquial Arabic: it appeared on
the 8th April, having been written at Cairo on the
29th March:—

“The Commissioners sent by the Egyptian Government
for the relief of the famine in Upper Egypt
(Mr. Baird and Captain Harrison) have now returned to

Cairo, and a full report of their proceedings may shortly
be expected. In the meantime a few particulars from an
eye-witness may be interesting. On this side of Luxor,
which was the limit of my journey, the district which has
suffered most is that between Soohag and Keneh, a distance
of some seventy miles. When I went up the river about
five weeks ago the relief had been already organised at
eight places in that district; but a fortnight's feeding had
been insufficient to do much towards ameliorating the
appearance of the people. To any one accustomed to the
Nile, the evidences of deep distress were most manifest.
The traveller in Egypt soon gets accustomed to poverty,
rags, and nakedness; but the bodies of the natives are
generally well nourished and apparently healthy. This
year one saw emaciation, scurvy, and dysentery. The
relief had evidently come three months too late. The
people, deprived of their ordinary food, have striven to
support themselves by eating green weeds, the refuse of
sugar-cane, and any garbage on which they could lay their
hands. One of the Commissioners told me that he saw a
boy picking like a sparrow the grains from among the dung
of animals. Many escaped actual starvation only to die of
the diseases which starvation engendered. On my return
journey the steady distribution of wholesome bread was
evidently beginning to tell on all but the most hopeless
cases. The great majority, though still lean, were beginning
to struggle back towards a healthy condition. The
system adopted by the Commissioners may be illustrated
by what I saw at Luxor. In a large court-yard, flanked by
part of the ancient temple, were assembled some 350 persons,
men, women, and children, all, of course, ragged and
dirty. Six only of these were natives of the place. The
distressed naturally flock from the villages to the centres

of relief. A committee, consisting of the native consular
agents, assisted the Ma-oon, or police-officer, in the distribution.
The bread was brought each day from the bakehouse
and weighed out in presence of the committee.
Each person received as his daily ration three small loaves,
about 2 lb. altogether. It was decided that it was of no
use to administer relief in money or even in grain. It
would have been embezzled by the officials and never have
found its way to the mouths of the poor. Baked bread was
not so well worth stealing. For the same reason the Commissioners
did not send relief to the villages, but confined it
to centres where there was a sufficient number of respectable
inhabitants to form a committee and exercise supervision.
“The system appeared to me to work well enough in the
case of the men, but many of the children were evidently
not in a state to be revived by a merely bread diet. At
Luxor the Commissioners tried the experiment of allowing
milk for the worst cases, and they deputed the resident
English physician and myself to see to the distribution.
We collected all the children and gave tickets to twenty-two
who seemed in urgent need of better nourishment.
The milk was bought each day by the Ma-oon, who ladled
it out twice a day in the presence of one or other of us.
The daily ration was a measure containing about four-fifths
of a pint. As the people gradually dispersed to their homes
the number of children fell at the end of ten days to about
fourteen. With two exceptions all were visibly reviving
under this diet. The doctor remained at Luxor four days
after I left. With his departure the distribution of milk
ceased. It is melancholy to think that no milk could be
given at other places where the need was more pressing.
Even as I came down the river, in spite of the general
improvement, there were children at Belianeh and Girgeh'

to whom to offer dry bread was a mere mockery. Perhaps
it would have been better to risk something in the attempt
to save them; but after consulting the highest native
officials of the province, the Commissioners came to the
conclusion, and I dare not say they were wrong, that to
order milk where there was no European to see it actually
administered would have been simply to put money in the
pocket of the Sheikh-el-Beled. As far as bread is concerned,
all the evidence I was able to collect went to show
that no one willing to come to the distribution was refused.
No doubt there was much distress among the class just
above the paupers, who bore it as best they could in their
own villages; but no machinery was available by which
this class could be reached. The plentiful harvest now
at hand will be their best relief, if it is not wrung from
them by the tax-collectors.
“After witnessing the exertions of the Commissioners
in Upper Egypt, and listening to their accounts of what
they had seen, I returned to Cairo to hear that a notice
had been published in the English papers that the Commissioners
had telegraphed that ‘the accounts of the distress
were greatly exaggerated.' No honest man with eyes in his
head could have sent such a report, and it is needless to
say that the Commissioners are entirely guiltless of it, as
their report will amply prove.
“Every one who knows the country knows that the
famine was directly due to over-taxation, which exhausted
all the stock in the country, and left the people without
resources to meet the accident of a bad Nile. The same
will be the case again whenever the next irregularity in
the inundation occurs. There can be no remedy so long as
Egypt is administered in the interest, not of its people, but
of the Khedive or of his creditors. Other Oriental rulers

have ruined and impoverished their subjects for the
moment. It is reserved for this generation to permit a
single despot to entail permanent burdens on a country
which has never benefited by his loans. Soldiers, palaces,
women, eunuchs, horses, and diamonds are all there is
to show for the money borrowed. Most of it appears to
have been frittered away in true prodigal fashion in the
payment of back interest, discounts, and commissions.
It ought to be brought home to English creditors of the
Khedive that their exorbitant though precarious usury is
only exacted at the cost of the misery of a whole population.
England has a right to know what she is doing.
One can scarcely blame the Khedive for ‘doing after his
kind' and squandering every farthing on which he could lay
his hands. Were we to expect a miracle—that a Turk
should look five years ahead; that he should deny himself
a toy because somebody else might starve for it? But to
saddle the fellaheen with his debts and even to intervene
to compel them to pay (as we did last May, in spite of the
remonstrances of our Consul-General), this is surely unworthy
of civilised and honourable nations. The fellah
has two enemies—the Khedive and the foreign creditor.
Either of them, if allowed, will suck the people dry. For
the present moment the Khedive is muzzled; he is reduced
to a fixed allowance, and may not lay on a fresh
tax or receive any additional payments from the Treasury.
Unhappily, his old place is taken by the bondholder and
by the English and French Governments, which have
constituted themselves his bailiffs. Nothing can save the
country except to limit the demands of the bondholder,
while at the same time keeping the Khedive under the
tightest restrictions. To exact the letter of the bond in
favour of the creditors means to starve the people in order

to send their wealth to England and France. To restore
liberty of action to the Khedive means to starve the people
in order to build fresh palaces and to keep the harem, the
stable, and the barrack full. What is wanted is to treat the
bondholders as the Khedive has been treated; they should
receive some moderate compensation as from a bankrupt
estate—say four per cent, on the present market value of
the bonds—and then the taxes should be lowered and the
country administered in the interests of the fellaheen. England
and France are bound to see that this is done. They
cannot escape the responsibility they have incurred towards
this miserable people. They first permitted the ruinous
indebtedness and then forbad the repudiation which was
its natural and proper sequel. They were silent while the
mischief was being done and spoke only to fix the burden
on the wrong shoulders. This is injustice for which
reparation is demanded at our hands.”

This letter was written by one of the companions of my
ride, and, as it shows by internal evidence, was not the
result of any preconcerted arrangements with the other
writers; it was published on the 9th April:—


—Having been for some days in a remote part of
Italy, I have been unable to see the Times until to-day,
when I have read the letters addressed to you by Mr. Rivers
Wilson and an Egyptian official. The former gentleman is
evidently still quite unaware of the terrible state of things
and of the extent of the evil which existed a few weeks
since in Upper Egypt; and the latter, by telling half the
truth, and half only, has, as he doubtless intended, conveyed
a perfectly false impression to the minds of your
readers. The immediate cause of the starvation of the inhabitants
was indeed the failure of the dourha crop; but it

the people had not been utterly despoiled and ground to the
earth by over-taxation, illegal exactions, and forced and
unremunerative labour for the Khedive, they could have
saved sufficient to tide over the evil time. As it is, they
could not do so.
“Having lately returned from a land journey in Upper
Egypt, I can testify that no words are strong enough to
describe the utter misery of the fellaheen and the horror of
the scenes I personally witnessed. I scarcely ever approached
a village without hearing the shrill cries of the
women over those who had died of starvation. Multitudes
of the still living men, women, and children, were mere
skeletons, and many were covered with sores, the too frequent
result of starvation. In the town of How I saw two
men, one old, the other in the prime of life, lying in the
open street, and actually dying in that position for want of
food. That and other shocking scenes took place within
sight of one of the large sugar-factories, to which trains of
camels were conveying the rich crops for the Khedive or
his European creditors. I repeatedly saw people in the
last stage of emaciation sitting in the paths and picking
individual grains of dourha corn out of the dust. The wan,
wolfish expression of the people's faces and their attenuated
forms will haunt me for years. The fact is that the well-meant
efforts of the two benevolent Scotch gentlemen who
were picked up at Shepheard's Hotel and sent up to Luxor
on the Nile in a Khedivial steamer were but a partial and
feeble attempt to shut the stable door when the steed was
stolen. Thousands had died of famine before they started
from Cairo, and when they did start they did not visit at all
the inland villages which lie back from the Nile. It would
be interesting to the public if Mr. Rivers Wilson would
condescend to publish a detailed account of the time these

gentlemen took in their Nile journey from Siout to Esneh,
and a list of the places which they visited, and at which they
established centres of relief. If this were done, the utter
inadequacy of the means used to alleviate the distress would
at once be apparent. The fact is that the system of government
illustrated by the celebrated mot of the Khedive's,
that ‘he could not govern Egypt if he allowed the fellaheen
to have more than one shirt on their backs apiece,' has
borne its natural fruit.
“Allow me to add, in conclusion, that I can entirely confirm,
from personal knowledge, the particulars as to the
state of Upper Egypt given in the admirable letter of
your correspondent from Erment—a letter the insertion of
which will avail much in the cause of truth, justice, and
“I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

“G. I. C.

“VENICE, April 5.”

Meanwhile, just before his fall, Mr. Wilson came to the
rescue of the Egyptian Government. I have made short
comments on his letter and that of Hamam, in the text,
Both these letters appeared on the 2nd April:—

“To the Editor of the Times.


—A letter with the above heading, dated Cairo,
Feb. 27, and signed ‘W. J. L.,' appeared in the Times of
March 13. As the writer seeks apparently to convey the
impression that the Egyptian Government not only treated
with indifference the distress existing in the upper provinces,
but even discouraged the private efforts made to relieve it, I
shall be glad if you will allow me to state the following facts:—
“Two months ago the Government despatched two
Englishmen, in whom thorough confidence could be placed
(one of them having spent many winters on the Nile and
understanding Arabic), with carte blanche to take any steps
that might be necessary for the immediate relief of the
suffering population.
“These gentlemen, who have acquitted themselves of
their task with excellent judgment and most successful
results, did not report, as stated by ‘W. J. L.,' that ‘the
accounts of the famine in Upper Egypt are greatly exaggerated.'
The low Nile of 1877 caused a great failure
of the crops in 1878. The poor have suffered much in the
provinces of Girgeh, Keneh, and Esneh; many, especially
old people and young children, have died in those districts,
if not from actual starvation, at least from dysentery and
other diseases brought on by insufficient or unwholesome
food. Partly from the funds placed at the disposal of the
two Englishmen who were good enough to act as agents of
the Government, and partly from the funds raised by private
subscriptions and applied by the local officials, many thousands
of the population have been supported. In Girgeh,
the only part of Upper Egypt where distress still remains,
over 3,000 people are being fed daily, and will continue to
be relieved until the end of the month, when the crops will
be ripe. In Keneh the crops are now ripe and relief has
been stopped. For the last three months nearly 5,000
people have been fed daily. In Esneh a large sum was
collected among the wealthier class of the population, and
was placed at the disposal of the Moudir for distribution.
“I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


“CAIRO, March 24.”

“To the Editor of the Times.


—I have seen to-day in the Times of the 13th a
letter from Cairo, stating that a kind-hearted native gentleman
(whose name the writer dared not mention) had been
feeding 7,000 persons at Keneh. Had this been true, the
officials there would have been only too glad, and he would
have received every assistance from the Government. It is
also mentioned by the writer of that letter ‘that he is afraid
of involving any of his informants in unpleasantness with
the authorities.' As I occupy a high position in the province
of Keneh (that of Chief Collector), I regret very
much the misstatements in that letter. No such act of
charity could have occurred at Keneh without our knowledge,
and if any one had been disposed to be so generous
it would have been our duty to have assisted him. Consequently,
I am sorry to say that what has been stated about
this feeding at Keneh is untrue.
“The facts are these:—In September, 1878, owing to the
bad Nile, there was distress in the province. Daoud Pasha,
the Moudir of Keneh, called together the following officials
of the Government:—Ali Bey Elway, President of the
Tribunal; the other members of the Tribunal; myself,
Mohammed Effendi Ahmed (Deputy Moudir), Falastern
Effendi (Chief of the Bureau of Investigation), the Chief
Collectors of Districts, and other local officials. Besides
these, the following Consuls:—Bisadah Abed, Hassan ben
Om-Ezzain, Kiriakos Daud, Mustapha Effendi Yousef, as
well as the chief merchants, Mahomedans and Christians.
He then informed us that, in consequence of the low Nile
of last year, some people were starving and that we must
assist them, and we all agreed that it was our duty to do so.
Every one of us contributed to this object; and others,

hearing what was being done, also subscribed. We collected
T.52,000l. and 25 paras—that is to say, about 520
English pounds. The Moudir appointed a special committee
to carry out this object. This committee purchased
379 ardebbs of corn and made it into bread, and fed daily
about 5,200 people—viz., 1,000 males, 2,500 women, and
1,700 children. The distribution was made daily from the
17th of September, 1878, up to the 8th of November,
“On the 2nd November the committee received T.20,250l.
—that is to say, about 200 English pounds—from Omer
Pasha, then Inspector-General of Upper Egypt. With this
money the committee purchased 1281/2 ardebbs of corn,
made it into bread, and gave it to about 4,080 people, of
whom 680 were men, 1,800 women, and 1,600 children.
This distribution was made daily from the 8th of November
to the 1st of December, 1878. How is it that, when all
this assistance was given by Government officials and others,
the writer of the letter in the Times insinuates that, should
any one be known to have relieved the distressed, he would
incur the disapprobation of the authorities? Therefore, I
shall feel much obliged if you will publish this letter to show
that the writer of the letter already referred to has been
misinformed respecting Keneh.


Chief Collector of the Province of Keneh.
“CAIRO, March 22.”

Finally in May the report of Mr. Baird was issued, and
was as damaging to the Government of the Khedive as
possible. The following account of it, a summary of all
that had previously appeared, is abridged from the correspondence
of the Times:—

“The deplorable accounts of suffering already published
by the Times by no means exaggerated the state of the
peasantry in the famine districts. The peasants, says
Mr. Baird, whose intimate knowledge of Egypt makes the
report exceptionally valuable, are without capital, steeped
in poverty, and wholly dependent on the Nile both for their
day to day sustenance and the unfailing demands of the
tax-collector. The Nile in 1877 was so low that much
arable land was left unwatered and consequently was not
cultivated. This disaster was followed by an excessive
Nile, which drowned the maize, the local food crop, and
the peasants were left to beg, steal, or starve. The reason
of the complete collapse before this temporary calamity is
thus explained:—
“‘Even in ordinary circumstances the Egyptian peasant
leads a life which has little that is attractive to European
eyes. His food consists of coarse maize bread, with beans,
lentils, and onions, and various weeds. He wears scanty
clothing of cotton or rough homespun woollen cloth, and
sleeps in a mud hut or in the open air. … The worst
feature in his l