Title: The city of the caliphs; a popular study of Cairo and its environs and the Nile and its antiquities [Electronic Edition]

Author: Reynolds-Ball, Eustace A. b. 1857? (Eustace Alfred)
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Title: The City of the Caliphs

Author: Eustace A. Reynolds-Ball
File size or extent: 5 p. l., 335 p. front., 19 pl. 21 cm.
Place of publication: Boston; London
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat; T. Fisher Unwin
Publication date: 1898
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  • Nile River.
  • Egypt -- History -- 19th century.
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The city of the caliphs; a popular study of Cairo and its environs and the Nile and its antiquities [Electronic Edition]


Contents











THE CITY OF THE CALIPHS

THE CITY OF THE CALIPHS



Copyright, 1897,
BY ESTES AND LAURIAT.
Colonial Press:
Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.


THE
CITY OF THE CALIPHS

A Popular Study of Cairo and Its Environs and the
Nile and Its Antiquities

BY
EUSTACE A. REYNOLDS-BALL

B.A. (Oxd.), F.R.G.S.
AUTHOR OF
“MEDITERRANEAN WINTER RESORTS”

Illustrated
LONDON T. FISHER UNWIN
PATERNOSTER SQUARE 1898




He who hath not seen Cairo hath not seen the world: its
soil is gold; its Nile is a wonder; its women are like the black-eyed
virgins of Paradise; its houses are palaces; and its air is
soft—its odours surpassing that of aloes-wood, and cheering the
heart: and how can Cairo be otherwise when it is the Mother
of the World?”—“The Thousand and One Nights
.”


CONTENTS.

CHAPTER PAGE
INTRODUCTION 1
I. EGYPT UNDER THE PHARAOHS 5
II. THE EMPIRE OF THE PTOLEMIES 22
III. THE RULE OF THE CALIPHS 42
IV. THE MAKING OF EGYPT 55
V. ALEXANDRIA AND THE NILE DELTA 90
VI. THE STORY OF THE SUEZ CANAL 105
VII. CAIRO AS A RESORT FOR INVALIDS 114
VIII. CAIRO IN ITS SOCIAL ASPECT 122
IX. THE BAZAARS AND STREET LIFE 132
X. THE MOSQUES 139
XI. THE TOMBS OF THE CALIPHS 149
XII. THE NATIONAL MUSEUM 157
XIII. THE ACROPOLIS OF CAIRO 169
XIV. OLD CAIRO AND THE COPTIC CHURCHES 181
XV. SOME SIDE-SHOWS OF CAIRO 191
XVI. THE PYRAMIDS OF GHIZEH 202
XVII. THE CITY OF THE SACRED BULLS 215
XVIII. THE CITY OF THE SUN 227
XIX. MINOR EXCURSIONS 235
XX. THE NILE AS A HEALTH-RESORT 249
XXI. THE NILE FROM CAIRO TO THEBES 261
XXII. “THE CITY OF A HUNDRED GATES 277
XXIII. ASSOUAN AND PHILAE 294
XXIV. FROM THE FIRST TO THE SECOND CATARACT 304
XXV. RECENT EGYPTOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES 312


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

PAGE
GENERAL VIEW OF CAIRO Frontispiece.
VIEW IN ALEXANDRIA 90
GENERAL VIEW OF PORT SAID 105
THE SUEZ CANAL 110
THE ROUTE TO THE PYRAMIDS 116
INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE OF KAIT BEY 141
THE TOMBS OF THE CALIPHS 149
THE MOSQUE OF KAIT BEY 152
THE TOMBS OF THE MAMELUKES 154
PYRAMID, SPHINX, AND TEMPLE OF GHIZEH 202
ASCENDING THE GREAT PYRAMID 206
THE SPHINX 212
STATUE OF RAMESES II. 217
OBELISK OF HELIOPOLIS 227
VIEW OF EDFU 276
STATUE AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE TEMPLE OF RAMESES III. 286
LUXOR 292
THE ISLAND OF PHILAE 301
GENERAL VIEW OF DAR-EL-BAHARI 314
COLONNADES, TEMPLE OF ISIS 319

1

THE CITY OF THE CALIPHS.
INTRODUCTION.

IF a plebiscite were taken among travellers in general as
to the dozen most interesting and striking cities of the
globe, it is probable that Cairo would be included in the
list. It is inferior in world-wide interest, of course, to
Jerusalem or Rome, or even Athens, but it would probably
take a higher rank than many historic capitals. No doubt
Cairo, compared with the great capitals of Europe, is modern,
or, at any rate, mediæval, and, indeed, historically
of little importance; but it cannot be denied that to the
average traveller Cairo is not easily dissociated from
Egypt, — the cradle of the oldest civilisation and culture in
the world. The proximity of the Pyramids and the Sphinx
have no doubt something to do with this vague and erroneous
view, and with the fictitious antiquity ignorantly
attributed to the City of the Caliphs. The most elementary
history, handbook or guide-book will, of course, correct
this general impression; but it is not, perhaps, an exaggeration,
to say that some casual visitors to Egypt begin their
sightseeing with a vague, if unformulated, impression that
Cairo was once the capital of the Pharaohs, and the Pyramids
its cemetery.
The historic and artistic interest of Cairo is, in short,
purely mediæval and Saracenic; and, perhaps, no Eastern
city, except Damascus, in the beaten track of tourist travel,

embodies so many of the typical characteristics of an
Oriental city.
Mehemet Ali and Ismail may be considered by the artist
and antiquarian to have done their best to vulgarise, that
is, Europeanise, the City of the Mamelukes; but the rebuilding
and enlarging under Mehemet, and the hausmannising
tendencies of Ismail, have done little more than touch the
surface. The native quarter of Cairo still remains a magnificent
field of study for the intelligent visitor, especially
if he ignores the hackneyed and limited programme of the
guides and interpreters; and the artist who knows his
Cairo will find the Moslem city full of the richest material
for his sketch-book. “Every step,” observes Mr. Stanley
Lane-Poole, “tells a story of the famous past. The stout
remnant of a fortified wall, a dilapidated mosque, a carved
door, a Kufic text,—each has its history, which carries us
back to the days when Saladin went forth from the gates
of Cairo to meet Richard in the plain of Acre, or when
Beybars rode at the head of his Mamelukes in the charge
which trampled upon the Crusaders of Saint Louis. A
cloistered court recalls the ungodly memory of the prophet
of the Druses; a spacious quadrangle, closely filled by
picturesque, albeit scowling, groups of students, reminds
us of the conquering Caliphs of ‘Aly's heretical line, who,
disdaining the mere dominion of Roman ‘Africa,’ carried
their triumphant arms into Egypt and Syria, Sicily and
Sardinia, whilst their fleets disputed the command of the
Mediterranean with the galleys of Moorish Spain.”
Cairo is full of these picturesque associations connected
with the magnificent age of the Mameluke Sultans, but
most visitors know little about them. Probably this is
mainly attributable to the fact that most of the books on
Egypt rather ignore its capital; and the age of the Saracens
is a period as much overlooked by modern historians
as that of the Ptolemies.

3

There are, of course, the standard guide-books, — a
most skilful condensation of a mass of erudition, — but the
compilers find the Upper Nile, with its antiquities, of such
surpassing interest, that little room can be found for Cairo
itself. Besides, guide-books are read of necessity, and not
for pleasure or continuously; and in the wealth of dry
detail it is difficult sometimes to “see the wood for the
trees.”
There is, however, another aspect besides the sentimental
or devotional one, which should not be disregarded; and
in the chapter dealing with the regeneration of Egypt
under British influence, I have attempted to show how
modern Egypt strikes the political observer and the man
of practical affairs.
Egypt, with its wealth of antiquities and artistic relics,
is, no doubt, of the highest importance to the tourist and
sight-seer. Regarded, however, as a community or modern
state, the Egypt of to-day holds a very low rank among
semicivilised countries. There is a certain amount of
reason in the complaint of some modern historians that
Western minds seem to lose all sense of proportion and
historic perspective when describing this Land of Paradox,
which is, after all, but a tenth-rate territory, with an
acreage less than that of Belgium, and a population hardly
more numerous than that of Ireland. These indisputable
facts will, perhaps, come as a surprise to the tourist, who
takes several weeks to sail along the thousand miles of its
mighty river,'—its one and only highway, — from Cairo to
the Soudan frontier. One is apt to forget that, above the
Delta, Egypt simply means a narrow fringe of desert
stretching for a few miles on each side of the Nile. This,
no doubt, is true; and visitors are perhaps too apt to “see
the country looming in a mist of mirage,” and are unable
to resist the weird charm of this unique land.
At the same time, one cannot deny the enormous international

importance of Egypt in spite of its small acreage
and population. This importance, no doubt, is to some
extent fictitious, and is due partly to its peculiar geographical
position, which makes it the great highway between the
Eastern and Western hemispheres, and partly to its climate,
which has converted it into the great winter residence and
playground of civilised nations. Besides, magnitude is
not, of course, an absolutely reliable test of a country's
greatness. Little states, as we all know, have filled a
most important part in the world's history,—Athens
Sparta, Venice, Florence, Genoa, for instance. Then, the
Holy Land itself is about the size of Wales, and the area
of Attica was no wider than that of Cornwall.
In preparing this book, I have consulted many of the
standard English and French works which have been recently
published; and I am especially indebted to the valuable
information to be found in the works of Professor
Flinders Petrie, Professor Mahaffy, the late Miss A. B.
Edwards, Sir Alfred Milner, and Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole.
For the preliminary chapter on Alexandria and the Nile
Delta, I have utilised portions of an article on Alexandria
which I contributed to “The Picturesque Mediterranean,”
published by Cassell & Co., Ltd., London, and my grateful
acknowledgments are due to this firm for permission to
reproduce these portions.

E. A. R. B.

[Back to top]


5

CHAPTER I.
EGYPT UNDER THE PHARAOHS.

THE history of the City of Cairo, as distinct from that
of Egypt, is simple and easily mastered, being confined
within reasonable limits. It does not go back further
than mediæval times. Unlike the history of Egypt, which
is concerned mainly with the rise and fall of alien states,
Cairo, whether Arabic or Turkish, is a wholly Mohammedan
creation. It is, indeed, more Mohammedan in some
respects than any city in the world, just as Rome is more
Roman than any other city. Constantinople, of course, is
a decidedly hybrid city in comparison, and its very name
recalls an alien civilisation; while its chief temple, Justinian's
great church of St. Sophia, is a Christian building,
dedicated to a Christian saint, although the Turks naturally
try to disguise its heretical origin by calling it Agia
Sophia (Holy Wisdom).
The history of Cairo, then, falls naturally into two
periods: that of Arab rule when it was virtually the seat
of the Caliphate; and the period of Turkish dominion,
from its capture by the Ottoman Turks in 1517 down to
the present time. In short, we need consider it under two
aspects merely, — first as the capital of the Caliphs, and
next as the chief city of a Turkish pachalic.
The history of Egypt, on the other hand, is that of the
oldest civilised country in the world, — though as a community
it is perhaps one of the newest. It is hardly an
exaggeration to say that all literature, ancient and modern,

from the works of Homer and Aristotle down to the masterpieces
of Dante and Shakespeare, is indirectly due to
the ancient Egyptian civilisation. Philologists of the highest
authority are agreed that the Phœnician origin of the
alphabet cannot be substantiated. Even Tacitus seems to
have suspected that this nation had won a spurious renown
as the inventors of letters, — tanquam repererint quœ acceperant.
The Egyptian cursive characters to be found in
the Prissé papyrus of the eleventh dynasty —- “the oldest
book in the world” — are pronounced by the best philological
scholars to be the prototype of the letters afterwards
copied by the Greeks from the Phœnicians, and
thence transmitted to the Latins.
Though Egypt, as the cradle of the alphabet, may be
considered the foster-mother of all literature, yet it must
be allowed that the one thing needful to history, namely,
literary material in documentary form, is wanting in the
case of Egypt. We have nothing but the fossilised history
of the monuments. Only the baldest annals (pace Brugsch
Bey) can be compiled from stone inscriptions. Then, as
Mr. David Hogarth, in his “Wanderings of a Scholar in
the Levant,” pertinently observes, contemporary documents
carved on stone, whether in Greece or in the Nile Valley,
have often been accepted far too literally. The enthusiasm
of archæologists has inclined them to regard insufficiently
the fact that to lie monumentally to posterity is a
failing to which the Pharaohs, prompted by their colossal
vanity, were particularly subject.
From the Hyksos invasion down to the conquest of the
country by the Ottomans, — a period of nearly five thousand
years, — Egyptian history is simply that of foreign
conquests, and is inseparably bound up with that of alien
nations, its conquerors, — Semitic (Hyksos kings), Ethiopian,
Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Saracen, and Turkish.
A cardinal fact in the history of this remarkable

country is its perpetual subjection to foreign influences.
Yet, in spite of this, the Egyptians have, during these
thousands of years of foreign dominion, preserved their
national characteristics, and the same unvarying physical
types. This racial continuity, in spite of all these adverse
circumstances and interminable succession of alien immigrations,
which might be supposed to modify materially the
uniformity of the Egyptian type, is one of the greatest
puzzles in ethnography.
What is known as the prehistoric period of Egypt can
be dismissed in a paragraph. This history is based, of
course, on mythical legend, and is purely conjectural. It
is supposed that the country was divided into a number of
small, independent states, each with its own tutelary chief;
or, according to some writers, these sovereigns were deities
and kings in one, and they have been termed god-kings.
To emphasise the distinction, Menes and the kings of the
first dynasty are designated as the first earthly kings of
Egypt.
As to the origin of the Egyptians, scholars are divided
into two schools; for though there are innumerable
theories, if we eliminate the more fanciful ones it
will be found that all historians of note have adopted one
or other of the two following theories. Those who adopt
the Biblical narrative have come to the conclusion that the
ancestors of the Egyptians came originally from Asia, and
that, in short, the tide of civilisation flowed up the Nile.
Philologists, too, who have discovered many points of
resemblance in the roots of the ancient Egyptian and
Semitic languages, have adopted this theory. Ethnographists
and anthropologists, however, hold an opposite view,
and consider that a study of the customs of the ancient
Egyptians, and an examination of their implements and
utensils, which are very similar to those of the tribes
living on the banks of the Niger and Zambesi, rather

point to an Ethiopian or South African origin; and that
civilisation began in the Upper Nile Valley and spread
northwards and downwards. It is probable, however, that
each of these historical schools may be partly right; and
possibly the true explanation is that, whether an Asiatic
or African origin be granted, the immigrants found an
aboriginal race settled on the banks of the Nile, whose
racial characteristics and distinctive physical types were
probably as little modified by these alien invaders as they
have been by their Mohammedan conquerors in the seventeenth
century.
Most modern historians, then, fortified by the opinion of
ethnographical authorities, after the scientific examination
of the ancient monumental sculptures and drawings, are
satisfied that the ancient Egyptians differed in all essential
racial characteristics from the African negroes, and
belonged to a branch of the great Caucasian family.
It would be futile to attempt here anything but the
barest summary of the chief facts of Egyptian history. A
very slight thread of narrative may, however, connect the
most important historical landmarks under which the leading
facts of Egyptian history may be grouped. Without
attempting, then, anything of the nature of a scientific
chronological précis, a practical and rough-and-ready
division, ignoring, of course, the dynasties and Ancient,
Middle, and New Empires, and other conventional divisions
of historians, would be something as follows: —
1. The age of the Pharaohs, which would include the
first twenty-six dynasties, down to the first Persian invasion
under Cambyses.
2. The Empire of the Ptolemies, which includes the
prosperous reigns of the dynasty founded by Alexander the
Great.
3. The Saracenic era, during which Egypt became once
more a centre of arts and sciences, in spite of the internecine

feuds of the rival Caliphs. This period closes with
the conquest by the Ottoman Turks.
4. The Political Renaissance of Egypt under Mehemet
Ali.
5. Modern Egypt, when the country of the Pharaohs
entered upon its latest phase, after the fall of the Khedive
Ismail, as a kind of protegé of the Great Powers, under
the stewardship, first of Great Britain and France, and
finally of Great Britain alone.
The division of Egyptian history into Ancient, Middle,
and New Empires is as artificial and arbitrary as the popular
divisions into dynasties. The Ancient Empire begins
with Menes, the first really historical king of Egypt.
Little is known of this monarch's achievements, but he at
any rate affords us a sure starting-place for our survey of
the early monarchy.
The sources from which we derive our knowledge of
these primeval kings are from the monumental inscriptions,
lists (more or less imperfect or undecipherable) in
the Turin papyrus, and the history of the Ptolemaic priest,
Manetho. Mena, or Menes, is supposed to have been descended
from a line of local chiefs at This, near Abydos,
the traditional burying-place of Osiris. Coming south, he
made Memphis the capital of his new united kingdom.
This was the chief centre of the worship of the god Ptah,
creator of gods and men; and it was here that the cult of
the Apis bull (the Serapis of the Greeks) was first instituted.
The kings of the first three dynasties, with the
exception of Menes, have left few records, though certain
inscriptions on the cliffs at Sinai have been attributed to
one of the kings of the third dynasty, and the Pyramid of
Medum, in the opinion of Doctor Petrie, was built by
Seneferu. These three dynasties cover the period B. C.
4400 to 3766, according to Brugsch. But Egyptian
chronology is one of the most disputed departments of

Egyptology, and the dates given are, of course, only approximate.
With the fourth dynasty we come to the familiar names
of the great pyramid-builders, Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinos.
It is not till the age of the Theban Pharaohs
that we find sovereigns who have left such lasting records
of a highly developed civilisation. Cheops and Chephren,
in the Egyptian traditions, probably coloured a good deal
by the biassed accounts of Herodotus and other Greek historians,
have been held up to the execration of posterity
as heartless tyrants and profligate despisers of the gods.
Mycerinos's memory is, however, revered by Herodotus as
a just and merciful king. “To him his father's deeds
were displeasing, and he both opened the temples and gave
liberty to the people, who were ground down to the last
extremity of evil, to return to their own business and sacrifices;
also he gave decision of their causes juster than
those of all the other kings.” The actual bones of this
king can be seen in the British Museum, so that this panegyric
has a peculiar interest for English people.
To the fifth dynasty, known as the Elephantine from
the place of origin, belongs Unas, whose pyramid-tomb was
discovered by Professor Maspero in 1881. The sovereigns
of the sixth dynasty distinguished themselves by various
foreign conquests. To this family belongs the famous
Queen Nitokris, the original of the fabled Rhodopis of the
Greeks.
It is permissible to skip a period of some six hundred
years, during which four dynasties reigned, whose history
is almost entirely lost. So far as we can judge, it was a
period of struggle between weak titular sovereigns and
powerful feudal chiefs who left the kings a merely nominal
sovereignty, having apparently acquired the control of the
civil and military authority.
Egypt during this period was invaded by Libyan and

Ethiopian tribes. With the eleventh dynasty, founded by
powerful princes from Thebes, begins the Middle Empire,
with Thebes as its capital. It will be noticed that the
seat of government is often shifted during the thirty
dynasties which comprise Egyptian history from Menes to
Nectanebo I.
Under the Ancient Empire, Memphis, as we have seen,
was the seat of government, and may be regarded as the
first historic capital of Egypt. This, near Abydos, no
doubt can boast of an earlier history; but this was merely
the cradle of the first Egyptian kings, of whom we have
no records more authentic than those semi-mythical traditions
which centre round the prehistoric god-kings, and it
cannot, of course, be considered as a seat of government.
The political centre was shifted, under different kings, for
dynastic, strategic, or political motives, to various places in
Egypt, from the Upper Nile Valley to the Delta.
As the power of the kings increased, the capital was
fixed at Abydos, Elephantine, and other southern cities.
Under the Middle Empire, the period of Egypt's greatest
splendour, the great city of Thebes was the capital. Then,
during a period of internal disturbance or foreign invasions,
it was transferred again to the north, to Memphis,
Tel-El-Amarna, and other cities of Lower Egypt. From
the thirteenth to the seventeenth dynasties, Egyptian history
is intricate and difficult to follow. The Shepherd
Kings had conquered Lower Egypt, and held sway in the
Delta, while the old Theban royal race still maintained
the chief authority in Upper Egypt. So, during these
five dynasties, there were two capitals, Tanis (Zoan) and
Thebes. During the later Asiatic wars the political centre
was shifted towards the Asiatic frontier, and Rameses the
Great and his successors held their court principally in
the northern city of Tanis. Under the New Empire,—
the period of decadence and foreign oppression, — the

centre was continually transferred, and it was shifted with
each political change, — now to Thebes, now to Memphis,
and finally to Bubastis and Sais.
The twelfth dynasty is an important period in Egyptian
history. The reigns of Usertsen I. and III. and
Amen-Em-Het III. are renowned for the famous permanent
engineering achievements which did more, perhaps,
for the prosperity of the country than many of the architectural
enterprises and foreign conquests of the eighteenth
and nineteenth dynasties. Amen-Em-Het III.
conferred the greatest benefit on Egypt by his vast engineering
works for regulating the inundations of the Nile.
His most famous work, by which Egypt has benefited even
down to the present day, was the construction of the great
artificial lake, called by the Greeks Moeris, now called
by the Arabs El-Fayyum. This monarch also gave later
sovereigns the idea of a Nilometer, as on the cliffs at
Semni he made regular measurements of the rise in the
Nile inundation.
We now enter a dark period of about five hundred years,
when Egypt passed under the foreign domination — incidentally
referred to above, from which she freed herself only
after a long and severe struggle.
The thirteenth dynasty appears at first to have carried
on the government with the success inherited from its
predecessors; but there are indications that the reigns of
its later kings were disturbed by internal troubles, and it
is probable that actual revolution transferred power to the
fourteenth dynasty, whose seat was Sais in the Delta.
The new dynasty probably never succeeded in making its
sway paramount; and Lower Egypt, in particular, seems to
have been torn by civil wars, and to have fallen an easy
prey to the invader. Forced on by a wave of migration of
the peoples of Western Asia, in connection, perhaps, with
the conquests of the Elamites, or set in motion by some

internal cause, the nomad tribes of Syria made a sudden
irruption into the northeastern border of Egypt, and, conquering
the country as they advanced, apparently without
difficulty, finally established themselves in power at Memphis.
Their course of conquest was undoubtedly made
smooth for them by the large foreign element in the population
of the Lower country, where, on this account, they
may have been welcomed as a kindred people, or at least
not opposed as a foreign enemy. The dynasties which the
newcomers founded we know as those of the Hyksos, or
Shepherd Kings, — a title, however, which is nowhere given
to them in genuine Egyptian texts. It has been conjectured
that the name Hyksos (which first occurs in the
fragment of Manetho) is derived from “Hek-Shasu,” King
of the Shasu, an Egyptian name for the thieving nomad
race.
After the rough work of conquest had been accomplished,
the Hyksos gradually conformed to Egyptian
customs, adopted Egyptian forms of worship, and governed
the country just as it had been governed by the
native kings. The fifteenth and sixteenth dynasties are
Hyksos dynasties, probably at first holding sway over
Lower Egypt alone, but gradually bringing the Upper
country into subjection, or at least under tribute. The
period of the seventeenth dynasty, whether we are to
call it Hyksos or native Theban, or to count it as being
occupied by kings of both races, was a period of revolt.
The Theban under-king, Sekenen Ra, refused tribute, and
the war of liberation began, which, after a struggle of
nearly a century, was brought to a happy conclusion by
the final expulsion of the Hyksos by Aahmes, or Amasis I.,
the founder of the eighteenth dynasty.
The period of the foreign domination has a particular
interest on account of its connection with Bible history.
It appears from chronological calculations, which are fairly

conclusive, that it was towards the end of the Hyksos rule
that the Patriarch Joseph was sold into Egypt. A king
named Nubti (B. c. 1750) is supposed to have occupied
the throne at the time; and the famous Hyksos king, Apepa
II., is said to have been the Pharaoh who raised Joseph to
high rank, and welcomed the Patriarch Jacob and his
family into Egypt.1
1 E. A. Wallis-Budge.
Aahmes I. (Amasis), the conqueror of the Hyksos usurpers,
was the son of Ka-mes, the last of the royal race of
Thebes of the seventeenth dynasty; and his mother was
Queen Aah-hetep, whose jewels in the National Museum at
Cairo are only exceeded in beauty and interest by those of
the Princess Hathor. This monarch is the first of the eighteenth
dynasty, in which the history of Egypt enters upon
a new phase, and what may be called the “Expansion of
Egypt” begins. Hitherto the Egyptian sovereigns had been
satisfied with waging war only with their immediate neighbours.
Now begins an active foreign policy, and we note
an expansion of the national spirit. An Egyptian Empire
was founded, which, by the end of the reign of Thotmes
I., extended from the Euphrates in the north to Berber in
the Soudan. This policy of foreign conquest was, no doubt,
forced upon Aahmes and his successors by circumstances.
It was essential to find employment for their large armies,
whose energies had been hitherto confined to overthrowing
the Hyksos dynasty. But this foreign policy, which brought
Egypt into collision with the great Asiatic empires, eventually
proved a source of danger, when Egypt was no longer
ruled by the warrior-kings of the eighteenth, nineteenth,
and twentieth dynasties.
Thotmes II. and his sister, the famous Hatasu (Hatshepset),
whose achievements are more fully referred to in the
chapter on Thebes, followed up the Asiatic victories of
Thotmes I. with successful expeditions into Arabia. It

was, however, reserved for her son Thotmes III. to bring
the neighbouring nations into complete subjection; and
Egypt, under this famous monarch, perhaps the greatest
prototype of Alexander the Great in history, reached the
period of its greatest material prosperity.
It was his proud boast that he planted the frontiers of
Egypt where he pleased; and this was, indeed, no hyperbolical
figure. “Southwards, as far, apparently, as the
great Equatorial Lakes, which have been rediscovered in
our time; northwards to the Islands of the Ægean and
the upper waters of the Euphrates; over Syria and Sinai,
Mesopotamia and Arabia in the East; over Libya an
the North African coast as far as Cherchell in Algeria on
the West, he carried fire and sword, and the terrors of the
Egyptian name.”1
1 “Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers.”
Queen Hatasu was one of the most famous royal builders
of Egypt. “Numerous and stately as were the obelisks
erected in Egypt from the period of the twelfth dynasty
down to the time of Roman rule,” remarks Miss Edwards,
“those set up by Hatasu in advance of the fourth pylon of
the Great Temple of
Karnak are the loftiest, the most admirably
engraved, and the best proportioned. One has fallen;
the other stands alone, one hundred and nine feet high in
the shaft, cut from a single flawless block of red granite.”
Thotmes III. was famed as much for his achievements
of peace as for his foreign conquests, and some of the
finest monuments at Thebes and Luxor testify to his
merits as an architect. In fact, his cartouche occurs more
frequently even than that of Rameses II. on antiquities of
every kind, from temples and tombs down to scarabs. The
fame of Thotmes's successors, Amen-hetep II., and Amenhetep
III., though vigorous and warlike kings, has been
eclipsed by that of their great ancestor, though their campaigns
in Syria and Nubia were equally successful.

16

The reign of Amen-hetep IV. is noteworthy for an important
religious reform or revolution. This king, probably
influenced by his mother, a princess of Semitic origin,
“endeavoured to substitute a sort of Asiatic monotheism,
under the form of the worship of the solar disk, for the
official worship of Egypt. The cult and the very name of
Amen were proscribed, the name being erased from the
monuments wherever it occurred, and the king changed
his own name from Amen-hetep to Khun-Aten, the ‘Glory
of the Solar Disk.’ In the struggle which ensued between
the Pharaohs and the powerful hierarchy of Thebes, Khun-Aten
found himself obliged to leave the capital of his
fathers, and build a new one farther north called Khut-Aten
the site of which is now occupied by the villages of
Tel-El-Amarna and Haggi Qandil. Here he surrounded
himself with the adherents of the new creed, most of
whom seem to have been Canaanites or other natives of
Asia, and erected in it a temple to the solar disk as well
as a palace for himself, adorned with paintings, gold,
bronze, and inlaid work in precious stones.”1
1 “Murray's Handbook for Egypt.”
The worship of Amen was, however, too firmly established
to be permanently overthrown, and the great god
was paramount among the Egyptian gods. Consequently
the new cult took no hold upon the people. After Amenhetep's
death the new worship died out, and the god Amen
was restored as the national deity by Amen-hetep IV.
(Horus). In fact, the very stones and decorations of the
Temple of the Solar Disk were used in embellishing the
temple of the victorious Amen at
Karnak.
With the nineteenth dynasty (B. C. 1400-1200), the
age of the earlier Pharaohs, — for in popular estimation
the generic names of Rameses and Pharaoh are convertible
terms, though etymologists would, of course, draw a
distinction, — we enter upon the most popular period of

ancient Egyptian history,— popular, that is, in the sense
of familiar. Rameses I. is the least important sovereign
of the Pharaonic monarchs, and is known chiefly for the
war he waged with the traditional enemies of the Theban
monarchs, the Khita of Northern Syria. His victories
were, however, but moderate, and the campaign was continued
with greater success by his son, Seti I. This sovereign
successfully undertook the task of subjugating the
Phœnicians and the Libyans. He cut, too, the first canal
between the Red Sea and the Nile. It is true that this
honour has been claimed for Queen Hatasu, but the authority
is doubtful, being mainly based on the sculptures
in which this Queen's famous expedition to the Land of
Punt is pictorially described, some of these paintings apparently
indicating that there was some kind of waterway
between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea.
Rameses I. was succeeded by the famous Rameses II.,
the Sesostris of the Greeks, and known to us as the Pharaoh
of the Oppression. Rameses II. is, no doubt, the one
dominant personality in the whole field of Egyptian history.
His name is more widely known than that of any
other Egyptian monarch. Many reasons for this universal
posthumous fame can be assigned.
No doubt his unusually
long reign, seven years longer than the present reign of
Queen Victoria (1897), has something to do with this.
Then, too, the prominence given to this monarch's reign by
Herodotus and other Greek historians, and the wealth of
traditionary lore which has centred round the legendary
Sesostris, and his intimate associations with the Old Testament
history, have contributed not a little to exalt the
fame of Rameses above that of all other monarchs.
It must not, however, be forgotten that his renown is
to a considerable extent factitious. For instance, owing to
his overweening vanity (in which, however, he did not
differ from most other sovereigns of Egypt) in usurping

the architectural monuments of his predecessors by carving
upon them his own cartouche, he got credit for these
magnificent works, as well as for those which were undeniably
his own, of which the most famous are the
Ramesseum, at Thebes, and the rock-hewn Temple of
Abru-Simbel, in Nubia.
Then Rameses's greatest achievement in arms, the famous
campaign against the Khita, which is commemorated
at such inordinate length on the mural sculptures of so
many temples, has been naturally somewhat magnified by
Pentaur, the poet laureate of the Theban court. In a
poem virtually written to order, it is necessary, of course,
to discount a certain leaning towards fulsome hyperbole
in this stone-graven epic. It is absurd to accept as an
historical fact the extravagant statement which makes
Rameses rout, single-handed, the whole Khita host.
Without wishing to deny the title of Great to this
monarch, we need not follow the example of the Greek
historians and accept without reserve achievements which
would be more suited to the mythical god-kings of the
prehistoric period.
In the reign of Rameses the Great's successor, Mer-en-Ptah
II. (Seti III.), took place, according to most modern
historians, the Exodus of the Israelites. Some chronologists
have, however, given a later date to this national
emigration. “With the expiration of the nineteenth
dynasty,” writes Dr. Wallis-Budge, “the so-called Middle
Empire of Egypt came to an end, and we stand upon the
threshold of the New Empire, a chequered period of occasional
triumphs, of internal troubles, and of defeats and
subjection to a foreign yoke.”
The period from the twentieth to the end of the twenty-fifth
dynasty can be rapidly summed up. Rameses III.,
the founder of the twentieth dynasty, was the only strong
sovereign of the half-dozen who bore this dynastic name,

and was the last of the warrior-kings of Egypt. After his
death, the country enters upon a period of degeneration and
decadence, which lasted for over five hundred years. The
later kings of this dynasty fell gradually under the dominion
of the priests, which was finally consummated by the
usurpation of a race of priest-kings from Tanis, who formed
the twenty-first dynasty. The Trojan war was probably
waged about this time. The rule of the high-priest of
Amen was eventually overthrown by the Libyan prince,
Shashank (Shishak of the Old Testament), who founded
the twenty-second dynasty and made Bubastes the seat
of government.
Egypt was now entering upon the stage of disruption,
and the authority of one sovereign was virtually replaced
by that of a host of petty kings, and the two following
dynasties (twenty-third and twenty-fourth) are made up
of a list of the more powerful of these sovereigns, who
had gained a nominal supremacy. During these troublous
times of internecine strife, Egypt was being harassed by
two powerful neighbours, Assyria and Ethiopia. The latter
country, which, during the nineteenth and twentieth
dynasties, had been a mere province of the empire of the
Pharaohs, was now independent, and from about 715 B. C.
they got the better of their former masters and founded
what is known as the twenty-fifth dynasty. This dynasty
was, however, short-lived, and in 672 B. C. the Assyrians
under Esarhaddon invaded Egypt, captured Thebes and
Memphis, and, occupying the whole Delta, became masters
of the country.
The history of Egypt at this period is difficult to follow,
but it appears that one of the more powerful of the native
princes— Psammetichus, King of Sais, who was nominally a
viceroy of Assyria in Egypt — took advantage of the disruption
of the Assyrian Empire caused by the revolt of Babylonia,
to rebel against his suzerain and expel the Assyrian

army of occupation. Then, by a judicious marriage with
a Theban princess, the heiress of the older dynasties, Psammetichus
was able to win over Upper Egypt as well as the
Delta, and to found what is known as the twenty-sixth
dynasty. A transitory period of tranquillity now begins,
and a sort of revival of the arts and sciences takes place,
— one of the many periods of renaissance which Egypt
has known, — which proved that many centuries of civil
war and foreign oppression had not entirely crushed the
artistic spirit which had been bequeathed to the Egyptians
by their ancestors. Necho, the son of Psammetichus,
next reigned. He seems to have paid as much attention
to the domestic welfare and the material prosperity of his
country as to foreign conquest, and among his achievements
was an attempt to cut a canal between the Nile and
the Red Sea. His efforts in encouraging the development
of trade did a good deal towards reviving the commercial
spirit of the people. It was in Necho's reign, too, that
certain Phœnician mariners in this sovereign's service
made a voyage round Africa, — an enterprise which took
nearly three years to accomplish. This is the first complete
circumnavigation of the African continent recorded
in history.
For the next one hundred years Egyptian history is
merged in that of Syria, Babylonia, and Persia. The historical
sequence of events is rendered more difficult to
follow by the fact that, after the victory of Cambyses in
527 B. C., till the subjugation of the Persians by Alexander
the Great at the battle of the Issus in 332 B. C.,
— one of the most “decisive battles of the world,” —
Egypt was practically a satrapy of the Persian Empire
though historians reckon three short-lived Pharaonic
dynasties during this period, called the twenty-eighth,
twenty-ninth, and thirtieth, which synchronised with the
twenty-seventh, or Persian dynasty. This is accounted for

by the fact that whenever a native prince got possession of
the Delta, or of a considerable portion of Egypt, he became
nominally sovereign of Egypt, though it was to all intents
and purposes a province of Persia.
The twenty-seventh dynasty was, in short, a period of
Persian despotism, tempered by revolts more or less successful
on the part of the native viceroys or satraps appointed
by Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and other Persian
monarchs. For instance, for a few years, under Amyrteus
(twentieth-eighth dynasty), Mendes (twenty-ninth dynasty),
and the last native sovereign, Nectanebo II. (thirtieth dynasty),
Egypt was almost independent of Persia. In B. C.
332, when the Persian power had succumbed to the Macedonians
under Alexander the Great, this anomalous period
of Egyptian quasi-independence came to an end. On the
death of this monarch, Egypt fell to the share of his general,
Ptolemy, who founded the important dynasty of the
Ptolemies, and was hailed as the Saviour (Soter) of the
country.
This concludes a necessarily brief summary of the age
of the Pharaohs. In order to confine in a few pages a
sketch of the history of a period covering over four thousand
years and comprising thirty different dynasties, one
can do little more than give a bare list of names of the
principal sovereigns and of their more important wars. In
fact, like all ancient history, the history of the pre-Ptolemaic
period is in a great degree a history of empires and
dynasties, foreign wars and internal revolutions, and is in a
much less degree the history of the political and social progress
of the people. For, as Professor Freeman truly observes,
it is to the history of the Western world in Europe
and America that we must naturally look for the highest
development of art, literature, and political freedom.

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22

CHAPTER II.
THE EMPIRE OF THE PTOLEMIES.1

1 I am indebted for much of the information in this chapter to Professor
Mahaffy's admirable monograph on the age of the Ptolemies.
THE dynasty of the Ptolemies is thus appropriately
designated, as it emphasises the fact that these
Macedonian sovereigns were not merely kings of Egypt,
but rulers of a great composite empire.
“None of Alexander's achievements was more facile,
and yet none more striking, than his Egyptian campaign.
His advent must have been awaited with all the agitations
of fear and hope by the natives of all classes; for the Persian
sway had been cruel and bloody, and if it did not lay
extravagant burdens upon the poor, it certainly gave the
higher classes an abundance of sentimental grievances, for
it had violated the national feelings, and especially the
national religion, with wanton brutality. The treatment
of the revolted province by Ochus was not less violent and
ruthless than had been the original conquest by Cambyses,
which Herodotus tells us with graphic simplicity. No
conquerors seem to have been more uncongenial to the
Egyptians than the Persians. But all invaders of Egypt,
even the Ptolemies, were confronted by a like hopelessness
of gaining the sympathies of their subjects. If it was comparatively
easy to make them slaves, they were perpetually
revolting slaves. This was due, not to the impatience of
the average native, but rather to the hold which the
national religion had gained upon his life. This religion

was administered by an ambitious, organised, haughty
priesthood, whose records and traditions told them of the
vast wealth and power they had once possessed, — a condition
of things long passed away, and never likely to return,
but still filling the imaginations of the priests, and urging
them to set their people against every foreign ruler. The
only chance of success for an invader lay in conciliating
this vast and stubborn corporation. Every chief who
headed a revolt against the Persians had made this the
centre of his policy; the support of the priests must be
gained by restoring them to their old supremacy, — a
supremacy which they doubtless exaggerated in their uncriticised
records of the past.
“The nobles or military caste, who had been compelled to
submit to the generalship of mercenary leaders, Greek or
Carian, were also disposed to welcome Alexander. The
priestly caste, who had not forgotten the brutal outrages
to the gods by Cambyses, were also induced to hail with
satisfaction the conqueror of their hereditary enemies, the
Persians. Alexander was careful to display the same conciliatory
policy to the priests of Heliopolis and Memphis
which he had adopted at Jerusalem. These circumstances
partly explained the attitude of the Egyptians in hailing
Alexander as their deliverer rather than their conqueror.”
In order to understand the comparatively peaceful accession
of the Ptolemaic dynasty, we must bear in mind the
cardinal principle which governed Alexander's occupation
of Egypt, and his administration of the conquered province.
“Alexander had asserted the dignity and credibility of
the Egyptian religion, and his determination to support it
and receive support from it. He had refused to alter the
local administrations, and even appointed some native
officials to superintend it. On the other hand, he had
placed the control of the garrison and the central authority
in the hands of the Macedonians and Greeks, and had

founded a new capital, which could not but be a Hellenistic
city, and a rallying point for all the Greek traders throughout
the country. The port of Canopus was formally
closed, and its business transferred to the new city.”
On Alexander's death, in 323 B. C., after a very short
illness, Ptolemy, one of his lieutenants, took over the
regency of Egypt, and in 305 B. C. he was strong enough
to declare himself king, and to assume the title of Soter
(Saviour).
The history of the sixteen Ptolemies who form the
Ptolemaic dynasty is made up of the reigns of a few
powerful monarchs who held the throne sufficiently long
to insure a stable government, and of a large number of
short-lived and weak sovereigns, most of whom suffered a
violent death. In short, the large proportion of those who
died by violence is as noticeable as in the remarkable list
of the prehistoric kings of Ireland. The Ptolemaic dynasty
made a propitious commencement with the first three
Ptolemies, who were able and powerful monarchs. During
this period the prestige of Egypt among foreign nations
was very high.
In 283 B. C. Ptolemy Soter died, in the eighty-fifth year
of his age, leaving a record of prosperity which few men
in the world have surpassed. Equally efficient whether as
servant or as master, he made up for the absence of genius
in war or diplomacy by his persistent good sense, the moderation
of his demands, and the courtesy of his manners
to friend and foe alike. While the old crown of Macedon
was still the unsettled prize for which rival kings staked
their fortunes, he and his fellow-in-arms, Seleukos, founded
dynasties which resisted the disintegrations of the Hellenistic
world for centuries.
Perhaps of all Ptolemy's achievements, whether foreign
or domestic, his famous museum and library deserves to
rank the highest. Very little is known about this remarkable

seat of learning, and Strabo's description is painfully
meagre. This great institution was rather a university
than a museum, and was certainly the greatest glory of
Ptolemaic Alexandria. The idea of making his capital,
not merely a great commercial centre, but a centre of
arts, sciences, and literature, seems to have gradually
matured in the mind of Ptolemy Soter. The college or
university, or whatever we call the museum, was under
the most direct patronage of the king, and was, in fact,
a part of the royal palace. It included, in addition to
lecture-halls, class-rooms, dining-hall, etc., courts, cloisters,
and gardens, and was under the rule of a principal nominated
by the king, who also performed the offices of a kind
of high-priest. This Alexandrian foundation was apparently
as much a teaching and residential university as the
famous European universities of Paris, Padua, or Oxford.
In fact, it served equally with the renowned academies of
Athens as a model for modern universities.
“It is indeed strange that so famous an institution
should not have left us some account of its foundation, its
constitution, and its early fortunes. No other school of
such moment among the Greeks is so obscure to us now;
and yet it was founded in broad daylight of history by a
famous king, in one of the most frequented cities of the
world. The whole modern literature on the subject is
a literature of conjecture. If it were possible to examine
the site, which now lies twenty feet deep under the
modern city, many questions which we ask in vain might
be answered. The real outcome of the great school is fortunately
preserved. In literary criticism, in exact science,
in geography, and kindred studies, the museum made advances
in knowledge which were among the most important
in the progress of human civilisation. If the produce
in poetry and philosophy was poor, we must attribute such
failure to the decadence of that century, in comparison

with the classical days of Ionia and Athens. But in preserving
the great masters of the golden age the library,
which was part of the same foundation, did more than we
can estimate.”
On the death of his father, Ptolemy Soter, Philadelphus,
in accordance with the traditional policy of that age, puts
to death his stepbrother, Argeus, his most formidable rival.
According to the historians of that period, Philadelphus is
said to have complained in after-life that one of the hardships
in a despot's life was the necessity of putting people
to death who had done no harm, merely for the sake of
expediency!
Having now cleared the way to the throne, Philadelphus
makes arrangements for his coronation. We borrow
the following vivid picture of these magnificent ceremonies
of Philadelphus from the pages of “Greek Life and
Thought:”
“The first thing that strikes us is the ostentation of the
whole affair, and how prominently costly materials were
displayed. A greater part of the royal treasure at all
courts in those days consisted not of coin, but of precious
gold and silver vessels, and it seems as if these were
carried in the procession by regiments of richly dressed
people. And although so much plate was in the streets,
there was a great sideboard in the banqueting-hall covered
with vessels of gold, studded with gems. People had not,
indeed, sunk so low in artistic feeling as to carry pots full
of gold and silver coin, which was done in the triumph of
Paulus Æmilius at Rome, but still a great part of the
display was essentially the ostentation of wealth. How
different must have been a Panathenaic festival in the
days of Pericles! I note further that sculpture and
painting of the best kind (the paintings of the Sicyonian
artists are specially named) were used for the mere purpose
of decoration. Then, in describing the appearance of

the great chamber specially built for the banquet, Callixenus
tells us that on the pilasters round the wall were a
hundred marble reliefs by the first artists, in the space
between them were paintings, and about them precious
hangings with embroideries, representing mystical subjects,
or portraits of kings. We feel ourselves in a sort of glorified
Holborn Restaurant, where the resources of art are
lavished on the walls of an eating-room. In addition to
scarlet and purple, gold and silver, and skins of various
wild beasts upon the walls, the pillars of the room represented
palm-trees, and Bacchic thyrsi alternated, a design
which distinctly points to Egyptian rather than Greek
taste.
“Among other wonders, the Royal Zoölogical Gardens
seemed to have been put under requisition, and we have
a list of the various strange animals which joined in the
parade. This is very interesting as showing us what can
be done in the way of transporting wild beasts, and how
far that traffic had reached. There were twenty-four huge
lions, — the epithet points, no doubt, to the African, or
maned lions, — twenty-six snow-white Indian oxen, eight
Æthiopic oxen, fourteen leopards, sixteen panthers, four
lynxes, three young panthers, a great white bear, a came-leopard,
and an Æthiopic rhinoceros. The tiger and the
hippopotamus seem to have missed the opportunity of
showing themselves, for they were not mentioned.
“But the great Bacchic show was only one of a large
number of mummeries, or allegories, which pervaded the
streets; for example, Alexander, attended by Nike and
Athene, the first Ptolemy escorted and crowned by the
Greek cities of Asia Minor, and with Corinth standing
beside him. Both gods and kings were there in statues
of gold and ivory, and for the most part escorted by living
attendants, — a curious incongruity all through the show.
“The procession lasted a whole day, being opened by

a figure of the Morning Star and closed by Hesperus.
Eighty thousand troops, cavalry and infantry, in splendid
uniforms, marched past. The whole cost of the feast was
over half a million of our money. But the mere gold
crowns, offered by friendly towns and people, to the first
Ptolemy and his queen, had amounted to that sum.”
The literary materials we possess for the reign of this
Ptolemy are deplorably meagre, the few extant documents
being, for the most part, fulsome panegyrics of Greek
chroniclers, or bare records of isolated facts, which are not
of great historical value. The most interesting event in
this reign is the coronation ceremony, which was conceived
and carried out on a scale of unparalleled splendour and
magnificence. Contemporary writers seem to have been as
much dazzled by these fêtes as the Alexandrian populace.
Possibly there was some deep political motive behind these
magnificent spectacles, which amused the people and induced
them to forget the atrocious domestic murders with
which Philadelphus inaugurated his reign.
“We have from Phylarchus a curious passage which
asserts that, though the most august of all the sovereigns
of the world, and highly educated, if ever there was one,
he was so deceived and corrupted by unreasonable luxury
as to expect he could live forever, and say that he alone
had discovered immortality; and yet, being tortured many
days by gout, when at last he got better and saw from his
windows the natives on the river bank making their breakfast
of common fare, and lying stretched anyhow on the
sand, he sighed: ‘Alas that I was not born one of
them!’”
Philadelphus is perhaps best known for his work in connection
with the Alexandrian Museum, which had been
founded by his father. He is generally allowed to have
the credit of ordering the Greek translation of the Old
Testament, known as the Septuagint; but his actual responsibility

for this is still a matter of controversy with
ecclesiastical historians. It is not, however, disputed that
Philadelphus commissioned Manetho to write his famous
History of Egypt. Of Ptolemy's architectural achievements,
the most important is the Pharos at Alexandria.
This famous tower, from which the French and other
Latin nations derive their name for lighthouse (Phare),
once ranked among the seven wonders of the world. It
was made of white marble, and was several stories high,
and inside ran a circular causeway on a gentle incline,
which could be ascended by chariots. It is not known
how long this lighthouse remained erect, but it was supposed
to have been destroyed by an earthquake in 1203
A. D.
A clever epigram of Posidippus, on a second century
papyrus found a few years ago, is worth quoting:
“Ελληνων σωτηρα Φαρου σκοπον, ω ανα Πρωτεν,
Σωστρατος εστησεν Δεξιφανους Κνιδιος
ου γαρ εν Αιγυπτωι σκοποι ου ριον οἰ επι νησων
αλλα χαμαι χηλη ναυλοχος εκτεταται.”
It is said that on a very calm day it is possible to discern
the ruins beneath the sea off the head of the promontory.
In this reign a great impetus was given to the building
of temples and other commemorative structures. In addition
to the world-renowned Temple of Isis, a gem of Ptolemaic
architecture, Ptolemy built several temples on the
Delta, — notably one at Naukratis, and one of great size on
the site of the ancient Sebennytus. He also built an important
port on the Red Sea, named after his daughter
Berenice, which is thus described in an article in the Proceedings
of the Royal Geographical Society, 1887:
“The violent north winds that prevail in the Red Sea made the
navigation so difficult and slow for the poor ships of the ancients

that Ptolemy Philadelphia established the port of Berenike. This
is two hundred miles south of the ancient ports at or near Kosseir,
and consequently saved that distance and its attendant delays and
dangers to the mariners from South Arabia and India. I suppose
the best camels and the worst ships would choose Berenike, while
the best ships and the worst camels would carry the Kosseir traffic.
For it is interesting to note that Philadelphus, at the same time
that he built Berenike, also rebuilt the old Kosseir port, and Myos
Hormos was still kept in repair. In former days it is probable
that many a sea-sick traveller, buffeted by contrary winds, landed
joyfully at Berenike, and took the twelve-days' camel journey sooner
than continue in his cramped ship, — just as now they disembark
at Brindisi rather than Venice, on their way from India.”
An engineering work of the highest importance, and one
which, as we shall see later, in the chapter on Modern Egypt,
proved of permanent value in the development of the agricultural
resources of the country, was the draining of Lake
Moeris, and the reclamation and irrigation of a vast tract
of country now known as Fayyum.
In a sketch of this important reign, some mention
should be made of Ptolemy's famous consort, his second
wife, Arsinoe. This, to add to the difficulties of ancient
chroniclers and modern historians, was also the name of
Philadelphus's first wife; but the fame of the latter is
altogether eclipsed by that of the former. Even in the
age of Berenices and Cleopatras, and other great princesses,
Arsinoe stands out prominently. Though most
Egyptian queens were in a manner deified, none, with
the exception of the last Cleopatra, exercised greater
political influence. She took her place beside the king,
not only on coins, but among those statues at the entrance
of the Odeum at Athens, where the series of the Egyptian
kings was set up. She was the only queen among them.
At Olympia, where there were three statues of the king,
she had her place. Pausanias also saw , at Helicon, a
statue of her in bronze, riding upon an ostrich. It is

very likely that this statue, or a replica, was present to
the mind of Callimachus, when he spoke, in the “Coma
Berenices,” of the winged horse, brother of the Æthiopian
Memnon, who is the messenger of Queen Arsinoe. Arsinoe
died some three or four years before her royal husband,
and Pliny tells us that the disconsolate king, after
her death, lent an ear to the wild scheme of an architect
to build her a temple with a lodestone roof, which might
sustain in mid-air an iron statuette of the deified lady, who
was identified with Isis (especially at Philae) and with
Aphrodite. She had an Arsinoeion over her tomb at Alexandria,
another apparently in the Fayyum, and probably
many elsewhere. Her temple on the promontory between
Alexandria and the Canopic mouth, dedicated to her by
Kallikrates, where she was known as Aphrodite Zephyritis,
is mentioned by Strabo, and celebrated in many epigrams.
He also mentions two towns in Ætolia and Crete, two
in Cilicia, two in Cyprus, one in Cyrene, besides those in
Egypt, called after her. She seems only to have wanted
a Plutarch and a Roman lover to make her into another
Cleopatra.
Of all the Ptolemies, Euergetes I. is the only great conqueror,
and his reign should be the most interesting to the
student were it not for the scantiness of material. Very
little is known of this shadowy and enigmatic sovereign,
and of the actual part he took in the great campaigns
against the Seleucides and Cilicia — one exceeded in importance
only by the chief ones of Alexander — nothing
is told us by the Greek chroniclers. The events of the
great campaign known as the Third Syrian War have, indeed,
only within recent years been known to modern
historians through the accounts in the famous Petrie papyrus.
Other important evidence for the history of this
Ptolemy is the famous stone inscription known as the
Decree of Canopus, recovered by Lepsius, in 1865, from

the sands of Tanis. It was passed by the Synod of Priests
in the ninth year of this reign. It is hoped that similar
decrees may be found at Philae, for in 1895 the Egyptian
government intrusted the researches here to Colonel
Lyons, R. E.
The difficulty of unravelling the intricate labyrinthine
maze of Egyptian history during the three hundred years
of Ptolemaic rule is intensified, owing to the bewildering
recurrence of certain royal names. It is difficult to differentiate
the innumerable princesses bearing the names of
Berenice, Arsinoe, or Cleopatra, and, indeed, some of the
Greek historians have mixed these names up in a most
bewildering fashion. Another difficulty which confronts
the student of this period is the custom of the sovereigns
marrying their sisters. Then again, many of the kings
and queens reign conjointly. For instance we have Philometer
(Ptolemy VIII.) and Euergetes II. (Ptolemy IX.)
together on the throne of Egypt.
In a sketch of the age of the Ptolemies, a notice of
the first three sovereigns must necessarily occupy a space
which seems somewhat disproportionate for a period which
fills barely a hundred years, — about one-third of the whole
dynasty. But considering the importance of these reigns,
this prominence does not, I think, show a want of appreciation
of historic proportion, which has, of course, little
to do with chronological proportion.
“Tried by a comparative standard,” writes Mr. David
Hogarth, “the only monarchs of the Nile Valley that
approach to absolute greatness are Ptolemy Philadelphus
I., Saladin, certain of the Mamelukes, and Mehemet Ali;
for these held as their own what the vainglorious raiders
of the twelfth and nineteenth dynasties but touched and
left, and I know no prettier irony than that, among all
those inscriptions of Pharaohs who ‘smite the Asiatics’
on temple walls and temple pylons, there should occur no

record of the prowess of the one king of Egypt who really
smote Asiatics hip and thigh, — Alexander, son of Philip.”
With the reign of Ptolemy IV. (Philopater), a tyrannical
and self-indulgent king, begins the decline of the
Egyptian kingdom under a series of dynastic monarchs.
Philopater continued the traditional foreign policy of his
ancestors; and though successful in his campaign against
Syria, now ruled by Antiochus the Great, Egypt derived
but little benefit, as the war was terminated by a peace
in which the terms were distinctly unfavourable to Egypt,
and were due to the weakness and incapacity of Philopater.
The early events of the reign are thus summarised by
Polybius:
“Immediately after his father's death, Ptolemy Philopater put his
brother Magas and his partisans to death, and took possession of
the throne of Egypt. He thought that he had now freed himself by
this act from domestic danger, and that by the deaths of Antigonus
and Seleucus, and their being succeeded by mere children like Antiochus
and Philip, fortune released him from danger abroad. He
therefore felt secure of his position, and began conducting his reign as
though it were a perpetual feast. He would attend to no business,
and would hardly grant an interview to the officials about the court,
or at the head of the administrative departments of Egypt. Even his
agents abroad found him entirely careless and indifferent, though
his predecessors, far from taking less interest in foreign affairs, had
generally given them precedence over those of Egypt itself. For
being masters of Coele-Syria and Cyprus, they maintained a threatening
attitude towards the kings of Syria, both by land and sea;
and were also in a commanding position in regard to the princes of
Asia, as well as the islands, through their possession of the most
splendid cities, strongholds, and harbours all along the seacoast,
from Pamphylia to the Hellespont and the district round Lysimachia.
Moreover, they were favourably placed for an attack upon
Thrace and Macedonia from their possession of Ænus Maroneia
and more distant cities still. And having thus stretched forth their
hands to remote regions, and long ago strengthened their position
by a ring of princedoms, these kings had never been anxious about
their rule in Egypt, and had naturally, therefore, given great attention
to foreign politics.
“But when Philopater, absorbed in unworthy intrigues and senseless
and continual drunkenness, treated these several branches of
government with equal indifference, it was naturally not long before
more than one was found to lay plots against his life as well as
his power: of whom the first was Cleomenes, the Spartan.”
The decisive battle of Raphia, which terminated the
Fourth Syrian War, is described with great circumstantial
detail by Polybius. We can only find room for the following
graphic specimen from this despatch of the most
famous Greek prototype of modern war correspondents:
“Ptolemy, accompanied by his sister, having arrived at the left
wing of his army, and Antiochus with the royal guard at the right,
they gave the signal for the battle, and opened the fight by a charge
of elephants.
“Only some few of Ptolemy's elephants came to close quarters
with the foe. Seated on these, the soldiers in the howdahs maintained
a brilliant fight, lunging at and striking each other with
crossed pikes; but the elephants themselves fought still more brilliantly,
using all their strength in the encounter, and pushing
against each other, forehead to forehead.
“The way in which elephants fight is this: they get their tusks
entangled and jammed, and then push against one another with all
their might, trying to make each other yield ground, until one of
them, proving superior in strength, has pushed aside the other's
trunk; and when once he can get a side blow at his enemy, he
pierces him with his tusks, as a bull would with his horns. Now,
most of Ptolemy's animals, as is the way with Libyan elephants,
were afraid to face the fight, for they cannot stand the smell or the
trumpeting of the Indian elephants, but are frightened at their
size and strength, I suppose, and run away from them at once without
waiting to come near them.
“This is exactly what happened on this occasion, and upon their
being thrown into confusion and being driven back upon their own
lines, Ptolemy's guard gave way before the rush of the animals;
while Antiochus, wheeling his men so as to avoid the elephants,
charged the division of cavalry under Polycrates. At the same time
the Greek mercenaries, stationed near the phalanx and behind the
elephants, charged Ptolemy's peltasts and made them give ground,
the elephants having already thrown their ranks into confusion.
“Thus Ptolemy's whole left wing began to give way before the

enemy. Echecrates, the commander of the right wing, waited at
first to see the result of the struggle between the other wings of
the two armies; but when he saw the dust coming his way, and
that the elephants opposite his division were afraid even to approach
the hostile elephants at all, he ordered Phoxidas to charge
the part of the enemy opposite him with his Greek mercenaries,
while he made a flank movement with the cavalry and the division
behind the elephants, and so getting out of the line of the hostile
elephants' attack, charged the enemy's cavalry on the rear or the
flank, and quickly drove them from the ground. Phoxidas and his
men were similarly successful; for they charged the Arabians and
Medes, and forced them into precipitate flight. Thus Antiochus's
right wing gained a victory, while his left was defeated. The
phalanxes, left without the support of either wing, remained intact
in the centre of the plain, in a state of alternate hope and fear for
the result. Meanwhile, Antiochus was assisting in gaining the victory
on his right wing; while Ptolemy, who had retired behind his
phalanx, now came forward in the centre, and showing himself in
the view of both armies, struck terror into the hearts of the enemy,
but inspired great spirit and enthusiasm in his own men; and
Andromachus and Sosibius at once ordered them to lower their
sarissae and charge. The picked Syrian troops stood their ground
only for a short time, and the division of Nicarchus quickly broke
and fled.
“Antiochus, presuming, in his youthful inexperience, from the
success of his own division that he would be equally victorious all
along the line, was pressing on the pursuit; but upon one of the
older officers at length giving him warning, and pointing out that the
cloud of dust raised by the phalanx was moving towards their own
camp, he understood too late what was happening, and endeavoured
to gallop back with the squadron of royal cavalry to the field. But
finding his whole line in full retreat, he was forced to retire to
Raphia, comforting himself with the belief that, as far as he was
personally concerned, he had won a victory, but had been defeated
in the whole battle by the want of spirit and courage shown by the
rest.
“Ptolemy, having secured the final victory by his phalanx, and
killed large numbers of the enemy in the pursuit by means of his
cavalry and mercenaries on his right wing, retired to his own camp
and there spent the night. But next day, after picking up and
burying his own dead, and stripping the bodies of the enemy, he

advanced towards Raphia. Antiochus had wished, immediately
after the retreat of his army, to make a camp outside the city, and
there rally such of his men as had fled in compact bodies; but finding
that the greater number had retreated into the town, he was
compelled to enter it himself also. Next morning, however, before
daybreak, he led out the relics of his army, and made the best of
his way to Gaza. There he pitched a camp, and having sent an
embassy to obtain leave to pick up his dead, he obtained a truce for
performing their obsequies. His loss amounted to nearly ten thousand
infantry and three hundred cavalry killed, and four thousand
taken prisoners. Three elephants were killed on the field, — two
died afterwards of their wounds. On Ptolemy's side the losses were
fifteen hundred infantry and seven hundred cavalry; sixteen of his
elephants were killed and most of the others captured.”
Such was the result of the battle of Raphia between
King Ptolemy and Antiochus for the possession of Coele-Syria.
Though as a warrior and statesman the fourth Ptolemy
shows a decided inferiority to his father, he seems to have
been deserving of some praise as a patron of literature, and
showed his admiration of Homer by building a magnificent
temple in his honour. Then, as a builder, he emulated
Rameses or Thotmes, and remains of his work are to be
seen at Edfu and Philae, as well as at Thebes, where he
raised that exquisite shrine known as Deir-el-Medinet, of
which some account is given in a later chapter, on Thebes
and its temples.
We may profitably skip the short and unimportant
reigns of several Ptolemies to the ninth Ptolemy, called
usually Euergetes II. Antiochus IV. of Syria had conquered
a great part of Lower Egypt and attempted to
restore Philometer, a son of Ptolemy V. The Alexandrians,
however, who, as Professor Mahaffy points out,
“voiced” the will of Egypt more completely than Paris
does of France at the present day, supported the claims
of Euergetes. All through this reign, or rather joint

reigns, of Euergetes and Philometer, we find the Roman
Senate acting as arbiter, and both sovereigns went to
Rome to prosecute their claims in person. A curious
side-light is thrown on these intrigues by Plutarch, who
mentions that Euergetes offered the chance of becoming
Queen of Egypt to Cornelia, the high-souled mother of the
Gracchi. No doubt “a Cornelia on the throne at Alexandria
would have been a real novelty among the Cleopatras.
But the great Roman lady probably held him
in such esteem as an English noblewoman now would hold
an Indian rajah proposing marriage.”
In 146 B. C., Philometer led an army to help his
son-in-law, Alexander, recover Syria from Demetrius, and
died from wounds received in battle. There is a striking
contrast between the characters of the two brother-kings,
who for nearly a quarter of a century jointly controlled
the destinies of Egypt. Philometer (Ptolemy VII.) was
one of the most able of the later sovereigns of the house
of Ptolemy. A good and apparently unbiassed sketch of
his life is given in the following passage from Polybius:
“Ptolemy, King of Syria, died from a wound received in the war;
a man who, according to some, deserved great praise and abiding
remembrance; according to others the reverse. If any king before
him ever was, he was mild and benevolent, a very strong proof of
which is that he never put any of his own ‘friends’ to death on
any charge whatever, and I believe also not a single man at Alexandria
owed his death to him. Again, though he was notoriously
ejected from his throne by his brother in the first place, when he
got a clear opportunity against him in Alexandria, he granted him
a complete amnesty; and afterwards, when his brother once more
made a plot against him to seize Cyprus, though he got him body
and soul into his hands at Lapthus, he was so far from punishing
him as an enemy, that he even made him grants in addition to
those which formerly belonged to him in virtue of the treaty made
between them, and, moreover, promised him his daughter. However,
in the course of a series of successes and prosperity, his mind
became corrupted; he fell a prey to the dissoluteness and effeminacy

characteristic of the Egyptians, and these vices brought him
into serious disasters.”
Space fails us for a sketch of the reigns of the four
Ptolemies who succeed Philopater. Under Epiphanes
(Ptolemy V.), the domestic affairs of Egypt fell into a
state of deplorable confusion; “one rebellion succeeded
another, and anarchy prevailed everywhere.” In order to
maintain his authority, Epiphanes was fain to ask the
protection of the Roman Senate. From this time down
to the conquest of Egypt by Octavius, the country of the
Pharaohs was, to all intents and purposes, a Roman province
under a viceroy, who was allowed the titular rank of
king.
On the death of Ptolemy VI., in 181 B. C., a period of
alternate despotism, anarchy, and joint-sovereignty begins,
which is difficult to follow. In B. C. 146, Euergetes II.
(Ptolemy IX.) besieges Alexandria and occupies the
throne, though he is nominally merely the regent of the
kingdom, and guardian of the infant sovereign, Ptolemy,
surnamed Neos. Euergetes, however, when he had got
the Alexandrians on his side, did not scruple to put the
infant king to death, and occupy himself the blood-stained
throne of Egypt. After having reigned some fifteen years
at Alexandria, Euergetes has to flee to Cyprus, having
alienated his subjects through his cruelties and debauchery.
Some years later he appears to have returned from
exile and regained possession of his throne.
It is difficult to unravel the confused and conflicting
statements of the great historians as regards the later
events of his throne, but the date of his death, 117 B. C.,
is not disputed.
With his death the history of Ptolemaic Egypt, so far as
it is worth recording, may be brought to a close. “There
is nothing of public interest to follow till we come to the

last scene,” to the reign of the notorious Cleopatra VI., the
Cleopatra of Shakespeare.
This famous, or rather infamous, queen, daughter of
Auletes (Ptolemy XIII.), who came so near to revolutionise
the history of the Roman Empire, was born about
69 B. C.
Auletes, who died 51 B. C., has earned the bad eminence
of being the most worthless, incapable, and cruel
of all the Ptolemies. If we take Cicero's estimate as
correct, he was pliant and persuasive when in need, making
boundless promises of money to men of influence at
Rome, but tyrannical and ruthless when in power, taking
little account of human life when it thwarted his interests,
or even balked his pleasures. With the priests, however,
he seems to have been on friendly terms.
With the succession of Cleopatra we enter upon one of
the most familiar epochs of Egyptian, or rather Roman,
history, and the intrigues of the Egyptian queen with
Caesar, and subsequently with Antony, are familiar to every
one. The real cause of the war which broke out between
Rome and Egypt in 31 A. D. seems a little obscure. In
fact, the conduct of Antony in celebrating a grand Roman
triumph at Alexandria, after a doubtful victory (34 B. C.)
over the Parthians, seems to have alienated and disgusted
the Roman Senate. But it was the formal distribution of
provinces which gave most offence at Rome, and proved
the chief casus belli put forward by Octavius. This was
naturally regarded as a theatrical piece of insolence and
contempt of his country: “For, assembling the people in
the exercise-ground, and causing two golden thrones to be
placed on a platform of silver, the one for him and the
other for Cleopatra, and at their feet lower thrones for
their children, he proclaimed Cleopatra Queen of Egypt,
Cyprus, Libya, and Coele-Syria, and with her, conjointly,
Caesarion, the reputed son of the former Caesar. His own

sons by Cleopatra were to have the style of ‘king of
kings;’ to Alexander he gave Armenia and Media with
Parthia, so soon as it should be overcome; to Ptolemy,
Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. Alexander was brought out
before the people in Median costume, with the tiara and
upright peak; and Ptolemy, in boots and mantle and Macedonian
cap done about with the diadem, — for this was the
habit of the successors of Alexander, as the other was of
the Medes and Armenians. And as soon as they had
saluted their parents, the one was received by a guard of
Macedonians, the other by one of the Armenians. Cleopatra
was then, as at other times when she appeared in
public, dressed in the habits of the goddess Isis, and
gave audience to the people under the name of the new
Isis.”
The usual view of historians is that Cleopatra's flight to
Egypt, after the disastrous battle of Actium, was prompted
by cowardice; but in view of the strong character of this
queen, it is more likely that she came to the conclusion
early in the fight that Antony's cause was lost, and that
her naval contingent would only swell the spoils of Octavius.
She probably knew, too, that her life would be forfeited
if she were taken prisoner with her fleet. But there
was still a chance, if Antony were killed or taken prisoner,
that she might negotiate with the conqueror as
Queen of Egypt with her fleet and treasure intact. Besides,
as Professor Mahaffy points out, who could tell what effect
her personal charms, although now somewhat mature,
might have upon Octavius? She had already subjugated
two far greater Romans,— Caesar and Antony,— why not a
third? For the closing scenes of Cleopatra's life we can go
to Shakespeare, whose history here is less at fault than is
the case in his English historical plays, as the whole narrative
is scrupulously reproduced from Plutarch. The last
scene of the tragedy is vividly pictured by Dion:

“After her repast, Cleopatra sent Caesar a letter which she had
written and sealed, and putting everybody out of the monument but
her two women, she shut the doors. Caesar, opening her letter, and
finding pathetic prayers and entreaties that she might be buried in
the same tomb with Antony, soon guessed what was doing. At
first he was going himself in all haste, but, changing his mind, he
sent others to see. The thing has been quickly done. The messengers
came at full speed and found the guards apprehensive of nothing;
but on opening the doors they saw her stone-dead, lying upon
a bed of gold, set out in all her royal ornaments. Iras, one of her
women, lay dying at her feet; and Charmion, just ready to fall,
scarce able to talk and hold up her head, was adjusting her mistress's
diadem. And when one that came in said angrily, ‘Was
this well done of your lady, Charmion?’ ‘Perfectly well,’ she
answered, ‘and as became the daughter of many kings;’ and as
she said this, she fell down dead beside the bedside.”
When modern people wonder at the daring of the last of
the Cleopatras, who has been embalmed in the prose of
Plutarch and the verse of Shakespeare, they seldom know
or reflect that she was the last of a long series of princesses,
probably beautiful and accomplished, certainly daring
and unscrupulous, living every day of their lives in
the passion of love, hate, jealousy, and ambition, wielding
dominion over men or dying in the attempt. But, alas!
except in the dull, lifeless effigies on coins, we have no
portraits of these terrible persons, no anecdotes of their
tamer moments, no means of distinguishing one Cleopatra
from the rest, amid the catalogue of parricides, incests,
exiles, and bereavements.
The battle of Actium made Octavius master of the
Mediterranean, and Egypt of course became a mere province
of Rome, until it fell an easy prey to the rising
Mohammedan power some six centuries later. The history
of Egypt under Arab rule will form the subject of
the next chapter.

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CHAPTER III.
THE RULE OF THE CALIPHS.

THE period of some 650 years, from the fall of the
Ptolemaic Empire (B. C. 30) down to the Mohammedan
conquest in 638 A. D., need not detain us long. This
age is an uneventful one for Egypt, now reduced to the
position of a mere province of the Roman Empire, and
then — on the disruption of the Empire and its partition in
395 A. D., when the two sons of the Emperor Theodosius,
Arcadius and Honorius, ruled respectively over the Eastern
and Western Empires — a portion of what may be conviently
called the Byzantine Empire.
In the early part of the seventh century the great Semitic
race of the Saracens begins to play a most important part
in the world's history, and with little difficulty the army of
the Caliph Omar under Amru wrests the province of Egypt
from Rome.
We now enter upon a picturesque period of Egyptian
history, though it is of more importance to lovers of the
arts than to historians. It lasts for nearly nine hundred
years, till the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in
1517. The chief historical landmarks of this long epoch
of Mohammedan rule are Ahmed Ibn-Tulun, El-Muizz,
Saladin, and En-Nasr Mohammed.
Amru, fully alive to the suitability of the site of the
Roman stronghold of Babylon, builds here his new capital,
called Fostat (Old Cairo ). This is some two miles south
of modern Cairo. The latter city is often erroneously
attributed to Saladin. This enlightened monarch no doubt

improved the new capital considerably, and fortified it; but
the modern city dates from 969 A. D., when El-Muizz, the
first of the Fatimite dynasty (Tunis), transferred the seat
of the government, and we might also say of the Caliphate,
from Kerouan (the “Holy City”) to a site about two miles
from Fostat. To this new city, Gohar, the Caliph's general,
gave the proud title of Masr-El-Kahira (the Victorious),
a name which was corrupted by Europeans into Cairo,
though the natives still call it Masr. Gohar's design was,
however, at first limited to a fortress and palace for his
master, and for some time the new site was only the royal
residence of the Caliph El-Muizz. Here lived the harem,
the court, and the garrison, and in this enormous enceinte
lived, so say the Arab chroniclers, over twelve thousand
souls. It was not till the reign of the great Saladin that
the walls of the palace were extended to include a city,
which even then, in the twelfth century, occupied as large
a site as intra-mural Cairo of to-day; that is, about three
miles long, and a mile to a mile and a half wide.
“Most of these changes,” remarks Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole,
“can be traced in the present city. A small part of
Fostat remains under the name of Masr-El-Atika (old
Cairo), separated from the capital by the great mounds of
rubbish which indicate vanished suburbs. Of Kahira the
whole growth can readily be traced. The second wall still
stands on the north side, though the magnificent Norman-looking
gateway of the Bab-En-Nasr, or ‘Gate of Victory,’
with its mighty square towers and fine vaulting within, and
the Bab-El-Futuh, or ‘Gate of Conquests,’ flanked with
massive round towers, are not quite on their original sites.
The cornice and frieze, adorned with fine Kufic inscriptions,
which run along the face of the gateway and the faces and
inner sides of the two towers half-way from the ground, no
less than its solid and clean-cut masonry, distinguish the
‘Gate of Victory’ among Saracenic monuments.

44

”The second wall is still visible at the eastern boundary of
the city, and its other sides may be traced by the names of
demolished gates, as the Water Gate (Bab-El-Bar), the Bab-El-Luk,
and the Bab-El-Khalak; while the Bab Zuweyla,
still standing in the heart of the city, is one of the most
striking buildings in Cairo, though its walls and inscriptions
are daubed over with plaster, and its towers are lowered
to make room for the minarets of the adjoining
Mosque of El-Muayyad. The second wall, thus mapped
out, must have run from near the present bridge over the
Ismailiya Canal, along the western side of the Ezbekiya
(where the wall was standing in 1842), to near the Abdin
Palace, where it turned up to the Bab Zuweyla, and was
prolonged to the eastern wall.
“Since it was built, the Nile has considerably changed its
course, and now runs much farther to the westward. Saladin's
wall was a restoration of this in part, but his addition
(begun in 1170) round the citadel is in partial preservation,
like the fortress itself, though the continuation round the
site of Katai on the south is demolished. The names of
the gates, however, show that the limits of the present city
on the south are nearly what they were in Saladin's day,
and this wall must have run from the Citadel to near the
Mosque of Ibn Tulun, enclosed it, and turned north to meet
the old wall near Bab-El-Luk.
“The limits of the modern additions are only too plain,
but street improvements of the reigning dynasty happily do
not extend to the old Fatima Quarter, and indeed scarcely
affect Saladin's city, except in the prolongation and widening
of the Mooski, the opening of the broad Boulevard
Mehemet Ali up to the Citadel, and the laying out of the
Rumayla Quarter and the Kara-Meydan in the usual European
style. With these exceptions, the modern additions
extend only from the Ezbekiya Quarter to the river, and
consists of a number of parallel boulevards and rondes

places
, where ugly Western uniformity is partly redeemed
by some cool, verandahed villas, and the grateful shade of
trees.”
In short, the three creators of modern Cairo are Saladin,
Mehemet Ali, and Ismail. Saladin built it, Mehemet
Ali enlarged it, and Ismail embellished and modernised
it.
Under the Saracens Egypt was governed by no less than
a hundred and forty-four rulers, some of whom were
merely governors or viziers under the Damascus and Bagdad
Caliphs respectively, while the more powerful of these
dynasties, as we shall see later, claimed the title of Caliphs,
and were virtually independent kings of Egypt.
These dynasties of Mohammedan rule, amounting to no
less than ten, cover a period of history comparatively featureless
and unimportant. Egypt under the Caliphs seems
to have no external history to speak of, except during the
reign of Saladin, and some of the Mameluke Sultans, such
as El-Ashraf, who captured Acre, and Bursbey, who reconquered
Cyprus. The only important dynasties are those of
the Omayyades, Abbassides, Fatimites (Tunis), Ayyubides
(Kurdish), and the two slave dynasties of the Mamelukes,
— the Baharide and the Circassian. The most picturesque
and interesting are the two latter.
This is a period which Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole has made
his own, and for a graphic picture of the Mameluke days we
must go to this author's “Arabian Society in the Middle
Ages,” “The Art of the Saracens,” and other works dealing
with mediaeval Egypt. An appreciable part of the history
of this period is to be read in the Cairo mosques, for
most of these magnificent shrines of Islam were built by
the Mameluke sovereigns.
In order to understand, however, the course of events in
Egypt from the fourth to the fifteenth century, it is necessary
to bear in mind the involved question of the Caliphate

and its succession. The first four Caliphs, Abu-Bekr, Omar,
Othman, and Ali, were either kinsmen or principal adherents
of the Prophet. Then we have the rule of the Omayyades,
which lasted for nearly a hundred years. When the last
of the race, Marwan II., was killed in battle, a descendant of
Abbas, an uncle of Mohammed, founded the important
dynasty of Abbassides, and the seat of the Caliphate is
transferred from Damascus to Bagdad. In the tenth century
the power of the Caliphate of Bagdad declined, and its
claim to the temporal and spiritual sovereignty of Islam
was only acknowledged in theory by the Egyptian Caliphate.
In fact the Caliphs of Bagdad gradually fell
under the control of their viziers or governors in Egypt,
just as the Merovingian sovereigns had become subject to
the “Mayors of the Palace.” In the twelfth century we
see the Fatimite dynasty of Tunis, who claimed descent
from Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, in possession of
the Egyptian Caliphate, and members of this family succeeded
in maintaining their rule for over a century, till in
1169 they were overthrown by the victorious Saladin, who
founded the Ayyubides (Kurdish) dynasty.
This great sovereign does not at first claim the title of
Caliph, but brings back Egypt nominally under the spiritual
control of the Caliph of Bagdad. Saladin deservedly
ranks as one of the greatest, and incontestably the most
enlightened, of all the sovereigns of Egypt from Pharaonic
days downwards, and under his rule Egypt is transformed
from a small kingdom into a powerful empire. In fact,
this period is closely bound up with the most important
events in European history, and every one is familiar with
Saladin's magnificent campaigns in Palestine, his conquest
of Jerusalem, and the treaty with the English king,
Richard I., and these are only a small part of his exploits.
Saladin, too, combined in a marked degree the genius for
war with the love of the beautiful, says Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole;

and the walls of Cairo and the noble Citadel bear
witness to his encouragement of architecture.
“Saladin's empire needed a strong hand to keep it
united, and the number of relatives who demanded their
share of his wide provinces rendered the survival of the
Ayyuby dominion precarious. Saladin's brother controlled
the centrifugal tendencies of his kindred for a while, and
his son, El-Kamil, gloriously defeated Jean de Brienne on
the spot where the commemorative city of El-Mansura
(the Victorious) was afterwards erected by the conqueror.
After his death in 1237, however, the forces which made
for disintegration became too strong to be resisted; various
petty dynasties of the Ayyuby family were temporarily
established in the chief provinces, only to make way
shortly for the Tartars, and in Egypt and in Syria notably
for the Mamelukes, who in 1250 succeeded to the glories
of Saladin.”
The strict meaning of Mameluke is “owned,” and the
Egyptian Mamelukes were originally white slaves. They
were first employed by the Sultan Es-Salih in the middle
of the thirteenth century as mercenaries, and in many
respects they resembled the Janissaries of the later Turks,
a body first raised for a similar purpose by the Ottoman
Sultans, about a century later. The Mamelukes soon obtained
the control of the army and became an important
factor in the body politic of Egypt, and in a few years
gained the chief authority, by 1250 A. D. becoming sufficiently
powerful to seize the throne.
The Sultans of this Mameluke dynasty offer remarkable
contrasts. Slaves in origin, and warriors by trade as well
as by inclination, bloodthirsty and ferocious, this dynasty of
adventurers had an appreciation of art which would have
done credit, as Mr. Lane-Poole aptly remarks, to the most
civilised rulers that ever sat on a constitutional throne.
“It is one of the most singular facts in Eastern history,

that, wherever these rude Tartars penetrated, there they
inspired a great and vivid enthusiasm for art. It was the
Tartar Ibn-Tulun who built the first example of the true
Saracenic mosque at Cairo; it was the line of Mameluke
Sultans, all Turkish or Circassian slaves, who filled Cairo
with the most beautiful and abundant monuments that any
city can show. The arts were in Egypt long before the
Tartars became her rulers, but they stirred them into new
life, and made the Saracenic work of Egypt the centre
and headpiece of Mohammedan art.
“Why this should be, — why the singularly tyrannical,
bloodthirsty, and unstable rule of the Mamelukes should
have fostered so remarkable a development of art, — remains,
as we have said, a mystery; but the fact is indisputable
that the period of Frankish and Circassian tyranny
in Egypt and Syria was the age of efflorescence of the
purest Saracenic art in all its branches.
“Wherever the Saracens carried their conquering arms,
a new and characteristic style of art is seen to arise. In
the mosques and private houses of Cairo, of Damascus,
of Kairowan, of Cordova and Seville, throughout Egypt,
Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, North Africa, and Spain, and
in Sicily and the Balearic Isles, we trace their influence
in the thoroughly individual and characteristic style of
architecture and ornament which is variously known
as ‘Arabian,’ ‘Mohammedan,’ ‘Moorish,’ and ‘Saracenic.’
The last term is the best, because the most comprehensive.
‘Arabian’ seems to imply that the art owed its origin to
Arabia and the Arabs, whereas it was only when the Arabs
left Arabia and ceased to be purely Arabian, that the style
of art miscalled Arab made its appearance. ‘Mohammedan’
indicates that the art was the work and invention of
Muslims, which can hardly be maintained in the face of the
fact that the first great monument of Saracenic architecture
in Egypt was designed by a Christian, and that much

of the finest work was produced by Copts and Greeks.
‘Moorish’ limits the art to the Mohammedan rulers of
Spain, where indeed a singularly magnificent development
of the style took place; but this was neither the earliest
nor the most typical form. ‘Saracenic’ art includes all
the work of the countries under Saracen rule, and, moreover,
carries with it the perfectly accurate impression that
the chief development of the art was at the time when the
Saracens were a fighting power, and the name was a household
word among the crusading nations of the West.”
The famous collection in the National Museum of
Arabic Art, which is described in a subsequent chapter,
affords abundant proofs of the extraordinary development
in the decorative arts attained by Egypt under the Mamelukes.
By some historians Melik-es-Salih is reckoned as the
founder of the Mameluke dynasty. It is true that it was
during his reign that the Mamelukes, whose influence and
power had been steadily increasing after the death of
Saladin, first became a factor of the greatest importance
in the government of the country; but Melik was himself
one of the Ayyubide Kurds, and was, in fact, a grandnephew
of Saladin. On Melik's death and the accession of
a weak and incapable sovereign, the Mamelukes, headed
by El-Muizz-Ebek, seized the throne. Ebek, who had
strengthened his position by marrying Melik's widow, was
in fact the founder of the Mameluke dynasty.
The genesis of this dynasty of adventurers is well described
by Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole:
“Before El-Salih's death, a certain number of his Mamelukes had
risen from the ranks of common slaves to posts of honour at their
master's court; they had become cup-bearers, or tasters, or masters
of the horse to his Majesty, and had been rewarded by enfranchisement;
and these freed Mamelukes became, in turn, masters
and owners of other Mamelukes. Thus, at the very beginning of

the Mameluke history, we find a number of powerful amurs, or lords,
who had risen from the ranks of the slaves, and in turn became the
owners of a large body of retainers, whom they led to battle, or by
whose aid they aspired to ascend the throne. The only title of
kingship among these nobles was personal prowess, and the command
of the largest number of adherents. In the absence of other
influences, the hereditary principle was no doubt adopted, and we
find one family, that of Kalaun, maintaining its succession to the
throne for several generations; but, as a rule, the successor to the
kingly power was the most powerful lord of the day, and his hold on
the throne depended chiefly on the strength of his following, and
his conciliation of the other nobles. The annals of Mameluke
dominion are full of instances of a great lord reducing the authority
of the reigning Sultan to a shadow, and then stepping over his
murdered body to the throne.”
The great Sultan Bebars is a typical representative of
the rulers of this military oligarchy which controlled the
destinies of Egypt for over three centuries. In many respects
Bebars resembled Saladin, and his romantic career
has much in common with that of the founder of the
present dynasty, Mehemet Ali. His wonderful force of
character and diplomatic talents no doubt contributed to
his strikingly successful career as much as his personal
courage and capacity for governing men, qualities in which
few of the Mameluke Sultans were deficient. These qualities,
too, enabled this one-eyed slave not only to gain the
throne, but to keep it for nearly twenty years, — an unusually
long reign for a Mameluke, which averages five or six
years only, — and to found an empire that endured for
nearly three hundred years.
Bebars's reign is a fair sample of the history of this
epoch, and in Marco Polo we glean many interesting details
of this picturesque personality. Bebars was a native of
Kipchak, a district between the Caspian Sea and the Ural
Mountains. Of magnificent physique, he had one serious
defect, from the slave-trader's point of view, — a cataract
in one eye. On this account he only sold for £20. He

eventually passed into the possession of the Sultan Es-Salih.
In the war against the saintly Louis of France and
his Crusaders, Bebars distinguished himself so markedly
that he was given high command in the Mameluke army.
Taking advantage of the dissensions and rivalry of the
Mameluke generals, and the incapacity of the Sultan
Ed-Mudhaffer, he seizes the throne with little difficulty,
having won over the army to his side.
Thus begins that singular succession of Mameluke Sultans
which lasted, in spite of special tendencies to dissolution,
for two hundred and seventy-five years.
“The external history of these years is monotonous. Wars to
repel the invasions of the Tartars, or to drive the Christians from
the Holy Land, struggles between rival claimants to the throne,
embassies to and from foreign powers, including France and Venice,
the Khan of Persia and the King of Abyssinia, constitute the staple
of foreign affairs. To enumerate the events of each reign, or even
the names of the fifty Mamelukes who sat on the throne at Cairo,
would be wearisome and unprofitable to the reader. But it is different
with the internal affairs of the Mameluke period. In this flowering
time of Saracenic art, a real interest belongs to the life and
social condition of the people who made and encouraged the finest
productions of the Oriental artist. History can show few more
startling contrasts than that offered by the spectacle of a band of
disorderly soldiers, to all appearance barbarians, prone to shed
blood, merciless to their enemies, tyrannous to their subjects, yet delighting
in the delicate refinements which art could afford them in
their home life, lavish in their endowment of pious foundations,
magnificent in their mosques and palaces, and fastidious in the
smallest details of dress and furniture. Allowing all that must be
allowed for the passion of the barbarian for display, we are still far
from an explanation how the Tartars chanced to be the noblest promoters
of art, of literature, and of public works, that Egypt had
known since the days of the Ptolemies.”
To resume our sketch of the most picturesque figure
among all the Mameluke sovereigns:
“So well did Bebars organise his wide-stretching provinces, that
no incapacity or disunion among his successors could pull down the

fabric he had raised, until the wave of Ottoman conquest swept
at last upon Egypt and Syria. To him is due the constitution of
the Mameluke army, the rebuilding of a navy of forty war-galleys,
the allotment of feofs to the lords and soldiers, the building of
causeways and bridges, and digging of canals in various parts of
Egypt.
“He strengthened the fortresses of Syria, and garrisoned them
with Mamelukes; he connected Damascus and Cairo by a postal
service of four days, and used to play polo in both cities within the
same week.”
In Marco Polo will be found an interesting example
of the business hours of this famous Sultan. He arrived
before Tyre one night; a tent was immediately pitched by
torchlight; the secretaries, seven in number, were summoned
with the commander-in-chief; and the adjutant-general
(Anûr Alam), with the military secretaries, were
instructed to draw up orders. For hours they ceased not
to write letters and diplomas, to which the Sultan affixed
his seal; this very night they indited in his presence fifty-six
diplomas for high nobles, each with its proper introduction
of praise to God. One of these letters has been
preserved; it is a very characteristic epistle, and displays
a grim and sarcastic appreciation of humour. It appears
that Boemond, Prince of Antioch, was not present at the
assault of that city by Bebars, and the Sultan kindly conveyed
the information of the disaster in a personal despatch.
He begins by ironically complimenting Boemond on his
change of title, from prince to count, in consequence of
the fall of his capital, and then goes on to describe the
siege and capture of Antioch, sparing his correspondent no
detail of the horrors that ensued. The letter winds up by
an ironical felicitation on Boemond's absence: “This letter
holds happy tidings for thee; it tells thee that God watches
over thee, inasmuch as in these latter days thou wast not
in Antioch! As not a man hath escaped to tell thee the
tale, we tell it thee; as no soul could apprise thee that

thou art safe, while all the rest have perished, we apprise
thee!” It would seem that, not unnaturally, the unfortunate
Prince of Antioch was highly incensed with the
Sultan's sarcastic attentions.
The most ample details of the outward life of the Mamelukes
may be gathered in the chronicles of the Arab historian,
El-Makrizy; but if we seek to know something of
the domestic life of the period, we must go elsewhere. We
occasionally find, indeed, in this historian an account of
the revels of the court on great festivals, and he tells us
how, during some festivities in Bebars's reign, there was a
concert every night in the Citadel, where a torch was
gently waved to and fro to keep the time.
“But to understand the home life of the Mamelukes, we must
turn to the ‘Thousand and One Nights,’ where, whatever the
origin and scene of the stories, the manners and customs are drawn
from the society which the narrators saw about them in Cairo in
the day of the Mamelukes. From the doings of the characters in
that immortal story-book, we may form a nearly accurate idea how
the Mamelukes amused themselves; and the various articles of
luxury that have come down to us — the goblets, incense-burners,
bowls, and dishes of fine inlaid silver or gold — go to confirm the
fidelity of the picture. The wonderful thing about this old Mohammedan
society is that it was what it was in spite of Islam. With
all their prayers and fasts and irritating ritual, the Moslems of the
Middle Ages contrived to amuse themselves. Even in their religion
they found opportunities for enjoyment. They made the most
of the festivals of the faith, and put on their best clothes; they
made up parties to visit the tombs, indeed, but to visit them right
merrily on the backs of their asses; they let their servants go out
and amuse themselves, too, in the gaily illuminated streets, hung
with silks and satins, and filled with dancers, jugglers, and revellers,
fantastic figures, the Oriental Punch, and the Chinese Shadows; or
they went to witness the thrilling and horrifying performances of
the dervishes.”
Contemporaneous with the accession of the first Mameluke
dynasty is the commencement of the great Ottoman
Empire. The Ottoman Turks were so called from their

first leader, Othman, who, towards the end of the thirteenth
century, seemed likely to swallow up not only the
Asiatic provinces of the Byzantine Empire, but all Christendom.
The Turks were not, like the Saracens, a Semitic
race, nor were they of Aryan descent, but of Mongolian
or Tartar origin. Though the Turks and Arabs are often
loosely described, as if they were of the same nationality,
they have, in fact, nothing in common except their religion.
In 1453 the capital of the Empire, Constantinople, was
taken by Mohammed the Conqueror, after a siege which
lasted several years. In 1517 the Ottoman Sultan Selim,
known as the “Inflexible,” who had already added Syria
to the Ottoman Empire, conquered Egypt.
From the Ottoman conquest in 1517 till the French
occupation in the last years of the last century, and the
subjugation of the country to the famous adventurer
Mehemet Ali, a sketch of whose reign is given later, the
history of Egypt is entirely without interest.

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55

CHAPTER IV.
THE MAKING OF EGYPT.

ABARE outline of the principal events of Egyptian
history, from the end of Mehemet Ali's reign in 1848,
to the suppression of Arabi's rebellion in 1882, will suffice
to preserve the thread of the narrative in the sketch of
Egyptian history which has been attempted in the previous
chapters.
Mehemet's successor, Abbas, seems to indicate what
biologists call a “throw-back” to the type of Oriental despot,
of which some of the Mameluke sovereigns are examples.
All that can be said for him is that he maintained
the strictest authority over the army and his officials, and
that the public security in Egypt was never greater than
during his reign. He was followed by his uncle, Said, who
had the same leaning towards Western civilisation as his
father, Mehemet, and was, in many respects, an enlightened
prince. To him is due, more than to any other sovereign,
the great scheme of the maritime canal.
Many important public engineering schemes were carried
on during this reign, including the partial restoration
of the Barrage, the railway from Cairo to Alexandria, the
building of the National Museum (since removed to Ghizeh).
In spite of the crippled state of the finances, Said Pacha
abolished monopolies and equalised the incidence of taxation,
and inaugurated numerous other beneficial fiscal
reforms. Unfortunately his reign was short, and in 1863
he was succeeded by Ismail, grandson of Mehemet Ali.

56

Ismail, in spite of his passion for European institutions
and his exalted aims for the national development of Egypt,
which he attempted to raise to the position of a European
Power, was little more than a magnificent failure as a nineteenth
century sovereign. Though he did much for the
material progress of the country, and spent enormous sums
in what, in the case of Egypt, can in an ironical sense
only be termed “reproductive public works,” such as roads,
bridges, canals, railways, etc., he may be said to have done
more harm to his country than any sovereign since the
age of the Ptolemies. His prodigality, which will be referred
to later, was proverbial, and the fact that the public
debt on his accession was three millions, and by the end
of his reign had increased to nearly thirty-fold, speaks
volumes for the unfitness of Ismail to continue as the
sovereign of a country in the last throes of financial embarrassment,
and on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Ismail's mistake lay, not in the aim he set before him, but in
his manner of trying to attain it. No one can doubt that he was
right, as the great founder of his dynasty, Mehemet Ali, was right,
in striving to bring Egypt into line with European civilisation. …
Ismail failed for lack of patience and judgment. He tried to rush
his transformation scene. He wanted, by a stroke of the pen, to
turn the most conservative people on earth into a living embodiment
of all the virtues of a progressive and enlightened civilisation.
He had no patience for the slow conversion of a nation almost as
stolid and immovable as their own Pyramids. Their whole system
was to be changed in an instant by a coup de théâtre, with trapdoors,
stage-thunder, and a shower of fireworks. It was not so to
be done, as Ismail has by this time realised in his meditative seclusion
at Stambul.1
1 This was written before Ismail's death in 1896.
“Inexhaustible patience, tact, and discretion are needed before the
immemorial vices of Egyptian government and the time-honoured
corruption of Egyptian society can be transformed.”
In 1876, the European bondholders, fearing national
bankruptcy and repudiation of the innumerable loans, induced

their respective governments to interfere; and the
revenue and expenditure were placed under the control of
commissioners appointed by the Great Powers. Ismail,
having placed insuperable difficulties in the way of the
Financial Commission, the Porte, at the instigation of the
Powers, dethroned Ismail, and placed his eldest son, Tewfik,
on the throne.
Tewfik was virtually the protégé of the Powers, and this
naturally lessened his prestige considerably in the eyes of
his subjects. Egypt was, in fact, practically a big estate,
with the Great Powers as landlord, and Tewfik as tenant.
The army, from the first, seemed to have got out of
hand, and in 1881 the military leaders, combining with
the heads of the so-called National movement, whose chief
ostensible object was the freeing of Egypt from European
influence and control, the disaffection of the people culminated
in open rebellion under Arabi, the minister of war.
In July, the English fleet went to the assistance of the
Khedive by bombarding Alexandria, and in less than two
months an English expeditionary force, under Sir Garuch
(now Lord) Wolseley, stamped out the rebellion by a
crushing defeat of Arabi's troops at Tel-el-Kebir. This
practically marks the end of Egypt as an independent
kingdom (except for the nominal allegiance due to the
Porte), and from that date to the present the history of
Egypt is the history of the development of the country
under English influence.
At the very outset, Great Britain, in dealing with
Egyptian reforms, had to contend with the serious external
obstacles due to the peculiar position of the country
through its dependence on the Porte, and to the international
tutelage as regards finances to which she was subject.
Obviously, with insufficient material the morale of government
would be lessened. Under Ismail the suzerainty of
Turkey was limited, to all intents and purposes, to the

right to exact an annual tribute of some £700,000. But
the accession of Tewfik was the Sultan's opportunity, and
the new firman included one very serious restriction on the
borrowing power of the vassal state. The sanction of
the Porte was necessary, equally with that of the Powers,
before Egypt could negotiate any fresh loan.
With this important exception, most of the powers and
privileges of sovereignty could be exercised by the Khedive.
Egypt was, indeed, far more hampered by the Great
Powers, as guardians of the caisse (treasury), than by
the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Another obstacle
was the privileges granted to foreigners which are known
as the Capitulations, of which the most important were
the exemption from the jurisdiction of the local courts
of justice, and immunity from taxation. These privileges,
too, from the time of Mehemet Ali, had been notoriously
abused by the large and powerful foreign colonies in Egypt.
This immunity from the local courts had, during the reign
of Ismail, been particularly abused by the army of concessionaires
who exploited Egypt at that period. Thousands
of preposterous claims used to be brought against the Government
by these adventurers, in the consular courts, — the
only jurisdiction to which foreigners were subject, — who
were naturally predisposed in favour of the claimant.
“Indeed, Egypt, in the sixties and seventies, was the happy hunting-ground
of financiers and promoters of the shadiest description.
An industrial or commercial enterprise might or might not be profitable
to the persons undertaking it; but the man who was lucky
enough to have a case against the Government could regard his
fortune as assured. The same ruler, who could with impunity
perpetrate acts of gross perfidy and injustice towards his native
subjects, was himself mercilessly tricked and plundered by the foreign
vampires that found such a congenial home upon Egyptian
soil.
“… If the personality of Ismail was an essential factor in the ruin
of his country, it needed a whole series of unfortunate conditions to

render that personality as it actually became. It needed a nation
of submissive slaves, not only bereft of any vestige of liberal institutions,
but devoid of the slightest spark of the spirit of liberty. It
needed a bureaucracy which it would have been hard to equal for
its combination of cowardice and corruption. It needed the whole
gang of swindlers — mostly European — by whom Ismail was surrounded,
and to whom, with his phenomenal incapacity to make a
good bargain, — strange characteristic in a man so radically dishonest,
— he fell an easy prey.
“A concession, nominally asked for to forward some useful enterprise
or business, was actually sought simply in order to find an
excuse for throwing it up, and then claiming compensation from the
Government. When the Mixed Tribunals (international courts
established to decide civil actions) were established, there were
£40,000,000 of outstanding claims made by foreigners against the
Government. The extravagant nature of these claims may be estimated
by the fact that in one claim, where 30,000,000 francs had been
demanded, the Mixed Courts awarded the plaintiff £1,000. Ismail
himself was fully alive to the sharp practice of these European
adventurers and concession-hunters, — convertible terms for the most
part, — and with a genial cynicism used to rally these European concessionaires
on their extortionate practices. During the interview
with a famous concessionaire, Ismail told one of his suite to close the
window, ‘for if this gentleman catches cold it will cost me £10,000.’
“But in Egypt European influence was far too strong to permit
of this solution of the financial difficulty, and the Powers embodied
a kind of composition with Egypt's creditors by what is known as
the Law of Liquidation, by which the country was freed from the
threatened insolvency. The interest on the debt was immensely
reduced, and Egypt was able once more to meet her liabilities, ‘but
tied hand and foot, unable to move, almost unable to breathe, without
the consent of Europe.’”
The weak points in the position of Egypt are admirably
summed up by Sir Alfred Milner:
“A Government which cannot legislate for, and cannot tax, the
strangers resident in its dominions, — especially when those strangers
form, by virtue of their numbers, wealth, and influence, a very
important section of the community, — is lamentably shorn of its
due measure of authority and of respect. But this weakness in the
position of Egypt, springing from the Capitulations, has been greatly

enhanced by the further disabilities and restrictions which she has
brought upon herself by her unfortunate financial career. There is
no country in the world to the position of which a policy of profuse
expenditure and reckless borrowing was more ill-suited. Other
states which have plunged in the same direction — though perhaps
none ever went to such lengths — could at least fall back, in the last
resort, on the desperate remedy of repudiation.”
But the Egyptian Government was too much under the
thumb of the Great Powers to adopt such an ultima ratio.
Native creditors might, and indeed were, defrauded with
impunity; but European influence was too powerful to permit
of such a policy in the case of foreign bondholders.
To return to the condition of Egypt after the collapse of
the National Party and the fall of Arabi Pacha.
With the crushing of Arabi's rebellion, England's work
in Egypt had only begun, no doubt much to the surprise
and disgust of the English Government, which had interfered
with no other object than to “restore order.” But
the quick march of events, and the fearfully rapid spread of
popular and religious excitement, were too much even for
the most pronounced supporters of a laissez faire attitude,
and a policy of simple temporary intervention was necessarily
converted by the course of events into one of more
or less permanent occupation.
“Here was a country, the very centre of the world, the great highway
of nations, — a country which, during the last half-century, had
been becoming ever more and more an appanage of Europe, — in
which thousands of European lives and millions of European capital
were at stake, and in which, of all European nations, Great Britain
was, by virtue of its enormous direct trade and still more enormous
transit trade, the most deeply interested. And this country, which
the common efforts and sacrifices of all the Powers had just dragged
from the verge of bankruptcy, was now threatened, not with bankruptcy
merely, but with a reign of blank barbarianism.”
The European Concert seemed as little able as Turkey,
Egypt's nominal protector, to cope with this pressing emergency;

and France, the partner of England, shirked her
duties in a somewhat pusillanimous fashion. Consequently
Great Britain was morally bound to “bell the cat.” The
difficulty of “restoring order,” or, as it was officially worded,
“restoring the authority of the Khedive,” was enormously
increased by the fact that not only had the whole machinery
of government been upset by the revolutionaries who called
themselves the National Party, but the whole fabric of government
had rested on a rotten base. It had no moral or
material force at its back, and the personal prestige of the
Khedive Tewfik had been seriously impaired.
Two courses were open to the British Government.
(1) They could have contented themselves with restoring
order externally, and left the responsibilities for its maintenance
to Turkish troops. Such a policy would not,
however, be tolerated in a country which, “with its large
number of European residents and swarms of foreign tourists,
lives, so to speak, constantly under the eye of civilised
mankind.” In short, such a barbarous policy seemed out
of the question. (2) If the welfare of Egypt was to be
studied, and the country to be put in the way of governing
itself according to the methods of civilised states, then the
only course was to be prepared for an occupation of the
country till the whole machinery of government could be
reconstructed, and peace and justice secured to the Egyptians,
and native administrators educated in the methods
of orderly and honest government. This was the task which
England entered upon; and it is this kind of veiled protectorate
which she is still exercising.
This “veiled protectorate” was of course in the nature of
a compromise; but for many reasons annexation, or even
an absolute protectorate, was undesirable. The creation of
this disguised protectorate was notified to the Great Powers,
January 3, 1883, in the memorable despatch, quoted
below, of Lord Granville.

62

“Although, for the present,” says that document, “a British force
remains in Egypt for the preservation of public tranquillity, her
Majesty's Government are desirous of withdrawing it as soon as
the state of the country and the organisation of proper means for
the maintenance of the Khedive's authority will admit of it. In the
meantime, the position in which her Majesty's Government are
placed towards his Highness imposes upon them the duty of giving
advice with the object of securing that the order of things to be
established shall be of a satisfactory character, and possess the elements
of stability and progress.”
This constitutes one of the famous “pledges of withdrawal”
with which England is twitted in season and out
of season by the French press. In fact, in a leading French
journal published at Alexandria, these pledges are daily
printed in a prominent position on the front page.
In connection with this memorable “Note” may be
quoted the important despatch — a corollary of the first
— sent by Lord Salisbury to the English envoy to the
Porte in 1887:
“The Sultan is pressing the Government of Great Britain to name
a date for the evacuation of Egypt, and in that demand he is avowedly
encouraged by one, or perhaps two, of the European Powers.
Her Majesty's Government have every desire to give him satisfaction
upon this point; but they cannot fix even a distant date for evacuation,
until they are able to make provision for securing beyond
that date the external and internal peace of Egypt. The object
which the Powers of Europe have had in view, and which is not less
the desire of her Majesty's Government to attain, may be generally
expressed by the phrase, ‘The neutralisation of Egypt;’ but it must
be neutralisation with an exception designed to maintain the security
and permanence of the whole arrangement. The British Government
must retain their right to guard and uphold the condition
of things which will have been brought about by the military action
and large sacrifice of this country. So long as the Government of
Egypt maintains its position, and no disorders arise to interfere
with the administration of justice or the action of the executive
power, it is highly desirable that no soldier belonging to any foreign
nation should remain upon the soil of Egypt, except when it may be

necessary to make use of the land-passage from one sea to the other.
Her Majesty's Government would willingly agree that such a stipulation
should, whenever the evacuation had taken place, apply to
English as much as any other troops; but it will be necessary to restrict
this provision, as far as England is concerned, to periods of
tranquillity. England, if she spontaneously and willingly evacuates
the country, must retain a treaty right of intervention, if at any
time either internal peace or external security should be seriously
threatened. There is no danger that a privilege so costly in its
character will be used unless the circumstances imperatively demand it.”
These documents are such important landmarks in England's
Egyptian policy, that no excuse need be offered for
quoting them at some length.
It is proverbially easy to be wise after the event; but
there is little doubt that an uncompromising protectorate,
albeit merely temporary, would have been the most satisfactory
course.
“It is certain that if we had grasped the Egyptian nettle boldly,
if we had proclaimed from the first our intention of exercising, even
for a time, that authority which, as a matter of fact, we do exercise,
we could have made the situation not only much more endurable
for the Egyptians, but much easier for ourselves. Had we seen our
way to declaring even a temporary protectorate, we might have
suspended the Capitulations, if we could not have got rid of them
altogether, as France has done in Tunis. Had we been willing to
guarantee the debt, or a portion of the debt, not only could the
interest have been at once reduced, and the financial burdens of
the country enormously lightened, but Europe would no doubt have
agreed to free the Egyptian Government from the network of restrictions
which had been imposed upon it for the protection of the
bondholders. In order to have Great Britain as surety for their
bond, the creditors would have abandoned with alacrity all their
minor safeguards.”
And now we will consider the more important reforms
and improvements carried out by England during this
virtual protectorate of the country. They may conveniently
be divided according to the great State departments,

— the army, finance, public works, and justice.
But in order to understand the significance and value of
her great reforms in the internal government of Egypt,
it is necessary to have a clear comprehension of the peculiar
difficulties — a maze of obstacles both external and
internal — which England had to contend against; and,
therefore, in the preceding pages we have attempted to
indicate the peculiar nature of these difficulties.
The delicate diplomatic relations between the Egyptian
and English Governments constitute one of the gravest
difficulties of England's position as the virtual protector
and guardian of Egypt; and the presence of an English
army of occupation in an autonomous province of a
friendly Power,— for that is the nominal relation of Egypt
to Turkey, — is not the least of these difficulties.
The British troops have, of course, no sort of status in
the country. They are not the soldiers of the Khedive, nor
foreign soldiers invited by the Khedive. They are not the
soldiers of the protecting Power, since there is in theory
no protecting Power. In theory their presence is an accident,
and their character that of simple visitors. At the
present moment they are no longer, from the military point
of view, of vital importance, for their numbers have been
repeatedly reduced; and for several years past they have
not exceeded, and do not now exceed, three thousand
men.1 It is true that their presence relieves a certain
portion of the Egyptian army from duties it would otherwise
have to perform, and that if the British troops were
altogether withdrawn, the number of Egyptian soldiers
might have to be somewhat increased. But its value as
part of the defensive forces of the country does not, of
course, constitute the real importance and meaning of the
British army of occupation. It is as the outward and

visible sign of the predominance of British influence, of
the special interest taken by Great Britain in the affairs
of Egypt, that this army is such an important element
in the present situation. Its moral effect is out of all
proportion to its actual strength.
1 This was written in 1892. Since that date the numbers have been increased,
and the full strength of the army is now nearer four than three thousand.
The most pressing of all the reforms so imperatively
needed in Egypt was the remodelling and the reorganisation
of the discredited and distinctly non-effective Egyptian army.
The first step was simple enough, viz., to get rid of the
existing army. This was done by the historic Decree of
December, 1882, — “The Egyptian Army is disbanded.”
But Sir Evelyn Wood, to whom the task of creating a new
army was intrusted, did not despair of converting the
fellah into a useful fighting machine; and his faith in what,
after the miserable show the native troops had made in
the recent rebellion, looked like very poor material, has
in the last campaign been thoroughly justified.
The fellaheen are no doubt wanting in initiative power
and individuality, but when intelligently led they fight
well. In fact, as is the case with Turkish soldiers, good
leadership is simply everything in the field. Moreover, the
Egyptian soldiers are not wanting in the useful quality
of insensibility to danger, which is a tolerable substitute
for true courage.
Hitherto, not only had the native soldiers been badly
led in battle, but they were constantly defrauded of their
pay, and treated with harshness and cruelty by their officers.
Now, under the new régime, they are properly fed
and clothed, and, though discipline is strict, they are
treated as sentient beings by the new English officers.
Moreover, they are properly looked after when ill: under
the old régime a military hospital did not exist. Perhaps
the conduct of the English officers, when cholera was
raging in 1896, did more han anything else to gain the
confidence and respect of the new army. The twenty or

thirty “accursed” Christians nursed these men day and
night, and never shrank from doing the most menial offices
for them.
The British officers, as Mr. Moberly Bell aptly remarks,
are also an educational force of immense value: six thousand
natives taught obedience and discipline, and encouraged
to take a pride in themselves and their work,
are a solid gain to Egypt. The result is, that, on one
occasion when six soldiers were required for the Soudan,
— formerly regarded by the fellahs as a place of exile
for life, — the whole battalion volunteered.
While a native army was all very well, it required to
be “stiffened” by English troops. Besides, it was obvious
that without the moral support afforded by the presence
of an English army of occupation it would be hopeless to
carry out any lasting projects of reform.
Those responsible for the reform in the army had, of
course, within wide limits, a free hand. Very different
was the case of those responsible for placing on a sound
basis the Egyptian finances. From the outset they were
met by the fact that the representatives of the Powers on
the Commission of the caisse regarded the Egyptian financial
administration as the mere bailiff of the bondholders,
and were inclined to starve the public services for their
benefit. The cardinal principle of Egyptian finance involved,
in fact, a perpetual struggle between the caisse and
the Government. The interest on the debt being the first
charge on the caisse, all the revenue is paid first to the
treasury, but the Government can draw upon any surplus
up to the limit of the “authorised” annual expenditure.
So fettered was Egypt by the Powers in financial matters,
that nothing in the nature of a variable budget
was allowed. A certain fixed sum (about six millions) is
allowed her annually for all the expenses of government.
If, however, there still remains a surplus in the caisse

after the interest on the debt and the authorised expenditure
have been met, half goes to the reduction of the debt,
and half to the Government. In the event of there being
no surplus, and an extra sum is yet required by the Government
for a public work of undoubted utility, it must
raise double that sum from the taxpayers, because of the
stringent rules which insist on half of all the revenue
(after interest and authorised expenditure are paid) being
devoted to the reduction of the debt.
This, in a nutshell, was the condition of Egypt's financial
position when England entered upon the task of bringing
the revenue and the expenditure into a state of stable
equilibrium. The results have exceeded the most sanguine
expectations. The chief features of the new fiscal policy
are a more equitable distribution of the taxes, the suppression
of the corvée (the forced labour of the peasants for
the dredging and repair of the canals, the most grievous
of all the burdens of the people), greater outlay on reproductive
works, and less expenditure on “non-effective”
objects. All this has been accomplished without any
increase in the annual expenditure; and the increase in the
revenue, which has been remarkably uniform and steady
since 1886 to the present year, has been concurrent with
lightened taxation. This has been possible, owing to the
careful economy in the administration and improved methods
of collection. Under Ismail an enormous proportion
of the taxes, actually wrung from the overburdened fellaheen,
never reached the treasury at all, but was absorbed
by the officials and the farmers of the taxes.
“Two great factors have combined to bring about the financial
recuperation of Egypt, — the prevention of waste on the part of the
administration, and the development of the productive powers of the
country. As far as the prevention of waste is concerned, the first
essential was a proper system of accounts. Accounts are the foundation
of finance. You may have good accounts and a bad financial
administration, but you cannot have good finance with bad accounts.

There was nothing more fatal in the financial chaos of the days of
Ismail than the manner in which the private property of the Khedive
was jumbled up with the property of the State. This mischievous
confusion was put an end to when Ismail's vast estates were
surrendered to his creditors, and a regular civil list substituted for
the multifarious revenues which at one time flowed into the coffers
of the sovereign of Egypt.”
The creation of a solvent Egypt has, indeed, been mainly
the work of Sir Edgar Vincent and his successors in the
office of financial adviser to the Khedive. This reëstablishment
of solvency is directly traceable to increased production.
The material wealth of Egypt is far from being exhausted;
and if proper measures are taken to economise her potential
productiveness, there is no reason why, in less than a
generation, she should not attain “a degree of prosperity
as undreamt of now, as her present position of solvency
was undreamt of only ten years ago.”
It is all a question of water. The cultivable area might
be enormously extended if the water supply, which for
many months of the year is practically unlimited, could be
properly utilised on a large scale by means of canals and
reservoirs.
From the time of the Caliphs downwards, this truth
seems to have been recognised by the more enlightened
Egyptian sovereigns and statesmen. It was the Caliph
Omar who gave the following advice to his viceroy: “Beware
of money-lenders, and devote one-third of thy income
to making canals.” Had Ismail taken this counsel of perfection
to heart, the regeneration of Egypt need not have
been left to Great Britain and the other Great Powers.
Except in abnormal cases, the Egyptian cultivator can
afford to pay his taxes if he receives a proper supply of
water for his crops. From time immemorial, Egyptian law
has recognised the intimate connection between land tax

and water supply. The land which in any given year
gets no water, is for that year legally exempt from all
taxation whatever. As soon as it gets water its liability
is established. But it is evident that the mere fact of
receiving some water, though it may set up the liability
of the cultivator to pay, does not necessarily insure his capacity
to do so. In order to insure that, he must get his
water in proper quantities and at the proper times. But
this is just what, in thousands of instances, he could
not get, as long as the irrigation system remained in that
state of unutterable neglect and confusion into which it
had fallen in the period preceding the British occupation.
Of the long catalogue of beneficent measures by which
the tax-paying power of the Egyptian people has been increased,
the greatest and most essential is the reform of
the irrigation system.
It would not be easy to exaggerate the enormous importance
of irrigation in Egypt. An adequate and sound system
of irrigation implies, in fact, not only its commercial
and agricultural prosperity, but its very existence as a
civilised and solvent State.
In many respects, as we have shown, Egypt is a
unique country, but only Government officials are able to
realise fully the deep significance of Herodotus's epigram,
which attempts to sum up the one great feature of this
“Land of Paradox” in the pregnant aphorism, “Egypt is
the gift of the Nile.”
To understand even the very A B C of the Egyptian
system of agriculture, two great facts must be borne in
mind. The first is that the country is watered, not by
rain, but by the river. In Upper Egypt rain practically
never falls. Even in Lower Egypt it is a negligible quantity.
The second great fact is that the river is not only
the irrigator, but the fertiliser of the soil. The fine, reddish-brown
mud, which the Blue Nile washes down from

the volcanic plateaus of Abyssinia, mixed with organic matter
from the swamp region of the White Nile, does more
than manure can do for the annual renovation of the land.
Having grasped these essential facts, we are able to
understand the reason of there being two systems of agriculture
in Egypt. In Upper Egypt the natural inundation is
not supplemented by a subsidiary system of irrigation canals
(except the flood canals) and reservoirs, and the methods
are absolutely the same as those sculptured on the walls
of Pharaonic temples. After the spring harvest, the land
lay idle till the next inundation. This primeval system
answered, no doubt, for cereals, but not for cotton and sugar,
two of the most profitable of the earth's products for which
the Egyptian climate is admirably suited. But perennial
irrigation is reserved for these crops, and they must be watered,
not drowned.
The important distinction between the two kinds of irrigation
must always be borne in mind. In the Upper Nile
Valley, the aim of the cultivator is to cover as much land
as possible with the Nile water and its deposit of fertilising
mud. In the more scientific farming of the Delta, the
efforts of the cultivator were mainly confined to controlling
the Nile inundation, — to keep it away during high flood,
and to retain as much as possible of the water during the
period of low Nile. To Mehemet Ali is due the credit of
inventing this system of perennial irrigation and encouraging
the cultivation of those more valuable crops, cotton and
sugar, in the Delta, which has given Egypt a high position
in the markets of the world for these commodities. But
Mehemet Ali's scientific methods were too advanced for
the times, and depended for success upon the continuous
personal supervision of his French engineers. This was
not given; and local prejudices being against these “new-fangled
notions,” Mehemet's admirable conception was a
failure.

71

Of the specific works of reform in this department, the
Barrage was one of the most important. This great dam,
however, forms the subject of a separate chapter.
Irrigation on the Delta has now been put on a proper
footing. There is a complete network of main and subsidiary
canals designed on scientific principles, with the Barrage
as the starting-point.
Great importance has also been given, as will be seen
from the following extract from Lord Cromer's last report
(February, 1897), to the important work of drainage:
“Including the cost of pumping out Lake Mareotis, about £52,000
was spent upon drainage works in 1896. For this sum, 180 kilometres
of new drains were dug. The irrigation service is now extending
the drainage system into the higher and more highly cultivated
tracts, where water is abundant, and where the soil would in time
deteriorate if drains were not constructed. Although about £500,000
have already been spent on drains in Lower Egypt, a further large
expenditure of money will be required before it can be said that the
drainage system is complete.
“It may safely be asserted that funds could hardly be applied to a
more necessary work, or to one which would bring in a quicker
return on the capital expended. In Egypt, exhausted soil recovers
its productive power very rapidly. Whenever a drain is dug, the
benefit caused is quickly apparent in the shape of increased produce.
“For some years past, the Department of Public Works has
devoted all its available credits to the improvement of the drainage
system. In 1897 nearly all the budget allotment for new works will be
spent on those specially connected with the removal of the water from
the subsoil.
“For in every part of the country drainage projects are in course
of preparation. If, however, in order to complete the system of
drainage, the Government relies wholly upon such sums as can be
granted annually out of the resources at its disposal, a long time
must elapse before the work is completed. Advantage has therefore
been taken of the fact that large sums of money are held in the
special Reserve Fund, to apply to the Commissioners of the Debt for
a grant of £250,000 to be spent on drainage in 1897. I am glad to
be able to report that the Commissioners have complied with this
request.”

72

Very different in character have been the irrigation operations
in Upper Egypt, where reservoirs take the place of
canals. The chief work here has been the reclamation of
the Sharaki districts. This is the term given to lands
which, owing to their receiving no water, are relieved of all
taxation. Obviously, few public works could be more
directly and more immediately remunerative to the State
than this. For instance, in the year of low Nile, £300,000
of taxes had to be abandoned.1
1 In average seasons the remission amounts to about £50,000.
What is imperatively required in the Upper Nile Valley
is not a great dam like the
Barrage, but a large reservoir
for retaining the superfluous flood-water for distribution
during the summer. This need is admitted on all hands,
but the burning question of Egyptian irrigation was for
many years narrowed to the comparative merits of the proposed
sites. As, however, Assouan has now been definitely
selected by the Government for the site of this reservoir, it
is unnecessary to discuss the rival projects for a storage
reservoir at Wady Halfa, Kalabsheh, or Wady Rayan in
the Fayyum. It goes without saying, that, with an increased
supply of water, the amount of crops could be enormously
increased in the Delta and Upper Egypt. But while in
Lower Egypt the increase would be in additional reclaimed
land, in Upper Egypt, where the cultivated area cannot be
extended, increased cultivation simply means summer as
well as winter crops.
Experts estimate that a reservoir capable of storing about
two thousand millions cubic metres a year, and providing
one hundred thousand acres with summer irrigation, would
add between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 annually to the
produce of the country; and as Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff's
estimate of the cost is not more than £2,600,000, the
profit on this capital would obviously be enormous.
The English engineers, mostly trained in the Indian

Public Works Department, did not fall into the error of
attempting to carry out the various undertakings connected
with irrigation from the headquarters at Cairo. Personal
supervision was the key-note of the policy of the new
department. The country was divided into five circles of
irrigation (three in the Delta, and two in Upper Egypt),
of which four were intrusted to the newcomers from
India. This plan of localising the engineering talent,
which it had been found desirable to import into the country,
proved a complete success.
“Viewed as a whole, there can be no question that the Irrigation
Department is, of all the branches of the Egyptian service managed
by British chiefs, the one upon which, from first to last, it has been
possible to look with the most unmixed pride. With men of this
calibre stationed in every quarter of the country, seeing with their
own eyes, and intrusted with a wide discretion to act to the best of
their judgment, the work of improvement marched as rapidly as the
limited amount of money at the disposal of the Irrigation Service
would permit. While a great deal was left to the initiative of the
individual inspectors, and the methods of each of them presented
considerable diversity, there was still a general harmony of purpose
running through their work.”
Nothing, perhaps, illustrates more forcibly the confidence
the natives have in the engineers than an incident quoted
by Sir Alfred Milnes in his invaluable study of modern
Egypt. He had asked a native statesman, who was bitterly
opposed to the English occupation, what Egypt would
do without the engineers. The reply was to the effect
that the sooner England retired the better, but that the
engineers would certainly not be allowed to go.
The engineer in the remote country district is, indeed,
not only an indispensable official, but may be regarded as
a useful educational and civilising force. “The people
recognise in him the great benefactor of their district, and,
with a childlike simplicity, they turn to him for help and
counsel even in concerns the least related to his actual
functions.”

74

The following amusing anecdote illustrates this attitude
of the fellaheen towards these officials.
In one year of exceptionally low Nile, a certain district
was threatened with a total failure of the crops, owing to
the canal being too low to irrigate the fields. A cry of
despair arose from the whole populace, who, as usual, implored
the aid of one of the English inspectors of irrigation
who happened to be on the spot. This official promptly
determined to throw a temporary dam across the canal.
The idea was a bold one. The time was short. The canal
was large, and, though lower than usual, it was still carrying
a great body of water at a considerable velocity. Of
course no preparations had been made for a work the
necessity for which had never been contemplated. Labour,
at any rate, was forthcoming in any quantity, for the people,
who saw starvation staring them in the face, needed
no compulsion to join gladly in any enterprise which
afforded them even the remotest chance of relief. So the
inspector hastily got together the best material within
reach. He brought his bed on to the canal bank, and
did not leave the scene of operations, night or day, till
the work was finished. And the plan succeeded. To
the surprise of all, the dam was somehow or other made
strong enough to resist the current. The water was raised
to the required level, and the land was effectually flooded.
The joy and the gratitude of the people knew no bounds.
It was decided to offer thanksgivings in the mosque of the
chief town of the district, and the event was considered of
such general importance that even that exalted functionary
the Minister of Public Works, himself made a special point
of attending the ceremony.
In the Department of Justice and Police—using the word
“justice” in its narrow but conventional sense as meaning
all that appertains to courts of law — less progress has been
made towards reform than in other State departments.

And yet there is no doubt that in the whole administrative
field of Egypt, in no department is the cardinal principle
which underlies all British intervention, — viz., not merely
governing, but teaching the Egyptians how to govern themselves,
— more necessary to be kept in view. One reason
for the slow development of law and justice is, that this is
a branch of government which has been less under the
influence of the English. In fact, we were late in the field.
No effective interference took place till about 1889, when
Sir John Scott was appointed with the title of Judicial
Adviser to the Khedive, who virtually undertook the functions
of minister, though there was a native statesman bearing
that title.
There is not one judicial system in Egypt, but four.
There is the old Koranic system, worked by the Mehkennehs,
or courts of the religious law, which are now mainly
confined to dealing with the personal status of Mohammedans.
There is the system of the mixed courts, which
deals with civil actions between foreigners of different
nationalities, or between foreigners and natives, and, in a
small degree, with the criminal offences of foreigners.
There is the system, or no system, of the consular courts,
which deals with the great body of foreign crime. Finally,
there is the system of the new native courts, which deals
with civil actions between natives, or crimes committed by
them. Of all these, it is only the native courts which the
English have taken in hand, and that not till within the
last few years.
The native courts are, in one sense, though ranking only
as courts of first instance, the most important of all as
affecting the greatest number of people; but the English
were, at first, chary of doing more than giving advice.
The original personnel of the native court was very unsatisfactory,
and jobbing and nepotism was rife. Mr. Scott
entered upon the delicate work of reform in a judicious

and moderate spirit. He wisely contented himself with
modifying the judicial system without radically altering
the procedure and machinery of the law.
By a series of important changes of detail Sir John has
modified the judicial system which he found existing, and
rendered it vastly more suitable to the conditions of the
country; but he has never attempted to revolutionise it.
No doubt, if he had the work to do de novo, he would
prefer something more like the Indian system, which
experience has proved to be so well suited to the wants
of a backward country, where most of the litigants are
poor, and most of the cases simple. He recognised, however,
that the Egyptian codes and procedure, such as he
found them, were the only ones which the native judicial
body knew how to work, or to which the people were
accustomed. He therefore wisely decided not radically
to alter the actual administration of justice, but simply to
improve it in the points where it was most imperfect.
It is curious that, at first, the chief fault in the administration
of justice by these lower courts was the dilatoriness
of the proceedings. Now, according to the last report
of the Judicial Adviser to the Khedive, the chief defect of
these courts was the hasty manner in which the actions were
tried, and the old charge that “Justice long delayed is no
justice,” certainly cannot now be brought against the native
tribunals. The natural result of this tendency to haste
on the part of the judges, who must, however, be given
full credit for the zeal in which they set their faces against
arrears of cases, is to give an unnecessary amount of work
to the courts of appeal. Good authorities are, however, of
opinion that, taken collectively, the native tribunals give
every sign of working admirably, with a judicious leaven of
European judges.
In the organisation of the police mistakes have avowedly
been made by the English officers responsible for the

reconstruction, owing mainly to a lack of continuity in
the policy of reconstruction and reorganisation. The first
chief, Gen. Valentine Baker, who was sent out to command
the police soon after the English occupation, though
an admirable cavalry officer, was totally unfitted for the
office of inspector-general of police. Besides, he started
on a wrong tack. “His whole management of the police
was influenced, from the first, by the conviction that
they would sooner or later be converted into a military
reserve.”
After General Baker's death, Mr. Clifford Lloyd tried
his hand at the work of police organisation. Under this
energetic reformer, the police were made an independent
body, and free from the control of the mudirs (governors
of provinces). This proved a short-sighted policy, and
lessened the prestige of these provincial authorities, on
whom the whole internal administration of their respective
provinces depended. Ultimately, through the efforts
of Nubas Pacha, a compromise was arrived at, which is
still in force.
The police of each province, as matters are now arranged,
are under the authority of the mudir; but, on the
other hand, his orders must be given to them through
their own local officers. He has no power of interference
with the discipline and organisation of the force, nor can
he make use of it except for the legitimate purposes of
maintaining order and repressing crime. If he has cause
of complaint against the conduct of the police, his remedy
lies in an appeal to the ministry of the interior, which,
through the inspector-general at headquarters, deals with
the case. This is as it should be; but, of course, the
success of the system, depends on a spirit of give and
take on both sides, and on friendly relations between the
mudirs and the chiefs of the police.
In the Department of the Interior important reforms

in the maintenance of public security, in addition to the
police force, have been effected since the establishment
of a responsible English official, who bears the title of
Adviser on Internal Affairs. Mr. J. L. Gorst, appointed
in 1894, was the first to occupy this important post; and
he is still the virtual head of the Department of the
Interior, though a native statesman is the titular chief.
The principal work has been the reorganisation of the village
watchmen (ghaffirs), who serve as a supplementary
police force in the country districts. This unwieldy body
was much reduced in numbers, but put into a state of
efficiency, and placed under the control of the respective
omdahs, or village sheiks.
These omdahs were answerable to the mamurs, or governors
of districts, and the latter were under the control
of the mudirs, who, in turn, were responsible to the Minister
of the Interior. Thus a regular series of authorities
was effected in the machinery of government, by which the
central authority in Cairo was in touch with the fellahs in
the remotest district of the Upper Nile Valley.
The above is an epitome of the development and results
of the more important reforms in the administration of
Egypt under British influence; but without wearying my
readers with a catalogue of reforms suggesting a diluted
Blue Book, it will be well to note briefly a few more improvements
in other branches of the public services.
In the matter of sanitation and sanitary reform, the
attention of the Egyptian Government has only of late
years — prompted, doubtless, by the serious epidemics of
cholera in 1883 and 1896 — been directed to the pressing
need of reform in matters affecting the public health; and
till recently the Department of Public Health remained
one of the least satisfactory in the public service. This
is largely due, no doubt, to the paucity of the funds available
for sanitary reform on a large scale. The department

was, in short, for many years after its establishment in
1885, shelved and starved. This is virtually admitted by
Lord Cromer in his report for 1897:
“It is, however, the misfortune that the sums of money required
to execute the very necessary reforms proposed by Rogers Pacha,
the head of the Health Department, are large. During the fourteen
years which have elapsed since the British occupation of the country
commenced, Egyptian finance has passed through several distinct
phases. During the first period, which lasted from 1882 to
the close of 1886, there could be no question either of fiscal reform,
or of increasing expenditure save on such subjects as irrigation,
which were distinctly and directly remunerative. The aggregate
deficits of these years amounted to £2,751,000. The whole attention
of the Government was, during this period, directed to the
maintenance of financial equilibrium. When, at last, a surplus was
obtained, fiscal relief was, very wisely in my opinion, allowed to
take precedence of increased expenditure, even on the most necessary
objects. During the next period, which may be said to have
lasted till 1894, large reductions were made in indirect taxation, and
direct taxes to the extent of about £1,000,000 were remitted.
“It is only since 1894 that the Egyptian Government has been
able to turn its attention seriously to those numerous reforms which
involve increased expenditure on any considerable scale. Amongst
the objects which most nearly concern the general welfare of Egypt,
it cannot be doubted that the reconquest of some portion, at all
events, of the Soudan, takes a very high place. It is to the accomplishment
of this object that the attention of the Egyptian Government
must, for the time being, be mainly directed.
“More than this, the development of the system of irrigation
should not be long delayed, more especially as the returns to be
obtained from money spent on irrigation will certainly in the end
provide funds for expenditure in other directions.
“No government, and certainly not the semi-internationalised
government of Egypt, can afford to embark at once and at the
same moment in a number of expensive and difficult operations.
I do not doubt that the day of the Egyptian sanitary reformer will
come; but under the circumstances to which I alluded above, I fear,
though I say it with regret, that some little while must yet elapse
before the question of improved sanitation in Egypt can be taken
seriously in hand.”

80

A great deal must be allowed for the ingrained horribly
unsanitary habits of the natives. Though personally
clean and not averse to the use of water, — in fact,
their religion enjoins frequent and regular ablution, — the
huts of the fellaheen are indescribably filthy. The canals,
which in the remote districts are the only source of water,
are subject to every kind of pollution. Near most villages
there are birkas, or stagnant ponds, which are as malarious
as they are malodorous. Even in the principal cities
there is absolutely no system of drainage. In the case of
Cairo, as will be shown later, this reproach will, however,
soon be removed. In short, the observant traveller only
wonders that the awful cholera epidemic of last year is not
repeated annually. Then, besides, there are special difficulties
in addition to the ignorance and apathy and unsanitary
customs of the people, which the sanitary reformer has
to confront. These are the religious prejudices of the Moslems.
The mosques are the principal offenders against
the laws of health, and the latrines attached to every one
of these buildings are often centres of infection. Injudicious
interference might easily excite a fanatical opposition,
which would stand seriously in the way of all
sanitary reform. However, the judicious handling of this
sanitary work by Rogers Pacha resulted in placing, in one
year (1896), over one hundred and fifty mosques in a
proper sanitary condition.
In connection with this subject some reference should
be made to the cholera epidemic of last year, already
referred to. The following extracts from Rogers Pacha's
Report are instructive:
“There can be little doubt that the disease was originally introduced,
in August or September, 1895, by pilgrims returning from
Mecca. It was at first limited to sporadic cases which did not
attract attention. By the first of February the disease was completely
stamped out in the provinces.
“Unfortunately, Alexandria had become infected on the 28th of
December. In the month of January, 1896, twenty-one cases, and
in February forty-eight cases, occurred in that town. In April the
number of cases once more rose to fifty, and in May the disease
assumed an epidemic form in the town. Cases imported from Alexandria
soon began to occur all over the country, and by the middle
of May it was evident that a general infection was imminent.
“From the 1st of May to the 22d of October, 703 villages were
infected. In all these villages inspection was carried out, generally,
by one of the four very capable English inspectors who were available
for provincial work. In each village a cholera hospital was
established.
“By the end of October the disease had practically disappeared.
During the winter epidemic, 1,018 deaths were recorded. From the
1st of April to the 31st of October the number of deaths was
17,087, making a total of 18,105 deaths out of 21,693 cases notified
or detected.
“The reduced mortality in 1895-6, as compared to 1883, is due to
two causes; namely, (1) to the fact that in the interval of thirteen
years a great advance has been made in medical science, with the
result that the proper methods for arresting the propagation of
cholera are now more fully understood than was formerly the case;
(2) to the fact that the Medical and Sanitary Departments of the
Egyptian Government are now far better organised than was the
case in 1883.”
The scheme for a thorough system of drainage for Cairo
shows that the revival of interest in sanitation is beginning
to take a practical form.
“This is a tremendous undertaking, estimated to cost at least
£500,000. The necessity has long been recognised, but it has been
put off from year to year, owing to want of money, — not so much
absolute want of money, as want of power to apply money that actually
existed to the desired object, owing to the usual and ten-times
explained necessity of obtaining the consent of the Powers, or, more
properly, the consent of France, for none of the others made any
difficulty. France was finally appeased last year by the appointment
of an International Commission to examine the various competing
schemes. This Commission, composed of an Englishman,
a Frenchman, and a German, sat last winter, and ended by proposing
a scheme of its own, for which preliminary investigations are at

present being made. So in two or three years we may hope to see
Cairo drained, in which case that city, or at any rate the European
quarter of it, will very likely be one of the healthiest places of
residence in the world.”
It may reasonably be expected that this important sanitary
reform will have some effect in reducing the deplorable
high death-rate of Cairo, — forty-six per one thousand,
which is actually double that of many European capitals;
the average death-rate of Paris being twenty-three,
and London nineteen, per one thousand. It must, however,
be remembered that this abnormally heavy bill of
mortality is to some extent factitious. For Cairo is regarded
by the Egyptians in the light of a sacred city, and
they are accustomed to crowd into it from the villages of
the Delta, when they feel their end approaching, simply
to die in Cairo.
Till the last few years, the educational system seemed
little affected by the spirit of reform which was influencing
Egypt and its national institutions. No department has
borne richer fruit of late. But though there has lately
been a remarkable increase in the number of schools and
scholars, only a small minority of the latter belong to the
Mohammedan religion.
Previous to 1884, the few Government schools were also
boycotted by parents of the dominant faith, the religious
influence of the Ulemas, who controlled the El-Azhar
University and the innumerable schools attached to the
mosques, being too strong to be combated. The famous
El-Azhar University — “a petrified university, which rests
like a blight upon the religious and intellectual life of
the country” — has moulded all the religious training in
Egypt.
The better class of the Mohammedans are now, however,
beginning to tolerate the Government foundations; and
there are now nearly eight thousand scholars in the primary

schools, while there are about fifteen hundred in the
secondary schools and the eight higher professional schools
or technical colleges (Law, Military, Medicine, Engineering,
Agriculture, etc.).
Hitherto, the educational vote has made a poor show in
the Egyptian budget, and some critics maintain that education
is the “Cinderella” among the Egyptian departments
of state. This, no doubt, will be rectified in future
budgets. It must of course be remembered that —
“People must live before they can be taught. Famine is worse
than ignorance. What the Egyptian Government had to fight for,
six or seven years ago, was the very existence of the people. Essential
as education is, the provision of education is not such a primary
duty of government as the defence of personal property, the maintenance
of justice, or, in a country like Egypt where human life
depends upon public works, the careful preservation of these works
upon which life depends. And, in the next place, it would have
been no use simply to augment the budget of the Education Department,
so long as the schools were being conducted on unintelligent
methods.”
To come to a higher form of public education, — the art
of government, — it cannot be said that much progress has
been made in developing representative institutions in the
machinery of government. It is true that there is a Legislative
Council, but its powers are inconsiderable, being
mainly confined to proposing amendments to proposed laws
affecting the administration. As the Council cannot initiate
legislation, and as the Ministry need not accept the amendments,
the Legislative Councils are not of great importance
in the body politic.
Then there is the General Assembly, — which is simply
the Council, enlarged by a popular element. This has one
important function, for no new taxes can be imposed without
its consent. As, however, this assembly only meets
once every two years, it cannot play a very considerable
part in Egyptian politics.

84

The time, in fact, has not yet come for applying the principle
of representative government, in any great degree, to
the national affairs of Egypt. It would be sounder policy
to begin by introducing it into the management of local
business, and even then tentatively and with caution.
The only local representative institution having administrative
powers, which at present exists, is the municipality
of Alexandria. That city, by virtue of its large European
population, has probably more of the elements requisite for
the success of local self-government than any other town
in Egypt. On the other hand, the mixture of Europeans
and natives in this municipality gives rise to certain special
difficulties.
The attitude of England in this policy of Egyptian intervention,
since the Arabi revolt, is simple and comprehensive.
It was natural that the British Government should suppose
that their task, when France, in 1882, threw all responsibility
for Egypt on their hands, was a simple one; namely,
to crush a military rising. Only actual experience taught
England that the rebellion was a very small matter, and
that the real difficulty lay in the utter rottenness of the
whole fabric of government. Naturally, then, the pledges
England made, being based on a total misapprehension,
were impossible of fulfilment. But to the spirit of these
pledges England has been faithful. It is indisputable that
England has derived no pecuniary or other benefit from
her occupation of Egypt. As a matter of fact, among the
foreign employees in the Egyptian civil service there are
nearly twice as many of French or Italian nationality as of
English. In 1895, for instance, there were 348 Italians,
326 French, and 174 English in the Khedive's service.
No nation is able to say that any legitimate right or
privilege which it once possessed in Egypt has been infringed
by any action of England. Such right or privilege
remains absolutely untouched, even where it would be

just and reasonable that it should be modified. And, on the
other hand, what European people, having any interests in
Egypt, has not benefited by the fact that that country has
been preserved from disorder and restored to prosperity?
That this is the true view of the character of British policy
is shown by the willing acquiescence, if not the unspoken
approval, of the majority of civilised nations.
As for the attitude of the French Government, it is natural
enough that France should feel some resentment at
England holding the position in Egypt, among all European
nations, that she herself once held, and foolishly resigned
when, in 1882, she shirked at the last moment, and left
England to “face the music” alone. Then in 1887, at the
time of the Constantinople Conference, it was France who
put obstacles in the way of the withdrawal of England. In
short, logically, France is mainly answerable for the British
continued occupation in Egypt. But yet it must be allowed
that France has many reasons for being hurt and disappointed,
considering the enormous value of her services to
Egypt in the past.
“It was France who supported Egypt in her struggle for independence
from Turkey, when all the other Powers were against her,
and when by this opposition they prevented that independence from
becoming complete; it was to France that Mehemet Ali turned for
aid in his attempt to civilise Egypt, as he understood the meaning
of civilisation. For something like half a century, French lawyers,
French engineers, French men of learning, were engaged in doing
their best—often under most discouraging circumstances—to deluge
Egypt with the fruits of European culture.
“In short, Frenchmen may claim to have been the pioneers of
European influence. Whatever Egypt borrowed from Europe,
whether in the material or intellectual sphere, came to her first
through French channels. Her upper classes, if educated at all,
were educated by Frenchmen in French ideas. French even became
an official language, side by side with Arabic. To this day, the
English in the Egyptian service write official letters to one another
in halting French.”

86

Then there is the Canal. This stupendous work is of
course purely French in conception and execution, and was
(see a later chapter) undertaken in face of the continued
and bitter hostility of England. There is, then, some
excuse for France making all the capital she can out of the
unfortunate engagements, or “pledges,” of England, published
and reiterated urbi et orbi, in 1883 and 1887.
It is necessary, however, to look at the other side of the
question. France has, no doubt, been of great service to
this erstwhile “distressful country;” but her services are
counterbalanced by her tendency to exploit and make
money out of Egypt, which seems to have been a cardinal
principle of her Egyptian policy, from the death of Mehemet
Ali to 1882.
“In the days prior to the establishment of the Mixed Tribunals, —
which France resisted with all her might, — French adventurers
exploited Egypt in the most merciless fashion, and they frequently
enjoyed the support of French diplomacy in their nefarious game.
No Great Power has clung with such tenacity as France to all the
advantages, however indefensible and galling, bestowed on its subjects
by the Capitulations. She has shown no consideration for the
weakness of Egypt. She has never hesitated to use her immense
superiority of power to push the interests of French traders, French
contractors, and French financiers. In the years immediately preceding
the Arabist revolution, when England and France were
acting in concert in the Egyptian affairs, it was France who was for
getting the last pound of flesh out of the Egyptian debtor. It was
England who was in favour of showing some consideration for the
people of Egypt, and not of treating the question purely as one of
pounds, shillings, and pence.”
The withdrawal of England on the understanding that
France should never occupy the country — if such a pledge
could be enforced, for circumstances might easily arise in
which France would be wrong to keep this pledge — has
been suggested as one way out of the Egyptian difficulty.
A settlement of this vexed international question by means

of such a self-denying ordinance on the part of France and
England is not likely to be advantageous, or even anything
but a temporary shelving of the difficulty.
“Can any man,” says an old resident, who has held high office in
the Egyptian civil service, and had peculiar opportunities for observing
and judging impartially the results of English influence in
Egypt, “knowing the social and political condition of the country,
maintain with confidence that if Egypt were left to herself to-morrow
favouritism and corruption would not once more raise their heads;
that justice would not once more be venal; that the administration
would not once more gradually fall back into disorder; and that, as
a consequence of such disorder, financial equilibrium would not again
be jeopardised? And then should we not have the old story: the
embarrassment of the treasury, causing the impoverishment of the
people, — such impoverishment leading to discontent and agitation;
that agitation directed not only against the Government, but, under
the inspiration of mischief-making fanatics, against all progressive
elements of society, — another Arabi, another revolution? And if, in
prospect of a fresh cataclysm threatening every European interest,
after all diplomatic means had been exhausted France were to
declare that she could stand it no longer; if she were to take the
line which we took in 1882, — what moral right should we have to
say her nay? Could we fight or restrain her from interfering?”
The withdrawal, however, of Great Britain, if it is not to
end in disaster, can only be a gradual process. An intangible
influence made up of many elements, like that of England
in Egypt, cannot be withdrawn any more than it can
be created at a certain hour or by a certain act.
One of the most absurd suggestions for the cutting of
this Gordian knot is neutralisation. In the case of small
but well-governed and highly civilised States, such as Belgium
and Switzerland, neutralisation and a strict principle
of non-intervention by the Great Powers is all very well;
it would, however, be difficult to conceive anything more
unlike than the internal condition of those well-governed
countries and that of Egypt. A neutral policy on the part
of the Powers would scarcely be likely to insure the internal

good government and the peace of Egypt. It would
be simply evading the main object of all foreign interference,
whether by the six Powers, or England and France
jointly, or by England alone. However, Great Britain is
hardly likely to adopt so weak and cowardly a policy,
which would “simply mean that, from unwillingness to
allow any one of their number to do the work in which all
are interested, the Powers should determine that that work
must be left undone.” Such, indeed, stripped of all diplomatic
highfalutin, is the meaning of the specious word
“neutralisation” applied to Egypt. Besides, how would
the various foreign interests, which undoubtedly exist in
Egypt, be safeguarded if Egypt was neutralised?
Another suggestion by political theorists is that Egypt's
natural guardian the Porte, as its suzerain, should be the
protector of Egypt, which should be neutral as regards all
other European powers. Turkey, in short, would be the
policeman of Egypt, and be responsible for order and firm
internal government. There is something almost ludicrous
in this proposal. “The idea of intrusting Turkey with the
maintenance of reforms the chief aim of which has been
to differentiate Egypt from Turkish administration, is like
substituting the wolf for the sheep-dog as the guardian of
the flock.”
Then there are many who advocate what they are pleased
to call “internationalisation.” This is going backwards
with a vengeance. In other words, Egypt would be “put
into commission,” and fettered by the Great Powers in her
administrative and internal policy, as she is already in her
financial measures. For Egypt has indeed suffered already
from a certain amount of internationalism. It is the bondholders
who have the power of the purse, and the raison
d'être of the sanction of the Powers in measures affecting
the finances is the fact that they represent the creditors
of Egypt. Then, too, the veto of the Powers which already

exists on the legislative authority of the Egyptian Government,
might be supposed to give sufficient European influence.
When the political chaos of the last years of
Ismail, when Egypt was tied hand and foot by Europe, —
each country having a right to a finger in the pie, and each
disdaining responsibility, — gave way to the dual control,
it was a great step in advance, and results have shown that
the single control has benefited Egypt still more. It
might naturally be supposed, then, by all unbiassed and
disinterested observers,—by all, in short, who are not confirmed
Anglophobists, — that the retention of the guardianship
by England, so long as any foreign intervention is
necessary, is the one sensible solution of the Egyptian
question.1
1 For most of the facts and a great deal of the information in this chapter, I
have laid under contribution Sir Alfred Milner's invaluable study of contemporary
Egypt, entitled “England in Egypt.”

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90

CHAPTER V.1
ALEXANDRIA AND THE NILE DELTA.

1 This chapter (and a portion of the following one) is reprinted from an
article contributed to the “Picturesque Mediterranean,” by kind permission of
the publishers, Cassell & Company, Limited, London.
THE traveller, reaching the Land of the Pharaohs by
the direct sea-route viâ
Alexandria, must be prepared
for a certain sense of disappointment when the bleak and
barren shores of the Nile Delta are first sighted. The
monotonous ridges of desolate sand-hills, varied by equally
unattractive lagoons, are a melancholy contrast to the beautiful
scenery of the North African littoral farther west,
which delighted his eyes a few days before, as the vessel
skirted the Algerian and Tunisian coasts. If the expectant
traveller is so disillusioned by his first glimpse of
Egypt from the sea, still keener is his disappointment
when the ship enters the harbour. But for an occasional
palm-tree or minaret standing out among the mass of shops
and warehouses to give a faint suggestion of Oriental atmosphere,
this bustling and painfully modern-looking city
might be mistaken for some flourishing French seaport,
say a Marseilles or a Havre, plumped down on the Egyptian
plain. It is difficult to realise that this is the city
of Alexander the Great, and the metropolis of Egypt under
the Ptolemies.
Alexandria, though a much modernised and hybrid sort
of city, is not without interest. It has, no doubt, been
rather neglected by writers of Egyptian travel, and, consequently,
ignored by tourists, who do not as a rule strike


out a line for themselves. It has been regarded too much
as the most convenient landing-place for Cairo, and visitors
usually devote but a few hours for a hasty inspection of its
curiosities before rushing off by express-train to the City
of the Caliphs.
It would, of course, be absurd to compare Alexandria,
essentially the commercial capital of Egypt, in point of
artistic or historic interest with Cairo; though, as a matter
of fact, the capital is a modern city in comparison with the
Alexandria of Alexander, while Alexandria itself is but of
mushroom growth contrasted with Heliopolis, Thebes,
Memphis, or other dead cities of the Nile Valley of which
traces still remain. It has often been remarked that the
Ptolemaic capital has bequeathed nothing but its ruins and
its name to the Alexandria of to-day. Even these ruins
are deplorably scanty, and many of the sites are purely
conjectural. Few vestiges remain of the architectural
splendours of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Where are now the
four thousand palaces of which the conquering general
Amru boasted to his master, the Caliph Omar? What now
remains of the magnificent Temple of Serapis towering
over the city on its platform of one hundred steps? But
though there are scarcely any traces of the glories of
ancient Alexandria, the traditions of the golden age of
the Egyptian Renaissance cannot be altogether forgotten
by the classical student; and to the thoughtful traveller
imbued with the genius loci, this city of memories is not
without a certain charm. Here Saint Mark preached the
gospel and suffered martyrdom, and here Athanasius in
warlike controversy did battle with the Arian heresies.
Here, in this centre of Greek culture, were for many centuries
collected the greatest intellects of the age. Here
Cleopatra, vainqueur des vainqueurs du monde, held Antony
a willing captive while Octavius was preparing his
legions to crush him. Here Amru conquered, and here

Abercrombie fell. Even those whose tastes do not incline
them to historical or theological researches are familiar,
thanks to Kingsley's immortal romance, with the story of
the noble-minded Hypatia and the crafty and unscrupulous
Cyril, and can give rein to their imagination by verifying
the site of the museum where she lectured, and of the
Caesareum where she fell a victim to the atrocious zeal of
Peter the Reader and his rabble of fanatical monks.
Just as Alexandria has been ignored by the Egyptian
tourist, so has it been persistently neglected by antiquaries
and Egyptologists, and no systematic excavation on the
sites of ancient buildings has been undertaken. It is true
that of recent years some attempt has been made by the
Egyptian Exploration Fund to discover some of the architectural
spoils of the Ptolemaic dynasty buried beneath the
accumulation of rubbish of centuries; but the splendid
opportunity for the excavation and exploration of the
conjectural sites of the Serapeum, Caesareum, and other
famous monuments, afforded in 1882, when a great portion
of the city lay in ruins after the bombardment, was allowed
to pass by this learned society. In 1895 Mr.
Hogarth carried out a series of experimental borings, but
the results were not encouraging, as water was found under
the twenty to thirty feet of the deposit of rubbish, and
only a few poor specimens of Roman and Byzantine architecture
rewarded the trouble of the explorer. Mr. Hogarth
explains the remarkable disappearance of the many palaces
and temples, which studded the city during the age of the
Ptolemies, by the subsidence of the soil and the encroachment
of the sea. Some authorities, among them Professor
Mahaffy, do not, however, consider that any definite conclusions
should be drawn from this partial and superficial
probing of the soil. Very possibly Mr. Hogarth was unfortunate
in tapping the low-lying parts of the city, and it
would be advisable that future excavations should be carried

on in the elevated ground near Pompey's Pillar, which
most antiquaries agree in regarding as the site of the Serapeum.
But in a crowded city like Alexandria all scientific
excavation is particularly costly, owing to the difficulty of
disposing of the excavated soil.
The peculiar shape of the city, built partly on the Pharos
island and peninsula, and partly on the mainland, is due,
according to the ancient chroniclers, to a patriotic whim of
the founder, who planned the city in the form of a chlamys,
the short cloak or tunic worn by the Macedonian soldiers.
The modern city, though it has pushed its boundaries a
good way to the east and west, still preserves this curious
outline, albeit, to a non-classical mind, it rather suggests a
starfish. Various legends are extant to account for the
choice of this particular spot for a Mediterranean port.
According to the popular version, a venerable seer appeared
to the Great Conqueror in a dream, and recited
those verses in the Odyssey1 describing the one sheltered
haven on the Egyptian coast. Acting on this supernatural
hint, Alexander decided to build his city on this part of
the coast, where the Pharos isle acted as a natural breakwater,
and where a small Greek fishing-settlement called
Rhacotis was already established. It is, however, hardly
necessary to fall back on a mythical legend to account for
the selection of this site. The two great aims of Alexander
were the creation of a centre for trade and the development
of commerce, and the fusion of the Greek and
Roman nations. To attain these objects it was necessary
to build a seaport near the mouths of the Nile, — the great
highway of Egypt. A site west of the Nile mouths was
probably chosen because of the eastward set of the tide,
as the alluvial soil brought down by the Nile would soon
choke a harbour excavated east of the river, as had already

happened at Pelusium. It is this alluvial wash which has
also rendered the harbours of Rosetta and Damietta almost
useless for vessels of any draught, and at Port Said the
accumulation of sand necessitates continuous dredging in
order to keep clear the entrance of the Suez Canal.
1 “A certain island called Pharos, that with the high-waved sea is washed,
just against Egypt,” etc.
A well-known writer on Egypt has truly observed that
there are three Egypts to interest the traveller, — the Egypt
of the Pharaohs and the Bible, the Egypt of the Caliphates
and the “Arabian Nights,” and the Egypt of European
commerce and enterprise. To which he might have added,
the Egypt of the Ptolemies and the Roman Empire. It is
to this last stage of civilisation that the fine harbour of
Alexandria bears witness. Not only is it of interest to the
engineer and the man of science, but it is also of great
historic importance. It serves as a link between ancient
and modern civilisation. The port is Alexander's best
monument, — “si quaeris monumentum, circumspice.” But
for this, Alexandria might now be a little fishing-port
of no more importance than the little Greek fishing-village
Rhacotis, whose ruins lie buried beneath its spacious quays.
The harbour was originally formed by the construction of
a vast mole (Heptastadion) joining the island of Pharos to
the mainland; and this stupendous feat of engineering,
planned and carried out by Alexander, has been supplemented
by the magnificent breakwater constructed by English
engineers in 1872, at a cost of over two-and-a-half
millions sterling. After Marseilles, Malta, and Spezia, it
is perhaps the finest port in the Mediterranean, both on
account of its natural advantages as a haven, and by reason
of the vast engineering works mentioned above.
The western harbour (formerly called Eunostos, “good
home-sailing”), of which we are speaking,—for the eastern,
or so-called New Harbour, is choked by sand and only
used by small native craft,— has, however, one serious
drawback in a dangerous bar at the entrance, which

should, of course, have been partially blown up before the
breakwater and the other engineering operations were
undertaken. Owing to this obstruction, large vessels
seldom attempted, till recently, to cross the bar in rough
weather, and never at night. In the course of the last few
years, however, a wide and deep channel has been cut
through this reef, and now the entrance to the harbour is
practicable at all hours of the day and night. In fact,
during 1896 over four hundred vessels entered Alexandria
harbour in the night-time. These improvements have
naturally tended to make Alexandria more resorted to than
formerly by travellers as the port of entry for Cairo, instead
of Port Said or Ismailia.
During the period of Turkish misrule — when Egypt
under the Mamelukes, though nominally a vilayet of the
Ottoman Empire, was practically under the dominion of
the Beys — the trade of Alexandria had declined considerably,
and Rosetta had taken away most of its commerce.
When Mehemet Ali, the founder of the present dynasty,
rose to power, his clear intellect at once comprehended the
importance of this ancient emporium and the wisdom of
Alexander's choice of a site for the port which was destined
to become the commercial centre of three continents.
Mehemet Ali is the creator of modern Alexandria. He
deepened the harbour, which had been allowed to be
choked by the accumulation of sand, lined it with spacious
quays, built the massive forts which protect the coast, and
restored the city to its old commercial importance by
putting it into communication with the Nile through the
medium of the Mahmoudiyeh Canal. This vast undertaking
was only carried out with great loss of life. It was
excavated by the forced labour of 250,000 peasants, of
whom some twenty thousand died from the heat and
the severe toil. The whole canal was completed in one
year (1819) and cost £ 300,000.

96

The great thoroughfare of Alexandria — a fine street
running in a straight line from the western gate of the
city to the Place Mehemet Ali — is within a few minutes'
walk of the quay. A sudden turn, and the strange mingling
of Eastern and Western life bursts upon the spectator's
astonished gaze. This living diorama, formed by the brilliant
and ever-shifting crowd, is in its way unique.
The Place Mehemet Ali, usually called for the sake of
brevity the Grand Square, is close at hand. This is the
centre of the European quarter, and round it are collected
the banks, consular offices, hotels, and principal shops.
This square, the focus of the life of modern Alexandria,
is appropriately named after the founder of the present
dynasty, and the creator of the Egypt of to-day.
To this great ruler, who at one time bid fair to become
the founder not only of an independent kingdom, but of
a great Oriental empire, Alexandria owes much of its
prosperity and commercial importance. The career of
Mehemet Ali is interesting and romantic. There is a
certain similarity between his history and that of Napoleon
I., and the coincidence seems heightened when we remember
that they were both born in the same year. Each,
rising from an obscure position, started as an adventurer
on foreign soil, and each rose to political eminence by force
of arms. Unlike Napoleon, however, in one important
point, Mehemet Ali founded a dynasty which still remains
in power, in spite of the weakness and incapacity of his
successors. To Western minds, perhaps, his chief claim to
hold a high rank in the world's history lies in his efforts
to introduce European institutions and methods of civilisation,
and to establish a system of government opposed to
Mohammedan instincts. He created an army and navy
which were partly based on European models, stimulated
agriculture and trade, and organised an administrative
and fiscal system which did much towards putting the
[illeg.]

erous, not to say unchristian, to wound people's religious
prejudices, however superstitious they may appear to us.
In some other countries of North Africa, notably in the
interior of Morocco or Tripoli, promiscuous photography
might be attended with disagreeable results, if not a
certain amount of danger. A tourist would find a kodak
camera, even with all the latest improvements, a somewhat
inefficient weapon against a mob of fanatical Arabs.
For the best view of the city and the surrounding country
we must climb the slopes of Mount Caffarelli (now generally
called Fort Napoleon) to the fort which crowns the
summit, or make our way to the fortress Kom-el-Deek on
the elevated ground near the Rosetta Gate. Alexandria,
spread out like a map, lies at our feet. At this height the
commonplace aspect of a bustling and thriving seaport,
which seems, on a closer acquaintance, to be Europeanised
and modernised out of the least resemblance to an Oriental
city, is changed to a prospect of some beauty. At Alexandria,
even more than at most cities of the East, distance
lends enchantment to the view. From these heights the
squalid back streets of the native quarter, and the
modern hausmannised main thoroughfares, look like dark
threads woven into the web of the city, relieved by the
white mosques, with their swelling domes curving inward
like fan-palms towards the crescents, flashing in the rays of
the sun, and their tall, graceful minarets piercing the smokeless
and cloudless atmosphere. The subdued roar of the
busy streets and quays is occasionally varied by the melodious
cry of the muezzin. Then, looking northward, one
sees the clear blue of the Mediterranean, till it is lost in the
hazy horizon. To the west and south the placid waters of
the Mareotis Lake, in reality a shallow and insalubrious
lagoon, but to all appearance a smiling lake, which, with
its waters fringed by the low-lying sand-dunes, reminds the
spectator of the peculiar beauties of the Norfolk Broads.

97

Beyond Lake Mareotis lies the luxuriant plain of the
Delta. The view of this plain may not be what is called
picturesque, but to the artist the scenery has its special
charm. It is no doubt flat and monotonous, but there is no
monotony of colour in this richly cultivated plain, once the
granary of the Roman Empire. Simplicity is, in short, the
predominant “note” in the scenery of Lower Egypt, but,
as Mr. H. D. Traill has well observed, here the artist finds
“the broadest effects produced by the slenderest means.”
In the description of this North African Holland innumerable
pens have been worn out in comparison and simile.
To some this huge market-garden, with its network of canals
and ditches, simply invites a homely comparison with a
chess-board. Others, with a gift for fanciful metaphor,
will liken the landscape to a green robe or carpet shot with
silver threads, or to a seven-ribbed fan, the ribs being, of
course, the seven mouths of the Nile. One may, however,
differ as to the most appropriate metaphors, but all must
agree that there are unique elements of beauty in the Delta
landscape. Seen, as most tourists do see it, in winter or
spring, the green fields of waving corn and barley, the meadows
of watermelons and cucumbers, the fields of pea and
purple lupin one mass of colours, interspersed with the
palm-groves and white minarets which mark the site of the
almost invisible mud-villages, and intersected thickly with
countless canals and trenches that in the distance look like
silver threads, and suggest Brobdignagian filigree work or
the delicate tracery of King Frost on our window-panes,
the view is impressive, and not without beauty.
In the summer and early autumn, especially during
August and September, when the Nile is at its height, the
view is still more striking, though hardly so beautiful.
Then it is that this Protean country offers its most impressive
aspect. The Delta becomes an inland archipelago
studded with green islands, each island crowned with a

white-mosqued village, or conspicuous with a cluster of
palms. The Nile and its swollen tributaries are covered
with huge-sailed dahabiyehs, which give life and variety
to the watery expanse.
Alexandria can boast of few “lions,” as the word is usually
understood, but of these by far the most interesting is the
column known by the name of Pompey's Pillar. Every one
has heard of this famous monolith, which is as closely associated in people's minds with Alexandria as the Coliseum
is with Rome, the Alhambra with Granada, or the Kremlin
with Moscow. It has, of course, no more to do with
the Pompey of history (to whom it is attributed by the
unlettered tourist) than has Cleopatra's Needle with that
famous queen, the “Serpent of old Nile” or Joseph's Well
at Cairo with the Hebrew patriarch. It owes its name to
the fact that a certain prefect named after Caesar's great
rival erected on the summit of an existing column — in the
opinion of Professor Mahaffy one erected by Ptolemy II. in
memory of his favorite wife, Arsinoe — a statue in honour
of the horse of the Roman emperor Diocletian. There is
a familiar legend which has been invented to account for
the special reason of its erection, which guide-book compilers
are very fond of. According to the story, this historic
animal, through an opportune stumble, stayed the persecution
of the Alexandrian Christians, as the tyrannical emperor
had sworn to continue the massacre till the blood of
the victims reached his horse's knees. Antiquarians and
Egyptologists are, however, given to scoffing at the tradition
as a plausible myth.
In the opinion of many learned authorities, the shaft of
this column was once a portion of the Serapeum, that famous
building which was both a temple of the heathen god
Serapis and a vast treasure-house of ancient civilisation.
In order to account for its omission in the descriptions of
Alexandria given by Pliny and Strabo, who had mentioned

the two obelisks of Cleopatra, it has been suggested that the
column had fallen, and that the Prefect Pompey had merely
reërected it in honour of Diocletian, and replaced the statue
of Serapis with one of the emperor, — or of his horse, according
to some chroniclers. This statue, if it ever existed,
has now disappeared. As the column stands, however, it
is a singularly striking and beautiful monument, owing to
its great height, simplicity of form, and elegant proportions.
It reminds the spectator a little of Nelson's column in
Trafalgar Square; and perhaps the absence of a statue is
not altogether to be regretted, considering the height of the
column, as it might suggest to the irrepressible tourists,
who scoff at Nelson's statue as the “Mast-headed Admiral,”
some similar witticism at the expense of Diocletian.
With the exception of this monolith, which, “a solitary
column, mourns above its prostrate brethren,” only a few
fragmentary and scattered ruins of fallen columns mark the
site of the world-renowned Serapeum. Nothing else remains
of the famous library, the magnificent portico with its hundred
steps, the vast halls, and the four hundred marble
columns of that great building, designed to perpetuate the
glories of the Ptolemies. This library, which was the
forerunner of the great libraries of modern times, must not
be confounded with the equally famous one which was
attached to the Museum, whose exact site is still a bone of
contention among antiquarians. The latter was destroyed
by accident when Julius Caesar set fire to the Alexandrian
fleet. The Serapeum collection survived for six
hundred years, till its wanton destruction through the
fanaticism of the Caliph Omar. The Arab conqueror is
said to have justified this barbarism with a fallacious epigram,
which was as unanswerable, however logically faulty,
as the famous one familiar to students of English history
under the name of Archbishop Morton's Fork. “If these
writings,” declared the uncompromising conqueror, “agree

[illeg.]

with the Book of God, they are useless, and need not be
preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious, and ought
to be destroyed.” Nothing could prevail against this flagrant
example of a petitio principii, and for six months the
three hundred thousand parchments supplied fuel for the
four thousand baths of Alexandria.
Hard by Pompey's Pillar is a dreary waste, dotted with
curiously carved structures. This is the Mohammedan
cemetery. As in most Oriental towns, the cemetery is at
the west end of the town, as the Mohammedans consider
that the quarter of the horizon in which the sun sets is the
most suitable spot for their burying-places. In this melancholy
city of the dead are buried also many of the ruins of
the Serapeum, and scattered about among the tombs are
fragments of columns and broken pedestals. On some of
the tombs a green turban is roughly painted, strangely out
of harmony with the severe stone-carving. This signifies
that the tomb holds the remains of a descendant of the
Prophet, or of a devout Moslem who had himself, and not
vicariously as is so often done, made the pilgrimage to the
sacred city of Mecca. Some of the headstones are elaborately
carved, but most are quite plain, with the exception
of a verse of the Koran cut in the stone. The observant
tourist will notice on many of the tombs a curious little
round hole cut in the stone at the head, which seems to be
intended to form a passage to the interior of the vault,
though the aperture is generally filled up with earth. It is
said that this passage was made to enable the Angel Israfel,
at the Resurrection, to draw out the occupant by the hair
of his head; and the custom which obtains among the lower-class
Moslems of shaving the head, with the exception of a
round tuft of hair in the middle — a fashion which suggests
an incipient pigtail or an inverted tonsure — is as much due
to this superstition as to sanitary considerations.
Of far greater interest than this comparatively modern

cemetery are the cave cemeteries of El-Meks. These catacombs
are some four miles from the city. The route along
the extended low ridge of sand-hills is singularly unpicturesque;
but the windmills (built by Napoleon I. to grind
corn for his troops when he occupied the country) which
fringe the shore give a homely aspect to the country, and
serve at any rate to break the monotony of this dreary and
desolate region. We soon reach Said Pacha's unfinished
palace of El-Meks, which owes its origin to the mania for
building which helped to make the reign of that weak-minded
ruler so costly to his overtaxed subjects. One
glimpse at the bastard style of architecture is sufficient
to remove any feeling of disappointment on being told that
the building is not open to the public.
The catacombs, which spread a considerable distance
along the seashore, and of which the so-called Baths of
Cleopatra are a part, are very extensive, and tourists are
usually satisfied with exploring a part. There are no
mummies, but the niches can be clearly seen. The plan
of the catacombs is curiously like the wards of a key.
There are few “sights” in Alexandria of much interest
besides those already mentioned. In fact, Alexandria is
interesting more as a city of sites than sights. It is true
that the names of some of the mosques — such as that of the
One Thousand and One Columns, built on the spot where
Saint Mark suffered martyrdom, and the Mosque of Saint
Athanasius — are calculated to arouse the curiosity of the
tourist; but the interest is in the name alone. The
Mosque of Many Columns is turned into a quarantine station,
and the Mosque of Saint Athanasius has no connection
with the great Father except that it stands on the site of a
church in which he probably preached.
Then there is the Coptic Convent of Saint Mark, which,
according to the inmates, contains the body of the great
evangelist, — an assertion which would scarcely deceive

the most ignorant and most credulous tourist that ever
intrusted himself to the fostering care of Messrs. Cook, as
it is well known that Saint Mark's body was removed to
Venice in the ninth century. The mosque with the ornate
exterior and lofty minaret, in which the remains of Said
Pacha are buried, called Mosque Nebbi Daniel, is the only
one besides those already mentioned which would be worth
visiting. This is interesting to Egyptologists as being the
reputed site of the tomb of Alexander the Great. As,
however, no Christians are admitted to this khedivial
mausoleum, no antiquarian researches or excavations can
be undertaken in order to verify this traditional site. The
stone sarcophagus in the British Museum, which was
thought to have been that of Alexander, is now known
to be erroneously attributed to this monarch. It was
made for an earlier king of the thirtieth dynasty, B. C.
378–358.


[Back to top]


105

CHAPTER VI.
THE STORY OF THE SUEZ CANAL.

THE coast between Rosetta and Port Said is, like the
rest of the Egyptian littoral, flat and monotonous.
The only break in the dreary vista is afforded by the
picturesque-looking town of Damietta, which, with its
lofty houses, looking in the distance like marble palaces,
has a striking appearance seen from the sea. The town,
though containing some spacious bazaars and several large
and well-proportioned mosques, has little to attract the
visitor, and there are no antiquities or buildings of any
historic interest. The traveller full of the traditions of
the Crusades, who expects to find some traces of Saladin
and the Saracens, will be doomed to disappointment.
Damietta is comparatively modern, the old Byzantine city
having been destroyed by the Arabs early in the thirteenth
century, and rebuilt — at a safer distance from invasion
by sea — a few miles inland, under the name of Mensheeyah.
One of the gateways of the modern town, the
Mensheeyah Gate, serves as a reminder of its former name.
Though the trade of Damietta has, in common with most
of the Delta seaports, declined since the construction of
the Mahmoudiyeh Canal, it is still a town of some commercial
importance, and consular representatives of several
European powers are stationed here. To sportsmen Damietta
offers special advantages, as it makes capital headquarters
for the wild-fowl shooting on Menzaleh Lake,
which teems with aquatic birds of all kinds. Myriads of

wild duck may be seen feeding here, and “big game,” —
if the expression can be applied to birds, — in the shape of
herons, pelicans, storks, flamingoes, etc., is plentiful. In
the marshes which abut on the lake specimens of the papyrus
are to be found, this neighbourhood being one of the
few habitats of this rare plant.
Soon after rounding the projecting ridge of low sand-hills,
which fringe the estuary of the Damietta branch of
the Nile, the noble proportions of the loftiest lighthouse
in the Mediterranean come into view. It is fitted with
one of the most powerful electric lights in the world, its
penetrating rays being visible on a clear night at a distance
of over twenty-five miles. Shortly afterwards the
forest of masts, apparently springing out of the desert,
informs the passenger of the near vicinity of Port Said.
There is, of course, nothing to see at Port Said from a
tourist's standpoint. The town is little more than a large
coaling station, and is of very recent growth. It owes its
existence solely to the Suez Canal, and to the fact that the
water at that part of the coast is deeper than at Pelusium,
where the isthmus is narrowest.
The town is built partly on artificial foundations on the
strip of low sand banks which form a natural sea-wall,
protecting Lake Menzaleh from the Mediterranean. In
the autumn, at high Nile, it is surrounded on all sides by
water. An imaginative writer once called Port Said the
Venice of Africa, — not a very happy description, as the
essentially modern appearance of this coaling station
strikes the most unobservant visitor. The comparison
might for its inappositeness rank with the proverbial one
between Macedon and Monmouth. Both Venice and Port
Said are landlocked, and that is the only feature they have
in common.
The sandy plains in the vicinity of the town are, however,
full of interest to the historian and archaeologist.

Here may be found ruins and remains of antiquity which
recall a period of civilisation reaching back more centuries
than Port Said (built in 1859) does in years. The ruins
of Pelusium (the Sin of the Old Testament), the key of
northeastern Egypt in the Pharaonic period, are only
eighteen miles distant, and along the shore may still be
traced a few vestiges of the great highway — the oldest
road in the world of which remains exist — constructed by
Rameses the Great in 1350 B. C., when he undertook his
expedition for the conquest of Syria.
To come to more recent history, it was on these shores
that Cambyses defeated the Egyptians; and here, some five
centuries later, Pompey the Great was treacherously murdered
when he fled to Egypt after the battle of Pharsalia.
To the southwest of Port Said, near the little fishing-village
of Sais, on the southern shore of Lake Monzaleh,
are the magnificent ruins of Tanis (the Zoan of the Old
Testament). These seldom-visited remains are only
second to those of Thebes and Memphis in historical
and archaeological interest. The ruins were uncovered at
great cost of labour by the late Mariette Bey, and in the
Great Temple were unearthed some of the most notable
monuments of the Pharaonic age, including over a dozen
gigantic fallen obelisks. This vast building, restored and
enlarged by Rameses II., dates back over five thousand
years. As Thebes declined, Tanis rose in importance, and
under the kings of the Twenty-first Dynasty it became the
chief seat of government. Mr. John Macgregor (Rob
Roy), who was one of the first of modern travellers to call
attention to these grand ruins, declares that of all the
celebrated remains he has seen, none impressed him
“so deeply with the sense of fallen and deserted magnificence”
as the ruined temple of Tanis.
The Suez Canal is admittedly one of the greatest undertakings
of modern times, and has perhaps effected a greater

transformation in the world's commerce, during the twenty
years that have elapsed since its completion, than has been
effected in the same period by the agency of steam.
It was emphatically the work of one man, and of one,
too, who was devoid of the slightest technical training in
the engineering profession. Monsieur de Lesseps cannot, of
course, claim any originality in the conception of this great
undertaking, for the idea of opening up communication
between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea by means of a
maritime canal is almost as old as Egypt itself, and many
attempts were made by the rulers of Egypt, from Sesostris
downwards, to span the isthmus with “a bridge of water.”
Most of these projects proved abortive, though there was
some kind of water communication between the two seas in
the time of the Ptolemies, and it was by this canal that
Cleopatra attempted to escape after the battle of Actium.
When Napoleon the Great occupied Egypt, he went so far
as to appoint a commission of engineers to examine into a
projected scheme for a maritime canal; but owing to the
ignorance of the commissioners, who reported that there
was a difference of thirty feet in the levels of the two seas,
— though there is really scarcely more than six inches,—
which would necessitate vast locks and involve an enormous
outlay of money, the plan was given up.
The Suez Canal is, in short, the work of one great man,
and its existence is due to the undoubted courage and indomitable
energy, to the intensity of conviction and to the
magnetic personality, of M. de Lesseps, which influenced
every one with whom he came in contact, from the viceroy
down to the humblest fellah. This great project was carried
out, too, not by a professional engineer, but by a mere
consular clerk, and was executed in spite of the most determined
opposition of politicians and capitalists, and in the
teeth of the mockery and ridicule of practical engineers,
who affected to sneer at the scheme as the chimerical dream

of a vainglorious Frenchman. The canal, regarded from a
purely picturesque standpoint, does not present such striking
features as other great monuments of engineering skill,
— the Forth Bridge, the Mont Cenis Tunnel, the Brooklyn
Bridge, or the railway which scales the highest peaks of the
Rocky Mountains. This “huge ditch,” as it has been contemptuously
called, has not, indeed, “been carried over
high mountains, nor cut through rock-bound tunnels, nor
have its waters been confined by Titanic masses of masonry.”
In fact, technically speaking, the name “canal,” as applied
to this channel, is a misnomer. It has nothing in common
with other canals, — no locks, gates, reservoirs, nor pumping
engines. It is really an artificial strait, — a prolongation
of an arm of the sea. We can freely concede this; yet
to those of imaginative temperament there are elements of
romance about this colossal enterprise. It is the creation
of a nineteenth-century wizard, who, with his enchanter's
wand — the spade — has transformed the shape of the
globe, and summoned the sea to flow uninterruptedly from
the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Then, too, the
most matter-of-fact traveller who traverses it can scarcely
fail to be impressed with the peculiar genius loci. Every
mile of the canal passes through a region enriched by the
memories of events which had their birth in the remotest
ages of antiquity. Across this plain Abraham wandered
from distant Ur of the Chaldees, some four thousand years
ago. Beyond the placid waters of Lake Menzaleh lie the
ruins of Zoan, where Moses performed his miracles. On
the right lies the Plain of Pelusium, across which the hosts
of Persian, Greek, and Roman conquerors successively swept
to take possession of the riches of Egypt. In passing
through the canal at night,— the electric light serving as a
“pillar of fire” to the steamer, as it swiftly but silently
ploughs its course through the desert,— the strange impressivesness
of the scene is intensified. “The Suez Canal

links together, in striking contrast, the great Past and the
greater Present, pointing to a future which we are as little
able to divine as were the Pharaohs or Ptolemies of old to
forecast the wonders of the nineteenth century.”
The history of the enterprise from 1855, when the concession
was granted by Said Pacha, to the inauguration of
the canal in November, 1869, reads like a romance. The
main difficulties were political, for the physical obstacles
were not serious, considering the magnitude of the task.
Indeed, the very simplicity of the undertaking from an
engineering point of view — for the cutting of the Isthmus
of Suez was merely a question of time, money, and a sufficiency
of native labour in the crudest form — no doubt
contributed not a little to wreck M. de Lesseps's subsequent
enterprise, as it led him to underestimate the serious nature
of his task in the western hemisphere, in which the physical
obstacles were almost insuperable in comparison. Then,
in the case of Panama, there were no predecessors from
whose mistakes M. de Lesseps might profit, as was the case
in Egypt, where previous projectors were seriously handicapped
through accepting Napoleon's engineers' erroneous
calculation of the Red Sea being thirty feet higher than
the Mediterranean as a hydrographical axiom. Then, too,
there seemed to be a kind of tradition among them that
no canal could be a success which did not depend upon the
Nile for its water supply. It was the political aspect of
the canal which gave rise to so much opposition; and the
political significance of the exclusive control, by a French
company, of the great highway to India and the Australasian
colonies was appreciated at its full value by Great Britain.
In short, the Suez Canal project was regarded by diplomatists
as an international question involving serious issues,
and it was certainly a powerful factor in European politics.
The neutrality of the canal in times of war was felt to be a
matter of great importance; for, as it was destined to be


the great gate between the eastern and western hemispheres,
it was essential that it should be kept open. In
fact, to look ahead a few years, one reason for the intervention
of the English, in helping to crush the military
revolution in 1882, was the necessity of maintaining a free
waterway in the canal, which was menaced by Arabi's
troops. Lesseps's chief difficulty lay in the determined
opposition of Lord Palmerston, whose influence with the
Porte at this time was considerable. The British Government
succeeded in getting the imperial firman sanctioning
the concession of the Viceroy withheld for a considerable
time, by suggesting that it would tend to increase the independence
of Egypt. Lord Palmerston's commercial objections
to the canal certainly showed a striking lack of
appreciation of the economical conditions of the world's
commerce. His argument was based on the ill-founded
assumption that England would lose her supremacy as a
great carrying nation if this new maritime route were
thrown open to the world. Yet by reducing the voyage
to India almost one-half England would, of course, benefit
more than any other nation. The absurdity of Palmerstion's
contention is sufficiently demonstrated by the fact
that, in 1895, seventy per cent, of the tonnage of ships
which passed through the canal carried the English flag
There was, however, some sound reason in Lord Palmerston's
objection to the canal, as a statesman. In the original
concession of Said Pacha, the territory stretching for
several miles on either side of the canal, and extending its
whole length, was granted to the Canal Company. Consequently,
the British Government contended that in time of
war France's control of the isthmus would be a menace to
England. But Lord Palmerston might have made his sanction
and approval contingent on the amendment of this
dangerous clause, instead of irritating a friendly Power
by uncompromising opposition.

112

Had England joined the other Powers in furthering M. de
Lesseps's scheme, and not placed itself out of court by its
persistent hostility, in all probability the actual neutrality
of the canal would not have been delayed till 1887.
M. de Lesseps, whose faith in the project was not shaken
by the hostility of the English Government and the apathy
of the Porte, started operations in 1859, himself cutting
the first sod in the narrow strip of sand between Lake
Menzaleh and the Mediterranean, on April 25.
Till 1864, progress was steady but slow, as the actual excavation
was done by manual labour, over twenty-five thousand
fellahs being supplied by the corveáe for this work. In
this year, difficulties arose which threatened to wreck the
enterprise. The new Khedive, Ismail, was alarmed at the
continual drain on his subjects by the concession of his
predecessor, which compelled him to supply so large a number
of workmen to the Canal Company, and threatened to stop
the supply of native labourers. The dispute was submitted to
the Emperor Napoleon III., as arbitrator, who decided that
the Egyptian Government should pay an indemnity of one
and one-half million pounds for the withdrawal of the native
labourers. This misfortune proved, however, a blessing in
disguise. The Company was compelled to use machinery
for excavating and dredging, which proved far more efficacious
and, eventually, more economical than native labour,
and enabled the contractors to complete the undertaking
within a few months of the stipulated time.
By November, 1869, all was ready for the inauguration
ceremonies, which were carried out by the Khedive on a
scale of unparalleled magnificence. At these festivities
all the Powers of Europe were officially represented: France
and Austria by the Empress Eugenie and the Emperor
Francis Joseph, respectively, and other countries by members
of the royal family or special envoys. Even England
forgot her old political jealousy, and was adequately represented.

But then, it must be remembered that the crux
of the objection of the English Government had been removed
in 1864, when Ismail bought back from the Canal
Company the territorial rights over the lands abutting on
the canal, for £3,360,000.
In order to impress his royal guests, whom Ismail had
personally invited in a tour which he made round the European
courts the year before, the Khedive, who seemed to
have a perfect genius for spending, seized the opportunity
of renovating and haussmannising Cairo, and attempted
to turn this unique Oriental city into a feeble copy of a
third-rate European capital. Parks and public gardens were
planted, palaces restored, and boulevards built, and gas was
laid in the chief streets. Among the entertainments provided
for visitors were concerts and theatrical performances,
for which the chief stars of Paris and Vienna were engaged.
Even a new opera was “commanded” for the occasion, Verdi
composing the Egyptian opera “Aida” to entertain the
Khedive's guests. It has been computed that the expenses
attendant on the inauguration of the Suez Canal cost the
Khedive, or rather Egypt, fully four millions; and, no doubt,
this lavish expenditure materially contributed to bring
about Ismail's financial collapse and virtual bankruptcy
a few years later.
Honours of all kinds were subsequently showered upon
M. de Lesseps, who was eulogised by the press of Europe
as a benefactor to mankind, ennobled by his grateful
sovereign, and made the recipient of decorations and
orders from most of the sovereigns of Europe. Finally,
to crown all, a place was found for the national hero
among the “Immortal Forty.” Nor was England behindhand
in making up for its former neglect, and Comte de
Lesseps was created a K. C. S. I., and presented with the
freedom of the City of London.

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114

CHAPTER VII.
CAIRO AS A RESORT FOR INVALIDS.

CAIRO itself cannot be unreservedly recommended as
a health-resort pure and simple. The Egyptian climate
is undeniably admirably suited for a winter residence,
and in most respects it is superior to that of any health-resort
in the south of France, — the world's great winter
sanatorium. But the city of Cairo possesses too many
factitious drawbacks, which militate against its use as a
climatic health-station. Now that other health-resorts,
such as Luxor, Assouan, Helouan, etc., are getting better
known and developed, medical men are beginning to realise
that, hygienically speaking, Cairo is not Egypt. Its enormous
population and limited area, for one thing, does not
commend it to medical men as a winter residence for their
patients. An overcrowded city of nearly half a million
inhabitants, with its unsatisfactory hygienic conditions and
appallingly primitive and unsanitary system of drainage, —
if system it can be called, — the annual summer visitation
of cholera, etc., seems, indeed, the last place to which the
health-seeker, as distinct from the mere tourist or pleasure-seeker,
should be sent. It is true that the sanitation of the
Continental, Shepheards, Ghezireh Palace, and other fashionable
hotels is beyond reproach, but the visitor is not likely
to spend all his time in the hotel. Besides, the innumerable
urban amusements and social gaieties and dissipations

of this fashionable winter-city offer too many temptations
to the invalid to neglect his health.
Twenty or thirty years ago, no doubt, the invalid had no
choice: a winter in Egypt necessarily meant spending that
season in Cairo. But now, thanks mainly to the enterprise
of the great tourist-agents, Luxor, Assouan, and the Nile
have been rendered available for serious invalids. The
above remarks apply, of course, to the genuine invalid, as
distinct from the large class of valetudinarians or quasi-invalids.
For this class of visitors, and especially overworked
persons and those suffering from worry and “nerves,”
who require mainly change of scene and rest, Cairo, with
its innumerable resources and varied interests, is an ideal
wintering-place. The above-mentioned objections to Cairo
in the case of real invalids apply, however, to those contemplating
spending the whole winter in the city, and not
merely a few weeks. In many cases a whole winter on
the Nile would be found monotonous, so the best disposal
of time would be to spend the early winter months at
Luxor or on a Nile voyage, and postpone the return to
Cairo till the beginning of February. November, December,
and January are the least suitable months for Cairo,
owing to the risk of malaria from the moisture arising
from the subsiding inundation of the Nile. Then, when
Cairo gets too hot, Ramleh, near Alexandria, will be found
an excellent intermediate health-resort for a few weeks
before leaving Egypt.
Helouan-les-Bains, within half an hour of Cairo by train,
or Mena House, at the foot of the Pyramids, would, however,
be a better residence than Cairo itself. Helouan
is, in fact, the oldest health-resort in the world. There
are about a dozen sulphur springs similar to those of Aix-les-
-Bains, but rather stronger. Those who have undergone
a course at Aix can continue their “cure” here
during the winter and spring, when the Aix establishment

is closed. The atmosphere is remarkably pure and salubrious,
and the electrical tonic influence of the desert
climate is felt here to a striking degree. There are good
hotels here, two resident doctors, and several pensions.
The Administration have shown themselves thoroughly
alive to the requirements of modern tourists by providing
lawn-Tennis courts, laying down golf links, etc. The chief
drawback is that, at present, the English and American
guests are rather swamped by the Teutonic element, the
baths belonging to a German directorate.
Another resort, which is strongly recommended by Dr.
F. M. Sandwith, Dr. Hermann Weber, and other eminent
climatologists, is Mena House, at the Pyramids. Its advantages
are thus summed up by Dr. Sandwith:
“Life at the large hotel here, numbering some 120 bedrooms, is
for those who wish for purer air than that of crowded Cairo, but
who desire to be within driving distance of their friends, and who
dread the somewhat sombre monotony of Helouan. The Sphinx
and the Pyramids, besides many attractions of their own, insure a
constant stream of visitors during the winter months. The air at
both suburbs is probably equally pure and equally dry. For the
comfort of the guests, there are provided a resident English doctor
and chaplain, a chapel, a noble dining-room for 250 people, European
chambermaids, swimming bath, excellent conservancy arrangements,
drinking water from a special well in the desert, steam laundry, a
stringed band, books and magazines, billiard-tables, and photograph-rooms.
There are desert-carts for driving, horses and camels for
riding, occasional races, golf and lawn-Tennis , and capital shooting
from November to April. The climate of Helouan and the Pyramids
is much the same as in Cairo, except that the air is fresher,
purer, and drier.”
Whole volumes have been written by meteorologists and
medical experts on the climatology of Egypt, but its chief
characteristics can be summed up in a few words: a remarkably
pure and salubrious atmosphere, almost continuous
sunshine, rainlessness (the rainfall of the Upper Nile Valley


is practically nil), genial warmth (which, owing to
its lack of moisture, is not oppressive), and highly tonic
qualities; but, to counterbalance these good points, great
lack of equability. The great difference between day and
night temperature is, no doubt, a very serious drawback.
This lack of uniformity is, of course, inevitable in all countries
where a high temperature and immunity from rain
are combined. In short, it is a meteorological axiom that
equability cannot exist with a very dry atmosphere and a
high temperature. Equability implies, of course, a certain
amount of humidity
. An ideal climate would combine the
equability and softness of Madeira, the warmth and dryness
of Upper Egypt, and the chemically pure atmosphere of
Biskra in Algeria.
The following summary of the climatic conditions of
Cairo, by Dr. F. M. Sandwith, prepared for my work on
the health resorts of South Europe and North Africa
(3d ed., 1896), may be conveniently inserted here:
“To save space, it is only necessary here to consider the seven winter
months from November 1 to May 31. The barometer seldom
varies, though there is a steady fall from 29.99 in December to 29.82
in April. Rain amounts to one inch and a quarter, the number of
days upon which drops or showers fall being about fifteen. Clouds
during January and February reach a maximum of 4 upon a scale
from 0-10. The prevalent wind is from the north or northwest,
and is never sufficiently fierce to keep patients within doors. The
Khamseen blows from the southwest desert during March and
April, seldom for more than two days in a week. It is unpleasantly
hot and dusty while it lasts, and drives many visitors away from
Cairo. The following table, drawn up from my own observations,
shows the temperatures to which patients may be exposed. It is
based on the principle that a sick man need not concern himself
with the minimum outdoor temperature of a place, for that is always
at an hour when he ought to be safe in bed. The vital information
for him is the average maximum shade temperature out of doors,
together with the average minimum bedroom heat, and the daily
range between them. It will be noticed that there is no very serious

range until the hot weather begins. My bedroom records have purposely
been taken in a north room with door wide open, never visited
by the sun, unoccupied at night, and unwarmed by artificial light.
This, therefore, gives the greatest cold to which a patient can be
subjected, unless he opens his bedroom windows. A prudent invalid
would, of course, eschew a north room, and would warm the
air by lamp or candles on going to bed. Thus he would raise my
minimum results some four degrees, and reduce the range of temperature
considerably. It is interesting to note that my minimum
results, within two or three degrees, correspond with the mean temperature
of the month. During April and May it is, of course, easy
to refrain from going out at the hottest time of the day. Thus it is
evident that patients can spend six months in Cairo in a temperature
which need only vary from 63° to 80°.
“The shortest days in December give us ten hours daylight, or
three hours longer than in England.”
Temperature, Fahr.
Maximum in Shade. Minimum in Bedroom. Rain. Khamseen Wind.
November deg. 75 deg.
December 69 60 4 days
January 67.4 59.8 Showers 4 days
February 68.3 59.7 Showers 2 days 2 days
March 76 63.2 Drops 1 day 3 days
April 84.5 67.6 Drops 2 days 7.5 days
May 91.7 72 5.5 days
The mere fact, that, for one absolutely cloudless winter
day in the British Islands — even in the sunniest region
of the South Coast—there are ten or a dozen in Upper
Egypt, means more, however, to the non-scientific reader
than whole columns of meteorological readings and climatic

statistics. In short, the Upper Nile boasts of the
most wonderful and salubrious climate of any known winter
resort in the world available to phthisical patients.
There is, of course, no ideal climate on the surface of the
globe,—no hygienic Utopia where “the consumptive can
draw in healing influence with every breath;” but the
climate of Upper Egypt is the nearest approach, within ten
days of London, to Tennyson's legendary land of Avilion,
“Where falls not rain, or hail, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly.”
Though the weather is popularly supposed to be the
Englishman's staple topic of conversation, the ignorance
of the veriest a, b, c of meteorology found among ordinarily
well-informed and observant travellers is extraordinary.
In Egyptian books of travel and magazine articles one occasionally
finds the very quality in which the climate of Egypt
is so deficient — equability of temperature — singled out,
along with its undeniable dryness, for special praise.
Messrs. Hermann Weber, Burden Saunderson, F. M.
Sandwith, and other physicians who have devoted considerable
attention to the hygienic and climatological aspects
of Egypt are agreed that Egypt is particularly suitable for
most forms of lung disease, for incipient pulmonary consumption,
chronic bronchitis, asthma, anaemia, chronic
rheumatism, and, speaking generally, convalescents from
acute diseases. But patients suffering from advanced heart
disease, or, in short, very advanced disease of any organ,
or from fever, should not be sent to Egypt. Persons subject
to obstinate insomnia will also find the climate unsuitable.
With regard to the best way of reaching Egypt, though
most travellers arrive by way of Port Said or Ismailia, this
route is less preferable than via Alexandria for those who
are wintering abroad for their health. The Egyptian tourist

traffic is of slight importance compared with that of
India and Australia, in the eyes of the directors of the great
liners; and passengers who have rashly decided to disembark
for Cairo at Ismailia often find themselves landed at
this half-way house in the middle of the night, with no
means of reaching the capital till the next day. What is
merely a passing inconvenience to the robust traveller might
naturally be a serious matter for the invalid. The light
railway which now runs from Port Said to Ismailia can, no
doubt, be made use of if the steamer arrives early in the
day at Port Said; but the service is slow and infrequent.
Though dignified by the name of railway, it is little more
than a miniature steam tramway with a gauge of no more
than two feet six inches. What is wanted is a railway
from Port Said to Damietta, only forty miles west, whence
there is direct railway communication to Cairo and Alexandria.
There are no physical difficulties in the construction
of this much-needed railway. The real difficulty is
the jealous opposition of Alexandria. Then, too, the
Egyptian Government is not inclined to regard the scheme
favourably, as the increased harbour dues would fall into
the coffers of the Suez Canal Company, and not into the
Government treasury. The fact remains, that, as an ordinary
commercial harbour, Port Said is of trifling importance.
It is mainly an international port and coaling station.
Though Alexandria should be the port of arrival for delicate
persons, unfortunately the great passenger steamship
companies, such as the Peninsular and Oriental, Orient,
and North German Lloyd, make Port Said and not Alexandria,
their port of call in their through services. Since
1895, however, an Egyptian service via Constantinople and
Alexandria has been established by the Sleeping Car Company,
in connection with the weekly Orient express. By
this service, Alexandria can be reached from London, via
Ostend, in five and a half days, with only one change between

Ostend and Alexandria. But this route is only for
those to whom expense is no object, costing, with extras,
about thirty pounds. Health seekers of moderate means
would have to be content with the services of the Messageries
Maritimes, the Austrian Lloyd, or the Italian Navigation
Company, sailing from Marseilles, Trieste, and Genoa,
respectively.

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122

CHAPTER VIII.
CAIRO IN ITS SOCIAL ASPECT.

IN some respects, so far as concerns the permanent residents
as distinct from the mere hivernants, — to use a
convenient gallicism to describe those dwellers in Northern
climes who winter in the South, for which we have no exact
equivalent, — Cairo society resembles that of Simla, Naini
Tal, and other fashionable haunts of Indian society, so
large is the infusion of the official and military element.
For society here has a decidedly official tone, and introductions
are advisable if English or American visitors wish
to take part in the social life of the place, with its innumerable
gaieties and entertainments of all kinds, — from
moonlight donkey-rides to the Pyramids, to bicycle gymkhanas
at Ghezireh, and fancy-dress balls at Shepheard's
and the Continental. In Cairo, however, the visitors at
the principal hotels form a society of their own.
The hotel element, too, in Cairo is a factor of greater
importance in the social life of the foreign community
(for the obvious fact that the Anglo-American winter colony
are foreigners is too often ignored) than at Cannes, Monte
Carlo, Beaulieu, Pau, Algiers, Florence, and other fashionable
winter resorts, partly because the class of visitors who
at these stations would be inclined to live haughtily aloof
from the cosmopolitan crowd who throng the hotels in
isolated villas, at Cairo frequent the fashionable hotels.
Villas, indeed, at Cairo are so scarce as to be practically
unobtainable, as the only available ones are, as a rule,

occupied by the families of the corps diplomatique, English
officers stationed at Cairo, high government officials, etc.
In Egypt, indeed, the aristocratic dahabiyah may almost
be said to take the place of the villa.
In a sketch, then, of fashionable Cairo in the nineties,
more prominence must be given to the hotels than would
be necessary in most foreign watering-places. The most
fashionable are, undoubtedly, the Continental, Shepheard's,
and Ghezireh Palace, whose visitors' lists almost suggest a
page out of the “Almanac de Gotha.” Yet, as regards the
clientèle, each has a distinct character of its own; and if I
may attempt a somewhat invidious task, I should be inclined
to say that the Continental is more peculiarly
exclusive and aristocratic, while Shepheard's is smarter,
and the note of modernity here is more insistent. As for
the Ghezireh Palace Hotel, it is of too recent date to have
acquired any distinct social characteristics. The salient
features of these establishments may, perhaps, be better
understood by comparison with London hotels. The Continental,
then, may be compared with the Alexandra or the
Albemarle, Shepheard's with the Savoy, and the Ghezireh
Palace with the Cecil.
The leading hotels of Cairo can certainly compare
favourably with the best hotels of the most fashionable
Riviera watering-places. Leaving the United States out
of the question, it is, perhaps, hardly going too far to
say that no extra-European city of the same size offers
such a wide choice of high-class and well-appointed hotels,
so well adapted to meet the demands of English travellers,
as the City of the Caliphs.
The historical Shepheard's has a world-wide reputation.
It must, however, be remembered that not a stone remains
of the old Shepheard's, with its world-renowned balcony,
its garden containing the tree under which General Kleber
was assassinated, its lofty rooms, and terraces. The new

Shepheard's, completely rebuilt in 1891, lacks these historical
adjuncts; but the high reputation for comfort remains,
and certainly, in point of luxury and refinements of
civilisation, in the form of electric lights, lifts, telephones,
etc., there can be no comparison. No doubt there was a
touch of Oriental romance, and a suggestion of the “Thousand
and One Nights” in the time-honoured practice which
formerly obtained at Shepheard's, of summoning the dusky
attendants by clapping the hands; but to the matter-of-fact
latter-day traveller the prosaic, but reliable, electric bell is
an infinitely preferable means of communication.
Shepheard's is par excellence the American hotel, while
the Continental is more exclusively English. The latter,
too, partakes more of the character of a high-class residential
hotel, its numerous elegantly appointed suites of private
apartments (some twenty sets) being one of its leading
features.
Shepheard's clientèle is distinctly cosmopolitan. Cairo
being the starting-point for the Desert, the Nile, and Palestine,
and not far off the highroad to India and Australia,
and also being one of those cities which no self-respecting
globe-trotter can afford to omit in his round, it is much
visited by passing travellers. Those purposing to spend
the whole season in Cairo would be more likely to go to
the Continental. Perhaps the great objection to Shepheard's
lies in its situation. It is undoubtedly very central
and easy of access, but, fronting the main road, it is unpleasantly
noisy and dusty. In the old days there were no
doubt compensations in the moving panorama of Oriental
life which this crowded thoroughfare presented, — a kaleidosocopic
procession of Bedouin Arabs from the Desert,
camels, tattooed negroes, Turks, jewelled pachas ambling
past on richly caparisoned mules, mysterious veiled figures,
and other fascinating aspects of Eastern life, with a very
slight admixture of the vulgarising (artistically speaking)

European element. Now, instead of these picturesque,
motley crowds, the modern lounger on the famous terraces
looks down upon a yelling crowd of donkey boys, guides,
porters, interpreters, dragomans, itinerant dealers in sham
antiques, and all the noisy rabble that live on the travelling
Briton.
The Continental Hotel is comparatively new, while the
New Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Cairo; but this
instance of erratic hotel nomenclature is not confined to
Egypt. The Continental is most sumptuously decorated,
and the appointments are, perhaps, as luxurious as those
of the leading hotels at the fashionable watering-places on
the opposite shore of the Mediterranean. Special mention
should be made of the excellence of its sanitary arrangements.
It is situated in a quiet part of the fashionable
Ezbekiya quarter, near the English church, and it is a
little out of the way compared with Shepheard's and the
New Hotel; but it must be confessed that this comparative
remoteness of its locality is regarded as an additional recommendation
by many of its patrons.
The Ghezireh Palace, the newest of the Cairo hotels, formerly
known as “Ismail's Folly,” was one of the palaces
of the late Khedive Ismail, whose mania for building palaces
was as pronounced as that of the unfortunate King of
Bavaria. It was bought by a syndicate from the creditors
of the late ex-Khedive, and is now one of the International
Palace Hotels — a commercial enterprise which is a worthy
rival of the Gordon Hotels ring — belonging to the
International Sleeping Car Co. It rivals the Continental
or Shepheard's in the costliness of its decoration and the
luxury of its appointments. From a medical point of view,
its strong points are its delightfully rural and at the same
time readily accessible situation, and its sheltered position,
which effectually protects visitors from the occasional
Khamseen winds, — rare, no doubt, but still to be reckoned

with during the Cairo season. The chief drawback to this
ambitious establishment is the presence of mosquitoes in
the beginning of the season, owing to the proximity of the
Nile. This tends to make the commencement of the season
at this hotel somewhat later than at the intra-mural
hotels. As regards its visitors, the Ghezireh Palace is
rather more cosmopolitan in character than the Continental,
or even Shepheard's.
Certainly there is room for an extra-mural hotel at
Cairo, with its swarms of invalids increasing year by year,
who invade Egypt for the winter; and it should appeal not
only to this numerically important class, but also to sportsmen,
owing to its vicinity to the race-course and the Sporting
Club grounds.
So much, then, for the three leading Cairo hotels. We
now come to another first-class hotel. The New Hotel
was the favourite caravanserai of the ex-Khedive Ismail,
and it occupies by far the best situation of any in Cairo,
facing the Grand Opera House. It has had vicissitudes,
but has recovered and stood the test of time; and not being
so popular as Shepheard's and the Continental, which are
often overcrowded in the height of the season, it might be
preferred by invalids and those in need of rest and quietness.
Its numerous sets of upper rooms, each furnished
with an alcoved balcony, might also recommend it to this
class of visitors.
Mena House, at the foot of the Pyramids, is a large and
expensive establishment, which has found favour with our
compatriots. No doubt those with the artistic sense highly
developed will enlarge on the enormity of building a huge
modern hotel in the midst of such incongruous surroundings,
in the close vicinity of the immortal Pyramids and
the mystic Sphinx; but it must be admitted, if I may be
allowed to act as advocatus diaboli, that if the Pyramids
had to be vulgarised, they could not have been vulgarised

better (or less) by the English capitalist who is responsible
for the undertaking. The origin of Mena House (called
from Menes, the quasi-mythical earliest king of Egypt) is
curious. Some seven years ago an Englishman in delicate
health came to Egypt. He built a tiny house under the
shadow of the Pyramids. Finding the air beneficial, he
began to erect a small sanatorium, hoping that invalids
like himself might resort there, and gain a longer lease of
life. But before the plan was matured he died. Then Mr.
Locke-King bought the property, and determined to start
a hotel. The undertaking grew under his hands, and now
Mena House may be considered to rank as one of the leading
hotels in Egypt. Mr. Locke-King, however, no longer
owns the Mena House, having transferred his interest
therein to an English syndicate. It is well spoken of, and
the rooms are furnished in good taste. It is well appointed,
and is furnished with a large swimming-bath, English billiard-table,
library, etc. Golf links are also duly advertised
among its numerous attractions for visitors, though
considering the general lay of the desert surrounding the
Pyramids, “sporting bunkers” must be too plentiful even
for the most determined devotee of the “royal and ancient
game,” and the laying out of anything approaching to a
putting-green must have presented almost insuperable difficulties.
There is a resident chaplain and physician.
The Hotel d'Angleterre is a favourite resort of English
and Americans. It is a particularly comfortable and well-managed
house, and is under the same proprietorship as the
Continental. It has recently been rebuilt, and is furnished
with all modern conveniences, — lift, electric light, etc.;
in fact, it is a second Continental on a more modest scale,
and may be regarded as a succursale or dependance of the
parent establishment.
The Hotel Royal may be said to have some claims on
the gratitude of Englishmen. During Arabi's rebellion, all

the hotel keepers, save the landlord of the Royal, decamped.
Thus, after the victorious campaign, the English officers
would have fared badly had not the doors of the Royal
been open to them. This hotel has a good reputation for
its cuisine and moderate charges. There remains the well-known
old established Hotel du Nil, handicapped a little,
however, by its situation close to the malodorous street
known as the Muski. This hotel, well-known to scholars,
literary men, and Egyptologists, boasts of a famous garden,
one of the most beautiful and striking in Cairo. In
the opinion of many of its guests, this lovely pleasure-ground,
which shuts off all noises from the crowded streets,
quite compensates for its proximity to the native quarter.
So much for Cairo as a great hotel centre.
The City of Victory is, no doubt, a many-sided city, and
might be described under many aspects did space permit.
It is a famous historical city, an official capital and seat of
government, an important garrison town, and a great Oriental
metropolis, — in population the second city in the
Turkish Empire. But by most visitors it is regarded
merely as a fashionable health and pleasure resort, and it
is with Cairo in its social aspect that we are in this chapter
mainly concerned.
Its vogue as an aristocratic winter residence for Europeans
may be said to date from the opening of the Suez
Canal in 1869, when Cairo was boomed, to use a modern
phrase, by the Khedive Ismail for all it was worth. This
prodigal ruler spent literally millions in his effort to make
known to Europeans the attractions and potentialities of
his semi-Oriental capital. Yet compare Cairo of to-day
as a fashionable tourist-centre with Cairo of a quarter
of a century ago. Then the unfinished European
quarter had the appearance of a hastily run-up suburb. It
was thought a wonderful achievement to light the Ezbekiya
quarter with gas. Now many of the streets, and all

the large hotels, are lit with electricity, and electric tramcars
run through the main thoroughfares. It is even
proposed to drain the picturesque but highly insalubrious
and malodorous Khalig Canal, which runs through the
heart of the city from Old Cairo to Abbasieh, and lay an
electric tramway along its bed. No doubt æsthetic
tourists will rave at this utilitarian and vandalistic transformation,
but the more thoughtful will not regret that
what is virtually an open sewer should be converted into a
broad highway calculated to benefit the teeming Cairene
population. The Egyptians, it may be remarked, take
very kindly to the new method of locomotion, — so much
so that in the electric trams already running, Europeans
are quite crowded out by natives.
Visitors to Cairo may be roughly divided into three
classes, — sightseers and tourists; winter residents and society
people generally, akin to the fashionable crowds who
gravitate annually to Cannes, Monte Carlo, Mentone, and
other Riviera towns; and invalids, — the latter class, however,
less numerous in Cairo itself than formerly. To
these may be added a leaven of artists, literary people,
Egyptologists, students, etc.
The first class is numerically of most importance; but
tourists, as a rule, have little time, and probably less inclination,
for taking part in the social life of the Anglo-American
colony, and are not ambitious of being thought to be
“in the movement.” The winter residents, along with the
official community, — English officers attached to the army
of occupation and the Egyptian army, government officials
and their families, etc., — form the Anglo-American colony.
Cairo is indeed emphatically a society place, and,
of late years especially, as an aristocratic winter-resort it
ranks with Cannes or Monte Carlo. Perhaps the tone of
society more nearly resembles Nice or Monte Carlo than
the ultra-aristocratic and exclusive Cannes, smartness being

the prevalent note of its winter residents. From January
to April there is one unceasing round of balls, dinner parties,
picnics, gymkhanas, and other social functions.
Intelligent sightseeing or the study of Egyptian antiquities
is, no doubt, apt to be undertaken in a decidedly
perfunctory manner by the winter residents. The Necropolis
of Memphis, for instance, is regarded mainly as a
convenient site for a picnic, and the Pyramids or Heliopolis
as a goal for a bicycling or riding excursion. Bicycling is
now a particularly popular amusement in the City of the
Caliphs; and the sight of an American or English girl
bicycling down the Mooski, preceded by a running footman
(syce) to clear the way, may perhaps provoke a smile from
her compatriots at the startling incongruity. This is only
one instance, however, of the strange contrasts between
the latest development of European civilisation and fashionable
culture and the old-world Orientalism so constantly
seen in Cairo of to-day.
After all, in the Cairo season “distractions” and social
dissipations of all kinds, not to speak of the ordinary urban
amusements in the form of concerts, theatres, and promenades,
follow so unceasingly that there is some excuse for
the neglect of the regulation sights and antiquities. When
it is the case of a bicycle gymkhana, a polo match at the
Turf Club ground, or a lawn-Tennis tournament at the
Ghezireh Palace, or a visit to a gloomy old temple, it is
perhaps only natural with young people that the ancient
monuments should go to the wall.
The official balls and receptions at the Khedivial Palace
or the British Agency are functions which demand more
than an incidental notice. The British Agent gives at
least a couple of large balls during the season, and the
same hospitality is offered by the Khedive. In addition to
these official entertainments, several important semiofficial
dances are given by the British officers quartered

at Cairo. The invitations to the Khedive's ball are invariably
sent to the foreign visitors through their Ministers
or Consuls; and as everybody in Cairo seems to regard a
ticket almost as a right, there is occasionally a certain
amount of friction between the accredited representatives
of the different Powers and the Khedive's officers.
It cannot be said that the present Khedive, or the officers
of his household entrusted with the delicate task of
issuing the invitations, always manifest the possession of
savoir faire or a nice sense of diplomacy. According to a
well-authenticated story, the Khedive once returned the
United States Consul-General's list of visitors to whom he
proposed invitations to be sent, with an observation to the
effect that only those of noble birth were eligible. The Consul
promptly replied that every American citizen considered
himself a king in his own right. This brought the autocratic
Khedive to his bearings, and not only was the list
passed, but it is said that invitations were sent besides to
all the guests at Shepheard's Hotel en bloc.
The season in the fashionable world is a short one, extending
from January to April. The flight of the European
visitors in this month is soon followed by the exodus
of the official colony, and other permanent residents, to
Ramleh and other summer refuges. The Khedive and his
court leave for Alexandria usually about the beginning of
May, and this departure of the titular sovereign marks
formally the close of the Cairo season.

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132

CHAPTER IX.
THE BAZAARS AND STREET LIFE.

A VISIT to the bazaars is one of the most instructive
and entertaining, as well as the pleasantest, forms of
killing time which Cairo offers to visitors. But the great
charm of this excursion is lost, if it is simply regarded as
one of the items in the day's programme of sightseeing.
The only way to appreciate the native bazaars, and to get
some insight into Cairo street-life, is to form no fixed
plan for the disposal of time, and to make no itinerary, and
certainly to dispense with a guide or dragoman. It is, however,
decidedly advisable, before starting, to get some idea
of the confusing topography of the bazaar quarter from a
good map. The boundaries of the bazaar region can, however,
easily be mastered; and there need be no fear of losing
one's way, even in the apparently inextricable labyrinthine
maze of narrow lanes and alleys which make up the native
quarter, for it is intersected by two main thoroughfares,
and has fairly well-marked boundaries. One of these, generally
known as the Suk-en-Nahhassin, from its principal
bazaar, is called by different names, according to the bazaar
which abuts on it. It is one of the narrowest and oldest,
but most important, of the Cairo streets, and extends north
and south from the El-Hakim Mosque, near the Bab-en-Nasr,
to the Boulevard Mehemet Ali, the modern highway
which runs direct from the Ezbekiya Square to the Citadel.
The other main street is the Rue Neuve, a continuation of
the Mooski, and usually called by the name of the latter.

The Mooski was the old Frankish quarter before Ismailia
built the modern European district, radiating from the
Ezbekiya Square. Some of the bazaars cluster round
large covered market-places called khans, of which the
Khan Khalil and Khan Ghamaliyeh are the most important.
As I have said, the best way of exploring the bazaars is to
have no prearranged plan or programme. Hurried tourists,
however, who might naturally consider this a counsel of perfection,
will find that the most satisfactory and expeditious
method of doing the bazaars is to make the Suk-en-Nahhassin
street a kind of movable base, and proceed northward
or southward from its intersection with the Mooski.
The bazaars are considered by some travellers to be less
Oriental in aspect, and to have less of the Eastern atmosphere
and local colour about them than those of Damascus;
and Bædeker considers them inferior even to those of Constantinople.
As in all Oriental cities, each bazaar is confined, as a
rule, to the sale of one class of goods, or products of a certain
district. There are, for instance, the bazaars of the
Soudan, Tunis, Red Sea Littoral, Morocco, etc.
The Khan Khalil was built in 1292, by the famous
Mameluke Sultan, El-Ashraf, the conqueror of Acre. It is
on the site of the Tombs of the Caliphs. This is the chief
emporium for carpets, rugs, and embroidered stuffs. Open-air
auctions take place on the mornings of Monday and
Thursday, which are very amusing to watch, — the dellalin
(appraisers), the prototypes of the porters of modern sales
by auction, carrying among the crowd the articles put up,
and crying out the bids as they are made. In one part of
the khan is a place reserved for dealers in brass and copper
goods.
Crossing the street Suk-en-Nahhassin, we come to the
Suk-es-Saigh (gold and silversmiths' bazaar), a much-frequented
resort of tourists. The workmanship and quality

of the trinkets have greatly deteriorated of late. In fact,
Old Cairo residents among the foreign colony declare that
many of the jewels have a Palais Royal or Birmingham
origin.
Continuing northwards, and turning to the right, we
reach the Gamaliyeh (camel-drivers') quarter. Here are
the shops of the Red Sea traders. Very inferior goods are
usually only obtainable here, the chief commodities being incense,
perfumes, spices, mother-of-pearl, and attar of roses.
The latter is so much diluted that it is almost worthless, a
small flask being sold for a franc or so, which would cost
at least a pound if pure. The northern continuation of
the street forms the coppersmiths' bazaar; and here are also
booths for the sale of pipes, cigar-holders, amber, narghilehs,
chibouques, and other articles for smokers. Retracing
our steps to the starting-point, and crossing the Rue Neuve,
— as absurdly named as New College at Oxford, for it is
one of the oldest streets, — we reach the once flourishing
Suk-es-Sudan, which, though mentioned in the guide-books,
no longer exists, since the Soudan has been practically
closed to traders. In this quarter are also the booksellers'
bazaar, of little interest, and the Suk-el-Attarin (spices,
perfumes, etc.), one of the most characteristic bazaars.
Unfortunately, the articles in the bazaars mostly visited
by strangers are often either inferior imported goods from
Europe, — jewelry from Birmingham, carpets from Brussels,
haiks and silk goods from Nîmes or Lyons, cotton
stuffs from Manchester, etc., — or cheap and showy bric-à-brac
and sham curios, manufactured to meet the factitious
demand of tourists. In fact, many of the shops bear a
striking resemblance to the Oriental stalls at international
exhibitions. Genuine Oriental goods can, however, be
bought at the picturesque Suk-el-Fahhamin, behind El-Ghuri
Mosque, a favourite haunt of artists and others
appreciative of local colour. Here are to be found rugs,

bernouses, Fez caps, saddle-bags, and other articles, from
Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco.
With regard to purchases, bargaining is, of course,
necessary. Even if the tourist is inexperienced and ignorant
of the value of Oriental wares, he might better trust to
his own powers of bargaining than allow a guide or interpreter
to intervene. The seller, it must be remembered,
has a different price for each customer, as a rule. Seasoned
travellers in the East lay down the axiom that the prospective
buyer should, as a rule, offer half what is asked, when
a bargain can be struck midway between the two prices.
The objection to this “splitting the difference” is that the
dealers are fully aware of this rule, and raise the original
price to cope with it. Real bargains can, however, still
be obtained by a visitor who is making a long stay in Cairo,
and has the necessary patience to go through the tedious
preliminary negotiations. The winter resident who makes
several visits to the bazaar quarter, and is not in a hurry
to spend his money, will, sooner or later, get the refusal
of really valuable articles at not very much more than
their market value. When purchasing jewelry, the buyer
should see that it has the Government stamp, indicating
number of carats. Genuine Mushrabiyeh work (carved
wooden latticework) is very costly. Most specimens sold
are imitations, the pieces being turned out in one uniform
size by a lathe. In the real article (the most characteristic
Cairo industry) each piece is irregular, and is cut by hand.
The best days for the bazaars are the market-days, Mondays
and Thursdays, and the hours early in the morning or late
in the afternoon.
Even now, in this tourist-ridden native quarter, which is
apt to be regarded by most strangers in the light of an
Oriental spectacle conveniently arranged for the benefit of
European visitors, at the threshold of New Cairo in the
Ezbekiya (the hausmannised Cairo of Ismail), in bargaining

for the more costly wares, the time-honoured Oriental
methods prevail. The negotiations are hedged round
with a certain amount of ceremony which recalls the stately
fashion in the Arabian Nights, when the purchase of a
brass tray or an embroidered saddle-cloth was a solemn
treaty, and the bargain for a lamp a diplomatic event
not to be lightly undertaken or hurriedly concluded by
either of the high contracting parties. Those who are
anxious to imbibe the Oriental “atmosphere” will, no
doubt, be more inclined to tolerate the long and tedious
process of chaffering, considered an indispensable preliminary
to a purchase, than the ordinary, matter-of-fact
tourist. Native manners and customs, and the multifarious
phases of Cairene life — for, as in all Oriental countries, the
inhabitants live and carry on their various occupations and
avocations in the open air as much as possible, and the
Cairene is as great a sun-worshipper as the Neapolitan —
are, of course, best observed in the region of the bazaars.
The El-Muayyad Bazaar, behind the mosque of that name,
is a particularly good field for the searcher after local
colour. This is peculiarly a native mart, and less of a
tourist resort than most of the bazaars.
But, for broad spectacular effects, the visitor must betake
himself to the Mooski, the most characteristic thoroughfare
of Cairo. Here a strange amalgam of Eastern and
Western life bursts upon the spectator's astonished gaze;
and here, indeed, the “East shakes hands with the West.”
This living diorama, formed by the brilliant and ever shifting
crowd, is, in its way, unique. A greater variety of
nationalities is collected here than even in Constantinople,
the most cosmopolitan city, in a spectacular sense, in Europe;
and in this great carnival one seems to meet every
costume of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Let us stand aside
and watch this motley throng of all races and nationalities
pouring along this busy highway. The kaleidoscopic variety

of brilliant colour and fantastic costume is a little bewildering
to the stranger. Solemn and impassive-looking
Turks, gently ambling past on gaily caparisoned mules,
grinning negroes from the Soudan, melancholy-looking fellahs
in their scanty blue kaftans, cunning-featured Levantines,
green-turbaned Shereefs, and picturesque Bedouins
from the desert, stalking past in their flowing bernouses,
make up the mass of this restless throng. A sakkah, or
water-carrier, carrying his picturesque goatskin filled with
Nile water, still finds a sale for his drinks in spite of the public
fountains; while among other dramatis personœ of the
Arabian Nights are the vendors of sweets and all kinds of
edibles. Interspersed, and giving variety of colour to this
living kinetoscope, are gorgeously arrayed Jewesses, fierce-looking
Albanians, their many-coloured sashes bristling with
weapons, and petticoated Greeks. Then, as a restful relief
to this blaze of colour, appears a white group of Egyptian
ladies, — “a bevy of fair damsels richly dight,” no doubt,
but their faces, as well as their rich attire, concealed under
the inevitable yashmak and voluminous haik. Such are
the elements in this mammoth masquerade which make
up the brilliant and varied picture of Cairene street-life.
These are, no doubt, the aspects which force themselves
on the notice of the most unobservant tourist, and are
among the impressions of every scribbling globe-trotter.
Less obvious is the “charm of endless contrasts, — not chromatic
alone, but contrast of race, feature, form, costume,
attitude, occupation, movement, mood. This it is that
makes the magic of the marvellous Eastern city for the
Western eye. Nor is the medley of manners less striking
than the hotch-potch of races and the tangle of tongues.”
The Oriental justifies the popular Western conception of
gravity and impassiveness of demeanour. Plenty of these
types abound, but there are others, — souvent homme varie.
“In one form he treads the roadway with the majesty of

Haroun Alraschid; in another, he scampers through the
streets like a Parisian gamin. The features of that venerable
pipe-merchant are as unemotional as a Red Indian's;
but if the purchaser, who is haggling with him for the
abatement of a piastre, were pleading for the life of his
only child, the passionate, suppliant expression of his countenance
would more than satisfy the dramatic requirements
of the situation.” Thus are the salient features of the
Cairo streets amusingly and cleverly hit off by Mr. H. D.
Traill, in his “Impressions de Voyage,” recently published
under the title “From Cairo to the Soudan Frontier.”

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139

CHAPTER X.
THE MOSQUES.

IT must be admitted that mosques are not of great
interest, from the casual sight-seer's point of view,
owing to their uniformity and severe simplicity of design,
which, however, harmonises well with the almost complete
absence of ritual in Moslem worship. The chief features
are an open court (sahn) with a fountain or cistern in the
middle, surrounded by a covered cloister (liwan). The
more sacred part of the building (maksura), corresponding
to the choir of an English cathedral, is often screened off
from the rest of the building. Here the tomb of the
founder is usually placed. In the centre of this sanctuary
is the niche (mihrab or kibla) showing the direction of
Mecca, and the pulpit (mimbar).
The visitor should remember the names of these principal
portions of a Mohammedan temple, if he wishes to
obtain an intelligent grasp of Moslem ecclesiastical architecture.
Archæologically speaking, the most correct mosque
in Cairo is Amru, which will be described later in the chapter
devoted to Old Cairo and the Coptic churches. This is
the original and normal type of mosque, the best example
of which must not, however, be sought in Cairo, but in
Cordova, the mosque cathedral there being considered to
be the most perfect and best-preserved specimen of this
form of Saracenic art in existence. In Cairo the only
mosques, besides Amru, which strictly follow the orthodox
pattern, are Ihn Tulun and the University Mosque, El-Azhar.

140

There are over three hundred mosques in Cairo,—
indeed, it is said by the Arabs that, as in the case of the
churches of Rome, there is one for every day of the year,—
but most are in ruins; a large number have been devoted to
secular purposes, and there remain scarcely over a score
that even the most conscientious sight-seer would care to
explore. In some of the larger mosques, such as the
Kalaun, a whole group of public buildings are comprised.
Besides the mosque proper, there will be found a hospital,
school, court of justice, monastery, library, etc. In short,
the mosque may be said to serve as a kind of embodiment
of the national life.
One of the largest mosques in Cairo is Muristan Kalaun.
It is not strictly a mosque, but a hospital, and is now in a
ruinous condition. The mosque-tomb of the founder, adjoining,
is a much-frequented shrine of the poorer classes,
who firmly believe in the curative properties of the columns
of the prayer-niche, which they are accustomed to
lick. Certain relics of the Sultan are preserved here,
which, of course, possess equally miraculous powers in the
eyes of the devout. These antiquities— a turban and sash
of the Sultan Kalaun — cannot, it need hardly be said, be
shown to strangers.
The adjoining mosque is comparatively uninteresting;
but the next one (Barkuk), which contains the tombs of
the wife and daughter of the Mameluke Sultan Barkuk,
should be visited, if only to see the exquisite workmanship
in bronze of one of the doors. The tomb of the Sultan
himself, whose body would be thought to be desecrated if
placed in the same building as that of his wife, is buried in
the Tomb Mosque Barkuk, in the Eastern Cemetery.
In one of the most striking features of the Kalaun may
be seen a trace of Gothic influence introduced by the Crusaders.
This is the beautiful arched doorway, which was
brought from a Christian church at Acre built by the


Crusaders. This archway is a fine specimen of early
English architecture, and Mr. Stanley-Poole pertinently
observes that it would not be out of place in Salisbury
Cathedral.
For beauty of decoration this mosque must, however,
yield the palm to the twin mosques of Kait Bey,
especially the one in the Eastern Cemetery (usually, but
erroneously, known as the Tombs of the Caliphs). The
exterior is unequalled among the monuments of the Arabic
art of Cairo for richness and variety of decoration. The
delicate scrollwork and tracery of the fawn-coloured dome,
and the graceful pagoda - like minarets, are familiar to
every traveller. The interior has little decoration of any
kind. Possibly this was intentional, to mark a place of
sepulture, for Kait Bey is buried here. In the sister
mosque within the walls, the highly elaborate decoration
of the interior offers a strong contrast. This mosque,
owing, probably, to its not being prominently mentioned in
the guide-books, — for the average tourist rarely strikes
out an independent line for himself, — or perhaps because
it is a little difficult to find, is seldom visited. Yet this
mosque is one of the most characteristic in Cairo, and
should on no account be neglected. It has been restored
in good taste by the Commission for the Preservation of
Arabic Monuments.
This admirable Society, which receives an annual subsidy
of no more than £4,000 from the State, has done excellent
work since its institution by the late Khedive Tewfik
in 1881. It carries out all necessary renovations under
the old established, but somewhat cumbrous, Wakfs Administration,
the Department which has the charge of all
the mosques, corresponding in some respects to the Ministry
of Public Worship in the French Republic, or to the
Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Great Britain. This body
depends for its income, apart from the State convention,

on the entrance fee of two piastres, which is levied on
strangers for each mosque. In this ancient corporation is
vested all ecclesiastical property in Egypt; in fact, next
to the Khedive, the Church, if such a word may be used in
connection with a heathen faith, was the richest landlord
in Egypt. If a man died without immediate issue his
property went to the nearest mosque, — in practice to the
Wakf; and if his next of kin claimed it, he would have to
pay an enormous percentage of the value to the Administration
in order to redeem his inheritance. Then a tithe
was obligatory on every head of a family. Consequently,
as Mr. Richard Davey observes, in his exhaustive work on
“The Sultan and his Subjects,” Mohammedanism, though
it had no regularly endowed priesthood, was as richly furnished
with this world's goods as the Church in England
before the Reformation. In theory, the Church devoted
her vast wealth to the poor, to education and charity, the
service and preservation of the mosques, and to the maintenance
of the preachers, attendants, and other officials of
the mosques. But the practice was far worse than the
worst which Henry the Eighth's Visitors discovered in the
monasteries before the old order was swept away, as may
be seen by a visit to most of the mosques whose restoration
has not been taken in hand by the Commission for the
Preservation of Arabic Monuments. Now, of course, since
the removal of Ismail from the viceroyalty by the Sultan,
at the demand of the Great Powers, and the appointment
of an English Comptroller of the Exchequer, under the
title of Financial Adviser to the Khedive, the powers of
the Wakf corporation have been much curtailed, and the
collection, and to a large extent the expenditure, of this
revenue is controlled by the State.
After visiting the Kalaun, it is worth while to turn aside
into one of the picturesque alleys branching off from the
Sharia (street) en-Nahhassin, — the great mosque thoroughfare,

though a narrow street, according to modern
notions, — and make one's way to a small but beautifully
decorated mosque, called Abu Bekr. As the guide-books
barely mention it, the ordinary tourist misses it; but a
visit will be well repaid. The exquisite marble mosaics
are almost unequalled in Cairo. Great pains have been
taken in the restoration of this mosque by Herz Bey, the
architect of the Wakfs Administration, who has carried
out the work with the most scrupulous fidelity to the
original plan. The result is an architectural gem, as
pleasing to the eye as it is archæologically correct.
El-Ghuri, near the Attara Bazaar, is another mosque
which is not visited as much as it deserves. The restorations
carried on here by the Ancient Monuments Commission
also reflect considerable credit on this body.
The mosque known as El-Hassanen is dedicated to the
two sons (Hasseen and Hassan) of Ali, the son-in-law of
Mohammed, and in the eyes of devout Moslems it consequently
possesses peculiar sanctity. It has been entirely
rebuilt, and in modern style, and lighted throughout with
gas, to the dismay of artists and archæologists. In spite of
this aggressive note of modernity, this mosque, as the
burial-place of the head of Hasseen (one of the most
venerated saints in the Mohammedan calendar), is much
frequented by the Cairenes, and the Festival of the Molid
(birthday) of the two saints celebrated here is the most
important after that of the Prophet. The Khedive visits
the mosque in state, followed by thousands of the populace,
who throng the building till midnight. The illuminations
of the mosque and surrounding bazaars are magnificent.
“There is no scene in Cairo which reminds one more
forcibly of the Arabian Nights,” says that high authority,
Murray. In the Mosque Siti Zenab, generally known as
the “Women's Mosque,” at the other end of the city, is
buried Zenab, the sister of the Hassanen. It is elaborately

decorated and has a great wealth of coloured glass; but the
restorations have not been tastefully carried out, and “the
mixture of Turkish decoration with the modern style of
architecture does not produce a pleasing effect.”
The Ihn Tulun Mosque, like the mosque in the Place du
Gouvernement at Algiers, and the Agia Sofia (St. Sophia),
of Constantinople, was designed by a Christian architect,
and is said to be a copy of the Kaaba at Mecca. The
original idea of Sultan Tulun (the founder of the Tulunide
dynasty, A. D. 868 to 895) was to build a mosque which
should vie with that of Kerouan (Tunisia) in the number
of its columns, taken, as was usual with the Arab mosque-builders,
from the ruins of Greek and Roman temples.
Fortunately, he renounced this vandalistic scheme. The
columns of the arches which form a colonnade skirting
the sides of the court are of brick instead of stone. The
pointed arches recall the Norman style of architecture, and
Mr. Lane-Poole declares that this mosque constitutes the
first example of the employment of pointed arches throughout
a whole building, for their adoption in England did
not take place till some three hundred years later. An
absurd number of traditions are attached to the building,
which, according to some chroniclers, is built on the site
of the “Burning Bush,” where the Almighty conversed
with the Patriarch Moses, as well as the site of Abraham's
sacrifice, and the landing-place of the Ark. The fact that
Ihn Tulun is, next to Amru Mosque, the oldest in Cairo,
perhaps explains the wealth of legendary lore which clusters
round this venerable ruin. Owing to its ruinous state,
the mosque is of more interest to the historian or Egyptologist
than the ordinary traveller. Its exterior view bears
a curious resemblance to a dismantled fortress.
The Mosque El-Azhar is unique among the Cairene
mosques. It is the largest Moslem university in the world,
and perhaps the oldest of any university, Christian or

Mohammedan, the old mosque having been set apart for
purposes of study towards the end of the tenth century.
Over eleven thousand students, drawn from every Mohammedan
country, are said to be “inscribed on the books,”
and the professors number over three hundred. The educational
methods might, in the present-day vernacular, be
termed undenominational, for all the chief Moslem sects
are represented in this truly catholic institution. Innumerable
chambers are partitioned off among the colonnades
of the Great Court, which correspond to the side chapels
in a Christian cathedral, each of which serves as the lecture-hall
of natives of a particular country; these represent
the colleges of the university. On Friday, the
Mohammedan Sabbath, no teaching takes place; and as
this is its most salient feature, travellers should take care
to choose some other day for their visit. The authorities
do not encourage the presence of strangers, and, pace the
guide-books, admittance is not always practicable. Some
of the sects are decidedly fanatical, and strangers will be
well advised to abstain from any overt expression of amusement
at the extraordinary spectacle of some thousands of
students, of all ages, repeating verses of the Koran in a
curious monotone, while swaying their bodies from side to
side, — supposed to be an aid to memory.
The Mosque Sultan Hassan is a magnificent building of
the palmy days of Arab art, and, on account of its grand
proportions and splendid decorations, is called by the Cairenes
the “superb mosque.” It is said to have cost over
£600,000. The mosque may, in a sense, be considered
the national mosque of Cairo, and is attended by the Khedive
on the occasion of any great religious function. The
building, too, has often served as a kind of meeting-place
of the natives, in times of public disturbance, and has
always been the rallying-place of demagogues and opponents
of the Government, notably at the time of the Arabi

revolt in 1881. The body of the Sultan, who was assassinated
in 1361, lies in a mausoleum which is crowned with
a magnificent dome one hundred and eighty feet high.
The Mameluke sovereigns were great mosque-builders,
and it will be noticed that many of the most interesting
mosques date from the end of the thirteenth century to the
beginning of the sixteenth (when the Ottoman sultan,
Selim II., conquered Cairo), which synchronises with the
golden age of the two Mameluke dynasties.
The following description of this majestic building will
give an idea of its enormous proportions:
“The outer walls of this stately mosque are nearly a hundred feet
in height, and they are capped by a cornice thirteen feet high, projecting
six feet, formed of stalactite, which has ever since been a
marked feature in Arabian architecture. The arches of the doorways
and of the numerous windows, and even the capitals of the
columns, are similarly enriched. The great doorway in the northern
side is situated in a recess sixty-six feet in height. The minaret,
gracefully converted from a square at its base to an octagon in
its upper part, is the loftiest in existence, measuring two hundred
and eighty feet.”1
1 The Art Journal, 1881.
Unfortunately, this noble fabric is in a very ruinous condition,
and instead of restoring it, the late Khedive devoted
his energies and his purse to the building of a new mosque
adjoining, which was intended to rival the other. So far as
can be judged at present, — for it is still a long way from
completion, — the Sultan Hassan Mosque is not likely to be
eclipsed by the new one, known as the Mosque of the
Rifaiya, a particularly fanatical order of dervishes, corresponding
in some respects to the Aissoua sect of Algeria.
Perhaps one of the most attractive mosques is that
popularly known as Ibrahim Agha, or by tourists, “The
Blue-tiled Mosque.” Its official title is Kher-bek, as it was
built by this renegade Mameluke, who afterwards (1517)

became the first Pacha of Egypt under the Ottoman sultans.
On this account it is not surprising that the Cairenes
have not wished to perpetuate the name of this traitor, and
prefer to call the mosque after Ibrahim Agha, who enlarged
and restored it in 1617. The interior is well
described by Colonel Plunkett in his slight but charming
little brochure, “Walks in Cairo.”
The vaulted colonnade on the east side rests on massive
piers, and between them glows the rich blue of the tiles
which cover the wall; they are set in panels, though
somewhat irregularly, and with some serious gaps, where,
doubtless, unscrupulous collectors have obtained valuable
specimens by the aid of dishonest guardians. The effect
depends greatly on the light by which the mosque is seen,
but is always rich and striking; the open court, too, with
its little garden of palms and other trees in the centre, and
the graceful minaret rising above the crenelated wall, is
very attractive, and has, especially towards sunset, a peculiarly
quiet and beautiful appearance.
El-Hakim is one of the largest mosques of Cairo, as well
as the oldest (after Amru, Tulun, and El-Azhar), but it is
in a deplorably ruinous condition. The mosque is unique,
as being the sole one provided with a makhara (an external
platform, not to be confounded with a minaret), on
which incense is burned on important festivals. It is
visited chiefly as the temporary house of the Museum of
Arabic Art.
In most cases, the best movable decorations and fittings of
the mosques, such as the carved mihrab, bronze doors, enamelled
lamps, woodwork, etc., have been removed from the
mosques and preserved in the Arab musuem. Most visitors
would, no doubt, prefer to see these objects in situ, but
the authorities are certainly justified in their action; for
there is no doubt that most of the more artistic objects
in the mosques would have been sold, sooner or later, to

strangers and collectors by the mosque guardians, and
what escaped their rapacity would soon have been spoiled
by neglect. For many years the objects in this unique
collection were stowed away in one of the mosque buildings,
without any attempt at systematic or chronological
arrangement, and were lost to most visitors; but recently
the authorities have had the objects carefully arranged and
scientifically catalogued. In a subsequent chapter this
magnificent collection will be described at some length.
Though, next to the bazaars, the mosques are, in the
opinion of the guides and dragomans, the chief sights of
Cairo, it must be allowed that the ordinary visitor will
find a whole day devoted solely to these Moslem temples
somewhat tedious. It is certainly advisable to combine
the excursion to the mosques with some other kind of
sightseeing. However, whatever the tastes of the traveller,
I think the mosques described above are fairly representative
specimens of Moslem architecture.
I have said nothing of the mosques of the Citadel,
but these will be treated of in the chapter in which I propose
to describe the Cairene Acropolis.


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149

CHAPTER XI.
THE TOMBS OF THE CALIPHS.

THE Tombs of the Caliphs are a remarkably interesting
group of mausolea, strictly mosque-tombs, situated
outside the walls, a little north of the Citadel. They are
easily reached by the Mooski and Rue Neuve. These
tombs have no connection with the Caliphs, but as the
guides invariably employ this designation, it has naturally
been adopted by visitors. The Caliphs have no separate
burial-place, and, in fact, most of their tombs in the various
mosques of the city have been destroyed. As the
tomb-mosque of Kait Bey is the most important in this
necropolis, it is often called by Cairenes the Cemetery of
Kait Bey. It also goes by the name of the Eastern Cemetery.
The Sultans buried here belong to the Circassian
Mameluke dynasty, and most of the tombs date from
the fifteenth century. They are, for the main part, in a
terribly dilapidated condition; the Wakfs Administration
seem to have recognised the impossibility of restoring
them properly with the funds at their disposal, and have,
perhaps wisely, made no attempt at restoration, except in
the case of one or two of the more important ones.
The title Caliph, in connection with the various Mohammedan
dynasties in Egypt, is often used loosely by
those who have written their history. Cairo was never,
according to the orthodox view of Mohammedans, the
seat of the Caliphate, though some of the Arab rulers,
who were strictly viziers, or viceroys, usurped the title itself
as well as its functions. Up to 750 A. D., Damascus

was the seat of the Caliphate. Then Bagdad, under the
Abbasside dynasty; and finally, on the conquest of Egypt
by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Selim, Constantinople
became the titular city of the Caliph, and has remained
so down to the present time. It is true, however, that
during the later Arab dynasties in Egypt the actual Caliph
was occasionally under the virtual protection of the Egyptian
Sultan, and Cairo was the residence of this fainéant
Commander of the Faithful. The last of these nominal
Caliphs died in Egypt about 1537 A. D.
It is important, then, to distinguish between those who
were Caliphs de facto merely, and those who were both
de facto and de jure successors of Mohammed, which is the
strict interpretation of the much-abused term Caliph.
What might be called the historical instinct would be
required for a clear comprehension of the intricate succession
of dynasties who controlled the destinies of Egypt,
from its conquests by Amru, the general of the Caliph
Omar (a genuine Caliph), in 1638, down to the invasion
by the Turks in 1517, when Egypt was reduced to a
mere pachalic of the Ottoman Empire. The most important
of these dynasties were the Abbassides, Fatimites,
Ayyubides, and the Mamelukes. Perhaps the former is
the most familiar to the general reader, as it was to this
dynasty that our old friend Haroun-Al-Raschid belonged.
The Fatimites form a highly important landmark in our
rapid survey of Mohammedan Egypt, as the first of these
sovereigns founded the city of Masr-El-Kahira (modern
Cairo), transferring the seat of government from Fostat to
the “City of Victory.”
The Ayyubide dynasty is noteworthy from its founder,
Salah-Ed-Deen, known to us as Saladin, who at first ruled
in the name of the then incapable Caliph. In 1169 Saladin
usurped the supreme authority of the Caliphate, though
by the orthodox Mohammedans this was considered to be

still vested in the representative of the deposed sovereign
of the Abbasside dynasty, whose throne had been usurped
by the famous Ibn Tulun. The dynasty of the Ayyubides,
founded by this twelfth century Napoleon, lasted nearly
a century, — a respectable age for a mediaeval Egyptian
dynasty; and during this period the Caliphs of Bagdad,
who were still reckoned as the spiritual heads of Islam,
were unable to exercise even a show of sovereignty in
temporal affairs. The era of Saladin, during which Egypt
was transformed from a vassal province into an empire, is,
of course, familiar to all of us. But though best known
on account of the long struggle with the Crusaders and the
conquest of Jerusalem, these are only a part of Saladin's
achievements. “He made his power felt,” writes Mr.
Stanley Lane-Poole, “far beyond the borders of Palestine;
his arms triumphed over hosts of valiant princes to the
banks of the Tigris; and when he died, in 1193, at the age
of fifty-seven, he left to his sons and kinsmen, not only the
example of the most chivalrous, honourable, and magnanimous
of kings, but substantial legacies of rich provinces,
extending from Aleppo and Mesopotamia to Arabia and
the Country of the Blacks.”
With the rise of the Mameluke Sultans, who established
their rule over Egypt for the unprecedented period of two
hundred and seventy-eight years, we enter upon a kind of
renaissance in art and literature, in spite of the perpetual
wars and internecine struggles between rival claimants to
the throne.
The question of the Caliphate during this troublous time
is, however, rendered comparatively free from difficulty, as,
possibly with the view of conciliating the orthodox Moslems,
the Mameluke Sultans protected the successive representatives
of the Abbasside dynasty (named from Abbas,
the uncle of Mohammed), and formally recognised them as
nominal Caliphs. On the conquest of Egypt by the Ottomans,

in 1517, the Turkish Sultan confirmed the claim of
the then Abbasside Caliph, and on his death assumed the
title. This title has since been claimed by every successive
Sultan of Turkey.
Let us now visit the most interesting of these sepulchral
monuments.
Kait Bey, Burkuk, and El-Ashraf are considered the
show-mosques, and are the only ones visited by the majority
of tourists. To visit the latter special permission
is necessary. Those fond of architecture are, however,
strongly recommended not to confine their attention to the
three principal ones.
The mosque of Kait Bey, whose beautiful dome is so
familiar in sketches and photographs, is not only incomparably
the finest mosque in this cemetery, but for beauty
ranks high among all the innumerable mosques of Cairo.
Fergusson, in his famous architectural text-book, speaks in
enthusiastic terms of the elegance of the building:
“Looked at externally or internally, nothing can exceed the grace
of every part of this building. Its small dimensions exclude it from
any claim of grandeur, nor does it pretend to the purity of the
Greek and some other styles; but as a perfect model of the elegance
we generally associate with the architecture of this people,
it is, perhaps, unrivalled by anything in Egypt, and far surpasses
the Alhambra, or the Western buildings of its age.”
Two slabs of red and black granite, with a depression of
about the size of a man's foot, will be shown by the guide.
Naturally a legend attaches to these curiously formed stones,
and they are said to have been brought from Mecca by Kait
Bey, and the depression is said to be the impress of the
Prophet's foot.
Not far from the Kait Bey Mosque is the large and more
imposing tomb-mosque of Burkuk, the first of the Circassian
Mameluke dynasty who flourished towards the end of


the fourteenth century. This mosque can easily be recognised
by its magnificent twin domes, which mark respectively
the burial-place of the male and female members of
the Sultan's family.
This style of architecture is unusual in Egypt, and,
indeed, certain features of the building are quite unique
among the Cairo mosques. The court is surrounded by
loggia, which form very picturesque cloisters. Though a
great part of the building is in ruins, the remains give one
an idea of its magnificent proportions. “The symmetrical
plan of the edifice, its massive masonry, and the symmetrical
disposition of the rows of pilasters with domes constitute
this mosque one of the most perfect examples of
Arabian architecture in existence.” One of the most
interesting objects is the beautifully chiselled stone-pulpit,
perhaps the best specimen of its kind in Cairo; while next
to the domes the most noticeable external features are
the splendid minarets, the roof decorated with chevron
mouldings.
A striking feature of this mosque is the remains of
buildings which served as temporary dwellings of relatives
and friends of the deceased, the residence of the custodian,
etc. This group of buildings (called Hosh), which
corresponds to the precincts in English cathedrals, are
sometimes, as in this case, almost as extensive as the
mosque itself.
Another mosque worth visiting is the tomb of the Sultan
Barsbey, or in full El-Ashraf Barsbey, a Sultan who
earned the unusual distinction of dying a natural death.
It is smaller than the two mosques described above, and is
in a ruinous state. The dome, with its intricate pattern of
stone lace-work, is very striking. A mosaic pavement in
coloured stones is much admired by connoisseurs of Arabian
art. The ornamentation of the dome, with its network
of arabesques, is very graceful.

154

Many other mosques are scattered around, but they usually
serve more as a subject for the artist than as goals for
tourists, owing to their ruinous condition. The same may
be said of the tombs of the Mamelukes south of the Citadel,
which are even more in need of repair at the hands of the
Wakfs Commission. “Many of these tombs present admirable
examples of dome architecture in, perhaps, its greatest
perfection, and are models of beauty as regards both
form and decoration.” The sculpturing of the exterior is
in some cases exquisite. Several are enriched by bands of
porcelain, containing inscriptions in white letters upon a
coloured ground. In others, discs of blue porcelain figure
among the interstices of the variegated moulding. None
of the monuments, situated in what has often been a battleground,
have remained intact, and time is making sad
havoc with some of the most beautiful, as every traveller
notes with regret.
Between the Tombs of the Caliphs and the walls of
Cairo stretches the extensive Mohammedan cemetery,
which should be visited if only to see the grave of Burckhardt,
the celebrated Eastern traveller, who died in Cairo
in 1817. Like the ill-fated Professor Palmer, he was best
known to the Arabs under a native name, and many stories
of the old traveller, known all over the East as Sheik
Ibrahim, are told by the Arab guides. His tomb for many
years was unknown to travellers, but in 1870 it was
restored by Rogers Bey.
The next group of mausolea to be visited are those
popularly known as the Tombs of the Mamelukes. Owing
to the comprehensive nature of this title, which would
equally apply to the tombs in the Eastern Cemetery (Tombs
of the Caliphs), it is a little misleading. Practically nothing
remains of these tombs but the minarets, domes, and
some portions of the outer walls. There does not appear
to have been any systematic or thorough antiquarian examination


of the ruins, — the science of Egyptology not being
supposed to concern itself with monuments of later date
than the Roman period, — so that hardly anything is
known of the builders. The most important of these Moslem
mortuary chapels belong to the period of the Baharide
Mameluke Sultans, making them about a century older than
those in the Kait Bey Cemetery. This may account for
their more ruinous condition. “The whole of this region,”
Baedeker informs us, “is still used as a Moslem burial-ground,
and in some cases the ancient mausolea have been
converted into family burial-places.”
South of this ruined necropolis, which, however, at a
distance, with its lofty and elegant carved minarets, does
not prepare the spectator for the scanty ruins remaining of
the mosques themselves, — in some cases the minarets
alone being erect, — are the group of mausolea containing
the tombs of the Khedivial family. The tomb of the well-meaning
but somewhat weak sovereign Tewfik — the nearest
approach to a constitutional ruler, perhaps, that Egypt
has ever had — will probably be the most interesting to
sight-seers.
On the occasion of the funeral, a large number of buffaloes
formed part of the procession, for the widow of the
Khedive had given orders that a thousand poor persons
should be fed daily for forty days at the tomb-side. This
was quite in accordance with Oriental customs, and in its
object it bears a strong analogy to the Roman Catholic
practice of bequeathing sums of money to pay for masses
for the repose of the testator's soul.
The curious custom is well described by Mr. Pollard in
his “Land of the Monuments.” This writer had witnessed
the characteristic funeral banquet a few days after the
ceremony. A large space near the tomb had been covered
in for the crowd of poor Cairenes who were to take part in
this commemorative banquet. In the centre was a small-tent,

which enclosed the royal tomb, which was covered
with dark crimson cloth. Six imaums (Moslem priests) sat
on the floor chanting, or rather droning, a ritual in a low
monotone. The European visitors who were attracted by
the strange spectacle, on leaving their cards with one of
the attendants, were supplied with coffee and cigarettes, and
then conducted to a large courtyard adjoining, where about
five hundred poor people were seated on the ground in circles
or messes of about a dozen. There were a few police,
but the huge crowd of hungry and expectant diners was
remarkably orderly. Soon appeared a procession of men
bearing on their heads large trays piled up with pieces of
coarse bread cooked with rice, followed by others carrying
trays of buffalo beef boiled. A tray being placed in the
centre of each little circle, the group at once helped themselves
with all the eagerness of those to whom meat was a
rarity, only indulged in on important festivities. After the
meal, water was handed round in small brass bowls. Then
another detachment of natives took their places after the
courtyard had been cleared, were quickly formed into
messes, and the meal was served as before. “It was a
picturesque, interesting, and impressive scene, singularly
Oriental, and certainly one never to be forgotten. There
was in it a suggestion of the scene recorded in the Gospels
of the feeding of the multitudes, in external appearance,
orderly and regular disposition of rows on the ground, and
the manner in which they fed themselves with the hand, —
a custom which is still general in the East.”

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157

CHAPTER XII.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM.

Antiquity appears to have begun
Long after thy primeval race was won.
Thou couldst develop, if that withered tongue
Might tell us what those sightless orbs have seen,
How the world looked when it was fresh and young,
And the great Deluge still had left it green;
Or was it then so old that History's pages
Contained no record of its early ages?
Address to a Mummy.—HORACE SMITH.

THE Palace of Ghizeh, the old Haremlik (Palace of the
Harem) of Ismail Pacha, has been, since 1889, when
the antiquities were removed from Boulak, the home of the
National Museum of Antiquities. The building, huge
rambling structure that it is, with nearly one hundred
rooms, is scarcely large enough to hold this vast collection.
The Egyptian Government has long felt the urgent necessity
of having a building specially constructed for a museum
for this invaluable collection of antiquities. Not only is
the Ghizeh Palace too small, but the danger from fire is a
very serious one. The foundations of a new Egyptological
Museum, which is to be thoroughly fire-proof, have recently
(1897) been laid, and the building will probably be completed
by the year 1900.
The museum contains, not only the largest, but the most
valuable collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world.
It is also considered by scholars and Egyptologists that in
point of arrangement and classification of the objects collected
here, the museum may serve as a model to most of

the great museums of Europe. As a preliminary to the
study of Egyptology, or even for an intelligent understanding
of the monuments of the Upper Nile, a course of visits
here is almost indispensable.
Since 1892 the museum has been much enlarged, and
now contains some ninety rooms, arranged, for the most
part, according to chronological order. This book is not
intended as a guide-book, so it will suffice to say that I
shall not attempt to convoy the visitor through the collection
on any fixed plan.
The origin, scope, and inestimable value of this museum
is so admirably summed up by Murray, in the latest edition
of his Handbook, that his observations are worth
quoting verbatim et literatim:
“This museum contains, with the exception of historical papyri,
of which it does not possess any at all equal to those in the British
Museum,” — and we might add, to those in the Turin Egyptological
Museum, — “the most instructive and valuable collection of Egyptian
antiquities in the world; the result, with very few exceptions, of the
indefatigable labours and researches of Mariette Pacha and his successors,
who have spent many years in studying and excavating the
old monuments and ruins of Egypt. At the accession of the Khedive
Ismail, in 1863, everything connected with old Egyptian history was
placed under the charge of Mariette Pacha, and all digging and excavating
by others forbidden; and, as a result, the objects which
formerly would have enriched foreign museums or private collections,
are exhibited together in the most appropriate place for their study
and examination, in the capital of the country whose ancient history
they illustrate. Apart from the richness and number of the articles
it contains, one great superiority enjoyed by this museum over all
others is, that the places whence every object comes are accurately
known; and, moreover, any fragment, however small, which seems
to possess any historic or scientific interest, has been preserved.”
Even to visit one-tenth of the rooms which compose this
magnificent collection of antiquities means a whole day's
hard work; and in attempting to give the most superficial

sketch of its principal contents, one is overwhelmed by the
appalling magnitude of the task. The mere fact that
there are not far short of one hundred rooms, loaded with
the art treasures of all the dynasties down to the Ptolemies,
is alone staggering to the ordinary visitor, who makes no
claim to Egyptological lore. One is tempted to reiterate
the reminder that the “City of the Caliphs” is not meant
as a substitute for the standard guide-books. And yet, even
the erudite Murray recognises the difficulty of serving as a
vade-mecum to this vast treasure-house of early Egyptian
civilisation, and devotes barely a page to what the more
conscientious Baedeker dedicates nearly forty pages of his
erudite, but somewhat stony, prose.
Let us, however, cast a hasty glance at some of the more
striking features of the Museum. We have scarcely begun
our pilgrimage, when a remarkable wooden statuette, known
as the “Village Sheik,” commands attention. This was
found in a tomb near Sakkarah, by Mariette. It is one of
the earliest specimens of the sculptor's art in existence,
being attributed to the fourth dynasty. It owes its popular
title to the fact that when it was brought to the surface
the Arabs greeted it with shouts of “El-Sheik El-beled”
(the Village Sheik). In this room also is the mummy of
Aahmes I. (Amāsis), of the eighteenth dynasty. For some
unknown reason — for the objects are usually arranged
according to dynasties — it is placed here, and not with
the other mummies of that period.
Of far greater artistic and antiquarian value than the
“Village Sheik,” is the green diorite statue (Room 5) of
Chrephren, the builder of the second Pyramid. The modelling
is wonderfully correct and lifelike, and the muscles
would delight an anatomist. It was discovered by Mariette,
in a well in the Temple of the Sphinx. Chrephren is represented
seated on a throne which is decorated with the papyrus
and lotus intertwined, which symbolises the union of

Upper and Lower Egypt. On the pedestal is inscribed:
“The image of the golden Horus, Chrephren, beautiful
god, lord of diadems.” Dr. Wallis-Budge, who has written
the most complete and most intelligible popular account of
the Museum of any hitherto published, considers this statue
“one of the most remarkable pieces of Egyptian sculpture
extant.”
In the first room on the ground floor is a remarkable
painting, which is particularly interesting as the oldest
specimen in existence known to antiquarians. It was discovered
in a tomb-temple at Medoum. The picture, which
is painted in water-colours, the pigments retaining their
colouring in a remarkable manner, represents geese, and
the execution shows considerable skill and knowledge of
draughtsmanship. The picture dates from the fourth
dynasty, so that we are looking at the work of an artist
who lived from five to six thousand years ago.
The Hall of Jewels (No. 7) is of special interest to lady
visitors. Formerly the finest collection of ancient Egyptian
jewelry were those of Queen Aah-Hotep (mother of Aahmes
I.), who flourished about 1600 B. C., which were found
with the mummy of the Queen, in 1860, at Thebes. These,
however, are quite eclipsed in beauty by those discovered
by M. de Morgan (the successor as curator of the Museum
of the great Egyptologist Mariette Pacha) in the Pyramid
of Dashur, near Sakkarah, in 1894. These are,
perhaps, the oldest jewels in the world, dating from the
twelfth dynasty. The gold ornaments consist of bracelets,
necklaces, pectorals, etc., of the Princess Hathor-Sat. The
workmanship and design are very beautiful, and show the
high pitch of artistic skill attained by the ancient Egyptian
goldsmiths. Among the most beautiful objects of the earlier
find is a model in gold of the sacred bark of the dead,
with Amasis I. seated in the stern. The rowers are of silver,
the chariot of wood and bronze. A gold head-dress

inlaid with precious stones is another object of exquisitely
beautiful workmanship.
Still making our way through the lower rooms, there is
nothing of great attraction to the ordinary visitor till we
reach Room 16, where is the famous Sphinx of the Shepherd
Kings, cut from a block of black granite. This statue,
with its features so different from the Egyptian type, is, no
doubt, of special interest to the anthropologist and student
of ethnology, but artistically it is disappointing. It was
discovered by Mariette at Tanis (Zoan of the Old Testament),
in 1863, and its origin and period are still a bone of
contention with Egyptologists. Mariette considers it was
made for one of the Hyksos sovereigns, popularly known
as the Shepherd Kings. Dr. Wallis-Budge, however, attributes
the statue to an earlier period.
In Room 40 is the famous Decree of Canopus, perhaps
to the historian the most interesting object in the whole
Museum. In all probability, had not the still more famous
Rosetta stone — now one of the most valued treasures in
the British Museum — been first found, this tablet, with
its trheefold inscription, would have proved the key to the
language and writings of the ancient Egyptians. Like the
Rosetta stone, it is inscribed in hieroglyphics, with a popular
translation in demotic (non-pictorial writing) characters,
and Greek. The decree was made at Canopus, by an assembly
of priests, in the reign of Ptolemy III. It ends with a
resolution ordering a copy of this inscription to be placed
in every large temple. Yet only two of these copies have
ever been discovered; one is at this Museum (placed next
the original), and the other at the Louvre Museum.
Of the recent acquisitions, the most interesting is the
black granite stela which was discovered by Professor
Petrie at Thebes, in 1896. It is a kind of palimpsest
inscription, for there are signs of erasures of an earlier
inscription by Amen-Hotep III. (B. C. 1500), under one by

Seti I. (Mer-en-Ptah). This stela is of the greatest importance
to Biblical students, as on the back of the stone
is a long description describing wars with the Libyans and
Syrians, in which occurs the phrase, “The people of Israel
is spoiled: it hath no Seed.” This is the “first allusion to
the Israelites
by name found as yet on any Egyptian monument,
and is several centuries older than any allusion to
them in Assyrian records.” (Murray's “Handbook to
Egypt.”)
Perhaps the most popular features in the whole museum
are the famous royal mummies of the Pharaohs. These
are a recent acquisition, and the story of their find is rich
in dramatic episodes, and is not without its humorous side,
as will be seen from the amusing narrative of Mr. H. D.
Traill, in “From Cairo to the Soudan Frontier,” parts of
which I quote below. The tombs and conjectural sites
were not, at the time of the discovery of the royal
mummies by the Arabs, as well guarded as now, and a
large portion of the natives of the Theban plain for many
years supplemented their earnings by the “harvest of the
tombs,” undetected by the native police. It seems that
a certain Arab, called Ahmed, still known at Luxor as the
“tomb-robber,” — a sobriquet of which he is inordinately
proud, — while digging with his companions in the “Tombs
of the Kings” on the search for antiquities, struck upon
a shaft, which Ahmed descended, and saw at once that he
had hit upon a vast mortuary chamber, which meant untold
riches to the discoverer. He cleverly prevented the necessity
of sharing the booty with his fellows who had lowered
him down the shaft, by calling upon them in an agitated
voice to haul him up to the surface. On rejoining them,
he declared that he had seen a ginn (evil spirit). Ahmed
was as cautious as he was resourceful, and “thinking to
give additional colour to his story of the tombs' being
haunted by an evil spirit (which is supposed to manifest its

presence by an intolerable stench),” he threw, one night, a
donkey down the shaft.
A few days afterwards, every one in the neighbourhood
was firmly convinced that an unclean spirit lived at the
bottom of the shaft, and forthwith Ahmed had the monopoly
in the lucrative find of antiquities, which he gradually
disposed of to the foreign visitors at Luxor. This, of
course, aroused suspicion in the minds of Egyptologists,
and in 1881 Brugsch Bey and M. de Maspero made their
celebrated expedition to Thebes in spite of the sweltering
summer heat, and Ahmed, having been betrayed by his
brother, conducted the two savants to the spot. The sensations
of Brugsch Bey on the discovery of this most
stupendous of all archaeological finds is thus graphically
described:
“My astonishment was so overpowering that I scarcely knew
whether I was awake, or whether it was only a mocking dream.
Resting on a coffin, in order to recover from my intense excitement,
I mechanically cast my eyes over the coffin-lid, and distinctly saw the
name of Seti I., father of Rameses II., both belonging to the nineteenth
dynasty. A few steps farther on, in a simple wooden coffin,
with his hands crossed on his breast, lay Rameses II., the great
Sesostris himself. The farther I advanced, the greater the wealth
displayed: thirty-six coffins, all belonging to kings, or queens, or
princes, or princesses.”
Even the least imaginative of travellers can hardly help
being impressed at beholding the actual features of the
Pharaoh of the Oppression, now brought to light after a
lapse of thirty centuries; and yet there is another aspect
of the case. After inspecting these disinterred monarchs,
there comes an uneasy feeling that as representatives of
a cultured race we are guilty of the grossest vandalism,
and as Christians, of something approaching to sacrilege,
as well as setting a bad example to the natives in
rooting up the bones of the ancient kings and making them

a kind of side-show to satisfy the curiosity of scientists, or
to provide entertainment for the gaping tourist. Egyptologists
and scholars may smile with contemptuous tolerance
at this view as mere sentiment, but it is one that is held
by a considerable number of intelligent visitors to Egypt.
Mr. Fraser Rae's vigorous protest is worth quoting:
“To expose the remains of a man or woman to public
view in the Gizeh Museum is a sickening and sad spectacle.
Knowledge may be increased by rifling the sepulchres of
the ancients and groping among the cerements of the dead,
but I question if a single being is benefited by gazing at
the leathern lineaments and limbs of ancient priests and
kings.” The legitimate curiosity of Egyptologists and
scientists should be satisfied when the remains have been
photographed, identified, and scientifically examined, and
the remains should then be restored to their tomb. In no
country are the remains of mortal men treated with greater
indignity than in Egypt. Yet a parallel suggests itself
irresistibly. Imagine the indignation of a highly cultured
Bostonian if, at some remote future, Mount Auburn's beautiful
cemetery should be treated as a mine in which shafts
were sunk for the discovery of human remains, to be sold
to foreigners as curios, or exposed in the chief museums of
the country!
What, for instance, can be more opposed to all canons of
good taste, to say nothing of art, than the exhibition of the
gruesome relics of King Seqenen Ra (seventeenth dynasty),
who was killed while fighting against one of the Hyksos
kings, some thirty-five hundred years ago. The appearance
of this mutilated mummy is graphically and forcibly
described in the following sketch by Mr. Moberly Bell:
“Look at him closely and read his history, told as graphically
as if by Macaulay, and perhaps more truthfully. That
wound there, inflicted by a mace or hatchet, which has cleft
the left cheek, broken the lower jaw, and laid bare the side

teeth, was probably the first, and must have felled him to
the ground. See there, how his foes fell on him! That
downward hatchet-blow split off an enormous splinter of
the skull. That other blow, just above the right eye, must
have been a lance wound, passing through his temple, and
probably finished him. Look at the agony in the face, and
the tongue bitten through in anguish. He gave his life
dearly, did Seqenen Ra; and after the fight the body has
been embalmed and had decent though hurried sepulture.”
There is a touch of unconscious irony in this reference to
“decent sepulture,” when we consider that this ill-fated
monarch, after enjoying undisturbed burial for so many
thousand years, has been at length exhumed to serve as a
spectacle for nineteenth century tourists, and as a peg for
their flippant cynicism.
It is usually supposed that embalming the dead and converting
them into mummies was the earliest and universal
mode of disposing of the dead among the ancient Egyptians.
Recent researches have, however, tended to discredit this
popular view.
Fresh light has been thrown on the methods of burial
of the ancient Egyptians by a remarkably able and suggestive
article in a recent number of the “Contemporary
Review” (June, 1897), by Prof. Flinders Petrie. In this
article, the well-known Egyptologist ventilates a very remarkable
but highly plausible theory, which attempts to
show that a kind of modified, or what can be better described
as ceremonial, cannibalism obtained during the age of the
pyramid-building kings (? circa 3500 B. C.) of the Ancient
Empire.
While excavating among the tombs of that age at Deshasheh,
some sixty miles south of Cairo, in the winter of 1896-7,
Doctor Petrie was astonished to find, after a careful examination
of the bodies, that a considerable number had been
most carefully and elaborately “boned” after death. The

bones of the skeletons had in fact been most carefully
rearranged after removal of the flesh and tissues, and the
skeleton carefully reconstructed and buried. This wholesale
cutting up of the bodies could not have been due to plunder,
injury, or the act of enemies towards the victims of war,
— the most natural explanation, — as was first conclusively
proved from the number of female skeletons thus treated,
the careful method of burial, and the distribution of the
tombs. The Professor's conclusion is that this unusual
method of sepulture points to an adoption of a modified form
of cannibalism, akin to that of the later Libyan invaders
who overran Egypt about 3000 B. C. It is well known that
these tribes practised a kind of cannibalism. Doctor Petrie
considers that in all probability the actual consumption of
the bodies of the dead — which, by the way, was often done
from the idea of honouring the dead, or of benefiting the
consumer, who would thus attract to himself the good qualities
of the person eaten — was not at that time the essential
part of the ceremony; but the flesh was carefully removed,
bones separated, and so forth, as if actual cannibalism were
to take place.
This mode of sepulture was later modified by the influence
of a ruling race, who practised embalming and mummification,
with all its attendant complex ceremonies. This,
in short, is an outline of Professor Petrie's theory.
Though the Ghizeh Museum is unquestionably, taken as
a whole, the finest Egyptological museum in the world,
some of the departments are poorly represented, notably the
collections of historical papyri, scarabs, and Græco-Roman
antiquities. More valuable papyri are to be found in the
British Museum, the Louvre, and in the Museum of Egyptian
Antiquities in Turin. This latter museum contains many
of the antiquities collected by Napoleon's commission of
savants at the time of the French occupation of Egypt.
The famous Prissé papyrus, in the Bibliothèque Nationale

of Paris, is the oldest in the world, and was written about
2500 B. C.
The Turin papyrus, the most valuable of any yet discovered,
was the principal source from which Brugsch and
other historians drew their Egyptian chronologies. It contains
a complete list of all the sovereigns, from the quasi-mythical
god-kings down to those of the Hyksos dynasty
(B. C. 4400 to B. C. 1700). Unfortunately, the papyrus is
in parts almost undecipherable, so that the names of some
of the kings in the usually accepted list are partly conjectural.
In former days, Dr. Wallis-Budge observes, the collection
of scarabs was very large and complete; but the best have
been disposed of at various times, and many private collectors,
not to speak of the great museums of Europe, possess
far more complete and more valuable collections.
As to Ptolemaic and other Graeco-Roman antiquities,
the authorities of the Cairo Museum disclaim any desire to
add to their collection, as the Museum at Alexandria, which
was opened in 1895, was specially built to preserve the collection
of all Greek and Roman antiquities discovered in
Egypt, and many of the objects in the Ghizeh galleries
have been transferred to the Alexandrian Museum.
Just as a visit to the monuments of Upper Egypt should
be supplemented by a visit to the matchless collection of
antiquities enshrined in the Ghizeh Palace, so it is essential
for a right understanding and appreciation of mediæval
Saracenic art to visit the Museum of Arabian Art in connection
with the exploration of the mosques. The Museum
is in a temporary building in the courtyard of the Mosque
El-Hakim, and consists chiefly of objects of artistic or
antiquarian interest, collected from ruined mosques or
rescued from the hands of the dealers in antiquities, who
for years, with the cognisance of the guardians, had
been pillaging certain of these mosques. The Museum is

mainly due to the zeal of the late Rogers Bey, and to Franz
Pacha, formerly director under the Wakfs Administration.
In its temporary home the collection is rather cramped,
and the Government has recently voted a sum of £32,000
for a special building, the foundation-stone of which was
laid in the spring of the present year (1897).
The most beautiful and characteristic objects will be
found in Rooms 1, 3, and 5. In the first room is the incomparable
collection of enamelled mosque-lamps. Most
of these have been taken from the mosques, especially that
of Sultan Hassan. The dates of these lamps are of the
thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, but their
place of manufacture is unknown. The earlier of these
lamps, which constitute the chief glory of the Museum,
are in the purest style of Arabic decoration, though probably
the fifteenth century ones are not indigenous, but imported
from Murano. Scarcely a hundred of these lamps are
extant, and most are to be found in this unique collection.
In Rooms 5 and 7 is a large and representative collection
of Mushrabiyeh (lattice-work) and mosaic woodwork. Other
rooms contain specimens of metal-work, faience, stucco,
pottery, etc.
In one essential respect this Museum, says Mr. Stanley
Lane-Poole, differs from others. The objects here are relative,
and were not designed as separate works of art. They
are, in fact, dependent upon the monuments to which they
once belonged. Most of the objects consist of portions of
the decoration and furniture of mosques and private houses.
This, of course, makes it the more regrettable that, owing
to the neglected condition of the mosques, they cannot be
seen in situ, where they would be more in harmony with
their environment.

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169

CHAPTER XIII.
THE ACROPOLIS OF CAIRO.

Ambition, like a torrent, ne'er looks back;
It is a swelling, and the last affection
A great mind can put off. It is a rebel
Both to the soul and reason, and enforces
All laws, all conscience; tramples on Religion,
And offers violence to Loyalty.
BEN JONSON.

THE citadel which frowns over Cairo appears, at a distance,
to overhang the city, and, no doubt, in the age
of Saladin its position was as impregnable as Gibraltar
or Malta. It is, however, completely commanded by the
Mokattam Hills immediately behind it, and in 1805 Mehemet
Ali was able to rake it completely with his cannon
posted on these heights, and took it with little difficulty.
Its walls are built of the stones which formed the casing
of the Great Pyramid, and this waste of precious material
seems especially wanton and inexcusable, considering the
proximity of the Gebel Mokattam, which is one vast quarry
of excellent building material.
The great adventurer who, with some reason, has been
styled the Oriental Napoleon, is, indeed, the genius loci in
this grim fortress. His is the one dominant figure in the
later history of Egypt, and a slight sketch of his career
may conveniently be given here, when describing the scene
of his triumphs and his crimes.
Mehemet Ali's life is as romantic and remarkable, and as
rich in eventful episodes, as that of his great namesake the

founder of the Moslem faith, or as that of Saladin, or, to
come to modern times, as that of Napoleon, or Bernadotte.
It is a curious coincidence that Mehemet Ali, Napoleon I.,
and Wellington, each came into the world in the same year
— 1769. Mehemet came of humble parentage, his father
being a fisherman, and he does not appear to have received
any education at all. In fact, even when Viceroy of Egypt,
he scarcely knew how to write. His boyhood was adventurous,
and when quite a lad he distinguished himself by
leading an attack on some pirates who had been pillaging
the coast, driving them off, and recovering the spoil. This
early display of promise brought him to the notice of the
governor of the province, and, helped, it is said, by the
influence of the wife of this functionary, he succeeded
him in office on his death, and married his widow.
When Napoleon invaded Egypt, Mehemet saw his opportunity,
and, being given the command of a troop of irregulars,
sailed for his future kingdom. He distinguished
himself conspicuously in this short campaign, and was
promoted to the rank of colonel. After the evacuation of
Egypt by the French troops, the Mameluke beys—who had,
ever since Egypt became a Turkish pachalic, regarded the
Turkish viceroy as a mere roi fainéant, and had practically
obtained control of the country — attempted to set up a viceroy
of their own, and rebelled against the Turkish governor,
Khosref Pacha. Mehemet, foreseeing on whose side victory
was likely to remain, took a prominent part in the agitation
against Turkish rule, and threw in his lot with the beys.
Summoned to a midnight conference by the Pacha, ostensibly
to discuss the grievances of the soldiery, Mehemet, fully
realising that the moment for overt action had arrived, sent
a polite acceptance of the significant invitation. “Then,
summoning his Albanian soldiery,” — I quote Warburton's
spirited description of this dramatic scene, — “gave them
the Pacha's message. ‘I am sent for by the Pacha, and you

know what destiny awaits the advocate of your wrongs in
a midnight audience,’ he exclaimed. ‘I will go, but shall
I go alone?’ Four thousand swords flashed back the
Albanians' answer, and their shout of fierce defiance gave
Khosref Pacha warning to escape to the Citadel; there, it is
unnecessary to say, he declined to receive his dangerous
guest. ‘Now, then,’ said Mehemet Ali, ‘Cairo is for sale,
and the strongest sword will buy it.’ The Albanians applauded
the pithy sentiment, and instantly proceeded to put
it into execution by electing Mehemet Ali as their leader.
He opened the gates of the city to the hostile Mamelukes,
defeated Khosref Pacha, took him prisoner at Damietta,
and was acknowledged as general of the army by the beys,
in gratitude for his services.”
After the defeat of Khosref, the common enemy of the
Albanian and Mameluke soldiery, a great rivalry sprang up
between the two chief Mameluke beys, Osman El-Bardesee
and Elfee, who were virtually the rulers of the country,—the
government, though nominally a tributary pachalic of the
Porte, being really a military oligarchy. Mehemet, though
backed by his Albanian troops, was not yet strong enough
to attack the Mameluke leaders, and contented himself with
stirring up dissensions between the two parties, and ingratiating
himself with the Cairenes as well as with the army.
His intrigues against El-Bardesee were crowned with success,
and showed considerable powers of statesmanship and
diplomacy. The Bey was both governor of the city and
commander of the Albanian troops; so Mehemet, by his
agents, incited the soldiers to demand their arrears of pay,
— a perennial grievance with these mercenaries, — and at
the same time he encouraged the citizens of Cairo to resist
the heavy contributions levied by El-Bardesee in order to
satisfy the demands of his mutinous troops. The Bey, unable
to make headway against this simultaneous resistance,
sought safety in flight. His rival, Elfee Bey, had already

fled. Mehemet Ali, with his Albanians, then took possession
of the Citadel, and while awaiting the firman for the
appointment of a new pacha, assumed the reins of government.
Khursheed Pacha, Mehemet's nominee, was duly
invested with the viceroyalty; but he was regarded merely
as a convenient figurehead by Mehemet, who, in a short
time, having by intrigue got the support of the Mamelukes,
was himself named viceroy in 1805. In the next year his
powerful rivals El-Bardesee Bey and Elfee Bey, who had
still a considerable following, died, and left Mehemet with
only one serious enemy to fear, — the Sultan, who was jealous
of his powerful vassal.
In 1811 he firmly established his power by crushing the
turbulent element of the Mamelukes, who were “sacrificed
as a hecatomb to the peace of the province.” The only
possible palliation for this great blot on Mehemet Ali's
career, by which he “waded through slaughter to a throne,”
was that the extermination of these powerful mercenaries
was necessary for the security of his throne, and he had,
himself, some reason to suspect treachery at their hands.
At all events, the massacre was not so wantonly cruel as
that of the Janissaries, some ten years later, by his suzerain
Mahmoud II., who was styled, with grim irony, Mahmoud
the Reformer.
The history of Egypt for the next thirty years is simply
the history of Mehemet's various campaigns of conquest.
Up to 1831 his victorious career went on unchecked. In
this year, after taking Acre and several other Syrian
pachalics, he felt himself strong enough to declare war
with the Porte, who had refused to recognise his Syrian
conquests. After several successes over the Ottoman
troops, the European Powers intervened on behalf of the
Porte. Peace was made on the terms that Mehemet should
evacuate Asia Minor beyond the Taurus, and be formally
invested with the title of Pacha of Syria, for which he

would pay tribute. Mehemet Ali's position was, no doubt,
considerably strengthened by his new territories being
nominally under the sway of Turkey. “His principal
security consisted in his being ostensibly a dependent of
the Porte; and he was fully aware that Europe would
respect his territory only so long as it professedly belonged
to the Sultan: that position once abandoned, any person
had the same right, that ‘of the strongest hand,’ to Egypt,
that Mehemet or any other could lay claim to.”
The peace was, however, temporary. The success of
one who was more his rival than his vassal did not dispose
Sultan Mahmoud to look favourably upon Mehemet, and
soon a pretext for attacking him afresh was found, and war
broke out again. Ibrahim Pacha (Mehemet's eldest son),
however, inflicted a crushing defeat on the Sultan's army
at Nezib, and the fleet (which had just been refitted) surrendered.
Even Constantinople itself was menaced by the
victorious troops, and the Sultan was compelled to fall
back upon the good offices of Great Britain and the European
Powers, who compelled Mehemet to restore Syria to
the Porte. Virtually, then, as early as 1841, the Ottoman
Empire was placed under the protection of the Great
Powers, and the one great formula of European politics —
the “integrity of the Turkish Empire” — which has ever
since been a cardinal postulate in the Eastern question,
was first enunciated.
The Powers had the greatest difficulty in inducing Mehemet,
who was encouraged in his refusal by France, to
sign the convention. Finally, by the diplomatic pressure
brought to bear upon him by Admiral (then Commodore)
Napier, backed by the strong personal influence of the
envoy, the Viceroy consented to sign it. Napier, with the
convention in his pocket, went fifteen times to interview
Mehemet before he succeeded in obtaining his signature.
In the London Foreign Office the story was current at the

time that a casual reference to the Queen of England as a
“lucky woman,” by Admiral Napier, did more than any
arguments or threats to induce Mehemet to give way. The
interpreter, who was also British vice-consul, was a Mohammedan.
He was sent for by the Viceroy, when a conversation
to this effect took place:
“You were, Effendi, in London, at the Queen's coronation.
Were there any bad omens?”
“None; only good omens.”
“Did you see her on that occasion?”
“I saw her twice.”
“Were you near her?”
“No; but I was near her at the Lord Mayor's dinner
that she went to.”
“How did she strike you?”
“She was young, blooming, and innocent — very affable,
and looked so happy.”
“But did you think that luck was written on her forehead?”
“I did not think then on the matter; but now that you
ask me, I do think that it was. Allah takes into consideration
the prayers of the guileless. The young Queen's
eyes, I heard, ran over, when at her coronation she
prayed Him to protect and guide her, and to govern all
her doings for the honour and happiness of England.”
“And so you conclude that she is lucky?”
“Yes.”
Next morning, the same agent went with the ultimatum.
Mehemet was quite willing to sign. “What was the use,”
he remarked, “of withstanding the lucky Queen of a great
nation?”
Had not the Great Powers come to the aid of Turkey,
which, deprived of its fleet and troops, was absolutely at
Egypt's mercy, Mehemet could have dictated his own terms
before the walls of Constantinople, and might even have

dispossessed the hapless Sultan of his throne, and instead
of founding a new dynasty in Egypt, raised up a new one
over the whole Ottoman Empire, to replace that of the
House of Othman.
The dreams of foreign conquest, and of bringing Syria
and the Levant under the rule of Egypt, were effectually
dispelled by the determined attitude of the Great Powers;
and for the rest of his reign, till his death in 1849, Mehemet
had to confine his energies to developing the natural
resources of Egypt, fostering native industries, encouraging
trade, establishing schools, building canals and other
public works. He also did his best to introduce Western
manners and customs, and to create a Civil Service based
on European methods. Though Mehemet did so much for
the material progress of his country, he did not succeed —
even if he could be said to have seriously attempted such
a task — in infusing a sentiment of nationality, or in creating
anything approaching to an expression of public
opinion among the Egyptians; nor, for the matter of that,
have his successors succeeded in inspiring a spirit of patriotism
in their subjects. But, after all, to alter the national
characteristics of a people is the work of centuries. How
can one expect to inspire a feeling of loyalty in a race
which, from the time of Cleopatra, has never had a ruler
of Egyptian birth, or to arouse a sentiment of nationality
among those who have never had a national cause, and
whose lives for thousands of years have been passed in
one long effort to satisfy the tax-collectors? This is what
makes the plausible party cry, “Egypt for the Egyptians,”
little more than a mere sentiment almost impossible of
realisation.
Such is a brief outline of the life of the greatest ruler
Egypt has had since the Ptolemies. We will now proceed
to explore the fortress which is so intimately associated
with his name.

176

This fortress is the most striking landmark of Cairo, and
is, perhaps, one of the most interesting of the historic buildings
of the Egyptian capital. The name of its real founder,
Saladin, is apt to be overshadowed in the minds of visitors
by that of Mehemet Ali, who only partially restored it.
This is not to be wondered at, for the name of “The
Napoleon of Egypt” is closely associated with the chief
historical events connected with the later history of the
Citadel. The nomenclature, too, of the chief objects of
interest partly accounts for this prominence given to the
traditions of this great ruler. For instance, the famous
Alabaster Mosque, one of the most striking in Cairo, and
the great modern highway leading straight as the crow
flies from the Ezbekiya to the Citadel, are both called
after the great national hero; while the founder of the
fortress is only commemorated by Joseph's Well, — Yusuf,
the Arabic form of Joseph, being Saladin's other name, —
and even this famous shaft is popularly ascribed by tourists
to the Patriarch Joseph. The Acropolis of Cairo is, like
the Kremlin and the Alhambra, a walled town within a
city; and, besides, several mosques, hospitals, barracks, a
palace, an arsenal, mint, and other Government buildings
are, or were once, comprised within its precincts.
In the opinion of the Cairo guides and dragomans, the
most interesting site within the walls is the one where
Emin Bey made his historic, or rather legendary, leap over
the battlements, to escape the slaughter of the Mameluke
beys by Mehemet Ali, in 1811.
“The beys came, mounted on their finest horses, in magnificent
uniforms, forming the most superb cavalry in the world. After a
very flattering reception from the Pacha, they were requested to
parade in the court of the Citadel. They entered the fortification
unsuspectingly: the portcullis fell behind the last of the proud procession;
a moment's glance revealed to them their doom. They
dashed forwards — in vain! Before, behind, around them nothing

was visible but blank, pitiless walls and barred windows; the only
opening was towards the bright blue sky; even that was soon darkened
by their funeral pile of smoke, as volley after volley flashed
from a thousand muskets behind the ramparts upon this defenceless
and devoted band. Startling and fearfully sudden as was their death,
they met it as became their fearless character, — some with arms
crossed upon their mailed bosoms, and turbaned heads devoutly
bowed in prayer; some with flashing swords and fierce curses, alike
unavailing against their dastard and ruthless foe. All that chivalrous
and splendid throng, save one, sank rapidly beneath the deadly
fire into a red and writhing mass; that one was Emin Bey. He
spurred his charger over a heap of his slaughtered comrades, and
sprang upon the battlements. It was a dizzy height, but the next
moment he was in the air — another, and he was disengaging himself
from his crushed and dying horse amid a shower of bullets. He
escaped, and found safety in the sanctuary of a mosque, and ultimately
in the deserts of the Thebaid.”
Thus Warburton graphically describes the Bey's remarkable
escape from this treacherous massacre. It is a pity to
spoil such a thrilling and dramatic story, but there is little
doubt that this remarkable feat of horsemanship is purely
legendary. Emin Bey, as a matter of fact, never attended
this grim levée of his Sultan. He had been warned at the
last moment, and fled into Syria.
The Mosque of Mehemet Ali was built, it is said, in a
spirit of cynicism, on the very threshold of this scene of
carnage, by the grim old Sultan. It is true that some
chroniclers attribute a more charitable motive to the choice
of a site, and suggest that it was built by Mehemet as an
expiation of this ruthless massacre. The following incident,
however, does not give colour to this suggestion:
More than thirty years after this terrible crime, a privileged
Englishman, admitted to view the bedchamber of
the aged Viceroy, was struck by the fact that the only
picture in the room was a portrait of the Mameluke who
had escaped his vengeance. “The sole memento of that
ancient crime,” aptly observes Mr. H. D. Traill, “which

Mehemet Ali cared to cherish, was one which would serve
to remind him, for precaution's sake, of the features of his
one surviving enemy.”
This beautiful mosque is well worth a visit, though it
takes a very low rank among the Cairene mosques in the
estimation of archæologists. It is quite modern, the greater
portion dating from 1857, when Said Pacha added a great
portion to the original mosque of Mehemet, and it is said
to be a poor copy of the Mosque of Nasr Osmaniya at Constantinople.
The proportions are, however, imposing, and
the interior is very richly decorated. The lofty and graceful
minarets are justly admired. It is one of the show
mosques of Cairo, despite its artistic demerits, and owes, no
doubt, its popularity to its size, its noble situation, — from
every point of Cairo this striking landmark dominates the
city, — and as the burial-place of Mehemet Ali.
The Mosque of Mohammed Nasr, son of the Sultan
Qalaun, is generally known as the Old Mosque, in contradistinction
to that of Mehemet Ali. It was formerly considered
the royal mosque of Cairo, — a position now held
by Sultan Hassan Mosque, — but for many years it served
as a military prison. Thanks to the exertions of the Ancient
Monuments Preservation Committee, it has been restored,
and can now be seen by visitors. The arcaded quibla is
beautifully ornamented with rich arabesques. Of the other
mosques in the Citadel, the only one worthy of inspection
is the Mosque of Sulieman Pacha,1 who is better known as
Sultan Selim, the Ottoman conqueror of Egypt (1517). It
is an exact replica in miniature of St. Sophia at Constantinople,
and is one of the best examples of the Turkish type
of mosque in Cairo.
1 For some reasons the title of Sulieman Pacha was that chosen by the French
renegade officer, Colonel Sève, to whom the late Khedive Ismail intrusted the
organisation of his army.
Joseph's Well is a huge square shaft of vast proportions

and great depth, cut through the solid rock. It need hardly
be observed that, though of respectable antiquity, it has
nothing to do with the Hebrew patriarch. It is named
after Saladin, who either excavated it, or opened up an
existing well hewn in the rock by the ancient Egyptians.
This latter theory is now generally accepted by Egyptologists,
and certainly the vast proportions of this well are in
favour of its having been built in an age which produced
the most stupendous architectural monuments in existence.
The depth to the level of the water is nearly three hundred
feet. It is quite worth exploration. The descent is by
means of a kind of spiral roadway, formed of a gently
inclined plane, so broad that a carriage might almost be
driven down to the first platform. It is said that the
bottom of the well is on the same level as the Nile. The
water is now only used by the natives, as, since 1866,
the Citadel has been supplied with water by the Cairo
Water Company.
The view of Cairo, especially at sunset, from the southern
ramparts is very fine, and is justly included among the
world's most famous points of view. In natural beauty and
varied interests, the prospect deserves to rank with the
view from Europa Point at Gibraltar, or from the Alhambra
over the golden plain of the Vega, or with the noble
panorama of sea and land from the Hermitage at Capri, or
from the Greek Theatre at Taormina, to name a few of the
fairest prospects in the whole range of European scenery.
Yet, grand though the view is from the Citadel, that from
the summit of the Mokattam, which towers over Saladin's
stronghold, is still more magnificent, being far more commanding
and comprehensive. Here, not only Cairo, but
the Egyptian Delta, lies below the spectator.
Very graphically and suggestively does Mr. Moberly
Bell describe the innumerable historical associations this
unique view summons up:

“The forty, or let us say seventy, centuries look across to us from
the Pyramids; the Sphinx, from even a remoter period, stands still
waiting the answer to its never-solved riddle; and down from long ages,
with huge lacunæ, indeed, we trace the history of the world, marked
by the ruined foot-prints of Time. There is Memphis, earliest of
cities; there are the colossal tombs of the ancient empire, stretching
from Sakkarah to Ghizeh. To the right lies Heliopolis, with its
Sun-temple of the Middle Monarchy; and the Nile hurrying by to
Tanis of the Hyksos, to Sais and Bubastis of the New Empire, to
Naukratis of the Greeks, and to Alexandria of the Ptolemies. There
is Babylon of the Romans, away to the left, — the Fostat of the
Arabs; El Azhar of the Abbasides; El Katayeh of the Tooloonides;
and Cairo itself of the Fatimites. At our feet lies the Citadel of
the Great Salah-ed-Deen,—Saladin of our childhood,—the founder of
the Ayyoubites. The minarets of Kalaun and Hassan, Kait Bey and
El Ghuri, recall the Mameluke dynasties; and there, by the Mosque
El Mowayud, is the Bab El Zuweilah, where the Turkish Sultan
Selim hanged Toman, last of his race, assumed the title of Khaliph,
and secured Egypt to the hated rule of the Turk.”
This wealth of historical tradition, which serves to make
the prospect a kind of mnemonic object-lesson in Egyptian
history, is apt to distract one's attention from the æsthetic
features of this glorious view:
While far as sight can reach, beneath as clear
And blue a heaven as ever blest this sphere,
Gardens and minarets and glittering domes,
And high-built temples fit to be the homes
Of mighty gods, and pyramids whose hour
Outlasts all time, above the waters tower.
MOORE.

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181

CHAPTER XIV.
OLD CAIRO AND THE COPTIC CHURCHES.

THE principal facts in the early history of Old Cairo
are familiar to every tourist; and there is scarcely a
guide-book, or book of Egyptian travel, which omits to mention
that Old Cairo, now fenced off from the modern capital
by an extensive barrier of huge mounds of rubbish, was
formerly called Fostat, in allusion to the tent (fostât) of
the victorious Amru, who pitched his headquarters here
when he invaded Egypt in 638 A. D. The Mohammedans,
however, had only followed the example of the Romans,
who, a few hundred years before, had utilised this commanding
position as a military post. This garrison town,
in turn, occupied the site of a city founded by Babylonian
colonists, under Cambyses, in 525 B. C. Perhaps, as in the
case with most of the buried cities of Egypt, Old Cairo can
trace its history back to a Pharaonic period; but this is not
thoroughly established, and in the Persian period we may
consider we have got to the bed-rock as regards Old Cairo's
history. Diodorus is responsible for the statement that it
was founded by Assyrian captives in the time of Rameses
II. Modern scientific historians are not often disposed to
treat seriously this historian's statements as regards the
early history of Egypt, as myth, legend, and unsupported
tradition are inextricably commingled with historical facts.
This assertion, however, is of indirect value as an argument
in favour of the extreme antiquity of Old Cairo , as it clearly
shows that in his time it was generally believed that Babylon
of Egypt was of very ancient foundation. Some writers,

indeed, have attempted to identify this city with Karkar,
under which title there is a reference to it, according to
these authorities, in a stela of Thotmes IV. (1700 B. C.)
The site was of great strategic and political importance, as it
commanded both the Nile and the Delta, and it was also
on the direct route between the two most important cities
of Lower Egypt, — Memphis and Heliopalis.
Some historians, tempted by the etymological coincidence,
have brought forward an ingenious argument in
favour of a close connection between this Egyptian Babylon
and Heliopolis, and suggest that Babylon is a corruption
of Bab-li-On; that is, Gate of On (Heliopolis).
These prefatory remarks will perhaps help the non-historical
visitor to understand that Old Cairo is not, as might
be supposed from the name, a mere suburb or native quarter
of Cairo, but a distinct city, separated from Modern
Cairo by half-ruined streets and mounds of rubbish. It is
fully two miles beyond the walls, and though the chief
sights are more interesting to those fond of historical and
antiquarian studies, two or three days should be devoted
to its exploration. In fact, if the visitor wishes something
more than a cursory inspection of the ancient Coptic
churches, a whole week should be devoted to these Greek
and Coptic churches and monasteries which cluster round
the ruins of the Roman Babylon, the Mosque of Amru,
and the ruins of Old Babylon. The usual way of visiting
Old Cairo is on donkey-back, but a quicker and less tiring
method is to take the train to Madagh Station, which is
within a few minutes' walk of the old Roman Fortress.
The interest of the Amru Mosque is rather historical
than architectural. In a certain sense it may be called the
oldest mosque in Egypt; but there are few traces of the
original mosque. In fact, as we see it, it is one of the most
recent in Cairo, dating from the fourteenth century. In
the rebuilding, however, the original form — a copy of

the Kaaba of Mecca — was preserved, and some of the old
materials were incorporated in the walls. This mosque is
still held in the greatest veneration by the Mohammedans
of Cairo, who call it the “Crown of Mosques.” Just as
the Mosque of Sultan Hassan ranks as the great Mosque
of the State or Royal Mosque, this ancient foundation of
Amru is regarded by Cairenes as peculiarly the mother-church
of Cairo; and a prophecy, implicitly believed by
devout Moslems, predicts the downfall of Moslem power
whenever this mosque shall fall to decay. It is here that
the universal service of supplication, when a tardy or insufficient
rising of the Nile threatens the prosperity of Egypt,
takes place, — a service attended by the Khedive, the
principal officers of state, and the ulemas, and officials of
all the Cairo mosques.
The gloomy interior, with its forest of pillars (many
being spoils from the temples of Memphis and Heliopolis)
resembles the El-Azhar Mosque. The late Khedive contemplated
the complete restoration of this mosque, but little
has been done.
A curious architectural feature is the pointed arch, which,
according to some authorities, is the earliest prototype of
the Norman arch known. Fergusson, however, is of opinion
that these pointed arches are of later date than the
round ones adjoining them.
The much disputed question of the origin of the pointed
arch mainly concerns architectural experts, and most visitors
will consider the “Pillar of the Whip,” concerning
which various legends are told by the guides, as the most
interesting object. As a preliminary to the story, the guide
will point out certain veins in the marble which are said
to be the marks of the Caliph's kourbash whip. The legend
runs that when Amru built the mosque, he wished to place
some kind of relic from the Mecca mosque within the new
sanctuary, and therefore requested his master, the Caliph

Omar, to send him one of the columns from the Kaaba.
The Caliph complied, and bade a certain column transport
itself to Egypt. The request being unheeded, the enraged
Caliph struck the offending column with his kourbash,
whereupon the column obeyed. This story being received
with a sufficient show of credulity, the guide will probably
proceed to point out some curious formations in the veining
of the marble, which he declares are the names of
Mohammed and the Sultan Sulieman. As few visitors
can read Arabic, this assertion is not likely to be disputed.
Next to the miraculous column, the chief objects of interest
in the estimation of the guides are a pair of columns
between which a man can barely squeeze. These are
known as the “Needle's Eye,” and the tradition is that
this feat can only be performed by men of the highest
integrity, the Arabs apparently attributing peculiar virtue
to tenuity of build. These columns have, however, been
recently
walled up by the Khedive Ismail. In fact, —
according to the story told by English residents, — the
space was walled up by Ismail's orders, because he saw at
a glance that his portly form could not stand the test!
Consequently, he did not think it fitting that the salvation
promised to his subjects should be denied to their sovereign.
Clustered within and around the ruined walls of the old
Roman Castle are many Coptic churches and convents.
With the exception of Abou Sergeh, generally called St.
Mary's Church, they are little known to visitors, or, for
the matter of that, to the European residents; yet their
high architectural importance and the beautiful workmanship
of the internal decoration invite careful inspection.
The comparative neglect of these early Christian churches
on the part of travellers is probably partly due to the
ignorance of the dragomans and guides, whose knowledge
of the ecclesiastical buildings of Old Cairo is, as a rule,

confined to the Mosque of Amru, the Church of St. Mary,
and the Greek convent. It is, therefore, the best plan to
dispense with the ordinary Cairo guide and engage one on
the spot. There are nearly a dozen Coptic churches in
Old Cairo ; but except to those who take a special interest
in ecclesiastical architecture and art, a visit to those mentioned
above, and the churches of Abou Sephin and El-Adra,
both situated within the walls of the old Roman
citadel, will probably suffice.
The one modern authority on the Coptic churches is Mr.
A. J. Butler, whose monograph, “The Ancient Coptic
Churches of Egypt,” ranks as a classic, and should certainly
be consulted by every person who wishes to obtain
full and accurate information about these unique sanctuaries.
The exterior of a Coptic church is characterised by a
marked simplicity and absence of decoration, and with the
windows looking like loop-holes, it has more resemblance
to a fort, and the Byzantine basilica influence is clearly
traceable. The internal arrangements approximate more
nearly to those of a Greek church than to a Roman Catholic
or Protestant temple. The body of the church is divided
into three compartments separated by wooden screens. The
first is a kind of vestibule; the second compartment is set
apart for women; and the third, next the choir, is reserved
for men. East of the chancel or choir is the hekel, or
sanctuary, and behind this again the apse, with the episcopal
throne. The ritual in some respects resembles that
of the Greek church. There is no organ, the only instruments
being cymbals, and brass bells struck with a rod
held in the hand. “The voices of the clergy, as they
‘praise God with the loud cymbals’ have a singularly wild
and impressive effect. There are no images, but a great
number of paintings in the stiff Byzantine style, but some
of them are not wanting in a kind of rude grandeur. The

principal painting is always that of our Lord in the act of
benediction.”
The Copts are supposed to be the direct descendants of the
ancient Egyptians, and there is a less admixture with alien
conquering races than is the case with other inhabitants of
the Nile Valley. The early Egyptian, or Coptic, church
dates probably a couple of centuries before the famous
edict of Theodosius, A. D. 379, — that religious coup d'état
which officially established Christianity as the state religion
of Egypt. The earliest Christians were probably monks.
“To Egypt,” observes Mr. Lane-Poole, “belongs the debatable
honour of having invented monasticism.” Though
the early Egyptian church is to all intents and purposes
the Coptic church, the historical origin of the church
dates from 451 A. D., when, adopting the heresies of Eutychus,
it seceded from the mother-church of Rome; and
from that time its believers rank as a distinct sect. Their
ritual, however, resembles in many respects that of the
Greek church.
Their churches and convents are scattered throughout
all Egypt, from the Mediterranean shore to the Theban
plain. The most important settlement is, however, in
Cairo, where there are two large Coptic colonies, — one in
the neighbourhood of the uninteresting, miscalled Coptic
cathedral, north of the Ezbekiya, which is seldom visited
by tourists; and the other, scattered among the ruins of the
old Roman Castle of Babylon.
“When we enter the stronghold, the strange character of the fortress
grows upon us. Passing through narrow lanes, narrower and
darker and dustier even than the back alleys of Cairo, we are struck
by the deadly stillness of the place. The grated windows are small
and few, and but for an occasional heavy door half-open, and here
and there the sound of a voice in the recesses of the houses, we might
question whether the fortress was inhabited at all. Nothing, certainly,
indicates that these plain walls contain six sumptuous churches,
with their dependent chapels, each of which is full of carvings,

pictures, vestments, and furniture, which in their way cannot be
matched. A Coptic church is like a Mohammedan harem: it must
not be visible from the outside. High walls hide everything from
view. The Copts are shy of visitors, and the plain exteriors are a
sufficient proof of their desire to escape that notice which in bygone
days aroused Mohammedan cupidity and fanaticism, and now too
often excites the no less dangerous envy of the moneyed traveller.
“Of the six churches within the fortress of Babylon, three are of
the highest interest; for though the Greek Church of St. George,
perched on the top of the round Roman tower, is finely decorated
with Damascus and Rhodean tiles and silver lamps, the tower itself,
with its central well and great staircase, and curious radiating chambers,
is more interesting than the church above it. Of the three
principal Coptic churches, that of St. Sergius, or Abu Sarga, is the
most often visited, on account of the tradition that it was in its
crypt that the Holy Family rested when they journeyed to the land
of Egypt.”1
1 S. Lane-Poole.
As if to give some colour to this tradition, the Copts
exhibit a manger in which the Infant Christ was said to
have been laid. Apart from this exceedingly doubtful testimony
of the supposed manger, it is possible that this
crypt does mark the alleged site. It is certainly many
centuries older than the church. The screen here is
particularly fine; and among other valuable specimens of
wood-carving is a beautifully executed representation of
the Nativity in high-relief.
The most striking, however, of all the Babylonian
churches is that known as the Mn'allaka, or Hanging
Church. It is so called because it is built in between two
bastions of the Roman wall, so that it has the appearance
of being suspended in mid-air. Apart from this factitious
attraction, which naturally makes it the most popular with
guides and tourists of all the churches contained in the
castle precincts, the church is noteworthy in many respects.
It is the oldest of the Coptic churches in
Old Cairo , part of
it dating probably from the third century. Then there are

no domes and no choir. In fact, this church approaches
more nearly to the strict basilican pattern than any other
church in this quarter. There is a curious hanging-garden
attached to the church, where the bold experiment of planting
palms in mid-air has succeeded in perpetuating the
tradition that it was here that the Virgin first broke her
fast with a meal of dates, on her arrival in Egypt. The
cleft to be found in date-stones is, according to this Coptic
legend, the mark made by the Virgin's teeth. This fact
should interest students of sacred folk-lore.
A visit to Roda Island and the famous Nilometer, being
generally combined with the excursion to Old Cairo , a
short description of this beautiful island may be conveniently
included in this chapter. The island is a pretty and
shady retreat covered with groves and gardens. An Arabic
tradition has chosen a certain part of the shore, opposite
the Hospital of Qasr-el-Aini, as the site of the finding of
Moses by Pharaoh's daughter. The spot is marked by a
tall palm with an unusually smooth trunk, which is, of
course, called Moses's Tree.
The Nilometer (the column used to mark the rise of the
Nile) is the chief object of interest in the island; it is situated
at the southern end, exactly opposite the site of the
old Roman fortress of Babylon, and consists of an octagon
column of red granite, about thirty feet high. This pillar
has been frequently repaired, and probably very little remains
of the original Nilometer, built by the Caliph Sulieman
in 715 A. D. It is erected at the bottom of a
well-like chamber or cistern, crowned by a modern domed
roof, which has, of course, direct communication with the
Nile. Owing to the elevation of the river-bed, the traditional
height of sixteen cubits (about twenty-eight feet)
on the column, when the cutting of the banks of the irrigation
canals is permitted, does not actually mean a rise of
the Nile to this extent. At Cairo, a rise of twenty-six feet

is thought to be a good average. This traditional number of
cubits is symbolised in the famous Vatican statue of Father
Nile, who is surrounded by sixteen genii, who are intended
to represent those cubits.
In former times, the taxation of the fellah was arranged
on a sliding scale, dependent on the rise of the Nile. It
need scarcely be said, when we remember the fiscal
methods of the Egyptian Government, even as recently
as the time of the Khedive Ismail, that this custom gave
rise to much dishonesty on the part of the officials who
had the custody of the Nilometer, who invariably proclaimed
the rise to be greater than it actually was.
The rise of the Nile, and the consequent ceremony of
cutting the dam of the Khalig Canal, is celebrated by an
important festival. It is not a poetical metaphor, but an
actual fact, that the Nile is the one beneficent Providence
of Egypt; and therefore it is not surprising that, as a period
of universal rejoicing and holiday-making, the Khalig fête
outshines many of the great religious festivals.
A graphic description of this fête is given in Murray's
Handbook:
“The ceremony is performed in the morning by the Governor of
Cairo or his deputy. The whole night before this the booths on
the shore and the boats on the river are crowded with people, who
enjoy themselves by witnessing or joining the numerous festive
groups. The Governor of Cairo and other high officials have marquees
pitched along the north bank of the Khalig, and ask their
friends to witness the ceremony. Towards morning the greater
part of the Cairenes either retire to some house to rest, or wrap
themselves up in a cloak and sleep on board the boats, or upon
the banks in the open air. About eight o'clock A. M., the Governor,
accompanied by troops and his attendants, arrives; and on giving a
signal, several peasants cut the dam with hoes, and the water rushes
into the bed of the canal. In the middle of the dam is a pillar of
earth, called Aru-seten-Nil, ‘The Bride of the Nile,’ which a tradition
pretends to have been substituted by the humanity of Amru
for the virgin previously sacrificed every year by the Christians to

the river-god. While the water is rushing into the canal, the Governor
throws some silver to the men who have been employed in
cutting the dam, who swim about with great skill in the rushing
water. It occasionally happens that some swimmer, less able to
withstand the strength of the current, is carried away and drowned.
As soon as sufficient water has entered it, boats full of people ascend
the canal, and the crowds gradually disperse, as the Governor and
the troops withdraw from the busy scene.”
The ceremony is rarely witnessed by tourists, as it usually
takes place in the beginning of August. If the improvements
promised by the Egyptian Government are
carried out, one of the most picturesque and characteristic
of Cairene festivals will probably be abolished altogether,
or degenerate into a meaningless ceremony, as by the
drainage of the Khalig its raison d'être will be abolished.
As mentioned in a previous chapter, the intention is to
convert this ancient waterway — in the early summer virtually
an open sewer — into an electric tramway.
Just beyond the Khalig is the ruined aqueduct, which is
a very picturesque feature; and though the guide-books are
inclined to ignore it, it is quite worth a visit. The local
guides ascribe it to Saladin, but it was actually built by
the Sultan Ghuri. It was intended to supply the Citadel
with water from the Nile, and though now in a ruinous
condition, traces of the grand workmanship of the Mameluke
builders can still be recognised. The length is about
two and a quarter miles, and the water was conducted by
seven stages, being raised from one level to the other by
means of sakyehs. The southern end terminates in a massive
square tower over two hundred feet high. The summit
can be conveniently reached by a gently inclined
pathway, similar to the one at Joseph's Well in the Citadel.
The view from the top is very striking. Those who
intend visiting the Coptic churches will find it a convenient
way of making acquaintance with the puzzling topography
of this Coptic quarter.

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191

CHAPTER XV.
SOME SIDE-SHOWS OF CAIRO.

THERE are certain well-known sights in Cairo, which
are more popular in character than most of the
antiquities and curiosities described in earlier chapters.
Such are the performances of the Howling Dervishes, those
of the Twirling Dervishes, the dances of the Ghawazee
girls at the Arab cafés, the snake-charmers, street-conjurers,
etc. These side-shows of Cairo, as they might well be
called, constitute what Ruskin or Grant Allen would probably
term “Vulgar Cairo.” Though no doubt they appeal
more to the taste of the ordinary sight-seer than to that
of the intelligent tourist, yet such an intolerant attitude
would be deprecated by the student of men and manners,
who is capable of looking beneath the surface, and appreciating
the substratum of Oriental life and atmosphere
which underlies these somewhat vulgarised attractions of
the casual tourist.
Cairo abounds in Egyptian cafés, where dances by the soidisant
members of the Ghawazee tribe are the sole attractions.
They are, however, altogether lacking in local colour,
and are, in fact, run by enterprising Greeks and Levantines
for European visitors, and the performance is as banal and
vulgar as at any café chantant in Antwerp or Amsterdam.
The whole show consists of a few wailing musicians sitting on
a raised platform at one end of the café, accompanying the
endless gyrations of a stout young woman of unprepossessing
features, who postures in particularly ungraceful and
unedifying attitudes. Then her place is taken by another,

equally ill-favoured and obese, who goes through the same
interminable gyrations, to be relieved in her turn; and this
goes on hour after hour. This strange “unvariety show”
is, nevertheless, one of the established sights of Cairo, and
is frequented in great numbers by tourists. Genuine performances
of these dancing girls are seldom seen in Cairo,
except occasionally at weddings among the rich Cairenes;
and, in fact, the public dances of the Ghawazee are forbidden
by the authorities. They can, however, be seen at
most of the towns of the Upper Nile Valley, especially at
Keneh and Esneh.
There is a strong family likeness between all these Oriental
dances. The Ghawazee dance has many points of similarity
with the Spanish gypsy dances, one of the stock
sights of Seville and the Alhambra, which is said to have
been introduced into Spain by the Phœnicians. These
exhibitions of muscular contortion are practically the same
as the repulsive danse du ventre, familiar to all Algerian
tourists. The Indian nautch-dance, equally sensuous but
more graceful, is also closely related to these terpsichorean
performances. In short, all these sensuous and muscular,
as distinct from locomotive, dances have doubtless a common
origin.
These repulsive and stupid exhibitions would not probably
be so much patronised by foreigners, were it not for
the singular dearth of ordinary urban amusements and
public recreations in Cairo. Probably no tourist-centre of
equal importance affords so few opportunities to visitors of
amusing themselves rationally in the evening, when ordinary
sight-seeing is impracticable. An opera two or three times
a week during the season, and one or two café concerts,
sum up the resources of the city in the shape of evening
entertainments.
This lack of evening recreation is the more noticeable
from the fact that Cairo is popularly supposed to be one of

the gayest and liveliest winter resorts in the world. In the
limited society sense this reputation is well deserved,
though the passing tourist will not probably be enabled to
test its accuracy. The Cairo season is like that of Cannes
or Nice, —one endless round of entertainments of all kinds.
But these social gaieties are for the most part confined to
the European winter-residents and the little world of Cairo
officialdom. In the case of guests at the big hotels, there
is, however, a certain amount of social intercourse among
the residents and tourists; and the balls which are frequently
given by the fashionable hotels, such as Shepheard's,
Continental, and the Ghezireh Palace, serve a
useful purpose in bringing about this amalgamation.
The al-fresco exhibitions of the snake-charmers, conjurers,
story-tellers, etc., are a characteristic feature of Cairo street-scenes;
but the most amusing of all these out-door entertainments
are the performances of Kara Guz, the Egyptian
Punch. This Arabic form of the friend of our childhood
is perhaps the prototype of the English Punch-and-Judy
show. The only essential difference between the English
and Egyptian versions seems to be that the Egyptian
Punch is polygamous, and it is one of his numerous wives,
and not the baby, who is thrown out of the window. A
Nemesis, however, awaits the murderer, as in the case of
the English Punch, and his soul is conveyed to Hades by
an Egyptian devil of appalling ugliness.
With strangers, however, the most popular of all the
sights of Cairo are the performances of the two sects of
dervishes, known as the Howling and the Twirling Dervishes.
They take place every Friday afternoon in their
respective tekiyehs, as the convents of this fanatical sect
are termed. These quasi-religious services, technically
known as Zikrs, though repulsive and brutalising enough
to satisfy the most morbid tastes, are, however, tame and
perfunctory compared with the performances which take

place at the great religious festivals at the Mosques of the
Hasaneen and Mehemet Ali.
The ordinary weekly Zikrs of the Twirling Dervishes
cannot always be reckoned upon by the sight-seer, as they
are often suspended. The Howling fraternity, however,
perform with great regularity every Friday afternoon,
between two and three, in the Tekiyeh-Kasr-el-Ain; and to
enable their guests to witness the spectacle in comfort, the
proprietors of the principal hotels advance the hour of the
table d'hôte lunch on that day.
The dervishes stand in a circle, with their eyes fixed upon
their sheik, who remains in the centre of the ring of worshippers,
and directs the exercises and controls the pace
of the movements with gestures, as a musical conductor
directs a band or orchestra with his baton.
The beginning is comparatively sober and restrained, the
dervishes slowly bending their heads to and fro, and perpetually
ejaculating invocations to Allah with staccato
grunts or groans. Soon the swaying becomes more violent,
and the body is bent backwards and forwards till the forehead
and the back of the head almost touch the ground
alternately. The groaning and howling increases in force
and volume, and is unpleasantly suggestive of the roar
of wild beasts. By this time most of the fanatics have
flung aside their turbans, and their long black manes sweep
backwards and fowards like a punkah curtain, with the regularity
of a pendulum. Some of the more excitable worshippers
are at this point foaming at the mouth and yelling
hu! hu! in an ecstasy of religious frenzy only partially
simulated. Occasionally a dervish will fall on the floor in
a paroxysm of ecstatic emotion which has all the appearance
of an epileptic fit. In fact, there is a certain element
of genuine fanaticism in the performance when at its height
that might prove dangerous to the spectators. Ladies are not
advised to remain to the end; or if the spectacle proves too

engrossing, they should be especially careful not to sit too
close to the dervishes, or to brush up against the performers.
The dervishes maintain that the touch of a woman is contamination,
and the half-maddened fanatics might possibly
resent this contact in a very unpleasant fashion. Male visitors,
too, will be well advised to avoid letting it be seen
that they are affected by the ludicrous aspect of some
phases of this performance.
To a spectator of an impressionable temperament there
is something horribly fascinating in this performance. He
may be told, and be quite prepared to believe at the time,
that the groaning and howling of these fanatics is as much
a mercenary show, in which the Christian dogs of tourists
and other unbelievers, instead of the Egyptians, can be
conveniently “spoilt,” as a religious exercise. But there is
no doubt that the frenzy of the dervishes is not wholly simulated,
for towards the end of the service the howling,
groaning, and swaying worshippers seem in a manner hypnotised
by the wild strains of the excruciating music.
Besides being a less obnoxious spectacle, regarded from
a secular point of view, the Twirling Dervishes' performance
is a far more remarkable one, regarded as a
gymnastic feat, than that of their confrères, the Howling
Dervishes. After all, it does not require to be a Mohammedan
counterpart of the Salvationists to groan, gasp,
and sway the body by the hour together. Any of the
European spectators could perform the feat, if necessary.
The Twirling Dervish may be half impostor, half fanatic;
but at all events, like the sword-swallower or slack-wire
dancer, he is doing something which none of the European
spectators could do. To revolve at the rate of from sixty
to one hundred times a minute for nearly half an hour is
an accomplishment to which the feats of the record wielders
of the Indian clubs alone can offer a parallel. Then,
too, one must allow a certain amount of religious fervour

and exaltation, which seems wanting to the ceremonies of
the “Howlers.” The Twirling Dervish has all the air of a
genuine mystic.
“It is impossible to contemplate the countenance of the twirling
fanatic, and the contrast of its strange quietude with the ceaseless
motion of his body, without being powerfully impressed by it. As
the endless gyrations continue, the position of the arms is repeatedly
varied. Now both are extended at full length; now one is dropped
by the side, while the other remains still stretched out; now one,
now both, are bent till the tips of the fingers touch the shoulders.
But all the time the eyes remain closed, and the face wears the
same expression of perfect and imperturbable calm. To gaze intently
upon him is to feel his condition gradually communicating
itself to your own brain. That spinning figure with the unmoved
countenance begins to exercise a disturbing effect upon you.
“The world of sight must have long disappeared from his view;
the whizzing universe would be a mere blur upon his retina were he
to open his eyes. But does he see nothing beyond it through their
closed lids? Has he really twirled himself in imagination to the
Gates of Paradise? Perhaps the incessant rotary movement acts
on the human brain like hashish. This dervish, at any rate, has
all the air of the wonder-seer. He is of the true race of the Visionaries;
and even if he were not, the stupor of trance is, at any rate,
a less unwholesome and distressing subject of contemplation than
the spasms of epilepsy. The performance of the Twirling Dervishes
leaves no sense of a degraded humanity behind it; but you quit the
company of their grunting and gasping brothers with all the feeling
of having assisted at a ‘camp-meeting’ of the lower apes.”1
1 H. D. Traill.
The best Zikrs are to be seen at the chief mosques on
the night of the Middle of Shaban. This great festival
takes place during the most solemn night in the whole
Mohammedan year, when, according to immemorial custom,
the Khedive pays his devotions in the Mosque of
Mehemet Ali. The belief is, that, on this night of Sidr,
the lotus-tree, which bears as many leaves as there are
human beings, is shaken by an angel in Paradise, and on
each leaf that falls is inscribed the name of some person

who will infallibly die before the end of the year. Naturally,
a strong personal interest is behind the prayers and
intercessions made to Allah and Mohammed on this night,
and it is not surprising that all the mosques are thronged.
With the Egyptians themselves the numerous religious
festivals are regarded more as excuses for holiday-making
than as occasions for religious exercises. So the inclusion
of these fête-days among the Cairo side-shows may be pardoned.
The public festivals (Molids) offer even a better field
for the study of Cairene native life than continuous visits
to the bazaars. The religious significance of these feasts
is, as a rule, quite ignored by the pleasure-loving Cairenes,
and they are more like fairs on a large scale than religious
festivals.
Most of these fêtes take place out of the European
season, but the Molid (birthday anniversary) of the
Hasaneen, which is celebrated in the winter, should not
be omitted from the tourist's programme.
“Nothing more picturesque and fairylike can be imagined than
the scenes in the streets and bazaars of Cairo on the great night of
the Hasaneen. The curious thing was, that, in the winter after
Tel-el-Kebir, when I stood — for riding was impossible — in the
midst of the dense throng in the Mooski, and struggled into the
by-street that leads to the Mosque of the Hasaseen, there was not
a sign of ill-humour or fanaticism, in spite of the presence of many
Europeans. It might have been expected that at least some slight
demonstration would have been made against the Europeans who
wandered about the gaily illuminated streets; but English ladies
walked through the bazaars, English officers and tourists mingled
in the throng, and even reached the doors of the sacred mosque
itself, without the slightest molestation or even remark.
“The scene, as I turned into one of the narrow lanes of the great
khan which fronts the mosque, was like a picture in the Arabian
Nights. The long bazaar was lighted by innumerable chandeliers
and coloured lamps and candles, and covered by awnings of rich
shawls and stuffs. The shops had quite changed their character,

and each was turned into a tastefully furnished reception-room.
Seated in the richly hung recess, you can see the throng pushing
by, —the whole population, it seems, of Cairo, in their best array
and merriest temper. All at once the sound of drums and pipes
is heard, and a band of dervishes, chanting benedictions on the
Prophet and Hoseyn, pass through the delighted crowd. On your left
is a shop — nay, a throne-room in miniature — where a story-teller
is holding an audience spellbound, as he relates, with dramatic
gestures, some favourite tale. Hard by, a holy man is revolving his
head solemnly and unceasingly, as he repeats the name of God, or
some potent text from the Koran. In another place, a party of
dervishes are performing a Zikr. The whole scene is certainly unreal
and fairylike.”1
1 S. Lane-Poole.
It seems, perhaps, strange to include what to Western
minds is a purely private and domestic function in this
chapter; but a native wedding seems to be considered, at
all events by lady travellers, one of the recognised sights of
Cairo. Strangers who wish to be present at one of these
characteristic entertainments will have little difficulty in
effecting this. In fact it is cynically said by residents that
no self-respecting dragoman would allow his patron to be
balked of his desire by the fact that no Cairene wedding
was at that time to take place. He would probably, by
means of baksheesh, arrange one on purpose!
There is not, indeed, much difference in the ceremonial
between a wedding in Cairo and one in Constantinople,
Algiers, or other Mohammedan cities; and male visitors, at
all events, will probably consider the interminable ceremonies
of the marriage festival tedious and puerile.
The preliminary negotiations are usually arranged by
professional intermediaries or match-makers, and the bridegroom,
as a rule, never sees his bride unveiled till the
actual day of the wedding. The legal preliminaries being
satisfactorily arranged, the formal festivities begin with the
procession of the bride to the bridegroom's house. In the

case of rich people, the bridal procession is conducted on
a very elaborate scale. The train is usually headed by
buffoons, musicians, and jugglers. Then comes the bride,
walking under a canopy borne by four attendants, and surrounded
and followed by a crowd of female relatives and
friends. Sometimes, however, the bride and her train of
relatives are mounted on asses; but among the richer
classes an incongruous note of modernity is sometimes
given to the spectacle, by the bride being driven to the
house in an ordinary European brougham, which is preceded
by a band of music, and the picturesque procession
of troops of dancers and singers is altogether dispensed
with, thus robbing the pageant of the most characteristic
feature of Cairene wedding processions.
Formerly, in the case of weddings among the Cairene
traders, the most striking part of the procession was a
cavalcade of decorated cars, each containing members of
a particular trade or craft engaged in their special callings:
“in one, for instance, a kaivejy, with his assistants, and
pots and cups and fire, making coffee for the spectators;
in a second, makers of sweetmeats; in a third, makers of
pancakes; in a fourth, silk-lace manufacturers; in a fifth,
a silk-weaver with his loom; in a sixth, tinners of copper
vessels at their work. In short, almost every manufacture
and trade had its representatives in a separate wagon.”
This vehicular Arts and Crafts Exhibition is copied now-a-days
in many Continental carnival processions.
The bride and her party having arrived at the house, the
wedding banquet takes place. The bridegroom, however,
is not present, and in fact does not see his future wife
until the end of the day. The repast is followed by what
would in modern parlance be called a reception; and the
long-suffering bride, for all the rest of the day, is literally
on show to the throng of invited guests, which usually number
many European ladies. It would, of course, be contrary

to the etiquette of the Mohammedans for the chief
personage to respond in any way to the felicitations of
her friends, and for the whole of the day she remains
silent and motionless, on a kind of throne at one end of
the room.
Meanwhile, etiquette requires that the bridegroom should
in the mean time visit the bath and the mosque, attended
by his friends and acquaintances.
“Returned to his house, he leaves his friends and attendants in a
lower apartment, and goes up to the bride, whom he finds seated
with a shawl thrown over her head, so as to conceal her face completely,
and attended by one or two females. The latter he induces
to retire by means of a small present. He then gives a present of
money to the bride, as ‘the price of uncovering her face;’ and having
removed the covering (saying, as he does so, ‘In the name of
God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’), he beholds her, generally
for the first time. On the occasion of his first visit, he is recommended
to perfume himself, and to sprinkle some sugar almonds
on the head of the bride and on that of each woman with her. Also,
when he approaches her, he should perform the prayer of the rekas,
and she should do the same, if able.”
Among the upper classes of the Cairenes and the official
Turkish families the spectacular portion of the bridal procession
is shorn of much of its glory, though the rites and
ceremonies in the house are carried out in the orthodox
manner. The bride and her friends are in carriages, and
are escorted to the husband's house by troops of soldiers
and officials of all ranks; for Western manners and customs
are outwardly, at least, being steadily assimilated by the
upper classes in Egypt as in Turkey. It is only the lower
classes in Cairo who are consistently conservative in all
their modes of life.
The notoriously inferior and degraded position which
women occupy in countries under the yoke of Islam, which
is the chief blot on the Mohammedan social system, is even
symbolised in some of the apparently meaningless forms

and ceremonies of an Egyptian wedding. Though universal
equality and fraternity are the cardinal principles of
the Moslem cult, women are altogether excluded from the
benefits of these liberal tenets. The essential inferiority
of the gentler sex is, indeed, a part of the Mohammedan
religion. Innumerable passages in the Koran testify to
the view taken by the founder of the Moslem faith of the
ineradicable iniquity of womankind. “I stood at the gate
of Paradise,” wrote the Prophet, “and, lo! most of its inhabitants
were the poor; and I stood at the gates of hell,
and, lo! most of its inhabitants were women.”
In fact, no Mohammedan takes a woman seriously.
He regards her as merely an ornamental appendage of his
household, and is not quite satisfied that she has a soul,
though the more tolerant are inclined to give her the benefit
of the doubt. All over the East, women are the rich
man's toys and the poor man's slaves. “The worst of this
deplorable state of things,” writes Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole,
“is that there seems no reasonable prospect of improvement.
The Mohammedan social system is so thoroughly
bound up with the religion that it appears an almost hopeless
task to separate the two. … As long as the Mohammedan
religion exists, the social life with which it has
unfortunately become identified will probably survive; and
whilst the latter prevails in Egypt, we cannot expect the
higher results of civilisation.”

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202

CHAPTER XVI.
THE PYRAMIDS OF GHIZEH.

PERHAPS there is no single ancient monument in
existence which has been so much written about as
the Pyramid of Cheops, usually known as the Great Pyramid.
The number of volumes devoted to this mausoleum
would, in fact, fill a respectable library. The wildest
theories have been ventilated in an attempt to solve the
meaning and account for the object of the Pyramid.
To quote only a few. Some have supposed, with a sublime
indifference to the adaptation of ways and means, that
they were intended merely to act as an indestructible
metrical standard. Pliny thought that they were built
mainly to give the people employment; in fact, to serve the
same purpose as public works subsidised by modern governments
in time of famine, plague, or great national distress.
Others held, and this theory long maintained its
ground, that the perfect orientation of the Pyramids indicated
that they were built for astronomical purposes. By
mediæval chroniclers, when Egyptian chronology was at a
discount, they were said to have been built by Joseph
for granaries.
Many writers, however, contented themselves with attributing
a merely symbolical motive to the Pyramids.
Perhaps the most original idea was that of a French
savant, who held that the Pyramids were built as a barrier
to protect the cities on the banks of the Nile from sandstorms.
Now, happily, the fables, speculations, and misconceptions
to which these structures have given rise are, for


the most part, exploded. The overwhelming weight of
evidence, the fruit of the exhaustive researches of trained
observers and scientists, is in favour of their having simply
been used as royal tombs.
The stupendous size of these cairns, the incalculable
amount of labour their building entailed, is not, however,
so extraordinary as the astonishing architectural skill
shown in the construction. As Fergusson observes in his
“History of Architecture,” notwithstanding the immense
superincumbent weight, no settlement in any part can be
detected to an appreciable fraction of an inch. In short,
what probably first strikes the spectator is its matter, and
then its manner of construction.
An architect cannot help being amazed at the wonderful
skill and elaboration of the workmanship; “the flatness
and squareness of the joints is extraordinary, equal to
opticians' work of the present day, but on a scale of acres
instead of feet of material. The squareness and level of
the base is brilliantly true, the average error being less
than a ten thousandth of the side in equality, in squareness,
and in level.”1
1 W. M. Flinders-Petrie.
The real meaning and true inwardness of the Pyramids
is admirably suggested in the following passage in Prof.
Flinders-Petrie's “History of Egypt,” now in preparation:
It is scarcely necessary to recapitulate here the popular
information about the Pyramids, which is to be found described
at length in all guide-books. Every Egyptian traveller
is aware that these buildings are royal tombs, built by
the first three sovereigns of the fourth dynasty, — Khufu,
Khafra, and Menkaura (or, popularly, Cheops, Chephren, and
Mycerinus); that they are probably the oldest monuments
in tolerable preservation in Egypt, dating from a period so
remote that almost as many centuries separate them from
the famous temples of Abydos, Thebes, and Abou Simbel
as separate these famous ruins from the great buildings
of the Ptolemies. We all know that the Pyramids were
built of limestone from the Turra quarries on the other
side of the Nile, and cased with polished granite, which
was laid under contribution, after the Arab's conquest, to
build the walls and mosques of Cairo.
At the risk of boring my readers, I will venture to quote
a few statistics. According to the latest measurements
(Petrie), the height of the Pyramid of Cheops is 451 feet.
It may be interesting to compare it with other great buildings,
ancient and modern. The Washington monument at
Washington, D. C., is 555 feet high, and the Eiffel Tower 984,
while the dome of St. Peter's, Rome, is but 429 feet high.
Each side is 755 feet at the base, so that a walk round the
Great Pyramid would be a little over half a mile in length.
Perhaps this will convey a better notion of its size than
the often-quoted statement that the area is thirteen acres,
exactly that of Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, and about four
times the area of the Capitol at Washington. The weight
of this truly royal sepulchre is computed at seven million

tons. Perhaps the fact that St. Peter's of Rome could be
erected in this Pyramid, supposing it were hollow, and the
curious computation of a French savant that the stones
of the three Pyramids (Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus)
would be sufficient to make a wall six feet high and one
foot wide all round France, brings home to the spectators
a clearer idea of the size of the Great Pyramid than whole
pages of dry figures.
Considerable doubt has been thrown by commentators
on Herodotus's famous account of the building of the
Pyramids, especially in regard to the passage in which he
declares that the Pyramid of Cheops was the result of
the labours of 100,000 men, who worked three months a
year, for twenty years, at the task.
Prof. Flinders-Petrie, however, makes out a convincing
and excellently reasoned case in favour of the accuracy of
Herodotus's statement. The actual work was probably
organised as follows: Each year, towards the end of July,
when the Nile had fairly risen, the men would assemble.
The blocks of stone average about two and a half tons, and
each would require not less than eight men. Supposing,
then, each gang brought over and placed in position ten or
a dozen blocks during the three months' corvéc, and reckoning
that some 2,300,000 stones — the calculation of the
best authorities — would be required for the Great Pyramid,
it will at once be seen that the total number could easily
be brought over and the Pyramid built in rather less time
than the twenty years mentioned by the Greek historian.
In fact, there seems no reason to discredit the traditional
account of the methods employed in carrying out what
seems at first sight an almost superhuman enterprise.
Then it must be remembered that the transport of these
colossal blocks to the site of the Pyramids would be much
facilitated, owing to the inundation. They could be transported
in boats or barges right up to the edge of the plateau.

206

The ascent of the Great Pyramid, as usually undertaken,
is not only absolutely free from danger, but requires no
climbing abilities at all; in fact, a child of six would have
no difficulty in reaching the summit. The only objection
is that it is rather trying to the wind and temper, owing to
the heat of the sun. Two or three Arabs practically haul
the visitor up to the top, and, unless the tourist is strong-minded
enough to take the initiative, only a couple of halts
are as a rule allowed the breathless climber; and at these
resting-places he will be pestered with unattached Arabs
offering him water and clamouring for baksheesh.
We are supposing, of course, that the traveller is “doing”
the Pyramids in the conventional way, with one of a band
of tourists marshalled by the satellites of one of the great
tourist-agencies, who arrive every morning from Cairo during
the season. The main object of the conductor being
to get his party back to the hotel by lunch-time, the examination
of the Sphinx, the Temple of the Sphinx, and other
sights is, of course, perfunctory in the extreme. The Arabs
cannot, at any rate, reasonably be blamed for the hurried
manner in which the ascent is performed. Naturally, their
aim is to conduct as many tourists to the top as possible in
the day.
The summit reached, a magnificent view may be enjoyed
during the regulation half-hour's rest. The Delta of the
Nile, interspersed with countless channels and rivulets
winding about like silver threads, seems to resemble the
silver filigree ornaments of Greece. Looking down at Cairo,
from which the silver threads radiate, one is reminded of
the fanciful Oriental comparison of the Delta with “a fan
fastened with a diamond stud.” The spectator's poetical
fancies, however, are soon put to flight by clamorous
demands for baksheesh.
While resting on the summit, the Arab version of the
Cumberland guides' race may be witnessed, as any of the


Arab guides for a few piastres (at first the Arab will magnanimously
offer to do the feat for five shillings) is quite
willing to race up and down the Great and Second Pyramids
in ten minutes. The feat of climbing the Second Pyramid
(Chephren's) might better not be emulated by the ordinary
tourist, as the smooth granite casing still remains for some
hundred and fifty feet from the top. To a mountaineer or
cragsman, however, the climb is mere child's play; but
even an experienced climber would better not attempt it
in ordinary boots. Furnished with ordinary Tennis -shoes
there would be little difficulty. Mark Twain, as is well
known, thought little of the feat. The above description
will serve as an illustration of how not to do the Pyramids.
The best plan, and one which can be recommended even to
the hurried tourist, is to stay the preceding night at the
Mena House hotel, and make the ascent early in the
morning, before the daily incursion of the tourists from
Cairo.
But in order to realise the stupendous bulk and the
immensity of the Great Pyramid, it is, perhaps, better to
forego the ascent altogether. To persons of an æsthetic or
imaginative temperament, this somewhat banal and commonplace
expedition is decidedly disillusionising. Hauled like
a bale of goods up this gigantic staircase of something like
two hundred steps, — to be accurate, 206, for everything
pertaining to the structure of the Pyramid has been
exhaustively examined, noted, measured, and tabulated, —
by grinning and chattering Arabs, the visitor is scarcely
in a position to appreciate properly the grandeur or the
solemnity of this vast mouument. If, instead of following
the hordes of tourists to the summit, we stand a few hundred
yards away and quietly examine this wonderful result of a
civilisation of nearly five thousand years ago, gradually an
overwhelming sense of their stupendous bulk and immensity
will be experienced.

208

It is not easy to reproduce in imagination these magnificent
sepulchres as they appeared in their full glory some
five thousand years ago. In this connection it is worth
quoting Dean Stanley's graphic description, in his “Sinai
and Palestine,” although a hypercritical reader may perhaps
feel disposed to pick holes in the author's archæology, — for
instance, it is now well known that the ancient Egyptians
never inscribed the exteriors of the Pyramids; but the
Dean, though a man of wide culture, never laid claim to a
profound knowledge of Egyptology:
“The smooth casing of part of the top of the Second Pyramid,
and the magnificent granite blocks which form the lower stairs of
the Third, serve to show what they must have been all from top to
bottom. The First and Second, brilliant white or yellow limestone,
smooth from top to bottom, instead of those rude, disjointed masses
which their stripped sides now present; the Third, all glowing with
the red granite from the First Cataract. As it is, they have the
barbarous look of Stonehenge; but then they must have shone with
the polish of an age already rich in civilisation, — and that the more
remarkable, when it is remembered that these granite blocks which
furnish the outside of the Third, and the inside of the First, must
have come all the way from the First Cataract. It also seems, from
Herodotus and others, that these smooth outsides were covered with
sculptures. Then you must build up or uncover the massive tombs,
now broken or covered with sand, so as to restore the aspect of vast
streets of tombs, like those on the Appian Way, out of which the
Great Pyramid would arise, like a cathedral above smaller churches.
Lastly, you must enclose the two other Pyramids with stone precincts
and gigantic gateways; and, above all, you must restore the Sphinx,
as he was in the days of his glory.”
After the ascent, the exploration of the interior will
probably be undertaken. This trip, though far more tiring
than the climb to the summit, is particularly interesting,
and should not be omitted. Ladies, however, unless accustomed
to scrambling, are not recommended to visit the
interior. As in all the Pyramids, the entrance is on the
northern side. After descending a gallery some sixty feet,

the passage which leads to the Great Gallery is reached.
The inclined passage continues to a subterranean (or rather
sub-pyramidal, for, of course, all the galleries and chambers
in the interior are, in a sense, subterranean) chamber, known
as the Queen's Chamber, which is rarely visited by ordinary
tourists. The origin of the names of the two chambers is
curious and fortuitous. These names were given first by
the Arabs, in conformity with their custom of making men's
tombs flat-topped, and those for women with a concave roof.
As these names happened to accord with the facts, they
have been adopted by Egyptologists, as well as by the public.
The Great Gallery, still mounting upwards, leads to
the King's Chamber, — a room some seventy-four feet long,
seventeen broad, and nineteen high. The roof is flat, and
formed of simple blocks of granite, resting on the side
walls, which are built of the same materials; “and so
truly and beautifully are these blocks fitted together, that
the edge of a penknife could not be inserted between them.”
(Murray's Guide.)
Here is the famous sarcophagus — the raison d'être,
indeed, of the Great Pyramid — in which the remains of
King Cheops, no doubt, once rested. The discovery of this
red-gradite coffin did not, it is needless to say, upset the
preconceived fantastic theory of Piazzi Smyth. Though
obviously a sarcophagus, the professor did not allow himself
to be disconcerted, but declared that it was a coffer
intended as an indestructible measure of capacity to all
time!
Many traditions and myths have centred round the Pyramid
of Mycerinus (Third Pyramid), which is still said to
be haunted. A Coptic legend, which recalls the myth of
the sirens in the Odyssey, tells the story of a beautiful
woman enthroned on this pyramid, who allures desert wayfarers
from the South and West, embraces them in her
arms, and deprives them of reason.

“Fair Rhodopè, as story tells,
The bright unearthly nymph, who dwells
'Mid sunless gold and jewels hid,
The lady of the Pyramid.”
Students of folk-lore are well aware that the germ of most
of our nursery tales can be traced back to the legendary
stories of the remotest ages of antiquity; and a story of this
same Rhodope, told by the “Father of History,” Herodotus,
suggests the source of the nursery legend of Cinderella.
While bathing in the Nile, an eagle flew off with one of her
sandals, and, carrying it to Memphis, dropped it at the feet
of the King Mycerinus (Menkaura). Struck by its beauty,
he sent out his messengers in all directions to find the owner
of this little sandal; and when they had found her, he made
her his queen. Thus, too, in many of the pictorial sculptures
in the temples of Thebes can be traced prototypes of the
characters in the Arabian Nights' Stories.
Campbell's Tomb is the best known of the royal sepulchres
of this great cemetery of ancient Egyptian sovereigns.
It is so called, in accordance with the popular and illogical
method of nomenclature which formerly obtained, of naming
tombs after some modern notability instead of the tenant,
— in this case after the British consul-general at the
time of the discovery of the tomb by Colonel Howard Vyse.
It is comparatively modern, being attributed by scholars
to the twenty-sixth dynasty, when that of Sais, with the
help of Greek mercenaries, over-ran Egypt. The tomb
is really a pit about fifty-five feet deep; at the bottom is a
small chamber, in which were found four sarcophagi, one
of which was given to the British Museum. It is a usual
feat of the Arab guides to climb down the almost perpendicular
sides of the shaft; but if strangers wish to explore
the tomb chamber, they will have to be let down by a rope,
— a feat which, considering the little there is to see at the
bottom, is rarely performed. There are numerous other

tombs in the extensive necropolis which surrounds the
Pyramids, but they are not of popular interest. The sightseeing
of most visitors to the Pyramid field will, in short,
be confined to the ascent of the Great Pyramid, possibly a
visit to the interior, a hasty glimpse of the Sphinx, Campbell's
Tomb, and the Sphinx Temple.
The Sphinx, for thousands of years the greatest enigma
in Egypt, has not succeeded in baffling the investigations of
modern antiquarians, who have stripped it of much of the
mystery which constituted its great charm. Its builder,
however, is still a matter of conjecture with students of
Egyptology. It is now conclusively proved that it is nothing
but a colossal image of the Egyptian deity, Harmachis,
the “god of the morning,” and, therefore, of his human
representative, the king (unknown) who had it hewn. A
stela found by Mariette, near the Great Pyramid, shows that
the Sphinx was probably repaired by Cheops and Chephren,
the builders of the Great and Second Pyramids respectively.
The Sphinx is not an independent structure, like the
Pyramids, but is for the most part hewn out of the rocky
cliff, or promontory, which juts out here from the desert
plateau. The body and head are actually hewn out of this
living rock, but sandstone masonry has been built up to
connect the natural outline. The measurements given in
many of the books of reference are of little value, as they
vary according to the amount of sand which had drifted
round the statue; but the latest measurements of Professor
Petrie give the length of the body as 140 feet, while the
head measures thirty feet from the top of the forehead to
the bottom of the chin. The height of the Sphinx, from
the forehead to the base of the monument, is seventy feet.
Some successful excavations at the foot of the Sphinx
have recently been undertaken by an American Egyptologist,
Colonel Ram. In 1896 he discovered the klaft, or
stone cap, with the sacred asp on the forehead, which was

known to have once been the head-covering of the Sphinx.
Dean Stanley, for instance, in his “Sinai and Palestine,”
wonders, apropos of the colossal head, “what the sight
must have been when on its head there was the royal
helmet of Egypt.”
A thorough and systematic excavation of this colossal
figure, and the removal of the steadily encroaching desert
sands which have buried the greater portion of the body,
is much to be desired. The cost, however, would be enormous,
amounting at least to that of a whole year's excavation
carried out by the joint efforts of the National Museum
and the Egyptian Exploration Society. Such a work should
be undertaken by private enterprise. If another public-spirited
man like Sir Erasmus Wilson would provide the
funds for the work, it is believed that discoveries of the
greatest importance would repay the work of excavating.
The late Miss A. B. Edwards, indeed, was of opinion that
the greatest find in the whole field of Egyptian antiquities
is likely to be round the base of the Sphinx, “which
probably marks the site of a necropolis, buried a hundred
feet in the sand, of the kings of the first and second
dynasties!”
The first view of the Sphinx is, undoubtedly, striking
and impressive in the highest degree, but it must be
admitted that the conventional rhapsodies of modern writers
who enlarge on the beauty of its features are over-strained.
Before the figure had been mutilated by Mussulman
fanatics, it is possible that the mediæval critics were justified
in speaking of the Sphinx as a model of human symmetry,
wearing “an expression of the softest beauty and
the most winning peace.” Now, however, the traveller is
confronted by a much disfigured stone giant, with a painfully
distorted mouth, broken nostrils, and the grimace of a
hideous negro.
But though there is little concrete beauty in this


colossal figure, there is an undeniable fascination about
the Sphinx, due to its impressive surroundings, its mysterious
traditions, and its solemn immobility of expression.
To realise the charm of this monument, we must read the
classic and oft-quoted description of Kinglake, who, in a
passage of incomparable prose, has succeeded where so
many writers have failed:
“And near the Pyramids, more wondrous and more awful than
all else in the land of Egypt, there sits the lonely Sphinx. Comely
the creature is, but the comeliness is not of this world: the once
worshipped beast is a deformity and a monster to this generation;
and yet you can see that those lips, so thick and heavy, were fashioned
according to some ancient mould of beauty, — some mould of
beauty now forgotten, — forgotten because that Greece drew forth
Cytherea from the flashing foam of the Ægean, and in her image
created new forms of beauty, and made it a law among men that the
short and proudly wreathed lips should stand for the sign and the
main condition of loveliness through all generations to come. Yet
still there lives on the race of those who were beautiful in the fashion
of the elder world; and Christian girls of Coptic blood will look on
you with the sad, serious gaze, and kiss your charitable hand with
the big pouting lips of the very Sphinx.
“Laugh and mock, if you will, at the worship of stone idols; but
mark ye this, ye breakers of images: that, in one regard, the stone
idol bears awful semblance of Deity, — unchangefulness in the midst
of change, — the same seeming will and intent for ever and ever inexorable!
Upon ancient dynasties of Ethiopian and Egyptian kings,
upon Greek and Roman, upon Arab and Ottoman conqueror, upon
Napoleon, dreaming of an Eastern empire, upon battle and pestilence,
upon the ceaseless misery of the Egyptian race, upon keen-eyed travellers,
— Herodotus yesterday and Warburton to-day, — upon all and
more this unworldly Sphinx has watched, and watched like a Providence,
with the same earnest eyes, and the same sad, tranquil mien.
And we, — we shall die, and Islam will wither away; and the Englishman,
straining forever to hold his loved India, will plant a firm
foot on the banks of the Nile, and sit in the seats of the faithful,
and still that sleepless rock will lie watching and watching the
works of the new busy race, with those same sad, earnest eyes, and
the same tranquil mien everlasting. You dare not mock at the
Sphinx!”

214

A short distance south of the Sphinx is the so-called
Temple of the Sphinx, a structure, probably, of the fourth
dynasty. The sand drift of thousands of years has so
covered it that the non-observant traveller would suppose
the Temple to be a subterranean building. The Temple is
a worthy pendant of the mighty mausoleum, to which it
seems to serve as a kind of mortuary chapel, for the discovery
here of the famous green basalt statue of Khafra
(Chephren), which we have seen in the Ghizeh Museum,
is held by most authorities to prove that this sovereign was
the builder of this temple, as well as the Second Pyramid.
In short, it is probably the mastaba of this sepulchre. The
building is a fine specimen of the architecture of the Ancient
Empire. It is lined in some parts with huge blocks of
alabaster.

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215

CHAPTER XVII.
THE CITY OF THE SACRED BULLS.

THE ruins of Memphis and the necropolis of Sakkarah
are most conveniently reached by steamer or train
from Cairo to Bedrashen, a small village on the banks of
the Nile, about fifteen miles from the city. Most Egyptian
antiquarians and historians agree in assigning the date of
its foundation to Menes, the first historical, as opposed to
the quasi-mythical god-kings, king of Egypt. At all events,
this ancient capital is certainly of a very remote antiquity.
It is not difficult to understand why the kings of the
Ancient Empire established their capital here. Its situation
was of distinct political, commercial, and strategic value.
From the comparatively feeble tribes on the western bank
of the Nile there was no danger of attack, while a city on
the eastern bank would invite attacks from the inhabitants
of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Arabia. Then, in addition to
its natural advantages of a fertile and well-wooded soil, the
city was not far from the seacoast, and occupying a fairly
central position in Egypt, and having command of the Nile,
it would control the country from Philae, on the south, to
the Mediterranean, on the north. Under the fourth and
sixth dynasties, whose kings sprang from Memphis, the
city reached a height of splendour which was probably never
excelled; but the rise of Thebes, in the eighteenth dynasty,
considerably diminished the glories of Memphis, and though
it was still an important city, Thebes was the metropolis of
all Egypt. After the New Empire, Memphis declined in
importance, and from that period its history is very similar

to that of Heliopolis, — another historic city, of which
scarcely any ruins remain. Both cities were taken and
retaken in turn by Assyrian, Ethiopian, Persian, and Greek
invaders. It was gradually shorn of most of its glories,
and the founding of Alexandria was the final blow, fulfilling
the gloomy prophecy of Jeremiah: “O daughter of
Egypt, make ready that which can serve thee in thy captivity,
because Memphis shall become a desert; she shall
be forsaken, and become uninhabited.” Such, in brief, is
the outline of the history of this once famous city.
Those who have visited Thebes, with its rich treasure-trove
of magnificent temples and monuments, are, perhaps,
a little puzzled to account for the total disappearance
of a city which, though some two thousand years
older than the City of the Thousand Gates, possessed
many buildings of the age of the nineteenth and twentieth
dynasties, of later date than many of Thebes's famous
buildings. It is, however, necessary to remember the very
different conditions. In the first place, Memphis lay in the
path of all the invading nations who overthrew Egypt in
turn. Then Thebes had no Fostat or Cairo at its threshold,
— a city which was literally built out of the ruins of Memphis
and Heliopolis. Then, too, the devastating character
of the Nile inundation, to which low-lying Memphis was
peculiarly subject, must not be forgotten. As Miss Brodrick,
in Murray's admirable Handbook, aptly observes, the waters
of the inundation, long ago unrestrained by the protecting
dykes, covered the plain with a gradually increasing layer
of mud deposit, beneath which every trace of such ruins as
were left completely disappeared.
The only antiquities which remain to us of Memphis
itself—for the pyramids, tombs, etc., are quite distinct, and
form part of the Memphian cemetery at Sakkarah — are the
two colossal statues of Rameses II. This vainglorious
monarch seems indeed to have been as fond of erecting


these portraits in stone of himself as modern sovereigns
are of being photographed. At Thebes, Tanis, Abou Simbel,
and other sites, have been discovered other monolithic
counterfeit presentments of this much-portrayed ruler.
These two statues, in all probability, stood at the entrance
of the famous Temple of Ptah, the tutelary god of Memphis.
One is recumbent; the other was raised in 1887, by Major
Bagnold and his engineers. The monarch is now concealed
under a hideous, roofless shed. The statue is about forty-two
feet high; that is, not quite half as tall as the colossal
broken portrait-statue of the same monarch, recently discovered
on the site of Tanis by Prof. Flinders-Petrie. This is
the largest colossus ever sculptured by the hand of man, and
when complete was ninety-two feet high. The Memphian
colossus was presented to the British Museum in 1840.
In view, however, of the almost insuperable difficulty of
conveying it across the desert sands to the Nile, and the
enormous cost, the offer had to be declined. For though
this statue is much exceeded in bulk and weight by Cleopatra's
Needle, yet, owing to the position of this obelisk,
situated within a short distance of the Alexandrian coast,
the task of its removal was comparatively easy.
The Memphian necropolis at Sakkarah may, however, be
considered sacred ground to the Egyptologist and historian.
It was here that the earliest work of Egyptian mural
sculpture was discovered. This is the famous funerary
tablet, which may now be seen at the Ashmoleum Museum
in Oxford. Its period is the second dynasty, which means
that the stela was carved about 4000 B. C. Then, among
the tombs of the New Empire (the conventional term given
by modern historians to denote the golden age of the eighteenth
to the twenty-fifth dynasties), was found the famous,
and still more valuable historically, stela, known as the
Tablet of Sakkarah. This, with the Abydos tablet, certain
fragments of Manetho's history, and the Turin papyrus

are the chief authentic sources from which we derive our
knowledge of the earliest period of Egyptian history.
A very valuable collection of Greek papyri (B. C. 168)
was found on this site early in the present century, which
is now in the British Museum. Apart from its antiquarian
value, its intrinsic and literary interest is considerable.
The papyri consist for the most part of letters, reports,
petitions, and other documents chronicling the efforts of a
certain Macedonian monk, called Ptolemy, in behalf of two
female employés in the Serapeum, who were being defrauded
by the officials of their modest allowance. In short, the
record is a veritable human document, palpitating with
actuality, to adopt the expressive slang of the day.
The chief object of interest in the Memphian cemetery
of Sakkarah is the Mausoleum of the Divine Bulls, usually
known as the Serapeum, which is the term popularly but
incorrectly applied to the series of underground mortuary
chambers in which were buried these sacred bulls, from
650 B. C. to 56 B. C. It is, no doubt, the most popular
feature of this great necropolis, and probably, to nine out
of ten persons who have visited Sakkarah, it is the chief
attraction.
This remarkable mausoleum was discovered as recently
as 1850, by Mariette. He had noticed, in the course of
excavations in various parts of Egypt, sphinxes upon which
were inscribed dedications to Osiris-Apis (Greek, Serapis),
and conjectured that they must have some reference to the
long-lost Temple of Serapis, near Memphis, spoken of by
Strabo. He was fortunate in his preliminary excavations
on the site of this buried city, and soon lit upon the vaults
in which the bulls were buried. Over sixty vaults were
discovered. Only one part of this bovine necropolis is now
shown to visitors. It contains twenty-four granite sarcophagi,
and they measure on an average thirteen feet long,
seven feet broad, and eleven feet high.

219

By one enormous niche, leaning against a sarcophagus
rifled by Christian plunderers in the time of Theodosius,
and desecrated by fanatics of other creeds, stands a ladder,
up which we may climb, and cast a glance at the interior
of the tomb, which was destined to preserve to all time the
coal-black body of the sacred bull. The lid of the coffin
has been moved aside; a heap of stones is piled up on one
side of it. The mummy of the animal has disappeared.
The treasures which gathered here, brought as pious offerings,
have long been carried off by unknown treasure-seekers.
The strange surroundings seem quite legendary.
The giants who were their creators seem beings from
another and an unknown world.
The weight of these sarcophagi was so great that all the
efforts of Mariette's engineers to remove them, for transport
to Ghizeh, were absolutely ineffectual. This is
indirectly a striking testimony to the wonderful resources
of the ancient Egyptians, to whom such a task would
have been child's play in comparison with the undertaking
of removing the obelisks from Assouan to Lower Egypt.
No remains of the sacred animals were found in any of
the sarcophagi, all of which had evidently been rifled,
probably at the time of the Arabian conquest of Egypt.
The history of the animal worship of the ancient Egyptians
offers innumerable subjects of interest to the theologian,
as well as to the anthropologist and historian.
One of the most characteristic features of the ancient
Egyptian faith was the reverence paid to certain animals.
In some places the people worshipped the crocodile; in
others, the cat; in others, again, certain mythical birds
and beasts; but especially it was the bull that was adored.
At Heliopolis this animal was called Mnevis. At Memphis
it was Apis who was reverenced.
According to common belief, either the lightning or a
moonbeam fecundated a cow, and the divinity then appeared

upon earth in the shape of a bull. Special distinguishing
marks guided the search for the sacred bull among the
local herds. It sometimes happened that for years the
priests were unable to discover the particular animal which,
by certain complex external marks, corresponded to the
ideal Apis. The discoverer of the incarnation of the god
Apis was rewarded with an immense fortune.
The elect animal was next tamed, as far as possible; and
then at the first new moon it was taken in a sacred boat of
gold to Memphis, where it was placed in the sanctuary of
Ptah. A special court was assigned for its exercise, and
when it was in its stall the faithful strove to peep in at it
through the window.
Extraordinary were the divine honours paid to this quadruped.
The Pharaohs spared no money in making its
worship as splendid as possible. Alexander the Great and
the Roman Emperor Titus found it expedient to offer up
sacrifices to Apis, who was believed to be endowed with
prophetic powers, and who foretold the future in a peculiar
manner. When the sacred bull licked the garments of a
noted Greek astronomer, it signified that the latter was to
die soon, and this really came to pass. A similar meaning
the priests saw in its refusal to take food from the hands
of Germanicus. Its bellowing foretold a foreign conquest.
Those who consulted Apis used to guess into which of his
stalls he would next enter. If the guess was correct, then
the answer to the question was affirmative, and vice versa.
People slept in his temple, hoping for prophetic dreams.
Sometimes questions were addressed directly to the bull,
and the inquirers then listened to the voices of the children
playing without the wall of the temple; and a saying having
some bearing on the matter was then constructed out of
the disconnected expressions which reached the ear. When
Apis was led out among the people, the accompanying
youths, in a state of extreme ecstasy, sang and prophesied.

At home Apis dwelt behind purple curtains, slept on a soft
bed, ate and drank out of vessels of gold and silver.
But though the sacred bull was adored in this extraordinary
fashion, if he lived too long (above the age of
twenty-eight, at which age Osiris died), then the priests,
attired in mourning garments, led the horned embodiment
of the god in state to the Nile, and solemnly drowned him
there. Those of the sacred bulls which died a natural
death were embalmed and buried with indescribable pomp,
no expense being spared for this purpose. Priests remarkable
for their moral influence were, on rare occasions, honoured
by burial near the sacred bulls.
Whole rows of tombs, in vaults of corresponding size,
arose in this subterranean cemetery. The faithful came
hither to worship, and inscribed their names on special
tablets of stone, which still remain here, with the precise
date of each visit. These votive tablets are of the greatest
historical value, as they mention the length of the reign of
the king in which each Apis bull was born and buried.
The story of the slaughter of the sacred bull by Cambyses
is familiar to all students of history. The Persian
conqueror had, in the earlier period of his rule in Egypt,
attempted to gain favour with the priests by patronising
the native cult, and getting initiated into the mysteries
and ceremonies of its worship. After the utter collapse
of the ill-advised expedition to Ethiopia (B. C. 535) Cambyses's
tolerance of the Egyptian religion was turned into the
most bitter hostility. Hurrying back to Memphis from
Nubia, after the loss of a great portion of his army, he
found that the population were holding festival because the
god Apis had just manifested himself in a new steer, which
had been duly consecrated by the priests. In a paroxysm
of rage, Cambyses ordered the priests to be beaten with
rods, the worshippers of Apis to be massacred, and the
sacred animal to be brought to his presence. Raising his

sword, the enraged king killed the innocent animal with
his own hand, to the horror of the whole native population.
The actual epitaph written on this bovine martyr was
found by Mariette, and is now to be read in the Musée
Egyptien, in the Louvre.
A dramatic element is given to the discovery of the
sepulchral chambers of the bulls, in the fact that when
Mariette effected an entrance he found on the layer of
sand that covered the floor the actual footprints of the workmen
who, 3700 years before, had laid the sacred mummy
in its tomb, and closed the door upon it, as they believed,
forever.1
1 For some portions of this description of the Serapeum, I am indebted to an
admirable account in the volume which chronicles the Eastern travels of the
present Czar of Russia in 1891-92.
Owing to most travellers visiting Sakkarah and Memphis
after Ghizeh, the Pyramids here usually come in for only
very perfunctory notice. Yet the one known as the Step
Pyramid—platform or terrace pyramid would perhaps convey
a more accurate idea — is even in point of dimensions
a noble monument. It is about 197 feet high. Unlike
most pyramids, the sides are of unequal length, — the
north and south faces being 351 feet, while the other
sides are each 394 feet.
If Mariette is correct in attributing it to a king of the
third dynasty, this pyramid or the Sphinx must be the oldest
historic building in the world. It must have been in
existence some five centuries before a single stone was laid
of the Pyramids of Cheops, and over two thousand years
before Abraham was born.
A small pyramid next the Step Pyramid, known as the
Pyramid of Unas (fifth dynasty), is worth visiting. It has
been opened up at the expense of Messrs. Thos. Cook and
Sons, the well-known tourist agents. This was the sepulchre
of the monarch a portion of whose mummified remains
are to be seen in the Ghizeh Museum. It constitutes,

indeed, the oldest historical mummy in any collection in
the world. The official responsible for the descriptive
labels attached to the various objects in this museum is
presumably lacking in a sense of the ridiculous. The label
affixed to the case containing the mummified débris of this
sovereign bears the following humiliating, if justly descriptive,
title: “Fragments of King Unas”!
The small pyramids of Teta, Pepi, and other kings show
the marked degeneration in workmanship compared with
the Ghizeh pyramids. For instance, the masonry, instead
of hewn stone, is a kind of rubble formed of stone flakes
filled in with loose chips.
Besides the valuable discoveries by Mariette in recent
excavations in this pyramid field, already alluded to, were
some tomb-paintings which throw fresh light on the disputed
question of the origin of chess. Hitherto, it was assumed
that the ancient Indians had invented the game; that it was
introduced from India to Persia in the sixth century; and
that, in consequence of the Crusades, it spread from East
to West. This theory was substantiated by the fact that
an Indian, Persian, and Arabic influence is traceable in
the character of the figures at present used, and in some
of the words connected with the game, such as “shah”
(check), and “matt” (mate). Now, north of the Pyramid
of King Teta, two grave-chambers have been discovered
which were erected for two high officials of that ruler,
called Kaben and Mera. The grave-chamber (mastaba) of
the former consisted of five rooms, built up with limestone.
Its walls are covered with exceedingly well-preserved basreliefs
and pictures representing various scenes. Mera's
mastaba is, however, the most valuable. At present no
fewer than thirty-two halls and corridors have been uncovered.
Among the many wall-paintings in this and other
rooms, hunting and fishing scenes, a group of female
mourners, the three seasons, Mera and his sons holding

each other by the hand, and Mera playing cheśs are to be
seen. King Teta belonged to the sixth dynasty, and his reign
was assigned by Professor Lepsius to about the year
2700 B. C. Professor Brugsch, correcting this chronology,
puts it back to still greater antiquity; namely, to the year
3300 B. C., — so that chess would appear to have been
known in the once mysterious land of Mizraim something
like 5200 years ago.
The mastaba of Ti, a priest of the fifth dynasty, is one of
the most elaborately decorated tombs in Egypt, and deserves
more attention than the hurried visitor, or the ordinary
sight-seer who attempts to “do” Sakkarah in one day, is
able to devote to it.
Ti, it appears, held a post analogous to that of Chief
Commissioner of Works for Upper and Lower Egypt, and
he was also Secretary of State, Head of the Priests, etc.;
in short, if the parallel be not profane, this many-sided
functionary was a kind of Egyptian Pooh-Bah. He married
a royal princess, who shared his tomb. This, perhaps,
accounts for its magnificence. The chambers are a series
of picture galleries; and these tinted sculptures give more
illustrations of every phase of life in Egypt, five thousand
years ago, than are to be found in any tomb or temple yet
discovered. “These paintings,” writes Mr. Joseph Pollard
in his recently published “Land of the Monuments,” “depict,
in a most vivid and natural manner, the habits and customs
of the dwellers on the Nile when Ti was Secretary of State,
etc. The work is excellent throughout, and all the details
are most carefully executed and finished; every design was
sculptured in low-relief and then painted. The colours are
wonderfully bright and good; but when the tints have faded
or peeled off, the carved design remains, and we see the
whole of the artist's subject.”
The Arabic word mastaba, which means a “bench,” —
so called because its length in proportion to its height is

great, and reminded them of the long low seat common in
Oriental dwellings,—is constantly occurring in descriptions
of ancient Egyptian tombs. These tombs are the chief
features in the Sakkarah necropolis, and a brief description
of this kind of sepulchre may conveniently be added here.
The mastaba is a heavy, massive building, of rectangular
shape, the four sides of which are four walls symmetrically
inclined towards their common centre. They vary much
in size. The largest measures 170 feet long by 86 feet
wide, and the smallest about 26 feet by 20 feet. In height,
they vary from 13 to 30 feet. The ground on which the
mastabas at Sakkarah are built is composed of rock covered
with sand to the depth of a few feet; their foundations are
always on the rock. Though they have at first sight the
appearance of truncated pyramids, they have nothing in
common with these buildings except their orientation,
which is invariably towards the true north. Mastabas are
of two kinds, of stone or of brick, and are usually entered
on the eastern side. A mastaba is a more complex kind of
tomb than might be supposed from its exterior. Its interior
is divided into one or more mortuary chambers, a kind of
anteroom for friends and relatives of the dead, a place of
retreat (sirdab), and the pit which was the actual tomb.
The walls of the interior are sometimes sculptured, and in
the lower part of the chamber is an inscribed stone tablet,
or stela. At the foot of this stela a small table of offerings
is often found. A little distance from the chamber, built
into the thickness of the wall at some distance from the
floor, was a secret place of retreat. This niche was walled
up, and the only means of communication between it and
the chamber was by means of a narrow hole just large
enough to admit the hand. This passage was supposed to
carry off the fumes of incense which used to be burnt in
the chamber. The sepulchral pit was a square shaft sunk
from the floor of the mastaba, through the solid rock, to a

depth varying from forty to sixty feet. There was no communication
from the chamber to the bottom of the pit; so
that the mummy and its sarcophagus, when once there,
were inaccessible. The mummy was not, however, simply
placed at the bottom of the pit. There was an opening
from the bottom, excavated through the side of the shaft,
which led obliquely towards the southeast. The passage,
as it proceeded, was made larger until it became the sarcophagus
chamber. This sarcophagus, rectangular in shape,
was usually of limestone, and rested in a corner of the
chamber. When the mummy had been laid in the sarcophagus,
and the other arrangements completed, the entrance
to the passage leading to the sarcophagus chamber was
walled up, and the pit filled with stones, earth, and sand, so
that the friends of the deceased might reasonably hope that
he would rest there undisturbed forever. Alas! man proposes,
and the Egyptian Exploration Society disposes!
The age of the mastabas discovered by Mariette is, of
course, of the greatest importance to historians and antiquarians.
He found three belonging to one or other of the
three first dynasties, 43 of the fourth, 61 of the fifth, and
23 of the sixth dynasties; while in the case of nine he was
unable to assign a date.1
1 For most of this information on mastabas, I am indebted to an admirable
series of articles contributed by Mariette to the “Révue Archéologique.”


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227

CHAPTER XVIII.
THE CITY OF THE SUN.

THE exact date of the foundation of Heliopolis, in spite
of the great advance the science of Egyptology has
made within the last few years, is still conjectural. It is
probable, however, that the City of the Sun is almost as old
as Memphis, though its period of greatest splendour dates
from the decline of the latter city. According to the Turin
papyrus, the worship of the Sacred Bulls, both at An
(Heliopolis) and at Memphis, was established by Ka-Kau,
of the second dynasty, in the year 4100 B. C. It may even
be older, for some historians consider that the wording in
the papyrus implies rather a revival than a primary inauguration
of the cult of Apis.
The work of the sight-seer at Heliopolis is easy. There
is only one curiosity,—the famous obelisk, the sole relic
of the ancient capital which once ranked only second to
Memphis in importance. This monument, being the sole
object of attraction here for tourists, is naturally less perfunctorily
examined than are those at most other goals of
travellers in Egypt, where there is an embarrassing wealth
of antiquities of all kinds. It is the oldest obelisk in
Egypt yet remaining erect and in situ. The material is
the usual rose-coloured granite of Assouan, the source of
nearly all the Eygptian obelisks. Owing to a considerable
part — some ten or a dozen feet — being buried in the soil,
and to its somewhat commonplace surroundings, it lacks
the dignity and impressiveness of the Theban obelisks.
The annual inundation raises the soil of the Delta about

six inches in a century, so that the amount of deposit
covering a monument is an approximate indication of its
age. The monolith is covered with hieroglyphics, which,
as is the case with all well-known monuments in Egypt,
have been carefully deciphered by Egyptologists, though
they are now almost illegible, owing to bees having utilised
the deeply incised hieroglyphics for their cells.
“Though Heliopolis is the least monumental of all the sites of
Egypt, without temple or tomb, nor any record but the obelisk, it is
yet eloquent of greater things than the solemn Pyramids of Memphis,
or the storied temples of Thebes. What these tell is rather of
Egypt's history than the world's; the idea that Heliopolis suggests
is the true progress of the whole human race. For here was the
oldest link in the chain of the schools of learning. The conqueror
has demolished the temple; the city, with the houses of the wise
men, has fallen into hopeless ruin, downtrodden by the thoughtless
peasant, as he drives his plough across the site. Yet the name and
the fame of the City of the Sun charms the stranger as of old while,
standing beside the obelisk, he looks back through the long and
stately avenue of the ages that are past, and measures the gain in
knowledge that patient scholars have won.”1
1 S. Lane-Poole, “Cities of Egypt.”
The erection of this obelisk probably synchronises with
the building of the famous
Temple of the Sun, of which
it was doubtless one of the chief ornaments. Recent discoveries
have enabled Egyptologists to assign the date of
the foundation of the temple to the third year of the reign
of Usertsen I., a king of the twelfth dynasty. This fact
was established by Doctor Brugsch, in 1858, who discovered
at Thebes a leather roll (now in the Berlin
Museum) which gives an account of the founding of the
temple.
But one need not be an antiquarian or student of ancient
history to appreciate the extraordinary interest of this
grand relic of an ancient civilisation. The least imaginative

of visitors can scarcely help being impressed at the
sight of a monument which there is every reason to suppose
Moses must often have looked upon, when a student
at this ancient seat of learning. Then this obelisk must
have been standing for over seven hundred years when
Pharaoh gave Asenath, the daughter of Potiphar, the high-priest
of the Temple of the Sun, to the Patriarch Joseph.
The sun is the most ancient object of Egyptian worship
found upon the monuments. His birth each day, when he
springs from the bosom of the nocturnal heavens, is the
natural emblem of the eternal generation of the divinity.
The rays of the sun, as they awaken all nature, seemed to
the ancients to give life to animated beings. Hence that
which doubtless was originally a symbol became the foundation
of the religion. It is the Sun (Ra) himself whom we
find habitually invoked as the Supreme being.
According to many scholars who have given special
attention to that branch of Egyptology which concerns itself
with the religion and mythology of the ancient Egyptians,
notably Doctor Brugsch, the worship of Apis was not
crude idolatry like the totem-worship of the North American
Indians, but mere symbolism. According to these
exponents of the Egyptian pantheon, the ancient Egyptians
were virtually monotheists, who recognised in Ra
the supreme solar deity, while the minor deities were
mere personifications of his divine attributes. Knum, for
instance, represented his creative properties; Thoth, his
wisdom; Anubis, his swiftness; while the bull, Apis, typified
his strength. This view is certainly the most popular
one, though many authorities are not prepared to admit
that the Egyptians, though avowedly the most wonderful
people of antiquity, had, at all events so early as the first
dynasty, reached such a high spiritual standard as monotheism
implies.
Perhaps, however, we shall find the true solution of the

problem in a modified monotheism, as Miss A. B. Edwards
suggests in the following instructive passage:
“Their monotheism, was not exactly our monotheism: it was a
monotheism based upon, and evolved from, the polytheism of earlier
ages. Could we question a high-priest of the nineteenth or
twentieth dynasties on the subject of his faith, we should be startled
by the breadth and grandeur of his views touching the Godhead.
He would tell us that the god Ra was the Great All; that by his
word alone he called all things into existence; that all things are
therefore but reflections of himself and his will; that he is the
creator of day and night, of the heavenly spheres, of infinite space;
that he is, in short, the eternal essence, invisible, omnipresent, and
omniscient. If, after this, we could put the same questions to a
high-priest of Memphis, we should receive a very similar answer,
only we should now be told this great divinity was Ptah; and if
we could make the tour of Egypt, questioning the priests of every
great temple in turn, we should find that each claimed these attributes
of unity and universality for his own local god. All, nevertheless,
would admit the identity of these various deities. They
would admit that he whom they worshipped at Heliopolis as Ra
was the same as the god worshipped at Memphis as Ptah, and at
Thebes as Amen.”
Heliopolis, during the middle empire, was the chief seat
of learning in Egypt; and the sacred college, attached to
the Temple of the Sun, was the forerunner of all European
universities. Thales, Solon, Pythagoras, and even Plato
are among the famous scholars who are said to have
studied at this ancient university. Then, to go back to
a remoter period, it was at Heliopolis that Moses was
instructed “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”
Its fame was, however, dimmed by the rise of Alexandria,
and the transfer of its library to the new metropolis
of Egypt, by Ptolemy I., proved its death-blow.
Manetho (who might be called the Gibbon of Ancient
Egypt), whose records are the chief source from which all
modern historians and Egyptologists derive their chronology,

was the keeper of the archives of the Great Temple
in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. His actual history
has never been found, and all we know of this invaluable
work of reference is from a few quotations in Josephus and
other chroniclers. Still, as Miss Edwards observes, there
is no reason why some fortunate explorer should not yet
find a copy of the lost history of Manetho in the tomb of
some long-forgotten scribe, just as many transcripts of
Homer have been found.
Heliopolis may be considered the mother-city of Baalbec,
as, according to some historians, the Assyrian “City of
the Sun” was founded by a colony of priests who migrated
from Heliopolis. The magnificent ruins of this second
Heliopolis, whose outer walls were composed of huge
blocks hardly excelled in size by those used for building
the temples of Rameses the Great, will give some indication
of the architectural splendour of the Egyptian capital, as
the latter was not likely to be exceeded in magnificence by
the daughter-city. According to recent measurements, the
largest of these blocks is sixty-four feet long, fourteen feet
wide, and fourteen feet thick.
It is an interesting fact, but one which seems to have
escaped the notice of the writers of popular text-books on
Egyptian history, that the famous Rosetta stone was originally
one of the inscriptions which covered the walls of the
Temple of the Sun. An account of its discovery will be
found in another chapter.
The legendary phœnix is familiar to every one in its proverbial
application, and it was from Heliopolis that the
myth of this fabled bird, sacred to Osiris, originated. It
was said to visit the Temple of the Sun every five hundred
years, and set fire to itself, fanning the flames with its
wings, from whose ashes sprang a new phœnix.
Many of the early Fathers — Cyril, Clement, Tertullian,
among others — so firmly believed in the story of the

phœnix, that they did not hesitate to bring it forward seriously
as a proof of the resurrection. Even in the present
day, believers in the truth of this fable are to be found;
and, as recently as 1840, a certain fellow of Exeter College,
Oxford, published a long pamphlet in favour of the existence
of this legendary bird. The most plausible theory of
the origin of the myth is that it was a symbolic representation
of the ancient astronomers to denote the recurrence of
an astronomical period marked by the heliacal rising of
some prominent constellation.
The village of Matarieh is usually included in the excursion
to Heliopolis. It is little more than a mile distant,
and those going by road will pass it on their way to the
City of the Sun. According to the etymology of the village
(“place belonging to the Sun”), it must originally
have been an outlying portion of Heliopolis, and the famous
well was in fact the “Fountain of the Sun.” The excursion
from Cairo is particularly pleasant, the road being bordered
with tamarisks, palms, and sycamores. The village
of Matarieh is charmingly situated, and from the number
of palaces in its environs belonging to various members of
the Khedivial family, it might well be termed a village of
palaces.
The chief interest to visitors lies in the famous Virgin's
Tree and Virgin's Well. Under this holy tree the Virgin
and Child are said to have rested after their flight into
Egypt. The tree is a magnificent old sycamore, — not,
however, the kind of sycamore with which we are familiar,
which belongs to the maple family, but a kind of fig. It
need scarcely be said that the tree now seen is not the veritable
tree of the legend; in fact, even the guides do not dare
to assert this. The tree is probably not more than three
hundred years old. There is, however, little doubt but that
it is planted on the site of an older tree, to which the same
tradition attaches; and, indeed, there is nothing to prevent

the present tree having been produced from a sapling of a
tree which, in its turn, sprang from the original tree.
Many curious Coptic legends cluster round this venerable
tree. According to some chroniclers, the Virgin Mary hid
herself from the soldiers of Herod among the branches, and
a spider, by spinning a web, effectually screened her hiding-place.
These legends are a curious illustration of the proverbial
repetition of history, or rather historical tradition,
and recall to us the stories of Charles II. and the Boscobel
oak, and Robert Bruce and the spider. The tree has been
much hacked about by relic-hunting travellers; and the
present proprietor, a Copt, with a sarcastic appreciation of
the instincts of vandalism which seems to prompt latter-day
tourists, has considerately planted another sycamore close
by, from which pieces can be cut instead of from the original,
a knife being chained to the tree for the purpose!
The late Khedive Ismail made a present of this tree to
his guest, the ex-Empress Eugénie, in 1869. The gift was
graciously accepted, but the empress's good taste prevented
her taking any steps for the removal of this precious relic.
Possibly, too, she was aware of Ismail's practice of making
presents of antiquities — obelisks for instance — which were
quite opposed to the wishes of the natives, or regarded the
offer as an Oriental form of politeness never intended to be
taken seriously, just as a modern Spanish grandee will not
fail to tell a guest who incautiously admires any possession
of his host, “Esta muy a la disposicion de Usted” (“It is
yours”). This fictitious kind of hospitality is, perhaps, a
traditionary habit bequeathed to Spaniards by their Saracenic
conquerors.
The Virgin's Well is close by; and round this spot, also,
have centred many early Christian legends. It has earned
peculiar sanctity as the well in which the Holy Child was
bathed. The fact that the water is fresh, being fed from
springs, while that of most wells in the Delta is either salt

or brackish, has naturally given colour to this tradition.
According to the Coptic legend, the water was salt until
the Virgin bathed her child in it.
The balsam shrub, the Balm of Gilead of the Bible, formerly
grew here in profusion. The Coptic tradition is that
the shrubs sprang from the drops of water which fell from
the swaddling-clothes of the infant Jesus, which had been
washed in the well. They were brought from Judæa to this
spot by Cleopatra; who, trusting to the influence of Mark
Antony, removed them, in spite of the opposition of Herod,
as they had been hitherto confined to Judæa. Josephus
tells us that the land where the balsam-tree grew belonged
to Cleopatra, and that “Herod farmed of her what she possessed
in Arabia, and those revenues that came to her from
the regions about Jericho, bearing the balsam, the most
precious of drugs, which grows there alone.” The plants
were in later times taken from Matarieh to Arabia, and
grown near Mecca, whence the balsam is now brought to
Egypt and Europe, under the name of Balsam of Mecca;
and the gardens of Heliopolis no longer produce this valuable
plant. A still more profitable article of commerce,
one of the most lucrative in Egypt, — namely, the cotton-plant,
— is due to some experiments in the culture of this
plant at Matarieh in 1820.

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235

CHAPTER XIX.
MINOR EXCURSIONS.

IT is not altogether surprising that the list of minor
excursions in the neighbourhood of Cairo recommended
in the standard guide-books, and known to the local dragomans
and guides, should be such a meagre one. The
ancient monuments of Ghizeh, Memphis, Heliopolis, etc.,
to say nothing of the important specimens of Saracenic
architecture with which Cairo abounds, are so numerous
and engrossing that few tourists can spare time for ordinary
drives and expeditions, and consequently Murray and
Baedeker are content with a brief notice of only a few
excursions in the neighbourhood. Those, however, who
are making Cairo their headquarters for the winter would
find many objects of interest to occupy their time after
exhausting the regulation sights, and, indeed, to know
Cairo properly means more than a winter's study. To
the artist Cairo offers an illimitable field, and one which
is, to a great extent, a virgin one. Outside certain hackneyed
points of view in the favourite bazaar quarter, and
in the neighbourhood of the tombs of the Caliphs and
Mamelukes, where one is constantly meeting artists of all
kinds and degrees attempting to assimilate local colour
and atmosphere, the artistic side of Cairo seems a good
deal neglected. Those familiar with picture exhibitions
know only too well the mosque interiors and scenes of
Cairo street-life which, in the opinion of most amateurs,
sum up the artistic possibilities of the City of the Caliphs.
It is painful to see the absence of originality or freshness

of invention, or any aptitude for the selection of a really
striking or novel point of view among these innumerable
artists of the “tea-tray school,” who have eyes only for
the conventional picturesque.
It is curious, too, that Cairo, with its undeniable wealth
of subjects, does not seem ever to have been made a field
of study by an artist of renown, as is the case with Florence,
Venice, Rome, Granada, Athens, Constantinople, and
other famous cities of Europe. Yet what a magnificent
opportunity, for instance, the port of Boulag, as little
known to the artist as to the ordinary tourist, offers to
a “colourist” like Clara Montalba or Henrietta Rae,
with its pictures of native life, its variety of form and
colour!
Strangers probably do not realise that Cairo has an
important trading-port at its threshold, and no dragoman
would dream of suggesting that the quays of Boulag might
be included in the traveller's daily round of sight-seeing.
It is a particularly lively scene, this emporium of all the
commerce of Upper Egypt and Nubia. An endless succession
of all kinds of vessels line the shore,—trading dahabiyehs,
steamers, rafts, transports, yachts, and, since
the enterprise of Messrs. Tagg & Co., the famous Thames
boat-builders, even steam-launches and rowing-boats. The
most curious of all the crafts are the rafts composed of
jars from Keneh, which may be seen here discharging their
cargo. Montbard's lively description gives a good idea of
what the traveller may see, though, of course, since the
closing of the Soudan to traders, the trading-vessels with
cargoes from Khartoum and from Southern Nubia are no
longer to be seen:
“From the South come the vessels from Assouan loaded with
senna, gathered in the desert by the warlike Abadiehs; elephants'
tusks, rhinoceros' horns, and antelopes' horns from Darfour; skins
of jaguars, zebras, and giraffes from Khartoum. Dahabiyehs with

elevated poops advance; they hail from Esneh, with ivory, ostrich
feathers, gum, nitre, etc., transported across the desert from Abyssinia;
coffee and incense from Arabia; spice, pearls, precious stones,
cashmeres, and silk from India, arriving by the deserts of Kosheir.
Edfu sends its pipes, its charming vases in red and black clay, elegant
in form, with gracefully modelled ornaments; and there are
heavy barges from Fayoum, the land of roses, rilled to the top with
rye, barley, cotton, indigo; dahabiyehs full of carpets, woollen stuffs,
flagons of rose-water, mats made with the reeds of Birket-el-Keroun.”
An additional picturesque touch is given by the netting
with which the precious freights are usually covered, instead
of the commonplace and ugly tarpaulin which we
are familiar with in Western ports. This netting is, however,
more for the purpose of keeping the cargo together
than to protect it from the elements.
We will now describe the more conventional excursions
in the environs of Cairo. Helouan and the ancient quarries
of Turra make a pleasant morning's or afternoon's
expedition. The modern town of Helouan, on the strength
of a few palm-trees surrounding the modern bathing-establishment,
has been grandiloquently termed an oasis in the
desert. It is about two miles from the dirty native village
of the same name situated on the Nile. There is not
much to see here except the bathing establishment and
the Khedivial palace.
Of all his numerous palaces, — and the Khedive of
Egypt seems to possess as many royal residences as King
Humbert of Italy, — Helouan was the favourite one of the
late Khedive Tewfik. It was here that this sovereign died,
and, in consequence, it has long remained empty; for a
foolish superstition — prevalent in all Mohammedan countries
— makes even the present Khedive, in spite of his
European training, disinclined to live in a palace where
one of his relatives has died. This prejudice, no doubt,
accounts for the palace of Ghizeh being turned into a
national museum, and Ghezireh Palace into a fashionable

hotel. Probably this is the destiny which awaits the palace
of Helouan; for Helouan, now that its bathing establishment
has been controlled by a German syndicate, and run
on the lines of a Continental kursal, is beginning to be
frequented a good deal by Europeans.
A great variety of waters are to be found here, — sulphur,
saline, and iron; but the principal springs, and those which
give Helouan its chief raison d'etre, are the sulphur springs,
which are similar to those of Aix-les-Bains. The claims
made for Helouan, as the most ancient health-resort and
medicinal baths in the whole world, are probably justified.
There can be little doubt that these are the sulphur baths
near the quarries on the eastern side of the Nile, to which,
on the authority of Manetho, the Ptolemaic historian, King
Amen-hetep, sent “the leprous and other cureless persons,
in order to separate them from the rest of the Egyptians.”
Though Helouan contains little of interest, it is a convenient
starting-point for a trip to the ancient quarries of
Turra. These quarries supplied much of the stone for
the Pyramids. Fortunately, the modern quarrying is of
the surface rock for the most part, so that visitors can
see the vast caverns excavated by the Pharaohs, in order
to get the fresh stone, almost as they were when the Pharaonic
labourers excavated them. Mediæval historians,
misled by the similarity of the ancient name Ta-ro-fu,
did not hesitate to call it Troja, and as a plausible pretext
declared that it was so called because the captive Trojans,
who were said to have followed King Menelaus to Egypt,
had a settlement here. It is curious how many myths,
gravely set down as authentic history by Diodorus, Strabo,
Herodotus, and other great writers, are due to errors in
etymology. Some stelæ found here, of the sixteenth dynasty,
conclusively prove that the Turra hills were used as
quarries by several kings of that early period. A local
guide might better be taken, for the Cairo guides are not

likely to know the way among the ancient galleries and
cuttings.
These quarries are probably the oldest in the world,
older even than those of Assouan. Many are still in use,
and it is curious to think that the streets of the modern
city of Cairo are paved with flags of the same magnesium
limestone that the Egyptian masons used for building the
temples of Memphis over four thousand years ago.
The ancient method of quarrying is so well described in
Murray's Handbook, that it is worth quoting in full:
“They first began by cutting a trench or groove round a square
space on the smooth perpendicular face of the rock; and having
pierced a horizontal tunnel a certain distance, by cutting away the
centre of the square, they made a succession of similar tunnels on
the same level; after which they extended the work downwards in
the form of steps, removing each tier of stone as they went on, till
they reached the lowest part or intended floor of the quarry. Sometimes
they began by an oblong tunnel, which they cut downwards to
the depth of one stone's length; and they then continued horizontally
in steps, each of these forming as usual a standing-place, while
they cut away the row above it. A similar process was adopted on
the opposite side of the quarry, till at length two perpendicular
walls were left, which constituted its extent; and here again new
openings were made, and another chamber connected with the first
one was formed in the same manner, pillars of rock being left here
and there to support the roof. These communications of one quarry
or chamber of a quarry with the other are frequently observable in
the mountains of Masara, where they follow in uninterrupted succession
for a considerable distance; and in no part of Egypt is the
method of quarrying more clearly shown. The lines traced on the
roof, marking the size and division of each set of blocks, were probably
intended to show the number hewn by particular workmen.”
The quarries also served as a field of labour for prisoners
of war and criminals, and were, in short, the Portland or
Dartmoor of the ancient Egyptians. This is thought to be
indicated by certain marks on the walls of the galleries,
which are supposed to mark the progress of the work of
the prisoners.

240

These quarries offer an admirable field of study for the
geologist, as fossils of all kind are plentiful. The ethnographical
student will also be interested in the remarkable
specimens of flint implements — relics of the Stone Age
— which are occasionally found in the desert, between
Helouan and the Gebel Mokattam. These so-called prehistoric
relics do not, however, point to such an extreme
antiquity as is usually attributed to implements of the
Stone Age; for it is well known to scholars that the
Egyptians used these kinds of implements as recently as
the twentieth dynasty.
The Petrified Forest, pace Baedeker, who declares that it
is one of the sights of Egypt which every traveller makes a
point of visiting, is of slight interest to most tourists, unless
they are geologists. It is, however, an expedition which
should not be omitted by strangers; for though there is
little to see at the forest itself but a few fossilised trunks,
the ride on donkey-back makes a pleasant little desert
expedition, and the route across a spur of the Mokattam
mountains affords magnificent views of Cairo, better even
than those obtained from the Citadel, and at sunset the
atmospheric effects of the desert are superb. It is possible
to drive, for the rough track, which the guide-book dignifies
by the name of road, is practicable for wheeled vehicles;
but this mode of locomotion will not be found at all satisfactory,
and it is far preferable, even for ladies, to make
the trip in the orthodox way, on donkeys. A guide is quite
unnecessary, as every donkey-boy knows the way. Donkey-boys,
it may be observed, is a conventional term, the boys
being often married men of thirty or forty years of age,
just as the post-boys of the old coaching-days.
The journey there and back can be comfortably managed
in a morning or afternoon, though the guides will
naturally insist that it is a whole day's excursion. For the
Great Petrified Forest, some half-dozen miles farther, a

whole day should be allowed; but the ride is tedious, and
a little too tiring for all but the most robust. If ladies
attempt it, they should be careful to see that their mount
has a well-fitting saddle.
To resume our itinerary of the Small Forest excursion,
a halt is usually made at the so-called Moses's Well.
It need scarcely be said that this spring has not even
the slightest legendary association with Moses, but the
Arabs are fond of naming geographical features after
famous biblical characters. This spring is in a gorge of
one of the Mokattam hills, and the Petrified Forest can
be soon reached by active pedestrians, by climbing the
crest of the mountain. The mounted members of the
party must, however, return to the mouth of the ravine,
and follow the path which winds round the spur of the
hill, when the Forest will be reached in about half an
hour. The remains of the fossil trees strew the plateau
for several miles. It is a moot point with geologists
whether the trees are indigenous, or whether they were
floated by water and became embedded in the ground, being
converted in the course of many thousands of years into
stone. Professor Fraas, a German geologist of note, considers
that these trees are of a totally different family to
that of the palm, to which they are usually attributed by
the guides, who are, of course, as ignorant of the elements
of geology as the ordinary Nile dragoman is of archaeology.
In his opinion, the trees are a kind of balsam, and he offers
the following theory of their origin: when the sandstone became
disintegrated, and in course of time was converted into
the sand of the desert, then the silicised trunks were gradually
disengaged from their sandstone bed, and they now
cover the surface of the Little Khashab for a distance of ten
to fifteen miles. Travellers who are not familiar with the
appearance of a vein of coal will be greatly struck by the
appearance of this formation, regarding which all kinds of

fanciful theories have been set up. The geologist, however,
will simply regard it as akin to the coal-measures of
the Meiocene period, with this difference,—that while the
waters of Europe favoured the preservation of the carbon
and the fibre of the wood, the silicious sandstone of the
Mokattam converted the tissue of the wood into silicic
acid. Specimens of similar fossilised trees are also seen in
the desert beyond the Pyramids of Ghizeh, but these are
rarely visited.
A charming excursion is the one to the Ostrich Farm,
near Matarieh. The route is past Shubra, the suburb of
palaces, and round by Heliopolis and Matarieh. The farm
is run by an enterprising Frenchman. Though the dry
and warm climate of Egypt is particularly well adapted for
the breeding of ostriches, the experiment here does not seem
to have proved a great commercial success. Eggs can be
bought as mementoes of the visit. They are not pitted like
those of the South African ostriches, but are quite smooth.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the excursions near
Cairo is the one to the Barrage. This huge structure,
which is so striking a feature in the landscape in the
railway journey from Alexandria to Cairo, requires to be
noticed at some length.
The Barrage, as it now stands—remodelled, restored,
and thoroughly serviceable—is an excellent illustration
of the excellent work carried out within recent years by
the Public Works Department in the irrigation of Egypt.
All efforts to ameliorate the condition of life among the
fellaheen are summed up in a thorough system of irrigation.
In Egypt, indeed, so far as practical benefit to the
community is concerned, irrigation and drainage are of
equal importance with improvements in means of locomotion
in other countries,—railways, bridges, roads, and
other renumerative public works.
Egypt is destined by nature to be the granary of Europe,

and its natural riches consist in agricultural products.
One can hardly thus exaggerate the importance of developing
the resources of its soil. In Egypt, indeed, the saying
that the true benefactor is one who makes two blades of
grass grow where formerly only one grew, seems especially
applicable. We may even say that the one great apology
for the English occupation of the country is the way in
which Egypt's natural resources have been developed by
the Public Works Department, the creation of the English.
That “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”—a maxim which
has been repeated with “damnable reiteration” by almost
every writer on Egypt since Herodotus—is no mere
phrase, and its truth seems to have been recognised in the
earliest age of Egyptian mythology, when the Nile was
worshipped as the Creative Principle. Yet Mehemet Ali
failed to appreciate properly the fact that the Nile is all
in all to the Egyptian, and that the genius of the country
is embodied in agriculture and not in manufactures;
and that by concentrating his energies to fostering manufactures,
for which the fellahs are naturally unfitted,
he did as much to exhaust the national vitality as in
attempting to realise his dreams of foreign conquest and
his romantic ambition of regenerating the decaying Ottoman
Empire. Under Mehemet, the peasants were torn
away from their fields to serve in the Pacha's armies, or
to work in his sugar and cotton factories; and Egypt was
both a vast camp and a great factory, and its energies were
strained almost to the breaking point. Even the climatic
conditions of Egypt are opposed to the successful conduct
of textile manufactures. The excessive heat is said to be
injurious to the material, and the fine sand which is blown
about by every breeze is destructive to the machinery.
Notwithstanding, then, the low cost of labour, the Egyptians
can be undersold by foreigners in cotton and linen
stuffs. Besides, the cultivable soil of Egypt, which, by

every canon of political economy, should first be attended
to, requires as much native labour as the population can
afford. At present it has been calculated that there is
only one able-bodied fellah to every three acres of arable
land. These observations may perhaps help the visitor to
realise the significance of this magnificent monument of
engineering enterprise known as the Barrage, which, by
most travellers, is merely looked upon as a pleasant goal for
a picnic, or, at best, as an objectif for an off-day's excursion.
The object of this huge dam—the largest weir outside
India and the United States in the world—is to serve
as a reservoir at low Nile, to maintain the river at the
level of the banks and supply Lower Egypt with the same
amount of water as at the period of high Nile. In theory
the conception was a grand one, and some credit should
be given to Mehemet Ali, who first saw the possibility of
bringing an enormous area of the Delta under cultivation,
which hitherto, for want of any means of irrigation, was
absolutely unproductive. Unfortunately, the original engineers
seem to have bungled, and did not make the
foundations strong enough. The faulty foundations were
due to haste, and to lack of efficient supervision over the
thousands of ignorant fellahs impressed for the service.
The engineers, under pressure from Mehemet, insisted on
the foundations of the piers being completed during one
low Nile period. The materials were not properly mixed,
so that instead of a solid and cohesive base of concrete,
the piers were built on a mass of loose rubble of sand and
lime. This is scarcely to be wondered at, as over four
thousand tons of concrete had to be mixed every day.
Thus an admirably conceived undertaking was wrecked at
the outset by puerile haste and deficient control over the
army of labourers, amounting to over eighty thousand.
In consequence of this “scamped” workmanship, from its
completion in 1867 till 1885, when Sir Colin Scott-Moncrieff,

the head of the Public Works Department, undertook
the task of restoring it, this huge double dam, with its
elaborate system of lock gates, sluices, etc., was regarded
as a kind of white elephant by the Egyptian Government.
The Barrage consists of a double bridge or lock, each
spanning one of the two branches of the Nile, the Rosetta
and Damietta, at the point where they unite. The dam is
on an enormous scale, and is strongly fortified. In fact,
the Barrage was not merely a dam, but a bridge, a fort,
and a barracks. At a distance it bears a striking resemblance
to a couple of railway viaducts connected by a fort.
Abbas Pacha attempted to carry on this gigantic work,
which had already swallowed up so many million piastres.
A highly characteristic story of this worthless ruler, in
connection with the Barrage, was told by one of the French
engineers. It had struck the Pacha as a peculiarly happy
thought to use the stones of the Pyramids for rebuilding it.
“You see the Pyramids standing there useless: why not
take the stones from them to do the work? They have
already helped to build Cairo.” The engineer, who was
aghast at the suggestion, but careful to conceal his sentiments,
retired from the presence, feeling that he was very
awkwardly situated. To refuse to obey the Pacha was
impossible, while if he consented to the destruction of
these great historic monuments, his name would go down
to posterity stamped with infamy as the destroyer of the
Pyramids. However, a bright idea struck him. He would
appeal to the well-known avarice of the Pacha. He there-fore
filled several sheets of paper with long columns of
figures and imaginary calculations, which he brought to
the Viceroy at his next audience as a rough estimate of the
cost. Abbas, who, of course, could make nothing of the
figures, though evidently impressed by them, insisted on
having a verbal estimate. The engineer took care to make
it a high one, and the Viceroy finally abandoned the project.

246

The Barrage, like the Suez Canal, was an undertaking
which, doubtless, Napoleon would have carried out, had his
scheme of conquering Egypt succeeded. Then Mehemet
began it, and it was abandoned by Said Pacha. Abbas
spent considerable sums in futile tinkering of the work.
In 1885, Sir Colin Scott-Moncrieff, and his staff of engineers,
found that the arches of the Damietta branch were
badly cracked, and that the whole structure was faultily
built; and though an English board of engineers had
declared that to rebuild the Barrage and make it of any
practical use £1,200,000 would be required, Sir Colin,
after six years' continuous labour, succeeded in making the
weir thoroughly serviceable at an expenditure of little more
than a third of the estimate of the English experts. The
ultimate gain to Egypt is almost incalculable. Already
the export of cotton from the Delta, since the completion
of the Barrage, has averaged in one year more than twice
the cost of the six-years work of rebuilding it.
The Barrage is, however, only one of the great works in
connection with the elaborate system of irrigation on which
as much as eighty thousand pounds was spent in 1896. A
project closely connected with the Barrage of the Delta is
a huge dam, which is to be constructed at Assouan, and
which will do for Upper Egypt what the former has done
for the Delta.
Drainage is another public work of almost equal importance
to that of regulating and utilising the flood-waters of
the Nile. One of the most important drainage-works recently
accomplished was the pumping out of Lake Mareotis,
near Alexandria, in 1896. It is particularly fitting that the
reclamation of this submerged land should be undertaken
by English engineers, since the English troops, when occupying
Alexandria in the early part of the century, wantonly
cut through the narrow ridge which separated the sea from
the lake,—at that time dry land.

247

Over half a million has been spent on drainage in Egypt;
but, as Lord Cromer writes, in his last Annual Report
(1896), “it may safely be asserted that funds could hardly
be applied to a more necessary work, or to one which would
bring in a quicker return on the capital expended. In
Egypt, exhausted soil recovers its productive power very
rapidly. Whenever a drain is dug, the benefit caused is
quickly apparent in the shape of increased produce.”
The prevailing impression among visitors is that the
irrigation is effected solely by the natural submersion of
the land by the inundation. This is only adhered to in
Nubia and Upper Egypt. In the Delta, the flood is diverted
into a network of canals, which intersect the Delta in all
directions, giving it the striking appearance of a vast chessboard.
Lower Egypt produces three crops. The winter crop
consists of cereals of all kinds. It is sown in November,
and harvested in May or June. Cotton, sugar, and rice
are the principal summer crops. They are sown in March,
and gathered in October and November. Finally, there are
the autumn crops, rice, maize, and vegetables, sown in
July, and gathered in September and October. In Upper
Egypt, where at present the inhabitants have to depend
on the annual flood alone, there are only two harvests in
the year; and the principal crop is the winter one of wheat,
beans, or clover, gathered in May or June.
In order to complete our survey of the minor sights and
excursions, some mention must be made of the various
palaces belonging to members of the Khedivial family,
which abound both in Cairo itself and the beautiful suburb
of Ghezireh and Shubra. As is only natural in a city
which is on the threshold of the grandest monuments of
antiquity, royal palaces and other modern buildings—for
the oldest of these are the work of Mehemet Ali's architects
—receive but scant attention at the hands of tourists;

but to those sated with the magnificent relics of the oldest
civilisation in the world, a morning devoted to visiting
some of these royal residences and their beautiful gardens
would afford a pleasing contrast. It must be remembered,
however, that only a few can be seen by visitors, without
special permission. Among these Mehemet Ali's palace at
Shubra (now the residence of Prince Hasan, the uncle of
the present Khedive) and the Ghezireh Palace are most
interesting. The chief attraction of Prince Hasan's palace
is the magnificent fountain and artificial lake, surrounded
by kiosque, terraces, and hanging gardens, which
are quite a triumph of landscape gardening. From a kiosque
which crowns this series of terraces there is a charming
view of the Nile.
The Ghezireh Palace is the largest of all the Cairo
palaces. It was here that Ismail lodged his illustrious
guest, the Empress Eugénie, in 1869. Though now converted
into a fashionable hotel, the Oriental character of
the building and its decoration have been scrupulously
retained, and perhaps no Oriental city west of India can
show such a superb specimen of modern domestic architecture
as this admirably restored palace. Ghezireh, for
though this is a generic term meaning island,—the official
designation Ghezireh Boulag being seldom used,—is the
island, and serves also as the Hyde Park and Hurlingham
of Cairo, as well as the great focus and rallying-point of
the European world of fashion. It has quite replaced the
Shubra Avenue, once the fashionable drive; and the Ezbekiya
Gardens, given up now-a-days mainly to Cairene
tradespeople, nursery-maids of the European community,
and English privates, might be called the Kensington Gardens
of Cairo.
The palaces above mentioned, together with the Citadel,
the Tombs of the Caliphs, and the Gebel Mokattam, constitute
the finest points of view in Cairo.

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249

CHAPTER XX.
THE NILE AS A HEALTH - RESORT.1

It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands
Like some grave, mighty thought threading a dream;
And time and things, as in that vision, seem
Keeping along it their eternal stands,—
Cavos, pillars, pyramids, the shepherd bands
That roamed through the young world; the glory extreme
Of high Sesostris, and that Southern beam,
The laughing queen, that caught the world's great hands.
Then comes a mightier silence, stern and strong,
As of a world left empty of its throng,
And the void weighs on us; and then we wake,
And hear the fruitful stream lapsing along
'Twixt villages, and think how we shall take
Our own calm journey on for human sake.
LEIGH HUNT.

1 From an article contributed to the Westminster Review, 1897.
MANY English people, who are accustomed to spend
the winter in one of the relatively cheap towns of
the two Rivièras, are often deterred from wintering in the
undeniably superior climate of Egypt by the expense of
the journey and the high cost of living in
Cairo. The
City of the Caliphs is, no doubt, one of the most expensive
health-resorts in the world, not only owing to the high
charges of its splendidly equipped hotels, but to its great
vogue as a fashionable cosmopolitan winter city. People
are, however, beginning to realise that Cairo is not necessarily
Egypt; and, indeed, as a health-resort pure and
simple, it is, as we have shown in a previous chapter, by no
means to be unreservedly recommended.

250

Egypt, however, offers a choice of some four or five
health-resorts besides Cairo; namely, Helouan, Mena House
(Pyramids), Luxor, Assouan, and the Nile. As for Assouan,
it should, perhaps, be regarded, in spite of its resident
doctor and chaplain and good hotel accommodation,
as a potential, rather than an actual, climatic health-station.
Helouan is dull and depressing, and, in spite of its golf
links, lacking in resources and attractions. Then the
Teutonic element is rather too much in evidence at this
sanatorium. Mena House, at the Pyramids, is undeniably
expensive, and the fashionable society element too obtrusive
to make it a desirable winter quarters for the invalid.
The Nile as a health-resort suffers from none of these
drawbacks, and the climate of the Upper Nile and Nubia
is undeniably superior to that of Lower Egypt.
The fullest benefit from the Egyptian climate is gained
from a prolonged Nile voyage, while the asepticity—word
beloved by the faculty—of the atmosphere is greater than
at Luxor, where the hotels are terribly overcrowded in the
height of the season. Then the Nile itself is more equable
in temperature than its banks. On the other hand, invalid
passengers on these miniature pleasure-barges—for one is
bound to admit that the lines of the dahabiyeh approximate
more nearly to those of a Thames house-boat than to
a yacht—are not well protected from cold winds, which
makes some physicians look askance on dahabiyeh trips for
persons with delicate lungs. Besides, though the actual extremes
of temperature are actually less on the rivers than
in the desert, the difference is felt more by patients than
when protected by the thick walls of a hotel. It is curious,
too, that the cold at night seems to increase the
farther one goes south. These constitute the only real
drawbacks to dahabiyehs for delicate persons.
Formerly, the only orthodox way of doing the Nile voyage
was by means of these native sailing-boats, universally

known as dahabiyehs, and the costliness of this means of
locomotion practically confined it to the English milord.
Of late years, however, the wholesome competition of the
great tourist-agencies has brought about a general reduction
in the rents of these pleasure-craft. With a party of
four or five, the inclusive cost of the two months' voyage
to Assouan and back need not exceed £110 to £120 per
head,—granting, of course, that the organiser of the trip
knows the river, has had some experience of Nile travel,
has a nodding acquaintance with Arabic, and is able to
hold his own with his dragoman.
For the health-seeker as well as the mere holiday-maker,
the dahabiyeh voyage is certainly the ideal method of
spending a winter in Egypt. In short, this form of the
new yachting is to the invalid what the pleasure yachting
cruise—the latest development of coöperative travel
— is to the ordinary tourist. Though independent, the
traveller is not isolated, and can always get in touch with
civilisation as represented by the tourist steamers and
mail-boats, which virtually patrol the Nile from Cairo to
Wady Halfa. Then he is never more than a few hours'
sail from a railway station,—the line for the greater part
of its length running along the Nile banks, and almost
every station is a telegraph office as well. English doctors
and chaplains are to be found throughout the season at
the chief goals of the voyage, Luxor and Assouan; while,
in cases of emergency, the services of the medical men
attached to the tourist steamers are available. The voyage
is eminently restful, without being dull or monotonous.
In fact, the Nile being the great highway of traffic for
Nubia and Upper Egypt to Cairo and Alexandria, there
is constant variety, and the river traffic affords plenty of
life and movement. One constantly passes the picturesque
trading-dahabiyehs gliding along with their enormous
lateen sails, the artistic effect being heightened by contrast

with a trim, modern steam-dahabiyeh, as incongruous a
craft as a gondola turned into a steam-launch, and utterly
opposed to the traditions of Nile travel,—too reminiscent,
perhaps, of Cookham Reach or Henley. The banks of
the river, quite apart from the temples and monuments
of antiquity, are also full of interest for the observant
voyager, who may congratulate himself on the superiority
of his lot to his less fortunate invalid brethren wintering
on the Rivièra, “killing time till time kills them,”—
chained for the greater part of the day, perhaps, to the
hotel balcony or Villa Garden at Mentone, Monte Carlo,
or San Remo.
Delightful “bits” for the sketch-book are constantly to
be met with. At almost every village,—and many are
passed in a day's sail,—native women may be seen filling
their earthen jars with water, and carrying them on their
heads with all the grace and poetry of motion of a Capriote
girl. Jabbering gamins are driving down the banks
the curious little buffaloes to water. Every now and then
we pass a shadoof tended by a fellah with skin shining like
bronze, relieving his toil with that peculiar wailing chant
which seems to the imaginative listener like the echo of
the Israelites' cry under their taskmasters wafted across
the centuries. The shrill note of a steamer-whistle puts to
flight these poetical fancies, and one of the Messrs. Cook's
tourist steamers, looking for all the world like a Hudson
or Mississippi River steamer, dashes past at twelve knots an
hour, filled with tourists more or less noisily appreciative
of the Nile scenery. However, this incongruous and insistent
note of modernity is fleeting enough. Has not
the appointed goal—some fifty miles or so higher up—to
be reached by dusk, else the arrangements of the whole Nile
itinerary, and the plans of hundreds of tourists would be
utterly upset?
Animal life, to say nothing of bird life, is far more

abundant than in Italy or France. Flocks of pelicans
stud the sand-banks, and the white paddy-birds may be
seen busily engaged in fishing, while brilliantly decked
kingfishers, graceful hoopoes, sun-birds, and crested larks,
to say nothing of our familiar friends the swifts, swallows,
and water wag-tails, are flitting about over the water.
Occasionally, a keen-sighted traveller will get a glimpse of
an eagle or vulture.
Reptiles are represented by various kinds of lizards and
chameleons. Crocodiles, of course, are never seen below
the Second Cataract; though the monitor lizard, often mistaken
for this reptile, is occasionally seen, and the unwary
tourist occasionally has stuffed specimens palmed off upon
him, by the wily Egyptian, as young crocodiles.
Hypercritical travellers occasionally complain that the
scenery of the Nile, especially of that long two hundred
miles' reach of desolate country which lies between the
First and Second Cataracts, is monotonous. It is true
that there is not as much variety in the landscape as there
is south of Luxor, for instance, and human interest is
certainly almost non-existent; but though the conventional
picturesqueness may be lacking for the young lady artist
who has only eyes for little bits that “compose” easily, the
grand and impressive aspect of the Nubian landscape has
a certain charm and attractiveness of its own to the imaginative
traveller.
The monotony is, perhaps, more subjective than objective,
and belongs to the spectator, and not to the things
seen. To some a great London highway like the Strand
would be monotonous, while another would find the same
fault with the Alps, because each peak seems to him very
like another. At all events, even if we grant a certain
scenic monotony to the Upper Nile, who can complain
when the traveller has daily presented to him the unique
beauties of the Nile sunset, with its attendant glories of the
zodiacal light?

254

Perhaps of all the wonderful scenic effects of the Nile,
the almost miraculous afterglow which follows the sunset
is the most impressive. Only those with a true “feeling
for colour” can properly appreciate it, and to attempt to
portray it either with pen or pencil would be futile. These
startling effects may be called miraculous because inexplicable.
In the tropics, as every one knows, there is no
afterglow.
“The sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark,”
sings Coleridge's “Ancient Mariner.” Only a scientist can
explain why, in Egypt, on the very threshold of the Tropic
of Cancer, the sunset's afterglow lasts thrice as long as it
does elsewhere in the temperate zone.
Innumerable travellers have attempted to give an impressionist
picture of the mysterious light-effect produced
by the flood of liquid gold which suffuses the whole horizon
after the sun's disc has disappeared. Mr. H. D. Traill,
perhaps, is as happy as any observer in the following charming
word-picture:
“Brighter and brighter grows the afterglow, and more and more
golden as it brightens,—the red rays of the prism, which assume such
prominence in most European sunsets, seeming here to be far surpassed
in intensity by the yellow. … During this reillumining of
the landscape, the deep orange of the western horizon has glowed
steadily and undimmed; but, meanwhile, the quarter of the heavens
lying immediately above it has undergone an astonishing change.
For slowly, during all the time, there has been ascending, from the
skyline of the desert as its base, and to an altitude of full thirty
degrees above it, a glorious are of the softest rose colour, which
melts as it draws nearer to the blue of the zenith into a gradually
paling lilac, through the very midst of which looks forth the silver
of the evening star. The chastened magnificence, the sober splendour
of this atmospheric effect, surpasses imagination. It is the
very classicism of colour, just as the gorgeous hues of the actual
sunset—its splashes of fierce crimson and blazing gold—might
stand as typical of the rich exuberance of romance. But the time

and space of this aerial marvel, the sphere of its radiance, and the
spell of its duration are, perhaps, most wonderful of all. Laterally
measured, this are of glory spans a full quarter of the horizon.
Vertically, as has already been said, it climbs at least one-third of
the dome of sky between the horizon and the zenith; and it lasts in
flawless and unimpaired beauty for a full half-hour. The sunset
orange, against which you passing string of camels and their turbanned
leaders are silhouettes black as jet, will have faded into
purple haze, the evening star will have changed from a rayless
speck of silver into a flashing jewel, and the lake of lilac in which
it swims will have become blanched and colourless ere that great
rose-window through which we have been gazing, as into the lighted
cathedral of the heavens, is itself at last swallowed up in night.”
Life on a dahabiyeh has many of the advantages of a
luxuriously appointed yacht, without its inseparable and
obvious drawbacks. There are no storms, and, indeed, no
calms, for a northern wind blows as regularly as a trade
wind, almost continuously during the winter and spring
months. You stop where you please, and as long as you
please, without a thought of harbour dues, or anxiety as to
the holding capacity of the anchorage. You can spend
your time sketching, reading, or dozing, with a little shooting
to give a fillip to the perpetual dolce far niente. You
can explore ruined temples and ancient monuments at
your leisure, without the disquieting reflections that the
Theban ruins or the Ptolemaic temples of Philae must
be “done” in a certain time, else the tourist steamer will
proceed on its unalterable itinerary without you. Finally,
when tired of this perpetual picnic, you can enjoy for a few
days the banal delights of a first-class modern hotel at
Luxor or Assouan.
Such is life on a dahabiyeh; but, alas! this Epicurean
existence is not for the ordinary sun-worshipper. As I
have shown, it is a particularly costly form of holiday-making,
though the expense has been much exaggerated.
The valuable advice given in Murray's “Handbook for

Egypt,” on the hiring of dahabiyehs, may be supplemented by
the following hints. If the hirer is a novice in Nile travel,
or is not prepared to take a considerable amount of trouble,
it will be better to hire the vessel through the Messrs. Cook
or Gaze, direct. But in this case the hirer will not be so
likely to feel himself “captain on his own quarter-deck”
as he would if he hired direct from the owner. In the
latter case it is decidedly an advantage to make a separate
contract with the dragoman for the catering of the passengers,
and another contract with the owner direct for the
hire of the dahabiyeh, with fittings (which should be specifically
set out), and for the wages of the reis (sailing-master)
and crew. If, however, the contract is made with the
dragoman solely, then take pains to ascertain that the boat
is not the dragoman's property, else the temporary owner
may find it difficult to maintain his authority; and, besides,
the dragoman will naturally be inclined to be too careful of
his craft, and will raise difficulties about shooting the cataracts
or sailing at night. In short, the hirer will possibly
find himself at as great a disadvantage as a yacht-owner in
a foreign cruise who has neglected to have himself registered
in the yacht's papers as master.
As to the time occupied in the voyage from Cairo to
Assouan and back, with favourable winds, it can be managed
in seven or eight weeks. But this would only allow
three or four days at Luxor and Assouan. Besides, anything
like hurry is utterly foreign to the traditions of Nile
voyaging, and three months would not be found too long
for this trip. It may be remembered, too, that if the contract
is for three months, the cost would be considerably
less relatively than for two months.
The rates for dahabiyehs vary considerably according
to their size, age, and amount and nature of equipment and
decorations. But as some indication of the prevailing price,
it may be mentioned that the Messrs. Cook would charge

a party of seven, for three months on one of the oldest type
of dahabiyehs, £850 to £900, this price to include everything;
while the charge for a modern dahabiyeh, luxuriously
fitted up with bath-room, pantry, lavatories, etc., for
the same period and the same number of passengers, might
be anything from £1,100 upwards.
Life on a dahabiyeh is, no doubt, a lotus-eating existence,
and it is not easy to resist the spell of the climate and the
restful genius loci of this enchanted land.
“To glide adown old Nilus, where he threads
Egypt and Ethiopia, from the steep
Of utmost Axumé, until he spreads,
Like a calm flock of silver-fleecèd sheep,
His waters on the plain; and crested heads
Of cities and proud temples gleam amid,
And many a vapour-belted pyramid.”
But even the most hardened loafer and lover of the dolce
far niente
cannot help taking some interest in the grand
monuments of an extinct civilisation, as well as in the archaeological
treasures, which so plentifully strew the river banks.
Probably no great tourist-highway in the world offers so
many easily accessible objects of historic and antiquarian
interest as the Nile. Then, on a Nile voyage, sight-seeing
is carried on under ideal conditions. It is a delightful
relief to one accustomed to the hard labour of systematic
sight-seeing at Rome, Florence, or Venice, for instance, to
wander leisurely and uninterruptedly through the sun-steeped
courts and shady colonnades of the ancient temples
of Karnak or Philae. Another advantage is that here the
visitors need not be continually disbursing petty cash for
entrance fees, gratuities to attendants, guides, catalogues,
etc. In Egypt, the single payment of £1, 6d, the Government
tax, franks the tourist not only to these Theban
treasure-houses of ancient art, but to all the monuments
and temples of Upper Egypt.

258

A series of voyages in the well-found and well-equipped
tourist steamers of Messrs. Cook and Gaze will be found,
however, a tolerable substitute for the invalid. In fact,
the Messrs. Cook specially cater for this class of tourists by
offering special terms to passengers making three consecutive
trips on the basis of three voyages at the price of two.
By this plan passengers can make three voyages from
Cairo to Assouan and back for £100, the fare including
board on the steamer during the few days' stay at Cairo
between the voyages. Thus nine weeks may be spent on
the Nile at a less cost than a stay for the same period at
a fashionable Cairo hotel. Considering that the mileage
covered by these voyages amounts to about 3,500 miles,—
equal to the distance from London to Alexandria by sea,—
it is not surprising that this remarkably economical method
of undertaking what is supposed to be one of the most
expensive of river trips in the globe-trotter's itinerary is
becoming popular.
The cuisine on board these steamers, as will be seen
from the annexed specimen menu, is varied and plentiful,
if not actually luxurious, and should satisfy the most exigent
traveller.
MENU ON NILE TOURIST STEAMER.
December 1st, 1896.
LUNCHEON.
Hors d'OEuvres.
Rougets au Vin Blanc. Poulets au Sauté au Madère.
Roast Beef—Pommes de Terre.
Salade. Fromage.
Dessert.
Café
DINNER.
Consommé Pâté d'Italie.
Poisson à la Orly.
Noix de Veau à la Livernaise.
Epinards aux (Eufs. Bécassines Roties.
Salade. Baba au Pêches.
Dessert.
Café.

259

Many who take the Nile trip for the sake of health could
scarcely be considered sick persons, and for the benefit of
these sturdy invalids I add the following hints on the sport
to be obtained during a Nile voyage.
Of course all the best shooting is in the Delta, but a
certain amount of sport is obtainable by dahabiyeh travellers,
especially in the Theban plain. Above Luxor, owing
to the scarcity of vegetation, there is less cover, and hares
and partridges are not so plentiful. Of late years, too, the
English officers stationed at the different posts on the Upper
Nile have thinned the game a good deal. In Lower
Egypt fair bags of snipe can be obtained. In fact, snipe is
the principal winter game in Egypt, just as quail is during
the spring months. The former, however, are rarely seen
on the Upper Nile, though quail are plentiful. Duck and
teal, everywhere on the Upper Nile, afford the best sport
for dahabiyeh passengers, and the dinghy (filuka, whence
felucca) attached to every dahabiyeh will sometimes serve
to capture the shot birds in wild-fowl shooting.
Big game is very scarce, even in the desert near Wady
Halfa, and sporting tourists fired by the accounts of
earlier generations of travellers, of hyenas, wolves, and
jackals haunting the Theban temples, will be disappointed.
Hyenas, like crocodiles, are rarely met with below the
Second Cataract. In fact, even to get a remote chance of
bagging these beasts, coöperation with the natives and a
large outlay of baksheesh would be necessary. The sportsman
would have to be prepared to camp out at night at
their supposed haunts, which would have to be baited with
the carcass of a donkey or some other domestic animal.
Gazelles are occasionally shot, but they require a considerable
amount of stalking. It must be remembered that,
though permission to bring a sporting rifle or gun is
readily granted to English tourists by the military authorities
at Cairo, the import of powder or loaded cartridges

has, since 1894, for obvious reasons, been strictly prohibited,
and all ammunition must be bought at Cairo.
Sportsmen should be careful about shooting pigeons in
the vicinity of a village, otherwise they may get into difficulties
with the natives through shooting pigeons which
are alleged to be domestic. As in France, no game license
is necessary.

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261

CHAPTER XXI.
THE NILE FROM CAIRO TO THEBES.

THE very mention of a Nile voyage recalls to most
travellers the splendid monuments of Thebes, Philae,
and Abou Simbel, while the ruins south of Luxor, some of
which (those of Abydos in particular) historically perhaps
of equal importance, are forgotten. No doubt the wealth
of architectural treasures collected in one spot in the Theban
plain obscures in popular imagination the isolated temples
of Abydos or Denderah, or the ancient rock-shrines of Beni-Hassan.
In short, nine out of ten travellers hurry on to
the ruins of the Theban plain, and leave the ancient
temples or tombs which bestrew the Nile Valley between
Cairo and Luxor for a hurried and somewhat perfunctory
inspection on the return voyage, when, sated with the architectural
splendours of ancient Thebes, the less striking
monuments north of Luxor come as an anti-climax.
We are all apt to forget, as Miss A. B. Edwards is careful
to remind her readers, that the ancient history of Egypt
goes against the stream. If we omit the conjectural, perhaps
mythical, site of This, which is almost prehistoric,—
and indeed the claims of Abydos and Girgeh are still wrangled
over by Egyptologists,—it is in the Delta and on the
banks of the Lower Nile that relics of the most ancient
cities are to be found (at Tanis, Memphis, and Heliopolis,
for instance), while the latest temples and tombs are
found in the Upper Nile Valley, and in Nubia.
Those whose study of Egyptian antiquities is confined to
the standard guide-books forget, too, that only the more

important monuments, or those in tolerable preservation, are
ever mentioned. First-hand study of the chief authorities
shows that a complete Egyptological itinerary of the Nile
Valley would include antiquities of which only a very small
portion are visited by the ordinary Nile voyager.
Beni-Hassan, one hundred and seventy miles from Cairo,
is remarkable for the famous rock-tombs excavated in terraces
on the precipitous bank of the Nile. The cliff has
been cut through by the river, which formerly reached to its
foot, but has since retired, so that a considerable expanse of
plain lies between the tombs and the Nile. These tombs
belong to the twelfth dynasty, which dates from about
3000 to 2500 years B. c. Though nearly a thousand years
more recent than the Sakkarah mastabas, they have preserved
the chief features of them, and have a deep shaft
leading to a corridor which ends in a sarcophagus chamber.
There are about fifteen of these tombs, most of which are
carefully described in Murray's Handbook, but only two of
them, those of Ameni or Amen-Em-Hat and Khnem-Hetep
II., are likely to interest the average sight-seer.
“As in the tombs of Assouan, a suitable layer of stone was
sought for in the hill, and, when found, the tombs were hewn out.
The walls were partly smoothed, and then covered with a thin layer
of plaster, upon which the scenes in the lives of the people buried
there might be painted. The columns and the lower parts of some
of the tombs are coloured red, to resemble granite. The northern
tomb is remarkable for columns somewhat resembling those subsequently
termed Doric. Each of the four columns in the tomb is
about seventeen feet high, and has sixteen sides. The ceiling
between each connecting beam, which runs from column to column,
is vaulted. The columns in the southern tombs have lotus decorations,
and are exceedingly graceful.”1
1 E. A. Wallis-Budge: “The Nile.”
To the artist these famous grottoes are of enormous
interest as the birthplace of Greek decorative art. The influence
of the most ancient school of design in the world of

Greek art is most ingeniously traced by Miss A. B. Edwards
in her “Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers,” a work which,
though rather handicapped by its somewhat ad captandum
title, is of the highest value as a thoroughly well-informed
introduction to the science of Egyptology, treated in a popular
manner. The Pelasgic decoration and paintings, of
which excellent specimens have been found at Mycenae, are
thought by many scholars of the highest repute to be the
originals of those of the Aryan Hellenes. The dark interval
of four or five hundred years between the prehistoric
ruins of Mycenae and the oldest remains of the historic
school cannot, however, be bridged over with any certainty.
It is, nevertheless, conclusively proved that the “Pelasgians
went to Egypt for their surface decoration, and the Hellenes
for their architectural models.”
The principal sculptural ornaments, such as the spiral,
the key pattern, and the so-called honeysuckle pattern,—
the latter, according to Mr. Petrie, a florid imitation of the
Egyptian lotus pattern,—which are often regarded as
purely Greek in origin, are undoubtedly Egyptian. “They
were all painted on the ceilings of the Beni-Hassan tombs,
full twelve hundred years before a stone of the treasures of
Mycenae or Orchomonos was cut from the quarry.” The
spiral is continually found, either in its simplest form
or combined with the lotus, in the decorations of these
tombs.
The earliest monument of Greek architecture is identified
with the ruins of a Doric temple at Corinth of about
650 B. C.; and any one of the columns of this—the oldest
ruin in Greece—might have been taken bodily from
one of the pillared porches of Beni-Hassan. In fact, Fergusson,
one of the highest authorities, does not hesitate to
say that it is an indubitable copy of the Beni-Hassan
column. This type of column, technically known as the
protodoric, is, as the name implies, the prototype of the

famous Doric columns,—loftier, more graceful, and with a
decorated, not a plain, entablature. There are, of course,
other examples of this style in Egypt, and those who have
visited Thebes will remember the famous Corinthian columns
of the Temple of Thotmes III. at Karnak.
An early origin may be allowed to the Ionic column.
The lotus-leaf design—a characteristic, decorative feature
of this class of column—“furnished the architects of the
Ancient Empire with a noble and simple model for decorative
purposes. Very slightly conventionalised, it enriches
the severe facades of tombs of the fourth, fifth, and sixth
dynasties, which thus preserve for us one of the earliest
motives of symmetrical design in the history of ornament.”
The evolution of the elaborate rock-sculptures of Beni-Hasan
and Abou Simbel from the almost prehistoric rock
grotto makes an interesting subject for those who are
attracted by the study of necrology, and of the sepulchral
monuments of the ancient Egyptians.
A very able and lucid summary of the development of
rock-tombs is to be found in a chapter on the art of the
ancient Egyptians in Baedeker's Handbook. It is, no doubt,
customary among high-minded travellers to despise guidebook
information, but in few technical works on this subject
will so clever and readable a summary be found as in
the above-mentioned indispensable work of reference.
“The original motive of the rock-tomb or sepulchral grotto was
merely to find a tomb sufficiently removed from all risk of flooding
by the Nile, with a sufficiently dry and aseptic atmosphere to arrest
the decay of the corpse. Soon a kind of mortuary chamber for
mourners and friends was also excavated in the rock. This was
followed by a more pretentious mausoleum with several chambers.
This large area of wall surface seemed to demand some kind of
ornamentation. Hence the sculptures in low-relief and distemper
paintings. Where there were several chambers, it was natural that
openings should be made in the walls to admit the light. The next
step was to convert the remaining portions of walls into polygonal

pillars for the support of the roof. In the next place, the octagonal
pillar was sometimes turned into one of sixteen sides, and sometimes
it was fluted. Thus the pillars were converted into columns,
— a distinction with a considerable difference,—those columns
which were, no doubt, the direct originals of the better known Doric
columns, and were called Protodoric or Egypto-Doric by Champollion
and Falkener, from the resemblance to the Doric columns of
Greece. Polygonal columns of this character occur in the first tomb
of Beni-Hassan.
“The architects of these tombs, however, were not unacquainted
with a light and elegant mode of building above ground, which cannot
have originated in the grotto architecture. This is proved by
their use of the lotus column, the prototype of which is a group of
four lotus-stalks, bound together and secured at the top by rings or
ligatures, the capital being formed by the blossom.
“While the architecture of the eleventh and twelfth dynasties
bears some slight resemblance to the earlier style, the sculpture of
the same period presents an almost total deviation from the ancient
traditions. The primitive lifelike realism, to which we have already
alluded, is displaced by the rigorous sway of the canon, by which
all proportions are determined by fixed rules, and all forms are
necessarily stereotyped. There seems, however, to have been no
retrogression in point of technical skill, for, as in the time of
Khafra, the hardest materials still became compliant, and the difficulties
of the minutest detail were still successfully overcome by the
sculptor of the Pharaohs.”
The mural decorations consist mostly of pictures, painted
on a specially prepared surface of fine-grained plaster; and
there are few relief sculptures. These paintings represent
scenes in the life of the deceased, and form a kind of pictorial
biography, which are not, as in the case of the paintings
of later tombs, intermingled with the conventional
mystic representations of divinities. “In the grouping of
the various scenes, the artists seem to have been guided by
a natural principle, which led them to place the Nile in the
lowest register, the agricultural scenes in the middle, and
desert scenes at the top. But little technical skill is shown
in the drawing. The birds are always better drawn than

the human figures; but the natural features of the country
are represented in the most conventional way, a series of
zigzag lines standing for water, and a wavy outlined pink
space, dotted with red and black, being the desert.”1
1 Murray's “Handbook for Egypt.”
The tomb of Khnem-Hetep II. is in the northern group
of tombs. Remains of a dromos or avenue leading to the
portico can still be traced. The principal chamber or
shrine contains a large figure of the deceased, who was one
of the feudal lords of Egypt in the time of the twelfth
dynasty. This tomb is usually known as No. 1, for all
the tombs here are numbered. In this shrine is a curious
kind of dado, painted to represent rose-granite, and the
scheme of colour of the ceiling consists of red and yellow
squares, with black and blue quatrefoils. This sepulchre
is best known for the painting, which is supposed, but on
doubtful authority, to represent Joseph, and his brethren
arriving in Egypt to buy corn. At all events, it represents
the arrival in Egypt of a band of foreigners, thirty in number,
who, from the features, seem to belong to the Semitic
race. Heading the procession, and apparently acting as
the introducer or conductor, is the Egyptian royal scribe,
Nefer-hetep, and the main procession consists of the Aamn
chief, Abesha, “the prince of the foreign country,” and his
fellow countrymen. They wear beards, and carry bows and
arrows. Some have supposed that the Aman were shepherds
or hyksos.
Equally interesting is the tomb of Ameni, of which the
general structural arrangement is similar to that of the
former tomb. Ameni, or Amen-Em-Hat, as he is sometimes
called, was a high functionary of the court of Usertsen
I., of the twelfth dynasty. One painting in the picture
gallery of this tomb describes pictorially his expedition
into Ethiopia, and his triumphant return, laden with spoil
and trophies. In the inscription on the wall, couched in

the usual vainglorious tone which was customary at that
time, he sums up his achievements in peace and war, as
follows:
“I have done all that I have said. I am a gracious and a compassionate
man, and a ruler who loves his town. I have passed the
course of years as the ruler of Meh, and all the labours of the palace
have been carried out by my hands. I have given to the overseers of
the temples of the gods of Meh three thousand bulls with their cows,
and no contribution to the king's storehouses have been greater
than mine. I have never made a child grieve; I have never robbed
the widow; I have never repulsed the labourer; I have never shut up
a herdsman; I have never impressed for forced labour the labourer of
a man who only employed five men. There was never a person miserable
in my time; no one went hungry during my rule, for if there
were years of scarcity I ploughed up all the arable land in the nome
of Meh, up to its very frontiers on the north and south. By this
means I made its people live, and procured for them provision, so
that there was not a hungry person among them. And, behold,
when the inundation was great, and the owners of the land became
rich thereby, I laid no additional tax upon the fields.”
In addition to the tombs there is a kind of rock-temple
dedicated to the lion-headed goddess Sechet or Pasht,
called Artemis (Diana) by the Greeks, which is known
as the Speos Artemidos (the cave of Artemis). It is
excavated in a rock at the entrance of a gorge about ten
miles from the tombs. The place is known by the guides
as Stabl Antar. This shrine, or temple, was begun by
Thotmes III. and the famous Queen Hatasu, and was
embellished with a few sculptures by Seti I., but was never
completed. The only finished reliefs are on the inner
wall of the portico; and as they are of a good period of
Egyptian art, it is to be regretted that the other sculptures
are in an unfinished state. In the plain to the south, not
far from this valley, the vast cemetery of cats was discovered,
in 1887. These mummified relics were found
to possess fertilising properties, and were transported to
Europe by the ton for manure.

268

Between Beni-Hassan and the Theban plain, ruins of
temples and tombs, Roman forts, eyrie-like convents, grottoes,
etc., abound, and the Nile voyager is rarely out of
sight of some ancient monument. To visit all would,
however, require the antiquarian zeal of a Flinders-Petrie
or a Mariette; and even a mere digest of all the antiquities
in the four hundred and fifty miles of the Nile Valley,
through which the traveller bound for Luxor, the great
goal of all Nile voyages, passes, would require several
volumes.
Some twenty miles beyond Beni-Hassan are the recently
discovered rock-tombs of Tel-El-Amarna, hardly inferior
in interest to the more famous ones we have just described.
They were unearthed and scientifically examined by Prof.
Flinders-Petrie, during excavations undertaken in 1892.
This excursion is especially attractive to artists on account
of the exquisite design and colouring in the painted pavements,
—the relics of the palace of Khu-en-Aten (1400
B. C.), about two miles from the tombs. One floor is in an
excellent state of preservation, and the colours are remarkably
fresh. A new artistic influence is seen in the treatment
of the figures represented in this beautiful series of
frescoes; and animals, birds, insect life, plants, etc., are
drawn with a remarkable fidelity to nature, offering a
strong contrast to the stiff and conventional treatment in
other animal paintings of the Middle Empire. This new
art was introduced by the highly cultured King Khu-en-Aten,
who seems to have introduced reform in art along
with reform in religion, for Khu-en-Aten had calmly
adopted the cult of Amen, the God of Thebes, to that of
Aten, an Asiatic deity symbolised by the solar disk.
Near this palace was discovered, in 1887, the Record
Office, as it may be called, of this enlightened monarch.
A large number of bricks were found with the inscription,
“The House of the Rolls,” which clearly showed the object

of the building. Here Professor Petrie came across a
valuable find of the greatest importance to historians and
archaeologists. It consisted of several hundred clay tablets
inscribed with cuneiform characters, comprising despatches
to the king from his brother sovereigns of Babylonia and
Assyria. “The tablets cast a vivid and unexpected light
on Egypt and Western Asia in the fifteenth century before
Christ, and show that Babylonian was at that time the
language of education and diplomacy. They also show
that education must have been widely extended from the
Euphrates to the Nile, and that schools must have existed
for teaching the foreign language and script. Canaan was
governed at the time by the Egyptians, much as India is
governed to-day by the English; but the officials and courtiers
of the Pharaoh were for the most part Asiatics, the
larger number being Canaanites.”
Soon after passing the village of Beni-Hassan we come
to one of the most picturesque series of reaches in the
whole Nile voyage, and here the beautiful dom-palm is
first seen. A few miles beyond Tel-EI-Amarna the magnificent
precipices of Gebel Abu Faydah are a striking
feature of the scenery. They extend, a precipitous rampart,
along the eastern bank of the Nile for nearly a
dozen miles, and to American visitors will, perhaps, recall
memories of the famous Palisades on the Hudson. Half
concealed in the topmost clefts and fissures of these stupendous
precipices may be seen the caves where dwelt the
celebrated monks and ascetics of Upper Egypt; and in
one of these caverns, according to a monastic tradition,
Athanasius sought shelter for a time.
Innumerable tombs, as yet not systematically explored,
and rarely visited by tourists, line the terraces of these
cliffs. At the top is the famous cemetery of mummified
crocodiles. These pits and caverns which comprise this
saurian necropolis are not well known even to the local

guides, and to visit them alone would be exceedingly hazardous.
Within recent years a party of tourists lost their
lives in exploring the suffocating labyrinth, and, if the
guides are to be believed, their bodies were never recovered.
Abydos lies on the west bank of the Nile, some three
hundred and fifty miles from Cairo, and was thought by
many Egyptologists to occupy the site of This, the earliest
historical city of Egypt, and the home of Menes, the first
king of the first dynasty; but the systematic excavations
of Mariette scarcely support this view. It was, however,
one of the most renowned cities in ancient Egypt, attaining
its greatest splendour in the eleventh and twelfth
dynasties, and ranked second to Thebes as a centre of
learning and religious thought.
The temples are, of course, the chief curiosities here;
but to scholars and antiquarians the necropolis is of the
greatest importance, as here can be seen specimens of the
three types of tombs which were used at various periods
by the Egyptians. The earlier tombs belong to the sixth
dynasty, and are of the mastaba class. Those of the
eleventh and twelfth dynasties are in the forms of small,
brick pyramids, while those of the eighteenth dynasty show
a revival of the early rectangular sepulchre.
It is curious that the usual practice of burying the dead
in grottoes or caves excavated in the sides of cliffs or inland
hills was not followed at Abydos. Instead of choosing
the limestone hills, which lay ready to hand, the citizens
of Abydos preferred for sepulchral purposes the sandy
plains interspersed with rocks.
The principal monuments here are the temples of Rameses
the Great and Seti. The former is said to be dedicated to
Osiris, the tutelary deity of Abydos, whose head was supposed
to be buried here. In fact, one of the chief titles of
this god is “Lord of Abydos,” as may be seen in the famous

funerary tablet (now in the Haworth collection) of the
Theban priest Napu, who lived nearly twenty-five centuries
ago. Some doubt has, however, been thrown by the newer
school of Egyptologists on the claim put forward for this
temple as the original sanctuary of Osiris, since the failure
of Mariette, in the course of his researches in 1864, to find
any trace of the shrine of this god. “During the French
occupation of Egypt,” writes Dr. Wallis-Budge, “in the
early part of this century, this temple stood almost intact;
since that time, however, so much damage has been
wrought upon it, that the portions of wall which now
remain are only about eight or nine feet high.” It was
here that a fragment of the famous Tablet of Abydos, a
duplicate of the one still in situ on the wall of the adjacent
temple of Seti, was discovered by Mariette, in 1864. It is
now in the British Museum. The tablet is of the greatest
historical importance, as it gives the names of seventy-five
kings, beginning with Menes and ending with Seti I. It is
not, however, a complete list, and gaps have to be supplied
from the Tablet of Karnak, now in the Museum of the
Louvre.
The temple of Seti, often called the Memnonium, is the
Palace of Memnon described in some detail by Strabo, who
states that it was constructed in a singular manner, entirely
of stone, and after the plan of the Labyrinth. The greater
portion of the temple was built by Seti, but his son, Rameses
II., is responsible for most of the relief and other mural decorations.
Here we find another copy of the famous poem of
Pentaur. This is the well-known illustrated historical epic
of the Khita campaign of Rameses II. It is familiar to all
Nile travellers, as the numerous episodes of this war,
quaint pictures in bas-relief, confront the visitor, not only at
Abydos, but at Abou Simbel, Luxor, Karnak, and Thebes.
This poem, so evidently written to order by the poet
laureate of the time, is published, as Miss Edwards forcibly

puts it, in a truly regal manner, in an edition (necessarily
limited) issued on stone, illustrated with bas-reliefs, while,
to continue the metaphor, the temple walls form an imperial
binding to this sumptuous epic.
The temple of Seti is unique as being the only ancient
Egyptian roofed temple yet remaining, for of course the
Denderah, Edfu, and other temples of the Ptolemaic era are
modern in comparison. The construction of this roof was
peculiar. Huge blocks, extending from the architraves on
each side of the temple, were placed on their sides, not on
their faces. Through this mass of stone an arch was cut
which was decorated with hieroglyphics and sculptures.
There are three places in the Upper Nile Valley where
the architecture of the Ptolemaic age can be studied,—
Denderah, Philæ, and Edfu, where the finest monuments
of the Ptolemies replace the ordinary architectural relics of
the Pharaohs.
Denderah lies on the west bank of the Nile, only three
or four miles from Keneh, so that it is very easy of access.
The present temple is evidently built on the ruins of a temple
dedicated to the goddess Hathor, the Greek Aphrodite,
which, according to the results of Mariette's discoveries,
was founded by Cheops. This temple, however, never held
very high rank among the fanes of the Ancient Empire,
perhaps owing to its proximity to the famous shrines of
Abydos and Thebes. The wonderfully preserved building
which we see is the work of the later Ptolemies, while it
was completed as recently as the first century.
Egyptian sculpture had long been on the decline before
the erection of the present temple of Denderah; and the
Egyptian antiquary looks with little satisfaction on the
graceless style of the figures and the crowded profusion of
ill-adjusted hieroglyphs that cover the walls of this as
of other Ptolemaic or Roman monuments. But the architecture
still retained the grandeur of an earlier period, and

though the capitals were frequently overcharged with
ornament, the general effect of the porticoes erected under
the Ptolemies and Cæsars is grand and imposing, and frequently
not destitute of elegance and taste.
These remarks apply very particularly to the temple of
Denderah; and from its superior state of preservation it
deserves a distinguished rank among the most interesting
monuments of Egypt. For though its columns, considered
singly, may be said to have a heavy, perhaps a barbarous
appearance, the portico is doubtless a noble specimen of
architecture; nor is the succeeding hall devoid of beauty
and symmetry of proportion. The preservation of the roof
also adds greatly to the beauty as well as to the interest of
the portico; for many of those in the Egyptian temples
lose their effect by being destitute of roofs. Generally
speaking, Egyptian temples are more picturesque when in
ruins than when entire; being, if seen from without,
merely a large, dead wall, scarcely relieved by a slight
increase in the height of the portico. But this cannot
be said of the portico itself; nor did a temple present the
same monotonous appearance when the painted sculptures
were in their original state; and it was the necessity of relieving
the large expanse of flat wall which led to this rich
mode of decoration.
The temple of Denderah is probably best remembered
on account of the famous portraits in relief of Cleopatra
and her son Cæsarion on the exterior of the end wall.
The queen is conventionally drawn as an Egyptian type,
according to the canons of Egyptian portraiture which had
determined the portraits of gods and kings for over fifteen
hundred years. For some reason Cleopatra's portrait has
been accepted by modern writers as an excellent likeness of
the “serpent of old Nile;” yet, as Professor Mahaffy observes
in his “Empire of the Ptolemies,” it is no more a likeness
than the well-known granite statues in the Vatican are true

portraits of Philadelphus and Arsinoe. The artist, in fact,
had probably never seen the queen. “This Egyptian portrait
is likely to confirm in the spectator's mind the
impression derived from Shakespeare's play, that Cleopatra
was a swarthy Egyptian, in strong contrast to the fair
Roman ladies, and suggesting a wide difference of race.
She was no more an Egyptian than she was an Indian, but
a pure Macedonian, of a race akin to, and perhaps fairer
than, the Greeks.
Another object of peculiar interest in this temple is the
famous zodiac painted on the ceiling of the portico, which
was erroneously supposed by Egyptologists of the last generation
to be a relic of the Pharaonic ages. Mariette's
researches have, however, established the fact that, like its
fellow in the temple of Ezra, this zodiac must be attributed
to the Roman period. Another zodiac was, till 1821, to be
seen in the curious little upper chapel, or subsidiary temple,
dedicated to Osiris, the tutelary deity of Denderah. This
is usually known to the local guides as “The Temple of
the Roof.” Owing to the disgraceful vandalism so prevalent
in the time of Mehemet Ali, who, although an
enlightened monarch in many respects, does not seem
to have possessed the slightest appreciation of Egyptian
antiquities (of which he should have been the national
guardian), the zodiac was actually cut out bodily from its
wall, and presented to France, where it may be seen in
the Louvre Museum. One is bound to admit, however, that
the recollection of that shameful spoliation of the friezes
of the Parthenon, by Lord Elgin, makes this natural indignation
on the part of English visitors rather inconsistent.
The only palliation in the case of the Elgin marbles was
that there was some risk of their being spoilt by wind and
weather if they remained in situ. In Egypt, however, this
excuse cannot be urged. The preservative effects of the
dry and rainless climate of the Upper Nile are well known.

275

The structural arrangement of the Denderah temple, or
rather congeries of temples, is very interesting. Though
this monument is for the most part the work of Greek
and Roman architects, the main features of the Pharaonic
temple have been retained. Owing to its well-preserved
condition, this temple, albeit modernised, will, perhaps, give
the spectator a better idea of what the ancient Egyptian
temples were in their pristine splendour than even the magnificent
ruins of the roofless temples at Karnak or Luxor.
Owing to the continuous work of excavation recently
undertaken for several seasons by Mariette, this beautiful
temple is now completely accessible, even to the last of
its numerous chambers. It is difficult to speak too highly
of the energy and enterprise which, by clearing away the
accumulated rubbish of centuries,— for a whole village of
mud-huts had actually sprung up on the roof, — has effected
this.
One finds here the usual features of all Egyptian temples,
— the crude brick wall enclosure, dromos, pylons, porticoes,
regular series of halls corresponding to the nave,
chancel, and choir of Christian cathedrals, etc. In some of
the columns and internal decorations the influence of Greek
art is, however, clearly traceable, and the same thing strikes
the eye at once in some of the ancient temples of India.
We enter through a magnificent portico, or vestibule,
supported by twenty-four columns. This leads into another
hall, called the “Hall of the Appearance,” and then
we reach the “Sanctuary of the Golden Hathor.” Around
the great temple are several subsidiary shrines, of which
the most interesting is the temple dedicated to Isis. It
is here that the sacred cow is sculptured, and, according
to Murray's Handbook, the Sepoys, who formed part of
the English army of occupation in the beginning of the
century, prostrated themselves before the figure of this
sacred animal.

276

Edfu, which is only seventy miles north of the First
Cataract, ought strictly to be left for the chapter on Assouan,
as our order is mainly topographical. It is, however,
best to include in one chapter a survey of the famous
triad of Ptolemaic temples, — Denderah, Esneh, and Edfu,
— all of which have much in common. The temples of
the Ptolemies have, perhaps, gained a fictitious importance
in the minds of tourists owing to their strikingly picturesque
background, but architecturally they are inferior,
and can more conveniently be described separately.
It is only within the last few years that credit for these
magnificent architectural achievements has been allowed to
the Ptolemies by modern historians. Owing to the adoption
of the ancient Egyptian religious symbols in the sculptures
of these Greek temples, and the grafting of the
Egyptian faith by fusing their gods with those in the
Greek mythology, — Serapis is a well-known instance,—
modern scholars have long been at fault as to the origin
of these temples, which were usually attributed to the
Pharaohs; and it was imagined that the Ptolemaic sovereigns
had left no permanent mark in Egypt. Letronne
was the first to convince Egyptologists of their error, by
showing that the Greek inscription agreed with those in
hieroglyphics.
The Temple of Edfu was not, indeed, the work of any
one sovereign. It took over one hundred and eighty years
in building; and every Ptolemy, from its founder Ptolemy
III., down to Ptolemy XIII. (Auletes), who completed it,
seems to have had a hand in restoring or enlarging this
splendid temple.


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277

CHAPTER XXII.
“THE CITY OF A HUNDRED GATES.”

“A rose-red city — half as old as time.”

THE spot on which ancient Thebes stood is so admirably
adapted for the site of a great city, that it would
have been impossible for the Egyptians to overlook it. The
mountains on the east and west side of the river sweep
away from it, and leave a broad plain on each bank of
several square miles in extent. It has been calculated
that modern Paris would scarcely cover the vast area of
ancient Thebes.
Luxor itself lies on the east bank of the Nile, some four
hundred and fifty miles from Cairo, in the midst of this
verdant and fertile plain. It is a considerable village,—
in fact, a modest town, — and its inhabitants (some two
thousand in number) apparently divide their time in agricultural
pursuits, the exploitation of the tourist, and the
manufacture of spurious antiquities.
The first view from the dahabiyeh or Nile steamer of
the smiling expanse of verdant plain — so different from
the tourist's preconceived idea of desert landscape — upon
which are Karnak, Luxor, and the other scattered villages
which lie on the site of ancient Thebes, whose ruins show
it to have been one of the largest cities in the world, is
singularly impressive from the striking contrast. At once
one realises the felicitousness of Homer's epithet,—
“Not all proud Thebes' unrivalled walls contain,
The world's great Empress on the Egyptian plain

That spreads her conquests o'er a thousand states,
And pours her heroes through a hundred gates,
Two hundred horsemen, and two hundred cars,
From each wide portal issuing to the wars.”
The stupendous masses of masonry, the propylons and
pylons of the ancient temples, — hecatompylons, no doubt,
refer to these gateways, and not to those of the city, which
was never walled, — are seen towering above the palms.
The valley is surrounded by a ridge of hills, broken into
cone-shaped peaks nearly two thousand feet high. In
January the plain is already verdant with barley, with
flowering lentils and vetches, and interspersed with patches
of golden sugar-cane.
Most of the Theban ruins are on the west branch of the
Nile; but the grandest monument of all, the Great Temple
of Karnak, the largest and most magnificent architectural
ruin in the whole world, is on the east bank, about one and
a half miles from Luxor. Its enormous size and Titanic
proportions are the predominant impressions on the part of
the tourist, and its architectural and artistic beauties are at
first lost sight of in a bewildering sense of bulk and immensity.
That the visitor should be almost stupefied by the
vastness of scale is scarcely surprising, when we consider
that four Notre Dame Cathedrals could be built within the
area included by the outer walls of this temple, and that
the propylon (entrance gateway) equals in breadth alone
the length of the nave of many English cathedrals, and in
height equals that of the nave of Milan Cathedral. Ten
men would be required to span the colossal pillars in the
great hall; yet there is no suggestion of unwieldiness in
their cyclopean proportions, and the beautiful calyx-capitals
“open out against the blue sky as lightly as the finest
stone tracery above an English cathedral nave.”
Thebes appears to have been for over two thousand
years not only the capital of Egypt and the seat of government,

but also her ecclesiastical metropolis, a kind of Egyptian
Rome or Canterbury. Almost every sovereign, from
Usertsen I. (B. C. 2433) to the Ptolemies, seems to have
regarded the embellishment of this famous shrine, or the
addition of subsidiary temples, as a sacred duty. A glance
at Mariette's plans of the original building, and that of
the temple, or rather group of temples, in the time of
the Ptolemies, shows very clearly the gradual development
of the building. To those who take an interest in architecture,
the mingling of the various styles during this long
period is very instructive.
“For splendour and magnitude, the group of temples at Karnak
forms the most magnificent ruin in the world. The temple area is
surrounded by a wall of crude brick, in some places still 50 feet in
height, along the top of which you may ride for half an hour.
The great hall of the Great Temple measures 170 feet by 329 feet,
and the roof, single stones of which weigh 100 tons, is supported by
134 massive columns, 60 feet in height. The forest of columns
stands so thick that from no one spot is it possible to see the whole
area of this stupendous hall; and weeks may easily be spent in following
the detail of the pictures with which the walls are covered,
— battles, sieges, sea-fights, processions of captives, offerings to the
gods, massacres of prisoners, embassies from foreign lands bearing
gifts and tribute, voyages of exploration and their results; the whole
history of Egypt during the most splendid period of her greatness is
recorded on the walls and pylons of the Theban temples.”1
1 Isaac Taylor.
One of the most striking features of the Great Temple is
the splendid obelisk in front of the fourth pylon, erected
by Queen Hatasu, who may almost rank with Rameses the
Great as one of the most famous royal builders of Egypt.
This magnificent column stands preëminent as the loftiest,
best proportioned, and most elaborately engraved of any
obelisk in existence. It is one hundred and nine feet high
in the shaft, and is cut from a single flawless block of red
granite.

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The dates in the inscription engraved on the plinth
show that this magnificent monolith was dug out from the
granite quarries of Assouan, conveyed to Thebes, a hundred
and thirty miles distant, dressed and engraved, and
erected in its present position within seven months. The
only erect obelisk which at all approaches Queen Hatasu's
monolith in size is the one which stands in front of the
Church of St. John Lateran, the mother-church of Rome,
which was brought from Egypt in the reign of Constantine
the Great. The famous twin “Needles of Cleopatra,” now
in the Central Park, New York, and on the Thames Embankment,
are pigmies in comparison.
Though the Luxor Temple is of inferior interest, and
in the matter of dimensions alone the stupendous fane
of Karnak bears the same relation to it that a European
cathedral does to one of its side-chapels, yet anywhere but
here it would command respectful attention from the traveller.
So great is the wealth of antiquities which strew
the site of the ancient Egyptian capital that visitors there
are, indeed, spoilt for all other ruins which are not of
surpassing interest. As the Luxor Temple lies at the
threshold of the hotels, it can be visited frequently by the
conscientious sight-seer without much loss of time. To
avoid the feeling of an anti-climax it is advisable that the
first visit to this temple should be made before that to the
Great Temple of Karnak. Its most noteworthy feature is
a fine obelisk of red granite, covered with admirably carved
hieroglyphics. Its fellow is familiar to most visitors, perhaps
without knowing it, inasmuch as it adorns the Place
de la Concorde, Paris.
It is interesting to trace the history of the Egyptian
obelisks. Fifty-five, without reckoning the uncompleted
ones at Assouan, are recorded in history. Twenty-seven of
these historic monoliths were quarried at Assouan. A
larger number than is usually supposed have been transported

to Europe, the trophies for the most part of Greek
and Roman emperors, and are scattered among the great
Continental capitals. Nearly a dozen are in Rome, one is
in Constantinople, another towers over the Place de la Concorde
in Paris, while the most famous of all in popular
estimation, the twin “Needles of Cleopatra,” have found a
home, as every schoolboy knows, in New York and London
respectively.
It may be remarked that many modern writers on these
characteristic monuments of Egypt — for a whole literature
has grown up round these monolithic columns — have
inveighed against the vandalism of the Romans in stripping
Egypt of these memorials of her former greatness.
From English and American authors, however, this scarcely
comes with a good grace, considering the eagerness displayed
in appropriating Cleopatra's famous obelisks. This,
however, is but a venial error of taste compared with the
exhibition of the mummified remains of the Pharaohs in
the Ghizeh Museum.
Many are the theories ventilated by antiquarians to
account for the characteristic shape of the obelisk. That
it was symbolical is now generally admitted. According
to some authorities, its peculiar form symbolises the rays
of the sun, while some anthropologists are inclined to attribute
a deeper and less obvious origin, and consider that,
like the pyramids, obelisks are intended as an emblem of
the vital principle for esoteric reasons, which need not be
discussed in a non-technical work.
The temples of Luxor and Karnak, however, comprise
only a small portion of the ruins which have made Thebes
one of the most frequented shrines of tourist culture in
Egypt. On the other bank of the Nile are the Ramasseum,
the temples of Rameses II. and III., the Vocal Memnon,
the rock-tombs of the kings, — the most impressive in
point of situation of any collection of mausolea in the

world,—and other ruins concerning which innumerable
guide-books and Egyptian works of travels are eloquent.
The whole of ancient Thebes is, indeed, one vast buried
museum of antiquities. In short, the saying that in the
Nile Valley you have only to scratch the surface to come
upon a crop of antiquities applies with especial force to the
City of the Hundred Gates. Though the directors of the
Ghizeh Museum have been particularly active in this region
of late years, and have made considerable progress in the
work of excavation, a great portion of the Valley of the
Dead, in Western Thebes, is virgin soil. The tombs and
monuments that have been discovered, however, in this
vast necropolis, would not be exhausted by the sight-seer
under several weeks, while, as for the students of Egyptology,
a stay of several seasons, instead of weeks, might be
made here with advantage.
The extraordinary wealth of antiquities in the Theban
plain, and the great historic and antiquarian value of Karnak
and Thebes, will require a longer chapter than usual,
even for a superficial notice of the principal monuments.
For the practical purpose of getting some idea of the
confusing topography of the site of ancient Thebes and its
vast cemetery, as well as for the æsthetic enjoyment of an
incomparable view, one of the peaks of the mountain barrier
which keeps guard over the Tombs of the Kings
should be climbed. Unique is the prospect of the smiling
Theban plain, through which the Nile meanders like a silver
thread, bounded by the Arabian Mountains. On the
right are Hataus's Temple of Dar-El-Bahari and the Temple
of Rameses III., and right before us is the Memnonium; on
the left are the Temple and Palace of Rameses I. Some
distance in advance of these stand, like videttes, the twin
Colossi. Then, on the other side of the Nile, Luxor raises
its gigantic columns from the river's edge, and gigantic
propylons mark the Karnak temples.

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The remarkable temple generally known as the Ramesseum,
which “for symmetry of architecture and elegance
of sculpture can vie with any other Egyptian monument,”
is really the cenotaph or mortuary temple (corresponding
to the mastabas of Memphis) of Rameses II. In the
entrance court a colossal figure of Rameses seated on a
throne used to confront the worshipper. The ruins scattered
round the pedestal show it to have been the most
gigantic figure—to which the Abou Simbel colossi were but
statuettes — ever carved in Egypt from a single block of
granite. The fact that the granite of this statue would
have made three of the great obelisks of Karnak will give
some idea of its dimensions. It was probably destroyed by
the Persians under Cambyses.
“By some extraordinary catastrophe this statue has been thrown
down, and the Arabs have scooped their millstones out of his face;
but you can see what he was, — the largest statue in the world. Far
and wide his enormous head must have been seen, — eyes, nose, and
ears. Far and wide you must have seen his hands resting on his
elephantine knees. You sit on his breast and look at the Osiride
statues which support the portico of the temple, and they seem pigmies
before him. Nothing that now exists in the world can give
any notion of what the effect must have been when he was erect.
Nero, towering above the Colosseum, may have been something like
it; but he was of brass, and Rameses of solid granite. Rameses,
also, was resting in awful majesty after the conquest of the whole
known world.”1
1 A. P. Stanley, D. D.
This colossus forms the subject of one of Shelley's
sonnets:
“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lips and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things

The hand that mocked and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
The proverbial poetic license must, of course, be accorded
to Shelley's description of the “lone and level
sands,” which suggests the solemn associations of the more
impressive Sphinx, sitting in lonely majesty in the actual
desert. The Theban plain is a richly cultivated tract, and
the colossus lies among plots of maise and lentils. But
Shelley never visited Egypt. It is a little curious that
Egypt, which offers such a rich field for poetic treatment,
has never had justice done to it by modern poets of the
first rank. Spain has had Southey for its laureate, and
Germany, Coleridge and Longfellow; while as for Italy
and Switzerland, a whole army of poets have sung their
praises, from Shelley, Byron, and Landor down to the facile
rhymester Rogers. Egypt, with all its wealth of material
for an epic poem, has done little more than inspire a few
fragmentary sonnets from Shelley, Leigh Hunt, and Moore.
The most popular, if the word is permissible in connection
with these stupendous ruins of an extinct civilisation,
of all the Theban monuments are the two Colossi, which
for over three thousand years daily watched the dawn
breaking over the Karnak temples. These two alone
remain, though they probably formed but the vanguard of
a procession of statues which guarded the approach to the
palace of King Amen-Hetep III., which has now almost
entirely disappeared. The most celebrated of these two
statues is, of course, the one known as the Vocal Memnon,
from a tradition that it emitted sounds when the sun's rays
fell upon it. Many are the theories ventilated by scientists

to explain the origin of this legend; for, needless to say,
the statue is mute now, and, indeed, has been silent, according
to the chroniclers, since it was repaired in the reign of
the Emperor Severus. Such inquiries are, however, futile
enough, as there is little doubt that the credulous worshippers
were deceived by a “pious fraud” of the priests, who
were either possessed of ventriloquial skill, or contented
themselves with hiding in the statue and secretly striking
it. Certain kinds of granite have, it is well known, a
musical ring. Humboldt has described similar sounding
rocks in the Orinoco Valley, which yielded musical notes,
supposed to be caused by wind passing through the chinks,
and agitating the spangles of mica into audible vibration.
The pedestal of this statue is covered with what may be
considered testimonials of its musical merits, inscribed in
Greek and Latin by visitors from the first century downwards.
One of these inscriptions records the visit of the
Emperor Hadrian.
The most important monument, from an archæological
point of view, as well as the most interesting, is the famous
Temple of Queen Hatasu (Hatshepsu), daughter of
Thotmes I., and wife as well as half-sister of Thotmes II.,
who appears to have been the Cleopatra of the eighteenth
dynasty. This temple is a fit memorial of the “spacious
days” of a sovereign who has been felicitously termed the
Queen Elizabeth of Egypt. Its principal features are admirably
described by Miss A. B. Edwards, in the following
passage:
“This superb structure is architecturally unlike any other temple
in Egypt. It stands at the far end of a deep bay, or natural amphitheatre,
formed by the steep limestone cliffs which divide the Valley
of the Tombs of the Kings from the Valley of the Nile. Approached
by a pair of obelisks, a pylon gateway, and a long avenue of two
hundred sphinxes, the temple consisted of a succession of terraces and
flights of steps, rising one above the other, and ending in a maze of
colonnades and courtyards, uplifted high against the mountain-side.
The sanctuary, or holy of holies, to which all the rest was but as
an avenue, is excavated in the face of the cliff, some five hundred
feet above the level of the Nile. The novelty of the plan is so great
that one cannot help wondering whether it was suggested to the
architect by the nature of the ground, or whether it was in any
degree a reminiscence of strange edifices seen in far distant lands.
It bears, at all events, a certain resemblance to the terraced temples
of Chaldæa.”
The unearthing and restoration of the ruins of this
great temple has been one of the most important works
carried out within recent years by the Egyptian Exploration
Society. The work had occupied them four successive
winters, and was only completed last season (1896-7).
The discoveries brought to light during this long and systematic
excavation are of the greatest antiquarian and
historical value. One of the most significant was the discovery
of a large hall, in which was a huge stone altar,
the only one discovered in Egypt. The altar is dedicated
to Queen Hatasu's father, Harmachis. It is curious that
Hatasu's cartouche is rarely found perfect. It is usually
more or less erased, probably through the jealousy of her
successor, Thotmes III. The cartouche, which is such an
essential feature in all stone inscriptions, seems to have
virtually served the purpose of a modern visiting-card.
Close to this temple is the deep pit in which were found
the royal mummies in 1881. In all probability there was
some kind of underground communication between this
temple and the royal cemetery, known only to the priests.
The Temples of Rameses I. and Rameses III., lying
respectively at the eastern and western extremities of
the Theban necropolis, are of especial interest to the
student of history on account of the paintings and inscriptions
which cover the walls. The series of pictorial
sculptures on the walls of the Medinet Abou (Rameses III.)
Temple form a kind of panorama in stone, and are of the
greatest value to the historian as a pictorial chronicle of


the conquests of Rameses III. No doubt they were intended
to rival the famous illustrated epic of Pentaur, the
poet laureate of Rameses the Great, in which the mighty
achievements of that monarch were sung.
The temple has been recently completely cleared of
rubbish. The second court, in the opinion of Mariette
one of the most precious in any Egyptian temple, is the
most interesting feature. The circular columns are very
richly painted. The walls are covered with the inevitable
battle-scenes. It was here that one of the most important
discoveries of papyrus in Egypt was made. Among
them was the famous Harris papyrus, now in the British
Museum, which gives a very full précis of the reign of
Rameses III.
In order to appreciate the importance of the excavations
which have laid bare all these wonderful ruins in the
Theban necropolis, thus adding to our knowledge of the
political and social life of the ancient Egyptians, we must
remember that the Theban temples were intended to serve
many purposes. They are, of course, chiefly memorial
chapels, like the Medici Chapel at Florence, or the Spanish
Escurial; but they also served as a treasury, a kind of
muniment room, a library, and even as a kind of national
portrait gallery.
The Tombs of the Kings should be reserved for a whole
day's excursion. They are hewn out of the living rock in
the mountains, some three miles from the western bank of
the Nile. The contrast between the fertile plain and these
gloomy mountain gorges is very striking, and the name
“Valley of Death,” which has been given to these dreary
and desolate defiles, is happily chosen. The kings of the
nineteenth and twentieth dynasties were buried here, though,
as we have seen, the royal mummies had been removed to
Dar-El-Bahari, about 966 B. C., to secure them against pillage,
— a precaution, we are reminded by the presence of the

mummies at Ghizeh, quite ineffectual against the excavations
of savants and antiquarians. Several of the best sarcophagi,
too, are distributed among Continental museums; for instance,
the sarcophagus of Rameses III. is in the Louvre,
the lid in the Fitz William Museum at Cambridge, while the
mummy itself is in the Cairo Museum. Though the chief
interest of these tombs is therefore wanting, the tombs
themselves are worthy of thorough examination. The principles
of construction are similar to those of the Assouan
tombs. They consist of long inclined tunnels, intersected
by mortuary chambers which in some cases burrow into the
heart of the rock for four or five hundred feet. “Belzoni's
Tomb” is one of the “show” ones. Here was buried Seti
I., the father of Rameses the Great. This magnificent sarcophagus
is one of the chief treasures of the Soane Museum,
London. It is nine feet in length, carved out of one block
of translucent Oriental alabaster. It is covered both inside
and out with hieroglyphic writing and figures from the
mythology of Egypt, representing the judgment of the dead,
and other subjects. This sarcophagus was discovered by
Belzoni, in the year 1817, and purchased by Sir John Soane
from Mr. Salt, in 1824, for the sum of £2,000.
According to Strabo,