Read CAIRO IN 1890 of Mentone‚ Cairo‚ and Corfu, free online book, by Constance Fenimore Woolson, on


“The way to Egypt is long and vexatious” so Homer sings; and so also have sung other persons more modern. A chopping sea prevails off Crete, and whether one leaves Europe at Naples, Brindisi, or Athens, one’s steamer soon reaches that beautiful island, and consumes in passing it an amount of time which is an ever-fresh surprise. Crete, with its long coast-line and soaring mountain-tops, appears to fill all that part of the sea. However, as the island is the half-way point between Europe and Africa, one can at least feel, after finally leaving it behind, that the Egyptian coast is not far distant. This coast is as indolent as that of Crete is aggressive; it does not raise its head. You are there before you see it or know it; and then, if you like, in something over three hours more you can be in Cairo.

The Cairo street of the last Paris Exhibition, familiar to many Americans, was a clever imitation. But imitations of the Orient are melancholy; you cannot transplant the sky and the light.

The real Cairo has been sacrificed to the Nile. Comparatively few among travellers in the East see the place under the best conditions; for upon their arrival they are preoccupied with the magical river voyage which beckons them southward, with the dahabeeyah or the steamer which is to carry them; and upon their return from that wonderful journey they are planning for the more difficult expedition to the Holy Land. It is safe to say that to many Americans Cairo is only a confused memory of donkeys and dragománs, mosquitoes and dervishes, and mosques, mosques, mosques! This hard season probably must be gone through by all. The wise are those who stay on after it is over, or who return; for the true impression of a place does not come when the mind is overcrowded and confused; it does not come when the body is wearied; for the descent of the vision, serenity of soul is necessary one might even call it idleness. It is during those days when one does nothing that the reality steals noiselessly into one’s comprehension, to remain there forever.

But is Cairo worth this? is asked. That depends upon the temperament. If one must have in his nature somewhere a trace of the poet to love Venice, so one must be at heart something of a painter to love Cairo. Her colors are so softly rich, the Saracenic part of her architecture is so fantastically beautiful, the figures in her streets are so picturesque, that one who has an eye for such effects seems to himself to be living in a gallery of paintings without frames, which stretch off in vistas, melting into each other as they go. If, therefore, one loves color, if pictures are precious to him, are important, let him go to Cairo; he will find pleasure awaiting him. Flaubert said that one could imagine the pyramids, and perhaps the Sphinx, without an actual sight of them, but that what one could not in the least imagine was the expression on the face of an Oriental barber as he sits cross-legged before his door. That is Cairo exactly. You must see her with the actual eyes, and you must see her without haste. She does not reveal herself to the Cook tourist nor even to Gaze’s, nor to the man who is hurrying off to Athens on a fixed day which nothing can alter.


(One must begin with this, and have it over.) Cairo has a population of four hundred thousand souls. The new part of the town, called Ismailia, has been persistently abused by almost all writers, who describe it as dusty, as shadeless, as dreary, as glaring, as hideous, as blankly and broadly empty, as adorned with half-built houses which are falling into ruin one has read all this before arriving. But what does one find in the year of grace 1890? Streets shaded by innumerable trees; streets broad indeed, but which, instead of being dusty, are wet (and over-wet) with the constant watering; well-kept, bright-faced houses, many of them having beautiful gardens, which in January are glowing with giant poinsettas, crimson hibiscus, and purple bougainvillea flowers which give place to richer blooms, to an almost over-luxuriance of color and perfumes, as the early spring comes on. If the streets were paved, it would be like the outlying quarters of Paris, for most of the houses are French as regards their architecture. Shadeless? It is nothing but shade. And the principal drives, too, beyond the town the Ghezireh road, the Choubra and Gizeh roads, and the long avenue which leads to the pyramids are deeply embowered, the great arms of the trees which border them meeting and interlacing overhead. Consider the stony streets of Italian cities (which no one abuses), and then talk of “shadeless Cairo”!


If one wishes to spend a part of each day in the house, engaged in reading, writing, or resting; if the comfortable feeling produced by a brightly burning little fire in the cool of the evening is necessary to him for his health or his pleasure then he should not attempt to spend the entire winter in the city of the Khedive. The mean temperature there during the cold season that is, six weeks in January and February is said to be 58 deg. Fahrenheit. But this is in the open air; in the houses the temperature is not more than 54 deg. or 52 deg., and often in the evening lower. The absence of fires makes all the difficulty; for out-of-doors the air may be and often is charming; but upon coming in from the bright sunshine the atmosphere of one’s sitting-room and bedroom seems chilly and prison-like. There are, generally speaking, no chimneys in Cairo, even in the modern quarter. Each of the hotels has one or two open grates, but only one or two. Southern countries, however, are banded together so it seems to the shivering Northerner to keep up the delusion that they have no cold weather; as they have it not, why provide for it? In Italy in the winter the Italians spread rugs over their floors, hang tapestries upon their walls, pile cushions everywhere, and carpet their sofas with long-haired skins; this they call warmth. But a fireless room, with the thermometer on its walls standing at 35 deg., is not warm, no matter how many cushions you may put into it; and one hates to believe, too, that necessary accompaniments of health are roughened faces and frost-bitten noses, and the extreme ugliness of hands swollen and red. “Perhaps if one could have in Cairo an open hearth and three sticks, it would, with all the other pleasures which one finds here, be too much would reach wickedness!” was a remark we heard last winter. A still more forcible exclamation issued from the lips of a pilgrim from New York one evening in January. Looking round her sitting-room upon the roses gathered that day in the open air, upon the fly-brushes and fans and Oriental decorations, this misguided person moaned, in an almost tearful voice: “Oh, for a blizzard and a fire!” The reasonable traveller, of course, ought to remember that with a climate which has seven months of debilitating heat, and three and a half additional months of summer weather, the attention of the natives is not strongly turned towards devices for warmth. This consideration, however, does not make the fireless rooms agreeable during the few weeks that remain.

Another surprise is the rain. “In our time it rained in Egypt,” writes Strabo, as though chronicling a miracle. Either the climate has changed, or Strabo was not a disciple of the realistic school, for in the January of this truthful record the rain descended in such a deluge in Cairo that the water came above the knees of the horses, and a ferry-boat was established for two days in one of the principal streets. Later the rain descended a second time with almost equal violence, and showers were by no means infrequent. (It may be mentioned in parenthesis that there was heavy rain at Luxor, four hundred and fifty miles south of Cairo, on the 19th of February.) One does not object to these rains; they are in themselves agreeable; one wishes simply to note the impudence of the widely diffused statement that Egypt is a rainless land. So far nothing has been said against the winter climate of Cairo; objection has been made merely to the fireless condition of the houses a fault which can be remedied. But now a real enemy must be mentioned namely, the kamsin. This is a hot wind from the south, which parches the skin and takes the life out of one; it fills the air with a thick grayness, which you cannot call mist, because it is perfectly dry, and through which the sun goes on steadily shining, with a light so weird that one can think of nothing but the feelings of the last man, or the opening of the sixth seal. The regular kamsin season does not begin before May; the occasional days of it that bring suffering to travellers occur in February, March, and April. But what are five or six days of kamsin amid four winter months whose average temperature is 58 deg. Fahrenheit? It is human nature to detect faults in climates which have been greatly praised, just as one counts every freckle on a fair face that is celebrated for its beauty. Give Cairo a few hearth fires, and its winter climate will seem delightful; although not so perfect as that of Florida, in our country, because in Florida there are no January mosquitoes.


It must be remembered that Cairo is Arabian. “The Nile is Egypt,” says a proverb. The Nile is mythical, Pharaonic, Ptolemaic; but Cairo owes its existence solely to the Arabian conquerors of the country, who built a fortress and palace here in A.D. 969.

Very Arabian is still the call to prayer which is chanted by the muezzins from the minarets of the mosques several times during the day. We were passing through a crowded quarter near the Mooski one afternoon in January, when there was wafted across the consciousness a faint, sweet sound. It was far away, and one heard it half impatiently at first, unwilling to lift one’s attention even for an instant from the motley scenes nearer at hand. But at length, teased into it by the very sweetness, we raised our eyes, and then it was seen that it came from a half-ruined minaret far above us. Round the narrow outer gallery of this slender tower a man in dark robes was pacing slowly, his arms outstretched, his face upturned to heaven. Not once did he look below as he continued his aerial round, his voice giving forth the chant which we had heard “Allah akbar; Allah akbar; la Allah ill’ Allah. Heyya alas-salah!” (God is great; God is great; there is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet. Come to prayer.) Again, another day, in the old Touloun quarter, we heard the sound, but it was much nearer. It came from a window but little above our heads, the small mosque within the quadrangle having no minaret. This time I could note the muezzin himself. As he could not see the sky from where he stood, his eyes were closed. I have never beheld a more concentrated expression of devotion than his quiet face expressed; he might have been miles away from the throng below, instead of three feet, as his voice gave forth the same strange, sweet chant. The muezzins are often selected from the ranks of the blind, as the duties of the office are within their powers; but this singer at the low window had closed his eyes voluntarily. The last time I saw the muezzin was towards the end of the season, when the spring was far advanced. Cairo gayety was at its height, the streets were crowded with Europeans returning from the races, the new quarter was as modern as Paris. But there are minarets even in the new quarter, or near it; and on one of the highest of these turrets, outlined against the glow of the sunset, I saw the slowly pacing figure, with its arms outstretched over the city “Allah akbar; Allah akbar; come, come to prayer.”

There are over four hundred mosques in Cairo, and many of them are in a dilapidated condition. Some of these were erected by private means to perpetuate the name and good deeds of the founder and his family; then, in the course of time, owing to the extinction or to the poverty of the descendants, the endowment fund has been absorbed or turned into another channel, and the ensuing neglect has ended in ruin. When a pious Muslim of to-day wishes to perform a good work, he builds a new mosque. It would never occur to him to repair the old one near at hand, which commemorates the generosity of another man. It must be remembered that a mosque has no established congregation, whose duty it is to take care of it. A mosque, in fact, to Muslims has not an exclusively religious character. It is a place prepared for prayer, with the fountain which is necessary for the preceding ablutions required by Mohammed, and the niche towards Mecca which indicates the position which the suppliant must take; but it is also a place for meditation and repose. The poorest and most ragged Muslim has the right to enter whenever he pleases; he can say his prayers, or he can simply rest; he can quench his thirst; he can eat the food which he has brought with him; if he is tired, he can sleep. In mosques not often visited by travellers I have seen men engaged in mending their clothes, and others cooking food with a portable furnace. In the church-yard of Charlton Kings, England, there is a tombstone of the last century with an inscription which concludes as follows: “And his dieing request to his Sons and Daughters was, Never forsake the Charitys until the Poor had got their Rites.” In the Cairo mosques the poor have their rites both with the gh and without. The sacred character of a mosque is, in truth, only made conspicuous when unbelievers wish to enter. Then the big shuffling slippers are brought out to cover the shoes of the Christian infidels, so that they may not touch and defile the mattings reserved for the faithful.

After long neglect, something is being done at last to arrest the ruin of the more ancient of these temples. A commission has been appointed by the present government whose duty is the preservation of the monuments of Arabian art; occasionally, therefore, in a mosque one finds scaffolding in place and a general dismantlement. One can only hope for the best in much the same spirit in which one hopes when one sees the beautiful old front of St. Mark’s, Venice, gradually encroached upon by the new raw timbers. But in Cairo, at least, the work of repairing goes on very slowly; three hundred mosques, probably, out of the four hundred still remain untouched, and many of these are adorned with a delicate beauty which is unrivalled. I know no quest so enchanting as a search through the winding lanes of the old quarters for these gems of Saracenic taste, which no guide-book has as yet chronicled, no dragoman discovered. The street is so narrow that your donkey fills almost all the space; passers-by are obliged to flatten themselves against the walls in response to the Oriental adjurations of your donkey-boy behind: “Take heed, O maid!” “Your foot, O chief!” Presently you see a minaret there is always a minaret somewhere; but it is not always easy to find the mosque to which it belongs, hidden, perhaps, as it is, behind other buildings in the crowded labyrinth. At length you observe a door with a dab or two of the well-known Saracenic honeycomb-work above it; instantly you dismount, climb the steps, and look in. You are almost sure to find treasures, either fragments of the pearly Cairo mosaic, or a wonderful ceiling, or gilded Kufic (old Arabian text) inscriptions and arabesques, or remains of the ancient colored glass which changes its tint hour by hour. Best of all, sometimes you find a space open to the sky, with a fountain in the centre, the whole surrounded by arcades of marble columns adorned with hanging lamps (or, rather, with the bronze chains which once carried the lamps), and with suspended ostrich eggs the emblems of good-luck. One day, when my donkey was making his way through a dilapidated region, I came upon a mosque so small that it seemed hardly more than a base for its exquisite minaret, which towered to an unusual height above it. Of course I dismounted. The little mosque was open; but as it was never visited by strangers, it possessed no slippers, and without coverings of some kind it was impossible that unsanctified shoes, such as mine, should touch its matted floor; the bent, ancient guardian glared at me fiercely for the mere suggestion. One sees sometimes (even in 1890) in the eyes of old men sitting in the mosques the original spirit of Islam shining still. Once their religion commanded the sword; they would like to grasp it again, if they could. It was suggested that the matting might, for a backsheesh, be rolled up and put away, as the place was small. But the stern old keeper remained inflexible. Then the offer was made that so many piasters ten (that is, fifty cents) would be given to the blind. Now the blind are sacred in Cairo; this offer, therefore, was successful; all the matting was carefully rolled and stacked in a corner, the three or four Muslims present withdrew to the door, and the unbeliever was allowed to enter. She found herself in a temple of color which was incredibly rich. The floor was of delicate marble, and every inch of the walls was covered with a mosaic of porphyry and jasper, adorned with gilded inscriptions and bands of Kufic text; the tall pulpit, made of mahogany-colored wood, was carved from top to bottom in intricate designs, and ornamented with odd little plaques of fretted bronze; the sacred niche was lined with alabaster, turquoise, and gleaming mother-of-pearl; the only light came through the thick glass of the small windows far above, in downward-falling rays of crimson, violet, and gold. The old mosaic-work of the Cairo mosques is composed of small plates of marble and of mother-of-pearl arranged in geometrical designs; the delicacy of the minute cubes employed, and the intricacy of the patterns, are marvellous; the color is faint, unless turquoise has been added; but the glitter of the mother-of-pearl gives the whole an appearance like that of jewelry. Upon our departure five blind men were found drawn up in a line at the door. It would not have been difficult to collect fifty.

Another day, as my donkey was taking me under a stone arch, I saw on one side a flight of steps which seemed to say “Come!” At the top of the steps I found a picture. It was a mosque of the early pattern, with a large square court open to the sky. In the centre of this court was a well, under a marble dome, and here grew half a dozen palm-trees. Across the far end extended the sanctuary, which was approached through arcades of massive pillars painted in dark red bands. The pulpit was so old that it had lost its beauty; but the entire back wall of this Mecca side was covered with beautiful tiles of the old Cairo tints (turquoise-blue and dark blue), in designs of foliage, with here and there an entire tree. This splendid wall was in itself worth a journey. A few single tiles had been inserted at random in the great red columns, reminding one of the majolica plates which tease the eyes of those who care for such things set impossibly high as they are in the campaniles of old Italian churches along the Pisan coast.

It may be asked, What is the shape of a mosque its exterior? What is it like? You are more sure about this shape before you reach the Khedive’s city than you are when you have arrived there; and after you have visited three or four mosques each day for a week, the clearness of your original idea, such as it was, has vanished forever. The mosques of Cairo are so embedded in other structures, so surrounded and pushed and elbowed by them, that you can see but little of their external form; sometimes a façade painted in stripes is visible, but often a doorway is all. One must except the mosque of Sultan Hassan (which, to some of us, is dangerously like Aristides the Just). This mosque stands by itself, so that you can, if you please, walk round it. The chief interest of the walk (for the exterior, save for the deep porch, which can hardly be called exterior, is not beautiful) lies in the thought that as the walls were constructed of stones brought from the pyramids, perhaps among them, with faces turned inward, there may be blocks of that lost outer coating of the giant tombs a coating which was covered with hieroglyphics. Now that hieroglyphics can be read, we may some day learn the true history of these monuments by pulling down a dozen of the Cairo mosques. But unless the commission bestirs itself, that task will not be needed for the edifice of Sultan Hassan; it is coming down, piece by piece, unaided. The mosques of Cairo are not beautiful as a Greek temple or an early English cathedral is beautiful; the charm of Saracenic architecture lies more in decoration than in the management of massive forms. The genius of the Arabian builders manifested itself in ornament, in rich effects of color; they had endless caprices, endless fancies, and expressed them all as well they might, for all were beautiful. The same free spirit carved the grotesques of the old churches of France and Germany. But the Arabians had no love for grotesques; they displayed their liberty in lovely fantasies. Their one boldness as architects was the minaret.

It is probably the most graceful tower that has ever been devised. In Cairo the rich fretwork of its decorations and the soft yellow hue of the stone of which it is constructed add to this beauty. Invariably slender, it decreases in size as it springs towards heaven, carrying lightly with it two or three external galleries, which are supported by stalactites, and ending in a miniature cupola and crescent. These stalactites (variously named, also, pendentives, recessed clusters, and honey-combed work) may be called the distinctive feature of Saracenic architecture. They were used originally as ornaments to mask the transition from a square court to the dome. But they soon took flight from that one service, and now they fill Arabian corners and angles and support Arabian curves so universally that for many of us the mere outline of one scribbled on paper brings up the whole pageant of the crescent-topped domes and towers of the East.

The Cairo mosques are said to show the purest existing forms of Saracenic architecture. One hopes that this saying is true, for a dogmatic superlative of this sort is a rock of comfort, and one can remember it and repeat it. With the best of memories, however, one cannot intelligently see all these specimens of purity, unless, indeed, one takes up his residence in Cairo (and it is well known that when one lives in a place one never pays visits to those lions which other persons journey thousands of miles to see). Travellers, therefore, very soon choose a favorite and abide by it, vaunting it above all others, so that you hear of El Ghouri, with its striking façade and magnificent ceiling, as “the finest,” and of Kalaoon as “the finest,” and of Moaiyud as ditto; not to speak of those who prefer the venerable Touloun and Amer, and the undiscriminating crowd that is satisfied, and rightly, with Aristides the Just that is, the mosque of Sultan Hassan. For myself, after acknowledging to a weakness for the mosques which are not in the guide-books, which possess no slippers, I confess that I admire most the tomb-mosque of Kait Bey. It is outside of Cairo proper, among those splendid half-ruined structures the so-called tombs of the Khalifs. It stands by itself, its chiselled dome and minaret, a lace-work in stone, clearly revealed. It would take pages to describe the fanciful beauty of every detail, both without and within, and there must, in any case, come an end of repeating the words “elegance,” “mosaic,” “minaret,” “arabesque,” “jasper,” and “mother-of-pearl.” The chief treasures of this mosque are two blocks of rose granite which bear the so-called impressions of the feet of Mohammed; the legend is that he rests here for a moment or two at sunset every Thursday. “How well I understand this fancy of the prophet!” exclaimed an imaginative visitor. “How I wish I could do the same!”


One of the great events of the winter of 1890 was the opening of the new Museum of Egyptian Antiquities at Gizeh. This magnificent collection, which until recently has been ill-housed at Boulak, is now installed in another suburb, Gizeh, in one of the large summer palaces built by the former Khedive, Ismail. To reach it one passes through the new quarter and crosses the handsome Nile bridge. Not only are all these streets watered, but the pedestrian also can have water if he likes. Large earthen jars, propped by framework of wood, stand here and there, with the drinking-bottle, or kulleh, attached; these jars are replenished by the sakkahs, who carry the much-loved Nile water about the streets for sale. One passes at regular intervals the light stands, made of split sticks, upon which is offered for sale, in flat loaves like pancakes, the Cairo bread. There are also the open-air cook shops small furnaces, like a tin pan with legs; spread out on a board before them are saucers containing mysterious compounds, and the cook is in attendance, wearing a white apron. These cooks never lack custom; a large majority of the poorer class in Cairo obtains its hot food, when it obtains it at all, at these impromptu tables. Before long one is sure to meet a file of camels. The camel ought to appreciate travellers; there is always a tourist murmuring “Oh!” whenever one of these supercilious beasts shows himself near the Ezbekiyeh Gardens. The American, indeed, cannot keep back the exclamation; perhaps when he was a child he attended (oh, happy day!) the circus, and watched with ecstasy the “Grande Orientale Rentree of the Lights of the Harem” two of these strange steeds, ridden by dazzling houris in veils of glittering gauze. The camel has remained in his mind ever since as the attendant of sultanas; though this impression may have become mixed in later years with the constantly recurring painting (in a dead-gold frame and red mat) of a camel and an Arab in the desert, outlined against a sunset sky. In either case, however, the animal represents something which is as far as possible from an American street traversed by horse-cars, and when the inhabitant of this street sees the identical creature passing him, engaged not in making rentrees or posing against the sunset, but diligently at work carrying stones and mortar for his living, no wonder he feels that he has reached a land of dreams.

Most of us do not lose our admiration for the Orientalness of the camel. But we learn in time that he has been praised for qualities which he does not possess. He is industrious, but he continually scolds about his industry; he may not trouble one with his thirst, but he revenges himself by his sneer. The smile of a camel is the most disdainful thing I know. On the other side of the Nile bridge one comes sometimes upon an acre of these beasts, all kneeling down in the extraordinary way peculiar to them, with their hind-legs turned up; here they chew as they rest, and put out their long necks to look at the passers-by. But the way to appreciate the neck of a camel is to be on a donkey; then, when the creature comes up behind and lopes past you, his neck seems to be the highest thing in Cairo higher than a mosque.

Beyond the bridge the road to Gizeh follows the river. Gizeh itself is the typical Nile village, with the low, clustered houses built of Nile mud (which looks like yellow-brown stucco), and beautiful feathery palms with a minaret or two rising above. The palace stands apart from the village, and is surrounded by large gardens. Opposite the central portico is the tomb of Mariette Pasha, the founder of the museum a high sarcophagus designed from an antique model. Mariette Pasha (it may be mentioned here that the title Pasha means General, and that of Bey, Colonel) was a native of Boulogne. A mummy case in the museum of that town of schools first attracted his attention towards Egyptian antiquities, and in 1850 he came to Egypt. Khedive Said authorized him to found a museum; and Said’s successor, Ismail, conferred upon him the exclusive right to make excavations, placing in his charge all the antiquities of Egypt. Mariette used these powers with intelligence and energy, giving the rest of his life to the task a period of thirty years. He died in Cairo, at the age of sixty-one, in January, 1882. This Frenchman made many important discoveries, and he preserved to Egypt her remaining antiquities; before his time her treasures had been stolen and bought by all the world. A thought which haunts all travellers in this strange country is, how many more rich stores must still remain hidden! The most generally interesting among the recent discoveries was the finding of the Pharaohs, in 1881. The story has been given to the world in print, therefore it will be only outlined here. But by far the most fortunate way is to hear it directly from the lips of the keeper of the museum, Emil Brugsch Bey himself, his vivid, briefly direct narration adding the last charm to the striking facts. By the museum authorities it had been for several years suspected that some one at Luxor (Thebes) had discovered a hitherto unopened tomb; for funeral statuettes, papyri, and other objects, all of importance, were offered for sale there, one by one, and bought by travellers, who, upon their return to Cairo, displayed the treasures, without comprehending their value. Watch was kept, and suspicion finally centred upon a family of brothers; these Arabs at last confessed, and one of them led the way to a place not far from the temple called Deir-el-Bahari, which all visitors to Thebes will remember. Here, filled with sand, there was a shaft not unlike a well, which the man had discovered by chance. When the sand was removed, the opening of a lateral tunnel was visible below, and this tunnel led into the heart of the hill, where, in a rude chamber twenty feet high, were piled thirty or more mummy cases, most of them decorated with the royal asp. The mummies proved to be those of Sethi the First, the conqueror who carried his armies as far into Asia as the Orontes; and of Rameses the Great (called Sesostris by the Greeks), the Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites; and of Sethi the Second, the Pharaoh of the Exodus, together with other sovereigns and members of their families, princes, princesses, and priests. At some unknown period these mummies had been taken from the magnificent rock tombs in that terrible Apocalyptic Valley of the Kings, not far distant, and hidden in this rough chamber. No one knows why this was done; a record of it may yet be discovered. But in time all knowledge of the hiding-place was lost, and here the Pharaohs remained until that July day in 1881. They were all transported across the burning plain and down the Nile to Cairo. Now at last they repose in state in an apartment which might well be called a throne-room. You reach this great cruciform hall by a handsome double stairway; upon entering, you see the Pharaohs ranged in a majestic circle, and careless though you may be, unhistorical, practical, you are impressed. The features are distinct. Some of the dark faces have dignity; others show marked resolution and power. Curiously enough, one of them closely resembles Voltaire. This, however, is probably due to the fact that Voltaire closely resembled a mummy while living. How would it seem, the thought that beings who are to come into existence A.D. 5000 should be able, in the land which we now call the United States of America (what will it be called then?), to gaze upon the features of some of our Presidents for instance, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? I am afraid that the fancy is not as striking as it should be, for New World ambition grasps without difficulty all futures, even A.D. 25,000; it is only when our eyes are turned towards the past, where we have no importance and represent nothing, that an enumeration of centuries overpowers us a little. But in any case, after visiting Egypt, we all learn to hate the art of the embalmer; those who have been up the Nile, and beheld the poor relics of mortality offered for sale on the shores, become, as it were by force, advocates of cremation.

The Gizeh Museum is vast; days are required to see all its treasures. Among the best of these are two colored statues, the size of life, representing Prince Rahotep and his wife; these were discovered in 1870 in a tomb near Meydoom. Their rock-crystal eyes are so bright that the Arabs employed in the excavation fled in terror when they came upon the long-hidden chamber. They said that two afreets were sitting there, ready to spring out and devour all intruders. Railed in from his admirers is the intelligent, well-fed, highly popular wooden man, whose life-like expression raises a smile upon the faces of all who approach him. This figure is not in the least like the Egyptian statues of conventional type, with unnaturally placed eyes. As regards the head, it might be the likeness of a Berlin merchant of to-day, or it might be a successful American bank president after a series of dinners at Delmonico’s. Yet, strange to say, this, and the wonderful diorite statue of Chafra, are the oldest sculptured figures in the world.

One is tempted to describe some of the other treasures of this precious and unrivalled collection, as well as to note in detail the odd contrasts between Ismail’s gayly flowered walls and the solemn antiquities ranged below them. “But here is no space,” as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu would have expressed it. And one of the curious facts concerning description is that those who have with their own eyes seen the statue, for instance, which is the subject of a writer’s pen (and it is the same with regard to a landscape, or a country, or whatever you please) such persons sometimes like to read an account of it, though the words are not needed to bring up the true image of the thing delineated, whereas those who have never seen the statue that is, the vast majority are, as a general rule, not in the least interested in any description of it, long or short, and, indeed, consider all such descriptions a bore.

At present the one fault of Gizeh is the absence of a catalogue. But catalogues are a mysterious subject, comprehended only by the elect.

One day when I was passing the hot hours in the shaded rooms of the museum, surrounded by seated granite figures with their hands on their knees (the coolest companions I know), I heard chattering and laughter. These are unusual sounds in those echoing halls, where unconsciously everybody whispers, partly because of the echo, and partly also, I think, on account of the mystic mummy cases which stand on end and look at one so queerly with their oblique eyes. Presently there came into view ten or twelve Cairo ladies, followed by eunuchs, and preceded by a guide. The eunuchs were (as eunuchs generally are) hideous, though they represented all ages, from a tall lank boy of seventeen to a withered old creature well beyond sixty. The Cairo eunuchs are negroes; one distinguishes them always by the extreme care with which they are dressed. They wear coats and trousers of black broadcloth made in the latest European style, with patent-leather shoes, and they are decorated with gold chains, seal rings, and scarf-pins; they have one merit as regards their appearance I know of but one they do look clean. The ladies were taking their ease; the muffling black silk outer cloaks, which all Egyptian women of the upper class wear when they leave the house, had been thrown aside; the white face veils had been loosened so that they dropped below the chin. It was the hareem of the Minister for Foreign Affairs; their carriages were waiting below. The most modest of men a missionary, for instance, or an entomologist would, I suppose, have put them to flight; but as the tourist season was over, and as it was luncheon-time for Europeans, no one appeared but myself, and the ladies strayed hither and thither as they chose, occasionally stopping to hear a few words of the explanations which the guide (a woman also) was vainly trying to give before each important statue. With one exception, these Cairo dames were, to say the least, extremely plump; their bare hands were deeply dimpled, their cheeks round. They all had the same very white complexion without rose tints; their features were fairly good, though rather thick; the eyes in each case were beautiful large, dark, lustrous, with sweeping lashes. Their figures, under their loose garments, looked like feather pillows. They were awkward in bearing and gait, but this might have been owing to the fact that their small plump feet (in white open-work cotton stockings) were squeezed into very tight French slippers with abnormally high heels, upon which it must have been difficult to balance so many dimples. The one exception to the rule of billowy beauty was a slender, even meagrely formed girl, who in America would pass perhaps for seventeen; probably she was three years younger. Her thin, dark, restless face, with its beautiful inquiring eyes, was several times close beside mine as we both inspected the golden bracelets and ear-rings, the necklaces and fan, of Queen Ahhotpu, our sister in vanity of three thousand five hundred years ago. I looked more at her than I did at the jewels, and she returned my gaze; we might have had a conversation. What would I not have given to have been able to talk with her in her own tongue! After a while they all assembled in what is called the winter garden, an up-stairs apartment, where grass grows over the floor in formal little plots. Chairs were brought, and they seated themselves amid this aerial verdure to partake of sherbet, which the youngest eunuch handed about with a business-like air. While they were still here, much relaxed as regards attire and attitude, my attention was attracted by the rush through the outer room (where I myself was seated) of the four older eunuchs. They had been idling about; they had even gone down the stairs, leaving to the youngest of their number the task of serving the sherbet; but now they all appeared again, and the swiftness with which they crossed the outer room and dashed into the winter-garden created a breeze. They called to their charges as they came, and there was a general smoothing down of draperies. The eunuchs, however, stood upon no ceremony; they themselves attired the ladies in the muffling cloaks, and refastened their veils securely, as a nurse dresses children, and with quite as much authority. I noticed that the handsomer faces showed no especial haste to disappear from view; but there was no real resistance; there was only a good deal of laughter.

I dare say that there was more laughter still (under the veils) when the cause of all this haste appeared, coming slowly up the stairs. It was a small man of sixty-five or seventy, one of my own countrymen, attired in a linen duster and a travel-worn high hat; his silver-haired head was bent over his guide-book, and he wore blue spectacles. I don’t think he saw anything but blue antiquities, safely made of stone.

Hareem carriages (that is, ladies’ carriages) in Cairo are large, heavily built broughams. The occupants wear thin white muslin or white tulle veils tied across the face under the eyes, with an upper band of the same material across the forehead; but these veils do not in reality hide the features much more closely than do the dotted black or white lace veils worn by Europeans. The muffling outer draperies, however, completely conceal the figure, and this makes the marked difference between them and their English, French, and American sisters in the other carriages near at hand. On the box of the brougham, with the coachman, the eunuch takes his place. To go out without a eunuch would be a humiliation for a Cairo wife; to her view, it would seem to say that she is not sufficiently attractive to require a guardian. The hareem carriage of a man of importance has not only its eunuch, but also its saïs, or running footman; often two of them. These winged creatures precede the carriage; no matter how rapid the pace of the horses, they are always in advance, carrying, lightly poised in one hand, high in the air, a long lance-like wand. Their gait is the most beautiful motion I have ever seen. The Mercury of John of Bologna; the younger gods of Olympus will these do for comparisons? One calls the saïs winged not only because of his speed, but also on account of his large white sleeves (in English, angel sleeves), which, though lightly caught together behind, float out on each side as he runs, like actual wings. His costume is rich a short velvet jacket thickly embroidered with gold; a red cap with long silken tassel; full white trousers which end at the knee, leaving the legs and feet bare; and a brilliant scarf encircling the small waist. These men are Nubians, and are admirably formed; often they are very handsome. Naturally one never sees an old one, and it is said that they die young. Their original office was to clear a passage for the carriage through the narrow, crowded streets; now that the streets are broader, they are not so frequently seen, though Egyptians of rank still employ them, not only for their hareem carriages, but for their own. They are occasionally seen, also, before the victoria or the landau of European residents; but in this case their Oriental dress accords ill with the stiff, tight Parisian costumes behind them. Now and then one sees them perched on the back seat of an English dog-cart, and here they look well; they always sit sidewise, with one hand on the back of the seat, as though ready at a moment’s notice to spring out and begin flying again.

If the figures of the Cairo ladies are always well muffled, one has at least abundant opportunity to admire the grace and strength of the women of the working classes. When young they have a noble bearing. Their usual dress is a long gown of very dark blue cotton, a black head veil, and a thick black face veil that is kept in its place below the eyes by a gilded ornament which looks like an empty spool. Often their beautifully shaped slender feet are bare; but even the poorest are decked with anklets, bracelets, and necklaces of beads, imitation silver or brass. The men of the working classes wear blue gowns also, but the blue is of a much lighter hue; many of them, especially the farmers and farm laborers (called fellaheen), have wonderfully straight flat backs and broad, strong shoulders. Europeans, when walking, appear at a great disadvantage beside these loosely robed people; all their movements seem cramped when compared with the free, effortless step of the Arab beside them.


One spends half one’s time in the bazaars, perhaps. One admires them and adores them; but one feels that their attraction cannot be made clear to others by words. Nor can it be by the camera. There are a thousand photographic views of Cairo offered for sale, but, with the exception of an attempt at the gateway of the Khan Khaleel, not one copy of these labyrinths, which is a significant fact. Their charm comes from color, and this can be represented by the painter’s brush alone. But even the painter can render it only in bits. From a selfish point of view we might perhaps be glad that there is one spot left on this earth whose characteristic aspect cannot be reproduced, either upon the wall or the pictured page, whose shimmering vistas must remain a purely personal memory. We can say to those who have in their minds the same fantastic vision, “Ah, you know!” But we cannot make others know. For what is the use of declaring that a collection of winding lanes, some of them not more than three feet broad, opening into and leading out of each other, unpaved, dirty, roofed far above, where the high stone houses end, with a lattice-work of old mats what is the use of declaring that this maze is one of the most delightful places in the world? There is no use; one must see it to believe it.

We approach the bazaars by the Mooski, a street which has lost all its ancient attraction which is, in fact, one of the most commonplace avenues I know. But near its end the enchantment begins, and whether we enter the flag bazaar, the lemon-colored-slipper bazaar, the gold-and-silver bazaar, the bazaar of the Soudan, the bazaar of silks and embroideries, the bazaar of Turkish carpets, or the lane of perfumes felicitously named by the donkey-boys the smell bazaar, we are soon in the condition of children before a magician’s table. I defy any one to resist it. The most tired American business man looks about him with awakened interest, the lines of his face relax and turn into the wrinkles we associate with laughter, as he sees the small, frontless shops, the long-skirted merchants, and the sewing, embroidering, cross-legged crowd. The best way, indeed, to view the bazaars is to relax to relax your ideas of time as well as of pace, and not be in a hurry about anything. Accompany some one who is buying, but do not buy yourself; then you can have a seat on the divan, and even (as a friend of the purchaser) one of those wee cups of black coffee which the merchant offers, and which, whether you like it or not, you take, because it belongs to the scene. Thus seated, you can look about at your ease.

In these days, when every one is rereading the Arabian Nights, the learned in Burton’s translation, the outside public in Lady Burton’s, even the most unmethodical of writers feels himself, in connection with Cairo, forced towards the inevitable allusion to Haroun. But once within the precincts of the Khan Khaleel, he does not need to have his fancy jogged by Burton or any one else; he thinks of the Arabian Nights instinctively, and “it’s a poor tale,” indeed, to quote Mrs. Poyser, if he does not meet the one-eyed calendar in the very first booth. But, as has already been said, it is useless to describe. All one can do is to set down a few impressions. One of the first of these is the charming light. The sunshine of Egypt has a great radiance, but it has also and this is especially visible when one looks across any breadth of landscape a pleasant quality of softness; it is a radiance which is slightly hazy and slightly golden brown, being in these respects quite unlike the pellucid white light of Greece. The Greeks frown; even the youngest of the handsome men who go about in ballet-like white petticoats and the brimless cap, has the ugly little perpendicular line between the eyes, produced by a constant knitting of the brows. Like the Greek, the Egyptian also is without protection for his eyes; the dragoman wears a small shawl over the fez, which covers the back of the neck and sides of the face, the Bedouins have a hood, but the large majority of the natives are unprotected. It is said that a Mohammedan can have no brim to his turban or tarboosh, because he must place his bare forehead upon the ground when he says his prayers, and this without removing his head-gear (which would be irreverent). However this may be, he goes about in Egypt with the sun in his eyes, though, owing to the softer quality of the light, he does not frown as the Greek frowns. For those who are not Egyptians, however, the light in Cairo sometimes seems too omnipresent; then, for refuge, they can go to the bazaars. The sunshine is here cut off horizontally by thick walls, and from above it is filtered through mats, whose many interstices cause a checker of light and shade in an infinite variety of unexpected patterns on the ground. This ground is watered. Somehow the air is cool; coming in from the bright streets outside is like entering an arbor. The little shops resemble cupboards; their floors are about three feet above the street. They have no doors at the back. When the merchant wishes to close his establishment, he comes out, pulls down the lid, locks it, and goes home. A picturesque characteristic is that in many cases the wares are simply sold here; they are also made, one by one, upon the spot. You can see the brass-workers incising the arabesques of their trays; you can see the armorers making arms, the ribbon-makers making ribbons, the jewellers blowing their forges, the ivory-carvers bending over their delicate task. As soon as each article is finished, it is dusted and placed upon the little shelf above, and then the apprentice sets to work upon a new one. In addition to the light, another thing one notices is the amazing way in which the feet are used. In Cairo one soon becomes as familiar with feet as one is elsewhere with hands; it is not merely that they are bare; it is that the toes appear to be prehensile, like fingers. In the bazaars the embroiderers hold their cloth with their toes; the slipper-makers, the flag-cutters, the brass-workers, the goldsmiths, employ their second set of fingers almost as much as they employ the first. Both the hands and feet of these men are well formed, slender, and delicate, and, by the rules of their religion, they are bathed five times each day.

Mosques are near where they can get water for this duty. For the bazaars are not continuous rows of shops: one comes not infrequently upon the ornamental portal of an old Arabian dwelling-house, upon the forgotten tomb of a sheykh, with its low dome; one passes under stone arches; often one sees the doorway of a mosque. Humble-minded dogs, who look like jackals, prowl about. The populace trudges through the narrow lanes, munching sugar-cane whenever it can get it. Another favorite food is the lettuce-plant; but the leaves, which we use for salad, the Egyptians throw away; it is the stalk that attracts them.

Lettuce-stalks are not rich food, but the bazaars of the people who eat them convey, on the whole, an impression of richness; this is owing to the sumptuousness of the prayer carpets, the gold embroideries, the gleaming silks, the Oriental brass-work with sentences from the Koran, the ivory, the ostrich plumes, the little silver bottles for kohl, the inlaid daggers, the turquoises and pearls, and the beautiful gauzes, a few of them embroidered with the motto, “I do this work for you,” and on the reverse side, “And this I do for God.” To some persons, the far-penetrating mystic sweetness from the perfume bazaar adds an element also. Here sit the Persian merchants in their delicate silken robes; they weigh incense on tiny scales; they sort the gold-embossed vials of attar of roses; their taper fingers move about amid whimsically small cabinets and chests of drawers filled with ambrosial mysteries. There is magic in names; these merchants are doubly interesting because they come from Ispahan! Scanderoun there is another; how it rolls off the tongue! We do not wish for exact geographical descriptions of these places; that would spoil all. We wish to chant, like Kit Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (and with similar indefiniteness):

“Is it not passing brave to be a king,
And march in triumph through Persepolis?”

“So will I ride through Samarcanda streets,
... to Babylon, my lords; to Babylon!”

When we leave Cairo we cannot take with us the light of these labyrinths; we cannot take their colors; but one traveller, last May, having found in an antiquity-shop an ancient perfume-burner, had the inspiration of bargaining with these Persians, seated cross-legged in their aromatic niches (said traveller on a white donkey outside), for small packages of sandal and aloes wood, of myrrh, of frankincense and ambergris, of benzoin, of dried rose leaves, and of other Oriental twigs and sticks, for the purpose of summing up, later, and in less congenial climes perhaps, the spicy atmosphere, at least, of the Cairo bazaars. What would be the effect of breathing always this fragrant air? Would it give a richer life, would it tinge the cheek with warmer hues? These merchants have complexions like cream-tinted tea-roses; their dark eyes are clear, and all their movements graceful; they are very tranquil, but not in the least sleepy; they look as if they could take part in subtle arguments, and pursue the finest chains of reasoning. Would an atmosphere perfumed by these Eastern woods clarify and rarefy our denser Occidental minds?


As every one who comes to Cairo goes up the Nile, the river is seldom thought of as it appears during its course past the Khedive’s city. This simple vision of it is overshadowed by memories of Abydos, of Karnak and Thebes, and Philae the great temples on its banks which have impressed one so profoundly. Perhaps they have over-impressed; possibly the tension of continuous gazing has been kept up too long. In this case the victim, with his head in his hands, is ready to echo the (extremely true) exclamation of Dudley Warner, “There is nothing on earth so tiresome as a row of stone gods standing to receive the offerings of a Turveydrop of a king!” This was the mental condition of a lady who last winter, on a Nile boat, suddenly began to sew. “I have spent nine long days on this boat, staring from morning till night. One cannot stare at a river forever, even if it is the Nile! Give me my thimble.”

One is not obliged to leave Cairo in order to see examples of the smaller silhouettes of the great river the shadoofs or irrigating machines, the rows of palm-trees, the lateen yards clustered near a port, and always and forever the women coming down the bank to get water from the yellow tide. These processions of women are the most characteristic “Nile scene with figures” of the present day. I am not sure but that one of their jars, or the smaller gray kulleh (which by evaporation keeps the water deliciously cool), would evoke “Egypt” more quickly in the minds of most of us than even the portrait of Cleopatra herself on the back wall at Denderah. If one is staying in Cairo after the tremendous voyage is over, one wanders to the banks every now and then to gaze anew at the broad, monotonous stream. It comes from the last remaining unknown territory of our star, and this very year has seen that space grow smaller. Round about it stand to-day five or six of the civilized nations, who have formed a battue, and are driving in the game. The old river had a secret, one of the three secrets of the world; but though the North and South Poles still remain unmapped, the annual rise of its waters will be strange no longer when Lado is a second Birmingham. How will it seem when we can telephone to Sennaar (perhaps to that ambassador beloved by readers of the Easy Chair), or when there is early closing in Darfur?

At Cairo, when one rides or drives, one almost always crosses the Nile; but Cairo herself does not cross. Her more closely built quarters do not even come down to the shore. The Nile and Cairo are two distinct personalities; they are not one and indivisible, as the Nile and Thebes are one, the Nile and Philae.

The river at Cairo has a dull appearance. Its only beauty comes from the towering snow-white sails of the dahabeeyahs and trading craft that crowd the stream. It is true that these have a great charm.


In the old quarters this is Arabian. The beauty lies largely in the latticed balconies called mouchrabiyehs, which overhang the narrow roadways. These bay-windows sometimes stud the façades thickly, now large, now small, but always a fretwork of delicate wood-carving. Often from the bay projects a second and smaller oriel, also latticed. This is the place for the water jar, the current of air through the lattices keeping the water cool. An Arabian house has no windows on the ground-floor in its outer wall save small air-holes placed very high, but above are these mouchrabiyehs, which are made of bits of cedar elaborately carved in geometrical designs. The small size of the pieces is due to the climate, the heats of the long summer would warp larger surfaces of wood; but the delicacy and intricacy of the carving are a work of supererogation due to Arabian taste. From the mouchrabiyehs the inmates can see the passers-by, but the passers-by cannot see the inmates, an essential condition for the carefully guarded privacy of the family.

There is in Cairo a personage unconnected with the government who, among the native population, is almost as important as the Khedive himself; this is the Sheykh Ahmed Mohammed es Sadat, the only descendant in the direct line of the Prophet Mohammed now living. He has the right to many native titles, though he does not put them on his quiet little visiting-card, which bears only his name and a mysterious monogram in Arabic. By Europeans he is called simply the Sheykh (the word means chief) es Sadat. The ancestral dwelling of the sheykh shares in its master’s distinction. It is pointed out, and, when permission can be obtained, visited. It is a typical specimen of Saracenic domestic architecture, and has always remained in the possession of the family, for whom it was first erected eight hundred years ago. There are in Cairo other Arabian houses as beautiful and as ancient as this. By diplomatic (and mercenary) arts I gained admittance to three, one of which has walls studded with jasper and mother-of-pearl. But these exquisite chambers, being half ruined, fill the mind with wicked temptations. One longs to lay hands upon the tiles, to bargain for an inscription or for a small oriel with the furtive occupants, who have no right to sell, the real owners being Arabs of ancient race, who would refuse to strip their walls, however crumbling, for unbelievers from contemptible, paltry lands beyond the sea. The house of the Sheykh es Sadat may not leave one tranquil, for it is tantalizingly picturesque, but at least it does not inspire larceny; the presence of many servitors prevents that. To reach this residence one leaves (gladly) the Boulevard Mohammed Ali, and takes a narrower thoroughfare, the Street of the Sycamores, which bends towards the south. This lane winds as it goes, following the course of the old canal, the Khaleeg, and one passes many of the public fountains, or sebeels, which are almost as numerous in Cairo as the mosques. A fountain in Arab signification does not mean a jet of water, but simply a place where water can be obtained. The sebeels are beautiful structures, often having marble walls, a dome, and the richest kind of ornament. The water is either dipped with a cup from the basin within, or drawn from the brass mouth-pieces placed outside. Nothing could represent better, I think, the difference between the East and the West than one of these elaborate fountains, covering, in a crowded quarter, the space which might have been occupied by two or three small houses, adorned with carved stone-work, slabs of porphyry, and long inscriptions in gilt, and an iron town pump, its erect slenderness taking up no space at all, and its excellent if unbeautiful handle standing straight out against the sky.

A narrow lane, leaving the Street of the Sycamores, burrows still more deeply into the heart of the quarter, and at last brings us to a porch which juts into the roadway, masking, as is usual in Cairo, the real doorway, which is within. Upon entering, one finds himself in a quadrilateral court, which is open to the sky. An old sycamore shades several latticed windows, among them one which contains three of the smaller oriels; this portion of the second story rests upon an antique marble column. On one side of the column is the low, rough archway leading to the porch; on the other, the high decorated marble entrance of the reception-hall. For in Arabian houses all the magnificence is kept for the interior. In the streets one sees only plain stone walls, which are often hidden under a stucco of mud, more or less peeled off, so that they look half ruined. In the old quarters of Cairo, among the private houses, one obtains, indeed (unless one has an invitation to enter), a general impression of ruin. At the back of the sheykh’s court is the stairway to the hareem, the entrance masked by a gayly colored curtain. Across another side extends the private mosque, only half hidden by an ornamented grating. One can see the interior and the high pulpit decked with the green flag of the Prophet. The walls which encircle the court, and which are embellished here and there with Arabic inscriptions, are of differing heights, as they form parts of separate structures which have been erected at various periods through the eight centuries. The place is, in fact, an agglomeration of houses, and some of the older chambers are crumbling and roofless. The central court (which shows its age only in a picturesque trace or two) is adorned with at least twenty beautiful mouchrabiyehs, some large, some small, and no two on the same level. A charm of Saracenic architecture is that you can always make discoveries, nothing is stereotyped; of a dozen delicate rosettes standing side by side under a balcony, no two are carved in the same design.

In a room which stretches back to the garden and which at the time of our visit was empty, save for a row of antique silver-gilt coffee-pots standing on the marble floor there is a long, low window, like a band in the wall, formed of small carved lattices. The hand of Abbey only, I think, could reproduce the beauty of this casement; but instead of the charming seventeenth-century English girls whom he would wish to place there, realism would demand the hideous eunuchs, with their gold chains and scarf-pins; or else (and this would be better) the dignified old Arab in a white turban who sat cross-legged in the court with his long pipe, his half-closed eyes expressing his disdain for the American visitors. The courtesy of the master of the house, however, made up for his servitor’s scorn. The sheykh is a tall man, somewhat too portly, with amiable dark eyes, and a gleam of humor in his face. One scans his features with interest, as if to catch some reflection of the Prophet; but the rays from an ancestor who walked the earth twelve hundred years ago are presumably faint. There is nothing modern in the sheykh’s attire; his handsome flowing gown is of silk; he wears a turban, slippers, and an India shawl wound round his waist like a sash. When the air is cool, he shrouds himself in a large outer cloak of fine dark blue cloth, which is lined with white fur. Sometimes Signor Ahmed carries in his hand the Mohammedan rosary. This string of beads appears to be used as Madame de Stael used her “little stick,” as the English called it (in Italy, more poetically, they named it “a twig of laurel"). Corrinne must always have this beside her plate at dinner to play with before she conversed, or rather declaimed. Her maid, in confidence, explained that it was necessary to madame “to stimulate her ideas.” One often sees the rosary on duty when two Turks are conversing. After a while, their subjects failing them, they fall into silence. Then each draws out his string from a pocket, and they play with their beads for a moment or two, until, inspiration reviving, they begin talking again. One hopes that poor Ahmed Mohammed has not been driven to his string too often as mental support during dumb visits from Anglo-Saxon tourists, who can do nothing but stare at him. The sheykh’s reception-hall is forty feet wide and sixty feet long. The ceiling, which has the Saracenic pendentives in the corners and under the beams, is of wood, gilded and painted and carved in the characteristic style which one vainly tries to describe. Travellers have likened it to an India shawl; to me it seemed to approach more nearly the wrong side of a Persian scarf, which shows the many-hued silken ravellings. The effect, as a whole, though extraordinarily rich, is yet subdued. The walls are encrusted with old blue tiles which mount to the top. At one end of the room there is a beautiful wall-fountain. And now comes the other side of the story. To enjoy all this beauty, you must not look down; for, alas! the marble floor is tightly covered with a modern French carpet; chairs and tables of the most ordinary modern designs have taken the place of the old divans; and these tables, furthermore, are ornamented with hideous bouquets of artificial flowers under glass. Finally, the tiles which have fallen from the lower part of the walls have not been replaced by others; a coarse fresco has been substituted. What would not one give to see the sheykh, who is himself a purely Oriental figure, seated in this splendid hall of his fathers as it once was, on one of the now superseded divans, the marbles of his floor uncovered save for his discarded Turkish rugs, the fountain sending forth its rose-water spray, perfume burning in the silver receivers, and no encumbering furniture save piles of brocaded cushions and a jar or two on the gilded shelf.

But we shall never see this. In 1889, 180,594 travellers crossed Egypt by way of the Suez Canal. In this item of statistics we have the reason.


For those who have fair eyesight the pyramids of Gizeh are a part of Cairo; their gray triangles against the sky are visible from so many points that they soon become as familiar as a neighboring hill. In addition, they have been pictured to us so constantly in paintings, drawings, engravings, and photographs that one views them at first more with recognition than surprise. “There they are! How natural!” And this long familiarity makes one shrink from arranging phrases about them.

One thing, however, can be said: when we are in actual fact under them, when we can touch them, our easy acquaintance vanishes, and we suddenly perceive that we have never comprehended them in the least. The strange geometrical walls effect a spiritual change in us; they free us from ourselves for a moment, and unconsciously we look back across the past to which they belong, and into the future, of which they are a part much more than we are, as unmindful of our own little cares and occupations, and even our own small lives, as though we had never been chained to them. It is but a fleeting second, perhaps, that this mental emancipation lasts, but it is a second worth having!

One drives to the pyramids in an hour, over a macadamized road. The perennial stories about trouble with the Bedouins belong to the past. Soldiers and policemen guard the sands as they guard the Cairo streets, and the proffer of false antiquities is not more pressing, perhaps, than the demands of the beggars in town. These three pyramids of Gizeh are those we think of before we have visited Egypt. But there are others; including the small ones and those which are ruined, seventy have been counted in twenty-five miles from Cairo to Meydoom, and pyramids are to be seen in other parts of Egypt. The stories concerning Gizeh and the travellers who, from Herodotus down, have visited the colossal tombs, are innumerable. I do not know why the one about Lepsius should seem to me amusing. This learned man and his party, who were sent to Egypt by King Frederick William of Prussia in 1842, celebrated that king’s birthday by singing in chorus the Prussian national anthem in the centre of Cheops. The Bedouins in attendance reported outside that they had “prayed all together a loud general prayer.”

In connection with the pyramids, the English may be said to have devoted themselves principally to measurements. The genius of the French, which is ever that of expression, has invented the one great sentence about them. So far, the Americans have done nothing by which to distinguish themselves; but their time will come, perhaps. One fancies that Edison will have something to do with it. In the meanwhile modernity is already there. There is a hotel at the foot of Cheops, and one hardly knows whether to laugh or to cry when one sees lawn-tennis going on there daily.

But no matter what lies before us even if they should pave the desert, and establish an English tramway (or a line of American horse-cars) to the Sphinx these mighty masses cannot be belittled. There is something in the pyramids which overawes our boasted civilization. In their presence this seems trivial; it seems an impertinence.


The most interesting of the Coptic churches are at Old Cairo, a mother suburb, where the first city was founded by the conquering Arabian army. Here, ensconced amid hill-like mounds of rubbish, concealed behind mud walls, hidden at the end of blind alleys, one finds the temples of these native Christians, who are the descendants of the converts of St. Mark. The exterior walls have no importance. In truth, one seldom sees them, for the churches are within other structures. Some of them form part of old fortified convents; one is reached by passing through the dwelling-rooms of an inhabited house; another is up-stairs in a Roman tower. You arrive somehow at a door. When this is opened, you find yourself in a church whose general aspect is rough, and whose aisles are adorned with dust and sometimes with dirt. But these temples have their treasures. Chief among them are the high choir screens of dark wood, elaborately carved in panels, and decorated with morsels of ivory which have grown yellow from age. The sculpture is not open-work; it does not go through the panel; it is done in relief. The designs are Saracenic, but these geometrical patterns are interrupted every now and then by Christian emblems and by the Coptic cross. The style of this wood-carving is unique; no other sculpture resembles it. If it does not quite attain beauty, it is at least very odd and rich. There are also carved doors representing Scriptural subjects, marble pulpits, singular bronze candlesticks, brass censers adorned with little bells, silver-gilt gospel-cases, embroidered vestments, silver marriage-diadems, ostrich eggs in metal cases, and old Byzantine paintings, often representing St. George, for St. George is the patron saint of the Copts.

These people esteem themselves to be the true descendants of the ancient Egyptians, as distinguished from the conquering race of Arabians who have now overrun their land. It is a comical idea, but they call upon us to note their close resemblance to the mummies. Early converts to Christianity, they have remained faithful to their belief amid the Mohammedan population all about them. It must be mentioned, however, that they had been pronounced heretics by the Council of Chalcedon before the Arabian conquest; for they had refused to worship the human nature of Christ, revering His divine nature alone. They are the guardians of the Christian legends of Egypt. In a crypt under one of their churches they show two niches. One, they say, was the sleeping-place of Joseph, and the other of the Virgin and Child, during the flight into Egypt. Near Heliopolis is an ancient tree, under whose branches the Holy Family are supposed to have rested when the sunshine was too hot for further travelling.

There are between four and five hundred thousand Copts in Egypt. It may be mentioned here that the Christians of the country, including all branches of the faith, number to-day about six hundred thousand, or one-tenth of the population. The Copts are the book-keepers and scribes; they are also the jewellers and embroiderers. Their ancient tongue has fallen into disuse, and is practically a dead language. They now use Arabic, like all the rest of the nation; but the speech survives in their church service, a part of which is still given in the old tongue, though it is said that even the priests themselves do not always understand what they are saying, having merely learned the sentences by heart, so that they can repeat them as a matter of form. Copts have been converted to Protestantism during these latter days by the American missionaries.

They are not, in appearance, an attractive people. Their convents and churches, at least in Cairo and its neighborhood, are so hidden away, inaccessible, and dirty that they are but slightly appreciated by the majority of travellers, who spend far more of their time among the mosques of Mohammed. But both the people and their ancient language are full of interest from an historical point of view. They form a field for research which will give some day rich results. A little has been done, and well done; but much still remains hidden. It has yet to be dug out by the learned. Then it must be translated by the middle-men into those agreeable little histories which, with agreeable little tunes, agreeable little stories, and agreeable little pictures, are the delight of the many.


The large modern cafes of Cairo are imitations of the cafes of Paris. They are uninteresting, save that one sees under their awnings, or at the little tables within, the stambouline in all its glory and ugliness that is, the heavy black frock-coat with stiff collar, which, with the fez or tarboosh, is the appointed costume for all persons who are employed by the government. The stranger, observing the large number of men of all ages in this attire, is led to the conclusion that the government must employ many thousands of persons in Cairo alone; but probably there is a permitted usage in connection with it, like that mysterious legend “By especial appointment to the Queen” which one sees so often in England inscribed over the doors of little shops in provincial High Streets, where the inns have names which to Americans are as fantastic as anything in “Tartarin;” the “White Horse;” the “Crab and Lobster;” the “Three Choughs;” and the “Five Alls.”

The native cafes have much more local color than the homes of the stambouline. Outside are rows of high wooden settees, upon which the patrons of the establishment sit cross-legged, their slippers left on the ground below. One often sees a row of Arabs squatting here, holding no communication with each other, hearing nothing, seeing nothing, enjoying for the moment an absolute rest. This period of daily repose, called kief, is a necessity for Egyptians. It has its overweight, its excess, in the smoking of hasheesh, which is one of the curses of the land; but thousands of the people who never touch hasheesh would understand as little how to get through their day without this interregnum as without eating; in fact, eating is less important to them.

The Egyptian often takes his rest at the cafe. When the American sees Achmet and Ibrahim, who have attended to some of his errands for infinitesimal wages men whose sole possessions are the old cotton gowns on their backs when he sees them squatted in broad daylight at the cafe, smoking the long pipes and slowly drinking the Mocha coffee, it appears to him an inexplicable idleness, an incurable self-indulgence. It is idleness, no doubt, but associations should not be mixed with the subject. To the American the little cup of after-dinner coffee seems a luxury. He does not always stop to remember that Achmet’s coffee is, very possibly, all the dinner he is to have; that it has been preceded by nothing since daylight but a small piece of Egyptian bread, and that it will be followed by nothing before bedtime but a mouthful of beans or a lettuce-stalk. The daily rest is by no means taken always at the cafe. Egyptians also take it at the baths, where, after the final douche, they spend half an hour in motionless ease. For those who have not the paras for the cafe or the bath, the mosques offer their shaded courts. When there is no time to seek another place, the men take their rest wherever they are. One often sees them lying asleep, or apparently asleep, in their booths at the bazaars. The very beggars draw their rags round them, cover their faces, and lie down close to a wall in the crowded lanes.

At the cafes, during another stage of the rest, games are played, the favorites being dominos, backgammon, and chess. Sometimes a story-teller entertains the circle. He narrates the deeds of Antar and legends of adventure; he also tells stories from the Bible, such as the tale of the flood, or of Daniel in the den of lions. Sometimes he recites, in Arabic, the poems of Omar Khayyam.

“I sent my soul through the invisible,
Some letter of that after-life to spell;
And by-and-by my soul returned to me,
And answered, ‘I myself am heaven and hell!’”

This verse of the Persian poet might be taken as the motto of kief; for if the heaven or hell of each person is simply the condition of his own mind, then if he is able every day to reduce his mind, even for a half-hour only, to a happy tranquillity which has forgotten all its troubles, has he not gained that amount of paradise?


“I love the Arabian language for three reasons: because I am an Arab myself; because the Koran is in Arabic; because Arabic is the language of Paradise.” This hadith, or saying, of Mohammed might be put upon the banner of the old university of Cairo, El Azhar; that is, the Splendid. El Azhar was founded in the tenth century, when Cairo itself was hardly more than a name. In its unmoved attachment to the beliefs of its founders, to their old enthusiasms, their methods and hates, El Azhar has opposed an inflexible front to the advance of European ideas, sending out year after year its hundreds of pupils to all parts of Egypt and to Nubia, to the Soudan and to Morocco, to Turkey, Arabia, and Syria, to India and Ceylon, and to the borders of Persia, believing that so long as it could keep the education of the young in its grasp the reign of the Prophet was secure. It is to-day the most important Mohammedan college in the world; for though it has no longer the twenty thousand students who crowded its courts in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there is still an annual attendance of from seven to ten thousand; by some authorities the number is given as twelve thousand. The twelve thousand have no academic groves; they have not even one tree. There is nothing sequestered about El Azhar; it is near the bazaars in the old part of the town, where the houses are crowded together like wasps’ nests. One sees nothing of it as one approaches save the minarets above, and in the narrow, crowded lane an outer portal. Here the visitor must show his permit and put on the mosque-shoes, for El Azhar was once a mosque, and is now mosque and university combined. After the shoes are on he steps over the low bar, and finds himself within the porch, which is a marvel as it stands, with its fretwork, carved stones, faded reds, and those old plaques of inscription which excite one’s curiosity so desperately, and which no dragoman can ever translate, no matter in how many languages he can complacently ask, “You satisfi?” One soon learns something of the older tongue; hieroglyphics are not difficult; any one with eyes can discover after a while that the A of the ancient Egyptians is, often, a bird who bears a strong resemblance to a pigeon; that their L is a lion; and that the name of the builder of the Great Pyramid, for instance, is represented by a design which looks like two freshly hatched chickens, a football, and a horned lizard (speaking, of course, respectfully of them all). But one can never find out the meaning of the tantalizing characters, so many thousand years nearer our own day, which confront us, surrounded by arabesques, over old Cairo gateways, across the fronts of the street fountains, or inscribed in faded gilt on the crumbling walls of mosques. It is probable that they are Kufic, and one would hardly demand, I suppose, that an English guide should read black-letter? But who can be reasonable in the land of Aladdin’s Lamp?

The porch leads to the large central court, which is open to the sky, the breeze, and the birds; and this last is not merely a possibility, for birds of all kinds are numerous in Egypt, and unmolested. On the pavement of this court, squatting in groups, are hundreds of the turbaned students, some studying aloud, some reading aloud (it is always aloud), some listening to a professor (who also squats), some eating their frugal meals, some mending their clothes, and some merely chatting. These groups are so many and so close together that often the visitor can only make the circuit of the place on its outskirts; he cannot cross. There is generally a carrier of drinking-water making his rounds amid the serried ranks. “For whoever is thirsty, here is water from God,” he chants. One is almost afraid to put down the melodious phrase, for the street cries of Cairo have become as trite as the Ranz des Vaches of Switzerland. Still, some of them are so imaginative and quaint that they should be rescued from triteness and made classic. Here is one which is chanted by the seller of vegetables the best beans, it should be explained, come from Embebeh, beyond Boulak “Help, O Embebeh, help! The beans of Embebeh are better than almonds. Oh-h, how sweet are the little sons of the river!” (This last phrase makes poetical allusion to the soaking in Nile water, which is required before the beans can be cooked.) Certain famous baked beans nearer home also require preliminary soaking. Let us imagine a huckster calling out in Boston streets, as he pursues his way: “Help, O Beverly, help! The beans of Beverly are better than peaches. Oh-h, how sweet are the little sons of Cochituate!”

The central court of the Splendid is surrounded by colonnades, whose walls are now undergoing repairs; but the propping beams do not appear to disturb either the pupils or teachers. On the east side is the sanctuary, which is also a school-room, but a covered one; it is a large, low-ceilinged hall, covering an area of thirty-six hundred square yards; by day its light is dusky; by night it is illuminated by twelve hundred twinkling little lamps suspended from the ceiling by bronze chains. The roof is supported by three hundred and eighty antique columns of marble and granite placed in irregular ranges; there are so many of these pillars that to be among them is like standing in a grove. The pavement is smoothly covered with straw matting; and here also are assembled throngs of pupils some studying, some reciting, some asleep. I paid many visits to El Azhar, moving about quietly with my venerable little dragoman, whom I had selected for an unusual accomplishment silence. One day I came upon an arithmetic class; the professor, a thin, ardent-eyed man of forty, was squatted upon a beautiful Turkish rug at the base of a granite column; his class of boys, numbering thirty, were squatted in a half-circle facing him, their slates on the matting before them. The professor had a small black-board which he had propped up so that all could see it, and there on its surface I saw inscribed that enemy of my own youth, a sum in fractions three-eighths of seven-ninths of twelve-twentieths of ten-thirty-fifths, and so on; evidently the terrible thing is as savage as ever! The professor grew excited; he harangued his pupils; he did the sum over and over, rubbing out and rewriting his ferocious conundrum with a bit of chalk. Slender Arabian hands tried the sum furtively on the little slates; but no one had accomplished the task when, afraid of being remarked, I at last turned away.

The outfit of a well-provided student at El Azhar consists of a rug, a low desk like a small portfolio-easel, a Koran, a slate, an inkstand, and an earthen dish. Instruction is free, and boys are admitted at the early age of eight years. The majority of the pupils do not remain after their twelfth or fourteenth year; a large number, however, pursue their studies much longer, and old students return from time to time to obtain further instruction, so that it is not uncommon to see a gray-bearded pupil studying by the side of a child who might be his grandson. To me it seemed that two-thirds of the students were men between thirty and forty years of age; but this may have been because one noticed them more, as collegians so mature are an unusual sight for American eyes.

All the pupils bow as they study, with a motion like that of the bowing porcelain mandarins. The custom is attributed to the necessity for bending the head whenever the name of Allah is encountered; as the first text-book is always the Koran, children have found it easier to bow at regular intervals with an even motion than to watch for the numerous repetitions of the name. The habit thus formed in childhood remains, and one often sees old merchants in the bazaars reading for their own entertainment, and bowing to and fro as they read. I have even beheld young men, smartly dressed in full European attire, who, lost in the interest of a newspaper, had forgotten themselves for the moment, and were bending to and fro unconsciously at the door of a French cafe. A nation that enjoys the rocking-chair ought to understand this. Some of the students of El Azhar have rooms outside, but many of them possess no other shelter than these two courts, where they sleep upon their rugs spread over the matting or pavement. Food can be brought in at pleasure, but those two Oriental time-consumers, pipes and coffee, are not allowed within the precincts. In one of the porches barbers are established; there is generally a row of students undergoing the process of head-shaving. The fierce, fanatical blind pupils, so often described in the past by travellers, are no longer there; the porter can show only their empty school-room. Blindness is prevalent in Egypt; no doubt the sunshine of the long summer has something to do with it, but another cause is the neglected condition of young children. There is no belief so firmly established in the minds of Egyptian mothers as the superstition that the child who is clean and well-dressed will inevitably attract the dreaded evil-eye, and suffer ever afterwards from the effects of the malign glance. I have seen women who evidently belonged to the upper ranks of the middle class women dressed in silk, with gold ornaments, and a following servant who were accompanied by a poor baby of two or three years of age, so dirty, so squalid and neglected, that any one unacquainted with the country would have supposed it to be the child of a beggar.

In addition to the bowing motion, instruction at El Azhar is aided by a mnemonic system, the rules of grammar, and other lessons also, being given in rhyme. I suppose our public schools are above devices of this sort; but there are some of us among the elders who still fly mentally, when the subject of English history comes up, to that useful poem beginning “First, William the Norman;” and I have heard of the rules for the use of “shall” and “will” being properly remembered only when set to the tune of “Scotland’s burning!” Surely any tune even “Man the Life-boat” would become valuable if it could clear up the bogs of the subjunctive.

It must be mentioned that El Azhar did not invent its mnemonics; it has inherited them from the past. All the mediaeval universities made use of the system.

The central court is surrounded on three sides by chambers, one of which belongs to each country and to each Egyptian province represented at the college. These sombre apartments are filled with oddly-shaped wardrobes, which are assigned to the students for their clothes. There is a legend connected with these rooms: At dusk a man whose heart is pure is sometimes permitted to see the elves who come at that hour to play games in the inner court under the columns; here they run races, they chase each other over the matting, they climb the pillars, and indulge in a thousand antics. The little creatures are said to live in the wardrobes, and each student occasionally places a few flowers within, to avert from himself the danger that comes from their too great love of tricks. There are other inhabitants of these rooms who also indulge in tricks. These are little animals which I took to be ferrets; twice I had a glimpse of a disappearing tail, like a dark flash, as I passed over a threshold. Probably they are kept as mouse-hunters, for pets are not allowed; if they were, it would be entertaining to note those which would be brought hither by homesick pupils from the Somali coast, or Yemen.

In beginning his education the first task for a boy is to commit the Koran to memory. As he learns a portion he is taught to read and to write those paragraphs; in this way he goes through the entire volume. Grammar comes next; at El Azhar the word includes logic, rhetoric, composition, versification, elocution, and other branches. Then follows law, secular and religious. But the law, like the logic, like all the instruction, is founded exclusively upon the Koran. As there is no inquiry into anything new, the precepts have naturally taken a fixed shape; the rules were long ago established, and they have never been altered; the student of 1890 receives the information given to the student of 1490, and no more. But it is this very fact which makes El Azhar interesting to the looker-on; it is a living relic, a survival in the nineteenth century of the university of the fourteenth and fifteenth. It is true that when we think of those great colleges of the past, the picture which rises in the mind is not one of turbaned, seated figures in flowing robes; it is rather of aggressively agile youths, with small braggadocio caps perched on their long locks, their slender waists outlined in the shortest of jackets, and their long legs incased in the tightest of party-colored hose. But this is because the great painters of the past have given immortality to these astonishing scholars of their own lands by putting them upon their canvases. They confined themselves to their own lands too, unfortunately for us; they did not set sail, with their colors and brushes, upon Homer’s “misty deep.” It would be interesting to see what Pinturicchio would have made of El Azhar; or how Gentile da Fabriano would have copied the crowded outer court.

The president of El Azhar occupies, in native estimation, a position of the highest authority. Napoleon, recognizing this power, requested the aid of his influence in inducing Cairo to surrender in 1798. The sheykh complied; and a month later the wonderful Frenchman, in full Oriental costume, visited the university in state, and listened to a recitation from the Koran.

Now that modern schools have been established by the government in addition to the excellent and energetic mission seminaries maintained by the English, the Americans, the Germans, and the French, one wonders whether this venerable Arabian college will modify its tenets or shrink to a shadow and disappear. There are hopeful souls who prophesy the former; but I do not agree with them. Let us aid the American schools by all the means in our power. But as for El Azhar, may it fade (as fade it must) with its ancient legends draped untouched about it.

All who visit Cairo see the Assiout ware pottery made of red and black earth, and turned on a wheel; it comes from Assiout, two hundred and thirty miles up the Nile, and the simple forms of the vases and jugs, the rose-water stoups and narrow-necked perfume-throwers, are often very graceful. Assiout ware is offered for sale in the streets; but the itinerant venders are sent out by a dealer in the bazaars, and the fatality which makes it happen that the vender has two black stoups and one red jug when you wish for one black stoup and two red jugs sent us to headquarters. But the crowded booth did not contain our heart’s desire, and as we still lingered, making ourselves, I dare say, too pressing for the Oriental ease of the proprietor, it was at last suggested that Mustapha might perhaps go to the store-room for more ? (the interrogation-point meaning backsheesh). Seizing the opportunity, we asked permission to accompany the messenger. No one objecting as the natives consider all strangers more or less mad we were soon following our guide through a dusky passageway behind the shop, the darkness lit by the gleam of his white teeth as he turned, every now and then, to give us an encouraging smile and a wink of his one eye, over his shoulder. At length still in the dark we arrived at a stairway, and, ascending, found ourselves in a second-story court, which was roofed over with matting. This court was surrounded by chambers fitted with rough, sliding fronts: almost all of the fronts were at the moment thrown up, as a window is thrown up and held by its pulleys. In one of these rooms we found Assiout ware in all its varieties; but we made a slow choice. We were evidently in a lodging-house of native Cairo; all the chambers save this one store-room appeared to be occupied as bachelors’ apartments. The two rooms nearest us belonged to El Azhar students, so Mustapha said: he could speak no English, but he imparted the information in Arabic to our dragoman. Seeing that we were more interested in the general scene than in his red jugs, Mustapha left the Assiout ware to its fate, and, lighting a cigarette, seated himself on the railing with a disengaged air, as much as to say: “Two more mad women! But it’s nothing to me.” One of the students was evidently an ascetic; his room contained piles of books and pamphlets, and almost nothing else; his one rug was spread out close to the front in order to get the light, and placed upon it we saw his open inkstand, his pens, and a page of freshly copied manuscript. When we asked where he was, Mustapha replied that he had gone down to the fountain to wash himself, so that he could say his prayers. The second chamber belonged to a student of another disposition; this extravagant young man had three rugs; clothes hung from pegs upon his walls, and he possessed an extra pair of lemon-colored slippers; in addition we saw cups and saucers upon a shelf. Only two books were visible, and these were put away in a corner; instead of books he had flowers; the whole place was adorned with them; pots containing plants in full bloom were standing on the floor round the walls of his largely exposed abode, and were also drawn up in two rows in the passageway outside, where he himself, sitting on a mat, was sewing. His blossoms were so gay that involuntarily we smiled. Whereupon he smiled too, and gave us a salam. Opposite the rooms of the students there was a large chamber, almost entirely filled with white bales, like small cotton bales; in a niche between these high piles, an old man, kneeling at the threshold, was washing something in a large earthen-ware tub of a pink tint. His body was bare from the waist upward, and, as he bent over his task, his short chest, with all the ribs clearly visible, his long brown back with the vertebrae of the spine standing out, and his lean, seesawing arms, looked skeleton-like, while his head, supported on a small wizened throat, was adorned with such an enormous bobbing turban, dark green in hue, that it resembled vegetation of some sort a colossal cabbage. Directly behind him, also on the threshold, squatted a large gray baboon, whose countenance expressed a fixed misanthropy. Every now and then this creature, who was secured by a long, loose cord, ascended slowly to the top of the bales and came down on the other side, facing his master. He then looked deeply into the tub for several minutes, touched the water carefully with his small black hand, withdrew it, and inspected the palm, and then returned gravely, and by the same roundabout way over the bales, to resume his position at the doorsill, looking as if he could not understand the folly of such unnecessary and silly toil.

In another chamber a large, very black negro, dressed in pure white, was seated upon the floor, with his feet stretched out in front of him, his hands placed stiffly on his knees, his eyes staring straight before him. He was motionless; he seemed hardly to breathe.

“What is he doing?” I said to the dragoman.

“He? Oh, he berry good man; he pray.”

In a chamber next to the negro two grave old Arabs were playing chess. They were perched upon one of those Cairo settees which look like square chicken-coops. One often sees these seats in the streets, placed for messengers and porters, and for some time I took them for actual chicken-coops, and wondered why they were always empty. Chickens might well have inhabited the one used by the chess-players, for the central court upon which all these chambers opened was covered with a layer of rubbish and dirt several inches thick, which contained many of their feathers. It was upon this same day that we made our search for the Khan of Kait Bey. No dragoman knows where it is. The best way, indeed, to see the old quarters is to select from a map the name of a street as remote as possible from the usual thoroughfares beloved by these tasselled guides, and then demand to be conducted thither.

We did this in connection with the Khan of Kait Bey. But when we had achieved the distinction of finding it, we discovered that it was impossible to see it. The winding street is so narrow, and so constantly crowded with two opposed streams of traffic, that your donkey cannot pause to give you a chance to inspect the portion which is close to your eyes, and there is no spot where you can get a view in perspective of the whole. So you pass up the lane, turn, and come down again; and, if conscientious, you repeat the process, obtaining for all your pains only a confused impression of horizontal plaques and panels, with ruined walls tottering above them, and squalid shops below. There is a fine arched gateway adorned with pendentives; that, on account of its size, you can see; it leads into the khan proper, where were once the chambers for the travelling merchants and the stalls for their beasts; but all this is now a ruin. One of the best authorities on Saracenic art has announced that this khan is adorned with more varieties of exquisite arabesques than any single building in Cairo. This may be true. But to appreciate the truth of the statement one needs wings or a ladder. The word ladder opens the subject of the two ways of looking at architecture in detail or as a whole. The natural power of the eye has more to do with this than is acknowledged. If one can distinctly see, without effort and aid, a whole façade at a glance, with the general effect of its proportions, the style of its ornament, the lights and shadows, the outline of the top against the sky, one is more interested in this than in the small traceries, for instance, over one especial window. There are those of us who remember the English cathedrals by their great towers rising in the gray air, with the birds flying about them. There are others who, never having clearly seen this vision for no opera-glass can give the whole recall, for their share of the pleasure, the details of the carvings over the porches, or of the old tombs within. It is simply the far-sighted and the near-sighted view. Another authority, a master who has had many disciples, has (of late years, at least) devoted himself principally to the near-sighted view. In his maroon-colored Tracts on Venice he has given us a minute account of the features of the small faces of the capitals of the columns of the Doge’s palace (all these ofs express the minuteness of it); but when we stand on the pavement below the palace and naturally we cannot stand in mid-air we find that it is impossible to follow him: I speak of the old capitals, some of which are still untouched. The solution lies in the ladder. And Ruskin, as regards his later writings, may be called the ladder critic. The poet Longfellow, arriving in Verona during one of his Italian journeys, learned that Ruskin was also there, and not finding him at the hotel, went out in search of his friend. After a while he came upon him at the Tombs of the Scaligers. Here high in the air, at the top of a long ladder, with a servant keeping watch below, was a small figure. It was Ruskin, who, nose to nose with them, was making a careful drawing of some of the delicate terminal ornaments of those splendid Gothic structures. One does not object to the careful drawings any more than to the descriptions of the little faces at Venice. They are good in their way. But one wishes to put upon record the suggestion that architectural beauty as viewed from a ladder, inch by inch, is not the only aspect of that beauty; nor is it, for a large number of us, the most important aspect. A man who is somewhat deaf, if talking about a symphony, will naturally dwell upon the strains which he has heard that is, the louder portions; but he ought not therefore to assume that the softer notes are insignificant.


On the 31st of January, 1890, we took part in a horse-race. It was a long race of great violence, and the horses engaged in it were disgracefully thin and weak. “Very Mohammedan that,” some one comments. The race was Mohammedan from one point of view, for it was connected with the dervishes, Mohammedans of fanatical creed. The dervishes, however, remained in their monasteries with their fanaticism; the race was made by Christians, who, crowded into rattling carriages, flew in a body from the square of Sultan Hassan through the long, winding lanes that lead towards Old Cairo at a speed which endangered everybody’s life, with wheels grating against each other, coachmen standing up and yelling like demons, whiplashes curling round the ribs of the wretched, ill-fed, galloping horses, and natives darting into their houses on each side to save themselves from death, as the furious procession, in clouds of dust, rushed by. The cause of this sudden madness is found in the fact that the two best-known orders of these Mohammedan monks (one calls them monks for want of a better name; they have some resemblance to monks, and some to Freemasons) go through their rites once a week only, and upon the same afternoon; by making this desperate haste it is possible to see both services; and as travellers, for the most part, make but a short stay in Cairo, they find themselves taking part, nolens volens, in this frantic progress, led by their ambitious dragománs, who appear to enjoy it. The service of the Dancing Dervishes takes place in their mosque, which is near the square of Sultan Hassan. Here they have a small circular hall; round this arena, and elevated slightly above it, is an aisle where spectators are allowed to stand; over the aisle is the gallery. This January day brought a crowd of visitors who filled the aisle completely. Presently a dervish made the circuit of the empty arena, warning, by a solemn gesture, those who had seated or half-seated themselves upon the balustrade that the attitude was not allowed. As soon as he had passed, some of the warned took their places again. Naturally, these were spectators of the gentler sex. I am even afraid that they were pilgrims from the land where the gentler sex is accustomed from its earliest years to a profound deference. Two of these pretty pilgrims transgressed in this way four times, and at last the dervish came and stood before them. They remained seated, returning his gaze with amiable tranquillity. What he thought I do not know this lean Egyptian in his old brown cloak and conical hat. I fancied, however, that it had something to do with the great advantages of the Mohammedan system regarding the seclusion of women. He did not conquer.

At length began the music. The band of the dervishes is placed in one of the galleries; we could see the performers squatting on their rugs, the instruments being flutes or long pipes, and small drums like tambourines without the rattles. Egyptian music has a marked time, but no melody; no matter how good an ear one has, it is impossible to catch and resing its notes, even though one hears them daily. Pierre Loti writes: “The strains of the little flutes of Africa charm me more than the most perfect orchestral harmonies of other lands.” If by this he means that the flutes recall to his memory the magic scenes of Oriental life, that is one thing; but if he means that he really loves the sounds for themselves, I am afraid we must conclude that this prince of verbal expression has not an ear for music (which is only fair; a man cannot have everything). The band of the dervishes sends forth a high wail, accompanied by a rumble. Neither, however, is distressingly loud.

Meanwhile the dervishes have entered, and, muffled in their cloaks, are standing, a silent band, round the edge of the arena; their sheykh a very old man, much bent, but with a noble countenance takes his place upon the sacred rug, and receives with dignity their obeisances. All remain motionless for a while. Then the sheykh rises, heads the procession, and, with a very slow step, they all move round the arena, bowing towards the sacred carpet as they pass it. This opening ceremony concluded, the sheykh again takes his seat, and the dervishes, divesting themselves of their cloaks, step one by one into the open space, where, after a prayer, each begins whirling slowly, with closed eyes. They are all attired in long, full white skirts, whose edges have weights attached to them; as the speed of the music increases, their whirl becomes more rapid, but it remains always even; though their eyes are closed, they never touch each other. From the description alone, it is difficult to imagine that this rite (for such it is) is solemn. But looked at with the actual eyes, it seemed to me an impressive ceremony; the absorbed appearance of the participants, their unconsciousness of all outward things, the earnestness of the aspiration visible on their faces all these were striking. The zikr, as this species of religious effort is named, is an attempt to reach a state of ecstasy (hallucination, we should call it), during which the human being, having forgotten the existence of its body, becomes for the moment spirit only, and can then mingle with the spirit world. The Dancing Dervishes endeavor to bring on this trance by the physical dizziness which is produced by whirling; the Howling Dervishes try to effect the same by swinging their heads rapidly up and down, and from side to side, with a constant shout of “Allah!” “Allah!”. The latter soon reach a state of temporary frenzy. For this reason the dancers are more interesting; their ecstasy, being silent, seems more earnest. The religion of the Hindoos has a similar idea in another form namely, that the highest happiness is a mingling with God, and an utter unconsciousness of one’s humanity. Christian hermits, in retiring from the world, have sought, as far as possible, the same mental condition; but for a lifetime, not, like the dervishes, for an hour. These enthusiasts marry, if they please; many of them are artisans, tradesmen, and farm laborers, and only go at certain times to the monasteries to take part in the zikrs. There are many different orders, and several other kinds of zikr besides the two most commonly seen by travellers.

Travellers see also the Mohammedan prayers. These prayers, with alms-giving, fasting during the month Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca, are the important religious duties of all Muslims. The excellent new hotel, the Continental, where we had our quarters, a hotel whose quiet and comfort are a blessing to Cairo, overlooked a house which was undergoing alteration; every afternoon at a certain hour a plasterer came from his work within, and, standing in a corner under our windows, divested himself of his soiled outer gown; then, going to a wall-faucet, he turned on the water, and rapidly but carefully washed his face, his hands and arms, his feet, and his legs as far as his knees, according to Mohammed’s rule; this done, he took down from a tree a clean board which he kept there for the purpose, and, placing it upon the ground, he kneeled down upon it, with his face towards Mecca, and went through his worship, many times touching the ground with his forehead in token of self-humiliation. His devotions occupied five or six minutes. As soon as they were over, the board was quickly replaced in the tree, the soiled gown put on again, and the man hurried back to his work with an alertness which showed that he was no idler. On the Nile, at the appointed hour, our pilot gave the wheel to a subordinate, spread out his prayer-carpet on the deck, and said his prayers with as much indifference to the eyes watching him as though they did not exist. In the bazaars the merchants pray in their shops; the public cook prays in the street beside his little furnace; on the shores of the river at sunset the kneeling figures outlined against the sky are one of the pictures which all travellers remember. The official pilgrimage to Mecca takes place each year, the departure and return of the pilgrim train being celebrated with great pomp; the most ardent desire of every Mohammedan is to make this journey before he dies. When a returning Cairo pilgrim reaches home, it is a common custom to decorate his doorway with figures, painted in brilliant hues, representing his supposed adventures. The designs, which are very primitive in outline, usually show the train of camels, the escort of soldiers, wonderful wild beasts in fighting attitudes, nondescript birds and trees, and garlands of flowers. One comes upon these Mecca doorways very frequently in the old quarters. Sometimes the gay tints show that the journey was a recent one; often the faded outlines speak of the zeal of an ancestor.


While in the city of the Khedive, if one has a wish for the benediction of a far-stretching view, he must go to the Citadel. The prospect from this hill has been described many times. One sees all Cairo, with her minarets; the vivid green of the plain, with the Nile winding through it; the desert meeting the verdure and stretching back to the red hills; lastly, the pyramids, beginning with those of Gizeh, near at hand, and ending, far in the distance, with the hazy outlines of those of Abouseer and Sakkarah. The Citadel was built by Saladin in the twelfth century. Saladin’s palace, which formed part of it, was demolished in 1824 to make room for the modern mosque, whose large dome and attenuated minarets are now the last objects which fade away when the traveller leaves Cairo behind him. This rich Mohammedan temple was the work of Mehemet Ali, the founder of the present dynasty. It is not beautiful, in spite of its alabaster, but Mehemet himself would probably admire it, could he return to earth (the mosque was not completed until after his death), as he had to the full that bad taste in architecture and art which, for unexplained reasons, so often accompanies a new birth of progress in an old country. Mehemet was born in Roumelia; he entered the Turkish army, and after attaining the rank of colonel he was sent to Egypt. Here he soon usurped all power, and had it not been for the intervention of Russia and France, and later of England and Austria, it is probable that he would have succeeded in freeing himself and the country whose leadership he had grasped from the domination of Turkey. Every one has heard something of the terrible massacre of the Memlooks by his order, in this Citadel, in 1811. The Memlooks were opposed to all progress, and Mehemet was bent upon progress. Freed from their power, this ferocious liberator built canals; he did his best to improve agriculture; he established a printing-office and founded schools; he sent three hundred boys to Europe to be educated as civil engineers, as machinists, as printers, as naval officers, and as physicians; his idea was that, upon their return, they could instruct others. When the first class came back, he filled his public schools by the simple method of force. The translators of the French text-books which had been selected for the use of the schools were taken from the ranks of the returned students. A text-book was given to each, and all were kept closely imprisoned in the Citadel a period of four months, until they had completed their task. Mehemet had a dream of an Arabian kingdom in Egypt which should in time rival the European nations without joining them. It is this dream which makes him interesting. He was the first modern. A Turk by birth, and remaining a Turk as regards his private life, he had great ideas. Undoubtedly he possessed genius of a high order.

As to his private life, one comes across a trace of it at Choubra. This was Mehemet’s summer residence, and the place remains much as it was during his lifetime. The road to Choubra, which was until recently the favorite drive of the Cairenes, is now deserted. The palace stands on the banks of the Nile, three miles from town, and its gardens, which cover nine acres, are beautiful even in their present neglected condition; in the spring the fragrance from the mass of blossoms is intoxicatingly sweet. But the wonder of Choubra is a richly decorated garden-house, containing, in a marble basin, a lake which is large enough for skiffs. Here Mehemet often spent his evenings. Upon these occasions the whole place was brilliantly lighted, and the hareem disported itself in little boats on the fairy-like pool, and in strolling up and down the marble colonnades, unveiled (as Mehemet was the only man present), and in their richest attire. The marbles have grown dim, the fountains are choked, the colonnades are dusty, and the lake has a melancholy air. But even in its decay Choubra presents to the man of fancy a few such men still exist a picture of Oriental scenes which he has all his life imagined, perhaps, but whose actual traces he no more expected to see with his own eyes in 1890 than to behold the silken sails of Cleopatra furled among Cook’s steamers on the Nile. Mehemet’s last years were spent at Choubra, and here he died, in 1849, at the age of eighty-one. As he had forced from Turkey a firman assigning the throne to his own family, he was succeeded by one of his sons.


In 1863 (after the short reign of Ibrahim, five years of Abbas, and eight of Said), Ismail, Mehemet’s grandson, ascended the throne. He had received his education in Paris.

Much has been written about this man. The opening, in 1869, of the Suez Canal turned the eyes of the entire civilized world upon Egypt. The writers swooped down upon the ancient country in a flock, and the canal, the land, and its ruler were described again and again. The ruler was remarkable. Ismail was short (one speaks of him in the past tense, although he is not dead), with very broad shoulders; his hands were singularly thick; his ears also were thick, and oddly placed; his feet were small, and he always wore finically fine French shoes. There was nothing of the Arab in his face, and little of the Turk. One of his eyelids had a natural droop, and vexed diplomatists have left it upon record that he had the power of causing the other to droop also, thus making it possible for him to study the faces of his antagonists at his leisure, he, meanwhile, presenting to them in return a blind mask. The mask, however, was amiable; it was adorned almost constantly with a smile. The man must have had marked powers of fascination. At the present day, when some of the secrets of his reign are known though by no means all it is easy to paint him in the darkest colors; but during the time of his power his great schemes dazzled the world, and people liked him it is impossible to doubt the testimony of so many pens; European and American visitors always left his presence pleased.

There are in Cairo black stories of cruelty connected with his name. These for the most part are unwritten; they are told in the native cafes and in the bazaars. It does not appear that he loved cruelty for its own sake, as some of the Roman emperors loved it; but if any one rebelled against his power or his pleasure, that person was sacrificed without scruple. In some cases it took the form of a disappearance in the night, without a sound or a trace left behind. This is the sort of thing we associate with the old despotic ages. But 1869 is not a remote date, and at that time the present Emperor of Austria, the late Emperor Frederick (then Crown-Prince of Prussia), the Empress Eugenie, Prince Oscar of Sweden, Prince Louis of Hesse, the Princess of the Netherlands, the Duke and Duchess of Aosta, and other distinguished Europeans, were the guests of this enigmatic host, eating his sumptuous dinners and attending his magnificent balls. The festivities in connection with the opening of the canal are said to have cost Ismail twenty-one millions of dollars. The sum seems large; but it included the furnishing of palaces, lavish hospitality to an army of guests besides the sovereigns and their suites, and an opera to order namely, Verdi’s Aida, which was given with great brilliancy in Cairo, in an opera-house erected for the occasion. Ismail, like Mehemet, had his splendid dream. He, too, wished to free Egypt from the power of Turkey; but, unlike his grandfather, he wished to take her bodily into the circle of the civilized nations, not as a rival, but as an ally and friend. An Egyptian kingdom, under his rule, was to extend from the Mediterranean to the equator; from the Red Sea westward beyond Darfur. His bold ambition ended in disaster. His railways, telegraphs, schools, harbors, and postal-service, together with his personal extravagance, brought Egypt to the verge of bankruptcy. All Europe now had a vital interest in the Suez Canal, and the powers therefore united in a demand that the Sultan should stop the career of his audacious Egyptian Viceroy. The Viceroy might perhaps have resisted the Porte; he could not resist the united powers. In 1879 he was deposed, and his son Tufik appointed in his place. Ismail left Egypt. For several years he travelled, residing for a time in Naples; at present he is living in a villa near Constantinople. There is a rumor in Cairo that he is more of a prisoner there than he supposes. But this may be only one of the legends that are always attached to Turkish affairs. His dream has come true in one respect at least: Egypt has indeed joined the circle of the European nations, but not in the manner which Ismail intended; she is only a bondwoman if the pun can be permitted.


The Gezireh road is to-day the favorite afternoon drive of the Cairenes. It is a broad avenue, raised above the plain, and overarched by trees throughout its course. At many points it commands an uninterrupted view of the pyramids. Two miles from town the Gezireh Palace rises on the right, surrounded by gardens, which, unlike those of Choubra, are carefully tended. It was built by Ismail. Of all these Cairo palaces it must be explained that they have none of the characteristics of castles or strongholds; they are merely lightly built residences, designed for a climate which has ten months of summer. The central hall and grand staircase of Gezireh are superb; alabaster, onyx, and malachite adorn like jewels the beautiful marbles, which came from Carrara. The drawing-rooms and audience-chambers have a splendid spaciousness: the state apartments of many a royal palace in Europe sink into insignificance in this respect when compared with them. Much of the furniture is rich, but again (as in the old house of the Sheykh es Sadat) one finds it difficult to forgive the tawdry French carpets and curtains, when the bazaars close at hand could have contributed fabrics of so much greater beauty. But Ismail’s taste was French that is, the lowest shade of French as French is still the taste of modern Egypt among the upper classes. It remains to be seen whether the English occupation will change this. During the festivities at the time of the opening of the canal, Ismail’s royal guests were entertained at Gezireh. On the upper floor are the rooms which were occupied by the Empress Eugenie, the walls and ceilings covered with thick satin, tufted like the back of an arm-chair, its tint the shade of blue which is most becoming to a blond complexion Ismail’s compliment to his beautiful guest. During these days there were state dinners and balls at Gezireh, with banks of orchids, myriads of wax-lights, and orchestras playing strains from La Belle Helene and La Grande Duchesse. During one of these balls the Emperor of Austria made a progress through the rooms with Ismail, band after band taking up the Austrian national anthem as the imperial guest entered. The vision of the stately, grave Franz Josef advancing through these glittering halls by the side of the waddling little hippopotamus of the Nile, to the martial notes of that fine hymn (which we have appropriated for our churches under another name, and without saying “By your leave"), is one of the sinister apparitions with which this rococo palace, a palace half splendid, half shabby, is haunted.

In the garden there is a kiosk whose proportions charm the eye. The guide-books inform us that this ornamentation is of cast-iron; that it is an imitation of the Alhambra; that it is “considered the finest modern Arabian building in the world” all of which is against it. Nevertheless, viewed from any point across the gardens, its outlines are exquisite. Within there are more festal chambers, and a gilded dining-room, which was the scene of the suppers (they were often orgies) that were given by Ismail upon the occasion of his private masked balls. At some distance from the palace, behind a screen of trees, are the apartments reserved for the hareem. This smaller palace has no beauty, unless one includes its enchanting little garden; such attraction as it has comes from the light it sheds upon the daily life of Eastern women. Occidental travellers are always curious about the hareem. The word means simply the ladies, or women, of the family, and the term is made to include also the rooms which they occupy, as our word “school” might mean the building or the pupils within it. At Gezireh the hareem, save that its appointments are more costly, is much like those caravansaries which abound at our inland summer resorts. There are long rows of small chambers opening from each side of narrow halls, with a few sitting-rooms, which were held in common. The carpets, curtains, and such articles of furniture as still remain are all flowery, glaring, and in the worst possible modern taste, save that they do not exhibit those horrible hues, surely the most hideous with which this world has been cursed the so-called solferinos and magentas. Besides their private garden, the women and children of the hareem had for their entertainment a small menagerie, an aviery, and a confectionery establishment, where fresh bonbons were made for them every day, especially the sugared rose leaves so dear to the Oriental heart. The chief of Ismail’s four wives had a passion for jewels. She possessed rubies and diamonds of unusual size, and so many precious stones of all kinds that her satin dresses were embroidered with them. She had her private band of female musicians, who played for her, when she wished for music, upon the violin, the flute, the zither, and the mandolin. The princesses of the royal house, Ismail’s wives and his sisters-in-law, could not bring themselves to admire the Empress of the French. They were lost in wonder over what they called her “pinched stiffness.” It is true that the uncorseted forms of Oriental beauties have nothing in common with the rigid back and martial elbows of modern attire. Dimples, polished limbs, dark, long-lashed eyes, and an indolent step are the ideals of the hareem.

The legends of these jewelled sultanas, of the masked balls, of the long train of royal visitors, of the orchids, the orchestras, and the wax-lights, are followed at Gezireh by a tale of murder which is singularly ghastly. Ismail’s Minister of Finance was his foster-brother Sadyk, with whom he had lived upon terms of closest intimacy all his life. The two were often together; frequently they drove out to Gezireh to spend the night. One afternoon in 1878 Ismail’s carriage stopped at the doorway of the palace in Cairo occupied by his minister. Sadyk came out. “Get in,” Ismail was heard to say. “We will go to Gezireh. There are business matters about which I must talk with you.” The two men went away together. Sadyk never came back. When the carriage reached Gezireh, Ismail gave orders that it should stop at the palace, instead of going on to the kiosk, where they generally alighted. He himself led the way within, crossing the reception-room to the small private salon which overlooks the Nile. Here he seated himself upon a sofa, drawing up his feet in the Oriental fashion, which was not his usual custom. Sadyk was about to follow his example, when he found himself seized suddenly from behind. The doors were now locked from the outside, leaving within only the two foster-brothers and the man who had seized Sadyk. This was a Nubian named Ishak, a creature celebrated for his strength. He now proceeded to murder Sadyk after a fashion of his own country, a process of breaking the bones of the chest and neck in a manner which leaves on the skin no sign. Sadyk fought for his life; he dragged the Nubian over the white velvet carpet, and finally bit off two of his fingers. But he was not a young man, and in the end he was conquered. During this struggle Ismail remained motionless on the sofa, with his feet drawn up and his arms folded. A steamer lay at anchor outside, and during the night Sadyk’s body was placed on board; at dawn the boat started up the river. At the same hour Ismail drove back to Cairo, where, in the course of the morning, it was officially announced that the Minister of Finance, having been detected in colossal peculations, had been banished to the White Nile, and was already on his way thither. Sadyk’s body rests somewhere at the bottom of the river. But Ismail’s little drama of banishment and the steamer were set at naught when, after he had left Cairo, Ishak the Nubian returned, with his mutilated hand and his story. Such is the tale as it is told in the bazaars. Ismail’s motive in murdering a man he liked (he was incapable of true affection for any one) is found in the fact that he could place upon the shoulders of the missing minister the worst of the financial irregularities which were trying the patience of the European powers. It did him no good. He was deposed the next year.

During the spring of 1890 Gezireh awoke to new life for a time. A French company had purchased the place, with the intention of opening it as an Egyptian Monte Carlo. But Khedive Tufik, who has prohibited gambling throughout his domain, forbade the execution of this plan. So the tarnished silks remain where they were, and the faded gilded ceilings have not been renewed. When we made our last visit, during the heats of early summer, the blossoms were as beautiful as ever, and the ghosts were all there we met them on the marble stairs: the European princes, led by poor Eugenie; the sultanas, with their jewels and their band; Ismail, with his drooping eyelids; and Sadyk, followed by the Nubian.


The present Khedive (or Viceroy) is thirty-eight years of age. Well proportioned, with fine dark eyes, he may be called a handsome man; but his face is made heavy by its expression of settled melancholy. It is said in Cairo that he has never been known to laugh. But this must apply to his public life only, for he is much attached to his family to his wife and his four children; in this respect he lives strictly in the European manner, never having had but this one wife. He is a devoted father. Determined that the education of his sons should not be neglected as his own education was neglected by Ismail, he had for them, at an early age, an accomplished English tutor. Later he sent them to Geneva, Switzerland; they are now in Vienna. Tufik’s chief interest, if one may judge by his acts, is in education. In this direction his strongest efforts have been made; he has improved the public schools of Egypt, and established new ones; he has given all the support possible to that greatest of modern innovations in a Mohammedan country, the education of women. With all this, he is a devout Mohammedan; he is not a fanatic; but he may be called, I think, a Mohammedan Puritan. He receives his many European and American visitors with courtesy. But they do not talk about him as they talked about Ismail; he excites no curiosity. This is partly owing to his position, his opinions and actions having naturally small importance while an English army is taking charge of his realm; but it is also owing, in a measure, to the character of the man himself. One often sees him driving. On Sunday afternoons his carriage in semi-state leads the procession along the Gezireh Avenue. First appear the outriders, six mounted soldiers; four brilliantly dressed saises follow, rushing along with their wands high in the air; then comes the open carriage, with the dark-eyed, melancholy Khedive on the back seat, returning mechanically the many salutations offered by strangers and by his own people. Behind his carriage are four more of the flying runners; then the remainder of the mounted escort, two and two. At a little distance follows the brougham of the Vice-reine; according to Oriental etiquette, she never appears in public beside her husband. Her brougham is preceded and followed by saises, but there is no mounted escort. The Vice-reine is pretty, intelligent, and accomplished; in addition, she is brave. Several years ago, when the cholera was raging in Cairo, and the Khedive, almost alone among the upper classes, remained there in order to do what he could for the suffering people, his wife also refused to flee. She stayed in the plague-stricken town until the pestilence had disappeared, exerting her influence to persuade the frightened women of the lower classes to follow her example regarding sanitary precautions. Tufik is accused of being always undecided; he was not undecided upon this occasion at least. It is probable that some of his moments of indecision have been caused by real hesitations. And this brings us to Arabi.

Arabi (he is probably indifferent to the musical sound of his name) was the leader of the military revolt which broke out in Egypt in 1881 a revolt with which all the world is familiar, because it was followed by the bombardment of Alexandria by the English fleet. Arabi had studied at El Azhar; he knew the Koran by heart. To the native population he seemed a wonderful orator; he excited their enthusiasm; he roused their courage; he almost made them patriotic. The story of Arabi is interesting; there were many intrigues mixed with the revolt, and a dramatic element throughout. But these slight impressions the idle notes merely of one winter are not the place for serious history. Nor is the page completed so that it can be described as a whole. Egypt at this moment is the scene of history in the actual process of making, if the term may be so used making day by day and hour by hour. Arabi has been called the modern Masaniello. The watchword of his revolt was, “Egypt for the Egyptians”; and there is always something touching in this cry when the invaded country is weak and the incoming power is strong. But it may be answered that the Egyptians at present are incapable of governing themselves; that the country, if left to its own devices, would revert to anarchy in a month, and to famine, desolation, and barbarism in five years. Americans are not concerned with these questions of the Eastern world. But if a similar cry had been successfully raised about two hundred years ago on another coast “America for the Americans” would the Western continent have profited thereby? Doubtless the original Americans those of the red skins raised it as loudly as they could. But there was not much listening. The comparison is stretched, for the poor Egyptian fellah is at least not a savage; but there is a grain of resemblance large enough to call for reflection, when the question of occupation and improvement of a half-civilized land elsewhere is under discussion. The English put down the revolt, and sent Arabi to Ceylon, a small Napoleon at St. Helena. The rebel colonel and his fellow-exiles are at present enjoying those spicy breezes which are associated in our minds with foreign missions and a whole congregation singing (and dragging them fearfully) the celebrated verses. Arabi has complained of the climate in spite of the perfumes, and it is said that he is to be transferred to some other point in the ocean; there are, indeed, many of them well adapted for the purpose. The English newspapers of to-day are dotted with the word “shadowed,” which signifies, apparently, that certain persons in Ireland are followed so closely by a policeman that the official might be the shadow. Possibly the melancholy Khedive is shadowed by the memory of the exile of Ceylon. For Tufik did not cast his lot with Arabi. He turned towards the English. To use the word again, though with another signification, though ruler still, he has but a shadowy power.


Near the city gate named the Help of God, on the northeastern border of Cairo, is the old mosque El Hakim. Save its outer walls, which enclose, like the mosques of Touloun and Amer, a large open square, there is not much left of it; but within this square, housed in a temporary building, one finds the collection of Saracenic antiquities which is called the Arab Museum.

This museum is interesting, and it ought to be beautiful. But somehow it is not. The barrack-like walls, sparsely ornamented with relics from the mosques, the straight aisles and glass show-cases, are not inspiring; the fragments of Arabian wood-carving seem to be lamenting their fate; and the only room which is not desolate is the one where old tiles lie in disorder upon the floor, much as they lie on broken marble pavements of the ancient houses which, half ruined and buried in rubbish, still exist in the old quarters. Why one should be so inconsistent as to find no fault with Gizeh, where rows of antiquities torn from their proper places confront us, where show-cases abound, and yet at the same time make an outcry over this poor little morsel at El Hakim, remains a mystery. Possibly it is because the massive statues and the solid little gods of ancient Egypt do not require an appropriate background, as do the delicate fancies of Saracenic taste. However this may be, to some of us the Arab Museum looks as if a New England farmer’s wife had tried her best to make things orderly within its borders, poor soul, in spite of the strangeness of the articles with which she was obliged to deal. It must, however, be added that the museum will not make this impression upon persons who are indifferent to the general aspect of an aisle, or of a series of walls persons who care only for the articles which adorn them the lovers of detail, in short. And it is well for all of us to join this class as soon as our feet have crossed the threshold. For we shall be repaid for it. The details are exquisite.

The Arab Museum has been established recently. Every one is grateful to the zeal which has rescued from further injury so many specimens of a vanishing art. One covets a little chest for the Koran which is made of sandal-wood. It is incrusted with arabesques carved in ivory, and has broad hasps and locks of embossed silver. There are many koursis, or small, stool-like tables; one of these has panels of silver filigree, and fretted medallions bearing the name of the Sultan Mohammed ebn Kalaoon, thus showing that it once belonged to the mosque at the Citadel which was built by that Memlook ruler the mosque whose minarets are ornamented with picturesque bands of emerald-hued porcelain. The illuminated Korans are not here; they are kept in the Public Library in the Street of the Sycamores. Perhaps the most beautiful of the museum’s treasures are the old lamps of Arabian glass. In shape they are vases, as they were simply filled with perfumed oil which carried a floating wick; the colors are usually a pearly background, faintly tinged sometimes by the hue we call ashes of roses; upon this background are ornaments of blue, gold, and red; occasionally these ornaments are Arabic letters forming a name or text. These lamps were made in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; the glass, which has as marked characteristics of its own as Palissy ware, so that once seen it can never be confounded with any other, has a delicate beauty which is unrivalled.


Like the pyramids, Heliopolis belongs to Cairo. On the way thither, one first traverses the pleasant suburb of Abbasieh. How one traverses it depends upon his taste. The most enthusiastic pedestrian soon gives up walking in the city of the Khedive save in the broad streets of the new quarter. The English ride, one meets every day their gallant mounted bands; but these are generally residents and their visitors, and the horses are their own; for the traveller there are only the street carriages and the donkeys. The carriages are dubiously loose-jointed, and the horses (whose misery has already been described) have but two gaits the walk of a dying creature and the gallop of despair; unless, therefore, one wishes to mount a dromedary, he must take a donkey. But the “must” is not a disparagement; the white and gray donkeys of Cairo the best of them are good-natured, gay-hearted, strong, and even handsome. They have a coquettish way of arching their necks and holding their chins (if a donkey can be said to have a chin), which always reminded me of George Eliot’s description of Gwendolen’s manner of poising her head in Daniel Deronda. George Eliot goes on to warn other young ladies that it is useless to try to imitate this proud little air, unless one has a throat like Gwendolen’s. And, in the same spirit, one must warn other donkeys that they must be born in Cairo to be beautiful. Upon several occasions I recognized vanity in my donkey. He knew perfectly when he was adorned with his holiday necklaces one of imitation sequins, the other of turquoise-hued beads. I am sure that he would have felt much depressed if deprived of his charm against magic the morsel of parchment inscribed with Arabic characters which decorated his breast. His tail and his short mane were dyed fashionably with henna, but his legs had not been shaved in the pattern which represents filigree garters, and whenever a comrade who had this additional glory passed him, he became distinctly melancholy, and brooded about it for several minutes. There is nothing in the world so deprecating as the profile of one of these Cairo donkeys when he finds himself obliged, by the pressure of the crowd, to push against a European; his long nose and his polite eye as he passes are full of friendly apologies. The donkey-boy, in his skull-cap and single garment, runs behind his beast. These lads are very quick-witted. They have ready for their donkeys five or six names, and they seldom make a mistake in applying them according to the supposed nationality of their patrons of the moment, so that the Englishman learns that he has Annie Laurie; the Frenchman, Napoleon; the German, Bismarck; the Italian, Garibaldi; and the Americans, indiscriminately, Hail Columbia, Yankee Doodle, and General Grant.

In passing through the Abbasieh quarter, we always came, sooner or later, upon a wedding. The different stages of a native marriage require, indeed, so many days for their accomplishment that nuptial festivities are a permanent institution in Cairo, like the policemen and the water-carts, rather than an occasional event, as in other places. One day, upon turning into a narrow street, we discovered that a long portion of it had been roofed over with red cloth; from the centre of this awning four large chandeliers were suspended by cords, and at each end of the improvised tent were hoops adorned with the little red Egyptian banners which look like fringed napkins. In the roadway, placed against the walls of the houses on each side, were rows of wooden settees; one of these seats was occupied by the band, which kept up a constant piping and droning, and upon the others were squatted the invited guests. Every now and then a man came from a gayly adorned door on the left, which was that of the bridegroom, bringing with him a tray covered with the tiny cups of coffee set in their filigree stands; he offered coffee to all. In the meanwhile, in the centre of the roadway between the settees, an Egyptian, in his long blue gown, was dancing. The expression of responsibility on his face amounted to anxiety as he took his steps with great care, now lifting one bare foot as high as he could, and turning it sidewise, as if to show us the sole; now putting it down and hopping upon it, while he displayed to us in the same way the sole of the other. This formal dancing is done by the guests when no public performers are employed. Some one must dance to express the revelry of the occasion; those who are invited, therefore, undertake the duty one by one. When at last we went on our way we were obliged to ride directly through the reception, our donkeys brushing the band on one side and the guests on the other; the dancer on duty paused for a moment, wiping his face with the tail of his gown.

The road leading to Heliopolis has a charm which it shares with no other in the neighborhood of Cairo: at a certain point the desert the real desert comes rolling up to its very edge; one can look across the sand for miles. The desert is not a plain, the sand lies in ridges and hillocks; and this sand in many places is not so much like the sand of the sea-shore as it is like the dust of one of our country roads in August. The contrast between the bright green of the cultivated fields (the land which is reached by the inundation) and those silvery, arrested waves is striking, the line of their meeting being as sharply defined as that between sea and shore. I have called the color silvery, but that is only one of the tints which the sand assumes. An artist has jotted down the names of the colors used in an effort to copy the hues on an expanse of desert before him; beginning with the foreground, these were brown, dark red, violet, blue, gold, rose, crimson, pale green, orange, indigo blue, and sky blue. Colors supply the place of shadows, for there is no shade anywhere; all is wide open and light; and yet the expanse does not strike one in the least as bare. For myself, I can say that of all the marvels which one sees in Egypt, the desert produced the most profound impression; and I fancy that, as regards this feeling, I am but one of many. The cause of the attraction is a mystery. It cannot be found in the roving tendencies of our ancestor, since he was arboreal, and there are no trees in the strange-tinted waste. The old legend says that Adam’s first wife, Lilith, fled to Egypt, where she was permitted to live in the desert, and where she still exists:

“It was Lilith, the wife of Adam;
Not a drop of her blood was human.”

Perhaps it is Lilith’s magic that we feel.

Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, the On of the forty-first chapter of Genesis, is five miles from Cairo. Nothing of it is now left above ground save an obelisk and a few ruined walls. The obelisk, which is the oldest yet discovered, bears the name of the king in whose reign it was erected; this gives us the date 5000 years ago; that is, more than a millennium before the days of Moses. At Heliopolis was the Temple of the Sun, and the schools which Herodotus visited “because the teachers are considered the most accomplished men in Egypt.” When Strabo came hither, four hundred years later, he saw the house which Plato had occupied; Moses here learned “all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Papyri describe Heliopolis as “full of obelisks.” Two of these columns were carried to Alexandria 1937 years ago, and set up before the Temple of Cæsar. According to one authority, this temple was built by Cleopatra; in any case, the two obelisks acquired the name of Cleopatra’s Needles, and though the temple itself in time disappeared, they remained where they had been placed one erect, one prostrate until, in recent years, one was given to London and the other to New York. One recites all this in a breath in order to bring up, if possible, the associations which rush confusedly through the mind as one stands beside this red granite column rising alone in the green fields at Heliopolis. No myth itself, it was erected in days which are to us mythical days which are the jumping-off place of our human history; yet they were not savages who polished this granite, who sculptured this inscription; ages of civilization of a certain sort must have preceded them. Beginning with the Central Park, we force our minds backward in an endeavor to make these dates real. “Homer was a modern compared with the designers of this pillar,” we say to ourselves. “The Mycenae relics were articles de Paris of centuries and centuries later.” But repeating the words (and even rolling the r’s) are useless efforts; the imagination will not rise; it is crushed into stupidity by such a vista of years. As reaction, perhaps as revenge, we flee to geology and Darwin; here, at least, one can take breath.

Near Heliopolis there is an ostrich yard. The giant birds are very amusing; they walk about with long steps, and stretch their necks. If allowed, they would tap us all on the head, I think, after the fashion of the ostriches in that vivid book, The Story of an African Farm.


Gerard de Nerval begins his volume on Egypt by announcing that the women of Cairo are so thickly veiled that the European (i.e., the Frenchman?) becomes discouraged after a very few days, and, in consequence, goes up the Nile. This, at least, is one effort to explain why strangers spend so short a time in Cairo. The French, as a nation, are not travellers; they have small interest in any country beyond their own borders. A few of their writers have cherished a liking for the East; but it has been what we may call a home-liking. They give us the impression of having sincerely believed that they could, owing to their extreme intelligence, imagine for themselves (and reproduce for others) the entire Orient from one fez, one Turkish pipe, and a picture of the desert. Gautier, for instance, has described many Eastern landscapes which his eyes have never beheld. Pictures are, indeed, much to Frenchmen. The acme of this feeling is reached by one of the Goncourt brothers, who writes, in their recently published journal, that the true way to enjoy a summer in the country is to fill one’s town-house during the summer months with beautiful paintings of green fields, wild forests, and purling brooks, and then stay at home, and look at the lovely pictured scenes in comfort. French volumes of travels in the East are written as much with exclamation-points as with the letters of the alphabet. Lamartine and his disciples frequently paused “to drop a tear.” Later Gallic voyagers divided all scenery into two classes; the cities “laugh,” the plains are “amiable,” or they “smile”; if they do not do this, immediately they are set down as “sad.” One must be bold indeed to call Edmond About, the distinguished author of Tolla, ridiculous. The present writer, not being bold, is careful to abstain from it. But the last scene of his volume on Egypt (Le Fellah, published in 1883), describing the hero, with all his clothes rolled into a gigantic turban round his head, swimming after the yacht which bears away the heroine a certain impossible Miss Grace from the harbor of Port Said, must have caused, I think, some amused reflection in the minds of English and American readers. It is but just to add that among the younger French writers are several who have abandoned these methods. Gabriel Charmes’s volume on Cairo contains an excellent account of the place. Pierre Loti and Maupassant have this year (1890) given to the world pages about northwestern Africa which are marvels of actuality as well as of unsurpassed description.

The French at present are greatly angered by the continuance of the English occupation of Egypt. Since Napoleon’s day they have looked upon the Nile country as sure to be theirs some time. They built the Suez Canal when the English were opposed to the scheme. They remember when their influence was dominant. The French tradesmen, the French milliners and dressmakers in Cairo, still oppose a stubborn resistance to the English way of counting. They give the prices of their goods and render their accounts in Egyptian piasters, or in napoléons and francs; they refuse to comprehend shillings and pounds. And here, by-the-way, Americans would gladly join their side of the controversy. England alone, among the important countries of the world, has a currency which is not based upon the decimal system. The collected number of sixpences lost each year in England, by American travellers who mistake the half-crown piece for two shillings, would make a large sum. The bewilderment over English prices given in a coin which has no existence is like that felt by serious-minded persons who read Alice in Wonderland from a sense of duty. Talk of the English as having no imagination when the guinea exists!

France lost her opportunity in Egypt when her fleet sailed away from Alexandria Harbor in July, 1882. Her ships were asked to remain and take part in the bombardment; they refused, and departed. The English, thus being left alone, quieted the country later by means of an army of occupation. An English army of occupation has been there ever since.

At present it is not a large army. The number of British soldiers in 1890 is given as three thousand; the remaining troops are Egyptians, with English regimental officers. During the winter months the short-waisted red coat of Tommy Atkins enlivens with its cheerful blaze the streets of Cairo at every turn. The East and the West may be said to be personified by the slender, supple Arabs in their flowing draperies, and by these lusty youths of light complexion, with straight backs and stiff shoulders, who walk, armed with a rattan, in the centre of the pavement, wearing over one ear the cloth-covered saucer which passes for a head-covering. Tommy Atkins patronizes the donkeys with all his heart. One of the most frequently seen groups is a party of laughing scarlet-backed youths mounted on the smallest beasts they can find, and careering down the avenues at the donkey’s swiftest speed, followed by the donkey-boys, delighted and panting. As the spring comes on, Atkins changes his scarlet for lighter garments, and dons the summer helmet. This species of hat is not confined to the sons of Mars; it is worn in warm weather by Europeans of all nationalities who are living or travelling in the East. It may be cool. Without doubt, aesthetically considered, it is the most unbecoming head-covering known to the civilized world. It has a peculiar power of causing its wearer to appear both ignoble and pulmonic; for, viewed in front, the most distinguished features, under its tin-pan-like visor, become plebeian; and, viewed behind, the strongest masculine throat looks wizened and consumptive.

The English have benefited Egypt. They have put an end to the open knavery in high places which flourished unchecked; they have taught honesty; they have so greatly improved the methods of irrigation that a bad Nile (i.e., a deficient inundation) no longer means starvation; finally, they have taken hold of the mismanaged finances, disentangled them, set them in order, and given them at least a start in the right direction. The natives fret over some of their restrictions. And they say that the English have, first of all, taken care of their own interests. In addition, they greatly dislike seeing so many Englishmen holding office over them. But this last objection is simply the other side of the story. If the English are to help the country, they must be on the spot in order to do it; and it appears to be a fixed rule in all British colonies that the representatives of the government, whether high or low, shall be made, as regards material things, extremely comfortable. Egypt is not yet a British colony; she is a viceroyalty under the suzerainty of the Porte. But practically she is to-day governed by the English; and, to the American traveller at least (whatever the French may think), it appears probable that English authority will soon be as absolute in the Khedive’s country as it is now in India.

In Cairo, in 1890, the English colony played lawn-tennis; it attended the races; when Stanley returned to civilization it welcomed him with enthusiasm; and when, later, Prince Eddie came, it attended a gala performance of Aida at the opera-house a resurrection from the time of Ismail ordered by Ismail’s son for the entertainment of the heir-presumptive (one wonders whether Tufik himself found entertainment in it).

In the little English church, which stands amid its roses and vines in the new quarter, is a wall tablet of red and white marble the memorial of a great Englishman. It bears the following inscription: “In memory of Major-General Charles George Gordon, C.B. Born at Woolwich, Ja, 1833. Killed at the defence of Khartoum, Ja, 1885.” Above is a sentence from Gordon’s last letter: “I have done my best for the honor of our country.”

St. George of Khartoum, as he has been called. If objection is made to the bestowal of this title, it might be answered that the saints of old lived before the age of the telegraph, the printer, the newspaper, and the reporter; possibly they too would not have seemed to us faultless if every one of their small decisions and all their trivial utterances had been subjected to the electric-light publicity of to-day. Perhaps Gordon was a fanatic, and his discernment was not accurate. But he was single-hearted, devoted to what he considered to be his duty, and brave to a striking degree. When we remember how he faced death through those weary days we cannot criticise him. The story of that rescuing army which came so near him and yet failed, and of his long hoping in vain, only to be shot down at the last, must always remain one of the most pathetic tales of history.


As the warm spring closes, every one selects something to carry homeward. Leaving aside those fortunate persons who can purchase the ancient carved woodwork of an entire house, or Turkish carpets by the dozen, the rest of us keep watch of the selections of our friends while we make our own. Among these we find the jackets embroidered in silver and gold; the inevitable fez; two or three blue tiles of the thirteenth century; a water-jug, or kulleh; a fly-brush with ivory handle; attar of roses and essence of sandal-wood; Assiout ware in vases and stoups; a narghileh; the gauze scarfs embroidered with Persian benedictions; a koursi inlaid with mother-of-pearl; Arabian inkstands long cases of silver or brass, to be worn like a dagger in the belt; a keffiyeh, or delicate silken head-shawl with white knotted fringe; the Arabian finger-bowls; the little coffee-cups; images of Osiris from the tombs; a native bracelet and anklet; and, finally, a scarab or two, whose authenticity is always exciting, like an unsolved riddle. A picture of these mementos of Cairo would not be complete for some of us without two of those constant companions of so many long mornings the dusty, shuffling, dragging, slipping, venerable, abominable mosque shoes.


“We who pursue
Our business with unslackening stride,
Traverse in troops, with care-fill’d breast,
The soft Mediterranean side,
The Nile, the East,
And see all sights from pole to pole,
And glance and nod and bustle by,
And never once possess our soul
Before we die.”

So chanted Matthew Arnold of the English of to-day. And if we are to believe what is preached to us and hurled at us, it is a reproach even more applicable to Americans than to the English themselves. One American traveller, however, wishes to record modestly a disbelief in the universal truth of this idea. Many of us are, indeed, haunted by our business; many of us do glance and nod and bustle by; it is a class, and a large class. But these hurried people are not all; an equal number of us, who, being less in haste, may be less conspicuous perhaps, are the most admiring travellers in the world. American are the bands who journey to Stratford-upon-Avon, and go down upon their knees almost when they reach the sacred spot; American are the pilgrims who pay reverent visits to all the English cathedrals, one after the other, from Carlisle to Exeter, from Durham to Canterbury. In the East, likewise, it is the transatlantic travellers who are so deeply impressed by the strangeness and beauty of the scenes about them that they forget to talk about their personal comforts (or, rather, the lack of them).

There is another matter upon which a word may be said, and this is the habit of judging the East from the stand-point of one’s home customs, whether the home be American or English. It is, of course, easy to find faults in the social systems of the Oriental nations; they have laws and usages which are repugnant to all our feelings, which seem to us horrible. But it is well to remember that it is impossible to comprehend any nation not our own unless one has lived a long time among its people, and made one’s self familiar with their traditions, their temperament, their history, and, above all, with the language which they speak. Anything less than this is observation from the outside alone, which is sure to be founded upon misapprehension. The French and the English are separated by merely the few miles of the Channel, and they have, to a certain extent, a common language; for though the French do not often understand English, the English very generally understand something of French. Yet it is said that these two nations have never thoroughly comprehended each other either as nations or individuals; and it is even added that, owing to their differing temperaments, they will never reach a clear appreciation of each other’s merits; demerits, of course, are easier. Our own country has a language which is, on the whole, nearer the English tongue perhaps than is the speech of France; yet have we not felt now and then that English travellers have misunderstood us? If this is the case among people who are all Occidentals together, how much more difficult must be a thorough comprehension by us of those ancient nations who were old before we were born?

The East is the land of mystery. If one cares for it at all, one loves it; there is no half-way. If one does not love it, one really (though perhaps not avowedly) hates it hates it and all its ways. But for those who love it the charm is so strong that no surprise is felt in reading or hearing of Europeans who have left all to take up a wandering existence there for long years or for life the spirit of Browning’s “What’s become of Waring?”

All of us cannot be Warings, however, and the time comes at last when we must take leave. The streets of Cairo have been for some time adorned with placards whose announcements begin, in large type, “Travellers returning to Europe.” We are indeed far away when returning to Europe is a step towards home. We wait for the last festival the Shem-en-Neseem, or Smelling of the Zephyr the annual picnic day, when the people go into the country to gather flowers and breathe the soft air before the opening of the regular season for the Khamsin. Then comes the journey by railway to Alexandria. We wave a handkerchief (now fringed on all four sides by the colored threads of the laundresses) to the few friends still left behind. They respond; and so do all the Mustaphas, Achmets, and Ibrahims who have carried our parcels and trotted after our donkeys. Then we take a seat by the window, to watch for the last time the flying Egyptian landscape the green plain, the tawny Nile, the camels on the bank, the villages, and the palm-trees, and behind them the solemn line of the desert.

At sunset the steamer passes down the harbor, and, pushing out to sea, turns westward. A faint crescent moon becomes visible over the Ras-et-Teen palace. It is the moon of Ramadan. Presently a cannon on the shore ushers in, with its distant sound, the great Mohammedan fast.