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August 22d.

The aspect of this great Egyptian metropolis is not nearly so imposing as I had fancied it to be; its situation is too flat, and from on board we can only discern scattered portions of its extended area. The gardens skirting the shore are luxuriant and lovely.

At my debarcation, and on the road to the consulate, I met with several adventures, which I relate circumstantially, trifling as they may appear, in order to give a hint as to the best method of dealing with the people here.

At the very commencement I became involved in a dispute with the captain of the vessel. I had still to pay him three dollars and a half, and gave him four dollars, in the expectation that he would return me my change. This, however, he refused to do, and persisted in keeping the half-dollar. He said it should be divided as backsheesh among the crew; but I am sure they would have seen nothing of it. Luckily, however, he was stupid enough not to put the money in his pocket, but kept it open in his hand. I quickly snatched a coin from him, and put it into my pocket, explaining to him at the same time that he should not have it back until he had given me my change, adding that I would give the men a gratuity myself. He shouted and stormed, and kept on asking for the money. I took no heed of him, but continued quietly packing up my things. Seeing, at length, that nothing was to be done with me, he gave me back my half-dollar; whereupon we parted good friends. This affair concluded, I had to look about for a couple of asses; one for myself, and another for my luggage. If I had stepped ashore I should have been almost torn in pieces by contending donkey-drivers, each of whom would have lugged me in a different direction. I therefore remained quietly for a time in my cabin, until the drivers ceased to suspect that any one was there. In the meantime I had been looking upon the shore from the cabin-window, and speculating upon which animal I should take; then I quickly rushed out, and before the proprietors of the long-eared steeds were aware of my intention, I had seized one by the bridle and pointed to another. This concluded the matter at once; for the proprietors of the chosen animals defended me from the rest, and returned with me to the boat to carry my baggage.

A fellow came up and arranged my little trunk on the back of the ass. For this trifling service I gave him a piastre; but observing that I was alone, he probably thought he could soon intimidate me into giving whatever he demanded. So he returned me my piastre, and demanded four. I took the money, and told him (for fortunately he understood a little Italian) that if he felt dissatisfied with this reward he might accompany me to the consulate, where his four piastres would be paid so soon as it appeared that he had earned them. He shouted and blustered, just as the captain had done; but I remained deaf, and rode forward towards the custom-house. Then he came down to three piastres, then to two, and finally said he would be content with one, which I threw to him. When I reached the custom-house, hands were stretched out towards me from all sides; I gave something to the chief person, and let the remaining ones clamour on. When, after experiencing these various annoyances, I rode on towards the town, a new obstacle arose. My Arab guide inquired whither he should conduct me. I endeavoured in vain to explain to him where I wanted to go; he could not be made to understand me. Nothing now remained for me but to accost every well-dressed Oriental whom I met, until I should find one who could understand either French or Italian. The third person I addressed fortunately knew something of the latter language, and I begged him to tell my guide to take me to the Austrian consulate. This was done, and my troubles concluded.

A ride of three quarters of an hour in a very broad handsome street, planted with a double row of a kind of acacia altogether strange to me, among a crowd of men, camels, asses, etc., brought me to the town, the streets of which are in general narrow. There is so much noise and crowding every where, that one would suppose a tumult had broken out. But as I approached, the immense mass always opened as if by magic, and I pursued my way without hindrance to the consulate, which lies hidden in a little narrow blind alley.

I went immediately to the office, and presented myself to the consul, with the request that he would recommend me a respectable inn of the second class. Herr Chamgion, the consul, interested himself for me with heartfelt kindness; he immediately despatched a kavasse to an innkeeper whom he knew, paid my guide, and recommended the host strongly to take good care of me; in short, he behaved towards me with true Christian kindliness. His house was ever open to me, and I could go to him with any petition I wished to make. It is a real pleasure to me to be able publicly once more to thank this worthy man.

I had been furnished with a letter of recommendation to a certain Herr Palm. The consul kindly sent at once for this gentleman, who soon appeared, and accompanied me to the inn.

I requested Herr P. to recommend me a servant who could either speak Italian or French, and afterwards to tell me the best method to set about seeing the lions of the town. Herr P. very willingly undertook to do so; and after the lapse of an hour, the dragoman had already been found, and two asses stood before the door to carry me and my servant through the whole town.

The animated bustle and hum of business in the streets of Cairo is very great. I can even say that in the most populous cities of Italy I never saw any thing I could compare to it; and certainly this is a bold assertion.

Many of the streets are so narrow, that when loaded camels meet, one party must always be led into a by-street until the other has passed. In these narrow lanes I continually encountered crowds of passengers, so that I really felt quite anxious, and wondered how I should find my way through. People mounted on horses and donkeys tower above the moving mass; but the asses themselves appear like pigmies beside the high, lofty-looking camels, which do not lose their proud demeanour even under their heavy burdens. Men often slip by under the heads of the camels. The riders keep as close as possible to the houses, and the mass of pedestrians winds dexterously between. There are water-carriers, vendors of goods, numerous blind men groping their way with sticks, and bearing baskets with fruit, bread, and other provisions for sale; numerous children, some of them running about the streets, and others playing before the house-doors; and lastly, the Egyptian ladies, who ride on asses to pay their visits, and come in long processions with their children and negro servants. Let the reader further imagine the cries of the vendors, the shouting of the drivers and passengers, the terrified screams of flying women and children, the quarrels which frequently arise, and the peculiar noisiness and talkativeness of these people, and he can fancy what an effect this must have on the nerves of a stranger. I was in mortal fear at every step, and on reaching home in the evening felt quite unwell; but as I never once saw an accident occur, I at length accustomed myself to the hubbub, and could follow my guide where the crowd was thickest without feeling uneasy.

The streets, or, as they may be more properly called, the lanes of Cairo, are sprinkled with water several times in the day; fountains and large vessels of water are also placed every where for the convenience of the passers-by. In the broad streets straw-mats are hung up to keep off the sun’s rays.

The richer class of people wear the Oriental garb, with the exception that the women merely have their heads and faces wrapped in a light muslin veil; they wear also a kind of mantilla of black silk, which gives them a peculiar appearance. When they came riding along, and the wind caught this garment and spread it out, they looked exactly like bats with outstretched wings.

Many of the Franks also dress in the Oriental style; the Fellahs go almost naked, and their women only wear a single blue garment.

Here, as throughout all the East, the rich people are always seen on horseback. I was not so much pleased with the Egyptian as with the Syrian horses, for the former appeared to me less slim and gracefully built.

The population of Cairo is estimated at 200,000, and is a mixed one, consisting of Arabs, Mamelukes, Turks, Berbers, Negroes, Bedouins, Christians, Greeks, Jews, etc. Thanks to the powerful arm of Mehemet Ali, they all live peacefully together.

Cairo contains 25,000 houses, which are as unsightly and irregular as the streets. They are built of clay, unburnt bricks, and stones, and have little narrow entrances; the unsymmetrical windows are furnished with wooden shutters impenetrable to the eye. The interiors are decorated like the houses in Damascus, but in a less costly style; neither is there such an abundance of fresh water at Cairo.

The Jews’ quarter is the most hideous of all; the houses are dirty, and the streets so narrow that two persons can only just push by each other. The entire town is surrounded by walls and towers, guarded by a castle, and divided into several quarters, separated from each other by gates, which are closed after sunset. On the heights around Cairo are to be seen some castles from the time of the Saracens.

As I rode to and fro in the town, my guide suddenly stopped, bought a quantity of bread, and motioned me to follow him. I thought he was going to take me to a menagerie, and that this bread was intended for the wild animals. We entered a courtyard with windows all round reaching to the ground, and strengthened with iron bars. Stopping before the first window, my servant threw in a piece of bread; what was my horror when I saw, instead of a lion or tiger, a naked emaciated old man rush forth, seize the bread, and devour it ravenously. I was in the mad-house. In the midst of each dark and filthy dungeon is fixed a stone, with two iron chains, to which one or two of these wretched creatures are attached by an iron ring fastened round the neck. There they sit staring with fearfully distorted faces, their hair and beard unkempt, their bodies emaciated, and the marrow of life drying up within them. In these foul and loathsome dens they must pine until the Almighty in his mercy loosens the chains which bind them to their miserable existence by a welcome death. There is not one instance of a cure, and truly the treatment to which they are subjected is calculated to drive a half-witted person quite mad. And yet the Europeans can praise Mehemet Ali! Ye wretched madmen, ye poor fellahs, are ye too ready to join in this praise?

Quitting this abode of misery, my dragoman led me to “Joseph’s well,” which is deeply hewn out of the rock. I descended more than two hundred and seventy steps, and had got half-way to the bottom of the gigantic structure. On looking downward into its depths a feeling of giddiness came over me.

The new palace of Mehemet Ali is rather a handsome building, arranged chiefly in the European style. The rooms, or rather the halls, are very lofty, and are either tastefully painted or hung with silk, tapestry, etc. Large pier-glasses multiply the objects around, rich divans are attached to the walls, and costly tables, some of marble, others of inlaid work, enriched with beautiful paintings, stand in the rooms, in one of which I even noticed a billiard-table. The dining-hall is quite European in its character. In the centre stands a large table; two sideboards are placed against one side of the wall, and handsome chairs stand opposite. In one of the rooms hangs an oil-painting representing Ibrahim Pasha, Mehemet Ali’s son.

This palace stands in the midst of a little garden, neither remarkable for the rarity of the plants it contains, nor for the beauty of their arrangement. The views from some of the apartments, as well as that from the garden, are very lovely.

Opposite the palace a great mosque is being built as a mausoleum for Mehemet Ali. The despot probably reckons on having some years yet to live, for much remains to be done before the beautiful structure is completed. The pillars and the walls of the mosque are covered with the most splendid marble, of a yellowish-white colour.

The before-mentioned buildings, namely, Joseph’s well, the palace and gardens, and the mosque, are all situate on a high rock, to which a single broad road leads from Cairo. Here we behold a threefold sea, namely, of houses, of the Nile, and a sea of sand, on which the lofty Pyramids rise in the distance like isolated rocks. The mountains of Mokattam close the background, and a number of lovely gardens and plantations of date-palms surround the town. With one glance we can behold the most striking contrasts. A wreath of the most luxurious vegetation runs round the town, and beyond lies the dreary monotony of the desert. The colour of the Nile is so exactly similar to that of the sand forming its shores, that at a distance the line of demarcation cannot be traced.

On my way homewards I met several fellahs carrying large baskets full of dates, and stopped one of them, in order to purchase some of this celebrated fruit. Unfortunately for me, the dates were still unripe, hard, of a brick-red colour, and so unpalatable that I could not eat one of them. A week or ten days afterwards I was able to procure some ripe ones; they were of a brown colour like the dried fruit, the tender skin could easily be peeled off, and I liked them better than dried dates, because they were more pulpy and not so sweet. A much more precious fruit, the finest production of Egypt and Syria, almost superior to the pine-apple in taste, is the banana, which is so delicate that it almost melts in the mouth. This fruit cannot be dried, and is therefore never exported. Sugar melons and peaches are to be had in abundance, but their flavour is not very good. I also preferred the Alexandrian grape to that of Cairo.

The bazaars, through which we rode in all directions, displayed nothing very remarkable in manufactures or in productions of nature and art.

From first to last I spent a week at Cairo, and occupied the whole of my time from morning till night in viewing the curiosities of the town.

I only saw two mosques, that of Sultan Hassan and of Sultan Amru. Before I was permitted to enter the first of these edifices, they compelled me to take off my shoes, and walk in my stockings over a courtyard paved with great stones. The stones had become so heated by the solar rays, that I was obliged to run fast, to avoid scorching the soles of my feet. I cannot give an opinion touching the architectural beauty of this building, which is built in such a simple style that none but a connoisseur would discover its merits. I was better pleased with the mosque of Sultan Amru, which contains several halls, and is supported on numerous columns. The mosques in Cairo struck me as having a more ancient and venerable appearance than those of Constantinople, while the latter, on the other hand, were larger and more elegant.

I also visited the island of Rodda, which is worthy the name of a beautiful garden. It lies opposite to old Cairo, on the Nile, and is said to be a favourite walk of the townspeople, though I was there twice without meeting any one. The garden is spacious, and contains all kinds of tropical productions: here I saw the sugar-cane, which greatly resembles the stem of the Indian maize; the cotton-tree, growing to a height of five or six feet; the banana-tree, the short-stemmed date-palm, the coffee-tree, and many others. Flowers were also there in quantities which must be cultivated with great care in the hot-houses of my native country. The whole of this collection of plants is very tastefully arranged, and shines forth in the height of luxuriant beauty. It is customary to lay the entire island under water every evening by means of artificial canals. This system is universally carried out throughout the Egyptian plantations, and is, in fact, the only method by which vegetation can be preserved in its freshest green in spite of the burning heat. The care of this fairy grove is entrusted to a German ornamental gardener; unfortunately I was informed of this fact too late, otherwise I should have visited my countryman and requested an explanation of many things which appeared strange to me.

In the midst of the garden is a beautiful grotto, ornamented within and without by a great variety of shells from the Red Sea, which give it a most striking appearance. At this spot, towards which many paths lead, all strewed with minute shells instead of gravel, Moses is said to have been found in his cradle of bulrushes(?). Immediately adjoining the garden we find a summer residence belonging to Mehemet Ali.

The well shewn as that into which Joseph was thrust by his brethren lies about two miles distant from the town, in a village on the road to Suez. Half a mile off a very large and venerable sycamore-tree was pointed out to me as the one in the shade of which the holy family rested on their way to Egypt; and a walk of another quarter of a mile brings us to the garden of Boghos Bey, in the midst of which stands one of the finest and largest obelisks of Upper Egypt: it is still in good condition, and completely covered with hieroglyphics. The garden, however, offers nothing remarkable. The ancient city of Heliopolis is said to have been built not far off; but at the present day not a vestige of it remains.

The road to this garden already lies partly in the desert. At first the way winds through avenues of trees and past gardens; but soon the vast desert extends to the right, while beautiful orange and citron groves still skirt the left side of the path. Here we continually meet herds of camels, but a dromedary is a rare sight.

Excursion to the pyramids of Gizeh.

August 25th, 1842.

At four in the afternoon I quitted Cairo, crossed two arms of the Nile, and a couple of hours afterwards arrived safely at Gizeh. As the Nile had overflowed several parts of the country, we were compelled frequently to turn out of our way, and sometimes to cross canals and ride through water; now and then, where it was too deep for our asses, we were obliged to be carried across. As there is no inn at Gizeh I betook myself to Herr Klinger, to whom I brought a letter of recommendation from Cairo. Herr K. is a Bohemian by birth, and stands in the service of the viceroy of Egypt, as musical instructor to the young military band. I was made very welcome here, and Herr Klinger seemed quite rejoiced at seeing a visitor with whom he could talk in German. Our conversation was of Beethoven and Mozart, of Strauss and Lanne. The fame of the bravura composers of the present day, Liszt and Thalberg, had not yet penetrated to these regions. I requested my kind host to shew me the establishment for hatching eggs that exists at Gizeh. He immediately sent for the superintendent, who happened however to be absent, and to have locked up the keys. In this place about 8000 eggs are hatched by artificial warmth during the months of March and April. The eggs are laid on large flat plates, which are continually kept at an equal temperature by heat applied below the surface: they are turned several times during the day. As the thousands of little chickens burst their shells, they are sold, not by number or weight, but by the measure. This egg-hatching house has the effect of rendering poultry plentiful and cheap.

After chatting away the evening very pleasantly I sought my couch, tired with my ride and with the heat, and rejoicing at the sight of the soft divan, which seemed to smile upon me, and promise rest and strength for the following day. But as I was about to take possession of my couch, I noticed on the wall a great number of black spots. I took the candle to examine what it could be, and nearly dropped the light with horror on discovering that the wall was covered with bugs. I had never seen such a disgusting sight. All hopes of rest on the divan were now effectually put to flight. I sat down on a chair, and waited until every thing was perfectly still; then I slipped into the entrance-hall, and lay down on the stones, wrapped in my cloak.

Though I had escaped from one description of vermin, I became a prey to innumerable gnats. I had passed many uncomfortable nights during my journey, but this was worse than any thing I had yet endured.

However, this was only an additional inducement for rising early, and long before sunrise I was ready to continue my journey. Before daybreak I took leave of my kind host, and rode with my servant towards the gigantic structures. To-day we were again obliged frequently to go out of our route on account of the rising of the Nile; owing to this delay, two hours elapsed before we reached the broad arm of the Nile, dividing us from the Libyan desert, on which the Pyramids stand, and over which two Arabs carried me. This was one of the most disagreeable things that can be imagined. Two large powerful men stood side by side; I mounted on their shoulders, and held fast by their heads, while they supported my feet in a horizontal position above the waters, which at some places reached almost to their armpits, so that I feared every moment that I should sit in the water. Besides this, my supporters continually swayed to and fro, because they could only withstand the force of the current by a great exertion of strength, and I was apprehensive of falling off. This disagreeable passage lasted above a quarter of an hour. After wading for another fifteen minutes through deep sand, we arrived at the goal of our little journey.

The two colossal pyramids are of course visible directly we quit the town, and we keep them almost continually in sight. But here the expectations I had cherished were again disappointed, for the aspect of these giant structures did not astonish me greatly. Their height appears less remarkable than it otherwise would, from the circumstance that their base is buried in sand, and thus hidden from view. There is also neither a tree nor a hut, nor any other object which could serve to display their huge proportions by the force of contrast.

As it was still early in the day and not very hot, I preferred ascending the pyramid before venturing into its interior. My servant took off my rings and concealed them carefully, telling me that this was a very necessary precaution, as the fellows who take the travellers by the hands to assist them in mounting the pyramids have such a dexterous knack of drawing the rings from their fingers, that they seldom perceive their loss until too late.

I took two Arabs with me, who gave me their hands, and pulled me up the very large stones. Any one who is at all subject to dizziness would do very wrong in attempting this feat, for he might be lost without remedy. Let the reader picture to himself a height of 500 feet, without a railing or a regular staircase by which to make the ascent. At one angle only the immense blocks of stone have been hewn in such a manner that they form a flight of steps, but a very inconvenient one, as many of these stone blocks are above four feet in height, and offer no projection on which you can place your foot in mounting. The two Arabs ascended first, and then stretched out their hands to pull me from one block to another. I preferred climbing over the smaller blocks without assistance. In three quarters of an hour’s time I had gained the summit of the pyramid.

For a long time I stood lost in thought, and could hardly realise the fact that I was really one of the favoured few who are happy enough to be able to contemplate the most stupendous and imperishable monument ever erected by human hands. At the first moment I was scarcely able to gaze down from the dizzy height into the deep distance; I could only examine the pyramid itself, and seek to familiarise myself with the idea that I was not dreaming. Gradually, however, I came to myself, and contemplated the landscape which lay extended beneath me. From my elevated position I could form a better estimate of the gigantic structure, for here the fact that the base was buried in sand did not prejudice the general effect. I saw the Nile flowing far beneath me, and a few Bedouins, whom curiosity had attracted to the spot, looked like very pigmies. In ascending I had seen the immense blocks of stone singly, and ceased to marvel that these monuments are reckoned among the seven wonders of the world.

On the castle the view had been fine, but here, where the prospect was bounded only by the horizon and by the Mokattam mountains, it is grander by far. I could follow the windings of the river, with its innumerable arms and canals, until it melted into the far horizon, which closed the picture on this side. Many blooming gardens, and the large extensive town with its environs; the immense desert, with its plains and hills of sand, and the lengthened mountain-range of Mokattam, all lay spread before me; and for a long time I sat gazing around me, and wishing that the dear ones at home had been with me, to share in my wonder and delight.

But now the time came not only to look down, but to descend. Most people find this even more difficult than the ascent; but with me the contrary was the case. I never grow giddy, and so I advanced in the following manner, without the aid of the Arabs. On the smaller blocks I sprang from one to the other; when a stone of three or four feet in height was to be encountered, I let myself glide gently down; and I accomplished my descent with so much grace and agility, that I reached the base of the pyramid long before my servant. Even the Arabs expressed their pleasure at my fearlessness on this dangerous passage.

After eating my breakfast and resting for a short time, I proceeded to explore the interior. At first I was obliged to cross a heap of sand and rubbish; for we have to go downwards towards the entrance, which is so low and narrow that we cannot always stand upright. I could not have passed along the passage leading into the interior if the Arabs had not helped me, for it is so steep and so smoothly paved that, in spite of my conductor’s assistance, I slid rather than walked. The apartment of the king is more spacious, and resembles a small hall. On one side stands a little empty sarcophagus without a lid. The walls of the chambers and of the passages are covered with large and beautifully polished slabs of granite and marble. The remaining passages, or rather dens, which are shown here, I did not see. It may be very interesting for learned men and antiquarians thus to search every corner; but for a woman like myself, brought hither only by an insatiable desire to travel, and capable of judging of the beauties of nature and art only by her own simple feelings, it was enough to have ascended the pyramid of Cheops, and to have seen something of its interior. This pyramid is said to be the loftiest of all. It stands on a rock 150 feet in height, which is invisible, being altogether buried in sand. The height of the vast structure is above 500 feet. It was erected by Cheops more than 3000 years ago, and 100,000 men are said to have been employed in its construction for twenty-six years. It is a most interesting structure, built of immense masses of rock, fixed together with a great deal of art, and seemingly calculated to last an eternity. They look so strong and so well preserved, that many travellers will no doubt repair hither in coming generations, and continue the researches commenced long ago.

The Sphynx, a statue of most colossal dimensions, situate at no great distance from the great pyramid, is so covered with sand that only the head and a small portion of the bust remain visible. The head alone is twenty-two feet in height.

After walking about and inspecting every thing, I commenced my journey back. On the way I once more visited Herr Klinger, strengthened myself with a hearty meal, and arrived safely at Cairo late in the evening. Here I wished to take my little purse out of my pocket, and found that it was gone. Luckily I had only taken one collonato (Spanish dollar) with me. No one can imagine what dexterity the Bedouins and Arabs possess in the art of stealing. I always kept a sharp eye upon my effects, and notwithstanding my vigilance several articles were pilfered from me, and my purse must also have been stolen during this excursion. The loss was very disagreeable to me because it involved that of my box-key. I was, however, fortunate in finding an expert Arabian locksmith, who opened my chest and made me a new key, on which occasion I had another opportunity of seeing how careful it is necessary to be in all our dealings with these people to avoid being cheated. The key locked and unlocked my box well, and I paid for it; but immediately afterwards observed that it was very slightly joined in the middle, and would presently break. The Arab’s tools still lay on the ground; I immediately seized one of them, and told the man I would not give it up until he had made me a new key. It was in vain that he assured me he could not work without his tools; he would not give my money back, and I kept the implement: by this means I obtained from him a new and a good key.