Cities And Towns
( Originally Published 1900 )
Cities and ' Mohafzas "—Towns and Villages—Alexandria—First View of Egypt—Napoleon's Estimate of Alexandria—The Old Civilisation and the New—Topography of the Modern City—Its Commercial Revival—Ramleh —To Cairo—The Queen of Eastern Cities—Hausmannisation—The Esbekieh—Cairene Mosques—The Citadel—Social Attractions—Heliopolis-The Pyramids and Sphinx—" Eothen's " Prophetic Rhapsody—The Nile Voyage —Cairene Trade—Helwân—Rosetta—Damietta—Port Said—El-Arish and Ismailia—Suez—Souakim and Massowah—The other Provincial Chief Towns.
Although eight Egyptian towns are officially classed as "cities," and form distinct governments (mohafzas) apart from the provinces to which they geographically belong, only two—Cairo and Alexandria—can be strictly called so in our European sense. The other six * do not properly rise above the rank of .towns, while of the 113 to which this secondary grade is given, many differ but little from the larger of the 3,339 villages scattered throughout Egypt proper. In size, population, and importance, the capital and its great sea-port stand alone, even the smaller of them far exceeding in all three of these respects the whole half-dozen of its administrative compeers grouped together.
The latter—Alexandria—it is that usually forms the stranger's first glimpse of the land of Egypt, for so low is the long alluvial coast-line from the Arab's Tower to Aboukir, that hardly has it risen above the azure sea be-fore the Pharos lighthouse, Pompey's Pillar, Forts Napoleon and Cafferelli, the antiquated windmills, the white palace of Ras-el-Teen, a score of minarets and factory chimneys, clumps of feathery palms, and a forest of shipping come full into view, and in little more than half an hour you round the great breakwater and are in Egypt—if not, as yet, of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, at least of the Caliphs and the Khedive. The motley scene that meets the eye on landing suggests at once the transition that is in progress from the semi-barbarism of the East to the civilisation of the West ; and in its sharp contrasts of Oriental and European, its wealth and its squalor, its busy new life rising like a tide over its old conservatism, you have a fair symbol of modern Egypt as it is. Whirled away from the Custom-house in an admirable hackney carriage, as fast as frequent blocks by the way will permit, through the narrow and dirty alleys of the old native quarter, to your hotel in the fine square of Mehemet Ali, you find yourself on alighting amid all the surroundings of a lively French or Italian town, reminded that you are in the East only by the balmy atmosphere, the sapphire sky, the palm-trees on the other side of the square, and the Babel-like crowd of turbaned Arabs, jet-black Nubians, and many-raced Europeans passing and re-passing in noisy confusion below the hotel balcony—a hundred times more varied and picturesque than the street throngs of either Naples or Marseilles.
In size and commercial activity Alexandria is already the second port on the Mediterranean, and in point of antiquity was twelve hundred years old before the first brick of Cairo was laid. " Alexander," said Napoleon, "rendered himself more illustrious by founding Alexandria, and by purposing to transfer to it the seat of his empire, than by his most brilliant victories. This city should be the capital of the world. It is situated between Asia and Africa, within reach of India and Europe : its harbour affords the only safe anchorage along the five hundred leagues of coast from Tunis, or ancient Carthage, to Alexandretta ; it is near one of the ancient mouths of the Nile : all the navies of the world might moor within it, and in the Old Port they would be sheltered from the winds and all possibility of attack." It may be true that the ancient city bequeathed to the modern one nothing but its ruins* and its name, but even these were an inheritance to which Cairo can boast nothing equal ; while the imperishable advantages of its situation—which, 2,000 years ago and for centuries after, rendered it the chief entrepôt of the world-have availed to restore to' the modern city, after a long decadence, if not the wealth and splendour of its ancient namesake, at least a measure of prosperity which, among the sea-ports of the Mediterranean, is now rivalled only by Marseilles. It may be idle to hope that the Alexandria of the Khedives will ever renew the glories of the Ptolemaic capital, but it already symbolises the New Civilisation nearly as completely as the latter typified the Old. In architecture it has nothing, indeed, to compare with the palaces and temples, the public baths, the museums, theatres, libraries and obelisks of the city which was the scene of Cleopatra' s strange wild history ; nor in intellectual culture and activity with that in which Neo-Platonists and Christian fanatics, luxury and asceticism, literature and commerce, once dwelt together. But against these old-world glories it can show dockyards and arsenals, steam-engines and steam-ships, mills, factories, railways and electric telegraphs—instruments of human progress more potent than the Ptolemies or the Antonines ever dreamt of, and destined, it is reasonable to predicate, to raise Egypt to a higher rank than she has ever yet enjoyed as a civilised power.
Modern Alexandria occupies only part of the site of its predecessors, being chiefly built on the isthmus that connects what was once the classic island of Pharos with the mainland, on which the old city stood. Successive alluvial deposits have widened this mole—the ancient Heptastadium-into a broad neck of land, the seaward end of which is occupied by the palace of Ras-el-Teen, the Ai-seal, and several other Government buildings, after which, mainland-wards, comes the modem town. East and west of this peninsula lie the two harbours, called the New and Old Ports. The former of these, being completely exposed to the north winds and encumbered with rocks and shoals, has long been disused except by small native craft ; though it was not until the beginning of the present century that the much larger and safer western harbour was thrown open to Christian vessels. This latter is situated at the northeast end of the bay, adjoining the southern and western sides of the city in a nearly semi-circular form, and extending from the palace of Rasel-Teen, by the Arsenal dock, to the terminus of the Cairo railway, at Gabâri. It is off this part of the general port that the great works described in another chapter are now in course of construction, which when completed will provide Alexandria with a harbour containing an area of 1,400 acres of still water, and landing-quays nearly two miles long. Already, safely berthed on its eastern side, a splendid floating dock 500 feet long and 100 feet wide--built in France and placed in situ at a cost of 127,0001.—affords the means of repairing the largest vessels—the only accommodation of the kind as yet available to merchant shipping in the Levant. The old lighthouse still occupies the site of the ancient Pharos, on a rocky projection stretching north-east into the entrance to the New Port, but, in 1842, after the opening of the Old Harbour to Christian shipping, its distance from the latter and the lowness of its light induced Mehemet All to build a new tower on Eunostus (now called Ras-el-Teen) Point, at the south-western extremity of the peninsula, whence a 20-second revolving light of the first class, since erected by the Khedive, flashes its friendly warning twenty miles out to sea. Nearly a mile behind this stands the vice-regal palace built by Mehemet All, to whose ambition is also due the fine Arsenal that forms the next principal object of interest between the peninsula and the modern town. The development of this last has been mainly eastwards, towards the Ramleh railway station, which only seven years ago lay far outside the city, but is now connected with it by fine rows of boulevard-like houses, let out in shops below and flats above, at rents little below the average of similar buildings in Paris. In this direction, too, an admirable road. along the Mahmoudieh canal attracts on Fridays and other fête days crowds of private carriages, many of which might fitly figure in the Bois or Hyde Park. Of the whole city, indeed, it may be said that, although still "piebald," as Eliot Warburton found it a quarter of a century ago--" one half Europe, with its regular houses, tall, and white, and stiff ; the other half Oriental, with its mud-coloured buildings, and terraced roofs, varied with fat mosques and lean minarets "—the municipal improvements effected by the Khedive have in respect of lighting, paving, pollee, and cleanliness, raised the large Frank quarter especially to a level with most second-class French and English towns, and placed it half a century ahead f even the Christian faubourg of Constantinople. These sanitary reforms have, of course, been fatal to much of the picturesqueness that attaches to and half redeems dirt and dilapidation. all over the East, but enough of these aesthetic elements still survives in the native quarters on the mole and near the walls to preserve for them much of their old Oriental cachet. If generally, however, the scene that now meets the eye of the tourist can no longer be called Arabian Nights-like, it is still such as no European city can boast of. The following bit of genre word painting, by a recent writer already quoted, may be seen in real life any day between the Custom house and Mehemet All Square, in the centre of which, in defiance of the Koran and all its commentaries, stands an equestrian statue of the old hero in the garb of seventy years ago, and clustering round it the foreign Consulates, an English Protestant church, and the best hotels : " Here came a file of tall camels laden with merchandise, stalking with deliberate solemn step through the bazaars ; there rode a grand-looking native gentleman, in all the pride of capacious turban and flowing robes ; yonder passed some ladies, on donkeys, enveloped in black bara and the more remarkable white muslin veil, which universal out-of-door costume of Egyptian only suffered two dark eyes to gleam from behind the hideous shroud. And if the carriages we saw had a smack of Europe, they were driven and attended by men in Oriental dress, and--even stranger still—were preceded, even at their best pace, by a bare-legged running Arab, who shouted to the passengers to get out of the way--the shrill cries of this active avant-courier resounding on every side; and fortunate is the stranger who is not run over is the narrow street by some cantering donkey, or knocked down by some tall camel laden with heavy boxes, as he stands staring at the unwonted scene—his whole attention riveted on the every-day life of an Oriental city.
. . But with all its novel sights and sounds—which, as his first specimen of an Eastern city, must leave an indelible impression on the stranger's mind Alexandria is but semi-Oriental at least, and no more resembles Cairo than Calais is to be compared to Paris." So again at the railway station, as sketched by another writer, is found a similar mixture of East and West, of the old and the new : "A motley crowd of wily Greeks, dusky Arabs, and soft-featured Syrians ferments before you ; men, women and children in every variety of cossame and no costume ; water-sellers, bread-sellers persistently pestering everybody ; ghostly women in white, visible as human by their flashing dark eyes and naked feet, flitting hither and thither in frantic search for a lost husband or friend. You will see solemn Turks and crafty looking Jews, and perhaps a batch of recruits for the Khedive's army—Abyssinians, fine, brawny, powerful fellows in white tunics, with bare black legs, chubby faces, and dark lustrous eyes" —the whole jostling with an equally noisy if less picturesque crowd of resident foreigners. Cook's tourists, or Indian passengers en route for the P. and O. steer at Suez. The revival of the commercial prosperity of Alexandria has been followed by a corresponding recovery of its population, from 6,000—to which, according to Savary's estimate, it had dwindled less than a century ago-to more than 212,000, the official reckoning in 1872. Of this total about 48,000 are Europeans, who only numbered some 7,000 at the death of Mehemet All, the motley remainder being made up of Arabs, Turks, Copts, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Maltese, and Levantines of every shade of mixed blood from Tunis to the Dardanelles.
Ramleh, which a few years ago was merely a summer village on the coast, four miles outside the Rosetta gate, has expanded into a suburban town, with two railways running into it, and is now the permanent residence of a considerable colony of Alexandrian Europeans, whose clustering villas and luxuriant gardens have converted what, little more than a decade ago, was a strip of desert sand, into one of the prettiest marine retreats in the Levant. Nearer town, along the banks of the Mahmoudieh canal, still finer mansions, embowered in yet greener gardens—here as blooming in January as any in England in May—lodge chiefly the Greek and Jewish magnates of the cotton market and the Bourse ; while on Fridays .and Sundays the excellent road in front is crowded with equestrians and carriage riders, as varied in their mounts —from donkeys to demi-sang Arabians and English highsteppers—as in nationality, creeds, and shades of colour.
The trade of Alexandria was expected to suffer greatly from the opening of the Suez Canal, but although the greater part of the old overland traffic has been diverted into the new channel, the steady development in the general commerce of the country has more than maintained the flourishing statistics of this its principal port. Thus, while in 1868, the year preceding the opening of the Canal, the total number of vessels of all flags which entered Alexandria was 2,616, it had risen in 1873 to 2,736,* notwithstanding the rapid annual increase in the navigation through the Isthmus. The traffic inland, therefore, with Cairo and Upper Egypt, both by the Nile —through the Mahmoudieh canal to Atfeh, on the Rosetta branch—and the railway, now consists almost wholly of local imports and exports, and no longer in large part of transit trade with India. Of this, the. weekly Brindisi mail and the passengers who accompany it now alone pass through Alexandria.
From Alexandria a morning " express" now makes the run of a hundred and thirty-one miles to Cairo in four hours and a half, the omnibus trains, at lower fares, taking six hours. Alter passing Ramleh, the line leaves the cultivated land, and runs through the eastern shallows of Lake Mareotis, which stretches away like a vast lagoon to the right—in winter, during fall Nile, rising almost to a level with the embankment, but in summer presenting over nearly half its area a wide expanse of swampy marsh, peopled with pelicans, which rise like dense white clouds as the train rushes past. Again out on terra firma, the track lies through a perfectly flat expanse of teeming corn and cotton land, reticulated every where with irrigating channels, and dotted at frequent intervals with the clusters of mud huts and their sheltering clumps of palm trees that form an Arab village, with or without, according to their size, the relief of little white-washed cupolas and dumpy minarets, but all with their raised dove-cots to collect the precious pigeons' dung. Two other stations are rapidly passed, but no halt is made till Damanhour is reached, thirty-eight miles from Alexandria ; and then again twenty miles further on, over another dead level of highly-cultivated plain, the Rosetta branch of the Nile is crossed, and the actual Delta entered. Thence, on past Kafr-es-Zayat and Tanta—famous, besides its thriving trade, for its annual fairs and fêtes in honour of Sheikh Achmet, a renowned santon—over a dozen more miles of the richest country to the Damietta branch, crossed at Benha junction, beyond which the express does not again stop before reaching Cairo, nearly thirty-two miles further on. But long before this the desert is sighted, stretching eastward to the great canal, " like a coast of cloud-land veiled in an amethyst light ;" and westward, beyond the main channel of the Nile, away over the sandy wastes of Libya to Tripoli and the Fezzan. And then the Pyramids, looming against the western horizon, disappointing at first in their seeming littleness fifteen or twenty miles off, but, when approached nearer, overpowering in their massive and solemn grandeur beyond any other sight in Egypt. Simultaneously, to the left, come into view the Mokattem hills, on the last spur of which the Citadel and the tapering minarets of Mehemet Ali's mosque first attract the eye ; and ten minutes later, past the lonely obelisk of Heliopolis, and through a suburban approach of pretty villas and luxuriant gardens, the train rolls into the "great Al Cairo."
In no part of Egypt are the changes effected within the past score of years so striking as in and around the capital. During the journey up from the sea, the sights and sounds that meet the eye and the ear are much the same as of yore, but on nearing Cairo a complete transformation scene begins. What in Said Pasha's time were cropped fields round the desolate railway station, are now enclosed ornamental gardens, crowded with bijou country houses, and, from the terminus itself into the city, a new town with well laid-out streets flanked by handsome European houses and busy second-class shops. Inside what was formerly the old mural gate, the changes are greater still, and the surprise of the returning habitué culminates as he alights from Shepheard's, no longer from donkey-back-though donkeys are as numerous as ever but from a well-appointed hotel omnibus or hackney-carriage, or proceeds a few hundred yards further on to the rival hostelry of the New Hotel. Rip Van Winkle rubs his eyes, but can hardly recognise the once familiar scene; the old has everywhere given way to the new, and where, twenty years ago, stretched the Esbekieh of those days with its huge sycamores, its stagnant canal, and its fringe of tumble-down native houses, he now sees files of imposing stone buildings, broad macadamised streets, and—enclosed within half its former dimensions—a new Esbekieh, so transformed, that if the ghost of Mehemet All could re-visit glimpses of the Cariene moon, it would be hard set to recognise the old meidan in the new public garden that now occupies its site.
Though inferior in historical interest and commercial importance to Alexandria, Cairo much exceeds its great sea-port in size and number of inhabitants, and excels it still more in all the attributes of an Oriental city. Founded in A. D. 969, by Gowher, a general of the first Fatimite Caliph, it lies in a sloping plain between the east bank of the Nile and a spur of the Mokattem hills, about a dozen miles above the fork of the Delta. Five years later it became the capital, instead of Fostat, which Am-roil, three centuries earlier, had built close by on the site of the Roman town and camp of Babylon, and which, for distinction, then received its still retained name of Masrel-Ateekah, or Old Cairo. Boulak, the river port of the new town, was formerly more than a mile distant, but the separating space has been nearly all built over, and the city now covers an area of about four square miles. Although nearly a third of this has been modernised by the improvements effected during the past dozen years, and which are still in progress, the new harmonises sufficiently with the old to leave the whole still indisputably the queen of Eastern cities. In some respects less purely Oriental than Damascus, it yet presents a much more lively and varied picture of Eastern life than the solemn and secluded capital of Syria, and in this regard also as far surpasses Constantinople as Bagdad excels Smyrna. In Cairo only are now to be found the scene and most of the *amatis persona of the "Thousand and One, Nights," within stone's throw of nineteenth century civilisation in many of its latest results. The short quarter of an hour's drive from the railway station transports you into the very world of the Caliphs-the same now as when Noureddin, Abou-Shamma, Bedreddin Hassan, All Cogia, the Jew Physician, and all the rest of them played their parts any time since or before Saladin. The old city itself is still a labyrinth of dark, dirty, intricate lanes and alleys, in many of which two donkeys can hardly pass abreast, and whose toppling upper storys so nearly meet as to shut out all but the narrowest streak of the cloudless sky ; while the masquerading-looking crowd below differs in nothing from that which Warburton saw a quarter of a century ago : "Ladies wrapped closely in white veils, women of the lower classes carrying water on their heads, and covered only with a long blue garment that reveals too plainly the exquisite symmetry of the young and the hideous deformity of the elders ; here are camels perched upon by black slaves, magpied with white napkins round their head and loins ; there, are portly merchants, with turbans and long pipes, smoking on their knowing-looking donkeys ; here, an Arab dashes through the crowd [not quite] at full gallop, or a European, still more haughtily, shoves aside the pompous-looking, bearded throng; now a bridal, or a circumcising procession squeezes along, with music that might madden a drummer ; now the running footmen of some Bey or Pasha endeavour to jostle you to the wall, unless they recognise you as an Englishman—one of that race whom they think the devil himself can't frighten or teach manners to."
The whole city is divided into ten quarters (towns), under the immediate supervision of as many sheikhs, and for the most part separated from each other by gates that are closed at night. They are—the Esbekieh, or modern European quarter, in which, with the adjoining new district of Ismaïlieh, the chief municipal improvements and embellishments have been carried out ; the Bab-Sharyé quarter, Abdeen (the Cairene Sublime Porte), Darb-el-Gammamiz, Darb-el-Ahmar, Gemelyé, Chessun, Kaliffa, Boulak, and Old Cairo. Of these the Esbekieh, with the Ismaïlieh and part of Abdeen, now forms a handsome European town, intersected by broad, well-paved, and gas-lit boulevards, flanked by shops and villas worthy of ; the Riviera, owned for the most part by Pashas, Beys, and wealthy foreigners to whom the Khedive has granted free building sites on the sole condition of the houses erected being of a certain architectural merit. Up to the time of Mehemet All the whole of this great square was a marshy waste, submerged during the inundation and a half dry swamp during the remainder of the year. The old reformer drained it by means of a circular canal, and raised the enclosed area above the level of the yearly flood. But during the reigns of Abbas and Said. nothing farther was done to improve the quarter, and it failed to attract a reputable population until, in 1867, the complete transformation of the neighbourhood was begun by the present Khedive. Under the hands of a skilful French landscape gardener the Esbekieh itself was entirely re-modelled ; the narrow canal gave place to an ornamental lake, and the whole grew into a miniature Pare Monçeaux, in which the rare luxury of green turf, well-kept shrubberies, shady walks, artificial grottoes with cool rippling cascades, cafés—native and European—al-fresco theatres, and capital military bands, now make up incomparably the finest public garden in the East. Concurrently with the embellishments of this little central park, new streets, boulevards, and public building sprang up all round it. On the western side already stood Shepheard's hotel, no longer British but in name, and a few hundred yards beyond an English company had built the New Hotel, since purchased by the Khedive, and now under French management rivalling its older neighbour as the second best hostelry in Egypt. North and east imposing blocks of European shops and private houses, fronted mostly by deep shady arcades, overlook the gar-den on these sides ; while southwards, the new opera-house and the French theatre behind it, with a still finer pile of private buildings and the joint Ministries of the Interior and of Public Works, complete an architectural circle worthy of any second-class European town. The principal new streets are the Boulevard Mehemet Ali, which runs from the western end of the Moskee to the Citadel, through nearly a mile of old Arab rookeries, whose bisected interiors have been walled in by rows of well-built shops and private houses on either side ; a second, which now forms the chief thoroughfare of new Cairo, from the opera-house to Abdeen ; a third, at right angles to this, down through the new quarters of Ismailieh ; and a fourth, past the northern end of the New Hotel, and the English church to the Nile at Boulak, where, pending the erection of the new museum, a temporary building on the river bank contains the richest and most instructive collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world, the result mainly of the labours and researches of Marlette Bey since the accession of the Khedive.
In Abdeen, the favourite winter-palace of the Khedive, his Highness has virtually the whole administration focussed into his own private cabinet, from which he may be said to personally direct the entire government of the country. His other palaces are those of Ghizereh on the left bank of the Nile, opposite Boulak ; of Kasr-en-Nil, higher up on the right bank ; of Ghizeh—not yet completed—near the village of the same name, opposite the island of Rhoda, which contains the famous Nilometer ; of Kasr-en-Noosa, on the Shoobra-road—the long and beautiful avenue of sycamores and acacias that forms at once the "Drive" and the "Rotten Row" of Cairo—which is generally devoted to the entertainment of distinguished foreigners ; and that of Shoobra, formerly the favourite residence of Mehemet All, from whose only surviving son, Halim Pasha, the Khedive purchased it a few years ago. The fine gardens attached to this last are one of the " sights " of the Egyptian capital.
Besides the Esbekieh, Cairo has three other large open spaces within the city boundaries-the Birkket-el-Fyl, which. gives its name to one of the old central quarters the Roumeyleh, between the mosque of Sultan Hassan and the Citadel ; and the Kara-meidan, the chief market-place for horses, donkeys, and camels. All three of these have been cleared of the ruins and dirt that formerly en-cumbered them, and are now neatly-kept public squares. In another chapter mention will be made of the canals intersecting the city, of the two fine iron bridges which have been thrown across the Nile, and the massive embankment beyond the second of these along which runs the new carriage road to the Pyramids. It may be added that, besides numerous special bazaars for the different trades and handicrafts, Cairo further contains no fewer than 523 mosques—many of them chefs-d'oeuvres of Arabian architecture, but mostly in a sad state of dilapidation -30 Christian churches, 10 Jewish synagogues, 1,300 khans, 1,200 cafés, and 70 public baths. Of the mosques, the most remarkable in point of architectural merit are—to mention them in order of age—those of Amrou, in Old Cairo, built A.D. 640; that of Sultan Ahmed-ebn-Tooloon (879), which embodied the principle of the pointed arch three centuries before its introduction into Europe, and which the late Lady Duff-Gordon—with characteristic gush, though hardly with exaggeration—calls " an absolute jewel of perfection and purity, perfectly simple, and yet with details of guipure and embroidery in stone which one wishes to kiss, they are so lovely ; " but this mosque is now in so ruinous a condition that it is no longer in use ; those of Seté-el-Zeinab (910) and the Sultan Hakem (1007), the fanatical patron of the Druses ; the Hassaneyeh (1354), the grandest mosque in Cairo, which is said to have cost 700, 0001., and is perhaps the most perfect specimen of Arab architecture to be found anywhere in the East ; the El-Ghouny (1522), which gives its name to the fine bazaar at the extremity of which it stands and, most famous of all, the El-Azhar, which, originally founded by Gowher, the general of Moez, in 970, has been several times rebuilt and enlarged, till its last restoration in 1762 ; it is now the chief university of Arabdom, and the great divinity school for all Islam. The scandalous abuse of the Wakf trusts has so reduced the revenue for the support of these once splendid buildings, that most of them are now in a sad state of dilapidation and decay—to the lover of art, one of the tristest sights that strikes the eye in the Egyptian capital.
High over all these towers " El-Kaleh "—the Citadel—built by Salad in in 1166, on the last rocky projection of the Mokattem range, which here terminates abruptly, close by the Roumeyleh and Kara-meidan squares. This fine fortress is in itself a small town—comprising besides the barracks for a strong garrison, the Ministry of War, the old palace of Mehemet Ali—now only used for State receptions—the large rather than elegant mosque of Oriental alabaster built by him on the model of those of Constantinople and which contains his own tomb, the famous Joseph' s well, the mint, a cannon-foundry, workshops, magazines, and all the other adjuncts of a great military establishment. Here, immediately inside the " Arab's Gate," the northern entrance to the fortress, was the scene of the Mamlouk massacre in 1811, respecting which political moralists have pronounced such conflicting judgments, but the practical effect of which was to replace the anarchy of centuries by order and settled government. To most visitors, however, the chief attraction of the old stronghold is the magnificence of the view obtained from its ramparts. Immediately below lies Cairo in all its Oriental picturesqueness, its domes, minarets, and feathery palm-clumps rising clear and sharp in this most pellucid. of atmospheres behind, the chain of the Mokattem, trending in broken links to the Red Sea : northwards, beyond the solitary obelisk that marks the site of Heliopolis, the luxuriant vegetation of the Delta stretching away to the lakes that separate it from the Mediterranean; while, west and south, the eye takes in the sacred and mysterious Nile, dotted far into the distance with sails that flash in the ,sun ; the time-defying Pyramids standing out phantom-like against the grey background of the Libyan desert ; the palm-groves that wave over buried Memphis and its sole relic, the prone statue of Rameses ; the smaller but still older pyramids of Abousheir, Sakkara, and Dashour ; and, beyond these, the winding valley of Upper Egypt losing itself in the hazy distance half way up to Thebes. The splendour of this panorama, as seen by daylight, is only surpassed by the incredible beauty of a sunset viewed from the same spot, when the crimson haze of the short Egyptian twilight bathes the whole in that wondrous " after-glow," to which neither Hildebrand nor Holman Hunt have done complete justice. There is, indeed, no other view in Egypt, and few in the world, to compare with that which delights the eye and feeds the imagination from this spot.
Since the establishment of order in Egypt by the suppression of the Mamlouks, the population of Cairo has greatly increased. During the French occupation it numbered only 260,000, but before the death of Mehemet Ali it had increased to nearly 300,000, and at the date of the latest official returns, in 1872, it had further swelled to upwards of 350,000 ; of whom about 260,000 are native Mussulmans, 30,000 Copts, some 20,000 Abyssinians, Nubians, and other Soudanis, 5,000 Turks, 10,000 Jews, 30,000 Syrians and other Levantines, and nearly 20,000 foreigners. As already mentioned, Cairo forms a separate government, administered by a governor and deputy-governor, with the aid of a chief Cadi, a correctional magistrate—the Zabit-and an efficient municipal police. All the modern parts of the city are now well lit with gas (introduced in 1870), and a French water company pumps water from the Nile near Old Cairo, and at Boulak into reservoirs at Abbasieh, and distributes thence an abundant supply of excellent water, ample for all purposes of domestic uses, street watering, and garden irrigation. The sanitary police is however still very defective, and not alone in the old town, but even in. open spaces of the new quarters, both the eye and the nose meet with constant cause of offence. The public cost of gas and water, as also the deficit on the theatres, is defrayed out of the city octroi, which produces nearly 350, 0001. a year.
The social attractions and conveniences of Cairo have kept pace with its municipal improvements. Travellers are now no longer dependent on a single hotel, nor are foreign residents forced to burrow in the old tumble-down tenements of the native town. For the former, Shepheard's has been supplemented by the New Hotel, the Hôtel du Nil, the Hôtel d' Orient, and half a dozen other minor guest-houses, adapted to all pockets and national tastes ; while for the latter, the villas in the new Ismaïlieh quarter, and the more massive piles round three sides of the Esbekieh and down the Fagâla on the road to Abbasieh, afford every sort of residential accommodation, from a detached modern house entre cour et jardin to a spacious family fiat, or a modest bachelor appartement of two or three rooms. Good carriage roads, too, lead everywhere from Abbasieh and Heliopolis to Old Cairo or the Pyramids, and on Fridays and Sundays especially the splendid drive through the long avenue of arching acacias and sycamores on the Shoutra road is as lively as, and a hundred times more picturesque than Hyde Park in May or June—fellah-bestridden donkeys, Arabs of the Nejd and prancing English bloods ridden by dandy Beys and still dandier Jew bankers, jostling every variety of wheeled equipage, from street hackneys packed with Cook's tourists, to the smartest of London or Vienna - built broughams and Victorias, with eunuch-escorted ladies of the Khedive's harem, wives of the Consuls-General, or of the Shemitic financiers aforesaid, or Polish " countesses" —last from Monaco—beguiling bachelor guests of Shepheard's or the " New." From October till April the opera-house, and French comedy theatre, with the best troupes money can secure, afford on alternate evenings lyrical and dramatic entertainments hardly to be surpassed in Paris or London ; while Greek and German brasseries and musical cafés—in which mixed Bohemian bands and native performers on the cka' noon, the ' oo' d and the Icemen' geh give the visitor his choice between the lively strains of Wagner and Strauss and plaintive if discordant Arab airs—minister to meaner tastes by the score. In the fine group of buildings erected by the -Duke of Sutherland, on ground given him by the Khedive, over-looking the Esbekieh gardens, the new Khedive Club—founded on the model of our best London institutions, under the patronage of the heir-apparent and the chairmanship of the British Consul-General--provides salons, a cuisine, and billiard and reading rooms, not unworthy of Pall Mall, where members, or travellers admitted to temporary fellowship, may read nearly all the periodicals to be met with in the Travellers or the Reform, and, if so minded, may play at billiards or " cayenne" whist for stakes not permitted at either. Add to all this, that frequent balls and concerts at the palace during the winter bring together the official, financial, and commercial élite of both Cairo and Alexandria, and make everybody who is anybody known to everybody else—and the result is a sum-total of social agréments not to be matched anywhere else in the East.
Although the "sights" of Cairo lie outside the scope of this volume, yet to write at all of the city, even as it is, without allusion to at least Heliopolis and the Pyramids would be like commenting on Hamlet without mention of the Prince. Excellent carriage roads—the work of the present reign—now lead to both, facilitating their inspection without weakening the weird interest with which these oldest of human monuments impress, not to say overpower, the imagination.. The drive to the former, which is about eight miles off, leads down the Fagala past Abbasieh—erst the palace of Abbas Pasha, but now a barrack and military school, in which that poor cowardly bigot, a prey to the fear of assassination, used to shut himself up under the care of extra guards, and with saddled dromedaries in the stable ready to carry him into the desert on the first alarm. Thence on over the fine plain on which Sultan Selim, in 1517, fought the battle that won him Egypt, and where, in 1800 again, the French under Kleber in their turn beat the Turks, and regained Cairo—to the famous jessamine and orange-gardens of Mataraëeh, in which stands the " Virgin's Tree," the grand old sycamore that (tradition says) sheltered 'loser]. and Mary after their flight into Egypt. Less than a mile farther on, through a shady acanthus grove, and you reach the lone granite obelisk—the oldest in the world—that marks the site of the famous "City of the Sun," in the family of whose high-priest Joseph found his bride, where Moses learned the wisdom of .the Egyptians, Jeremiah penned his Lamentations, and Plato thought out his sublime doctrine of the immortality of the soul. For nearly 4,000 years this solitary pillar has pointed with its tapering apex to the sky, and yet the hieroglyphs on its sides are still nearly as sharp and distinct as if graven a year ago. It is sixty-two feet in height, with a diameter of six feet at the base, and is one of the many enormous monoliths quarried 500 miles away at Assouan, whose cutting, transport, and placing in situ are still perplexing problems to the modern engineer. Some mounds of crumbled bricks extending over a considerable area, every square foot of the interspaces of which is now cropped with maize, clover, or cotton, are the only other vestiges of this once sacredest of Egyptian cities, from which, as he rides or drives back to mushroom Cairo, even the most light-hearted of tourists can hardly fail to carry away a mournful sense of the vanity of human things.
The excursion to the Pyramids, which was once almost formidable from the inconvenience of crossing the Nile by a ferry and then riding on donkey-back for seven or eight miles along a tortuous track, broken at frequent intervals by ruinous canals or patches of submerged ground, is now a pleasant carriage drive of an hour and a half over the fine iron bridge from Kasr-en-Nil to Ghizeh, and along the broad macadamised and tree-fringed chaussée that—high above the inundation—now leads in nearly a straight line from the river up to the sandy slope leading to the platform on which the Pyramids stand. The plain thus crossed forms one of the prettiest pieces of landscape in Egypt, blooming everywhere after the inundation with the richest verdure, and dotted all over with villages em-bosomed in thickets of date-palms, tamarisks, acacias, and sycamore-figs, than which—as looked at a mile or two off—nothing could well be more picturesque. As the visitor is seen approaching, a score or more of half-naked Arabs swarm out of one of these rookeries near the extremity of the plain, the sheikh of which has the monopoly of supplying guides for the exploration, and as the carriage pulls up, a wordy battle in the guttural vernacular or broken English (which most of these Pyramid Bedaween speak) begins, as to who shall have the honour and profit of conducting the howadji into and up the vast pile whose stupendous magnitude is now first realised as the eye mounts the gigantic staircase from its base to its far-away summit, compelling a sense of awe and wonder such as perhaps no other work of man's hand could inspire. It would be surplusage to add another to the many descriptions of these oldest and grandest of human monuments, with which the reader is already familiar ; but as, although hoary with the age of nearly sixty centuries, they are still the most striking artificial features of Egypt as it is, it may here be repeated that these Pyramids of Ghizeh—as the colossi of Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus (a pigmy by the side of the other two), and half a dozen smaller cairns are distinctively called—form only one of many groups of similar structures ex-tending from Abouroash, five miles north-west of Ghizeh, to Illahoun in the Fayoum. From the top of the Great Pyramid, the eye, looking away southwards over the palms of Memphis, takes in the most important of these other groups—those of Sakkara, Abousheir, and Dash our, stretching along the western bank of the river, weird vestiges of a past that was already remote before history began.
In a sand-hollow a few hundred yards to the south-east of the Great Pyramid, stands, or rather couches, the half-buried Sphinx — "gazing straight on with calm eternal eyes" across the vista of seven thousand years, for, according to Mariette Bey, it was already old before the stupendous gnomon of Cheops was built. But of this again no description need be attempted : from Pliny to Miss Edwards, its solemn and majestic presence has already been the theme of a hundred pens. The fine rhapsody of Mr. Kinglake may, however, be once more quoted :—" Upon ancient dynasties of Ethiopian and Egyptian kings, upon Greek and Roman, upon Arab and Ottoman conquerors, upon Napoleon dreaming of an Eastern empire, upon battle and pestilence, upon the ceaseless misery of the Egyptian race, upon keen-eyed travellers — Herodotus yesterday, Warburton to-day — upon all and more this unworldly Sphinx has watched, and watched like a providence, with the same earnest eyes, and the same sad tranquil mien. And we, we shall die, and Islam wither away ; and the Englishman, straining far over to hold his loved India, will plant a firm foot on the banks of the Nile, and sit in the seats of the Faithful ; and still that shapeless rock will lie watching and watching the works of the new busy race, with those same sad, earnest eyes, and the same tranquil mien everlasting. You dare not mock at the Sphinx."
As Cairo is the usual starting-point for the Nile voyage, it may here be said that this may now be done either in the old fashion by dahabeeyah, or by the cheaper and more rapid, but much less enjoyable steamers of the Khedivieh Company, which ply fortnightly between Boulak and the First Cataract from November to March, making the run up and down in three weeks, at an inclusive fare of 451. for the trip ; or it may be made with the variation of going by railway to Assiout, and there joining the steamer. For those, however, to whom time and money are minor considerations, the dahabeeyah will always retain its special attractions. The hire of these picturesque craft—which, as is seen from the tomb frescoes, are in form and outline close copies of the old Pharaonic barges—varies from 601. or 701. to 1601. or 1801. a month, according to the size and furniture of the boat ; but an inferior class called cangias may be had at lower rates. Either may be hired for a round sum for the trip, according to the limit of the voyage, or by the month for the sums stated, which include crew and all other charges connected with the vessel, travellers only finding their own servants and provisions. Of the delights and advantages of a Nile voyage, whether for pleasure or for health, nothing need here be said, seeing that-except as regards the climate, which, now as ever, makes mere life a luxury, and a landscape monotonous indeed in its outward forms but infinite in its wealth of tropic beauty and the ever-changing play of light and shadow that still glorifies the whole-it carries you away beyond printing-presses and cotton-mills, sugar factories and railroads, into Egypt of the past, with which the object of this volume is not concerned.
It only remains to add that Cairo is the centre of a very considerable but mostly transit trade in gums, ivory, hides, and ostrich feathers from the Soudan, of cotton and sugar from Upper Egypt, of indigo, shawls, and carpets from India and Persia, of sheep and tobacco from Asiatic Turkey, and of machinery, hardware, cutlery, glass, woollen and other manufactured goods from Europe.
ROSETTA, third in the official list of " cities," though fourth in point of size and population, lies forty miles east of Alexandria—with which it is now connected by railway-on the western branch of the Nile, to which it now gives its name, six miles in from the sea. It is considerably older than Cairo, having been founded during the Abbasside dynasty by one of the usurping Tooloonide kings, in A. D. 870. It was long one of the most important commercial towns of Egypt ; and before the cutting of the Mahmoudieh canal by Mehemet All the whole of the overland trade from India passed through it, in consequence of the decay of the old canal of Alexandria. When captured by the French in 1798, it had a population of more than 20,000, which, after since dwindling to less than 14,000, has recovered to 15,000, with a corresponding revival of its commercial activity, which is, however, still greatly impeded by a sand-bar at the mouth of the river, passable only by small craft. Extensive gar-dens and a very salubrious air render the town itself one of the most agreeable in Egypt, and, before Ramleh grew up, made it a favourite summer resort of Alexandrians and Cairenes. It was here that the British expedition, sent in 1807 under General Fraser to effect a diversion in favour of the Mamlouks as a counter-stroke to French policy, suffered disastrous defeat by Mehemet Ali. ; and here, too, eight years earlier, was found by the French, while digging the foundations of a fort a short way below the town, the famous "Rosetta Stone" now in the British Museum, the trilingual inscription on which first furnished Dr. Young and Champollion with the key to the old sacred Egyptian writing.
Eighty miles beyond, DAMIETTA similarly gives its name to the eastern estuary of the Nile, five miles up from the sea. Here again, a bar at the river-mouth limits the navigation to vessels of not more than sixty tons, but these carry on a considerable coasting trade, and also with Greece. The chief exports are rice, dried fish from Lake Menzaleh, dates, hides, bones, linseed, and beans. It was formerly famous for its manufacture of leather, and for the striped linen cloths called Dimity (from Dimyat, the Arab name of the town), but both these have long ceased to be specialties of the place. The existing town—which, though standing on the eastern bank of the river, properly belongs to the interior Delta—dates from the thirteenth century, but prior to that time a city of the same name—anciently Tamiâthis—stood about four miles to the south. This latter then formed the chief eastern bulwark of Egypt against the crusaders, by whom it was more than once taken, and was indeed the basis of the operations of St. Louis in the unfortunate sixth crusade. It was in consequence razed, and re-built on its present site by the Mamlouk Sultan Beybars, who at the same time closed the river against the Frankish ships by sinking stone-laden barges across its mouth. The present population of the town, which is estimated at 29,400, consists chiefly of native Moslems, with a few Syrians and Levantine Greeks.
PORT SAID, thirty miles farther east, owes its origin to. the great canal, and is therefore barely eighteen years old. In April, 1859, M. de Lesseps and his little band of pioneer navvies landed on what was then a desolate strip of sand-bank between the Mediterranean and the shallows of Lake Menzaleh, and began his great work by selecting the site of the city and port which were intended ultimately to rival and even to supersede Alexandria. The spot was chosen, not because the shortest line could be drawn from it across the Isthmus—that would have run farther eastwards, through the Gulf of Pelusium—but because it was the nearest point to deep-sea water along the coast, and in honour of the then Viceroy it was named Port Said. The very site, however, of the future town had to be formed, and this was done by spreading over the sandy slip the argillaceous mud dredged from the ad-joining lake, which the fierce heat of the Egyptian summer soon hardened into a sufficiently firm foundation for the workshops and other light structures that rapidly sprang up along the line of the new harbour. The coast being here an open roadstead, the port had also to be artificially created ; and this was effected by running out to sea two great concrete moles, respectively 2,726 and 1,962 yards long, and 1,500 yards apart. The space thus en-closed forms a triangular port of about 550 acres, with 30 feet of depth at the entrance, and is connected with an inner harbour, called the " Grand Bassin Ismail," by a channel 300 feet wide and 26 deep, through which the great ship canal is reached. Joining on to this principal inner basin are the "Bassin Sherif," the "Bassin des Ateliers," now little used since the completion of the works, and the " Bassin du Commerce," north and west of which the principal part of the town itself lies. The native quarter is scattered westward over the strip of sand between the sea and the lake. A fine lighthouse stands at the shore end of the western mole, from the lantern of which, 150 feet high, a first-class electric light flashes twenty miles out to sea, and smaller coloured lights are also placed at the seaward extremities of both. The new port thus formed is—and until the completion of the great works at Alexandria will remain—the safest and most easily-approached harbour anywhere between Tunis and Smyrna. As there are no springs on this part of the coast, the water-supply of the town is pumped through a double row of iron pipes from the fresh-water canal at Ismailia, and to provide against accidents a three-days' 'provision is kept stored in a large reservoir called the " Chateau d' Eau." As might be expected from its origin and relations, Port Said is in appearance rather a French than an Egyptian town ; and its regularly-laid-out streets, squares, quays, hotels, and other adjuncts of a European seaport wholly lack the picturesqueness of the towns and cities of the Delta and Nile valley. Its trade is almost exclusively limited to the supply of vessels passing through the canal, and its population—which includes some of the worst samples of Maltese, Greeks, Jews, and Italians to be met with in the Levant—three years ago numbered 8,671 of all nationalities.
In size merely a fort and a village, EL-ARISH owes its rank as a mohafza to its position as the frontier town between Egypt and Palestine. The little river, of the same name, which here forms the actual boundary, is dry during the greater part of the year, but after the rains it empties into the Mediterranean a tolerably rapid though narrow stream. Except as a Customs station and frontier garrison, the place is of no importance, and its population numbers only 2,284.
Like Port Said, ISMAILIA is a creation of the Suez Canal. Sixteen years ago its site was a barren waste of sand, and now, with a population of more than 3,000, it is the prettiest and most attractive town in Egypt. It is situated exactly in the centre of the Isthmus, on the western shore of Lake Timsah, through which the Canal runs, and on its three other sides is belted by luxuriant gardens filled with flowers and fruit-trees, for which the adjacent fresh-water canal supplies abundant irrigation. The town itself is well built, chiefly of stone from the " Carrières des Hyénes" on the other side of the lake, and its broad macadamised streets and handsome squares, bordered with young vigorously-growing trees, have an air of neatness and even elegance to which the best parts of ' Cairo and Alexandria have not yet attained. Its main artery is the Quai Méhémet All, a fine avenue a mile and a quarter long and some forty yards wide, flanked on one side by the fresh-water canal, and on the other by a long chain of private houses, the most noteworthy of which are the pretty Swiss châlet of M. de Lesseps, and, a short way beyond, the wooden palace hastily built to receive the Khedive's more illustrious guests at the opening of the Canal. At the end of this quay are the works for pumping water from the fresh-water canal into the conduit that supplies Port Said and the intermediate stations, as mentioned above ; in a well-equipped établissement de bains you may bathe in the salt water of Lake Timsah, and on coming out have a douche fresh from the Nile, 130 miles off. Ismailia is still less likely than Port Said to become a place of any considerable trade, but the excellence of its climate—tempered during the hot months by a constant breeze from the lake, and free at all seasons from the night-dews and sea-fogs of the lower Delta —and its facility of access by railway from Cairo and Alexandria are likely to render it a favourite bathing resort to the annual summer exodus from those cities.
SUEZ, fifty miles farther south by the railway which closely skirts the fresh-water canal, has few or no features in common with this little capital of the Isthmus. The actual town dates from the middle of the fourteenth century, when it took the place of Kolzoum (Clysma)—itself the successor of Arisnoë and the site of which is still marked by a mound about half a mile farther north. The position was always one of commercial importance, and a succession of towns had risen, flourished, and disappeared in turn, on or near it, as the Red Sea receded southwards to the head of the two gulfs in which it now terminates, and to the westernmost of which Suez gives its name. The discovery, however, of the Cape route to the East, a century and a half later, diverted the current of trade from its ancient channel, and the town sank into little more than a fishing village, galvanised only into occasional life -by the passage of caravans between Arabia and Egypt. After the conquest of the latter by the Turks, Suez became a naval depot for the Ottoman fleet in the Red Sea, and from it were dispatched the expeditions which added Yemen, Aden, and other points on both sides of the Sea to the dominion of the Porte. But these contributed nothing to the commercial revival of the town, which further suffered severely during the French occupation in 1798, when the place was nearly half demolished to make way for fortifications that were begun, but never completed. The adoption, however, of the overland route, in 1837, for the transit of the Indian mail, was the beginning of a new era for Suez, followed up as it was five years later by the establishment of a regular line of the P. and O. Company's steamers to India, to which a similar service of the French Messageries was subsequently add-ed. The traffic thus created was further developed in 1857 by the opening of the railway to Cairo, in substitution of the old camel and four-horse-waggon service across the desert. Six years later the completion of the fresh-water canal from Ismailia furnished the town, for the first time in its history, with an abundant water supply,* and this—coupled with the various works in connection with the maritime Cana, the docks, quays, and other local improvements—in less than ten years swelled the population from 4,000 in 1859 to 16,000 in 1868. With the completion of the Canal, the activity of the place somewhat decreased, and the population fell to 13,000, which the gradual completion of the other works has since further reduced to between 11,000 and 12,000—composed, besides natives, of Arabs from all parts of the eastern coast, Persians, Indians, and the usual medley of Greeks, Levan-tines, and Europeans, whom trade or labour has permanently attracted to the town. Of this last itself, a word or two of description will suffice. The native quarter is chiefly built of sun-dried bricks, and except in containing four or five small mosques, a Greek church, and one or two unpaved squares, or meidans, differs little from the common run of large Egyptian villages. The Prefecture, or government-house, is an imposing brick structure, which groups within its limits the residence of the governor, the chief police, telegraph, and other public offices, and, on its northern front, the railway platform. North-wards of this lie the substantial storehouses of the foreign steam companies, the water-works, the English and French hospitals, and the fine hotel built in 1845 by the Egyptian Government for the accommodation of overland passengers, and which is now leased by the P. and O. Company. This building abuts immediately on the old harbour, and is connected with the railway station, a few hundred yards off, by a special line of rails. More prominently than any of these, stands a fine chalet, built by Said Pasha on the mound of Kolzoum, from which a splendid view is obtained. In front lies the town—surrounded on three sides by the desert—the harbour, road-stead, and mouth of the canal ; on the left are visible the rosy peaks of Sinai, and on the right the violet-tinted range of the Jebel-Attakah, with the land-locked gulf stretching blue and beautiful as an Italian lake between. The new harbour—the works in connection with which will be described in another chapter-lies nearly two miles south of the town, with which it is connected by a broad stone-faced embankment, supporting a fine carriage-road and a branch railway that conveys goods and passengers right down to the ships. Nearly due east is the Suez Canal Company' s port, including extensive office buildings, the quay called. " Waghorn' s Quay," on which the Company has erected a statue of the indefatigable promoter of the overland route, and, beyond these, the entrance to the Canal itself.
Suez completes the list of Egyptian "cities," but Souakim and Massowah—the two principal Red Sea ports after Suez—being separate administrations, also fall within the category of mohafzas. The former is situated, in lat. 19° 49' N., at the extremity of a narrow bay about fifteen miles long, and fringed on both sides by coral reefs. The town itself stands on the innermost of several small islands, and is separated by a strait about five hundred yards wide from its suburb, El-Geyf, on the mainland. The harbour, which is formed by a curving continental headland, lies east of the town, the west side affording no anchorage for ships. Souakim carries on a considerable trade with the opposite Arabian coast, its chief exports being dhoura from Taka, water-skins, leather, sacks, hides, liquid butter, palm-leaf mats, and slaves from Sennaar and Darfour. It communicates with the interior by a caravan route to Berber on the Nile, and its population is officially estimated at 4,078.
Massowah, 270 miles farther down the coast, in lat. 15° 44' N., stands also on a small coral island separated from the continent by the shallow channel of Adowa. The harbour, though narrow at the entrance, is deep and easily accessible, and affords safe anchorage for a large number of vessels. Owing to the scarcity of fresh water, the island and its immediate neighbourhood on the main-land produce nothing available for trade, but it carries on a considerable traffic with the Hedjaz and Yemen in gold dust, ivory, rhinoceros horns, and grain, brought down by caravans from Khartoum and the upper countries on the Blue and White Niles : it is also the terminal point southwards for the line of Egyptian Government steamers which ply between this point and Suez, touching at Djeddah and Souakim. Its position as the chief maritime outlet of Abyssinia will give it greater importance when-ever that country becomes Egyptian territory, but in the meantime its population does not exceed 2,350.
Of the 113 " towns " of Egypt proper, it will suffice to note merely the more important provincial chefs-lieux, many of which exceed in size and population most of the " cities" above noticed. Amongst these Tanta ranks first in commercial activity and number of inhabitants—these latter amounting in 1872 to 60,000. It is the capital of the province of Garbyé, in Lower Egypt, and a principal station on the Alexandria and Cairo railway, seventy-six miles from the former, and fifty-five from the latter city. Four branch lines from Damietta, Zifté, Dessouk, and Shibeen-el-Korn also here join the main trunk line, and additionally contribute to the commercial movement of the town. Its chief local importance, however, is derived from three great fairs, or rather festivals, which are held annually in January, April, and August in honour of a famous Moslem saint called Sid-Achmet the Bedoween, who flourished in the thirteenth century, and whose tomb and mosque form one of the prettiest and richest monuments of their kind in Egypt. Each of these fêtes lasts eight days ; and that in autumn especially attracts enormous crowds of both sexes, trade and religion then often combining to collect together as many as 500,000 dealers and pilgrims from all parts of the East. But the scene is distinguished rather by riot than piety, and recalls the worst revelries of Bubastis and Canopus. The tomb is jealously guarded by stalwart dervishes, and as (in the words of Clot Bey) the intercession of the saint "passe pour donner la fécondité aux femmes," the spot is a favourite resort of pious ladies from whom Allah has withheld the honours of maternity, and whose grateful offerings on these occasions form a rich endowment of the shrine. Up to within a few years ago the slave-market was one of the chief sights of these fairs, but this has been suppressed by the Khedive, and the traffic in human chattels, though still privately carried on, is now contra-band here as everywhere else throughout the country.*
Zagazig, with a population of nearly 40,000, ranks next in size and commercial importance. Its situation on the branch line which connects Benha—twenty-four miles off on the main Alexandria and Cairo railway—with Ismailia and Suez, and also as the junction-point of another line to Mansourah, renders it at once the centre of the trade of the surrounding district, and of the railway system of the eastern Delta. Its growth therefore has been rapid, and with the aid of a numerous and enterprising colony of Europeans, it promises to become one of the largest and most prosperous towns of Egypt. The ruins of Bubastis are close by, and the fresh-water canal strikes the line at Ter-el-Kibeer, about sixteen miles farther east.
Although private manufacturing enterprise has not yet much extended above Cairo the development of native industry within recent years has swelled the population of Assiout, the capital of Upper Egypt, from 18,000 at the death of Mehemet All to 27,500 three years ago. This pretty and thriving town, which occupies the site of the ancient Lycopolis, stands nearly a mile back from the left bank of the Nile, about 250 miles above Cairo, and is surrounded by one of the most fertile districts in the upper valley. It was here that the Mamlouk chiefs took refuge when driven from Lower Egypt, and for a time made a successful stand against Mehemet Ali. The town is connected with El-Hamra, its port on the river, by a fine tree-studded chaussée; and besides some other minor local industries is famous for its pipe-bowls, which compete throughout Egypt and the Levant with those of Constantinople itself, It is at present the southern terminus of the line of railway on the left bank of the Nile, which connects Upper Egypt with Alexandria, and, as mentioned elsewhere, is also the chief entrepôt of the caravan trade between Cairo, Darfour, and Sennaar.
Damanhour, the capital of the province of Behéra in the lower valley, thirty-eight miles from Alexandria on the trunk line to Cairo, had thirty years ago 9,000 in-habitants, but from being little more than a first-class village it has grown to be a prosperous town, with a population of 25,000. The surrounding district is one of the most richly cultivated in Egypt, and produces in abundance cotton of the finest quality, for which the railway and the neighbouring Mahmoudieh canal afford cheap and ready means of transport.
Mansourah, an old town on the right bank of the Damietta branch, comes next in census rank, with a population of 16,000. It was here that St. Louis was defeated and captured by the Saracens in 1250, and tradition still points to an old ruin as his place of imprisonment till released on payment of a heavy ransom and the surrender of Damietta. The town, which is the capital of the province of Dahkalieh, is connected by railway with Cairo, Alexandria, and nearly all parts of the Delta, and with Lake Menzaleh, thirty-seven miles off, by a canal which is navigable half the year. Like Damanhour, its chief trade staple is cotton, but it also manufactures a considerable quantity of sail-cloth and other linen fabrics.
Kenneh, the capital of the province of Kenneh-Cosseir, in Upper Egypt, about a hundred and fifty miles above Assiout, forms the last town of which special note need be made. It stands in a couple of miles from the eastern bank of the Nile on a canal that connects it with the river, and being only about eighty miles from the Red Sea at Cosseir, has succeeded to Coft and Cos as the emporium of trade between the Said and the Arabian coast. It is for the same reason a chief rendezvous of Mecca pilgrims from the upper valley and the countries farther south. The town is now, as three thousand years ago, famous for its manufacture of porous water-jars and bottles, which are still in universal use throughout Egypt, and rafts of which floating down to Cairo and the Delta, form one of the picturesque features of the Nile navigation.
Its population of 18,200 includes a numerous colony of ghawazee, or dancing girls, of whom there is also a strong contingent higher up at Esneh. On the opposite bank of the river stands Dendera (Tentyra), whose Ptolemaic temple of Venus is one of the grandest and best preserved monuments of Egypt.
Of the other provincial capitals there remain to be more briefly mentioned—in Lower Egypt, Shibeen, chief town of the province of Menoufyeh, with a population of 12,400 ; Benha (5,200), capital of Galioubyeh ; and Ghizeh (10,500), now rather a village than a town, but still capital of the mudirieh opposite Cairo, which gives its name to the Great Pyramids ; and in Middle and Upper Egypt, Beni-Souef (7,000), a thriving town, capital of the province of the same name ; Medinet (about 12,000), capital of the Fayoum ; Minieh (11,000), a large and prosperous town, chef-lieu of its province, about 160 miles above Cairo (150 by rail), where one of the Khedive' s finest sugar factories is now carried on ; Girgheh (2,000), formerly the chief town of the Said, and still the seat of the oldest Roman Catholic establishment in Egypt ; it is now superseded as the provincial capital by Soohag, a well-built and important town about twenty-five miles lower down ; and finally Esneh (7,000), a chief emporium of the Upper Nile and Abyssinian trade, which also enjoys the repute of being the healthiest place on the river.
Egypt As It Is Territory
Cities And Towns
Egypt And The Porte
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