(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Letters from Egypt to plain folks at home"

Google 



This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 



1 


















dUltto^M fwrrx 'bg^-^ht 


V 

• : ^ 

;> fz - 








7o 9-£a^x l<rtk4 
■M-.^L.r/katUy. at JhrrruZrrs 












1 



' ■ "^^^^-^^ 



^^^^^i^i^ 




600068906Z 




% p/^ 



sj 



LETTERS FROM EGYPT 



TO 



Plain Folks at Home. 



-61. 



BY 

MARY L. WHATELY, 

Author of ''Ragged Life in Egypt" " Among the Huts" etc. 



WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS, 







SEE LEY, JACKSON, &* HALLIDAY, FLEET STREET, 

LONDON, MDCCCLXXIX, 



\All Rights Reserved.^ 



^d. A . KA 



Hasell, Watson, and Viney, Prinkers, London and Aylesbary. 



CONTENTS. 



LUTTIS 

I. Introductory . . . 


VLQM 

1 


11. A Little about Old Egyptlaji 


re . 10 


III. The River 


. 21 


IV. The Gardens of Egypt 


. 34 


V. The People . . . 


. 56 


VI. The People — contintced 


. 70 


VII. What they Eat 


. 79 


VIII. Superstitions . 


. 89 


IX. Slavery as it is in Egypt 


. 107 


X. The Village . 


. 134 


XL Town Life 


. 166 


XII. The House of Mirth . 


. 180 


XIIL The House of Mourning 


. 205 


X IV. Nile Trips . . , 


. 222 


XV. About the School 


. 240 


XVI. Conclusion . . 


. 258 



I 

1 



LETTERS FROM EGYPT 

TO PLAIN FOLKS AT HOME. 



LETTER I. 

introductory. 

My good Friends, — 

By God*s providence I have been led to settle 
in this distant land, and can but seldom visit Eng- 
land ; however, I do not forget friends there, and 
often think, not only of those I know personally, 
but also of the poor, for whom I always have felt 
great interest, particularly the old people and the 
children. One day it came to my mind that I might 
do some little good to old folks at home — and per- 
haps to the young, too — in spite of being so far off, 
and having a large school to look after, and several 
other things ; and this was my idea: — that I would 
write some simple familiar accounts of the land 

1 



2 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

of Egypt where I dwell, which might be nsefnl 
and pleasant to some whose pleasm^es are but few, 
and which might lead such as are praying Chris- 
tians (and I believe there are many such to be 
found in bumble abodes) to join with me in ask- 
ing the Lord to let the Gospel light shine into 
this land where there is so much of ignorance 
and darkness and false belief. These letters would 
then be like the links of a chain between the dark 
Egyptian labouring among the sugar canes on the 
banks of the river Nile, and the praying English 
cottager over the seal 

There are indeed so many books about Egypt 
already, that some may think another was not 
wanted, but most of the learned and historical 
books would not suit any one who had not received 
an advanced education, and many are very diffi- 
cult to understand even for those who have had 
this; the others are chiefly written by travellers, 
and are in language too fine for simple persons, 
besides which, being written in general by those 
who were ignorant of the language of the country, 
and who had only stayed a short time there, 
they are apt to be full of mistakes and incorrect 
notions. 

I have lived a great many years here, and my 



INTRODUCTORY. 

business has been among the people, especially the 
poor, and the children. I began to study the 
language as soon as I arrived, and am accustomed 
to converse in it with different classes of the peo- 
ple, and also to visit them and receive them in 
my turn, so that I can tell you a good deal about 
their ways and habits. 

But before we begin to speak about the Egyp- 
tians of the present day we must first understand 
something about the country itself, and its former 
inhabitants. 

All who study their Bibles know that Egypt is 
there spoken of very frequently ; indeed, except 
Canaan, the promised land, no other place is so 
frequently alluded to in Scripture. The first time 
we hear of it is in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, 
where we find Abraham going to sojourn in Egypt 
on account of the famine in Canaan, and afterwards 
we have the history of Joseph's captivity, leading 
to the settling of his family there and the sufferings 
of the children of Israel under Pharaoh. There are 
very ancient histories and records of the Egyptians, 
many of which are of peculiar interest as confirming 
the Scripture accounts ; not that the word of God 
needs the histories of uninspired man to prove its 
truth, but that it is very curious and beautiful to 



4 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

see that the more learned men search into the re- 
cords of the past, the more clearly do the accomits 
given in the Bible stand out. To give one instance out 
of many, some very old writings on stone were dis- 
covered in the ancient Egyptian characters (or pic- 
ture letters), and when the meaning was after much 
trouble made out, they found it alluded to the great 
famine, when people from all countries came to buy 
corn in Egypt.* The old Egyptians were idolaters, 
and though in many things they were a very clever 
people, they were foolish as well as wicked in this, 
and made idols of every possible material ; some of 
stone so large that they seemed to represent giants 
of the most enormous size; others so small that 
they could be carried in the pocket or round the 
neck, and these were often carved out of agates or 
cornelians and other rare polished stones ; others 
again were made of a curious sort of blue pottery, 
others of copper ; they are still found in the sand 
in the places where the ancient people of the land 
used to bring their dead and have their idolatrous 
temples. They also worshipped many animals ; 
monkeys, cats, beetles, were all revered, but the 
bull was considered especially sacred, because they 
fancied one of their chief gods had taken the form of 

* See Genesis xlii. 



INTRODUCTORY. 5 

a bull, and they kept many of these creatures in 
sacred enclosures, gave them divine honours, and 
actually buried them in coffins of polished marble, 
having first embalmed their bodies, — which means 
to wrap them up in linen with quantities of 
spices, and then bake by very slow heat in 
ovens. I have seen these marble coffins, and 
have often picked up the whitened bones of the 
sacred bulls in the sand in a place where once 
a great city and splendid temples are believed to 
have stood. 

The golden calf made by Aaron to please the 
children of Israel was no doubt made in imitation 
of the Egyptians among whom the people had 
lived so long, and of their sacred bulls : the in- 
spired Psalmist, in holy anger at the profane and 
wicked action, says, " So they turned their glory 
into the similitude of an ox which eateth hay." 

It is sad to think of a people so learned and 
clever in many respects, being so darkened in 
mind as to religion ; for in the arts of life they 
were far more advanced than the nations of Europe, 
who at that early time were mostly quite barbarous 
and savage in their customs, and ignorant of much 
that was quite familiar to the Egyptians. While 
our own ancestors were living in wretched huts 



6 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

built of reeds, with neither books nor public 
buildings, and scantily clad in the skins of beasts, 
the Egyptians had built long before stately palaces 
for their kings, and temples for their idols, of solid 
stone, so strong that, after so many hundreds of 
years, a great part stUl remain ; and though in 
ruins, some of the great pillars are quite perfect. 
They carved inscriptions on the walls of these 
buildings, and on pillars of granite or marble, and 
on the images of their gods. Their writing was 
very curious, consisting not of letters as with us, 
but of signs like small pictures, each sign express- 
ing a word. Some of these signs were remarkably 
ingenious, and showed much thought and wisdom. 
For instance, an eye was used as a sign of the 
all-seeing power of God; for it seems they had 
some little idea of a Supreme Power, although a 
very indistinct and imperfect idea. But as I have 
already said, they worshipped various living crea- 
tures, as well as the idols they made with their 
own hands. Their priests and learned men are 
believed to have first taught that the Divine Spirit 
entered into certain animals, and that others were 
emblems or signs of the Divine Power ; and by 
degrees the emblems came to be looked on as 
real deities of an inferior order, and thus received 



INTRODUCTORY. 7 

worship. Those Christian Churches that teach men 
to pay worship and honour to angels and saints, 
and to bow before images of them, or of our Lord 
Himself, are falling into the same kind of sin as 
the ancient Egyptians ; it is true that a holy man 
or woman who lived long ago is very different 
from a calf or a beetle, but the difference is in 
the degree^ not in the kind of sin. God has told 
us in plain words not to bow down before anything 
or any person in heaven above or earth beneath, 
so that if we disobey in this matter we are breaking 
the commands of our Creator as truly as the old 
Egyptian. 

But the bull was not the only animal which 
was honoured by tombs and special burying-places, 
though none was so highly thought of and re- 
vered. I once visited an ancient burial-place for 
sacred cats, and actually saw in the pit many 
bundles of linen brown with age, which contained 
the bones of the dead pussies ! These when ex- 
posed to the open air were apt to crumble and 
turn into dust, but when first found were in 
good preservation, the pit or cave being in dry 
sand, and the air of the country very dry and pure. 

Human beiogs were buried in the same way, 
rolled up in linen with spices, and then exposed 



8 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

to heat, after which they were packed in cases of 
wood and stone. 

The people seem to have tried in this way to 
keep their dead from the decay which is the lot 
of all flesh, not knowing that One alone who tasted 
of death yet saw no corruption, because that holy 
One alone was without sin. 

Thousands of yards of the linen for which Egypt 
was famous, were wasted in thus wrapping dead 
men and dead animals. I saw an ancient tomb 
which had been recently opened more than twenty 
years ago ; and lying among the sand and rubbish 
that had been thrown out, I found a small earthen 
jar without any opening to it.* On breaking this 
it was found to contain one of the sacred birds 
of the Egyptians called an Ibis (as I was told 
by a learned man who was of the party visiting 
the tomb). I unfolded at least two yards of half- 
burnt linen (for it had been baked according to 
their custom), and found within, the crumbling 
bones of the bird, his long beak being quite 
perfect, — a memorial of the folly of man in thus 

* It seems the custom was to make the jar after the 
embalmed creature was ready, and then to bake all, other- 
wise it would not have got in, as no sort of opening was 
to be found. 



INTRODUCTORY. 9 

wasting time and labour, and yet more their 
sin, in worshipping the creature more than the 
Creator. 

In my next letter you will have a little more 
on the early history of Egypt, and some account 
of its climate and productions. 



10 



LETTER 11. 

A LITTLE ABOUT OLD EGYPTIANS. 

In the Book of Exodus we read that after Joseph's 
death, and that of the generation following, there 
arose a " neifo king, who knew not Joseph." Now 
it is plain that this must have been a king from a 
distance, and not a son or nephew of the Pharaoh 
who was Joseph's friend, as such would not have 
been ignorant of the history of that remarkable 
person who was second only to the monarch himself, 
and who had saved Egypt in the great famine. The 

early histories of Egypt show that there were several 
changes of what is called the " dynasties " or royal 
families of Egypt, one king being overcome and 
driven out by another from a distant province, or 
from even a different country, and sometimes the old 
race or dynasty returning again. 

But it is not easy even for the most learned, men 
who have searched carefully into the records of those 
ancient times to be sure of the dates or exact periods 



A LITTLE ABOUT OLD EGYPTIANS. 11 

at which the events spoken of took place. We 
must recollect that there was no printing and no 
paper then, so that the records and histories were 
written either on stone or on skins carefully pre- 
pared, or upon the leaves of a certain reed which 
was used in Egypt for writing on. Only portions 
of their ancient writings have come down to us, a 
great deal having been lost or destroyed in the 
course of time : so it is only by putting a bit from 
one and a bit from another together, that learned 
men can find out what happened and was recorded. 
However, one thing is quite clear, even to unlearned 
people, and that is, that the Pharaoh spoken of in 
Exodus was of a different family and race from the 
Pharaoh whose dream Joseph interpreted ; the name 
of Pharaoh was given to all the kings of the country 
just as afterwards Caesar was to all the emperors 
of Rome. But though Pharaoh himself knew not 
Joseph, it is impossible that the people should not 
have known something of the true God from the 
descendants of Joseph and his brethren ; and there- 
fore they were as sinful as he was in oppressing the 
Israelites, and shared in the punishments sent by 
God in the time of Moses. 

After the chosen people had left Egypt, and the 
wicked king and his army had been destroyed in 



12 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

the Red Sea, the nation still remained idolaters, 
though they had seen the power of the Creator and 
the uselessness of their own false gods, — ^yet so 
perverse is man's heart. " For the customs of the 
people are vain," saith the prophet (Jer. x. 3). We 
may hope, indeed, that some at least did learn to 
forsake their idols ; but, as a nation, we know they 
remained the same. Different foreign powers came 
one after another to fight in Egypt, and to obtain 
that fertile land for their own rulers ; the Assyrians, 
as foretold in Scripture, for a time ruled over the 
people: you will see this invasion alluded to in 
Jeremiah xlvi., as well as in other places. Later, 
the Greeks, under the famous Alexander the Great, 
took Egypt ; Alexandria, on the sea coast, was 
founded by this monarch ; and he left the country 
to Ptolemy, one of his four successors. The family 
of Ptolemy reigned for a considerable period over 
Egypt ; and such numbers of Greeks settled in the 
chief towns that the Greek language seems to have 
been learned by many of the educated among the 
people, and the language of the country was written 
in letters imitated from the old Greek characters, so 
that the hieroglyphic or picture characters went out 
of use. 

After the rule of the Greek came the Iron power 



A LITTLE ABOUT OLD EGYPTIANS. 13 

— the Eoman, which had nearly all the known parts 
of the world at one time under its strong hand. 
The Jews and Egyptians were alike under Roman 
rule when our blessed Lord was born and when the 
cruelty of the tributary King Herod (who governed 
subject to the Romans) caused the young Child and 
His mother to be sent by Divine command into 
Egypt for a season. They still show a tree — a 
great sycamore fig, under which I have sat many 
a time — which the tradition says Jesus and His 
mother and Joseph rested under on their first 
arrival. 

We cannot tell whether it be true or not, but it 
is possible. However, the people have learned to 
think so much more of the mother of Jesus than 
of Himself, that it is always called the Virgin's tree, 
and they seem to have no idea that the interest 
belonging to it, if the tradition be true, ought to 
be that the Saviour of mankind rested there in His 
infancy ; whereas I never heard His name in connec- 
tion with it, and even the Mahometan gardeners will 
often tell strangers, as they have heard from so-called 
Christians, that this is " Mary's tree " I After the 
death and resurrection of our Lord, the Gospel was 
brought into Egypt, it is said, by the Evangelist 
Mark, but of this there is no actual proof, although 



14 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

it appears to be probable. ApoUos, whose name is 
mentioned in the Epistles and Acts of the Apostles, 
was, as you know, a Jew of Alexandria : there was 
quite a Jewish colony in that city, and they had 
adopted the Greek language (not the Egyptian, 
which seems strange, but Alexandria was then, as 
it is now indeed, full of a mixed multitude, and 
having been long the capital under the Greek rule, 
that tongue had greatly prevailed), the Old Testa- 
ment had been translated by learned Jews into 
Greek from the original Hebrew; and at the 
time when Christianity began to spread in Egypt, 
Alexandria was a sort of centre for education, as 
there were many learned men there of different 
nations, but especially Jews and Greeks ; and many 
books were found there both in Greek and in the 
Egyptian written language, which was called the 
Coptic. Many copies of the Scripture were written 
in this. When I say " many," however, you must 
remember it is only compared with the utter poverty 
of nations who had no books, or hardly any ; but 
when printing and paper do not exist, books must 
of necessity always be expensive and few. As time 
passed, the Egyptian Church became corrupted, just 
as was the case with the Greek and Roman Church, 
and as always mil be the case when the study of 



A LITTLE ABOUT OLD EGYPTIANS. 15 

the Scripture is neglected, and when ceremonies 
and outward forms are made of too much con- 
sequence. The ceremony — the procession, the 
chanting, the dress of the minister, and the way 
in which the service of God is arranged outwardly^ 
— being more thought of than prayer for the Holy 
Spirit and constant dependence on Christ and 
close attention to the Word of God, gradually 
takes the highest place in men's hearts, instead 
of being considered as comparatively of very little 
consequence. Besides this, in all the Christian 
Churches of the time I speak of, which is called 
by historians the " Middle Ages," there was a great 
inclination to adopt many old heathen festivals and 
customs, with a certain alteration, which was sup- 
posed to make them Christian ; from these causes 
and from others which I do not wish to talk of 
here, the Egyptian Christians had lost much of 
their simple faith, and though there were no doubt 
some believers among them, I fear there were but 
few, and that very many had almost lost sight of 
Christ in the multitude of saints they revered and 
the vain ceremonies in which their religion con- 
sisted. 

Their clergy had become fonder of disputing 
about words than of teaching the ignorant, and 



16 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

often too much given to luxury and grandeur. 
At this period (about 600 years after Christ) new 
religion had begun to make a stir in the world. 
In Arabia, which you know is divided from Africa 
by the Red Sea, the famous Mohammed had arisen, 
and his followers were fast spreading in the East, 
and getting more and more powerful. 

This man was originally only a camel-driver, but 
was very clever ; and having, when on a journey 
into Syria (as Palestine had now got to be called), 
learned something of the Christian religion, and 
something also of the Jewish, from Jews resident 
in Arabia, he made a book, with the help of some 
friends, which was compounded of passages taken 
from the Old Testament, and some little from the 
New also — rather in the form of allusions than 
of actual quotations ; and to these were added a 
great many maxims and directions of his own. 
He began with a great truth — that Grod is one 
God; for he wished to overthrow the idolatry of 
Arabia, and so far was right; but the addition 
that he was himself the prophet and apostle of 
God was an assertion without grounds, as you of ^ 
course know. The only proof that God has sent 
a man to make himself inspired head and leader 
must be miracles ; mere teachers and preachers of 



A LITTLE ABOUT OLD KGYPTLANS. 17 

the already-written and revealed word do not need 
miracnlons aid, for they appeal to God's word, 
which is thoroughly authenticated and proved by 
thousands of evidences to any one who fairly 
examines it. But any one who claims to be the 
medium of a new revelation is in a diOFerent posi- 
tion from a teacher of revealed truth, and should 
have miraculous powers to prove what he asserts. 
The Arabian prophet spoke of visions and wonders 
he had seen, but no witness was ever brought to 
prove that he had any divinely miraculous power 
at all. But the Scripture says, " If one shall come 
in his own name, him ye will receive;" and so 
it was. 

We need not wonder at the great success that 
after a time followed, for not only were the maxims 
and regulations arranged so as to suit specially the 
nations of the East, and clothed in language pecu- 
liarly acceptable to them, but there was real good 
mixed with it sufficient to satisfy the moral craving 
of some who had conscience and morality to a certain 
degree. Besides this, it had the help of the arm 
of flesh which Christians are forbidden to use in 
spreading their religion. I do not mean that some 
bearing the name have not done so : but by their 
disobedience to the Saviour's plain command, and 

2 



18 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

assurance that His kingdom is not of this world, 
they show that they are not in reality His disciples, 
or at the best are very weak and mistaken ones. 

But the faiti of Mohammed was aided by the 
sword from the first. Arabia was peopled in great 
part by wandering tribes, as is still the case, many 
of them having no houses but the " Bedouin's moving 
home" — ^the tent, their wealth consisting in camels 
and goats. Numbers of the children of Midian 
and Esau, as well as the Ishmaelites— from whom 
the Arabs of Arabia proper are said to have de- 
scended, — lead this travelling life. Other tribes 
were more settled, and had cities and villages under 
chiefs, who were generally at war with one another, 
more or less. By degrees these tribes began to join 
themselves to the new leader, and to offer their 
swords in assisting to spread the new doctrines; at 
first only a very few joined, and those either relatives 
or personal friends; but after meeting much opposi- 
tion, he gained a firm footing, and was regarded as 
the chosen of God by all his followers. 

At last, after his death, his successors went on 
fighting their way with bravery worthy of a better 
cause. With their book, the Koran,* in one hand 

* This is properly pronounced Eorann, with the emphasis on 
the last syllable and the Js a soft gnttoraL 



A LITTLE ABOUT OLD EGYPTIANS. 19 

and a sword in the other, as one may say, they went 
on their conquering way till they had all Arabia and 
Palestine and many other countries under their 
sway and rule, and then at length they invaded 
Egypt also. The poor Egyptians were crashed* 
under the fierce wild Arab soldiers, who gave no 
quarter: conformity or death was proclaimed; 
multitudes gave in and conformed ; others, more 
courageous, or at least more trae to their religion, 
fled and hid where they could. After a time, the 
Arab Caleefs, as they were called, — that being the 
name of their kings or chiefs, — ^ruled entirely over 
Egypt. The remnant of the Christians, though much 
persecuted and trampled on, were allowed to live ; but 
the Arabic language was taught in all the schools, 
and soon became the only spoken tongue in the 
whole country, and the customs and ways of the 
conquerors prevailed in many respects. After a 
long period the poor country fell into the hands of • 
yet another foreign power. The Turks, also Moham- 
medans, who had come from Asia into Europe, and 
taken from the Greeks the great city of Constanti- 
nople, had increased as rapidly as the Arabs had 
done in power, and had become masters of Palestine 
and then of Egypt also. But though their power 
as rulers was great, they never seem to have spread 



20 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

their language nor mixed with the people of the 
land as the Arabs did. One reason for this is that 
the Koran (the sacred book of all the followers of 
MoTiammed of whatever nation) is not allowed by 
their religious law to be translated into any other 
tongue, and is therefore read and studied in the 
original Arabic by Turks as well as Arabs, and 
taught in all their schools. This would alone 
ensure the preservation of the Arabic language 
among the people. Although the Turks still rule 
over Egypt, and the great part of the wealth of the 
land is in ithe hands of their descendants, and many 
of these Turkish families use their own tongue 
exclusively among themselves, still the Arabic is 
the language of the -country, the Arab customs are 
those that prevail, and in many respects the Turk 
is still a foreigner, while the Arab is become an 
Egyptian. 

. This sketch, very short and very imperfect as it 
is, may just give you such an idea of old Egypt as 
will enable you to understand better what I wish to 
tell you about present Egypt, as I now see it, and 
as I have watched and observed its climate and 
people for many years. 



21 



LETTER III. 

THE RIVER. 

The river of Egypt! that is the most important 
thing in respect of cultivation, and indeed the most 
important feature altogether in the country we are 
now considering. How often it is alluded to in the 
Bible ! Pharaoh, in his wonderful dream, saw the 
lean and fat cows coming up out of the river, — not 
a river, but the river, observe; and into the river 
were the infants of the children of Israel thrown, 
and the young Moses saved in his little ark of bul- 
rushes "in the flags by the river's brink." Then 
later, we read how Moses and Aaron, at God's com- 
mand, smote the waters of the river and turned 
them into blood, and in the Prophets we find again 
and again mention of "the river" of Egypt. It is 
not named, it is spoken of as the river of Egypt 
because it is the only river in that strange country. 
Just think how many rivers there are in our small 
island of England — how many in Ireland, which is 



22 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

still smaller; the children in schools are often quite 
tired with the number of names they have to learn 
of all our rivers — Thames, Severn, Trent, and many 
more. Now Egypt has but one; that one, however, 
is a large and very long river, and is very remarkable 
in the effect it has on the country. Egypt is, as 
you know, in the north of Africa, which of course 
is very much further south than Europe, and much 
hotter; the south part of Egypt, indeed, is very near 
the tropics, and there falls scarcely any rain except 
near the sea coast. At Cairo, where I live, which is 
near the middle, th^re are sometimes four or five 
showers in the year, sometimes more, but rarely ; 
in the upper provinces only one or two; nothing 
would grow therefore if the vegetation depended on 
rain, and though there are heavy dews, these would 
be quite insufficient; the sun is so powerful that 
the whole land would be one vast sandy desert, dry 
and barren, were it not for the wonderful river Nile. 
At a certain season every year this river begins to 
rise gradually; it is supplied from the mountains 
where it has its source very far off in the middle 
of Africa, where rain falls copiously at a regular 
time of year. When it has reached the greatest 
height (which, is ascertained by careful measure- 
ment, persons appointed for the purpose watching 



THE RIVER. 23 

day and night as the time draws near), the dams 
which have been artificially made are cut or broken 
through, and the water overflows the low lands all 
over the country and fills the numerous canals 
which cross it in every direction. It would cer- 
tainly overfiow its banks naturally and without 
this artificial help as soon as the height of those 
banks had been reached by the water, but much 
of the country would then be untouched, and some 
lands get more water than they needed. From very 
ancient times the Egyptians knew how to regulate 
the flow and manage it so that (except on occasions 
of sudden and excessive rise which now and then 
make a flood in some places) the land should be 
properly watered ; and their various conquerors had 
the wisdom to let the natives, who were accustomed 
to it, have the direction of their great river and its 
canals. It is probable that the irrigation was much 
more extended in old times, and that, instead of 
being as now a strip of cultivated land on each 
side of the river and sandy desert beyond — as is the 
case in a large part of the middle and southern 
provinces — the canals were more numerous and a 
far wider tract under cultivation. However, the 
canals are increasing under the present govern- 
ment, and the famous " sweet water canal " of Suez 



24 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

is alone a proof of what water can do in Egypt. 
When I first came here, the whole region where 
the modern town of Ismaila stands was nothing 
but a sandy waste, inhabited by gazelles and desert 
foxes. Now the great work of the two canals — the 
salt water one connecting the Mediterranean and 
Red Seas, and the sweet water one which conducts 
the Nile water — ^have combined to make it a delight- 
ful spot ; gardens rose like magic, grapes and even 
strawberries grow where twenty years ago burning 
dry sand and pebbles lay, and thickets of feathery 
bamboo and gay flowering shrubs meet the eye 
and look the more attractive from the waste all 
around. " The parched land shall become a pool, 
and the thirsty land springs of water." Would 
that those who laboured in that wondrous canal 
had known the blessed spiritual refreshing of which 
the entrance of the water into the desert land 
affords so beautifcd a tjrpel 

But to return to the river: its rise does not 
begin till summer, and during the winter it is 
gradually sinking and retiring. The winter of 
Egypt is very unlike our English ideas of that 
season ; there is comparatively very little cold ; the 
nights are indeed sharp, and sometimes a strong 
cold wind blows, but you would say it cannot be 



THE RIVER. 25 

very severe when frost is almost an unknown thing. 
Some labourers in the country near Cairo once 
found a very thin film of ice, at daybreak, on some 
shallow water channels, and reported that the water 
was bewitched as it would not flow I So very rare 
was the wonder that none of them had ever seen such 
a thing before. Latterly, Europeans have introduced 
artificial ice, and cheap ices are even sold in the 
city ; but this anecdote may show what the climate 
in winter is. The sun is generally warm at midday, 
and the people seek out sunny corners to sit in, 
especially the old; and now and then a party of 
labourers will light a fire of brushwood and sit 
round it in a field. The poor have a curious way 
of warming themselves in the short period of cold, 
which they feel especially, being used to such heat ; 
there are no fireplaces, and fuel is dear, but in the 
country villages dry reeds and such light things 
are tolerably abundant. They will then light a 
bundle of these in the oven — a large one made of 
mud brick is the common kind. As soon as this 
is extinct, which is pretty soon of course, the good 
woman of the house — or rather hut — sweeps out the 
embers, and the family cram into the oven and 
sleep ! I was hospitably offered the use of an oven, 
heated on purpose for me and a friend by some 



26 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

kindly peasants, during one of our little voyages 
up the river, when stopping at a village on the 
coast during cold, stormy weather. But, in general, 
the winter months are delightful and healthy. 
All the fields are luxuriantly green; the orange 
gardens are rich with their golden fruit, and I 
have more than once spent a Christmas afternoon 
in an orange grove ; while friends in England 
were rubbing their hands over the fire after return- 
ing from church, I and my party were picking 
oranges off the trees, and choosing a shady spot 
to rest in. The harvest of sugar canes is in winter; 
a good deal of sugar is manufactured in Egypt, 
although not sufficient to supply all that is con- 
sumed ; a large quantity is brought from France, 
but being not nearly so sweet it is more expensive 
and very inferior. The Egyptian sugar, though 
less brilliantly white, is of a very good quality, and 
" goes far," as the housewives say, from its extreme 
sweetness. But the canes are not only used for 
sugar making ; a great number are eaten — or rather 
chewed — to extract the juice, by the people, who 
are excessively fond of this cheap and wholesome 
luxury ; Europeans seldom care for it, because the 
juice, which is thin and watery, with little flavour, 
and only moderately sweet, has to be obtained with 



THE RIVER. 27 

an amount of trouble which they seldom think 
it worth, — the hard pith in which it is contained 
requiring Egyptian teeth to do it justice. As the 
natives of the country almost always have remark- 
ably fine strong teeth, they find no difficulty in 
masticating the canes, and no fruit can be more 
enjoyed than they are in their season. The great 
bundles of sugar cane on their way either to the 
manufactory or to the markets are a beautiful 
sight in winter, whether the larger species, of 
a rich purple colour, with its flag-like green leaves 
waving about over the head of the camel who 
bears it, or almost smothering the little donkey; 
or the smaller kind of cane, called the native or 
belladee, which is of a delicate yellowish green. 
The former is more cultivated about Cairo, as being 
much larger and coming earlier, but some say the 
little native cane is the sweetest. 

All the vegetables we have in summer in 
England are in their prime in the winter of Egypt, 
or in very early spring, and the green fields, in 
January, February, and March, are more brilliantly 
green with the rich clove of the country than 
any fields I have seen even in dear old Ireland, 
the emerald isle I But there are two sides to 
everything in this world, and spring drives away 



28 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

the verdure just as winter does with us, only that 
heat and not cold is the agent; the clover dis- 
appears, the cattle having eaten it, and having, 
poor things, nothing but dry food to look forward 
to for several months ; the hot winds begin to 
blow, the corn rapidly gets yellow, and is reaped 
in April (I speak here of middle Egypt). By the 
middle of May, the intense heat of summer has 
usually set in and the fields look dry and brown, 
— ^unless watered • with much labour from the 
canals ; the very weeds, except the thistles, which 
seem to need scarcely any water, are withered up, 
and man most literally eats bread in the sweat 
of his brow if he has to labour in the field. For 
the native of the soil, I do not think that great 
heat is the cause of as much suffering among the 
poor as great cold. The Egyptian, if a real child 
of the country (for settled foreigners of Syrian, 
Armenian, or even Turkish extraction are far more 
sensitive to heat, though they may have been here 
for two generations or more), does not mind heat, 
and prefers summer in general to winter ; if he 
has to labour hard, of course he must be greatly 
&tigued in the hot weather, but at any rate his 
family do not suffer with him. Cold falls most 
heavily on little children and aged persons, while 



THE RIVER. 29 

these in the hot weather here sit in the shade of 
their mud walls, and as they do not mind dnst and 
vermin, which abound, they appear happy in their 
way, — ^and certainly the comforts within their reach 
are cheap. Fuel and warm clothes, as you know 
too well, are costly, but the cucumbers and melons 
of summer here are cheap luxuries ; and the pools 
of water in which the bare-legged boys are play- 
ing half the day cost nothing at all. Foreigners, 
however, even to the second and third generation, 
feel summer heat very trying, especially if obliged 
to be exposed to the outer air in the middle of 
the day. As far as possible they ought to avoid 
this, and to be very early in their habits, and tem- 
perate; with these precautions, the inconvenience 
will be considerably diminished. 

In July, the heat is at its greatest height and 
the river at its lowest — everything seems panting 
and parched ; the ground is so hot that one can 
scarcely endure to lay a bare hand on its surface, 
and it appears as if one walked into a furnace if 
obliged to be out in any part of the day except the 
early morning and late evening. These are very 
lovely — the pure dry air seems to make every 
object stand out and look as if painted in rich 
and delicate hues, but like all earthly beauties 



30 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

these fair colours soon fade ; as the hours advance 
a whitish haze of intense heat seems to settle over 
everything, and (oh how true are the words of the 
Book of Grod in even the smallest particular!) 
then "the hireling earnestly desireth the sha- 
dow." Well may the weary hired labourer long 
for the shadow, which sets him free to throw 
himself down and rest, and bathe his burning 
brow in the waters of the little channel, and 
enjoy the comparative coolness of night. To us, 
indeed, it is but comparative, for in July the nights 
are only a little less hot than the days. When 
August comes the suffocation seems increasing, a 
sort of still breathless heat prevails : this shows 
th« river is at its height. The water is not good 
to drink at this time, unless carefully filtered or 
boiled ; the peasants do not, however, take this 
trouble, and drink it as it is. At last, about 
the fifth or sixth of August (sometimes several 
days later), the great day comes when the 
Nile is cut. The watchers who for a week or 
more have relieved each other night and day, 
measuring incessantly to ascertain the moment 
the right height has been reached, give the 
news, and immediately the dam is removed and 
the water flows; not all at once all over the 



THE RIVEB. •» 31 

country, but at first over the lower lands, and 
then entering the canals, by degrees waters aU the 
country, AU the coasts of the river are at once 
flooded, of course, and the effect on the landscape 
is wonderful to see. Where you saw yesterday a 
great brown dry field, reaching from the highroad 
all the way to the river banks, is now a shallow 
lake glistening in the sun, the little villages 
with their groups of pahn trees peeping out like 
islands from the water. The pools and brim- 
ming canals look very beautiful and refreshing 
after the long, sultry heat ; not that it is 
less hot, rather I think more oppressive in some 
respects, but the moisture is something delightful 
to look at ; and every one is so happy. The poor 
women, who had to toil along a weary way to fill 
their great pitchers, now laugh and sing as they 
trip down to the watercourse close at hand; the 
children spend most of their day in the river or 
the canals, — occasionally, however, getting drowned 
therein; the great buffaloes stand up to their 
horns in water, giving contented puffs to show 
their enjoyment ; everywhere reeds and rushes 
spring up with wonderful speed ; water birds sport 
in the places lately full of dry clods and choking 
dust ; the brilliant king-fisher darts after his prey 



32 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

in the deep pool that was but yesterday a pit 
" wherein was no water." It is impossible not to 
rejoice over the inundation, and while thanking 
the Giver of all good for His mercies, the Christian 
adds an earnest prayer that the water of life may 
flow also in Egypt. 

Then the water begins to subside, and the labourer 
goes out to sow his seed. Often he is seen throwing 
it on the surface of a shallow lake, reminding one 
of the words, " Cast thy bread on the waters, and 
thou shalt find it after many days." Perhaps still 
oftener we see the seed flung on a sort of thin mud, 
the man with difficulty finding a spot just raised 
enough to be sufficiently dry to support his weight 
while he stands. Eaised pathways border all the 
canals and most of the fields that are liable to over- 
flow, but the sower has sometimes to descend from 
this causeway to reach distant parts of the field. 
In that hot sun the water dries very quickly, and 
in a wonderfully short time a beautiful green hue 
appears spreading over the whole country. A little 
later the crops are in full beauty. The fields lately 
so bare are now all covered with rich verdure. The 
ancient Egyptians not unreasonably made September 
their new year, as after the inundation the com- 
mencement of vegetation seemed more like spring. 



THE RIVER. 33 

and more suited to starting afresh, as it were, than 
any other period. The chief crops in Egypt are 
wheat, barley, beans, lentils, maize, cotton, sugar ; 
the clover I have already mentioned, and a great 
variety of vegetables, as tomatoes, black and white 
egg-plants, cucumbers, melons and gourds, onions, 
garlic, and some others not known in Europe, all 
grow abundantly ; indeed, with proper attention 
and plenty of water, almost anything will grow in 
this fertile land. But it must be cultivated with 
care; not a wild berry is found that could give 
nourishment, however imperfect, to man; all land 
not made to pay its tribute by labour and watering 
soon becomes a sandy desert from the power of the 
sun. 



34 



LETTER IV. 

THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 

I HAVE told you in my last letter something about 
tho cultivation of this country, but you may like 
some further information, and especially, I think, 
the way in which gardens are managed here will 
interest you. After what you have heard about the 
river and its inundation, you will easily suppose 
that there must be a great difference between field 
and ganien cultivation, since if the river at the time 
of tlie overflow were suflered to flood the gardens 
much of their crops would be destroyed, and the 
flowers and shrubs swamped and injured. Now and 
tJien, by accident, this does happen in gardens near 
the river. I reci^Uect a pretty, though somewhat 
rudely managevl ganien, chiefly planted with pome- 
granates, on the lianks of the Nile, where I once sat 
for an hour with a beloved friend ; the vear follow- 
ing I wa$ at the same sjH^t* — no garden was visible. 
I looked alK>ut in amazement^ and said to a man 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 35 

whom I recognized as one we had spoken with last 
time, " Where is your garden gone ? " He replied, 
*^ In the great flood last autumn the water washed 
away every tree, not one is left ; " and then he went 
on to ask after the sick lady who had rested under 
his pomegranate trees. Ah, she too was gone, but, 
as I told him, to that place " where the tree of life 
is blooming " by the heavenly city. 

But to return to our gardens. They are watered 
by small channels only a few inches wide, which 
are made to intersect or cross and recross the 
garden, the beds between them being usually square 
in shape. When they are to be watered the gardener 
removes with his hand or his foot the small dams 
made of earth rudely heaped up at the corners, and 
lets the water from the well (or canal) fill them up 
mitil the level of the bed is reached. He then 
stops the flow by pushing the heap of earth back 
again, and danmiing up the water. Each bed gets 
its share in turn, generally every second, or in cool 
weather, every third or fourth day is sufficient, 
so that one portion of a garden is watered every 
day ; in very hot weather, if water is abundant and 
the garden full of flowers, it may be daily watered. 
Many gardens are dependent on wells which, with 
very few exceptions, are brackish and unfit to drink. 



36 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

but answer fairly for watering plants, though sweet 
water wells are more esteemed, of course.* 

Others have water brought from canals supplied 
by the Nile, and the garden receives its water by 
means of machinery, without which it would not be 
possible to fill the small channels. The simplest 
of the machines in use is the " Shadoof." A long 
pole is sxmk close to the well, and a large stone, as 
a weight, is hung to it by a rope ; the other end of 
this rope is tied to a sort of dipper made of leather, 
which a man keeps emptying into the trough that 
supplies the channels, as fast as it gets drawn up 
by the weight which pulls it as soon as he looses 
his hold. He has to keep pulling and emptying 
incessantly, so that it is very hard work, though 
much quicker than if he had to draw up a bucket 
with a windlass, as we do in wells used for drinking, 
etc. The other machine most conmionly used is a 
Sakea or Sahkea ; it is much less simple, but does 
more work in a short time. It consists of two 
wheels of great size, one of which is deep down in 
the well, and is turned by the other, the upper 
wheel being turned by an ox, buffalo, or camel (the 
fonner are the commonest). The lower wheel is 

* Figs from certain villages that possess sweet water wells 
fetch a higher price in the market. 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 37 

furnished with a set of rude earthen pitchers fastened 
by ropes of palm fibre all round it. As fast as one 
half of them are filled by the turning of the wheel, 
the other half empty their contents into a stone 
trough which supplies the channels that water the 
garden. The sahkea is always raised a little above 
the garden level, so that the water easUy flows into 
it. Very refreshing is the sight and sound on a 
warm day, for trees are almost always planted near 
it, so that the labourer and beasts of burden may 
have a little shade ; and the trickling and splashing 
of the water, the sun shining on the bright drops as 
they fall from turning pitchers, and even the creaky 
creaking sound of the wheels, are all pleasant in this 
climate ; they speak of coolness and moisture, and 
every one likes to sit beside the troughs and watch 
the flow of the little channels. The favourite tree 
to plant by a sahkea is the sycamore fig alluded to 
in several places in Scripture. It affords excellent 
shade from its thick foliage ; the rounded leaves of 
rich dark green grow in such a way as to form 
almost a roof over one's head, and the lower branches 
stretch out and spread downwards, often extending 
quite across a path or road. You recollect Zaccheus, 
whose short stature hindered him from seeing Jesus 
in the press, and how he climbed into a sycamore 



38 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

tree in order to see Him. When I first saw these 
trees in Egypt, I at once perceived how well they 
were suited for such an object, and that of all trees 
this was the most likely to be fixed on from being 
planted by a road for the sake of shade very often, 
and from its peculiar growth making it so easy to 
climb quickly. 

We also read that the prophet Amos was a 
^^ gatherer of sycamore fruit," before called by the 
Lord to warn and rebuke the people and their 
rulers. You may like to know what these fruits 
that Amos gathered were ; they are still largely 
consumed in Egypt, and probably in Syria also, 
but chiefly by peasants, as they do not reckon 
among choice fruits, and strangers generally think 
them disagreeable. You will remember that there 
is no resemblance to our sycamore of England — 
it is a different tree altogether ; it is allied to the 
fig, which its fruit is very like in shape, and it 
has the same peculiarity of the flower and fruit 
being in one. The appearance of the sycamore fig 
when ripe is very pretty ; it is then of a delicate 
pink or salmon colour, and grows either on the 
trunk or on the branches of the tree, to which they 
are fixed by such very short foot-stalks, as to look 
at a distance as if they actually grew on the surface 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 39 

of the trank. At the season, which is from the 
end of May to July, a man climbs the tree with 
a basket, which he lets down to the women who 
come in troops to purchase from him and retail 
in the town, and when the rustic baskets they bring 
are nicely lined with green leaves, and the pink 
fruit piled upon them and placed on the head of 
the peasant woman, they look very tempting and 
pretty, but if you tasted them, you would own to 
the truth of the proverb, "appearances are de- 
ceitful," for any fruit more insipid and worthless 
I never met with. 

The mulberry is often planted by the Sahkeas 
also ; it grows to a great size here, and affords 
delightful shade, but the fruit is very inferior to 
the black mulberry of Europe and Syria ; it is 
the white variety that is cultivated here, but very 
little silk is made, though I believe the white 
mulberry is generally planted with that view, as 
its leaves are thought best for silk-worms. 

The ground near the water-works is often devoted 
to patches of onions, cucumbers, and such things as 
need a great deal of water, and on the low lands 
near the river, in many places, there are large 
fields of melons of different sorts ; the most 
esteemed is called the "shamam," and is one of 



40 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

the most delicious of fruits, and coining in the 
driest and hottest part of the year, is specially 
valued. What a sign of God's goodness to man 
is it that just when the people crave for something 
fresh and cool, and when the water of the Nile 
is at its lowest, and often not pleasant to drink 
(without much filtering), the land should bring 
forth in abundance these juicy firuits I There are 
many inferior kinds, which are excessively cheap, 
and within the reach of the poorest in their season. 
A little later come the enormous water melons. 
But all these belong more properly to field than 
garden cultivation ; the melons especially do not 
answer well, except near the river, and in a wide 
space generally. 

Tlie fifanlens of the wealthv are often enclosed 
by stone walls, and latterly by iron railings in the 
suburbs of the city, but the old Egyptian style 
of paling is usual in the country, and with all who 
are not able to aflford expensive enclosures. It 
consists of the tall strong reeds so plentiful here, 
which, when cut and dried, form very good palings, 
tied with palm fibre ropes, crossways. They need 
renewing after a few years, indeed, but are easily 
procured. These reeds are one of the great features 
of a real Egyptian garden, being used whenever 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 41 

small sticks are wanted, wood being scarce, and 
the native shrubs and trees often useless for 
" sticking," on account of the sharp thorns be- 
longing to most of them; a reed is indispensable 
to the gardener in many ways, and it often makes 
a shepherd's pipe or flute, on which they play a 
monotonous but not unpleasing tune, as they keep 
their goats or sheep. 

But the reed is capable of proving treacherous ; 
if leaned on too carelessly giving way suddenly 
and inflicting a sharp wound. The prophet Isaiah 
alludes to this when recording the words of Kab 
Shakeh, the great general of the Assyrian king, 
who came against Hezekiah, king of Israel, " Lo, 
thou trustest in the staiF of this broken reed, on 
Egypt ; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his 
hand, and pierce it : so is Pharaoh, king of Egypt, 
to all that trust in him." I thought of this text 
one day, when noticing my gardener's hand bound 
up ; I asked what ailed him, and found that he 
had been driving a reed into the ground to support 
a plant, and it had suddenly broken and entered 
his palm, making a wound rather troublesome to 
heal. 

The garden here is specially fertile in suggesting 
texts of Scripture to the mind of any one who 



42 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

makes that blessed book his study, as all Christians 
ought to do. Who can see the labourer opening 
the little channels to let the wat«r flow over the 
parched earth on his beds, and returning the clods 
to their place with his bare foot, without recalling 
the words of Moses in describing the promised land 
to the Israelites, who had so long sojourned in 
Egypt that they knew no other manner of culti- 
vation : " The land whither thou goest to possess 
it, is not as the land of Egypt, where thou sowedst 
thy seed and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden 
of herbs"? (Deut. xi. 10.) 

Who can see the gardens of the peasants, full 
of leeks and onions and garlic, and fail to remember 
the Israelites in the desert longing for these juicy 
vegetables, to which they had been accustomed? 

• 

Truly it pleases Grod sometimes to let His chosen 
ones be for a season deprived of some things which 
are not sinful in themselves, and of which the 
deprivation is trying ; but they may take warning 
by the Israelites, and pray to be kept from mur- 
muring, and if He keeps them in a desert and 
withholds the onions and the cucumbers, He will 
give the manna from heaven, which is better. 

You must not suppose that gardens here have 
no flowers in them ; although, except in the cases 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 43 

of very rich men's gardens, the flower cultivation is 
not attended to as it is with ns ; if it were, in so 
fair a climate, where almost everything will grow 
with care and water, they might have an extra- 
ordinary abundance and variety. Still, they love 
flowers, though lazy about cultivating them, and es- 
pecially prize such as are fragrant, for all Orientals 
are passionately fond of sweet-scented things. 
In ordinary gardens the flowering shrubs and a 
few annuals are strewn, with little order, among 
the vegetables and fruit trees, and some trees with 
beautifal blossoms are planted in all gardens of 
any pretension. The luxuriant growth in so 
fertile a soil makes this careless arrangement of 
no consequence; in fact, it is prettier, in many 
respects, than a more formal trim garden. The 
creepers, of which they have several native to the 
country as well as some of foreign race, grow in 
a rich tangle round the reed fences, and the 
jasmine and rose, which continue in bloom more 
than two-thirds of the year, grow beside the egg- 
plant and tomato, and the effect is almost as if 
they grew of themselves. Annuals, if once sown, 
and succeeding well, become self-sown, and grow 
like wild flowers ever after ; and then the profusion 
is so lovely as to make up for a little disorder. 



44 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

Qlio Bahmea is a favourite vegetable here, whicli 
is nuit with both in gardens and in fields, and 
might well pass as a flower, being very pretty. 
It is a sort of mallow, the blossom of a delicate 
straw colour with a dark brown centre. The seed 
vessel is the part eaten ; it is full of a glutinous 
juice, and is by most people esteemed highly, 
l^ut the king of plants and trees in Egypt is the 
date palm, which is found everywhere ; by the 
roailsidc, in the courts of princes' dwellings, and 
by the hut of the peasant, in the city, and in the 
vilhigo, is the gmcoful feathery foliage of the palm 
branch to bo seen stuniling out against the clear 
blue sky of noonday, or the golden and crimson 
hues of early morning and sunset. By the river 
siilo, above all, givat plantations of palms are 
quite a foatun^ of the innintry. No garden is con- 
sidenxi annploto without a few jmlm trees, and at 
loajiit one or two im^ lU^-ays plant eii when a garden 
is laid out. 

IMoturo^, or rather prints, in our magazines and 
cheatHT Inx^ks, an^ very apt to make a confusion 
Ivtwivu the i\H\vii-uut t^alm of India and China 
and the date j^alm of Arabi(V» Kgvpt, and South 
Syria ; 1 havo, iudixxi, sivu some prints repre- 
soniiw^ a fabulous ^^rt ixf j^ilm tjve between the 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 45 

two! They are, as every gardener who has seen 
them in hot-houses well knows, very different, 
though both are of the palm tree family, which 
is a large one. The cocoa-nut palm, I may observe, 
will not grow at a distance from the sea greater 
than fifty miles, or thereabouts, I believe* So, in 
the interior of Egypt it would not thrive if planted; 
but it might grow by the sea coast, and may 
some day be introduced, as many Indian trees have 
already been. The date palm is, however, a native 
of the country, though much cultivated, as the 
fruit of the wild ones is not esteemed. Like all 
the palm family, its age is noted by the rings, 
or rather notches in the trunk, which increase 
every year; its branches grow from the top in a 
sort of feathery crown ; the leaves, long, narrow, 
and pointed, are of a lightish green, changing with 
the air and the time of day more than is the case 
with any other tree ; sometimes it looks quite a 
dull, dark, greyish-green, and then again almost 
purple, and then a golden green, and many other 
shades which charm a painter's eye. The flower 
is of delicate cream colour, and bursts out of a 
green sheath about a foot and a half, or more, in 
length; a shower of lovely little blossoms hang down 
from slender footstalks in a great cluster, something 



46 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

like ivory carvings, being exactly the colour of fine 
ivory; when these drop off, tiny green dates appear, 
and gradually increase in size till they turn of a 
rich golden yellow or a bright red, turning as they 
ripen to a purplish red or a dark brown before 
they get dry. There are many varieties, differing 
somewhat in size and colour. Each tree bears 
from seven to ten of these clusters, occasionally 
even more, and each cluster, or bunch, is so large 
and heavy that a fine one is about as much as a man 
can lift I The fruit is much liked by the people in 
its fresh state, though, in general, Europeans think 
it too dead sweet at that time. I was amazed to 
find that the poorer people will eat the date in its 
green state, when its astringent flavour is so intense 
that how they can swallow it without choking is 
strange. I was once persuaded by a poor woman 
to taste one ; she had a basketful, and assured me 
they were very nice ; I made the experiment, but 
never repeated it, nor can ever forget the effect 
upon the throat and tongue. 

The date harvest is quite a feast among the 
people, especially country people, and vUlage 
mothers choose that time to visit married 
daughters in town, and take them a cluster 
of dates as a present. The mother of one of 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 47 

my scholars, who has a dozen fine palms in her 
garden, once sent me one, and it feasted all the 
family and the girls of our little home, besides 
making several jars of preserve. The leaf stalk of 
the date palm is greatly used in Egypt for making 
frames of all kinds, hampers, bird-cages, rustic 
seats and bedsteads, and many other useful things 
are composed of them ; and the leaves are twisted 
into mats, baskets, etc., but they are not used (as 
I actually saw it asserted in an English magazine 
that they are) as umbrellas, for the good reason 
that being slender narrow leaves, growing on a 
long stem, they would be as unfit to exclude the rays 
of the sun as anything could possibly be ; indeed, 
the shade thrown by palms is a light shade, not 
sufficient for protection from sun even when grow- 
ing, unless a number are quite close together. 
Probably, the writer was confounding the date 
palm with some other species of which the leaf 
is wide, but this shows how careful we should be 
in speaking of what we have not seen or accurately 
ascertained to be true. 

The banana is another plant very common in 
Egypt, and which is wild in many parts of Africa, 
and probably is a native of Egypt ; therefore, the 
whole country, except the actual desert, is so under 



48 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

cultivation that it is difficult to know exactly what 
was wild once in it. The broad leaves of the banana^ 
of a beautiful rich green, make it an ornament to a 
garden, and wherever water is plentiful it is planted, 
for its fruit is greatly liked. It has two distinct 
blossoms on one stem, a large reddish-brown one, 
somewhat of the shape of a huge tiger-lily, and 
al)ove that, a set of small white blossoms growing 
from the top of the flower stem. When these drop 
off, a bunch of green fruit, the size of almonds, 
ai)[)ears, and raj)idly swell till larger than an egg 
(unlcjss of the small variety, which is longer and 
thinner than the other). As they ripen they turn 
of a delicate j)ale-yellow, and are very delicious in 
flavour. One curious thing about them is that they 
flower and fruit nearly all the year round, though 
the chief abundance is in autumn ; but there is 
hardly any part of the year when some are not to 
be seen. As they need a great deal of water and 
good earth, they are not much cultivated by the 
peasants; j)erhap8 they dislike the extra trouble, 
but they bring so good a price in the city, that I 
often wonder more are not planted near the canals, 
etc. The banana is not a tree, properly speaking ; 
its stem is like a gigantic reed, being hollow in the 
upper part of middle, and the bark is composed of 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 49 

pith, full of a glutinous sap. The fibres of this bark 
are very tough, and are used as bass is with us to 
tie up plants, etc. When cleansed they z>x^jine as 
well as strong, and can be made into paper of an 
excellent quality. 

The orange (which I have already mentioned as 
common in Egypt) is not a native, but was intro- 
duced from other countries — some kinds from India, 
as the shaddock, eto., and the common sweet orange 
from Portugal; it is therefore generally known as 
the "Portugal." I have seen in some orange- 
gardens eight or ten varieties of this delightful tree, 
all covered with fruit in different stages of ripeness ; 
the soil suits it so well that it grows far better than 
in India, as I have been told by those who have 
come from thence, and in the end of autumn and 
winter, oranges are both abundant and cheap, and 
far more juicy of course than those which come to 
us by sea. In a large garden occupying no less 
than ten acres (some miles distant from Cairo) I 
saw lemons of extraordinary size, and^ citrons, 
oranges of all kinds, and limes, all in such profusion 
that the boughs of some trees had to be supported, 
and the ground was strewn with fallen fruit. The 
gardener told me it belonged to a wealthy childless 

widow of Turkish race, who never even came to see 

4 



50 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

it, and the golden splendour was seen by no eyes 
save those of this poor labourer, in his ragged blue 
shirt, and his children, and an agent who came now 
and then to order the sale for his lady, and doubt- 
less to secure a goodly share for himself. It was 
not like one of the grand gardens of noblemen's 
houses in England, — no hot-houses (they would be 
needless in so warm a climate), no pattern beds 
with varieties of choice flowers, nor even the neat 
gravel walk and orderiy modest beauty of a humble 
though cheerfiil English garden ; but yet it was 
lovely — very lovely in its own way, and that suited 
the climate better than a more formal one, though 
they might have had more flowers certainly, but then 
the creepers — the luxuriant jasmine and orange-blos- 
soms perfuming the ah-, and the vine and fig growing 
as if at their ease I Altogether the effect was very 
pleasant. We told the gardener something about 
the Grarden of Eden, and man's first life, that in- 
terested him, and read him some texts out of a 
pocket Gospel, and he said how much he wished 
the school we talked of was nearer, that his little 
girl might attend it. 

In this, as in every Egyptian garden, the pome- 
granate bore a place; its brilliant scarlet flowers 
were not then in blossom, but the curious and pretty 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 51 

fruit was still hanging on many of the boughs. 
The quince, plum, and apple are also cultivated in 
Egypt, but the two latter seem to require a cooler 
climate to reach perfection, as they are inferior to 
ours. This may, however, be merely want of know- 
ledge in the gardeners. 

It may be supposed that in a climate so dry, the 
people are very fond of sitting out of doors, and few 
gardens are without a shady trellis or arbour, covered 
with vines or with some of the numerous creepers 
of the country. One of the prettiest of these is 
called in their tongue, " The Lady of Beauty." It 
has a luxuriant dark-green foliage and a pretty lilac 
blossom, not unlike a large bindweed in shape. It 
is suited for arbours, as being of rapid growth, and 
insects seem not to like it, which is a great ad- 
vantage. A species of perennial bean, with a pretty 
purple flower, is also frequently used as a shady 
creeper ; another with a very elegant seed-vessel, 
like a small green bag or purse, is called the 
"judge's mouthful," or "bit" — a sly allusion to 
bribery^ or stopping the mouth of justice with a 
purse, being apparently intended. There is a sort 
of gourd, which is a pretty creeper, sometimes called 
the washplant, because its fruit consists of a kind 
of pithy which, when freed from seeds and dried, is 



52 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

very useftd in washing, better than any washing 
glove, flannel, or other invention of man's making. 
But it would take too long to enumerate all the 
interesting and curious plants I have seen here. 
Before I leave the subject, however, I must tell you 
of a singular festival connected with gardens. On 
a certain day in spring, called by the name of 
" Smell the breeze," * every one goes to a garden if 
possible, if not, to a green field, as early as can be. 
The i)roper thing is for an onion to be taken and 
smelt the first thing in the morning, and then 
thrown out of the window. Many have abandoned 
this old custom, but they all retain that which fol- 
lowed it, of spending great part of the day in a 
garden, carrying about flowers, or branches of trees 
even if no bouquet is to be had. This festival 
seems evidently to be the remains of the ancient 
Egyptian worship of the vegetable kingdom, for 
they considered the onion to be the king or chief 
of vegetables. The feast as now kept is common to 
both Moslem and Christian, and they do not know 
that their ancestors worshipped plants, most pro- 
bably, but keep it up as we do some old customs, 
merely by tradition. The roads and fields on this 

* Poetically translated, the words would mean "Inhale the 
Zephyr I " 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 53 

day look very pretty and cheerful, with the crowds 
of people all in their best clothes, the women and 
children generally as gay as tulips in lively-coloured 
prints, or silks if they are wealthy ; by six o'clock, 
and even earlier, all are out of doors, and few of 
their festivals seem more enjoyed or are so pretty 
as this. 

Some of the great men have lately been improving 
their gardens by introducing some European seeds 
to add to what was already known, and they succeed 
beautifully with proper care* I saw not long ago in 
a princess's garden what might be called a wilder^ 
ness of sweet peas, for instance, and so with many 
others ; and some modem arrangements in the 
way of tools are also beginning to be used. But 
when foreign gardeners are brought over they must 
have an Egyptian to look after the watering, for if 
ignorant in some things, they fully understand this, 
which after all is the most essential business of all 
in so dry a climate. No scientific wisdom, no care- 
ful weeding or pruning, no watching against hurtful 
insects, or bringing seeds from afar, would avail to 
make the garden "bring forth and bud," unless 
plentifully supplied with water, and unless the 
gardener knew how to arrange the little channels 
so that every spot should have its due share ; other- 



54 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

wise fairest blossom would soon wither and the most 
fruitful trees perish in the burning sun. 

Now does not this make a beautiful comparison 
to the necessity for the Holy Spirit in our hearts ? 
Whatever of learning, or wisdom we may possess, 
however amiable in natural disposition, however 
we may reason, and even heartily try to do good 
and put away evil from ourselves or others, we 
never can really prosper in our souls, — there can 
be no fruits of holiness enduring and real, without 
God's Spirit flowing into our souls. The "living 
water'''' that Spirit is called by Jesus Himself, and 
we can no more do without that living water than 
the garden can do without earthly water. And the 
emblem is perhaps more striking here than else- 
where, because we see the water flowing in, and the 
vegetation so rapidly increasing wherever it comes, 
and the burning sun destroying with equal rapidity 
where it does not. The seed is the word of God, 
and the Holy Spirit the water which causes that 
seed to bring forth good thoughts, good words, and 
good deeds. "Thy soul shall be as a watered 
garden," says the prophet, "and thou shalt not 
sorrow any more." The second part of this blessed 
promise is not yet fulfilled (as we all too well know !), 
not while we live in a world which is so full of 



THE GARDENS OF EGYPT. 55 

trouble and grief, but it mil be ftdfiUed one day 
for all the Lord's people ; the time is coming when 
they will not sorrow any more, and meantime, even 
among the many trials of life here below, if they 
trust Jesus and ask Him constantly to send the 
Holy Spirit, the Comforter, according to His own 
promise, their soul "shall be like a watered 
garden ! " 



56 



LETTER V. 

THE PEOPLE. 

We now come to the people of Egypt. I will 
not at present speak of the foreigners, of whom 
many are settled in the largest cities (as Cairo, 
Alexandria, and Suez); a mixed multitude indeed 
they are, and we must speak of them in due 
course, but the natives of the land claim our first 
and chief attention. They consist of two great 
divisions, the largest by far being the Moslem 
'Egyptians, who are the descendants of those who 
conformed to the faith of their Arab conquerors, 
mixed with those conquerors, and became one 
race. The smaller division is that of the Coptic 
Egyptians, who are the remnant of the old Chris- 
tians who did not conform, and who formeriy were 
much persecuted and crushed down in many ways, 
their language forbidden in the schools, so that it 
became a " dead language " (which means one not 
spoken but only found in books), and were forced 



THE PEOPLE. 57 

to wear a peculiar dress, and harassed in many 
ways. But since the days of the famous Moham- 
med Alee (that great Pasha who made Egypt so 
nearly independent of Turkey), these severe laws 
were repealed, and in the present time they enjoy 
quite as many advantages as their fellow subjects 
of the State religion. Mohammed Alee had great 
talent, and had the rarer quality of good sense, 
at least in this matter, and gave religious liberty 
to both Jews and Christians, and was repaid by 
the increased prosperity of his kingdom. 

There is not the liberty enjoyed by British sub- 
jects in Egypt, nor is education in anything but 
its infancy, as one may say, as yet ; still there 
is of late years a great movement in favour of 
the spread of instruction in various ways. The 
Khedive has been always extremely liberal towards 
foreigners who endeavoured to establish schools, 
and also opened several on a large scale for giving 
gratuitous instruction to a number of the young 
of both sexes, as well as military and medical 
colleges. But you will like to have a little idea 
of the people, rather than to enter much into 
these things ; and to know something about their 
appearance and habits, and daily life. For these 
letters are written especially for you who stay at 



68 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

home, or whose longest journey is a trip to some 
large town in your own country. Many of the 
wealthy can visit Egypt by steamer and railroad, 
and, from the windows of a great hotel, see more 
than I can describe, in less than half an hoiir. 
However, it is only a picture after all, whether to 
the real eye or to the " mind's eye," that any one 
can get who has not tarried long enough in a 
place to know the language and habits of the in- 
habitants, and it takes a good while for one of our 
northern race to do this. How strange the crowd 
of African faces look to one first landing on the 
African shore ! and yet stranger sound the words 
of the unknown tongue, with its gutturals and 
curious blending of syllables together ! It seemed 
to me like a beautiful and curious but confused 
dream, when I first stood on that sunny shore ; 
wearied and sea-sick with a stormy voyage, and 
bewildered with the noise and shouting of so many 
voices all unintelligible, and so many dark faces, 
and having to step aside to avoid being knocked 
down by a string of huge camels, heavily laden 
with sugar-canes (neither of which had I ever 
before seen) — yet in the midst of confusion, and 
dust, and ragged children, and wretched huts, and 
other things far from beautiful in themselves, there 



THE PEOPLE. 59 

was snch a light over everything, such a clear 
brilliant sunshine, and an air so balmy and soft, 
everything white looked so dazzling and every 
colour so bright, that I admired all I saw, in spite 
of the conftision. 

It used to puzzle me very much at first to hear 
the people of Egypt commonly spoken of as Arabs, 
when I knew they were not from Arabia, unless a 
certain portion who, as I said before, are mixed 
more or less with their Arab conquerors. Of course 
the mass of the people are an African race, but the 
Arab language has so completely driven out the 
other that the word is now commonly, though 
not very correctly, applied to all speakers of Arabic. 

But some persons in England have a vague sort 
of idea that every real African must be black or 
nearly so, and this is a great mistake. There are 
plenty of negroes in Egypt, whom you shall hear 
about in another letter, but they are not Egyptians. 
The Egyptians are much darker than English 
people indeed, and, in the southern provinces, the 
peasants and all who are exposed to the sun are 
almost mahogany coloured; but the town people 
(especially ladies, who are never in the sun) are 
much lighter in complexion, and in the northern 
parts of Egypt the citizens in general are not much 



60 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

darker than the natives of the south of Italy and 
Spain, and many not at all so, indeed. All the 
Egyptians, if of pure race, have black hair and eyes, 
or so very deep a brown as to appear black at a 
little distance. When not affected by the malady, 
so frequent here, of ophthalmia (I mean when their 
eyes have not been permanently injured by attacks 
of it, as is often the case), the Egyptians have 
generally fine eyes; some of the peasants, who are 
more strong and vigorous than townspeople, are 
remarkable for the brightness of their eyes and the 
long black eyelashes that shade them. But the 
number who have lost one or both eyes is consider- 
able ; the poor, as they are apt to neglect the care 
and medical aid which are absolutely necessary, are 
of course the worst sufferers, and many infants lose 
their eyes or have them injured for life merely 
through the dirty habits of the mothers : but the 
disease is peculiar to the country, and foreigners 
are by no means exempt. Pure air and sanitary 
regulations, however, diminish the evil, and careful 
attention to cleanliness also does much to lighten it. 
In point of teeth, Egyptians are better off than 
most Europeans, having white, even, and strong 
teeth, with rare exceptions, and I have often seen 
quite aged persons able to eat a plateful of nuts 



THE PEOPLE. 61 

without the least difficulty and without using any 
nutcrackers but those in their heads I The women 
of the working classes, who are a great deal in the 
air and carry burdens on their heads, have very 
good figures, straight and upright, and walk well ; 
they have usually rounded arms and well turned 
wrists, and the feet and hands small and neat in 
shape. But the women who, from being more 
wealthy, do not need to work out of doors, etc., are 
generally shut up very much in their houses, and 
from an inactive life become fat and shapeless while 
still in their prime. 

The peasant farmers are generally fine-looking 
men, active and, well knit, and frequently of a good 
height ; but the townsmen are less healthy and 
much oftener undersized. The artizans, who are 
active enough indeed, are sometimes sturdy fellows ; 
but the shopkeeper is much less on the move than 
an English shopman, generally serving his customers 
without rising, and having all his goods in a little 
den close round him and heaped up by his side; it is 
not strange, therefore, that he should be sallow and 
unhealthy in comparison to those who take exercise. 

From the outward appearance of feature and 
complexion we naturally come to dress. I am sure 
my female readers will open their ears at this, and 



62 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

one may whisper to another : " Do let us hear what 
they put on in those distant parts ! " The climate of 
Egypt is for so great a part of the year very warm, 
that the tight cloth garments of European men 
are certainly very unsuitable, and when I first came 
here, no one but Europeans ever wore them. I 
really cannot find out why they have latterly come 
to be worn by most of the highest class of men 
and by the Government officials and servants : their 
dark skins make them look very ill in black or 
dark-coloured clothing, and the weather makes it 
a punishment to support them ; yet, except for 
wearing a small red cloth cap instead of a hat, 
the European garments are the fashion in that 
rank of life. The mass of the people, however, 
still adnere to their old dress ; the merchants, 
tradesmen, and many others of the townspeople, 
wear a very becoming garb, well fitted to the 
climate ; of course it varies according to the means 
of the party, but the poorer tradesman has much 
the same shape and style, only substituting cotton 
for silk, etc. Properly, then, it consists of an outer 
coat of fine cloth, fitting easily to the shoulders and 
back and descending in graceful folds to a little 
above the heels or ankles; being ctit in what the 
dressmakers know as gores, it is not so full as to be 



THE PEOPLE. 63 

cumbersome and heavy ; this is open in front, and 
displays an inner garment of striped silk, also 
long, and girt round the waist with a wide sash of 
strong silk or embroidered cotton. In the house, 
unless the weather be cold, the outer coat or 
" gibbeh," as they name it, is laid aside. This 
inner dress is, like the outer one, worn of a variety 
of colours, but generally two shades of the same 
are chosen with remarkable taste ; a dark purple 
outer coat, for instance, would be worn with an 
inner one, or "kaftan" as it is called, of light 
purple with a white or black stripe; a dark red, 
again, will have a "kaftan" of delicate crimson 
and white stripes ; and a dark brown, a cinnamon- 
coloured one with a stripe of cream or pale yellow, 
and so on. Slippers of red or yellow leather, made 
extremely wide and comfortable instead of pinching 
the toes as European shoes so often do; and a 
turban of white muslin or thin calico wound round 
a red cloth cap, which it almost conceals, completes 
the real old Egyptian gentleman's dress. You must 
observe that a turban is in the East a special mark 
of a man ; when he dies his turban is placed on 
the bier, and a turban is carved on the entrance 
to many tombs. The idea that dressmakers used 
to have — and I am afraid some ignorant painters 



64 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

also — that a turban was part of an Eastern lady*s 
dress is so very absurd that it would make an 
Oriental laugh, as you might if he were to 
describe Dame Smith as going to church in a 
smock frock and corduroys instead of her bonnet 
and cloak. But to return to our Egyptians. The 
peasant and the working man, who cannot afford 
such rich garments as I have described, nor would 
be able to do their active work in them, wear much 
simpler ones ; a blue or white cotton " kaftan," not 
unlike our old-fashioned English smock frocks, only 
much longer and fitting better to the figure, with a 
waistcoat of coloured print fastened with a great 
many white cotton buttons and loops, worn inside 
but showing in front, is the dress of the labouring 
men; short cotton trousers and a shirt are worn 
inside by all except young children or the very 
poor ; and a "rough garment" of goats' or camels' 
hair, or rough twisted woollen, often spun by his 
own hands, is always worn in winter by the 
countryman, to whom it serves as a blanket by 
night and a covering by day if the wind be cold, 
or if he is heated by work and wishes to rest. 
You may recollect the passage in Exodus xxii. 
26, 27, 28, "If thou at all take thy neighbour's 
raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by 



THE PEOPLE. 65 

that the sun goeth down : for that is his covering 
only^ it is his raiment for his skin : wherein shall 
he sleep ? and it shall come to pass when he crieth 
unto me, that I will hear ; for I am gracious." 
How beautifully is here shown Grod's care for the 
poor, whose rough mantle was his only blanket ! 

The women are always veiled when out of doors, 
unless those of the poorest class, who are less 
particular and merely draw the end of their dark 
muslin mantle over the lower part of the face if 
a man is present ; I have frequently seen a woman 
whose hands were occupied, hold down the covering 
with her teeth till the man or men had passed 
by ; which has a very droll effect in European eyes. 
But the proper dress for native Egyptian women 
is a long strip of black silk, or rather a species 
of crape, which is light and yet not transparent; 
it is woven on purpose from the outer coating 
of the silk cocoons, or inferior part of the 
silk ; this is fastened on by a curious little 
tube of either gold or brass which supports it, 
a sort of fillet being tied round the head with 
the tube and veil attached, so that when put 
on the whole face is hidden excepting the eyes, 
which peer out above the black veil in a mysterious 
way, as it seems to strangers. One of white muslin 



66 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

is worn by ladies latterly, in preference ; but all 
alike hide the face from the age of twelve, and 
in wealthy families much earlier. The peasant 
girls in the country are not so early hidden, and 
usually remain with their faces free until they 
marry (which, however, is generally at a very early 
age), and they are much less carefdl about veiling 
than in towns. The poorer women, and all, whe- 
ther rich or poor, who live in the country and are 
the wives of labourers or farmers there, wear a 
loose dress of dark blue or black cotton or linen 
(occasionally cotton and silk, if it be the wife of a 
well-to-do farmer). A large mantle of either very 
dark purple, black, or blue and white in a very small 
check, with broad stripes of dark blue, and some- 
times of crimson, at the edge, and with a fringe all 
round it, is the out-door garment ; this answers in- 
stead of shawl, hat, cap, pelisse, or cloak ; a flowing 
veil of thin black muslin being worn inside, and the 
outer mantle laid off in the house, or while they are 
at work. No belt or sash is worn by the peasant 
women, who, on account of having often to work in 
great heat, are accustomed to have their clothes all 
loose, as a night-dress with us. Even in winter 
they have no change except a small waistcoat, or 
sleeveless jacket, of red or yellow cotton print. 



THE PEOPLE. 67 

Full trousers tied just below the knee and falling 
over to the ankles, are worn instead of petticoats 
by all the respectable classes ; * but the poor are 
frequently able only to afford a single garment. 
In the great heat of summer they require less 
clothing, of course, but the veil and mantle seem, 
though often ragged, to be quite essential for 
every woman. Little girls are often seen with 
only a little blue or white shirt on, and occasion- 
ally, in hot weather, with nothing ; and boys very 
often. If they possess two suits of clothes they will 
put on one over the other for warmth in winter ; 
I have seen a woman who had, she told me, three 
entire suits one " a-top of the other," as you would 
say, and this accounted for her looking so remark- 
ably stout. 

The citizen's wife is differently attired ; she 
always wears a large mantle of thin black silk 
for her out-door dress, which entirely hides her 
figure; and within it she has another silk gar- 
ment, a sort of gown, without sleeves, tied round 
her waist with a sash ; this dress is yellow, pink, 
or any bright plain colour she likes. As this is 
rather an expensive dress, it is only the rich who 

* These are often in prints and pictures represented va fattened 
round the anUey which is quite incorrect. 



68 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

can often renew it ; the rest wear the same for 
years, till the silk is rusty and threadbare, but on 
no account will they substitute any other material, 
unless in the case of very young girls, who wear 
a mantle of plain white calico. The indoor dress 
of the women of the middle and upper classes is 
very pretty, and suitable to their climate. It usually 
consists of a print or coloured muslin dress, or one 
of white, in hot weather ; very simply made, with- 
out flounce or ornament, the neck and sleeves only 
being trimmed if the wearer likes. When going 
out visiting, and on festivals (especially weddings), 
dresses of brocaded silk, etc., are worn by all 
women who can afford them, but the style I 
describe is that usually seen even among wealthy 
persons. In winter, a coat or jacket of warm 
material is worn, and ladies often have these of 
cloth, either lined with fur or embroidered with 
gold thread. A muslin handkerchief of delicate 
colours, with a little silk border made by the 
needle, is worn on the head by all who keep the 
real Egyptian costume, — the hair in long plaits 
hanging from under it ; but some ladies have now 
adopted the less pretty and more fantastic head- 
dress brought from Constantinople, made of gauze, 
fastened over a stiffening of some kind, and oma- 



THE PEOPLE. 69 

mented with artificial flowers. The tight high- 
heeled boots brought from France are also be- 
ginning to drive out the simple and convenient 
shoes of the country, which, being very easy, were 
more suitable for a hot dusty climate. They are, 
however, still worn by thousands, and those who 
have given them up, are repaid by suffering with 
tender feet, etc. 

The Egyptian ladies live a very retired life, not 
being allowed to go out of doors freely as we do 
in England, and many never get beyond the walls 
of their house at all (which is, therefore, an actual 
prison) unless to go to the public female bath? 
and on rare occasions to visit near relatives ; 
some have not even this degree of liberty, and 
have only the change of air to be had in going 
from one room to another. But before taking 
a peep into these secluded abodes, we will first 
see what is the life of the humbler classes, who, 
as in every country, are by far the majority of 
the people. 



70 



LETTEE VI. 

THE PEOPLE (cOKTENUED). 

The difference of the dwellings of those who earn 
their daily bread in our country and in Egypt is 
very great. I do not of course mean that we have 
not, unhappily, in great cities miserable abodes 
enough — garrets, cellars, and plenty of wretched 
buildings. But the greater part of the inhabitants 
of those comfortless homes are such as have been 
reduced by some special cause, and in a very large 
number of cases, the cause is vice, idleness, or 
intemperance ; in others, wasting sickness or acci- 
dent, to the head of the family, etc. These garrets 
and cellars are not the national dwellings of the 
country, even for the very poor. The white cottage, 
with its thatched or tiled roof, is the proper 
^^countryman's" dwelling in England, and how- 
ever poor many of such cottages are, they are 
very, very far superior to the village homes of 
Egypt. 



THE PEOPLE. 71 

The mud hnt is the national abode of the work- 
ing classes of Egypt, and the great mass of the 
people inhabit huts : the villagers, of whom we 
shall hear more particularly afterwards, are not the 
only ones who live in little huts ; many are found 
in certain quarters of the towns, and always in their 
suburbs. A cow accustomed to a tolerable stable, 
would decline living in one of these ; yet they are 
the habitation, not of the vicious, but of the respect- 
able poor man, and probably are just such as his 
forefathers dwelt in, from the days of Pharaoh 
down to this time. Mud, roughly tempered, is 
the only material, and the roof often consists of 
a bundle or two of reeds; sometimes a beam or 
two, with a little dab of mud on the top ; no 
window, a door so low that the owner can lean 
on it as he stands, and neither whitewash nor 
furniture within; — ^generally so small that the 
wonder is how the family get in, not that they 
have no furniture, for there would not be room 
for it. 

A few stones outside the door answers for a 
kitchen ; a cooking pot or two, a mat, and generally 
a box for those who have anything worth keeping, 
is the whole of the contents, and too many have 
not even these. Press, shelves, clock, and such 



/2 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

comforts are not heard of ; a wadded quilt rolled 
up in a corner is often found in those who have 
some little means, but not with day-labourers in 
general. It is not the poor over-taxed peasant's 
fault that he has little to make a house pleasant, 
nor does he feel the need of comfort, not being used 
to it ; the hardship is very much less than in a 
cold climate, since by choice the natives of the 
country of the working-class sleep out of doors 
great part of the year, and live outside nearly 
always. Still they are within at times, the women 
more than the men, and if they were not so neg- 
lected and ignorant, would know that however 
humble, a place may always be made clean ; the 
dirt, dust, vermin, and disorder in the dwellings 
is what makes their great misery, much more than 
small size and poverty. They might take example 
by the numerous bees which find their living from 
the fields of clover all around the cities in the 
springtime. What is more fragrant than the fresh 
honeycomb, or more perfect in cleanliness and neat- 
ness than the little cells made by that wonderful 
insect ? Not Egyptians only might go to the bee 
for a lesson, as you will, I daresay, agree with me. 
The town houses of the poorer people, which yet 
are not hutB^ but are two storied or more, and 



THE PEOPLE. 73 

built of mud brick, and not mere sun-dried mud 
worked in a mass, are not as superior as might 
be supposed, from this same want of order and 
cleanliness, and as they contain a little more, I 
think they are almost worse. The women are 
married as mere children generally, and have 
never been taught clean and orderly ways. 

Many decayed and ruined houses in Cairo and 
also in Alexandria have been lately removed ; this 
was by the order of Government, and a very wise 
order it certainly was, but unless the new houses 
be kept clean, they will soon fall out of repair, 
and be as bad as the old. 

The discomfort and dirt in the poor peasants' 
dwellings is not, you must observe, the consequence 
of drink, as is sometimes, alas 1 the case in English 
homes, where people ought to know better; it is 
sheer ignorance, added to the laziness which in hot 
countries is more natural perhaps than in colder 
ones (though I think we all know a few lazy folks 
even in cold places) 1 Our poor young Egyptian 
mother has not the least idea that dirt brings 
disease to young children, for instance : her mother, 
and her grandmother, and her mother-in-law, and 
old aunts and cousins without number, all tell her 
that nothing is so unlucky as to wash baby. So she 



74 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

never does wash him; he rolls on the mud floor 
half naked, and, when he can toddle, often entirely 
so ; or, if still very young, is wrapped in her veil and 
popped in a corner while she picks the com and 
kneads the bread. A cradle is met with in all the 
better class of houses, but the labourer's child is 
cradled in mud either indoors or out, as the season 
suits. With the abundant space they have — for 
their villages generally occupy a great deal of land 
— they might build better abodes, and might make 
shelves, etc., in what they have, but it never seems 
to enter their heads. 

I once gave a poor Coptic peasant who could read, 
a copy of a Gospel, which he was very glad to receive ; 
but a year afterwards, on asking him about it, he 
told me (with evident regret at the accident) that 
the sheep had eaten it 1 A great fat coffee-coloured 
sheep shared his small hut with himself, his wife, 
and five children, and having neither shelf nor 
drawer nor closet, he could not keep even a book 
from the creature's rapacious appetite 1 I gave 
him another, which he put in the bosom of his 
blue kaftan, declaring neither child nor sheep 
should ever get at itl 

Countrymen know the absolute necessity of regu- 
arity in tilling the ground, and labourers are very 



THE PEOPLE. 75 

steady in watering and sowing at the right times ; 
and the women, more disorderiy in their ways, yet 
generally keep to the right time for fetching water 
from the canal or river (with so clear a sky they 
need no watch to tell how near is sunset); but 
in everything except cultivating the soil and milk- 
ing cattle, their life is very irregular : women will 
be up before dawn one day and very late the next, 
especially in town, where they have not rural busi- 
ness to force them to rise with the light; they 
sleep in their day clothes, and rise without brushing 
hair and washing, — at least, far the greater number 
evidently do so. On festivals, indeed, they go to the 
bath and have a grand "cleaning up," but mean- 
time, even decent peasant women will leave their 
hair, in its many little plaits, untouched from week 
to week, aye, and month to month I 

The meals are as irregular as the sleeping, except 
the last ; the family assemble for supper about sun- 
set in summer, and a little later in winter, when the 
days are shorter, because the chief meal for most 
Egyptians is the supper, and it must, of course, 
always be so for any who have to work in the fields 
at a distance from home. But the rest of the day 
they seem to take some bread when hungry, and eat 
it, squatting down in a shady corner in summer, and 



76 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

a sunny one in the cold weather, with a bit of water 
melon or some dates, or by itself, as may happen to 
be convenient. The children scramble about with 
whatever they can get, in dustheaps, or on the wall, 
or in the hut, as they like, dirt and liberty being 
supreme. Those of a more respectable class, though 
not taking their meals as you would, or in what you 
would call a comfortable way, are a good deal above 
this half-savage style of living. They assemble, 
such of the family as are at home, at some hour 
in the forenoon ; and if the father of the house be 
absent, his dinner is sent to him, or he has a dish 
from a cook-shop, if convenient. 

I remember once visiting the wife of a Coptic 
priest in a ^mall country town; of course, they did 
not live in a hut, but a good house. I caniiot say 
it was clean, but it only needed cleanliness and 
neat order to have made it a cheerful though mo- 
dest dwelling. The good woman spread a wadded 
quilt over the mat, with one or two hard stuffed 
pillows, and we sat down and had a pleasant and 
friendly talk together, her sister and herself being 
intelligent persons, although without any education, 
neither being able to read, or even knowing the 
alphabet. This was nothing unusual, however, as 
no woman in the whok town knew a single letter. 



THE PEOPLE. 77 

Presently, the eldest girl brought a small round 
table, only a few inches from the ground, and set 
on it a tray with the family dinner, or breakfast 
(the first regular meal of the day it was, but being 
ten o'clock, the children at least must have eaten 
before, I fancy). It consisted of some eggs slightly 
fried in a great deal of butter, in a metal dish, and 
a saucer of coarse earthenware, containing a piece 
of native cheese, which we should call cheese begun 
and not finished, being in fact only curd drained 
and slightly salted (it is good when freshly made, 
but does not keep very long); the bread was in dark, 
thin, round ^j»«, and was laid in a heap on the 
tray and then distributed round ; no plates, forks, 
or knives were used, each taking with* the fingers 
and a bit of bread, portions of the eggs, etc. A 
pitcher of water, with a narrow neck for drinking, 
stood beside them, and all sat round the table on 
the floor. They cordially invited me to share, and, 
of course, I took a morsel not to be impolite, 
although I had breakfasted some time before, in a 
way more suited to my habits. After the meal, 
which was quickly over (for people do not care to 
linger over cold water as they would over a cup of 
tea), we fell to talking again, and I could not help 
reflecting while turning over the leaves of the 



78 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

Testament I had with me, what a delightfal thing 
it is, that however different we may be in onr cus- 
toms — in the bread we eat and our way of partaking 
of it — the bread of life is the same for all, and 
suits all alike I We may share that bread joyfully 
with every fellow believer, or even every one who 
shows the least wish or intention of becoming such ; 
the differences are but trifles of earth that are to 
pass away, but the " one Lord, one faith," are for 
ever. Why will not the hungry in soul come to 
Jesus to be fed when they hum heard of Him, and 
listen to the blessed words He spoke — " I am the 
bread of life"? 



79 



LETTER TIL 

WHAT THEY EAT. 

In the last letter I told too about bread, bat tod 
will Kke some more particiilarS; I think, and aho 
something about the other articles chiefly used 
as food. Bread is the staff of life as with us ; 
it is not here as in many parts of India and China. 
where rice takes the place of bread ; they are fond 
of rice, and eat more of it than we do, it is part of 
the diet of every tolerably comfortable fionily, but it 
is not so cheap as to be within the reach of the poor 
except on occasions. When, for instance, I have a 
honse-cleaning, or any business giving extra fatigue 
to the ont-door servants who are called in for the 
time to help, they expect a dinner or supper after- 
wards, consisting of boiled rice with some melted 
butter mixed with it and a little pepper and 
salt, and think this a capital meal. But bread is 
their daily food, with some relish or other, according 
to the season and means. Every family makes its 



80 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

own bread ; there is a good deal, indeed, sold in 
the streets, chiefly on palm frames carried on a 
boy's or woman's head, and '^ cried" about, especially 
in the morning and at sunset ; but this is chiefly 
used by travellers, or workmen without a regular 
home, or on occasion when the home supply is short, 
etc. No family above a beggar's will use it con- 
stantly and daily. To eat " street bread " is to be 
at the last point of discomfort with an Egyptian. 
They do not buy the flour but the wheat, and as this 
has been threshed by the oxen treading it out upon 
the ground, it is always full of bits of earth and 
dust (it is said, indeed, that some is put in by fraud 
on purpose to increase its weight). The cleaning 
of the corn takes up a good deal of the woman's 
time, and then it has to be carried, usually on 
the head of the housewife, unless she is able to 
keep a servant or slave, to the mill; and when 
ground, has to be sifted, for the chafl*, not being 
separated in the grinding, that and the bran are 
sifted out together, which is not a good plan, as 
no one can make what we call whole meal bread. 
When sifted, the women bring leaven, or sour 
dough, which they use instead of barm, or yeast ; 
and when it is risen sufficiently, work up their 
dough, making it very moist, slack as bakers say, 



WHAT THEY EAT. 81 

and beating it up much more than we think neces- 

saiy ; often they are at it in the middle of the night, 

if it is risen so as to be ready, and will spend two 

hours in beating and slapping the mass, producing 

quite a loud sound with their hands. When finished, 

it is made into very small round cakes, or flaps, each 

of the size of a small plate ; these are stuck against 

the sides of the oven, and baked in less than a 

minute each, but so many are needed that the 

process takes some time. A hundred loaves of this 

size is not too much for a family of two grown 

persons aod two children in a week, so it may be 

supposed what a business it is to prepare bread 

for a large family ; however, the fuel needed for 

this sort of bread is not much, as the thin loaves 

80 soon get done. This kind of bread, or something 

resembling it, is used in Syria also. It is more 

easily broken than cut^ and as other food is all 

partaken of with the fingers (soup only excepted), 

it would not occur to Oriental servants, in laying a 

table, to provide a knife for cutting bread. I make 

this remark because some persons have a fanciful 

idea that there is some special meaning or sign 

in our Lord's breaking instead of cutting bread at 

the Last Supper, when He gave it to His disciples as 

an emblem of Btts body to be soon broken for them 

6 



82 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

and for us. We know that, literally and accurately 
speaking, His body was not broken, but rather cut, 
pierced and wounded, and that it is expressly said, 
" A bone of Him shall not be broken." The word 
evidently means only that He was wounded, and 
suffered in the flesh for our transgressions' sake, so 
that whether we break or cut a piece of bread in 
our celebration of the Lord's Supper is a point of 
no importance, any more than is the kind of bread ; 
the real essential is that we should remember 
our Lord in that holy and comforting service, and 
think of all He suffered for us, and that He is 
the true Bread that came down from heaven. I 
daresay you recollect the Gospel parable where 
the man asked his friend to lend him three 
loaves of bread, because a traveller was come 
to see him and he had no bread in the house 
to set before him (Luke xi. 5). Now in many 
parts of the East, three loaves is, to this day, 
the portion usually placed before a single visitor 
when his host wishes to be sure he has enough. 
Unless extremely hungry, he would hardly need 
more than two of the ordinary loaves, but it 
would be thought mean to set less than three 
before him, and in a wealthy family they send in 
a whole heap of loaves; but our Lord's illustra- 



WHAT THEY EAT. 83 

tions are, for the most part, relating rather to the 
humble classes than to the rich and great ; and 
I remember being struck, formerly, with hearing 
a lady say to her servant, when another person's 
servant had come on some business, "Carry the 
man a plate of dinner and three loaves," and I was 
often afterwards reminded of the parable. 

The Egyptian bread is seldom relished by Euro- 
peans, who generally make their own, and in the 
cities Greek and French bakers are numerous. 
But when cleanly made and quite fresh it is not 
to be at all despised ; the disadvantage is that it 
is very bad to our taste when stale, and very 
quickly gets hard and dry, especially in summer. 

The diet of the people is usually frugal as regards 
the middle and poorer classes, but they manage 
to have a. greater variety than people of similar 
means in England, and, I think, in this they are 
right, as a change of diet is more wholesome than 
to eat almost always the same things. All the 
cheaper vegetables are taken, as they come in season, 
by all except the very poorest, and very few there 
are who cannot obtain cucumbers and melons in 
their most plentiful time ; the latter are often sold 
in slices, which are to be had for the smallest 
coin extant, and are, no doubt, very refreshing to 



84 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

weary labourers or ragged boys in the heat. The 
lentils so often named in Scripture are a great 
article of food in Egypt, and are very superior to 
the vegetable of that kind in France, which seems 
an inferior species. The Nile boatmen chiefly live 
on a thick soup made of lentils, with onions and 
hard bread broken up in it. Probably this was 
Esau's famous pottage, the lentils being, when 
shelled and uncooked, of a bright reddish orange 
colour (the text says " that red pottage," meaning 
made of red lentils. Jacob was in the act of prepar- 
ing it, no doubt). It is very savoury and good, and 
a highly nourishing diet. Tomatoes, egg-plants, 
black and white, and various gourds are abundant, 
as well as many vegetables more familiar to you. 
Some of them are made into stew or soup for supper 
(with a little meat for those who can aflford it), 
others are eaten raw ; and fruit is often eaten with 
bread as a meal. At other times, salted curd, or 
pickled turnips, etc., are taken as a relish, and the 
Egyptian beans are a favourite breakfast with all; 
rich and poor alike enjoy this simple and wholesome 
dish. The beans require to be slowly cooked in a 
great earthen jar, which is usually done by the 
seller, who puts it in hot ashes for several hours ; 
they are sold in the early morning by plates-full. 



WHAT THEY EAT. 86 

and seasoned with a little lemon juice and salt and 
pepper, and the addition of a morsel of butter 
makes them an excellent article of diet. 

In winter and early spring, when milk is tolerably 
abundant, even in towns, a preparation of milk, 
made sour and thick, is very popular, and is sold 
in small earthen saucers, making a favourite supper. 

The Nile produces a good deal of fish, which the 
people living near the river can procure cheaply 
enough ; but in the warm season it ought to be 
cooked almost as soon as caught. It is inferior, 
however, to sea fish. 

The allusions to parched corn in Scripture are 
frequent, and this is still a favourite dainty in 
Egypt as well as in Syria ; but in the present day 
maize is oftener used than wheat, for although I 
have often seen the reapers eating parched wheat, 
which they made by roasting the ears in the 
field, I never recollect seeing it sold in the markets, 
whereas maize is one of the chief street cries at its 
season under the name of "Durra." Probably it 
took the place of parched barley or wheat after 
its introduction (as is generally supposed, from 
America),* the larger grains making it more suitable 

* Some still think, however, that it was a native also of the 
East. I leave antiqaarians to decide. 



86 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

for parching than any other ; but that alluded to 
in Scripture must have been either barley or wheat. 
"We see there that parched corn was looked on 
as a sort of rustic treat, which country folks sent 
to their friends ; David's father sends " parched 
corn " as well as cheeses to his sons in Saul's 
army, and the friend of the prophet Elisha sends 
him "full ears of corn in the husk," evidently for 
parching; and just so do friends in the East now 
send, or bring, a basket full of corn in the husk 
for their town relatives to enjoy. In harvest time we 
often see the reapers lighting a little fire of chips 
or sticks in a field and roasting the ears over it 
to prepare this simple but much relished luxury, 
and such scenes bring to mind the sweet story 
of Ruth and the parched corn that she brought 
home from the field to regale her mother-in-law, 
"when she had eaten and was suflSced." For 
though that history took place in Syria, the ways 
and habits are in a great many things the same 
in Egypt. 

As we might suppose, from the many allusions to 
it in Scripture, hutter is very much used in the East. 
Some learned men indeed have thought that sour 
milk or curds was meant by the word translated 
butter ; but I can bear witness to the fact that it is 



WHAT THEY EAT. 87 

mucli rmre used in cookery both in Egypt and Syria 
than in England, — I mean in larger quantities, and 
that many of their dishes, otherwise very good, are 
made too greasy to suit most English palates. But 
they rarely use it as we do on bread ; it is generally 
boiled down and clarified, and thus kept in jars. 
In the country villages here, they eat it sometimes 
on bread in winter, but little is eaten fresh, com- 
paratively. 

The way they make butter in Egypt would strike 
you as curious. A prepared goat skin is half filled 
with milk, slightly sour, and then hung to a peg 
driven into the wall, or to a post, and a woman, 
taking hold of a long string tied to it, pulls it to 
and fro with a jerking motion till the butter comes. 
She then drains the lumps, but neither washes nor 
salts them in general. So, except in quite cold 
weather, it soon gets rancid ; but very little is made 
in the hot season. In early spring, when the cattle 
are fed on clover, is the butter time, and quantities 
are then made and clarified for summer use. The 
favourite dish, without which no feast would be 
complete, and which is the staple in most families 
above the poorer class, is rice cooked with this pre- 
pared butter, as I observed before. At their festivals, 
both Copts and Moslems make cakes, which are 



88 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

often 80 ricli with clarified butter as to crumble in 
lifting them unless taken with great care. The 
peasants cannot afford to make theirs so very rich, 
nor (luckily) to make themselves bilious with such 
diet very often ; but they do not think it a real 
feast in Egypt (or Syria either) unless it be "a 
feast oi fat things." Here, again, the Bible allu- 
sions are fully carried out. 

But while eating articles literally soaking with 
butter, I have heard an Oriental in a very dignified 
position, who had visited England, speak with al- 
most a shudder, of slices of bread and butter which 
had been offered him! An Egyptian would not 
have been so much surprised, it would only appear 
to him a sort of homely, rustic thing, to eat " fresh 
butter with bread " as peasants do in spring in his 
country ; he came not from Egypt, but Syria. 

The quantity consumed is, however, as before 
observed, greater than with us, no vegetables being 
ever cooked merely with water. Meat is used in 
smaller quantities, and generally mixed with vege- 
tables, unless on occasions of a feast, when ^ roasted 
lamb is sometimes served up, or a large joint. At 
weddings a great deal is spent in feasting, as we 
shall see when speaking on that subject. 



89 



LETTER VIII. 

SUPERSTITIONS. 

You will not be surprised to hear that the Egyp- 
tians are fuU of superstitions. Most, if not all 
nations, the mass of whom are ignorant, are super- 
stitious. In England, when there was less education 
than in the present day, numbers of siUy superstitions 
prevailed, particularly among country people; and 
even some who should have known better, were yet 
so foolish as to hold fast to the nonsense they had 
been told in their childhood by ignorant persons, 
and were afraid to sit down to dinner if thirteen 
were present, or of spilling a pinch of salt, meeting 
a magpie, and other equally ridiculous things. I 
knew a lady who was afraid to change a dress, 
accidentally put on the wrong side out, because 
it was "ill luck," as she pretended. A wise friend 
asked her, " Who is hick ? Is he a god that you 
worship him?" She was much vexed, but still 
clung to her foUy. K such things are found in a 



90 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

professedly Christian country, we cannot wonder 
that they should abound here, and they do to a, sad 
extent. Not that all alike are under the dominion 
of fear that superstition brings. Some are naturally 
cheerful, and do not think about the future much ; 
others are sensible, and see how foolish these fancies 
are; but the greater number, particularly of women, 
are complete slaves to superstition, and though they 
declare they believe in one God, yet practically they 
believe in a great many. The chief of all their 
objects of fear, however, is what they call the evil 
eye ; more frequently they speak of this unseen 
but dreaded power, simply as " the eye." It appears 
to mean a sort of envious and grudging feeling on 
the part of some person or persons who look at 
their child, or property, or anything of value. But 
there must be a deeper meaning than this, since, 
however unkind the envious neighbour might be, 
unless he or she did actual mischief out of spite, no 
harm could be conceived to follow from his envy 
except to his own wicked heart. But a passing 
stranger, who never again sets eyes on the child, or 
animal, or whatever it may be, or a neighbour, who is 
known never to have lifted a finger against them, 
are equally supposed to be the medium of conveying 
the injury which they attribute to this terrible power. 



SUPERSTITIONS. 91 

It seems to me to be just a horrid fiction invented 
by the father of Kes in order to draw away people's 
minds and hearts from God, for, strangely enough, 
though invoking Him frequently on other occasions, 
I do not ever recollect hearing them pray to be pro- 
tected from this supposed power. No — some odd 
and foolish trick or charm is to be used to halk^ as 
it were, the evil influence. One of the commonest 
is a sooty mark or dab on the forehead of a child. 
One often meets a little girl or boy with this mark, 
usually one of the richer class ; the mother puts on 
this disfiguring sign to divert, as she fancies, the 
power of the eye, because of the extraordinary 
beauty of the child. I have seen it quite as often 
on very common and even plain-featured children as 
on pretty ones ; but, of course, every mother thinks 
her own something wonderful; it is just because 
she happens to be of an anxious temper that she 
marks it. 

A Coptic mother, who was visiting at my house 
the other day, had a little child with her who struck 
me as being even more untidy and dirty than was 
usual (and I am sorry to say a neat-looking child is 
still rather an exception here) ; but the mother 
being very well dressed and not poor, the coarse 
peasant's frock of rough blue cotton, and the shaggy 



92 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

filthy hair, did look singular, and I took occasion, 
when she made some remark about his delicacy of 
health, to say something in favour of cleanliness, 
"especially in such hot weather." "Ahl but do 
you know I have lost several " (I think she said four) 
" children, and I keep this one coarsely dressed and 
dirty on purpose : it is that he may live." I felt 
sorely inclined to say. More likely that he may die. 
The poor foolish woman continued, pointing to her 
boy, who was a small and by no means a very 
pretty child, " He is, as you see, so lovely ^ it is best 
to keep him tkus,^'* nodding mysteriously to imply 
that to make him as unattractive as possible was 
the only chance of his escaping the evil eye. 

Another, a very pleasant woman, and one not 
insensible to the Gospel, dressed her baby in black 
from head to foot, even his little cap being of black 
calico, because she had lost two or three before, and 
a friend assured her that to make him a "little 
monk," as she expressed it, and dress him in black 
for a term of years, would be a sure means of pre- 
serving him. The dear little thing was taken, 
however, and the poor mother was candid enough to 
confess she had been wrong. She was a professing 
Christian like the other, but Moslems equally believe 
in the evil eye. 



SUPERSTITIONS. 93 

A very common defence (or fancied defence) 
against their fancied danger of the eye, is to hang 
charms around the neck or waist of a child, or tie 
them to its little cap. 

These charms consist of leather rolls or bags, Oj. 
else tin cases, in which are enclosed papers, with 
verses of Scripture written by a priest on them if 
the child is a Copt, or from the Koran if a Moslem. 
Whether really written is doubtful, but they never 
open them to ascertain it. 

Though oftenest seen on children, they are also 
worn by some grown people ; negroes and Nubians, 
in particular, are very fond of them, and wear them 
tied by a thong of red leather to the arm above the 
elbow, where it is easily seen when, for the con- 
venience of work, the long sleeve is stripped and tied 
back. A Coptic woman, who, having had some little 
education and some knowledge of the Bible, should 
have known better, was once persuaded by a priest 
to let him prepare her a charm against certain 
headaches from which she suffered ; whether she 
thought they came from the evil ey€, or not, I am 
not sure ; the fact was, they were simply bilious 
headaches, which strict diet and a few doses of 
suitable medicine afterwards cured. However, she 
was persuaded to try the charm first, and paid a 



94 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

sum she could very iU afford for it: the priest had 
no idea of writing a few Words on a strip of paper 
for nothing. She was at last convinced by one of 
my family that this was a very foolish thing, and 
if the paper really was, as it professed to be, a 
Psalm of David written out, it could do no possible 
good by being applied to the outside of her head. 
She agreed to open it, and lol it was no Psalm 
at all ; nothing but a few letters without meaning 
and some scrib-scrab. She was heartily ashamed, 
and, I hope, never used charms again. Our poor 
Roman Catholic friends in Ireland often have 
similar charms to these, which they call gospels, 
a verse of the Gospel being supposed to be written 
on them. Those whose eyes have been opened so that 
they have received the Gospel in their hearts have 
often then opened these paper charms and always 
found nothing but a little scrib-scrab ; but it matters 
nothing in reality whether the verse of Scripture 
is there or not, as when so applied the Bible itself 
is, in the sight of the Almighty, no better than a 
mere scribble. 

I have seen young children so laden with charms 
in tin cases that they could scarcely support them 
without inconvenience when crawling, or toddling 
about ; yet it is seldom one can induce a mother 



SUPERSTITIONS. 95 

to remove them, so deeply are these superstitions 
rooted in the hearts of the people. For a certain 
kind of weak eyes, a red coral or bit of cornelian 
is hung by a thread from the head so as to dangle 
over the eye. I asked what possible good this 
could do, when first observing it on a scholar, and 
the teacher told me (evidently in doubt as to the 
thing herself, but inclined to think it worth trying) 
that the red colour of the stone was supposed to 
divert the redness from the eye. I think medical 
advice is more frequently sought for bad eyes, so 
terribly common here, than formerly, but still 
many continue to prefer charms and to think that 
till seven days have elapsed after being attacked 
no one should apply any medicine for ophthalmia, 
and in bad cases blindness, either partial or total, 
is sometimes the result. 

I once called on the mother of a scholar and found 
her with one eye tied up, and offered to look at it, 
saying that if a simple case, perhaps some of the 
eye-water we always kept might be of service. She 
refused to lift the covering, and seemed angry 
at my request, which was certainly not made from 
curiosity, as I saw too many bad eyes in Egypt to 
be curious about them, and the sight is a very un- 
pleasant one; but she did not understand that 



96 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

only sincere kindness could make the offer, and 
the teacher who was with me explained that she 
thought it was a case of evil eye on hera^ and 
that keeping it from anyone's observation for a 
certain period was her only chance. 

Another still more singular case is that of cover- 
ing a baby's face that the eye may not strike it, as 
they say. I have often heard of such, and one 
occurred in the family of an old servant, who him- 
self told me that he had not seen the face of his 
little grandchild though it was then some months 
old. "You see, my daughter lost several," he 
said, "and she fancies it is the evil eye. I tell her 
to trust in God, but" (shrugging his shoulders) 
"these women, — what is one to do with them? 
Her mother, and aunts, and all, will have it 
that it is ^ the eye.' " This poor babe had its face 
hidden from everyone except its father and mother, 
and what was more, from the fresh ae>, by a thick 
black handkerchief, till it was a year old ; and 
then, you will say, did they at last take it off? 
God did it for them. He took the poor infant 
away, and I feel no doubt its happy little spirit 
sees light in Paradise through the love of Jesus, 
though it never saw the light on earth. For the 
family, who were Copts, lived in the Coptic quarter 



SUPERSTITIONS. 97 

of Cairo, and at that time, before the late altera- 
tions in some of the streets, it was a place where 
the sun could scarcely penetrate, so dark and 
narrow were the lanes, and when — if ever — the 
child was taken outside the house, it was under 
cover of its thick black veil. Still, though in a 
miserable, bungling way, it was dedicated to Christ, 
and prayed for by the old man; and the arms of 
the Saviour reach far^ especially to catch up the 
little ones. 

Another, and I think a worse, case was one of a 
woman, also a professing Christian, and of the same 
family, who, after losing two children, sent, on the 
arrival of the third, for a sort of witch or "wise 
woman " ("foolish woman" would be a more suit- 
able name), who came to stay for some weeks in 
her house, and every time a visitor called — and in 
this country all the female neighbours, friends, and 
relatives call on these occasions — this woman per- 
formed incantations and burnt incense to dispel the 
eflfects of the possible evil eye from some one of 
the guests. I would not go to see her, though an 
old acquaintance, on hearing this, because it seemed 
to be a sort of devil worship, as when I next saw 
her, a good while after, I plainly told her. 

She tried various other charms, one of which was 

7 



98 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

disgusting enough, namely, bathing the infant in the 
blood of a pig 1 It followed its little brother and 
sister, and for aught I know the poor silly mother 
may be trying the same experiments on another, 
unless the Lord has seen fit to open her eyes, and 
teach her to trust in Him. 

A very common charm is to hang a stuffed croco- 
dile (procured from Upper Egypt, for there are no 
crocodiles near Cairo) over the door of a newly-built 
house. Sometimes an aloe plant is put up instead. 
No doubt one is as useful as the other. 

Animals are supposed to be as easily struck as 
children ; and indeed, in old times in England, some 
people used to fancy that if a cow suddenly ceased 
to give milk she was bewitched^ as they expressed 
it, and poor old women were accused of this crime, 
which they could not commit even if they wished 
to do so. We need not then wonder that the poor 
Egyptian peasant woman who has a fine cow will 
frequently prevent anyone from seeing her. I re- 
member one being quite angry when I asked leave 
to send my servant to bring the milk she sold us. 
"No, no, I don't let any person in while I am 
milking," she said. " Why if anyone saw me milk- 
ing, my cow would most probably get Hhe eye,' and 
give no more. My cow is a very fine one ; I let no 



SUPERSTITIONS. 99 

one see her that I can help, and always keep the 
stable door closed at milking time." Horses ana 
camels often have charms hung round their necks 
to protect them, as is supposed ; but as it is not 
universal, I imagine all do not put trust in this 
nonsense. 

It is curious how ready people are to take trouble 
in the wrong way and the wrong place (not in Egypt 
alone, indeed). The worry they give themselves about 
these charms I have mentioned, and the trouble and 
often cost of getting them, if used in another way, 
would really rid them of much evil, or diminish it. 
For example, I once was visiting in a respectable 
and rather wealthy Mohammedan family : a young 
married woman was sitting with me, sister-in-law to 
the mistress of the house (two or three brothers often 
live in one house when large, as was the case here). 
While we were chatting she pulled down some article 
to show me off a shelf, and down came a small roll 
' of papers which scattered on the sofa, and she began 
collecting them carefully. 

"Are you learning to write?" I asked, seeing 
Arabic characters in rather a disjointed way mixed 
with figures, as of sums, on the papers. 

" Oh no ; this is a charm for the bugs," she re- 
plied. "Our house (like most old ones here) is 



100 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

infested, and a sheikh wrote this charm for us. You 
see these figures ? — that is because they are many ; 
and the letters — I cannot tell what they mean, some 
secret thing no doubt" {scrib-scrab again, probably). 
We put this in a corner up there, and the creatures, 
he said, would all walk away." 

" Have they done so ? " 

" Well, not yet, it is only three days yet. I fancy 
there are fewer, however, already." 

" Do you not see that this is because the weather 
is become cold, and these plagues are always much 
less in that season? The man was tricking you, and 
took your money for nothing. How can you fancy 
that insects can read when you yourself cannot ? " I 
continued, laughing. 

She laughed heartily herself, and said, "It is 
really foolishness, I do think;" and agreed with me 
that the trouble and expense of the charm spent on 
white-wash, soap, and brushes, etc., would have done 
better. 

The popular superstitions do a great deal of harm 
in keeping up uncleanly habits. The religion of 
Mohammedans commands that they should wash 
when they pray, which ought to be five times a day 
(not that all keep to this if they are busy, and the 
women very rarely pray at all). This custom is of 



SUPBRSTITIONS. 101 

course better than nothing, and does tend to keep a 
certain degree of cleanliness in adult males. But 
superstition hinders it where specially needed, which 
is with young children. Moslems think it sadly 
unlucky to wash a baby at all until it is a year old. 
Some of the better sort have broken through this 
horrid custom, but as a rule it is kept to very strictly, 
and I believe many die from diseases brought on by 
dirt alone. Copts are recommended by the old 
women of their faith to let baptism be the first 
water on the child. They baptize by immersion, 
certainly, but no soap is in the ceremony, and it 
often has to last a long, long while. A dry wipe 
with the mother's hand, or a bit of her dress, is 
thought enough, and that only on the face, by too 
many who are by no means of the lowest class. 
There are exceptions, however, and the spread of 
education will, in time, I trust, make the exception 
the other way. 

The writing down passages from the Koran, then 
washing oflF the writing and drinking the water, 
is a very favourite charm for various maladies. It 
seems as if man's froward heart loved to take things 
by contraries, for (supposing words to be ever so 
holy) how could words affect the inside of the body? 

There are superstitious observances in other coun- 



102 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

tries besides this, which seem to have come down 
from old pagan times. Many of those in England 
came from old worshippers of Odin and Thor in the 
Saxon times, although the country wives who prac- 
tised them had no idea of imitating pagan ancestors, 
and had never heard of the false gods of those days. 
So in Egypt there are people who have not the 
least idea that they are keeping up observances 
which began in the worship of beasts and reptiles, 
etc. One of these is singular enough, and first came 
under my notice a few years ago. A Coptic lady 
sent me a message to say that her little boy was 
ailing. (He was more than usually precious, as the 
only son she had previously had had died years 
before ; her daughter was married, and this little 
one was, like most late blossoms, a peculiar treasure 
therefore.) She wished to know if I thought it 
would be advisable to bring a monkey and keep in 
the house, as some neighbours suggested. The 
expense is considerable, she said (more than a 
guinea, I think), for monkeys come from a distant 
part of Africa, and are not found in Egypt. Still, 
if it would do good to the boy, she was ready to 
spend anything. 

" What good could he do ? " I asked the teacher 
who brought me this message. " Is the monkey to be 



SUPERSTITIONS. 103 

cooked and eaten in the form of broth by the 
baby, or what is it to do? He is too young to 
play with it." 

" You don't understand, — it is the Eye^'* said the 
woman, mysteriously. " The monkey kept in the 
house is thought to draw off the evil influence from 
the child to itself." 

It is needless to observe that I recommended in 
preference that if her child were really iU she should 
t^ke him to the best doctor she could find, and pray 
for a blessing on his directions. 

Now as the monkey was one of the creatures 
reverenced by the Egyptians, and the images of 
their "monkey god" are extremely numerous in 
collections of idols and such curiosities, and that 
pictures of him are to be seen on many walls in the 
ruined temples, etc., it seems that there is some 
indistinct remains of this worship left in the minds 
of those who even call themselves Christians, for we 
must recollect that the reverence of the heathen for 
false gods did not mean that they ever fancied their 
deities good or benevolent beings necessarily. Many, 
if not most, were revered with what is called " de- 
precatory " worship ; that is, they were supposed to 
be persuaded or coaxed by reverence and offerings, 
incense and other things, and often, as we know. 



104 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

even human sacrifices, into letting people alone, and 
not doing them mischief. This is the kind of wor- 
ship given by idolaters in India and elsewhere to 
this day ; and the traces, — faint perhaps, but still 
traces, — of this deprecatory worship, remain here 
among these superstitions. 

I will only relate one more, — there are hundreds, 
and many probably that I do not know of, but this 
which I am going to tell seems to me quite as clearly 
a remains of pagan worship as the monkey. 

Persons are said, when failing in health and 
spirits without any known cause, and sometimes 
when it is clearly a case of illness, but which does 
not as quickly yield to remedies as is expected, to 
be possessed by an evil spirit. The women, who 
seem the chief believers in this, though by no means 
the only ones (indeed it may be merely as I see much 
more of them that they seem to me to be more 
full of these fancies), declare that the only cure is to 
make what they call a zikvy a kind of dance, either 
sacred or magical, for they have a sort of zikr 
which is more of a religious observance at certain 
festivals. But the spirit dance is in order to drive 
out the bad spirit. The friends and relatives are 
assembled, and a grand celebration is made. I can- 
not speak of it from having witnessed the ceremony, 



SUPERSTITIONS. 1 05 

as it seemed from description to be a thing no Chris- 
tian ought to meddle with, — invoking of spirits, and 
a great deal of that sort of thing. 

A young Mohammedan woman came one day to 
invite me to a zikr at her house, and said it would 
be very amusing. I was surprised, and said so, 
asking who was supposed to be possessed. 

" I am," she replied. 

" But you do not look ill ; what is the matter with 
you?" 

She said she had been poorly, and no one could 
say why, and that she would like the excitement, 
and the dance, and feast, etc. And I saw that 
these things were her real motive, or at least went 
a great way. Still she was prepared to obey the 
horrible custom, which she said was to bring a sheep 
and kill it in the court, and as soon as a bowl had 
been filled with blood they would bring it to her, 
and she was to drink it all oflF at once. 

"How can you do such a thing, Fatuma?" I 
asked. 

" Oh, it is custom, I must do it, and then they 
will all dance round me, and clap hands, and chant, 
and then at last, by the middle of the night, the feast 
will be ready, and we shall eat and be merry, and 
by the next day I shall be well." 



106 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

I would not go, and thought of the words of 
the psalm : " Their drink offerings of blood will I 
not offer, nor take up their names into my lips" 
(Psalm xvi. 4). 



107 



LETTER IX. 

SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 

Egypt is full of slaves. A great deal is written 
and said now about the hope that the slave traffic 
may be stopped, but this is a much more difficult 
thing than people in England have generally any 
idea of; there are besides the same difficulties 
which took so much time and trouble in the days 
of those good men who got the slave-trade abolished 
in our colonies, other difficulties which I need not 
enter on here : it is enough to say that there is 
no Wilberforce to labour and pray for years with 
his pious friends in the cause of the poor slaves, 
so I fear the time is not very near for their emanci- 
pation. Meanwhile, at all events, Egypt is full of 
them, as I said before ; the cities, in .particular, 
are teeming with negro slaves. In America (in 
the Southern States, that is), till the late war, and 
long ago in our West Indian Islands, field work 
was chiefly done by black slaves working in gangs, 



'A 



108 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

because white men could not work much in the heat 
of such climates. But that is not the case here ; field 
labour is mostly done by the " children of the soil," 
and though a negro shepherd or herdsman is some- 
times seen, the chief employment of slaves is as 
domestic servants. People of moderate fortune 
keep at least two or three ; and, I am sorry to say. 
Christians quite as much as Moslems. Many who 
are in a position of life to do their own work keep 
a negress (who does it very imperfectly), and do 
nothing themselves. Of course the expense is 
great ; really more than hiring a servant, because 
there is a large sum paid for the woman at first, 
and then she has to be fed and clothed, and 
being generally very wasteful, she costs a good deal. 
A cook or waiter in an European family will often 
keep a slave, and let his wife sit idly smoking a 
cigar all day, while this poor creature is dawdling 
about over the housework, and touching a broom as 
if it burnt her fingers. I have known of drago- 
men (or travelling servants) who, when on the river 
with English families, have actually persuaded 
their employers to allow them to make use of their 
boat to bring down a slave boy or girl whom they 
wanted to purchase, making the pretext that it 
was for the good of the said boy or girl rather than 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 109 

for their own convenience. Very likely the child 
would be kindly treated (a good many are so, no 
doubt, and sometimes even petted when quite 
young) ; but still, if slave trafiSc is a wrong thing, 
we ought not to encourage it in any way, and 
England, as a nation, has decided that it is a 
wrong thing. 

Not long ago I was on the river for a few days' 
excursion, with friends, and we saw several slave 
boats on their way to Cairo. One passed quite 
close to our boat, and we were painfully interested 
to watch the crowd of black faces that peered 
curiously at us from the cranon windows of the 
cabin in which they were crammed. Most were 
young lads of from twelve to fifteen or so; some 
girls seemed to be there also, but it was not easy 
to distinguish them. Poor things! they smiled 
and grinned at us, and seemed quite amused to see 
the white strangers looking at them, but we did 
not feel in at all a smiling frame of mind ; it made 
our blood boil to think of the amount of cruelty 
that must have been used for this one boat-load of 
human beings to be dragged from their homes and 
penned up like cattle to be sold as if they had no 
souls. Surely a day of vengeance will come for 
these things I 



110 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

But to continue my account of the negroes as 
they are in the towns. I do not believe that in 
general there is near so much bodily misery and 
suffering among them as there was among the 
American slave gangs when the planter's object 
was just to get as much work done as cheap and 
as quickly as he could, so that, if not a humane 
man, he fed and clothed them very coarsely, and 
had them beaten severely if they failed to work as 
steadily as he needed, and where instruction was 
not only hindered, but even forbidden for slaves in 
several of the States. Here, on the contrary, they 
are oftener kindly treated than not, although 
there is a great deal of cruelty at times, of course. 
I say of course because man is not fit to be trusted 
with unlimited power as a rule, and, therefore, 
unhappily, it is a matter of course that when 
numbers have that power it will be frequently 
•abused. One of my family once saw a neighbour 
of ours, when we lived in a street in Cairo, actually 
stamping upon her slave girl, whom she had first 
thrown down on the flat roof of the house : it was a 
wonder she did not kill the poor creature in her fury. 
But those I see are, as a rule, very well fed and 
dressed, often wear handsome ornaments, and appear 
to be treated with kindness. Thev are not much 



SLAVEBT AS IT IS IN BGTPT. Ill 

trusted, as the mistresses if they go out visiting for 
any length of time usually take the slave with them 
if they have only one, and if they have several leave 
a member of the family at home, sometimes a mere 
child, rather than leave the slaves with the house 
in their sole charge. There are a few who have 
proved so honest that they are trusted entirely, 
and beloved by the family (in which they have 
lived usually from early childhood) like one of its 
members, but these are very rare exceptions. So 
are the cases when slaves have been instructed, 
though there is no law against their learning, and 
sotne masters have even sent slave boys to school, 
if favourites, while in the establishments of the 
great some are taught to read even in two or three 
languages. But I never heard of a female being 
taught, because it is merely to make them useful 
to their masters and mistresses, and among the 
thousands of negress slaves here none could be 
found who were not in a state of utter ignorance. 
A so-called Christian mistress once boasted to 
me that she had had her slave baptized on purchas- 
ing her, " As many of us do," she added. " Oh, yes; 
I took care of that I " " And did you teach her 
the meianing of the rite?" I asked. The lady 
burst out laughing. " Teach a thing like her 1 they 



112 LETTERS FROM EGYPT 

are as cattle, those slaves 1 " she exclaimed. The 
poor woman was serving us with coffee, and heard 
every word. I was much pained, but knew that 
ignorance had as much to do with it as deliberate 
neglect, and that the mistress only knew the name, 
not the reality of Christianity. " Did you never 
hear the name of Jesus ? " I asked the negress. 
" No, lady, never." " How long has she been here 
with you ? " I said, turning to the mistress. " Ten 
years." "Ten years, and never heard of Jesus, 
and yet baptized I why, dear friend, this is wrong. 
Do let me speak a little to her?" 

" Willingly, but it's no use, I tell you, they are 
cattle." 

" Yes, we are cattle," echoed the black, meekly. 

" Oh no, no, you are not 1 you have souls just as 
we have," I said, and went on to explain, much as I 
would to a child of three years, the difference be- 
tween man and brutes, and the soul that was made 
to live in glory, and added that God wanted her to 
believe this, "for God loves you," said I. 

This seemed greatly to amaze her. She had 
often heard God's name, usually when taken in 
vain, and had no distinct knowledge of Bim ; if any 
at all, it probably was that He did not care about 
slaves, one way or another ; and when I told her of 



i 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 113 

Jesns the Holy One loving ns, whether white or 

black, and dying for our sins, the tears came into 

her eyes. I cannot suppose she understood all I 

tried to tell her, for the untaught mind is very slow 

to take new ideas, and I spoke as a foreigner ; still 

something found its way into that poor sou] which 

made the tears come forth, and she blessed and 

thanked me when I went away. Her mistress went 

to Uve with a married daughter afterwards, and I 

could not trace her. She fell into difficulties, I 

think, and very likely the slave was sold, for this 

is the first thing when money is short. But God 

knows all about her. We must remember to whom 

little is given from him will little be required. 

Sometimes a slave runs away from ill-treatment, 

and in this case, if a boy or man, he is made a 

soldier, or a servant to the army if not able-bodied 

enough for fighting : they do not like this, for they 

are not accustomed to exposure and hard living, and 

a great number of such recruits died two years ago 

when the army was being prepared for the war in 

Abyssinia. 

The women now-a-days are taken by the police^ 

and sometimes allowed to hire themselves out as 

servants on making declaration of ill-treatment ; 

but a great number are taken back by their owners, 

8 



114 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

who have various ways of bribing and persuading 
the officials. 

I daresay you, who only now and then see a negro 
in the streets, fancy that they all look neariy alike, 
but in fact they belong to a great variety of tribes, 
and are different in feature, though in the same 
style. Some are as black as soot, or the blackest of 
black ink ; others have a slight reddish-brown shade 
on the cheek bones and forehead ; some have toler- 
ably straight, though flattened, noses, and large soft 
eyes, and a mouth only thick-lipped, but not pro- 
truding strongly. Others again (and I own they 
are the most numerous) seem hardly to possess a 
nose, properly speaking, but only nostrils, and have 
the whole lower half of the face and jawbones very 
forward and large, while the forehead is retreating 
and small ; the eyes generally small in this type, 
and the mouth exceedingly large and coarse. I 
have been told that these come from Darfur, if 
they are large and strongly built especially. I have 
seen a negress who was six feet at least, and big in 
proportion, and when she shouldered her mistress's 
baby, the effect was droll. But a larger number 
have the features I have described, with a rather 
short figure, and a tendency to grow fat very early: 
when well-fed, negresses seem much disposed to 



fc 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN BGYPT. 115 

stoutness in this conntry. Some are brought from 
almost unknown tribes far away in the middle of 
Africa, and I have seen specimens who really looked 
complete savages, just arrived by boat from the 
upper provinces (their own country being very much 
beyond that again). The wild, stupefied expression 
of face showed these poor creatures to be below 
feeling curiosity at the new things that surrounded 
them, as they walked after their owner, or the per- 
son who was going to sell them — ^half-naked, and 
their black skin shining with rancid grease, and 
their woolly locks twisted into tight little plaits a few 
inches long. It is an undoubted fact that occasion- 
ally, though but rarely, a woman from a cannibal 
tribe has been brought up to Cairo without the 
knowledge of the agent or purchaser. I have heard, 
on good authority, of one who devoured her master's 
baby. The mother was very foolish to put her child 
into the hands of a complete savage. 

The people here all believe^ at any rate, that 
cannibal tribes exist in the centre of Africa, and 
that now and then one "turns up," although it 
may be very rare. In general negroes of all tribes 
are kind to children, and very fond of them ; and 
if a little one is injured, it is a thousand or ten 
thousand to one that it was from the slave's 



116 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

ignorance and stupidity, and not from a wish to 
dine upon it. 

But I think you will agree with me that it is a 
proof of the tUter badness of the whole system of 
slavery, that in spite of the possibility of finding a 
new purchase turn out a cannibal, and the certainty 
that she will be a completely wild savage, mistresses 
almost always prefer buying one of these newly im- 
ported negresses to taking one who has been long in 
other families, though she will have learned to cook 
and wash, etc. This is the best answer to those 
who tell us it is better for them to be slaves here 
than to stay in their own country, " because," as a 
friend once said who had been persuaded by the 
dragoman into letting him bring down black boys 
to rear up as slaves, "they learn some good, at 
least." It seems, however, that they learn stealing, 
and a variety of other bad things ; so that a raw 
savage is thought preferable by most employers. 
Can anything be said in favour of this abominable 
system after this fact ? 

When, as sometimes happens, several ladies come 
to one of our meetings, or even merely as a visit, 
and bring slaves, I endeavour to say something 
special for these poor women, but those who have 
not been brought up in the country know Arabic 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 117 

very imperfectly, and cannot follow enough to get 
much good ; others know it well, and have nearly 
forgotten their own tongue, indeed. 

At our meeting last year (just before going for a 
visit to England), an elderly slave woman was so 
much affected by what she heard, that while I was 
praying, a lady present saw the tears trickling down 
her wrinkled black face, and she bent eagerly for- 
ward to hear the " good words," as she said. 

An instance of the love of Him who is able to 
save to the uttermost all who come to Him, through 
Christ, happened some years ago, when two nice 
little boys attended my school, and, like all our 
scholars, had the Bible to study. All do not profit 
alike, however, and as children are naturally fall of 
play on leaving school, I was much struck with 
what I was told of these children reading from the 
New Testament to an old negress who had brought 
them up and was much attached to them. It seems 
this woman was in feeble health, and her great 
delight was to listen to what her young favourites 
read to her on their return from school, and they 
often spent some time by her bed thus employed 
instead of playing, which I think showed there was 
both love and religious feeling in them. When 
after some months the old woman became worse, 



118 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

and was evidently near death, some Moslem slaves, 
who were her friends, offered to fetch the Mollah, 
who is the person somewhat answering to a minister, 
though not exactly, and who reads from their Koran 
to dying persons. She refased, however ; and when 
they urged her strongly, she replied (her master, 
who was of the Christian persuasion, overheard it), 
" No, no, I want no one but Him whom the boys 
tell me about ; the boys' Saviour is my Saviour." 
And in that faith the poor slave died. Surely the 
Lord accepted the soul which was thus brought to 
touch the hem of BKs garment, as it were, by a little 
child. 

It is a great mistake to suppose that slaves do 
more work than free persons ; it is quite ridiculous 
to see how many of them are often kept in great 
houses here, and how little they do compared with 
what (yught to be done, and might be easily done 
with a third of the number. I remember once 
counting ten women in the kitchen of a rich Coptic 
family ; all were negress slaves, and I heard there 
were several more beside, men servants ; yet the 
kitclien was untidy and dirty, and most of them 
were squatting on the ground doing nothing. The 
stairs were imperfectly swept, and though the lady 
was in a splendidly-fornished room, and dressed, in 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 119 

a beautiful muslin with diamonds and other jewels, 
I could not help seeing a pair of ragged old 
slippers and an old man's cap peeping from under 
a gilded sofa, orange peel and crusts of bread in 
a comer, and rubbish dust in little heaps, as if 
just kicked out of the way, instead of being cleanly 
swept I I do not mean that all are alike, but this 
was by no means an exception. They cannot have 
the energy which is given by the feeling that one 
is earning wages, and that by want of diligence 
one may be sent away and be without a livelihood. 
Treated like unreasoning creatures, they act like 
such, and only try to do as little and eat as much 
as they can, and are generally very wastefdl, and 
the exceptions only go to prove the rule. Great 
numbers never live to see middle age, either from 
the climate of Egypt not being hot enough for 
those who come from a region still hotter, or else 
because they have less power of resisting disease 
than persons of lighter colour ; though frequently 
having great muscular strength, they soon fall a 
prey to epidemic maladies, especially such as small 
pox, etc. Fresh troops of these poor people are 
therefore constantly being brought into the country, 
either stolen from their homes or seized in war, 
and the infamous dealers in human flesh aire always 



120 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

in fiill employment, though there are no longer 
open slave markets to be seen. Large under- 
ground places like vaults for merchandise are said 
to be made use of for keeping the new arrivals in 
till disposed of; others are sold at Khartoum, a 
town of importance, and the capital of Nubia, 
and thence brought down and re-sold in Cairo or 
Alexandria. As a rule (of course not without 
exceptions) negroes are inferior in power of mind 
to white races, and are not nearly so quick in book 
learning ; the girls are not so clever in needlework 
and embroidery as Egyptians, but do well in house 
work if properly trained. Almost all are naturally 
conceited, and therefore are very easily spoiled; 
some of the little negroes in great and rich families, 
who are much indulged, are perfectly unbearable 
from conceit. Slavery does not give a humble 
disposition or a right estimate of oneself ; quite the 
contrary : it brings out everything that is bad in 
man's heart ; but as a race I think conceit is a 
prominent and common fault with them. We 
must hope that the noble Christian men who are 
braving an unhealthy climate, and many dangers 
besides, to bring the gospel into the negro's own 
country, will find a reward, and that they will 
rise rapidly, as those nations can who have the 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 121 

Bible among them. Meanwhile, the best to be 
done for the individuals who can be by any means 
preed^ but who dwell far from their own land, is, 
if they are young enough to learn, to give them a 
good but simple education, and fit them to take 
an honourable place among the peasants or ar- 
tisans of the land, and if girls, to be good, useful, 
and respected servants till they marry, unless any 
boy or girl should show capacity above the rest, 
so as to be fit for the position of teacher, etc. 
The remark made by natives here of the negroes 
is this : If good they are very good, and if bad very 
bad ; and as far as my experience goes I think it 
is generally true. There are some slaves from 
Abyssinia in Egypt, but they are few compared 
to the negroes ; the • Berbers and Nubians (who 
are all brown, or coffee-coloured, but not black) are 
very numerous in the cities ; they are, however, not 
slaves for the most part, but free hired servants.. 
There are a good many freed negroes, also, who have 
been set at liberty (or their fathers) by great men, 
either at their death or on some peculiar occasion, 
but they are rarely met with in good positions, 
being very idle. Besides the black races who dwell 
in bondage in Egypt, there are a great many white 
slaves; most of these belong to Turks residing 



122 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

here, though some belong to Egyptian Moslems. 
These are not only purchased to fill the palaces 
of the nobles with secondary wives (as their detest- 
able custom permits), though this is the principal 
object for which the traffic is carried on, but they 
are also brought to act as upper servants, and 
often half-servant, half-companion to the great 
ladies. "You hire ladies'-maids in England, I 
believe; we buy ours,'' said a noble lady to me 
one day, pointing as she spoke, with a very satis- 
fied smile, to a row of young women smartly 
dressed, who stood with folded arms at the end of 
the large room, doing nothing, but ready to bring 
their mistress a light for her cigar, or a glass of 
water, or a handkerchief, if wanted. One would 
have performed these mild duties alone with ease, 
but they like show, and the white slaves generally 
stand all in a row when visitors call. They at 
other times make clothes for their lady and them- 
selves, dust ftirniture, make delicate dishes of 
cookery, and receive guests, folding their outer 
mantles, etc. But coffee is made by the black 
women, and all sorts of rough work also are done 
by them, so that the white slave has usually an 
easy life, and fares luxuriously every day. Still, it 
is the life of a canary-bird rather than of a rational 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 123 

• 

being; the cage is gilt, indeed, but it is a cage. 
Some of these purchased lady's maids are given 
in marriage to favourites of their lady's husband, 
and a good-natured mistress is said to ask a slave, 
whom she specially approves, if she would like to 
be married, as in that case a match shall be found 
for her. Others, who have become middle-aged 
in one family, and have been brought up in it 
from childhood, prefer remaining as they are, and 
often act as a sort of matron to train new pur- 
chases, and to superintend the negress cooks. 

I do not say these women are as a rule unhappy ; 
the crying injustice of being bought like cattle 
does not strike them, shut up as they are, and 
most have been taken too young to recollect and 
regret the lost family ; still they have generally a 
duU, vacant expression, nnless excited by anything, 
and are apt to be very selfish, as one might expect 
indeed. There are often quarrels and jealousies, 
as is generally the case when a number of women are 
shut up together with little to do. And any who 
have been old enough to remember a home, what 
must it be to them ? Many years ago, a friend took 
me to see the family of a wealthy Turk resident 
here whom she was acquainted with, and as we 
could then only speak a very little Arabic, and no 



124 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

Turkish, the master of the house accompanied us 
to his wife's apartment to interpret for us, as he 
spoke French. The lady was a very sweet-looking 
woman, and I do not think could have been un- 
kind to her slaves, but one of them looked very 
unhappy ; the master called our attention to her, 
observing that we ought to look at that girl, whom 
he had bought for a present to his wife recently, 
"because she is," said he, "so very like some 
of your country-women" (he had been both in 
France and. in England, it seemed). " She is from 
some mountain tribe," he added, " I do not exactly 
know from what place, and was taken in battle." 
Poor girl I she turned red when pointed at, and 
hung down her head for a minute, and then looked 
up and tossed it with a haughty air ; yet not really 
haughty, rather as if she would say, " I want to be 
free, and I ought to be free ! " She seemed about 
fifteen, and really was extremely English-looking, 
with her light auburn hair, and blue eyes, and tall 
figure. I so often thought of her, and wished I 
could have helped her in any way. Probably it 
was only one case among many. 

I cannot say much about the others — ^the num- 
bers who are in the miserable plight of being in 
a wife's position without her rights or privileges. 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 125 

I need only say that the humblest Eaglish matron 
who ever wore a wedding-ring need not wish to 
change places with such, though they are covered 
with gold and jewels, and waited on like a princess, 
which if a favourite is often the case. The hard- 
working single woman, who belongs only to God 
and herself, holds in reality a higher position than 
the richest and fairest of these white slaves, dwell- 
ing as in a cage behind the mysterious-looking 
curtain that hangs before the entrance to the 
female portion of all great houses in the East, 
which apartments are called " Hareem," meaning, 
the forbidden. This abode is guarded by black 
slave men, similar to those alluded to in Scripture 
(Daniel and Esther, and other Books). No other 
man but the master can go into this part of the 
house. Royal personages and wealthy pachas have 
immense palaces, where two or three hundred white 
slaves reside, and two or three of these expensive 
establishments. The law of Mohammedans allows 
them four legal wives, but few have more than 
two or three, even among great men (the poor^ 
but one) ; each wife wiU have several white slaves 
of her own, so that altogether the number is very 
considerable. These poor young women chiefly 
come from countries near the Caucasus Mountains 



126 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

— Georgia and Circassia. The Circassians, whose 
name is familiar to every one from the savage con- 
duct of the Circassian irregular troops in the late 
war, are a fierce, warlike people, and must have 
peculiar hardness about their nature, as for cen- 
turies they have (many among them, that is) had 
the habit of selling their little daughters to Turkish 
slave-dealers. I cannot learn that the other mountain 
tribes sell their children, unless driven to despera- 
tion in times of grievous famine ; but Circassians 
think it as good for their children as for them- 
selves, and deliberately part with them in this way. 

" We are better off here," said a little Circassian 
slave to an English lady I knew. " Our mothers 
are very poor, and could only give us hard fare 
and bad clothing ; here we have nice food and 
pretty dresses and jewels." I thought, on hearing 
this remark, "How little, my poor child, do you 
know of a mother's love ! " Who that knows it would 
think dainty food and jewels worth more, and how 
hard must be the heart that sends away her little 
one for gold I However I do not suppose all Circas- 
sian mothers do so; many children are doubtless 
stolen, as they always are from Georgia, it appears. 

Both these races are celebrated for good looks ; 
not that all Circassian women are beauties. I 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 127 

have seen a great many who had nothing except 
a fair skin that was particularly remarkable; but 
others are extremely handsome, and the type (or 
style of face) resembles the English more than any 
other. The Circassian women have in general fine 
hair of an auburn or light brown, and grey or 
brown eyes, with a white skin; Georgians are 
generally dark-eyed, with dark brown hair, but fair 
complexion also. They are alike in being naturally 
intelligent, but are stupefied by their false and 
unnatural position in life, and by idleness and 
luxuriant habits. All are brought up as Moham- 
medans, of course, and learn Turkish and Arabic 
so ea,rly that they forget their own languages. 
Some few learn (if they are favourites in the family) 
with their little mistresses, in the palaces of great 
pachas, who latterly have adopted the custom of 
bringing an European teacher to give some instruc- 
tion in French and music to their daughters ; they 
would in such cases learn to read in Turkish from 
a master. But a mere outside teaching — ^where the 
heart and soul are left out, and where the instruc- 
tion stops altogether at the age when we think 
girls are just beginning to profit by what they 
learn — does not change or improve the character 
much. It is better than nothing; but it is sur- 



128 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

prising how few seem to care to keep up the little 
they know. The girl I told you of who was glad 
her parents had sold her because of the fine clothes 
and nice things she obtained, was one of those who 
had a little education ; but being able to play a 
few tunes on the piano, and read tolerably in two 
languages, or even three, does very little good if 
the mind is still so uncultivated that there is no 
wish for instruction. 

The being from infancy deprived of all relations, 
all family life, has a very bad effect on the dis- 
position. We know that in the case of poor orphans 
in England, who are reared in schools, the want 
of family and home often hinders their developing 
in many ways as well as other young people, and 
that "cottage homes" for these little strays are 
found to answer better. But the poor little white 
slave children have not the wholesome discipline of 
a school ; and the hareem life, from what I know 
of it, is, I should think, the worst possible training. 
Luxurious without comfort, irregular though profuse 
in everything, surrounded by women accustomed ta 
look out each for herself, and with neither parents, 
sister, brother, aunts, or any one belonging to them, 
it is no wonder if they are generally selfish and 
devoted to dress, eating, and all the lower pleasures. 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 129 

The exceptions must have remarkably amiable dis- 
positions, and such there are among them, as I can 
testify. 

" I never knew what family love meant tiU my 
little boy was born, because I never had any one 
that belonged to me," said a sweet young woman 
to me one day, who is more fortunate than most 
white slaves in her lot, being married to a worthy 
man, and his sole wife, respected as well as loved. 
But she had evidently felt the strange loneliness 
of heart of being a solitary one among hundreds 
brought up by royalty and petted from a child, . 
beautifol and wealthy ; still the heart had yearned 
after something, it knew not what ; and when after 
her little son's arrival she tasted the joy of mother's 
love, she then xmderstood what it was she had been 
vaguely longing for. " There are," she said, " so 
many hundreds like me, who have never known 
parents, brother, or sister, or any relative at all;" 
and there was a look in the lovely wistful eyes, as 
if she would say, " There is surely something wrong 
somewhere ; it ought not to be so /" 

I know two white slaves who were purchased 
years ago by a rich merchant as wives for his two 
sons, and brought here from Constantinople. They 

reside in Cairo, and the two little girls of the two 

9 



130 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

brothers have for some time come to my school, 
and I often visit the mothers, who are very pleasant 
and gentle in their manners, and so cleanly and 
nice in dress and habits that they are a contrast 
to some of their neighbours ; for Turkish families, 
and those brought up in them, are much more 
cleanly than Egyptians; and it is right to' give 
credit to everyone for what they deserve. 

Well, I one day asked one of my friends if she 
could recollect anything about her childhood, or if 
she had been too young when sold, as is often the 
case. " Oh I I recollect very well," she said, "I was 
about so high," holding her hand at the height of 
a child of from five to seven years old. "My father 
had been killed in some battle, and my . mother 
had soon followed him. I was reared by an old 
grandmother, from whom I used to hear this. She 
was partly blind, and therefore could not, I suppose, 
watch me carefully enough. I was at play at our 
door one day in the street, and a strange man came 
near and held out his hand with some sweetmeats, 
which he offered me. Child-like, I accepted them, 
and he then said, beckoning me on, that he had 
some more and prettier ones just down the street 
a little farther. So I went, fearing nothing ; and 
as we turned the corner, suddenly he covered my 



I 



SLAVERY AS rr IS IN EGYPT. 131 

face and flung me on a horse and galloped off, and 
I recollect no more — I was so frightened. It is 
all dark till I see myself again in a great city, 
jnst arriving, and afterwards knew that this was 
Stambonl (Stamboul is the Turk's name for Con- 
stantinople, as I daresay you know). When there, 
I was bought by an old Turkish lady, who was 
kind enough, and had me taught to sew and 
embroider ; but when I was still young she died, 
and her heirs sold me with her property, and my 
husband's father purchased me. A great many 
children in our countries are stolen by means of 
sugar-plums," she added ; " it is a common trick ; 
there are men who go about on purpose, as I have 
heard." She does not know whether her country 
is Georgia or Circassia, or some province near these 
regions; but her face is like the Georgian style, 
being fair, with dark eyes and hair. 

We often see men of the Circassian race (who 
are Mohammedans) on their way to Mecca as 
pilgrims ; they do not stay long in Cairo, as they 
go on to Suez to take ship for Arabia (Mecca 
being the holy city of the Mohammedans, which 
they visit as a religious act, if possible, at least 
once in their lives). During the short stay of the 
various pilgrims, we see many from distant lands. 



132 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

and, as I said, Circassians among them. Many of 
these men have a cast of feature and complexion 
strongly reminding one of Englishmen, though I 
think in general they are shorter in stature than 
is usual with well-grown Englishmen. But what 
a difference in countenance and expression ! — such 
fierce, wild, cruel-looking fellows too many are, 
and stalk about the streets With a ferocious look, 
which does not make one desire their acquaintance, 
and generally a hand is resting on the great belt 
they wear, in a suspicious manner, this belt being 
literally stuffed with knives, daggers, and pistols 
of various kinds. And yet, when we see the 
complexion and features so like what we are 
accustomed to see at home, how strongly comes 
the thought, Who made us to differ? If it were 
not for God's grace and an open Bible, we might 
be bloodthirsty ruffians like them. There are, alas ! 
bad and ruffianly men in England as elsewhere to 
be found ; but, thank God, we are not a nation of 
cut-throats or child-sellers — there is "salt" among 
us. But let us beware; if England ever gives up the 
Bible, the salt will lose its savour, and then is only 
fit to be trodden under foot, as the Scripture says. 

Let us pray to be kept by God's power and 
mercy from letting go our title-deeds to forgive- 



SLAVERY AS IT IS IN EGYPT. 133 

ness and eternal life ; and let us also pray for 
those who are in bondage, of whatever kind, that 
many among them may be gathered into the fold 
and made free in Christ ; and let us not forget to 
pray that the Lord may soon come again, to receive 
the glory of a renewed world and reign Prince of 
peace, putting down the oppressor and the tyrant — 
when Jerusalem as the centre of the earth is puri- 
fied and sanctified — ^when "the streets are full of 
boys and giils playing in the streets thereof. ' 
Oh I then will be no more the cruel steialing of 
poor innocent little ones. They may play safely 
and fear nothing ; for then shall the " crooked be 
made straight and the rough places plain." 



134 



LETTER X. 

THE VILLAGE. 

The cultivators of the ground, who, as well as 
keepers of cattle, are usually called Fellaheen 
(Fellah, the accent on the last syllable, being the 
word in the singular) inhabit the villages strewn 
over the great plain of Egypt ; a solitary hut or 
cottage is not to be seen; all are gathered into 
villages, and the " country," as we say in England, 
in contrast to town, is by citizens here generally 
spoken of as the peasants', or "farmers' country." 
The dress and habits are more different from 
those of the town than in many other places, 
partly because the peasants cling much more to 
old ways .The cultivator, even if quite wealthy, has 
the same style of garment as the labourers, only 
better in quality and more abundant ; and his wife 
wears the same ample checked blue mantle, with 
its fringed border, as her poorer neighbour, only 
that it is good and strong, and bordered with 



THE VILLAGE. 135 

crimson silk^ and conceals a gold necklace and 
earrings within its folds. 

The wealthy cultivator does not inhabit a mere 
hut such as I described in teUing you of the habi- 
tations of the poor. In most of the larger villages 
are found from one or two to perhaps eight or 
ten houses of a better description, composed of two 
courts or yards one within the other, with open 
rooms, or rather sheds, just roofed over with rough 
beams, or more frequently reeds; in one of these 
cattle are housed at night, in another the people 
carry on all the work that is not done in the open 
court, or if it be so windy as to make a little 
shelter desirable. 

Shelling beans, husking maize, sifting wheat, 
grinding flour, which in the country is usually by 
a handmill, and all cooking, is carried on either in 
the yard or the sheds, which are sometimes of a 
considerable size, in other houses small, accord- 
ing to the owner's means. In all a sort of raised 
seat is found in one of the sheds, which is called 
the salamlik ; this is the room where men guests 
are received, they are never taken into the inner 
rooms, which belong to the women. On this raised 
seat, or ledge^ for it is nothing more than a stone 
or. brick ledge, is spread a carpet or mat, when 



136 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

guests come, and there they smoke and drink coffee, 
and I have seen carpets of great beauty and value 
from Persia or Damascus brought out on these 
occasions, in houses of a very humble appearance, 
and with scarcely any furniture. The inner rooms 
are one, two, or three little dens, without windows, 
and with low doors, dark and close therefore, used 
for sleeping in cold weather, and for keeping any- 
thing of value, as they have a lock. From these 
receptacles are brought out the carpets mentioned, 
which are rolled up carefully, the brass cooking 
utensils used on occasion of a feast, and the hard- 
stuffed pillows, that answer instead of chairs, being 
placed for the guest to lean his back or arm on, 
as he sits upon the carpet. In a farmer's house 
where I was visiting on the banks of the Nile, 
the good woman remarking I must be tired, 
having walked some way, obligingly went into her 
inner room and fetched a pillow or cushion of a 
peculiar shape, covered with the hide of a calf, with 
the hair on ; it was extremely comfortable on a 
rather cold winter day; it was only stuffed with 
straw, and was home-made, but I thought it in- 
genious. Most rich farmers' wives have in this 
same den a good-sized box painted green, and 
ornamented with brass; this is sometimes called 



THE VILLAGE. 137 

a bride's box, as every country woman brings one 
to contain her clothes and little treasures when she 
marries, and many contain handsome sets of gold 
jewels, though in general these are worn constantly 
by the possessor, and not kept for " high days " 
only. I do not say I approve of women spending 
much on gold and jewels to put on, and it looks very 
much out of place to see, as one does in this country, 
gold coins hung round the neck when the dress 
is both dirty and torn. But we cannot look on it, 
as we should in England, as a mere love of finery, 
for the jewels are all the woman can lawfully keep 
if she be divorced, as the wretched law of the 
Moslems allows, for anything or nothing^ so that 
but for some of these gold things, many a poor 
creature would go forth to starve. The Christian 
Egyptian cannot be treated in this way, but if 
left a widow, the law permits her husband's 
brothers, and father, if living, to take most of the 
property, to the exclusion of the children, at least 
only allowing them a small share, and the widow 
a still smaller. So her necklace is often her only 
bank, for whatever is on her person they cannot 
touch. I know more than formerly now about 
those passages in Scripture speaking of the 
^^ cause ^^ of the widow and fatherless, since I 



138 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

have learned how such are pushed out of their 
little possessions in the East^ and how little the 
law protects them. 

But to return to the farmers' dwellings. The 
country houses, as well as huts of the poor, have 
still in most cases the old wooden lock and key, 
which, when I first was in Egypt, was the only 
one ever seen, except in European houses ; the 
hired house in which I lived, in a native quarter, 
had a key a foot long, I remember. Now Euro- 
pean keys are gradually coming into use, but the 
old kind, though very clumsy, have an interest in 
our minds, because it is evident they are the keys 
alluded to in the Bible, when Isaiah the prophet 
says, "The key I will lay on his shoulder;" it 
would be almost absurd to think of one of our 
little keys laid as a weight on a man's shoulder, 
but a great heavy wooden thing might be put there, 
as in the East everything is carried either on the 
shoulder or head that can by any means be put 
there. The wooden key has notches to fit the corres- 
ponding ones in the lock, and are very fidgety and 
troublesome to open for those not long used to them. 

Village dwellings near the river are generally 
surrounded by a palm grove, and some have two 
or three palms planted in their yards; not unfre- 



THE VILLAGE. 



139 



quently a palm-tree is used as one of the posts 
of the doorway. The light shade thus given is 
very pleasant in the fine winter weather, of Egypt. 
Now and then a house belonging to a great man, 
and occupied by his agent (or by his family now 
and then for a change), will be seen in a village 
distinguished by whitewashed walls and glass 
windows ; though these are generally very primitive 
inside, and built only of mud brick. A curious 
addition to most villages is the Egyptian pigeon- 
house, which is quite original. It consists of a 
great number of rude earthen pots, built into a 
mud wall, in the form of a dame^ or little tower ; 
in this the birds make their nests, and it is very 
singular to watch them aU coming out of their 
jars in a flock, and flying off to seek food, and again 
returning at night, and each knowing its own place 
" They shall fly as doves to their windows," pro- 
bably alluded to some such kind of pigeon-house. 
I have already told you about the huts of the 
poor people, who of course are the most numerous, 
and which resemble those in the suburbs of towns 
and inside the towns also, in some quarters. Many 
small hamlets consist of nothing but a cluster of 
such miserable huts as those, but in the larger vil- 
lages there will be usually found some people who 



140 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

are well off. A large tree is very often found near 
the middle of a village, where the men assemble to 
chat of an evening, as is the case in European villages. 
The favourite tree is either a sycamore-fig, or a mul- 
berry, both of which grow to immense size. 

The countryman has plenty to do during the chief 
part of the year, and gets through a great deal on 
very frugal fare. If taxed only in moderation, and 
not allowed to be fleeced by under officials, acting 
like the " publicans " or taxgatherers in our Lord's 
time in Judea, who robbed the people to fill their 
own purses, the peasant would have enough for 
his simple wants, and none need suffer, because the 
land is so fertile, and brings either two or three 
successive crops in a year. Ploughing is done by 
oxen or buffaloes, as is the threshing or treading 
out of the corn. For this business a man sits in a 
sort of wooden chair without legs, and with some 
simple machinery under it, which crushes the com 
as the oxen draw it about on a space of hard beaten 
earth ; the feet of the animals and the machine 
together knock out the grains. Winnomng is done 
with a shovel, tossing up the corn on a breezy day. 
They leave the grain out in heaps till it is sold, the 
climate being so dry. 

The cattle form a great part of the peasant's 



THE VILLAGE. 141 

wealth, and are of various kinds. The Egjrptian 
cow is large, and capable of working, and both 
cows and oxen are nsed in the water-works, etc. 
But buffaloes are more numerous, being cheaper 
to keep and very strong, besides giving a greater 
quantity of mUk, though the butter is not equal 
to cow's butter, nor will it keep fresh so long. 
The Egyptian buffalo is larger than the cow, and 
is rather an unwieldly creature to look at, of a 
dark-grey colour, with scanty rough hair on the 
skin, and huge horns, and projecting bones on 
its back ; but it is generally of a very gentle dis- 
position, and is frequently ridden by the children 
of its owner when going to and from pasture, 
and a buffalo calf is constantly to be seen at the 
door of a hut with the baby playing beside it. 
In the lower lands the buffalo does particularly 
well, as it delights in water, and is seen in the time 
of inundation swimming across the canals or the 
river (often with a man on its back), or wading in 
pools up to its great horns, giving occasional puffs 
of satisfaction at the bath. A great many goats 
are also kept. There are two or three varieties, but 
the conmionest is a kind with rather short hair, 
usually brown or chesnut, marked with white, and 
many of which are hornless, the he goats almost 



142 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

always so. A long-haired goat is not uncommon 
however, black or white. Sheep are very often 
brown, or white with a black neck and head. Great 
flocks of goats and sheep are to be seen on the 
banks of the river or by the canals ; in wann 
weather they come from a distance to drink, the 
pools being then dry, and it is very pretty to see 
them resting in the shade of a tree in the heat of 
the day, and recalls the words of Scripture in the 
Song of Solomon, where the Church of Christ is 
represented under the figure of a shepherd's bride 
seeking the bridegroom, — " Tell me, thou whom 
my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou 
makest thy flock to rest at noon." 

The arable land is not in Egypt divided by hedges, 
as in England ; measurement is the only thing to 
decide the limits of the different fields, though of 
course trees, canals, etc., serve as landmarks to the 
eye. The measurement is made by a reed of a 
certain length, and in writing of deeds and leases 
it is always said so many " reed lengths." I was 
struck years ago by first seeing a man measuring 
ground in this way ; he had a long smooth reed of 
the kind before described in his hand, and laid it 
down and lifted it up, making a running leap with 
great dexterity, and thus went on springing from 



144 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

little hamlet, with occasionally a tent of ragged 
goats' hair, though these last more properly belong 
to the wandering Bedouins. I have often visited 
colonies of this kind; one visit which had much 
interest connected with it was in the winter of 1877. 
The Nile overflow had been very low that autumn, 
and much distress was the consequence, especially 
on some of the districts depending only on the riverr 
flow for watering. This was the case with the poor 
little colony of Bedouins. Their land was usually 
just sufficient to provide corn for their bread, and 
fodder for their few goats and camels, but not a 
single ear of wheat would grow for want of the 
water, and they had only existed by selling from 
time to time a goat or a camel, and living on the 
com bought with its price as long as they could. 
As to clothes, all they had were in rags, and several 
of the children had none at all. The reed enclosures^ 
with three or four tiny round mud huts, were all 
their habitations — five or six families I think there 
were. We bought some eggs of the poor women, 
and paid a little extra to help them, — the more 
willingly that they did not clamour for money as 
so many do in the villages where Europeans are 
often seen. I do not think these poor Bedouins 
had ever seen a visitor in their miserable little 



^ 



THE VILLAGE. 145 

abode before ; they were greatly surprised evidently, 
but very civilly asked us, not to " come in " exactly — 
for unless we crawled on hands and knees we could 
not have done so — ^but to sit down in their enclo- 
sure of reeds, which kept off a little of the high 
wind and the clouds of dust which it brought, and 
one kindly offered her husband's goats' hair cloak 
^s a seat ; but it was not inviting, and with many 
thanks I said I preferred the sand. The men of the 
company were going to join some companions in an 
expedition for selling one of their remaining goats, 
and some of our party had gone on to a much 
larger village a little way off, so that I was left 
alone with the women, about six of whom, with a 
few children, sat in a circle round me, and after a 
little talk in order to introduce the subject and 
make friends with them, I asked if they would 
listen while I read something out of God's Word. 
"You know how to read, then?" asked an old 
woman; "but your book is, I suppose, in Frank 
language ? " (meaning some European tongue). 
"No, it is Arabic." "Well, that is wonderful," 
said she; " read and let us hear." I was in my 
turn surprised to. find so much intelligence and 
intellect in women whose outward appearance was 

so low and wretched. The little that peeped above 

10 



THE VILLAGE. 143 

measure to measure quickly, yet as it seemed ac- 
curately. Another man accompanied him, walking 
behind, — at a much slower pace, however. Perhaps 
you may recollect, in the measuring of Ezekiel's 
temple (in the fortieth chapter of Ezekiel), the reed 
of six cubits long and the height and breadth of 
different parts being said to be "one reed." So this 
is one among the many things that remain un- 
changed from the old days. A yet more interesting 
reference is to that verse in Revelation where John 
says the angel that talked with him " had a golden 
reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and 
the wall thereof" (Rev. xxi. 18). 

Those villages which are near the desert have 
usually a fence of these same reeds upon the side 
exposed to the high winds and drifting sand of the 
desert, which would injure the crops. Some Be- 
douin families, descendants of the wandering Arab 
tribes who had land given them to induce them to 
settle, by Government, a good many years ago, make 
huts of reeds, sometimes a sort of square "wigwam,'* 
sometimes a mere inclosure, without any roof, and 
in these poor abodes they actually live, except for 
a short time in winter, when they sleep in the little 
round mud hovels with a hole for a door, of which 
a few added to the reed dwellings make up their 



148 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

beautiful green clover; in early spring the same^ 
with its white flowers ; in summer, chopped straw, 
in huge panniers of netting slung over camels' 
backs, or in boats piled up with the same, if on the 
river side. These men are generally fine and sturdy 
looking; their swarthy complexions, which do not 
suit European dress, look very well in their own 
white turbans, with great mantles of either white 
or brown, or of a dark blackish-purple colour, 
hanging over their shoulders, and their feet bare. 
Sometimes you see a man carrying a pair of nice red 
or yellow leather shoes over his shoulder by a string, 
to put on when he is in the market with his friends, 
but he walks better barefoot when he has some 
distance to come. 

While he is busy with the sheep and goats, the 
com and maize and red lentils, the fodder and the 
calves, etc., his wife and daughters have joined the 
crowd of countrywomen who are chattering, as 
women are apt to do at market in any country. 
They have put on their best clothes, if not too poor, 
as are very many, to possess any but the ragged 
blue garment and veil they wear. Those who can, 
however, appear in flowing veils of thin black 
muslin, or sometimes, though not so often, in light 

blue, with dark purple or blue dress, hanging loose 



THE VILLAGE* 149 

without belt or sash, and with long wide sleeves, 
which, thrown back, display the massive silver 
bracelets, and the necklace of gold coins, or curious 
gold ornaments shaped like little fish (often very 
old, having come down from mother to daughter), 
or gold and coral beads. Some have, instead, a 
circle of plain bright silver, as thick as a woman's 
little finger, round the neck. Some wear — ^what is 
never seen in the city, unless on a countrywoman 
passing by — a nose ring. In some villages they 
are very much worn ; in others, only here and there 
a woman wiU wear one. This ornament, which to 
our taste is not becoming, and must be exceedingly 
inconvenient, one would suppose, is of great antiquity, 
and appears formerly to have been worn in Pales- 
tine, though now not often met with there. 

The dark blue of the dress is from the durableness 
of the indigo dye, which makes it more suitable for 
those who work in the fields than the gay prints 
worn in the cities. Many of the peasant women 
still wear strong native linen, instead of cotton, 
dyed of a purplish or deep blue colour ; and most, 
who can afford it, have a long crimson silk cord, 
with large tassels, fastened to the plaits of their hair, 
hanging down behind ; it does not seem of any use, 

but they like it, and I must say it is both prettier to 



150 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

look at, and mucli more cleanly, than the detestable 
bunches of false hair which many yonng women wore 
not so long ago, or than a good many articles of tawdry 
vulgar finery on which money is wasted among us. 

Almost every woman comes into market with a 
load on her head of some kind, — either a pitcher of 
sour milk, or a skin of the same, with lumps of 
butter in it, or a basket of eggs or fowls, cheese or 
dates, leeks or onions, or any vegetables in season. 
There is little except provisions of a conmion kind, 
cattle, etc., and a few coloured prints, and pieces of 
unbleached calico, thread, etc., sold in the market ; 
scarcely anything of show or luxury, unless it be a 
few tiny looking-glasses, and clumsy combs, and red 
handkerchiefs in a comer. It is only of late years 
that a few plates and dishes are occasionally found 
in the houses of the wealthier farmers ; the coarse 
red pottery of the country, made in a sort of pan, 
being the only earthen vessels in most village 
dwellings, and even these not numerous. 

I recollect being once oflTered some bread and milk 
in a pan of this kind by a friendly peasant woman, 
who was quite hurt that I should not eat with her 
(when paying a rather early visit). It was on the 
banks of the Nile, in a large village. She was very 
well off for cows and goats, etc., but had not such 



THE VILLAGE. 151 

a thing as a cup or bowl in her honse, nor pan of 
moderate size, only the huge one which the family 
sat round and ate from together at supper, I suppose. 
I picked out a morsel or two to gratify her, but 
thought it an odd way of taking bread and milk, 
with neither spoon nor cup. 

I used to wonder in those early days how they 
drank, till I saw them lift a pitcher of considerable 
weight (though much smaller than that carried on 
the head to brinff water) ^nA.pour the draught from 
a height into their throats. I tried to do the same, 
but early habit being wanting, I only succeeded in 
watering my clothes plentifully, without getting 
more than a drop or two in the right direction. 

The countrywomen are by no means as carefully 
veiled as the townspeople, and a great many of the 
poorer ones have no face-covering at all ; but if 
they have to speak to a man, most will draw the 
muslin veil across the mouth and nose, holdmg it 
with one hand, or in the teeth, if both hands are 
busy weighing cheese or dates. Those who are in 
what they think proper full dress, have the black 
face-veil I described before, but you see very few of 
these in the villages. They are freer in their ways, 
and less afraid of mixing with men in the way of 
business than townspeople ; but still keep much 



152 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

more distant than is thought necessary in Euro- 
pean countries. 

Though Egyptians are naturally good-natured, 
and very hospitable, it is impossible for any stranger 
to get a lodging in a village,* because the habits of 
the people do not allow the women of the family to 
see or admit any one. If a friend comes to see a 
villager, he is received in the room I described as 
the salamlik, if in a rich peasant's house ; if not, 
under a tree, where a carpet or mat is spread. A 
lady can, however, gain an entrance much more 
easily, of course, and though in soTtie villages (either 
from the bigoted character of the people, or from 
their shdkk, or head man, being of a superstitious 
nature, and disliking Christians), it would be very 
difficult to get on friendly terms, yet these I have 
found to be few compared with those in which I 
was received with friendly and cordial kindness. 

Many years ago I was with a little party on the 
river in a Nile boat, and we were delayed by bad 
winds. Being short of bread, we landed at a small 
village, and tried to purchase some of the very un- 
tempting flaps of dark native sour bread, for hunger 
is glad of even the humblest fare. But not one would 

* Unless in a Sheikh's house occasionally, as that may possibly 
contain several rooms. 




THE VILLAGE!. 153 

sell a single loaf. "We bake for ourselveS;" one 
sulky old woman said, " and have none for strangers." 
" But we wiU pay you well ; see, here is money," said 
one of the gentlemen, shaking a purse ; and knowing 
that money is very scarce in these places, we expected 
success. But no, the feeling evidently was that 
there was some ill luck in letting Christians get 
their bread. " We have none ; we don't sell," was 
the only reply, and we returned to our boat, and had 
to defer our breakfast till late in the afternoon, 
when we reached Cairo. 

Very diflferent was the reception we found in 
another village (several years afterwards), when 
visiting on the banks of the Nile, and happened 
to find the good woman of a house at which we 
caUed engaged in baking. We were quite unknown 
to her, but she politely asked me and the lady 
who accompanied me to come in and rest, while 
the gentleman of the party had to go with the 
master of the house, a respectable countryman, to 
the outer court, where the men's seat was prepared 
for him by spreading a carpet. We apologized 
for coming in where the women were so busy, but 
said we should like to see how they did it, if not 
troublesome. The woman begged us to stay "all 
day," as she said, and entreated us to eat as much of 



154 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

her hot bread as we liked. We were not in want 
of any, bnt tasted it to please her, with thanks for 
her civility. You would have been amused to see 
the process. This was dourra, or maize bread, which 
is often used when the store of wheat is finished. 
It is more troublesome to make by far, because the 
maize flour has scarcely any gluten in it, that is, 
it will not stick together, as the children say, 
without great difficulty and being much worked. 
In America, I believe, they mix a portion of com- 
mon flour with it, and thus make pretty good 
bread, but here they were using it because they 
had no other flour ; so the plan was to let it rise 
with leaven (or sour dough) very high indeed, till 
an extremely light moist sponge ; the vessel this 
woman had was as big as a washing tub, and was 
brimming over with the dough, which was too sour 
for our taste, but they relish it so. One woman took 
up a small piece and threw lightly on a well floured 
wooden shovel or spade, with a short handle, and 
then cleverly shook it till the soft dough became 
a very thin flat cake ; she then quickly shoved it 
on to another spade, held by the baker, who was 
squatting at the oven door, and who popped it into 
the heated place, and pulled out the cake within, 
handing it to a third, who laid it on a heap of 




THE VILLAGE. 155 

large thin pancake-lite loaves beside her. Their rapid 
action was very amusing to watch ; I never saw 
anything done more nimbly and handily, but with 
all their quickness, it was a long process. They 
said maize would not do in any other way ; as they 
chiefly lived on bread, and there were several growing 
lads in the family, this huge quantity would only 
last three or four days, the mother told me! 

The village houses never have any sort of garden 
around them ; if a farmer has a garden at all, 
it is a patch of vegetables at some little distance, 
under the palm grove, or adjoining his cornfield 
or other crops. There are beautiful gardens be- 
longing to the great men in some parts of the 
country, but the poor people have not yet learnt 
to see that when they live near the water (for 
otherwise certainly the expense would make it im- 
possible for a poor man), a few flowers and pot- 
herbs cost nothing but a little trouble. It is 
merely ignorance, for they all like flowers, especially 
sweet-scented ones, and if water, as I said, is near, 
plants will grow very rapidly in such a climate. 
I hope in time they may learn to improve their 
dwellings, both within and without, and not to 
mind a little trouble for the sake of a great deal 
of comfort, and some innocent pleasure. 



156 




LETTER XI. 

TOWN LIFE. 

Thb Egyptians are naturally ingenious in handi- 
craft, but fonnerly seem to have carried their 
manufactures to greater perfection, especially con- 
sidering the want of implements in old times. 
In some respects they have lost undoubtedly ; the 
beautiful wood-carving, for which they were so 
famous, is lost as an art ; no one living can do 
it now in the old style. Formerly, wooden lattices, 
carved in a variety of patterns, and most in- 
geniously, were used instead of glass windows, 
which are of course more convenient in some 
respects, but on account of the glare of the sun, 
wooden blinds of some sort are quite necessary, and 
the old carvings are very imperfectly supplied by 
modem Turkish blinds or Italian shutters* The 
fine linen of Egypt, so famous of old, has now 
disappeared, and only a coarse kind, worn by 
peasants, is made, good in its way, but by no 



TOWN LIFB. 157 

means choice ; the handlooms cannot compete with 
the steam of Europe, and both cotton and linen 
from Europe are procured more cheaply than they 
can make them. The coarse kind I allude to keeps 
its steady sale up, however, because the peasant 
women prefer what is lasting, and it wears three 
times as long as any of our manufactured goods 
of a similar style. They also weave some silk for 
the same reason ; those who want a good quality 
that will wear long prefer the native kind to the 
cheaper fabrics of France. Their silk is dear, 
but very lasting, and of a beautiful pattern ; the 
native ladies hardly ever use it now, but the trades- 
men, merchants, and wealthier artizans use it for 
their kaftaTis and waistcoats. 

Though the old custom of selling every kind of 
article, as well as making them, in special quarters, 
each for itself, is a good deal broken in upon by 
the introduction of European shops for mixed goods, 
still it keeps up for all native goods, and is the 
general custom of the cities in Egypt, as in most 
if not all Eastern cities. These quarters, composed 
of one, two, or three streets, as may be, are called 
" sooks," translated market, but they do not answer 
at all to our market ; they use the word more viridely 
in fact. My servant will tell me, " The market for 



158 LETTBKS FROM EGYPT. 

vegetables is over," just as one in England might 
say ; but lie will add, "Shall I go to the brass market 
for those pans ? " or " to the shoe market for the 
red shoes for the school girls ? " Europeans often 
call them bazaars, and natives, also, indeed under- 
stand the word, but it is, I believe, an Indian one, 
meaning the same as " sook," merely a place where 
goods are displayed. English ladies now give the 
name to a fancy sale for charitable purposes, but 
the original signification was widely different. There 
are in Cairo two or three shoe quarters, consisting 
of narrow streets lined with small den-like shops, 
occupying the ground-floor of large houses (used 
as dwelling houses). In these dens, amidst dozens 
of red and yellow native shoes of various kinds, 
the owner, with sometimes an assistant, sits cross- 
legged stitching away, and receiving his occasional 
customers. They are Jmt occasional, except at the 
festival times, and then a great business is done. 
Every artizan in town, and every peasant in the 
village for miles round, comes to buy a new pair 
of shoes "for the feast," and every boy and girl 
above the position of a beggar expects this treat, 
though they may often go barefoot, when this pair 
is worn out, till the feast comes round again. 
Being much cheaper than European shoes, the man 



TOWN LIFE. 159 

must be poor indeed who cannot afford his chil- 
dren at least the commonest kind. They are hard 
bargainers, however, and as the system of fixed 
price does not yet prevail, a good deal of time is 
often spent over a small thing. 

** By your eyes it is too dear," says a sturdy, bronze- 
faced country-man, balancing on his labour-hardened 
hand a pretty little pair of red pointed shoes, suited 
to the small delicate feet of a little Egyptian of 
some two or three years. 

" Dear I on the contrary, they are too cheap ; 
only it is for the feast, I should otherwise ask 
more," replies the turbaned shoemaker, pulling his 
thread out of a great pair of stout yellow slippers 
with very thick soles (meant for peasant's wear). 

"Six piastres for these little things, and not 
strong either! I will give three and a half." 

" May God open " (answering to " God forbid I 
should do so"), replies the man of shoes, taking the 
pair out of the other's hand, and hanging it on a 
hook before him. 

"As I promised my little Ayusha, and they are 
just her size," says the poor man, looking tenderly 
at them, and speaking half to himself, half to the 
tradesman, "come, say four, and I will have 
them." 



160 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

" By the Prophet it is not possible — ^no, it is 
finished ; four indeed! " 

The peasant jerks his mantle over his shoulder, 
and turns away ; then looks back and says, " Four 
and a half — I am going away." 

"Well, I am giving them away, hut for your 
sake — ^there I " and the bargain is concluded. 

I give the conversation as I heard it last winter ; 
I was buying something near, and could not help 
listening, and the man, with the true Egyptian love 
of sympathy, turned to me to exhibit them. I hope 
Ayusha was pleased. 

The saddlers' quarter is at least as important as 
the shoemakers', donkey saddles in particular being 
an article of constant use here. Formerly, when 
only two or three carriages were to be found in all 
Cairo, every one rode everywhere on donkeys. They 
answered completely to cabs, etc., and had the 
advantage of being very cheap, and of being able 
to go into narrow streets impassable for carriages. 
Now many of these narrow streets have been 
widened, and many more carriages are used; still 
the donkey is a very useful helper for the town, 
and in the country is the usual mode of conveyance 
along the narrow cross roads. 

The native saddle is made of red leather with a 



TOWN LIFE. 161 

curious hump, stuffed with straw, in front, and the 

bridles and head-fittings are adorned with tassels 

of coloured cotton, wool, or even silk, so that they 

are very gay affairs when new. The horse furniture 

and saddle are still more so ; they are covered with 

cloth or velvet, and have (when made for great 

men) a beautiful fringe of gold or silver, and 

cases for pistols at the side. 

Then we have the sugar-market, where not only 

sugar, but dried fruit and other groceries are sold ; 

the scent market, in a quarter so narrow that 

scarcely even a single donkey can pass, and where 

the air is heavy with the rich odour of frankincense 

and myrrh, and various Arabian scents much prized 

in the harems; and the gold and silver market, 

where the native bracelets and necklaces are made, 

and where also gold thread and wire and silver 

spangles, etc., for embroidery are sold^ by weight. 

Silk for this purpose is found in a quarter close 

by, and you would be amused to see the seller 

winding the fine silk on his bare foot, holding it 

with the toe, while he dexterously winds the needed 

quantity, and then weighs it in his pretty little 

brass scales. From these delicate articles we come 

to much coarser ones — ^the makers of wooden combs, 

wooden pegs, etc. ; then to the workers in palm 

11 



162 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

frames for cageS; hampers, and a great many other 
things ; then the street of the sieve-makers, where 
every family sifts its own flour for bread : sieves 
are a very important household article. Then we 
have the brass quarter, where the quantities of 
brazen vessels in use, and for which Cairo is 
famous — ^from the immense pan used by washer- 
women, and the caldron which would easily boil 
a lamb whole if needed, down to the pretty little 
brass coffee-pot used by the shopman for his single 
cup of coffee. The din in this quarter is deafening, 
and I am sure all who live near it must early lose 
their hearing. 

It would be too tedious to go through all the 

various trades ; but I must mention one more which 

is peculiar to Egypt, and used to puzzle me when 

a stranger here. A whole street was occupied by 

men, each in his den, with a very simple machine^ 

which assisted him in twisting long ropes of crimson 

silk and large tassels of the same, with a little 

black and white sometimes worked up with it. 

At last I found these were merely an ornament 

but an indispensable one in their eyes, for the 

countrywomen, as before described. When muflSied 

in their mantles, of course it is hidden. I suppose 

the good woman is happy in knowing it is there. 



TOWN LIFE. 163 

even if little displayed ; and we must allow that 
in civilised Europe women will persist in wearing 
articles quite as useless and muck more troublesome 
—such as chignons, trains, high-heeled shoes, and 
others. 

A great many tobacco shops are found scattered 
through the town, not in a special quarter, the 
people being much given to smoke. As a rule, 
their tobacco is less unwholesome than that used 
in Europe by far, being mflder in quality. The 
peasants do not go about smoking all day as in 
Germany and many other countries ; they only 
take a smoke while resting, usually from a long 
cherry stick pipe, handed from one to the other, 
or a water-pipe made of a cocoa-nut (of which 
numbers are brought from India), and a reed; the 
smoke is passed through the water by this means, 
and elderly men especially seem to enjoy this 
luxury. The wealthy have the same thing, but 
made of glass, and with a coloured tube of great 
length, that winds round the bowl. Paper cigars 
are also in great use, and are now seen more 
frequently than the long pipe, or chibouk, as it 
was called, which older ladies still however prefer. 
In the harems the ladies smoke a great deal, 
and I think it injures their health. Even women 



164 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

of a hombler class often smoke cigars a great deal, 
but you seldom see comitrywomen smoke, and they 
are the healthiest of the population. I cannot 
make out that these inveterate smokers are ever 
the better for it, and certainly they waste both 
money and time ; but this last is not yet valued 
as it ought to be here. 

Formerly each district of the city had an arched 
doorway to the chief of the narrow little streets of 
the quarter, and a huge massive wooden door, which 
was locked after a certain hour at night ; and if 
by a rare chance I had been to see friends, and 
was returning after ten o'clock, my servant had 
to arouse the doorkeeper, who was asleep on a 
bench beside this great door, and get him to un- 
lock it ; often a quarter of an hour was spent in 
waking him up and waiting by persons who returned 
late. 

Many of these doors are now taken away in the 
making of the new streets, and the largest thorough- 
fares in the city (though only these) are lighted 
now with gas. Formerly we had to take a lamp 
if going out even the shortest distance after sunset ; 
but even now it is needful if going to a wedding, 
for instance, or any visit to a native family out of 
the broad highway. 




TOWN LIFE. 165 

The little old-fashioned lamps were of prepared 
paper or calico, made to fold up flat and go in a 
man's pocket, a piece of wax taper being carried 
with them. These are still found, but glass lanterns 
are more conmion with persons of the better sort, 
who generally make a servant (or slave-boy if they 
are natives) walk in front carrying it. In the 
narrow lanes of a great part of the city, where 
rubbish is always found, and where the half-wild 
dogs are crouching about among the dust-h^aps, 
and stones encumber the path, it is necessary to 
pick the way very carefolly if walking at night, 
and the lamp is usually held as low as possible, 
in order to throw light on the path for a few steps 
before the person walking. This is no doubt an 
old custom. Formerly, when no gas was found in 
Egypt, I used to watch from my window in the 
city passengers returning home in the short winter 
evenings, and each one carrying his lantern, or his 
servant, if a rich man, holding it before his feet, 
and think of the comparison in the Psalm, " Thy 
word is a light unto my feet and a lantern to my 
paihr Just light for the way, step by step, is all 
we are to expect as the little lantern throws its ray 
on the rough footpath I 

I will try to give you a glance, as it were, at 



166 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

some little daily scenes of city life before ending 
this letter, and the simplest way will be just to 
note down the things as they passed before me in 
a morning ride through part of the town at an 
early hour in summer. The chief difference in 
winter would be that the hour would be ten instead 
of seven, and that the articles brought from the 
country, vegetables and fruit, would be different, 
and the passers-by more muffled up, and the old 
folks sitting in sunny corners of their dusty lanes 
instead of choosing the shade of the old crumbling 
walls as in hot weather. But life in Egjrpt is 
always out-door life, at every season of the year ; 
it is only a storm of wind, or the dust winds occa- 
sionally blowing, or the far rarer shower of rain, 
that sends the people indoors. And I suppose this 
is the proper life for health, as the children in the 
grand harems, where they are rarely out of doors, 
are generally pale and feeble, while those who live 
out, especially the country ones, are generally active 
and strong; in spite of rags and dirt they have 
the advantage of those who have hardly any fresh 
air and sunshine. 

My house is just outside the city wall, and the 
larger one I built for the school is only divided by 
the playground and my garden. As I passed through 



TOWN LIFE. 167 

the gate, a nmnber of the earlier scholars (boys) 
were already arrived, and some were playing, some 
looking over their lessons, others buying pieces of 
sweetmeat to eat with their bread for breakfa^, 
the seller of these sticky dainties, with, his standi 
being just within the door, and very busy driving 
bargains with little fellows, who wanted as much 
6s possible for their small coin. Many arrive as 
soon as the gate is opened, which is soon after 
sunrise, and spend a pleasant couple of hours in 
the shade of a nice mulberry tree, and two or three 
others, planted on purpose for them in the play- 
ground. Leaving this happy group I ride down 
an open and wide road, with a few good houses, 
chiefly belonging to Syrian and Jewish families, 
but with a good deal of waste land waiting to be 
built on, and occupied for the time by a few little 
sheds for small traders in red handkerchiefs, 
conmion eatables, cigars, etc. A man is pruning 
the trees which shade this road, and ragged boys 
and girls are eagerly seizing the boughs and leaves 
as they fall and carrying them off as fodder for 
their parents' goats, several of which are already 
enjoying the treat, their pretty spotted kids frisk- 
ing about them. The donkey's head is now turning. 
We must leave the broadway and enter a narrow 



168 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

lane for a short cut into the city. In a moment 
we are in a purely native quarter — ^mud-brick huts, 
or half-ruined houses, occupied by the poor, a few 
middle-class dwellings mingled with them ; a 
negress, with a yellow handkerchief on her head, 
peeps out from one of these ; a mistress in very 
slight garments, evidently not of the active house- 
wife style, and but half awake, from another ; but 
with the chief part of the inhabitants of this 
quarter all their life is out of doors. There sits a 
woman winding thread under the shade of a tree 
planted in her neighbour's yard. She has a pretty 
little twirligig of a machine, simply but cleverly' 
made of the ever useful reedi she is winding for 
the weavers ; her children are playing in the dust- 
heaps near her. A little farther a girl is driving 
her father's goats into their stable, and a whole 
row of blue-robed old cronies are squatted at the 
edge of the narrow path (road it can hardly be 
called) doing nothing but enjoy the air and gossip. 
Not a man is to be seen; they are all away at work, 
except a stray Jew pedler, who stops to try and 
coax the women to buy some of his flimsy gay 
calicoes, and one or two peasants with vegetables 
from the country, and laden asses, hurrying along 
to the markets. Another lane out of this has 




TOWN LIFE. 169 

rather higher pretensions : here are shops, though 
of a very humble kind ; the "Attar," or seller of 
drugs and spices, sitting in his den, a thin red- 
covered book in one hand and a string of beads 
in the other, for it is yet early for business, and 
he is making his devotions while at leisure, reading 
extracts from the Koran and reciting prayers ; it 
is conscientious as far as it goes certainly, and the 
poor man knows no better, but he is probably ex- 
tremely self-righteous, as Moslem devotees always 
are (nor they alone indeed). Beside him is a dealer 
in cheap, common haberdashery, chiefly from 
Europe. Then a melon-seller, busy purchasing his 
stock from a countryman ; then a Greek, who 
sells red earthern pans, which adorn his door in 
numbers; and various eatables, as dry fish, oil, 
etc., within. 

Now we leave all these and turn down a very 
short, but very narrow lane, with some rather 
curious-looking, but large, houses on each side, 
and scarcely any windows. They are the old style, 
and all the windows open on the inner court, as 
if they turned their backs to the street ; it is so 
narrow here that I have to squeeze close to the 
wall to let a great camel pass; a young lad sits 
on his hump merrily playing on a reed pipe as he 



170 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

rides slowly along ; if the tune is monotonous it is 
not disagreeable^ and it is pleasant to see liim 
cheerful. A little girl, with a pan of some curious 
mess, in which oil has a share, on her head, passes 
next, and so close that I hold my skirt for fear of 
a drop of the mixture reaching it ; then a dust- 
man, with his basket of rubbish on his shoulder, 
and his musical cry (strangely enough some of 
the least pleasant of the street callings are often 
announced by very good voices), and a half tune, 
which sounds really pretty. We reach the open- 
ing in safety, and get into sunshine and space 
again. The tailor who sits at the corner on his 
board does not seem to find the quarters as unplea- 
sant as we should; like nearly everyone he is out 
of doors, board and all, and a beautiful cat and 
kitten seated on it, for company, beside him. (In 
general, cats are both liked and kindly treated in 

Egypt.) 

We now enter a wide thoroughfare, called the 
" new street," several nests of old huts and ruined 
houses having some years ago been pulled down to 
make it. Here we see carriages, some with Euro- 
peans, others with natives of the land, driving by; 
asses in plenty, from the rough-coated country don- 
key, with his load of bright red tomatoes, or black 




TOWN LIFE. 171 

egg-plants from the country, to the sleek white ass 
of the true Mecca breed, with that equally sleek- 
looking merchant on his back, clad in a beautiful 
dark purple gibbeh, or long robe, displaying a spot- 
less white kaftan in front, and a goodly turban, 
which protects him well from the sun. Here are 
shabby-looking European shops (the smallest East- 
ern shop, poor as it may be, never has a shabby look, 
as the second and third-rate Europeans have), with 
slatternly women, and unwashed shopboys, sweeping 
out their shops or drinking their coffee at the door ; 
then we come to an open space, where several streets 
branch off, a plot of garden being in the centre, and 
great houses of the wealthy, hotels, and public build- 
ings appear. On one side is the public garden, once 
a swamp, then reclaimed by the famous Mohammed 
Alee, and planted with fine trees, and hedges of rose 
and myrtle ; it was a somewhat damp and unhealthy, 
though very pretty wild garden, half way between 
a garden and a wilderness, in fact. Then it was 
let to French and Greek coffee-house keepers, and 
became for a few years a den of thieves, and almost 
impassable; finally, they have made it, as nearly 
as they could, into a French public garden, well 
guarded and kept, and planted in too formal or trim 
a style to suit the country exactly ; but it will, as 



172 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

the trees grow larger, and the gardeners get off 
their guard a little, be sufficiently luxuriant by-and- 
by, no doubt ! 

But busy people in the morning have nothing to 
do with the Ezbekeeh, as this park is called ; they 
are hastening to the various markets, either to buy 
or to sell, and the clerks to their offices. We pass 
the entrance to what is called the European market, 
and go through the numerous shops of modern 
luxuries, and European garments (of which the 
greater part are kept by Jews, though also some by 
various nationalities), and enter a quarter chiefly 
inhabited by Syrian sUk merchants, whose goods 
make a beautiful display, with their delicate colours 
and rare embroidery. 

Then, after passing a noisy row of copper and brass 
makers, we reach the great cotton market, where, 
besides a good many really native articles, such as 
peasants, etc., use, there is an abundant display of 
Manchester cottons and prints, the latter such as 
you might live years in Manchester and never see, 
unless you visited the warerooms of a manufacturer 
who had dealings with Egypt. For every country 
has its tastes, and the canary colour, which is a 
special favourite here for girls, and suits their jet- 
black hair and eyes, would not suit flaxen-headed 



TOWN LIFE. 173 

English lasses at all; nor the orange and white 
stripe, which is another favourite, besides a variety 
of singular patterns, such as black stags galloping 
on a pink ground, or green herons stalking over an 
imaginary river of buff itiuslin, etc. 

These little details are not for gentlemen, you 
know, but some of my old friends (and all little 
girls), I feel sure, like to hear about dress patterns 
and such humble matters, and I want to entertain 
them by telling what I see, great or little. We can 
leave the prints and the bead necklaces, and all the 
finery, now, for here is a little narrow, very narrow 
lane, only just room for one donkey (if I meet 
another one must get down and back out I) and we 
are now in a very different quarter : paper, ink, 
pens; those large bundles of dark glossy reeds 
hanging from the top of the little den are reed 
pens, the only kind with which the Arabic language 
can be properly written ; and those little slabs of 
wood, painted white or red, are for children to 
learn upon, the alphabet being written on it by the 
master. They are very pretty, but get soUed so 
soon by dirty little fingers that we prefer cards, or 
better still, my great favourite, the black board and 
white chalk, used much in my school. 

Opposite the paper and ink stores is the scent 



174 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

market, which tells its own tale; the passion for 
sweet scents is so strong here, that they will some- 
times burn a piece of fragrant incense, and pass a 
tumbler over the smoke, and then fill with sugar 
. and water, and this sherbet is thought delicious : I 
cannot say I enjoy drinking incense, though the 
smell is pleasant. There are scents here from 
Arabia which are never met with in England, 
and some also the name of which has an interest 
for us, such as the frankincense and myrrh, prized 
now as they were the day when they were* part of 
the offerings brought to the infant Saviour by the 
wise men. 

But we must leave the scent market, with its 
sweet odours, and the bustling cotton marts, and 
hasten back before the summer sun has become 
too powerful. These few little observations do not 
go very far, indeed, to show you the city and 
its inhabitants, but may give some idea, at least 
And what is said about Cairo applies, more or 
less, to all the cities of Egypt,, only those that 
are seaports have more Europeans, and are less 
characteristic than Cairo ; while the smaller towns 
and villages again are, of course, more simply, 
thoroughly national in th,eir ways than any of the 
great cities. 



TOWN LIFE. 175 

And what about the " great mixed multitude " 
of foreigners ? I said in a former letter I would 
tell you a little about them ; it can be, however, 
only a very little, for, living and working among 
the " children of the soil," I do not know nearly 
so much about the strangers. For the most part, I 
am sorry to say, there can be no doubt that they do 
more harm than good. I am not, of course, speaking 
of the small number of respectable Europeans who 
are residents for business in the great cities, and 
who, for, the most part, only spend some years here 
and have no intention of residing always in Egypt. 
I mean by the mixed multitude the people settled 
here, some of them bom in Egypt, others come over 
recently, and consisting chiefly of Greeks, French, 
Italians, Grermans, and Maltese. Some are respect- 
able and wealthy persons, and they have all their 
own places of worship, and their Consuls to manage 
their affairs ; but a great many are not respectabk, 
and only settled here because they could not get 
on at home in their country, and not a few, I fear, 
who dared not return, because they have not a 
good character where they came from. These set a 
sad example to natives of Egypt; drinking, and 
all sorts of bad ways, are common among them, 
and, alas, have been learned by those who knew 



176 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

little that was good, yet (especially as regards 
strong drink) did not know these things. Theatres 
were first brought here by French and Italians, 
and have done much mischief; also many kinds 
of gambling, for the devil's agents are more 
numerous, if not more active, than those of Christ. 
There are not so many of our own countrymen; 
still there are a good many, and among them, I am 
ashamed to say, some who do harm. 1 hear terribly 
wicked words in broken English sometimes from 
poor donkey boys, who think it quite clever to be able 
to swear in English : who but Englishmen could have 
taught them this ? And I have seen Englishmen 
sitting at a little table at the door of a provision 
shop, with two or three Egyptians drinking with 
them ; — sad sight for missionaries, who leave their 
country, not for gain like others, but to try and 
spread the truth, when they see the efforts made 
in the wrong direction, and especially if made by 
their own people. Few English reside here more 
than a term of years, and though each must leave 
his mark for good or bad, he affects the country, 
or town, less either way than if dwelling all his 
life here, and leaving a family to live after him. 
This is more the case with the other foreigners 
I spoke of^ many of whom have never been out 




TOWN LIFE. J 77 

of Egypt at all. In general they have managed 
to lose what was good in European ways and 
habits, and to keep what signified very little (such 
as dress, etc.), or what was actually bad ; and sp 
with Eastern ways : they adopt just what might 
be let alone with advantage, and learn nothing 
of the really good things belonging to the Eastern 
nature or customs. 

Their children grow up speaking the vulgar 
Arabic in addition to their own tongue, and clever in 
using all sorts of bad words, and in picking up gossip 
of the worst kind. They seem to lose the European 
horror of harem life, polygamy, etc., and that with- 
out the childish ignorance of the poor women of the 
country. I have had some in my school of these 
" Levantine " girls, as they are called, and generally 
found it scarcely possible to do them lasting good : 
the home influences were so contrary to all I wished 
to teach. An Arab school is not the thing for such 
children ; they need a good Christian school, where 
only European languages were taught, under a pious 
and very strict Christian lady. At present there is 
nothing of the kind. I am speaking of free, or 
nearly free, schools, as many of these families are 
poor, and even those who gain well in their business 

squander all their earnings in such a foolish way 

12 



178 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

that there is nothing left to pay for proper school- 
ing for their little ones. There are convents, 
where some girls of various nations are received, 
but they do not teach the Grospel there, and in 
many cases nothing at all except a few prayers 
to the Virgin and Saints, and a little sewing. A 
young woman of mixed race, whose widowed 
mother paid sixteen shillings a month — ^by hard 
work — for her schooling at a French convent, spent 
some years there, and came the other day to entreat 
me to write her a letter. She could not write, nor 
even read, in any language, though speaking several. 
The " good sisters," as they were called, had taught 
her nothing but prayers, as I said before. 

Some of the Italians settled here are very bad 
indeed. I met, once, a woman, still young and 
handsome, at a railway station on the desert, who 
actually used the little Arabic she knew in trying 
to teach the poor peasant women (wives to the 
workmen who lived there) that " there was no Grod, 
and that when we die we turn to dust and never rise, 
and that man had no soul : it was all nonsense ! " I 
heard the wretch, myself, on one occasion, and was 
told it was a common style of talk with her. 

I just waited till she was out of the room, for I 
saw she had been drinking enough to excite her, 



TOWN LIFE. 179 

and I wished to avoid a noise, etc.; then I began to 
talk to the poor woman she had addressed, and 
told her not to listen to this child of Satan, who 
wanted to believe there was no God because her 
own vile life went against His holy laws, and I 
warned her, of course, against listening to such 
terrible falsehoods. Alas, it is by no means the 
only time I have found foreigners deliberately 
trying to poison the minds of ignorant people, and 
to drag them, as it were, with themselves to 
perdition. 

Ah! when will God's servants be roused to a 
sense of their great responsibility, and be as active 
for good as Satan's servants for evil? 

Besides these Europeans, there are a large num- 
ber of Syrians and Armenians settled here, some 
of whom hold important situations, and are much re- 
spected. There are also a large body of Jews, some 
from Europe, speaking the language of the country 
they came from, besides others, what are called 
Arabic Jews, who, having been here for centuries, 
speak only Arabic, and resemble in dress and some 
other things the people of the country. There are 
also, as I said before, many Turks resident here, 
but they are almost all either Gt)vernment officials 
or wealthy Pashas. 



180 



LETTER XIL 

THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 

You will, no doubt, like to hear something of the 
way in which the three events of such great 
importance in every country are celebrated in 
Egypt : marriages, births, and deaths. Every 
Bible student is aware that the festivals and the 
rejoicing at a marriage in the East in old times were 
much greater than even with us, though a wedding 
is always a "stir" in the quietest place. And 
like most of their customs this remains much as 
formerly, the only changes being such as change 
of religion would of necessity bring. As I before 
observed, in speaking about food, a father in the 
humbler classes of life often spends on a wedding 
feast for his son far more than he can afford, and 
is made poorer for years in some cases. The habits 
and ceremonies in aU Eastern countries have great 
resemblance, even where not exactly the same, 
and we are constantly reminded in these matters 



THE HOUSE OF HIBTH. 181 

of Scriptural allusions, though the accounts given 
of marriages there are not in Egypt. I cannot help 
thinking that it was the Mohammedan faith which 
brought in the custom of marrying girls while very 
young, often mere children, although the Copts 
do the same, but they have adopted a great many 
ways from their Mohammedan conquerors, and this 
may, perhaps, be one. At any rate, among the 
Jews it is evident, from various notices in the Old 
Testament, that the brides were young women, 
and not little girls, as they generally are here (not 
always, but in the greater number). For instance, 
Rebekah is asked by her brothers what she chooses 
to do, and her whole conduct is that of a person 
arrived at what we call years of discretion ; and 
Moses says of the daughters of Zelophehad, " Let 
them marry to whom they think best," etc. Here 
twelve and thirteen are the usual ages, and it is 
very conmion to see brides of ten, or even younger ; 
they are a little forwarder, indeed, than children 
in the north, but only a year or two, and are really 
more childish in mind, from being without any 
education, than those who have been through the 
classes of a good infant school. Of course, it 
follows that the poor little things are not fit to 
"guide the house," as St. Paul says the young 



182 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

women ought to do. Even a peasant's household^ 
where so little is to be done, cannot be left to a 
mere child; so the young couple live, at least for 
some time, with the husband's parents, and in 
most cases till the old people die. The mother- 
in-law is generally disliked by her daughter-in-law, 
and tyrannises over her ; the happiest homes seem, 
with a few bright exceptions, those in which the 
old lady has been removed by death, or that the 
husband's business was such as to oblige hiTn to 
live at a distance. The authority given to a 
mother-in-law is absolute : she can prevent her 
daughter-in-law from going out, and can, if a poor 
woman, beat and ill-use her as she likes, without 
interference. In the case of a powerful family 
belonging to the girl, this would not be tolerated, 
but life may be made very unhappy without blows. 
The degree of submission expected may be xmder- 
stood by the fact that if any lady (even one married 
several years, and whose husband may be kind 
and reasonable) wishes to visit me, she cannot do 
so, if she has a mother-in-law alive, unless she 
can obtain leave, just as if she were still a chUd. 
Israelitish matrons must have had much more 
freedom, as we see by the cases of the Shunamite and 
of Abigail, and others ; and although the law of 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 183 

Moses allowed, " for the hardness of their hearts," 
both divorce and polygamy, we may well believe 
neither were practised as commonly as they are 
now in the East, or women could not have held 
the position which they evidently did hold. 

But we have not yet described the festivities 
which usher in this life of doubtful happiness for 
the young people. Nothing more plainly shows 
the importance of a wedding and the rejoicings 
on the occasion of one, than the ordinary expres- 
sion in speaking of it here ; they do not say, in 
common talk, a wedding^ but a rejoicing \ even a 
baby will be saluted by, " To your rejoicing," which 
used to puzzle me sore at first, till I discovered it 
meant. May you be spared to have a wedding 
festivity by-and-by! They will say, "There is a 
rejoicing at such a one's next week," meaning his 
son or daughter is to be married. 

When the parents have decided that they wish 
their son to marry (which in rich families is generally 
when he is still young, from seventeen to twenty, and 
sometimes younger, though this is not universal), 
they begin to look for a bride for him. The mother 
sets her female relatives to enquire among the neigh- 
bours, and an old woman, who lives by the business, 
acts as agent between the parties. In many families 



184 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

a relative is destined for the young man from 
cliildhood, but if this is not the case the bride- 
hunting goes on as I say. The young people have 
no voice in the matter at all, nor are they allowed 
to He(i each other till the knot is tied. The Coptic 
Egyptians follow the Moslems in this custom, and 
th(^y are more to be blamed for it, because they do 
look on marriage as a sacred tie, and a lasting 
one, instead of letting it be broken for any trifle, 
as the law of Mohammed permits; and certainly 
it siHuns worse to bind two persons to each other, 
when it is an irrevocable tie, without letting them 
8(ic and know something, at least, of one another. 
Much (quarrelling and many very unhappy xmions 
are tlie conseciuence of this foolish plan. 

As soon as the affair is fixed between the two 
sets of parents, the marriage is generally hurried on 
as ({uickly as possible ; if the family is wealthy, 
a few weeks are spent in turning the house upside 
down ; with the poor, a few days to make a dress 
or too and prepare a feast is all that is needed. 
But with the rich, not a room is left out ; white- 
washing and cleaning^ making up of beds and sofas, 
and many such things, generally long wanted but 
which wore put off till the occasion of the grand 
festival, are now done with as much speed as 




THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. l85 

Eastern .workmen can be got to put into their 
business. Meanwhile, women are seen running 
about, in pattens of wood, over the newly-washed 
floors; sewing women, seated in corners, making 
new dresses for every member of the family, down 
to th'S baby. Negress slaves, looking as if basted 
freshly with oil, from their unwonted exertions (they 
are apt to be very fat), are scouring pans, and popping 
from one room to another, for anything or nothing. 
The tinman sits in the court below with a pile of 
brass vessels which he is whitening inside, for the 
feast will require a great amount of cooking ; and 
the master of the house has to order in great 
quantities of rice, sugar, clarified butter, and other 
articles, according to his means. All these details 
are seen alike in Christian and Moslem houses : it 
is chiefly when the ceremony comes that there is 
any difference in the arrangements. In poorer 
families the same goes on, only on a small scale, 
and as a rule you may say that every one spends 
more than is prudent on these occasions. 

I am not going to give you every minute detail 
of the ceremonies of weddings, which would take 
too long and be tiresome, but the general plan is 
this : there are three days' feasting and rejoicing, 
the day 8 being given to receiving visits, men and 



186 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

women separately, with pipes or cigars, and coffee 
for refreshments, and sitting on sofas if rich, on 
mats at the door if poor, and chatting. On the 
second day the bride is conducted to the bath by 
her mother and aunts, etc., in a sort of triumphal 
procession, and the women give a sort of shrill 
cry of joy, peculiar to the East, and used as a sign 
of great rejoicing, as they go along ; one often hears 
it in the street, and sees a party of closely-veiled 
figures, some with baskets on their heads, containing 
bridal gifts, etc. The bride is, of course, decked 
in her new attire ; if she is very rich she wears 
a new dress several times in the course of the three 
days, but in ordinary families a rich brocaded silk 
of gay colour is worn all the time, and she is laden 
with jewels ; if not able to purchase all, her family 
borrow, and even hire, diamonds, rubies, and gold 
ornaments. Her fingers are covered with rings, 
and bunches of gilt tinsel paper are fixed at the 
sides of her head, the eye-brows painted in a black 
stripe, and she is ordered to close her eyes, or, at 
all events, to look down all the time, as she sits on 
a divan or sofa, and receives silently the salutations 
of the various female friends, for speaking is not 
allowed: she looks more like an idiot than a rational 
being. When she goes out for the processions, 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 187 

one to the bath and the other to her new home, 
she is covered from head to foot with a large red 
Cashmere shawl, entirely hiding the face, not even 
the eyes appearing. 

This is absolutely essential for an Eastern bride, 
so that the prints and pictures we see sometimes 
representing "an Eastern wedding procession," 
with the bride peeping out of her canopy and 
smiling at her friends, is totally incorrect, and 
ridiculous to those who have seen the real thing ; 
but we shall be very glad when they learn that it 
is not necessary to hide their faces. A Coptic bride 
does not wear red as constantly as a Moslem 
one does ; I have seen one in red, and another in 
white. 

Musicians and singers form a necessary part of 
weddings. Where they can afford it, great sums 
are given to obtain celebrated female singers, 
though to European taste the Arab music is very 
monotonous indeed. The singing, in a rude simple 
way, of peasant girls at work in the cotton fields, 
or Nile boatmen with the plash of their oars, is 
' often very pleasing, as they have an ear for time, 
and sometimes very sweet voices, though apt to 
sing through their noses. But the more famous 
singers don't seem to us much better, and have 



188 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

not the open air to take off the nasal tone, nor the 
water as an accompaniment, and the being all in 
unison with no treble and bass, tires the cultivated 
ear very much after a while. They delight in it 
themselves, however, and applaud with sighs 
and exclamations of satisfaction. The singers are 
placed upstairs, but the windows open so that the 
men below can share the treat. Poorer people 
have a drum and reed pipe, at least, and seem to 
take great pleasure in them. 

The whole day, or rather days, are given up to 
receiving guests and making merry ; but the night 
is the grand time, the second especially, called 
the night of Henna. Henna is a certain tree, whose 
leaves, dried and pounded, are sold in quantities 
to dye the fingers of women, and sometimes their 
toes also, as they are usually barefoot in summer. 
Even if wealthy, it is only quite of late years that 
stockings are getting to be more worn. The bride 
is expected to have her hands dyed, both fingers 
and palms, and a paste, made of henna leaves with 
water, is prepared, and a great lump put in her 
hand. This was, at least, the old custom, every 
guest sticking on it a bit of money, and the collec- 
tion thus made was for the female singers, the 
woman who dressed the bride's hair and attended 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 189 

Iter at the bath, etc.; whether all was given in 
this way I am not sure. The hands and feet of 
the bride were, after the supper — ^which at a very 
late hour followed the ceremony — tied up with paste 
and left till morning, when they would be of a dark 
orange hue, which remains for several weeks, and 
only wears off by degrees. On the last day a 
Moslem bride is conducted through the streets in 
procession to the bridegroom's house, a canopy 
of red or pink being carried over her head, and 
her mother and female relatives walking beside 
and in front of her, while the men of her family 
and friends follow, and little boys with incense, 
and bridesmaids, who are generally quite little crea- 
tures, and all dressed in red^ make the train a 
very lively one. It is always by day, and in sum- 
mer the walk must be hot work, for they seem 
to go the longest circuit possible on purpose, and 
walk very slowly, often stopping to let the music 
which accompanies them be heard, and often men 
playing antics with sticks — ^pretending to fight, and 
jumping about — go before them. This is the real 
pld Egyptian wedding procession, but quite of late 
years it is seen only among the humbler classes, 
as carriages having been introduced and become 
;nimierous, wealthy persons always now hire several 



190 LETTERS FROM EGYPT* 

for weddings, and stretch a red shawl over the 
top of one to show the red canopy. Of course it 
is much less original when all the train are packed 
up in carriages ; and the peasant wedding is there- 
fore more curious and amusing. The prettiest is, 
however, a country wedding, when, as is often the 
case, the bride's family come from some distance 
riding on camels. This is quite a picture to look 
at: two or three of these tall creatures, with a 
rude frame of wood fixed on their humps, upon 
which four women are seated — often a baby or 
two beside — and the rest either walking or on 
donkeys. The peasant bride and her mother or 
sister will usually wear a mantle of gay striped 
silk of a strong, soft texture, woven here, and which 
looks striking, as the others are all in their usual 
dark purple, or black mantles. 

The bridegroom's family, whether rich or poor, 
Copt or Moslem, have their part of rejoicing and 
feasting fully as much and even more ; for a S(Mi'd 
wedding is made more of than a daughter's, though 
both are considered great occasions. But they 
have their triumph separately, and only meet on 
the third and last day of the festival, when the 
feast is prepared at the house of the bridegroom, 
and the bride's father and friends partake below, 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 191 

while she and the female friends have their sapper 
in an upper chamber. There is no wedding cake 
as in England, but all the favourite dishes are 
prepared, according to the means of the family. 
Many are extremely good, as the famous roast 
(or rather baked) lamb, stuffed with rice, nuts, 
pistachios, and other things, and which every Euro- 
pean who has tasted it approves. Some of their 
dishes are less to our taste, from the great amount 
of butter and grease used in them. The poorer 
people think more of quantity, and serve up boiled 
mutton and fowls, rice, etc., in heaps to their 
friends. 

The sweet dishes are chiefly rice boiled with 
milk and a great deal of sugar, starch boUed and 
sweetened (this most Europeans think very in- 
sipid, and like a sick person's diet, but they enjoy 
it much here), pastry or pancakes, with much 
butter and some honey or sugar poured over, and a 
sort of vermicelli, fried and eaten with sugar ; fruit, 
such as is in season (oranges, melons, etc.), generally 
is offered at some part of the feast, and water is 
the only drink; but sherbet, or sweet syrup and 
water, is handed round on the arrival of the guests. 
The house, and even a great part of the street, 
is always lit up at night with chandeliets and 



192 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

lamps, if in town or a large village, and little red 
and green flags ornament the walls, while a sort 
of canopy of embroidered stuff or cotton is spread 
from house to house near the door of the one where 
the festival is held. The men guests are always 
too numerous to be accommodated within, and 
numbers sit outside drinking coffee and smoking, 
chatting, and listening to the music. 

The only legal part of the Moslem wedding is 
a contract made by the fathers or guardians before 
a judge quite privately, no guests being present, 
only the needful witnesses. Certain chapters of 
the Koran are read, I believe, by a Mollah, who 
answers in some respects to a priest, though not 
by any means in all. The bridegroom is expected 
to go to the Mosque before his wedding, and some- 
times has a train of friends to accompany him in 
procession. As to the bride, religion seems not 
to enter into her share of the wedding at all, and 
there are no mutual vows of love before God as 
with us. 

With Copts of course it is different ; they have 
a very long religious ceremony, sometimes at the 
church, but sometimes, in Cairo, the whole is 
performed by the Patriarch, and several priests 
who assist, at the house of the bridegroom. The 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 193 

prayers are in Coptic, and psalms are chanted in 
this now dead language, none of the hearers under- 
standing a word ; but some portions of Scripture 
and exhortations are read in Arabic. At one part 
of the ceremony crowns of gold (or gilding) are 
placed on the heads of bride and groom, and at 
another an embroidered silk shawl is thrown over 
both their heads as they sit on a sofa together. 
It is a very long affair, as is the case in the Greek 
Church, which the Coptic resembles very much. 
The Coptic procession is at night, or late in the 
evening, and looks very pretty when it is a walk- 
ing procession, aU lighted up with torches. There 
are evening processions also at Moslem weddings, 
but the bride is not with them ; hers is always at 
mid-day or the afternoon. I have seen very pretty- 
looking processions of a bridegroom and his friends 
by night going through the streets, each holding a 
bunch of flowers and green sprigs, with a lighted 
taper fixed in the middle. They all wear their 
richest dresses and turbans ; the bridegroom in red- 
striped vest and crimson outer robe usually ; and 
the effect, as they march slowly along chanting 
with the light in their hands, is very curious and 
picturesque. It is to be hoped that those who 

have adopted European dress have given up pro- 

13 



194 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

cessions ; for men in our garb certainly do not 
show well in such sort of things, and the mixture 
of East and West is sometimes very incongruous, 
or as one might say in homely language, two 
sides that do not match. 

At last all is over, and the families must, I 
think, be glad to rest, especially the mother, after 
the din of native music, talking, saluting, attend- 
ing to guests, cooking, and all the fatigue. For 
three nights, mother, aunts, and sisters, have only 
snatched a little sleep on a sofa in some corner by 
turns ! When the wedding is in summer, it t^ an 
exhausting affair, though the people of the country 
do not feel the heat as we do ; but the rooms are 
crammed to suffocation, and however large, have 
too many guests for comfort, and many of the 
middle-class houses have rooms quite too small for 
such a climate, the modem ones especially: old 
Egyptian houses, on the contrary, have usually two 
or three very large rooms, and several little ones 
only used for sleeping, or keeping stores, etc. 

The crowd of women is increased by their almost 
aU bringing their slaves with them, as well as 
all their children, little and big, so that, in spite 
of open windows, the faces of most (if it be 
a summer wedding) are trickling with moisture. 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 195 

The men who sit outside are better off in this 
respect. 

The grand day is at length at an end, and the 
family resmne ordinary life, though a bride's friends 
usually call on her after a few days, if not of the 
labouring class, who cannot afford to sit stuck up 
in fine clothes, doing nothing aU day. 

"And how is your daughter ? " I said to a Moslem 
lady, in very good worldly circumstances, who had 
recently been to pay a visit to a married daughter 
whose wedding took place about two months before. 
" Well, I thank you, she kisses your hand," replied 
the parent, giving a sigh, and looking far from 
cheerftd. "I hope she is happy." "So-so, the 
man is not better than most, he is obstinate" (has 
tk hard head was the expression used). "Is her 
mother-in-law kind ?" " Hum, not very ; and then 
Ids sisters are also there," shrugging her shoulders : 
"she is not happy, and she does not like their 
cookery 1 " I could not help thinking of " a dinner 
of herbs, where love is." 

There are more cheering instances, certainly. I 
know one young woman whose mother-in-law and 
sister are extremely fond of her, but they seem (for 
I know them but little) to be very amiable them- 
selves, and the young wife is of a particularly lively 



196 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

temper, and easy to please. The greater number 
that I see do not appear happy; sometimes con- 
tent because they make the best of what is; but 
few are happy in the real sense of the word, and I 
know many cases of terrible misery, — not, observe, 
from husbands of the lowest and worst of the 
people, — such are to be found, alas ! in every coun- 
try, — ^but where they are of the respectable classes, 
and well considered : for example, a very sweet young 
giri was lately married to a man who was very well 
known to have beaten his first wife till she died 
from the injuries, and to have bribed those who 
ought to have punished him, yet he found no diffi- 
culty in obtaining a third wife (the second he had 
divorced), and that from a respectable family. 

Then there is the long train of wretchedness 
which polygamy brings. "How is your hand so 
hurt ? " I asked a poor woman once, whose hand I 
was binding up for her, at her request. " My hus- 
band did it with a stick ; he was beating me," she 
answered. "What for?" She held up three 
fingers of the other hand in reply, and then said, 
" There are three of us." 

I frequently hear sad domestic histories, which 
show the misery produced by this custom* We 
know, that although allowed in barbarous times of 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 197 

old, it never was productive of comfort and peace, 
but quite the contrary; and so it is now, and 
always will be. A few there are, who, not from 
poverty, but from their own conscience and sense, 
will only have one wife, and surely a blessing 
will attend them for this. But they are still quite 
exceptions. 

Among native Christians, of course, polygamy is 
not allowed ; but the early marriage of the girls, 
and the undue power given to the mother-in-law, 
and the want of previous acquaintance, all combine 
with ignorance to make happy marriages not very 
common among them either. If they could only 
learn (but too many neglect it, with us, who have 
an open Bible, and can read it), " The woman that 
feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." How 
diflferent might things be. 

When the family begins there is generally much 
joy, for children are earnestly desired and dearly 
loved in the East ; but there is less of external re* 
joicing than with us, as there is (among Moslems) 
no ceremony answering to baptism with us, and we 
must always bear in mind, in speaking of Egypt, 
that though a very important portion of the nation, 
the Copts, or native Christians, are a very small 
part, numerically, of the nation : they agree with 




198 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

their Moslem neighbours in letting the terror of 
that unseen evil, " the eye," about which I told you 
in a former letter, spoil much of the young mother's 
comfort, as well as of the female relatives, who, of 

■ 

course, cluster about her on this occasion. There is 
a sort of suppressed happiness, and a fear of shming 
satisfaction, on every face when one goes to pay the 
customary visit of congratulation to a neighbour 
when a first-born is given to the household. Not 
unfrequently, the grandmother and aunts will pre- 
tend it is a girl when really a boy, for several days, 
because " the eye " is more likely to strike one of 
the nobler sex, though girls are by no means 
supposed to be secure from its influence. They are 
very fond, in general, of their little girls, but prize 
boys very much more, and are quite unhappy if 
Providence deny a son, although there may be no 
inheritance for him but rags I 

I once knew a young woman whose husband, quite 
early in their married life, divorced her, for no reason 
but her baby being a girl. She told me this while 
showing me an uncommonly pretty and vigorous- 
looking little thing of six months old, and said she 
had to go back to her mother, as he would not sup- 
port her. I must add, in fairness, that her husband 
was a bad character ; he was a stonecutter, and was 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, 199 

afterwards detected in stealing, and banished ; but 
the fact of the young wife and the baby-girl shows 
the kind of feeling prevailing with many. 

A far more respectable man, a butcher, well-to-do 
in his line, has a nice daughter at my school, but 
this girl has had in succession no less than four 
stepmothers. All were divorced for the same cause, 
that they had only daughters, and it appeared as if 
God punished him by denying his wish — ^to this 
date he has no boy. 

But to return to the newly-arrived baby. When 
going to visit the mother, which it is considered quite 
unkind not to do — if it be a first especially — the 
neighbours and relatives all put on an air almost 
of mystery, and the new mother is not forward to 
display her treasure ; on the contrary, it is very 
often hidden away in a corner and covered up. 

"How is the bridegroom?" you may say, this 
being the term applied to a baby-boy, in politeness. 
" God preserve him." 

"He kisses your hand, we thank God," replies 
the mother, or rather, in the case of a very young 
person, the grandmother, for the poor little creature 
hardly knows what to make of her new honours, 
and is so tutored and commanded by the old woman 
that she seems like a puppet. The female guests 



200 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

are always curious, of course, and slyly peep to see 
the little one in his nook, and at last one summons 
courage to lift the handkerchief from his face, but 
she must not say, " What a fine boy I " or " What 
pretty eyes I " or " How like he is to his mother I " 
etc. She turns to another friend, and observes, "An 
ugly little thing I " " He is very brown " (a fair 
skin is from its rarity admired), says the next; 
" Not in the least nice 1 " adds a third, nodding 
sagely. The last remark is apt to be too true, as 
he is not clean, and his eyes have been daubed with 
a mixture of oil, salt, and onion juice, with a view 
to strengthen them (by trying what they can en- 
dure, I presume), so that the poor lamb is not very 
nice certainly, unless he belongs to an exceptional 
mother. There are a few such. One I know re- 
fused to let her baby's eyes be meddled with, and 
persisted in washing them and its body with pure 
water, and is rewarded by the healthy appearance 
of her dear pretty little girl ; but then she was not 
a young mother — she had a great tall girl at my 
school for years, and her little Zanuba was a late 
blossom. The youthful mother is so completely 
ruled by the mother-in-law that she cannot free 
herself from these absurd customs. 

While these polite little observations are being 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 201 

made^ the slave, if they have one, and if not, a 
female relative, presents, instead of the usual little 
cups of coffee, a drink, made for the occasion, of hot 
water with spice and sugar, and chopped ntits float- 
ing in it. The friends generally bring some small 
present, especially a muslin handkerchief, to throw 
over the baby's head, or a piece of coloured print or 
silk, etc., according to means. 

The Moslem babe is named without any special 
ceremony. They have a great variety of names, the 
meaning of which is thought more of than with 
us, who merely choose a name as sounding weU 
or belonging to a friend or relation. The prime 
favourites with boys are names which have some 
reference to their Prophet, either to his supposed 
titles and attributes, or those of his relations, Mo- 
hanmied himself being of course the commonest 
of all. Some names have a pretty and poetical 
meaning, as, " Servant of the Light " (Abdel Noor), 
" Servant of the Lofty One," etc. Hassan, Hosseen, 
Alee, and Ahmed, are the most frequent, however, 
being names of the Prophets' friends and relations, 
and answer to our John, Tom, and William, etc. 
Girls are very often called after the prophet's 
daughter and wives, Zeynab, Aysha (or in Egypt 
Aywsha, the u being diminutive), and Fatmeh or 



202 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

Fatemia. These are the commonest, but they have 
a great variety of names, some of which are very 
pretty both in sound and meaning. A girl is always 
supposed to have a name implying something 
pleasant, " the sweet," " the pretty," " the gentle," 
" the clever," " the gazelle " (this animal being 
celebrated for its beauty and gentleness), '^the 
flower," " the jasmine," " the tuberose," etc., or 
again, "the princess," "the queen." 

I must here tell you of a curious superstition 
about names, especially, I think, girls' names. We 
sometimes get a little scholar, or meet a girl among 
acquaintances, who has a very uncouth and clumsy 
name, such as " Mother of Mohanmied," " Mother 
of Goodness," " Mother of the Lofty One." They 
do not admire this sort of name at all, but give it 
in the hope that Grod will be induced by this to 
spare the child, the mother having lost several 
before her I 

" Why did you choose so ugly a name ? " I asked 
a Bedouin woman at the Pyramids ; not one of the 
poor little colonist Bedouins in wigwams, but a fine? 
strong, handsome woman, living in a stone hut, and 
well off in her way. She had a very pretty little 
girl of a year old on her lap, and told me she 
was called Um el Kheyr^ " Mother of Goodness." 



THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. 203 

" I know it is ugly," said she, "but I want her to 
live." 

" How will an ugly name make her live ? " 

" Why, you see, I had two sweet girls before her, 
and called them Fatmeh and Zanuba, and they both 
died, so I called this one by the name of Mother 
of Goodness, so that God perhaps will spare her;" 
and the poor dear thing looked at me so piteously 
that I felt tears come in my eyes. I tried to show 
her that it was not a name that God cared for, but 
that she must pray to Him to keep her darling if 
He saw fit, and spent some time talking with her, 
and reading some passages of the Gospel to show 
how God is love, I have not been able to find her 
since, but she declared that she saw things dif- 
ferently, and would trust only in God in future. 
May the seed cast on the waters be blessed for 
His name's sake 1 

The Copts have a curious superstition about 
names, different from this. They light three wax 
candles, or tapers, and give each a name, a saint's 
name being always at least one of the three, and 
the one that is last in going out is the child's name. 
The patron saint of Copts is St. George. This 
name, which they call Gergas, is therefore the com- 
monest among them. Many names, however, are 



204 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

common both to Copts and Moslems, as some of 
the patriarchs' names, Abraham, etc., but Ishmael 
is only used by Moslems, because they think the 
son of Hagar was Abraham's promised seed, thus 
strangely perverting the Scripture narrative. Many 
foreign (e.^., Greek) names are in use among Copts, 
from the saints they venerate being Greeks ; others 
will choose Italian names if they belong to the 
small division of Copts who have joined the Eoman 
Catholic Church. But the Arab names suit better 
in general with the language. They baptize their 
children in infancy generally at the church, and by 
immersion ; the ceremony is very nearly the same 
as in the Greek Church. 



205 



LETTER XIII. 

THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 

" Man is as a flower of the field, which to-day is, 
and to-morrow is cast into the oven." While one 
house is fuU of joy and merriment, the next is 
plunged in woe, " because man goeth to his long 
home, and the mourners go about the streets" 
(Eccles. xii. 5). 

This is true, literally, in the East, where mourning 
is so public and so local. K one is walking or 
riding, and meets a funeral procession, it is not a 
silent black troop as in Europe, but a long train 
of Mollahs chanting, and numbers of women utter- 
ing at intervals the most piercing shrieks and 
cries, so that all down the street the sounds of woe 
are heard. When I lived in a narrow street of the 
city, I used to realize the awful woe that fell on 
this very land on the death of the first-born — " And 
there was a great cry in Egypt," — for sometimes 



206 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

in the silence of night a sudden cry in one of the 
houses near would rouse me from sleep, and the 
cry would be followed by others, shrieks and wild 
lamentations, and sounds as of women beating on 
their breasts and nearly beside themselves, and 
many a prayer has gone up for those poor sorrow- 
laden creatures, who could not say of those they 
wept for, "We know they are with Jesus." Of 
course there are families where there is not very 
deep affection, as in the not rare case of an un- 
kind husband, but the crying and screaming, if 
not so heartfelt, would go on just the same, because 
it is a custom^ and the household are assisted in 
its performance by hired women, who are always 
sent for on such occasions. This was evidently 
the custom also among the Jews : " Call hither the 
mourning women that they may come — ^let them 
make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our 
eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids 
gush out with waters" (Jeremiah ix. 17, 18). 
These professed mourners, by their doleful chants, 
in which they praise the departed, and bring 
forward everything likely to affect the firiends, 
excite them to more violent grief, and when th^ 
are for a moment calmer from actual exhaustion, 
and are sitting quiet, they set them off again, till 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 207 

it is a wonder the poor wives and mothers are not 
completely worn out. 

There is no word like that of a Christian friend 
OT minister, who points the afficted upwards, to 
where Jesus the Captain of our Salvation is making 
ready the many mansions, where His servants hope 
one day to rest from sorrow with Him and with 
those who have "departed this life in His faith 
and fear ; " no one to say " darkness may endure for 
a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Nothing 
more convinces me of the very small degree of 
comfort which the Moslem faith affords than the 
absence of any consolation to the bereaved. Their 
book tells of future state, indeed, but at the time 
of a funeral the females of a family especially 
are left utterly without a word of comfort; the 
chanting women lament the past^ but I never heard 
that they had a word to say about the future, 
!!tfany Moslems die in great peace and calmness, 
but some may have a ray of light sent in some 
way we do not know ; others, numhers^ I fear, are 
in a state of false peace, and resting on sand, 
though they know it not. A man may die in a com- 
fortable security that he leaves his children a good 
farm, not knowing that there is a flaw in the title 
deeds ; such is the case of all, in whatever country 



208 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

and whatever religion they profess, whose hope of 
future happiness is not resting on the promise of 
God as given in His revealed Word. 

Jesns said, " I am the resurrection and the life," 
" I am the way," and again, " I am the door.'^^ If 
there were any other resurrection, any other way, 
any other door, would He who is truth and love 
have said these words so plain that none can 
mistake them? 

"My little one is gone, and where?'''* cried a 
weeping mother one day to me, stretching out her 
arms with a gesture that said a great deal more 
than words could do. How I thanked God that 
I could say (as I dared not have said in most 
cases) that I felt sure her little daughter was with 
the Lord Jesus, for that she loved and believed 
in Him truly, and that He had doubtless received 
her in His arms above. She had been a little 
scholar in my school from four years old up to near 
eleven, and I had taught her to repeat the first 
text when she could but lisp the holy words. Very 
early she had shown that interest in Scripture, and 
by actions proved, that she really believed the 
gospel. This is years ago; I have often visited 
the mother, but though she knows what her child 
believed, she as yet remains stubborn in unbelief, 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 209 

and tries to put away the thought of the future. 
However, I do not despair, and still hope she may 
one day follow where the dear child is gone 
before. 

Another scholar, who died at the age of sixteen^ 
as nearly as we can tell, was a firm believer in 
the gospel ; I used daily to read to her in her 
illness, which was not very long, and always found 
her trusting fully in the merits and blood of Christ, 
in the midst of great weakness and suffering. " Do 
ask that He may take me soonP'' she said one 
day, with childlike confidence of going to the Lord 
straight, and she gave me repeated assurances that 
she had no fear in death, and knew she was for- 
given. 

I was reminded strongly of Jairus's daughter 

when I saw this dear girl surrounded by the women 

" wailing and weeping and making a noise," exciting 

the poor mother's grief by piteous laments. "I 

thought to have decked thee for a marriage feast 

one day, my daughter," cried one, "and now must 

J deck thee for the grave — so young, and so 

good? Ah I my daughter, — ah black day I my woe, 

my sorrow ! " then a chorus of shrieks interrupted 

her. In the midst of this tumult, robed as for a 

bridal, in red, and adorned with jewels, lay the 

14 



210 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

calm, peaceful wasted face of her whose happy 

spirit had fled where she would never again hear 

sounds of woe I The last words she had heard on 

earth had been the words of the twenty-third Psalm, 

which I repeated to her : " And I shall dwell in the 

house of the Lord for ever." I repeated them twice, 

adding, " For ever^ my daughter, — ^for ever with the 

Lord." I had seen her eye follow me, though no 

longer able to speak ; but the women thought she 

would linger some hours yet, and had not therefore 

brought a MoUah to read or recite prayers, as ther 

do very frequently, if not always, with departing 

persons of respectable families. I had, however, 

scarcely reached the end of the street, when a girl 

ran after me saying, " She is gone I " I returned, 

and found the scene I have just described, and 

could not but say in my heart, "The damsel is 

not dead, but sleepeth." We have reason to hope 

that the effect produced by her life and death— 

but the former especially — ^has not been lost in 

her family. 

You will naturally ask what the men are about 
during these noisy lamentations. They leave the 
outcries mostly to the women, and walk silently in 
the funeral procession. This takes place within 
twelve hours after decease, which is only right in 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 211 

such a climate.* Moslems use a bier covered with 
a red cloth, and a raised piece of wood at the head, 
also covered with a red shawl, has the turban (if 
a man) of the dead fixed to it ; if a woman, the 
female head-dress of little gold coins, fastened to 
black silk cords hanging from a small red cap, 
takes the place of the manly turban. This cap and 
coin ornament is now going out of use a good deal, 
but is generally displayed at a funeral ; probably 
one is hired for the occasion in many cases. They, 
i.e. the Moslems, bury without a coffin, and dressed 
in their best clothes ; in very rich families, a per- 
son is sometimes buried with silk garments and 
jewels of value — a very bad custom, as robberies 

of tombs, in spite of the superstitious dread of 
evil spirits, etc., do sometimes take place. 

The family and friends, more or less, according 
to circumstances, accompany the funeral; in the 
case of a Sheikh, or any great man, flags are 
carried, and incense borne by boys from the Moslem 
school, and an immense number of men follow the 
train, but in ordinary burials, flags, etc., are dis- 
pensed with. Men are taken to the Mosque, how- 

* Sometimes, however, they do not wait half the aUotted 
time, and risk bnrjing people alive. A carpenter told me latelj 
an old Copt was jnst going to be fixed in his coffin, when he 
Bpoke, and proved, of course, to be alive. 



212 LETTERS FROM EGYPT^ 

ever, and certain prayers and passages of the Koran 
recited, after which they proceed to the cemetery 
(children, and even women, unless of distinguished 
family, are taken straight to the burial place, and 
no special religious ceremony performed). The 
MoUahs and some boys with the men friends go 
first, chanting, and the women follow with hand- 
kerchiefs, generally blue ones, in their hands, which 
they twist into a kind of rope, and pull as they 
walk, sometimes brandishing them over their heads ; 
it seems to me to be a sort of imitation of the old 
custom of rending the garments ; Egyptians some- 
times tear their clothes still (not only in grief, but 
in anger), but it is not a regular part of funeral 
observance, and I fancy the neighbours have no 
idea of sacrificing their clothes as well as their 
time. They are called on so often, being expected 
to attend the funeral of the most distant relation 
or friend, if within reach of a walk, as well as of 
neighbours, that it loses a great deal of the poorer 
women's time, and if they really tore their clothes, 
they would always be in rags I 

The chanting is chiefly about Mohammed, the 
apostle of God, as they say, and the men's voices 
are often fine-sounding and pleasing, though we 
should like different words. It is interrupted by 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 1218^ 

the cries of the hired women from behind^ and 
occasionally by bursts of genuine grief from the 
relations, as " Oh my brother," " Oh my son," " Oh 
sister, sister !" reminding one forcibly of the words 
of Jeremiah in denouncing the wicked king Jehoia- 
kim, "They shall not lament for him, saying, ah 
my brother, or ah sister, ah Lord, or ah his glory !' 

On their return, the friends sit for some time 
with the bereaved family, only men and women 
apart as usual, and the women meet to cry every 
week on a certain day till forty days are past. 

It is odd to hear the women crying periodically 
in this way till these days are ended, and not un- 
frequently to be told as soon as they are finished 
that the husband (if it be the case of a wife who 
is taken) is already looking for a bride, and will 
soon prepare for the wedding. 

A mother does not forget so soon, but she tries 
to banish what she has so little comfort under. I 
knew one (doubtless she was one among many) who 
went the long and fatiguing pilgrimage to Mecca,* 
a journey partly by sea and partly riding on a camel 
through burning deserts, — no light affair for a 
woman of at least sixty years old ; yet she did it, 

* Mecca is the holy city of the Moslems, and it is thought a 
pious act to visit it. 



214 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

and as she confessed to me, more for the sake of 
the entire change than for religious motives : pro- 
bably both had some share in her mind. Yet she 
might have taken some better comfort, for her son, 
whose death was so heavy a trial to her, had not 
died without leaving some cause to hope that he 
found peace. They had sent to me in the idea that 
I could give some bodily remedy, and when I found 
the poor lad (he was about eighteen) was already 
past this, and that to urge them to call a doctor 
would be useless, as already mortification in his 
back had begun, — I asked leave to read to him, and 
for several days tried to bring before him a few 
simple texts, especially this, " Behold the Lamb of 
God which taketh away the sins of the world." I 
tried to explain it as clearly as I could, and we 
prayed for him at home. He listened earnestly, 
and used to say, " Read, read I " when the women 
neighbours, bigoted and ignorant, tried to hinder 
me, and rudely told me no one wanted books there. 
After a few days, in which the suffering lessened, 
so that he had but little pain, he suddenly had a 
fit of internal spasms of some sort. The neighbour 
who told me said he had just been telling her that 
" the lady had been reading him such sweet words, 
such good words ; " the pain there stopped him, 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 215 

and he went on groaning for awhile, then looked 
up, exclaimed, " Lord, make me to follow Thee ! " 
and expired. 

The mother and sister, etc., had just returned 
from the funeral when I went. I found all the 
women — at least fifty in number — seated on mats 
in the narrow lane where they lived, which was 
not a thoroughfare. I sat down beside the poor 
woman, and after expressions of sympathy offered 
to read her a few words of God's own comfort, as 
I told her, out of the Book. 

"Yes, yes, read me the book my son loved," 
said she, and listened with quieter tears while I 
read in a low voice, close to her ear, some verses 
suited for the case, and easy to understand. But 
presently a great rough-looking woman near us 
got sight of the book, and said, rudely, " Gro away, 
you and your Christian book ; we want no books, 
we want to cry ! " I tried to pacify her with the 
spft answer that turneth away wrath, but with no 
great success. She gave a nudge, as I thought, 
to the hired mourners, who set up a louder chant 
than before, and echoes of howling and shrill crying 
nearly deafened me. Then suddenly pausing, the 
If ailing woman said, in her usual voice, " I am not 
going to cry any more unless you give me some- 



216 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

thing," and a brown wrinkled hand was held ouf, 
and several put small coins into it — not much, for 
it was a poor district. 

I did not approve of paid laments ; nevertheless, 
not to offend them, as it was not a sinful though 
a silly custom, I put in a trifle of about the value, 
of threepence, and then rose to take leave. Cer- 
tainly it was the first time I had ever been actually 
sitting on the ground in a street before, but as I 
remarked, it was not a thoroughfare, and there 
were neither vehicles nor passers-by. The scene 
was singular, the women rocking to and fro with 
their blue handkerchiefs, wailing and sobbing ; and 
then those who came only for kindness, getting 
tired, would turn to one another and begin to 
whisper gossip. 

It was not unlike an Irish wake, only the worst 
parts of those wakes (which I hope will soon be 
entirely things of the past) are wanting in an 
Egyptian funeral celebration ; no strong drink is 
produced, and no mixing of young people for games 
and amusements : it is a wailing time and nothing 
else with them. 

A very singular custom is observed in some 
families, both Moslems and Copts, at the decease 
of a chief person, as the master of the house, or a 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 217 

grown-up son, etc. ; this is a kind of dance held 
by the women and their friends, who all assemble 
in the best room of the house, and dance in a circle, 
with a curious little jumping motion, slapping their 
own faces at the same time. They carry on this 
till they become perfectly exhausted, and return 
home with cheeks swelled, and painful and violent 
headaches for the remainder of the day; the slapping 
is sometimes observed without the dance, and in 
that case they merely sit on the floor rocking 
themselves, and beating their faces, alternating this 
exercise with groans and tears. The dance is said 
to be more frequent in Upper Egypt, but it is per- 
formed here very often, and in highly-respectable 
families. 

The Coptic burial ceremonies are, of course, 
different from the Moslems, and resemble those of 
the Greek Church, but what we may call the 
domestic ceremonies are very nearly the same. 

The great Moslem cemetery of Cairo is on the 
borders of the desert, where is abundance of space 
for the purpose. Every Friday women may be seen 
going to visit the tombs of some dead relative, not 
that they go every week, but Friday is the " visiting 
day" for the tombs. A little girl came to ask 
leave to be absent from school one Friday, because 



218 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

her mother was going to take her to visit hw 
grandmother. I happened to ask where she lived, 
and was amazed to hear the grandmother was dead 
years ago ; " We are going to her tomb," the child 
at last explained. At the " Great" and "Lesser" 
festivals, as the two principal Mohammedan feasts 
are called, the visiting the tombs of their rela- 
tives is a necessary part of the proceedings. The 
Lesser feast, which comes first, has most of this 
visiting ; it is customary then for the people to go 
very early, often at daybreak, carrying branches of 
palm and myrtle trees, and sometimes " hebbuk," or 
sweet basil; these green boughs are laid on the 
tombs, and certain prayers recited by the sheikhs, 
or the men themselves if they are able. Every 
one is in his best and gayest clothes, and the 
scene is extremely pretty, — ^the road crowded with 
men, women, and children, all clean, and in lively-r 
coloured garments, carrying then- boughs, and some- 
times flowers, and hastening along in the early 
sunshine. It seems anything but a sorrowful day, 
— sweetmeat and fruit-sellers are in numbers, every 
one brings bread, etc., and they eat and drink 
and are merry. The solemnity of a cemetery does 
not hinder the great swings, which are always 
erected in the neighbourhood, and where not only 



T^E HOUSE OF MOUBNINa. - 219 

children but grown men delight in swinging. It is 
queer to us, but it is only Christians (I mean by 
that real believers in Christ, as the " Author and 
Finisher " of our faith, the A and the Z, the begin- 
ning and the end) — ^it is only such who can under- 
stand solemnity joined to cheerfulness (I think so 
at least), and who can feel the link between sorrow 
and joy — the tear and smile meeting as they hold 
jsweet converse about the blessed ones who are gone 
before. With the people here (as alas ! with many 
others), if they think at all of those they have lost, 
until time has, as it must, deadened the feeling — it 
is with bitter, often with angry grief. Then they 
try to forget, as soon as the violence of sorrow has 
worn itself out, because their views of the future 
cannot satisfy the higher part of our nature. Many 
of the women have so vague and dim a notion 
about the soul, that they have been said to believe 
women have no souls. This is not part of the 
Moslem religion however, though many among 
peasant females will say, " Really I don't know if 
we have any souls, or what they are ; " but a 
woman who has any claim to being "religious," 
and has learnt some prayers out of their book by 
heart, will always tell you she believes the fiaithful 
go to Paradise. This is not the Paradise spoken 



220 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

of in the Bible ; we hear Eden, where our first 
parents lived before the fall, spoken of as Paradise^ 
although not in the Scriptures, where the only 
mention of Paradise is in the Gospel of Luke, 
when our Saviour tells the repentant thief that he 
should be with Him " to-day in Paradise," and 
again in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians^ 
and in the book of Revelation, where it is said 
that the tree of life is in the midst of the " Paradise 
of God." It is doubtless this mention of the tree 
of life that made people give the name of Paradise 
to Eden, where we first hear of the tree of life; 
But there sin and Satan entered, and in the Paradise 
where the Lord Jesus is with His redeemed neither 
of these can come ; little as we are told, we may 
be sure it is a glorious place, where souls, released 
from the burden of these infirm bodies, will rest 
with their Saviour, awaiting a yet more entire and 
perfect glory, when, after the resurrection, their 
sanctified bodies will clothe the souls, and so shall 
they be, as the Apostle says, for ever with the Lord4 
Very diflferent is the Paradise which is invented 
by man ; the descriptions of the Mohanmiedan place 
of happiness are of the earth, earthy indeed, — coarse 
sensual enjoyments, eating and drinking constantly^ 
without becoming ill from excess, having a multi- 



THE HOUSE OF MOURNING. 221 

tude of wives, and many other details, some qnite 
absurd, as the gigantic size they expect to attain, etc., 
all show a childish and unspiritual idea of happi- 
ness. When we compare these descriptions with the 
few but glorious words granted to us by God of the 
tme abode of the blessed, the diflference is — -just 
what we might expect between God's words and 
man's. " God Himself shall be with them ; " there 
shall be. no more sorrow nor pain, — God Himself 
wiping away tears from their eyes ; then the voices 
of harpers, harping with their golden harpsT—the 
white robes clean and pure (showing that all sin 
is washed away), — ^why, every word is weighted with 
glory, if one may dare to use such an expression I 
Then those few but precious words in ThessalonianSj, 
about being caught up to meet the Lord in the 
air together — all who loved and were one in Him 
on earth, to be together with Him in happiness 
■:— "for ever with the Lord" — what can equal that? 
Ah I my friends, let us thank God for His gospel, 
and accept it for ourselves, and then let all who 
have accepted it help me to pray for the poor 
Egyptians, who have only a false peace to delude 
their souls, and who sorrow over their dear ones 
as they that have no hope! 



222 



LETTER XIV. 

NILB TRIPS. 

No doubt you have often heard of travellers who 
visit Egypt " going on the Nile," but as it is not 
very likely you will go yourselves, you may like to 
have a better idea of what it means than you can 
get by that rather indistinct description of the jour- 
ney 1 In one of my earlier letters, I told you that 
many remains of the old Egyptian pagan temples, 
and of the buildings raised by their kings in old 
times for memorials of their greatness, were still 
to be seen. The finest of these are at a distance 
from Cairo, but near the river ; many persons who 
are interested in ancient things go to visit these 
curious ruins, and what makes their attraction 
much greater, is the mild winter climate, which 
suits many delicate people. So, some for pleasure, 
and some for health, a great many travellers go 
every winter up the river. There are small-sized 
steamers where parties can be taken up at less 



NILE TRIPS. 223 

expense than separate boats, but wealthy families 
usually prefer the comfort of these last. The 
private boats are sailing boats, and are called 
generally by the Arab name Dahabeeyeh (mispro- 
nounced in various ways by the new arrivals). 
They are large enough to contain a cabin for eating 
and sitting in, and some little sleeping berths, 
more or less, as may be. A native captain (often 
a Nubian) and seven or eight men, manage the 
boat, which has a large sail, of the shape of a bird's 
wing, and they are very clever in taking this sail 
down quickly in change of weather, which is need- 
ful on the Nile, where are many dangerous currents, 
but, with a steady captain, it is extremely rare to 
meet with accident. 

The travellers take provisions and everything 
they want, but can buy fowls, eggs, milk, and 
sometimes a lamb, as they go along. The voyage 
to Luxor, where some of the chief ruins are found, 
takes three or four weeks, and those who go as far 
as into Nubia must be absent, going and coming, for 
more than two months. My personal experience 
of Nile voyages is nothing like this, being only 
short trips on one of the smaller boats, hired for a 
fortnight, or even less, and only going a short dis- 
tance. But as I and my friends go for the sake of 



224 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

bringing the gospel to some of the villages on the 
river, our employment is so deeply interesting that 
no ruined temples could delight us so much, for 
man is a ruin himself, ruined by sin and Satan, 
and only the knowledge of a Saviour can raise him 
out of that ruined condition. It is only scattered 
seed, of course, that can be spread in short visits 
like these, but we have cause to hope that some is 
not lost. 

I have a number of old journals, letters, and 
rough notes, made at different times of these 
voyages, and I will make a few short extracts fron;i 
some of them, to give you some idea of the places 
and the work. 

One fine, bright, breezy winter day, more like 
May in England, or something between May and 
October, Mr. Shakoor and his brother were seated 
on the deck of our boat, a well-filled bag of books 
and tracts beside them, which they were sorting, 
pausing now and then to look at the fair scenes 
through which we passed, as our white-winged 
boat skimmed cheerily along the river ; and the 
ladies of the party, having settled their tiny 
cabins, sat also on deck, noting all they saw. The 
banks are not green in general, nor flowery, — ^the 
Inundation prevents that, me^king a fresh bank 



NILE TRIPS. 225 

every year, — ^and yet there is a great deal of beauty ; 
the clear air and brilliant sun make everything 
beautiful, in fact, and the groups of palms are a 
delight to the eye. Fields of bright green clover 
and young corn reach as far as eye can see on 
one side, on the other a range of cliflFs, sometimes 
high, sometimes low, barren, and dry; but their 
yellow and white rocks take wonderful colours, in 
the sunset especially. Little villages dot the coast, 
some all among palm-trees, others with only a few 
standing up like sentinels among the low mud 
dwellings; here and there a little grove of gum- 
arabic trees grow near the river on a raised pathway, 
and as the sky grows red with the evening light, and 
the sun sinks behind golden clouds, troops of peasants 
are seen on this same high pathway, driving their 
buffaloes and cows from the pasture, and shep- 
herds with large flocks of goats. It is customary 
(and is safest) to moor the boats at night, so we 
draw up to shore, and are soon made fast to a peg 
driven into the earth. A number of men, wrapped 
in mantles of brown goats' hair, or wool, are seated 
on the bank ; one or two are still at their evening 
prayers, kneeling and touching the ground with 
their heads, then standing, then kneeling again, 

and all the while repeating the Moslem form of 

15 



226 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

prayer. They mean well, poor men, and we re- 
spect their honest wish to do what they fancy 
pleases God, but that is not prayer in the right 
sense of the word. One of the missionaries is now 
seated on the bank beside some of them, and after 
friendly salutations and kind remarks, begins to 
enquire if any can read, and, by degrees, gets into 
a very interesting conversation. Meantime, I am 
watching the women who come to draw water. 
Sunset is not a leisure time for them, as it is with 
the cultivators of the soil ; they have to draw water 
for supper, and are in great haste. It is pretty to 
see how nimbly their bare feet descend the steep 
bank, and how rapidly they lower the immense jars 
from their heads, tuck the loose dress round their 
legs, wade into the stream, wash the jar or pitcher, 
then fill, and haul it to shore, and then help each 
other to hoist it on the head again, and walk up 
the bank with firm, quick steps : no time to listen 
to strangers now, but my turn will come to-morrow. 
It gets dark quickly in Egypt, and when the 
moon is up it is apt to be cold at this time of year; 
so we retreat to our cabin for tea, and then have 
family worship, in which earnest prayer is made 
that the Lord's word may be blessed to some of 
these poor souls. 



NILE TRIPS. 227 

Well wrapped in my cloak, I am on deck as 
soon as the sun is up, indeed, have been trying 
to paint its gorgeous colours in my sketch-book 
from the cabin window, before the dazzling flood 
of light burst from the long line of gold-edged 
clouds, and made the calm waters shine and 
shimmer, so that I could no longer gaze steadily 
at them. We call to the servant to give us break- 
fast quickly, as we want to go on land, and soon 
we are speeding up the bank and entering a grove of 
palm-trees, which surround the large mud village, 
which has, we are told, a thousand inhabitants. 
The green com looks lovely, growing under the light 
shade of the palms, but the heaps of dust and 
rubbish which are in and around the village are 
neither pretty nor savoury. A good many of the 
peasants have already come from their early morn- 
ing work, and are taking a rest, some eating a piece 
of dry bread as they sit in the sun, with their backs 
against a low mud wall, some smoking from a long 
pipe handed round among them ; one or two are 
spinning the brown wool of their sheep with a 
simple distaff, made of two little sticks, and a 
spindle which dances about as they twist the 
thread. The missionaries exchange a look, as if 
to say, "Here is our work," and soon are in con- 



228 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

versation with a group of peasants ; then they are 
invited to the house of one of the chief men, and 
before long are seated in a large sort of shed, with 
about thirty or more men in white turbans and 
goats' hair mantles squatted around, listening with 
faces of wonder and attention to the words of Him 
who spoke as never yet man spake. Like the seed 
scattered by the sower, much may fall on the way- 
side, or among thorns, but not all, though till the 
last day we rnay not perhaps know which fell on 
good ground. 

Meanwhile Mrs. Shakoor and I are seeking for 
the women ; they are dawdling about at the doors 
of their huts, doing nothing for the most part. The 
water was fetched at sunrise, and it is now nearly 
ten o'clock, they have nothing therefore to do. 
Breakfast was a piece of bread and perhaps some 
milk or curds, taken whenever they felt hungry; 
the children had crawled off the mats where they 
slept when they chose, and no dressing and washing 
was performed except that each peasant woman 
washed hands and feet in the Nile when drawing 
water (for in this point they are cleaner than 
townspeople of the same class). Their heads look 
as if it were months since they had seen a comb, 
and the children are mostly in rags, but look 



NILE TRIPS. 229, 

healthier than those in Cairo, for the air of the 
Nile is very fine. 

After a little chat about their babies, and other 
matters likely to interest them, we get a little 
opening for the " Book," which of course is with us. 

Circumstances after a time prevented our going 
on these Nile trips for several years, but in the 
month of February, 1878, my sister accompanied me, 
with Mrs. Shakoor's brother * and sister on a short, 
but as it proved deeply-interesting voyage. To my 
great delight time had not taken away all recollec- 
tion of former visits ; on the contrary, I was recog- 
nized by several persons in different villages, and 
most affectionate inquiries made as to why for so 
long a time we had not come. We had, at one 
village especially, little meetings nearly all day, 
and our tracts and gospels were eagerly asked for 
by those who could read. These were chiefly young 
men or boys ; to the women we read and talked, and 
tried to make them understand a little at least of 
the love of God in Christ. 

A great deal depends, humanly speaking, on the 
sheikh of a village, as respects the treatment of 
strangers ; the sheikhs here have a great degree of 

♦ Mr. Na8eef , the present director of the boys* school, and lay 
missionary. 



230 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

power, which seems to be partly religious and partly 
legal. K men are to be taken as a conscript for the 
army, it is to the sheikh of his village that the Gov" 
ernment officers apply, and if anything goes wrong 
in a place, it is the sheikh who is to a great degree 
considered responsible. When religious festivals 
take place, the sheikhs meet and take the chief part 
in them, and if they are, as is very often the case, 
bigoted and ill-disposed to Christians, the feeling 
of aU the yUlage is bad, and surly repUes and cold 
looks are apt to meet our efforts to get a friendly 
reception. K, however, the sheikh be kind-hearted 
and easy, and still more if he be an intelligent, well- 
disposed man, we can quickly get listeners to our 
Master's message. Of course I do not mean that 
everything turns on one man, but he may be a great 
hindrance or a great help from his position. At 
one very large village, or rather a cluster of villages 
very near each other, we have several times met 
with kind and cheering receptions, and on my last 
visit, when I introduced my younger companions, 
who had not been on the river before, to some of 
my former village friends, the way in which all 
were welcomed was very pleasant. The sheikh, 
man of considerable intelligence, urged us to come 
to his house, and sat in the "salamlik," or outer 



NILE TRIPS. 231 

room reserved for men, with Mr. Naseef and a few 
friends, conversing on the subject of religion, and 
bringing forward his objections and difficulties in 
a friendly spirit, while I went to the court, with 
two or three little dens opening into it; this 
answered to a harem, and here Miss Naseef and 
I were received by his wife and mother ; the wife 
was busy churning butter in a skin, but came for- 
ward very cordially to salute us, and then continued 
her occupation, while we conversed with the old 
mother, a bright, intelligent-looking person, who, in 
spite of her advanced years, had the year before 
made the long and fatiguing journey to Mecca. The 
pilgrimage is made partly on the Eed Sea, which is 
said to be generally very rough, and partly on camel- 
back, over burning plains of sand, and to a native 
Egyptian, used to a quiet life among the palm-trees 
and clover-fields near the river, it must have been 
a most trying expedition. But the poor old dame 
was in earnest^ and really thought it would please 
Grod and cleanse her from sin to visit what they 
think such a holy place. It would not have been 
wise to say anything to hurt her feelings about 
pilgrimages in a first visit (for though I had 
formerly seen the sheikh, I had not known his 
mother), but we read and talked with her, and tried 



232 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

to show something of the plan of salvation through 
the atonement of the Saviour. When we took leave, 
the sheikh accompanied ns great part of the way^ 
and when we were returned to our boat, after several 
more visits in other parts of the village, he sent his 
little son to ask for the copy of St. John's Gospel 
which he had been promised, and the chUd evidently 
had been told to take the greatest care of the book, 
for he trotted off holding it tightly to his breast 
with both his little hands. 

Nearly all our store of books and tracts were 
taken at this place, and we did not leave without a 
promise, if the Lord should permit, to come again 
next year. 

But we are not always so well received. At 
another village we found great hindrances. While 
Mr. Naseef was gone to find the master of the little 
native school (a young man who gave instructions 
in reading and writing, their Koran being the only 
book used), his sister and I, in spite of an incon- 
veniently high wind, tried to get up an acquaintance 
with some of the troop of women and girls who 
were loitering about; except one or two, who, from 
the noise like dapping which proceeded from their 
dwellings, were engaged, we knew, in bread making, 
none seemed to be at all busy, and though many 



KILE TRIPS. 233 

were very dirty and untidy, we saw many intelligent 
faces, as well as some very pretty ones, although 
that was of no consequence, as our business was with 
the inside. Some answered civilly, others stared 
and laughed rather rudely, others were silent, and 
looked sullen. At last one invited us to sit in an 
open court, where there was a raised seat or ledge 
of stone and mud against a wall, which somewhat 
sheltered us from the wind. A good number now 
assembled to hear what these strange ladies had to 
say, and what they wanted, which we were very 
glad to explain. I observed that they seemed to 
have fine corn land and beautiful date-trees in their 
place. " Oh, yes," said one woman, " and fine 
goats — ^look 1 " pointing to a fiock just going to the 
pasture. " You have then most of you bread 
enough, but if you had none, and were nearly 
starving, and I had a basketful of loaves in my 
hand, would not you think me very hard-hearted 
if I did not give you some ? and do not you think 
I would give it ? " " Yes, certainly," said one, 
clapping me on the shoulder. " Well, I could only 
ofer it, — if you refused I could not make you eat 
it, but hungry people are always glad of bread. 
But there is another kind of hunger, which we some- 
times do not know when we have it If we know 



234 LETTERS TROM EGYPT. 

scarcely anything of God, and do not know how 
to please Him, nor where our souls can go when 
we die, then we are like starving people, only that 
it is the soul and not the body that wants food." 

Then, after a few more simple words of explana- 
tion, I asked Miss Naseef, the lady who was with 
me, and who used to teach in my school in Cairo; 
to read a simple story from the gospel, which she 
did, but it was hardly finished when we began to 
be annoyed by some boys, who had joined the women, 
and, getting on the seat behind us, began leaning 
on our shoulders, which was disagreeable, as they 
were in " filthy garments," but what was worse they 
quarrelled and pushed each other, and talked loud, so 
that we could scarcely get a hearing any longer, and 
one of the men seemed inclined to speak very rudely. 

Some of them were scholars in the little Moham- 
medan school, but manners were not taught there ; 
indeed, a couple of hours early in the day was all 
the time they spent in school, we were told. More 
women pressed into the court now to see what was 
going on, and, to our dismay, some men with them. 
The men and women mix more freely and are more 
simple in their ways in the country villages than 
in town, but to teach a mixed party is hardly pos- 
sible — ^the women will never answer any question 



NILE TRIPS. 235 

if men are present^ and the men ask hard questions, 
or such as are evidently only put to try and puzzle 
or annoy the lady ; so at least it was in this place, 
where the sheikh was doubtless a very stiff and 
bigoted man. One of the men brought a great 
book, old and yellow, and written all by hand, 
and said, "K you want to read, read that — there 
is a really good book." I replied I was not ac- 
customed to that character (which is very unlike 
the printed books, and requires special study), and 
besides that, I only came to speak to the women, 
for whom the plain simple words of God's own 
Book, of which I had with me a portion, called 
the gospel, was more suitable. 

" Ah ha," said one of them, rudely, "your book I 
— does it say if it is a sin or not to eat pig's flesh ? " 

I told him as shortly as possible that Moses' 
law forbad this food to the Jews, who were to be 
separate not in that only, but many things, from 
all other people, but that the Gospel left people 
free about their food, and spoke of the spiritual 
matters, which are of more importance, adding that 
we begged they would permit us to read about the 
love of God, His mercy, and His truth, rather than 
to engage in talk " which our friends here cannot 
enter into." " Yes, yes," said the man who had 



236 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

brought the book, in a very rough manner, and 
with a contemptuous smile, " read to the women, 
they are donkeys," and he turned away, A great 
many of the women, afraid of offending him (he 
was, I afterwards found, one of the chief men of 
the village), rose and went away. 

We decided it was best to break up the assembly, 
and said we would go, as they did not care for God's 
word, but if any did we would read to them in the 
fields quietly ; then pushing our way through the 
crowd, we got into an open cornfield not far off, 
and sat down under a beautiful palm-tree. Several 
young girls had followed us, and a few children, 
and one of the women. We made a circle here, 
and all promised to be quiet if we would read to 
them, and we had a very pleasant time with the 
young people. One girl especially interested us, 
her extreme intelligence was shown by the expres- 
sion of her face. She was a sweet-looking girl, 
and seemed really glad to hear the new things we 
told of the Great and All-wise God condescending 
to love poor sinners, and sending His holy One to 
die for them. One of the boys also showed a good 
deal of intelligence in his answers to the questions 
we put to him. What surprised us a good deal 
was to perceive that two or three of the men who 



NILE TKIPS. 237 

had so troubled us had followed at a distance, and 
remained within earshot, but behind the group we 
were reading to, without uttering a word or in any 
way troubling us. Perhaps some day we may find 
that a little seed has fallen on good ground even 
in that village, which is marked in my journal 
as, " People bigoted and inclined to be rude." 

Sometimes it is disappointing not to be able to 
find again some person who appeared to have been 
really touched and anxious to know more about 
Jesus. There was one such case, a widow woman, 
who had shown a remarkable sense of sin (I say 
remarkable, because, hard as it is everywhere to get 
the heart of man to acknowledge its sinfulness, it 
is hardest of all among Mohanmiedans). I sought 
for that woman vainly three years running, and 
never could trace where she had gone. There was 
also a very interesting Bedouin woman, who once 
had a long talk with me, and was deeply moved. 
She said — I well remember her words and the tear 
glistening in her bright black eye as she spoke, — 
" I am going away — ^we Bedouins move from place 
to place, and it may be years perhaps before I come 
to this spot again. How shall I recollect what you 
tell me ? " adding, " Why did no one ever tell me 
this before?" 



238 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

I need hardly say I promised to pray for her, and 
begged her to ask of Grod light for her soul and 
pardon for her sins. Still it was a difficult case, 
never to be in the way of hearing anything of that 
gospel which in one hour could only be put very im- 
perfectly before her. These, and many, many more 
such, are cases for very earnest prayer and much faith. 

I will now tell you one blessed instance in which 
the seed was found again, not by the sower indeed, 
but by his companion in the work. Many years 
ago, the elder Mr. Shakoor was on the banks of 
the Nile engaged in distributing books among the 
Copts (or native Christians), for the higher up the 
Nile the more numerous are the Copts, to a certain 
distance. He was asked for books by a young man 
who told him he liked reading very much, and 
found but few books in his village, and had come 
some considerable way to get books, hearing "a 
strange gentleman was selling books at the river." 
He had seen, and perhaps partly read, a New Testa- 
ment, but knew little about it, and cared less. He 
would have liked worldly books better, and though 
he bought a New Testament and listened to the 
earnest words spoken to him by that dear servant 
of the Lord, he paid little attention ; at least they 
soon passed out of his mind, because spiritual things 



NILE TRIPS. 239 

had no interest for him. He examined his purchase 
at home, but found it was printed differently from 
the old Copt Bible he had seen, which had no para- 
graphs or spaces between the printed portions, as 
our books and modern Arabic ones have. So he 
foolishly fancied it was an imperfect copy, and 
actually threw it in the bottom of an old box, and 
soon forgot all about it. Years passed away, and 
at length the Copt heard some friends speaking of 
the Bible, and how they had procured it at the 
mission of the Americans at Luxor, and some one 
spoke of it as a different but better-printed edition 
than the old Coptic one. Then his forgotten Testa- 
ment came into the man's mind, and with that 
remembrance the unknown friend who had so af- 
fectionately urged him to read it. He hastened 
to seek in his old chest, and found it safe. The 
words despised at the time came back to him, amd 
he now began the study of God's word in earnest ; 
it was blessed to his soul, and one day, when 
visiting Cairo, he came to our book-shop and learned 
how the sower of the seed had been called to " go 
up higher," where no doubt they will one day meet. 
Meantime he told the surviving brother that this 
precious book was his constant companion and the 
guide of his life 1 > i / 



240 



LETTEE XV. 

ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 

It is now time I should tell you something in 
order about the school which has been alluded to 
so often in my letters. I kept it for the end be- 
cause I wished you first to know a little about 
the sort of people for whose children it was set 
up, as, without this, details of schools are very dry 
reading, and however glad we may be that the 
poor children are taught well, yet if we know 
nothing about the nation from which they come, 
and their ways and habits, etc., we can feel very 
little interest. Some of you may possibly have 
read one or both of two little books I wrote some 
years back, to give accounts of what I saw of the 
people, as well as of my endeavour to help them 
with education ; but as many, no doubt, have not 
met with these, I will, at the risk of repeating 
some things already known, give you just a slight 
sketch of the beginning. I came for change of 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 241 

air when in poor health (but not by any means an 
actual invalid) many years ago, meaning to spend 
five or six months ; and I thought I might start a 
school for poor girls in Cairo; a beloved relative 
had kindly accompanied me, and a valued maid- 
servant made up the party. We took a small 
house in a native quarter in order to try and get 
scholars among the poor, and especially Moslems ; 
although warned by aU friends that Moslem girls 
never would come to a Christian, I resolved at 
least to try, asking the Lord for a blessing. A 
worthy Syrian woman was found, whose daughter, 
only thirteen, could read fairly ; she herself could 
read pretty well in the Gospels, and both could 
sew. The whole of their rather large family was 
squeezed into the house to save them house-rent. 
We then began to make our arrangements, and 
look for pupils ; first we tried through the 
native servants, but I was ignorant of the ways of 
Egypt, or should never have supposed that a man 
could have any power to bring girls. Many, many 
difficulties were in the path indeed, among which 
was my small knowledge of Arabic, and my good 
matron knew about as much of English, and her little 
daughter the same. We got on very well however ; 

she and I went out to look for our scholars in the 

16 



242 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

lanes near the house. The poor women we spoke 
to had never, many of them, seen an European, for 
Cairo was not so full of strangers as now, and they 
(if foreigners) kept more to particular quarters- 
In the lanes just around my new dwelling were 
numbers of poor houses, and a little further a 
collection of actual huts, built against the old wall 
of the city, and with narrow paths between them ; 
the only thoroughfare was the street, which went 
lengthways, and into which these little paths 
evened. The occupants of these places seldom left 
home except on a visit to the tombs, or on a 
wedding procession, etc., and if they ever saw 
a "frangee," as they called Europeans, it was at 
a distance, riding a donkey, or in a carriage ; as to 
one talking to them, and going among them to ask 
if they would send their little girls to school, it 
was quite a new idea. Several ran away, and the 
children were terrified, and cried, and hid, them- 
selves, and at the good matron's advice I left the 
European straw hat at the house, and put a scarf 
over the head, so as to resemble more nearly what 
they were used to in dress. NoWj such a pro- 
ceeding would be absurd, they are used enough to 
hats of all kinds, and many Syrian and Greek 
girls have taken to wear then, and even some few 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 243 

Copts ; but I am writing of things fully eighteen 
years ago. Som6 of the women were friendly, 
others sullen, being bigoted Moslems, and disliking 
Christians ; others laughed, and said, ^^ Teach girls 
indeed! let them make bread: what more need they 
know ? " A few said, " Teach sewing if you will, this 
is very good; let books alone." A few at last 
agreed to try, and after two ^r three days all was 
prepared in a very simple way at the house, and 
a few scholars came. My cousin was ill with a 
low fever, and could not help me, but my excellent 
jnaid brought the needles and thread, and though 
only possessing a few Arabic words, made the most 
of these, and was a great assistance those first 
days, with her bright face and cheerful manners, 
ramming thimbles on fingers quite new to them, 
and cutting bits of calico to be stitched, etc. I 
opened school with the Lord's prayer, and then 
I and my little teacher taught texts, and the 
matron kept order, or tried to do so, for she had 
never kept school, and the wild hut children were 
very hard to keep quiet. By little and little a few 
more respectable ones came, and helped the others, 
as they knew what sitting still and doing as they 
were told meant^ at. least ; after a month's labours, 
my cousin was well again, and often gave us a 



244 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

helping hand, and the number of scholars gradually 
rose to twenty, more sometimes, seldom less. 

I will not repeat all the ups and downs of that 

four months* work ; when the middle of May came, 

my cousin and I left, and the school was placed 

under another lady, as I did not then see that Grod 

intended me to live and work here, and family affaiirs 

made it hard to be at such a distance. But the 

poor matron's health failed, and she had to go, 

the lady was inexperienced in the East, and 

ignorant of the laaguage, and moreover had no 

one near who took a real interest in the work, so 

she closed the school and returned to England, 

and then I decided to go out and " stick to it," as 

the boys say ; so that autumn found me (this time 

alone, except for my faithful maid) in my old 

quarters ; luckily the lease was not out, and I 

opened the house, and the children were soon found 

again, and were wild with joy at my return. 

' I found a teacher who was half Italian, half 

Syrian, and as I spoke Italian I could easily explain 

things to her. She was much cleverer than my 

good matron and her little girl, but then they were 

Protestants, and she was of the Greek Church, and 

knew next to nothing of the Bible ; so I had to 

teach the Scripture daily myself, and to study 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 245 

Arabic very hard to keep ahead of my scholars. 
The excellent Christian missionary, Mr. Mansoor 
Shakoor * (from Syria, but working in Egjrpt, mider 
an English Society), had made my acquaintance 
that winter, and kindly gave me Arabic lessons, 
and besides this, he came whenever he could to 
examine the children and keep the teacher up to 
her business. So we got on nicely, and even when 
I was obliged to go to Europe for the summer, 
the school kept up tolerably under the teachers, 
though I found much to reform on my return n6xt 
autumn. By Mr. Shakoor's advice I engaged his 
brother, also a missionary teacher, to leave Syria 
and come as my agent to Cairo, to manage the 
business of the house with the landlord, and many 
other matters, and also to teach the Grospel to any 
among men or boys who could be persuaded to 
hear. 

By degrees the work enlarged from this time, 
and after a while the elder Mr. Shakoor gave 
up his other situation and joined me, and the two- 
Christian brothers, with one spirit and one heart, 
laboured for the Lord, — opened meetings for young 
men, distributed Bibles, visited the sick, and at 

♦ The same alluded to as a fellow-worker in the last chapter, 
whose wife was my adopted daughter. 



246 LETTERS FBOM BGTPT. 

Imst amnged a hojs" sdiooL This was not essy, 
becaose we had scaroely funds to pay its expenses. 
I had carried on the work at my own expense 
with only a Teiy small amoont of assistance from 
friends who were interested in it, and the yearly 
aom I conld dispose of did not allow of such an 
addition. - We tried, however, b^inning by having 
the boys in a lower room in the house I occupied, 
the girls being already in an upper room, and Grod 
sent help, so that by-and-by we moved the boys to 
a larger house, and then again to another, till at 
last I was enabled to build a large school-house 
(with some assistance from Christian friends) on a 
plot of land presented to me by the Kiedive, on 
which I also built a dwelling-house. 

Many years of struggles and work had passed by 
this time, and we had had reason to praise the Lord 
for letting the little blade of corn grow and bring 
fruit and increase. Instead of twenty or thirty 
children, they came in fifties, and then in hundreds, 
and our rooms were ftdl. 

A younger brother, and afterwards other rela- 
tives, had come to join the Shakoors in their work, 
and by teaching in school left them more free for 
mission work with adults. The circle of labourers 
had one interest and one desire among them^ and I 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL 247 

was no longer alone in a strange land. A young re- 
lative of my first friend and helper, Mansoor Shakoor, 
had been spared by her parents at his earnest re- 
quest to be an adopted daughter to me, and share 
my home and labours, and from an early age she 
gave herself to serve the Lord by trying to do good 
among the girls and women of Egypt. 

Before the new school-house was built, this young 
lady and Mr. Shakoor were married, and the cares 
of a family prevented her going among the women 
as formerly, but much can be done at home, both 
by example and a word in season, and we had now 
quite an establishment of teachers and pupils, and 
old pupils and their relations coming to see us. 
In the evening the two missionaries took ti^rns in 
holding meetings, and in winter (our best season, 
as I told you before) we made little voyages on the 
river, to bring the gospel to some of the many vil- 
lages on the coast, as related in the last letter. 

Our work was prospering in many respects, though 
the bigotry of the people was the cause of frequent 
disappointment and much hindrance. Still God's 
word was preached as a testimony to many, and 
sorrie listened gladly. The year that the building 
which with so much trouble we had at length 
finished was opened, was the year of sorrow to the 



248 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

Cairo mission ; the elder Mr. Shakoor was called 
above, after a severe illness of more than two 
months. Faith can sometimes hear the Lord's 
welcome to the "good and faithful servant," but 
alas I too often faith even seems dimmed by tears. 
Yet God mercifully continued to uphold the work, 
as well as to support the bereaved. 

A few years later, and the second brother, Mr. 
Joseph, was called away, like the first, having 
scarcely reached middle age, and leaving also a 
widow and little ones, who returned to Syria after 
his death. 

Two years previous to this second blow, we had 
opened a branch school for boys in the ancient 
though decayed city of Damietta, on the coast of 
the Mediterranean, where one of the mouths of the 
Nile pours its waters into that sea. Mr. Joseph 
Shakoor had gone there to make the arrangements, 
as it was from an earnest request made to him from 
a few respectable inhabitants that the idea of open- 
ing a school there arose. 

He started the work and took much interest in 
it, and his cousin, who had joined our little band 
seme time before, was deputed to superintend the 
work in this untrodden field (for no missionary had 
ever taught God's Word there before). The school 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 249 

is still doing well there, but the preaching, eto 
was suspended for a time, except during the occa- 
sional short visits of the missionary, as on the death 
of Mr. J. Shakoor he was obliged to come to Cairo. 
But a missionary will, by God's help, soon be placed 
there. 

Yoa must not suppose that all who come to learn 
profit as fully as we wish, or that the children are 
open professors of Christianity. It would not be 
wise to make them, or even urge them, to come 
out. while things are as they are in this country; 
the persecution any Mohammedan is sure to undergo 
if he is baptized a Christian would very likely 
frighten children into recanting, and they would 
be removed entirely from Gospel influence, while 
too weak to stand unassisted and alone. But their 
belief in the Gospel is not interfered with in 
general; they are left to do and think much as 
they like, and the degree of freedom often surprises 
me, and is cause of thanksgiving. In early days I 
had often dust thrown at me when visiting in the 
lanes, and many bad words and curses. These are 
now very, very rare, and though there is much intense 
bigotry still, there are yet small loopholes for light 
here and there, and the best and largest of these 
(indeed it is not a small loophole !) is the softening 



250 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

of the prejudice against education, and what is^ 
most wonderfiil, education by a Christian is still 
prized, and much more than formerly. Far from 
having to go and hunt for scholars, I am obliged 
to refuse taking more till there is space, large a^ 
our rooms are. 

You would be pleased if you could see the gate 
of the school-house at twelve o'clock, when the bell 
rings, and out come the boys pouring in streams, 
all full of glee, some with books under their arms, 
others running to the fruit or sweetmeat seller at 
the door, others in little groups sitting under a 
beautiful mulberry tree (planted the second year 
of the building of the great school-house), and 
others under a vine trellis, where a bench is pro- 
vided, all enjoying the dinners they have brought, 
or which their mothers have sent. The greater 
number are poor boys still, but several are rich, 
and these have their meal brought by a black 
slave or a hired servant, in a covered dish. A few 
who live near go home to eat. About three hun- 
dred may usually be seen, this being the average 
attendance. The girls number two hundred ; many 
more are on the books, but they are oftener kept 
away in cases of illness in the house — ^new babies' 
arrivals, and other causes. 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 251 

The girls have their playground quite separate^ 
and on the other side of the house ; their school- 
room is upstairs, and the staircase is separate also. 
They have a number of teachers, the younger ones 
being all trained girls brought up by ourselves. 
One of the very best of these is sister to the dear 
girl whose blessed death I told you about, and I 
trust she has the same blessed hope. Though past 
the ridiculously early age at which girls are usually 
married, she is still a happy young teacher with 
us, and her mother says she will not let her Zeynab 
marry unless to a really good and respectable man, 
if she can find such. 

The young lady who is over the school, and directs 
these young teachers, has been in England herself 
(though a native of Syria), and has seen English 
schools, and many of the good works going on in 
London, and tells the 'women here about them. 
You would like to see her seated in the school-room, 
with the whole school assembled in the morning, 
sitting quite still and in perfect order, listening 
while she reads a short portion of Scripture, and 
tries by questions to ascertain that all know what 
it is about, and to make the elder ones explain by 
their answers to the younger. 

All ages, from fourteen to four or five, are there. 



252 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

and every sort of garment, from the muslin dress 
and handsome necklace of the wealthy child to the 
coarse calico loose frock, the only article of the 
poorest. But we discourage finery in school, and 
much less in the way of jewels, etc., are seen than 
was the case some time ago, even rich mothers 
being now persuaded that plain coloured prints, or 
clean white in summer, are more suitable for the 
place and occupation, and the cleanliness enforced 
in all is now so thoroughly established that only a 
new comer now appears with face or hair or frock 
in an unpleasant state. Formerly I had the utmost 
trouble to get clean faces, and many mothers re- 
fused to give clean dresses, from fear of the evil 
eye ; but this, among scholars at least, is now dis- 
appearing, and the fresh clean look of the young 
assembly never fails to strike our visitors with 
pleasure. 

Some of the very poorest receive a calico frock 
in winter, and need it very much, for several are 
orphans, and others children of widows, or worse— 
of poor women divorced, and obliged to labour for 
themselves and little ones. K the child is a boy, 
the father always keeps it, but a girl, unless he is 
particularly fond of her, or wants her to wait on 
the new wife, is generally on the poor mother's 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 253 

hands. We think a few yards of calico well be- 
stowed on such, and only wish we had more to give. 

They are taught, after the Scripture (which is 
made the first object of all), some hymns, and 
the simplest part of arithmetic and geography, 
6.nd some knowledge of English to the head class. 

After school is dismissed, the pupil teachers 
generally stay half-an-hour later in the summer 
evenings to enjoy strolling in my garden, or sitting 
under a tree with their work. Sometimes a young 
married scholar (from the Syrians, who are not 
so closely shut up as Egyptians) joins them, and 
they always come on Sunday for our Arabic service 
in the school-house. All these are sweet, promising 
girls, and their mothers, most of whom are widows, 
are very proud of them. 

But even among much younger ones we have 
scholars whose answers in Scripture are very 
good for their age, and down to the least every 
child who has been here for a month knows that 
Jesus Christ is the Saviour of sinners, and by Him 
alone we can hope for an entrance to heaven. 

Many of the mothers of the children come to 
see the school and the teachers, and hear what is 
taught ; some come to my little weekly women's 
meetings, though Eastern women dislike regularity 



264 LETTBBS FROM EGYPT. 

and order so mach that it is hard to get any of 
them to come steadily every week; yet more or 
less are there, and by degrees we hope to induce 
them to be steady attendants. Some days eighteen, 
or twenty, and even as many as forty, wUl appear, 
at others only three or four ; but usually at least 
seven or eight women will come, some Christians 
and some Moslems, and I read and pray with them, 
and try to explain tiie reading in a simple, cheerful 
manner, and to show how blessed a thing it is to 
believe in Jesus. 

I visit many of them at their homes, and Mrs. 
Shakoor still more, for that is the part of the work 
she especially undertakes, and many of the Moham- 
medan women, whose children or relations^ children 
attend school, have heard the gospel from her, and 
welcome her when she goes to see them, and Copts 
and Syrians as well. 

Thus the school has opened doors which might 
never have been opened for the gospel without it, 
for Egyptians are shy of receiving total strangers 
without some reason, and having their girls under 
our care was of course the best of reasons. That 
curtain which in Mohammedan families of the 
better class hangs before the entrances to the 
women's apartments is not so easily raised for 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 255 

foreign visitors as might be supposed ; even ladies 
do not gain admission into many of them. We are 
let in, however, at once, as soon as known. 

Not long ago I went to a house where the mistress 
is a bigoted woman, whom I often hear muttering 
sentences she has learnt by heart (for she cannot 
read) of the Koran, and telling beads, which is not 
common among women, few of whom know much of 
their own religion, or perform the stated Moslem 
prayers as men do ; yet this lady sends her little girl 
to the school (though they live at some distance), 
and not only receives us affectionately, but when I 
visited her lately she asked me if I had " that book " 
in my pocket, as if so she wished I would read a 
bit ! I had the book, and very gladly complied with 
her request ; she said, turning to a lady older than 
herself, who was a cousin, I believe, who was staying 
with her, " My girl reads quite nicely in that book 
now — yes, she is clever indeed." 

I should make my letter too long were I to tell of 
the various openings made in different families by 
scholars, some very hopeful, others Uke a tiny chink 
in a closed door, just enough to let in a single ray 
of light; but we have cause to thank God and 
persevere, and say, as His people so often can 
say, " Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." 



256 LETTERS FROM EGYPT. 

I must before leaving this subject give you a 
little picture, which I think will please you : it is 
our Sunday-school in holiday time. In tlie latter 
part of summer the teachers require a little rest ; 
the parents of the scholars by no means like it, 
as the children are on their hands, and boys get 
into mischief ; however, it cannot be helped for a 
little while. But I assembled as many as I could 
of the girls during the holidays on Sunday for a 
little meeting, something between a Sunday-school 
and regular service. Only a few out of the number 
came, but we knew those came from their own free 
will — from thirty to forty girls and the pupil 
teachers, and a few women ; on the occasion I am 
describing here, in all thirty-two, made quite a 
group in the vine-covered arbour where I assembled 
them. After all the salutations were over, I opened 
with a short prayer, and then read the 16th of Acts, 
pausing for a question now and then, and at the 
end making a few remarks ; some of the girls 
answered very intelligently, and all appeared in- 
terested. Then we had a hymn, and another 
prayer, and I then dismissed the assembly to refresh 
themselves in the garden, while I heard the verses 
learnt by the home-girls.* It was a pretty sight to 

* Some orphans I am bringing up in. the house. 



ABOUT THE SCHOOL. 257 

observe the pnpil teachers, tall girls of fifteen, with 
their modest quiet manners and bright faces, and to 
hear their replies to questions about the chapter, 
and to remember how they used to come to my 
school when quite little toddlers ; the women too 
seemed so calmly happy as they sat under the willow 
tree, and talked with the matron while enjoying the 
fresh air, for they all lived in narrow lanes, which 
are in August quite suffocating, and the sun being 
nearly set, my shady garden was delightful to them. 
I thought how I wished they could know by blessed 
experience what it is to be able to say of the 
Lord Jesus, " I sat down under His shadow with 
great delight." f May that time come for them, 
and for you too, if you do not yet know it. 

t Solomon's Song, Chapter xi. 3, 



17 



258 



LETTER XVI 

CONCLUSION. 

And now, my dear friends, I must bid you ferewell. 
I shall not think my trouble wasted if some of you 
have learned in reading these pages to feel a greater 
interest in Egypt than you ever did before, and, I 
hope, to feel also some interest in the people, and to 
ask the Lord to gather out of them a band of true 
believers, and to hasten that blessed time when 
Egypt shall be a third with Israel and Assyria (see 
Isaiah xix.). We cannot understand fully the con- 
nection between our poor imperfect prayers and the 
plans of our Heavenly Father, but He has told us 
to pray not only for ourselves, but for others, and 
not only for individuals, but also for nations, and 
therefore I may boldly ask for your prayers both for 
the people of Egypt and for my little mission 
among them in particular. You know God's 
telegraph wire never breaks : no fear that the 
humblest petition sent up from an honest believing 



CONCLUSION. 259 

heart will fail to reach the Lord, and to be in some 
way answered, not perhaps for long, not in the 
expected way very likely, but not lost. Let us then 
join in praying that the bread cast upon the waters 
may be found after many days, that the little ones 
whom I am trying to train up to know the Saviour 
may become His true disciples, and that He who is 
the " Dayspring from on high " may givQ light to 
them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, 
to guide their feet into the way of peace.. 



FINIS, 



Hazell, Watson, and Yiney, Printers, London and Aylesbury. 



BEGENTLT PUBLISHED. 



AMONG THE HOTS IN EQTPT, Scenes from Beal 

Life. By M. L. Whatelt, Author of " Ragged Life in Egypt," 
etc. Third Edition, Crown 8vo, with lUustrations, 6»., 
cloth. 

THE DAUQHTEES OF STEIA. A Narrative of 

efforts made by Mrs. Bowen Thompson for the Evangelization 
of Syrian Females. Edited by the Rev. 3. B. Tristram, 
LL.D. Third Edition. In crown 8vo, with Illustrations, 
58., cloth. 

THE ASIATIC IN ENGLAND ; Sketches of Sixteen 

Years* Work among the Orientals in London. By Joseph 
Salter. With a Preface by the Rev. Henry Venn, B.D. ; 
and an Introductory Chapter by Lieut.-Colonel R. Hughes. 
With Illustrations, price 5«., cloth. 

STOEIES OF ENTEEPBISE AND ADVENTTJEE. 

A Selection of Authentic Narratives. With Eight Engravings. 
Crown 8vo, price 3«. 6(2., doth. 

AMONQ THE AEABS : Narratives of Life and Adven- 
ture in the East. With numerous lUustrations. In crown 
8vo. price 3«. 6d., cloth. 

ISLAM UNDER THE KHALIPS OF BAaHDAD. 

By R. D. OsBORN, Major in the Bengal Staff Corps. In 8vo, 
price 12a., cloth. 

COUNTET LIFE IN STEIA. Passages of Letters 

written from Anti-Lebanon. By Habbiet Rattbay, With 
Twelve Illustrations, price 8<. 6d, cloth. 

Very interesting notes by a lady who has spent twelve 
years among the peasantry of Syria. Sketches of Hfe, cha- 
racter, and adventure, etc 



RECENTLY PUBLISHED. 



HAEEY LAWTON'S ADVENTUEES. New Edition. 

Small 8vo, Thirty-five Illustrations, Zs, 6(2., cloth. 

STOEIES FEOM CHINA. Crown 8vo, Twenty-five 

niustrationB, 3«. 6<2., cloth. 

STOEIES FEOM THE SOrTH SEAS. Crown 8to, 

Twenty lUustrations, 3«. 6(2., doth. 

ITALIAN SCENES AND STOEIES. With Twenty 

Illustrations, price 3«. 6(2. 

SEA BEEEZES. By the Author of "Knights of the 

Frozen Sea." With numerous Illustrations. In crown 8vo> 

price Zs. 6d.y cloth. 

" A capitsd school-prize or gift for the young." — Seeord, 

" A pleasant story about boys, full of adventures by sea, especially in the 
Arctic regions." — Standard, 

TEAVELLEES' TALES. By the Author of "Busy 

Bee." In crown 8vo, with forty-five Illustrations, price 
3«. 6(2., cloth. 
" A good and cheap book for a presoit." — Nonconformist. 

THE ANCIENT NATION ; a Sign and a Wonder. By 

the Author of **The Kingdom and the People," etc. In 
crown 8vo, with twenty-one Illustrations, price 6«., cloth. 

" A series of conversatioxis on Jewish hJstcny, drawn up with much spirit 
and good eensQ.**— Guardian. 

" A weU-told story of the Jewish people. The book is full of information." 
'—Meeord. 

SWITZEE1.AND AND THE SWISS. Sketches of 

the Country and its Famous Men. By the Author of " The 
Knights of the Frozen Sea," etc., etc. With twenty-four 
Illustrations, crown 8vo, 5«., cloth. 

" It is pleasantly written, and will be found entertaining reading."— JbAn 
Bull. 

** A readable little volume, pleasantly put together. "-^iS^c^o^or. 



RECENTLY PUBLISHED. 



A CENTTJET OF DISCO VEEY; An Account of the 

Spanish and Portuguese Navigators, from Prince Henry to 
Pizarro. From the German of Theodore Vooel. With 
twelve Illustrations, 5«., cloth. 

THE SYLVAN TEAE : Leaves from the Note-Book of 
Raoul Dubois. By P. G. Hamerton. With twenty Etchings 
by the Author and other Artists. In 8vo, cloth, price 
12«. 6rf. 

CHAPTEES ON ANIMALS. By P. Q. Hamjjeton. 

With twenty Etchings. In post 8vo, price 12«. 6rf., cloth. 

THE TNKNOWN EIVEE. By P. G. Hameeton. In 

8vo, with thirty-six Etchings, price 15«., cloth. A Cheaper 
Edition, with eight Etchings, 5«. 

A QUIET COENER IN ENGLAND. Studies in Eye, 

Winchelsea, and Ronmey Marsh. By Basil Champnbys. 
With Illustrations by Alfred Dawson. 12a. 6rf. 

THE GEEATEST OF THE PEOPHETS : a Life of 

Moses. By the Author of " Essays on the Church." Post 
8vo, with eight Illustrations, price 6«., cloth. 

"We commend it for the mformation it contains; but we commend it 
rather as a striking book, full of shrewd sense, clear statement, and 
intelligent interpretation of the sacred records." — Chrittian Observer. 

HISTOEY OF FEANCE. Adapted from the French. 
For the use of English Children. By Eioca Marshall, 
Author of " Life's Aftermath," etc. With twenty-six Illustra- 
tions. Price 58., cloth. 

" It is pleasent reading, and gives a vivid idea of French history with- 
out overbading the youthful memory with needless details." — Saturday 
Mevietb. 

I MUST KEEP THE CHIMES GOINQ : A Tale of 

Real Life. By the Author of "Copsley Annals." Tenth 
Thousand, in large 16mo, Engravings, 2«. ^., cloth. 



BECSNTLT PUBLISHED. 



■*. 



PERILS AMONG THE HEATHEN ; Narratives of 

Adventure and Endipmiipe for Christ's sa^. With a Preface 
>»y the Rev. Joseph Ridgway, M.A. Third Edition. In 
small 8vo, eighteen Illustrations, price 2«. 6c^., cloth. 

DATSPEINQ IN THE EAE WEST: Sketches of 

Mission Work in North- West America. By M. E. I. With 
twenty-four Engravings and a Map. Post 8vo, price 4«. 6c2., 
cloth. 

JESSIE'S WOEK ; or, Faithfulness in Little Things. A 
Story for Girls. By Mart E. Shipley. Second Edition. 
In crown 8vo, Frontispiece, price 3«. 6d., cloth. 

GABEIELLE VArQHAN: a Tale. By Maet E. 

Shipley. Crown 8vo, 6»., cloth. 

" A thoroaghly well-prmcipled and interesting storv, sach as we shofold 
like to see in yoimf? people's hands. It is the history of a great and qniet act 
of Buhmission, and of the fall triumph of obedience, greatly tried, through a 
long course of patience." — ChMrdMn. 

* * A very charming and ably-written story. It indicates no common talent 
on the part of its author."— JSeoord. 

LIFE'S AFTEEMATH : a Story of a Quiet People. By 

Emma Marshall, Author of "The Old Gateway," "Mrs. 

Mainwaring's Journal," etc. Crown 8vo, price 68., cloth. 

•* The story is admirably told, and the interest well sustained throughont. 
The descriptions of English scenery are in many instances beautifol." — 
Chrigtian Observer, 

PEATEE AND THANKSQIVINa : Forms of Family 

Devotion, for Six Weeks. Chiefly from Cotterill and Jowett 
In crown 8vo, 3«. 6d., cloth. 

THE TABEENACLE, PEIESTHOOD, AND OFFER- 
INGS OF ISRAEL. By the Rev. Fbbdbmck Whitpield, 
M.A., Vicar of St. Mary's, Hastings. With Engravings, price 
5^., cloth. 

** The result of much research. It is exhaustive and well-written, and per- 
vaded by an excellent spirit."— JViwcow/onnw*. 

SEBLEY, JACKSON, AND HALLIDAY, 54, FLEET STREET. 






I.