Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah
Sir Richard Francis Burton

Part 2 out of 8

afraid of his duplicity, collects his Indian friends. The Hakim
Abdullah draws up a petition

[p.49]addressed to Mr. Walne (H.B.M's Consul) by the Indian merchants
and others resident at Cairo, informing him of Mohammed Shafi'a's
birth, character, and occupation as a vendor of slaves, offering proof
of all assertions, and praying him for the sake of their good name to
take away his passport. And all the Indians affix their seals to this
paper. Then Mohammed Shafi'a threatens to waylay and to beat the Haji.
The Haji, not loud or hectoringly, but with a composed smile, advises
his friends to hold him off.

One would suppose that such a document would have elicited some
inquiry.But Haji Wali was a Persian protege, and proceedings between
the Consulates had commenced before the petition was presented. The
pseudo-British subject, having been acknowledged as a real one, must be
supported. Consuls, like kings, may err, but must not own to error. No
notice was taken of the Indian petition; worse still, no inquiry into
the slave-affair was set on foot[FN#7]; and it was discovered that the
passport having been granted by a Consul-General could not with
official etiquette be resumed by a Consul.[FN#8]

[p.50]Thus matters were destined to proceed as they began. Mohammed
Shafi'a had offered 5,000 piastres to the Persian Consul's interpreter;
this of course was refused, but still somehow or other all the Haji's
affairs seemed to go wrong. His statements were mistranslated, his
accounts were misunderstood, and the suit was allowed to drag on to a
suspicious length. When I left Cairo in July, Haji Wali had been kept
away nearly two months from his business and family, though both
parties-for the plaintiff's purse was rapidly thinning-appeared eager
to settle the difference by arbitration: when I returned from Arabia in
October, matters were almost in statu quo ante, and when I started for
India in January, the proceedings had not closed.

Such is a brief history, but too common, of a case in which the subject
of an Eastern state has to contend against British influence. It is
doubtless a point of honour to defend our proteges from injustice, but
the higher principle should rest upon the base of common honesty. The
worst part of such a case is, that the injured party has no redress.

"Fiat injustitia, ruat coelum,"

is the motto of his "natural protectors," who would violate every law
to gratify the false pride of a petty English official. And, saving the
rare exceptions where rank or wealth command consideration, with what
face, to use the native phrase, would a hapless Turk appeal to the
higher powers, our ministers or our Parliament?

After lodging myself in the Wakalah, my first object was to make a
certain stir in the world. In Europe your travelling doctor advertises
the loss of a diamond ring, the gift of a Russian autocrat; or he
monopolises a whole column in a newspaper, feeing perhaps a title for
the use of a signature; the large brass plate, the gold-headed cane,
the rattling chariot, and the summons from the sermon complete the
work. Here, there is no such Royal

[p.51]Road to medical fame. You must begin by sitting with the porter,
who is sure to have blear eyes, into which you drop a little nitrate of
silver, whilst you instil into his ear the pleasing intelligence that
you never take a fee from the poor. He recovers; his report of you
spreads far and wide, crowding your doors with paupers. They come to
you as though you were their servant, and when cured they turn their
backs upon you for ever. Hence it is that European doctors generally
complain of ingratitude on the part of their Oriental patients. It is
true that if you save a man's life, he naturally asks you for the means
of preserving it. Moreover, in none of the Eastern languages with which
I am acquainted is there a single term conveying the meaning of our
"gratitude," and none but Germans[FN#9] have ideas unexplainable by
words. But you must not condemn this absence of a virtue without
considering the cause. An Oriental deems that he has the right to your
surplus. "Daily bread is divided" (by heaven), he asserts, and eating
yours, he considers it his own. Thus it is with other things. He is
thankful to Allah for the gifts of the Creator, but he has a claim to
the good offices of a fellow-creature. In rendering him a service you
have but done your duty, and he would not pay you so poor a compliment
as to praise you for the act. He leaves you, his benefactor, with a
short prayer for the length of your days. "Thank you," being expressed
by "Allah increase thy weal!" or the selfish wish that your shadow
(with which you protect him and his fellows) may never be less. And
this is probably the last you hear of him.

There is a discomfort in such proceedings, a reasonable,

[p.52]a metaphysical coldness, uglily contrasting in theory with the
genial warmth which a little more heart would infuse into them. In
theory, I say, not in practice. Human nature feels kindness is
displayed to return it in kind. But Easterns do not carry out the idea
of such obligations as we do. What can be more troublesome than, when
you have obliged a man, to run the gauntlet of his and his family's
thanksgivings, to find yourself become a master from being a friend, a
great man when you were an equal; not to be contradicted, where shortly
before every one gave his opinion freely? You must be unamiable if
these considerations deter you from benefiting your friend; yet, I
humbly opine, you still may fear his gratefulness.

To resume. When the mob has raised you to fame, patients of a better
class will slowly appear on the scene. After some coquetting about
"etiquette," whether you are to visit them, or they are to call upon
you, they make up their minds to see you, and to judge with their eyes
whether you are to be trusted or not; whilst you, on your side, set out
with the determination that they shall at once cross the Rubicon,-in
less classical phrase, swallow your drug. If you visit the house, you
insist upon the patient's servants attending you; he must also provide
and pay an ass for your conveyance, no matter if it be only to the
other side of the street. Your confidential man accompanies you, primed
for replies to the "fifty searching questions" of the "servants' hall."
You are lifted off the saddle tenderly, as nurses dismount their
charges, when you arrive at the gate; and you waddle upstairs with
dignity. Arrived at the sick room, you salute those present with a
general "Peace be upon you!" to which they respond, "And upon thee be
the peace and the mercy of Allah, and his blessing!" To the invalid you
say, "There is nothing the matter, please Allah, except the health;" to
which the proper answer-for here every

[p.53]sign of ceremony has its countersign[FN#10]-is, "May Allah give
thee health!" Then you sit down, and acknowledge the presence of the
company by raising your right hand to your lips and forehead, bowing
the while circularly; each individual returns the civility by a similar
gesture. Then inquiry about the state of your health ensues. Then you
are asked what refreshment you will take: you studiously mention
something not likely to be in the house, but at last you rough it with
a pipe and a cup of coffee. Then you proceed to the patient, who
extends his wrist, and asks you what his complaint is. Then you examine
his tongue, you feel his pulse, you look learned, and-he is talking all
the time-after hearing a detailed list of all his ailments, you gravely
discover them, taking for the same as much praise to yourself as does
the practising phrenologist for a similar simple exercise of the
reasoning faculties. The disease, to be respectable, must invariably be
connected with one of the four temperaments, or the four elements, or
the "humours of Hippocrates." Cure is easy, but it will take time, and
you, the doctor, require attention; any little rudeness it is in your
power to punish by an alteration in the pill, or the powder, and, so
unknown is professional honour, that none will brave your displeasure.
If you would pass for a native practitioner, you must finally proceed
to the most uncomfortable part of your visit, bargaining for fees.
Nothing more effectually arouses suspicion than disinterestedness in a
doctor. I once cured a rich Hazramaut merchant of rheumatism, and
neglected to make him pay for treatment; he carried off one of my
coffee cups, and was unceasingly wondering where I came from. So I made
him produce five piastres, a shilling, which he threw upon the carpet,
cursing Indian avarice. "You will bring on

[p.54]another illness," said my friend, the Haji, when he heard of it.
Properly speaking, the fee for a visit to a respectable man is 20
piastres, but with the rich patient you begin by making a bargain. He
complains, for instance, of dysentery and sciatica. You demand L10 for
the dysentery, and L20 for the sciatica. But you will rarely get it.
The Eastern pays a doctor's bill as an Oirishman does his "rint,"
making a grievance of it. Your patient will show indisputable signs of
convalescence: he will laugh and jest half the day; but the moment you
appear, groans and a lengthened visage, and pretended complaints,
welcome you. Then your way is to throw out some such hint as

"The world is a carcass, and they who seek it are dogs."

And you refuse to treat the second disorder, which conduct may bring
the refractory one to his senses. "Dat Galenus opes," however, is a
Western apothegm: the utmost "Jalinus" can do for you here is to
provide you with the necessaries and comforts of life. Whatever you
prescribe must be solid and material, and if you accompany it with
something painful, such as rubbing to scarification with a horse-brush,
so much the better. Easterns, like our peasants in Europe, wish the
doctor to "give them the value of their money." Besides which, rough
measures act beneficially upon their imagination. So the Hakim of the
King of Persia cured fevers by the bastinado; patients are beneficially
baked in a bread-oven at Baghdad; and an Egyptian at Alexandria, whose
quartan resisted the strongest appliances of European physic, was
effectually healed by the actual cautery, which a certain Arab Shaykh
applied to the crown of his head. When you administer with your own
hand the remedy-half-a-dozen huge bread pills, dipped in a solution of
aloes or cinnamon water, flavoured with assafoetida, which in the case
of the dyspeptic rich often suffice, if they will but

[p.55]diet themselves-you are careful to say, "In the name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful." And after the patient has been dosed,
"Praise be to Allah, the Curer, the Healer;" you then call for pen,
ink, and paper, and write some such prescription as this:


"In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and blessings
and peace be upon our Lord the Apostle, and his family, and his
companions one and all! But afterwards let him take bees-honey and
cinnamon and album graecum, of each half a part, and of ginger a whole
part, which let him pound and mix with the honey, and form boluses,
each bolus the weight of a Miskal, and of it let him use every day a
Miskal on the saliva.[FN#12] Verily its effects are wonderful. And let
him abstain from flesh, fish, vegetables, sweetmeats, flatulent food,
acids of all descriptions, as well as the major ablution, and live in
perfect quiet. So shall he be cured by the help of the King, the
Healer.[FN#13] And The Peace.[FN#14]"

The diet, I need scarcely say, should be rigorous; nothing has tended
more to bring the European system of medicine into contempt among
Orientals than our inattention to this branch of the therapeutic art.
When an Hindi or a Hindu "takes medicine," he prepares himself for it
by diet and rest two or three days before adhibition, and as gradually,
after the dose, he relapses into his usual habits; if he break through
the regime it is concluded that fatal results must ensue. The ancient
Egyptians we learn from Herodotus devoted a certain number of days in
each month to the use of alteratives, and the

[p.56]period was consecutive, doubtless in order to graduate the
strength of the medicine. The Persians, when under salivation, shut
themselves up in a warm room, never undress, and so carefully guard
against cold that they even drink tepid water. When the Afghan princes
find it necessary to employ Chob-Chini, (the Jin-seng,
[FN#15] or China

[p.57]root so celebrated as a purifier, tonic, and aphrodisiac) they
choose the spring season; they remove to a garden, where flowers and
trees and bubbling streams soothe their senses; they carefully avoid
fatigue and trouble of all kinds, and will not even hear a letter read,
lest it should contain bad news.

When the prescription is written out, you affix an impression of your
ring seal to the beginning and to the end of it, that no one may be
able to add to or take from its contents. And when you send medicine to
a patient of rank, who is sure to have enemies, you adopt some similar
precaution against the box or the bottle being opened. One of the
Pashas whom I attended,-a brave soldier who had been a favourite with
Mohammed Ali, and therefore was degraded by his successor,-kept an
impression of my ring in wax, to compare with that upon the phials. Men
have not forgotten how frequently, in former times, those who became
obnoxious to the State were seized with sudden and fatal cramps in the
stomach. In the case of the doctor it is common prudence to adopt these
precautions, as all evil consequences would be charged upon him, and he
would be exposed to the family's revenge.

Cairo, though abounding in medical practitioners, can still support
more; but to thrive they must be Indians, Chinese, or Maghrabis. The
Egyptians are thoroughly disgusted with European treatment, which is
here about as efficacious as in India-that is to say, not at all. But
they are ignorant of the medicine of Hind, and therefore great is its
name; deservedly perhaps, for skill in simples and dietetics. Besides
which the Indian

[p.58]may deal in charms and spells,-things to which the latitude gives
such force that even Europeans learn to put faith in them. The
traveller who, on the banks of the Seine, scoffs at Sights and Sounds,
Table-turning and Spirit-rapping, sees in the wilds of Tartary and
Thibet a something supernatural and diabolical in the bungling Sie-fa
of the Bokte.[FN#16] Some sensible men, who pass for philosophers among
their friends, have been caught by the incantations of the turbanded
and bearded Cairo magician. In our West African colonies the phrase
"growing black" was applied to colonists, who, after a term of
residence, became thoroughly imbued with the superstitions of the land.
And there are not wanting old Anglo-Indians, intelligent men, that
place firm trust in tales and tenets too puerile even for the Hindus to
believe. As a "Hindi" I could use animal magnetism, taking care,
however, to give the science a specious supernatural appearance. Haji
Wali, who, professing positive scepticism, showed the greatest interest
in the subject as a curiosity, advised me not to practise pure
mesmerism; otherwise, that I should infallibly become a "Companion of
Devils." "You must call this an Indian secret," said my friend, "for it
is clear that you are no Mashaikh,[FN#17] and people will ask, where
are your drugs, and what business have you with charms?" It is useless
to say that I followed his counsel; yet patients would consider
themselves my

[p.59]Murids (disciples), and delighted in kissing the hand of the
Sahib Nafas[FN#18] or minor saint.

The Haji repaid me for my docility by vaunting me everywhere as the
very phoenix of physicians. My first successes were in the Wakalah;
opposite to me there lived an Arab slave dealer, whose Abyssinians
constantly fell sick. A tender race, they suffer when first transported
to Egypt from many complaints, especially consumption, dysentery and
varicose veins. I succeeded in curing one girl. As she was worth at
least fifteen pounds, the gratitude of her owner was great, and I had
to dose half a dozen others in order to cure them of the pernicious and
price-lowering habit of snoring. Living in rooms opposite these slave
girls, and seeing them at all hours of the day and night, I had
frequent opportunities of studying them. They were average specimens of
the steato-pygous Abyssinian breed, broad-shouldered, thin-flanked,
fine-limbed, and with haunches of a prodigious size. None of them had
handsome features, but the short curly hair that stands on end being
concealed under a kerchief, there was something pretty in the brow,
eyes, and upper part of the nose, coarse and sensual in the pendent
lips, large jowl and projecting mouth, whilst the whole had a
combination of piquancy with sweetness. Their style of flirtation was

"How beautiful thou art, O Maryam!-what eyes!-what-"

[p.60]"Then why,"-would respond the lady-"don't you buy me?"

"We are of one faith-of one creed-formed to form each other's

"Then why don't you buy me?"

"Conceive, O Maryam, the blessing of two hearts-"

"Then why don't you buy me?"

and so on. Most effectual gag to Cupid's eloquence! Yet was not the
plain-spoken Maryam's reply without its moral. How often is it our
fate, in the West as in the East, to see in bright eyes and to hear
from rosy lips an implied, if not an expressed, "Why don't you buy me?"
or, worse still, "Why can't you buy me?"

All I required in return for my services from the slave-dealer, whose
brutal countenance and manners were truly repugnant, was to take me
about the town, and explain to me certain mysteries in his craft, which
knowledge might be useful in time to come. Little did he suspect who
his interrogator was, and freely in his unsuspiciousness he entered
upon the subject of slave hunting in the Somali country, and Zanzibar,
of all things the most interesting to me. I have, however, nothing new
to report concerning the present state of bondsmen in Egypt. England
has already learned that slaves are not necessarily the most wretched
and degraded of men. Some have been bold enough to tell the British
public that, in the generality of Oriental countries,[FN#19] the serf
fares far

[p.61]better than the servant, or indeed than the poorer orders of
freemen. "The laws of Mahomet enjoin his followers to treat slaves with
the greatest mildness, and the Moslems are in general scrupulous
observers of the Apostle's recommendation. Slaves are considered
members of the family, and in houses where free servants are also kept,
they seldom do any other work than filling the pipes, presenting the
coffee, accompanying their master when going out, rubbing his feet when
he takes his nap in the afternoon, and driving away the flies from him.
When a slave is not satisfied, he can legally compel his master to sell
him. He has no care for food, lodging, clothes and washing, and has no
taxes to pay; he is exempt from military service and soccage, and in
spite of his bondage is freer than the freest Fellah in Egypt.[FN#20]"
This is, I believe, a true statement, but of course it in no wise
affects the question of slavery in the abstract. A certain amount of
reputation was the consequence of curing the Abyssinian girls: my
friend Haji Wali carefully told the news to all the town, and before
fifteen days were over, I found myself obliged to decline extending a
practice which threatened me with fame.

Servants are most troublesome things to all Englishmen in Egypt, but
especially to one travelling as a respectable native, and therefore
expected to have slaves. After much deliberation, I resolved to take a

[p.62]and accordingly summoned a Shaykh-there is a Shaykh for
everything down to thieves in "the East," (in Egypt since the days of
Diodorus Siculus), and made known my want. The list of sine qua nons
was necessarily rather an extensive one,-good health and a readiness to
travel anywhere, a little skill in cooking, sewing and washing,
willingness to fight, and a habit of regular prayers. After a day's
delay the Shaykh brought me a specimen of his choosing, a
broad-shouldered, bandy-legged fellow, with the usual bull-dog
expression of the Berberis, in his case rendered doubly expressive by
the drooping of an eyelid-an accident brought about with acrid juice in
order to avoid conscription. He responded sturdily to all my questions.
Some Egyptian donkey boys and men were making a noise in the room at
the time, and the calm ferocity with which he ejected them commanded my
approval. When a needle, thread, and an unhemmed napkin were handed to
him, he sat down, held the edge of the cloth between his big toe and
its neighbour, and finished the work in quite a superior style. Walking
out, he armed himself with a Kurbaj, which he used, now lightly, then
heavily, upon all laden animals, biped and quadruped, that came in the
way. His conduct proving equally satisfactory in the kitchen, after
getting security from him, and having his name registered by the
Shaykh,[FN#22] I closed with him for eighty piastres a

[p.63]month. But Ali the Berberi and I were destined to part. Before a
fortnight he stabbed his fellow servant-a Surat lad, who wishing to
return home forced his services upon me-and for this trick he received,
with his dismissal, 400 blows on the feet by order of the Zabit, or
police magistrate. After this failure I tried a number of servants,
Egyptians, Sa'idis,[FN#23] and clean and unclean eating[FN#24]
Berberis. Recommended by different Shaykhs, all had some fatal defect;
one cheated recklessly, another robbed me, a third drank, a fourth was
always in scrapes for infringing the Julian edict, and the last, a
long-legged Nubian, after remaining two days in the house, dismissed me
for expressing

[p.64]a determination to travel by sea from Suez to Yambu'. I kept one
man; he complained that he was worked to death: two-they did nothing
but fight; and three-they left me, as Mr. Elwes said of old, to serve
myself. At last, thoroughly tired of Egyptian domestics, and one
servant being really sufficient for comfort, as well as suitable to my
assumed rank, I determined to keep only the Indian boy. He had all the
defects of his nation; a brave at Cairo, he was an arrant coward at
Al-Madinah; the Badawin despised him heartily for his effeminacy in
making his camel kneel to dismount, and he could not keep his hands
from picking and stealing. But the choice had its advantages: his
swarthy skin and chubby features made the Arabs always call him an
Abyssinian slave, which, as it favoured my disguise, I did not care to
contradict; he served well, he was amenable to discipline, and being
completely dependent upon me, he was therefore less likely to watch and
especially to prate about my proceedings. As master and man we
performed the pilgrimage together; but, on my return to Egypt after the
pilgrimage, Shaykh (become Haji) Nur, finding me to be a Sahib,[FN#25]
changed for the worse. He would not work, and reserved all his energy
for the purpose of pilfering, which he practised so audaciously upon my
friends, as well as upon myself, that he could not be kept in the house.

Perhaps the reader may be curious to see the necessary expenses of a
bachelor residing at Cairo. He must observe, however, in the following
list that I was not a strict economist, and, besides that, I was a
stranger in the country: inhabitants and old settlers would live as
well for little more than two-thirds the sum.


House rent at 18 piastres per mensem---------0-------24
Servant at 80 piastres per------do.----------2-------26

Breakfast for 10 eggs----------------------0--------5
self and Coffee-----------------------0-------10
servant. Water melon (now 5 piastres)-1--------0
Two rolls of bread-----------0-------10

2 lbs. of meat---------------2-------20
Two rolls of bread-----------0-------10
Dinner. Vegetables-------------------0-------20
Oil and clarified butter-----1--------0

A skin of Nile water---------1--------0
Sundries. Tobacco[FN#25]---------------1--------0
Hammam (hot bath)------------3-------20
Oil and clarified butter-----1--------2
- -

Equal to about two shillings and sixpence.

[p.66]In these days who at Cairo without a Shaykh? I thought it right
to conform to popular custom, and accordingly, after having secured a
servant, my efforts were directed to finding a teacher; the pretext
being that as an Indian doctor I wanted to read Arabic works on
medicine, as well as to perfect myself in divinity and
pronunciation.[FN#26] My theological studies were in the Shafe'i school
for two reasons: in the first place, it is the least rigorous of the
Four Orthodox, and, secondly, it most resembles the Shi'ah heresy, with
which long intercourse

[p.67]with Persians had made me familiar.[FN#27] My choice of doctrine,
however, confirmed those around me in their conviction that I was a
rank heretic, for the 'Ajami, taught by his religion to conceal
offensive tenets[FN#28] in lands where the open expression would be
dangerous, always represents himself to be a Shafe'i. This, together
with the original mistake of appearing publicly at Alexandria as a
"Mirza" in a Persian dress, caused me infinite small annoyance at
Cairo, in spite of all precautions and contrivances. And throughout my
journey, even in Arabia, though I drew my knife every time an offensive
hint was thrown out, the ill-fame clung to me like the shirt of Nessus.

It was not long before I happened to hit upon a proper teacher, in the
person of Shaykh Mohammed al-Attar, or the "Druggist." He had known
prosperity, having once been a Khatib (preacher) in one of Mohammed
Ali's mosques. But His Highness the late Pasha had dismissed him, which
disastrous event, with its subsequent train of misfortunes, he dates
from the melancholy day when he took to himself a wife. He talks of her
abroad as a stern and rigid master dealing with a naughty slave,
though, by the look that accompanies his rhodomontade, I am convinced
that at home he is the very model of "managed men." His dismissal was
the reason that compelled him to fall back upon the trade of a
druggist, the refuge for the once wealthy, though now destitute, Sages
of Egypt.

His little shop in the Jamaliyah Quarter is a perfect gem of Nilotic
queerness. A hole, about five feet long

[p.68]and six deep, pierced in the wall of some house, it is divided
into two compartments separated by a thin partition of wood, and
communicating by a kind of arch cut in the boards. The inner box, germ
of a back parlour, acts as store-room, as the pile of empty old baskets
tossed in dusty confusion upon the dirty floor shows. In the front is
displayed the stock in trade, a matting full of Persian tobacco and
pipe-bowls of red clay, a palm-leaf bag containing vile coffee and
large lumps of coarse, whity-brown sugar wrapped up in browner paper.
On the shelves and ledges are rows of well-thumbed wooden boxes,
labelled with the greatest carelessness, pepper for rhubarb, arsenic
for Tafl, or wash-clay, and sulphate of iron where sal-ammoniac should
be. There is also a square case containing, under lock and key, small
change and some choice articles of commerce, damaged perfumes, bad
antimony for the eyes, and pernicious rouge. And dangling close above
it is a rusty pair of scales, ill poised enough for Egyptian Themis
herself to use. To hooks over the shop-front are suspended reeds for
pipes, tallow candles, dirty wax tapers and cigarette paper; instead of
plate-glass windows and brass-handled doors, a ragged net keeps away
the flies when the master is in, and the thieves when he goes out to
recite in the Hasanayn Mosque his daily chapter "Ya Sin.[FN#29]" A
wooden shutter which closes down at night-time, and by day two
palm-stick stools intensely dirty and full of fleas, occupying the
place of the Mastabah or earthen bench,[FN#30] which accommodated
purchasers, complete the furniture of my preceptor's establishment.

[p.69]There he sits, or rather lies (for verily I believe he sleeps
through three-fourths of the day), a thin old man about
fifty-eight,[FN#31] with features once handsome and regular; a sallow
face, shaven head, deeply wrinkled cheeks, eyes hopelessly bleared, and
a rough grey beard ignorant of oil and comb. His turband, though large,
is brown with wear; his coat and small-clothes display many a hole;
and, though his face and hands must be frequently washed preparatory to
devotion, still they have the quality of looking always unclean. It is
wonderful how fierce and gruff he is to the little boys and girls who
flock to him grasping farthings for pepper and sugar. On such occasions
I sit admiring to see him, when forced to exertion, wheel about on his
place, making a pivot of that portion of our organisation which mainly
distinguishes our species from the other families of the Simiadae, to
reach some distant drawer, or to pull down a case from its accustomed
shelf. How does he manage to say his prayers, to kneel and to prostrate
himself upon that two feet of ragged rug, scarcely sufficient for a
British infant to lie upon? He hopelessly owns that he knows nothing of
his craft, and the seats before his shop are seldom occupied. His great
pleasure appears to be when the Haji and I sit by him a few minutes in
the evening, bringing with us pipes, which he assists us to smoke, and
ordering coffee, which he insists upon sweetening with a lump of sugar
from his little store. There we make him talk and laugh, and
occasionally quote a few lines strongly savouring of the jovial: we
provoke him to long stories about the love borne him in his
student-days by the great and holy Shaykh Abd al-Rahman, and the
antipathy with which he was regarded by the equally

[p.70]great and holy Shakh Nasr al-Din, his memorable single
imprisonment for contumacy,[FN#32] and the temperate but effective
lecture, beginning with "O almost entirely destitute of shame!"
delivered on that occasion in presence of other under-graduates by the
Right Reverend principal of his college. Then we consult him upon
matters of doctrine, and quiz him tenderly about his powers of
dormition, and flatter him, or rather his age, with such phrases as,
"The water from thy hand is of the Waters of Zemzem;" or, "We have
sought thee to deserve the Blessings of the Wise upon our
undertakings." Sometimes, with interested motives it must be owned, we
induce him to accompany us to the Hammam,[FN#33] where he insists upon
paying the smallest sum, quarrelling with everything and

[p.71]everybody, and giving the greatest trouble. We are generally his
only visitors; acquaintances he appears to have few, and no friends; he
must have had them once, for he was rich, but is not so now, so they
have fallen away from the poor old man.

When the Shaykh Mohammed sits with me, or I climb up into his little
shop for the purpose of receiving a lesson from him, he is quite at his
ease, reading when he likes, or making me read, and generally beginning
each lecture with some such preamble as this[FN#34]:-

"Aywa! aywa! aywa![FN#35]"-Even so, even so, even so! we take refuge
with Allah from Satan the Stoned! In the name of Allah, the
Compassionate, the Merciful, and the Blessings of Allah upon our Lord
Mohammed, and his Family and his Companions one and all! Thus saith the
author, may Almighty Allah have mercy upon him! ‘Section I. of chapter
two, upon the orders of prayer,' &c."

He becomes fiercely sarcastic when I differ from him in opinion,
especially upon a point of grammar, or the theology over which his
beard has grown grey.

"Subhan' Allah! (Allah be glorified![FN#36]) What words are these? If
thou be right, enlarge thy turband,[FN#37]" (i.e., set up as a learned
man), "and throw away thy

[p.72]drugs, for verily it is better to quicken men's souls than to
destroy their bodies, O Abdullah!"

Oriental-like, he revels in giving good counsel.

"Thou art always writing, O my brave![FN#38]" (this is said on the few
occasions when I venture to make a note in my book), "what evil habit
is this? Surely thou hast learned it in the lands of the Frank. Repent!"

He loathes my giving medical advice gratis.

"Thou hast two servants to feed, O my son! The doctors of Egypt never
write A, B, without a reward. Wherefore art thou ashamed? Better go and
sit upon the mountain[FN#39] at once" (i.e., go to the desert), "and
say thy prayers day and night!"

And finally, he is prodigal of preaching upon the subject of household

"Thy servant did write down two pounds of flesh yesterday! What words
are these, O he?[FN#40] Dost thou never say, ‘Guard us, Allah, from the
sin of extravagance?'"

He delights also in abruptly interrupting a serious subject when it
begins to weigh upon his spirits. For instance,

Now the waters of ablution being of seven different kinds, it results
that-hast thou a wife?-No?-Then verily thou must buy thee a female
slave, O youth! This conduct is not right, and men will say of
thee-Repentance: I take refuge with Allah[FN#41]-‘of a truth his mouth
watereth for the spouses of other Moslems.'"

[p.73]But sometimes he nods over a difficult passage under my very
eyes, or he reads it over a dozen times in the wantonness of idleness,
or he takes what school-boys call a long "shot" most shamelessly at the
signification. When this happens I lose my temper, and raise my voice,
and shout, "Verily there is no power nor might save in Allah, the High,
the Great!" Then he looks at me, and with passing meekness whispers-

"Fear Allah, O man!"

[FN#1] The second is an imitative word, called in Arabic grammar
Tabi'a, as "Zayd Bayd," "Zayd and others;" so used, it denotes contempt
for drachms and similar parts of drug-craft.
[FN#2] This familiar abbreviation of Wali al-Din was the name assumed
by the enterprising traveller, Dr. Wallin.
[FN#3] By the Indians called Bhang, the Persians Bang, the Hottentots
Dakha, and the natives of Barbary Fasukh. Even the Siberians, we are
told, intoxicate themselves by the vapour of this seed thrown upon
red-hot stones. Egypt surpasses all other nations in the variety of
compounds into which this fascinating drug enters, and will one day
probably supply the Western world with "Indian hemp," when its solid
merits are duly appreciated. At present in Europe it is chiefly
confined, as cognac and opium used to be, to the apothecary's shelves.
Some adventurous individuals at Paris, after the perusal of Monte
Christo, attempted an "orgie" in one of the cafes, but with poor
[FN#4] The Indian name of an Afghan, supposed to be a corruption of the
Arabic Fat'han (a conqueror), or a derivation from the Hindustani
paithna, to penetrate (into the hostile ranks). It is an honourable
term in Arabia, where "Khurasani" (a native of Khorasan), leads men to
suspect a Persian, and the other generic appellation of the Afghan
tribes "Sulaymani," a descendant from Solomon, reminds the people of
their proverb, "Sulaymani harami!"-"the Afghans are ruffians!"
[FN#5] For the simple reason that no Eastern power confers such an
obligation except for value received. In old times, when official
honour was not so rigorous as it is now, the creditors of Eastern
powers and principalities would present high sums to British Residents
and others for the privilege of being enrolled in the list of their
subjects or servants. This they made profitable; for their claims,
however exorbitant, when backed by a name of fear, were certain to be
admitted, unless the Resident's conscience would allow of his being
persuaded by weightier arguments of a similar nature to abandon his
protege. It is almost needless to remark that nothing of the kind can
occur in the present day, and at the same time that throughout the
Eastern world it is firmly believed that such things are of daily
occurrence. Ill fame descends to distant generations; whilst good
deeds, if they blossom, as we are told, in the dust, are at least as
short-lived as they are sweet.
[FN#6] A doctor, a learned man; not to be confounded with Hakim, a
[FN#7] It may be as well to remark that our slave laws require reform
throughout the East, their severity, like Draco's Code, defeating their
purpose. In Egypt, for instance, they require modification. Constitute
the offence a misdemeanour, not a felony, inflict a fine (say L100),
half of which should be given to the informer, and make the
imprisonment either a short one, or, what would be better still, let it
be done away with, except in cases of non-payment; and finally, let the
Consul or some other magistrate residing at the place have power to
inflict the penalty of the law, instead of being obliged, as at
present, to transmit offenders to Malta for trial. As the law now
stands, our officials are unwilling to carry its rigours into effect;
they therefore easily lend an ear to the standard excuse-ignorance-in
order to have an opportunity of decently dismissing a man, with a
warning not to do it again.
[FN#8] Yet at the time there was at Alexandria an acting
Consul-General, to whom the case could with strict propriety have been
[FN#9] Johann Gottlieb Fichte expressly declares that the scope of his
system has never been explained by words, and that it even admits not
of being so explained. To make his opinions intelligible, he would
express them by a system of figures, each of which must have a known
and positive value.
[FN#10] M. C. de Perceval (Arabic Grammar), and Lane (Mod. Egyptians,
Chapter 8 et passim), give specimens.
[FN#11] A monogram generally placed at the head of writings. It is the
initial letter of "Allah," and the first of the alphabet, used from
time immemorial to denote the origin of creation. "I am Alpha and
Omega, the first and the last."
[FN#12] "Ala-rik," that is to say, fasting-the first thing in the
[FN#13] The Almighty.
[FN#14] W'as-salam, i.e. adieu.
[FN#15] From M. Huc we learn that Jin-seng is the most considerable
article of Manchurian commerce, and that throughout China there is no
chemist's shop unprovided with more or less of it. He adds: "The
Chinese report marvels of the Jin-seng, and no doubt it is for Chinese
organisation a tonic of very great effect for old and weak persons; but
its nature is too heating, the Chinese physicians admit, for the
European temperament, already in their opinion too hot. The price is
enormous, and doubtless its dearness contributes with a people like the
Chinese to raise its celebrity so high. The rich and the Mandarins
probably use it only because it is above the reach of other people, and
out of pure ostentation." It is the principal tonic used throughout
Central Asia, and was well known in Europe when Sarsaparilla arose to
dispute with it the palm of popularity. In India, Persia, and
Afghanistan, it is called chob-chini,-the "Chinese wood." The
preparations are in two forms, 1. Sufuf, or powder; 2. Kahwah, or
decoction. The former is compound of Radix China Qrient, with gum
mastich and sugar-candy, equal parts; about a dram of this compound is
taken once a day, early in the morning. For the decoction one ounce of
fine parings is boiled for a quarter of an hour in a quart of water.
When the liquid assumes a red colour it is taken off the fire and left
to cool. Furthermore, there are two methods of adhibiting the
choh-chini: 1. Band; 2. Khola. The first is when the patient confines
himself to a garden, listening to music, enjoying the breeze, the song
of birds, and the bubbling of a flowing stream. He avoids everything
likely to trouble and annoy him; he will not even open a letter, and
the doctor forbids anyone to contradict him. Some grandees in central
Asia will go through a course of forty days in every second year; it
reminds one of Epicurus' style of treatment,-the downy bed, the
garlands of flowers, the good wine, and the beautiful singing girl, and
is doubtless at least as efficacious in curing as the sweet relaxation
of Gräfenberg or Malvern. So says Socrates, according to the Anatomist
of Melancholy,
"Oculum non curabis sine toto capite,
Nec caput sine toto corpore,
Nec totum corpus sine animo."
The "Khola" signifies that you take the tonic without other precautions
than the avoiding acids, salt, and pepper, and choosing summer time, as
cold is supposed to induce rheumatism.
[FN#16] Certain Lamas who, we learn from M. Huc, perform famous Sie-fa,
or supernaturalisms, such as cutting open the abdomen, licking red-hot
irons, making incisions in various parts of the body, which an instant
afterwards leave no trace behind, &c., &c. The devil may "have a great
deal to do with the matter" in Tartary, for all I know; but I can
assure M. Huc, that the Rufa'i Darwayshes in India and the Sa'adiyah at
Cairo perform exactly the same feats. Their jugglery, seen through the
smoke of incense, and amidst the enthusiasm of a crowd, is tolerably
dexterous, and no more.
[FN#17] A holy man. The word has a singular signification in a plural
form, "honoris causa."
[FN#18] A title literally meaning the "Master of Breath," one who can
cure ailments, physical as well as spiritual, by breathing upon them-a
practice well known to mesmerists. The reader will allow me to observe,
(in self-defence, otherwise he might look suspiciously upon so
credulous a narrator), that when speaking of animal magnetism, as a
thing established, I allude to the lower phenomena, rejecting the
discussion of all disputed points, as the existence of a magnetic Aura,
and of all its unintelligibilities-Prevision, Levitation, Introvision,
and other divisions of Clairvoyance.
[FN#19] In the generality, not in all. Nothing, for instance, can be
more disgraceful to human nature than the state of praedial slavery, or
serfs attached to the glebe, when Malabar was under the dominion of the
"mild Hindu." And as a rule in the East it is only the domestic slaves
who taste the sweets of slavery. Yet there is truth in Sonnini's
terrible remark: "The severe treatment under which the slaves languish
in the West Indies is the shameful prerogative of civilisation, and is
unknown to those nations among whom barbarism is reported to hold
sway." (Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt, vol. ii.)
[FN#20] The author has forgotten to mention one of the principal
advantages of slaves, namely, the prospect of arriving at the highest
rank of the empire. The Pasha of the Syrian caravan with which I
travelled to Damascus, had been the slave of a slave, and he is but a
solitary instance of cases perpetually occuring in all Moslem lands.
"C'est un homme de bonne famille," said a Turkish officer in Egypt, "il
a ete achete."
[FN#21] A "Barbarian" from Nubia and Upper Egypt. Some authorities, Mr.
Lane for instance, attribute the good reputation of these people to
their superior cunning. Sonnini says, "they are intelligent and handy
servants, but knaves." Others believe in them. As far as I could find
out, they were generally esteemed more honest than the Egyptians, and
they certainly possess a certain sense of honour unknown to their
northern brethren. "Berberi" is a term of respect; "Masri" (corrupted
from Misri) in the mouth of a Badawi or an Arab of Arabia is a
reproach. "He shall be called an Egyptian," means "he shall belong to a
degraded race."
[FN#22] Who becomes responsible, and must pay for any theft his protege
may commit. Berberis, being generally "les Suisses" of respectable
establishments, are expected to be honest. But I can assert from
experience that, as a native, you will never recover the value of a
stolen article without having recourse to the police. For his valuable
security, the Shaykh demands a small fee (7 or 8 piastres), which,
despite the urgent remonstrances of protector and protege, you deduct
from the latter's wages. The question of pay is a momentous one; too
much always spoils a good servant, too little leaves you without one.
An Egyptian of the middle class would pay his Berberi about 40 piastres
a month, besides board, lodging, some small perquisites, and presents
on certain occasions. This, however, will not induce a man to travel,
especially to cross the sea.
[FN#23] A man from the Sa'id or Upper Egypt.
[FN#24] A favourite way of annoying the Berberis is to repeat the
saying, "we have eaten the clean, we have eaten the unclean,"-meaning,
that they are by no means cunning in the difference between right and
wrong, pure and impure. I will relate the origin of the saying, as I
heard it differently, from Mansfield Parkyns, (Life in Abyssinia, chap.
31.) A Berberi, said my informant, had been carefully fattening a fine
sheep for a feast, when his cottage was burned by an accident. In the
ashes he found roasted meat, which looked tempting to a hungry man: he
called his neighbours, and all sat down to make merry over the mishap;
presently they came to the head, which proved to be that of a dog, some
enemy having doubtless stolen the sheep and put the impure animal in
its place. Whereupon, sadly perplexed, all the Berberis went to their
priest, and dolefully related the circumstance, expecting absolution,
as the offence was involuntary. "You have eaten filth," said the man of
Allah. "Well," replied the Berberis, falling upon him with their fists,
"filth or not, we have eaten it." The Berberi, I must remark, is the
"Paddy" of this part of the world, celebrated for bulls and blunders.
[FN#25] The generic name given by Indians to English officials.
[FN#26] There are four kinds of tobacco smoked in Egypt. The first and
best is the well-known Latakia, generally called "Jabali," either from
a small seaport town about three hours' journey south of Latakia, or
more probably because grown on the hills near the ancient Laodicea.
Pure, it is known by its blackish colour, fine shredding, absence of
stalk, and an undescribable odour, to me resembling that of creosote;
the leaf, too, is small, so that when made into cigars it must be
covered over with a slip of the yellow Turkish tobacco called Bafra.
Except at the highest houses unadulterated Latakia is not to be had in
Cairo. Yet, mixed as it is, no other growth exceeds it in flavour and
fragrance. Miss Martineau smoked it, we are told, without
inconvenience, and it differs from our Shag, Bird's-eye, and Returns,
in degree, as does Chateau Margeau from a bottle of cheap strong
Spanish wine. To bring out its flavour, the connoisseur smokes it in
long pipes of cherry, jasmine, maple, or rosewood, and these require a
servant skilled in the arts of cleaning and filling them. The best
Jabali at Cairo costs about seven piastres the pound; after which a
small sum must be paid to the Farram or chopper, who prepares it for
2nd. Suri (Tyrian), or Shami, or Suryani, grown in Syria, an inferior
growth, of a lighter colour than Latakia, and with a greenish tinge;
when cut, its value is about three piastres per pound. Some smokers mix
this leaf with Jabali, which, to my taste, spoils the flavour of the
latter without improving the former. The strongest kind, called Korani
or Jabayl, is generally used for cigarettes; it costs, when of
first-rate quality, about five piastres per pound.
3rd. Tumbak, or Persian tobacco, called Hijazi, because imported from
the Hijaz, where everybody smokes it, and supposed to come from Shiraz,
Kazerun, and other celebrated places in Persia. It is all but
impossible to buy this article unadulterated, except from the caravans
returning after the pilgrimage. The Egyptians mix it with native
growths, which ruins its flavour and gives it an acridity that "catches
the throat," whereas good tumbak never yet made a man cough. Yet the
taste of this tobacco, even when second-rate, is so fascinating to some
smokers that they will use no other. To be used it should be wetted and
squeezed, and it is invariably inhaled through water into the lungs:
almost every town has its favourite description of pipe, and these are
of all kinds, from the pauper's rough cocoa-nut mounted with two reeds,
to the prince's golden bowl set with the finest stones. Tumbak is
cheap, costing about four piastres a pound, but large quantities of it
are used.
4th. Hummi, as the word signifies, a "hot" variety of the tumbak, grown
in Al-Yaman and other countries. It is placed in the tile on the buri
or cocoa-nut pipe, unwetted, and has a very acrid flavour. Being
supposed to produce intoxication, or rather a swimming in the head,
hummi gives its votaries a bad name: respectable men would answer "no"
with rage if asked whether they are smoking it, and when a fellow tells
you that he has seen better days, but that now he smokes Hummi in a
buri, you understand him that his misfortunes have affected either his
brain or his morality. Hence it is that this tobacco is never put into
pipes intended for smoking the other kinds. The price of Hummi is about
five piastres per pound.
[FN#26] A study essential to the learned, as in some particular
portions of the Koran a mispronunciation becomes a sin.
[FN#27] The Shafe'i, to quote but one point of similarity, abuse Yazid,
the Syrian tyrant, who caused the death of the Imam Husayn: this
expression of indignation is forbidden by the Hanafi doctors, who
rigidly order their disciples to "judge not."
[FN#28] A systematic concealment of doctrine, and profession of popular
tenets, technically called by the Shi'ahs "Takiyah:" the literal
meaning of the word is "fear," or "caution."
[FN#29] One of the most esteemed chapters of the Koran, frequently
recited as a Wazifah or daily task by religious Moslems in Egypt.
[FN#30] The Mastabah here is a long earthen bench plastered over with
clay, and raised about two feet from the ground, so as to bring the
purchaser's head to a level with the shop. Mohammed Ali ordered the
people to remove them, as they narrowed the streets; their place is now
supplied by "Kafas," cages or stools of wicker-work.
[FN#31] A great age in Lower Egypt, where but few reach the 12th
lustre. Even the ancients observed that the old Egyptians, despite
their attention to diet and physic, were the most short-lived, and the
Britons, despite their barbarism, the longest lived of men.
[FN#32] This is the "imposition" of Oxford and Cambridge.
[FN#33] The Hammam, or hot bath, being a kind of religious
establishment, is one of the class of things-so uncomfortably numerous
in Eastern countries-left 'ala jud'ak, "to thy generosity."
Consequently, you are pretty sure to have something disagreeable there,
which you would vainly attempt to avoid by liberality. The best way to
deal with all such extortioners, with the Lawingi (undresser) of a
Cairo Hammam, or the "jarvey" of a London Hansom, is to find out the
fare, and never to go beyond it-never to be generous. The Hammam has
been too often noticed to bear another description: one point, however,
connected with it I must be allowed to notice. Mr. Lane (Modern
Egyptians) asserts that a Moslem should not pray nor recite the Koran
in it, as the bath is believed to be a favourite resort of Jinnis (or
genii). On the contrary, it is the custom of some sects to recite a
Ruk'atayn (two-bow) prayer immediately after religious ablution in the
hot cistern. This, however, is makruh, or improper without being
sinful, to the followers of Abu Hanifah. As a general rule, throughout
Al-Islam, the Farz (obligatory) prayers may be recited everywhere, no
matter how impure the place may be: but those belonging to the classes
sunnat (traditionary) and nafilah (supererogatory) are makruh, though
not actually unlawful, in certain localities. I venture this remark on
account of the extreme accuracy of the work referred to. A wonderful
contrast to the generality of Oriental books, it amply deserves a
revision in the rare places requiring care.
[FN#34] Europeans so seldom see the regular old Shaykh, whose place is
now taken by polite young men educated in England or France, that this
scene may be new even to those who have studied of late years on the
banks of the Nile.
[FN#35] This word is often used to signify simply "yes." It is
corrupted from Ay wa'llahi, "Yes, by Allah." In pure Arabic "ay" or "I"
is synonymous with our "yes" or "ay"; and "Allah" in those countries
enters somehow into every other phrase.
[FN#36] This is, of course, ironical: "Allah be praised for creating
such a prodigy of learning as thou art!"
[FN#37] The larger the turband the greater are the individual's
pretensions to religious knowledge and respectability of demeanour.
This is the custom in Egypt, Turkey, Persia, and many other parts of
the Moslem world.
[FN#38] Ya gad'a, as the Egyptians pronounce it, is used exactly like
the "mon brave" of France, and our "my good man."
[FN#39] The "mountain" in Egypt and Arabia is what the "jungle" is in
India. When informed that "you come from the mountain," you understand
that you are considered a mere clodhopper: when asserting that you will
"sit upon the mountain," you hint to your hearers an intention of
turning anchorite or magician.
[FN#40] Ya hu, a common interpellative, not, perhaps, of the politest
[FN#41] A religious formula used when compelled to mention anything
abominable or polluting to the lips of a pious man.

[p.74]CHAPTER V.


THIS year the Ramazan befell in June, and a fearful infliction was that
"blessed month," making the Moslem unhealthy and unamiable. For the
space of sixteen consecutive hours and a quarter, we were forbidden to
eat, drink, smoke, snuff, and even to swallow our saliva designedly. I
say forbidden, for although the highest orders of Turks,-the class is
popularly described as

"Turco fino
Mangia porco e beve vino."-

may break the ordinance in strict privacy, popular opinion would
condemn any open infraction of it with uncommon severity. In this, as
in most human things, how many are there who hold that

"Pecher en secret n'est pas pecher,
Ce n'est que l'eclat qui fait le crime"?

The middle and lower ranks observe the duties of the season, however
arduous, with exceeding zeal: of all who suffered severely from such
total abstinence, I found but one patient who would eat even to save
his life. And among the vulgar, sinners who habitually drink when they
should pray, will fast and perform their devotions through the Ramazan.

Like the Italian, the Anglo-Catholic, and the Greek fasts, the chief
effect of the "blessed month" upon True Believers is to darken their
tempers into positive gloom.

[p.75]Their voices, never of the softest, acquire, especially after
noon, a terribly harsh and creaking tone. The men curse one
another[FN#1] and beat the women. The women slap and abuse the
children, and these in their turn cruelly entreat, and use bad language
to, the dogs and cats. You can scarcely spend ten minutes in any
populous part of the city without hearing some violent dispute. The
"Karakun," or station-houses, are filled with lords who have
administered an undue dose of chastisement to their ladies, and with
ladies who have scratched, bitten, and otherwise injured the bodies of
their lords. The Mosques are crowded with a sulky, grumbling
population, making themselves offensive to one another on earth whilst
working their way to heaven; and in the shade, under the outer walls,
the little boys who have been expelled the church attempt to forget
their miseries in spiritless play. In the bazars and streets, pale
long-drawn faces, looking for the most part intolerably cross, catch
your eye, and at this season a stranger will sometimes meet with
positive incivility. A shopkeeper, for instance, usually says when he
rejects an insufficient offer, "Yaftah Allah,"-"Allah opens.[FN#2]"
During the Ramazan, he will grumble about the bore of Ghashim, or
"Johnny raws," and gruffly tell you not to stand there wasting his
time. But as a rule the shops are either shut or destitute of shopmen,
merchants will not purchase, and students will not study. In fine,

[p.76]the Ramazan, for many classes, is one-twelfth of the year
wantonly thrown away.

The following is the routine of a fast day. About half an hour after
midnight, the gun sounds its warning to faithful men that it is time to
prepare for the "Sahur," (early breakfast) or morning meal. My servant
then wakes me, if I have slept; brings water for ablution, spreads the
Sufrah[FN# 3] (or leather cloth); and places before me certain remnants
of the evening's meal. It is some time before the stomach becomes
accustomed to such hours, but in matters of appetite, habit is
everything, and for health's sake one should strive to eat as
plentifully as possible. Then sounds the Salam, or Blessings on the
Prophet,[FN#4] an introduction to the Call of Morning Prayer. Smoking
sundry pipes with tenderness, as if taking leave of a friend; and until
the second gun, fired at about half-past two A.M., gives the
Imsak,[FN#4]-the order to abstain from food,-I wait the Azan,[FN#5]
which in this month is called somewhat earlier than usual. Then, after
a ceremony termed the Niyat[FN#6] (purpose) of fasting, I say my

[p.77]prayers, and prepare for repose.[FN#7] At 7 A.M. the labours of
the day begin for the working classes of society; the rich spend the
night in revelling, and rest in down from dawn till noon.

The first thing on rising is to perform the Wuzu, or lesser ablution,
which invariably follows sleep in a reclining position; without this it
would be improper to pray, to enter the Mosques, to approach a
religious man, or to touch the Koran. A few pauper patients usually
visit me at this hour, report the phenomena of their complaints,-which
they do, by the bye, with unpleasant minuteness of detail,-and receive
fresh instructions. At 9 A.M. Shaykh Mohammed enters, with "lecture"
written upon his wrinkled brow; or I pick him up on the way, and
proceed straight to the Mosque Al-Azhar. After three hours' hard
reading, with little interruption from bystanders-this is long
vacation, most of the students being at home-comes the call to mid-day
prayer. The founder of Al-Islam ordained but few devotions for the
morning, which is the business part of the Eastern day; but during the
afternoon and evening they succeed one another rapidly, and their
length increases. It is then time to visit my rich patients, and
afterwards, by way of accustoming myself to the sun, to wander among
the bookshops for an hour or two, or simply to idle in the street. At 3
P.M. I return home, recite the afternoon prayers, and re-apply myself
to study.

This is the worst part of the day. In Egypt the summer nights and
mornings are, generally speaking,

[p.78]pleasant, but the forenoons are sultry, and the afternoons are
serious. A wind wafting the fine dust and furnace-heat of the desert
blows over the city; the ground returns with interest the showers of
caloric from above, and not a cloud or a vapour breaks the dreary
expanse of splendour on high. There being no such comforts as Indian
tatties, and few but the wealthiest houses boasting glass windows, the
interior of your room is somewhat more fiery than the street. Weakened
with fasting, the body feels the heat trebly, and the disordered
stomach almost affects the brain. Every minute is counted with morbid
fixity of idea as it passes on towards the blessed sunset, especially
by those whose terrible lot is manual labour at such a season. A few
try to forget their afternoon miseries in slumber, but most people take
the Kaylulah, or Siesta, shortly after the meridian, holding it
unwholesome to sleep late in the day.

As the Maghrib, the sunset hour, approaches-and how slowly it
comes!-the town seems to recover from a trance. People flock to the
windows and balconies, in order to watch the moment of their release.
Some pray, others tell their beads; while others, gathering together in
groups or paying visits, exert themselves to while away the lagging

O Gladness! at length it sounds, that gun from the citadel.
Simultaneously rises the sweet cry of the Mu'ezzin, calling men to
prayer, and the second cannon booms from the Abbasiyah
Palace,[FN#8]-"Al Fitar! Al

[p.79]Fitar!" fast-breaking! fast-breaking! shout the people, and a hum
of joy rises from the silent city. Your acute ears waste not a moment
in conveying the delightful intelligence to your parched tongue, empty
stomach, and languid limbs. You exhaust a pot full of water, no matter
its size. You clap hurried hands[FN#9] for a pipe; you order coffee;
and provided with these comforts, you sit down, and calmly contemplate
the coming pleasures of the evening.

Poor men eat heartily at once. The rich break their fast with a light
meal,-a little bread and fruit, fresh or dry, especially water-melon,
sweetmeats, or such digestible dishes as "Muhallabah,"-a thin jelly of
milk, starch, and rice-flour. They then smoke a pipe, drink a cup of
coffee or a glass of sherbet, and recite the evening prayers; for the
devotions of this hour are delicate things, and while smoking a first
pipe after sixteen hours' abstinence, time easily slips away. Then they
sit down to the Fatur (breakfast), the meal of the twenty-four hours,
and eat plentifully, if they would avoid illness.

There are many ways of spending a Ramazan evening. The Egyptians have a
proverb, like ours of the Salernitan school:

[p.80]"After Al-Ghada rest, if it be but for two moments:
After Al-Asha[FN#10] walk, if it be but two steps."

The streets are now crowded with a good-humoured throng of strollers;
the many bent on pleasure, the few wending their way to Mosque, where
the Imam recites "Tarawih" prayers.[FN#11] They saunter about, the
accustomed pipe in hand, shopping, for the stalls are open till a late
hour; or they sit in crowds at the coffee-house entrance, smoking
Shishas,[FN#12] (water-pipes), chatting, and listening to
story-tellers, singers and itinerant preachers. Here a bare-footed girl
trills and quavers, accompanied by a noisy tambourine and a "scrannel
pipe" of abominable discordance, in honour of a perverse saint whose
corpse insisted upon being buried inside some respectable man's
dwelling-house.[FN#13] The scene reminds you strongly of the Sonneurs
of Brittany and the Zampognari from the Abruzzian Highlands bagpiping
before the Madonna. There a tall, gaunt Maghrabi displays upon a square
yard of

[p.81]dirty paper certain lines and blots, supposed to represent the
venerable Ka'abah, and collects coppers to defray the expenses of his
pilgrimage. A steady stream of loungers sets through the principal
thoroughfares towards the Azbakiyah Gardens, which skirt the Frank
quarter; there they sit in the moonlight, listening to Greek and
Turkish bands, or making merry with cakes, toasted grains, coffee,
sugared-drinks, and the broad pleasantries of Kara Gyuz[FN#14] (the
local Punch and Judy). Here the scene is less thoroughly Oriental than
within the city; but the appearance of Frank dress amongst the
varieties of Eastern costume, the moon-lit sky, and the light mist
hanging over the deep shade of the Acacia trees-whose rich scented
yellow-white blossoms are popularly compared to the old Pasha's
beard[FN#15]-make it passing picturesque. And the traveller from the
far East remarks with wonder the presence of certain ladies, whose only
mark of modesty is the Burka, or face-veil: upon this laxity the police
looks with lenient eyes, inasmuch as, until very lately, it paid a
respectable tax to the state.[FN#16]

Returning to the Moslem quarter, you are bewildered

[p.82]by its variety of sounds. Everyone talks, and talking here is
always in extremes, either in a whisper, or in a scream; gesticulation
excites the lungs, and strangers cannot persuade themselves that men so
converse without being or becoming furious. All the street cries, too,
are in the soprano key. "In thy protection! in thy protection!" shouts
a Fellah peasant to a sentinel, who is flogging him towards the
station-house, followed by a tail of women, screaming, "Ya Gharati-ya
Dahwati-ya Hasrati-ya Nidamati-O my calamity! O my shame!" The boys
have elected a Pasha, whom they are conducting in procession, with
wisps of straw for Mash'als, or cressets, and outrunners, all huzzaing
with ten-schoolboy power. "O thy right! O thy left! O thy face! O thy
heel! O thy back, thy back!" cries the panting footman, who, huge torch
on shoulder, runs before the grandee's carriage; "Bless the Prophet and
get out of the way!" "O Allah bless him!" respond the good Moslems,
some shrinking up to the walls to avoid the stick, others rushing
across the road, so as to give themselves every chance of being knocked
down. The donkey boy beats his ass with a heavy palm-cudgel,-he fears
no treadmill here,-cursing him at the top of his voice for a "pander,"
a "Jew," a "Christian," and a "son of the One-eyed, whose portion is
Eternal Punishment." "O chick pease! O pips!" sings the vendor of
parched grains, rattling the unsavoury load in his basket. "Out of the
way, and say, ‘There is one God,'" pants the industrious water-carrier,
laden with a skin, fit burden for a buffalo. "Sweet-water, and gladden
thy soul, O lemonade!" pipes the seller of that luxury, clanging his
brass cups together. Then come the beggars, intensely Oriental. "My
supper is in Allah's hands, my supper is in Allah's hands! whatever
thou givest, that will go with thee!" chaunts the old vagrant, whose
wallet perhaps contains more provision than the basket of many a
respectable shopkeeper.
[p.83]"Na'al abuk[FN#17]-rucse thy father-O brother of a naughty
sister!" is the response of some petulant Greek to the touch of the old
man's staff. "The grave is darkness, and good deeds are its lamp!" sing
the blind women, rapping two sticks together: "upon Allah! upon Allah!
O daughter!" cry the bystanders, when the obstinate "bint"[FN#18]
(daughter) of sixty years seizes their hands, and will not let go
without extorting a farthing. "Bring the sweet" (i.e. fire), "and take
the full,"[FN#19] (i.e., empty cup), euphuistically cry the
long-moustached, fierce-browed Arnauts to the coffee-house keeper, who
stands by them charmed by the rhyming repartee that flows so readily
from their lips.

"Hanien," may it be pleasant to thee![FN#20] is the signal for

[p.84]"Thou drinkest for ten," replies the other, instead of returning
the usual religious salutation.

"I am the cock and thou art the hen!" is the rejoinder,-a tart one.
"Nay, I am the thick one and thou art the thin!" resumes the first
speaker, and so on till they come to equivoques which will not bear a
literal English translation.

And sometimes, high above the hubbub, rises the melodious voice of the
blind mu'ezzin, who, from his balcony in the beetling tower rings
forth, "Hie ye to devotion! Hie ye to salvation." And (at
morning-prayer time) he adds: "Devotion is better than sleep! Devotion
is better than sleep!" Then good Moslems piously stand up, and mutter,
previous to prayer, "Here am I at Thy call, O Allah! here am I at Thy

Sometimes I walked with my friend to the citadel, and sat upon a high
wall, one of the outworks of Mohammed Ali's Mosque, enjoying a view
which, seen by night, when the summer moon is near the full, has a
charm no power of language can embody. Or escaping from "stifled
Cairo's filth,[FN#21]" we passed, through the Gate of Victory, into the
wilderness beyond the City of the Dead.[FN#22] Seated upon some mound
of ruins, we inhaled

[p.85]the fine air of the Desert, inspiriting as a cordial, when
star-light and dew-mists diversified a scene, which, by day, is one
broad sea of yellow loam with billows of chalk rock, thinly covered by
a film-like spray of sand surging and floating in the fiery wind.
There, within a mile of crowded life, all is desolate; the town walls
seem crumbling to decay, the hovels are tenantless, and the paths
untrodden; behind you lies the Wild, before you, the thousand
tomb-stones, ghastly in their whiteness; while beyond them the tall
dark forms of the Mamluk Soldans' towers rise from the low and hollow
ground like the spirits of kings guarding ghostly subjects in the
Shadowy Realm. Nor less weird than the scene are the sounds!-the
hyaena's laugh, the howl of the wild dog, and the screech of the
low-flying owl. Or we spent the evening at some Takiyah[FN#23]
(Darwayshes' Oratory), generally preferring that called the "Gulshani,"
near the Muayyid Mosque outside the Mutawalli's saintly door. There is
nothing attractive in its appearance. You mount a flight of ragged
steps, and enter a low verandah enclosing an open stuccoed terrace,
where stands the holy man's domed tomb: the two stories contain small
dark rooms in which the Darwayshes dwell, and the ground-floor doors
open into the

[p.86]verandah. During the fast-month, Zikrs[FN#24] are rarely
performed in the Takiyahs: the inmates pray there in congregations, or
they sit conversing upon benches in the shade. And a curious medley of
men they are, composed of the choicest vagabonds from every nation of
Al-Islam. Beyond this I must not describe the Takiyah or the doings
there, for the "path" of the Darwaysh may not be trodden by feet

Curious to see something of my old friends the Persians, I called with
Haji Wali upon one Mirza Husayn, who by virtue of his dignity as
"Shahbandar[FN#25]" (he calls himself "Consul-General"), ranks with the
dozen little quasi-diplomatic kings of Cairo. He suspends over his
lofty gate a sign-board in which the Lion and the Sun (Iran's proud
ensign) are by some Egyptian limner's art metamorphosed into a
preternatural tabby cat grasping a scimitar, with the jolly fat face of
a "gay" young lady, curls and all complete, resting fondly upon her
pet's concave back. This high dignitary's reception room was a
court-yard sub dio: fronting the door were benches and cushions
composing the Sadr or high place, with the parallel rows of Diwans
spread down the less dignified sides, and a line of naked boards, the
lowest seats, ranged along the door-wall. In the middle stood three
little tables supporting three huge lanterns-as is their size so is the
owner's dignity-each of which contained three of the largest spermaceti

The Haji and I entering took our seats upon the side benches with
humility, and exchanged salutations with the great man on the Sadr.
When the Darbar or levee was full, in stalked the Mirza, and all arose
as he calmly divested himself of his shoes; and with all due

[p.87]solemnity ascended his proper cushion. He is a short, thin man
about thirty-five, with regular features and the usual preposterous
lamb-skin cap and beard, two peaked black cones at least four feet in
length, measured from the tips, resting on a slender basement of pale
yellow face. After a quarter of an hour of ceremonies, polite
mutterings and low bendings with the right hand on the left breast, the
Mirza's pipe was handed to him first, in token of his dignity-at
Teheran he was probably an under-clerk in some government office. In
due time we were all served with Kaliuns[FN#26] (Persian hookahs) and
coffee by the servants, who made royal conges whenever they passed the
great man; and more than once the janissary, in dignity of belt and
crooked sabre, entered the court to quicken our awe.

The conversation was the usual Oriental thing. It is, for instance,
understood that you have seen strange things in strange lands.

"Voyaging-is-victory," quotes the Mirza; the quotation is a hackneyed
one, but it steps forth majestic as to pause and emphasis.

"Verily," you reply with equal ponderousness of pronunciation and
novelty of citation, "in leaving home one learns life, yet a journey is
a bit of Jahannam."

Or if you are a physician the "lieu commun" will be,
"Little-learn'd doctors the body destroy:
Little-learn'd parsons the soul destroy."

To which you will make answer, if you would pass for a man of belles
lettres, by the well-known lines,

"Of a truth, the physician hath power with drugs,
Which, long as the patient hath life, may relieve him;
But the tale of our days being duly told,
The doctor is daft, and his drugs deceive him."

After sitting there with dignity, like the rest of the guests, I took
my leave, delighted with the truly Persian

[p.88]"apparatus" of the scene. The Mirza, having no salary, lives by
fees extorted from his subjects, who pay rather than lack protection;
and his dragoman for a counter-fee will sell their interests
shamelessly. He is a hidalgo of blue blood in pride, pompousness and
poverty. There is not a sheet of writing-paper in the "Consulate"-when
they want one a farthing is sent to the grocer's-yet the Consul drives
out in an old carriage with four outriders, two tall-capped men
preceding and two following the crazy vehicle. And the Egyptians laugh
heartily at this display, being accustomed by Mohammed Ali to consider
all such parade obsolete.

About half-an-hour before midnight sounds the Abrar[FN#27] or call to
prayer, at which time the latest wanderers return home to prepare for
the Sahur, their dawn meal. You are careful on the way to address each
sentinel with a "Peace be upon thee!" especially if you have no
lantern, otherwise you may chance to sleep in the guard-house. And,
chemin faisant, you cannot but stop to gaze at streets as little like
what civilised Europe understands by that name as is an Egyptian temple
to the new Houses of Parliament.

There are certain scenes, cannily termed "Ken-speckle," which print
themselves upon Memory, and which endure as long as Memory lasts,-a
thunder-cloud bursting upon the Alps, a night of stormy darkness off
the Cape, an African tornado, and, perhaps, most awful of all, a
solitary journey over the sandy Desert.

Of this class is a stroll through the thoroughfares of old Cairo by
night. All is squalor in the brilliancy of noon-day. In darkness you
see nothing but a silhouette. When, however, the moon is high in the
heavens, and the summer stars rain light upon God's world, there is
something not of earth in the view. A glimpse at the

[p.89]strip of pale blue sky above scarcely reveals three ells of
breadth: in many places the interval is less: here the copings meet,
and there the outriggings of the houses seem to interlace. Now they are
parted by a pencil of snowy sheen, then by a flood of silvery
splendour; while under the projecting cornices and the huge hanging
balcony-windows of fantastic wood-work, supported by gigantic brackets
and corbels, and under deep verandahs, and gateways, vast enough for
Behemoth to pass through, and in blind wynds and long cul-de-sacs, lie
patches of thick darkness, made visible by the dimmest of oil lamps.
The arch is a favourite feature: in one place you see it a mere
skeleton-rib opening into some huge deserted hall; in another the ogre
is full of fretted stone and wood carved like lace-work. Not a line is
straight, the tall dead walls of the Mosques slope over their massy
buttresses, and the thin minarets seem about to fall across your path.
The cornices project crookedly from the houses, while the great gables
stand merely by force of cohesion. And that the Line of Beauty may not
be wanting, the graceful bending form of the palm, on whose topmost
feathers, quivering in the cool night breeze, the moonbeam glistens,
springs from a gloomy mound, or from the darkness of a mass of houses
almost level with the ground. Briefly, the whole view is so strange, so
fantastic, so ghostly, that it seems preposterous to imagine that in
such places human beings like ourselves can be born, and live through
life, and carry out the command "increase and multiply," and die.

[FN#1] Of course all quarrelling, abuse, and evil words are strictly
forbidden to the Moslem during Ramazan. If one believer insult another,
the latter should repeat "I am fasting" three times before venturing
himself to reply. Such is the wise law. But human nature in Egypt, as
elsewhere, is always ready to sacrifice the spirit to the letter,
rigidly to obey the physical part of an ordinance, and to cast away the
moral, as if it were the husk and not the kernel.
[FN#2] Allah opens (the door of daily bread) is a polite way of
informing a man that you and he are not likely to do business; in other
words, that you are not in want of his money.
[FN#3] The Sufrah is a piece of leather well tanned, and generally of a
yellow colour, bordered with black. It is circular, has a few small
pouches for knives or spoons, and, by means of a thong run through
rings in the periphery, can be readily converted into a bag for
carrying provisions on a journey. Figuratively it is used for the meal
itself. "Sufrah hazir" means that dinner is upon the table.
[FN#4] The Salam at this hour of the morning is confined to the
devotions of Ramazan. The curious reader may consult Lane's Modern
Egyptians, chap. 25, for a long and accurate interpretation of these
[FN#5] The summons to prayer.
[FN#6] In the Mohammedan church every act of devotion must be preceded
by what is called its Niyat, or purpose. This intention must be either
mentally conceived, or, as the more general rule is, audibly expressed.
For instance, the worshipper will begin with "I purpose to pray the
four-bows of mid-day prayer to Allah the Almighty," and then he will
proceed to the act of worship. Moslems of the Shafe'i faith must
perform the Niyat of fasting every night for the ensuing day; the
Malikis, on the other hand, "purpose" abstinence but once for the
thirty days of Ramazan. Lane tells a pleasant tale of a thief in the
Mosque saying, "I purpose (before prayer) to carry off this nice pair
of new shoes!"
[FN#7] Many go to sleep immediately after the Imsak, or about a quarter
of an hour before the dawn prayer, and do not perform their morning
devotions till they awake. But this is not, strictly speaking, correct.
[FN#8] When the late Pasha of Egypt (H.H. Abbas Hilmi) came to power,
he built a large pile of palace close outside the walls of Cairo, on
the direction of Suez, and induced his courtiers to follow his example.
This was done readily enough, for Asiatics, like Europeans, enjoy the
fine air of the desert after the rank atmosphere of towns and cities.
If the successor of His Highness does not follow the usual Oriental
method of wiping away all vestiges of the predecessor, except his
grave, there will be, at no distant period, a second Cairo on the site
of the Abbasiyah.
[FN#9] One of our wants is a history of the bell and its succedanai.
Strict Moslems have an aversion to all modifications of this
instrument, striking clocks, gongs, &c., because they were considered
by the Prophet peculiar to the devotions of Christians. He, therefore,
instituted the Azan, or call to prayer, and his followers still clap
their hands when we should ring for a servant. The symbolical meaning
of the bell, as shown in the sistrum of Isis, seems to be the movement
and mixture of the elements, which is denoted by clattering noise.
"Hence," observes a learned antiquary, "the ringing of bells and
clattering of plates of metal were used in all lustrations, sacrifices,
&c." We find them amongst the Jews, worn by the high priest; the Greeks
attached them to images of Priapus, and the Buddhists of Thibet still
use them in their worship, as do the Catholics of Rome when elevating
the Host.
[FN#10] Al-Ghada is the early dinner: Al-Asha, the supper, eaten
shortly after sunset. (See Lane's Modern Egyptians, Chap. 5.)
[FN#11] Extra prayers repeated in the month of Ramazan. (Lane, Chap.
25, "Tarawih.") They take about an hour, consisting of 23 prostrations,
with the Salam (or blessing on the Prophet) after every second
[FN#12] The Shisha, or Egyptian and Syrian water-pipe, is too well
known to require any description. It is filled with a kind of tobacco
called Tumbak, for which see Chap. 4 of this Volume.
[FN#13] Strangers often wonder to see a kind of cemetery let into a
dwelling-house in a crowded street. The reason is, that some obstinate
saint has insisted upon being buried there, by the simple process of
weighing so heavily in his bier, that the bearers have been obliged to
place him on the pavement. Of course, no good Moslem would object to
have his ground floor occupied by the corpse of a holy man. The reader
will not forget, that in Europe statues have the whims which dead
bodies exhibit in Egypt. So, according to the Abbe Marche, the little
statue of Our Lady, lately found in the forest of Pennacom, "became,
notwithstanding her small size, heavy as a mountain, and would not
consent to be removed by any one but the chaplain of the chateau."
[FN#14] Europeans compare "Kara Gyuz" to our Chinese shadows. He is the
Turkish "Punch," and his pleasantries may remind the traveller of what
he has read concerning the Mines and Fescennine performances of the
Romans. On more than one occasion, Kara Gyuz has been reported to the
police for scandalously jibing and deriding consuls, Frank merchants,
and even Turkish dignitaries.
[FN#15] Mohammed Ali drained and planted the Azbakiyah, which, before
his day, was covered with water and mud long after the inundation had
ceased. The Egyptians extract a perfume, an aphrodisiac, which they
call "Fitnah," from this kind of Acacia.
[FN#16] All "Agapemones" are at this time suppressed, by order of His
Highness (Abbas Pasha), whose august mother occasionally insisted upon
banishing whole colleges of Ambubaiae to Upper Egypt. As might be
expected, this proceeding had a most injurious effect upon the morals
of society. I was once at Cairo during the ruler's absence on a tour up
to the Nile; his departure was the signal for the general celebration
of Cotyttia.
[FN#17] For La'an abuk, curse thy father. So in Europe pious men have
sworn per diem, instead of per Deum, and "drat" acts for something
[FN#18] A daughter, a girl. In Egypt, every woman expects to be
addressed as "O lady!" "O female-pilgrim!" "O bride!" or, "O daughter!"
even though she be on the wrong side of fifty. In Syria and in Arabia,
you may say "y'al mara!" (O woman); but if you attempt it near the
Nile, the answer of the offended fair one will be "may Allah cut out
thy heart!" or, "the woman, please Allah, in thine eye!" And if you
want a violent quarrel, "y'al aguz!" (O old woman!) pronounced
drawlingly,-y'al ago-o-ooz,-is sure to satisfy you. On the plains of
Sorrento, in my day, it was always customary, when speaking to a
peasant girl, to call her "bella fe," (beautiful woman), whilst the
worst of insults was "vecchiarella." So the Spanish Calesero, under the
most trying circumstances, calls his mule "Vieja, rivieja." (old, very
old). Age, it appears, is as unpopular in Southern Europe as in Egypt.
[FN#19] "Fire" is called the "sweet" by euphuism, as to name it
directly would be ill-omened. So in the Moslem law, flame and water
being the instruments of Allah's wrath, are forbidden to be used by
temporal rulers. The "full" means an empty coffee cup, as we say in
India Mez barhao ("increase the table,") when ordering a servant to
remove the dishes.
[FN#20] Or "pleasurably and health": Hanien is a word taken from the
Koran. The proper answer to this is "May Allah cause thee to have
pleasure!" Hanna-kumu'llah, not "Allah yahannik!" which I have heard
abominably perverted by Arnaut and other ruffians.
[FN#21] This in these days must be said comparatively: Ibrahim Pasha's
order, that every housekeeper should keep the space before his house
properly swept and cleaned, has made Cairo the least filthy city in the
[FN#22] Here lies the Swiss Burckhardt, who enjoyed a wonderful
immunity from censure, until a certain pseudo-orientalist of the
present day seized the opportunity of using the "unscrupulous
traveller's" information, and of abusing his memory. Some years ago,
the sum of L20 (I am informed) was collected, in order to raise a
fitting monument over the discoverer of Petra's humble grave. Some
objection, however, was started, because Moslems are supposed to claim
Burckhardt as one of their own saints. Only hear the Egyptian account
of his death! After returning from Al-Hijaz, he taught Tajwid (Koran
chaunting) in the Azhar Mosque, where the learned, suspecting him to be
at heart an infidel, examined his person, and found the formula of the
Mohammedan faith written in token of abhorrence upon the soles of his
feet. Thereupon, the principal of the Mosque, in a transport of holy
indignation, did decapitate him with one blow of the sword. It only
remains to be observed, that nothing can be more ridiculous than the
popular belief, except it be our hesitating to offend the prejudices of
such believers.
[FN#23] A Takiyah is a place where Darwayshes have rooms, and perform
their devotions.
[FN#24] Certain forms of worship peculiar to Darwayshes. For a
description see Lane (Modern Egyptians, ch. 24).
[FN#25] Shahbandar, Harbour-King, is here equivalent to our "Consul."
[FN#26] Written "Ghalayun."
[FN#27] See Lane (Modern Egyptians, chap. 24).



THEN the Byzantine Christians, after overthrowing the temples of
Paganism, meditated re-building and re-modelling them, poverty of
invention and artistic impotence reduced them to group the spoils in a
heterogeneous mass.[FN#1] The sea-ports of Egypt and the plains and
mountains of Syria abounding in pillars of granite, syenite and
precious marbles, in Pharaonic, Grecian, and Roman statuary, and in all
manner of structural ornaments, the architects were at no loss for
material. Their Syncretism, the result of chance and precipitancy, of
extravagance and incuriousness, fell under eyes too ignorant to be hurt
by the hybrid irregularity: it was perpetuated in the so-called
Saracenic style, a plagiarism from the Byzantine,[FN#2] and it was
reiterated in the Gothic, an offshoot from the Saracenic.[FN#3] This
fact accounts in the Gothic style for its manifold incongruities of
architecture, and for the phenomenon,-not solely attributable to the

[p.91]having been erected piecemeal,-of its most classic period being
that of its greatest irregularity.

Such "architectural lawlessness," such disregard for symmetry,-the
result, I believe, of an imperfect "amalgamation and enrichment,"-may
doubtless be defended upon the grounds both of cause and of effect.
Architecture is of the imitative arts, and Nature, the Myriomorphous,
everywhere delighting in variety, appears to abhor nothing so much as
perfect similarity and precise uniformity. To copy her exactly we must
therefore seek that general analogy compatible with individual variety;
in fact, we should avoid the over-display of order and regularity. And
again, it may be asserted that, however incongruous these disorderly
forms may appear to the conventional eye, we find it easy to surmount
our first antipathy. Perhaps we end in admiring them the more, as we
love those faces in which irregularity of feature is compensated for by
diversity and piquancy of expression.

There is nothing, I believe, new in the Arab Mosque; it is an
unconscious revival of the forms used from the earliest ages to denote
by symbolism the worship of the generative and the creative gods. The
reader will excuse me if I only glance at a subject of which the
investigation would require a volume, and which, discussed at greater
length, would be out of place in such a narrative as this.

The first Mosque in Al-Islam was erected by Mohammed at Kuba, near
Al-Madinah: shortly afterwards, when he entered Meccah as a conqueror,
he destroyed the three hundred and sixty idols of the Arab Pantheon,
and thus purified that venerable building from its abominations. He had
probably observed in Syrian Bostra the two forms appropriated by the
Christians to their places of worship, the cross and the
parallelogramic Basilica; he therefore preferred for the prayers of the
"Saving Faith" a square,-some authors say, with, others

[p.92]without, a cloister. At length in the reign of Al-Walid (A.H. 90)
the cupola, the niche, and the minaret made their appearance; and what
is called the Saracenic style became for ever the order of the Moslem

The Hindus I believe to have been the first who symbolised by an
equilateral triangle their peculiar cult, the Yoni-Linga: in their
temple architecture, it became either a conoid or a perfect pyramid.
Egypt denoted it by the obelisk, peculiar to that country; and the form
appeared in different parts of the world: thus in England it was a mere
upright stone, and in Ireland a round tower. This we might expect to
see. D'Hancarville and Brotier have successfully traced the worship
itself, in its different modifications, to all people: the symbol would
therefore be found everywhere. The old Arab minaret is a plain
cylindrical or polygonal tower, without balcony or stages, widely
different from the Turkish, modern Egyptian, and Hijazi combinations of
tube and prism, happily compared by a French traveller to "une
chandelle coiffee d'un eteignoir." And finally the ancient minaret,
made solid as all Gothic architecture is, and provided with a belfry,
became the spire and steeple of our ancestors.

>From time immemorial, in hot and rainy lands, a hypaethral court,
either round or square, surrounded by a covered portico, was used for
the double purpose of church and mart,-a place where God and Mammon
were worshipped turn by turn. In some places we find rings of stones,
like the Persian Pyroetheia; in others, circular concave buildings
representing the vault of heaven, where Fire, the divine symbol, was
worshipped; and in Arabia, columnar aisles, which, surmounted by the
splendid blue vault, resemble the palm-grove. The Greeks adopted this
idea in the fanes of Creator Bacchus; and at Pozzuoli, near Naples, it
may be seen in the building vulgarly called the Temple of Serapis. It
was equally well known

[p.93]to the Kelts: in some places the Temenos was a circle, in others
a quadrangle. And such to the present day is the Mosque of Al-Islam.

Even the Riwak or porches surrounding the area in the Mosque are
revivals of older forms. "The range of square buildings which enclose
the temple of Serapis are not, properly speaking, parts of the fane,
but apartments of the priests, places for victims, and sacred utensils,
and chapels dedicated to subordinate deities, introduced by a more
complicated and corrupt worship, and probably unknown to the founders
of the original edifice." The cloisters in the Mosque became cells,
used as lecture rooms, and stores for books bequeathed to the college.
They are unequal, because some are required to be of larger, others to
be of smaller, dimensions. The same reason causes difference of size
when the building is distributed into four hyposteles opening upon the
area: the porch in the direction of the Ka'abah, where worshippers
mostly congregate, demands greater depth than the other three. The
wings were not unfrequently made unequal, either from want of building
materials, or because the same extent of accommodation was not required
in both. The columns were of different substances; some of handsome
marble, others of rough stone meanly plastered over, with dissimilar
capitals, vulgarly cut shafts of various sizes; here with a pediment,
there without, now turned upside down, then joined together by halves
in the centre, and almost invariably nescient of intercolumnar rule.
This is the result of Byzantine syncretism, carelessly and ignorantly
grafted upon Arab ideas of the natural and the sublime. Loving and
admiring the great, or rather the big in plan,[FN#4]} they care

[p.94]little for the execution of mere details, and they have not the
acumen to discern the effect which clumsy workmanship, crooked lines,
and visible joints,-parts apparently insignificant,-exercise upon the
whole of an edifice. Their use of colours was a false taste, commonly
displayed by mankind in their religious houses, and statues of the
gods. The Hindus paint their pagodas, inside and outside; and rub
vermilion, in token of honour, over their deities. The Persian Colossi
of Kaiomars and his consort on the Balkh road and the Sphinx of Egypt,
as well as the temples of the Nile, still show traces of artificial
complexion. The fanes in classic Greece have been dyed. In the Forum
Romanum, one of the finest buildings, still bears stains of the Tyrian
purple. And to mention no other instances, in the churches and belfries
of Modern Italy, we see alternate bands of white and black material so
disposed as to give them the appearance of giant zebras. The origin of
"Arabesque" ornament must be referred to one of the principles of
Al-Islam. The Moslem, forbidden by his law to decorate his Mosque with
statuary and pictures,[FN#5] supplied their place with quotations from
the Koran, and inscriptions, "plastic metaphysics," of marvellous

[p.95]His alphabet lent itself to the purpose, and hence probably arose
that almost inconceivable variety of lace-like fretwork, of
incrustations, of Arabesques, and of geometric flowers, in which his
eye delights to lose itself.[FN#6]

The Meccan Mosque became a model to the world of Al-Islam, and the
nations that embraced the new faith copied the consecrated building, as
religiously as Christendom produced imitations of the Holy
Sepulchre.[FN#7] The Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, of Amru at Babylon on
the Nile, and of Taylun at Cairo were erected, with some trifling
improvements, such as arched cloisters and inscribed cornices, upon the
plan of the Ka'abah. From Egypt and Palestine the ichnography spread
far and wide. It was modified, as might be expected, by national taste;
what in Arabia was simple and elegant became highly ornate in
Spain,[FN#8] florid in Turkey, sturdy in Syria, and effeminate in
India. Still divergence of detail had not, even after the lapse of
twelve centuries, materially altered the fundamental form.

[p.96]Perhaps no Eastern city affords more numerous or more accessible
specimens of Mosque architecture than Cairo. Between 300 and 400 places
of worship;[FN#9] some stately piles, others ruinous hovels, many new,
more decaying and earthquake-shaken, with minarets that rival in
obliquity the Pisan monster, are open to the traveller's inspection.
And Europeans by following the advice of their hotel-keeper have
penetrated, and can penetrate, into any one they please.[FN#10] If
architecture be really what I believe it to be, the highest expression
of a people's artistic feeling,-highest because it includes all
others,-to compare the several styles of the different epochs, to
observe how each monarch building his own Mosque, and calling it by his
own name, identified the manner of the monument with himself, and to
trace the gradual decadence of art through one thousand two hundred
years, down to the present day, must be a work of no ordinary interest
to Orientalists. The limits of my plan, however, compel me to place
only the heads of the argument before the reader. May I be allowed to
express a hope that it will induce some learned traveller to
investigate a subject in every way worthy his attention?

The desecrated Jami' Taylun (ninth century) is simple and massive, yet
elegant, and in some of its details peculiar.[FN#11] One of the four
colonnades[FN#12] still remains unoccupied

[p.97]by paupers to show the original magnificence of the building; the
other porches are walled up, and inhabited. In the centre of a
quadrangle about 100 paces square is a domed building springing from a
square which occupies the proper place of the Ka'abah. This
"Jami'[FN#13]" Cathedral is interesting as a point of comparison. If it
be an exact copy of the Meccan temple as it stood in A.D. 879, it shows
that the latter has greatly altered in this our modern day.

Next in date to the Taylun Mosque is that of the Sultan al-Hakim, third
Caliph of the Fatimites, and founder of the Druze mysteries. The
minarets are remarkable in shape, as well as size: they are unprovided
with the usual outer gallery, they are based upon a cube of masonry,
and they are pierced above with apertures apparently meaningless. A
learned Cairene informed me that these spires were devised by the
eccentric monarch to disperse, like large censers, fragrant smoke over
the city during the hours of prayer. The Azhar and Hasanayn[FN#14]
Mosques are simple and artless piles, celebrated for sanctity, but
remarkable for nothing save ugliness. Few buildings, however, are
statelier in appearance,

[p.98]or give a nobler idea of both founder and architect than that
which bears Sultan Hasan's name. The stranger stands awe-struck before
walls high towering without a single break, a hypaethral court severe
in masculine beauty, a gateway that might suit the palace of the
Titans, and a lofty minaret of massive grandeur. This Mosque (finished
about A.D. 1363), with its fortress aspect, owns no more relationship
to the efforts of a later age than does Canterbury Cathedral to an
Anglo-Indian "Gothic." For dignified beauty and refined taste, the
Mosque and tomb of Kaid Bey and the other Mamluk kings are admirable.
Even in their present state, picturesqueness presides over decay, and
the traveller has seldom seen aught more striking than the rich light
of the stained glass pouring through the first shades of evening upon
the marble floor.

The modern Mosques must be visited to see Egyptian architecture in its
decline and fall. That of Sittna Zaynab (our Lady Zaynab), founded by
Murad Bey, the Mamluk, and interrupted by the French invasion, shows,
even in its completion, some lingering traces of taste. But nothing can
be more offensive than the building which every tourist flogs donkey in
his hurry to see-old Mohammed Ali's "Folly" in the citadel. Its Greek
architect has toiled to caricature a Mosque to emulate the glories of
our English "Oriental Pavilion." Outside, as Monckton Milnes sings,

"The shining minarets, thin and high,"

are so thin, so high above the lumpy domes, that they

[p.99]look like the spindles of crouching crones, and are placed in
full sight of Sultan Hasan the Giant, so as to derive all the
disadvantages of the contrast. Is the pointed arch forgotten by man,
that this hapless building should be disgraced by large and small
parallelograms of glass and wood,[FN#15] so placed and so formed as to
give its exterior the appearance of a European theatre coiffe with
Oriental cupolas? Outside as well as inside, money has been lavished
upon alabaster full of flaws; round the bases of pillars run gilt
bands; in places the walls are painted with streaks to resemble marble,
and the wood-work is overlaid with tinsel gold. After a glance at these
abominations, one cannot be surprised to hear the old men of Egypt
lament that, in spite of European education, and of prizes encouraging
geometry and architecture, modern art offers a melancholy contrast to
antiquity. It is said that H. H. Abbas Pasha proposes to erect for
himself a Mosque that shall far surpass the boast of the last
generation. I venture to hope that his architect will light the "sacred
fire" from Sultan Hasan's, not from Mohammed Ali's, Turco-Grecian
splendours. The former is like the genuine Osmanli of past ages,
fierce, cold, with a stalwart frame, index of a strong mind-there was a
sullen grandeur about the man. The latter is the pert and puny modern
Turk in pantaloons, frock coat and Fez, ill-dressed, ill-conditioned,
and ill-bred, body and soul.

[p.100]We will now enter the Mosque Al-Azhar. At the dwarf wooden
railing we take off our slippers, hold them in the left hand, sole to
sole, that no dirt may fall from them, and cross the threshold with the
right foot, ejaculating Bismillah, &c. Next we repair to the Mayza'ah,
or large tank, for ablution, without which it is unlawful to appear in
the House of Allah. We then seek some proper place for devotion, place
our slippers on some other object in front of us to warn the lounger,
and perform a two-bow prayer in honour of the Mosque.[FN#16] This done,
we may wander about, and inspect the several objects of curiosity.

The moon shines splendidly upon a vast open court, paved with stones
which are polished like glass by the feet of the Faithful. There is
darkness in the body of the building, a large oblong hall, at least
twice too lengthy for its height, supported by a forest of pillars,
thin, poor-looking, crooked marble columns, planted avenue-like, upon
torn and dirty matting. A few oil lamps shed doubtful light over scanty
groups, who are debating some point of grammar, or are listening to the
words of wisdom that fall from the mouth of a Wa'iz.[FN#17] Presently
they will leave the hypostyle, and throw themselves upon the flags of
the quadrangle, where they may enjoy the open air and avoid some fleas.
It is now "long vacation": so the holy building has become a kind of
Caravanserai for travellers;

[p.101]perhaps a score of nations meet in it; there is a confusion of
tongues, and the din at times is deafening. Around the court runs a
tolerably well-built colonnade, whose entablature is garnished with
crimson arabesques, and in the inner wall are pierced apartments, now
closed with plank doors. Of the Riwak, as the porches are called, the
Azhar contains twenty-four, one for each recognised nation in Al-Islam,
and of these fifteen are still open to students.[FN#18] Inside them we
find nothing but matting and a pile of large dingy wooden boxes, which
once contained the college library; they are now, generally speaking,

There is nothing worth seeing in the cluster of little dark chambers
that form the remainder of the Azhar. Even the Zawiyat al-Umyan (or the
Blind men's Oratory), a place where so many "town and gown rows" have
emanated, is rendered interesting only by the fanaticism of its
inmates, and the certainty that, if recognised in this

[p.102]sanctum, we shall run the gauntlet under the staves of its
proprietors, the angry blind.

The Azhar is the grand collegiate Mosque of this city,-the Christ
Church, in fact, of Cairo,-once celebrated throughout the world of
Al-Islam. It was built, I was told, originally in poor style by one
Jauhar al-Kaid,[FN#20] originally the slave of a Moorish merchant, in
consequence of a dream that ordered him to "erect a place whence the
light of science should shine upon Al-Islam."

It gradually increased by "Wakf[FN#21]" (entailed bequests) of lands,
money, and books; and pious rulers made a point of adding to its size
and wealth. Of late years it has considerably declined, the result of
sequestrations, and of the diminished esteem in which the purely
religious sciences are now held in the land of Egypt.[FN#22] Yet it is
calculated that between 2000 and 3000 students of all nations and ages
receive instruction here gratis.

[p.103]Each one is provided with bread, in a quantity determined by the
amount of endowment, at the Riwak set apart for his nation,[FN#23] with
some article of clothing on festival days, and a few piastres once a
year. The professors, who are about 150 in number, may not take fees
from their pupils; some lecture on account of the religious merit of
the action, others to gain the high title of "Teacher in Al
Azhar.[FN#24]" Six officials receive stipends from the government,-the
Shaykh al-Jami' or dean, the Shaykh al-Sakka, who regulates the
provision of water for ablution, and others that may be called heads of

The following is the course of study in the Azhar. The school-boy of
four or five years' standing has been taught, by a liberal application
of the maxim "the Green Rod is of the Trees of Paradise," to chant the
Koran without understanding it, the elementary rules of arithmetic,
and, if he is destined to be a learned man, the art of writing.[FN#25]
He then registers his name in Al-Azhar, and applies

[p.104]himself to the branches of study most cultivated in Al-Islam,
namely Nahw (syntax), Fikh (the law), Hadis (the traditions of the
Prophet), and Tafsir, or Exposition of the Koran.

The young Egyptian reads at the same time Sarf, or Inflexion, and Nahw
(syntax). But as Arabic is his mother-tongue, he is not required to
study the former so deeply as are the Turks, the Persians, and the
Indians. If he desire, however, to be a proficient, he must carefully
peruse five books in Sarf,[FN#26] and six in Nahw.[FN#27]

[p.105]Master of grammar, our student now applies himself to its proper
end and purpose, Divinity. Of the four schools those of Abu Hanifah and
Al-Shafe'i are most common in Cairo; the followers of Ibn Malik abound
only in Southern Egypt and the Berberah country, and the Hanbali is
almost unknown. The theologian begins with what is called a Matn or
text, a short, dry, and often obscure treatise, a mere string of
precepts; in fact, the skeleton of the subject. This he learns by
repeated perusal, till he can quote almost every passage literatim. He
then passes to its "Sharh," or commentary, generally the work of some
other savant, who explains the difficulty of the text, amplifies its
Laconicisms, enters into exceptional cases, and deals with principles
and reasons, as well as with mere precept. A difficult work will
sometimes require "Hashiyah," or "marginal notes"; but this aid has a
bad name:-

"Who readeth with note,
But learneth by rote,"

says a popular doggrel. The reason is, that the student's reasoning
powers being little exercised, he learns to depend upon the dixit of a
master rather than to think for himself. It also leads to the neglect
of another practice, highly advocated by the Eastern pedagogue.

"The lecture is one.
The dispute (upon the subject of the lecture) is one thousand."

In order to become a Fakih, or divine of distinguished fame, the
follower of Abu Hanifah must peruse about ten volumes,[FN#28] some of
huge size, written in a diffuse style;

[p.106]the Shafe'i's reading is not quite so extensive.[FN#29] Theology
is much studied, because it leads directly to the gaining of daily
bread, as priest or tutor; and other scientific pursuits are neglected
for the opposite reason.

The theologian in Egypt, as in other parts of Al-Islam, must have a
superficial knowledge of the Prophet's traditions. Of these there are
eight well known collections,[FN#30] but only the first three are
generally read.

School-boys are instructed, almost when in their infancy, to intone the
Koran; at the university they are

[p.107]taught a more exact system of chanting. The style called "Hafs"
is most common in Egypt, as it is indeed throughout the Moslem world.
And after learning to read the holy volume, some savans are ambitious
enough to wish to understand it: under these circumstances they must
dive into the 'Ilm al-Tafsir,[FN#31] or the Exegesis of the Koran.

Our student is now a perfect Fakih or Mulla.[FN#32] But

[p.108]the poor fellow has no scholarship or fellowship-no easy
tutorship-no fat living to look forward to. After wasting

[p.109]seven years, or twice seven years, over his studies, and reading
till his brain is dizzy, his digestion gone, and his eyes half blind,
he must either starve upon college alms, or squat, like my old Shaykh
Mohammed, in a druggist's shop, or become pedagogue and preacher in
some country place, on the pay of L8 per annum. With such prospects it
is wonderful how the Azhar can present any attractions; but the
southern man is essentially an idler, and many become Olema, like
Capuchins, in order to do nothing. A favoured few rise to the degree of
Mudarris (professors), and thence emerge Kazis and Muftis. This is
another inducement to matriculate; every undergraduate having an eye
upon the Kazi-ship, with as much chance of obtaining it as the country
parocco has of becoming a cardinal. Others again devote themselves to
laical pursuits, degenerate into Wakils (lawyers), or seek their
fortunes as Katibs-public or private accountants.

To conclude this part of the subject, I cannot agree with Dr. Bowring
when he harshly says, upon the subject of Moslem education: "The
instruction given by the Doctors of the Law in the religious schools,
for the formation of the Mohammedan priesthood, is of the most
worthless character."[FN#33] His opinion is equally open to

[p.110]objection with that of those who depreciate the law itself
because it deals rather in precepts than in principle, in ceremonies
and ordinances rather than in ethics and aesthetics. Both are what
Eastern faiths and Eastern training have ever been,-both are eminently
adapted for the Oriental mind. When the people learn to appreciate
ethics, and to understand psychics and aesthetics, the demand will
create a supply. Meanwhile they leave transcendentalism to their poets
and philosophers, and they busy themselves with preparing for heaven by
practising the only part of their faith now intelligible to them-the

It is not to be supposed that a nation in this stage of civilisation
could be so fervently devout as the Egyptians are, without the bad
leaven of bigotry. The same tongue which is employed in blessing Allah,
is, it is conceived, doing its work equally well in cursing Allah's
enemies. Wherefore the Kafir is denounced by every sex, age, class, and
condition, by the man of the world,[FN#34] as by the boy at school; and
out of, as well as in, the Mosque. If you ask your friend who is the
person with a black turband, he replies,

"A Christian. Allah make his Countenance cold!"

If you inquire of your servant, who are the people singing in the next
house, it is ten to one that his answer will be,

"Jews. May their lot be Jahannam!"

It appears unintelligible, still it is not less true, that Egyptians
who have lived as servants under European roofs for years, retain the
liveliest loathing for the manners

[p.111]and customs of their masters. Few Franks, save those who have
mixed with the Egyptians in Oriental disguise, are aware of their
repugnance to, and contempt for, Europeans-so well is the feeling
veiled under the garb of innate politeness, and so great is their
reserve when conversing with those of strange religions. I had a good
opportunity of ascertaining the truth when the first rumour of a
Russian war arose. Almost every able-bodied man spoke of hastening to
the Jihad,-a crusade, or holy war,-and the only thing that looked like
apprehension was the too eager depreciation of their foes. All seemed
delighted with the idea of French co-operation, for, somehow or other,
the Frenchman is everywhere popular. When speaking of England, they
were not equally easy: heads were rolled, pious sentences were
ejaculated, and finally out came the old Eastern cry, "Of a truth they
are Shaytans, those English.[FN#35]" The Austrians are despised,
because the East knows nothing of them since the days when Osmanli
hosts threatened the gates of Vienna. The Greeks are hated as clever
scoundrels, ever ready to do Al-Islam a mischief. The Maltese, the
greatest of cowards off their own ground, are regarded with a profound
contempt: these are the proteges which bring the British nation into
disrepute at Cairo. And Italians are known chiefly as "istruttori" and
"distruttori"[FN#36]-doctors, druggists, and pedagogues.

Yet Egyptian human nature is, like human nature everywhere,
contradictory. Hating and despising Europeans, they still long for
European rule. This people admire

[p.112]an iron-handed and lion-hearted despotism; they hate a timid and
a grinding tyranny.[FN#37] Of all foreigners, they would prefer the
French yoke,-a circumstance which I attribute to the diplomatic skill
and national dignity of our neighbours across the Channel.[FN#38] But
whatever European nation secures Egypt will win a treasure. Moated on
the north and south by seas, with a glacis of impassable deserts to the
eastward and westward, capable of supporting an army of 180,000 men, of
paying a

[p.113]heavy tribute, and yet able to show a considerable surplus of
revenue, this country in western hands will command India, and by a
ship-canal between Pelusium and Suez would open the whole of Eastern

There is no longer much to fear from the fanaticism of the people, and
a little prudence would suffice to command the interests of the
Mosque.[FN#40] The chiefs of corporations,[FN#41] in the present state
of popular feeling, would offer [p.114]even less difficulty to an
invader or a foreign ruler than the Olema. Briefly, Egypt is the most
tempting prize which the East holds out to the ambition of Europe, not
excepted even the Golden Horn.

[FN#1] In the capitals of the columns, for instance.
[FN#2] This direct derivation is readily detected in the Mosques at Old
[FN#3] The roof supported by arches resting on pillars, was unknown to
classic antiquity, and in the earliest ages of Al-Islam, the cloisters
were neither arched nor domed. A modern writer justly observes, "A
compound of arcade and colonnade was suggested to the architects of the
Middle Ages by the command that ancient buildings gave them of marble
[FN#4] "The Oriental mind," says a clever writer on Indian subjects,
"has achieved everything save real greatness of aim and execution."
That the Arab mind always aimed, and still aims, at the physically
great is sufficiently evident. Nothing affords the Meccans greater
pride than the vast size of their temple. Nothing is more humiliating
to the people of Al-Madinah than the comparative smallness of their
Mosque. Still, with a few exceptions, Arab greatness is the vulgar
great, not the grand.
[FN#5] That is to say, imitations of the human form. All the doctors of
Al-Islam, however, differ on this head: some absolutely forbidding any
delineation of what has life, under pain of being cast into hell;
others permitting pictures even of the bodies, though not of the faces,
of men. The Arabs are the strictest of Misiconists; yet even they allow
plans and pictures of the Holy Shrines. Other nations are comparatively
lax. The Alhambra abounds in paintings and frescoes. The Persians never
object to depict in books and on walls the battles of Rustam, and the
Turks preserve in the Seraglio treasury of Constantinople portraits, by
Greeks and other artists, of their Sultans in regular succession.
[FN#6] This is at least a purer taste than that of our Gothic
architects, who ornamented their cathedrals with statuary so
inappropriate as to suggest to the antiquary remains of the worship of
the Hellespontine god.
[FN#7] At Bruges, Bologna, (St. Stefano), and Nurnberg, there are, if I
recollect right, imitations of the Holy Sepulchre, although the
"palmer" might not detect the resemblance at first sight. That in the
Church of Jerusalem at Bruges was built by a merchant, who travelled
three times to Palestine in order to ensure correctness, and totally
failed. "Arab art," says a writer in the "Athenaeum," "sprang from the
Koran, as the Gothic did from the Bible." He should have remembered,
that Arab art, in its present shape, was borrowed by Al-Walid from the
Greeks, and, perhaps, in part from the Persians and the Hindus, but
that the model buildings existed at Meccah, and in Al-Yaman, centuries
before the people had "luxurious shawls and weavings of Cashmere" to
suggest mural decoration.
[FN#8] See Theophile Gautier's admirable description of the Mosque at
[FN#9] Joseph Pitts, of Exeter, declares that Cairo contained in his
day (A.D. 1678-93) 5 or 6000 Mosques, public and private; at the same
time he corrects Mr. Collins, who enumerated 6000 public, and 20,000
particular buildings, and M. de Thevenot, who (Part I. p. 129),
supplied the city with 23,000!
[FN#10] In Niebuhr's time, a Christian passing one of the very holy
buildings on foot was liable to be seized and circumcised. All Mosques
may now be entered with certain precautions. When at Cairo, I heard
occasionally of a Frank being spat at and insulted, but the instances
were rare.
[FN#11] The "Handbook" contains the story current among the learned
concerning the remarkable shape of the minaret.
[FN#12] The columns support pointed arches, which, therefore, were
known at Cairo 200 years before they were introduced into England. By
the discoveries of M. Mariette, it is now ascertained that the
Egyptians were perfectly acquainted with the round arch and key-stone
at a period antecedent to the architectural existence of Greece.
[FN#13] A "Jami'" is a place where people assemble to pray-a house of


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