BLTC Press Titles


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Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


Notes during a visit to Egypt, Nubia, the Oasis Boeris, Mount Sinai and Jerusalem

by Frederick Henniker

Excerpt:

ALEXANDRIA, 21sT OCTOBER.

The camel with our luggage is gone, and the donkeys that are to carry ourselves are ready; they do not appear so anxious to proceed as our guide, who says that if we turn out of our way to look for where Canopus fuit, it will be dark ere we reach the half-way house.—But to my mem.—Concerning the plague, nothing certain is known of it except its dreadfulness—fear, as in all other countries, and other diseases is a conductor; if so, I run great risk. A merchant here at the commencement of the late plague shut up his house, and would allow no one to answer the door but himself; he caught the plague, and died ; all the other inmates escaped. Among curious cases there is one on record at Malta. A tailor, who had procured some silk from an infected house, passed the evening with a soldier and his wife: the tailor went home, and the soldier and his wife to bed; on the following morning the woman found her husband dead by her side: she was put into the lazzaretto, as was also the tailor: at the end of three weeks the infection manifested itself upon the latter, and he died ; the woman escaped altogether. There is no calculating upon safety—till after the 24th of June. Then, even the Turks, who are fatalists, have a feast, under the idea that the plague ceases on that day—it usually about that time goes out of town for the season, or remains incog.

Walked towards the obeliscs of Cleopatra, they are situated at the edge of the new port. Within a few yards of the town, the butchers were quartering buffaloes: the sands fetid with offalst sharks and dogs are the only scavengers. Here commences a wall, which is supposed to be a defence, and is called the city wall; under it are frequent mounds of rubbish, such as are seen in the purlieus of London, where retiring citizens placard " Belle vue" upon a cottage. Attempting to pass the first of these filth hills, a pack of brindled wolf dogs rushed forth, barking furiously as if they knew me to be a Christian. I had almost determined, Actason-like, to fly, but stood at bay, and at length backed out of their dirty territories, the dogs following till we approached a second mound. Here a second kennel burst out upon us, and the former, having handed us over to strict watch, retired. They have a method in their madness ; and are quite as likely to frighten strangers as were the geese of the Capitol.

The town wall runs between the water's edge and the obeliscs : fragments of pillars and architectural remains, probably once connected with them^ are visible under the neighbouring waves. Encountered the dogs once more, and entered the town.

Met a crowd of Roman Catholics returning from mass: they have a neat chapel, which is not only tolerated by the government, but even surmounted by the Turkish flag to preserve it from insult. In Bucharest, the capital of a Turkish province, every religion is tolerated—except the Mahommedan—strange inconsistency. The Pope has an armed force, and having an armed force has the word Peace inscribed upon his standard. Near the chapel stand three plain granite columns, that may have been part of a portico, or any thing else. I really cannot make them interesting: Denon has made a pretty picture of the subject; but the beauties of it do not exist. Nearly opposite is a ruined mosque, in which was found a noble sarcophagus, it was packed up cleverly by the French for the Louvre, but il se trouve in the British Museum ; the cross is still evident on some of the stones used in this Turkish temple—but even the eagle is not obliterated from all the public buildings at Paris. I laboured onward over some acres of crockery: at Rome it is difficult to believe that Monte Testaccio is formed of such materials, but here we may fancy the wreck of all the potteries of Egypt. The city cisterns are filled but once yearly, by the overflow of the Nile; they are spacious, and underground; will soon fall into disuse probably, as a canal is about to be opened betwixt the river and the town; at present I am watching a camel, he carries two goat skins for water—kneels down at command near the opening of the cistern; the skins being filled, he springs up, and bears his burden to the town—if cunning did not master strength, camels and elephants would never submit to man. The obeliscs of Cleopatra do not appear striking to one accustomed to those at Rome; even in size they yield to that standing before the church of St. John Lateranensis. One of them is under sailing orders for London, in the other there is nothing so remarkable as to observe that the hieroglyphics on two of the sides are nearly effaced by the pelting of the sand ; such is the effect of minute particles even upon granite, while the sides exposed to the saline atmosphere, have not suffered the slightest injury, and three thousand years have passed heedlessly by. These obeliscs are called the Needles of Cleopatra: they have no eyes to them, but if they had, a cable six feet in diameter might pass through as easily as through the " Needles of the Isle of Wight."

Pompey's pillar stands without the walls; the distance at which it is seen at sea prepares one for the intelligence that it is nearly 100 feet in height: the shaft is said to be the loftiest in the world (as a single block). This bel pezzo of granite is in height superior to perhaps any house in London ; and here, where the buildings are comparatively cottages, appears to great advantage; the capital (Corinthian order) is different as to material, and indifferent as to workmanship: in its character as a column it is less pleasing than many at Rome and Athens, and, as a monument, it is not to be compared with Trajan's pillar, nor with that in the Place Vendome at Paris, nor with the Monument in London: it may have an inscription, because Quaresmius gives one and Hamilton gives another: the former says it was erected by Alexander ; I leave the curious to settle the point—whether it was erected in honor of Alexander, or of Diocletian, or of Severus—"tulit alter hbnores." I did not ascend it, though not forgetful of the plan of flying a kite, as was done over the tower at Pisa. It is quite sufficient for me to be told by our captain, that he, in company with seventeen others, dined on the top. Encamped near the pillar is one of the Pasha's sons, whose duty is to superintend the operations going on at the new canal, and to prevent the labourers from deserting: these labourers are procured by conscriptions levied on the villages : Egypt is still " the house of bondage." Met part of the governor's harem: each woman riding on a donkey, and covered with a mantle of black silk, as with a cloud; I should have mistaken them for bales of goods ; can form no opinion of either face or figure.

The canal is the labour of many thousand wretches brought together by force, and ill paid for their work ; many of them who had probably never seen a' hat before, surrounded us: Becksheesh was the rallying word: these poor wretches are covered with rags,—at least those who have enough of them. There is but little method in their labour: that of raising water from one level to another is an ingenious piece of awkwardness; a low bank is built up, two men at a few paces distant, opposite each other, swing a rush basket through the obnoxious pool, the water, that does not fall through, is thrown over the bank, and in this manner it is handed on. At the moment of sunset, a note of exultation ran through the workmen ; with scarcely an exception they performed their ablutions in the dirty puddles, and knelt down on the spot to pray. All turned their faces towards Mecca: a Mohammedan always does while praying, whatever part of the world he may be in, as fire worshippers to the sun, and as we turn towards Jerusalem when repeating the creed. Prayers finished, those who had any thing to eat, supped, and a miserable number who had nothing, scratched a kind of grave in the sand, and, taking off their rags, endeavoured to make a coverlid, particularly to guard the head—a custom practised; also by the natives of the Arctic regions. The gates of the town locked—Becksheesh effected a breach.


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