Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

into ruin, because the same unhappy restraints render it impossible for the citizens to engage in any lucrative industry.'

Of this mixed population it is hard to say whether the Arabs, the Copts or the Turks are the most simple, the most ignorant and the most superstitious. Mr. Legh seems to think the Copts, (who are Christians of the sect of Eutyches,) 'a clever and intriguing race:' they are employed, he says, by the government in keeping the registers of land and tribute; he admits, however, that in acquiring these posts, they have to dispute them with the Jews. Ancient Coptic books are said to be found still in Upper Egypt, but no Copt understands them; and the Rosetta stone, we suspect, is still little less mysterious than it was on the day of its arrival in England. The simplicity of the peasants, whether Copts or Arabs, is not the worst trait in their character. Niebuhr says, that, while he was surveying in the Delta, he let a peasant look through the levelling telescope, which inverted the object; the man, on observing the village turned upside down, stared at the traveller with great astonishment; but on being told that, by the order of the Pashaw,* he was about to destroy it, the poor fellow entreated he would give him time to remove his wife and his cow, and set off on full speed for that purpose-and this poor man, we doubt not, was quite as well skilled as his neighbours in all the learning of the Egyptians.'

The mud villages and the pigeon houses interspersed with palms, the gardens of orange and banana trees which abound in the Delta and along each bank of the Nile, added to the richness of the soil, which produces the finest crops of grain almost without the labour of culture, afford a pleasing prospect to the eye, while the miserable appearance of the peasantry strongly evinces how completely the bounty of nature may be counteracted by a bad government.

The citadel of Cairo, which stands under the Mokattam heights or termination of the chain of mountains which accompanies the Nile through Upper Egypt, and which the French fortified, is the residence of the Pashaw, who received our travellers in the most friendly manner, with many flattering expressions of esteem for their country, and what was of more use to them, with a promise of protection and assistance in the prosecution of their travels to the southward. This he was enabled to do, as Egypt was now, by his vigorous administration, in a state of greater tranquillity than it had known for many years, while the Turks and Mamelukes held a sort of divided empire. It cannot be denied that the latter expe

* We heartily wish that Mr. Legh and other English travellers would not sanction us in the improper mode of spelling this word ; Pacha in French orthography is right, in English it would be Paka, which cannot be right.

rienced a severe and unmerited fate, to which England was an unwilling and unconscious accessary; but it was necessary for the peace of the country that one of the parties should abandon it--that lot, after a perfidious massacre on the part of the Turks, fell to the Mamelukes, who retired into Upper Egypt. Shortly, however, after the English had evacuated the country, the Albanian troops mutinied, and calling the exiles to their assistance, succeeded in de. posing Mahomed Pashaw; but the Mamelukes soon threw aside the mask of friendship, and became the masters of the Albanians, who, on their part, used every effort to get rid of their treacherous allies, and, after a severe struggle, drove them back, a second time, into Upper Egypt: they then elected Mahomed Ali, the present pashaw, their chief, who has proved himself a man of extraordinary talents and enterprise, though taken from the humble station of captain of a pirate boat in the Archipelago. He has since not only secured the tranquillity of his own dominions from the formidable incursions of the Wahabees, but dispossessed them of Mecca, and restored it with Medina to the Ottoman Porte.

Ali had also succeeded in driving the Mamelukes from Ibrim, where they made, their last stand; and compelled them to retreat to Dongola. This part of Nubia is particularly famous for its breed of horses, one of which is said to be valued, on the spot, at eight, ten, and even a dozen slaves; and at Cairo, in the time of the Mamelukes, a good Dongolese horse would fetch the value of a thousand pounds sterling. Here the remaining Mamelukes, to the number of about five hundred, have taken their station; and, laying aside their old habits of external magnificence, addicted themselves to agriculture, and to the breeding of cattle ; it is also reported that they have a few trading vessels on the Nile. They have found it necessary, however, to arm about four or five thou sand negro-slaves, and to surround their city with a wall, against the incursions of the Arabs from the west, and a nation of blacks from the east. The city or town of Dongola is said to be larger than any in Upper Egypt, and to be built on both sides of the Nile. At their head is Osman Bey Bardissi; and our travellers learned at Dehr, that he had made a vow never to shave his head or his beard, till he should re-enter Cairo in triumph.

The police of Cairo is stated to be highly creditable to the vigour of Mahomed Ali's government, and the disorders usual among Turkish troops are so far repressed, as nearly to verify a promise which he made on his appointment to the pashalic, that in a few years you should be able to walk about the streets with both hands full of gold.' Every street in Cairo has a gate at each end, which is shut at eight o'clock, and every person is required to carry a light after it is dark,-a regulation very common in eastern cities,

[ocr errors]

and one which might be adopted with advantage in some cities of Europe.

The extent, the population, and the magnificence of Cairo, have been described by many travellers in the most pompous and exaggerated terms. It is still called, in the figurative language of the east, Misr, without an equal ; Misr, the mother of the world !!

The chalige, or canal, Mr. Legh says, which pierces the city in a direction nearly from north to south, is the general receptacle of filth; but when opened on the overflow of the Nile, it is changed at once into a canal covered with boats, offering an imperfect resemblance to the gondolas and gayety of Venice. The descriptions of it, he says, have been ridiculously magnified; it is not more than twenty feet broad; and the term dilch would not convey an incorrect idea of its appearance : in this Mr. Legh is supported by Niebuhr and Norden. The bazaars were more entitled to at. tention, being superior in splendour to any that our travellers had met with in Turkey. Of the Slave-market we shall allow Mr. Legh to speak for himself.

• We visited also the Slave-market, where, to say nothing of the moral reflections suggested by this traffic in human beings, the senses were offended in the most disagreeable manner, by the excessive state of filthiness in which these miserable wretches were compelled to exist. They were crowded together in enclosures, like the sheep-pens of Smithfield-market, and the abominable stench and uncleanliness, which were the consequence of such confinement, may be more readily inagined than described.'-(p. 21.)

Cairo is the chief mart of the slaves who are brought from Abyssinia, Sennaar, Darfur, and other parts of Soudan. This horrid traffic is carried on by a set of fellows called Jelabs, or slave-merchants, who, in the course of the long journey, seize upon those periods of distress arising from a scarcity of water or provisions, to perform the operation of emasculation on the male slaves; who, immediately after the process, are buried in the sand to a certain depth to stop the hemorrhage ;--for the rest we must quote Mr. Legh.

• The calculation was, that one out of three only survive the operation, which was performed at a moment of distress, that the risk of mortality might be incurred at a time when the merchants could best spare their slaves. Their method of travelling was to sling a dozen of the negroes across the back of a camel.

• With respect to the value of these slaves in Egypt, it is various, according to their age, sex, and other qualities.

• An eunuch was estimated at 1500 piastres.

"Girls, whose virginity was secured by means more powerful than moral restraint, were valued at 500 piastres: but such is the state of

degradation to which the human species is reduced in this country, that the precaution serves only to produce abuses of a more revolting nature.'

• Female slaves, who could not boast of this advantage, were in gene. ral sold for 300 piastres; but if they have lived in a Frank family, and had learned to sew, wash, and wait at table, their value was estimated in the market at Cairo at 700 piastres.'-(p. 39.)

The mosques and churches, objects that usually catch the traveller's attention, possessed no charms apparently for Mr. Legh: he was unsaintly enough not to visit the Coptic church in which is the grotto where the Holy Family took refuge; nor did his curiosity tempt him into that of the Greeks with the miraculous pillar, to which if fools be bound they speedily recover their senses :—such a pillar, at this time, would be invaluable, if without injury to the Greek church, it could be pulled down and transported io London or Paris !

On leaving Cairo for Upper Egypt, our travellers engaged an American, of the name of Barthow, who had resided many years in the country, to accompany them in the capacity of interpreter, They sailed on the 13th January, and their first landing was at the ruined village of Benibassen, where they visited the excavations which Norden ascribes to holy hermits, who made their abodes there." The principal chamber is 60 feet in length, and 40 in height; to the south of it are 17 smaller chambers, and probably the like number to the north. Mr. Legh says, they found it difficult to follow Mr. Hamilton's descriptions of the paintings which cover the walls of the chambers. At Ashmounien, the site of the ancient Hermopolis, they partook of the enthusiasm with which Denon speaks of its splendid ruins ; but Mr. Legh obseryes, that his delineation of them denotes the baste with which he travelled, for that the Winged Globe represented by him on the frieze, does not exist in the original. Indeed M. Denon is very little to be depended on where he does not copy from preceding travellers, or from the actual fragments carried away by the French. By his own account, he has drawn and described objects seen only in galloping past them, and at the best labouring under the horror of a hostile visit from the Arabs or the Mamelukes.

At Siout, which has succeeded to Girgeh as the capital of Upper Egypt, they fell in with their friend Burchardt, travelling as Shekh Ibrahim, on his way to the Great Oasis, where a tribe of Bedouins had lately established themselves. Ibrahim Bey, the eldest son of the Pashaw of Egypt, who was residing here as Gov. ernor of Upper Egypt, received them with civility and attention,

On the 28th, they reached Gaw-el-Kebir, the ancient Antæopolis, where the portico of the temple is still standing, and consists of three rows, each of six columns ;, they are eight feet in diameter, and, with their entablature, sixty-two feet high! situated in the midst of a thick grove of date trees. Mr. Legh thinks this venerable and gigantic ruin the most picturesque in Egypt,—the columns, architraves, and every part of the building, are covered with hieroglyphics. At the farthest extremity of the temple is an immense block of granite, of a pyramidal form, twelve feet high and nine feet square at the base, in which is cut a niche, seven feet high, four feet wide, and three feet deep.

In visiting these temples and the villages along the banks of the Nile, our travellers were forcibly struck with the luxuriant sertility of the soil, as contrasted with the wretched state of poverty and misery of the inhabitants, who evidently laboured under the same arbitrary and oppressive exactions here as in Lower Egypt.

• The fields enriched by the Nile teem with plenty ; the date trees here are loaded with fruit; cattle of every kind, poultry and milk, abound in every village ; but the wretched Arab is compelled to live on a few lentils, and a small portion of bread and water, while he sees bis fields plundered and his cattle driven away, to gratify the insatiable wants of a mercenary soldier, and the inordinate claims of a rapacious governor. After baving paid the various contributions, and answered the numerous demands made upon him, not a twentieth of the produce of his labour falls to his own share : and without the prospect of enjoying the fruits of his toil, the fellah, naturally indolent bimself, allows his fields to remain uncultivated, conscious that bis industry would be but an additional temptation to the extortion of tyranny.'-(p. 42.)

Between Cafr Saide, supposed to be the site of Chenobosscion, and Diospolis Parva, the modern How, our travellers observed, for the first time, some crocodiles basking on the sand banks in the river, the largest apparently about twenty-five feet long. Mr. Legh thinks Girgeh the limit below which they do not descend; and they appear to be most numerous between this place and the Cataracts. The superstitious natives, we are told, attribute the circumstance of crocodiles not being observed in the lower parts of the Nile, to the talismanic influence of the Mikkias, or Nilometer, at Cairo ;-so says Niebuhr; but, he adds, it may be ascribed rather to the culture and population on the banks of the river.

A fair wind wafted the travellers past the magnificent ruins of Dendera, Koptos, and Kous, and on the 7th February they landed on the plain of Thebes—Thebes, the city of an hundred gatesthe theme and admiration of ancient poets and historians—the wonder of every traveller in every age that venerable city, (as Pococke says,) the date of whose destruction is older than the foundation of most other cities --and the extent of whose ruins, and the immensity of whose colossal fragments, still offer so many asto

« AnteriorContinuar »