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View of Alexandria-A Turkish Pilot- The Egyptian Fleet-Soldiery-An Eastern Bazaar
Donkey Boys-Cleopatra's Needle-Its prostration and proposed removal-A Palm grove Ruins of the ancient City-Pompey's Pillar-Nautical Hieroglyphics-- English Seamen- The Cemetery-Tombs-Eastern Lamentation-A Surveyor of the Navy –The Dock-yard--Commissioners Vessels on the stocksThe Navy-Arsenal-Artisans-Mosque-Matrimonial speculation-Price of labour-A line-of-battle shipNaval uniform-The Hospital Consular residences-The Slave-market-Fish-Dromedaries-Remarks on their Natural History.
Jan. 13th.–We made the land this evening, but from its being so low, and the coast rising only a few feet above the level of the water, we were unable to distinguish it at any great distance. Before nightfall we obtained a very indistinct view of Alexandria, resembling the broken outline of an old fortress, and the Arab's tower that of a low hummock. The harbour not being safe to enter at night, we lay “off and on” till morning, when we found ourselves abreast of the tower, a plain, round, dark-looking building, not unlike an armless windmill, or those towers along the Spanish shore, as you enter the straits of Gibraltar. This is the only object for miles along the coast, and serves as a most valuable guide to mariners approaching the shores of Egypt, which are one continued series of low undulations of sand, than which nothing can appear more dreary, bleak, and barren, devoid as they are of a single living thing to break the monotony or enliven the scene.
On nearing the shore, the water becomes shallow and beautifully clear, vieing with the tint of the tourquoise ; enabling us to distinguish objects on the bottom at a considerable depth ; and having numbers of large medusæ of every possible hue floating through it.
At length the city and harbour began to rise up, as if emerg
HARBOUR OF ALEXANDRIA. ing from the sea, and the number of tall masts told of our proximity to a large fleet. We shortly afterwards picked up a pilot, blind of one eye, (as were each of the crew, except one old man who had lost both.) The pilot very deliberately squatted himself, cross-legged, upon the poop, and commenced smoking his long pipe, which he scarcely ever removed from his lips till we anchored. He was dressed in the Turkish costume, which is much more convenient than the long loose dress of the Egyptians for those engaged in any active occupation. He seemed to understand his business very well, and was the first of his profession we had yet met whose first inquiry was not after the rum-bottle. The entrance is rather intricate here, having several shoals and sunken rocks. We passed Marrabutt island—a miserable sand-stone rock, on which the present viceroy has erected a considerable battery. A light on this island would be of immense value, and enable vessels to enter during the night.
Except the row of houses along the water's edge, little or nothing of the town is seen from the harbour. There were a number of windmills then building along the shores to the right; and a view is had of the tall slender shaft of Pompey's pillar rising behind them, and forming a pleasing object even at this distance. There are no public buildings, such as you would expect even in the smallest European cities, visible from the harbour. A line of low wharfs at the water's edge, the minarets of a couple of mosques, and the hareem of Ibrahim Basha, which stands detached on a narrow neck of land to the left of the harbour, are all you see of the grandeur of the principal seaport of the east, and the second city in Egypt. The hareem is a large square building, without any architectural beauties, but easily distinguished by its isolated position, white walls, red-tiled roof, and green windowblinds—here, at least, deserving the name of “ jealousies.”
The Egyptian fleet was moored at the entrance of the harbour, and in number and appearance far surpassed what we had heard of it. They are a magnificent set of vessels—all in commissionin the most perfect order; the majority of them two deckers, but mounting many more guns than ours of a similar class; with round sterns, and all the other modern improvements in naval architecture. The yacht of the Basha is a most beautiful craft, magnificently fitted up, and fully equal to any of the Cowes squadron.
antine ; but rather frightenedying from some health-officer,
On “ bringing up,” we were visited by a health-officer, and seeing the yellow flag flying from some Swedish menof-war, were rather frightened lest we should be again in quarantine; but we were admitted sans ceremonie, and immediately after the Egyptian admiral sent his boat, with two officers, to know if he could be of any service to us. They were exceedingly polite, and spoke very tolerable French. They use more men in their boats than is usual with vessels of war, and direct every thing by the boatswain's whistle, even to the stroke of the oars. Altogether, the harbour of Alexandria presented a picture the most imposing; and the stir and bustle, both warlike and commercial, was what we could have had no idea of. The flags of the different nations of Europe were here displayed beside the red banner of Mohammad Alee, to which he has added a star within the crescent; and were this port to be taken as an index of the flourishing state of the country, great indeed would be its wealth.
After dinner we landed at one of the wharfs near the customhouse, and met a company of the troops, who all looked abominably dirty, and in marching lifted their legs like so many turkeys in long grass. Their dress, which is of white cotton, may be the reason they appeared so very filthy, but otherwise they were all very comfortably clad. This dress consists of a light jacket ; wide bagged trowsers, fitting tightly to the leg from the knee down to the ancle, and buttoned down the side like gaiters; red shoes and garters, a striped cotton sash round the waist, and a small red cap, with a blue tassel, buff belts, and bright Birmingham firelocks. Each party was preceded by a set of drums and fifes. As we walked along the wharfs, we met several groups of both sailors and soldiers off duty, and notwithstanding all that has been said of their hardships, and the cruelty of dragging them from their homes and friends, they seemed exceedingly happy, generally walking hand in hand, or playing with each other. They were all young, and mostly slight-made, active men.
Our entry into the city of the Ptolemies was any thing but pleasing. Outside the gate we had to pass through a village of miserable mud huts, only equalled in filth and squalidness by the wretched-looking set of old people, half-clad women, and wholly naked children squatted around them-quite an African wigwam. These extend all along the town on the land side, and are the abodes of the wives and families of the troops and sailors of
Mohammad Alee. We found a guard of soldiers at each of the gates. The streets are much wider than those of Algiers, and filthy in the extreme. The numerous bazaars through which we passed presented a scene of exceeding novelty—the merchants being seated in their several compartments, surrounded by their respective wares; some engaged with their customers, who, if respectable, seat themselves upon the bench that runs along the side of the bazaar, raised a couple of feet above the surface; and as the Mooslims never conclude a hasty bargain, they enjoy a cup of coffee and a pipe in the interim; others employed in reading the Koorán, which they do aloud in a very peculiar monotonous singing tone, rocking the body backwards and forwards all the time; and many of them had retired into the interior of the shop and were performing their evening prayers. All this, with the narrowness of the streets, the different cries of the several water-carriers, sellers of beans and vegetables, and venders of sherbet, at all the corners of the principal streets—the droves of camels, the diversity of the costumes, and the peculiarity of the language, are quite astounding to an Englishman, and brought before us the scenes so beautifully described in that epitome of oriental manners—the Arabian Nights.
I was not many minutes in Alexandria, until I was forcibly struck with the number of blind people I met at every turn ; it is really incredible; the greater number had but one eye, and many others were groping their way through the streets in perfect darkness. Squinting is a very common affection among the people of Alexandria ; the greater number of the lower orders are what would be termed blear-eyed; and wherever we went, we discovered lamentable traces of the ravages of ophthalmia.
During our walk through the city, we happened to light upon one of the donkey stations, when a scene ensued that beggars all description. The moment we made our appearance, the whole body of donkey-boys, with their animals, rushed upon us with one accord, pushing, jostling, and abusing each other, in a most unintelligible jargon ; and half-a-dozen laying hold of each of us at once, attempted to place us, nolens volens, on their donkeys. I was literally lifted off and on three of them, before I could employ my stick to any advantage, to deter others from plucking me off the one on which I had at last secured a seat. The whole scene is really so ludicrous, that it is worth
DONKEYS AND DONKEY-BOYS.
witnessing, for once; after which, I would advise all travellers to provide themselves with a good, stout koorbág,* which is made of the hide of the hippopotamus, and forms a staple article of commerce with the inhabitants of Upper Nubia, and on the Blue River; it is the only remedy for an Alexandrian ass-boy. As soon as we were fairly seated, the boys set the animals off at a most dashing pace, through the narrow streets, over breadstalls, old women, and all the various merchandize that strew the floor of an eastern bazaar. They kept goading the donkeys with a sharp stick, and shouting to the people, “Riglac, riglac, darick,”—“Get out of the way,”—and cursing in tolerably plain English. It was quite impossible to stop, or hold up against this vis a tergo. I nearly came in collision with several enormous camels ; ran foul of various Egyptian officers, naval and military; and narrowly escaped upsetting numerous blind people at every turn, besides trampling over whole hosts of halfstarved dogs, that are always lurking about the bazaars. To attempt to reason with our drivers was out of the question : the more we attempted to pull up, the more they shouted and urged on the animals; and to turn in the narrow, crowded streets was impossible. The boys laughed, and seemed to enjoy it of all things, beating the unfortunate dogs most unmercifully whenever they came across them. After many hair-breadth escapes of camels, old women, water-carriers, and buffaloes, we arrived safe at our boat, and were heartily glad to get ourselves on board again, after the noise and bustle we had just left. We were rather surprised to see one of the Basha's coaches-and-four! parading the streets.
The donkeys of Egypt are a small but well-made and active race, and are all closely shaven except the legs. The saddle is a high pad, somewhat like that used in Galicia, but it does not project so much forward. They are the only mode of conveyance at Alexandria, and are ridden by all persons, even those of rank ; you can have one with its attendant for about five piastres, or twelve pence halfpenny, a day—formerly they were the only animals Christians were allowed to ride.
15th.-On our landing this morning we were instantly beset by
* Generally pronounced by Europeans Corbatch.