תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

188

THE EGYPTIAN NAVY.

with some vinegar and oil. All the artisans are given meat once a week, and the troops once a month. They were divided into messes of three or five each ; the greatest order and quiet prevailed, and if the countenance be an index of the inner man, contentment seemed to reign amongst them. The anchors, and most of the foreign goods in the dock-yard were English, and there were also a vast number of fine brass and metal guns in most perfect preservation lately fished up in Aboukir bay.

Next day, I visited one of the vessels of war, No. 8, along with its surgeon, Mr. Abbott, an Englishman, whose salary of £10 a month and rations (consisting of beans and brown bread), although equal to the ordinary expenses of a country where necessaries are so cheap, is yet insufficient inducement to any number of well-educated English medical men to enter the service of the Básha, and consequently, with the exception of the professors at Cairo and those filling high stations, the general run of European medical men in the service are ignorant and uneducated Italians and Frenchmen.*

I found this vessel and others I visited particularly clean and orderly, and this was the more marked, as there is a greater quantity of brass inlaying and ornamental work in them than is usual in

any

of our men-of-war. This is a 100 gun ship, but equal in tonnage to any of ours carrying 120. The naval uniform is a dark brown, and the officers are principally distinguished from the men by the fineness of the regimentals, and having an anchor, star, or crescent, emblematic of their rank, and composed of silver, gold, or jewels on the left breast. In the navy as well as the army neither beard nor whiskers are allowed ; except the moustache, all must be close shaven daily ; this at first was considered a very great innovation, and was loudly complained of as quite too Christian and uncircumcised a form. The men are trained to military tactics, as well as to go aloft, and in this latter they are often, it must be confessed, very clumsy, to the no small amusement of any English tars who may be lowering top-gallants, or reefing topsails at the same time.

But much cannot be expected from a navy called

* Mr. Abbott has since left the Básha's service, and now practises at Cairo.

[blocks in formation]

into existence since the battle of Navarino, and whose service has heretofore consisted of a visit to Candia during the summer. There is a moolah or priest on board each ship. The men are now allowed to smoke in watches, and a certain number each night are permitted to go to their families, who live near the town. There was an air of great simplicity in the officers' berths, even in that of the captain's; the furniture consisted of a plain deewan that surrounded two sides of the cabin—a table with writing materials, and a couple of chairs; and on each side was hung a plain glazed frame, in which was written the name of God, and sometimes a verse of the Koorán underneath.From a desire to avoid even the appearance of any “graven image,” there are no figure-heads to any of the Egyptian vessels. There is a naval academy at Alexandria, where the young officers are instructed; it is a noble establishment, having accommodation for 1200 students.

There is an extensive hospital outside the city, in the large barrack erected by Napoleon, but in a professional point of view it is lamentably deficient. The chief surgeon, an Italian, was going his rounds at the time I visited it; and in addition to a most incongruous Franco-Turkish costume, he had on a large linen apron, tucked under his chin, of any colour but white, with a capacious pocket in front, well stored with plasters, pills, and potions, caustics and instruments, which were administered, and applied in turns as he went along, preceded by an hospital mate, with a tin pan containing burning incense, which, though a perfume, and highly needful, was stifling in the extreme.

There are many good bazaars in Alexandria, and in the Frank quarter there are some shops, kept mostly by Greeks and Italians, where every description of European article may be obtained. By far the best part of the modern town is that lately built by the Básha, for the residence of the different consuls. It encloses a handsome square, and the houses, which are mostly detached, are some of the finest in Egypt. On the roof of each is placed a flag-staff, which each diplomate endeavours to erect higher than that of his neighbour.

The slave market here is so insignificant, that but for the incident of my introduction into it, I should have passed it over. While groping my way one day through some of the dirtiest and darkest parts of the city, our Maltese servant, Paulo, assuming

190

THE SLAVE MARKET.

a most comic grin, ushered me suddenly through a small, arched passage, into a filthy, gloomy court, little removed in wretchedness from an Irish pound. On entering, about a dozen or two young creatures of both sexes, but principally girls, exceedingly black, and with scarcely a rag of covering on them, rushed tumultuously out of the low dens by which the court was surrounded, wondering at my Frank dress, and particularly delighted at the sight of a dead flamingo I carried in my hand, and which they seemed to recognise as an old acquaintance, these birds being very plenty in the Dongola country, from whence most of those slaves are taken. So sudden and unexpected was my entré, and so very strange the scene, that I almost forgot where I was, till an involuntary start awoke me from my reverie, as one of the slave-dealers, a most kidnapping-looking scoundrel, stept up, and inquired if I wished to become a purchaser. I did not, as I dared not, knock him down. The greater number of these slaves were girls, from ten to fifteen years age; they are generally bought for the purpose of household servants, and seemed quite unconscious of a situation which Christians look upon as so degrading. These young ladies, although nearly in a state of nature, had all necklaces and bracelets of blue beads—had their hair plaited in small twists, and were already beginning to coquette, and assume the modesty of Mohammadan women, by attempting to cover their faces, while the rest of their persons were totally devoid of garments!

The fish-market is very uncertain ; at times it has a good supply both of sea-fish and those procured in the Nile, and the different ponds and lagoons left by the inundation, particularly the Binny of Bruce,* and the mullet ;-the latter were the largest I have ever seen, some weighing from eighty to one hundred pounds.

of

* Among the many inaccuracies attributed to the celebrated and illtreated Abyssinian traveller, I find the following note in the tenth volume of Griffith's translation of Cuvier's Animal Kingdom, page 378 :

Bruce, after giving the history of the true Binny, refers to it, by mistake, the figure and description of a Polynemus, which he had designed in the Red Sea, from which has originated the imaginary species of the Polyn. Niloticus.” In answer to this statement, I can say, that I saw several specimens of the fish he has figured, in my voyage up the Nile, that corresponded in every particular to the plate given in Bruce's Travels.

CAMELS AND DROMEDARIES.

191

The number of dromedaries in Alexandria is very great, on account of the passage of the different caravans ;

and hundreds of young ones may be seen daily in the neighbourhood of the city. Except, perhaps, a young buffalo, no animal presents a more grotesque appearance than a young camel or dromedary, with a thick coating of hair, of a very light fawn colour, almost approaching to white; their thin, drawn-up body, which at this age appears even shorter than in adult life, supported on legs that look like stilts, and with an awkwardness of gait natural to all, but rendered truly ridiculous by their attempt at playful gambol. It is curious that all the young I have ever seen of this beautifully constructed animal, have a quantity of shaggy hair ; this, in some places, rather increases as they grow up, especially in the true Bactrian camel, which is habituated to the variable climate of parts of Asia Minor. Here, in Egypt, they are, however, when full grown, nearly all devoid of hair. Now, although the camel is well adapted to receive its Arab name-"the ship of the desert”—yet in the warm climates where they are now known, whence comes this original provision of warm clothing? What does remain on them in adult life is kept close shaven, except a tuft on either hip, and one on the forehead; and the tail, which is closely clipt on the back, but with a row of stiff hairs on either side, looks like the shafts and plumelets of a feather. The dromedaries here are much larger than those of the Canary Islands. The true Bactrian, or two-hunched camel, is unknown in this part of the east, and is now extremely rare. The popular distinction, or that made in common usage between the camel and dromedary in the Orient, is the same as that between the dray and the race-horse ; the former being an animal of exceeding slow gait, clumsy make, and adapted solely for burthen; while the latter, which is very rare, in comparison with the other, is much taller, and slighter made ; more light, easy, and active in its movements, going at a pace of eight or ten miles an hour; travelling upwards of seventy miles a day, and used solely for the purpose of despatch, and by the couriers, who sit cross-legged on a wooden framework, placed upon the hump. The movement of this beast is a kind of slinging trot, the animal throwing its long neck from side to side as it goes along. They are generally very smooth, in good condition, and may be at once known by their “ blood.” It appears to be to such a beast that Jeremiah alludes, when

192

MEMBRANE OF THE CAMEL'S MOUTH.

speaking of the "swift dromedary.” In Egyptian towns the water is generally carried about the city in large leathern bags, slung on the sides of camels, and these are most miserablelooking brutes. Docile and obedient as the camel generally is, yet when vexed and enraged, it becomes a truly formidable animal. When heated or overburthened, besides attempting to lie down, it has a power of inflating the pinkish flaccid membrane of the mouth and tongue, and blowing it out of the side of the mouth, where it hangs down a considerable way, covered with frothy saliva; the animal moves its head rapidly from side to side, and frequently (if ridden) turns round, and looks furiously into the very face of his rider, uttering, at the same time, a short abrupt sound in the throat. This note of anger is most startling, and during its continuance, they will draw in this inflated bag, and blow it forth again with great violence, the eyes flashing fire, and stamping with the forefeet. If the camel be not now either soothed or cowed by his keeper, he will often tear off his rider, and throwing down his burden, rush at the object of his anger, and lifting him up, dash him with terrific fury against the earth. I have seen a man in the large square of Alexandria, rescued with great difficulty from the terrors of such a scene.

Although it is vaunted as a new discovery, that the camel can sustain hunger by the absorption of its lump; as well as thirst, by the provision nature has made in the sacculated stomach for carrying water, yet this was long known to the owners of these animals. An old author, John Leo Africanus, mentions the fact of having seen them, when on a long journey, and deprived of food, consume “ first the flesh of their bunches, then their bellies, and last their hips.” This same author very properly enumerates three varieties of camels : the first, called Hugiun, are thick and tall, and the fittest for carrying burdens; this is the common camel of Africa. The second, called Becheti, have a double bunch, which renders it fit for carriage and riding; but these are only reared in Asia, and are the true Bactrian race. The third, called Ragnahill, being of a slender, low structure, are unqualified for carriage, but go beyond the other two in swiftness; this is what may be denominated the dromedary, and it is one of this description that is used yearly to carry the sacred Mahmil to Mekka, and ever after enjoys exemption from labour. The phenomenon of the protrusion of the membrane of the

« הקודםהמשך »