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parts of the valley in which it is confined. Stones or gravel of any kind are very rare in this section of the bank, and in no instance did I see any shells or other organic remains sinoe leaving Atfé.
Towards the fork of the Delta the river becomes very tortuous on the Canopic branch, and runs in some places nearly four miles : an hour. At this point the fertile land varies in breadth from two miles, to half, or even a quarter of a mile. In some places as far as the eye can reach you see nothing but green; in others the desert approaches very close to the water; and even here, so low down, and so near the seat of government, and the two great cities, there is much land remaining uncultivated. The people seem little acquainted with agriculture, and the only instrument of husbandry in common use is the mattock, or short hoe, and a very rude wooden plough, which barely scratches the soil four inches deep; but the land is so soft and pulverisable that little more is required. Pigeon factories, and whole villages solely erected as dove-cots, form (being as yet untaxed) a great source of the livelihood of the people, and flocks of lapwing and plover swarm in every field. The Balearic or crested crane we frequently met in the morning; and although we saw both swifts and swallows at Alexandria, and martins afterwards about Cairo, not one of the hirundines appeared during this part of our voyage. Hares I shot more than once; they were similar to ours, but with longer hair, having a slight tinge of black at the extremity, and the ears being nearly black.
The Felláheén, or lower orders, in this part of Egypt, appeared to be poor, dirty, and idle—numbers lying basking in the sunrising on our approach merely for the purpose of asking a buckshese. The poorer classes of Egyptian women are now much less tenacious of their beauty or their modesty than they were some years ago. Great numbers go without the yashmac, or nose-bag, required to be worn by Mohammadan females, their only covering being a blue linen chemise, which, fitting pretty tightly, often exhibits the outline of a figure of surpassing grace and elegance. This garment reaches somewhat below the knees, and is open in front as far as the waist, which, though never subjected to the torture of lace or whalebone, is, in many of those Arab girls, slender without contortion, and proportionate without compression. The breasts of those who have had chil
dren (and there are few here arrived at sixteen who have not) become, from want of covering or support, exceedingly pendent, and, to a European eye, disgusting. The young children, who are invariably naked, are carried astride upon the hip or shoulder; and the mother, with a pitcher of water on the head, and her infant thus seated, and both balanced with unerring accuracy, offers an interesting subject for the pencil of the painter.
All the females along the Nile are tattooed upon some part of the face, chin, or temple. The lines are marked in blue, and differ in figure and extent, according to the several tribes or villages to which they belong. Those who are in a better condition, and adhere to ancient custom with more accuracy, wear the facecover (boorks), consisting of a stripe of black crape, or linen, about eight inches wide at top, where it is fastened to the headdress by an ornamental clasp, or circular bit of brass, which comes down over the root of the nose—the upper margin is closely applied immediately below the eyes, and the lower end hangs down in front to the knees, or lower ; above the upper margin peep a pair of most bewitching and invariably black eyes, rendered more sparkling by the dark line of kohl or liban surrounding them—the eyebrows being arched with the same. A triangular piece of muslin is brought over the forehead, and hangs down behind below the waist, and thus there is but about two inches of the face left to view. Many will here appear so careful of their charms, that, although nearly in a state of nudity, they will draw with becoming modesty some portion of their ragged only garment across the face on meeting a stranger; though by so doing they expose more of their person than is in accordance with our notions of decency-yet such is the fashion of Egypt. All who can muster a few piasters are provided with rings of brass or silver, or strings of beads in the ears, and on the wrists and ankles. Some few wear large silver nose-rings, passed through a hole, not in the septum, but through one of the sides or alæ. The colour of most of the Egyptian women is a light olive—the features of many are regular, and, to my taste, pleasing—the exceeding regularity of outline still preserves a similarity to that of the ancient race—more particularly seen in the long lozengeshaped eye.
The eye of the Arab girl, and more particularly the Egyptian, is so peculiar, and so often caused me to stop and admire its
beauties, that I may be excused dwelling on it a few moments. All these females use the liban, or line of black paint, for adorning the eye-lid ; this is renewed every three or four days and laid on with a kind of bodkin; not, however, as it is generally believed in Europe, upon the outer part of the eye-lid. It is applied in a most accurate and dexterous manner all along that part of the edge of the eyelid, within and along the roots of the eye-lashes, where both lids present a flat surface to each other, denominated in technical language the tarsal margin of the eyelids. This ancient practice of the east, although it approaches to a piece of foolish decoration, is based upon a thorough knowledge and study of the beauty of a perfect eye. When the eye-lashes are in perfection, and of a black colour, as all here are, they present, at a little distance, not a collection of hairs, but a black line—and to increase this line of beauty the easterns add the liban. The liquid black of what is generally called the pupil, and the whole of the black part of the eye, is much heightened by the elliptic line of the same hue by which the organ is encircled ; and though at first it appears so extraordinary, and may, after all, be denominated an acquired taste, yet there is a swimming loveliness in those brilliants set in jet that I cannot but admire.
Unless when negro blood mingles with that of the Arab, the traveller can still recognise “A Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt,” and with a life and animation of expression that give their
“lips that speaking air,
As if a word were hovering there.” Few countries but can boast of beauty among its fair daughters; but I will fearlessly assert that no other clime can exhibit the wrinkle and decrepitude of old age so soon, so marked, or so
very disgustingly as this. Precocious in womanhood, mothers in almost childhood, and premature in old age, here the female of thirty or forty possesses none of the venerable appearance of other countries, but a haggard and withered form, that one can hardly believe was so lately the buoyant girl of the Nile; yet this does not prevent them drawing the end of their kerchief over the lower part of the face on the approach of man, especially if a Giaour..
Their habitations are miserable hovels, consisting of square mud-walls and flat roofs, which are generally coated with small cakes of camel dung, pasted on them to dry, the only fuel of the country. These it was lately contemplated to tax, and the amount of piasters per thousand actually discussed ; but on a representation to the Basha, the scheme was abandoned. The number of santons, or holy men, that formerly swarmed through the country is much decreased. Each village is governed by a Sheykh, whose house is somewhat better than the rest, and who is generally found seated on his segaddeh, or on a mat before his door, smoking the shibook or sheesheh, leading a life of extreme idleness, collecting the taxes, hearing petty complaints, or presiding over the administration of the bastinado.
Nearly all the young men you meet are blind of an eye, generally the right one, and have lost the index finger of the right hand; this act of mutilation is done by themselves to avoid the conscription. I have known them, on hearing the tallyho of the conscription officers, deliberately redden a pointed stick in the fire, and thrust it into the eye. At Cairo a little boy, not more than ten years of age, who worked in the garden of our hotel, on being informed by way of joke that the officers of the Basha were approaching, ran most heroically to a trowel, and placed it on his finger, while his sister, still younger, chopped it off with a stone! He bore it without a murmur, and held it up as a trophy of no ordinary conquest. The thumb of one of the crew of our kanghia was still raw from a similar operation ; and what with the effects of the ophthalmia, and the terrors of the conscription, there will soon appear a cyclopean population. The Basha has, however, very properly put a stop to this self-mutilation, by making such offenders punishable by perpetual working in the arsenal or dock-yard.
A great outcry has arisen on account of the conscription, and
APPROACH TO THE CAPITAL.
travellers have loudly exclaimed against so horrid an alternative being forced on the people ; but without at all advocating that, perhaps necessary evil, I would ask, is it worse than the pressgang we have so lately had recourse to, in our own navy, and may be obliged to apply to again in England ? How few soldiers would come forward to enlist in our towns and hamlets, without the agency of the bounty, the stirring notes of the fife and drum, the red coat, the gay cockade, or the crimp sergeant?
As we ascended the country, hawks, buzzards, and vultures of a great size, became more plenty; and innumerable flocks of geese, ducks, and teal, literally covered the lagoons, and at times darkened the air. The doves are so tame around the habitations, as to come almost within reach of the hand; and plovers swarm through the large tracts of broken ground. There are three kinds of these birds, the Charadrius Egypticus, Ch. Alexandrias, and Ch. spinosus.* All these afforded us much amusement through the day, and books, chess, and conversation, whiled away the evenings, till the morning of Wednesday, the 24th, when, on awaking, we found ourselves fast approaching the capital of Egypt. Here groves of magnificent trees clothe the banks of the Nile; and factories rise on either side. We sailed past the palace of Shoubrah, and its noble gardens, with the steam yacht of the Basha moored beside it, and passing through hundreds of gaily-painted kanghias, arrived at Boolack, the port of Cairo, about breakfast-time. We were quickly ashore, and having procured donkeys, proceeded at once to Cairo, or, as it is called in the Arabian, El Musr.
Boolack is a kind of suburb to the capital, with a handsome mosque, whose minaret and dome will repay a careful inspection. But we hasten to the “queen of cities,” whose thousand domes and minarets are now rising through the vista of wide-spreading palms, feathery bananas, and groves of carobs and acacias. The intervening ground, of about a mile, is clothed with a luxuriant crop of corn, interspersed with groves of limes and orange trees; and the road, raised some feet above the surrounding level, to preserve it from the inundation, is bordered by