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TOMBS OF THE MEMLOOKS.
muscle, and so perfectly devoid of fat, that many of the strongest appear wrinkled, from the want of that rotundity and cushioning given to other people by this useful material; and the skin looks so dry and shrivelled up, that they have, many of them, the appearance of an old anatomical preparation, or well-preserved mummy; and yet the fatigues, hardships, and deprivation of food and water that these men endure, are beyond conception. In order to comply with the latest order of the horseguards at Cairo, and yet to avoid the complete resignation of their original and accustomed weapons, these Bedawees have got long bayonets attached to their firelocks, which are kept fixed, and as the musket is slung across the back, and is long and light, it can be used as a lance, as well as a gun.
From this we bent our steps towards the tombs of the Memlooks, situate at about two miles from the city, in the desert, by the way leading to Suez. These magnificent mausolea present a most imposing appearance when viewed at some distance, rising up from the plain of sand like the towers and public buildings of a large town. They consist of a collection of mosques, many of which are of great magnitude, and the domes and minarets of most exquisite workmanship. The former are deeply carved in the grey sand-stone in beautiful patterns, and the latter are some of the highest and most tasteful of the kind I have ever witnessed, but all now going rapidly to decay since the extinction of the stranger lords, whose sepulchres they cover. We found those we entered inhabited by a set of filthy old people, who live mostly on the terraces and upper stories, where their wretched huts, squalid misery, and the dirty tattered rags in which they were clad, formed a mournful contrast to the gilding, and striking, though deserted grandeur, by which they were surrounded. The fountains, many of which were of great beauty, and whose murmur once re-echoed through the spacious courts around, were now dry, or the little water which their basins contained stagnant, and covered with a green scum. The pulpits of the mosques are all of stone, carved with a taste and elegance of design worthy of imitation. Beside the open space of the mosques and underneath the dome, but still railed in from the unholy touch of the Giaour, the pagan, or the Jew, are the tombs, plain, and without ornament, and although the names of many an occupant of these sepulchres caused terror in their lifetime, and were remembered
TOMBS OF THE KALIEFS.
217 with horror after their death, yet the poor people who conducted us to them, with that instinctive veneration which the Mohammadans observe for their dead, appeared quite shocked at our requesting permission to enter the apartments. We spent some hours in wandering over this splendid necropolis, and left its precincts pondering over the period when its now silent tenants swayed with bloody hands the destinies of this hapless land.
Our course was next directed round the south-eastern side of the citadel, where heaps of rubbish accumulating for centuries, and formed by the cleaning of the city, have grown into hills, the magnitude of which can only be believed by those who have seen them. Beyond this commence the Mokattam rocks, which extend parallel to the Nile, and bound the eastern side of the valley of Egypt for its whole extent. The number of fossils to be found here, but which time did not permit me to examine, are well worthy of the attention of the naturalist, as they have not, as far as I am aware, been yet accurately described, nor have any number of them been yet brought to this country.
From hence we turned to the tombs of the Kaliefs or Kháléifehs,* of less magnitude, but in a better state of preservation than those we had left. They are situated in rows, with large streets between, and are each in connection with one of the mosques. Attached to each tomb are collections of those sacred relics of their saints and martyrs, veneration for which has of late crept into the religion of the Prophet, and to extinguish which the Wahabees have made such fierce and zealous endeavours. These objects are now guarded with more than ordinary strictness, and owing to those places being less frequented by Franks than others in the city, we were allowed to enter but few. There was one, however, that had for us a peculiar interest, being the tomb where the present ruler purposes to take up his final abode, and into this we procured a ready admission. A handsome court-yard, adorned with gardens and well-grown trees, surrounded the building, which, on our entrance, disclosed to us a scene we were quite unprepared for. We were conducted into a large and well-lit chamber, which, strange to say, was in the form of a cross; in the centre of this was a row of tombs of
* Improperly written Caliphs by the English.
MAUSOLEUM OF MOHAMMAD ALEE.
white marble, and constructed in the usual Turkish style. The slele, or head-stone at the end of each was beautifully carved, and adorned with flowers, and verses of the Koorán, in relief, gilt on an azure ground, and surmounted by the head-dress expressive of the sex and rank of the deceased, who were all the different members of Mohammad Alee's family. Several splendid chandeliers hung from the arched roof; the floor between the tombs was covered with the most costly Persian carpets, in which we sank literally ankle deep, and copies of the Koorán lay open on stands in several places. Many of the tombs were strewed with flowers, not yet withered, and the apartment was well lighted by windows in the European style, furnished with splendid pink silken curtains. At one end of the chamber is a space left for his highness; and it is a spot he frequently visits, as beside it lie the remains of that wife to whom he was so long and devotedly attached. No less than thirty or forty persons have been interred in this place, some of whom were the family of Ibrahim Basha. The greatest care and attention is bestowed to preserve the neatness and order of this tomb, so perfectly different from the damp, neglected state in which such places are left with us.
On the top of one of the mosques attached to a tomb near this, we were shown a small model of a boat, where food and water are daily supplied by the priests for the birds of the neighbourhood; a practice still continued in Egypt from the days of Herodotus. Most of these mausolea belonged to the Turkish nobility at Cairo, and from this place to the city we passed through thousands of tombs, the burial-places of the present inhabitants ; their white glistening appearance darkened in places by groups of mourning friends, or passing funerals.
26th.—To-day we went to inspect two of the most revolting and disgusting sights at Cairo—the slave-market, and the madhouse.
On reaching the door of the latter, which was originally a mosque, we were stopt by our conductor, to purchase a few cakes of coarse bread, quantities of which are always kept in the adjoining porch for supplying the visitors, who thus become a principal though precarious means of supporting its wretched inmates. We were led through a narrow passage, where all was still and silent as the tomb; a few steps farther, and we were introduced into a large oblong room, when a yell arose of the
most unearthly kind my ears were ever assailed by—so startling, that some of our party involuntarily drew back with horror. Our sight-our smell-our hearing—were overwhelmed with a combination of disgusting realities, such as I believe no other place allotted to mankind can exhibit. Around this apartment were arranged a number of dens, about four feet square, closed in front with massive iron gratings. In each of these gloomy, filthy cells, was a human being, perfectly naked, or with the remnant of the tattered rag he may have worn on his entrance years before, fantastically tied about some part of his person ; his hair and beard long and matted ; his nails grown into talons ; emaciated ; covered with vermin, and coated with unutterable filth; an iron collar rivetted about his neck, binding him by a massive chain either to a ring in the wall, or connecting him through a circular aperture with his fellow maniac in the adjoining cell.
Upon our entrance, each wretched prisoner-like a ravenous animal in a menagerie, when the keeper arrives with food—roused from his lair or his lethargy, and rushing with savage wildness to the grating, extended a withered hand for the expected morsel. The foam of frenzied agony was on every lip; the fire of maniac fury was in every eye, and the poor madman's yell softened into the jabber of satisfaction as each in turn snatched his morsel, and devoured it with a growl I can only liken to a tiger's. Our pity is raised, and all our tender sympathies awakened, for the poor harmless idiot, or melancholy madman; but we must tremble before the outbreak of the violent and raging maniac.
I will not disgust my readers with a recital of the sickening scene I witnessed in the female department, where the frown and whip of the savage keeper rendered unnecessary the chain, the collar and the grating; nor tax their humanity by asking them to linger longer with those who dwell
“In this vast lazar house of many woes,
Where laughter is not mirth, nor thought the mind,
And each is tortured in his separate hell." Even with the care and attention shown to those unfortunates in our own country, the sight of madness is one of the most humiliating and pitiable we can witness; but here, where no
pains are taken to improve their condition ; no care for their wants, and no medical skill to inquire into the causes of their malady, or the possibility of their cure, it is a truly awful spectacle. I need hardly say, that recovery is rare ; indeed it would be a miracle, as the first glimmerings of returning reason would in all probability be instantly and completely destroyed on the patient finding himself immured in a dungeon, replete with such horrors.
Few travellers who have visited this establishment but have expressed their opinion upon the state in which it is kept.
Of this says Mr. Wilkinson :-“Though conducted in a disgraceful manner by its present directors, and inferior managers, we cannot but highly appreciate the humanity of Sooltan Quláson, almost the only Mooslim king or governor of Egypt, who set on foot a charitable institution for the benefit of the people. By his orders the patients, whatever might be the nature of their complaint, were regularly attended by medical men, and nurses attached to the establishment; and their minds were relieved by the introduction of a band of music, which played at intervals on a platform in the court of the interior. But the neglect and embezzlement of the directors would have reduced the whole building to a ruined condition had it not been for the benevolence of Sayd el Mahroóque, who undertook the necessary repairs, and detected the misappropriation of its funds."
This institution, called Morostán, is one of considerable antiquity at Cairo, where for many years it was the only charitable establishment-it was founded in 1820, by the celebrated El Quælæm e Naser Mohammad II. It is astonishing that there are so few insane among a people so excitable and imaginative as the Mooslims—the only cause I can assign for it is their religion of fatalism—the “ Allah Keriem”—God's will be done—is a disposition that is not very favourable to the workings of insanity.
The Europeans and medical men of Cairo should inquire into and reform this disgrace upon humanity.
We next visited the slave-market, which is here of great extent. It was remarkable that as a seller of bread sat at the gate of the mad-house, the shop adjoining the gate of the slave-market was occupied by a vender of koorbags, or Arab whips. Within, was a large open court, surrounded by a number of small dark chambers, which rose in terraces around it; these contained the