In the Dream Land of the Nile

Cairo, Egypt. Dec 27th, 1898, Tuesday.
Hotel Bristol
p. 1. I have just paid sixty cents for this book with the wonder if the notes will be worth as much. I also bought a Baedeker on Egypt [the entire 1902 Baedeker, with maps, illustrations, etc., can be seen here!]. The size and contents seem almost discouraging when I think of trying to master the subject. It has been my custom when I’m visiting a country to do as thoroughly as possible in history, customs, geographical location, physical conditions, also to take especial notice of the little details that one so seldom finds in books…

p. 73. The water carrier and street sprinkler of Egypt. In Palestine he lets people drink from this when asked. When the hair is left on the skin, it gives the appearance of a perspiring animal. It is hard work to walk down into the Nile and fill this skin with a leather bucket then walk up the hill and sprinkle the street or climb up to the top of a sprinkler wagon and empty the contents into the wagon.

p. 75. Men going down the rapids as we saw them. The one on the right carries his one small garment about in size to the Madam Nubile which he afterwards puts on and immediately comes for baksheesh.

p. 83. If these women were only clean! I know of no human picture of movement so graceful as that of the women of an evening carrying jugs of water. Bethlehem women are the most graceful in their carriage of any I’ve seen in the world. I attribute it to their carrying these large jugs of water on their head, having begun with small ones when children. Never have I seen men carrying, and for some reason to their credit, neither have I seen women bending their backs in working…

p. 85. “Before him, wand in hand, bare legged, eager eyed, in Greek skull cap and gorgeous gold embroidered waistcoat and fluttering white tunic flies a native Sais, or running footman. No person of position drives in Cairo without one or two of these attendants. The Sais (strong light and beautiful, like John of Bologna’s Mercury) are said to die young. The pace kills them. ” Miss Edwards. It is one of the prettiest sights in Cairo and Alexandria as well, especially if their are two of them for their wands are light and they are usually good looking and graceful. In former times they were necessary, now it is the style.

p. 95. This is the way boys are carried, clothed only when the cold is severe. The girls don’t count. Girls and women don’t pray, as many believe they have no souls. Some of the women who do believe in a future life believe it is to be spent in a fine harem.
Since writing the above and told that the girls also are carried in this position as well as the boys. I have never seen many children so large as represented in the picture but smaller ones nearly every time I’m out. Babies not over two months old are carried in this manner. They hold on by clutching the mother’s hair.

p. 97. Wednesday Jan. 25. This is the day Dr. Beiler left for Greece. In the afternoon I drove with Miss Caruthers to see the Sphinx and Pyramids by moonlight. We took tea at the Mena House. I hurried through it as the sun was almost set. Walking up rapidly I was just in time to see the last shadows that seemed so painted and sharply outlined on the bright green fields and almost reaching to the banks of the Nile that are five or six miles away. Then I walked around until I got rid of the men who were insisting I ride their camels, for I was beset by one and another who as soon as I stopped for a view of the Sphinx would thrust their camels between and almost against me. I tired them out and their tiresome harsh voices ceased and melted away in the green fields below. Then I had a view all alone in peace and quiet, and evening light that I will not soon forget. Older than the Pyramids this monster Sphinx is the form of a huge watch dog is crouched down as if ready to spring. There is rigor and life in every line mutilated as it is the body by age and face not only by age but by being made a target of by the Turks…

p. 125 …I’ve written these notes after many a hard days work and when I should have been sleeping, and on off days with countless interruptions. I wonder how I’ve done it and in so short a time. I thought I’d leave Egypt with no regret for there is so much that is especially trying with these peculiar people, yet it is a most interesting study, and if I cannot continue it on the spot, my eyes were opened so that I should do so intelligently in their lands. I have wasted no time since landing Dec. 26, 1898. Have become attached to this book and while perhaps of little interest to others is of great value to me. Now I wish Aunt Alexia was alive. I believe she would enjoy it and… what this is but a skeleton of.
Feb. 2 Lovely Sunshine, smooth sea. On board ready to start. Farewell to the land of antiquity, sunshine, mummies, and baksheesh.

Clara E. Whitcomb, [Clara E. Whitcomb’s Journal of her Travels through Egypt], December 27, 1898-February 2, 1899

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One Response to In the Dream Land of the Nile

  1. Hi, great to see this again! Credit Line: Barbara Levine Collection, Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee in honor of Willis E. Hartshorn, 2009

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