THIS year the Ramazan befell in June, and a fearful infliction was that “blessed month,” making the Moslem unhealthy and unamiable. For the space of sixteen consecutive hours and a quarter, we were forbidden to eat, drink, smoke, snuff, and even to swallow our saliva designedly. I say forbidden, for although the highest orders of Turks, — the class is popularly described as
Mangia porco e beve vino.” —
may break the ordinance in strict privacy, popular opinion would condemn any open infraction of it with uncommon severity. In this, as in most human things, how many are there who hold that
“Pecher en secret n’est pas pecher,
Ce n’est que l’eclat qui fait le crime”?
The middle and lower ranks observe the duties of the season, however arduous, with exceeding zeal: of all who suffered severely from such total abstinence, I found but one patient who would eat even to save his life. And among the vulgar, sinners who habitually drink when they should pray, will fast and perform their devotions through the Ramazan.
Like the Italian, the Anglo-Catholic, and the Greek fasts, the chief effect of the “blessed month” upon True Believers is to darken their tempers into positive gloom.
Their voices, never of the softest, acquire, especially after noon, a terribly harsh and creaking tone. The men curse one another1 and beat the women. The women slap and abuse the children, and these in their turn cruelly entreat, and use bad language to, the dogs and cats. You can scarcely spend ten minutes in any populous part of the city without hearing some violent dispute. The “Karakun,” or station-houses, are filled with lords who have administered an undue dose of chastisement to their ladies, and with ladies who have scratched, bitten, and otherwise injured the bodies of their lords. The Mosques are crowded with a sulky, grumbling population, making themselves offensive to one another on earth whilst working their way to heaven; and in the shade, under the outer walls, the little boys who have been expelled the church attempt to forget their miseries in spiritless play. In the bazars and streets, pale long-drawn faces, looking for the most part intolerably cross, catch your eye, and at this season a stranger will sometimes meet with positive incivility. A shopkeeper, for instance, usually says when he rejects an insufficient offer, “Yaftah Allah,” — “Allah opens.2” During the Ramazan, he will grumble about the bore of Ghashim, or “Johnny raws,” and gruffly tell you not to stand there wasting his time. But as a rule the shops are either shut or destitute of shopmen, merchants will not purchase, and students will not study. In fine, the Ramazan, for many classes, is one-twelfth of the year wantonly thrown away.
The following is the routine of a fast day. About half an hour after midnight, the gun sounds its warning to faithful men that it is time to prepare for the “Sahur,” (early breakfast) or morning meal. My servant then wakes me, if I have slept; brings water for ablution, spreads the Sufrah3 (or leather cloth); and places before me certain remnants of the evening’s meal. It is some time before the stomach becomes accustomed to such hours, but in matters of appetite, habit is everything, and for health’s sake one should strive to eat as plentifully as possible. Then sounds the Salam, or Blessings on the Prophet,4 an introduction to the Call of Morning Prayer. Smoking sundry pipes with tenderness, as if taking leave of a friend; and until the second gun, fired at about half-past two A.M., gives the Imsak,5 — the order to abstain from food, — I wait the Azan,5 which in this month is called somewhat earlier than usual. Then, after a ceremony termed the Niyat6 (purpose) of fasting, I say my prayers, and prepare for repose.7 At 7 A.M. the labours of the day begin for the working classes of society; the rich spend the night in revelling, and rest in down from dawn till noon.
The first thing on rising is to perform the Wuzu, or lesser ablution, which invariably follows sleep in a reclining position; without this it would be improper to pray, to enter the Mosques, to approach a religious man, or to touch the Koran. A few pauper patients usually visit me at this hour, report the phenomena of their complaints, — which they do, by the bye, with unpleasant minuteness of detail, — and receive fresh instructions. At 9 A.M. Shaykh Mohammed enters, with “lecture” written upon his wrinkled brow; or I pick him up on the way, and proceed straight to the Mosque Al-Azhar. After three hours’ hard reading, with little interruption from bystanders — this is long vacation, most of the students being at home — comes the call to mid-day prayer. The founder of Al-Islam ordained but few devotions for the morning, which is the business part of the Eastern day; but during the afternoon and evening they succeed one another rapidly, and their length increases. It is then time to visit my rich patients, and afterwards, by way of accustoming myself to the sun, to wander among the bookshops for an hour or two, or simply to idle in the street. At 3 P.M. I return home, recite the afternoon prayers, and re-apply myself to study.
This is the worst part of the day. In Egypt the summer nights and mornings are, generally speaking, pleasant, but the forenoons are sultry, and the afternoons are serious. A wind wafting the fine dust and furnace-heat of the desert blows over the city; the ground returns with interest the showers of caloric from above, and not a cloud or a vapour breaks the dreary expanse of splendour on high. There being no such comforts as Indian tatties, and few but the wealthiest houses boasting glass windows, the interior of your room is somewhat more fiery than the street. Weakened with fasting, the body feels the heat trebly, and the disordered stomach almost affects the brain. Every minute is counted with morbid fixity of idea as it passes on towards the blessed sunset, especially by those whose terrible lot is manual labour at such a season. A few try to forget their afternoon miseries in slumber, but most people take the Kaylulah, or Siesta, shortly after the meridian, holding it unwholesome to sleep late in the day.
As the Maghrib, the sunset hour, approaches — and how slowly it comes! — the town seems to recover from a trance. People flock to the windows and balconies, in order to watch the moment of their release. Some pray, others tell their beads; while others, gathering together in groups or paying visits, exert themselves to while away the lagging time.
O Gladness! at length it sounds, that gun from the citadel. Simultaneously rises the sweet cry of the Mu’ezzin, calling men to prayer, and the second cannon booms from the Abbasiyah Palace,8 — “Al Fitar! Al
Fitar!” fast-breaking! fast-breaking! shout the people, and a hum of joy rises from the silent city. Your acute ears waste not a moment in conveying the delightful intelligence to your parched tongue, empty stomach, and languid limbs. You exhaust a pot full of water, no matter its size. You clap hurried hands9 for a pipe; you order coffee; and provided with these comforts, you sit down, and calmly contemplate the coming pleasures of the evening.
Poor men eat heartily at once. The rich break their fast with a light meal, — a little bread and fruit, fresh or dry, especially water-melon, sweetmeats, or such digestible dishes as “Muhallabah,” — a thin jelly of milk, starch, and rice-flour. They then smoke a pipe, drink a cup of coffee or a glass of sherbet, and recite the evening prayers; for the devotions of this hour are delicate things, and while smoking a first pipe after sixteen hours’ abstinence, time easily slips away. Then they sit down to the Fatur (breakfast), the meal of the twenty-four hours, and eat plentifully, if they would avoid illness.
There are many ways of spending a Ramazan evening. The Egyptians have a proverb, like ours of the Salernitan school:
“After Al-Ghada rest, if it be but for two moments:
After Al-Asha10 walk, if it be but two steps.”
The streets are now crowded with a good-humoured throng of strollers; the many bent on pleasure, the few wending their way to Mosque, where the Imam recites “Tarawih” prayers.11 They saunter about, the accustomed pipe in hand, shopping, for the stalls are open till a late hour; or they sit in crowds at the coffee-house entrance, smoking Shishas,12 (water-pipes), chatting, and listening to story-tellers, singers and itinerant preachers. Here a bare-footed girl trills and quavers, accompanied by a noisy tambourine and a “scrannel pipe” of abominable discordance, in honour of a perverse saint whose corpse insisted upon being buried inside some respectable man’s dwelling-house.13 The scene reminds you strongly of the Sonneurs of Brittany and the Zampognari from the Abruzzian Highlands bagpiping before the Madonna. There a tall, gaunt Maghrabi displays upon a square yard of dirty paper certain lines and blots, supposed to represent the venerable Ka’abah, and collects coppers to defray the expenses of his pilgrimage. A steady stream of loungers sets through the principal thoroughfares towards the Azbakiyah Gardens, which skirt the Frank quarter; there they sit in the moonlight, listening to Greek and Turkish bands, or making merry with cakes, toasted grains, coffee, sugared-drinks, and the broad pleasantries of Kara Gyuz14 (the local Punch and Judy). Here the scene is less thoroughly Oriental than within the city; but the appearance of Frank dress amongst the varieties of Eastern costume, the moon-lit sky, and the light mist hanging over the deep shade of the Acacia trees — whose rich scented yellow-white blossoms are popularly compared to the old Pasha’s beard15 — make it passing picturesque. And the traveller from the far East remarks with wonder the presence of certain ladies, whose only mark of modesty is the Burka, or face-veil: upon this laxity the police looks with lenient eyes, inasmuch as, until very lately, it paid a respectable tax to the state.16
Returning to the Moslem quarter, you are bewildered by its variety of sounds. Everyone talks, and talking here is always in extremes, either in a whisper, or in a scream; gesticulation excites the lungs, and strangers cannot persuade themselves that men so converse without being or becoming furious. All the street cries, too, are in the soprano key. “In thy protection! in thy protection!” shouts a Fellah peasant to a sentinel, who is flogging him towards the station-house, followed by a tail of women, screaming, “Ya Gharati-ya Dahwati-ya Hasrati-ya Nidamati-O my calamity! O my shame!” The boys have elected a Pasha, whom they are conducting in procession, with wisps of straw for Mash’als, or cressets, and outrunners, all huzzaing with ten-schoolboy power. “O thy right! O thy left! O thy face! O thy heel! O thy back, thy back!” cries the panting footman, who, huge torch on shoulder, runs before the grandee’s carriage; “Bless the Prophet and get out of the way!” “O Allah bless him!” respond the good Moslems, some shrinking up to the walls to avoid the stick, others rushing across the road, so as to give themselves every chance of being knocked down. The donkey boy beats his ass with a heavy palm-cudgel, — he fears no treadmill here, — cursing him at the top of his voice for a “pander,” a “Jew,” a “Christian,” and a “son of the One-eyed, whose portion is Eternal Punishment.” “O chick pease! O pips!” sings the vendor of parched grains, rattling the unsavoury load in his basket. “Out of the way, and say, ‘There is one God,’” pants the industrious water-carrier, laden with a skin, fit burden for a buffalo. “Sweet-water, and gladden thy soul, O lemonade!” pipes the seller of that luxury, clanging his brass cups together. Then come the beggars, intensely Oriental. “My supper is in Allah’s hands, my supper is in Allah’s hands! whatever thou givest, that will go with thee!” chaunts the old vagrant, whose wallet perhaps contains more provision than the basket of many a respectable shopkeeper.
“Na’al abuk17 — rucse thy father — O brother of a naughty sister!” is the response of some petulant Greek to the touch of the old man’s staff. “The grave is darkness, and good deeds are its lamp!” sing the blind women, rapping two sticks together: “upon Allah! upon Allah! O daughter!” cry the bystanders, when the obstinate “bint”18 (daughter) of sixty years seizes their hands, and will not let go without extorting a farthing. “Bring the sweet” (i.e. fire), “and take the full,”19 (i.e., empty cup), euphuistically cry the long-moustached, fierce-browed Arnauts to the coffee-house keeper, who stands by them charmed by the rhyming repartee that flows so readily from their lips.
“Hanien,” may it be pleasant to thee!20 is the signal for encounter.
“Thou drinkest for ten,” replies the other, instead of returning the usual religious salutation.
“I am the cock and thou art the hen!” is the rejoinder, — a tart one. “Nay, I am the thick one and thou art the thin!” resumes the first speaker, and so on till they come to equivoques which will not bear a literal English translation.
And sometimes, high above the hubbub, rises the melodious voice of the blind mu’ezzin, who, from his balcony in the beetling tower rings forth, “Hie ye to devotion! Hie ye to salvation.” And (at morning-prayer time) he adds: “Devotion is better than sleep! Devotion is better than sleep!” Then good Moslems piously stand up, and mutter, previous to prayer, “Here am I at Thy call, O Allah! here am I at Thy call!”
Sometimes I walked with my friend to the citadel, and sat upon a high wall, one of the outworks of Mohammed Ali’s Mosque, enjoying a view which, seen by night, when the summer moon is near the full, has a charm no power of language can embody. Or escaping from “stifled Cairo’s filth,21” we passed, through the Gate of Victory, into the wilderness beyond the City of the Dead.22 Seated upon some mound of ruins, we inhaled the fine air of the Desert, inspiriting as a cordial, when star-light and dew-mists diversified a scene, which, by day, is one broad sea of yellow loam with billows of chalk rock, thinly covered by a film-like spray of sand surging and floating in the fiery wind. There, within a mile of crowded life, all is desolate; the town walls seem crumbling to decay, the hovels are tenantless, and the paths untrodden; behind you lies the Wild, before you, the thousand tomb-stones, ghastly in their whiteness; while beyond them the tall dark forms of the Mamluk Soldans’ towers rise from the low and hollow ground like the spirits of kings guarding ghostly subjects in the Shadowy Realm. Nor less weird than the scene are the sounds! — the hyaena’s laugh, the howl of the wild dog, and the screech of the low-flying owl. Or we spent the evening at some Takiyah23 (Darwayshes’ Oratory), generally preferring that called the “Gulshani,” near the Muayyid Mosque outside the Mutawalli’s saintly door. There is nothing attractive in its appearance. You mount a flight of ragged steps, and enter a low verandah enclosing an open stuccoed terrace, where stands the holy man’s domed tomb: the two stories contain small dark rooms in which the Darwayshes dwell, and the ground-floor doors open into the verandah. During the fast-month, Zikrs24 are rarely performed in the Takiyahs: the inmates pray there in congregations, or they sit conversing upon benches in the shade. And a curious medley of men they are, composed of the choicest vagabonds from every nation of Al-Islam. Beyond this I must not describe the Takiyah or the doings there, for the “path” of the Darwaysh may not be trodden by feet profane.
Curious to see something of my old friends the Persians, I called with Haji Wali upon one Mirza Husayn, who by virtue of his dignity as “Shahbandar25” (he calls himself “Consul-General”), ranks with the dozen little quasi-diplomatic kings of Cairo. He suspends over his lofty gate a sign-board in which the Lion and the Sun (Iran’s proud ensign) are by some Egyptian limner’s art metamorphosed into a preternatural tabby cat grasping a scimitar, with the jolly fat face of a “gay” young lady, curls and all complete, resting fondly upon her pet’s concave back. This high dignitary’s reception room was a court-yard sub dio: fronting the door were benches and cushions composing the Sadr or high place, with the parallel rows of Diwans spread down the less dignified sides, and a line of naked boards, the lowest seats, ranged along the door-wall. In the middle stood three little tables supporting three huge lanterns — as is their size so is the owner’s dignity — each of which contained three of the largest spermaceti candles.
The Haji and I entering took our seats upon the side benches with humility, and exchanged salutations with the great man on the Sadr. When the Darbar or levee was full, in stalked the Mirza, and all arose as he calmly divested himself of his shoes; and with all due solemnity ascended his proper cushion. He is a short, thin man about thirty-five, with regular features and the usual preposterous lamb-skin cap and beard, two peaked black cones at least four feet in length, measured from the tips, resting on a slender basement of pale yellow face. After a quarter of an hour of ceremonies, polite mutterings and low bendings with the right hand on the left breast, the Mirza’s pipe was handed to him first, in token of his dignity — at Teheran he was probably an under-clerk in some government office. In due time we were all served with Kaliuns26 (Persian hookahs) and coffee by the servants, who made royal conges whenever they passed the great man; and more than once the janissary, in dignity of belt and crooked sabre, entered the court to quicken our awe.
The conversation was the usual Oriental thing. It is, for instance, understood that you have seen strange things in strange lands.
“Voyaging-is-victory,” quotes the Mirza; the quotation is a hackneyed one, but it steps forth majestic as to pause and emphasis.
“Verily,” you reply with equal ponderousness of pronunciation and novelty of citation, “in leaving home one learns life, yet a journey is a bit of Jahannam.”
Or if you are a physician the “lieu commun” will be,
“Little-learn’d doctors the body destroy:
Little-learn’d parsons the soul destroy.”
To which you will make answer, if you would pass for a man of belles lettres, by the well-known lines,
“Of a truth, the physician hath power with drugs,
Which, long as the patient hath life, may relieve him;
But the tale of our days being duly told,
The doctor is daft, and his drugs deceive him.”
After sitting there with dignity, like the rest of the guests, I took my leave, delighted with the truly Persian “apparatus” of the scene. The Mirza, having no salary, lives by fees extorted from his subjects, who pay rather than lack protection; and his dragoman for a counter-fee will sell their interests shamelessly. He is a hidalgo of blue blood in pride, pompousness and poverty. There is not a sheet of writing-paper in the “Consulate” — when they want one a farthing is sent to the grocer’s — yet the Consul drives out in an old carriage with four outriders, two tall-capped men preceding and two following the crazy vehicle. And the Egyptians laugh heartily at this display, being accustomed by Mohammed Ali to consider all such parade obsolete.
About half-an-hour before midnight sounds the Abrar27 or call to prayer, at which time the latest wanderers return home to prepare for the Sahur, their dawn meal. You are careful on the way to address each sentinel with a “Peace be upon thee!” especially if you have no lantern, otherwise you may chance to sleep in the guard-house. And, chemin faisant, you cannot but stop to gaze at streets as little like what civilised Europe understands by that name as is an Egyptian temple to the new Houses of Parliament.
There are certain scenes, cannily termed “Ken-speckle,” which print themselves upon Memory, and which endure as long as Memory lasts, — a thunder-cloud bursting upon the Alps, a night of stormy darkness off the Cape, an African tornado, and, perhaps, most awful of all, a solitary journey over the sandy Desert.
Of this class is a stroll through the thoroughfares of old Cairo by night. All is squalor in the brilliancy of noon-day. In darkness you see nothing but a silhouette. When, however, the moon is high in the heavens, and the summer stars rain light upon God’s world, there is something not of earth in the view. A glimpse at the strip of pale blue sky above scarcely reveals three ells of breadth: in many places the interval is less: here the copings meet, and there the outriggings of the houses seem to interlace. Now they are parted by a pencil of snowy sheen, then by a flood of silvery splendour; while under the projecting cornices and the huge hanging balcony-windows of fantastic wood-work, supported by gigantic brackets and corbels, and under deep verandahs, and gateways, vast enough for Behemoth to pass through, and in blind wynds and long cul-de-sacs, lie patches of thick darkness, made visible by the dimmest of oil lamps. The arch is a favourite feature: in one place you see it a mere skeleton-rib opening into some huge deserted hall; in another the ogre is full of fretted stone and wood carved like lace-work. Not a line is straight, the tall dead walls of the Mosques slope over their massy buttresses, and the thin minarets seem about to fall across your path. The cornices project crookedly from the houses, while the great gables stand merely by force of cohesion. And that the Line of Beauty may not be wanting, the graceful bending form of the palm, on whose topmost feathers, quivering in the cool night breeze, the moonbeam glistens, springs from a gloomy mound, or from the darkness of a mass of houses almost level with the ground. Briefly, the whole view is so strange, so fantastic, so ghostly, that it seems preposterous to imagine that in such places human beings like ourselves can be born, and live through life, and carry out the command “increase and multiply,” and die.
1 Of course all quarrelling, abuse, and evil words are strictly forbidden to the Moslem during Ramazan. If one believer insult another, the latter should repeat “I am fasting” three times before venturing himself to reply. Such is the wise law. But human nature in Egypt, as elsewhere, is always ready to sacrifice the spirit to the letter, rigidly to obey the physical part of an ordinance, and to cast away the moral, as if it were the husk and not the kernel.
2 Allah opens (the door of daily bread) is a polite way of informing a man that you and he are not likely to do business; in other words, that you are not in want of his money.
3 The Sufrah is a piece of leather well tanned, and generally of a yellow colour, bordered with black. It is circular, has a few small pouches for knives or spoons, and, by means of a thong run through rings in the periphery, can be readily converted into a bag for carrying provisions on a journey. Figuratively it is used for the meal itself. “Sufrah hazir” means that dinner is upon the table.
4 The Salam at this hour of the morning is confined to the devotions of Ramazan. The curious reader may consult Lane’s Modern Egyptians, chap. 25, for a long and accurate interpretation of these words.
5 The summons to prayer.
6 In the Mohammedan church every act of devotion must be preceded by what is called its Niyat, or purpose. This intention must be either mentally conceived, or, as the more general rule is, audibly expressed. For instance, the worshipper will begin with “I purpose to pray the four-bows of mid-day prayer to Allah the Almighty,” and then he will proceed to the act of worship. Moslems of the Shafe’i faith must perform the Niyat of fasting every night for the ensuing day; the Malikis, on the other hand, “purpose” abstinence but once for the thirty days of Ramazan. Lane tells a pleasant tale of a thief in the Mosque saying, “I purpose (before prayer) to carry off this nice pair of new shoes!”
7 Many go to sleep immediately after the Imsak, or about a quarter of an hour before the dawn prayer, and do not perform their morning devotions till they awake. But this is not, strictly speaking, correct.
8 When the late Pasha of Egypt (H.H. Abbas Hilmi) came to power, he built a large pile of palace close outside the walls of Cairo, on the direction of Suez, and induced his courtiers to follow his example. This was done readily enough, for Asiatics, like Europeans, enjoy the fine air of the desert after the rank atmosphere of towns and cities. If the successor of His Highness does not follow the usual Oriental method of wiping away all vestiges of the predecessor, except his grave, there will be, at no distant period, a second Cairo on the site of the Abbasiyah.
9 One of our wants is a history of the bell and its succedanai. Strict Moslems have an aversion to all modifications of this instrument, striking clocks, gongs, &c., because they were considered by the Prophet peculiar to the devotions of Christians. He, therefore, instituted the Azan, or call to prayer, and his followers still clap their hands when we should ring for a servant. The symbolical meaning of the bell, as shown in the sistrum of Isis, seems to be the movement and mixture of the elements, which is denoted by clattering noise. “Hence,” observes a learned antiquary, “the ringing of bells and clattering of plates of metal were used in all lustrations, sacrifices, &c.” We find them amongst the Jews, worn by the high priest; the Greeks attached them to images of Priapus, and the Buddhists of Thibet still use them in their worship, as do the Catholics of Rome when elevating the Host.
10 Al-Ghada is the early dinner: Al-Asha, the supper, eaten shortly after sunset. (See Lane’s Modern Egyptians, Chap. 5.)
11 Extra prayers repeated in the month of Ramazan. (Lane, Chap. 25, “Tarawih.”) They take about an hour, consisting of 23 prostrations, with the Salam (or blessing on the Prophet) after every second prostration.
12 The Shisha, or Egyptian and Syrian water-pipe, is too well known to require any description. It is filled with a kind of tobacco called Tumbak, for which see Chap. 4 of this Volume.
13 Strangers often wonder to see a kind of cemetery let into a dwelling-house in a crowded street. The reason is, that some obstinate saint has insisted upon being buried there, by the simple process of weighing so heavily in his bier, that the bearers have been obliged to place him on the pavement. Of course, no good Moslem would object to have his ground floor occupied by the corpse of a holy man. The reader will not forget, that in Europe statues have the whims which dead bodies exhibit in Egypt. So, according to the Abbe Marche, the little statue of Our Lady, lately found in the forest of Pennacom, “became, notwithstanding her small size, heavy as a mountain, and would not consent to be removed by any one but the chaplain of the chateau.”
14 Europeans compare “Kara Gyuz” to our Chinese shadows. He is the Turkish “Punch,” and his pleasantries may remind the traveller of what he has read concerning the Mines and Fescennine performances of the Romans. On more than one occasion, Kara Gyuz has been reported to the police for scandalously jibing and deriding consuls, Frank merchants, and even Turkish dignitaries.
15 Mohammed Ali drained and planted the Azbakiyah, which, before his day, was covered with water and mud long after the inundation had ceased. The Egyptians extract a perfume, an aphrodisiac, which they call “Fitnah,” from this kind of Acacia.
16 All “Agapemones” are at this time suppressed, by order of His Highness (Abbas Pasha), whose august mother occasionally insisted upon banishing whole colleges of Ambubaiae to Upper Egypt. As might be expected, this proceeding had a most injurious effect upon the morals of society. I was once at Cairo during the ruler’s absence on a tour up to the Nile; his departure was the signal for the general celebration of Cotyttia.
17 For La’an abuk, curse thy father. So in Europe pious men have sworn per diem, instead of per Deum, and “drat” acts for something stronger.
18 A daughter, a girl. In Egypt, every woman expects to be addressed as “O lady!” “O female-pilgrim!” “O bride!” or, “O daughter!” even though she be on the wrong side of fifty. In Syria and in Arabia, you may say “y’al mara!” (O woman); but if you attempt it near the Nile, the answer of the offended fair one will be “may Allah cut out thy heart!” or, “the woman, please Allah, in thine eye!” And if you want a violent quarrel, “y’al aguz!” (O old woman!) pronounced drawlingly, — y’al ago-o-ooz, — is sure to satisfy you. On the plains of Sorrento, in my day, it was always customary, when speaking to a peasant girl, to call her “bella fe,” (beautiful woman), whilst the worst of insults was “vecchiarella.” So the Spanish Calesero, under the most trying circumstances, calls his mule “Vieja, rivieja.” (old, very old). Age, it appears, is as unpopular in Southern Europe as in Egypt.
19 “Fire” is called the “sweet” by euphuism, as to name it directly would be ill-omened. So in the Moslem law, flame and water being the instruments of Allah’s wrath, are forbidden to be used by temporal rulers. The “full” means an empty coffee cup, as we say in India Mez barhao (“increase the table,”) when ordering a servant to remove the dishes.
20 Or “pleasurably and health”: Hanien is a word taken from the Koran. The proper answer to this is “May Allah cause thee to have pleasure!” Hanna-kumu’llah, not “Allah yahannik!” which I have heard abominably perverted by Arnaut and other ruffians.
21 This in these days must be said comparatively: Ibrahim Pasha’s order, that every housekeeper should keep the space before his house properly swept and cleaned, has made Cairo the least filthy city in the East.
22 Here lies the Swiss Burckhardt, who enjoyed a wonderful immunity from censure, until a certain pseudo-orientalist of the present day seized the opportunity of using the “unscrupulous traveller’s” information, and of abusing his memory. Some years ago, the sum of L20 (I am informed) was collected, in order to raise a fitting monument over the discoverer of Petra’s humble grave. Some objection, however, was started, because Moslems are supposed to claim Burckhardt as one of their own saints. Only hear the Egyptian account of his death! After returning from Al-Hijaz, he taught Tajwid (Koran chaunting) in the Azhar Mosque, where the learned, suspecting him to be at heart an infidel, examined his person, and found the formula of the Mohammedan faith written in token of abhorrence upon the soles of his feet. Thereupon, the principal of the Mosque, in a transport of holy indignation, did decapitate him with one blow of the sword. It only remains to be observed, that nothing can be more ridiculous than the popular belief, except it be our hesitating to offend the prejudices of such believers.
23 A Takiyah is a place where Darwayshes have rooms, and perform their devotions.
24 Certain forms of worship peculiar to Darwayshes. For a description see Lane (Modern Egyptians, ch. 24).
25 Shahbandar, Harbour-King, is here equivalent to our “Consul.”
26 Written “Ghalayun.”
27 See Lane (Modern Egyptians, chap. 24).
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51