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churches count as streets in Italy. The Italian knows that people who want pension for seven francs a day in Rome, and four and a half in San Gimignano, will often pour out money the whole day on cabs, guides, caretakers, curios, photographs, postcards, cafés, and local products. Cheap living is the Italian spider's web. He knows the importance of inducing the fly to enter the web. When the victim is once inside, blood-sucking can begin.
The Egyptian has not the sense to see this: he allows Egypt to be expensive solely for the benefit of a few big hotels; he allows the expensiveness of Egypt to be paraded, with the result that no one goes to Egypt, except those who are paid to go, and those who can pay any price.
The most patriotic thing which the Khedive, who has plenty of land in Cairo, could do would be to put up buildings suitable for pensions, and let them at a moderate price to pension-keepers who undertook to charge five shillings a day for pension. Five Egyptian shillings come to about seven francs. The crying need of Cairo is to have pensions as comfortable as those of Florence at five shillings a day. A slummy Egyptian pension, where you always have maids of every character and ladies of none, costs seven or eight shillings a day.
The fun begins at Alexandria, where you have to pay Cook four shillings a head (and other landing agents more), with a tip to the dragoman, to pass your baggage through the Customs, and take it and you from the ship to the railway station. At the railway station every pound of baggage you register is charged for, and, in addition to the porter, the man, who dusts the carriage before you get in, expects to be paid.
Paying is not your only excitement when you land. You have to get your luggage off the ship. When you have engaged Cook's uniformed giants you imagine that your troubles are at an end; but they are not allowed to begin for another half an hour, till every mail-bag has been taken out and counted and put into carts, or otherwise the Egyptian would make use of the confusion to steal the mails. When
Cook's men do come on board they are so hampered by precautions against theft that you take an eternity to get off with your belongings. It is no good not having belongings; you have to wait for other people's if you have none of your own. It is only, when all the passengers' baggage has been taken off the steamer, that the procession to the custom-house is allowed to begin.
The custom-house harpies will not trouble you if you employ Cook. If he says “Nothing dutiable," they take his word for it. Is there anything for which the Egyptian will not take the word of Thomas Cook & Son?
You will already have been waiting for an hour or two. You will really have been on the quay seeing that all your baggage has been brought out of the ship. But you are under the belief that you have been in an Egyptian open-air servants' registry office, where the tables are turned and employers are scarce, not servants. The servants, with which you are bombarded, are long-legged things called dragomans, who assure you that they are all kinds of servants rooled into one, and ready to accompany you anywhere. Assuan is nothing of a journey ; Khartûm is a fea-bite ; Gondokoro is perfectly simple; Uganda nothing extraordinary ; anything as far as the Cape is within their compass, and they wish to accompany you back to London afterwards.
The only way to pacify them is to take their names and say that you will ask Cook about them ; even then they go on trying to impress you with their powers of conversation. As if there was any doubt of them.
There was a would-be employee named Hassan, who wearied me to death at Alexandria, and showed me many politenesses afterwards. To escape from his conversation I stooped to pat a friendly little Egyptian mongrel which was following me with equal persistence.
“That very good dogs," said Hassan—" follow you all day." We christened Hassan “Very good dogs" in my family circle. We met him everywhere we went. He was standing on the banks of the Blue Nile when we got to Khartûm North. “This way to Cook's steamer, gentlemen.”
Alexandria is not an engaging city to arrive at. The Egyptians who come down to the quay to meet a steamer do not array themselves like tropical birds, after the manner of the Tunisian. They look more like black-coated Neapolitans in tar booshes, except Cook's porters, who have a uniform like a Chinese policeman, minus his pudding-basin helmet.
Alexandria has two ports divided by a spit of land, which was the Heptastadium of the Ptolemies. The eastern port is the beautiful circular bay round which a new Alexandria is growing up-another Bay of Naples. The western port, the Eunostos, or safe harbourage of the Greeks, is a busy commercial port after the style of Genoa, with hardly more Eastern life on its waters than an Italian port would have.
The streets between the harbour and the railway station might have been imported from Naples; they are not what you would expect of any part of the Golden East.
At the station Egypt asserts itself. The poor Egyptian hangs about railways as he hangs about police courts, and orientalises them. There is only one post on railways from which he is sternly excluded, and to which, indeed, he does not aspire, as it would prevent his fellow countrymen from using the railways at all—that of engine-driver. No Egyptian would trust his life on a train with an Egyptian engine-driver ; he knows the national irresponsibility too well for that.
But the railway has great fascinations for the Egyptian. His idea in being a railway guard is to wear a uniform without danger, and to be in a position of authority, even over foreigners to a certain extent. He does not reflect that he runs much greater risks with his life on the railway than he would in the army.
The porters do not have the glory of wearing uniforms. They adhere to the blue galabeahs which men of their profession--that of human beast of burden--wear everywhere in Egypt, with brass badges on their arms like golf-caddies. The profession is popular, being a recognised avenue to bakshish. The carriage-duster is the understudy of the porter.
The poor Egyptian arrives hours before his train starts, or the train, on which he has friends to meet, comes in. He
sits on the ground outside the station until he is allowed to enter, and then sits on the ground inside; he spends some of the time in saying his prayers with full ceremony, whenever the Muezzin, which sounds every three hours, calls him to pray. He carries a bundle of ridiculous possessions, and travels shut up in a luggage van, in which he sits on the floor. The better classes travel like Europeans, mostly in the second class, and the men mostly in European dress except for the tarboosh. Compartments for ladies only are a prominent feature, and smell very bad.
You want to get away from natives on a train : it is their nature to crowd. And you can have comfort if
afford to pay for it. The Wagon-iits Company have admirable carriages and admirable food. You cannot reproach the environs of Alexandria with being unoriental, though the city is so European. Once out of the city and travelling south, you are back in the days of the Ptolemies, if not of the Pharaohs. You are in the land of mud; the crops are planted in it, the houses are built of it ; they are more like ovens than houses, and there is very often a whole street of them under one roof, not by any means restricted to human beings.
The splendid masses of date-palms and fig-trees make a fine background; the pools of the drying-up inundation are rainbow-dyed at sunrise and sunset, and wear a cool, blue smile in the middle of the day; and there is always a procession of quaint inhabitants and animals. The desert, marshes, and cotton share the Delta between them, broken only by mud villages and saints' tombs, till you come to a town big enough to have a cemetery larger than itself. Then there may be a few mosques, even a bridge.
But I must not forget Alexandria. Alexandria is an Italian city: its vegetation is almost Italian ; it has wild flowers. Its climate is almost Italian ; it has wind and rain as well as fierce blue skies. Its streets are almost entirely Italian; and Italian is its staple language. Even its ruins are Roman. If it was not for the mosque of Kait Bey, where the Pharos ought to be, and a few minarets in the strip of old Alexandria
between the two forts, you would not believe that you were in a city of Islam. I never was in such a rebuilt place. When Mehemet Ali a century ago determined to restore Alexandria, so that his name might be coupled with Alexander the Great's, the city had dwindled down to a village of 5,000 inhabitants. The cutting of the Mahmûdiya Canal made Alexandria the Nile seaport, instead of Rosetta and Damietta. They have no commerce now. To-day Alexandria is a city of 350,000 inhabitants, and the accommodation for them all had to built. A few of the classical ruins are showing, most of the rest lie undisturbed under the mounds between Alexandria and Aboukir. Another Rome may await their investigator. Alexandria consists therefore of history and unhistorical buildings.
It is like the modern part of an Italian city ; it has even an Italian watering-place at Ramleh, a few miles out, and it is surrounded by water, like Mantua—a welcome sight under the hot Egyptian sky, though most of the water is salt. The beauty of these lakes is enhanced by the numerous palms and fruit-trees round them.
Another watery attraction of Alexandria is the old Mahmûdiya Canal. It is not really old ; it was only constructed by Mehemet Ali, but it looks as old as the Bahr Yusuf, which the Egyptians say was cut by the Joseph of the Book of Genesis, while the banks and the villas which adorn them have obviously seen better days. If Egyptians could only leave well alone this would be an attraction. The cafés hanging over the waters have some of the picturesqueness of the tea-houses of Japan, while the decaying villas give the effect of one of those delightful back-canals of Venice, which have palaces with gardens, if Venice only had mosques.
Unfortunately, Alexandria is a commercial city, and the Mahmûdiya Canal gives, as it was designed to give, water carriage. So many an old villa has given way to a modern factory, though the factories, to do them justice, look as if they would soon enter into the general scheme of decay. You seldom see one human being at work in them.
As yet the old palm-gardens, mostly in the process of