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many people who submit to paying rates for it, but will not have their houses drained. One of the great arguments against the continuation of the Capitulations lies in the difficulties the small nations interpose in the way of the most necessary municipal reforms. Cairo has no municipality; it has a Governor instead.
It is no wonder that the Ismailia quarter, where the chief hotels and other modern buildings lie, is better drained than the Arab city, for it is practically a Franco-British city, and the French and English business men, who are its permanent residents, are eager to help the authorities in taking care of its well-being.
The fustian about the patience of the good Arabs on the subject of “pestilential water which must be hatching for them fever and death,” is almost pathetically ludicrous. The good Arab thinks the idea of standing water being pestilential a tiresome fad of the English. Where he is left to himself he always has a pond, manure-heap, and dust-heap combined in his towns, and the Bedâwins camp beside it, as in the great city of Tanta. No matter how green its water, he will drink it unfiltered. The stagnant canal which ran through the city of Cairo, the swampy pools in the Ezbekiya Gardens, would be there still if the Arabs had their way.
His tirade against factories conveys another unjust implication against the English. The great sugar factories you see as you go up the Nile are French, not English, and one of them, at any rate, caused the destruction of a priceless monument of the Pharaohs. Ismail Pasha gave the concessionaire the monument as a quarry, and he pulled it down to erect the sugar factory with its stones.
Many a fine Arab mansion in Cairo was pulled down by French dealers and collectors in the days of the French ascendancy, to transfer its meshrebiya work and its marbles to France. The Maison de France itself, the house of the French Consul-General, must have involved the destruction of at least a dozen. And even supposing that the barrages built by the English
By the time this book appears, this may have been altered.
to prevent the waste of the Nile water had made the climate moister, on the one hand this would be considered a great advantage by the Egyptians, and on the other it must be remembered that the French did erect barrages like the Delta Barrage below Cairo, only they never held water. Also that they would have pulled down the pyramids of Ghizeh to build them, and actually tried to do so, but found it impossible. It was Lord Cromer who ended the age of vandalism. Even M. Loti admits that the restoration of the Cairo mosques is due to the English.
The Ismailia part of Cairo did not strike me as "a medley of all styles.” It struck me as an attempt, more successful in some places and less successful in others, to create an Egyptian Paris. Nor did I see innumerable public-houses. They are ten times more numerous in Paris. In Cairo it is the chemist, not the publican, who monopolises every street
Cairo may be, as M. Loti declares, a sink of vice, but you do not see much of it, unless you go into the street of the Ezbekiya, or the Fishmarket Quarter, or certain notorious bars.
You seldom analyse any statement in this book without finding it thin and inexact. You often find that the author is merely balancing sentences and piling up words, which sound well but have no exact meaning.
But it is much easier to let this kind of thing pass than such a bull as the following, where he is talking about the saints buried in the ancient mosques of Cairo, such as "Some priest rendered admirable by his virtues, or perhaps a khedive of earlier times, or a soldier, or a martyr.” The title of Khedive is not yet fifty years old : it was bestowed for very substantial considerations by the then Sultan, upon Ismail Pasha in 1867. It was not borne by Mehemet Ali, Ibrahim, Abbas I., or Said, who had preceded him in the office of Viceroy of Egypt after its conquest from the Turks ; it is a childish mistake to speak of the mediæval Caliphs as Khedives.
He is hardly less futile in his attempt to present a picture of a pylon to the mind of the reader. Pylons are thus tersely defined by Budge: "The pylon consisted of a massive doorway and two towers." M. Loti says: “ Pylons are monumental walls in the form of a trapezium with a wide base, covered entirely with hieroglyphics, which the Egyptians used to place at either side of their porticoes and long avenues.”! This is hopeless foundering from beginning to end. The French use the word trapèze, as the later Greek geometricians used it, in the sense of a quadrilateral with one pair of parallel sides. But there is no reason why a pylon should not have both pairs of sides parallel, and in fact it generally does, so the word trapèze should not be used. And in any case it is grotesque to describe a pylon, which (as its Greek name betokens) is a glorified gate, as a monumental wall. Secondly, pylons—and I have examined scores of them are not by any means always decorated, let alone covered, with hieroglyphics; and in the third place, pylons were never placed on either side of the porticoes and avenues” of temples. They always stand right across the roadway which leads into the temple.
But M. Loti is above facts. Plain people might be annoyed by his habit of always speaking of Thebes when he means Karnak. He is not wrong, technically, because the Karnak of to-day did form part of ancient Thebes ; but so did Luxor, and he speaks of Louxor. sonally that it would be only in accordance with poetical justice if the Government of Egypt were to decree that Luxor and Karnak were to be called East Thebes and Thebes West Thebes, as they are in maps of ancient Thebes. But M. Loti has little more right to call Karnak Thebes without a word of explanation than he has to call Tunis Carthage. To continually speak of the temple of Amen at Thebes is merely confusing, for to the world it is the great temple of Karnak; and as it happens to be the world's greatest temple, the world has a right to a voice in the matter.
I could multiply examples to show how uninformed upon
I think per.
I“Des pylônes-qui sont, comme on sait, les monumentales murailles, en orme de trapèze à large base et toutes couvertes d'hiéroglyphes, que les Égyptiens plaçaient de chaque côté de leurs portiques ou de leurs avenues.”
Egyptian matters M. Loti is, but I think I have shown enough, and can now pass on to protest against the attacks upon Thomas Cook & Son's Nile voyages, which disfigure so many of his pages. He knows so little of them that he states on p. 136 that Cook's tourists lunch in the Temple of Abydos (five hundred and fifty-five miles from Cairo) every day. He must think the rich English very numerous if he imagines that there are eighty of them leaving Cairo every day during the season for a voyage which costs seventy pounds without extras.
If M. Loti were an observant man, he would have seen at a glance that the people who go on Cook's Nile voyages are not the dowdy freaks that he would have the reader imagine, but, with the exception of a few writers, exactly the same people as he would meet at Ranelagh or Hurlingham or Ascot, or in a Cairo hotel ballroom, being, in fact, the people with means and leisure who make a point of sampling every expensive and covetable amusement. If a Cook's party in Egypt falls rather below this standard, it is generally due to the presence of a larger percentage of foreigners than usual.
The German en voyage is not particular about his costume. The French who go with Cook fortunately belong mostly to the aristocracy, for the middle-class French on a tour of this kind are costumed for comic opera. And yet M. Loti says: “Those three-decked tourists' boats . laden for the most part with ugly women, snobs, and imbeciles.”
His tirades against the donkey-riding of Cook's tourists only point to a weak spot in his own armour. In the country districts of Egypt every healthy person rides for his excursions, and, as horses can seldom be hired, he rides a donkey. But M. Loti himself, when he was going from Assuan to Shellal to write his ravings over Philae, actually traversed those five or six miles of desert, which once formed the bed of the Nile, in a cab! “The most commonplace of hackney carriages, which I hired by the hour on the quay of Assuan.” 1 The bathos and banality of driving through that valley of !“Le plus vulgaire des fiacres, que j'ai pris à l'heure, sur le quai d'Assouan."
mediæval Arab graves, and past the quarries where the Pharaohs cut their statues and their sarcophagi, and did not always remember to take them away, would be incredible unless one had the author's written word for it.
But the book is marred elsewhere by bathos and banality; it is one of the might-have-beens. It has passages and whole chapters so beautiful that you know that M. Loti might have written one of his most exquisite books (and there is no man living who can write a more exquisite book) if he had taken the trouble to inform himself about Egypt, and where the responsibility for the blots on Egypt lies, before he sat down to dogmatise. It is to be hoped that he will work up his subject and write another book about Egypt, for there are chapters in this book of extraordinary beauty and poeticality and suggestiveness, like that upon his midnight visit to the museum of Cairo. This chapter is full of inspiration. Here he finds texts in the marvels of ancient art, and the mummified remains of those for whom they were executed, thousands of years ago, and from them he preaches sermons of marvellous eloquence and pregnancy. In a word, he creates, and the creations of Loti are almost inimitable, in the subtlety of their fancy, and their juggling with the sounds and connotations of words.
But the book, called in French "La Mort de Philae," and in English;“ Egypt,” exquisitely written though it be in parts, is mere journalism, and M. Loti, member of the French Academy though he be, is no journalist. He is not sufficiently accurate or well-informed.
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