Page images

families of the Circassian Mameluke Sultans who reigned from A.d. 1382-1517. The tomb-mosques of Yusuf, el Ashraf, and the tomb of el-Ghuri (a.d. 1501-1516) are to the north-east of the Bab en-Nasr; the tomb-mosques of Yusuf and el-Ashraf are only to be seen by special permission. In the tomb-mosque of Barlcuk are buried that sultan, his son the Sultan Farag (a.d. 1 399-1412), and various other members of the family. The limestone pulpit and the two minarets are very beautiful specimens of stone work. To the west of this tomb-mosque is the tomb of Sultan Suleman, and near that are the tombs of the Seven Women, the tomb-mosque of Bursbey (a.d. 1422-1438), the Ma'bed er-Rifa'i, and the tomb of the mother of Bursbey. The most beautiful of all these tombs is the tomb-mosque of Kait Bey (a.d. 1468-1496), which is well worthy of more than one visit.

The Tombs Of The Mamelukes.*

Of the builders of these tombs no history has been preserved; the ruins, however, show that they must have been very beautiful objects. Some of the minarets are still very fine.

The C1tadel.

The Citadel was built by Salaheddtn, A.d. 1166, and the stones used were taken from the pyramids of Gizeh; it formed a part of the large system of the fortifications of Cairo which this Sultan carried out so thoroughly. Though admirably situated for commanding the whole city, and as a fortress in the days before long range cannon were invented, the site was shown in 1805 to be ill chosen for the purposes

The word "Mameluke" means a "slave," Arabic ^» j 1 ^ ^, plur. cJoJU^.

of defence in modern times, by Muhammad 'Ali, who, by means of a battery placed on the Mokattam heights, compelled Khurshtd Pasha to surrender the citadel. In the narrow way, with a high wall, through the Bab el-Azab, which was formerly the most direct and most used means of access to it, the massacre of the Mamelukes took place by the orders of Muhammad 'Ali, A.d. 181 I. The single Mameluke who escaped is said to have made his horse leap down from one of the walls of the Citadel; he refused to enter the narrow way.

Joseph's Well. This well is not called after Joseph the Patriarch, as is usually supposed, but after the famous Salaheddin (Saladin), whose second name was Yusuf or Joseph. The shaft of this well, in two parts, is about 280 feet deep, and was found to be choked up with sand when the Citadel was built; Saladin caused it to be cleared out, and from his time until 1865 its water was regularly drawn up and used. This well was probably sunk by the ancient Egyptians.

The Library. This valuable institution was founded by Isma'il in 1870, and contains the library of Mustafa Pasha; the number of works in the whole collection is said to be about 24,000. Some of the copies of the Koran preserved there are among the oldest known.

Ezbekiyeh Garden.

This garden or "place," named after the Amir Ezbeki, the general of Kait Bey (a.d. 1468—1496), was made in 1870 by M. Barillet, and has an area of about twenty acres.

The Nilometer In The Island Of R6da.

The Nilometer here is a pillar, which is divided into seventeen parts, each representing a cubit, i.e., 21^ inches, and each cubit is divided into twenty-four parts. This pillar is placed in the centre of a well about sixteen feet square; the lower end is embedded in the foundations, and the upper end is held in position by a beam built into the side walls. The well is connected with the Nile by a channel. The first Nilometer at Roda is said to have been built by the Khalif Suleman (a.d. 715—717), and about one hundred years later the building was restored by Mamun (a.d. 813—833). At the end of the eleventh century a dome resting upon columns was built over it. When the Nile is at its lowest level it stands at the height of seven cubits in the Nilometer well, and when it reaches the height of 15! cubits, the shekh of the Nile proclaims that sufficient water has come into the river to admit of the cutting of the dam which prevents the water from flowing over the country. The difference between the highest rise and the lowest fall of the Nile at Cairo is about twenty-five feet. The cutting of the dam takes place some time during the second or third week in August, at which time there are general rejoicings. When there happens to be an exceptionally high Nile, the whole island of Roda is submerged, and the waters flow over the Nilometer to a depth of two cubits, a fact which proves that the bed of the Nile is steadily rising, and one which shows how difficult it is to harmonize all the statements made by Egyptian, Greek, and Arabic writers on the subject. As the amount of taxation to be borne by the people has always depended upon the height of the inundation, attempts were formerly made by the governments of Egypt to prove to the peaple that there never was a low Nile.


About five miles to the north-east of Cairo stands the little village of Matariyyeh f, built upon part of the site of Heliopolis, where may be seen the sycamore tree, usually called the "Virgin's Tree," under which tradition says that the Virgin Mary sat and rested during her flight to Egypt; it was planted some time towards the end of the XVI Ith century, and was given to the Empress Eugenie by Isma'il on the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal. Beyond the "Virgin's Tree" is the fine Aswan granite obelisk which marks the site of the ancient town of Heliopolis, called "On " in Gen. xli. 45, "House of the Sun" in Jeremiah

* Called in Egyptian [|qj^q, .Annu mejft, "Annu of the

North," to distinguish it from j| ^ fl ® , Annu Qe-ndu, "Annu

of the South," i.e., Hermonthis.

t jti^U T; Juynboll, op. cit., t. iii., p. no. At this place the balsam

trees, about which so many traditions are extant, were said to grow. The balsam tree was about a cubit high, and had two barks; the outer red and fine, and the inner green and thick. When the latter was macerated in the mouth, it left an oily taste and an aromatic odour. Incisions were made in the barks, and the liquid which flowed from them was carefully collected and treated; the amount of balsam oil obtained formed a tenth part of all the liquid collected. The last balsam tree cultivated in Egypt died in 1615, but two were seen alive in 1612; it is said that they would grow nowhere out of Egypt. They were watered with the water from the well at Matariyyeh in which the Virgin Mary washed the clothes of our Lord when she was in Egypt. The oil was much sought after by the Christians of Abyssinia and other places, who thought it absolutely necessary that one drop of this oil should be poured into the water in which they were baptized. See Wansleben, VHistoire de FEglise dAlexatidrie, pp. 88-93 \ Abd-allatif(ed. de Sacy), p. 88.

xliii. 13, and "Eye or Fountain of the Sun" by the Arabs. Heliopolis was about twelve miles from the fortress of Babylon, and stood on the eastern side of the Pelusiac arm of the Nile, near the right bank of the great canal which passed through the Bitter Lakes and connected the Nile with the sea. Its ruins cover an area three miles square. The greatest and oldest Egyptian College or University for the education of the priesthood and the laity stood here, and it was here that Ptolemy II. Philadelphus, sent for Egyptian manuscripts when he wished to augment the library which his father had founded.

The obelisk is sixty-six feet high, and was set up by Usertsen I. ^ about B.C. 2433 ; a companion obelisk remained standing in its place until the seventh century of our era, and both were covered with caps of smu (probably copper) metal. During the XXth dynasty the temple of Heliopolis was one of the largest and wealthiest in all Egypt, and its staff was numbered by thousands. When Cambyses visited Egypt the glory of Heliopolis was well on the wane, and after the removal of the priesthood and sages of the temple to Alexandria by Ptolemy II. its downfall was well assured. When Strabo visited it (b.c. 24), the greater part of it was in ruins; but we know from Arab writers that many of the statues remained in situ at the end of the twelfth century. Heliopolis had a large population of Jews, and it will be remembered that Joseph married the daughter of Pa-ta-pa-Ra (Potiphar) a priest of On (Annu) or Heliopolis. It lay either in or very near the Goshen of the Bible. The Mnevis bull, sacred to Ra, was worshipped at Heliopolis, and it was here that the phcenix or palm-bird brought its ashes after having raised itself to life at the end of each period of five hundred years. Alexander the Great halted here on his way from Pelusium to Memphis. Macrobius says that the Heliopolis of Syria, or Baalbek, was founded by a body of priests who left the ancient city of Heliopolis of Egypt.

« PreviousContinue »