Page images


N AIRO, as already stated, lies almost at the apex

W of the Delta of the Nile. The actual division of the river into its two great branches, the Rosetta and Damietta, lies something like fourteen miles below the city in the neighborhood of the first of the great barrages. But roughly speaking, the capital city marks the point where the great triangle of the Delta marshes comes to an end and the long and tortuous. valley of the Nile proper begins. Let us state its population roughly as including almost exactly as many people as Boston — a few thousand under 700,000 souls.

Speaking roughly again, the city may be divided into three fairly distinct sections, — the native quarter which we have just been considering and which occupies the eastern and northern parts of the com

pactly built city; the handsome new European section which subtends the native quarter from the Nile; and the Ghizereh district, which is an island in the river devoted mainly to residential purposes by the English colony. Neither of the latter two can lay especial claim to an Oriental character and neither is likely to command anything like the enthusiasm which the tourist in search of Eastern coloring is certain to bestow on the bazaars. But if the European side of Cairo is handsome and creditable, the Ghezireh island is a wonderfully pleasant spot, with its long avenues of lebbakh trees, its shady parks, and its numerous attractive homes. Not the least of the pleasures of Cairo is the walk along the Nile on the western bank where the fleet of dahabiyehs tie up — a walk under lofty palms with a grassy parkway on one hand and the river with its multitude of ships on the other.

One crosses the Nile by a fine steel bridge, the entrances to which are guarded by imposing piers bearing huge bronze lions. It is not a bridge of surpassing beauty, and, in fact, it is much too narrow and its sidewalks are absurdly inadequate. But it is not too much to say that no bridge in the world can equal it for genuine interest and infinite variety of scene. Two hours and a half daily it is impassable, owing to the necessity of opening the draw for the passage of the river traffic; and to one living in the Ghezireh district, a familiarity with the bridge timetable is obviously essential, or will be until they succeed in completing the second great bridge which is to span the river lower down. As a rule, the hours are from one-thirty o'clock until three, but these vary on certain days, chiefly for the convenience of the racing public.

Over the bridge from early morning until late at night passes a curious tide of travel, which probably exemplifies better than any other constant procession in all the world the primitive as well as the modern system of transportation. The camel of the desert and the patient asses of the fellaheen jog leisurely past, as they doubtless did in the days of Abraham and Joseph. The carts laden with native women from outlying villages presumably show little change from the time of the Pharaohs. The smart carriages of the rich, with their liveried drivers and gorgeous syces, the hurrying motors, the endless procession of city cabs, the occasional trackless tram, and the motley array of pedestrians make up the tale. A rickshaw and an elephant would complete it- but these never come. It would be hard to imagine a more interesting sight than that which is presented by the morning throng, hurrying into Cairo from the west, as it passes between the tall piers with their haughty lions and debouches into the spreading highways of the city proper. Every

in presented by the teresting sight

aying into

camel and every donkey is laden with green produce until it is almost impossible to see the beast himself. Before the day is far spent, the unladen camels begin to return in a leisurely file, thronging the bridge in the reverse direction. And all the while the muddy stream close beside the bridge is filling up with the picturesque feluccas waiting to pass the draw, — feluccas that have not changed one whit in appearance since the days of earliest Egypt, rubbing elbows with the smart steamers of the Nile companies, and thus affording contrasts as vivid as those of the passing procession above. Across the river, in a stately line along the bank, are moored the dahabiyehs of a score of private owners, with some that are for hire.

It appears to be a favorite custom among a certain class of Cairenes to live for at least a portion of the year in these craft, once so popular for river cruising. Each has a long deck-cabin aft, an open space forward with a single tall mast, or rather yard, a tiny cook's cabin in the bow, and an awning deck over the cabin. In addition to these a small fleet of abandoned steamers helps to eke out the number of river residences. Whether life in them is especially pleasant may be doubted, although it is doubtless free and easy. The chief difficulty comes with the rapid falling of the river in late March, when it is

necessary to pole the boats away from the bank in order to insure their remaining on an even keel. Occasionally one gets caught by the falling water and heels over— much to the dismay of those within and the hilarity of those who are fortunate enough not to be on board. Every craft bears a name redolent of old Egypt, from Menes down to the times of Tewfik and Ismail. On the whole, I think one would much prefer the dahabiyeh in the upper Nile as a place of residence to the same craft moored alongside the Ghezireh shore. The Nile is a muddy stream, and in close proximity to a crowded city it is hardly at its best.

Beyond the Ghezireh, across an insignificant branch of the main Nile which serves to separate the island from the further shore, lies a fertile plain which stretches away to the western cliffs, the outposts of the Libyan Desert. Here is the suburb of Ghizeh, the location of a botanical garden and a most admirable zoo. Here also begins the road to the great pyramids, of which more will be said later. As for the zoo, it cannot be over-praised and every one goes to see it again and again. Never have I seen such delightful animals - even the ugliest being thoroughly charming and attractive! For this I suppose the attendants are largely responsible, for the camaraderie existing between keepers and beasts is

« PreviousContinue »