« PreviousContinue »
destruction, and the gyassas, crawling or beached along the canal, with tall brown wings or spidery masts and yards, keep the Mahmûdiya a picture, especially when the sunset is pouring through the stately sycamore avenue of the city bank. I have even seen a pasha's dahabeah on it, and there are charming seats round the spreading trees in belvederes over the water, commanding views of the great Lake Mareotis.
We went there one Sunday afternoon, so we saw Greek ladies, very smart-Greeks love finery, and at Alexandria they can afford to buy French clothes--promenading along the Mahmûdiya. Our cabman witticised them; he was rather a comical person. Seeing a lot of little boys, walking along in pairs escorted by a master, he gave this terse definition : "School-no papa--no mama." He was a Copt of kinds.
Occasionally we passed a splendid country-house still kept up like that of Prince Toosoon, the Khedive's speculative cousin. It had a beautiful garden in front of it, rather in the style of the Villa Lante, with copies of the famous Molossian dogs of Florence at the entrance. The cabman insisted on taking us on to Nogha, one of the gay gardens which are as numerous at Alexandria as they are lacking at Cairo. The principle of an Alexandrine garden is generally the same. There is a wall on one side, to keep the north wind off, I expect; from it stretches an expanse of refreshing turf broken with young trees, and a gorgeous display of flowers. At Nogha we found the inevitable police band you get in Italy, making a jumble-sale of the tune, and municipal 'buses drawn by mules which had lured Levantines to their fête. For some reason, I can hardly explain why, Levantines at a picnic always remind me of blue-bottles. The comic cabman, since he was driving us at so much an hour, suggested a few things we might take in on the way home. I did not understand what they were, but I let him have his head, and he proceeded to lose himself. As it turned out, it did not signify, because they gave us our regular dinner without a murmur, when we arrived at the hotel an hour and
a half late; and cabs in Alexandria, which we might never visit again, are absurdly cheap by the hour.
We saw some really delightful lake scenery, and a great collection of dust-heaps, which looked as if they had been evolved from a sulphur mine, but really contain ancient Alexandria, whenever the funds and energy are forthcoming to excavate it. This will never be till they want the earth to make another mole, or to turn more of the eastern harbour into a garden suburb. After long wanderings we entered a gate representing roughly the Canopic gate of the city of the Ptolemies, and trailed through endless streets, bordered with shops or restaurants, according to the success of the suburb.
Next morning we went to the Alexandrian Museum. It was small. Alexandrian millionaires do not try to immortalise themselves by exploiting the antiquities of such a favourable site as the rich retired Greeks—retired from Manchester do at Athens. The Alexandrian Museum has hardly any ancient Egyptian exhibits except a few misfits from the Cairo Museum. It is better off for Roman antiquities, found locally when they are digging foundations for insurance officesone of real importance, the glorious life-sized basalt bull of the Emperor Hadrian, discovered in 1895. There is rather a charming collection of little gods and jewellery, including a net of gold fluff which once mingled with a young girl's hair, and a bracelet of matrix emeralds which reminded me of Swan & Edgar's jewellery bargains. There is a frescoed Roman tomb as fresh and vulgar as a modern Italian ceiling; another as impressionistic as the New English Art Club. There are Roman portraits, taken from tombs, painted in wax, which look like cheap oil colours, but are of high interest as showing us what the Levantine of that day looked like, when the artist flattered him.
When Tanagra, a hitherto obscure Baotian city, commenced that series of nouveau-art statuettes, which tell us more about Greek domestic life and fashions than the marbles of Praxiteles—the most charming plastic portraits which the world has ever known—in the era of Alexander the Great,
his new city of Alexandria paid them the flattery of imitation, and the best examples of the Alexandrian school are preserved locally.
Egypt, the land whose very soil embalms the vestiges of the past, has preserved the colours of these figurines to an extent unrivalled in Magna Grecia. Their hues are extraordinarily bright-pink and pale blue seem to have been the mode with the belles of Alexandria. Many have lovely faces, all have very modern heads of hair. But the figurines, as a rule, are hardly in such pure taste, hardly so refined as the best of Tanagra and Myrina. There are numerous specimens also of the coarse comic terra-cottas of ancientGreek Egypt, which are nothing to what they would be if they belonged to modern-Greek Egypt. Fat round cherubs are very popular. As to jewellery, some of the gold fillets, with natural coloured leaves and flowers, recall or may have inspired the charming head-bands of Etruria.
We set out conscientiously to explore the classical antiquities of Alexandria. We began with the antique cistern in the Rue d'Allemagne, not very far from the museum. It is subterranean, about fifty feet long, and a little less in width and height. Its inside is rather like a church; it has three tiers of arches with stone beams across each tier, the top tier being pointed and the columns of granite.
The Hypogeum of Anfushi, near the Khedive's palace, another Roman building, is even less interesting ; but it serves to show the debased style of the tombs of Roman Egypt.
On the other hand, the ruins round Pompey's Pillar and the Kom-es-Shogafa are at once considerable and of uncommon interest. The latter, in spite of its debased style, is by far the best ; there is nothing like it in Egypt.
The Serapeum lies almost under Pompey's Pillar. It was here that they found the black Apis bull, which is the glory of the museum, in a niche about seven feet long, five feet high, and four feet wide, cut in the sandstone. You go down into a bear-pit twenty-five feet deep, to get into the Serapeum. What remains of it is chiefly catacomb. The so-called