Not far from the Delta we can behold the Libyan Desert, of which we afterwards never entirely lose sight, though we sometimes approach and sometimes recede from it. I became conscious of certain dark objects in the far distance; they developed themselves more and more, and at length I recognised in them the wonder-buildings of ancient times, the Pyramids; far behind them rises the chain of mountains, or rather hills, of Mokattam.
Evening was closing in when we at length arrived at Bulak, the harbour of Cairo. If we could have landed at once, I might, perhaps, have reached the town itself this evening; as the harbour is, however, always over-crowded with vessels, the captain is often compelled to wait for an hour before he can find a place to moor his craft. By the time I could disembark it had already grown quite dark, and the town-gates were shut. I was thus obliged to pass the night on board.
The journey from Atfe to Cairo had occupied two days and a half. This passage had been one of the most interesting, although the heat became more and more oppressive, and the burning winds of the desert were sometimes wafted over to us. The highest temperature at midday was 36 degrees, and in the shade from 24 to 25 degrees Reaumur. The sky was far less beautiful and clear than in Syria; it was here frequently overcast with white clouds.
Cairo—Quarrel with the captain—Rapacity of the beggars—The custom-house—The consulate—Aspect of Cairo—Narrow and crowded streets—Costumes—The mad-house—Disgusting exhibition—Joseph’s well—Palace of Mehemet Ali—Dates—Mosques at Cairo—Excursion to the pyramids of Gizeh—Gizeh—Eggs hatched by artificial heat— Ascent of the pyramids—The sphynx—Return to Cairo.
The aspect of this great Egyptian metropolis is not nearly so imposing as I had fancied it to be; its situation is too flat, and from on board we can only discern scattered portions of its extended area. The gardens skirting the shore are luxuriant and lovely.
At my debarcation, and on the road to the consulate, I met with several adventures, which I relate circumstantially, trifling as they may appear, in order to give a hint as to the best method of dealing with the people here.
At the very commencement I became involved in a dispute with the captain of the vessel. I had still to pay him three dollars and a half, and gave him four dollars, in the expectation that he would return me my change. This, however, he refused to do, and persisted in keeping the half-dollar. He said it should be divided as backsheesh among the crew; but I am sure they would have seen nothing of it. Luckily, however, he was stupid enough not to put the money in his pocket, but kept it open in his hand. I quickly snatched a coin from him, and put it into my pocket, explaining to him at the