Cook & Son (Egypt Ltd.) have even gone so far as to conceive the idea that it would be original to give to their establishment a certain cachet of Islam. And the dining-room reproduces (in imitation, of course—but then you must not expect the impossible) the interior of one of the mosques of Stamboul. At the luncheon hour it is one of the prettiest sights in the world to see, under this imitation holy cupola, all the little tables crowded with Cook’s tourists of both sexes, the while a concealed orchestra strikes up the “Mattchiche.”
The dam, it is true, in suppressing the cataract has raised some thirty feet or so the level of the water upstream, and by so doing has submerged a certain Isle of Philae, which passed, absurdly enough, for one of the marvels of the world by reason of its great temple of Isis, surrounded by palm-trees. But between ourselves, one may say that the beautiful goddess was a little old-fashioned for our times. She and her mysteries had had their day. Besides, if there should be any chagrined soul who might regret the disappearance of the island, care has been taken to perpetuate the memory of it, in the same way as that of the cataract. Charming coloured postcards, taken before the submerging of the island and the sanctuary, are on sale in all the bookshops along the quay.
Oh! this quay of Assouan, already so British in its orderliness, its method! Nothing better cared for, nothing more altogether charming could be conceived. First of all there is the railway, which, passing between balustrades painted a grass-green, gives out its fascinating noise and joyous smoke. On one side is a row of hotels and shops, all European in character—hairdressers, perfumers, and numerous dark rooms for the use of the many amateur photographers, who make a point of taking away with them photographs of their travelling companions grouped tastefully before some celebrated hypogeum.
And then numerous cafes, where the whisky is of excellent quality. And, I ought to add, in justice to the result of the Entente Cordiale, you may see there, too, aligned in considerable quantities on the shelves, the products of those great French philanthropists, to whom indeed our generation does not render sufficient homage for all the good they have done to its stomach and its head. The reader will guess that I have named Pernod, Picon and Cusenier.
It may be indeed that the honest fellahs and Nubians of the neighbourhood, so sober a little while ago, are apt to abuse these tonics a little. But that is the effect of novelty, and will pass. And anyhow, amongst us Europeans, there is no need to conceal the fact—for we do not all make use of it involuntarily?—that alcoholism is a powerful auxiliary in the propagation of our ideas, and that the dealer in wines and spirits constitutes a valuable vanguard pioneer for our Western civilisation. Races, insensibly depressed by the abuse of our “appetisers,” become more supple, more easy to lead in the true path of progress and liberty.