Overland Journey to India

We reached Cairo at eight o'clock in the morning, and were told that the first set of vans would set off for Suez at eleven, and the last at four o'clock in the afternoon. To those who propose going forward, there is little time to spare. Some of our party, however, who were active, were able to traverse the city, to inspect the palace of the pasha, and to enjoy the magnificent view from the battlements of the Citadel. They also had a little time to spend on shopping at the silk embroidery and perfumery bazaars, and to purchase some memorials of their stay; to visit the reading-rooms and museum of the Egyptian Society - the valuable collection of Dr. Abbot being one of the richest and most interesting in Egypt.

Cairo is said to contain a population of two hundred thousand inhabitants: it stands on a plateau about forty feet above the level of the Nile, and on the edge of the Desert. The Citadel is one of the most prominent objects of attraction, and can be examined however short almost may be the traveler's stay. It was built about the year 1171, by the Caliph Yoosef Salah-e-deen, well known in the history of the Crusaders as the Magnificent Saladin. A long ride through narrow, crowded, and irregular lanes, past numerous mosque of great magnitude and beauty, leads to the bottom of the steep winding ascent, at the extremity of which is the gate of the fortress. The first object of attraction which it contains is a magnificent mosque, which has now been ten years in process of construction. It is still incomplete. It consist of an open square, surrounded by a single row of thirty-five columns. In the centre of this is a superb fountain, and on the east a lofty gate leads to the inner part of the house of prayer. I do not know to what variety of architecture the building can be referred. I cannot concur with Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, that its attractions are due more to the beauty of the material of which it is constructed than to the skill displayed in the structure itself. To me it seemed in this latter respect supremely beautiful; not the less so because of the extent to which it departed from anything known to us of Greek, Roman, Gothic, or even of Indian art. The extreme richness of its decorations partake nothing of tediousness - they are all symmetrical, tasteful, and beautiful. I do not even know that the effect is heightened by the burnished brass mouldings which surrounded the base of the capital and top of the basement of the column, though this sort of combination of metal and stone is one of the most unusual in masonry. The walls, which consist of the common buildingstone of Cairo, are everywhere crusted over with a yellowish-white variegated horny-colored marble. It is brought from a considerable way across the country, having been discovered some fourteen years since at a place called Wadee Moahut, about seventy miles from the Nile, and is a travertine, or fresh-water limestone, deposited from springs. The undulations and coatings of the deposit form beautiful markings in the marble; it is unfortunately not susceptible of a very high polish, and is often defaced by small angular crevices, which, however, cease to be observable a few yards off. It is brought in large blocks from the quarry, and sawn into slices beside the building. The magnificent granite columns which formerly surrounded Joseph's Hall are lying prostrate around. They were pulled down in 1827, to make room for the mosque, and were in all likelihood originally the fragments of some of the noble works of Egypt's splendor in its earlier days. They are of the same material as that of which Pompey's Pillar and Cleopatra's Needle are composed. Just beyond the mosque is the palace and harem of the pasha a neat, plain building, more richly than tastefully fitted up and furnished within, but quite worthy of examination. The Mint is beyond this; and near by is Joseph's Well, an excavation two hundred and sixty feet in depth, a winding staircase leading to the bottom. The reader must be reminded that the Joseph here referred to is not the Hebrew patriarch, though commonly imagined to be such, but the famous Sultan Saladin, by whom the works were constructed.

From the palace garden may be seen the spot where Emir Bey leaped his horse over the wall, to escape the massacre which awaited his brother Mamelukes on the 1st of March 1811. Mohammed Au had prepared an expedition into Arabia, to chastise the Wahabees, who had robbed and murdered the pilgrims on their way to Mecca. The Mamelukes, impatient of his curtailment of their power, resolved to avenge and liberate themselves by the overthrow of his government. Their secret was badly kept, and the pasha was informed of the plot hatching against him. He pretended to disbelieve it altogether, and treated it as a slander against the Mamelukes. His preparations being completed, he invited all his courtiers and chiefs to the Citadel, to be present at the investiture of his son with authority to be exercised during his absence. The beys of the Mamelukes were received with the usual courtesy; but on their retirement, found the gates shut against them, while volleys of musketry were poured in on them from every side. Horses and riders fell in heaps. It is said that four hundred and forty were slaughtered in the court, Emir Bey alone escaping. He remembered that a heap of rubbish thrown over the wall, had accumulated to a considerable height near its base. He leaped his horse over: the animal was dashed to pieces, but the rider escaped. He found shelter in the tents of some soldiers near, and succeeded in making his way to Constantinople. He survived till within these few years. The beautiful aqueduct seen from the Citadel was originally built by Saladin the Magnificent in 1171, for the purpose of bringing water from the Nile to supply the garrison: it was renewed and enlarged in 1518.