Overland Journey to India
In various masses of rock, composed of oolitic limestone, adjacent to the lake and near the town, are a number of curious catacombs, and other ancient works of art, including a variety of mosaics. South of the city are several high mounds, likewise interesting from the relics of ancient art found imbedded in them. The bricks used for building in Alexandria are those excavated from the ruins of the ancient city they are quarried in abundance in all directions. They are well-formed, and excellently burnt and so perfectly cemented together, that it is often more difficult to break the hardened mortar than the material it unites. The potter's wheel of Alexandria is a singular one: it consists of a spindle about two feet long, turning in a socket some one and a half feet under the level of the floor, and a collar about three inches from the upper extremity. The circular disk on which the ware is thrown is of course above this last. The wheel is turned at the rate of about two revolutions a second, by a circular flange some one and a half feet in diameter just above its lower insertion. The potter sits on the floor, his legs in a small pit below the wheel, shuffling with his feet on the flange just mentioned, and so making the wheel revolve. It is certainly the most awkward-looking implement by much that I have seen for the purpose. Yet the ware turned out is good, strong, well-shaped, and is afterwards thoroughly burned in kilns.
Admission to the pasha's palace may be procured by an order from the vakeel, or steward. It is a neat, but plain and unpretending building. The view from it is beautiful. The rooms are handsome, and well-proportioned and arranged and the floors, of inlaid brightly-polished wood, have a very pleasing effect.
Travelers for India usually hurry through Egypt, with the view of not losing the steamboat, which is ready for them at Suez. But as there are two steamers a-month, those who have time and money to spare, may occupy themselves very delightfully in spending a fortnight on the journey. The conveyance of travelers from Alexandria to Suez is effected by the pasha, at an expense of £12. This charge includes everything save liquors and hotel bills of all kinds at Cairo, which fall on the passenger, and frequently amount to 15s., or £1. All charges of this class seem in Egypt extortionately high, and are indeed out of all proportion to tavern bills in Europe. But then it must be remembered that the whole establishments are permanently maintained, for the sake of employment, one day in fourteen; that unless when the passengers are on the way, the innkeepers are wholly idle. And now the arrangements hurry every one so fast, that they can only get some half-dozen hours of even the passengers, desiring to saddle them with the expenses incurred on their account during the interval when the house is open for the reception of guests, but when there are no guests to be received. Having arranged matters at the Transit Office, the traveler is duly informed of the hour when the vans quit the hotel and should make the best of his time in the interval. The vans proceed to the place of embarkation, about two miles distant, on the Mahmoudye Canal. The luggage is forwarded beforehand on camels, a carpet-bag being all that is allowed - it is all, indeed, that is requisite - for each individual to carry along with him.
The road to the canal leads through the great square already described, and on to the Rosetta Gate - an old ragged fragment of the fortifications of the town. And here, to his astonishment, the traveler finds that Alexandria is being fortified, after the manner of Paris, with walls, and bastions, and ditches, and all the other contrivances of military engineership. The works are being constructed on the recommendation of the French, and under the superintendence of French engineers. A quarter of a century in time, and some millions of money, may be allowed for their completion, the miserable starving population being taxed for this useless and wanton waste. Passing onward, the road leads close to the elevation on which stands Pompey's Pillar. Not far to the left is the battle-field where Sir Ralph Abercromby fell.