Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:13 am

CHAPTER V. Present State of Egypt.

SINCE the revolution of Ybrahim Kiâya, and especially since that of Ali-bek, the power of the Ottomans in Egypt has become more precarious than in any other province. It is quite true that the Porte always retains a pasha there; but this pasha, confined and kept in sight in the castle of Kaire, is rather the prisoner of the Mamlouks than the substitute of the sultan. He is deposed, he is exiled, he is driven out at will; and, at the simple summons of a herald dressed in black [92], he descends from his palace as the simplest individual. A few pashas, ​​deliberately chosen by the Porte, have attempted, by secret maneuvers, to restore the powers of their dignity; but the beks have made these intrigues so dangerous that they now confine themselves to spending the three years that their captivity must last quietly, and to eating in peace the pension which is allocated to them.

However, the beks, for fear of taking the divan to some violent party, dared not declare their independence. Everything continues to be done in the name of the sultan: his orders are received, as they say, on the head and on the eyes, that is to say with the greatest respect; but this illusory appearance is never followed by execution. The tribute is often suspended, and it is always subject to deductions. Expenses are taken into account, such as cleaning the canals, transporting the rubble from Kaire to the sea, paying troops, repairing mosques, etc., etc., which are all false and simulated expenses. One deceives on the degree of the flooding of the grounds: the only fear of the caravels which, each year, come to Damiât and Alexandria, makes acquit the contribution of rice and wheat; we still find a way to alter the actual supplies by capitulating with those who receive them. For its part, the Porte, faithful to its ordinary policy, turns a blind eye to all these abuses; she feels that to repress them would require costly efforts, and perhaps even an open war which would compromise her dignity: moreover, for several years, more pressing interests have obliged her to gather all her forces towards the north.; occupied with its own safety in Constantinople, it leaves to circumstances the care of re-establishing its power in the distant provinces: it foments the divisions of the various parties, to prevent any one from taking consistency; and this method, which has not yet deceived it, is equally advantageous to its great officers, who make a large income by selling their protection and influence to the rebels. The current admiral,Hasan-Pasha, more than once knew how to take advantage of it vis-à-vis Mourâd and Ybrahim, so as to obtain considerable sums.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:14 am

CHAPTER VI. Constitution of the Militia of the Mamlouks.

IN seizing the government of Egypt, the Mamlouks have taken steps which appear to secure their possession. The most effective, no doubt, is the precaution they took to debase the military corps of the Azābs and Janissaries. These two bodies, which once were the terror of the Pasha, are now nothing but simulacra as vain as himself. The Porte still has this fault to reproach itself with: because, even before Ybrahim Kiâya's instruction, the number of Turkish troops, which was to be 40,000 men, part cavalry, had been reduced to more than half by the avarice of the commanders, who diverted pay for their own benefit; after Ybrahim, Ali-bek completed this mess. First of all, he got rid of all the chiefs who could give him offense; he let the places go without filling them; he removed all influence from the commanders, and he debased all the Turkish troops, to the point that today the janissaries, the azābs and the 5 other corps are only a bunch of craftsmen, goujats and vagabonds who guard the gates of which pays them, and which tremble before the Mamlouks like the populace of Kaire. It is really in the body of these Mamlouks that all the military force of Egypt consists: among them, a few hundred are spread in the country and the villages to maintain the authority there, to collect the tributes there, and to watch the exactions. ; but the masses are gathered at Kaire. According to the calculations of educated people, their number should not exceed 8,500 men, both beks, kasks, and simple freedmen and Mamlouks still slaves; in this number there is a crowd of young people who have not yet reached 20 and 22 years of age. The strongest house is that of Ybrahim-bek, which has about 600 Mamlouks: after him comes Mourâd, who has no more than 400, but who, by his daring and lavishness, counterbalances the the miserly opulence of his rival; the rest of the beks, numbering 18 to 20, have from 50 to 200. There are also a large number of Mamlouks that we could call waves, in that being from extinct houses, they attach themselves to one or the other, according to their interest, ready to change for those who give them more. We must also count a few Serrâdjes, a sort of servants on horseback, who carry the orders of the beks, and fulfill the functions of ushers: the whole set does not amount to 10,000 riders. Infantry should not be counted: they are not esteemed in Turkia, and especially in the provinces of Asia. The prejudices of the ancient Persians and the Tartars still reign in these regions: war being there only the art of fleeing or pursuing, the man on horseback who best fulfills this double goal is deemed to be the only man of war; and as among the barbarians, the man of war is the only distinguished man, something demeaning has resulted in walking which has made it reserved for the people. It is for this reason that the Mamlouks allow the inhabitants of Egypt only mules and donkeys, and that they alone have the privilege of going on horseback; they use it in all its extent: in the city, in the country, on visits, even from door to door, we never see them except on horseback. Their clothing came to join prejudices to impose on them the obligation. This clothing, which in form does not differ from that of all the well-to-do people in Turkey, deserves to be described.

§ I. Clothing of the Mamlouks.

In the first place, it is an ample shirt of light and yellowish cotton linen, over which one puts on a sort of dressing gown in linen from India, or in light fabrics from Damascus and Aleppo. This dress called antari , falls from the neck to the ankles, and crosses on the front of the body to the hips, where it is fixed with 2 cords. On this first envelope comes a second, of the same shape, of the same width, and whose wide sleeves also fall to the tips of the fingers. This is called coftân ; it is usually made of richer silk fabrics than the first. A long belt tightens these two clothes at the waist, and divides the body in two packages. Above these two parts comes into a 3 e , called djoubé ; it is of unlined cloth, it has the same general shape, except that its sleeves are cut at the elbow. In winter, and often even in summer, this djoubé is trimmed with a fur, and becomes a pelisse . Finally we put on top of these 3 envelopes a last one, which we call beniche . It is the cloak or the formal dress. Its use is to cover the whole body exactly, even the tips of the fingers, which it would be very improper to let appear in front of adults. Under this beniche, the body looks like a long bag from which emerge a naked neck and a head without hair, covered with a turban. That of the Mamlouks,, is a yellow cylinder, trimmed outside with an artistically stiff muslin roll. Their feet are covered with a yellow leather slipper that goes up to the heels, and a quarterless slipper, always ready to stay on the way. But the most singular piece of this clothing is a kind of pants, the size of which is such that in its height, it reaches the chin, and that each of its legs could accommodate the whole body: add that the Mamlouks do it by that Venetian cloth called saille , which, although as soft as Elbeuf, is thicker than the cloth; and that, to walk more at ease, they enclose, under a drawstring belt, all the hanging part of the clothes we talked about. Swaddled in this way, we can see that the Mamlouks are not agile pedestrians; but what one does not conceive until after having seen the men of various countries, is that they regard their clothing as very convenient. It is in vain to object to them that on foot he prevents them from walking, that on horseback he charges uselessly, and that every dismounted rider is a lost man; they answer: It is the custom , and this word answers everything.

§ II. Crew of the Mamlouks.

Let's see if the crew of their horse is better reasoned. Since we took in Europe the good spirit to realize the motives of everything, we felt that the horse, to perform its movements under the rider, needed to be as light as possible. , and one has lightened his harness as much as the strength allowed. This revolution, the 18 th century witnessed the rise among us, is still far from the Mamluks, whose mind is stayed on 12 th century. Always guided by use, they give the horse a saddle with a rough frame loaded with iron, wood and leather. On this saddle rises an 8 inch high cantle, which covers the rider up to the loins, while, in the front, a pommel, projecting from 4 to 5 inches, threatens his chest when he bends. Under the saddle, instead of cushions, they extend 3 thick woolen blankets: the whole is fixed by a strap which passes over the saddle, and is attached, not by pin buckles, but by knots of weak straps and very complicated. Moreover, these saddles have a large chest and lack croupier, which throws them too much on the shoulders of the horse. The stirrups are a copper plate longer and wider than the foot, and the sides of which, raised by an inch, come to die at the handle from which they hang. The angles of this plate are sharp, and serve, instead of a spur, to open the sides with long wounds. The ordinary weight of a pair of these stirrups is 9-10 pounds, and often they go 12 and 13. The saddle and blankets weigh no less than 25; thus the horse initially carries a weight of 36 pounds, which is all the more ridiculous, as the horses of Egypt are very small. The bridle is also poorly designed in its kind; she is of the species we callat the genet , without articulation. The curb chain, which is only an iron ring, tightens the chin, to the point of cutting its skin; also all these horses have the bars broken, and absolutely lack of mouth : it is a necessary effect of the practices of the Mamlouks, who, instead of treating it like us, destroy it by violent jerks; they use them above all for a maneuver which is peculiar to them: it consists in throwing the horse with a loose bridle, then stopping it suddenly at the height of the race; seized by the bites, the horse stiffens its legs, bends the hocks, and ends its career by sliding in a single piece, like a wooden horse: one can imagine how much this repeated maneuver loses its legs and its mouth; but the Mamlouks find favor in it, and it suits their way of fighting. Moreover, in spite of their legs in hooks, and the perpetual movements of their bodies, one cannot deny that they are not firm and vigorous horsemen, and that they do not have something of warrior which flatters the eye even of them. 'a stranger;

§ III. Weapons of the Mamlouks.

The first is an English rifle about 30 inches in length, and of such caliber, that it can throw 10 to 12 bullets at a time, the effect of which, even without skill, is always lethal. In the second place, they wear on the belt 2 large pistols which are attached to the garment by a silk cord. From the pommel sometimes hangs a mace of weapons which they use to knock out; finally, on the left thigh hangs from a shoulder strap a curved saber, of a species little known in Europe; its blade, taken in a straight line, is not more than 24 inches, but, measured in its curvature, it has 30. This form, which seems strange to us, was not adopted without reasons; experience teaches that the effect of a straight blade is limited to the place and the moment of its fall, because it cuts only by pressing: a curved blade, on the contrary, presenting the cutting edge in retreat, slides by the effort of the arm, and continues its action in a long space. The barbarians, whose spirit is exercised preferably on the murderous arts, did not miss this observation, and hence the use of scimitars, so general and so ancient in the East. The common Mamlouks draw theirs from Constantinople and Europe; but the beks fight over the blades of Persia and the ancient factories of Damascus[93] , which they pay up to 40 and 50 louis. The qualities that they estimate are the lightness, the even and very striking temper, the undulations of the iron, and especially the delicacy of the cutting edge: it must be admitted that it is exquisite; but these blades have the drawback of being fragile like glass.

§ IV. Education and exercises of the Mamlouks.

The art of using these weapons is the subject of the education of the Mamlouks, and the occupation of their entire lives. Every day, early in the morning, most of them go to a plain outside Kaire; and there, running at full speed, they practice taking the rifle out of the shoulder strap quickly, pulling it right, throwing it under the thigh, to grab a pistol which they shoot and throw over the shoulder: then a second, with which they do the same, relying on the cord which attaches them, without wasting time in replacing them. The beks present encourage them; and whoever breaks the earthen vessel which serves as a goal receives praise and money. They also practice handling the saber well, and especially giving the backhand blow, which takes from the bottom up, and which is the most difficult to parry. Their edges are so good, and their hands so skilful that many cut off a head of wet cotton, like a loaf of butter. They also shoot the bow, although they have banished it from combat; but their favorite exercise is that ofDjerid : this name, which properly means reed , is generally given to any stick that is thrown by hand according to principles which have had to be those of the Romans for the pilum; instead of stick, the Mamlouks use fresh branches of the leafless palm. These branches, which are shaped like an artichoke stem, are 4 feet in length, and weigh 5 to 6 pounds. Armed with this draft, the horsemen enter the fight, and running at full speed, they launch it from quite a distance. As soon as he is launched, the aggressor turns bridle, and the one who flees pursues and throws in turn. The horses, trained by habit, assist their masters so well that it seems they take so much pleasure in it; but this pleasure is dangerous, for there are arms which throw so stiffly that the blow often injures and even becomes fatal. Woe to those who did not dodge Ali-bek's djerid! These games, which seem barbaric to us, are closely related to the political state of nations. It has not been 3 centuries since they existed among us, and their extinction is much less due to the accident of Henry II, or to a philosophical spirit, than to a state of inner peace which made them useless. Among the Turks, on the contrary, and among the Mamlouks, they have been preserved, because the anarchy of their society continued to make a need for everything relating to war. Let's see if their progress in this part is commensurate with their practice.

§ V. Military Art of the Mamlouks.

In our Europe, when we speak of troops and war, we immediately imagine a distribution of men by companies, by battalions, by squadrons; uniforms of sizes and colors, formations by ranks and lines, combinations of particular maneuvers or general evolutions; in short, a whole system of operations based on sound principles. These ideas are right for us; but when we transport them to the countries we are dealing with, they become so many errors. The Mamlouks know nothing of our military art; they have no uniforms, no ordinance, no training, no discipline, or even subordination. Their reunion is a crowd, their march is a mob, their combat is a duel, their war is a robbery; usually it is done in the town of Kaire itself: when you least think about it, a cabal breaks out, beks mount horses, the alarm spreads, their adversaries appear: you load up in the street with your saber the hand; a few murders decide the quarrel, and the weakest or the most timid is exiled. The people have nothing to do with these battles; what does it matter to him that tyrants kill each other? But one should not believe him a quiet spectator, in the midst of bullets and scimitar blows; this role is always dangerous: everyone flees from the battlefield, until calm is restored. Sometimes the populace plundered the homes of the exiles, and the conquerors put up no obstacle. On this subject, it is good to observe that these phrases used in the news of Europe: the beks made recruits, the beks roused the people, the people favored a party , are hardly able to give exact ideas . In the disputes between the Mamlouks, the people are never more than a passive actor.

Sometimes the war is transported to the country, and the combatants do not display more art there. The stronger or more daring party pursues the other; if they are equal in courage, they expect or arrange to meet; and there, without regard for the advantages of position, the two troops approach in platoon, the boldest marching in front; we approach each other, we challenge each other, we attack each other; each one chooses his man: one shoots, if one can, and one passes quickly to the saber; this is where the art of the rider and the flexibility of the horse unfold. If one falls, the other is lost. In routs, the servants, always present, relieve their master; and, if there are no witnesses, they knock him out to take the belt of sequins which he is careful to wear. Often the battle is decides by the death of 2 or 3 people. Especially for some time now, the Mamlouks have understood that their bosses, being the main stakeholders, must run the greatest risks, and they are leaving them the honor of doing so. If they have the advantage, so much the better for everyone; if they are conquered, we capitulate with the conqueror, who has often made his conditions in advance. There is only profit in remaining quiet; one is sure of finding a master who pays, and one returns to Kaire to live at his expense until new fortune.

§ VI. Discipline of the Mamlouks.

This character, which causes the mobility of this militia, is a necessary consequence of its constitution. The young peasant sold in Mingrelie or Georgia did not set foot in Egypt sooner than his ideas underwent a revolution. A huge career opens up to his eyes. Everything comes together to awaken his daring and ambition; still a slave, he feels destined to become master, and already he takes the spirit of his future condition. He calculates the need that his boss has of him, and he makes him buy his services and his zeal: he measures them on the salary he receives from them, or on the one he expects from them. However, as this company does not know of any other motive than money, it follows that the main care of masters is to satisfy the greed of their servants to maintain their attachment. Hence this lavishness of the beks, ruinous to Egypt which they plunder; hence the insubordination of the Mamlouks, fatal to their chiefs whom they despoil; hence those intrigues which never cease to agitate adults and children. Scarcely is a slave freed than he already looks at the first jobs. Who could stop his pretensions? Nothing in those in charge offers him that superiority of talent which imparts respect. He sees only soldiers like himself, who have come to power by the decrees of fate; and if fate pleases him to favor him, he will succeed in the same way, and he will not be less skilful in the art of governing, since this art consists only in taking money and giving saber blows. . Out of this order of things was born an unbridled luxury which, lifting the barriers to all needs, gave the rapacity of the great a boundless extent. This luxury is such that there is no Mamlouk whose maintenance does not cost 2,500 pounds per year, and there are many which cost twice as much. For each ramadan, you need new clothing, you need sheets from France, sailles from Venice, fabrics from Damascus and India. It is often necessary to renew the horses, the harnesses. We want damascened pistols and sabers, stirrups gilded with ground gold, silver-plated saddles and bridles. To distinguish them from the vulgar, the chiefs need jewelry, precious stones, Arabian horses of 2 and 300 louis, Kashmir shawls[94] of 25 and 50 louis, and a host of pelisses, the least of which cost 500 pounds[95] . Women have rejected, as too simple, the ancient use of sequins on the head and on the chest; they have substituted diamonds, emeralds, rubies and fine pearls; and, to the passion for shawls and furs, they joined that of the fabrics and braid of Lyon. When such needs are found in a class which has in hand all the authority, and which knows no rights neither of property, nor of life, one judges the consequences which they must have, and for the classes obliged to 'provide them, and for the very morals of those who have them.

§ VII. Mores of the Mamlouks.

The mores of the Mamlouks are such that it is to be feared, while retaining the simple features of the truth, to incur the suspicion of a passionate exaggeration. Most born in the Greek ritual, and circumcised at the time of purchase, they are in the eyes of the Turks themselves only renegades, without faith or religion. Strangers to each other, they are not bound by those natural feelings which unite other men. Without parents, without children, the past has done nothing for them; they do nothing for the future. Ignorant and superstitious by education, they become savage by murder, seditious by tumults, perfidious by cabals, cowardly by dissimulation, and corrupted by all kinds of debauchery. They are especially addicted to this shameful genre which has always been the vice of the Greeks and the Tartars; this is the first lesson they receive from their fencing master. We do not know how to explain this taste, when we consider that they all have women, unless we suppose that in one sex they seek the spice of the refusals of which they have deprived the other; but he doesn't it is no less true that there is not a single Mamlouk without spot; and their contagion has depraved the inhabitants of Kaire, even the Christians of Syria who dwell there.

§ VIII. Government of the Mamlouks.

Such is the species of men who are at this moment making the fate of Egypt; they are spirits, of this temper who are at the head of the government: a few happy saber-strikes, more cunning or daring lead to this preeminence; but it is understood that by changing their fortunes, the upstarts do not change their character, and that they carry the souls of slaves in the condition of kings. Sovereignty is not for them the difficult art of directing the diverse passions of a large society towards a common goal, but only a means of having more women, jewelry, horses, slaves, and more. satisfy their fancies. Administration, internally and externally, is conducted with this in mind. On the one hand, it is reduced to maneuvering vis-à-vis the court of Constantinople, to elude the tribute or threats from the sultan; on the other, to buy a lot of slaves, to multiply friends, to prevent plots, to destroy secret enemies with iron or poison; always in alarm, the chiefs live like the old tyrants of Syracuse. Mourâd and Ybrahim sleep only in the midst of rifles and sabers. Besides, no idea of ​​police or public order[96] . The only business is to get money; and the means employed as the simplest is to seize it wherever it appears, to snatch it by violence from whoever possesses it, to impose at every moment arbitrary contributions on the villages and on the customs, which pays them back to trade.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:32 am

CHAPTER VII.

§ I. State of the people in Egypt.

One will easily judge that, in such a country, everything is analogous to such a regime. Where the farmer does not enjoy the fruit of his sorrows, he works only by constraint, and agriculture languishes: where there is no security in pleasures, there is no such industry. who creates them, and the arts are in their infancy: where knowledge leads nowhere, nothing is done to acquire it, and spirits are barbaric. This is the state of Egypt. Most of the land is in the hands of beks, Mamlouks, lawyers; the number of other owners is infinitely limited, and their property is subject to a thousand charges. At every moment it is a contribution to pay, a damage to be repaired; no inheritance or inheritance tax for buildings; everything goes to the government, from which everything must be redeemed. The peasants there are hired laborers, to whom one leaves to live only what is necessary not to die. The rice and wheat they pick pass to the masters' table, while they only reserve the doura, from which they make unleavened and tasteless bread when it is cold. This bread, cooked over a fire formed from the dried manure of buffaloes and cows [97], is, along with water and raw onions, their food all year round: they are happy if they can add anything to it. occasionally honey, cheese, sour milk and dates. Meat and fat, which they love with passion, appear only on the greatest feast days, and among the wealthiest. All their clothing consists of a shirt of coarse blue linen, and a black cloak of light and coarse material. Their hairstyle is a hat of a sort of sheet, over which they roll a long handkerchief of red wool. Arms, legs, chest are bare, and most are not wearing underpants. Their dwellings are mud huts, where heat and smoke are suffocated, and where diseases caused by dirt, humidity and bad food, often come to besiege them: finally, to fill the measure, come add to these physical ailments the usual alarms, the fear of the looting of the Arabs, the visits of the Mamlouks, the revenge of the families, and all the worries of a continuous civil war. This picture, common to all the villages, is hardly more cheerful in the towns. In Kaire itself, the foreigner who arrives is struck by a general aspect of ruin and misery; the crowd which throngs the streets offers to its glances only hideous rags and disgusting nudities. It is true that one often meets there richly dressed horsemen; but this contrast of luxury only makes the spectacle of indigence all the more shocking. Everything we see or hear announces that we are in the land of slavery and tyranny. We only speak of civil unrest, of public misery, of extortion of money, of beatings and murders. No security for life or property. A man's blood is shed like that of an ox. Even justice pays it without formality. The night officer in his rounds, the day officer in his rounds, judge, condemn and have them executed in the blink of an eye and without appeal. Executioners accompany them, and at the first order the head of an unfortunate falls into the leather bag, where it is received for fear of sullying the place. Even if the appearance alone of the offense exposed to the danger of the penalty! but often, for no other motive than the greed of a powerful man and the denunciation of an enemy, a man suspected of having money is cited before a bek; a sum is demanded of him; and if he denies it, he is knocked over on his back, he is struck 2 and 300 with a stick on the soles of his feet, and sometimes he is knocked out. Woe to anyone suspected of having ease! A hundred spies are always ready to denounce him. It is only through the exterior of poverty that he can escape the plunder of power.

§ II. Misery and famine of recent years.

It is especially in the last three years that this capital and the whole of Egypt have offered the spectacle of the most deplorable misery. To the usual evils of unbridled tyranny, to those which resulted from the troubles of previous years, have been added even more destructive natural scourges. The plague, brought from Constantinople in the month of November 1783, exercised during the winter its accustomed ravages; we counted up to 1,500 dead who came out in a day through the gates of Kaire[98]. By an ordinary effect in this country, summer came to calm her. But this first plague soon followed another equally terrible. The flood of 1783 had not been complete; a large part of the land could not be sown for lack of watering; another had not been for lack of seeds: the Nile not having yet reached, in 1784, the favorable terms, the famine declared itself on the spot. By the end of November, famine took almost as many people from Kaire as the plague; the streets, which at first were full of beggars, soon offered not a single one: everything perished or deserted. The villages were no less ravaged; an infinite number of unfortunate people, who wanted to escape death, spread into neighboring countries. I saw Syria flooded with it; in January 1785, the streets of Saïde, Acre and Palestine were full of Egyptians, recognizable everywhere by their dark skin; and he went from there to Aleppo and to Diarbekr. We cannot accurately assess the depopulation of these 2 years, because the Turks do not keep records of deaths, births, or counts[99]; but opinion common was that the country had lost one-sixth of its inhabitants.

In these circumstances, we have seen all these paintings renewed, the story of which makes one shudder, and the sight of which imprints a feeling of horror and sadness which is difficult to erase. As in the famine that arrived in Bengal a few years ago, the streets and public places were littered with exhausted and dying skeletons; their faltering voices implored in vain the pity of passers-by; the fear of a common danger hardened hearts; these unhappy people expired leaning against the houses of the beks, which they knew to be supplied with rice and wheat, and often the Mamlouks, annoyed by their cries, chased them away with sticks. None of the revolting means of quenching the rage of hunger has been forgotten; what is most filthy was devoured; and I will never forget that, returning from Syria to France,

There are among us energetic souls who, after having paid the tribute of compassion due to such great misfortunes, go through a return of indignation, making it a crime for the men who endure them. They consider worthy of death those peoples who do not have the courage to reject it, or who receive it without giving themselves the consolation of vengeance. We even go so far as to take these facts as proof of a moral paradox rashly advanced; and we want to support this pretended axiom, that the inhabitants of hot countries, degraded by temperament and character, are destined by nature to be nothing but the slaves of despotism.

But have we really examined whether similar facts have never happened in the climates we want to honor with the exclusive privilege of liberty? Have we properly observed whether the general facts which we authorize ourselves are not accompanied by circumstances and accessories which distort the results? It is with politics as with medicine, where isolated phenomena lead to error on the true causes of evil. There is too much pressure to establish particular cases as general rules: these universal principles which are so pleasing to the mind almost always have the defect of being vague. It is so rare that the facts on which one reason are exact, and the observation of them is so delicate, that one must often fear to raise systems on imaginary bases.

In the case in question, if we examine the causes of the overwhelmingness of the Egyptians, we will find that this people, overpowered by cruel circumstances, is much more worthy of pity than contempt. Indeed, it is not the political state of this country as of that of our Europe. Among us, the traces of ancient revolutions weakening every day, the victorious foreigners have drawn closer to the vanquished natives; and this mixture formed bodies of identical nations, which no longer had but the same interests. In Egypt, on the contrary, and in almost all of Asia, the indigenous peoples, enslaved by still recent revolutions to foreign conquerors, have formed mixed bodies whose interests are all opposed. The state is properly divided into two factions: one, that of the victorious people, whose individuals hold all the positions of civil and military power; the other, that of the vanquished people, which fills all the subordinate classes of society. The ruling faction, s' granting the exclusive right to all property as a conquest, treats the governed faction only as a passive instrument of its enjoyments; and the latter in turn, stripped of all personal interest, returns to the other only as little as possible: he is a slave on whom his master's opulence is dependent, and who is He would willingly free himself from his servitude, if he had the means. This impotence is another characteristic which distinguishes this constitution from ours. In the states of Europe, the governments, drawing from the very bosom of the nations themselves the means to govern them, it is neither easy nor advantageous for them. other than as little as possible: he is a slave on whom his master's opulence is dependent, and who would willingly free himself from his servitude, if he had the means. This impotence is another characteristic which distinguishes this constitution from ours. In the states of Europe, the governments, drawing from the very bosom of the nations themselves the means to govern them, it is neither easy nor advantageous for them. other than as little as possible: he is a slave on whom his master's opulence is dependent, and who would willingly free himself from his servitude, if he had the means. This impotence is another characteristic which distinguishes this constitution from ours. In the states of Europe, the governments, drawing from the very bosom of the nations themselves the means to govern them, it is neither easy nor advantageous for them. to abuse their power; but if, by a supposed case, they formed personal and distinct interests, they could use them only in tyranny. The reason is that besides this multitude that we call people, which, although strong by its mass, is always weak by its disunity, there is a middle order, which, participating in the qualities of the people and the government, in some way balances the one and the other. This order is the class of all those opulent and well-off citizens, who, spread out in the employments of society, have a common interest in respecting the security and property rights which they enjoy. In Egypt, on the contrary, there is no adjoining state, no such numerous classes of nobles, people of the robe or of the Church, merchants, owners, etc., who are in a way an intermediary body between the people and government. There, everything is a soldier or a lawyer, that is to say a man of the government; where everything is plowman, craftsman, merchant, it that is to say people; and thepeople especially lack the first means of combating oppression, the art of uniting and of directing its forces. To destroy or reform the Mamlouks, a general peasants' league would be needed, and it is impossible to form: the system of oppression is methodical; it seems that tyrants everywhere have an infused knowledge of it. Each province, each district has its governor, each village has its lieutenant[100]who watches over the movements of the multitude. Alone against everyone, if he seems weak, the power he represents makes him strong. Moreover, experience proves that wherever a man has the courage to become master, he finds others who have the baseness to assist him. This lieutenant communicates his authority to a few members of the society he oppresses, and these individuals become his supporters: jealous of each other, they compete for his favor, and he uses each in turn to destroy them all equally.. The same jealousies and inveterate hatreds also divide the villages; but supposing a meeting already so difficult, what could, with sticks or even guns, a troop of peasants on foot and almost naked, against riders trained and armed from head to toe? I especially despair of the salvation of Egypt, when I consider the nature of the terrain too peculiar to the cavalry. Among us, if the best constituted infantry still fears the cavalry in the plain, what will it be with a people who do not have the first ideas of tactics, who cannot even acquire them, because they are the fruit? of practice, and that practice is impossible? It is only in mountainous countries that freedom has great resources; it is there that, thanks to the terrain, a small troop supplemented the number by skill. Unanimous, because at first it is small in number, it acquires new strength every day through the habit of employing them. The less active oppressor, because he is already powerful, procrastinates; and it sometimes happens that these troops of peasants or thieves whom he despises become seasoned soldiers who dispute with him in the plains the art of combat and the price of victory. In the flat countries, on the contrary, the smallest crowd is dissipated, and the novice peasant, who does not even know how to make an entrenchment, has no resources except in the pity of his master and the continuation of his serfdom. Also, if it were a general principle to be established, none would be truer than this:that the lowlands are the seat of indolence and slavery; and the mountains, the homeland of energy and freedom[101]. In the situation present of the Egyptians, it could still happen that they did not show any courage, without it being possible to say that the germ lacked them, and that the climate refused them. Indeed, this continuous effort of the soul, which we call courage, is a quality which is much more moral than physical. It is not the more or the less heat of the climate, but rather the energy of the passions and the confidence in its forces which give the daring to face the dangers. If these two conditions do not exist, courage can remain inert; but it is the circumstances which are wanting, and not the faculty. Besides, if there are men capable of energy, it must be those whose soul and body soaked, if I may say so, by the habit of suffering, have acquired a stiffness which dulls the features of pain; and such are the Egyptians. We delude ourselves when we paint them as irritated by the heat, or softened by debauchery. City dwellers and wealthy people can have this softness, which in any climate is their prerogative; fellahs, endure astonishing fatigue. We see them spending entire days drawing water from the Nile, exposed naked to a sun that would kill us. Those of them who serve from valets to Mamlouks make all the movements of the rider. In town, in the country, in war, they follow him everywhere, and always on foot; they spend whole days running in front of or behind the horses; and when they are weary, they cling to their tails, rather than hanging back. Moral traits provide inductions analogous to these physical traits. The stubbornness that these peasants show in their hatred and their vengeance[102], their relentlessness in the fights that they sometimes engage in from village to village, the point of honor that they make to suffer the beating without revealing their secret[103], their barbarity even in punishing their wives and daughters for the slightest check in modesty[104], everything proves that if prejudice has found energy for them on certain points, this energy only needs to be directed, to become a formidable courage. Riots and seditions that their patience tired sometimes excites, especially in the province of Charqié, indicate a covered fire which waits, to explode, only for the hands which know how to stir it.

§ III. States of the arts and minds.

But a powerful obstacle to any happy revolution in Egypt is the nation's profound ignorance; it is this ignorance which, blinding the minds to the causes of evils and their remedies, also blinds them to the means of remedying them.

Suggesting that I return to this article which, like many of the previous ones, is common to all of Turkey, I will not go into details. It suffices to observe that this ignorance, spread over all classes, extends its effects on all kinds of moral and physical knowledge, on the sciences, on the fine arts, even on the mechanical arts. The simplest are still there in a kind of childhood. The carpentry, locksmith and arquebus works are crude. The haberdashery, hardware, rifle and pistol barrels all come from abroad. You can hardly find a watchmaker in Kaire who knows how to mend a watch, and he is European. Jewelers are more common there than in Smyrna and Aleppo; but they do not know how to properly assemble the simplest rose. They make gunpowder there, but it's raw. There are refineries, but the sugar is full of molasses, and the white one becomes too expensive. The only objects which have any perfection are silk fabrics; yet the work is much less finished, and the price much higher than in Europe.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:33 am

CHAPTER VIII. State of commerce.

IN this general barbarism, we may be surprised that trade has retained the activity it still deploys in Kaire; but the careful examination of the sources from which he draws it gives the solution of the problem.

Two main causes make Kaire the seat of a great trade: the first is the meeting of all the consumptions of Egypt in the enclosure of this city. All the big landowners, that is to say the Mamlouks and the lawyers, are gathered there, and they attract their income there, without returning anything to the country which supplies them.

The second is the position which makes it a place of passage, a center of circulation whose branches extend by the Red Sea into Arabia and India; by the Nile, in Abissinia and the interior of Africa; and through the Mediterranean, in Europe and the Turkish Empire. Each year a caravan from Abissinie arrives in Kaire, bringing 1,000 to 1,200 black slaves, and elephant teeth, gold powder, ostrich feathers, gums, parrots and monkeys.[105]. Another, formed at the ends of Morocco, and destined for the Mekke, calls pilgrims, even from the shores of Senegal[106]. It borders the Mediterranean, collecting those from Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, etc., and arrives through the desert in Alexandria, with 3 to 4,000 camels. From there she goes to Kaire, where she joins the caravan to Egypt. Both together then leave for the Mekke, from where they return 100 days later. But the pilgrims from Morocco, who still have 600 leagues to go, only arrive home after a total absence of over a year. The loading of these caravans consists of Indian fabrics, shawls, gums, perfumes, pearls, and especially coffee from the Yemen. These same objects arrive by another route at Suez, where the southerly winds bring in May 26 to 28 sails which left the port of Jeddah. The Kaire does not keep the entire sum of these goods; but, in addition to the portion which it consumes, it still benefits from the rights of way and the expenses of the pilgrims. On the other hand, from time to time small caravans come from Damascus bringing silk and cotton fabrics, oils and dried fruits. In summer, the roadstead of Damiât always has a few vessels that unload pipe tobacco from Lataqîé. The consumption of this commodity is enormous in Egypt. These vessels take rice in exchange, while others succeed each other incessantly in Alexandria, and bring from Constantinople clothing, arms, furs, passengers and haberdashery. Still others arrive from Marseilles, Livorno and Venice, with sheets, cochineals, fabrics and braid from Lyon, groceries, paper, iron, lead, sequins from Venice, and dahlers from 'Germany. All these objects, transported by sea to Rosetta on boats called djerm[107], are first deposited there, then re-embarked on the Nile and sent to Kaire. From this table it is not surprising that commerce offers an imposing spectacle in this capital[108]; but if we examine in what channels this wealth is poured, if we consider that a great part of the merchandise of India, and of coffee, passes abroad; that the debt is discharged with goods from Europe and Turkey; that the consumption of the country consists almost entirely of luxury items which have received their last labor; finally, that the products given in return are, in large part, raw materials, it will be judged that all this trade is carried out without resulting from it many advantages for the wealth of Egypt and the well- to be of the nation.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:34 am

CHAPTER IX. From the Isthmus of Suez, and from the junction of the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

I have spoken of the commerce which Kaire maintains with Arabia and India by way of Suez; this subject recalls a question which is dealt with quite often in Europe: to know, if it would not be possible to cut the isthmus which separates the Red Sea from the Mediterranean, so that the vessels could reach India by a shorter route than that of the Cape of Good Hope. We are led to believe this operation practicable, because of the small width of the isthmus. But in a trip I took to Suez, I seemed to see reasons to think otherwise.

1. It is quite true that the space which separates the two seas is not more than 18 to 19 common leagues; it is still quite true that this terrain is not crossed by mountains, and that from the top of the Suez terraces one can only discover with the approach telescope on a bare and level plain, as far as the eye can see, that a single curtain in the north-western part: thus it is not the difference of the levels which opposes the junction[109]; but the big obstacle is that in all the part where the Mediterranean and the Red Sea meet, the shore on either side is a low and sandy soil, where the waters form lakes and marshes strewn with shores; so that the vessels can approach the coast only at a great distance. But how can a sustainable channel be practiced in quicksand? Besides, the beach lacks harbors, and they would have to be built from scratch; finally, the land is absolutely lacking in fresh water, and for a large population it would have to be drawn from a great distance, that is to say from the Nile.

The best and the only means of junction is therefore that which has already been practiced several times with success; to know, to make communicate the two seas by the intermediary of the river itself: the ground lends itself without effort; for Mount Moqattam, suddenly lowering itself to the height of Kaire, forms only a low and semi-circular esplanade, around which reigns a plain of an equal level from the edge of the Nile to the tip of the Red Sea. The elders, who early understood the state of this place, took the idea of ​​joining the two seas by a channel leading to the river. Strabo observes that the first was built under Sesostris, who reigned during the Trojan War[110]; and this work had caused enough sensation so that it would have been noted that it was 100 cubits (or 170 feet wide) to a depth sufficient for a large vessel. After the invasion of the Greeks, the Ptolemies restored it. Under the empire of the Romans, Trajan renewed it. Finally, it is not until the Arabs who did not follow these examples. In the time of Omar ebn-el Kattab (in 640), says the historian el-Makin, the cities of Mekke and Medina suffering from famine, this Kaliph ordered the governor of Egypt, Amrou, to draw a canal from the Nile to Qolzoum, in order to pass through this route the contributions of wheat and barley intended for Arabia. One hundred and thirty-four years later, the Caliph Abou-Djafar-al-Mansor had it obstructed by the reverse motive of cutting off food for a descendant of Ali in revolt in Medina; and since that time it has not been reopened. This channel is the same which, nowadays, passes through Kaire, and which will get lost in the countryside north-east of Berket-el-Hadj, or Lake of the Pilgrims. Qolzoum, the Clysma of the Greeks, where it ended, has been ruined for several centuries; but the name and location still remain in a mound of sand, bricks and stones, located 300 paces north of Suez, on the seashore, opposite the ford that leads to the source of El- Nabâ. I saw this place like Niebuhr, and the Arabs told me, like him, that it was called Qolzoum; thus d'Anville was mistaken when, on a vicious indication from Ptolemy, he rejected Clysma 8 leagues further south. I also believe he is mistaken in his application of Suez to the old Arsinoé. This city having been, according to the Greeks and the Arabs, north of Clysma, we must look for traces, according to the indication of Strabo[111], at the very bottom of the gulf, pulling towards Egypt, without going nevertheless, like Savary, to Adjeroud, which is too much in the west: one must limit oneself to the low ground which extends approximately 2 leagues at the end of the current gulf, this space being all that one can grant of retreat to the sea for 17 centuries. Formerly these townships were populated with towns which disappeared with the water of the Nile; the canals which brought it have been destroyed, because in this shifting terrain they quickly become encumbered, and by the action of the wind, and by the cavalry of the Bedouin Arabs. Today the trade of Kaire with Suez is carried out only by means of the caravans which take place at the time of the arrival and the departure of the vessels, that is to say at the end of April, or at the beginning. May, and during July and August. The one I accompanied in 1783 was made up of about 3,000 camels and 5 to 6,000 men[112]. The cargo consisted of wood, sails and ropes for the Suez vessels; in a few anchors each carried by 4 camels; of rods of iron, of tin, of lead; in a few bundles of sheets and barrels of cochineal; in wheat, barley, beans, etc.; in Turkish piastres, Venetian sequins, and dahlers of the Empire. All these goods were intended for Jeddah, Mekke and Moka, where they pay off the debt for goods from India and Arabian coffee, which is the basis for returns. There was also a large number of pilgrims, who preferred the sea route to that of land, and finally the necessary provisions, such as rice, meat, wood, and even water; because Suez is the most deprived place in the world. From the top of the terraces, the view over the sandy plain to the north and west, or the whitish rocks of Arabia to the east, or the sea and Moqattam in the south, does not meet a tree., not a bit of greenery where to rest. Yellow sands, or a plain of green water, that is all that the stay at Suez offers; the state of ruin of the houses in increases sadness. The only drinking water in the area comes from el-Nabâ, that is to say the source, located 3 hours' walk on the Arabian shore; it is so brackish that there is only a mixture of rum which could make it bearable to Europeans. The sea could provide plenty of fish and shellfish; but the Arabs fish little and badly: also, when the vessels have left, only the Mamlouk, who is the governor, and 12 to 15 people who form his house and the garrison, remain in Suez. Its fortress is a defenseless hovel, which the Arabs regard as a citadel, because of 6 bronze cannons of 4 pounds of bullet, and 2 Greek gunners who fire while turning their heads. The port is a bad quay, where the smallest boats can only land in high tide: it is there nevertheless that one takes the goods to lead them, through the sandbanks, to the vessels which anchor in the harbor. This roadstead, located a league from the city, is separated from it by a beach discovered at the time of the reflux; it has no protection, so that the 28 buildings that I have counted there would be attacked with impunity. These buildings, by themselves, are incapable of resistance, having each for all artillery only 4 rusty stones. Each year their number decreases, because, sailing land to land on a coast full of reefs, he always perishes in the less 1 in 9. In 1783, one of them having released at el-Tor to make water, he was surprised by the Arabs while the crew slept on land. After unloading 1,500 packages of coffee, they abandoned the ship to the wind, which threw it on the coast. The Suez shipyard is not well suited to repairing these losses; they barely built a cayasse in 3 years. Moreover, the sea, which, by its ebb and flow, accumulates sands on this beach, will end up encumbering the channel, and what happened to Qolzoum and Arsinoé will happen to Suez.. If Egypt then had a good government, it would take advantage of this accident to raise another city in the harbor itself, where it could be exploited by a causeway of only 7 to 8 feet in elevation, since the tide does not go up to more than 3 and a half usually. He would repair or regroove the Nile Canal, and he would save the 500,000 pounds that the escort of the Arabs Haouatât and Ayaïdi costs each year. Finally, to avoid the dangerous bar of Bogâz from Rosetta, it would make the Alexandria Canal navigable, from where goods would flow immediately into the port. But such care will never be that of the current government. The little favor it accords to commerce is not even based on reasonable grounds; if he tolerates it, it is only because he finds in it a way to satisfy his rapacity, a source from which he draws without bothering to dry it up. He does not even know how to take advantage of the great interest that Europeans have in communicating with India. In vain the English and the French tried to make arrangements with him to open up this road, he refused to do so, or he made them unnecessary. One would wrongly boast of lasting success; for, even when treaties have been concluded, the revolutions, which change Kaire from evening to morning, would nullify their effect, as happened with the treaty which the governor of Bengal had concluded in 1775 with Mohammad-bek. Such, moreover, is the greed and bad faith of the Mamlouks, that they will always find pretexts to upset the traders, or that they will increase, against their word, the customs duties. Those in the cafe are huge right now.of this commodity, weighing 370 to 375 pounds, and costing Moka 45 pataques[113], or 236 livres tournois, pays Suez in bahr or sea rights 147 livres: plus, an addition of 69 livres, imposed in 1783[114]; so that, if we add to it the 6 per cent collected in Jeddah, we will find that the duties almost equal the purchase price[115].
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:35 am

CHAPTER X. Customs and taxes.

The customs administration forms in Egypt, as in all of Turkey, one of the principal jobs of the government. The man who exercises it is at the same time controller and farmer general. All entry, exit and traffic rights depend on him. He names all the subordinates he likes to collect them. He joined to it the exclusive paltes or privileges of the natrons of Terâne, the sodas of Alexandria, the breakage of Thebaid, and the senates of Nubia; in a word, he is the despot of commerce, which he regulates at will. His lease is never more than one year. The price of his farm, in 1783, was 1,000 purses, which, at the rate of 500 piastres per purse, and 2 livres 10 sous the piaster, make 1,250,000 livres. It is true that we can add to it a case of insults, or accidental requests; that is to say, that when Mourâd-bek or Ibrahim need 500,000 pounds, they call in the customs officer, who never dispenses with counting them. But on the rescript that they issue to him, he has the faculty to pay back the avanie on the trade, of which he taxes amicably the various bodies or nations, such as the Franks, the Barbarians, the Turks, etc. and it often happens that this itself becomes a boon to him. In some provinces of Turkie, the customs officer is also in charge of collecting the miri, a kind of tax which relates only to land. But in Egypt this control is entrusted to Coptic writers, who exercise it under the direction of the secretary of the commander. These writers have the registers of each village, and are responsible for receiving the payments, and counting them in the treasury; Often they take advantage of the ignorance of the peasants not to take bills as receipts, and make them pay twice: they often sell the oxen, the buffaloes, and even the mats of these unfortunate people: can say that in everything they are worthy agents of their masters. The ordinary tax should amount to 33 piastres per feddân, that is to say, nearly 83 livres per pair of oxen; but it is sometimes found, by abuse, up to 200 pounds. It is estimated that the total sum of miri, collected as much in money as in wheat, barley, beans, rice, etc., can amount to 46 to 50 million in France, when bread is sold a fadda le rotle, it is that's 5 pounds per 14-ounce pound.

Coming back to customs, they were formerly exercised, according to the old custom, by the Jews; but Ali-bek having completely ruined them in 1769, by an enormous destruction, the customs passed into the hands of the Christians of Syria, who still preserve it. These Christians, who came from Damascus to Kaire about 50 years ago, were initially only 2 or 3 families; their profits attracted others, and the number multiplied to nearly 500. Their modesty and their economy put them within reach of seizing one branch of commerce, then another; finally they found themselves in a condition to secure the customs at the time of the Jewish disaster; and from that moment they have acquired wealth and made claims which may end in the fate of the Jews. We believed when the time came, when their leader,, furtively deserted Egypt (in 1784), and came to Leghorn to seek the necessary security to enjoy a fortune of 3 millions; but this event, which had no example[116], did not have any consequences.

From the Frankish trade to Kaire.

After these Christians, the largest body of merchants is that of Europeans, known in the Levant under the name of Franks. For a long time the Venetians have had establishments in Kaire where they had sailles, silk fabrics, mirrors, haberdashery, etc. The English also participated by sending sheets, weapons and hardware that have retained a reputation for superiority to this day. But the French, by supplying similar objects at a much lower cost, have for 20 years obtained the preference and excluded their rivals. The looting of the caravan that wanted to go from Suez to Kaire in 1779[117] wore the last blow to the English; and since that time we have not seen in these two cities, even one factor of this nation. The basis of the French trade in Egypt is, as throughout the Levant, in light of Languedoc sheets, called londrins first and londrins second. They debit, in a common year, between 900 and 1,000 bales. The profit is 35 and 40 percent; but the withdrawals they make giving them a loss of 20 and 25, the net proceeds remain at 15 percent. The other objects of import are iron, lead, groceries, 120 barrels of cochineal, some stripes, fabrics of Lyon, various articles of haberdashery, finally dahlers and sequins.

In exchange, they take Arabian coffees, African gums, coarse cotton cloths made in Manouf, which are sent to America; raw hides, saffron, salt ammonia and rice[118]. These objects seldom discharge the debt, and one is always embarrassed about returns; it is not however for lack of varied productions, since Egypt makes wheat, rice, doura[119], millet, sesame, cotton, flax, senna, cassia, sugar cane, nitre, natron, salt ammonia, honey and wax. We could have silks and wine; but industry and activity are wanting, because the man who cultivates would not enjoy them. It is estimated that the importation of the French can amount to 2 and a half to 3 million pounds. France had maintained a consul until 1777; but at this time, the expenses which he caused incurred in withdrawing him: he was transferred to Alexandria, and the merchants, who let him go without claiming compensation, remained in Kaire at their risk and fortune. Their situation, which has not changed, is more or less that of the Dutch in Nangazaki, that is to say that, shut up in a large cul-de-sac, they live among themselves without much communication outside; they even fear them, and only go out as little as possible, so as not to expose themselves to the insults of the people, who hate the name of the Franks, or to the outrages of the Mamlouks, who force them in the streets to come down from their donkeys. In this sort of habitual detention, they tremble at any moment that the plague forces them to rest. close in their houses, or that some riot exposes their country to plunder, or that the commander does not ask for money[120], or that finally beks do not force them to always dangerous supplies. Their business is no less worry to them. Obliged to sell on credit, they are seldom paid on the agreed terms. Bills of exchange even have no police, no legal recourse, because justice is an evil worse than bankruptcy: everything is done on conscience, and this conscience for some time has been deteriorating more and more: we withholds their payments for whole years; sometimes we don't do any at all, almost always we cut them off. The Christians, who are their principal correspondents, are in this respect more unfaithful than the Turks themselves; and it is remarkable that throughout the empire the character of Christians is much inferior to that of Moslems; however we is reduced to doing everything by their hands. Add that one can never realize the funds, because one can only recover one's debt by committing to a larger debt. For all these reasons, the Kaire is the most precarious and most unpleasant ladder in the whole of the Levant: 15 years ago, there were 9 French houses; in 1785 they were reduced to 3, and soon perhaps there will not be a single one. The Christians who have established themselves for some time in Leghorn, are fatal to this establishment by the immediate correspondence which they maintain with their compatriots; and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who treats them as his subjects, contributes with all his power to the increase of their commerce.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:36 am

CHAPTER XI. From the city of Kaire.

Kaire, of which I have already spoken a great deal, is such a famous town that it should be made better known by a few details. This capital of Egypt does not bear in the country the name of el-Qâhera, which its founder gave it; the Arabs only know it under that of Masr, which has no known meaning, but which appears to be the ancient eastern name of Lower Egypt [121]. This city is located on the eastern bank of the Nile, a quarter of a league from this river, which deprives it of a great advantage. The canal which joins it cannot compensate it, since it has running water only during the flood. To hear about the great Kaire, it would seem that it must have been a capital at least similar to ours; but if we observe that in our country the cities have only begun to decorate themselves for 100 years, we will judge that in a country where everything is still in the 10th century, they must participate in common barbarism. Also the Kaire does not have these public or private buildings, nor these regular squares, nor these aligned streets, where architecture displays its beauties. The surroundings are masked by powdery hills, made up of rubble which accumulates every day [122]; and near them the multitude of tombs and the infection of the roads shock both the smell and the eyes. Inside, the streets are narrow and winding; and as they are not paved, the multitude of men, camels, donkeys and dogs that throng there, raises an inconvenient dust; individuals often sprinkle in front of their doors, and the dust succeeds mud and bad-smelling vapors. Contrary to the ordinary use of the East, the houses are two and three storeys high, terminated by a paved or clay terrace; most of them are earthenware and poorly fired bricks; the rest is in soft stones of a beautiful grain, which one takes from the mount Moqattam, which is nearby; all these houses have the air of a prison, because they lack light on the street. It is too dangerous in such a country to be enlightened; we even take the precaution of making the front door very low; the interior is poorly distributed; however, among the grown-ups one finds some ornaments and some conveniences; one must especially appreciate there vast rooms where water gushes out in marble basins. The pavement, formed of marquetry of colored marble and earthenware, is covered with mats, mattresses, and, above all, a rich carpet on which one sits cross-legged. Around the wall reigns a sort of sofa loaded with movable cushions suitable for supporting the back or the elbows. At 7 or 8 feet in height, is a shelf of planks furnished with porcelain from China and Japan. The walls, moreover bare, are variegated with sentences taken from the Qôran, and colored arabesques, with which we also load the gate of the beks. The windows have no glass or movable frames, but only up-to-date trellises, the fashion of which sometimes costs more than our mirrors. The day comes from the interior courtyards, from where the sycamores return a reflection of greenery which pleases the eye. Finally, an opening to the north or at the top of the floor, provides a fresh air, while, by a rather bizarre contradiction, one surrounds oneself with warm clothes and furniture, such as woolen sheets and furs. The rich pretend; by these precautions, to ward off illnesses, but the people, with their blue shirts and hard mats, catch cold less and are in better health.

Population of Kaire and Egypt.

Questions are often asked about the population of Kaire: if we are to believe the customs officer Antoun Farâoun, quoted by Baron de Tott, it approaches 700,000 souls, including Boulâq, a suburb and port detached from the city; but all population calculations in Turkey are arbitrary, because no registers of births, deaths or marriages are kept there. Muslims even have superstitious prejudices against counting. The only Christians could be counted by means of their poll tickets[123]. All that can be said for certain is that, according to the geometric plane of Niebuhr, raised in 1761, Kaire has 3 leagues of circuit, that is to say approximately the circuit of Paris, taken by the line of the boulevards. In this enclosure there are many gardens, courtyards, empty lots and ruins. Now, if Paris, within the walls of the boulevards, does not give more than 700,000 souls, although it is built with five stories, it is difficult to believe that Kaire, which has only two, holds more than 250,000 souls. It is also impossible to fully appreciate the population of the whole of Egypt. Nevertheless, since it is known that the number of towns and villages does not exceed 2,300[124], the number of inhabitants of each place, not being able to be evaluated the one bringing the other to more than 1,000 souls, even including Kaire, the total population should not amount to more than 2,300,000 souls. The consistency of cultivable land is, according to d'Anville, 2,000 and 100 square leagues: from this results, for each square leagues, 1,142 inhabitants. This report, stronger than that of France itself, could lead one to believe that Egypt is not as depopulated as one imagines; but if we observe that the land does not rest never, and that they are all fertile, we will agree that this population is very small in comparison with what it has been, and what it could be.

Among the peculiarities which strike a stranger in Kaire, one can quote the prodigious quantity of hideous dogs which roam the streets, and of kites, which hover over the houses, uttering annoying and dismal cries. Muslims do not kill each other, although they also call them filthy[125]; on the contrary, they often throw them the debris of the tables, and the devotees make foundations of water and bread for the dogs. These animals, moreover, have the resources of the roads, which, in truth, does not prevent them from sometimes enduring hunger and thirst; but what must be surprising is that these extremities are never followed by rage. Prosper Alpin has already made the remark in his Treatise on the medicine of the Egyptians. Rabies is also unknown in Syria; however the name of this disease exists in the Arabic language, and there is no foreign origin.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:38 am

CHAPTER XII. Diseases of Egypt.

§ I. Loss of sight.


THIS phenomenon in the genus of diseases is not the only one remarkable in Egypt; there are several others which deserve to be mentioned.

Most striking of all is the prodigious quantity of views lost or spoiled; it is to the point that, walking in the streets of Kaire, I have often met, out of 100 people, 20 blind, 18 one-eyed, and 20 others whose eyes were red, festering or stained. Almost everyone wears blindfolds, a sign of incipient or convalescent ophthalmia; what astonished me no less is the coolness or the apathy with which one endures such a great misfortune. It was written, said the Muslim; praise to God! God willed it, says the Christian; may he be blessed! This resignation is undoubtedly the best thing to do when the evil has happened; but by a fatal abuse, by preventing the search for causes, it becomes one itself. Among us, a few doctors have dealt with this question; but not having known all the circumstances of the fact, they could speak of it only vaguely. I am going to make a general table of it, so that we can draw the solution to the problem.

1. The eye fluxions and their consequences are not peculiar to Egypt; they are also found in Syria, with the difference that they are less widespread there; and it is remarkable that the sea coast alone is subject to it.

2. The city of Kaire, always full of filth, is more subject to it than all the rest of Egypt[126]; the people, more than the wealthy; the natives, more than the foreigners: rarely are the Mamlouks attacked. Finally, the peasants of the Delta are more subject to it than the Bedouin Arabs.

3. The fluxions do not have a well marked season, whatever Prosper Alpin may have said; it is an endemic common to every month and to all ages.

Reasoning on these elements, it seemed to me that we could not admit as the main cause the south winds, because then the epidemic should be specific to the month of April, and that the Bedouins would be affected like the peasants: we cannot admit the fine dust scattered in the air either, because the peasants are more exposed to it than the inhabitants of the city: the habit of sleeping on the terraces has more reality, but this cause is neither unique nor simple; because in the interior countries and far from the sea, such as the valley of Balbek, the Diarbekr, the plains of Hauran and in the mountains, one sleeps on the terraces, without that the sight being affected. If, therefore, in Kaire, throughout the Delta and on the coasts of Syria, it is dangerous to sleep in the air, this air must take from the vicinity of the sea a harmful quality: this quality, no doubt, is there. humidity combined with heat, which then becomes a primary principle of disease. The salinity of this air, so marked in the Delta, a further contributor to it by the irritation and itching which it causes in the eyes, as I have experienced; finally, the Egyptian regime itself seems to me a powerful agent. Cheese, sour milk, honey, grapes, green fruits, raw vegetables, which are the common food of the people, produce a disorder in the lower abdomen which, according to the observation of practitioners, is carried on the stomach. view; the raw onions especially, which they abuse, have a virtue for warming it up which the monks of Syria have pointed out to me about myself. Bodies thus nourished abound in corrupted moods the raw vegetables, which are the ordinary food of the people, produce a disturbance in the lower abdomen which, according to the observation of the practitioners, affects the sight; the raw onions especially, which they abuse, have a virtue for warming it up which the monks of Syria have pointed out to me about myself. Bodies thus nourished abound in corrupted moods the raw vegetables, which are the ordinary food of the people, produce a disturbance in the lower abdomen which, according to the observation of the practitioners, affects the sight; the raw onions especially, which they abuse, have a virtue for warming it up which the monks of Syria have pointed out to me about myself. Bodies thus nourished abound in corrupted moods who are constantly looking for an outlet. Diverted from the internal channels by habitual sweat, they come to the outside, and settle where they find less resistance. They must prefer the head, because the Egyptians, by shaving it every week, and by covering it with a prodigiously hot hairstyle, make it a principal source of sweat. However, as long as this head receives an impression of cold when uncovering itself, the perspiration is suppressed and throws itself on the teeth, or more readily on the eyes, as a less resistant part. With each fluxion the organ weakens and it ends up destroying itself. This disposition, transmitted by generation, becomes a new cause of disease: hence it comes that natural people are more exposed to it than foreigners. The[127]; and the Arabs of the desert who cover themselves little, especially in infancy, are likewise exempt from it.

§ II. Smallpox.

Much of the blindness in Egypt is caused by the effects of smallpox. This disease, which is very deadly there, is not treated there according to a good method: in the first 3 days the patients are given debs or raisins, honey and sugar; and on 7th they are allowed milk and salted fish, as if they are in good health: in depuration, they are never purged, and above all, we avoid washing their eyes, even though they are full of pus, and the the eyelids are stuck by the dried serum: it is only after 40 days that this operation is done, and then the stay of the pus, by irritating the globe, has determined a cautery there which eats away the entire eye.. It is not that the inoculation is unknown there, but it is used little. The Syrians and the inhabitants of Anadolia, who have known it for a long time, hardly use it any more[128].

We must regard these vices of regime as agents more pernicious than the climate, which has nothing unhealthy[129]; it is to bad food above all that we must attribute both the hideous forms of beggars, and the miserable and abortive air of the children of Kaire. Nowhere else do these little creatures offer such a distressing exterior; with hollow eyes, haggard, puffy complexions, swollen stomachs with obstructions, thin extremities and yellowish skin, they seem to be constantly fighting death. Their ignorant mothers claim that it is the evil gaze of some envious person that bewitches them, and this ancient prejudice[130] is still general and rooted in Turkia; but the real cause is in the bad food. Also, despite the talismans[131], an incredible quantity perished; and this city possesses, more than any capital, the fatal property of swallowing up the population.

A disease very widespread in Kaire is that which the common people call there evil blessed, and which we let us name Naples badly enough: half of Kaire is attacked by it. Most of the inhabitants believe that this evil comes to them by fear, by evil spell or by uncleanliness. Some suspect the real cause; but as it is attached to an article on which they are infinitely reserved, they dare not brag about it. This blessed evil is very difficult to cure: mercury, in whatever form it may be, usually fails; sudorific plants are more successful, without however being infallible; fortunately the virus is not very active, due to the great natural and artificial transpiration. As in Spain, we see old people wearing it until they are 80 years old. But its effects are disastrous for children born infected with it. The danger is imminent for anyone who brings it to a cold country; he is making rapid progress there, and is always more rebellious in this transplantation. In Syria, Damascus and in the mountains it is more dangerous, because the

A particular inconvenience to the climate of Egypt is a rash on the skin, which recurs every year. Towards the end of June or the beginning of July, the body is covered with redness and spots, the cooking of which is very troublesome. The doctors, who noticed that this effect came constantly as a result of the new water, reported the cause to him. Many have thought that it depended on the salts with which they supposed this water to be charged; but the existence of these salts is not demonstrated, and it appears that this accident has a simpler reason. I said that the waters of the Nile were corrupted towards the end of April in the river bed. The bodies which drink from it since this moment form humors of a bad quality. When the new water arrives, there is a kind of fermentation in the blood, the outcome of which is to separate the vicious humours and drive them towards the skin, where perspiration calls them: it is a true purgative purification, and always beneficial.

Another ailment still too common in Kaire is swelling of the bursa, which often becomes a huge hydrocele. We observe that he attacks preferably the Greeks and the Copts; and thereby the suspicion of its cause falls on the abuse of the oil which they use more than two-thirds of the year. It is also suspected that hot baths contribute to it, and their excessive use has other effects which are no less harmful.[132]. I will notice, on this occasion, that, in Syria as in Egypt, constant experience has proved that the brandy obtained from ordinary figs, or those of sycamore trees, as well as the brandy from dates and fruit nopal has a very quick effect on the stock exchanges, it makes painful and hard at the 3 th or 4 th day we began to drink; and if we do not stop using it, the disease degenerates into a complete hydrocele.

Raisin spirit does not have the same drawback; it is always aniseed and very violent, because it is distilled up to three times. The Christians of Syria and the Copts of Egypt make much use of it; the latter, above all, drink it whole pints at their supper: I had called this fact an exaggeration; but I had to surrender to the proofs of the evidence, without ceasing nevertheless to be astonished that such excesses do not immediately kill, or at least do not provide the symptoms of deep intoxication.

Spring, which in Egypt is the summer of our climates, brings on malignant fevers, the issue of which is always very prompt. A French doctor who has treated a lot of it noticed that kina, given in remissions at a dose of 2 and 3 ounces, has frequently saved patients on the verge of death[133]. As soon as the disease declares itself, it is necessary to adhere strictly to an acid vegetable diet; we refrain from meat, fish, and especially eggs; they are a kind of poison in Egypt. In this country as in Syria, observations find that bloodletting is always more harmful than beneficial, even when it seems the best indicated: the reason is that the bodies fed on unhealthy foods, such as unhealthy fruits, raw vegetables, cheese, olives, have little blood and a lot of moods; their temperament is generally bilious, as indicated by their black eyes and marigolds, their brown complexion, and their lean bodies. Their usual disease is stomach ache; almost all of them complained of acridity in the throat and acid nausea; thus emetic and cream of tartar are successful in almost all cases.

Malignant fevers sometimes become epidemic, and then one would readily take them for the plague, of which it remains for me to speak.

§ III. Plague.

Some people wanted to establish among us the opinion that the plague originated in Egypt; but this opinion, founded on vague prejudices, seems contradicted by the facts. Our traders established for many years in Alexandria ensure, together with the Egyptians, that the plague never comes from within the country[134], but that it appears first on the coast in Alexandria; from Alexandria it passes to Rosette, from Rosette to Kaire, from Kaire to Damiât and the rest of the Delta. They still observe that it is always preceded by the arrival of some building coming from Smyrna or Constantinople, and that if the plague was violent in one of these towns during the summer, the danger is greater for theirs during the following winter. It seems certain that his real home is Constantinople; that it is perpetuated there by the blind neglect of the Turks; it is at the point that one publicly sells the effects of the plague victims. The ships which come next to Alexandria never fail to bring supplies and woolen clothes which come out of these sales, and they sell them to the city bazaar, where they first throw the contagion. The Greeks, who engage in this trade, are almost always the first victims. Little by little the epidemic reaches Rosette, and finally Kaire, following the daily route of goods. As soon as it is noticed, European traderscountry, they and their servants, and they no longer communicate outside. Their provisions, deposited at the door of the kan, are received there by a porter, who takes them with iron pincers, and plunges them in a ton of water intended for this use. If you want to talk to them, they always observe a distance that prevents any contact with clothes or breath; by this means they protect themselves from the scourge, unless some offense occurs to the police. A few years ago a cat, passing through the terraces of our merchants in Kaire, brought the plague to two of them, one of whom died.

We can imagine how boring this imprisonment is: it lasts up to 3 and 4 months, during which the amusements are reduced to walking in the evening on the terraces, and playing cards.

The plague presents several very remarkable phenomena. In Constantinople, it reigns during the summer, and weakens or is destroyed during the winter. In Egypt, on the contrary, it reigns during the winter, and June never fails to destroy it. This apparent oddity is explained by the same principle. Winter destroys the plague in Constantinople, because the cold is very severe there. Summer lights it up, because the heat is humid there, at the rate of the seas, forests and neighboring mountains. In Egypt, winter fosters pestilence, because it is damp and mild; summer destroys it, because it is hot and dry. It acts on it as it does on meats, which it does not allow to rot. Heat is only harmful as long as it joins humidity[135]. Egypt is afflicted with the plague every 4 or 5 years; the ravages which it causes there should depopulate it, if the foreigners who incessantly flock there from the whole empire did not repair a large part of its losses.

In Syria, the plague is much rarer: 25 years ago than it was felt there. The reason for this is undoubtedly the scarcity of vessels coming straight from Constantinople. Moreover, we observe that it does not naturalize easily in this province. Transported from the Archipelago, or even from Damiât, to the harbors of Lataqîé, Saïd or Acre, it does not take root there; it wants preliminary circumstances and a combined route: it must go from Kaire, uprightly to Damiât: then all of Syria is sure to be infected with it.

The entrenched opinion of fatalism, and much more the barbarism of the government, have hitherto prevented the Turks from warning themselves against this murderous scourge: however the success of the care they have seen taken of the Franks has done for some time. time print on several of them. The Christians of the country who deal with our merchants would be disposed to shut themselves up like them; but they would have to be authorized by the Porte. It seems that at the moment she is busy with this object, if it is true that she published last year an edict to establish a lazaretto in Constantinople, and 3 others in the empire; namely, in Smyrna, in Candia and in Alexandria. The government of Tunis has taken this wise course for several years; but the Turkish police are everywhere so bad that little success is to be expected from these establishments, despite their extreme importance for commerce, and for the safety of the Mediterranean states.[136].
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:39 am

CHAPTER XIII. Summary table of Egypt.

EGYPT would still provide material for many other observations; but as they are foreign to my object, or as they come within those which I will have occasion to make on Syria, I will not expand further.

If we remember what I have explained of the nature and aspect of the soil; if we paint a flat country, cut off by canals, flooded for 3 months, muddy and green for 3 others, powdery and chapped the rest of the year; if we imagine on this land villages of mud and bricks ruined, naked and tanned peasants, buffaloes, camels, sycamores, scattered date palms, lakes, cultivated fields, and great empty spaces; if we add a sparkling sun on the azure of a sky almost always without clouds, more or less strong winds, but perpetual: we will have been able to form a close idea of ​​the physical state of the country[137]. We were able to judge the civil status of inhabitants, by their divisions into races, sects, conditions; by the nature of a government which knows neither property nor security of persons, and by the image of an unlimited power entrusted to a licentious and coarse soldiery: finally we can appreciate the strength of this government by summarizing its military status, the quality of its troops; by observing that in all Egypt and on the borders there is neither fort, nor redoubt, nor artillery, nor engineers, and that, for the navy, one counts only the 28 vessels and cayasses of Suez, each armed of 4 rusty scree, and ridden by sailors who do not know the compass. It is for the reader to establish on these facts the opinion which he must take of such a country. If he found, by chance, that I presented it to him from a point of view different from some other relations, this diversity should not surprise him. Nothing less unanimous than the judgments of travelers on the countries they have seen: often contradictory among themselves, this one depresses what the former boasts; and such and such painted as a place of delight which for another is only a very ordinary place. They are criticized for this contradiction; but they share it with their very censors, since it is in the nature of things. Whatever we can do, our judgments are much less based on the real qualities of objects, than on the affections which we receive, or which we already carry while seeing them. Daily experience proves that foreign ideas are always mingled with it, and hence it is that the same country which appeared to us beautiful at one time sometimes seems disagreeable to us in another. Moreover, the prejudice of it is in the nature of things. Whatever we can do, our judgments are much less based on the real qualities of objects, than on the affections which we receive, or which we already carry while seeing them. Daily experience proves that foreign ideas are always mingled with it, and hence it is that the same country which appeared to us beautiful at one time sometimes seems disagreeable to us in another. Moreover, the prejudice of it is in the nature of things. Whatever we can do, our judgments are much less based on the real qualities of objects, than on the affections which we receive, or which we already carry while seeing them. Daily experience proves that foreign ideas are always mingled with it, and hence it is that the same country which appeared to us beautiful at one time sometimes seems disagreeable to us in another. Moreover, the prejudice of and hence it is that the same country which appeared to us beautiful at one time sometimes appears disagreeable to us in another. Moreover, the prejudice of and hence it is that the same country which appeared to us beautiful at one time sometimes appears disagreeable to us in another. Moreover, the prejudice of raw habits is such that one can never get out of them. The mountain dweller hates the plains; the inhabitant of the plains abandons the mountains. The Spaniard wants a fiery sky; the Dane a foggy weather. We love the greenery of the forests; the Swede prefers the whiteness of the snow: the Lapp, transported from his smoky cottage to the groves of Chantilly, died of heat and melancholy. Everyone has their tastes, and judges accordingly. I understand that, for an Egyptian, Egypt is and always will be the most beautiful country in the world, although he has only seen this one. But, if I may say my opinion of it as an eyewitness, I confess that I did not take such an advantageous idea. I do justice to its extreme fertility, to the variety of its products, to the advantage of its position for trade: I agree that Egypt is not very subject to bad weather which causes our crops to fail; that America's hurricanes are unknown there; that the tremors which in our days have devastated Portugal and Italy are very rare there, although not without examples[138]; I even agree that the heat which overwhelms Europeans is not an inconvenience for the natives: but it is a serious one that these murderous southerly winds; it is quite another than the north-easterly wind which gives violent headaches; it is still one that this multitude of scorpions, cousins, and especially flies, such that one cannot eat without running the risk of swallowing them. Besides, no country of a more monotonous aspect; always a bare plain as far as the eye can see; always a flat and uniform horizon[139]; date palms on their thin stems, or mud huts on pavements: never this richness of landscapes, where the variety of objects, where the diversity of sites occupy the mind and the eyes with scenes and reborn sensations: no country is less picturesque, less peculiar to the brushes of painters and poets: one finds nothing there that makes the charm and the richness of their paintings; and it is remarkable that neither the Arabs nor the ancients make mention of the poets of Egypt. Indeed, what would the Egyptian sing on the pipe of Gessner and Theocritus? It has neither clear streams, nor fresh lawns, nor solitary caves; he does not know the valleys, the hills, or the hanging rocks. Thompson would not find there the whistling winds in the forests, the fertile fields, the muddy river, the freshwater sea, and the island-like villages. If thought is carried to the horizon embraced by the sight, it is frightened to find there only wild deserts, where the lost traveler, exhausted with thirst and fatigue, is discouraged before the immense space which separates him from the world; he implores the earth and the sky in vain; his cries, lost on a level plain, are not even returned to him by echoes: devoid of everything, and alone in the universe, he perishes of rage and despair before a dismal nature, without the consolation even of seeing a tear over his misfortune. This contrast so close is undoubtedly what gives so much value to the soil of Egypt. The nakedness of the desert makes the abundance of the river more prominent, and the aspect of privations adds to the charm of pleasures: they may have been numerous in past times, and they could be reborn under the influence of good government; but, in the present state, the richness of nature is without effect and without fruit. In vain do we celebrate the gardens of Rosetta and Kaire; the art of gardens, this art so dear to civilized peoples, is ignored by the Turks, who despise fields and culture. Throughout the empire the gardens are nothing but wild orchards where the trees, thrown carelessly, do not even have the merit of disorder. In vain do we cry out about the orange trees and citron trees growing in the open air: we are deluding ourselves In vain do we celebrate the gardens of Rosetta and Kaire; the art of gardens, this art so dear to civilized peoples, is ignored by the Turks, who despise fields and culture. Throughout the empire the gardens are nothing but wild orchards where the trees, thrown carelessly, do not even have the merit of disorder. In vain do we cry out about the orange trees and citron trees growing in the open air: we are deluding ourselves In vain do we celebrate the gardens of Rosetta and Kaire; the art of gardens, this art so dear to civilized peoples, is ignored by the Turks, who despise fields and culture. Throughout the empire the gardens are nothing but wild orchards where the trees, thrown carelessly, do not even have the merit of disorder. In vain do we cry out about the orange trees and citron trees growing in the open air: we are deluding ourselves spirit, accustomed to combine these trees with the ideas of opulence and culture which accompany them with us. In Egypt, vulgar trees, they are associated with the misery of the huts they cover, and only recall the idea of ​​abandonment and poverty. In vain do we paint the Turk lying limp under their shadow, happy to smoke his pipe without thinking: ignorance and foolishness doubtless have their pleasures, like wit and knowledge; but, I confess, I could not envy the repose of slaves, nor call happiness the apathy of automatons. I could not even conceive of where the enthusiasm that travelers show for Egypt can come from if experience had not revealed to me the secret causes.

Exaggerations by travelers.

Travelers have long been noticed a particular affectation in praising the theater of their travels, and good minds, who have often recognized the exaggeration of their stories, have warned by a proverb to beware of their prestige[140]; but the abuse remains, because it is due to reappearing causes. Each of us carries the germ; and often the reproach belongs to those who address it. Indeed, that we examine an arriving from distant countries, in an idle and curious society: the novelty of his stories draws attention to him; it leads to benevolence for his person; we love him because he amuses, and because his pretensions are of a kind which cannot shock. For his part, it does not take long to feel that he only interests him so much as he arouses new sensations. The need to support, the very desire to increase interest, encourage him to give stronger colors to his paintings; he paints larger objects so that they strike more: the successes which he obtains encourage him; the enthusiasm it produces reflects on itself; and soon it is establishes between himself and his listeners an emulation and a trade by which he returns in astonishment what he is paid in admiration. The marvelous nature of what he has seen first reflects on himself; then, by a second gradation, on those who have heard it, and who in their turn tell it: thus vanity, which is involved in everything, becomes one of the causes of this inclination that we all have, either to believe or to tell the wonders. Besides, we want to be less educated than entertained, and it is for these reasons that storytellers of all kinds have always occupied a distinguished rank in the esteem of men and in the class of writers. have heard, and who in their turn tell it: thus vanity, which is involved in everything, becomes one of the causes of this inclination that we all have, either to believe or to relate miracles. Besides, we want to be less educated than entertained, and it is for these reasons that storytellers of all kinds have always occupied a distinguished rank in the esteem of men and in the class of writers. have heard, and who in their turn tell it: thus vanity, which is involved in everything, becomes one of the causes of this inclination that we all have, either to believe or to relate miracles. Besides, we want to be less educated than entertained, and it is for these reasons that storytellers of all kinds have always occupied a distinguished rank in the esteem of men and in the class of writers.

Another source of enthusiasm for travelers: far from the objects of which it has enjoyed, the private imagination ignites; absence rekindles desires, and the satiety of what surrounds us lends a charm to what is beyond our reach. We regret a country from which we often wish to leave, and we paint for ourselves the places whose presence could still be dependent. Travelers who are only passing through Egypt are not in this class, because they do not have time to lose the illusion of novelty; but whoever stays there can be stored there. Our merchants know this, and they have made an observation on this subject that should be quoted: they noticed that even those among them who most felt the inconvenience of this residence did not return to France sooner than everything is erased from their memory; their memories take on cheerful colors; so that 2 years later one would not imagine that they had ever been there. "How do you still think of us?" a resident of Kaire wrote to me recently; "How do you keep the true ideas of this place of misery[141], when we have we experienced that all those who pass by forget them to the point of astonishing us ourselves? " I confess, causes so general and so powerful would not have been without effect on me; but I took particular care to defend myself against it, and to preserve my first impressions, in order to give my stories the only merit they could have, that of the truth. It is time to transfer them to objects of greater interest; but as the reader would not forgive me for leaving Egypt without speaking of the ruins and the pyramids, I will say two words about it.
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Re: Travel to Egypt and Syria, by C.F. Volney

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:43 am

CHAPTER XIV. Ruins and pyramids[142]

I HAVE already explained how the usual difficulty of travel to Egypt, which has become greater in recent years, is opposed to research into antiquities. For lack of means, and especially of proper circumstances, one is reduced to seeing only what others have seen, and to saying only what they have already published. For this reason, I will not repeat what is already repeated more than once in Paul Luca, Maillet, Siccard, Pocoke, Graves, Norden, Niebuhr, and recently in the Letters of Savary. I will limit myself to a few general considerations.

The pyramids of Djizé are a striking example of this difficulty of observing which I mentioned. Although located only 4 leagues from Kaire, where the Franks reside, although visited by a crowd of travelers, we do not yet agree on their dimensions. Their height was measured several times by geometric methods, and each operation gave a different result[143]. To decide the question would require a new solemn measure, made by people known; but in the meantime, we must accuse of error all those who give the great pyramid as much elevation as base, since its triangle is very appreciably crushed. The knowledge of this base seems to me all the more interesting, as I believe it from the report to one of the square measures of the Egyptians; and in the cut of the stones, if one found dimensions often appearing the same, perhaps one could deduce their other measurements from them.

People usually complain of not understanding the description of the interior of the pyramid; and indeed, unless one is versed in the art of plans, it is difficult to recognize oneself on the engraving. The best way to get an idea of ​​it would be to make a pyramid out of raw or baked earth in small proportions, for example, of one inch per fathead. This mass would be 8 feet 4 inches from the base, and about 7 and a half high: by cutting it into 2 portions from top to bottom, we would make the first channel which descends obliquely, the gallery which goes up in the same way, and the sepulchral chamber which is at its end. Norden would provide the best details; but it would take an artist accustomed to this kind of work.

The line of the rock on which the pyramids sit does not rise above the level of the plain by more than 40 to 50 feet. The stone from which it is formed is, as I have said, a whitish limestone, of a grain similar to fine rubble, or to that stone known in some provinces under the name of rairie. That of the pyramids is of a similar nature. At the beginning of the century, it was believed, on the authority of Herodotus, that the materials had been transported from elsewhere; but travelers, observing the resemblance of which we speak, have found it more natural to have them drawn from the rock itself; and the story of Herodotus is treated today as a fable, and this translation of stones is absurd. It is calculated that the flattening of the rock must have supplied most of it; and, for the rest, we assume invisible undergrounds, which we enlarge as much as necessary. But if the old opinion has improbabilities, the modern one has only assumptions. It is not a sufficient reason to judge, to say: It is incredible that one has transported distant quarries; it is absurd to have multiplied costs which are becoming enormous, etc. In matters pertaining to the opinions and governments of ancient peoples, the measurement of probabilities is difficult to grasp: also, however improbable the fact in question may appear, if we observe that the historian who reports it has drawn from the original archives; that it is very exact in all that can be verified; that the Libyan rock does not in any place offer elevations similar to those which one wishes to suppose, and that the underground passages are still to be known; if we remember the immense quarries which stretch from Saouâdi to Manfalout, in a space of 25 leagues; finally, if we consider that their stones, which are of the same species, have no other apparent employment[144]; at the very least, we will be inclined to suspend our judgment, while awaiting evidence which determines it. Similarly, some writers have grown weary of the opinion that the pyramids were tombs, and they wanted to make temples or observatories of them; they regarded it as absurd that a wise and civilized nation should make a state affair of the sepulcher of its leader, and as extravagant that a monarch should crush his people of drudgery, to enclose a skeleton of 5 feet in a mountain of stones: but, I repeat, we misjudge the ancient peoples when we take our opinions and customs as the term of comparison. The motives which animated them can appear extravagant to us, can be even in the eyes of reason, without having been less powerful, less effective. We give ourselves free shackles of contradictions, by assuming that they have wisdom in accordance with our principles; we reason too much from our ideas, and not enough from theirs. By following here, either one or the other, we will judge that the pyramids cannot have been observatories of astronomy[145]; because the Mount Moqattam offered a higher one, and which limits those; because any elevated observatory is useless in Egypt, where the ground is very flat, and where the vapors conceal the stars several degrees above the horizon; because it is impossible to climb on most of the pyramids; finally, because it was useless to bring together 11 observatories as close as are the pyramids, large and small, that we discover from the local Djizé. From these considerations, it will be thought that Plato, who provided the idea in question, could only have in mind accidental cases; or that he has here only his ordinary merit as an eloquent orator. If, on the other hand, we weigh the testimonies of the elders and the circumstances of the place, if we are careful that near the pyramids there are 30 to 40 smaller monuments, offering outlines of the same pyramidal figure; that this sterile place, far from cultivable land, has the requisite quality of the Egyptians to be a cemetery, and that near there was that of all the city of Memphis, the plain of the Mummies; one will be convinced that the pyramids are only tombs. One will believe that the despots of a superstitious people could have put importance and pride in building an impenetrable dwelling for their skeleton, when one will know that, even before Moses, it was dogma in Memphis that the souls would return after 6,000 years to inhabit the bodies and that near there was that of all the city of Memphis, the Mummy's Plain; one will be convinced that the pyramids are only tombs. One will believe that the despots of a superstitious people could have put importance and pride in building an impenetrable dwelling for their skeleton, when one will know that, even before Moses, it was dogma in Memphis that the souls would return after 6,000 years to inhabit the bodies and that near there was that of all the city of Memphis, the Mummy's Plain; one will be convinced that the pyramids are only tombs. One will believe that the despots of a superstitious people could have put importance and pride in building an impenetrable dwelling for their skeleton, when one will know that, even before Moses, it was dogma in Memphis that the souls would return after 6,000 years to inhabit the bodies that they had left: it was for this reason that we took so much care to preserve these same bodies from dissolution, and that we endeavored to preserve their forms by means of spices, strips and sarcophagi. The one who is still in the sepulchral chamber of the great pyramid is precisely in the natural dimensions; and this room, so dark and so narrow[146], has never been suitable for housing a dead person. We want to find mystery in this underground conduit which descends perpendicularly into the underside of the pyramid; but we forget that the use of all antiquity was to arrange communications with the interior of tombs, to practice there, on the days prescribed by religion, funeral ceremonies, such as libations and food offerings to dead. We must therefore return to the opinion, as old as it may be, that the pyramids are tombs[147]; and this job, indicated by all local circumstances, it is still so by a custom of the Hebrews, who, as we know, almost in everything imitated the Egyptians, and who, as such, gave the pyramidal form to the tombs of Absalon and Zakaria, that we still see in the valley of Jehoshaphat: finally, it is noted by the very name of these monuments, which, according to an analysis in accordance with all the principles of science, gives me word for word, chamber or vault of the dead[148].

The great pyramid is not the only one that has been opened. There is another in Saqâra which offers the same interior details. In recent years, a bek tried to open the 3 th in size of the local Djizé, to get the supposed treasure. He attacked it from the same side and at the same height as the large one is open; but after having uprooted two or three hundred stones, with pains and considerable expense, he quit his miserly enterprise without success. The time of construction of most of the pyramids is not known; but that of the big one is so obvious that one should never have contested it. Herodotus attributes it to Cheops, with a detail of the circumstances which proves that its authors were well educated.[149]. But this Cheops, in his list, the best of all, is the second king after Proteus[150], which was contemporary with the war of Troy; and it follows, by order of facts, that his pyramid was built around the years 140 and 160 of the foundation of the temple of Solomon, that is to say, 850 years before Jesus Christ.

The hand of time, and even more that of men, who ravaged all the monuments of antiquity, have had nothing to do with the pyramids so far. The solidity of their construction, and the enormity of their mass, have guaranteed them from any attack, and seem to assure them an eternal duration. Travelers all speak of it with enthusiasm, and this enthusiasm is not exaggerated. We begin to see these artificial mountains 10 leagues before arriving there. They seem to move away as you approach them; we are still a league away, and already they dominate the earth so much that we believe we are at their foot; finally we touch it, and nothing can express the variety of sensations we experience there[151]: the height of their summit, the rapidity of their slope; the size of their surface, the weight of their plate, the memory of the times they recall; the calculation of the work they cost, the idea that these immense rocks are the work of a man so small and so weak, who crawls at their feet; everything seizes both the heart and the mind with astonishment, terror, humiliation, admiration, respect: but, it must be admitted, another feeling follows this first transport. After having taken such a great opinion of the power of man, when one comes to meditate on the object of his employment, one only casts a glance of regret on his work; one is saddened to think that, to build an empty tomb, it was necessary to torment an entire nation for 20 years; we moan over the crowd of injustices and vexations that must have been incurred by the onerous drudgery and transportation, and cutting, and piling of so much material. People are indignant at the extravagance of the despots who have ordered these barbarous works; this feeling comes back more than once while going through the monuments of Egypt: these labyrinths, these temples, these pyramids, in their massive structure, attest much less to the genius of an opulent people and friend of the arts, than the servitude of 'a nation tormented by the whim of its masters. So we forgive avarice, which, violating their tombs, frustrated their hope; we give less pity to extravagance of the despots who ordered these barbaric works; this feeling comes back more than once while going through the monuments of Egypt: these labyrinths, these temples, these pyramids, in their massive structure, attest much less to the genius of an opulent people and friend of the arts, than the servitude of 'a nation tormented by the whim of its masters. So we forgive avarice, which, violating their tombs, frustrated their hope; we give less pity to extravagance of the despots who ordered these barbaric works; this feeling comes back more than once while going through the monuments of Egypt: these labyrinths, these temples, these pyramids, in their massive structure, attest much less to the genius of an opulent people and friend of the arts, than the servitude of 'a nation tormented by the whim of its masters. So we forgive avarice, which, violating their tombs, frustrated their hope; we give less pity to So we forgive avarice, which, violating their tombs, frustrated their hope; we give less pity to So we forgive avarice, which, violating their tombs, frustrated their hope; we give less pity to these ruins; and while the lover of the arts is indignant in Alexandria to see the columns of palaces sawn off, to make millstones, the philosopher, after this first emotion caused by the loss of all beautiful things, cannot help to smile at the secret justice of fate, which returns to the people what has cost them so much trouble, and which subjects to the humblest of their needs the pride of a useless luxury.

It is the interest of this people, no doubt, more than that of monuments, which must dictate the desire to see Egypt pass into other hands; but, were it only in this aspect, this revolution would always be very desirable. If Egypt were possessed by a nation friendly to the fine arts, we would find there, for the knowledge of antiquity, resources that henceforth the rest of the earth refuses us; perhaps we would even find books there. Not 3 years ago that more than 100 volumes written in unknown language were unearthed near Damiât.[152]; they were immediately burned at the decision of the chaiks of Kaire. In truth, the Delta no longer offers very interesting ruins, because the inhabitants have destroyed everything out of need or superstition. But the Said less populated, but the less traveled desert edge still have some intact. We must especially hope in the Oases; in these islands separated from the world by a sea of ​​sand, where no known traveler has penetrated since Alexander. These cantons, which formerly had towns and temples, not having suffered the devastation of the barbarians, had to keep their monuments, because of the very fact that their population wasted away or was annihilated; and these monuments, buried in the sands, are preserved there as a deposit for the future generation. It is at this time, less distant perhaps than one thinks, that we must put our wishes and our hope. It is then that we will be able to search everywhere the land of the Nile and the sands of Libya; that we can open the small pyramid of Djizé, which, to be demolished from top to bottom, would not cost 50,000 pounds: it is perhaps still at this time that

But this is enough on matters of conjecture: it is time to pass to the examination of another country which, in the relation of the ancient state and the modern state, is no less interesting than Egypt itself.
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