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"In proportion as we love truth more and victory less, we shall become
anxious to know what it is which leads our opponents to think as they


(_All rights reserved._)


Eight years have passed since I first conceived the idea of writing
this book, but it was not until about two years ago that I was able to
find time to put together a first rough outline of the form I wished
it to take. In the interval I have been obliged from time to time to
lay it aside altogether; and, at the most favourable times, have never
had more than a few hours a week to devote to it. I had just completed
what I had intended to be the last chapter, when events occurred that
obliged me to rewrite it, and, that I might do so fitly, await the
issue of those events. As the book now stands it is at best but a mere
outline. A larger volume than this might easily be written upon each
of several of the subjects I have but glanced at, yet I hope I have
succeeded in giving a connected and intelligible sketch and one
sufficient for the attainment of the chief object I have had in view,
that of presenting the Egyptian as he really is to the many who,
whether living in Egypt or out of it, have but few and imperfect
opportunities of learning to understand him. For over thirty years I
have given of all I have had to give, for the promotion of two
objects: first, that Pan-Islamism, which I conceive to be the true
interest of the Islamic world; and, secondly, the development of
friendly relations between the Moslems of the East and the British
Empire. How much, or how little, I have been able to accomplish
towards the fulfilment of my aims it is impossible for me to estimate,
but from boyhood I have had an earnest faith in the belief that right
and truth must in the end prevail, and that he who works for these, or
for what he honestly believes these to be, never works in vain.

Knowing the Egyptian as I know him, I cannot but think that he is
greatly misunderstood, even by those who are sincerely anxious to
befriend him. His faults and his failings are to be found at large in
almost any of the scores of books that have of late years been written
about him and his country; but, though not a few have given him credit
for some of his more salient good points, yet none that I have seen
have shown any just appreciation of him as he really is.

CAIRO, _May, 1907_.





























It was the 23rd of June, 1898. The day in Cairo had been unusually hot
and oppressive, but as the sun went down, a cool wind from the north
came blowing softly over the city.

I was then living in a little corner of the old town still wholly
untouched by the ruthless hand of the "reform" that, in every other
part, was busy marring with modern "improvements" the old-time charm
of the "City of the Caliphs."

As midnight approached, I went up on the roof to enjoy the cool
freshness and quiet of the night, and the stillness was almost
unbroken. Now and then in the narrow lanes below, the watchmen, who in
their drab-coloured coats and with long staffs and lanterns in their
hands, made one think of Old London and the days of Dogberry, called
to one another or challenged some belated passer-by, and at times a
murmuring echo told of the restless traffic and turbulent life yet
stirring in the carriage-crowded streets of the European quarters of
the town, but otherwise the silence was undisturbed.

As I stood there, leaning on the parapet of the roof, my thoughts
wandered back to the night, just one hundred years before, the 23rd of
June, 1798, when possibly some wakeful citizen had stood, perhaps on
the very spot on which I was then standing, and gazed upon the very
scene, the same limited range of housetops and sidewalls, that was
around me. That distant night is one of which the historians of the
country make no mention, and yet it is one most worthy of note, as
having been at once one of the most peaceful and one of the most
memorable Cairo has ever known. Peaceful, for, when not lured from his
slumbers by one of the night-quenching festivals he so dearly loves,
the Cairene is an early and a sound sleeper, and being then, as now,
blessed with an easy-going conscience and unbounded faith in the
beneficence of Destiny, we may be certain that on that night he slept
the sleep of the just man who is weary. Nor was that night less
memorable than peaceful, for little as he could foresee it, it was the
last for over a century of time on which the Cairene was to sleep so
free from care or thought of the morrow. For, while the city
slumbered, away in the villages on the banks of the Nile, sleepers
were being unwontedly awakened and dismayed by the sounds of horsemen
hurrying through the night with the rushing haste of men who are
bearers of tidings of life and death.

Onward, onward they came, these messengers of the night, weary with
their long forced ride from Alexandria, the city of the sea, which
they had left the day before. Onward, onward as rapidly as they could
press forward the steeds that, as one after another failed, were
replaced by others seized from the nearest stables "for the service of
the State." Onward and onward on their trying ride, spreading as they
went the news they bore, news that murdered the sleep of those who
heard it, and flung a pall of panic fear over the land.

They were still on the road when the Cairenes rising, as all good
Mahomedans should, with the first dawn of day, proceeded to the duties
of the morning with the leisurely diligence that is one of their
characteristics. But long before mid-day the messengers had discharged
their task, and the fateful news they had brought was being discussed
throughout the town. It was news that, to the Cairene, was fraught
with most direful possibilities, for it was news that a fleet of
English ships of war had arrived at Alexandria, and that the Governor
of the town, feeling utterly incapable with the scanty resources at
his disposal, of offering any effective resistance to a hostile
landing, had sent to beg for immediate assistance in men and munitions
of war. Many and fervent were the prayers said in the mosques that
day, and loud and deep were the anathemas launched against the
foreigner who was at their gates. It is not surprising that it should
be so, for, of all evils he could imagine, a foreign invasion was, to
the Cairene, as to the people of Egypt generally, the one most
suggestive of personal loss and misery.

Exactly one hundred years had passed since that day, and the dying
hours of that century of time left the Egyptian, as its opening hours
had found him, distrustful of the English, rejecting their friendship,
and cursing them as foes. That it should have been thus, is one of the
problems that perplex those who attempt to know or understand the
Egyptian, and as I thought of these things, it seemed to me that
living as I then was amongst the most conservative class of the
people, the class that still prides itself on living the life its
fathers and grandfathers led, and holds all things foreign to be
abominations, and yet meeting from day to day with the modern
half-Europeanised citizens, and being myself almost an Oriental in
thought and sympathy, I could read the story of that one hundred years
and comprehend the feelings of the people through all its incidents,
better perhaps than any other European, and that by sketching the
history of that century as it appears to me, I might help others to
understand the people and their history better, and thus aid in
promoting the mutual goodwill that is as essential to the interests of
the Egyptian himself, as to those of the great army of foreigners who
are dwellers in his hospitable land.

As told by the writers of to-day, the history of Egypt extends over
nearly seven thousand years - three score and ten centuries - just one
for every year allotted by the Psalmist to man as the period of his
life. But of all that great stretch of time the hundred and odd years
lying between the fateful 23rd of June in 1798 and the present day,
although unfortunately the materials available for a study of it are
scant and for the most part unreliable, has more of human interest as
a chapter in the history of mankind, than all the long ages that
preceded it.

Yet if the reader would rightly comprehend the lesson of this period,
he must grasp the fact that in a very full and ample sense all history
is a part of one - nay, is but one and the same story writ in different
characters. How utterly unlike in all externals are the Gospels
written in the Latin, Greek, Arabic, Nagri, or Chinese characters and
languages, but the essence and the spirit of all these versions are
the same. So it is with the histories of men and nations. The stories
of England, France, Spain, India, Egypt, how different! and yet in all
that is the final essential of true history - the story of man's combat
with his surroundings - the same. It is so because in the last analysis
all men are the same, like the ocean, "His Sea in no showing the
same - his Sea and the same 'neath all showing."

Scattered in the deserts of Persia, the traveller comes upon isolated
villages wherein men and women are born, grow up, marry, beget
families, and die, and never once pass beyond the mirage-haunted
horizon of their little oasis. With world-encircling ideas and
ambitions, the traveller thinks of the mad maelstrom of life in the
crowded cities of the West, and wonders that men can be so different
and still be men, and yet more so, that between himself and these
Persians of the desert, drifting through life in a daily round that
never changes, never varies, there should be anything in common. And
the wonder is, not that they have the same shape and form as he, that
they can cry with Shylock, "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you
poison us, do we not die?" All that is as nothing, since it lifts the
man no higher than the brutes of the field, but in all else, in all
that is the essential differentia of man, even in these, these
children of the waste are such as we, moved by the same passions,
stirred by the same affections, urged by the same desires, however
variously all these may find expression.

Further yet afield. The miserable Mahars and Mangs of the Indian
Deccan, who, living or dead, are held by all the peoples around them
as not less vile than the carrion they do not scorn to eat. Even there
among these if you will, you may trace, as the venerable missionary
Wilson did, deep buried under the man-debasing foulness of their
lives, the humanity of the man as the dominating, all-controlling
element, severing them by an immeasurable and impassable distance from
the noblest of the animals, and linking them by an inseverable bond to
the noblest of their fellow-men. All that may characterise the
individual outside of this is but the accident of his life and being;
the essential element, guiding and swaying him in all things, is this
fundamental, ineradicable humanity.

It is the fashion nowadays to speak of the "Brotherhood of man," but
how few realise how absolutely, how completely the phrase expresses
the simple truth! a truth that nullifies all the arrogantly-arrayed
arguments and fancy-founded fallacies of Haeckel and the whole field
of Monists and Materialists. If, then, we would understand the
Egyptian or any other people, we must start by recognising that,
however wide and apparently unbridgable may be the gulf that divides
us from them, whether physical, mental, or moral, it has been caused
by the rushing flow of the multitudinous circumstances that have
moulded the life and character of each, and, as Mill and Buckle have
said, not to any originating difference in our natures.

As a boy at school to me history was the dullest of dull tasks, but
when I came to mix with the peoples of foreign lands, and, fascinated
by the charm of the living kaleidoscope of Indian life, sought some
clue to the myriad-minded moods and manners of its peoples, I longed
for a history that should tell me how and why these peoples were so
different from, and yet so like, my own. But histories, as they are
written, are rarely more than chafing-dish hashes of the "funeral
baked meats" of court chronicles served up with a posset of platitudes
and pedantry for sauce. From such histories we may gather a great
array of useless, and, for the most part, perfectly uncertain and
unreliable "facts," but of the true story of a people scarce anything
more than a few doubtful indications. For true history is no bald
chronicle of events but the history of man's, too often blind but
always intuitive, struggle towards happiness. Back in those memory
forsaken ages, of which even myth and legend now tell us nothing, men
strove in the same ceaseless, never-ending struggle. What if the
immediate aim of that struggle varied then and now with time and
place? What if the dweller in the ice-cold lands of the North should
be ever seeking the warmth from which the sunburnt inhabitant of the
torrid zone would fain escape? To neither is the heat or the cold a
thing to be desired or shunned save only as either serves to swell the
total of his enjoyment of life. But just as the nature of the climate
in which they dwell modifies their conception of enjoyment, so also a
host of other circumstances, some minute and scarcely traceable in
their influence, others broad and plainly visible, mould the ideas and
ideals of men and nations. Thus, and thus only, is it that the
Egyptian and the Englishman are so far apart in all that constitutes
the individual or national characteristics of each. Thus it is that
the restless activity and energy of the one is abhorrent to the other,
and that the Englishman to-day finds the Egyptians, as Herodotus found
them so long ago, men "distinguished from the rest of mankind by the
singularity of their institutions and their manners." I would,
therefore, have my readers avoid the error of judging the Egyptians
merely from comparison with their own standards and without due regard
to the study of the causes that have made them what they are. If the
Egyptian be found lacking in qualities upon the possession of which we
justly pride ourselves, he is not for that reason alone to be
condemned or despised. He has, even as we have, faults and
imperfections that may be justly censured. Like Meredith's Captain de
Creye, we are all "variegated with faults." These but attest our
common humanity, and for the Egyptian it may at least be said, that he
has that charity that covereth a multitude of sins, the charity of
heart that far outvalues the charity of the purse. Judged with equity
he compares favourably in many points with many other men. Less
backward than the Spaniard, less bigoted than the Portuguese, less
fanatical than any other Oriental, not embittered in spirit as the
Irish Celts, "patient in tribulation," "long-suffering," placable,
forgiving, hospitable; honest and withal one who, like Abou ben Edhem,
loves his fellow-men, there is much, very much, in the Egyptian that
may well serve to gain him the friendship and goodwill of those who
seek to know him as he really is. But with all this there is one
difference between the Egyptian and all European peoples that, as it
seems to me, forms an almost impassible barrier to the growth of close
friendship, or even intimate companionship, between the European and
the Egyptian. This difference is in their modes of thinking and
reasoning, for not until the Ethiopian changes his skin will the
Oriental think or reason as a European does.

There are hundreds of volumes wherein the Egyptian is portrayed as he
has been seen or known by the authors, but like all other Easterns,
the Egyptian is, and perhaps always will be, something of a mystery to
the European. The thoughts and reasonings of the two peoples are so
constantly and so utterly at variance on points and matters that seem
to each to admit of little or no controversy, that any attempt to
reconcile them must be abandoned as impossible. It is a natural result
of this incompatibility that the Egyptian as commonly described by
Europeans is a very different being to the Egyptian as he really is.
It is so all over the East, through all the widely differing races,
nationalities, and religions of the Asiatic continent with, perhaps,
the single exception of the Armenians, who in this respect are as
distinctly allied to the races of Europe as the Egyptians are to those
of Asia. Tourists wander for an hour or two through the bazaars of
Egypt or India and flatter themselves that they have seen and can
describe the people: young officials tell you glibly that they can
read them as a book: the veteran who has grown grey in their service
will tell you that the longer he has known them the less is he able to
comprehend them.

Orientals generally are capable of a high degree of education or
training according to our standards: in India we have men who, in
debate and authorship in our language, are entitled to rank with some
of our own best men; but mentally even these are apart from us, and in
this respect, as Kipling says, "East is East and West is West, and
never the twain shall meet." Nor is it we only who cannot understand
them, since they stumble as often and err as widely in their efforts
to comprehend us, and even, as I think, more grossly and more
hopelessly. None the less, it is, I believe, quite possible for a
European to at least partly bridge the gulf and become familiar with
Eastern thought and sentiment, but to do so he must pay a heavy price,
for it is to be done only by one who will give not merely years of
time, but years of self-abnegation, of self-suppression, of
self-isolation to the task. Abandoning all that he has been he must
seek to become that which he is not, and severing his life from all
that has made it his, forego his tastes, stifle his prejudices, ignore
his predilections, suppress his emotions, thwart his inclinations, and
laughing when he would weep, weep when he would laugh. And with this
slaying of his own individuality he must in all things strive to
identify himself with those alien to him, ever seeking to see, hear,
think, and act as they do. And he must do this not for a week, a
month, or a year, but for many years. Not in one city, town or
country, but in several, not merely mixing as best he may with the
wealthy and the poor, the illiterate and the learned, but learning to
be at home in the abodes of the prosperous and the haunts of the
miserable, become equally so with the merchant in the bazaar and the
wandering fakir in the desert. And through it all he must ever be
other than his home life and training have made him. Ceaselessly on
the alert to detect the nature, feelings, and impulses of others and
to hide his own. And he must be and do all this day and night, in the
loneliness of the desert as in the busy haunts of men. And in doing
this he is treading a road over which there is no return. The further
he goes, the more perfect is his success, the more impossible it
becomes for him to regain his starting-point. Never again can he be
that which he has been before. He may quit the East, return to the
home of his childhood and mix again with his fellows as one of them,
but he can never recover the place he has left and lost, for he who
goes down into the East, though his heart never cease to yearn for
home and the things of home, is daily, slowly, imperceptibly, yet
surely, being estranged, and he goes home to find that he no longer
has a home, that neither in the East nor in the West, is there any
rest for him. Thenceforth and for ever he is alone in the world and,
with his own sympathies enlarged and enriched, can hope for no
sympathy, no fellowship, amidst all the teeming millions of the earth.
Friends and kindred may crowd around his board, ties of love and
affection may be renewed, but even with the nearest and dearest the
fulness of old-time sympathies can never be revived, for though the
East is a bourne from which the traveller may return, it is one from
the glamour of which he may never free himself, and as in the East his
heart for ever looked yearningly to the West, so from the West it will
for ever look back with desire to the East. To him the whole world is
clothed with the horror with which "the lonely, terrible streets of
London" so bruised the heart of the Irish poet. Such is the price that
he who would know the East must pay for his knowledge, a price that
few have paid, that none would willingly or wittingly pay. "I speak
that which I know," for over thirty years have passed away since I
first went down into the East, and as "a mere boy," as Lady Burton
disdainfully described me, set myself the task I have never abandoned.
Consequently, as it is my object in this book to try and show what,
as he appears to me, the Egyptian of to-day is and how he has become
that which he is, the picture I shall draw of him will necessarily be
unlike those drawn by others, but, although I freely admit that it
will be my aim throughout to seek to gain for the Egyptian more
generous consideration than he is commonly accorded, my sketch will be
as faithful to truth as I can make it: should it fail to be
interesting, the fault will assuredly be with the writer and not with
the subject.



To understand the Egyptian as he is, we must go back to that memorable
23rd of June in 1798, and learn not only what he then was, but how he
had become that which he was. Happily, it needs no long historical
details, or wearisome discussion of remote or doubtful causes to gain
this necessary knowledge. A few words to show how the Egyptian of
to-day is linked with his ancestors of far distant ages, and a short
sketch of the social and political conditions existing in the country
at the close of the eighteenth century will tell the reader all he
need know to enable him to comprehend the story of the years that have
since elapsed.

Although the people were then well established in the land and
possessed a high degree of civilisation, their history, as we now know
it, dates only from the reign of Menes, somewhere over five thousand
years before the birth of Christ. From that date down to the present
time we have a continuous record, the whole course of which may be
divided into three clearly distinguished periods. Of these the first
was not only by far the longest, but in every way the most brilliant.
In it Egypt was an independent country with a social system of an
advanced type, the spontaneous product of the genius of the people,
and it was the one in which, under native rulers, the land was filled
with the marvellous pyramids, temples, and sculptures that, though now

Online LibraryHaji A. BrowneBonaparte in Egypt and the Egyptians of To-day → online text (page 1 of 27)