John L. (John Lawson) Stoddard.

John L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) online

. (page 9 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 12)
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more colossal still. The first exemplified the record of
a down-trodden race; the second stood for justice and hu-
mane treatment in the years to come. We cannot doubt
which of these forces will finally overcome the other, under

the influence of Him who in His
earthly life was born of a Jewish
mother and was to all intents and
purposes a Jew. Yet, notwithstand-
ing these facts, perhaps some reader
of these words may say: "It is all
true, but we do not like the Jew!"
Hut shall we not take a broader and
kindlier view than that? Rising
above individual likes and dislikes,
let us ask ourselves if it is, or ever
has been, consistent for Christian

nations to oppress and despise the people who gave to them
their patriarchs, their prophets, their Bible, their religion and
their Saviour. Nearly nineteen centuries have come and
gone since Jesus died upon the cross. Surely it is time for
His teachings of charity and the brotherhood of man to pre-
vail among his followers. For

" New occasions teach new duties;

Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward,

Who would keep abreast of Truth:
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires!

We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly

Through the desperate winter sea:
Nor attempt the Future's portal

With the Past's blood-rusted key."


LANDS that have made or witnessed history possess
peculiar fascination; and when to their historical
qualities are added those of the mysterious and the
beautiful, their charm is boundless, for then they touch the
realm of the imagination, that is to say, the infinite.

Egypt in these respects is unsurpassed. Historically, she
is the eldest born of Time; the mother of all subsequent
civilizations; the longest lived among the nations of the
earth; the teacher of art, philosophy, and religion before
Greece and Rome were born. When everywhere else rude
huts and primitive tents were mankind's highest forms of


architecture, Egypt was rearing her stupendous pyramids and
temples, which still remain the marvel of the world.

It stirs the blood merely to read the names of the great
actors in that mighty drama of the past, whose theatre was



the valley of the Nile. For Egypt is the land of Rameses
and the Pharaohs; of Joseph and of Moses; of Alexander
the Great and the Ptolemies; of Caesar, Antony, and Cleo-
patra, a land beside whose awful ruins the Colosseum of


Rome, the Parthenon of Athens, and even the Temple of
Jerusalem, are the productions of yesterday.

But Egypt is also a land of mystery. Her history goes
back so far that it is finally lost in the unknown, as the Nile
Valley gradually gives place to the sands of the Sahara. Her
very origin appears at first miraculous. For Egypt has been
literally built up by that mysterious river whose sources have,
till recently, perplexed and baffled all explorers for five thou-
sand years. Her situation also is unique, a palm-girt path
of civilization walled in by two deserts. Silence broods over
her. Solemnity environs her. She is a land in which the
dead alone are great: a temple of antiquity, whose monu-
ments are the eternal Pyramids and Sphinx. Her glory is
secure beyond the possibility of loss, embalmed in art and
literature like her mummied kings.



What wonder, then, that standing on the shadowy
threshold of prehistoric times, Egypt still charms us by the
irresistible attraction of undying fame? What marvel that
her vast antiquity and changeless calm possess a power, like
that of fabled Lethe, to render us forgetful of the feverish
excitements of the western world, and from her silent and en-
during monuments to teach us the littleness of gods and men?

Alexandria is the front door of Egypt, as Suez, on the
Red Sea, is its portal from the rear. Through this historic


city of the Mediterranean the tide of Occidental travel every
winter ebbs and flows as surely as the rise and fall of the
majestic Nile. Unlike the rest of Egypt, however, Alex-
andria lacks the flavor of remote antiquity. A century ago



a traveler said of it that it resembled an orphan child, who
had inherited from his father nothing but his name. Hence
it is hard to realize, when one stands within its walls to-day,
that twenty centuries ago Alexandria ranked among the
largest and most brilliant cities in the world, and was the
principal emporium of the East, receiving the products of
interior Africa, Arabia, and India, and forwarding them to
all other sections of the Roman empire, till the astonished
Caisars half believed the assertion that the Alexandrians pos-
sessed the power of making gold. This city was, moreover,
for centuries the principal seat of Grecian learning; and here
St. Mark is said to have proclaimed the Gospel, with the

result that Alexandria finally
became the intellectual strong-
hold of Christianity.

Nor can the tourist forget
that this was the favorite city
of two conquerors, unrivaled in
their way, the first, its earliest
ruler, Alexander; the second,
its last queen, the peerless Cleo-
patra. One subdued empires;
the other conquered hearts; for
who can think of Alexandria
without recalling how the "En-
chantress of the Nile " here cap-
tivated the world's conqueror,
Julius Caesar, and subsequently
made the great Triumvir, An-
tony, her willing slave for fourteen years?

But war and pillage have destroyed the relics of old Alex-
andria almost as completely as though a tidal wave from the
adjoining ocean had swept over it. Its pure white marble
lighthouse, Pharos, which surpassed the Pyramids in height,




and was considered one of the seven wonders of the world, is
now no longer visible. The mausoleum of Alexander the
Great, in which the youthful conqueror's body lay in a sar-
cophagus of pure gold, has also passed away. The immense
Alexandrian library, the largest of antiquity, has long since

vanished in flame and smoke.
The magnificent Museum of

Ptolemy Philadelphus, which,

two and a half centuries before Christ, was the acknowledged
meeting-place of scholars and sages from all lands, and the
focus of the intellectual life of the world, has so effectually
disappeared that no one can determine with certainty its
ancient site. Even in modern times Alexandria has suffered
spoliation. Until quite recently, the traveler saw upon its
shore one prostrate, one erect the obelisks known as Cleo-
patra's Needles, which were hewn from the quarry thirty-five
hundred years ago. But these have been conveyed to dis-



tant lands, one of them standing now beside the Thames in
London, the other in Central Park, New York. From the ear-
liest times the obelisks of Egypt have fascinated travelers.
The Assyrians and Persians carried some of them away.
Rome has eleven in her streets to-day. Another
stands in Constantinople; while, beside the Seine,
the obelisk of Luxor rebukes with its solemnity
the whirl of gaiety in the modern capital of
pleasure. Only one great memorial of the past
remains in Alexandria. It is the stately mon-
olith of red granite, misnamed Pompey's Pillar.
For ages it was supposed that this im-
posing shaft, which with its capital and
pedestal attains a height of more than a
hundred feet, had been erected here in
memory of Caesar's mighty rival, who,
fleeing southward after the battle of
Pharsalia, was murdered on the Egyp-
tian coast. But the name Pompeius,
sculptured on its pedestal, is merely that
of the Roman prefect who reared this
magnificent column to the Roman em-
peror Diocletian, in the third century
after Christ, perhaps in gratitude for a
gift of grain that he had sent to Alex-
andria. The statue which adorned its
summit long since disappeared, leaving
no trace behind to tell us whom it repre-
sented; and whether or not this noble
column once formed part of an Egyptian temple founded
long anterior to the Romans, is still a matter of dispute.
Beyond all question, however, is the fact that its shadow
falls to-day upon a dreary Arab cemetery, pathetic symbol
of the buried glories of the city it once adorned.




The European quarter of Alexandria is well lighted and
possesses many handsome residences. Much capital is
invested here, and evidences of wealth abound. The future
prosperity of the city seems assured. Within its sheltered
harbor is abundant sea-room for the largest fleets, and from
this ocean gateway railroads now extend to Cairo, Port Said,
Suez, and the Upper Nile; while at this point the Mediter-
ranean cable joins the telegraph wire along whose metal


thread the messages of war and commerce, or tender words
of love to distant friends, may be conveyed at lightning speed
from Europe, Asia, or America, to the heart of Africa.

The main business section of Alexandria is the Square of
Mehemet Ali. Fronting on this long rectangle are the prin-
cipal hotels, banks, and steamship offices, and in the centre
is the equestrian statue of the first Viceroy of Egypt, whose
name the area bears. One would expect to see his statue




here, for Mehemet Ali was the most remark-
able man the Orient has produced in the last
hundred years. His influence is felt here to
this day. Without him Egypt could
not have attained her present position
of semi-independence and prosperity.
For forty years he was the arbiter of
Vjr Egypt. He was a despot; but there

V Jr ^ are times when autocratic sovereigns

t^M are a necessity. Nations are like in-

dividuals: at certain stages in their
history they need authority and disci-
pline to force them into habits of in-
dustry and unquestioning obedience.
Alexandria has reason to be grateful to

Mehemet Ali. Before he made himself dictator of Egypt,

and freed himself from vassalage to the Sultan, the splendid

city of the Ptolemies had dwindled into insignificance, and was

a mere haunt of

fishermen and

pirates. But in

a dozen years

he transformed

it, until it was

once more an

entrep6t of

Eastern trade, a

half-way house

to India, and

the great meet-

ing point of

Europe, Africa,

and Asia. At

his command its




harbor was reopened and made safe for merchant ships, and
his indomitable energy soon caused a huge canal to be con-
structed, which proved to be one of the most important works
of modern times, a navigable waterway by which the traffic
of the Nile was brought to Alexandria. This Mahmoodiah
Canal was made within the space of a year. A quarter of a
million natives were compelled to labor on it, and of these
twenty-five thousand are said to have perished on its banks


from overwork and insufficient food. But, while lamenting
the cruelty attending its construction, we must concede to
the Egyptian autocrat full credit for the work achieved,
which has raised Alexandria from poverty, and filled its empty
treasury with constantly increasing wealth. Mehemet Ali,
like most great geniuses, was a "self-made man," rising by
his undoubted talents from the position of a colonel in the
Turkish army to be Viceroy of Egypt and the founder of the
present dynasty.

2 3 8


He was a proof of how the Orient, once so prolific of
great men, can still surprise us. Give to the East a leader
capable of arousing its enthusiasm and of kindling its relig-
ious zeal, and Europe might again be forced to struggle
desperately for its life and liberties. Thus, coming like a
thunderbolt from a clear sky, Mehemet AH, with twenty-
four thousand men, emerged from Egypt, conquered Syria,

and drove the Turks before him into the heart of Asia
Minor. Under the leadership of Mehemet's dashing son,
Ibrahim (a son worthy of such a father), the Egyptians
fought as they had never fought before. Mehemet AH was
declared an outlaw; but army after army sent against him
by the Sultan was hopelessly defeated. The victor rapidly
approached the Bosporus; Constantinople itself seemed actu-
ally within his grasp; but the united powers of Europe,
startled by this sudden resurrection of the Orient, cried in



the thunder of a hundred
cannon, "Halt!" and Ibra-
him could go no farther.
Baffled and broken-hearted,
the great adventurer re-
turned with his son to
Egypt, the sovereignty of
which he still retained, and
to console himself for the
failure of his brilliant dream
of Eastern conquest and ex-
tensive empire, he gained
at least the privilege of be-
queathing to his descendants
his viceregal power.

But, interesting as one may at first find the cosmopolitan
and progressive city of Alexandria, it is by no means thor-
oughly Egyptian, and should be regarded as merely a door-





way to the real glories of the land of the Pharaohs. Hence,
after a stay of a few days on the coast, one always hastens
into the interior of the country.

A bird's-eye view of Lower Egypt would reveal a vast
expanse of cultivated territory in the form of a triangle, the
base of which is on the Mediterranean. From its resem-
blance to the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, this area
has for ages been appropriately called the Delta. A poet
has compared it to a beautiful green fan, with Cairo sparkling
like a diamond in its handle.


The simile is an apt one, for in the days of the Caliphs, a
thousand years ago, Cairo was the brightest jewel of the
Nile, the rival of Bagdad and Damascus in the annals of
the Arabian Nights; and even now, to one who comes to it
directly from the Occident, its Oriental brilliancy is most

On my first visit to Egypt in the days of Ismail Pasha,
there was practically only one Cairo. Now there are two,
the African and European, contending, not for political
supremacy, which has been definitely won by England, but
for supremacy in architecture, dress, and manners.



New Cairo has become a charming winter residence, but
the old city of the Caliphs, as the traveler saw it only thirty
years ago, is gone. Red-coated British soldiers now swarm
upon the citadel of Mehemet Ali; Egyptian troops wear
European uniforms; the narrow, covered streets, which
painters like Gerome so loved to reproduce, have largely
given place to broad, unshadowed thoroughfares; and most
of the exquis-
itely carved and
inlaid balconies
which formerly
adorned the
front of nearly
every Cairene
house, have dis-
appeared. On
the other hand,
magnificent ho-
tels have sprung
into exist-
ence, and in
the winter shel-
ter crowds of
foreign guests
whose ancestors


were savages

for three thousand years after the completion of the Sphinx.
One of these hotels has even dared to plant itself at the very
base of the Great Pyramid !

Cairo, modernized by the English, may be compared to a
fashionable piece of western furniture placed on an eastern
rug, or to a Bedouin of the desert wearing a silk hat and a
Prince Albert coat. While the city has greatly gained in
modern characteristics, as well as in sanitary conditions, it



has lost much of its old picturesqueness. Nevertheless, within
its ancient precincts there are still many streets of Moorish
aspect, with mosques, bazaars, and Oriental dwellings, among
which one seems to be a thousand miles removed from

western civiliza-
tion. But these
attractive feat-
ures of the past
are undergoing
radical trans-
formation. Dur-
ing the reign of
Ismail Pasha, the

P ratio between

the East and
tO West in Cairo
left little to be
desired, and the
Egyptian capital
then combined
just enough
modern luxuries
and comforts to
offset gracefully some less agreeable characteristics of the
Orient. Thus, even as early as 1871, the Khedive had built
a handsome Opera House in Cairo, and had offered the com-
poser Verdi a munificent sum for an opera which should
represent the glories of old Egypt. The result was that
finest production of the modern Italian school, A'ida, whose
representation here on a scale of great magnificence, with
Madame Parepa Rosa in the title role, is one of my most
treasured memories of a winter on the Nile.

Occasionally, in some old, narrow street, one may see,
even now, what was a score of years ago a well-nigh uni-




versal architectural feature of the city,
the Mashrebeeyeh, a latticed win-
dow made of cedar wood, inlaid with
mother-of-pearl. Such windows are
admirably suited to the Orient, for
they exclude both light and heat, and
also screen the inmates from all obser-
vation, an important consideration in
Cairo, since in
these narrow
when once above
the lower story,
the houses rap-
idly approach
each other till
their projecting
windows almost
meet. If you
glance up at
these, you may
perhaps perceive
at one of the
interstices the
flash of a jewel,
or the gleam of
a bright eye, and
hear a musical
laugh, or the ex-
clamation, "Gia-



(Infidel). A stay of only a few hours in Cairo will
convince the tourist that the typical animal of Egypt is
the donkey. Of these there are said to be fifty thousand
in Cairo alone. Most of them are of the color of Maltese



cats, and all are closely clipped, and have their bodies fan-
tastically painted, starred, or striped, until they look like min-
iature zebras. They are so small that the feet of their riders

almost touch
the ground .
But they are
and easy, and
riding on their
backs is almost
as comfortable

Ifc^TiHHlil as sitting in a

ypfft I rocking-chair.

Why has the
donkey never
found a eulo-
gist ? The horse
is universally
admired. The
Arab poet sings
of the beauties
of his camel.

The bull and cow have been held sacred, and even the dog
and cat have been praised in prose and verse. But the poor
donkey still remains the butt of ridicule, the symbol of stu-
pidity and the object of abuse. But if there is another and
a better world for animals, and if in that sphere patience ranks
as a prime virtue, the ass will have a better pasture-ground
than many of its rivals. The donkey's small size exposes it
to cruelty. When animals have power to defend themselves,
man's caution makes him kinder. He hesitates to hurt an
elephant, and even respects to some extent the heels of a
mule. But the donkey corresponds to the small boy who
cannot protect himself in a crowd of brutal playmates. The



only violent thing about it is its voice, and on the human
ass this voice has very little restraining influence. It is diffi-
cult to see how these useful animals could be replaced in
certain countries of the world. Purchased cheaply, reared
inexpensively, living on thistles, if they get nothing better,
and patiently carrying heavy burdens until they drop from
weakness, these little beasts are of incalculable value to the
laboring classes of Southern Europe, Egypt, Mexico, and
similarly situated lands. If they have failed to win affection,
it is perhaps because of their one infirmity, the startling
tones which they produce.

On the morning after our arrival in Cairo, we went out
on the steps of Shep-
heard's Hotel prepared
to take a ride through
the city. Directly oppo-
site were thirty
or forty Egyp-
tian donkeys, all
saddled and bri-
dled, awaiting
riders. Their
drivers (whose
principal gar- -
ment was a
long woolen <
shirt) stood byL
them, almost
as anxious to be
employed as
New York hack-
men, for, if they return to their masters at night empty-
handed, they receive a beating. The sight of strangers de-
scending the hotel steps was, therefore, a signal for them





to make a grand rush for-
ward, pushing and crowd-
ing their wretched beasts,
and shouting at the top of
their voices the
ludicrous names
which previous
travelers had be-
stowed upon
these animals:
"Take mine, good
donkey, very
good!" "Take
mine, 'Champagne
mine, 'Abe Lincoln!' " "Take mine, 'Prince Bismarck
"Take mine, 'Yankee Doodle!' ' The noise and confusion
are most comical to an observer. When the stranger has

once mounted,
the boy catches
hold of the don-
key's tail (which
he uses as a rud-
der), gives him a
whack in the rear,
shouts "Ah-ye!
Reglah!" and off
they go, present-
ing a scene that
never failed to
excite our merri-

Towering far
above the city of



the Caliphs is a huge fortress called the Citadel. As is well
known, Cairo is of Arabian origin, a brilliant memento of
Mohammedan conquest. Its name (in Arabic, Al Kahireh)
signifies ' ' The Victorious. ' ' When, in the seventh century after
Christ, the followers of the Prophet, inspired with enthusiasm
for their new religion, rushed

on their

from Arabia
path of


victory and proselytism (which ultimately made the greater
part of the Mediterranean a Moslem lake), Egypt was one of
their first and most important conquests. Memphis, the an-
cient City of the Pharaohs, was then still extant, adorned
with many imposing monuments that had survived the lapse
of centuries. But this old capital of an alien faith ill suited


the impetuous zealots of Mohammed. They therefore founded
Cairo, only a few miles away, and did not scruple to remove
thither, for the construction of its buildings, the blocks of
stone of which the palaces and temples of old Memphis were
composed. It was the famous Saladin, the brave and
chivalrous foe of Richard the Lion- Hearted in Syria, who
built the citadel of Cairo; and the unscrupulous architect
employed by him for this purpose destroyed several small

pyramids, and
used the larger
ones, which had
been reared five
thousand years
before, as stone
quarries from
which to extract
building mate-
rial for this for-
tress, called by
the Arabs the
" Castle of the
Nile " Here
Saladin's suc-
cessors lived for
centuries, making this City of the Caliphs the rival of Damas-
cus; and here, in the present century, the cunning Viceroy,
Mehemet AH, used to sit, like a spider in its web, ready to
let loose upon the city below a volley of destruction at the
first whisper of revolt. It was here also that, in 1811, this
relentless ruler caused his political enemies, the Mamelukes, to
be massacred. The name Mameluke signifies "White Slave,"
and the actual founders of this corps were originally Circas-
sian slaves, who gradually climbed to the position, first of
favorites, then of tyrants. It is true, they had helped




Mehemet AH to secure his place of power;
but he suspected that they regretted it and
were conspiring to destroy him. At all
events, the Viceroy, having used them as
a ladder for his vast ambition, found it ex-
pedient to get rid of them, as Napoleon, at
the Battle of the Pyramids, had sought to
exterminate them. Accordingly he invited
these powerful foes to a banquet in the cita-
del. They came without suspicion, four
hundred and eighty in number, superbly
dressed and finely mounted. But no sooner
had the portals closed behind them, than a
scathing fire was opened upon them by Me-
hemet Ali's troops, who suddenly appeared
upon the walls. Unable alike to defend
themselves or to escape, the Mamelukes
fell beneath repeated volleys, horses and men in horrible
confusion, anguish, and despair, with the exception of one
man, who, spurring his horse in desperation over the welter-
ing bodies of his comrades, forced him to leap over the lofty
parapet. A shower of bullets followed him, scarcely more
swift than his descending steed, but he escaped as if by
miracle, and freeing himself from his mangled horse, he fled
in safety into the adjoining desert.





Meantime, in an adjoining room (still shown to visitors),
Mebemet Ali is said to have remained, calm and motionless,
save for a nervous twitching of his hands, though he could
plainly hear the rattle of musketry and the shrieks and groans
of the dying.

When all was over, his Italian physician ventured into his
presence to congratulate him. The Viceroy made no reply,
but merely asked for drink, and, in a silence more eloquent

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Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 12)