Equipage for crossing the Desert--Donkey-chairs--Sense of calmness and
tranquillity on entering the Desert--Nothing dismal in its
aspect--The Travellers' Bungalow--Inconvenient construction of these
buildings--Kafila of the Governor of Jiddah and his Lady--Their
Equipage--Bedouins--Impositions practised on Travellers--Desert
Travelling not disagreeable--Report of the sailing of the
Steamer--Frequency of false reports--Ease with which an infant of
the party bore the journey--A wheeled carriage crossing the
Desert--Parties of Passengers from Suez encountered--One of Mr. Hill's
tilted Caravans--Difficulty of procuring water at the Travellers'
Bungalow--A night in the Desert--Magnificent sunrise--First sight
of the Red Sea and the Town of Suez--Miserable appearance of the
latter--Engagement of a Passage to Bombay.
We found the equipages in which we were to cross the desert waiting for us at the City of Tombs. They consisted of donkey-chairs, one being provided for each of the females of the party, while my friend Miss E. had also an extra donkey, with a saddle, to ride upon occasionally. Nothing could be more comfortable than these vehicles; a common arm-chair was fastened into a sort of wooden tray, which projected in front about a foot, thereby enabling the passenger to carry a small basket or other package; the chairs were then slung by the arms to long bamboos, one upon either side, and these, by means of ropes or straps placed across, were fastened upon the backs of donkeys, one in front, the other, behind. Five long and narrow vehicles of this kind, running across the desert, made a sufficiently droll and singular appearance, and we did nothing but admire each other as we went along. The movement was delightfully easy, and the donkeys, though not travelling at a quick pace, got on very well. Our cavalcade consisted besides of two stout donkeys, which carried the beds and carpet-bags of the whole party, thus enabling us to send the camels a-head: the three men-servants were also mounted upon donkeys, and there were three or four spare ones, in case any of the others should knock up upon the road. In this particular it is proper to say that we were cheated, for had such an accident occurred, the extra-animals were so weak and inefficient, that they could not have supplied the places of any of those in use. There were eight or ten donkey-men, and a boy; the latter generally contrived to ride, but the others walked by the side of the equipages.
In first striking into the desert, we all enjoyed a most delightful feeling of repose; every thing around appeared to be so calm and tranquil, that, especially after encountering the noises and multitudes of a large and crowded city, it was soothing to the mind thus to emerge from the haunts of men and wander through the vast solitudes that spread their wastes before us. To me there was nothing dismal in the aspect of the desert, nor was the view so boundless as I had expected.
In these wide plains, the fall of a few inches is sufficient to diversify the prospect; there is always some gentle acclivity to be surmounted, which cheats the sense with the expectation of finding a novel scene beyond: the sand-hills in the distance also range themselves in wild and fantastic forms, many appearing like promontories jutting out into some noble harbour, to which the traveller seems to be approaching. Nor were there wanting living objects to animate the scene; our own little kafila was sufficiently large and cheerful to banish every idea of dreariness, and we encountered others much more picturesque.
Soon after losing sight of the tombs, we came upon a party who had bivouac'd for the night; the camels, unladen, were, with their burthens, placed in a circle, and the people busily employed in preparing their evening meal. Other evidences there were, however, to show that the toils of the desert were but too frequently fatal to the wretched beasts of burthen employed in traversing these barren wastes; the whitened bones of camels and donkeys occurred so frequently, as to serve to indicate the road.
Our first stage was the shortest of the whole, and we came to the rest-house, or travellers' bungalow, just as night closed in, and long before I entertained any idea that we should have been able to reach it, travelling as we did at an easy walk. The bungalow was not yet completed, which we found rather an advantage, since it seems to be exceedingly questionable whether the buildings erected for the accommodation of travellers on the track to Suez will be habitable even for a few hours in the course of another year. The funds of the Steam-committee have been lamentably mismanaged in this instance. However, there being no windows, we were enabled to enjoy the fresh air, and the room we occupied, not having been long whitewashed, was perfectly clean.
Nothing can have been worse planned than the construction of these houses. The only entrance is in front, down a narrow passage, open at the top, and having apartments on either side, the two in front being sleeping-rooms for travellers, with a kitchen and other offices beyond, and at the back of all a stable, which occupies the whole width of the building. The consequence is, that all the animals, biped and quadruped, inhabiting the stable, must pass the traveller's door, who is regaled with the smell proceeding from the said stable, cook-rooms, &c.; all the insects they collect, and all the feathers from the fowls slaughtered upon the spot; the plan being, when parties arrive, to drive the unhappy creatures into the house, kill and pluck them immediately.
The persons in care of these bungalows are usually a mongrel sort of Franks, who have no idea of cleanliness, and are regardless of the most unsavoury odours. The furniture of the rooms consisted of a deal table and a moveable divan of wicker-work, while another, formed of the same solid materials as the house, spread in the Egyptian fashion along one side. Upon this Miss E. and myself laid our beds; our two other lady friends, with the infant and female attendant, occupying the opposite apartment. We concluded the evening with tea and supper, for which we were amply provided, having cold fowls, cold ham, hard-boiled eggs, and bread and fruit in abundance. Wrapped up in our dressing-gowns, we passed a very comfortable night, and in the morning were able to procure the luxury of warm water for washing with.
Having discovered that the people of the hotel at Cairo had forgotten to put up some of the articles which we had ordered, and being afraid that our supplies might fail, we had sent Mohammed back for them. He did not rejoin us until eight o'clock the following morning, just as we had begun to grow uneasy about him; it appeared that, although apparently well acquainted with the desert, having crossed it many times, he had missed the track, and lost his way, and after wandering about all night, was glad to meet with a man, whom he engaged as a guide. The poor fellow was much exhausted, but had not omitted to bring us a bottle of fresh milk for our breakfast. We desired him to get some tea for himself, and he soon recovered; his spirits never forsaking him.
In consequence of these delays, it was rather late, past nine o'clock, before we set forward. I had provided myself with a pair of crape spectacles and a double veil, but I speedily discarded both; the crape fretted my eye-lashes, and would have produced a greater degree of irritation than the sand. A much better kind are those of wire, which tie round the head with a ribbon, and take in the whole eye. Though the sun was rather warm, its heat was tempered by a fresh cold air, which blew across the desert, though not strongly enough to lift the sand; we, therefore, travelled with much less inconvenience than is sustained upon a turnpike-road in England in dusty weather. I could not endure to mar the prospect by looking at it through a veil, and found my parasol quite sufficient protection against the rays of the sun.
The kafila, which we had passed the preceding evening, overtook us soon after we started. It consisted of a long train of camels, and belonged to the native governor of Jiddah, who was proceeding to that place with, his wife and family, a native vessel being in waiting at Suez to take him down the Red Sea. We saw several females wrapped closely from head to foot in long blue garments, mounted upon these camels. The governor's wife travelled in a sort of cage, which I recognised immediately, from the description in Anastatius. This vehicle is formed of two rude kinds of sophas, or what in English country phrase would be called settles, canopied overhead, and with a resting place for the feet. They are sometimes separated, and slung on either side of a camel; at other times joined together, and placed on the top, with a curtain or cloth lining, to protect the inmates from the sun, and secure the privacy so necessary for a Mohammedan lady. The height of the camels with their lading, and this cage on the summit of all, give an extraordinary and almost supernatural appearance to the animal as he plods along, his head nodding, and his whole body moving in a strange ungainly manner.
Occasionally we saw a small party of Bedouins, easily distinguished by the fierce countenances glaring from beneath the large rolls of cloth twisted over their turbans, and round their throats, leaving nothing besides flashing eyes, a strongly developed nose, and a bushy beard, to be seen. One or two, superior to the rest, were handsomely dressed, armed to the teeth, and rode camels well-groomed and richly caparisoned; wild-looking warriors, whom it would not have been agreeable to meet were the country in a less tranquil state.
To the present ruler of Egypt we certainly owe the security now enjoyed in passing the desert; a party of ladies, having only three servants and a few donkey-drivers, required no other protection, though our beds, dressing-cases, and carpet-bags, to say nothing of the camels laden with trunks and portmanteaus a-head, must have been rather tempting to robbers by profession. The Pasha is the only person who has hitherto been able to oblige the Sheikhs to respect the property of those travellers not strong enough to protect themselves from outrage. It is said that occasionally these Bedouins, when desirous of obtaining water, make no scruple of helping themselves to the supplies at the bungalows; the will, therefore, is not wanting to commit more serious depredations. Consequently, in maintaining a good understanding with Egypt, we must likewise endeavour to render its sovereign strong enough to keep the neighbouring tribes in awe.
Having made a slight refection on the road, of hard-boiled eggs, bread, grapes, and apples, we came up at mid-day to a rest-house, where it was determined we should remain for an hour or two, to water the donkeys, and afford them needful repose, while we enjoyed a more substantial luncheon. Our companions were so well satisfied with the management of Mohammed, who conducted the whole line of march, that they sent their Egyptian servant forward to order our dinner at the resting-place for the night. We found, however, that advantage had been taken of Mohammed's absence the preceding evening, and of the hurry of the morning's departure, to send back some of the animals we had engaged and paid for, and to substitute others so weak as to be perfectly useless. We were likewise cheated with regard to the water; we were told that the camel bearing the skins, for which we had paid at Cairo, had been taken by mistake by two gentlemen travelling in advance, and as we could not allow the poor animals to suffer, we of course purchased water for them. This was no doubt an imposition, but one for which, under the circumstances, we had no remedy.
Upon reaching the bungalow, we again came up with the kafila that we had seen twice before; the wife of the governor of Jiddah, with her women, vacated the apartment into which we were shown, when we arrived; but her husband sent a message, requesting that we would permit her to occupy another, which was empty. We were but too happy to comply, and should have been glad to have obtained a personal interview; but having no interpreter excepting Mohammed, who would not have been admitted to the conference, we did not like to make the attempt. From the glance which we obtained of the lady, she seemed to be very diminutive; nothing beyond height and size could be distinguishable under the blue envelope she wore, in common with her women: some of the latter occasionally unveiled their faces, which were certainly not very attractive; but others, probably those who were younger and handsomer, kept their features closely shrouded.
Again betaking ourselves to our conveyances, we launched forth into the desert, enjoying it as much the second day as we had done the first. I entertained a hope of seeing some of the beautiful gazelles, for which Arabia is famous; but not one appeared. A pair of birds occasionally skimmed over the desert, at a short distance from its surface; but those were the only specimens of wild animals we encountered. The skeletons of camels occurred as frequently as before; many nearly entire, others with their bones scattered abroad, but whether borne by the winds, or by some savage beast, we could not learn. Neither could we discover whether the deaths of these poor animals had been recent or not; for so short a time only is required in Eastern countries for the insects to anatomize any animal that may fall in their way, that even supposing that jackalls and hyaenas should not be attracted to the spot, the ants would make quick work even of so large a creature as a camel.
There were hills in the back ground, which might probably shelter vultures, kites, and the family of quadrupeds that feed upon offal, and much did I desire to mount a high trotting camel, and take a scamper amongst these hills--obliged to content myself with jogging soberly on with my party, I was fain to find amusement in the contemplation of a cavalcade, the like of which will probably not be often seen again. Our five vehicles sometimes trotted abreast, affording us an opportunity of conversing with each other; but more frequently they would spread themselves all over the plain, the guides allowing their beasts to take their own way, provided they moved straight forward. Occasionally, a spare donkey, or one carrying the baggage, would stray off in an oblique direction, and then the drivers were compelled to make a wide detour to bring them in again. Once or twice, the ropes slipped, and my chair came to the ground; fortunately, it had not to fall far; or a donkey would stumble and fall, but no serious accident occurred; and though one of the party, being behind, and unable to procure assistance in righting the carriage, was obliged to walk a mile or two, we were all speedily in proper trim again. Towards evening, the easy motion of the chair, and the inclination I felt to close my eyes, after staring about all day, caused me to fall asleep; and again, much sooner than I had expected, I found myself at the place of our destination.
Either owing to a want of funds, or to some misunderstanding, the bungalow at this place, which is considered to be nearly midway across the desert, had only been raised a few inches from the ground; there were tents, however, for the accommodation of travellers, which we infinitely preferred. The one we occupied was of sufficient size to admit the whole party--that is, the four ladies, the baby, and its female attendant. There were divans on either side, to spread the beds upon, and the openings at each end made the whole delightfully cool.
We found Ali, the servant sent on in the morning, very busy superintending the cookery for dinner, which was performed in the open air. The share of bread and apples given to me upon the road I now bestowed upon my donkeys, not having reflected at the time that the drivers would be glad of it; so the next day, when the usual distributions were made, I gave the grapes, &c. to the donkey-men, who stuffed them into their usual repository, the bosoms of their blue shirts, and seemed very well pleased to get them.
The adjoining tent was occupied by two gentlemen, passengers of the Berenice; their servant, a European, brought to some of our people the alarming intelligence that the steamers would leave Suez in the course of a few hours, and that our utmost speed would scarcely permit us to arrive in time. Distrusting this information, we sent to inquire into its truth, and learned that no danger of the kind was to be apprehended, as the steamer required repair, the engines being out of order, and the coal having ignited twice on the voyage up the Red Sea.
Whatever may be the cause, whether from sheer misconception or an intention to mislead, it is almost impossible to rely upon any intelligence given concerning the sailing of vessels and other events, about which it would appear very possible to obtain authentic information. From the time of our landing at Alexandria, we had been tormented by reports which, if true, rendered it more than probable that we should be too late for the steamer appointed to convey the Government mails to Bombay. Not one of these reports turned out to be correct, and those who acted upon them sustained much discomfort in hurrying across the desert.
We were, as usual, rather late the following morning; our dear little play-thing, the baby, bore the journey wonderfully; but it seemed very requisite that she should have good and unbroken sleep at night, and we found so little inconvenience in travelling in the day-time, that we could make no objection to an arrangement which contributed so much to her health and comfort. It was delightful to see this lovely little creature actually appearing to enjoy the scene as much as ourselves; sometimes seated in the lap of her nurse, who travelled in a chair, at others at the bottom of one of our chairs; then in the arms of her male attendant, who rode a donkey, or in those of the donkey-men, trudging on foot; she went to every body, crowing and laughing all the time; and I mention her often, not only for the delight she afforded us, but also to show how very easily infants at her tender age--she was not more than seven months old--could be transported across the desert.
After breakfast, and just as we were about to start upon our day's journey, we saw what must certainly be called a strange sight--a wheeled carriage approaching our small encampment. It came along like the wind, and proved to be a phaeton, double-bodied, that is, with a driving-seat in front, with a European charioteer guiding a pair of horses as the wheelers, while the leaders were camels, with an Arab riding postillion. An English and a Parsee gentleman were inside, and the carriage was scarcely in sight, before it had stopped in the midst of us. The party had only been a few hours coming across. We hastily exchanged intelligence; were told that the Berenice had lost all its speed, being reduced, in consequence of alterations made in the dock-yard in Bombay, from twelve knots an hour to eight, and that the engines had never worked well during the voyage up.
During this day's journey, we met several parties, passengers of the steamer, coming from Suez. One lady passed us in a donkey-chair, with her daughter riding a donkey by the side; another group, consisting of two ladies and several gentlemen, were all mounted upon camels, and having large umbrellas over their heads, made an exceedingly odd appearance, the peculiar gait of the camel causing them to rise and fall in a very singular manner. At a distance, their round moving summits looked like the umbrageous tops of trees, and we might fancy as they approached, the lower portion being hidden by ridges of sand, that "Birnam Wood was coming to Dunsinane."
The monotony usually complained of in desert travelling cannot be very strongly felt between Cairo and Suez, for though there is little else but sand to be seen, yet it is so much broken and undulated, that there is always some diversity of objects. The sand-hills now gave place to rock, and it appeared as if many ranges of hills stretched out both to the right and left of the plains we traversed; their crags and peaks, piled one upon the other, and showing various colours, rich browns and purples, as they stood in shade or sunshine. Greenish tints assured us that vegetation was not quite so seamy upon these hills as in the desert they skirted, which only showed at intervals a few coarse plants, scarcely deserving the name. It has been said, that there is only one tree between Cairo and Suez; but we certainly saw several, though none of any size; that which is called, par excellence, "the tree," affording a very poor idea of timber.
We made a short rest, in the middle of the day, at a travellers' bungalow; and just as we were leaving it, one of Mr. Hill's caravans arrived--a tilted cart upon springs, and drawn by a pair of horses; it contained a family, passengers by the Berenice, consisting of a gentleman and his wife, two children and a servant. We conversed with them for a few minutes, and learned that they had not found the road very rough, and that where it was heavy they added a camel as a leader.
At this place we found some difficulty in purchasing, water for the donkeys; competition in the desert is not, as in other places, beneficial to the traveller. By some understanding with the Steam Committee, Mr. Hill has put his people into the bungalows; and they, it appears, have orders not to sell water to persons who travel under Mr. Waghorn's agency. If the original purpose of these houses was to afford general accommodation, the shelter which cannot be refused is rendered nugatory by withholding the supplies necessary for the subsistence of men and cattle. We procured water at last; but every thing attainable at these places is dear and bad.
We arrived, at rather an early hour, at our halting place for the night; and as we considered it to be desirable to get into Suez as speedily as possible, we agreed to start by three o'clock on the following morning. Just as we had finished our evening meal, three gentlemen of our acquaintance, who had scrambled across the desert from the Pyramids, came up, weary and wayworn, and as hungry as possible. We put the best that we had before them, and then retired to the opposite apartment. But in this place I found it impossible to stay; there was no free circulation of air throughout the room, and it had all the benefit of the smell from the stable and other abominations.
Leaving, therefore, my companions asleep, and wrapping myself up in my shawl, I stole out into the passage, where there were several Arabs lying about, and not without difficulty contrived to step between them, and to unfasten the door which opened upon the desert. There was no moon, but the stars gave sufficient light to render the scene distinctly visible. A lamp gleamed from the window of the apartment which I had quitted, and the camels, donkeys, and people belonging to the united parties, formed themselves into very picturesque groups upon the sand, constituting altogether a picture which could not fail to excite many agreeable sensations. The whitened bones of animals perishing from fatigue and thirst, while attempting to cross the arid expanse, associated in our minds with privation, toil, and danger, told too truly that these notions were not purely ideal; but here was a scene of rest and repose which the desert had never before presented; and mean and inconvenient as the building I contemplated might be, its very existence in such a place seemed almost a marvel, and the imagination, kindling at the sight, could scarcely set bounds to its expectations for the future. In the present frame of my mind, however, I was rather disturbed by the indications of change already commenced, and still to increase. I had long desired to spend a night alone upon the desert, and without wandering to a dangerous distance, I placed a ridge of sand between my solitary station and the objects which brought the busy world to view, and indulged in thoughts of scenes and circumstances which happened long ago.
According to the best authorities, we were in the track of the Israelites, and in meditations suggested by this interesting portion of Bible history, the time passed so rapidly, that I was surprised when I found the people astir and preparing for our departure. My garments were rather damp with the night-dews, for, having left some of my friends sleeping upon my fur cloak, I had gone out more lightly attired than perhaps was prudent. I was not, therefore, sorry to find myself warmly wrapped up, and in my chair, in which I should have slept very comfortably, had Hot the man who guided the donkeys taken it into his head to quarrel with one of his comrades, and to bawl out his grievances close to my ear. My wakefulness was, however, amply repaid by the most glorious sunrise I ever witnessed. The sky had been for some time obscured by clouds, which had gathered themselves in a bank upon the Eastern horizon. The sun's rays started up at once, like an imperial crown, above this bank, and as they darted their glittering spears, for such they seemed, along the heavens, the clouds, dispersing, formed into a mighty arch, their edges becoming golden; while below all was one flush of crimson light. Neither at sea nor on land had I ever witnessed any thing so magnificent as this, and those who desire to see the god of day rise in the fulness of his majesty must make a pilgrimage to the desert.
We made no stay at the rest-house, which we reached about nine o'clock in the morning; and here, for the last time, we saw the governor of Jiddah and his party, winding along at some distance, and giving life and character to the desert. The fantastic appearance of the hills increased as we advanced; the slightest stretch of fancy was alone necessary to transform many into fortresses and towers, and at length a bright glitter at a distance revealed the Red Sea. The sun gleaming upon its waters shewed them like a mirror, and soon afterwards the appearance of some low buildings indicated the town of Suez.
I happened to be in advance of the party, under the conduct of one of the gentlemen who had joined us on the preceding evening; I therefore directed Mohammed to go forward, to announce our approach; and either the sight of the Red Sea, or their eagerness to reach a well-known spring of water, induced my donkeys to gallop along the road with me; a fortunate circumstance, as the day was beginning to be very sultry, and I felt that I should enjoy the shelter and repose of a habitation. As we went along, indications of the new power, which had already effected the easy transit of the desert, were visible in small patches of coal, scattered upon the sand; presently we saw a dark nondescript object, that did not look at all like the abode of men, civilized or uncivilized; and yet, from the group hovering about an aperture, seemed to be tenanted by human beings. This proved to be an old boiler, formerly belonging to a steam-vessel, and appearing, indeed, as if some black and shapeless hulk had been cast on shore. The well, which had attracted my donkeys, was very picturesque; the water flowed into a large stone trough, or rather basin, beneath the walls of a castellated edifice, pierced with many small windows, and apparently in a very dilapidated state. Those melancholy memento moris, which had tracked our whole progress through the desert, were to be seen in the immediate vicinity of this well. The skeletons of five or six camels lay in a group within a few yards of the haven which they had doubtless toiled anxiously, though so vainly, to reach. I never could look upon the bones of these poor animals without a painful feeling, and in the hope that European skill and science may yet bring forward those hidden waters which would disarm the desert of its terrors. It is said that the experiment of boring has been tried, and failed, between Suez and Cairo, but that it succeeded in the great desert; some other method, perhaps, may be found, if the project of bringing water from the hills, by means of aqueducts, should be too expensive. We heard this plan talked of at the bungalow, but I fear that, in the present state of Egypt, it is very chimerical.
This was now our fourth day upon the desert, and we had not sustained the smallest inconvenience; the heat, even at noon, being very bearable, and the sand not in the least degree troublesome. Doubtless, at a less favourable period of the year, both would prove difficult to bear. The wind, we were told, frequently raised the sand in clouds; and though the danger of being buried beneath the tombs thus made, we had reason to believe, was greatly exaggerated, yet the plague of sand is certainly an evil to be dreaded, and travellers will do well to avoid the season in which it prevails. The speed of my donkeys increasing, rather than diminishing, after we left the well, for they seemed to know that Suez would terminate their journey, I crossed the intervening three miles very quickly, and was soon at the walls of the town.
Distance lends no enchantment to the view of Suez. It is difficult to fancy that the few miserable buildings, appearing upon the margin of the sea, actually constitute a town; and the heart sinks at the approach to a place so barren and desolate. My donkeys carried me through a gap in the wall, which answered all the purposes of a gateway, and we passed along broken ground and among wretched habitations, more fit for the abode of savage beasts than men. Even the superior description of houses bore so forlorn and dilapidated an appearance, that I actually trembled as I approached them, fearing that my guide would stop, and tell me that, my journey was at an end.
Before I had time to make any observations upon the place to which I was conducted, I found myself at the foot of a flight of steps, and reaching a landing place, saw another above, and Mohammed descending to meet me. I followed him to the top, and crossing a large apartment, which served as dining and drawing room, entered a passage which led to a light and certainly airy bed-chamber; for half the front wall, and a portion of one of the sides, were entirely formed of wooden trellice, which admitted, with the utmost freedom, all the winds of heaven, the sun, and also the dust. There was a mat upon the floor, and the apartment was whitewashed to the rafters, which were in good condition; and upon Mohammed's declaration that it was free from rats, I felt an assurance of a share of comfort which I had dared not expect before. There were two neat beds, with musquito-curtains, two tables, and washing apparatus, but no looking-glass; an omission which I could supply, though we had dispensed with such a piece of luxury altogether in the desert. Well supplied with hot and cold water, I had enjoyed the refreshment of plenteous ablutions, and nearly completed my toilet, before the arrival of the friends I had so completely distanced. I made an attempt to sit down to my desk, but was unable to write a line, and throwing myself on my bed full dressed, I fell asleep in a moment, and enjoyed the deepest repose for an hour, or perhaps longer.
I was awakened by my friend, Miss E., who informed me that the purser of the Berenice was in the drawing-room, and that I must go to him and pay my passage-money. I was not, however, provided with the means of doing this in ready cash, and as the rate of exchange for the thirty pounds in sovereigns which I possessed could not be decided here, at the suggestion of one of my fellow-passengers, I drew a bill upon a banker in Bombay for the amount, eighty pounds, the sum demanded for half a cabin, which, fortunately, I could divide with the friend who had accompanied me from England. This transaction so completely roused me, that I found myself equal to the continuation of the journal which I had commenced at Cairo. I despatched also the letter with which I had been kindly furnished to the British Consul, and was immediately favoured by a visit from him. As we expressed some anxiety about our accommodation on board the steamer, he politely offered to take us to the vessel in his own boat; but to this arrangement the purser objected, stating that the ship was in confusion, and that one of the best cabins had been reserved for us. With this assurance we were accordingly content.
We arrived at Suez on Wednesday, the 9th of October, and were told to hold ourselves in readiness to embark on Friday at noon. We were not sorry for this respite, especially as we found our hotel, which was kept by a person in the employment of Mr. Waghorn, more comfortable than could have been hoped for from its exterior. The greatest annoyance we sustained was from the dust, which was brought in by a very strong wind through the lattices. I endeavoured to remedy this evil, in some degree, by directing the servants of the house to nail a sheet across the upper portion of the perforated wood-work. The windows of our chamber commanded as good a view of Suez as the place afforded; one at the side overlooked an irregular open space, which stretched between the house and the sea. At some distance opposite, there were one or two mansions of much better appearance than the rest, and having an air of comfort imparted to them by outside shutters, of new and neat construction. These we understood to be the abodes of officers in the Pasha's service. Mehemet Ali is said to be extremely unwilling to allow English people to build houses for themselves at Suez; while he freely grants permission to their residence at Alexandria and Cairo, he seems averse to their settling upon the shores of the Red Sea. Mr. Waghorn and Mr. Hill are, therefore, compelled to be content to fit up the only residences at their disposal in the best manner that circumstances will admit. I had no opportunity of forming any opinion respecting Mr. Hill's establishment, but am able to speak very well of the accommodation afforded by the hotel at which we sojourned.
Judging from the exterior, for the desert itself does not appear to be less productive than Suez, there must have been some difficulty in getting supplies, notwithstanding we found no want of good things at our breakfast and dinner-table, plenty of eggs and milk, fowl and fish being supplied; every article doing credit to the skill of the cook. Nor was the cleanliness that prevailed, in despite of all the obstacles opposed to it, less worthy of praise: the servants were civil and attentive, and the prices charged extremely moderate. All the guests of the hotel of course formed one family, assembling daily at meals, after the continental fashion. The dining-room was spacious, and divided into two portions; the one ascended by a step was surrounded by divans, after the Egyptian fashion, and here were books to be found containing useful and entertaining knowledge. A few stray numbers of the Asiatic Journal, half a dozen volumes of standard novels, files of the Bombay Times, and works illustrative of ancient and modern Egypt, served to beguile the time of those who had nothing else to do. Meanwhile, travellers came dropping in, and the caravanserai was soon crowded.