[Aboard the Djemnah] -- 3 June -- Saturday

This is the anniversary of the earthquake which set back my country in an incredible manner; learned men, talents, and wealth disappeared. Let us pray to God.

It was fairly cold this morning when we woke up. The thermometer registered 20 degrees. An Egyptian merchant who was embarked in a boat is a soldier. He was bringing merchandise and he wanted to approach our boat to do business.

The officer in charge refused to allow him and there ensued a dispute, supported by the tenacity of the Turk and the severity of the quarantine. It is worthwhile to see the stubbornness of the follower of the Koran. When he finally gave up, he went away throwing insults at the Frenchmen.

At about eleven or before, the doctors came to disinfect our ship. One of them, the same one who came yesterday in a boat -- fairly smart, courteous, and well-bred -- brought us the news about the present disturbance in Egypt. The Khedive, according to what I have heard, is a prisoner of the Minister of War Arabi-Bey1 who, it seems, wants to execute a coup d'état. Everybody, the troops and the youth, seemed to be on the side of this young man who has won the goodwill of all. When I spoke with the doctor about this and expressed some of my opinions, he answered me with marked satisfaction, saying at every pause: "Bravo, that's good, bravo!" I learned that he had studied in Paris and spoke, besides French and Arabic, English and Italian.

A crowd of peddlers, came after the fumigation, bringing, and vying with each other, pictures, fruits, and a thousand little objects.

Shortly after, we weighed anchor and sailed toward Suez.


After going through an agglomeration of houses among dwarfish and rickety trees, we enter the Canal, the work which immortalizes Lesseps2 and yields incalculable benefits. The Canal is about forty varas wide so that two ships abreast can go through it. At its maximum length it is 85 kilometers. In general its low and irregular banks are desert -- sandy, yellowish, devoid of any vegetation. Here and there can be seen only huts, telegraphic stations, some miserable Arabs, dredges, and little launches with sails which move swiftly through the clear surface of the water.

At six we enter a lake, formerly dry, which, it is believed, Moses had crossed. At nightfall we cast anchor. The following day we continued on our way, meeting some crafts, now in the lake and now in the Canal. Then in another lake we had to stop for various reasons. In the second lake we saw a little of Ismailia and after one passage, or more exactly, sailing in the river, we had to stop, God knows how long, for a ship obstructed the way.

During the navigation, we saw a wretched young man running alongside the ship, picking up pieces of bread which the passengers threw to him. Seeing him run on the sand, go down and pick up eagerly the bread, now going down the river to wrest from the water a piece of biscuit, was enough to sadden the gayest man. A camel was trotting on the sand in the afternoon. It is fairly cool near the river.

1He was Arabi Pasha, an army officer, who led a revolt against the foreigners in Egypt with the slogan "Egypt for the Egyptians." The anti-foreign agitation began with riots in Alexandria in June 1882 in which fifty Christians were killed. The disorder spread and the British intervened with armed force. They bombarded Alexandria on 11 July 1882 and then landed troops which clashed with those of Arabi. On 13 September Arabi was finally defeated at Tel-el-Kebir. He was captured and sent to Ceylon.

2Viscount Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps(1805-1894), promoter of the Suez Canal.


Post a Comment

<< Home