|A dahabeeyah on the Nile (1891)|
The year is 1873 and Ms. Edwards and her traveling companion (who is identified only as L.) have taken refuge in Cairo quite by accident; because the weather that year in Europe had been so rainy. They have escaped to warmer climes and have secured for a cruise up the Nile a 100-foot dahabeeyah, or houseboat, known as Philae. Here is how she describes their first moments on board:
And now we are on board, and have shaken hands with the captain, and are as busy as bees; for there are cabins to put in order, flowers to arrange, and a hundred little things to be seen to before the guests arrive. It is wonderful however, what a few books and roses, an open piano, and a sketch of two, will do. In a few minutes the comfortless hired look has vanished, and long enough before the first comers are announced, the Philae wears an aspect as cozy and home-like as if she had been occupied for a month.
As for the luncheon, it certainly surprised the givers of the entertainment quite as much as it must have surprised the guests. Being, no doubt, a pre-arranged display of professional pride on the part of dragoman and cook, it was more like an excessive Christmas dinner than a modest midday meal. We sat through it unflinchingly, however, for about an hour and three quarters.
Later, after the guests have left and the boat is underway:
Happy are the Nile travelers who start thus with a fair breeze on a brilliant afternoon. The good boat cleaves her way swiftly and steadily. Water-side palaces and gardens glide by, and are left behind. The domes and minarets of Cairo drop quickly out of sight. The mosque of the citadel, and the ruined fort that looks down upon it from the mountain ridge above, diminish in the distance. The Pyramids stand up sharp and clear.
We sit on the high upper deck, which is furnished with lounge-chairs, tables and foreign rugs, like a drawing-room in the open air, and enjoy the prospect at our ease.
It really is a wonderful story - you can see how Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz was so inspired by it re her Amelia Peabody character.ReplyDelete
Absolutely, Vicki. I can't help but see the real Amelia in the fictional Amelia. I love Edwards' prose. So descriptive although I do stumble over the foreign names.Delete
I love, love, love these old travel narratives, especially ones like Edwards, so chatty and as if she's writing directly to the reader. If you haven't already read it, you would probably like Lady Duff-Gordon's Letters from Egypt.ReplyDelete
Hi Joan. I agree that the vintage travel books are wonderful. I especially like to read about the way this writer traveled - seems so civilized. Have you read 'Innocents Abroad; by Mark Twain? It is a classic and so very funny. I will look up Lady Duff-Gordon's letters. Thanks for the tip.Delete
Fascinating. I've never heard of her. Our library doesn't have it, naturally.:)ReplyDelete
Of course, Kat, I wouldn't be able to cruise up the Nile as I would be the one hanging over the railing suffering from seasickness. But reading about it doesn't make me queasy at all!Delete
Ms. Edwards was one of the first Victorian female archaeologists and worked to preserve the ancient Egyptian sites from total destruction. I like her style! She came to America in 1889 and made a 120-stop lecture tour. By all accounts, she was wildly popular.