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Description of EgyptNotes and Views in Egypt and Nubia$

Edward William Lane

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9789774245251

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774245251.001.0001

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(p.71) Chapter IX. Booʼlaʼck.
Description of Egypt

Jason Thompson

American University in Cairo Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter gives an account of the distant view of the Egyptian metropolis and its environs: the Nile being at its highest point. This chapter also discusses the general appearance of Boo'la'ck, the principal port of the metropolis. This port has now a more respectable appearance, towards the river, than it is described to have had when Egypt was occupied by the French. This chapter talks about the population, mosques, manufactories, and printing-office of Boo'la'ck.

Keywords:   Egyptian metropolis, occupation, Nile, Boo'la'ck, French

Distant view of Musr (or Cairo), &c.—General appearance of Booʼlaʼck—Its extent and population, mosques, manufactories, and printing-office.

The distant view of the Egyptian metropolis and its environs I enjoyed to great advantage on my first approach: the Nile being at its highest point, many objects which at other seasons would have been concealed by its banks were visible from our boat; and the charm of novelty, with the effect of a brilliant evening sunshine, contributed as much to the interest of the scene as those romantic fascinations with which history and fiction have invested it. I was most pleased with the prospect when about a league distant from the metropolis. The river (here about half a mile in width) was agitated by a fresh breeze, blowing in direct opposition to the current. Numerous boats were seen around us: some, like our own, ploughing their way up the rapid stream: others drifting down, with furled sails. On our left was the plain of Heliopolis. The Capital lay directly before us; and seemed to merit the pompous appellation by which Europeans have long dignified it: I believe, however, that it was originally called by them “Grand Cairo” merely to distinguish it from the town improperly named “Old Cairo.” It certainly had a grand appearance; though partly concealed by nearer objects; being situated on an almost perfect flat, and about a mile distant from the river. might have counted nearly a hundred maʼdʼnehs (or menarets), towering above the crowded houses. These, while they shewed the extent of the town, seemed, from their vast number, and from their noble proportions, to promise a degree of magnificence far beyond what I had previously expected; and I began to think that I might find in the Egyptian capital some of the very finest existing specimens of Arabian architecture: nor was I disappointed by the subsequent examination of the monuments of this city. At the further extremity of the metropolis was seen the Citadel, upon a rocky elevation, about two hundred and fifty feet above the level of the plain. The yellow ridge of Mount Moockutʼtum, behind the city, terminated the prospect in that direction. The scene on the opposite side of the river possessed, with less varied features, a more impressive interest. Beyond a spacious, cultivated plain, interspersed with villages and palm-groves, we beheld the famous Pyramids of El-Geeʼzeh. Viewing them under the effect of the evening sun (the sides presented towards us being cast into shade), their appearance was peculiarly striking; their distance not being diminished to the eye, as it is, through the extraordinary clearness of the air, when they reflect the rays of the sun towards the spectator. As we approached (p.72) Booʼlaʼck, the second and third pyramids became gradually concealed from our view by the greatest. Arriving within a mile or two of this town, our boatmen began to testify their joy by songs adapted to the occasion, according to their general custom1; and to these songs succeeded the ruder music of the zoommaʼrah and darabookʼkeh (the double reed-pipe, and earthen drum), which was prolonged until we reached the port.

Booʼlaʼck Booʼlaʼck., the principal port of the metropolis,2 has now a more respectable appearance, towards the river, than it is described to have had when Egypt was occupied by the French. The principal objects seen in approaching it by the Nile, from the north, are the warehouses and manufactories belonging to the government; which are extensive, white-washed buildings, situated near the river. In the same part of the town are seen large mounds of corn and beans, piled up in spacious enclosures, in the open air: such being the general mode of storing the grain throughout Egypt; for there is little fear of its being injured by rain. The great mosque, surrounded by sycamores and other trees, has a very picturesque appearance.3 The landing-place presents a lively scene; the bank being lined by numerous boats, and thronged by noisy boatmen, porters, sackʼckas (or water-carriers), and idle Turkish soldiers, besides camels, asses, &c. The costume of the lower orders here is the same as throughout Lower Egypt; generally the blue shirt, and the white or red turban. The dresses of the middling classes, and of the Turks, being gay and varied, contribute much to the picturesque character of the scene. Above the general landing-place is a palace which was built for the late Ismaʼeeʼl Baʼsha, son of Mohhamʼmad ʼAlʼee.4 It is a large building, white-washed, and painted with festoons of flowers, like many of the palaces of Constantinople; and having glass windows. Of late, it has occasionally been made use of as barracks for some of the Nizaʼm Gedeeʼd, or regular troops.

Booʼlaʼck is about a mile in length; and half a mile is the measure of its greatest breadth. It contains about 20,000 inhabitants; or nearly so. Its houses, streets, shops, &c. are like those of the metropolis, of which I shall give a description in the next chapter. Of the mosques of Booʼlaʼck, the large one called Es-Sinʼaʼneeʼyeh, and that of Abʼoo-l-ʼElʼë, are the most remarkable; the former, for its size; the latter, for the beauty of its maʼdʼneh. The principal manufactories are those of cotton and linen cloths, and of striped silks of the same kind as the Syrian and Indian. Many Franks find employment in them. A printing-office has also been established at Booʼlaʼck, by the present viceroy. Many works on military (p.73) and naval tactics, and others on Arabic grammar, poetry, letter-writing, geometry, astronomy, surgery, &c. have issued from this press. The printing-office contains several lithographic presses, which are used for printing proclamations, tables illustrative of military and naval tactics, &c.1


(1) Two specimens of these songs will be found in the first chapter of the second volume [chapter 17] of this work.

(1) A list of the works printed at Booʼlaʼck will be given in a appendix to this volume. The appendix will also contain an account of the Egyptian Measures, Weights, Money, &c.

[This appendix is missing from the manuscript. In Modern Egyptians, first published in 1836, after a general description of the products of the Pasha's press at Boulaq, Lane adds, “I have transmitted a list of these works to the Royal Asiatic Society (p. 558, n. 1, 1860 edition).” He may therefore have contemplated a separate publication by the Royal Asiatic Society in addition to the appendix, which he may not yet have written as such or may have removed to send to the R.A.S. This communication, however, never appeared in the Society's publications, nor is its receipt recorded in the Society's archives, which are indeed incomplete for the early years of its existence. The “account of the Egyptian Measures, Weights, Money, &c.” appeared as Appendix B of Modern Egyptians.]

(2) Some of the vessels from the Saʼeeʼd (or Upper Egypt) unload at Musr ʼAteeʼckah.

(3) See plate 7[,] no. 1 [ fig. 13, upper].

(4) See plate 7, no. 2 [fig. 13, lower].