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The land around Alexandria is so low, that it does not come into sight till we are quite close to the harbour of Alexandria; but some time previously, we observe rising, as it were, out of the sea, the windmills, Pompey's Pillar, the Lighthouse, and Cleopatra's Needle, with several towers and minarets. From the town westward to the Lake Mareotis, for the space of nearly a mile, the sand hillocks by the shore are literally covered with windmills. I counted about two hundred. The turrets are about thirty feet high in all, the length of the arms about twenty feet, breadth of sail three to three and a half feet. They have eight Fanes each; and as they are set different ways, and so move in opposite directions in different mills, when tossing their arms in the wind, they look like a set of sea-monsters sprawling about on the shore, and striving to regain their native element. They are all employed in grinding wheat; and though rugged and rude enough in appearance, are in reality simple and efficient implements. They employ a single pair of stones, made either of French bhurr or vesicular lava from Sicily. They have no sifting or boulting apparatus : the ground wheat is received from the stones in a sack, and the flour afterwards dressed through a fine
gauze sieve by the hand. I visited several of them, with a view to the introduction of a similar species of machine into India.
On landing at Alexandria, the traveller now feels that he is fairly out of Europe. He may have seen a stray and stunted palm-tree or two at Gibraltar or Malta, with here and there a Turk or Arab in his native dress: these last, indeed, may be met with in the streets of London. At Alexandria all the costumes are Oriental, European residents mostly dressing like Turks. Vast groves of magnificent date-trees, far surpassing in beauty those to be met with in Western India, stretch away in all directions. Long strings of camels are employed in carrying merchandise. The women are all veiled-covered over with that unsightly blue vestment which conceals the person and the face, leaving a pair of little holes for the eyes to peep through. Formerly, it was the custom for passengers from the steam-packets to place themselves on the backs of donkeys, in order to get through the streets. This is all changed now, and the traveller finds a large and roomy van ready for his conveyance to the botel
, without absurdity, romance, or inconvenience. The great square of "Alexandria, where most of the European inhabitants reside, has a singularly fine and pleasing appearance, though without anything of which the architect can boast. The houses are built of whitish limestone, like Bathstone, only here the walls remain pure as when erected-taking no tarnish from the weather. In the centre is an obelisk of the yellowish-white
Cairo marble, which surmounts a fountain. The residences of the consuls around the square are each surmounted by a flagstaff, on which on gala-days the ensigns of their respective nations are displayed. The French consul has a strange-looking corkscrew staircase surrounding his, and leading to a watchtower which overlooks the town. Many of the signboards of the shopkeepers, especially the apothecaries, are painted with Greek characters. Here are situated the principal hotels, and hence diverge streets to all parts of the town.
Alexandria was originally built in the form of a Madonian mantle, with its longer side to the sea. At one time it contained a population of above half a million, of which half were slaves. It boasted of four thousand palaces, four thousand baths, four hundred theatres or places of amusement, twelve thousand shops for the sale of vegetables, and forty thousand tributary Jews. Its public libraries are said to have contained seven hundred thousand volumes of books. It was accidentally destroyed by fire during the war with the Romans in Cæsar's time. Ages of misrule under Saracens, and latterly under Turks, fell like a blight on everything in Alexandria, as on everything else in Egypt; and not until the era of Mehemet Ali, the present vigorous ruler, did the country show any symptom of revival. Since the beginning of the present century, the population of Alexandria has increased from seven thousand to seventy thousand. With its harbour and docks, it now possesses the appearance of a thriving port.
Vestiges of the ancient splendour of Alexandria are everywhere to be found. Fragments of richly-sculptured columns
, of architraves, cornices, and other portions of architectural ornament, are to be seen strewed about in every quarter of the city -broken up for lime or for paving-stones, and built into the meanest houses. Huge shafts of granite are continually disclosed, half buried amongst the rubbish or the sand; and the mounds of ruins are in many cases one mass of porphyries, granites, verde-anticoes, and marbles, brought from Upper Egypt or the south of Europe. In the course of a few hours I picked up some hundred specimens of thirty different varieties of the stones I have named, which required only a little polishing to restore to them their lustre. Mosaics, and pieces of ancient glass, are also abundant; the latter marked by that iridescent semi-metallic hue which indicates decay through extreme lapse of time. The sights at Alexandria are Pompey's Pillar, Cleopatra's Needles, the Catacombs, the pasha’s palace, and the battle-field where Abercromby fell, the Lake Mareotis, of which a distant view usually satisfies the traveller; and the canal. Pompey's Pillar stands on an eminence about six hundred yards from the present walls of the town, close beside the road which leads from the Rosetta Gate to the Mahmoudyé Canal. The total height of the column is ninety-eight feet. The shaft, which
is a single block of red granite or syenite, is nine feet eight inches in diameter, and seventy-three in length. It is now shown to have been erected by Publius, the prefect of Egypt, in honour of the Emperor Dioclesian. It probably was only put in its place when it is said to have been erected, forming most likely a portion of some of the more ancient and noble relics of Egypt. Cleopatra's Needles are at the opposite extremity of the town: they consist of two obelisks, one prostrate, and one erect, of the same material as the column. One is seventy, the other sixty-five feet high, and about seven feet in diameter at the base. They stood originally at Heliopolis, and were brought to Alexandria by one of the Cæsars. Both are covered with hieroglyphics.
The Lake of Mareotis is one of the curiosities of the neighbourhood of Alexandria, and is situated a short way beyond the Rosetta Gate. This lake, which is about a hundred and fifty miles in circumference, was originally fresh-water; and being about five or six feet deep, it answered the purposes
of navigation. In consequence of its connexion with the Nile being cut off
, its waters were wholly dried up, or nearly so; and in this condition it was eighty or ninety years since. An entire change followed. It is divided from the sea by mounds of sand, blown up from the shore, and its bottom is several feet lower than the level of the Mediterranean. Thus exposed to the danger of submersion, it was resolved, during the siege of Alexandria in 1788, to let in upon it the waters of the ocean. It was certain to produce a wide-spread calamity; but when did the demon
War stop to consider results? Four cuts were made, each of six yards in width, and ten distant from each other. The waters rushed in with á fall of six feet. Two more cuts were finished next day, and the sea finally broke down the divisions. What a scene of devastation! The sea flowed in for a week. The calamity was fearful
. The sites of three hundred villages were flooded, and rendered barren for ever.
The bank was afterwards closed up again, and the communication with the sea cut off; but the basin of the lake being lower than the surface of the sea, and the Mediterranean here being without tide, there was no means of drawing off the salt water. It was by degrees in a great
evaporated by the sun, leaving a vast expanse of once fertile surface covered with a dazzling snow-white sheet of salt
. In this condition I examined it in June 1845. The Nile is admitted annually
to it at flood, and the lake then reappears: but the
season only restores the condition previously existing. Nor does there appear to be any remedy for this, until the opuccessive depositions of silt from the river accumulate sufficiently to raise the bottom of the lake to a level with the sea in operation only to be effected through some vast and indefinite lapse of time. Till then, the salt must always mingle with the fresh-water silt deposited every year. Could rice or any grain
be grown on it, as in India, which flourishes even on saline grounds, the process of recovery would of course be greatly accelerated. The lake formerly communicated by a canal with the port of Old Alexandria.
In various masses of rock, composed of oolitic limestone, adjacent to the lake and near the town, are shown a number of curious catacombs, and other ancient works of art, including a variety of mosaics. South of the city are several high mounds, likewise interesting from the relics of ancient art found imbedded in them. The bricks used for building in Alexandria are those excavated from the ruins of the ancient city: they are quarried in abundance in all directions. They are well-formed, and excellently burnt; and so perfectly cemented together, that it is often more difficult to break the hardened mortar than the material it unites. The potter's wheel at Alexandria is a singular one: it consists of a spindle about two feet long, turning in a socket some one and a half feet under the level of the floor, and a collar about three inches from the upper extremity. The circular disk on which the ware is thrown is of course above this last. The wheel is turned at the rate of about two revolutions a second, by a circular flange some one and a half feet in diameter just above its lower insertion. The potter sits on the floor, his legs in a small pit below the wheel, shuffling with his feet on the flange just mentioned, and so making the wheel revolve. It is certainly the most awkward-looking implement by much that I have seen for the purpose. Yet the ware turned out is good, strong, well-shaped, and is afterwards thoroughly burned in kilns.
Admission to the pasha's palace may be procured by an order from the vakeel, or steward. It is a neat, but plain and unpretending building. The view from it is beautiful. The rooms are handsome, and well - proportioned and arranged; and the floors, of inlaid brightly-polished wood, have a very pleasing effect.
Travellers for India usually hurry through Egypt, with the view of not losing the steamboat, which is ready for them at Suez. But as there are two steamers a-month, those who have time and money to spare, may occupy themselves very delightfully in spending a fortnight on the journey. The conveyance of travellers from Alexandria to Suez is effected by the pasha, at an expense of £12. This charge includes everything save liquors and hotel bills of all kinds at Cairo, which fall on the passenger, and frequently amount to 15s., or £1. All charges of this class seem in Egypt extortionately high, and are indeed out of all proportion to tavern bills in Europe. But then it must be remembered that the whole establishments are permanently maintained, for the sake of employment, one day in fourteen; that unless when the passengers are on the way, the innkeepers are wholly idle. And now the arrange
ments hurry every one so fast, that they can only get some half-dozen hours of even the passengers, desiring to saddle them with the expenses incurred on their account during the interval when the house is open for the reception of guests, but when there are no guests to be received. Having arranged matters at the Transit Office, the traveller is duly informed of the hour when the vans quit the hotel, and should make the best of his time in the interval. The vans proceed to the place of embarkation, about two miles distant, on the Mahmoudyė Canal. The luggage is forwarded beforehand on camels, a carpet-bag being all that is allowed-it is all, indeed, that is requisite-for each individual to carry along with him.
The road to the canal leads through the great square already described, and on to the Rosetta Gate-an old ragged fragment of the fortifications of the town. And here, to his astonishment, the traveller finds that Alexandria is being fortified, after the manner of Paris, with walls, and bastions, and ditches, and all the other contrivances of military, engineership. The works are being constructed on the recommendation of the French, and under the superintendence of French engineers. A quarter of a century in time, and some millions of money, may be allowed for their completion, the miserable starving population being taxed for this useless and wanton waste. Passing onward, the road leads close to the elevation on which stands Pompey's Pillar. Not far to the left is the battle-field where Sir Ralph Abercromby fell. - The Mahmoudyé Canal connects Alexandria with Atfèh, a navigable point on the Nile. This important public work was begun in 1819, and completed in little more than six months, having been opened on the 24th of January 1820. It is fortyeight miles in length, ninety feet across, and about eighteen feet in depth. For a long distance, the banks of the canal are ornamented on one side by neat villas, with most beautiful shrubberies and flower-gardens in front of them. The little kiosks, or summer-seats, consisting, in a circle, of benches shadowed by lofty trees, almost hang over the banks. The canal is nowhere straight, and passes along a country so perfectly level, that locks are not required. One only exists at Atfèh. As many as a hundred and fifty thousand people are said to have been employed in the excavation of the canal: the inhabitants of all the villages in Lower Egypt were marched down to the stations respectively assigned to them, one month's pay having been advanced to enable them to supply themselves with provisions. The assemblage of so enormous a multitude, which would have formed a double line from end to end of the canal, had they stood as close as possible to each other, was sure to be productive of fatal results; and accordingly twenty thousand are understood to have perished on the occasion. Provisions ran scanty, many fell victims to starvation, and pestilence swept many more