May 7, 2012

Arrangements for Traveling up the Nile | Walking Through Egypt

Arrangements for Traveling up the Nile
Travelers in Egypt in the past had to make careful preparations for their journey up the Nile. The Arab traveler Ebn Haukal made the journey sound a great adventure and a delight; John Fuller found the journey easy, but travelers needed advice and help from others Harriet Martineau provided special advice for ladies. Early travelers needed a firman, or letter of introduction, from an important person in order to travel along the river. All was not always harmony, for, as two travelers told, the wind might not always blow, or it could blow too hard.

Nile River Map

Up Nile, c. 960
Ebn Haukal
There is not any person who knows the foundations or source of the river Nile; on this account, because it issues from a cavern in the territories of Zingbar, from a certain spot, which man may very nearly approach, yet never can arrive at: after this, it runs through the inhabited and desert parts of the Nubians to Misr (Egypt); and there where it first becomes a river, it is equal to the Deljeh and Frat (Tigris and Euphrates). And the water of the river Nile is the most pure and delicious of all waters on the face of the earth.

Just an Excursion, 1819
John Fuller
The narrative of a voyage on the Nile cannot be very entertaining, the incidents being little more than a repetition of rowing and towing, far and contrary winds, now and then running on a sandbank, and occasionally a mutiny of the boatmen. The police of the country was at this time good, and such perfect tranquillity prevailed that there were no ‘hair-breadth ‘capes’, no attacks from thieves or banditti to be recorded, as in the times of the older travellers. The voyage from Cairo to the Cataract might be performed with as much security, and almost with as much ease, as an excursion on the Thames; and in my progress up and down the Nile, I fell in with not less than five or six parties of Englishmen, and several other Europeans.

The Firman, 1737 
Richard Pococke
To Emir Mahomet Kamali What I order:
The person that brings this letter is an Englishman, going into Upper Egypt, to see whatever is curious there; so when he delivers this letter take care to protect him from all harm; and 1 command you again to take care of him. I desire you not to fail of it, for the love you bear us.

Osman Bey Merlue
In 1847, the first Murray’s Guide to Egypt had two long pages of things useful for a journey, suggesting where they should be acquired. Many of them were standard items that anyone might consider for such a journey, but many were unexpected, and tell much about the journey itself. Harriet Martineau considered there were further requirements for lady travelers and writes of the particular care she regarded necessary for healthy and comfortable living in the east.

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