May 3, 2012

The End of the Mahmudiya Canal, 1836

The End of the Mahmudiya Canal, 1836 
John Lloyd Stephens

Mahmudiya Canal
The appearance of the river at the mouth of the canal is worthy of its historic fame. I found it more than a mile wide, the current at that season full and strong; the banks on each side clothed with a beautiful verdure and groves of palm trees (the most striking feature in African scenery), and the village of Fouah, the stopping place for boats coming up from Rosetta and Damietta, with its mosques and minarets, and whitened domes, and groves of palms forming a picturesque object in the view.

Upon entering the Nile we changed our boat, the new one being one of the largest and best on the river, of the class called canjiah, about seventy feet long, with two enormous lateen sails; these are triangular in form, and attached to two very tall spars more than a hundred feet long, heavy at the end, and tapering to a point; the spars or masts rest upon two short masts, playing upon them as pivots. The spar rests at an angle of about thirty degrees, and, carrying the sail to its tapering point, gives the boat when under way, a peculiarly light and graceful appearance. In the stem a small place is housed over, which makes a very tolerable cabin, except that the ceiling is too low to admit of standing upright, being made to suit the cross-legged habits of the Eastern people. She was manned by ten Arabs, good stout fellows, and a rais or captain.

Robert Curzon traveled on the Mahmudiya Canal through dull sandy flats interspersed with large pools to Atfeh, where it joined the Nile.

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