May 2, 2012

Through the Towns and Villages in Egypt 1183

Through the Towns and Villages, 1183
Ibn Jubayr

Villages in Egypt
We left Alexandria by the grace and help of God Most High on the morning of Sunday the 8thf Dhu ’1-Hijjah, the 3™ of April. Our first stage was to a place called Damanhur, a walled town in a large plane which extends from Alexandria to Misr. This plain is wholly cultivated, and is covered by the Nile in flood. Right and left are innumerable villages. The next day, Monday, we crossed the Nile at a place called Sa in a ferry boat, and came to a place called Birmah. It is a large village, with a market and all conveniences. Early on the morning of Tuesday, which was the Festival of the sacrifice of the year 578, we shared in the prayers in a place called Tandatah, a large and populous village, where we observed a vast concourse being addressed by the preacher in an eloquent and comprehensive discourse. Our way then took us to a place named Subk, where we passed the night. That day we had passed a pleasant place called Malij. All along the road were continuous cultivations and orderly villages. Early on Wednesday morning we removed, and came to the best village we had yet passed through. It is called Qalyub, and is six miles from Cairo, with fine bazaars and a large congregational mosque, superbly built. After that came Munyah, also a fine place, and from there we moved to Cairo, the Sultan’s magnificent and extensive city.

Visiting a Village, 1812
Dr. Charles Meryon
During the season of the ebb of the river, the banks are so high that nothing whatever can be seen from the boat; it is necessary, therefore, to land to get a view of the country. When landed, the eye roves over an endless plain, the sameness of which is broken by groves of date-trees, and in the midst of them, on low eminences, generally stand villages and towns. The spectator feels a kind of loneliness, and is forced to recall to his mind the productiveness of the land to balance the useful with the agreeable before he can bring himself to admit that Egypt in reality equals its renown. When, however, he walks inland a few furlongs, when he beholds the richness of vegetation, the variety of grain, the indescribable fatness of the soil the whole together, if he reflects, must forcibly strike him as an example of fertility, well worthy of all the praises that poets and historians have bestowed upon it. The miserable villages of the peasants were an assemblage of hovels, made of mud, or of mud bricks baked in the sun. As they are fearful of Bedouins, or of robbers of other kinds, the village is generally shut in a mud wall, more often rudely rectangular than otherwise, of a height sufficient to prevent a man getting over. To this there is one gate. On entering, a street somewhat wide generally leads from it, and here will be found the villagers squatting on their haunches, eyeing with suspicious looks every stranger that enters, lest he should be some government officer, some soldier, or one of those from whom they are accustomed to experience harm or loss. If the stranger, led by the curiosity natural to the European, should endeavour to penetrate farther into this village, he finds himself, at every instant, opposed by a blind alley, or he winds through a lane which, perhaps, brings him out just where he entered: and, in some villages, we found mazes more intricate than the Cretan labyrinth is reported to have been. Then the alarm of the women running to hide themselves, and of the children scampering after them, the jealousy of the husbands, and sometimes the barking of dogs, make it altogether difficult for a European to do more than seat himself in some open space, and limit his curiosity to the sight of what comes before him..

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