May 2, 2012

Two Sides of Rosetta, 1819 | Walking Through Egypt

Evidence of the Past, 1908 
Elbert Farman


The sites of the ancient cities of the Delta are marked by mounds of earth which rise above the surrounding country, sometimes to the height of thirty to forty feet, and which are filled with potsherds of the successive generations that have inhabited these places.

Two Sides of Rosetta, 1819
John Fuller
Passing through some low sand-hills interspersed with palm trees, we soon afterwards arrived at Rosetta. This town makes no show on the land side, but on entering it we found that it was much larger and better built than Alexandria. It has, however, a very gloomy appearance; the houses, which in general are four storeys high, being constructed with very small dark-coloured bricks, bedded in thick layers of white mortar, and having a great number of small windows closed with wooden lattices. We passed through the bazaar, which is dark and narrow, to the house of Mr. Lenzi, the English vice-consul, who received us with much cordiality as his extravagant fears of the plague would allow, and procured us a lodging at an inn kept by an Italian, where we would have been comfortable enough, had we not been for the first time greeted by one of the modern plagues of Egypt in the shape of mosquitoes, which swarm upon the banks of the Nile, and are of a more venomous quality there than in any other place I visited. The moment you embark on the river, however, they disappear.

Nothing can be more striking than the difference in the character of the scenery on the land side and on the river side of Rosetta. On the one there is nothing to be seen but heaps of sand and a few straggling palm trees. On the other, the Nile rolls his slow and majestic-course through fields and gardens overgrown with luxuriant vegetation, and through groves of palms, orange trees, limes, and bananas. Its stream is divided just below the town by an island covered with lofty sycamores and acacias, among which were now deposited some Egyptian statues, which might have been supposed the tutelary deities of the spot.

Rosetta was at this time a place of great consideration, being the emporium from which all the grain brought from the Delta and from Upper Egypt was shipped for Alexandria. The opening of the canal however, at Rahmanie, must since have much diminished its importance. Its population was estimated as from twenty to thirty thousand. The quay is very fine, extending nearly a mile along the western side of the river. The Pasha’s granaries are built upon it, and we saw a great number of Fellahs’ or peasants employed in carrying the corn to and from the boats. Some of them were fine strong men, but they were almost naked and very miserable in their appearance, their pay being, as we understood, at the rate of five parahs (or about the eighth part of sixpence) per day, a very low scale of wages, notwithstanding the extreme cheapness of food in Egypt. The work however appeared to be done with great alacrity, owing perhaps to the vigilant superintendence of the Albanian taskmasters, who stood with long sticks in their hands, which they applied without ceremony to every loitering ‘operative’.

The gardens round Rosetta are large and productive. The season for dates was nearly passed, but some clusters still remained hanging on the trees, packed up in baskets made of leaves to protect them from the birds.

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