Great Grandfather’s Egypt 1895 – From his Journal

Posted on January 30, 2011


SamHenry’s Great Grandfather and his family traveled to Egypt in 1895 aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm II.  He kept a diary to pass the time on-board and continued throughout his stay in Egypt.

A Cook’s tour book of the time recommended that their patrons read Amelia Edward’s travel classic 1,000 Miles up the Nile. It is available for a good read here.

Here is Edward’s summary of the scene at the legendary Shepheard’s Hotel at the Great Pyramids:

Before two days are over, [the average guest] knows everybody’s name and everybody’s business ; distinguishes at first sight between a Cook’s tourist and an independent traveller ; and has discovered that nine-tenths of those whom he is likely to meet up the river are English or American. The rest will be mostly German, with a sprinkling of Belgian and French. So far en bloc ; but the details are more heterogeneous still. Here are invalids in search of health ; artists in search of subjects ; sportsmen keen upon crocodiles ; statesman out for a holiday ; special correspondents alert for gossip ; collectors on the scent of papyri and mummies ; men of science with only scientific ends in view ; and the usual surplus of idlers who travel for the mere love of travel, or the satisfaction of a purposeless curiousity. [Edward’s – 1.000 Miles Up the Nile]

As a merchant, Grandfather traveled to Egypt frequently.  He described Alexandria as having a European tone; Cairo as dirty but interesting. He spoke of concerns for his safety while visiting certain quarters with the men on the tour.

Today we worry about the Egyptian antiquities.  In his day European and American tourists were already raising funds to build an adequate museum for Egyptian antiquities.  However,at that time it was possible to purchase unique “souvenirs:” duplicate antiquities and small mummies.  He described the latter:

“…[A]ll mummies do not look equally well preserved, neither do they all smell equally sweet.”

He and his fellows decided not to purchase any of the mummies for fear they would not make it to the US.  

These were the early years of excavation out a Giza.  This is as much as he or any other tourist would see of the Sphinx:

Grandfather’s Egypt is gone, replaced by a nation of people who are very much 21st century and wired for it.  Next to Muslims and Christians joining together in the current revolution, the hopeful sign for the culture is to read of ordinary citizens circling the Cairo Museum to protect it from vandals.


Posted in: EGYPT, TRAVEL