Cairo, Egypt

Sunday, February 3, 1929

I started out this morning at nine with all good intentions of going to church. These fell through, however, when I found the Museum open. I spent two hours in there looking at a really wonderful exhibition of ancient Egyptian relics, stone statues, sarcophagi, etc. King Tut‘s things were all on exhibit, a fine array of a great variety of objects, mostly all gilded. Also some beautiful alabaster vases. In another room were the jewels, etc. Many beautiful pieces wrought in finely hammered gold and splendidly designed. Many gold ornaments were inlaid with colored stones. The outside sarcophagus was of a delicate workmanship with much gold used, while the inner one containing the body is all of brilliant gold and inlaid stones, a most striking and fascinating object.

From 11:30 to 3, I spent in the native quarters. Wending my way through the narrow, crooked maze of passages and streets, I at last arrived at the foot of the Mahommed Ali Mosque, second only in the world to one in Constantinople. I put on some slippers over my shoes and with a guide entered the large court where the fountain of the holy water is. The inside of the Mosque is very pretty. A huge rug covering all the floor on which all sit faced toward the alabaster indentation in the east wall, king included, or sultan. Much fine decoration and a huge chandelier in the center of the room with many other lamps arranged about it in circular formations. These are all lit some five times a year. The beautiful tomb of Mahommed is also to be seen by looking through a glass window into the tomb chamber.

Nearby is the old mosque, now out of use and slowly going. Also, a garrison of British troops is stationed in the fort there on the hill. Toward the east, way up on a high sand cliff at the edge of the Arabian Desert, stands an old French fort and farther on, a mosque. The view of Cairo from Mahommed Ali Mosque is an exceedingly fine one. To the south are the old Roman aqueducts and the broad rolling desert. To the west the Nile and the native section with its dozens of minarets rising far above the surrounding housetops. Directly at the foot of the hill are two largeĀ  mosques, and in the center of the native quarter is a large one having a great square court. Farther on are some sand hills, sites of an ancient Roman town, but now completely surrounded by the growing city. The strong wind blew the sand and dust in great clouds so that you could not see for great distances clearly. I had so much in my eyes I could scarcely see at all.

I next went down into the filthy, dirty, smelly native quarters and for an hour and a half didn’t see one white man or European. The streets are narrow, unpaved many of them, twisty, and full of dirt and filth. Chickens and goats are walking about and donkeys drawing two-wheeled carts pass by, with an occasional camel laden with straw or alfalfa. The kids run about under your feet and are hopelessly dirty. A hundred years ago they were dirty for a purpose, as a protection from the evil eye. Now they have no such excuse. The women are almost invariably in black and veiled. Often they wear a brass ring fixed to the lobe of their nose and some wear rings around their ankles. Many still adhere to the old custom of dying their fingertips and often the palms of their hands with red henna. The poorer wear no stockings and have but a wood sole with a canvas thong for sandals, or go barefooted. Many of the men, especially the blacks, go barefooted and consequently have surprisingly large and broad feet. Most all these blacks have three long scars down each cheek. This is done by cutting the cheek, and when the scab forms, I believe they break it and rub dirt or dye into the wound.

You seldom see a bareheaded man. If Egyptian, he wears a fez; if negro a rag wrapped around his head for a turban. Egyptians of the better class wear European clothes, but in the poor native sections all wear their robes of black, white, or striped. You often see some miserable person stretched out by a wall, asleep. My kodak proved to be a great curiosity and the kids would always stand right in front of it and pose, some in all seriousness. I came across several schools where the little kids were all seated at their desks or else raising the roof during a recess time.

Many, many old buildings were falling down and half demolished. Seemed as though the place had gone through a war. All was activity in the main streets. Little shops lined both sides of the narrow streets. They were all open to the front and here you could see the weavers and tailors sitting on the floor, busy at their work. Or a carpenter or fez maker or a brass shop. It was all more than interesting, but terribly dirty and dusty. Back at the hotel I was black and even had to wash my hair.

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