Cairo, Egypt

Tuesday, February 5, 1929

Had a nice little walk today. Started out a little after seven and followed the levee of theĀ  Nile south from Giza. It was a beautiful day, mild and sunny. I walked through many villages along the bank of the river. At this hour in the morning the paths and roads were full of people coming the going. Many riding donkeys and camels. The donkeys here are very small. I have seen dirty places and people before, but never anything to compare with these people who live in little mud villages in the fertile narrow strip near the Nile. The villages are built of mud. Few houses are of a baked clay brick, but most are just a dry plastered mud with corn stalks for a roof, or boards. These villages are always either in or by a palm grove and are most interesting. The people are the last word in being filthy. Ample proof of their habits of living can be seen in the great number who are either blind in one eye or in both; and by their decayed teeth or their toothless jaws. Never cleaning themselves and living in such filth, they suffer from diseases and plagues often. They sit in the streets which are, of course, never cleaned. By streets I mean very narrow dirt streets or else dirt passages between the mud houses. The children roll around in the dirt and dust and are really pitiable sights. In one village I saw two mothers sitting in the middle of the dirt road nursing babies. Most every village has a pond in or by it by which chickens, donkeys, dogs, and goats stay when they aren’t roaming the streets. It usually smells fierce. Often, if the village is back from the river, the women wash their clothes and their cooking utensils here too. Saw some pounding away in an old canal of dirty water and nearby, in the water, lay an old dead horse, half decayed.

Inside most shops and houses the dirt is even worse than outside. The furniture is nil in many, only some corn stalks spread over the floor to sleep on. Creatures supposed to be humans lay in the dust alongside the roadway, asleep. In the hot weather I imagine swarms of flies and bugs add to the wretched conditions. It made me feel dirty to go through such places. I finally came out on the main road and walked on several miles more to Budrashane, once cutting back to some villages on the river for a picture of the Nile and the great sand cliffs opposite across the river. Leaving the guides behind, I took what I supposed to be the road toward Memphis and soon came to the site of this once capital of Egypt, now reduced to a few piles of bricks here and there, old foundations and bare dusty ground under a great large grove of lofty palms. There was a 1,000-ton granite statue of Ramses II, knocked down in the 8th century and now resting on its back. Nearby a sphinx, not so large and much worn.

Walking on farther I came to Sakkarah. I didn’t go out through the town or on the desert for I had a splendid view of all from a knoll near a dry canal. To the right was the Step Pyramid, the oldest of the pyramids. In front, a large affair that looked like an oven; in it are some tombs. To the left were the two large pyramids of Sakkarah. Then there were a number of small ruins of pyramids or else some sort of mounds used for tombs. As I had already waked 20 miles, I didn’t feel like tramping 5 or 6 more through the desert. Returning to Budrashane, I walked back toward Cairo three miles, then got a bus, really a Chevrolet truck holding together by a miracle. It tore back to Giza where I got a car into the city. I’m worse than a Scotchman. Walked 25 miles to save from 30 to 60 cents and would have walked the other 15 to save the two bits, but my feet were hurting. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. It was the best way of seeing how the country people existed.

On the west side of the Nile, just south of Cairo, are some mighty fine homes with large gardens. The architecture is not so pretty, but they are rather imposing. One of my guide friends has invited me out to his home by the pyramids for an Arabic lunch. Can’t accept, though, as I’m leaving tomorrow. Can’t hand [handle?] an Arabic meal I had last night so much. The country people all chew sugar cane all the time.

Thus the second book ends sweetly in Cairo, y[ours] t[ruly] having traveled 17,288 miles and visited 26 countries in the last 6 months and 26 days.

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