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Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabijeh Bolbol.

My darling. Here we are in our little dahabijeh Bolbol—everything so sweet, so cosy, so happy. We have just had a very nicely served lunch—Josephine (Pops) Lawes has been with us, & her two children—we have had a bottle of champagne for good luck. Josephine wants to meet you very much & we have made the following provisional plan. You probably arrive in Port Said on Tuesday & have a few hours there, as we did. Will you telegraph to “Plunkett, Military School, Abbassiyeh, Cairo”? You can send 8 words for 2 piastres—“arrive 11.20 train tonight”. You will stay at Shepheard’s Hotel next door to Cook’s Office. At Cook’s Office you will find the very latest news from me. Josephine will come in to see you with her two boys, & will take you to the bazaars or wherever you like—& if she has a nurse for her baby at home, will stay to lunch with you or take you home with her. You will come on by the night train in sleeping carriage—starts about 8.30 from Cairo—& we shall meet you at the station on Thursday at Luxor or at Assouan—whichever it may be. Oh Freddy dear, how lovely it will be—how happy we shall all be! There is a good dining car in the train from Port Said to Cairo—you get a very nice dinner. I am giving this to Josephine to post from here tomorrow. I have already sent off letters today & it will be a day or two before you can get another letter from Wasta. We had a wonderful time with the Sphinx last night, by the moon. I must go—have to run into Cairo to call for letters & do one or two little things. In great haste—with great love—

Ever yours,


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabijeh Bolbol. Nov. 23rd 1904

My darling Laddie. Almost a week gone by—but we have not yet come more than 20 miles out of 600. We have only had the North wind twice for a few hours in the afternoon—though it is the reputed one wind for November, December & January! When you get this we shall have reached Ouasta (I spelt it “Wasta” {1}) about 57 miles from Cairo. But you must not think that it is a disappointment. If only it were not a question of time limit, one would not care how long one loitered on the way. If we were to get a steady North wind we should be at Luxor in 14 days: a week before you come. I can hardly believe how happy we are! It seems ridiculous to go on day after day & night after night in one long dream of delight. We have everything to make us happy—a very contented & happy crew—everybody pleased—and our every wish & whim gratified. Talk about Mammy-babies! As for the little lady Hetty, it is most amusing—she won’t stir foot or finger for herself! It is “Abdul!” or “Ali!” or “Mursi!” if she wants a fly brushed off her noes. So different from the Hetty at Caversham!

We have a splendid cook, everything served so nicely—piping hot—& so nice. I have realized the possibilities of an omelette. The Turkish coffee is delicious & is served as often as one wants it. Toast for breakfast—& apricot jam! The waiter “Moorsi” always at hand, reading one’s wishes from one’s face before the word, & the fly-wisk† in his hands, always ready to brush the flies away. They keep every thing nicely covered up, even the salt & pepper pots have sliding glass covers. I have never seen the flies on any food—I wish folks would be as careful in England. We have a bath & a shower bath—& a tap of water in each room—every luxury! We shall have this cook & waiter in the desert, so I need not worry about your not getting the right food or being properly looked after! Though I find it next to impossible to look either forward or back—I think that Camp in the desert will be the very best part of all. You & I have a little tent for ourselves: oh Freddy how we shall love the whole thing. I don’t want you to sleep in hotels at all, except the first night & the last night you are in Egypt. I want to know just how much time you have to give: what seems a long time when you think of it at home is nothing at all when you are living this life—the sense of division of time seems to vanish. If you can spare 5 weeks you will be able to have at least two or three days with us on the Bolbol—but if you can spare only 4, we shall have to get on to Assouan first. We are all looking forward tremendously to your coming—the men are most interested in you—& you will get a great welcome. I think of you, not as though you were in London, but as though you were waiting at Luxor or Assouan. I simply cannot turn my thoughts Northward—they won’t go. I have never before been away without being able to look forward to going home. But now I feel no wish at all except to keep on—the days are not long enough & they follow each other all too quickly—I want weeks & months just going on like this. I am sure you will have noticed in my letters that I am quite rambling & incoherent. I don’t seem able to put words together—one is receiving impressions so quickly; one wants to stop & feel—to shut out the light & reconstruct in the dark. Even at night-time, there is the full goblet right to the second when one falls asleep. At first I was too happy to sleep—but now I sleep 8 or 9 hours right away. And yet the charm is so elusive & made up of such constantly shifting small things.

At this moment for instance—here moored alongside the bank, sitting under this awning on the deck—a delicious breeze blowing, the blue sky reflected in each ripple of the river—the opal gleam of the water as a whole—the rosy hills in the East—the big barges of hay in front of our bows, with their great curved masts, the barefooted, blue robed arabs at their various tasks—our crew squatting on the bank gossipping with the peasants—bargaining sometimes—laughing—telling stories—one of the men roasting the coffee over a little fire—men, women, children & animals passing—& light & colour, atmosphere & incident changing every minute. One wants nothing more than to sit in one’s chair dreaming oneself into this life & this world. Then when one thinks of all the wonderful past! We were walking this morning—such a perfect day—we felt we could easily have done the 30 miles to Ouasta.

And now I have to tell you how I got your dear letters on Monday—three of them. As we had not started, I went into Cairo & found out from Cook’s that a mail from England was expected that afternoon. So I asked them to keep back the letters until a certain hour & sent Ali in to fetch them. While he was away, the North wind came & they spread the sails—we could not go far of course. We left another man on the bank to tell Ali where to catch us up—& all too soon we had to anchor & wait. He came at dark bringing the letters & oh how glad I was—for Sweetheart, I was getting hungry—it was the 5th day. I read your letters & read them again—so glad. I am sending you a little list of some little things I should like you to bring out. Three weeks tomorrow! & a fortnight tomorrow you will be starting. Oh I do hope you will find everything as we find it—that you will feel the same enchantment. It will all be so very different from anything you have ever done before. I can’t imagine anything better for a holiday—to forget, to have to forget everything—to leave the whole world behind. You must try & read “The Garden of Allah” on your way out. You can skip a great deal, leave out the descriptions & go on to the main points of the story. I found every word fascinating—not one too many, but mere words do not delight you as they delight me. Don’t think you will read it after you come: you must read it now before you start, or else on the journey.

I told you in my last letter {2}, that I want to have 6 months with you camping & journeying in the desert: another time we will have a dahabijeh—but no! I don’t think that would suit you quite so well—& though I love this, I love the other life still more. Enani wants to teach me to ride when we get on the desert—“to gallop like the wind”. I want to ride like that. Don’t you see how very very short the time is for all we want to do? I shall feel when I have to go home as I used to feel on summer evenings when I was playing in the garden—& they took me in to bed before the sun had set!

I am asking you, (see my modest list) to bring me some packets of self toning printing papers. I also want you to send me by post ½ packets of printing paper self-toning. I could not get any in Cairo.

The Kodak & developer have turned out a great success, though there have been some failures & the conditions of developing have not been quite ideal in some ways: our first were spoilt a bit with the Nile mud—yesterday something awful happened, I don’t know what—we had a whole roll of a dozen films—the day’s history—all total blanks.

Nov. 24th. But yesterday’s the films {3} were splendid. I have printed one of each & fixed them to send in my circular letter {4}. I am glad to hear that things are moving along at home. What a lot you will have to tell me! I do not yet know the name of your boat. I think you will like Josephine Plunkett very much. I don’t want you to meet her husband—he stands for everything we are fighting against—an honorable & upright man, but his outlook on life comprises everything we hate. Some of her ideas Josephine gets from him—her contempt & fear of the Arabs. Bullying is their one idea of governing, and the relationship is war—always war, with the big guns on our side—& big guns our only safety. She cannot understand Hetty’s relationship with them at all. She besought me to buy a revolver & have it loaded under my pillow! I said I would rather spend the money on a good filter! She was really very conscious about us. Of course it is absolutely ridiculous. There are at least two men who would die before any harm came to us. This time three weeks, if all is well—you will be here with us. We passed about 4 o’clock this afternoon, the village where we had intended passing the first night on the boat—a week ago! We have been going well today though. The moon-rise this evening was like another dawn—a tawny shadowy dawn. It has been a wonderful day. Marie says I look as I used to look when I was still going to school & in truth this life suits me right well. I should like to see two more moons come to the full in Egypt.

If you could get a small portable volume of Heroditus† I should like to have it out here.

I am sending the photos in the circular letter—you had better take possession of the “Peace, perfect peace” one—it might shock some of our good folks.

We began a story today, which is to last for many days—Enani told us Chapter 1. It was quite easy today to understand the arabic—we hardly had to pull up at all. Every day it opens a little more to one. . .

And now my best & dearest, my one great thing, I send you back my heart. Come, come quickly, for everything is ready for you. Come to the heart of the sun & to the heart of the woman to whom you belong. Come, live, taste the forgetfulness which is the sleep & re-creation of the soul—& carry back the might & beneficence of the sun-lord. God keep you & bless you & hold safely in his hand in store for me, the happy day when I shall see again your face.

Your Littley Patz


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} See PETH 7/161.

{2} Not extant.

{3} Presumably a slip for either ‘yesterday’s films’ or ‘yesterday the films’.

{4} PETH 7/150.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



4th Letter.

Nov. 19.

Radiant sunset, calm & serene, afterglow of flame & then the silver light of the moon almost at the full. We think of the desert & the Sphinx—we must see her once again. Here, to wish is to have your wish fulfilled. Nobody says—it is impossible. If it comes into your mind to have dinner at 6 instead of 7 o’clock—you say so, that is all! We set out, we three, the dragoman Abdul Enani, & our ‘big dog’ Ali, and reaching the edge of the desert we walk under the mighty shadows of the pyramids—& the sand is soft & warm under our feet. The light that never was on sea or land is on the desert tonight—it is the eternal life. No stories tonight, only the subdued musical voices of the men susceptible to every change of mood.

Nov. 20.

A visit to Cairo in the morning—a quiet afternoon listening to stories from the Koran—the most delightful way of learning arabic that can possibly be imagined. The only drawback, from that point of view, is that the face & voice & gestures of the narrator are themselves a study so fascinating as to make me at times quite oblivious to everything else—at the harrowing or exciting points of the story the words drop to a dramatic whisper or flash in rapid emphasis. This is one of the stories from the Koran. “The Lord said once to his servant the Prince Moses—“I do not like that black dog there; he has not a single white hair on him”. Then the Prince Moses sought to serve the Lord & he said—“I will kill this dog”. So he put a collar round his neck & led him away to the desert & there he tied him up, thinking that without food or drink he would surely die. After three days he went to see if the dog were dead. He found that a river of water ran beside him & fish leaped from the river into his mouth—and the dog was not dead—for he drank of the water of the river & ate of the fish in the river. Then Moses was astonished & said—“Lord, didst thou not say that thou likest not this black dog without one white hair”. And the Lord said—“It is true, oh Moses, that I like not this black dog without one white hair—but I have no wish to kill him”. Then Moses went to his home puzzled, for he understood not the way of the Lord.”

From stories we fall into conversation—of travel & different countries & customs. Enani could not believe that my husband had not paid any money for me! He wished he could get his wives so cheap. He had paid £200 each & they were both lazy & not even good looking! He has sent away the first & is going to send away the second & buy another. “If I came to live in England I would have six wives! English men must live very cheap—wives not cost them nothing!” “No Enani, if you came to England you could only have one wife.” “One wife! Only one wife!! No that is impossible. What does the English man do when he sees somebody he loves, prettier than his one wife?” It is strange to think what an utterly different conception of life these Arabs have. Not less moral! They never touch strong drink, they keep the fast of Ramadan most strictly—they pray devoutly several times a day—they have a code of honour which when once understood is no less sacred & binding than our own: but when I thought of telling our western stories to this Bedawin, I saw how impossible they would be. Grim’s fairy tales were the only ones I could think of.

Nov. 21.

Monday. Still in Cairo—my letters sent on to Ouasta! But a mail was due I knew & I sent a messenger into Cairo to wait & bring me back that day’s tidings from home. While he was away the right wind suddenly sprang up! We were in the middle of a story, at the most exciting point, when in dashed one of the crew—with the cry—“The wind”. In a moment all is bustle & noise—such a commotion—the great sail is hoisted to a chorus in which all the crew join—& the boat spreads its great wings & away we go—the most delicious motion in the world. Not only our boat, but all the boats large & small wake up & the river is full of life. One boat in front of us, turning broadside looks like a huge butterfly just pitching. We cannot go far as we have left two men behind & have to wait for them to pick us up. Presently after we have anchored for the night, they pick us up—bringing a goodly packet of letters—& we have some music & dancing from the crew, to celebrate the return of the wind.

Nov. 22.

Really one never gets a minute. Our curtains are all made now though & are put up—the flags are made—it is like setting up house! We get a little walk on the bank before starting—then the wind has dropped again. But about 1 o’clock, the chorus begins, the cries of Allah! Allah! and sails are set & once more we are flying before the wind. It is the most delicious movement in the world—free & swift, with no sense of limitation or friction—we pass groups of peasants—we see camels running against the skyline, here close at hand are the dates growing upon the palm trees—barks in full sail swish past us, laden with sacks or with cattle, & each with its group of squatting figures: the afternoon is all too short—the sun sets, the moon rises—and we moor again for the night. Dark craft in full sail creep up silently & pass on wrapt in the mystery of the night.

We begin our evening task. When the sun has set, Marie & I get into the little rowing boat & develop our Kodak films—a great disappointment tonight: a clean dozen films, not a mark on them—as the result of the day’s selection. What has happened? We cannot imagine. Better luck tomorrow.

After dinner Ali says—“I go a fishing”. He is dressed now in a short blue cotton petticoat, with legs bare from the knees—& he has his net & basket. Very strange is it, & very lovely in the stillness of the night, no sound but the soft lapping of the water & the swish of the net as it is thrown by the fisherman.

[Nov. 23.]

Another night of long delicious sleep—one is generally waked by the dawn, only to fall asleep again at once, until the full day has come. But oh how quickly the days fly by. It is Wednesday already—nearly one week out of our four on the Nile gone! No wind again—we go walking along the bank, Ali fishes again, we stop & talk with the charming little groups we meet. Sunshine, absolute well being, constant entertainment, perfect content—what can one want more. What a world, where the sun shines every day & the moon every night. Perhaps there will be another “holy man” presently to give us his blessing & bring the wind. That was the cause of the good luck the other day. We were lying moored to the bank, and he passed along—& wished us well. We gave him a coin & soon were sailing merrily.

In the afternoon we have visitors from the village & from the barges lying just ahead. Enani entertains them with stories on the bank—the picturesque groups arrange & rearrange themselves—now they are playing a game with squares marked in the sand & pebbles. Marie wants to understand—& “Ali” is only too happy to show her, & is very much impressed with the intelligence of the lady—an impression which is presently deepened & shared by all the crew when the lady takes an oar in the rowing boat! Books, letters, photo printing compete for one’s attention—but everything fares badly except “tea”. It is enough, to dream oneself into the centre of the life going on around & to pick up a few new words of arabic. However at sunset we develop our films again in the boat—& anxiously await the result. Every one of them splendid—a great success. The moon rises big & golden—we take the rowing boat & a lamp & row out on the river. On one of the barges some one is playing the flute. We row in & are greeted with smiles of welcome. The flute—oh yes we are welcome to that—it is nothing. With thanks for the gift & salaams we push off into the river again, & Enani takes the flute; which is simply a reed made of the sugar cane—& its long drawn out notes float back to our dahabiyeh—& are answered by tom-toms on the barges.

In the evening the circle of arabs on our lower deck is much larger—not only our own crew are gathered but visitors from the barges—& the music & dancing is very spirited—the long pipe of hashish is passed round, the tom-toms are passed from hand to hand to be heated by the wood fire, which thickens the atmosphere on the tented deck with curling smoke—the flute sounds like the Scotch bagpipes—the dandes are more & more wonderful—the dancers make themselves taller & shorter, the head held quite still, the muscles undulating like those of a snake. Then farewells are said & the visitors troop silently away. Marie & Hetty sit down on one of the sails on the upper deck to talk—after a little while they feel their seat move under them.—Horror! They have been sitting on the Captain who has already retired for the night!

Nov. 24.

And so here we go again before the wind, over dancing waves & this for the next three weeks will be our life—hour after hour & day after day the same yet not the same for two minutes together.

This day three weeks Fred will be coming—& we shall leave the boat & take to tents—but before then, there will be all the wonderful things between here & Luxor to see. Up to now, the study of Arabic has proved much more fascinating than hieroglyphs—and though it may shock erudite friends—the Egyptian sky & sunshine are better than the temples of the ages gone by—for they are older than all, yet vital—& divinity yet dwells in them & diffuses from them, and there is but one tense in the verb “To be”.

Southward! Southward! All the North behind—right into the heart of the noon sun—to the centre of light. Oh the joy of it—the delight! The sense of being unmoored at last! The sense of movement without friction, of life without limitation. Perhaps it is even so, when the soul passes the portals of death, leaves the gloom & the shadow & the cold which we call life, knowing nothing better & emerges into the God-lighted life radiating universe. But there is only one tense, I said. The sunbeams are dancing from the water ripples right into my heart. Greeting & love to all our dear ones. Think of us well & happier than words can tell. Joy be with you all.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabeah Bolbol. Nov. 26. 04.

Schatz—here are your dear letters just come. Mursi ran to the Post-office & fetched them. There are two, the ones {1} with the dear violets from The Mascotte, & the one with a letter in 2 parts & enclosures, from Stead, from W. I. C. {2} & from Edith Ellis. How glad I am to have word from you again & to know you are happy. Last night I could scarcely sleep again, for thinking of everything—for thinking of the day coming so soon now, when I shall come to meet you & you will be one of our merry party. This is, I suppose, the last letter that you will receive from me in England, though I shall probably have a try for another. It depends on the wind! on my getting on to postal stations!

Business first. I certainly did not wish the pillars of The Mascotte painted green—I said “all white—everything”. I should like to resign from the Women’s Industrial Council Committee—I never attend & have no faith in the organization. I should be glad if you can let Shepherd write to the effect that I am away from England for this winter—& that as I am away from London in the summer & not able to attend, I wish to resign. Now I want to tell you about a little plan.

I have had a very cordial note from Lady Cromer—it has been waiting for me for a week here. She asks us to go to tea with her. I am writing to tell her we have left Cairo—but that we shall be camping close to the Sphinx in January—& to invite herself & Lord Cromer to dinner with us in the desert. I have talked to Enani about it, & he enters with spirit into the plan. He says he has a beautiful ‘salon’ tent—& we will have everything very very nice indeed & make a great feast. Lady Cromer has never been in the desert, he says—and I believe she would love to come & see us in that way. It ought to be at the time of the January full moon—& we ought to have a great “Fantasie”—the best music & dancing that Enani’s village can do—a great great time. I am sure it will be like everything else a great success, great than one imagines. We have everything—every single thing that heart or mind can wish for—not one single contretemps—everything quite quite perfect. I hope you are going to say that we will see two moons after you come—i.e. the one that you come with, & one more. Then I will be content. But oh it is all so very new & so very big. I still feel sometimes that is {3} is all one dream—the life here belongs to the life of wonderland & fairy tale—it is too radiant to be of this earth. I feel as [if] I can never never be ready to go back. My mind refuses to remember anything. I feel a passionate clinging to each day as it passes—the days are beautiful angels & one clings to their radiant robes entreating them not to go yet. I have never yet felt so greedy of the moments. Don’t take me back too soon!

We are nearing Beni Suef—& in half an hour I shall post this letter. I have told all about our life in the other letter. I want you to bring half a dozen graduated copy books—we are teaching Enani to write in return for his teaching us Arabic. Put that down on the postcard I sent you. I am getting sweets for the children at Beni Suef—also tobacco for the crew. I have written to Lady Cromer & given her the invitation I spoke of.

I hope to get letters at Minieh & to be in time to send you a greeting to Marseilles, (if I know your boat). If you don’t get another letter, you will know that I have been prevented by circumstances. I am afraid to think how much I shall love you when you come—though I have taken the precaution to give half of my heart to the desert! Even the other half may prove to be too much.


I shall send letter & probably telegram to Shepheard’s Hotel. Telegram should be addressed to the Dahabeah Bolbol & sent to the Post Office of the place where we may happen to be.

Whether we are at Luxor or not when you come, I shall be at some station & post office en route. {4}


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} This should read ‘one’. The letter referred to is PETH 6/99.

{2} The Women’s Industrial Council. See the next paragraph.

{3} A slip for ‘it’.

{4} The two postscripts were added on the first sheet.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



5th Letter.

Nov. 25. Dahabijeh Bolbol.

Here we are at Ouasta at last—where letters have been waiting for me already for a week—we have passed an hour or two ago the village where 8 days ago we intended spending our first night—so contrary have the winds been. The good stupid old Mursi is despatched for the letters & told to run to the post & back as we do not want to stop & lose the wind: he bears my card, with a written request to the postmaster to deliver the letters to him & he brings me back such a very polite kind note from the postmaster, wishing me a pleasant journey—hoping my letters will be full of good news—saying that he will post forward to Minieh any belated dispatches. Amongst my letters is a very cordial one from Lady Cromer which has been waiting a week—asking us to tea with her & saying how great a pleasure it will be to see me & hear news of Fitzroy Sq. She often “looks back” to those days & would like to come back & see all again. There is also a kind little note from Mr Cope’s friend Mrs Vere Alston—hoping that she may meet us on our return. The letters from home fulfil the good wishes of the postmaster & add to our happiness. Abdul Enani is full of a new idea. He has just built a beautiful new house—it has a big “salon”, & a well, & a bathroom!—everything nice: now, won’t we go & live in it for the summer & he will be our servant? At first we do not take the project seriously but he is in earnest. He finds Hetty alone. Does she think “the great lady” (es Sitt gebir) will come. But Hetty says—“No, because the heart of the great lady is with her husband & where he is, she must be.” He shakes his head gloomily. Presently he renews the subject. “It is beautiful in the summer—you sit in the shade & feel the beautiful cool wind—& the wind from the desert smells so beautiful in the summer.” “But Enani, what would you do if we got ill?” “I would take you into the desert—no one is ever ill in the desert: you know that is true, Sitt” (appealing to Hetty). “You should live one week in the desert—& one week in the house, & you should ride horses in the desert.”

Presently he comes to Hetty again. “Would not the husband of the great lady stay with her if she wished it very much.

“No, Enani, I am afraid he could not.”


“Because he is like a great sheyk in his country & he must stay with the people in his country.”

Another gloomy shake of the head.

“Well then, you & the other lady, won’t you stay?”

“We should like to stay, but I am afraid it cannot be.”

“Why not? I would take care of you—you would be as safe with me as if you were at home—I never leave you.”

“Yes Enani, we should be safe with you I know. We can trust you entirely.”

“Then why not come?”

“There are many reasons.”

“What are they?”

“Well, Enani, for one thing it costs a great deal of money to live in your country—much more than it costs to live in our own.”

“What does that matter? English ladies are all rich.”

“No Enani—not all.”

“Oh but when they want money, they have only to go to the bank & get it. Well perhaps you will think about it—perhaps you will come.”

Enani himself is quite “a duke”. Smokes only the best cigarettes—dresses with magnificence & is lordly in all his ways.

When it was pointed out to him that if he became our servant he could not go with any tourists & would lose a lot of money, his reply was—“I have money enough”.

We are all very very happy—all the servants & all the crew as well as ourselves. “If you are happy, then all are happy” is often said to us. The men seem to find so much pleasure in pleasing. Tonight sitting on the bank close beside the boat I tell my first story, every word in arabic! The men are quite as pleased as I am & greet me as I return to the boat with “Es Sitte shrata”—“the wise lady”. Enani is a walking “Thousand & one nights”—& now we can understand most of all he says without stopping him for the meaning. One of his stories that fascinate me is about a fisherman who went to the river & caught a great big fish; it had no eyes—only a long head standing up like a tower & at the top of it a great mouth. And the fisherman said—“Never have I seen a fish like this—no eyes, only a mouth—how does he get food?” Then he looked again & saw a little ant climbing up the head with a grain of food, & after him another & another, & another, each ant with a grain of food, each dropped his grain into the mouth of the fish. Then the fisherman said—“Why does the Lord care for an ugly fish like this, & send him his food, & I have to work hard? I will not work any more, but will go home & prya the Lord to send food to me as he does to the fish.” The rest of the story is too long to tell & is not of importance. How many people one knows,—let me say rather, how all too easy it is to be that fish—to know no more of life than the bit that is pushed down one’s throat by the little circumstances & surroundings of every day.

Marie says—“I feel like that great big fish—the ants are coming too quickly & I can’t make room for all they are bringing every minute.”

Nov. 26th. Another day—blue, blue, blue—no wind except a breath from the South west—all the sails in the river flapping idly—the water like glass—the hills jagged in outline, limned in delicate lavendar against the sky. We have been for a walk—& now whilst I am writing in the saloon, Hetty & Ali are sitting on the bank—Hetty painting & Ali holding the umbrella. Marie, Enani & a circle of women & girls & children are laughing & talking on the bank. I have taken a photo of each group & hope they will give something of the spirit of the scene.

Now the girls come to the side of the boat & peep in at me through the windows of the saloon—full of admiration for everything—& delighted with some biscuits I give them. They ask for nothing. We have had no begging at all: no cries for backsheesh! A little boy comes with some spinning & Marie is taught how to do it, a little married girl about twelve years old strokes her velvet shoes tenderly & brushes the dust off them: presently they shyly invite Marie & Hetty to have a romp with them on the bank. But it is nearly noon & too hot for romping—otherwise of course we should all be delighted! {1}

There seems no hope of the wind waking up today—we have waited till nearly noon—now the men begin to tow the boat. It looks hard work—but how cheerfully they do it, singing the while. All through the afternoon “Kula na’im” (everything sleeps)—the winds sleep in the heavens, the light sleeps in the waters, the shadows sleep in the hills of gold, and the heart sleeps—a living sleep of light.

The sun slowly sinks towards the west, burnished gold are the sandbanks now, & the jagged mountains behind dream a purple dream. The supreme colour drama begins—this evening it is different from anything we have yet seen—more supernatural—the hills are nearer—they burn with light, a flame that is of rose & blue & mauve & lambent gold. We are moored now, & the soft contralto voices of the men sitting on the bank, waiting for the moment when they may break their fast, make a soft music. On the Eastern bank, two children, dots of purple & scarlet, lead their flock of sheep—& chant—a curious rhythm something like a yodelling. Absolute radiance, utter peace, beauty that makes the heart gasp! Complete & perfect happiness—a new revelation of the riches of the earth. Surely heaven & hell are included in this planet.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The ink changes at this point. The passage which follows was probably added in the evening.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



6th Letter.

Nov. 27.

The men towing & wading, sometimes having to swim—until suddenly the North wind springs up & wafts us to Beni Sueff. Here the stores are to be replenished—& the crew are to buy a sheep for themselves & some tobacco & presently they will have a feast. They have not tasted meat since they left Cairo: their frugal fare consisting of soaked black bread & lentils. All are in great spirits. Marketing has to be done quickly as the North wind is blowing now & we do not want to lose our chance of getting on. So Ali & Muhammed are left to be our guard, while the others do the business. Beni Suef is a squalid town—the people seem very poor & everything is very dirty. We are followed by a great crowd, mostly children, & feel like a trio of Pied Pipers. Presently a lad who has been walking with us all the way opens a conversation in English. “Do not be angry”, he says. “Do not be angry with the Children.” We assure him that on the contrary we are amused & pleased—another boy joins the conversation. They have learnt English in the school—& from that moment we have a delighted escort—indeed, such naive expressions of open appreciation would be embarrassing if not so amusing. “The first moment I saw your face,” said the smaller boy to Marie, “my heart was moved.” “I have never spoken to an English lady before, I have followed the English always, but I did not speak to them & they did not speak to me. It is a great joy to speak to such a good lady as you!” They wrote their names down & gave them to us, begging for ours in exchange & the big boy took an old coin out of his clothes & begged us to have it as a remembrance & we must promise never never to forget him, as he would never never forget this day. And, said the little boy to Marie, “if I come to London when I am a man I shall go all over the country till I find you!” We gave them some English coins & parted at the boat-side. “Mursi” is waiting to welcome us, with tea ready—we are received back like long-lost children. It is amusing to think of all our packets of tea & Nestle’s milk & arrowroot & bovril etc that we brought out with us. We have only to ask for the Moon to have half a dozen men climbing the sky to get it. I verily believe that if Enani, or Mursi or Ali were to see us making tea, they would be as surprised as we should be to see a baby warming the milk for its own bottle. Anything we want, at any minute is there at once, if we call Ya Enani! Ya Ali! or Ya Mursi!

Soon Enani & the men are seen striding along with their big basket & parcels, & in five minutes more we are off. But the wind already begins to sleep— {1} & soon after dark we moor for the night—and the evening is spent in telling stories & in watching the Fantasia, which the men make for us. They are very much pleased when I take the tom tom & beat it for them to dance.

Nov. 28th

A walk after breakfast & then the start. A good day’s journey—for we have the wind all day. Now the sun sets & we we† steer right into the cloudless glory. Two stars are burning in the burning sky. The days are like a necklace of opals which I saw in the bazaar at Cairo—each opal separated by a white sapp[h]ire from the next. The days are opals & the nights are the white sapphires—& this day has held the heart of fire. The light fades—it is time for Enani to bring his flute & play to us. Hetty is touching her Spanish guitar with the soft sweet tones so suited to this world, where a piano would seem an absurdity, almost an outrage. {1} The night falls softly. Presently we are listening to a most dramatic & exciting story told by Enani. After dinner tonight, Marie reads an arabic story which she has carefully written out. It is received with enthusiasm. It is perfect arabic! Dark eyes shine with pride & delight. Afterwards Enani has his first lesson in writing English.

Nov. 29.

Awake with the dawn. A little walk before breakfast. We come across an encampment—a happy family—donkeys, sheep, goats, dogs. If I had my camera! The words are scarcely said before feet are flying over the sand back to the boat. The camera is brought—the picture is taken. “Kulu mabsut” (“Everybody happy!”)

My whole morning is spent writing out the story of Big Claws & Little Claws in arabic—to read to the men tonight. This night there is a sunset of passionate peace, glowing into passionate intensity. Water & wind quiet—the world a deep blue well of peace, a purple well of peace, the palm trees along the edge of the Eastern bank reflected in the water. Then the purple glows in the west—& becomes a fire, wonderful beyond words. {1} The wind has dropped again & the men are punting with long poles. Suddenly there comes just a breath—the men throw down their poles & begin to sing & to dance—caper in a circle—it is a sort of incantation to keep the wind. This is such a land of rites & incantations & prayers. This morning I woke before the dawn—there was a great stillness. Just one dark barge was gliding silently downstream, & silhoutted against the Eastern sky was a tall cloaked figure, bowing down his head repeatedly & standing in prayer. Wherever they are the men pray—telling their beads—kneeling & touching the ground with their forehead. Just now Ali was fishing on the shore & the Nubian boy was carrying the pail—& when there was a minute or two to wait he just knelt down & said his prayers.

Tonight Enani has another lesson in reading & writing & is very proud of himself.

Nov. 30.

A great gale of wind! Unluckily from the wrong quarter—dead South. We are moored to a great stretch of desolate sand—white & wintry. The wind becomes a sandstorm—everything is blotted out: the sun when it shows at all, is a ghastly sulphur: we might be in the middle of a London fog.

Everything is full of sand. The wind continues dead against us, till sunset, when it drops & we walk over the waste into the sunset. There is some peculiar excitement in the sand, the look of it, the feel of it under the feet. One wants to leap rather than walk, there is [a] sense of glorious freedom. Can we give up this new glorious freedom at the end of a few weeks. Why not forget everything & stay here for ever? The spirit of the river shall say. So Ali Suefi, Hetty’s faithful one of old times, who is fishing from the bank, casts in his net. If a big fish comes back with the net, we stay. We hold our breath in suspense. The net is flung out, forms a magic circle over the water, it drops & is drawn back with care—& lo & behold! a big fish is in its meshes—the only big fish caught that evening!

We come back to the deck, the dark & the stars. Lying on the divans on deck, tucked up warm in our big shawls, we summon Enani & his flute. Looking up into the clear sky, there enters into me a spirit of glad & eager adventure untouched by any afterthought. Danger, Death, even a violent death could be welcomed in a mood like this! One would go forth to the “adventure wild & new” of a new life in the unknown, with an exulting heart. The universe in all light—all God.

Surely that is one of the gifts of the desert—Courage.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The ink changes at this point.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



7th Letter.

Dec. 2nd.

Just as we thought that at last we had got a good wind, it was blowing half a gale from the N. west, just as we were merrily making for Minieh, we reach a bend in the river turning west, & the very strength of the wind now stops us, making it impossible for the men to tow the boat against stream.

This is indeed a test of patience. If we were the true children of the desert we should be content with all the winds, for are they not all fulfilling the will of Allah? But we have been 9 days without news of any kind—& all our letters are waiting at Minieh, full 20 miles away. Ali must go & get them—he must walk to the nearest railway station, take train to Minieh, & back down the river, meeting us, where & how—Allah knows. It depends on the wind. Ali says “Ready”—& goes. It is noon. The wind does not change. Were we but one mile further up, all would be well. We amuse ourselves very pleasantly—inspect a native village—gather a little group of children who are just on the verge of terror—at any quick movement they run. Enani tells us stories, plays his flute, sings, & recites Bedouin songs & poetry—and night falls. About midnight we are awakened by a pandemonium—a perfect orgy of noise—men shrieking, dogs barking, donkeys braying, camels groaning: the whole could only be compared to a summer Saturday night in a London slum, like Somerstown. Only there, have I ever heard the raving, the excitement, the horrible sound suggestive of men as wild beasts. We open our windows & look out. The stars are shedding in the quiet river narrow pathways of light. On the bank side in front of our boat & behind it are moored some 20 or 30 big barges, driven to anchorage as we have been. The men are shouting to each other, & to the “village guards” who ‘keep watch’ on the bank. The village at a little distance behind seems full of excitement: the dogs are barking themselves hoarse in every semitone of the natural scale. But nobody seems the worse for it. We conclude it is all right & eventually succeed in getting to sleep.

The next morning Enani explains that it is often like that during the month of Ramadan. The people sleep during the day—& feast all night. Excitement is only normal. Nothing can be done, without noise & shouting & gesture. One morning I was awakened by cries & trampling of feet. It was the ferry boat. The men & women rushed towards it as though they were flying from a burning city, cows & donkeys were tumbled in—half the animal in the boat, with its legs in the river—pushing, hauling, expostulating—yet the ferry plies every day backwards & forwards between the two banks.

Dec 3rd.

We are up before sunrise—& breakfast before 7 o’Clock. Ali has not come. It is a still morning & the men tow us out of this unlucky reach, & no sooner are we well out of it, than the wind of yesterday springs up again, & soon we [are] going gaily. About noon—just 24 hours after he left us, we see Ali again. He is signalling from a barge that is coming down with the stream. Just at this moment we are going at such a pace that it is impossible to stop soon enough. The rowing boat is put off—the Dahabeah is anchored—& it is very nearly an hour, before the arrival of Ali with his bag of letters. Faithful Ali—his eyes shining with triumph & pleasure. He passed the night on the river bank with his head on our bag of letters, & watching, he had forgotten to eat. “But what does it matter?”, he says. He is only too happy to have kept everything safe & to be with us again! And we are happy to have Ali back—he makes the party complete again, just as a big dog one is very fond of makes the family circle complete & adds a sense of companionship & security. The fact that he neither speaks nor understands one word of English, makes the comparison more complete. Letters & a good wind are the events of this day, which glides away as a bead glides down the string to make a chain.

Dec 4th

Glorious morning—warm, blue, absolutely serene, absolutely still. Not a breath of wind. We have passed Minieh now. The river stretches out into a wide expanse with flat sand islands, the home of pelicans & wild duck. The high sand banks & hills beyond glow warm in the morning sun. After a walk on the bank, full of those little pictures & incidents that make the interest & pleasure of this leisurely life, the men pull us slowly upstream. The day dreams on—gleaming blue. It is like living in the heart of a great jewel. Blissful content is our portion. There is nothing to wish for except wind—wind to blow us up to Beni Hassan—where the rock tombs are. There are conditions of atmosphere, when it is almost impossible to wish for anything.
We astonish & petrify Enani this evening, by telling him that the earth is round—that the sun does not travel in the sky. We are able to make him admit that the world may be round—though he evidently does not really believe it—but that the sun does not go behind the desert to sleep & come back again in the morning—that is quite inconceivable. They may tell one so in the schools—but who has been up in heaven to see?

Dec 6th {1}

The rock tombs of Beni Hassan are but 3 miles away, & as the wind comes from the South again—we resolve to improve the shining hour. So Ali is sent off for donkeys. They arrive—without saddle however except for a piece of goat skin tied on with rope, and with a necklace of string for bridle. We are not to be baulked by small difficulties, we negociate the donkeys & gallop off, happy as kings. We have a grand time, lots of fun, & come “home” in a wonderful sunset glow, all the rocks & sand like the heart of a bright furnace. Tea is ready & after our violent exercise! it is well to sit still & contemplate the sunset. Could our friends have seen us, urging our willing little beasts with the orthodox wild cry ah-ha! ah-ha! I fear Marie & I don’t take much stock in dead men, bones, coffins & tombs! Hetty is shocked & disappointed. They are interesting enough to see once—the river, the sky, the hills, the people possess a changing & never ending charm.

Dec 6th

This is one of our most picturesque days.

We awake with the dawn, and from our cabin windows we see that the village is awake too. Cows have been brought to the bank, & are being milked for us—while the shekh of the village and the guards squat in a line along the sand, Enani in the midst, gorgeously attired & holding forth in his grand style, giving emphasis to his story with dramatic play of the hands. After breakfast we leave the Bolbol for a walk along the river, first arranging that the boat is to be towed along after us. The Shekh rises, gives us his greeting, and proceeds with us. He is very tall & dignified & has a magnificient† walk. We practise our very insufficient arabic and presently we sit down for a rest and coax the Shekh to tell us a story. He is very shy & wants a lot of coaxing & a lot of teasing, but presently yields. By this time others have joined our group & we are all very happy & amused & have forgotten all about wind & weather—when suddenly Ali breaks out into a chant of thanksgiving, in which the others join their voices. The wind comes. Allah be praised. The Bolbol is seen rounding the bend in full sail. We are escorted back, jump on board. The shekh refuses to see the small gift that I have in my hand to give him, but grandly bows & offers his hand in farewell—& away we go.

Enani is a bit disconsolate, & just a wee bit inclined to be sulky—he doesnt quite like our having such a good time without him—he says it makes him “feel jealous in his stomach”. He is resplendent today, with a circle of big amber prayer-beads for which I quite thoughtlessly express admiration. Immediately it is laid in my hands. “It is yours”. “oh no, no no, Enani. I shall never look at anything again if you say that”. “It is the custom of the Bedouins”, he replies—“we never keep anything for our own, if anyone says “I like that”. “If it were my horse or my house it would be the same.” If you want to give me a great pleasure you will say no more.” {2}

After the mornings walk, it is delicious to be on deck & watch the changing scenes & changing lights—& wonder where we shall sleep tonight. “Are we going far today Enani?” “As the Lord wills”, he says, “it is written down.”

There was once a great man; he saw in a dream, 7 lean buffaloes; he knew that he should have 7 bad years—that everything he tried to do would fail, that everything would go wrong. So he made up his mind to leave his country, not to return until the 7 years were over. He left his house with one mule, & all his treasure for the journey, was placed in a sack upon the mule’s back. He came to the ferry—the sailors were pulling the mule on the boat by a chain, when the chain broke, the mule fell into the water & was carried away by the current. The sailors would have taken a rowing boat, would have tried to save the mule, but the man said, “No use, leave it, I have seen that it has to be.” The night comes on, & the man now without money begs hospitality of a good shekh, who take[s] him in & gives him protection. Next morning, the camel, the cow & the horse of the shekh are dead. He wanders on, sometimes finding work, but always bringing bad luck to his master—till the years are past. Then he sets out to return to his country. But now everybody wants him to come & be their servant. Presently he comes to the house of the shekh who gave him protection before. He takes him in again, not knowing him to be the same man, & next morning his camel, his horse & his cow have all got babies. Now he comes again to the river, stooping to wash his hands in the water they become entangled in hair, he pulls the hair, & draws up a chain, the chain draws up his sack of money lost 7 years before, & thus comes the arabic proverb. “When it goes, it breaks the chain, when it comes, it comes by a hair.” If success, riches, happiness, honour are not for you, nothing will get them or keep them, if they are in the Lord’s mind for you, then they will all come, you can sit still & wait. It is all written down, says Enani. Nothing can alter it. You have just to wait, till some day the luck comes back.

Dec 7.

The last day of Ramadam†. “All† hamdu l’Allah” (Allah be praised). No longer shall we watch our men getting thinner & thinner—no longer shall we feel ashamed of our own joy when luncheon is served! It is our hottest day—the salamanders are darting about in the sand. We make about 10 miles & stop when the wind stops—at the setting of the sun. We wanted to get to a town in time for the celebration of the Feast of Beiram {3}, but it is written down otherwise. We moor near a pretty village about a mile S of Tel-el-Marna {4}, on the opposite bank of the river.

Enani draws out a little programme of what we shall be able to do in the morning. I recognize it, as a very delicate & diplomatic way of telling me that I must not expect the men to tow or to punt on the morrow.

Dec 8th

It is still dark. There is a terrific clamour on the Bank. What can it be! Surely the Feast cannot have begun already! We look out. Yes, a crowd has assembled already, & in the dim light, a long stream of people can be seen gathering. All is intense excitement, shouting, gesticulation. Already ferry boats are ready to take the people. Where are they all going, the women with large baskets on their head[s]—the men, the children? Going over to the Arab Cemetery the other side, to feast. It is every moment getting lighter, the figures become more distinct—our boat is the centre of the scene. We feel as though we were in the boxes at a theatre. The ferry boats cannot all come quite to the bank, & women with their babies are carried by two men, & here & there a sturdy St Christopher takes up three children in his arms & wades waist high through the water. After our breakfast Enani asks if we would like to go across to the Cemetery & see the people. Ali is sent before to fetch donkeys & have them waiting. We set off. At the Cemetery we are autom[at]ically surrounded by a body-guard of about 20 young men with long sticks: quite a necessary precaution as no sooner are we on the ground among the mud monuments & tombs & the crowds of people than a rush is made & we become the great event of the day. We feel like a circus, crowds of eager, curious, excited faces encircle us, & way has to be cleared by the long sticks of our men, who lay about with a will—thwack—thwack go the sticks, as we desire a space cleared to take a photograph. Nobody minds—it is great fun, quite a mutual entertainment. Our ears are so deafened with the noise, that when at last we get back to our donkeys, there is a sense of the cessation of all things. We are mounted & are away to Tel el Marna, followed by our guards running on foot—this time they are with us presumably entirely for their own pleasure, as with our own men & the donkey men we are quite sufficiently escorted. When we come to the Palace of Tel-el-Marna—of course we have left our monument tickets in the boat. What does it matter. The tickets are in the boat, the official can come back to the boat presently & see them! Meanwhile we are going in to see the palace. All right! Marble floors, with beautiful water reed & lotus design, flying birds, & swimming fish are very wonderful—the colour still beautiful. We have a lovely ride back through palace gardens. Just as Marie is enjoying a good gallop, her donkey boy in excess of zeal, to reassure her by showing that he is there, gives her a touch that upsets her balance & knocks off her eye glasses. Her vehement cries of “Stop”, are understood as a[n] appeal for more gallop, & it is some minutes before a halt is called & a long & futile search is made. Everything becomes covered up so quickly in the sand. In a moment a great crowd is gathered—excitement gathers every moment. At last we are glad enough to get out of it, & back to our little rowing boat. And there are the flags streaming in the wind which is well behind us. We are welcomed back to the Bolbol—it is the work of a few minutes to hoist the sails & we are off once more, after an eventful, exciting & exuberant morning.

An hour or two later, as we are sailing smartly, cries are heard on the opposite bank—& a man is seen running. He shouts, that the lady’s glasses are found. The Bolbol is anchored, the boat put out, & a reward for the finder given, & “al hamdu l’Allah”, here are the glasses safe & sound & not a penny the worse! Who is most glad? It would be hard to tell. The eyes of Ali, & of Enani shine with pleasure & joy: everybody is in the best of spirits.

Presently the men begin taking in the sails. What is that for? Is not the wind just what we wanted? Oh yes, but in this cliff of Aboo Fedah—there lives an “affrete” who is always up to mischief—it is better to be on the safe side & carry no sail. We object so strongly to giving in to the affrete, that a compromise is made & we carry one sail. We pass a bevy of eagles—10 or twelve of them, hovering round some carrion floating down the river.

The wind sleeps at sunset & we halt at a charming place—a beautiful palm garden. We make plans for taking some lovely photographs on the morrow. While we are having our walk, the men decorate the boat with Japanese lanterns & palm leaves: it is all perfectly fascinating. We think of the traveller who is now already on the way to us—& wish him Bon Voyage. Could wishes effect the impossible he would be coming tonight & this Feast day should be a double Festival. Tonight we see the new moon—we shall watch it to the perfect round from our tents beside the Temple at Karnak; it will fade as we journey through the desert & there will be renewed again.

Dec 9th

It is not written down, that we are to take our photographs in the Palm garden. At dawn, we are sailing away from the lovely spot, the rocks are steep & rugged—we have presently to negociate long & difficult reaches, curves that need a good deal of clever steering—we see flocks of white plovers, & ibises. After dark we anchor about 5 miles N of Assiut.

Dec. 10.

Early the next morning Ali is sent off to Assiut for the letters. A lazy wind moves us very slowly, sometimes we only just hold our own with the current. It is nearly 3 o’clock before we get to Assiut. But we get our letters about noon—& are content. We are very disappointed in the bazaars of Assiut, after Cairo! We come back from the noise & the bustle at sunset to the boat—& in the evening a dancing girl comes on board to entertain the sailors. The performance is very decorous, some of the movements are extremely graceful—the girl is covered to the feet in a red loose robe, with a black veil over her head & face—her hands & arms are small & beautiful—covered with bracelets. We have a little talk with her. She has a very charming voice, soft & musical. Everybody seems satisfied with this very simple little entertainment.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The date should be the 5th.

{2} Perhaps this passage should be punctuated as follows: “we never keep anything for our own, if anyone says ‘I like that’. If it were my horse or my house it would be the same. If you want to give me a great pleasure you will say no more.”

{3} i.e. Lesser Bairam, lasting three days.

{4} Tel-el-Amarna.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



8th Letter

Dec. 20th Dahabeah Bolbol.

So the days drift on, with a dear monotony of fulness of light: sense of time has gone—is it a week, a month or a year since we began? one scarcely knows, or stops to count. Only let it go on!. It is now Tuesday—5 days since Fred came—5 days since we got up in the dark, & left an illuminated boat, with Enani & Ali carrying lanterns. The train was late, & the dawn came stealing over the world—and it was light before we got back to the boat. A gorgeous day—no wind. The awnings of the boat were up—& there were so many things to talk about. The men took the opportunity to get their store of bread baked. We left Sohag about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, taking advantage of a little puff of wind to get away from the landing stage & the entourage of craft, & anchoring on a little island within sight of the town. The next day a good wind sprang up & has been with us ever since—and we have been sailing swiftly through dancing waves—the song of the day, of the sun, of the water dancing in the heart—the song of the men working the shadoufs on the bank haunting in its elusive rhythm.

On the banks are fishing fleets of pelicans, huge brown eagles gathered in tens & twenties—& smaller white ones amongst them; herons, storks, hawks & plovers, and the solitary dignified white ibis. The morning afternoon & evening melt into each other with infinite changes of colour, light & temperature. It is nearing sunset, & the river bends South East—behind us is a glowing sky and a purple river, before us a glowing sail and a flood of deepest blue—to our left, the rugged mountains covered with sand, have caught the radiance and are alight; & over the coarse reedy grass upon the near bank (the left) the shadow of our two great sails flies like a flying cloud—and on and on we go. Later in the moonlight, we take the rowing boat, or we stroll upon the dry sand—listening to stories or the reed flute with its high piercing passionate note. We lie on the sand Bedawin-fashion—tucked up in our warm rugs—and Enani tells the story which is the origin of the Bedawin phrase—“I have killed my camel a long time ago”.

Once upon a time there were two men, a “fellah” & a “bedawin” arab—they were journeying together—the fellah had a flock of goats, the bedawin had one camel. At night the fellah proposed that each should watch for half the night—but the bedawin wanted to sleep without care—so he killed his camel & lay down—while the fellah sat up & watched through all the night. And to this day, the fellah squats, while the bedawin takes his ease. And if anyone remonstrates he replies—“I have killed my camel”.

We moor at Abutig, at Balliana, at Nagh-Hamadah and Desluch {1}. At Nagh-Hamadah we met with some charming French people, & a glorious bouquet of lovely roses with great long stems & beautiful leaves is brought to the boat, from the sister of the chief engineer—a little box of chocolates which Fred has brought out from London is sent back with our thanks—the flowers are a great joy—with the roses are sprays of lemon-scented verbena, which are constant in their reminder that there are very nice people in the world.

A jackal strolls by our window early this morning, welcome as a sign of how far away we are from the restraining hands of civilization—launched well on our wander-quest. But oh, how can one put into words anything of the joy made up of endless appeal to sight & sense. One sits for hours & hours on the deck, with the sound of the water parting under the bows, with the leaping of the sail & of the flags, with the waves & the sunbeams running along with us in their thousands, laughing with the fun of the race—with the changing drama of the bank-side—content to be, and wanting nothing—books, thoughts, words put aside—life full of outward physical things, and time an eternal present.

Denderah! There is a fine temple a few miles from here, dedicated to the goddess Hathor, queen of love & beauty. A good gallop on donkeys brings us to the temple gate all too quickly—the great vestibule with its 24 columns each adorned with the head of Hathor leads one into the first temple, & thence into courts, in the ancient worship each more sacred than the last, until the Holy of Holies is reached. Every inch of stone, wall & pillar, stairway & roof—is covered with the imprint of human feeling & devotion & imagination. One feels how impossible it is by a mere visit, to grasp anything of the significance of such a building—one needs to pos[s]ess the key of knowledge first & afterwards to have time to think & dream oneself back to that old intensity of faith & feeling—that made such everlasting monuments possible. We can catch but the merest suggestion of all this. To us, the expedition is mainly a frolic. It is great fun, the gallop back, & lunch waiting at the end—and a magnificent sailing wind all the rest of the day.

Dec. 21. The shortest day and, as we fondly dream, our last on board our dear little Bolbol. At sunset we are but 8 miles from Luxor—& we sail forward into the West—a world of Asphodel—and behind us the white & mauve of the full risen moon—where gliding white sails follow our own. But a further bend due west brings us into the teeth of the wind—& for our flat-bottomed keelless boat makes the end of the journey impossible. Still, “we shall sleep in camp tomorrow night”—we say.

Dec. 22.

But it is not so written. For in the morning the same west wind blows strong. But the Sheikh of the village sends his son to invite us into his garden—& we spend a pleasant morning—we are taken to the Guest-house—coffee is brought—& we are urged to stay, until a feast can be prepared & brought. But this invitation we put aside with many thanks & are presently escorted back to the boat. Then men are engaged to tow the boat as the work against wind & tide is too hard for our unaided crew, & slowly through the afternoon we fight on through the difficulties of the way. But at last the bend of the river is turned & now we have the wind with us again. Away we go in first rate style. We make a brilliant arrival at Luxor—Enani fires off his revolver—there are congratulations all round & the due festivities. After dinner, we explore Luxor a little & get our first glimpse of the great temple in the serene light of the moon.

Dec. 23rd.

It is the first freshness of the morning & the light is dancing in the waves—as we set out in the little boat to cross the river. Two good donkeys are chosen & we set off at a good gal[l]op. The spot is chosen—just outside the boundary wall of the Temple of Karnak—not far from the river—close to a good well—a sufficient distance from the native village—& a few steps from “the sacred lake”. Back to the boat & breakfast & the Christmas post. Time to say “Goodbye” now to the dear Bolbol—but all the men are coming to see us safely settled in our camp. An hour or two of loitering in the bazaar at Luxor—then we set out of {2}for our new home. As we catch sight of the 4 white tents—set out under the sunshine—we feel a thrill of pleasure: the servants come forward to welcome us, anxious to see the effect of their morning’s work. The tents are double, white on the outside, on the inside a dark Turkish blue, embroidered with scarlet & white—very restful to the eyes. Luncheon is served in the ‘salon’ tent—and after getting things straight & resting till early tea—we set off on our donkeys for Thebes—cross the river in a ferry—(donkeys & all) & ride to the Colossi of Memnon. There we wait to see the moon rise & are held by the weird spell & fascination of these great figures, seated on their throne for thousands of years looking into the noon sun, while the generations of men, have sown & reaped their little harvest at their feet—& have been gathered themselves by the great Reaper. And they are sowing & reaping still—all unheeding of these watchers of Time—“They take no notice of these monuments?” “Well you see,” says Enani, “these monuments dont take much notice of them!” As the full moon rises, and the mysterious glamour of the light that softens & conceals falls upon those great figures—they seem to breathe with intense silent life—& to thrill with that passion which is patience. And all the time the donkey boys keep up their sweet monotonous little song—an Arab love lament. At last we have to go—& home we ride to find the camp glistening in the moonlight & dinner ready. A few hours later, & the tents are closed & we sleep for the first time in the desert, while the guards watch, & the dogs from the neighbouring village keep up a barking chorus.

Dec. 24th.

The dawn!—the sudden waking!—the dash for the door of the tent & the open—the world bathed in the first fresh radiance of day. A happy light on all the faces—a hasty dressing, a walk & the call the breakfast—and life has begun again.

The whole morning is spent in the great wonderful temple of Karnak—the greatest & most wonderful human conception of a divine habitation—to those who can read a great Book, full of intense meaning; to us, who can only look at the pictures, full of the interest of the obvious. We go again at night to see in the moonlight the presences of those who filed in great procession through these halls thousands of years ago.

Dec. 25. Christmas day—we are up soon after 5 o’clock, to see the day dawn, & the sun rise, from the top of the great Pylon of the Karnak Temple. Ali bears our rugs—& kettle, spirit-stove etc, for we mean to have our first breakfast there on the summit. It is all so beautiful—the Libyan Hills are rosy red and every moment the drama of glow & light & colour changes. We, wrapped in our rugs, wait for the signal of the sun; he rises in unclouded glory—and we begin our early Christmas Feast. Then back to the Camp—& to our real breakfast!—and at 10 o’clock we are in the train en route for Assuan. For we have arranged to leave the camp & have two days of hotel life & civilisation for the sake of seeing Philae & the Barage†!—& in order to come back to Luxor down the river (by the weekly post boat that leaves Assuan every Tuesday) we have to put in those two days now. So we kept our Christmas in camp on Christmas Eve, ate our Christmas pudding, thought & spoke of absent friends & drank their health—& tonight, we shall join with people of our own country and keep the feast with them. At the Station at Luxor, we find that our train has been delayed by some accident, but the Station Master is most friendly & polite—a local train is put on, & a restaurant car is attached for our sole convenience—there is only one other European on the train. We arrive about 4.30—& oh how good it is to turn out of the dusty train into the sunset light & delicious fresh air. We take two of those jolly little carriages with awnings—get to the Cataract Hotel & are shown into most delightful bedrooms, each with a verandah, overlooking the river & the sunset & the mountains. We lose no time in getting out for the glory of the evening is upon every thing touching all these new scenes with a glamour all its own. We are delighted with Assuan—the atmosphere is sparkling—the warmth is delicious, the rocks & cataracts of the river are wholly different from anything we have seen—& the whole effect is as though one had been put down in the enchanted land of some fairy tale. Civilisation is not so bad either! The Hotel is one of the very nicest possible, everything first rate. There is a gala dinner, with a lighted Christmas tree at the top of the Dining Hall. Music. The place is full—& everybody gay & jolly & friendly. We are all very merry & happy—and all of the same mind. We could not possibly have had a jollier Christmas.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.
{1} The readings of these names are uncertain.
{2} A slip for ‘for’.
† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



9th Letter.

[The following paragraph has been cancelled:

Jan. 3. Where do the days go? It is more than a week since I sat down with pen & paper to tell the story of our daily life—& impressions crowd so fast & thick that it is impossible to live in the past, though the past may mean a week ago only—it seems as though we had never lived till Now! But at least I can make a record of the things we have seen & done. I must go back then to the day after Christmas.]

Dec. 26. Assuan. Last night we closed our eyes on the white moonlight. The doors of our balcony have been left open wide. I am wakened with a cry of excitement. Next moment I am standing with F on the balcony—looking out into a world of dreamland & fairy tale. The hills, the desert, the river and the rocky islands & boulders of the Cataract are made of gold—living gold. It is the robe of the Dawn who has come to tell that a Day all glorious is on its way from Heaven. It is not half past five yet. The others are out too. The glamour of the wonderful world is on us.

Presently we ring for tea & enjoy the luxury of our soft white ample beds, after the more merely utilitarian little camp beds of the tents. Then a walk before breakfast and at 9 o’clock, we start for Philae: Fred & Hetty do the grand, & drive off in state in a carriage & 4 white horses—with ‘Ali’ in the box—Marie & I with ‘Enani’ follow in humbler fashion on donkeys, who take us at a good gallop over the desert. We arrive almost together at the dismounting point, & we get a nice boat with a[n] awning to take us across the river—it is small enough to thread its way under the archways of the Temple, & between the pillars—& into all the little Courts—for the whole of the Temple is in the water now, since the great Dam has been made at Assuan. The men sing as they row to the accompaniment of the tom-tom. We are in no hurry to leave our little boat, so we put off landing until it is time for lunch—which is served to us on the flat roof of the Temple—by our new men—who produce the little cup of Turkish coffee afterwards which is the finishing touch to a meal. After some happy loitering in this, the most beautiful of ancient Temples, in the sunshine & shade (for this bright blue day is never one whit too warm) we take our boat again & row down to the Barage†—inspect this wonder of engineering, & then take another boat down the Cataract, back to the Hotel—in time to see the Sunset from the Verandah while we rest & have tea. Out again for a walk in the evening glow until time comes to dress for dinner.

Dec. 28. An amusing morning in the Bazaars—and Farewell to Assuan, where we have spent such a jolly time. Directly after lunch we embark in one of Cook’s post-steamers for a 24 hours journey back to Luxor. But oh, oh, oh, we are like spoilt children sent to school. In our Cabins are “Rules & Regulations”—notices stuck about everywhere—“It is strictly forbidden”. We are mere tourists now—to be “personally conducted” & allowed so many minutes to “do” this temple & that. We stop four times to see temples en route, are pursued with beggars—pestered with guides. We are thankful to leave it all behind at Luxor. We send Ali back to Camp with the luggage, & cross the river to Thebes with Enani—& spend the afternoon in the Temples of Sethos & Ramases—& call on the Quibells, some very nice people who give us tea. Back to our Camp for dinner.

Dec. 29. Up at 6 o’clock—& ride into Luxor with Fred to meet his sister Carrie & her friend who are arriving by one of Cook’s steamers. Back to the Camp for breakfast & then back to Luxor again. Carrie is going to join us & we are to have a whole day at Thebes. The earlier we get off the better, as we have a difficult road & no shelter from the sun. A long ride along a valley of barren desolation brings us to the Tombs of the Kings. There are 25 open to visitors—we visited only the three most interesting—the tomb of Sethos I, father of the Pharoah who began to persecute the Children of Israel, and of Ramses III—the Pharaoh who was not lost in the Red Sea—whose Mummy was discovered about 2 years ago {1}. These tombs have all the same construction, a descent into the rock, then a series of passages & chambers, the walls & ceiling covered with painting & inscription—at the end of all in the deepest & final chamber the sarcophagus. After lunch in a cave which forms the entrance of a blocked up tomb, and a long rest in the cool shadow listening to Enani telling stories, we climb a very steep path over the Libyan Mountains & descend into the next valley, where is the Temple of the Queen Hatases {2}. We crossed the river again in the sunset—are invited by C. to the Luxor Hotel to tea. Afterwards, Carrie & her friend come back to the Camp to dinner.

Dec. 30.

We bid farewell to Luxor—the Camp is packed up—after lunch—we have tea with C. at the Hotel—they see us off in the train. We have a comfortable night journey & arrive at Oasta at 5.30 the next morning, where we are met by a crowd of men, and can see in the dim shadow of morning eleven camels bulking black against the sky. A spot near the station is selected for a temporary camp—& breakfast is served, then things are packed up once more & we mount our dromedaries, the Camp is put on the baggage camels & off we go. It is nearly three hours before the belt of cultivated land has been traversed & the border of the great desert is reached.
We have our lunch served to us under the shadow of a little white mosque—while the men go forward & get the Camp ready. At last we are in the desert—it is around us like a great sea—pearly lights & purple shadows from the infinite of sand waves—all the purity of space! Now we know that at last we have begun to live & to be free. Three days have come & gone since then—three days & nights. Where have they gone? They represent one mood of absolute content & fulness of life. First there has come the sunrise & the early morning—then the early start—the ride, on the first day, to the Medum Pyramid, the oldest building in the world—the halt for lunch & a rest, the ride back to the Camp for tea—the walk into the sunset—the music & dancing & poetry of the bedouin arabs at night—on the second day the moving of the Camp on for 10 miles or so—the pitching on {3} the Camp again before sunset—& oh the new wonder that glorious sunset & the glory of the rosy earth & the gleaming [of] our white tents in the distance—as we turned to look. And this is to be our life for the next 17 days.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} This appears to be a mistake. The mummies of Sethos (Seti) I and Rameses III were among those in the cache at Deir el-Bahri discovered by Gaston Maspero in 1881, and were publicly unwrapped by him five years later.

{2} Reading uncertain. The queen is now usually known as Hatshepsut.

{3} A slip for ‘of’.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Concludes her account of her visit to Egypt.



10th Letter.

{1} A new life begins for us on the last day of the year, when in the darkness before the dawn we turned out of the train at Ouasta, & upon a piece of waste ground a few minutes from the station, seen bulking blackly against the sky, a group of 11 camels & 12 men, who are to carry us and to guard us on {2} our belongings on our journeyings for the next three weeks. Enani, Ali, Mursi, & the Cook had travelled down from Luxor in our train—so that our party now numbers 20 in all—this is the tribe of the “Sheikh Ibrahim”. The breakfast tent is quickly put up, and tea & omelette served—& one or two hours spent in a sort of Parliament between Enani & various members of his family, who had come to meet him & give us a send off—but eventually the baggage is placed on the protesting camels, and we mount our dromedaries, whose language would certainly not bear repetition. To mount a camel is a very simple & ordinary bit of routine, when you get used to it—but the first time you wonder what is going to happen. Your beast is lying down with his legs doubled right up under him—when you have settled yourself in the saddle, you give him the signal, & with a vehement swear-word, he throws himself up on his front knees, & then throws up his behind legs & finally stands four square. Then he has three movements, a walk, an amble, both fairly comfortable as long as both are slow, & a fast trot or run, for which you rise in your stirrups as on horseback—this is very comfortable & the faster he goes the jollier it is; a dromedary (i.e. running camel) easily outpaces a horse, even in a short journey—& can go a far greater distance in a day.

We set our heads straight for the Desert, which we see, in the distance beyond the bounds of cultivation,—a world of gold and amber.

We reach it before the halt for lunch—and the tents are pitched in the midst of the glistening expanse of sand & tiny sea-shells. No sign of footprint, except our own, the pure untrodden sand, rippling to the horizon, is like a great sea. The sun as it sinks touches the innumerable wave ridges with glory & fills every one of the tiny hollows with purple—every little pebble, every shell has a shining face—purple shadow. The colour shifts & changes; long after the sky is darkened the desert glows—then the stars rise and the lanterns are lit & hung about the tents. Now the shadows of something moving, is seen just outside the radius of the light—it is a wild jackal prowling round in the chance of food. The men suggest making a “Fantasie”—and they gather in a big circle outside our dining-tent, their faces lit by the lanterns—two of the men have wonderful voices, rich & resonant, & one has all the bedawin poetry by heart, & several are dancers, so we see all the dances & hear all the songs of the desert, while in the background the camels contentedly chew the cud & ocassionally† swear at one another, in a mild way.

The next morning comes serenely. We are not moving camp today, but we ride out in our dromedaries to see the Medoum Pyramid, the oldest building known in the world—taking our lunch with us & coming back to tea.

The next day we move to Edwa; & the next day send to Medinet for our letters, & “laze” all day in the shadow of the tents, and watch the sun as he runs his race, grows to his full majesty of strength, lingers to embrace his world, & bids his passionate farewell. Our walk in the evening brings us to a spot that must once have been a burial place, for the sand is strewn with human sculls† & bones.

Yielding to the programme made for us by our major domo, Enani, we, on the next day leave the desert & enter into the Fayoum to see Medinet the cheif† town—but we refuse to camp near the town & make tracks the same day back to the desert. But before we can get out of the area of cultivation we come in for a night’s rain & a consequent delay, as the wet tents cannot be packed up. The Sheikh Ibrahim gives his men a sheep wherewith to make merry, and at night a great bonfire is made & we sit round it in a circle—a dancing girl comes from the nearest town, with her kinsfolk; and a great Fantasie is held. The Bedawin rifle-dances & sword dances of the men are much more interesting than those of the woman. Enani dances with perfection of agility & grace—now & then to relieve the feelings, a rifle is fired off or a revolver—a weird scene by the fitful blaze of the bonfire. At last the woman & her people ride away on their donkeys, and the fire is kept alight all night by the watchmen, the voices die down & there is silence in the camp.

How glad we are the next morning to see the sun again & to make tracks for the desert betimes. A long day’s journey brings us out of the system of canals which makes the Fayoum a triumph of artificial irrigation, the last bridge is crossed & just before sunset the rolling sand spaces are reached & the tents are pitched. Fred & Marie, Hetty & I go for a long walk, fascinated by the beauty & the colour—in the distance a caravan passes through the purple shadow of sunset & men are prostrating themselves on the ground & praying. The faint crescent of the new moon is visible for a short space before it follows the sun beneath the horizon. It is nearly dark before we get back to the tents, & Enani & Ali have come out to meet us, each with a gun—ever-watchful, ever alert. Day after day the journey is continued. Only once, for about 24 hours do we get really out of reach of water. That is a wonderful night we spend on the high desert; with the sand-hills about us, & between them the foot tracks of the wolf, the jackal & the gazelle. We lie at night on the side of a cone hillock of sand and watch the stars rise & swing across the heavens, while Enani tells us stories from the Koran, and we recall & relate some of the old world stories; until Silence with a beating heart comes & sits in our midst and we are folded up in night & space and sky. It is from the top of this same hill that we watch the sun rise glorious in the morning & scatter before him the hoar frost of the night, and shine upon the white salt rock & pebbles of cornelian stone. A call from Mursi that breakfast is ready brings us back to the tent for an early start has to be made for this our longest desert journey—we have about 20 miles to do. We travel slowly as {3} first with the caravan; all the party keeping together in the same track; Enani playing his flute & the men singing & clapping hands, & some of them doing a fantastic dance with their rifles. We are alone in the midst of the high desert with a boundless distance. After about three hours or four, we halt for lunch beside a ruined pyramid, & let the luggage camels & men go forward. What a lunch!

[At this point occurs the following cancelled passage, the substance of which is repeated later:

We are escorted back about 5 & fetched again at 6 o’clock, & have a great dinner—an enormous turkey, stuffed with raisins & nuts, pigeons, half a sheep, & other dishes—everything of the very best. Only the Sheikh himself partakes of this meal with us, the other men feast outside, & afterwards when the room has been cleared, they troop in & sit round & the evening is spent telling stories. The Sheikh Ibrahim reads his arabic story, exciting expressions of infinite wonder & admiration—& then the Sitt Gebir reads her story of Big Claws & Little Claws. We ride home about 11 o’clock o’clock† after a very jolly evening, everybody very pleasant.

The whole of the next day is spent in seeing some of the wonders of Sakkarah, the tombs of the Kings]

served by Enani & Ali—& what appetites! & what ever new delight & joy that unfailing “one more pot of apricot jam” gives, that is like the widow’s curse {4}. How does Enani manage to procure it every day? And then after lunch the rest—while Enani plays his flute or makes the stones sing as he throws them through the air. But we must not delay too long—the baggage camels are already far away—we mount & quicken our dromedaries to a fast trot. On & on we go but no sight of the caravan—we seem to have lost all trace of human life; but suddenly we see a track again & Enani recognises the foot print of Halifa’s camel—slightly deformed that foot is with corns, the bare foot of Halifa himself keeping abreast with it. He tells us a thrilling story of his last expedition in the unexplored far desert in the Soudan—with the French traveller & his wife, who went where no white man had ever been, & wearing the dress of Algerian pashas. Once, when in the midst of the desert, they let the baggage camels & caravan go forward as we had done today—a sand storm came & obliterated the tracks & presently they realized that they were lost.

To lose your caravan when many days’ journey from the nearest habitation is to lose your life. Enani in an rage of dismay, levelled his rifle at the head of the guide who had been taken on for this stage of the journey—“You have lost the way, you lose your life”. The French lady began to cry—poor little Pasha!—the gentleman interposed with the reminder that the main hope of ever finding the caravan lay with the guide if he would keep his head. Just then Enani looking all round, picked up a bit of flint newly struck off, & following this clue came presently on more traces of the caravan & ultimately sighted it in the distance—to the great joy of all. The hours of the afternoon slip by & we push on—the sun is getting low, and still we see neither caravan or camp. The sun is already setting before we sight our tents which have been set up, & the camels are lying down relieved of their burdens—& best of all, tea is ready as we ride up tired & hungry.

The next day’s journey brings us to Sakkarah with the wonder of its Pyramids & Tombs. We have scarcely pitched our Camp & had our tea, before we receive a visit from the Sheikh of the village, & his kinsfolk. Sheikh Mohamed is the brother in law & friend of Enani, his family generations before had discovered the buried treasures of the ancient kings; amongst other things a banana tree, made of gold, and many gold vessels & ornaments, and became rich, & now own a greater part of the village. The Sheikh is a man of substance with houses & lands, flocks & herds, wives & children. He is a tall dignified man with a gentle face, slightly deaf & therefore somewhat slow in conversation—but full of courtesy & kindliness: he has come to bid us welcome & to invite us to a Feast which he proposes to make in our honour. We all sit round & drink coffee together & exchange cigarettes, and after awhile† the guests retire though they spend the night with Enani in the Camp & come from time to time to salute us. We are invited to the Feast at 3 o’clock, but stipulate for a return to Camp for an hour’s rest before the evening. Punctually at 3 o’clock, the Sheikh Mohamed arrives with the Cheif† men of the village to escort us to his house. He brings his beautiful arab horse for our “Sheikh Ibrahim” to ride; we, (the three wives) ride on camels & the procession starts. We feel like a circus as we go along making a sensation in the village street. We arrive at the house, enter the courtyard on our camels, dismount & are shown into the Guest-chamber, a large stone square building with tall windows, fitted with divans & a carpet. Here we are served with tea, and after we have finished, the sheikh & his family drink tea—& then the men of importance file into the room & the talk begins—of the wonder of London, of the wonder of the Nile, the Maker of Egypt & of irrigation, of grains & harvests, of sheep & cattle & horses—their relative sizes & weights in this country & our own; then we are taken to see the garden, and Marie, Hetty & I are invited into the Women’s quarters, to see the cheif† wife first, Enani’s sister, a pretty girl who receives us shyly & entertains us, serving coffee & asking us questions about our journey—later on, we are introduced to the other wives & their children.

We now return to the Camp, for a short interval, being escorted back & duly fetched again. We sit down to a great feast, which only the Sheikh himself & Enani at our invitation partake with us—an enormous turkey stuffed with nuts & raisins, pigeons, half & sheep & various other dishes; everything of the very best & thoroughly well dressed. We are able to do our duty, having saved up all day on purpose that we might not fail. Turkish coffee in tiny cups concluding the meal, the room is cleared & then the men pile in & sit round the room, & stories are told by one & another—and “the Sheikh Ibrahim” reads his story which he has prepared & written in arabic, amidst universal expressions & {5} admiration & wonder, & “the Sitt Gebir” follows with Big Claws & Little Claws—and about 11 o’clock, we are once more escorted home, having spent a most interesting & delightful time, and everybody highly pleased & satisfied with everybody else.

The next day is given up to seeing some of the wonders of Sakkarah—we ride into Memphis to see the two recumbent colossal figures of Rameses the Great—which are the all that is left of a great temple. One figure lies on his back on a slight eminence, the other is built over by a rude hut & lies prone. A wooden flight of steps spans it, so that one can climb & look down upon the face, which is strong, gentle & full of great calm—in every line of the body, in the tightly clenched hands, in the forward thrust of the knee there is majestic decision. This is the Pharaoh that first began to oppress the Children of Israel & his personality touches me still, through the limestone block fashioned to his image. Mounting again we ride out of the village & up on the desert to see the tomb of Thy,—4500 years old. Thy was the royal architect & manager of the Pyramids in the time of the Pharoahs of the 5th dynasty—and his tomb is full of interest. The masonry is carefully pointed & the walls covered with mural reliefs—drawings of men & animals cut into the stone, the attitude & characteristic expression of the animals especially is wonderful. There are pictures of men feeding cranes, & fattening geese, of men building ships, reaping, winnowing, shipbuilding, fishing, ploughing, sailing ships, fighting—all full of vigour & humour & life. We also saw the Tombs of the sacred bulls. This was an awful place, the heat was stifling. These tombs are hewn out of the solid rock, there are galleries with chambers 26 ft high, which contain the huge stone coffins in which the mummies of these sacred bulls were laid. These monster coffins are made of a solid block of granite 65 tons in weight, & must have been fetched from Assuan more than 600 miles away. I was glad to get out of these underground galleries, heated & evil smelling, the weird darkness made visible by the light of one or two guttering candles—& reach the blessed sunshine & sweet air of the upper world again.

And now the last day of our caravan journey dawns. From Sakkarah, we see the distant Pyramids of Ghizeh, the “Great Pyramids”, & there is our last halting place. Once more we approach the greatest miracle of Man—the divine Thing made by Man in his own image—the Sphinx. In spite of our regret that our journey is nearly over, hearts beat high with happy excitement. It is a sort of homecoming. All the landmarks become familiar. At last one sees the hollow in the sand where the Sphinx rests, with that odd thrill—half fear, half eagerness one always feels at that sight.

But She is not for us—not yet: surrounded (as we come nearer, we see the crowd) by noisy sightseers. We pitch our Camp, and that evening when “dinner” has called that crowd home, we go to pay our homage to the great Being whose body is the foundation rock of the world, & whose soul is the soul of the universe. The silence & shadow of night deepens on the desert—and a great wind is born of the darkness—sweeps upon our tents—and some strange excitement is in the air which drives sleep away & sets the life-currents running quick & warm in blood & brain. With the first glimmer of dawn we are up—and Freddy makes by the aid of our little spirit lamp 4 cups of arrowroot, which we carry off & eat by spoonfuls as we go, to see the glow of morning brighten in those wonderful eyes & the sun rise upon the face so rapturously patient, that has been raised to greet day and night with all their changes, with the same glorious acceptance for more than 6000 years.

This day our camp life ends.

Once more we ride up on the high desert for a last run on the dromedaries. The glistening stretch of sand & pebbles shine and stretch away into seemingly infinite distance: there is a high wind & great purple shadows fly after us & sweep us up in their robes. The afternoon is spent in farewells & in packing. Before sunset the tents are all down, & now we mount “Sabeah” & “Rameses” & their brethren & procede† in cavalcade to Mena House—where we dismount—and after handshakings & lengthy farewells—which (we comfort ourselves with the thought) are after all not final farewells, we are ready to enter the ‘House Beautiful’ & return to civilization again. There is delight and wonder in that change—and a new realization of the victory gained by man over the limitations set by Nature. Water, pure water in a big white bath, filling it up to the brim, hot water too—no limit to it! Electric light! wardrobes! dinner in evening dress, with the music of violins!

But in the moonlight out there in the Desert is the great Reality, and we are lured to leave music & light behind—& draw near to the Silence & Simplicity of that Presence which is the Everlasting Yea. Evening by evening all {4} the following week finds us there—driven by a longing to have that peace, that certainty, that divine acceptance, that vision stamped indelibly on mind & memory. On the night before we leave for England—the moon is wrapt away in thick clouds & the rain is falling, but the face of the Sphinx is lifted expectantly towards the new Day.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} ‘Dec. 30th’ has been struck through at the head of the letter.

{2} A slip for ‘and’.

{3} A slip for ‘as’.

{4} This word is indistinct.

{5} A slip for ‘of’.

† Sic.

Decorated address to F. W. Pethick Lawrence, designed by H. C. Newman and signed by eighteen employees of The Echo

The signatories express regret at the discontinuance of The Echo and thank Pethick-Lawrence for his generous treatment of them.

(Dated 10 August. Presented the following day. The signatories are G. Newman ('Father'), H. Leverett (‘Clerk’), H. C. Newman, George Atkins, E. R. Pigott, F. J. Freeman, J. E. Crussell, J. A. Wise, W. Bake, E. Hosken, Urban Howard, Frank C. Thorpe, Bertie Ed. Chipps, Albert Ed. White, Alfred James Blundell, George F. Howell, J. Norman, and W. Lockyer. The title ‘Clerk’ by Leverett’s name was perhaps intended to apply to all the succeeding names as well.)

Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

‘The Labour Record and Review’, 19 St Bride Street, London, E.C.—Was sorry to leave her this morning with so many worries. Has spoken with Roscoe, the lawyer, and is about to see Joseph Edwards of the Reformer’s Year Book. Draws her attention to an article in the Independent Review.

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