WOMAN TRAVELLER CLIMBING CHEOPS PYRAMID ([ 1857 ])

ASHLEY, Maria

EGYPTIAN TRAVELLERS IN 1857

Date: [ 1857 ]

[ASHLEY,Maria neé Baillie] Manuscript diary 17th March to 20th April 1857. Bound in diced leather notebook, rubbed but internally clean and easily readable, marbled endpapers. Approx 18cm x 11.5 cm. Pp 69 used with further blanks. Presumed ownership inscription “M Ashley Malta 1857” to ffep. Manuscript entries in ink, in a tidy hand. THE TRAVELS. The travellers leave Florence for Leghorn [Livorno] on March 17th 1857, and arrive just in time to embark on board the “Orante” steam boat. “William” leaves them for England ….and “Schacty” howled. “I felt very disconsolate as I saw William rowing across the port”.Despite an “ excellent cabin meant for four persons” as” clean and comfortable as a packet can be” the journey was marred by a detour to Corsica and Sardinia because of poor weather. Eventually arriving in Malta the company board the “Indus” an Oriental Company steam boat, bound for Alexandria.The author names her travelling companions at this point: Frederica Hope [neé Kinnaird ,daughter of Charles Kinnaird, 8th Lord Kinnaird, now wife of Captain Hope] Olivia Kinnaird, [ Olivia Cecilia Laura Kinnaird daughter of Charles Kinnaird above], Smith their butler, and Saunders, Frederica’s maid. The voyage is reasonably comfortable, although the swell makes things difficult;” certainly nothing can be more disagreeable than making one’s Toilette at sea in a heavy swell”. The party prefer to dine by themselves but most of the other passengers dined together, and later, the ladies worked ( sewing?) ‘or drew whilst the men played chess or cards. Fellow passengers include “The gallant Captain Edwards and his bride, and a Mr Lushington. They arrive in Alexandria on April 5th to “a most striking scene … the confusion was beyond belief. Fortunately for us Mr Bell to whom Capt. Hope had written from Malta sent a gentleman on board to meet us who brought me a letter from Charles Murray and also a Dragoman whom he strongly recommended”. [Charles Murray; Consul General in Cairo 1846-53, who had befriended Mehmet Ali Pasha the Ottoman Viceroy. Known as Hippopotamus Murray for his importation to London in 1850 of the first hippo,”Obaysh” since prehistoric times.] “It was an amusing scene, horses, Donkeys & Camels being laden with all the Indian baggage - & people in all costumes down to none at all! running about in every direction.” Despite the 85 degree heat, the travellers hire a “very tolerable open carriage driven by a black in a white robe” to see Pompey’s pillar , first visiting the tourist office to book their steam passage to Cairo. They see their first groves of palm trees , and arrive at the pillar, situated in an Egyptian village “ which at first sight we could not believe was inhabited by human beings being a collection of mud mounds with no windows & holes for doors in and out of which women and children were creeping like ants”. They were soon seen, and “Baksheesh” is demanded. They continue to Cleopatra’s needles, which “ have none of the imposing appearance of the obelisks at Rome or Paris”. Later, the party embark on “ miserably small steamers” on the “ Mahmooduh Canal”. [ Mahmoudiyah Canal: a 45 mile long sub-canal from the Nile River which starts at the Nile-port of Mahmoudiyah and goes through Alexandria to the Mediterranean Sea. It was built to supply Alexandria with food and fresh water from the Nile. Named after Sultan Mahmud II, the Sultan of Istanbul, as Egypt then was an Ottoman province.] Their cabins were “wretchedly small with a narrow horse hair seat all round on one side” but on attempting to rest found that “the plagues of Egypt had commenced in the shape of countless fleas which attacked me on all sides!” One fellow traveller “had undressed herself entirely, so naturally found a horsehair sofa very uncomfortable, added to which she had no covering & soon began to complain of the cold. She dragged her gown and petticoat over her, then threw them off, then got up, lay down again, tossed her things about, groaned, complained , and made all the noise and commotion in her power totally regardless of her companions.”After a difficult journey, they arrive on a cold and foggy morning and proceed up the Nile with the wind in their favour. They pass minarets and tombs, buffaloes and camels in the river , and frequent villages & “ no end of people sitting on the mud or coming for water”. At about two o’clock in the morning, they arrive at “Boolak, which is the port of Cairo”. The travellers book into “Shepherds Hotel” (see below) which our author describes as “dreadfully dirty” …..with fleas mosquitoes and “bugs actually found on my bed….it is necessary to visit Cairo to form any just idea of the fleas! They swarm , they are in the air apparently , for they blow in at the windows and no cleanliness will keep them out “. Charles Murray calls on them, -they find him “greatly altered and grown very old. They meet Mrs Murray, and American, and are charmed by her ;”she appears most amiable and is very ladylike, not the least American in manner or accent .” They have luncheon with the Murrays and are “waited upon by divers Arabs and Turks with a little Nubian of 8 years old, who walked about with a fly flapper…….C.M. had a factotum called a Janissary whom he consulted about everything.” After lunch, the author tries to smoke a pipe “and thought it very pleasant”. Upon their return they take a carriage ( with runners bearing whips travelling in front of the carriage) to Shoobra , a Palace and Gardens of Mehmet Ali’s, now given over to his Harem. “I have never seen such a lovely garden out of England one one as well kept”. The next day, they venture into the Bazaar in Cairo, our author being “amused beyond measure” but her companion ladies O&F “said those of Constantinople were much finer”. There is some discussion of eye ailments here- the author comments on the number of Cairo citizens afflicted with eye problems, especially the children. Dining with Charles Murray, they discuss a planned journey into the desert. Murray suggests that they should ride Dromedaries “ the difference between a Camel and a Dromedary is pretty much the same as that between a Racer & a Cart Horse.” Arrangements are made with Ishmael Moussa the Dragoman “ who was to provide us with tents and all eatables, engage the Camels ,attendants & pay all Baikshuish, tribute money &c for 4£ a day for two months certain….We had brought Beds & saddles for horses from Malta or he would have had to provide these also.” On driving through Cairo, the author admires the fountains and beautiful latticed windows, which are being replaced with modern windows because of a perceived fire risk. They ascend to the citadel, visiting the mosque,” built by Mehmet as his tomb”, and as yet unfinished.The nearby palace is also admired, with it’s view of the Nile, and pyramids in the distance. A mausoleum, built by Mehmet for his family is also visited, barefoot. “ It was well carpeted throughout & contained the Bodies of numerous members of the family, male and female. They were in wooden sarcophagi more resembling the Catafalques erected in Catholic Churches than anything else”. At 4 o’clock, the party ride off to Gizeh in carriages, cross the river, and climb on to donkeys to ride to the Pyramids. After a pleasant ride, they arrive at seven in the evening and make camp. They have dinner, by which time the moon is up.”The scene was then very beautiful & the Pyramids looked much more imposing .In the course of my walk I came across the Sphinx & have never seen anything so striking as this wonderful figure appeared by the light of the moon. The head only is visible above the sand…we all sat down for some time opposite to it on a bank of sand. The night was lovely, one or two Arabs who had come from the neighbouring village to guard us came and stood near us & their wild and picturesque dress & graceful attitudes, leaning on their guns, added to the general effect of the scene which was one we shall not soon forget.” The next day, the party proceeds to “ The Great Pyramid , that of Cheops…we proceeded to ascend the large Pyramid.I had not intended attempting it, but as O. began the ascent I thought I might as well follow. We had three Arabs apiece, one took hold of each hand & a third seized me round the waist from behind & lifted me up the highest stones some of which must have been between 4 & 5 feet high * (*perhaps none exceed 4ft) so that it wd. have been impossible for women to reach up to them without assistance.O. Soon took fright, and dreading particularly the descent turned back, but as I had got so far I thought it a pity not to reach the top, so I struggled on & was sitting on the top platform made by the removal of the upper stones/ supposed to have been broken away to the extent of at least 20 feet perpendicular height/ in 20 minutes from the time I started….I wd. advise anyone who is equal to the exertion to ascend as it is the only way to have an idea of the vast magnitude of the building or of the size of the stones. The descent was not difficult & with the assistance of the guides took but a short time. ¼ of an hour. They are indispensable but bore one cruelly by the incessant noise & chatter they keep up.” Having climbed the Great Pyramid, the intrepid party set off on donkeys “ and rode across a burning plain of sand for 7 miles, passing on our right Aboosir or Abusir …..the heat was intense – poor O. was unwell & we regretted having undertaken to go so far….we stopped at an Ibis mummy Pit which is very curious & bought of the mummies.We also entered a very interesting tomb, beautifully sculptured with hieroglyphics.” The next day, the heat and dust in Cairo oppressive ,with a Khamsin wind blowing “ so called from it being said to blow for 50 days in the course of the year and Khamsin is the Arabic for 50.” The travellers stay inside all day, with the wind increasing at nine at night to a hurricane with some window panes in O’s room being blown in, and sand in every room. Rain falls the next day which made everything much fresher , and the party try out their Palanquins- carried between two Camels “ made of wood with shutters & in which as a mattress & cushion & room for two people, one sitting back, the other facing. There is a sort of pannier one on each side of the Camel protected from the sun. Freda and I got into these, but nothing can be so unpleasant or I should imagine more fatiguing than it must be after a time, added to which the motion is intolerable when the animal gets up & lies down & we had to hold as tight as possible.” In the afternoon the party take a Turkish Bath, “ having engaged the whole for ourselves. We undressed in a room sufficiently warm from steam & wrapped sheets around us. We then walked into another room warmer still & finally into an inner one where we sat on stools. The Bathing woman made her appearance , a large fat woman, with a cloth around her waist but nothing else on! She took Olivia in hand, two girls then walked in without a stitch of raiment, one went to Freda, one came to me, they wanted to pull off our sheets, which I would not stand – I thought it altogether most disgusting!.....O&F whose hair was very wet had their heads wrapped up in towels like Turbans.It had a droll effect.” The company meet “Mr Lewis the artist and his wife- pretty young woman. He has been ten years in Egypt & wears the Eastern dress.” [Probably John Frederick Lewis RA (London 14 July 1804 – 15 August 1876).He was an English Orientalist painter. He specialized in Oriental and Mediterranean scenes in detailed watercolour or oils, very often repeating the same composition in a version in each medium. He lived for several years in a traditional mansion in Cairo, and after his return to England in 1851 he specialized in highly detailed works showing both realistic genre scenes of Middle Eastern life and more idealized scenes in upper class Egyptian interiors with little apparent Western influence.][Wiki] This appears to give new information about the artist, as he is clearly present in Cairo in 1857. Lewis tells the party about the Harem, and the status of women in the Harem and their children. The next day Bhoda Island is the destination, to visit the garden made Tree by Ibrahim Pasha “ now quite neglected” but the view of the Nile is beautiful,”here according to tradition Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter”. They visit Joseph’s well ,apparently 260 feet deep, and climb a hill to see the sunset. On Wednesday April 16th Maria writes “ at last our arrangements are completed & we fairly embark today upon a Desert Life”. They ” scramble into our Tattomarans – we had been obliged to buy them & had given £11 for them-/ they might have been worth £5/ as no others were to be had we gave what was asked”. Freda and her maid Saunders in one Tattomaran,”Olivia and I in the other, Smith on a Camel. Shortly after leaving the gates Mrs Murray & Mr Lockwood Rode after us on their Donkeys. She looked so pretty ,we had all been charmed with her I never saw a more pleasing engaging person. They took leave of us in the course of a short time.” Riding into the desert “where all vegetation ceases” they see the Pasha’s Palace, and ride on, arriving at their encampment at half past six, “ a bleak exposed spot near Heliopolis. The baggage had gone on but our tents were not ready, no one knew exactly what to do.It was cold, a great change after the heat of Cairo.” Their first night in the desert was rather disorganised and Maria could not sleep with the cold. “ It soon became clear the we had made a great mistake. The Chairs would do very well for a night or do but in a journey of this kind rest is of the utmost importance & we ought to have had camp bedsteads.” Breakfast is taken at half past six “ but did not start till ½ p.8 as it always took two good hours to pack, load the Camels &c.” They walk meanwhile to see an Obelisk, but cannot reach it in time “ nor to go to the well where the Holy Family rested?” They skirt the desert, make camp at a village and are off at ½ 8 “ tho’ Ismail exerted himself to get the Camel drivers to move. The fact is it was their village & they were surrounded by their wives and children who sat in groups staring at us.” Their cook was Nubian,” by name Abdulabad, a most picturesque man who wore a blue shirt,& a bright red and yellow Hd. over his head but no Turban- he walked a great deal, but when he liked, mounted a Camel.It was our great amusement to watch his operation…..he had an iron sort of trough for charcoal, some pots and pans & a wooden table raised 5 or 6 inches from the ground….he had no covering but slept in the open air…it was wonderful what decent dinners he gave us…. As a general rule we had soup with macaroni or vermicelli roast or boiled fowls, roast or boiled mutton sometimes hashed, sometimes currie, and dressed prunes or apricots as a sweet”. The last entry of the journal is made on April 20th, camping near a village “surrounded with Palm Trees, the last civilised spot we are to meet with for some days, as it lies just where the vegetation ceases and the real Desert begins…between 10&11 when I went into Freda’s tent I found the heat quite insupportable ,neither she nor I were suffering from it. The thermometer was near 110. I proposed that we shd read under the trees in the Pomegranite Grove near us & proceeded then with O, F.was to follow”. A brief storm follows, and the diary finishes – just on the verge of entering the desert. And here we have a puzzle: the dates given for Frederica Hope (neé Kinnaird) have her dying in May 1856, which clearly conflicts with the dates of the diary, which has the party leaving in March 1857, Frederica alive and well. Did Frederica succumb to an illness serious enough to stop Maria writing her diary and which resulted in Frederica’s death shortly afterwards in May 1857,( and not in May 1856 as records seem to show) ? Were conditions in the desert impossible for diary writing- indeed, did the party ever make their longer trip into the desert? We have searched in vain for further insights, especially into the death of Frederica, but without enlightenment. If she died abroad, in Egypt, we think it quite reasonable that dates could have become muddled. Like the Sphinx, an enigma! THE TRAVELLERS “William” who sees the party off in Legorn would seem to us to be The Hon. Anthony William Ashley [1803 – 18 April 1877] also known as William Ashley-Cooper, who was an English academic and Master of St Catherine Hall, Regent's Park. He was Member of Parliament for Dorchester from 1826 to 1830. He was the second son of Cropley Ashley-Cooper, 6th Earl of Shaftesbury, by his marriage to Lady Anne Spencer, daughter of George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough. On 8 March 1831 he married Maria Ann Baillie, a daughter of Colonel Hugh Duncan Baillie. He died in 1877. The Spencer family here are the late Lady Diana Spencer’s ancestors. This would make the author of the manuscript Maria Ashley, [M.Ashley ownership inscription on ffep], the Lady Ashley, born 28 April 1801 died 1 October 1885, making her 56 years of age at the time of writing this travel journal, and an intrepid woman for her times, rather bourne out in contemporary accounts of her as a younger woman: . “Maria Anne Baillie was the daughter of a Scottish soldier ...According to Lady Gower, 30 Jan. 1833: There are sad stories of Mrs. Ashley’s temper and conduct: that she behaves in the strangest way to the queen, refusing to drive out with her at Windsor and getting up before other people; the intention being to disgust them out of wishing William to retain his place, as she wishes to live abroad. He mentioned her several times in conversation to me and talked of her cough and her chest. I am sorry for him. Her sister Lady Dover related in reply that she had met Mrs. Ashley ‘looking very handsome, but not very pleasing. How she can show so much temper to such a gentle and amiable being, I do not understand. He looks ill and not in spirits, but talks of her, and of love, and of marriage, as if they were not awkward subjects’.He, who was additionally appointed the queen’s treasurer in October 1834, continued as Adelaide’s vice-chamberlain from the death of William IV in 1837 until hers in December 1849. It was she who appointed him to a sinecure at St. Katharine’s Hospital, of which he was the last lay master.Ashley, who had long resided in Stable Yard, St. James’s Palace, died at Mentone, France, in April 1877.” [Citation: History of Parliament online] The other travellers named by Maria Ashley as her companions are as follows:Frederica Hope [neé Kinnaird ,daughter of Charles Kinnaird, 8th Lord Kinnaird. Frederick married a Captain Hope] . Olivia Kinnaird, [Olivia Cecilia Laura Kinnaird daughter of Charles Kinnaird above], Smith their butler, and Saunders, Frederica’s maid. We think that Olivia and Francisca are sisters. Our researches also show that the Kinnaird and Baillie [maiden name of the author Maria Ashley] families are related by marriage, which would lend weight to the supposition that they travelled together. Images , [found online] in this description are included in the description for illustration only.

£2500

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