I. Modern Egypt
Boundaries and Areas.—Egypt is bounded N. by the Mediterranean, S. by the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, N.E. by Palestine, E. by the Red Sea, W. by Tripoli and the Sahara. The western frontier is ill-defined. The boundary line between Tripoli and Egypt is usually taken to start from a point in the Gulf of Sollum and to run S. by E. so as to leave the oasis of Siwa to Egypt. South of Siwa the frontier, according to the Turkish firman of 1841, bends eastward, approaching the cultivated Nile-land near Wadi Halfa, i.e. the southern frontier. This southern frontier is fixed by agreement between Great Britain and Egypt at the 22° N. The N.E. frontier is an almost direct line drawn from Taba, near the head of the Gulf of Akaba, the eastern of the two gulfs into which the Red Sea divides, to the Mediterranean at Rafa in 34° 15′ E. The peninsula of Sinai, geographically part of Asia, is thus included in the Egyptian dominions. The total area of the country is about 400,000 sq. m., or more than three times the size of the British Isles. Of this area 14ths is desert. Canals, roads, date plantations, &c., cover 1900 sq. m.; 2850 sq. m. are comprised in the surface of the Nile, marshes, lakes, &c. A line corresponding with the 30° N., drawn just S. of Cairo, divides the country into Lower and Upper Egypt, natural designations in common use, Lower Egypt being the Delta and Upper Egypt the Nile valley. By the Arabs Lower Egypt is called Er-Rif, the cultivated or fertile; Upper Egypt Es Sa’id, the happy or fortunate. Another division of the country is into Lower, Middle and Upper Egypt, Middle Egypt in this classification being the district between Cairo and Assiut.
General Character.—The distinguishing features of Egypt are the Nile and the desert. But for the river there would be nothing to differentiate the country from other parts of the Sahara. The Nile, however, has transformed the land through which it passes. Piercing the desert, and at its annual overflow depositing rich sediment brought from the Abyssinian highlands, the river has created the Delta and the fertile strip in Upper Egypt. This cultivable land is Egypt proper; to it alone is applicable the ancient name—“the black land.” The Misr of the Arabs is restricted to the same territory. Beyond the Nile valley east and west stretch great deserts, containing here and there fertile oases. The general appearance of the country is remarkably uniform. The Delta is a level plain, richly cultivated, and varied alone by the lofty dark-brown mounds of ancient cities, and the villages set in groves of palm-trees, standing on mounds often, if not always, ancient. Groves of palm-trees are occasionally seen besides those around the villages, but other trees are rare. In Upper Egypt the Nile valley is very narrow and is bounded by mountains of no great height. They form the edge of the desert on either side of the valley, of which the bottom is level rock. The mountains rarely take the form of peaks. Sometimes they approach the river in bold promontories, and at others are divided by the dry beds of ancient watercourses. The bright green of the fields, the reddish-brown or dull green of the great river, contrasting with the bare yellow rocks, seen beneath a brilliant sun and a deep-blue sky, present views of great beauty. In form the landscape varies little and is not remarkable; in colour its qualities are always splendid, and under a general uniformity show a continual variety.
The Coast Region.—Egypt has a coast-line of over 600 m. on the Mediterranean and about 1200 m. on the Red Sea. The Mediterranean coast extends from the Gulf of Sollum on the west to Rafa on the east. From the gulf to the beginning of the Delta the coast is rock-bound, but slightly indented, and possesses no good harbourage. The cliffs attain in places a height of 1000 ft. They are the termination of a stony plateau, containing several small oases, which southward joins the more arid and uninhabitable wastes of the Libyan Desert. The Delta coast-line, composed of sandhills and, occasionally, limestone rocks, is low, with cape-like projections at the Nile mouths formed by the river silt. Two bays are thus formed, the western being the famous Bay of Aboukir. It is bounded W. by a point near the ancient Canopic mouth, eastward by the Rosetta mouth. Beyond the Delta eastward the coast is again barren and without harbours. It rises gradually southward, merging into the plateau of the Sinai peninsula. The Red Sea coast is everywhere mountainous. The mountains are the northern continuation of the Abyssinian table-land, and some of the peaks are over 6000 ft. above the sea. The highest peaks, going from north to south, are Jebels Gharib, Dukhan, Es Shayib, Fatira, Abu Tiur, Zubara and Hammada (Hamata). The coast has a general N.N.W. and S.S.E. trend, and, save for the two gulfs into which it is divided by the massif of Sinai, is not deeply indented. Where the frontier between Egypt and the Sudan reaches the sea is Ras Elba (see further Red Sea).
The Nile Valley (see also Nile).—Entering Egypt proper, a little north of the Second Cataract, the Nile flows through a valley in sandstone beds of Cretaceous age as far as 25° N., and throughout this part of its course the valley is extremely narrow, rarely exceeding 2 m. in width. At two points, namely, Kalabsha—the valley here being only 170 yds. wide and the river over 100 ft. deep—and Assuan (First Cataract), the course of the river is interrupted by outcrops of granites and other crystalline rocks, which have been uncovered by the erosion of the overlying sandstone, and to-day form the mass of islands, with numerous small rapids, which are described not very accurately as cataracts; no good evidence exists in support of the view that they are the remains of a massive barrier, broken down and carried away by some sudden convulsion. From 25° N. northwards for 518 m. the valley is of the “rift-valley” type, a level depression in a limestone plateau, enclosed usually by steep cliffs, except where the tributary valleys drained into the main valley in early times, when there was a larger rainfall, and now carry off the occasional rainstorms that burst on the desert. The cliffs are highest between Esna and Kena, where they reach 1800 ft. above sea-level. The average width of the cultivated land is about 10 m., of which the greater part lies on the left (western) bank of the river; and outside this is a belt, varying from a few hundred yards to 3 or 4 m., of stony and sandy ground, reaching up to the foot of the limestone cliffs, which rise in places to as much as 1000 ft. above the valley. This continues as far as 29° N., after which the hills that close in the valley become lower, and the higher plateaus lie at a distance of 10 or 15 m. back in the desert.
The Fayum.—The fertile province of the Fayum, west of the Nile and separated from it by some 6 m. of desert, seems to owe its existence to movements similar to those which determined the valley itself. Lying in a basin sloping in a series of terraces from an altitude of 65 ft. above sea-level in the east to about 140 ft. below sea-level on the north-west, at the margin of the Birket-el-Kerun, this province is wholly irrigated by a canalized channel, the Bahr Yusuf, which, leaving the Nile at Derut esh Sherif in Upper Egypt, follows the western margin of the cultivation in the Nile valley, and at length enters the Fayum through a gap in the desert hills by the XIIth Dynasty pyramids of Lahun and Hawara (see Fayum).
The Delta.—About 30° N., where the city of Cairo stands, the hills which have hitherto run parallel with the Nile turn W.N.W. and E.N.E., and the triangular area between them is wholly deltaic. The Delta measures 100 m. from S. to N., having a width of 155 m. on the shore of the Mediterranean between Alexandria on the west and Port Said on the east. The low sandy shore of the Delta, slowly increasing by the annual deposit of silt by the river, is mostly a barren area of sand-hills and salty waste land. This is the region of the lagoons and marshes immediately behind the coast-line. Southwards the quality of the soil rapidly improves, and becomes the most fertile part of Egypt. This area is watered by the Damietta and the Rosetta branches of the Nile, and by a network of canals. The soil of the Delta is a dark grey fine sandy soil, becoming at times almost a stiff clay by reason of the fineness of its particles, which consist almost wholly of extremely small grains of quartz with a few other minerals, and often numerous flakes of mica. This deposit varies in thickness, as a rule, from 55 to 70 ft., at which depth it is underlain by a series of coarse and fine yellow quartz sands, with occasional pebbles, or even banks of gravel, while here and there thin beds of clay occur. These sand-beds are sharply distinguished by their colour from the overlying Nile deposit, and are of considerable thickness. A boring made in 1886 for the Royal Society at Zagazig attained a depth of 375 ft. without reaching rock, and another, subsequently sunk near Lake Aboukir (close to Alexandria), reached a depth of 405 ft. with the same result. Numerous other borings to depths of 100 to 200 ft. have given similar results, showing the Nile deposit to rest generally on these yellow sands, which provide a constant though not a very large supply of good water; near the northern limits of the Delta this cannot, however, be depended on, since the well water at these depths has proved on several occasions to be salt. The surface of the Delta is a wide alluvial plain sloping gently towards the sea, and having an altitude of 29 ft. above it at its southern extremity. Its limits east and west are determined by the higher ground of the deserts, to which the silt-laden waters of the Nile in flood time cannot reach. This silt consists largely of alumina (about 48%) and calcium carbonate (18%) with smaller quantities of silica, oxide of iron and carbon. Although the Nile water is abundantly charged with alluvium, the annual deposit by the river, except under extraordinary circumstances, is smaller than might be supposed. The mean ordinary rate of the increase of the soil of Egypt is calculated as about 4½ in. in a century.
|Emery Walker sc.|
The Lakes.—The lagoons or lakes of the Delta, going from west to east, are Mareotis (Mariut), Edku, Burlus and Menzala. The land separating them from the Mediterranean is nowhere more than 10 m. wide. East of the Damietta mouth of the Nile this strip is in places not more than 200 yds. broad. All the lakes are shallow and the water in them salt or brackish. Mareotis, which bounds Alexandria on the south side, varies considerably in area according to the rise or fall of the Nile; when the Nile is low there is a wide expanse of marsh, when at its highest the lake covers about 100 sq. m. In ancient times Mareotis was navigable and was joined by various canals to the Nile. The country around was cultivated and produced the famous Mareotic wine. The canals being neglected, the lake decreased in size, though it was still of considerable area in the 15th and 16th centuries, and was then noted for the value of its fisheries. When the French army occupied Egypt in 1798, Mareotis was found to be largely a sandy plain. In April 1801 the British army besieging Alexandria cut through the land between Aboukir and the lake, admitting the waters of the sea into the ancient bed of Mareotis and laying under water a large area then in cultivation. This precedent was twice imitated, first by the Turks in 1803 and a second time by the British in 1807. Mareotis has no outlet, and the water is kept at a uniform level by means of powerful pumps which neutralize the effect of the Nile flood. A western arm has been cut off from the lake by a dyke, and in this arm a thick crust of salt is formed each year after the evaporation of the flood water. Near the shores of the lake wild flowers grow in rich profusion. Like all the Delta lakes, Mareotis abounds in wild-fowl. North-east of Mareotis was Lake Aboukir, a small sheet of water, now dry, lying S.W. of Aboukir Bay. East of this reclaimed marsh and reaching to within 4 m. of the Rosetta branch of the Nile, lies Edku, 22 m. long and in places 16 wide, with an opening, supposed to be the ancient Canopic mouth of the Nile, into Aboukir Bay. Burlus begins a little eastward of the Rosetta channel, and stretches bow-shaped for 64 m. Its greatest width is about 16 m. Adjoining it S.E. is an expanse of sandy marsh. Several canals or canalized channels enter the lake. Opposite the spot where the Bahr-mit Yezir enters is an opening into the Mediterranean. Canal and opening indicate the course of the ancient Sebennytic branch of the Nile. Burlus is noted for its water-melons, which are yellow within and come into season after those grown on the banks of the Nile.
Menzala greatly exceeds the other Delta lakes in size, covering over 780 sq. m. It extends from very near the Damietta branch of the Nile to Port Said. It receives the waters of the canalized channels which were once the Tanitic, Mendesian and Pelusiac branches. The northern shore is separated from the sea by an extremely narrow strip of land, across which, when the Mediterranean is stormy and the lake full, the waters meet. Its average length is about 40 m., and its average breadth about 15. The depth is greater than that of the other lakes, and the water is salt, though mixed with fresh. It contains a large number of islands, and the whole lake abounds in reeds of various kinds. Of the islands Tennīs (anciently Tennesus) contains ruins of the Roman period. The lake supports a considerable population of fishermen, who dwell in villages on the shore and islands and live upon the fish of the lake. The reeds are cover for waterfowl of various kinds, which the traveller sees in great numbers, and wild boars are found in the marshes to the south. The Suez Canal runs in a straight line for 20 m. along the eastern edge of the lake. That part of the lake east of where the canal was excavated is now marshy plain, and the Tanitic and Pelusiac mouths of the Nile are dry. East of Menzala is the site of Serbonis, another dried-up lake, which had the general characteristics of the Delta lagoons. In the Isthmus of Suez are Lake Timsa and the Great and Little Bitter Lakes, occupying part of the ancient bed of the Red Sea. All three were dry or marshy depressions previously to the cutting of the Suez Canal, at which time the waters of the Mediterranean and Red Sea were let into them (see Suez Canal).
A chain of natron lakes (seven in number) lies in a valley in the western desert, 70 to 90 m. W.N.W. of Cairo. In the Fayum province farther south is the Birket-el-Kerun, a lake, lying below the level of the Nile, some 30 m. long and 5 wide at its broadest part. Kerun is all that is left of the Lake of Moeris, an ancient artificial sheet of water which played an important part in the irrigation schemes of the Pharaohs. The water of el-Kerun is brackish, though derived from the Nile, which has at all seasons a much higher level. It is bounded on the north by the Libyan Desert, above which rises a bold range of mountains; and it has a strange and picturesque wildness. Near the lake are several sites of ancient towns, and the temple called Kasr-Karun, dating from Roman times, distinguishes the most important of these. South-west of the Fayum is the Wadi Rayan, a large and deep depression, utilizable in modern schemes for re-creating the Lake of Moeris (q.v.).
The Desert Plateaus.—From the southern borders of Egypt to the Delta in the north, the desert plateaus extend on either side of the Nile valley. The eastern region, between the Nile and the Red Sea, varies in width from 90 to 350 m. and is known in its northern part as the Arabian Desert. The western region has no natural barrier for many hundreds of miles; it is part of the vast Sahara. On its eastern edge, a few miles west of Cairo, stand the great pyramids (q.v.) of Gizeh or Giza. North of Assuan it is called the Libyan Desert. In the north the desert plateaus are comparatively low, but from Cairo southwards they rise to 1000 and even 1500 ft. above sea-level. Formed mostly of horizontal strata of varying hardness, they present a series of terraces of minor plateaus, rising one above the other, and intersected by small ravines worn by the occasional rainstorms which burst in their neighbourhood. The weathering of this desert area is probably fairly rapid, and the agents at work are principally the rapid heating and cooling of the rocks by day and night, and the erosive action of sand-laden wind on the softer layers; these, aided by the occasional rain, are ceaselessly at work, and produce the successive plateaus, dotted with small isolated hills and cut up by valleys (wadis) which occasionally become deep ravines, thus forming the principal type of scenery of these deserts. From this it will be seen that the desert in Egypt is mainly a rock desert, where the surface is formed of disintegrated rock, the finer particles of which have been carried away by the wind; and east of the Nile this is almost exclusively the case. Here the desert meets the line of mountains which runs parallel to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez. In the western desert, however, those large sand accumulations which are usually associated with a desert are met with. They occur as lines of dunes formed of rounded grains of quartz, and lie in the direction of the prevalent wind, usually being of small breadth as compared with their length; but in certain areas, such as that lying S.W. and W. of the oases of Farafra and Dakhla, these lines of dunes, lying parallel to each other and about half a mile apart, cover immense areas, rendering them absolutely impassable except in a direction parallel to the lines themselves. East of the oases of Baharia and Farafra is a very striking line of these sand dunes; rarely more than 3 miles wide, it extends almost continuously from Moghara in the north, passing along the west side of Kharga Oasis to a point near the Nile in the neighbourhood of Abu Simbel—having thus a length of nearly 550 m. In the northern part of this desert the dunes lie about N.W.-S.E., but farther south incline more towards the meridian, becoming at last very nearly north and south.
Oases.—In the western desert lie the five large oases of Egypt, namely, Siwa, Baharia, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga or Great Oasis, occupying depressions in the plateau or, in the case of the last three, large indentations in the face of limestone escarpments which form the western versant of the Nile valley hills. Their fertility is due to a plentiful supply of water furnished by a sandstone bed 300 to 500 ft. below the surface, whence the water rises through natural fissures or artificial boreholes to the surface, and sometimes to several feet above it. These oases were known and occupied by the Egyptians as early as 1600 B.C., and Kharga (q.v.) rose to special importance at the time of the Persian occupation. Here, near the town of Kharga, the ancient Hebi, is a temple of Ammon built by Darius I., and in the same oasis are other ruins of the period of the Ptolemies and Caesars. The oasis of Siwa (Jupiter Ammon) is about 150 m. S. of the Mediterranean at the Gulf of Sollum and about 300 m. W. of the Nile (see Siwa). The other four oases lie parallel to and distant 100 to 150 m. from the Nile, between 25° and 29° N., Baharia being the most northerly and Kharga the most southerly.
Besides the oases the desert is remarkable for two other valleys. The first is that of the natron lakes already mentioned. It contains four monasteries, the remains of the famous anchorite settlement of Nitriae. South of the Wadi Natron, and parallel to it, is a sterile valley called the Bahr-bela-Ma, or “River without Water.”
The Sinai Peninsula.—The triangular-shaped Sinai peninsula has its base on the Mediterranean, the northern part being an arid plateau, the desert of Tih. The apex is occupied by a massif of crystalline rocks. The principal peaks rise over 8500 ft. Owing to the slight rainfall, and the rapid weathering of the rocks by the great range of temperature, these hills rise steeply from the valleys at their feet as almost bare rock, supporting hardly any vegetation. In some of the valleys wells or rock-pools filled by rain occur, and furnish drinking-water to the few Arabs who wander in these hills (see also Sinai).
[Geology.—Just as the Nile valley forms the chief geographical feature of Egypt, so the geology of the country is intimately related to it. The north and south direction of the river has been largely determined by faults, though the geologists of the Egyptian Survey are finding that the influence of faulting in determining physical outline has, in some cases, been overestimated. The oldest rocks, consisting of crystalline schists with numerous intrusions of granite, porphyry and diorite, occupy the eastern portion of the country between the Nile south of Assuan and the Red Sea. The intrusive rocks predominate over the schists in extent of area covered. They furnished the chief material for the ancient monuments. At Assuan (Syene) the well-known syenite of Werner occurs. It is, however, a hornblende granite and does not possess the mineralogical composition of the syenites of modern petrology. Between Thebes and Khartum the western banks of the Nile are composed of Nubian Sandstone, which extends westward from the river to the edge of the great Libyan Desert, where it forms the bed rock. The age of this sandstone has given rise to much dispute. The upper part certainly belongs to the Cretaceous formation; the lower part has been considered to be of Karroo age by some geologists, while others regard the whole formation to be of Cretaceous age. In the Kharga Oasis the upper portion consists of variously coloured unfossiliferous clays with intercalated bands of sandstone containing fossil silicified woods (Nicolia Aegyptiaca and Araucarioxylon Aegypticum). They are conformably overlain by clays and limestones with Exogyra Overwegi belonging to the Lower Danian, and these by clays and white chalk with Ananchytes ovata of the Upper Danian. In many instances the Tertiary formation, which occurs between Esna and Cairo, unconformably overlies the Cretaceous, the Lower Eocene being absent. The fluvio-marine deposits of the Upper Eocene and Oligocene formations contain an interesting mammalian fauna, proving that the African continent formed a centre of radiation for the mammalia in early Tertiary times. Arsinoitherium is the precursor of the horned Ungulata; while Moeritherium and Palaeomastodon undoubtedly include the oldest known elephants. Miocene strata are absent in the southern Tertiary areas, but are present at Moghara and in the north. Marine Pliocene strata occur to the south of the pyramids of Giza and in the Fayum province, where, in addition, some gravel terraces, at a height of 500 ft. above sea-level, are attributed to the Pliocene period. The Lake of Moeris, as a large body of fresh water, appears to have come into existence in Pleistocene times. It is represented now by the brackish-water lake of the Birket-el-Kerun. The superficial sands of the deserts and the Nile mud form the chief recent formations. The Nile deposits its mud over the valley before reaching the sea, and consequently the Delta receives little additional material. At Memphis the alluvial deposits are over 50 ft. thick. The superficial sands of the desert region, derived in large part from the disintegration of the Nubian Sandstone, occupy the most extensive areas in the Libyan Desert. The other desert regions of Egypt are elevated stony plateaus, which are diversified by extensively excavated valleys and oases, and in which sand frequently plays quite a subordinate part. These regions present magnificent examples of dry erosion by wind-borne sand, which acts as a powerful sand blast etching away the rocks and producing most beautiful sculpturing. The rate of denudation in exposed positions is exceedingly rapid; while spots sheltered from the sand blast suffer a minimum of erosion, as shown by the preservation of ancient inscriptions. Many of the Egyptian rocks in the desert areas and at the cataracts are coated with a highly polished film, of almost microscopic thinness, consisting chiefly of oxides of iron and manganese with salts of magnesia and lime. It is supposed to be due to a chemical change within the rock and not to deposition on the surface.]
Minerals.—Egypt possesses considerable mineral wealth. In ancient times gold and precious stones were mined in the Red Sea hills. During the Moslem period mining was abandoned, and it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that renewed efforts were made to develop the mining industry. The salt obtained from Lake Mareotis at Meks, a western suburb of Alexandria, supplies the salt needed for the country, except a small quantity used for curing fish at Lake Menzala; while the lakes in the Wadi Natron, 45 m. N.W. of the pyramids of Giza, furnish carbonate of soda in large quantities. Alum is found in the western oases. Nitrates and phosphates are also found in various parts of the desert and are used as manures. The turquoise mines of Sinai, in the Wadi Maghara, are worked regularly by the Arabs of the peninsula, who sell the stones in Suez; while there are emerald mines at Jebel Zubara, south of Kosseir. Petroleum occurs at Jebel Zeit, on the west shore of the Gulf of Suez. Considerable veins of haematite of good quality occur both in the Red Sea hills and in Sinai. At Jebel ed-Dukhan are porphyry quarries, extensively worked under the Romans, and at Jebel el-Fatira are granite quarries. At El-Hammāmāt, on the old way from Coptos to Philoteras Portus, are the breccia verde quarries, worked from very early times, and having interesting hieroglyphic inscriptions. At the various mines, and on the routes to them and to the Red Sea, are some small temples and stations, ranging from the Pharaonic to the Roman period. The quarries of Syene (Assuan) are famous for extremely hard and durable red granite (syenite), and have been worked since the days of the earliest Pharaohs. Large quantities of this syenite were used in building the Assuan dam (1898–1902). The cliffs bordering the Nile are largely quarried for limestone and sandstone.
Gold-mining recommenced in 1905 at Um Rus, a short distance inland from the Red Sea and some 50 m. S. of Kosseir, where milling operations were started in March of that year. Another mine opened in 1905 was that of Um Garaiat, E.N.E. of Korosko, and 65 m. distant from the Nile.
Climate.—Part of Upper Egypt is within the tropics, but the greater part of the country is north of the Tropic of Cancer. Except a narrow belt on the north along the Mediterranean shore, Egypt lies in an almost rainless area, where the temperature is high by day and sinks quickly at night in consequence of the rapid radiation under the cloudless sky. The mean temperature at Alexandria and Port Said varies between 57° F. in January and 81° F. in July; while at Cairo, where the proximity of the desert begins to be felt, it is 53° F. in January, rising to 84° F. in July. January is the coldest month, when occasionally in the Nile valley, and more frequently in the open desert, the temperature sinks to 32° F., or even a degree or two below. The mean maximum temperatures are 99° F. for Alexandria and 110° F. for Cairo. Farther south the range of temperature becomes greater as pure desert conditions are reached. Thus at Assuan the mean maximum is 118° F., the mean minimum 42° F. At Wadi Halfa the figures in each case are one degree lower.
The relative humidity varies greatly. At Assuan the mean value for the year is only 38%, that for the summer being 29%, and for the winter 51%; while for Wadi Halfa the mean is 32%, and 20% and 42% are the mean values for summer and winter respectively. A white fog, dense and cold, sometimes rises from the Nile in the morning, but it is of short duration and rare occurrence. In Alexandria and on all the Mediterranean coast of Egypt rain falls abundantly in the winter months, amounting to 8 in. in the year; but southwards it rapidly decreases, and south of 31° N. little rain falls.
Records at Cairo show that the rainfall is very irregular, and is furnished by occasional storms rather than by any regular rainy season; still, most falls in the winter months, especially December and January, while, on the other hand, none has been recorded in June and July. The average annual rainfall does not exceed 1.50 in. In the open desert rain falls even more rarely, but it is by no means unknown, and from time to time heavy storms burst, causing sudden floods in the narrow ravines, and drowning both men and animals. These are more common in the mountainous region of the Sinai peninsula, where they are much dreaded by the Arabs. Snow is unknown in the Nile valley, but on the mountains of Sinai and the Red Sea hills it is not uncommon, and a temperature of 18° F. at an altitude of 2000 ft. has been recorded in January.
The atmospheric pressure varies between a maximum in January and a minimum in July, the mean difference being about 0.29 in. In a series of records extending over 14 years the mean pressure varied between 29.84 and 29.90 in.
The most striking meteorological factor in Egypt is the persistence of the north wind throughout the year, without which the climate would be very trying. It is this “Etesian” wind which enables sailing boats constantly to ascend the Nile, against its strong and rapid current. In December, January and February, at Cairo, the north wind slightly predominates, though those from the south and west often nearly equal it, but after this the north blows almost continuously for the rest of the year. In May and June the prevailing direction is north and north-north-east, and for July, August, September and October north and north-west. From the few observations that exist, it seems that farther south the southern winter winds decrease rapidly, becoming westerly, until at Assuan and Wadi Haifa the northerly winds are almost invariable throughout the year. The khamsin, hot sand-laden winds of the spring months, come invariably from the south. They are preceded by a rapid fall of the barometer for about a day, until a gradient from south to north is formed, then the wind commences to blow, at first gently, from the south-east; rapidly increasing in violence, it shifts through south to south-west, finally dropping about sunset. The same thing is repeated on the second and sometimes the third day, by which time the wind has worked round to the north again. During a khamsin the temperature is high and the air extremely dry, while the dust and sand carried by the wind form a thick yellow fog obscuring the sun. Another remarkable phenomenon is the zobaa, a lofty whirlwind of sand resembling a pillar, which moves with great velocity. The southern winds of the summer months which occur in the low latitudes north of the equator are not felt much north of Khartum.
One of the most interesting phenomena of Egypt is the mirage, which is frequently seen both in the desert and in the waste tracts of uncultivated land near the Mediterranean; and it is often so truthful in its appearance that one finds it difficult to admit the illusion.
Flora.—Egypt possesses neither forests nor woods and, as practically the whole of the country which will support vegetation is devoted to agriculture, the flora is limited. The most important tree is the date-palm, which grows all over Egypt and in the oases. The lower branches being regularly cut, this tree grows high and assumes a much more elegant form than in its natural state. The dom-palm is first seen a little north of 26° N., and extends southwards. The vine grows well, and in ancient times was largely cultivated for wine; oranges, lemons and pomegranates also abound. Mulberry trees are common in Lower Egypt. The sunt tree (Acacia nilotica) grows everywhere, as well as the tamarisk and the sycamore. In the deserts halfa grass and several kinds of thorn bushes grow; and wherever rain or springs have moistened the ground, numerous wild flowers thrive. This is especially the case where there is also shade to protect them from the midday sun, as in some of the narrow ravines in the eastern desert and in the palm groves of the oases, where various ferns and flowers grow luxuriantly round the springs. Among many trees which have been imported, the “lebbek” (Albizzia lebbek), a thick-foliaged mimosa, thrives especially, and has been very largely employed. The weeping-willow, myrtle, elm, cypress and eucalyptus are also used in the gardens and plantations.
The most common of the fruits are dates, of which there are nearly thirty varieties, which are sold half-ripe, ripe, dried, and pressed in their fresh moist state in mats or skins. The pressed dates of Siwa are among the most esteemed. The Fayum is celebrated for its grapes, and chiefly supplies the market of Cairo. The most common grape is white, of which there is a small kind far superior to the ordinary sort. The black grapes are large, but comparatively tasteless. The vines are trailed on trelliswork, and form agreeable avenues in the gardens of Cairo. The best-known fruits, besides dates and grapes, are figs, sycamore-figs and pomegranates, apricots and peaches, oranges and citrons, lemons and limes, bananas, which are believed to be of the fruits of Paradise (being always in season), different kinds of melons (including some of aromatic flavour, and the refreshing water-melon), mulberries, Indian figs or prickly pears, the fruit of the lotus and olives. Among the more usual cultivated flowers are the rose (which has ever been a favourite among the Arabs), the jasmine, narcissus, lily, oleander, chrysanthemum, convolvulus, geranium, dahlia, basil, the henna plant (Lawsonia alba, or Egyptian privet, which is said to be a flower of Paradise), the helianthus and the violet. Of wild flowers the most common are yellow daisies, poppies, irises, asphodels and ranunculuses. The Poinsettia pulcherrima is a bushy tree with leaves of brilliant red.
Many kinds of reeds are found in Egypt, though they were formerly much more common. The famous byblus or papyrus no longer exists in the country, but other kinds of cyperi are found. The lotus, greatly prized for its flowers by the ancient inhabitants, is still found in the Delta, though never in the Nile itself. There are two varieties of this water-lily, one with white flowers, the other with blue.
Fauna.—The chief quadrupeds are all domestic animals. Of these the camel and the ass are the most common. The ass, often a tall and handsome creature, is indigenous. When the camel was first introduced into Egypt is uncertain—it is not pictured on the ancient monuments. Neither is the buffalo, which with the sheep is very numerous in Egypt. The horses are of indifferent breed, apparently of a type much inferior to that possessed by the ancient Egyptians. Wild animals are few. The principal are the hyena, jackal and fox. The wild boar is found in the Delta. Wolves are rare. Numerous gazelles inhabit the deserts. The ibex is found in the Sinaitic peninsula and the hills between the Nile and the Red Sea, and the mouflon, or maned sheep, is occasionally seen in the same regions. The desert hare is abundant in parts of the Fayum, and a wild cat, or lynx, frequents the marshy regions of the Delta. The ichneumon (Pharaoh’s rat) is common and often tame; the coney and jerboa are found in the eastern mountains. Bats are very numerous. The crocodile is no longer found in Egypt, nor the hippopotamus, in ancient days a frequenter of the Nile. The common or pariah dog is generally of sandy colour; in Upper Egypt there is a breed of wiry rough-haired black dogs, noted for their fierceness. Among reptiles are several kinds of venomous snakes—the horned viper, the hooded snake and the echis. Lizards of many kinds are found, including the monitor. There are many varieties of beetle, including a number of species representing the scarabaeus of the ancients. Locusts are comparatively rare. The scorpion, whose sting is sometimes fatal, is common. There are many large and poisonous spiders and flies; fleas and mosquitoes abound. Fish are plentiful in the Nile, both scaled and without scales. The scaly fish include members of the carp and perch kind. The bayad, a scaleless fish commonly eaten, reaches sometimes 3½ ft. in length. A somewhat rare fish is the Polypterus, which has thick bony scales and 16 to 18 long dorsal fins. The Tetrodon, or ball fish, is found in the Red Sea, as well as in the Nile.
Some 300 species of birds are found in Egypt, and one of the most striking features of a journey up the Nile is the abundance of bird life. Many of the species are sedentary, others are winter visitants, while others again simply pass through Egypt on their way to or from warmer or colder regions. Birds of prey are very numerous, including several varieties of eagles—the osprey, the spotted, the golden and the imperial. Of vultures the black and white Egyptian variety (Neophron percnopterus) is most common. The griffon and the black vulture are also frequently seen. There are many kinds of kites, falcons and hawks, kestrel being numerous. The long-legged buzzard is found throughout Egypt, as are owls. The so-called Egyptian eagle owl (Bubo ascalaphus) is rather rare, but the barn owl is common. The kingfisher is found beside every watercourse, a black and white species (Ceryle rudis) being much more numerous than the common kingfisher. Pigeons and hoopoes abound in every village. There are various kinds of plovers—the black-headed species (Pluvianus Aegyptius) is most numerous in Upper Egypt; the golden plover and the white-tailed species are found chiefly in the Delta. The spurwing is supposed to be the bird mentioned by Herodotus as eating the parasites covering the inside of the mouth of the crocodile. Of game-birds the most plentiful are sandgrouse, quail (a bird of passage) and snipe. Red-legged and other partridges are found in the eastern desert and the Sinai hills. Of aquatic birds there is a great variety. Three species of pelican exist, including the large Dalmatian pelican. Storks, cranes, herons and spoonbills are common. The sacred ibis is not found in Egypt, but the buff-backed heron, the constant companion of the buffalo, is usually called an ibis. The glossy ibis is occasionally seen. The flamingo, common in the lakes of Lower Egypt, is not found on the Nile. Geese, duck and teal are abundant. The most common goose is the white-fronted variety; the Egyptian goose is more rare. Both varieties are depicted on the ancient monuments; the white-fronted goose being commonly shown. Several birds of gorgeous plumage come north into Egypt in the spring, among others the golden oriole, the sun-bird, the roller and the blue-cheeked bee-eater.
Egypt as a Health Resort.—The country is largely resorted to during the winter months by Europeans in search of health as well as pleasure. Upper Egypt is healthier than Lower Egypt, where, especially near the coast, malarial fevers and diseases of the respiratory organs are not uncommon. The least healthy time of the year is the latter part of autumn, when the inundated soil is drying. In the desert, at a very short distance from the cultivable land, the climate is uniformly dry and unvaryingly healthy. The most suitable places for the residence of invalids are Helwan, where there are natural mineral springs, in the desert, 14 m. S. of Cairo, and Luxor and Assuan in Upper Egypt.
The diseases from which Egyptians suffer are very largely the result of insanitary surroundings. In this respect a great improvement has taken place since the British occupation in 1882. Plague, formerly one of the great scourges of the country, seems to have been stamped out, the last visitation having been in 1844, but cholera epidemics occasionally occur. Cholera rarely extends south of Cairo. In 1848 it is believed that over 200,000 persons died from cholera, but later epidemics have been much less fatal. Smallpox is not uncommon, and skin diseases are numerous, but the two most prevalent diseases among the Egyptians are dysentery and ophthalmia. The objection entertained by many natives to entering hospitals or to altering their traditional methods of “cure” renders these diseases much more malignant and fatal than they would be in other circumstances. The government, however, enforces certain health regulations, and the sanitary service is under the direction of a European official.
Chief Towns.—Cairo (q.v.) the capital, a city of Arab foundation, is built on the east bank of the Nile, about 12 m, above the point where the river divides, and in reference to its situation at the head of the Delta has been called by the Arabs “the diamond stud in the handle of the fan of Egypt.” It has a population (1907) of 654,476 and is the largest city in Africa. Next in importance of the cities of Egypt and the chief seaport is Alexandria (q.v.), pop. (with Ramleh) 370,009, on the shore of the Mediterranean at the western end of the Delta. Port Said (q.v.), pop. 49,884, at the eastern end of the Delta, and at the north entrance to the Suez Canal, is the second seaport. Between Alexandria and Port Said are the towns of Rosetta (q.v.), pop. 16,810, and Damietta (q.v.), pop. 29,354, each built a few miles above the mouth of the branch of the Nile of the same name. In the middle ages, when Alexandria was in decay, these two towns were busy ports; with the revival of Alexandria under Mehemet Ali and the foundation of Port Said (c. 1860), their trade declined. The other ports of Egypt are Suez (q.v.), pop. 18,347, at the south entrance of the canal, Kosseir (794) on the Red Sea, the seat of the trade carried on between Upper Egypt and Arabia, Mersa Matruh, near the Tripolitan frontier, and El-Arish, pop. 5897, on the Mediterranean, near the frontier of Palestine, and a halting-place on the caravan route from Egypt to Syria. In the interior of the Delta are many flourishing towns, the largest being Tanta, pop. 54,437, which occupies a central position. Damanhur (38,752) lies on the railway between Tanta and Alexandria; Mansura (40,279) is on the Damietta branch of the Nile, to the N.E. of Tanta; Zagazig (34,999) is the largest town in the Delta east of the Damietta branch; Bilbeis (13,485) lies N.N.E. of Cairo, on the edge of the desert and in the ancient Land of Goshen. Ismailia (10,373) is situated midway on the Suez Canal. All these towns, which depend largely on the cotton industry, are separately noticed.
Other towns in Lower Egypt are: Mehallet el-Kubra, pop. 47,955, 16 m. by rail N.E. of Tanta, with manufactories of silk and cottons; Salihia (6100), E.N.E. of and terminus of a railway from Zagazig, on the edge of the desert south of Lake Menzala, and the starting-point of the caravans to Syria; Mataria (15,142) on Lake Menzala and headquarters of the fishing industry; Zifta (15,850) on the Damietta branch and the site of a barrage; Samanud (14,408), also on the Damietta branch, noted for its pottery, and Fua (14,515), where large quantities of tarbushes are made, on the Rosetta branch. Shibin el-Kom (21,576), 16 m. S. of Tanta, is a cotton centre, and Menuf (22,316), 8 m. S.W. of Shibin, in the fork between the branches of the Nile, is the chief town of a rich agricultural district. There are many other towns in the Delta with populations between 10,000 and 20,000.
In Upper Egypt the chief towns are nearly all in the narrow valley of the Nile. The exceptions are the towns in the oases comparatively unimportant, and those in the Fayum province. The capital of the Fayum, Medinet el-Fayum, has a population (1907) of 37,320. The chief towns on the Nile, taking them in their order in ascending the river from Cairo, are Beni Suef, Minia, Assiut, Akhmim, Suhag, Girga, Kena, Luxor, Esna, Edfu, Assuan and Korosko. Beni Suef (23,357) is 77 m. from Cairo by rail. It is on the west bank of the river, is the capital of a mudiria and a centre for the manufacture of woollen goods. Minia (27,221) is 77 m. by rail farther south. It is also the capital of a mudiria, has a considerable European colony, possesses a large sugar factory and some cotton mills. It is the starting-point of a road to the Baharia oasis. Assiut (q.v.), pop. 39,442, is 235 m. S. of Cairo by rail, and is the most important commercial centre in Upper Egypt. At this point a barrage is built across the river. Suhag (17,514) is 56 m. by rail S. of Assiut and is the headquarters of Girga mudiria. The ancient and celebrated Coptic monasteries El Abiad (the white) and El Ahmar (the red) are 3 to 4 m. W. and N.W. respectively of Suhag. A few miles above Suhag, on the opposite (east) side of the Nile is Akhmim (q.v.) or Ekhmim (23,795), where silk and cotton goods are made. Girga (q.v.), pop. 19,893, is 22 m. S. by rail of Suhag, and on the same (the west) side of the river. It is noted for its pottery. Kena (q.v.), pop. 20,069, is on the east bank of the Nile, 145 m. by rail from Assiut. It is the chief seat of the manufacture of the porous earthenware water-bottles used all over Egypt. Luxor (q.v.), pop. (with Karnak) 25,229, marks the site of Thebes. It is 418 m. from Cairo, and here the gauge of the railway is altered from broad to narrow. Esna (q.v.), pop. 19,103, is another place where pottery is made in large quantities. It is on the west bank of the Nile, 36 m. by rail S. of Luxor. Edfu (q.v.), pop. 19,262, is also on the west side of the river, 30 m. farther south. It is chiefly famous for its ancient temple. Assuan (q.v.), pop. 12,618, is at the foot of the First Cataract and 551 m. S. of Cairo by rail. Three miles farther south, at Shellal, the Egyptian railway terminates. Korosko, 118 m. by river above Assuan, is a small place notable as the northern terminus of the caravan route from the Sudan across the Nubian desert. Since the building of the railway—which starts 96 m. higher up, at Wadi Halfa—to Khartum, this route is little used, and Korosko has lost what importance it had.
Ancient Cities and Monuments.—Many of the modern cities of Egypt are built on the sites of ancient cities, and they generally contain some monuments of the time of the Pharaohs, Greeks or Romans. The sites of other ancient cities now in complete ruin may be indicated. Memphis, the Pharaonic capital, was on the west bank of the Nile, some 14 m. above Cairo, and Heliopolis lay some 5 m. N.N.E. of Cairo. The pyramids of Giza or Gizeh, on the edge of the desert, 8 m. west of Cairo, are the largest of the many pyramids and other monuments, including the famous Sphinx, built in the neighbourhood of Memphis. The site of Thebes has already been indicated. Syene stood near to where the town of Assuan now is; opposite, on an island in the Nile, are scanty ruins of the city of Elephantine, and a little above, on another island, is the temple of Philae. The ancient Coptos (Keft) is represented by the village of Kuft, between Luxor and Kena. A few miles north of Kena is Dendera, with a famous temple. The ruins of Abydos, one of the oldest places in Egypt, are 8 m. S.W. of Balliana, a small town in Girga mudiria. The ruined temples of Abu Simbel are on the west side of the Nile, 56 m. above Korosko. On the Red Sea, south of Kosseir, are the ruins of Myos Hormos and Berenice. Of the ancient cities in the Delta there are remains, among others, of Sais, Iseum, Tanis, Bubastis, Onion, Sebennytus, Pithom, Pelusium, and of the Greek cities Naucratis and Daphnae. There are, besides the more ancient cities and monuments, a number of Coptic towns, monasteries and churches in almost every part of Egypt, dating from the early centuries of Christianity. The monasteries, or ders, are generally fort-like buildings and are often built in the desert. Tombs of Mahommedan saints are also numerous, and are often placed on the summit of the cliffs overlooking the Nile. The traveller in Egypt thus views, side by side with the activities of the present day, where occident and orient meet and clash, memorials of every race and civilization which has flourished in the valley of the Nile.
Trade Routes and Communications.—Its geographical position gives Egypt command of one of the most important trade routes in the world. It is, as it were, the fort which commands the way from Europe to the East. This has been the case from time immemorial, and the provision, in 1869, of direct maritime communication between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, by the completion of the Suez Canal, ensured for the Egyptian route the supremacy in sea-borne traffic to Asia, which the discovery of the passage to India by way of the Cape of Good Hope had menaced for three and a half centuries. The Suez Canal is 87 m. long, 66 actual canal and 21 lakes. It has sufficient depth to allow vessels drawing 27 ft. of water to pass through. It is administered by a company whose headquarters are in Paris, and no part of its revenue reaches the Egyptian exchequer (see Suez Canal). Besides the many steamship lines which use the Suez Canal, other steamers run direct from European ports to Alexandria. There is also a direct mail service between Suez and Port Sudan.
The chief means of internal communication are, in the Delta the railways, in Upper Egypt the railway and the river. The railways are of two kinds: (1) those state-owned and state-worked, (2) agricultural light railways owned and worked by private companies. Railway construction dates from 1852, when the line from Alexandria to Cairo was begun, by order of Abbas I. The state railways, unless otherwise indicated, have a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. The main system is extremely simple. Trunk lines from Alexandria (via Damanhur and Tanta) and from Port Said (via Ismailia) traverse the Delta and join at Cairo. From Cairo the railway is continued south up the valley of the Nile and close to the river. At first it follows the west bank, crossing the stream at Nag Hamadi, 354 m. from Cairo, by an iron bridge 437 yds. long. Thence it continues on the east bank to Luxor, where the broad gauge ceases. From Luxor the line continues on the standard African gauge (3 ft. 6 in.) to Shellal, 3 m. above Assuan and 685 m. from Alexandria. This main line service is supplemented by a steamer service on the Nile from Shellal to Wadi Halfa, on the northern frontier of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, whence there is direct railway communication with Khartum and the Red Sea (see Sudan).
Branch lines connect Cairo and Alexandria with Suez and with almost every town in the Delta. From Cairo to Suez via Ismailia is a distance of 160 m. Before the Suez Canal was opened passengers and goods were taken to Suez from Cairo by a railway 84 m. long which ran across the desert. This line, now disused, had itself superseded the “overland route” organized by Lieut. Thomas Waghorn, R.N., c. 1830, for the conveyance of passengers and mails to India. In Upper Egypt a line, 40 m. long, runs west from Wasta, a station 56 m. S. of Cairo, to Abuksa in the Fayum mudiria. Another railway goes from Kharga Junction, a station on the main line 24 m. S. of Girga, to the oasis of Kharga. These lines are privately owned.
In the Delta the light railways supplement the ordinary lines and connect the villages with the towns and seaports. There are over 700 m. of these lines. The railway development of Egypt has not been very rapid. In 1880 944 m. of state lines were open; in 1900 the figure was 1393, and in 1905, 1688. For several years before 1904 the administration of the railways was carried on by an international or mixed board for the security of foreign creditors. In the year named the railways came directly under the control of the Egyptian government, which during the next four years spent £E.3,000,000 on improving and developing the lines. In the five years 1902-1906 the capital value of the state railways increased from £E.20,383,000 to £E.23,200,000 and the net earnings from £E.1,059,000 to £E. 1,475,000. The number of passengers carried in the same period rose from 12½ to over 22 millions, and the weight of goods from slightly under 3,000,000 to nearly 6,750,000 tons. In 1906 the light railways carried nearly a million tons of goods and over 6,800,000 passengers.
Westward from Alexandria a railway, begun in 1904 by the khedive, Abbas II., runs parallel with the coast, and is intended to be continued to Tripoli. The line forms the eastern end of the great railway system which will eventually extend from Tangier to Alexandria.
The Nile is navigable throughout its course in Egypt, and is largely used as a means of cheap transit of heavy goods. Lock and bridge tolls were abolished in 1899 and 1901 respectively. As a result, river traffic greatly increased. Above Cairo the Nile is the favourite tourist route, while between Shellal (Assuan) and the Sudan frontier it is the only means of communication. Among the craft using the river the dahabīya is a characteristic native sailing vessel, somewhat resembling a house-boat. From the Nile, caravan routes lead westward to the various oases and eastward to the Red Sea, the shortest (120 m.) and most used of the eastern routes being that from Kena to Kosseir. Roads suitable for wheeled vehicles are found in Lower Egypt, but the majority of the tracks are bridle-paths, goods being conveyed on the backs of donkeys, mules and camels.
Posts and Telegraphs.—The Egyptian postal system is highly organized and efficient, and in striking contrast with its condition in 1870, when there were but nineteen post-offices in the country. All the branches of business transacted in European post-offices are carried on by the Egyptian service, Egypt being a member of the Postal Union. It was the first foreign country to establish a penny postage with Great Britain, the reduction from 2½d. being made in 1905. The inland letters and packages carried yearly exceed 20,000,000 and foreign letters (30% to England) number over 4,000,000. Over £17,000,000 passes yearly through the post. A feature of the service are the travelling post-offices, of which there are some 200.
All the important towns are connected by telegraph, the telegraphs being state-owned and worked by the railway administration. Egypt is also connected by cables and land-lines with the outside world. One land-line connects at El-Arish with the line through Syria and Asia Minor to Constantinople. Another line connects at Wadi Halfa with the Sudan system, affording direct telegraphic communication via Khartum and Gondokoro with Uganda and Mombasa. The Eastern Telegraph Company, by concessions, have telegraph lines across Egypt from Alexandria via Cairo to Suez, and from Port Said to Suez, connecting their cables to Europe and the East. The principal cables are from Alexandria to Malta, Gibraltar and England; from Alexandria to Crete and Brindisi; from Suez to Aden, Bombay, China and Australia.
The telephone is largely used in the big towns, and there is a trunk telephone line connecting Alexandria and Cairo.
Standard Time.—The standard time adopted in Egypt is that of the longitude of Alexandria, 30° E., i.e. two hours earlier than Greenwich time. It thus corresponds with the standard time of British South Africa.
Agriculture and Land Tenure.—The chief industry of Egypt is agriculture. The proportions of the industry depend upon the area of land capable of cultivation. This again depends upon the fertilizing sediment brought down by the Nile and the measure in which lands beyond the natural reach of the flood water can be rendered productive by irrigation. By means of canals, “basins,” dams and barrages, the Nile flood is now utilized to a greater extent than ever before (see Irrigation: Egypt). The result has been a great increase in the area of cultivated or cultivable land.
At the time of the French occupation of Egypt in 1798, it was found that the cultivable soil covered 4,429,400 acres, but the quantity actually under cultivation did not exceed 3,520,000 acres, or six-elevenths of the entire surface. Under improved conditions the area of cultivated land, or land in process of reclamation, had risen in 1906 to 5,750,000 acres, while another 500,000 acres of waste land awaited reclamation.
Throughout Egypt the cultivable soil does not present any very great difference, being always the deposit of the river; it contains, however, more sand near the river than at a distance from it. Towards the Mediterranean its quality is injured by the salt with which the air is impregnated, and therefore it is not so favourable to vegetation. Of the cultivated land, some three-fourths is held, theoretically, in life tenancy. The state, as ultimate proprietor, imposes a tax which is the equivalent of rent. These lands are Kharaji lands, in distinction from the Ushuri or tithe-paying lands. The Ushuri lands were originally granted in fee, and are subject to a quit-rent. All tenants are under obligation to guard or repair the banks of the Nile in times of flood, or in any case of sudden emergency. Only to this extent does the corvée now prevail. The land-tax is proportionate, i.e. land under perennial irrigation pays higher taxes than land not so irrigated (see below, Finance). The unit of land is the feddan, which equals 1.03 acre. Out of 1,153,759 proprietors of land in 1905, 1,005,705 owned less than 5 feddans. The number of proprietors owning over 50 feddans was 12,475. The acreage held by the first class was 1,264,084, that by the second class, 2,356,602. Over 1,600,000 feddans were held in holdings of from 5 to 50 feddans. The state domains cover over 240,000 feddans, and about 600,000 feddans are owned by foreigners. The policy of the government is to maintain the small proprietors, and to do nothing tending to oust the native in favour of European landowners.
The kind of crops cultivated depends largely on whether the land is under perennial, flood or “basin” irrigation. Perennial irrigation is possible where there are canals which can be supplied with water all the year round from the Nile. This condition exists throughout the Delta and Middle Egypt, but only in parts of Upper Egypt. Altogether some 4,000,000 acres are under perennial irrigation. In these regions two and sometimes three crops can be harvested yearly. In places where perennial irrigation is impossible, the land is divided by rectangular dikes into “basins.” Into these basins—which vary in area from 600 to 50,000 acres—water is led by shallow canals when the Nile is in flood. The water is let in about the middle of August and the basins are begun to be emptied about the 1st of October. The land under basin irrigation covers about 1,750,000 acres. In the basins only one crop can be grown in the year. This basin system is of immemorial use in Egypt, and it was not until the time of Mehemet Ali (c. 1820) that perennial irrigation began. High land near the banks of the Nile which cannot be reached by canals is irrigated by raising water from the Nile by steam-pumps, water-wheels (sakias) worked by buffaloes, or water-lifts (shadufs) worked by hand. There are several thousand steam-pumps and over 100,000 sakias or shadufs in Egypt. The fellah divides his land into little square plots by ridges of earth, and from the small canal which serves his holding he lets the water into each plot as needed. The same system obtains on large estates (see further Irrigation: Egypt). There are three agricultural seasons: (1) summer (sefi), 1st of April to 31st of July, when crops are grown only on land under perennial irrigation; (2) flood (Nili), 1st of August to 30th of November; and (3) winter (shetwi), 1st of December to 31st of March. Cotton, sugar and rice are the chief summer crops; wheat, barley, flax and vegetables are chiefly winter crops; maize, millet and “flood” rice are Nili crops; millet and vegetables are also, but in a less degree, summer crops. The approximate areas under cultivation in the various seasons are, in summer, 2,050,000 acres; in flood, 1,500,000 acres; in winter, 4,300,000 acres. The double-cropped area is over 2,000,000 acres. Although on the large farms iron ploughs, and threshing and grain-cleaning machines, have been introduced, the small cultivator prefers the simple native plough made of wood. Corn is threshed by a norag, a machine resembling a chair, which moves on small iron wheels or thin circular plates fixed to axle-trees, and is drawn in a circle by oxen.
Crops.—Egypt is third among the cotton-producing countries of the world. Its production per acre is the greatest of any country but, owing to the restricted area available, the bulk raised is not more than one-tenth of that of the United States and about half that of India. Some 1,600,000 acres of land, five-sixths being in Lower Egypt, are devoted to cotton growing. The climate of Lower Egypt being very suitable to the growth of the plant, the cotton produced there is of excellent quality. The seed is sown at the end of February or beginning of March and the crop is picked in September and October. The cotton crop increased from 1,700,000 kantars in 1878 to 4,100,000 in 1890, had reached 5,434,000 in 1900, and was 6,750,000 in 1905. Its average value, 1897-1905, was over £14,000,000 a year. The cotton exported was valued in 1907 at £E.23,598,000, in 1908 at £E.17,091,612.
While cotton is grown chiefly in the Delta, the sugar plantations, which cover about 100,000 acres, are mainly in Upper Egypt. The canes are planted in March and are cut in the following January or February. Although since 1884 the production of sugar has largely increased, there has not been a corresponding increase in its value, owing to the low price obtained in the markets of the world. Beetroot is also grown to a limited extent for the manufacture of sugar. The sugar exported varied in annual value in the period 1884-1905 from £400,000 to £765,000.
A coarse and strong tobacco was formerly extensively grown, but its cultivation was prohibited in 1890. Flax and hemp are grown in a few places.
Maize in Lower Egypt and millet (of which there are several varieties) in Upper Egypt are largely grown for home consumption, these grains forming a staple food of the peasantry. The stalk of the maize is also a very useful article. It is used in the building of the houses of the fellahin, as fuel, and, when green, as food for cattle. Wheat and barley are important crops, and some 2,000,000 acres are sown with them yearly. The barley in general is not of good quality, but the desert or “Mariut” barley, grown by the Bedouins in the coast region west of Alexandria, is highly prized for the making of beer. Beans and lentils are extensively sown, and form an important article of export. The annual value of the crops is over £3,000,000. Rice is largely grown in the northern part of the Delta, where the soil is very wet. Two kinds are cultivated: Sultani, a summer crop, and Sabaini, a flood crop. Sabaini is a favourite food of the fellahin, while Sultani rice is largely exported. In the absence of grass, the chief green food for cattle and horses is clover, grown largely in the basin lands of Upper Egypt. To a less extent vetches are grown for the same purpose.
Vegetables and Fruit.—Vegetables grow readily, and their cultivation is an important part of the work of the fellahin. The onion is grown in great quantities along the Nile banks in Upper Egypt, largely for export. Among other vegetables commonly raised are tomatoes (the bulk of which are exported), potatoes (of poor quality), leeks, marrows, cucumbers, cauliflowers, lettuce, asparagus and spinach.
The common fruits are the date, orange, citron, fig, grape, apricot, peach and banana. Olives, melons, mulberries and strawberries are also grown, though not in very large numbers. The olive tree flourishes only in the Fayum and the oases. The Fayum also possesses extensive vineyards. The date is a valuable economic asset. There are some 6,000,000 date-palms in the country, 4,000,000 being in Upper Egypt. The fruit is one of the chief foods of the people. The value of the crop is about £1,500,000 a year.
Roses and Dyes.—There are fields of roses in the Fayum, which supply the market with rose-water. Of plants used for dyeing, the principal are bastard saffron, madder, woad and the indigo plant. The leaves of the henna plant are used to impart a bright red colour to the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the nails of both hands and feet, of women and children, the hair of old ladies and the tails of horses. Indigo is very extensively employed to dye the shirts of the natives of the poorer classes; and is, when very dark, the colour of mourning; therefore, women at funerals, and generally after a death, smear themselves with it.
Domestic Animals.—The Egyptians are not particularly a pastoral people, though the wealth of the Bedouin in the Eastern or Arabian Desert consists in their camels, horses, sheep and goats. In the Nile valley the chief domestic animals are the camel, donkey, mule, ox, buffalo, sheep and goat. Horses are comparatively few, and are seldom seen outside the large towns, the camel and donkey being the principal beasts of burden. The cattle are short-horned, rather small and well formed. They are quiet in disposition, and much valued for agricultural labour by the people, who therefore very rarely slaughter them for meat. Buffaloes of an uncouth appearance and of a dark slaty colour, strikingly contrasting with the neat cattle, abound in Egypt. They are very docile, and the little children of the villagers often ride them to or from the river. The buffaloes are largely employed for turning the sakias. Sheep (of which the greater number are black) and goats are abundant, and mutton is the ordinary butcher’s meat. The wool is coarse and short. Swine are very rarely kept, and then almost wholly for the European inhabitants, the Copts generally abstaining from eating their meat. Poultry is plentiful and eggs form a considerable item in the exports. Pigeons are kept in every village and their flesh is a common article of food.
Fishing.—The chief fishing-ground is Lake Menzala, where some 4000 persons are engaged in the industry, but fish abound in the Nile also, and are caught in large quantities along the coast of the Delta. The salting and curing of the fish is done chiefly at Mataria, on Lake Menzala, and at Damietta. Dried and salted fish eggs, called batarekh, command a ready market. The average annual value of the fisheries is about £200,000.
Canals.—The irrigation canals, which are also navigable by small craft, are of especial importance in a country where the rainfall is very slight. The Delta is intersected by numerous canals which derive their supply from four main channels. The Rayya Behera, known in its lower courses first as the Khatatba and afterwards as the Rosetta canal, follows the west bank of the Rosetta branch of the Nile and has numerous offshoots. The most important is the Mahmudia (50 m. long), which connects Alexandria with the Rosetta branch, taking a similar direction to that of the ancient canal which it succeeded. This canal supplies Alexandria with fresh water.
The Rayya Menufia, or Menuf canal, connects the two branches of the Nile and supplies water to the large number of canals in the central part of the Delta. Following the right (eastern) bank of the Damietta branch is the Rayya Tewfiki, known below Benha as the Mansuria, and below Mansura as the Fareskur, canal. This canal has many branches. Farther east are other canals, of which the most remarkable occupy in part the beds of the Tanitic and Pelusiac branches. That following the old Tanitic channel is called the canal of Al-Mo’izz, the first Fatimite caliph who ruled in Egypt, having been dug by his orders, and the latter bears the name of the canal of Abu-l-Muneggi, a Jew who executed this work, under the caliph Al-Amir, in order to water the province called the Sharkia. From this circumstance this canal is also known as the Sharkawia. From a town on its bank it is called in its lower course the Shibini canal. The superfluous water from all the Delta canals is drained off by bahrs (rivers) into the coast lakes. The Ismailia or Fresh-water canal branches from the Nile at Cairo and follows, in the main, the course of the canal which anciently joined the Nile and the Red Sea. It dates from Pharaonic times, having been begun by “Sesostris,” continued by Necho II. and by Darius Hystaspes, and at length finished by Ptolemy Philadelphus. This canal, having fallen into disrepair, was restored in the 7th century A.D. by the Arabs who conquered Egypt, but appears not long afterwards to have again become unserviceable. The existing canal was dug in 1863 to supply fresh water to the towns on the Suez Canal. Although designed for irrigation purposes, the Delta canals are also used for the transport of passengers and goods.
In Upper Egypt the most important canals are the Ibrahimia and the Bahr Yusuf (the River of Joseph). They are both on the west side of the Nile. The Ibrahimia takes its water from the Nile at Assiut, and runs south to below Beni Suef. It now supplies the Bahr Yusuf, which runs parallel with and west of the Ibrahimia, until it diverges to supply the Fayum—a distance of some 350 m. It leaves the Ibrahimia at Derut near its original point of departure from the Nile. Although the Joseph whence it takes its name is the celebrated Saladin, it is related that he merely repaired it, and it is not doubted to be of a much earlier period. Most probably it was executed under the Pharaohs. By some authorities it is believed to be a natural channel canalized. Besides supplying the canals of the Fayum with summer water, it fills many of the “basins” of Upper Egypt with water in flood time.
Manufactures and Native Industries.—Although essentially an agricultural country, Egypt possesses several manufactures. In connexion with the cotton industry there are a few mills where calico is made or oil crushed, and ginning-mills are numerous. In Upper Egypt there are a number of factories for sugar-crushing and refining, and one or two towns of the Delta possess rice mills. Flour mills are found in every part of the country, the maize and other grains being ground for home consumption. Soap-making and leather-tanning are carried on, and there are breweries at Alexandria and Cairo. The manufacture of tobacco into cigarettes, carried on largely at Alexandria and Cairo, is another important industry. Native industries include the weaving of silk, woollen, linen and cotton goods, the hand-woven silk shawls and draperies being often rich and elegant. The silk looms are chiefly at Mehallet el-Kubra, Cairo and Damietta. The Egyptians are noted for the making of pottery of the commoner kinds, especially water-jars. There is at Cairo and in other towns a considerable industry in ornamental wood and metal work, inlaying with ivory and pearl, brass trays, copper vessels, gold and silver ornaments, &c. At Cairo and in the Fayum, attar of roses and other perfumes are manufactured. Boat-building is an important trade.
Commerce.—The trade of Egypt has developed enormously since the British occupation in 1882 ensured to all classes of the community the enjoyment of the profit of their labour. The total value of the exterior trade increased in the 20 years 1882 to 1902 from £19,000,000 to £32,400,000. The wealth of Egypt lying in the cultivation of its soil, almost all the exports are agricultural produce, while the imports are mostly manufactured goods, minerals and hardware. The chief exports in order of importance are: raw cotton, cotton seed, sugar, beans, cigarettes, onions, rice and gum-arabic. The gum is not of native produce, being in transit from the Sudan. Of less importance are the exports of hides and skins, eggs, wheat and other grains, wool, quails, lentils, dates and Sudan produce in transit. The principal articles imported are: cotton goods and other textiles, coal, iron and steel, timber, tobacco, machinery, flour, alcoholic liquors, petroleum, fruits, coffee and live animals. There is an ad valorem duty of 8% on imports and of about 1% on exports. Tobacco and precious stones and metals pay heavier duties. The tobacco is imported chiefly from Turkey and Greece, is made into cigarettes in Egypt, and in this form exported to the value of about £500,000 yearly.
In comparison with cotton, all other exports are of minor account. The cotton exported, of which Great Britain takes more than half, is worth over three-fourths of the total value of goods sent abroad. Next to cotton, sugar is the most important article exported. A large proportion of the sugar manufactured is, however, consumed in the country and does not figure in the trade returns. Of the imports the largest single item is cotton goods, nearly all being sent from England. Woollen goods come chiefly from England, Austria and Germany, silk goods from France. Large quantities of ready-made clothes and fezes are imported from Austria. Iron and steel goods, machinery, locomotives, &c., come chiefly from England, Belgium and Germany, coal from England, live stock from Turkey and the Red Sea ports, coffee from Brazil, timber from Russia, Turkey and Sweden.
A British consular report (No. 3121, annual series), issued in 1904, shows that in the period 1887-1902 the import trade of Egypt nearly doubled. In the same period the proportion of imports from the United Kingdom fell from 39.63 to 36.76%. Though the percentage decreased, the value of imports from Great Britain increased in the same period from £2,500,000 to £4,500,000. In addition to imports from the United Kingdom, British possessions took 6.0% of the import trade. Next to Great Britain, Turkey had the largest share of the import trade, but it had declined in the sixteen years from 19 to 15%. France about 10%, and Austria 6.72%, came next, but their import trade was declining, while that of Germany had risen from less than 1 to over 3%, and Belgium imports from 1.74 to 4.27%.
In the same period (1887-1902) Egyptian exports to Great Britain decreased from 63.25 to 52.30%, Germany and the United States showing each an increase of over 6.0%. Exports to Germany had increased from 0.13 to 6.75%, to the United States from 0.26 to 6.70%. Exports to France had remained practically stationary at 8.0%; those to Austria had dropped from 6.3% to 4.0%, to Russia from 9.11 to 8.43%.
For the quinquennial period 1901-1905, the average annual value of the exterior trade was:—imports £17,787,296; exports £18,811,588; total £36,598,884. In 1907 the total value of the merchandise imported and exported, exclusive of transit, re-exportation and specie, was £E.54,134,000—constituting a record trade return. The value of the imports was £E.26,121,000, of the exports £E.28,013,000.
Shipping.—More than 90% of the external trade passes through the port of Alexandria. Port Said, which in consequence of its position at the northern entrance of the Suez Canal has more frequent and regular communication with Europe, is increasing in importance and is the port where mails and passengers are landed. Over 3000 ships enter and clear harbour at Alexandria every year. The total tonnage entering the port increased in the five years 1901-1905 from 2,555,259 to 3,591,281. In the same period the percentage of British shipping, which before 1900 was nearly 50, varied from 40 to 45. No other nation had more than 12% of the tonnage, Italy, France, Austria and Turkey each having 9 to 12%. The tonnage of German ships increased in the five years mentioned from 3 to 7%. In number of steamships entering the harbour Great Britain is first, with some 800 yearly, or about 50% of all steamers entering. The sailing boats entering the harbour are almost entirely Turkish. They are vessels of small tonnage.
The transit trade with the East, which formerly passed overland through Egypt, has been diverted to the Suez Canal, the traffic through which has little to do with the trade or shipping of Egypt. The number of ships using the canal increased in the 20 years 1880-1900 from 2000 to 4000, while in the same period the tonnage rose from 4,300,000 to 14,000,000. In 1905 the figures were:—Number of ships that passed through the canal, 4116 (2484 being British and 600 German), net tonnage 13,134,105 (8,356,940 British and 2,113,484 German). Next to British and German the nationality of ships using the canal in order of importance is French, Dutch, Austrian, Italian and Russian. About 250,000 passengers (including some 40,000 pilgrims to Mecca) pass through the canal in a year (see further Suez).
Currency.—The monetary system in force dates from 1885, when through the efforts of Sir Edgar Vincent the currency was placed on a sound basis. The system is based on the single gold standard. The unit is a gold coin called a pound and equal to £1, 0s. 6d. in English currency. The Egyptian pound (£E.) is divided into 100 piastres, of which there are coins in silver of 20, 10, 5 and 2 piastres. One, ½, 1⁄5 and 1⁄10 piastre pieces are coined in nickel and 1⁄20 and 1⁄40 piastre pieces in bronze. The one piastre piece is worth a fraction over 2½d. The 1⁄40 of a piastre is popularly called a para and the native population generally reckon in paras. The legal piastre is called the piastre tariff (P.T.), to distinguish it from the ½ piastre, which in local usage in Cairo and Alexandria is called a piastre. Officially the ½ piastre is known as 5 milliemes, and so with the coins of lower denomination, the para being ¼ millieme. The old terms kis or “purse” (500 piastres) and khazna or “treasury” (1000 purses) are still occasionally used. Formerly European coins of all kinds were in general circulation, now the only foreign coins current are the English sovereign, the French 20 franc piece and the Turkish mejidie, a gold coin worth 18 shillings. For several years no Egyptian gold pieces have been coined. Egyptian silver money is minted at Birmingham, and nickel and bronze money at Vienna. Bank-notes, of the National Bank, are issued for £E.100, £E.50, £E.10, £E.5 and £E.1, and for 50 piastres. The notes are not legal tender, but are accepted by the government in payment of taxes.
The history of the currency reform in Egypt is interesting as affording a practical example of a system much discussed in connexion with the currency question in India, namely, a gold standard without a gold coinage. The Egyptian pound is practically nonexistent, nearly all that were coined having been withdrawn from circulation. Their place has been taken by foreign gold, principally the English sovereign, which circulates at a value of 97½ piastres. In practice the system works perfectly smoothly, the gold flowing in and out of the country through the agency of private banking establishments in proportion to the requirements of the circulation. It is, moreover, very economical for the government. As in most agricultural countries, there is a great expansion of the circulation in the autumn and winter months in order to move the crops, followed by a long period of contracted circulation throughout the rest of the year. Under the existing system the fluctuating requirements of the currency are met without the expense of alternately minting and melting down.
Weights and Measures.—The metrical system of weights and measures is in official but not in popular use, except in the foreign quarters of Cairo, Alexandria, &c. The most common Egyptian measures are the fitr, or space measured by the extension of the thumb and first finger; the shibr, or span; and the cubit (of three kinds = 22⅔, 25 and 26½ in.). The measure of land is the feddan, equal to 1.03 acres, subdivided into 24 kirats. The ardeb is equal to about 5 bushels, and is divided into 6 waybas, and each wayba into 24 rubas. The okieh equals 1.32 oz., the rotl .99 ℔, the oke 2.75 ℔, the kantar (or 100 rotls or 36 okes) 99.04 ℔.
Constitution and Administration.—Egypt is a tributary state of the Turkish empire, and is ruled by an hereditary prince with the style of khedive, a Persian title regarded as the equivalent of king. The succession to the throne is by primogeniture. The central administration is carried on by a council of ministers, appointed by the khedive, one of whom acts as prime minister. To these is added a British financial adviser, who attends all meetings of the council of ministers, but has not a vote; on the other hand, no financial decision may be taken without his consent. The ministries are those of the interior, finance, public works, justice, war, foreign affairs and public instruction, and in each of these are prepared the drafts of decrees, which are then submitted to the council of ministers for approval, and on being signed by the khedive become law. No important decision, however, has been taken since 1882 without the concurrence of the British minister plenipotentiary. With a few exceptions, laws cannot, owing to the Capitulations, be enforced against foreigners except with the consent of the powers.
While the council of ministers with the khedive forms the legislative authority, there are various representative bodies with strictly limited powers. The legislative council is a consultative body, partly elective, partly nominative. It examines the budget and all proposed administrative laws, but cannot initiate legislation, nor is the government bound to adopt its suggestions. The general assembly consists of the legislative council and the ministers of state, together with popularly elected members, who form a majority of the whole assembly. It has no legislative functions, but no new direct personal tax nor land tax can be imposed without its consent. It must meet at least once in every two years.
For purposes of local government the chief towns constitute governorships (moafzas), the rest of the country being divided into mudirias or provinces. The governors and mudirs (heads of provinces) are responsible to the ministry of the interior. The provinces are further divided into districts, each of which is under a mamur, who in his turn supervises and controls the omda, mayor or head-man, of each village in his district.
The governorships are: Cairo; Alexandria, which includes an area of 70 sq. m.; Suez Canal, including Port Said and Ismailia; Suez and El-Arish. Lower Egypt is divided into the provinces of: Behera, Gharbia, Menufia, Dakahlia, Kaliubia, Sharkia. The oasis of Siwa and the country to the Tripolitan frontier are dependent on the province of Behera. Upper Egypt: Giza, Beni Suef, Fayum, Minia, Assiut, Girga, Kena, Assuan. The peninsula of Sinai is administered by the war office.
Justice.—There are four judicial systems in Egypt: two applicable to Egyptian subjects only, one applicable to foreigners only, and one applicable to foreigners and, to a certain extent, natives also. This multiplicity of tribunals arises from the fact that, owing to the Capitulations, which apply to Egypt as part of the Turkish empire, foreigners are almost entirely exempt from the jurisdiction of the native courts. It will be convenient to state first the law as regards foreigners, and secondly the law which concerns Egyptians. Criminal jurisdiction over foreigners is exercised by the consuls of the fifteen powers possessing such right by treaty, according to the law of the country of the offender. These consular courts also judge civil cases between foreigners of the same nationality.
Jurisdiction in civil matters between natives and foreigners and between foreigners of different nationalities is no longer exercised by the consular courts. The grave abuse to which the consular system was subject led to the establishment, in February 1876, at the instance of Nubar Pasha and after eight years of negotiation, of International or “Mixed” Tribunals to supersede consular jurisdiction to the extent indicated. The Mixed Tribunals employ a code based on the Code Napoléon with such additions from Mahommedan law as are applicable. There are three tribunals of first instance, and an appeal court at Alexandria. These courts have both foreign and Egyptian judges—the foreign judges forming the majority of the bench. In certain designated matters they enjoy criminal jurisdiction, including, since 1900, offences against the bankruptcy laws. Cases have to be conducted in Arabic, French, Italian and English, English having been admitted as a “judicial language” by khedivial decree of the 17th of April 1905. Besides their judicial duties, the courts practically exercise legislative functions, as no important law can be made applicable to Europeans without the consent of the powers, and the powers are mainly guided by the opinions of the judges of the Mixed Courts.
The judicial systems applicable solely to Egyptians are supervised by the ministry of justice, to which has been attached since 1890 a British judicial adviser. Two systems of laws are administered:—(1) the Mehkemehs, (2) the Native Tribunals. The mehkemehs, or courts of the cadis, judge in all matters of personal status, such as marriage, inheritance and guardianship, and are guided in their decisions by the code of laws founded on the Koran. The grand cadi, who must belong to the sect of the Hanifis, sits at Cairo, and is aided by a council of Ulema or learned men. This council consists of the sheikh or religious chief of each of the four orthodox sects, the sheikh of the mosque of Azhar, who is of the sect of the Shafi‘is, the chief (nakib) of the Sherifs, or descendants of Mahomet, and others. The cadis are chosen from among the students at the Azhar university. (In the same manner, in matters of personal law, Copts and other non-Moslem Egyptians are, in general, subject to the jurisdiction of their own religious chiefs.)
For other than the purposes indicated, the native judicial system, both civil and criminal, was superseded in 1884 by tribunals administering a jurisprudence modelled on that of the French code. It is, in the words of Lord Cromer, “in many respects ill adapted to meet the special needs of the country” (Egypt, No. 1, 1904, p. 33). The system was, on the advice of an Anglo-Indian official (Sir John Scott), modified and simplified in 1891, but its essential character remained unaltered. In 1904, however, more important modifications were introduced. Save on points of law, the right of appeal in criminal cases was abolished, and assize courts, whose judgments were final, established. At the same time the penal code was thoroughly revised, so that the Egyptian judges were “for the first time provided with a sound working code” (Ibid. p. 49). The native courts have both native and foreign judges. There are courts of summary jurisdiction presided over by one judge, central tribunals (or courts of first instance) with three judges, and a court of appeal at Cairo. A committee of judicial surveillance watches the working of the courts of first instance and the summary courts, and endeavours, by letters and discussions, to maintain purity and sound law. There is a procureur-général, who, with other duties, is entrusted with criminal prosecutions. His representatives are attached to each tribunal, and form the parquet under whose orders the police act in bringing criminals to justice. In the markak (district) tribunals, created in 1904 and presided over by magistrates with jurisdiction in cases of misdemeanour, the prosecution is, however, conducted directly by the police. Special Children’s Courts have been established for the trial of juvenile offenders.
The police service, which has been subject to frequent modification, was in 1895 put under the orders of the ministry of the interior, to which a British adviser and British inspectors are attached. The provincial police is under the direction of the local authorities, the mudirs or governors of provinces, and the mamurs or district officials; to the omdas, or village head-men, who are responsible for the good order of the villages, a limited criminal jurisdiction has been entrusted.
Religion.—The great majority of the inhabitants are Mahommedans. In 1907 the Moslems numbered over ten millions, or 91.8% of the entire population. The Christians in the same year numbered 880,000, or 8% of the population. Of these the Coptic Orthodox church had some 667,000 adherents. Among other churches represented were the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian, Syrian and Maronite, the Roman Catholic and various Protestant bodies. The last-named numbered 37,000 (including 24,000 Copts). There were in 1907 over 38,000 Jews in Egypt.
The Mahommedans are Sunnites, professing the creed commonly termed “orthodox,” and are principally of the persuasion of the Shafi‘is, whose celebrated founder, the imam ash-Shafi‘i, is buried in the great southern cemetery of Cairo. Many of them are, however, Hanifis (to which persuasion the Turks chiefly belong), and in parts of Lower, and almost universally in Upper, Egypt, Mālikis. Among the Moslems the Sheikh-el-Islam, appointed by the khedive from among the Ulema (learned class), exercises the highest religious and, in certain subjects, judicial authority. There is also a grand cadi, nominated by the sultan of Turkey from among the Ulema of Stamboul. Valuable property is held by the Moslems in trust for the promotion of religion and for charitable purposes, and is known as the Wakfs administration. The revenue derived is over £250,000 yearly.
The Coptic organization includes in Egypt three metropolitans and twelve bishops, under the headship of the patriarch of Alexandria. The minor orders are arch-priests, priests, archdeacons, deacons, readers and monks (see Copts: Coptic Church).
Education.—Two different systems of education exist, one founded on native lines, the other European in character. Both systems are more or less fully controlled by the ministry of public instruction. The government has primary, secondary and technical schools, training colleges for teachers, and schools of agriculture, engineering, law, medicine and veterinary science. The government system, which dates back to a period before the British occupation, is designed to provide, in the main, a European education. In the primary schools Arabic is the medium of instruction, the use of English for that purpose being confined to lessons in that language itself. The school of law is divided into English and French sections according to the language in which the students study law. Besides the government primary and secondary schools, there are many other schools in the large towns owned by the Moslems, Copts, Hebrews, and by various missionary societies, and in which the education is on the same lines. A movement initiated among the leading Moslems led in 1908 to the establishment as a private enterprise of a national Egyptian university devoted to scientific, literary and philosophical studies. Political and religious subjects are excluded from the curriculum and no discrimination in regard to race or religion is allowed.
Education on native lines is given in kuttabs and in the Azhar university in Cairo. Kuttabs are schools attached to mosques, found in every village and in every quarter of the larger towns. In these schools the instruction given before the British occupation was very slight. All pupils were taught to recite portions of the Koran, and a proportion of the scholars learnt to read and write Arabic and a little simple arithmetic. Those pupils who succeeded in committing to memory the whole of the Koran were regarded as fiki (learned in Mahommedan law), and as such escaped liability to military conscription. The government has improved the education given in the kuttabs, and numbers of them have been taken under the direct control of the ministry of public instruction. In these latter schools an excellent elementary secular education is given, in addition to the instruction in the Koran, to which half the school hours are devoted. The number of pupils in 1905 was over 12,000 boys and 2000 girls. Grants-in-aid are given to other schools where a sufficiently good standard of instruction is maintained. No grant is made to any kuttab where any language other than Arabic is taught. In all there are over 10,000 kuttabs, attended by some 250,000 scholars. The number of pupils in private schools under government inspection was in 1898, the first year of the grant-in-aid system, 7536; in 1900, 12,315; in 1905, 145,691. The number of girls in attendance rose from 598 in 1898 to 997 in 1900 and 9611 in 1905. The Copts have about 1000 primary schools, in which the teaching of Coptic is compulsory, a few industrial schools, and one college for higher instruction.
Cairo holds a prominent place as a seat of Moslem learning, and its university, the Azhar, is considered the first of the eastern world. Its professors teach “grammatical inflexion and syntax, rhetoric, versification, logic, theology, the exposition of the Koran, the traditions of the Prophet, the complete science of jurisprudence, or rather of religious, moral, civil and criminal law, which is chiefly founded on the Koran and the traditions, together with arithmetic as far as it is useful in matters of law. Lectures are also given on algebra and on the calculations of the Mahommedan calendar, the times of prayer, &c.” (E. W. Lane, Modern Egyptians). The students come from all parts of the Mahommedan world. They number about 8000, of whom some 2000 are resident. The students pay no fees, and the professors receive no salaries. The latter maintain themselves by private teaching and by copying manuscripts, and the former in the same manner, or by reciting the Koran. To meet the demand for better qualified judges for the Moslem courts a training college for cadis was established in 1907. Besides the subjects taught at the Azhar university, instruction is given in literature, mathematics and physical science. The necessity for a reorganization of the Azhar system itself being also recognized by the high Moslem dignitaries in Egypt, a law was passed in 1907 creating a superior board of control under the presidency of the Sheikh el-Azhar to supervise the proceedings of the university and other similar establishments. This attempt to reform the Azhar met, however, with so much opposition that in 1909 it was, for the time, abandoned.
In 1907, of the sedentary Egyptian population over seven years of age, some 12% of the Moslems could read and write, female literacy having increased 50% since 1897; of the foreign population over seven years of age 75% could read and write. Of the Coptic community about 50% can read and write.
Literature and the Press.—Since the British occupation there has been a marked renaissance of Arabic learning and literature in Egypt. Societies formed for the encouragement of Arabic literature have brought to light important texts bearing on Mahommedan history, antiquities and religion. Numbers of magazines and reviews are published in Arabic which cater both for the needs of the moment and the advancement of learning. Side by side with these literary organs there exists a vernacular press largely devoted to nationalist propaganda. Prominent among these papers is Al Lewa (The Standard), founded in 1900. Other papers of a similar character are Al Omma, Al Moayad and Al Gerida. The Mokattam represents the views of the more enlightened and conservative section of the native population. In Cairo and Alexandria there are also published several newspapers in English and French.
Authorities.—(a) General descriptions, geography, travel, &c.: Description de l’Égypte, 10 folio vols. and atlas of 10 vols. (Paris, 1809-1822), compiled by the scientific commission sent to Egypt by Bonaparte; Clot Bey, Aperçu général sur l’Égypte, 2 vols. (Paris, 1840); Boinet Bey, Dictionnaire géographique de l’Égypte (Cairo, 1899); Murray’s and Baedeker’s handbooks and Guide Joanne; G. Ebers, Egypt, Descriptive, Historical and Picturesque, translated from the German edition of 1879 by Clara Bell, new edition, 2 vols. (London, 1887); Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, Modern Egypt and Thebes (2 vols., London, 1843); Lady Duff Gordon, Letters from Egypt, complete edition (London, 1902), an invaluable account of social conditions in the period 1862-1869; A. B. Edwards, A Thousand Miles up the Nile (2nd edition, London, n.d. ); Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers (London, 1892); H. W. Mardon, Geography of Egypt . . . (London, 1902), an excellent elementary text-book; D. G. Hogarth, The Nearer East (London, 1902), contains brief but suggestive chapters on Egypt; S. Lane Poole, Egypt (London, 1881); A. B. de Guerville, New Egypt, translated from the French (London, 1905); R. T. Kelly, Egypt Painted and Described (London, 1902). The best maps are those of the Survey Department, Cairo, on the scale of 1:50000 (1.3 in. to the mile).
(b) Administration: Sir John Bowring’s Report on Egypt . . . to Lord Palmerston (London, 1840) shows the system obtaining at that period. For the study of the state of Egypt at the time of the British occupation, 1882, and the development of the country since, the most valuable documents are:
I. Official.—The Reports on the Finances, Administration and Condition of Egypt, issued yearly since 1892 (the reports 1888-1891 were exclusively financial). Up to 1906 the reports were by Lord Cromer (Sir Evelyn Baring). They clearly picture the progress of the country. The following reports are specially valuable as exhibiting the difficulties which at the outset confronted the British administrators:—Correspondence respecting the Reorganization of Egypt (1883); Reports by Mr Villiers Stuart respecting Reorganization of Egypt (1883 and 1895); Despatch from Lord Dufferin forwarding the Decree constituting the New Political Institutions of Egypt (1883); Reports on the State of Egypt and the Progress of Administrative Reforms (1885); Reports by Sir H. D. Wolff on the Administration of Egypt (1887). Annual returns are published in Cairo in English or French by the various ministries, and British consular reports on the trade of Egypt and of Alexandria and of the tonnage and shipping of the Suez Canal are also issued yearly.
II. Non-official.—Lord Cromer, Modern Egypt (2 vols., 1908), an authoritative record; Alfred (Lord) Milner, England in Egypt, first published in 1892, the story being brought up to 1904 in the 11th edition; Sir A. Colvin, The Making of Modern Egypt (1906); J. Ward, Pyramids and Progress (1900); A. S. White, The Expansion of Egypt (1899); and F. W. Fuller, Egypt and the Hinterland (1901). See also the works cited in History, last section.
(c) Law: H. Lamba, De l’évolution de la condition juridique des Européens en Égypte (Paris, 1896); J. H. Scott, The Law affecting Foreigners in Egypt . . . (Edinburgh, 1907); The Egyptian Codes (London, 1892).
(d) Irrigation, agriculture, geology, &c.: Despatch from Sir Evelyn Baring enclosing Report on the Condition of the Agricultural Population in Egypt (1888); Notes on Egyptian Crops (Cairo, 1896); Yacub Artin Bey, La Propriété foncière en Égypte (Bulak, 1885); Report on Perennial Irrigation and Flood Protection for Egypt, 1 vol. and atlas (Cairo, 1894). The reports (Egypt, No. 2, 1901, and Egypt, No. 2, 1904), by Sir William Garstin on irrigation projects on the Upper Nile are very valuable records—notably the 1904 report. W. Willcocks, Egyptian Irrigation (2nd ed., 1899); H. G. Lyons, The Physiography of the River Nile and its Basin (Cairo, 1906); Leigh Canney, The Meteorology of Egypt and its Influence on Disease (1897). Annual meteorological reports are issued by the Public Works Department, Cairo. The same department issues special irrigation reports. See for geology Carl von Zittel, Beiträge zur Geologie und Paläontologie der libyschen Wüste (Cassel, 1883); Reports of the Geological Survey of Egypt (Cairo, 1900, et seq.).
(e) Natural history, anthropology, &c.: F. Pruner, Ägyptens Naturgeschichte und Anthropologie (Erlangen, 1848); R. Hartmann, Naturgeschichtliche Skizze der Nilländer (Berlin, 1866); Captain G. E. Shelley, Birds of Egypt (London, 1872). (F. R. C.)
The population enumerated at the census taken in April 1907 was 11,189,978. In these figures nomad Arabs or Bedouins, estimated to number 97,381, are not included. The total population was thus returned at 11,287,359, or some 16% more than in 1897 when the inhabitants numbered 9,734,405. The figures for 1897 compared with 6,813,919 in 1882, an increase of 43.5% in fifteen years. Thus, during the first twenty-five years of the British occupation of the country the population increased by nearly 4,500,000. In 1800 the French estimated the population at no more than 2,460,000; the census of 1846 gave the figures at 4,476,440. From that year to 1882 the average annual increase was 1.25%. If the desert regions be excluded, the population of Egypt is extremely dense, being about 939 per sq. m. This figure may be compared with that of Belgium, the most densely populated country in Europe, 589 per sq. m., and with that of Bengal, 586 per sq. m. In parts of Menufia, a Delta province, the density rises to 1352 per sq. m., and in the Kena province of Upper Egypt to 1308.
The population is generally divisible into—
- The fellahin or peasantry and the native townsmen.
- The Bedouins or nomad Arabs of the desert.
- The Nuba, Nubians or Berberin, inhabitants of the Nile valley between Assuan and Dongola.
The first of these divisions includes both the Moslem and Coptic inhabitants. The Bedouins, or the Arabs of the desert, are of two different classes: first, Arabic-speaking tribes who range the deserts as far south as 26° N.; secondly, the tribes inhabiting the desert from Kosseir to Suakin, namely the Hadendoa, Bisharin and the Ababda tribes. This group speak a language of their own, and are probably descendants of the Blemmyes, who occupied these parts in ancient times (see Arabs; Bedouins; Hadendoa; Bishārīn; &c.). The Nubas are of mixed negro and Arab blood. They are mainly agriculturists, though some are keen traders (see Nubia).
Foreigners number over 150,000 and form 1½% of the total population. They are chiefly Greeks—of whom the majority live in Alexandria—Italians, British and French. Syrians and Levantines are numerous, and there is a colony of Persians. The Turkish element is not numerically strong—a few thousands only—but holds a high social position.
Of the total population, about 20% is urban. In addition to the 97,000 pure nomads, there are half a million Bedouins described as “semi-sedentaries,” i.e. tent-dwelling Arabs, usually encamped in those parts of the desert adjoining the cultivated land. The rural classes are mainly engaged in agriculture, which occupies over 62% of the adults. The professional and trading classes form about 10% of the whole population, but 50% of the foreigners are engaged in trade. Of the total population the males exceed the females by some 46,000.
The Coptic inhabitants are described in the article Copts, and the rural population under Fellah. It remains here to describe characteristics and customs common to the Moslem Egyptians Physical characteristics of the Egyptians. and particularly to those of the cities. In some respects the manner of life of the natives has been modified by contact with Europeans, and what follows depicts in general the habits of the people where little affected by western culture. With regard to physical characteristics the Egyptians are of full average height (the men are mostly 5 ft. 8 in. or 5 ft. 9 in), and both sexes are remarkably well proportioned and of strong physique. The Cairenes and the inhabitants of Lower Egypt generally have a clear complexion and soft skin of a light yellowish colour; those of Middle Egypt have a tawny skin, and the dwellers in Upper Egypt a deep bronze or brown complexion. The face of the men is of a fine oval, forehead prominent but seldom high, straight nose, eyes deep set, black and brilliant, mouth well formed, but with rather full lips, regular teeth beautifully made, and beard usually black and curly but scanty. Moustaches are worn, while the head is shaved save for a small tuft (called shusheh) upon the crown. As to the women, “from the age of about fourteen to that of eighteen or twenty, they are generally models of beauty in body and limbs; and in countenance most of them are pleasing, and many exceedingly lovely; but soon after they have attained their perfect growth, they rapidly decline.” There are few Egyptian women over forty who retain either good looks or good figures. “The forms of womanhood begin to develop themselves about the ninth and tenth year: at the age of fifteen or sixteen they generally attain their highest degree of perfection. With regard to their complexions, the same remarks apply to them as to the men, with only this difference, that their faces, being generally veiled when they go abroad, are not quite so much tanned as those of the men. They are characterized, like the men, by a fine oval countenance, though in some instances it is rather broad. The eyes, with very few exceptions, are black, large and of a long almond-form, with long and beautiful lashes, and an exquisitely soft, bewitching expression—eyes more beautiful can hardly be conceived: their charming effect is much heightened by the concealment of the other features (however pleasing the latter may be), and is rendered still more striking by a practice universal among the females of the higher and middle classes, and very common among those of the lower orders, which is that of blackening the edge of the eyelids both above and below the eye, with a black powder called ‘kohl’” (Lane, Modern Egyptians). Both sexes, but especially the women, tattoo several parts of the person, and the women stain their hands and feet with the red dye of the henna.
The dress of the men of the upper and middle classes who have not adopted European clothing—a practice increasingly common—consists of cotton drawers, and a cotton or silk shirt with very wide sleeves. Above these are generally worn a Dress and social life. waistcoat without sleeves, and a long vest of silk, called kaftan, which has hanging sleeves, and reaches nearly to the ankles. The kaftan is confined by the girdle, which is a silk scarf, or cashmere or other woollen shawl. Over all is worn a long cloth robe, the gibbeh (or jibbeh) somewhat resembling the kaftan in shape, but having shorter sleeves, and being open in front. The dress of the lower orders is the shirt and drawers, and waistcoat, with an outer shirt of blue cotton or brown woollen stuff; some wear a kaftan. The head-dress is the red cloth fez or tarbush round which a turban is usually worn. Men who have otherwise adopted European costume retain the tarbush. Many professions and religions, &c., are distinguished by the shape and colour of the turban, and various classes, and particularly servants, are marked by the form and colour of their shoes; but the poor go usually barefoot. Many ladies of the upper classes now dress in European style, with certain modifications, such as the head-veil. Those who retain native costume wear a very full pair of silk trousers, bright coloured stockings (usually pink), and a close-fitting vest with hanging sleeves and skirts, open down the front and at the sides, and long enough to turn up and fasten into the girdle, which is generally a cashmere shawl; a cloth jacket, richly embroidered with gold, and having short sleeves, is commonly worn over the vest. The hair in front is combed down over the forehead and cut across in a straight line; behind it is divided into very many small plaits, which hang down the back, and are lengthened by silken cords, and often adorned with gold coins and ornaments. A small tarbush is worn on the back of the head, sometimes having a plate of gold fixed on the crown, and a handkerchief is tastefully bound round the temples. The women of the lower orders have trousers of printed or dyed cotton, and a close waistcoat. All wear the long and elegant head-veil. This is a simple “breadth” of muslin, which passes over the head and hangs down behind, one side, being drawn forward over the face in the presence of a man. A lady’s veil is of white muslin, embroidered at the ends in gold and colours; that of a person of the lower class is simply dyed blue. In going abroad the ladies wear above their indoor dress a loose robe of coloured silk without sleeves, and nearly open at the sides, and above it a large enveloping piece of black silk, which is brought over the head, and gathered round the person by the arms and hands on each side. A face-veil entirely conceals the features, except the eyes; it is a long and narrow piece of thick white muslin, reaching to a little below the knees. The women of the lower orders have the same out-door dress of different materials and colour. Ladies use slippers of yellow morocco, and abroad, inner boots of the same material, above which they wear, in either case, thick shoes, having only toes. The poor wear red shoes, very like those of the men. The women, especially in Upper Egypt, not infrequently wear nose-rings.
Children, though often neglected, are not unkindly treated, and reverence for their parents and the aged is early inculcated. They are also well grounded in the leading doctrines of Islam. Boys are circumcised at the age of five or six years, when the boy is paraded, generally with a bridal procession, on a gaily caparisoned horse and dressed in woman’s clothes. Most parents send their boys to school where a knowledge of reading and writing Arabic—the common tongue of the Egyptians—is obtainable, and from the closing years of the 19th century a great desire for the education of girls has arisen (see § Education).
It is deemed disreputable for a young man not to marry when he has attained a sufficient age; there are, therefore, few unmarried men. Girls, in like manner, marry very young, some at ten years of age, and few remain single beyond the age of sixteen; they are generally very prolific. The bridegroom never sees his future wife before the wedding night, a custom rendered more tolerable than it otherwise might be by the facility of divorce. A dowry is always given, and a simple marriage ceremony performed by a fiki (a schoolmaster, or one who recites the Koran, properly one learned in fiqh, Mahommedan law) in the presence of two witnesses. The bridal of a virgin is attended with great festivity and rejoicing, a grandee’s wedding sometimes continuing eleven days and nights. On the last day, which should be that terminating with the eve of Friday, or of Monday, the bride is taken in procession to the bridegroom’s house, accompanied by her female friends, and a band of musicians, jugglers, wrestlers, &c. As before stated, a boy about to be circumcised joins in such a procession, or, frequently, a succession of such boys. Though allowed by his religion four wives, most Egyptians are monogamists. A man may, however, possess any number of concubines, who, though objects of jealousy to the legal wife, are tolerated by her in consideration of her superior position and power over them, a power which she often uses with great tyranny; but certain privileges are possessed by concubines, especially if they have borne sons to their master. A divorce is rendered obligatory by the simple words “Thou art divorced.” Repudiation may take place twice without being final, but if the husband repeats thrice “Thou art divorced” the separation is absolute. In that case the dowry must be returned to the wife.
Elaborate ceremonies are observed at funerals. Immediately on death the corpse is turned towards Mecca, and the women of the household, assisted by hired mourners, commence their peculiar wailing, while fikis recite portions of the Koran. The funeral takes place on the day of the death, if that happen in the morning; otherwise on the next day. The corpse, having been washed and shrouded, is placed in an open bier, covered with a cashmere shawl, in the case of a man; or in a closed bier, having a post in front, on which are placed feminine ornaments, in that of a woman or child. The funeral procession is headed by a number of poor, and generally blind, men, chanting the profession of the faith, followed by male friends of the deceased, and a party of schoolboys, also chanting, generally from a poem descriptive of the state of the soul after death. Then follows the bier, borne on the shoulders of friends, who are relieved by the passers-by, such an act being deemed highly meritorious. Behind come the women relatives and the hired wailers. On the way to the cemetery the corpse is generally carried to some revered mosque. Here the funeral service is performed by the imam, and the procession then proceeds to the tomb. In the burials of the rich, water and bread are distributed to the poor at the grave; and sometimes a buffalo or several buffaloes are slaughtered there, and the flesh given away. The tomb is a vault, surmounted by an oblong stone monument, with a stele at the head and feet; and a cupola, supported by four walls, covers the whole in the case of sheikhs’ tombs and those of the wealthy. During the night following the interment, called the Night of Desolation, or that of Solitude, the soul being believed to remain with the body that one night, fikis are engaged at the house of the deceased to recite various portions of the Koran, and, commonly, to repeat the first clause of the profession of the faith, “There is no God but God,” three thousand times. The women alone put on mourning attire, by dyeing their veils, shirts, &c., dark blue, with indigo; and they stain their hands, and smear the walls, with the same colour. Everything in the house is also turned upside down. The latter customs are not, however, observed on the death of an old man. At certain periods after the burial, a khatmeh, or recitation of the whole of the Koran, is performed, and the tomb is visited by the women relations and friends of the deceased. The women of the peasants of Upper Egypt perform strange dances, &c., at funerals, which are regarded partly as relics of ancient Egyptian customs.
The harem system of appointing separate apartments to the women, and secluding them from the gaze of men, is observed in Egypt as in other Moslem countries, but less strictly. The women of an Egyptian household in which old customs are maintained never sit in the presence of the master, but attend him at his meals, and are treated in every respect as inferiors. The mother, however, forms a remarkable exception to this rule; in rare instances, also, a wife becomes a companion to her husband. On the other hand, if a pair of women’s shoes are placed outside the door of the harem apartments, they are understood to signify that female visitors are within, and a man is sometimes thus excluded from the upper portion of his own house for many days. Ladies of the upper or middle classes lead a life of extreme inactivity, spending their time at the bath, which is the general place of gossip, or in receiving visits, embroidering, and the like, and in absolute dolce far niente. Both sexes are given to licentiousness.
The principal meals are breakfast, about an hour after sunrise; dinner, or the mid-day meal, at noon; and supper, which is the chief meal of the day, a little after sunset. Pastry, sweetmeats and fruit are highly esteemed. Coffee is taken at all hours, and is, with a pipe, presented at least once to each guest. Tobacco is the great luxury of the men of all classes in Egypt, who begin and end the day with it, and generally smoke all day with little intermission. Many women, also, especially among the rich, adopt the habit. The smoking of hashish, though illegal, is indulged in by considerable numbers of people. Men who can afford to keep a horse, mule or ass are very seldom seen to walk. Ladies ride asses and sit astride. The poorer classes cannot fully observe the harem system, but the women are in general carefully veiled. Some of them keep small shops, and all fetch water, make fuel, and cook for their households. Domestic slavery lingers but is moribund. The majority of the slaves are negresses employed in household duties.
In social intercourse the Egyptians observe many forms of salutation and much etiquette; they are very affable, and readily enter into conversation with strangers. Their courtesy and dignity of manner are very striking, and are combined with ease and a fluency of discourse. They have a remarkable quickness of apprehension, a ready wit, a retentive memory, combined, however, with religious pride and hypocrisy, and a disregard for the truth. Their common discourse is full of asseverations and expressions respecting sacred things. They entertain reverence for their Prophet; and the Koran is treated with the utmost respect—never, for example, being placed in a low situation—and this is the case with everything they esteem holy. They are fatalists, and bear calamities with surprising resignation. Their filial piety and respect for the aged have been mentioned, and benevolence and charity are conspicuous in their character. Humanity to animals is another virtue, and cruelty is openly discountenanced in the streets. Their affability, cheerfulness and hospitality are remarkable, as well as frugality and temperance in food and drink, and honesty in the payment of debt. Their cupidity is mitigated by generosity; their natural indolence by the necessity, especially among the peasantry, to work hard to gain a livelihood. Egyptians, however, are as a rule suspicious of all not of their own creed and country. Murders and other grave crimes are rare, but petty larcenies are very common.
The amusements of the people are generally not of a violent kind, being in keeping with their sedentary habits and the heat of the climate. The bath is a favourite resort of both sexes and all classes. They are acquainted with chess, draughts, backgammon, and other games, among which is one peculiar to themselves, called Mankalah, and played with cowries. Notwithstanding its condemnation by Mahomet, music is the most favourite recreation of the people; the songs of the boatmen, the religious chants, and the cries in the streets are all musical. There are male and female musical performers; the former are both instrumental and vocal, the latter (called ‘Almeh, pl. ‘Awālim) generally vocal. The ‘Awālim are, as their name (“learned”) implies, generally accomplished women, and should not be confounded with the Ghawāzi, or dancing-girls. There are many kinds of musical instruments. The music, vocal and instrumental, is generally of little compass, and in the minor key; it is therefore plaintive, and strikes a European ear as somewhat monotonous, though often possessing a simple beauty, and the charm of antiquity, for there is little doubt that the favourite airs have been handed down from remote ages. The Ghawāzi (sing. Ghāzīa) form a separate class, very similar to the gipsies. They intermarry among themselves only, and their women are professional dancers. Their performances are often objectionable and are so regarded by many Egyptians. They dance in public, at fairs and religious festivals, and at private festivities, but, it is said, not in respectable houses. Mehemet Ali banished them to Esna, in Upper Egypt; and the few that remained in Cairo called themselves ‘Awālim, to avoid punishment. Many of the dancing-girls of Cairo to-day are neither ‘Awālim nor Ghawāzi, but women of the very lowest class whose performances are both ungraceful and indecent. A most objectionable class of male dancers also exists, who imitate the dances of the Ghawāzi, and dress in a kind of nondescript female attire. Not the least curious of the public performances are those of the serpent-charmers, who are generally Rifā’iā (Saadīa) dervishes. Their power over serpents has been doubted, yet their performances remain unexplained; they, however, always extract the fangs of venomous serpents. Jugglers, rope-dancers and farce-players must also be mentioned. In the principal coffee-shops of Cairo are to be found reciters of romances, surrounded by interested audiences.
The periodical public festivals are exceedingly interesting, but many of the remarkable observances connected with them are passing away. The first ten days of the Mahommedan year are held to be blessed, and especially the tenth; Public festivals. and many curious practices are observed on these days, particularly by the women. The tenth day, being the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hosain, the son of Ali and grandson of the Prophet, the mosque of the Hasanēn at Cairo is thronged to excess, mostly by women. In the evening a procession goes to the mosque, the principal figure being a white horse with white trappings, upon which is seated a small boy, the horse and the lad, who represents Hosain, being smeared with blood. From the mosque the procession goes to a private house, where a mullah recites the story of the martyrdom. Following the order of the lunar year, the next festival is that of the Return of the Pilgrims, which is the occasion of great rejoicing, many having friends or relatives in the caravan. The Mahmal, a kind of covered litter, first originated by Queen Sheger-ed-Dur, is brought into the city in procession, though not with as much pomp as when it leaves with the pilgrims. These and other processions have lost much of their effect since the extinction of the Mamelukes, and the gradual disuse of gorgeous dress for the retainers of the officers of state. A regiment of regular infantry makes but a sorry substitute for the splendid cavalcade of former times. The Birth of the Prophet (Molid en-Nebi), which is celebrated in the beginning of the third month, is the greatest festival of the whole year. For nine days and nights Cairo has more the aspect of a fair than of a city keeping a religious festival. The chief ceremonies take place in some large open spot round which are erected the tents of the khedive, of great state officials, and of the dervishes. Next in time, and also in importance, is the Molid El-Hasanēn, commemorative of the birth of Hosain, and lasting fifteen days and nights; and at the same time is kept the Molid of al-Ṣāliḥ Ayyūb, the last sovereign but two of the Ayyubite dynasty. In the seventh month occur the Molid of the sayyida Zenab, and the commemoration of the Miarāg, or the Prophet’s miraculous journey to heaven. Early in the eighth month (Sha’bān), the Molid of the imam Shāfi‘i is observed; and the night of the middle of that month has its peculiar customs, being held by the Moslems to be that on which the fate of all living is decided for the ensuing year. Then follows Ramadān, the month of abstinence, a severe trial to the faithful; and the Lesser Festival (Al-’id aṣ-ṣaghīr), which commences Shawwāl, is hailed by them with delight. A few days after, the Kiswa, or new covering for the Ka’ba at Mecca, is taken in procession from the citadel, where it is always manufactured, to the mosque of the Hasanēn to be completed; and, later, the caravan of pilgrims departs, when the grand procession of the Mahmal takes place. On the tenth day of the last month of the year the Great Festival (Al-’id al-kabīr), or that of the Sacrifice (commemorating the willingness of Ibrahim to slay his son Ismail—according to the Arab legend), closes the calendar. The Lesser and Great Festivals are those known in Turkish as the Bairam (q.v.).
The rise of the Nile is naturally the occasion of annual customs, some of which are doubtless relics of antiquity; these are observed according to the Coptic calendar. The commencement of the rise is commemorated on the night of the 11th of Baūna, the 17th of June, called that of the Drop (Lelet-en-Nukta), because a miraculous drop is then supposed to fall and cause the swelling of the river. The real rise begins at Cairo about the summer solstice, or a few days later, and early in July a crier in each district of the city begins to go his daily rounds, announcing, in a quaint chant, the increase of water in the nilometer of the island of Rōda. When the river has risen 20 or 21 ft., he proclaims the Wefā en-Nil, “Completion” or “Abundance of the Nile.” On the following day the dam which closed the canal of Cairo was cut with much ceremony. The canal having been filled up in 1897 the ceremony has been much modified, but a brief description of what used to take place may be given. A pillar of earth before the dam is called the “Bride of the Nile,” and Arab historians relate that this was substituted, at the Moslem conquest, for a virgin whom it was the custom annually to sacrifice, to ensure a plentiful inundation. A large boat, gaily decked out, representing that in which the victim used to be conveyed, was anchored near, and a gun on board fired every quarter of an hour during the night. Rockets and other fireworks were also let off, but the best, strangely, after daybreak. The governor of Cairo attended the ceremony, with the cadi and others, and gave the signal for the cutting of the dam. As soon as sufficient water had entered, boats ascended the canal to the city. The crier continues his daily rounds, with his former chant, excepting on the Coptic New Year’s Day, when the cry of the Wefā is repeated, until the Salib, or Discovery of the Cross, the 26th or 27th of September, at which period, the river having attained its greatest height, he concludes his annual employment with another chant, and presents to each house some limes and other fruit, and dry lumps of Nile mud.
The period of the hot winds, called the khamsin, that is, “the fifties,” is calculated from the day after the Coptic Easter, and terminates on the day of Pentecost, and the Moslems observe the Wednesday preceding this period, called “Job’s Wednesday,” as well as its first day, when many go into the country from Cairo, “to smell the air.” This day is hence called Shem en-Nesim, or “the smelling of the zephyr.” The Ulema observe the same custom on the first three days of the spring quarter.
Tombs of saints abound, one or more being found in every town and village; and no traveller up the Nile can fail to remark how every prominent hill has the sepulchre of its patron saint. The great saints of Egypt are the imam Ash-Shāfi‘i, founder of the persuasion called after him, the sayyid Aḥmad al-Baiḍāwī, and the sayyid Ibrāhīm Ed-Desūkī, both of whom were founders of orders of dervishes. Al-Baiḍāwī, who lived in the 13th century A.D., is buried at the town of Tanta, in the Delta, and his tomb attracts many thousands of visitors at each of the three festivals held yearly in his honour; Ed-Desūkī is also much revered, and his festivals draw together, in like manner, great crowds to his birthplace, the town of Desūk. But, besides the graves of her native saints, Egypt boasts of those of several members of the Prophet’s family, the tomb of the sayyida Zeyneb, daughter of ‘Ali, that of the sayyida Sekeina, daughter of Hosain, and that of the sayyida Nefisa, great-granddaughter of Hasan, all of which are held in high veneration. The mosque of the Hasanēn (or that of the “two Hasans”) is the most reverenced shrine in the country, and is believed to contain the head of Hosain. Many orders of Dervishes live in Egypt, the following being the most celebrated:—(1) the Rifā’iā, and their sects the ‘Ilwānīa and Saadīa; (2) the Qādirīa (Kāhirīa), or howling dervishes; (3) the Ahmedīa, or followers of the sayyid Aḥmad al-Baiḍāwī, and their sects the Beyūmīa (known by their long hair), Shinnawīa, Sharawīa and many others; and (4) the Barāmīa, or followers of the sayyid Ibrāhīm Ed-Desūkī. These are all presided over by a direct descendant of the caliph Abu Bekr, called the Sheikh El-Bekri. The Saadīa are famous for charming and eating live serpents, &c., and the ‘Ilwānīa for eating fire, glass, &c. The Egyptians firmly believe in the efficacy of charms, a belief associated with that in an omnipresent and over-ruling providence. Thus the doors of houses are inscribed with sentences from the Koran, or the like, to preserve from the evil eye, or avert the dangers of an unlucky threshold; similar inscriptions may be observed over most shops, while almost every one carries some charm about his person. The so-called sciences of magic, astrology and alchemy still flourish.
Authorities.—The standard authority for the Moslem Egyptians is E. W. Lane’s Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, first published in 1836. The best edition is that of 1860, edited, with additions, by E. S. Poole. See also B. Saint-John, Village Life in Egypt (2 vols., 1852); S. Lane Poole, Social Life in Egypt (1884); P. Arminjon, L’Enseignement, la doctrine, el la vie dans les universités musulmanes d’Égypte (Paris, 1907). For the language see J. S. Willmore, The Spoken Arabic of Egypt (2nd ed., London, 1905); Spitta Bey, Grammatik des arabischen Vulgardialektes von Ägypten, Contes arabes modernes (Leiden, 1883). For statistical information consult the reports on the censuses of 1897 and 1907, published by the Ministry of the Interior, Cairo, in 1898 and 1909. (E. S. P.; S. L.-P.; F. R. C.)
The important part which the financial arrangements have played in the political and social history of Egypt since the accession of Ismail Pasha in 1863 is shown in the section History of this article. Here it is proposed to trace the steps by which Egypt, after having been brought to a state of bankruptcy, passed through a period of great stress, and finally attained prosperity and a large measure of financial autonomy.
In 1862 the foreign debt of Egypt stood at £3,292,000. With the accession of Ismail (q.v.) there followed a period of wild extravagance and reckless borrowing accompanied by the extortion of every piastre possible from the fellahin. The real state of affairs was disclosed in the report of Mr Stephen Cave, a well-known banker, who was sent by the British government in December 1875 to inquire into the situation. The Cave report showed that Egypt suffered from “the ignorance, dishonesty, waste and extravagance of the East” and from “the vast expense caused by hasty and inconsiderate endeavours to adopt the civilization of the West.” The debtor and creditor account of the state from 1864 to 1875 showed receipts amounting to £148,215,000. Of this sum over £94,000,000 had been obtained from revenue and nearly £4,000,000 by the sale of the khedive’s shares in the Suez Canal to Great Britain. The rest was credited to: loans £31,713,000, floating debt £18,243,000. The cash which reached the Egyptian treasury from the loans and floating debt was far less than the nominal amount of such loans, none of which cost the Egyptian government less than 12% per annum. When the expenditure during the same period was examined the extraordinary fact was disclosed that the sum raised by revenue was only three millions less than that spent on administration, tribute and public works, including a sum of £10,500,000, described as “expenses of questionable utility or policy.” The whole proceeds of the loans and floating debt had been absorbed in payment of interest and sinking funds, with the exception of £16,000,000 debited to the Suez Canal. In other words, Egypt was burdened with a debt of £91,000,000—funded or floating—for which she had no return, for even from the Suez Canal she derived no revenue, owing to the sale of the khedive’s shares.
Soon after Mr Cave’s report appeared (March 1876), default took place on several of the loans. Nearly the whole of the debt, it should be stated, was held in England or France, and at the instance of French financiers the stoppage of payment was followed by a scheme to unify the debt. This scheme included the distribution of a bonus of 25% to holders of treasury bonds. These bonds had then reached a sum exceeding £20,000,000 and were held chiefly by French firms. The unification scheme was elaborated in a khedivial decree of the 7th of May 1876, but was rendered abortive by the opposition of the British bondholders. Its place was taken by another scheme drawn up by Mr (afterwards Lord) Goschen and M. Joubert, who represented the British and French bondholders respectively. The details of this settlement, promulgated by decree of the 17th of November 1876, need not be given, as it was superseded in 1880. One of the securities devised for the benefit of the bondholders in the abortive scheme of May 1876 was retained in the Goschen-Joubert settlement, and being continued in later settlements grew to be one of the most important institutions in Egypt. This security was the establishment of a Treasury of the Public Debt, known by its French title of Caisse de la Dette, and commonly spoken of simply as “the Caisse.” The duty of this body was to act as receivers of the revenues assigned to the service of the debt. To render their powers effective they were given the right to sue the Egyptian government in the Mixed Tribunals for any breach of engagement to the bondholders.
The Goschen-Joubert settlement was accompanied by guarantees against maladministration by the appointment of an Englishman and a Frenchman to superintend the revenue and expenditure—the “Dual Control”; The Law of Liquidation. while a commission was appointed in 1878 to investigate the condition of the country. The settlement of 1880 was effected on the basis of the proposals made by this commission, and was embodied in the Law of Liquidation of July 1880—after the deposition of Ismail. For the purposes of the new settlement the loans raised by Ismail on his private estates, those known as the Daïra (i.e. “administrations”) and Domains loans, were brought into account. By the Law of Liquidation the floating debt was paid off, the whole debt being consolidated into four large loans, upon which the rate of interest was reduced to a figure which it was considered Egypt was able to bear. The Egyptian debt under this composition was:
|Daïra Sanieh loan||9,513,000|
The rate of interest was, on the Privileged debt and Domains loan, 5%; on the Unified debt and Daïra loan, 4%. Under this settlement the total annual charges on the country amounted to £4,500,000, about half the then revenue of Egypt. These charges included the services of the Privileged and Unified debts, the tribute to Turkey and the interest on the Suez Canal shares held by Great Britain, but excluded the interest on the Daïra and Domains loans, expected to be defrayed by the revenues from the estates on which those loans were secured. The general revenue of Egypt was divided between the bondholders and the government, any surplus on the bondholders’ share being devoted to the redemption of the capital.
The 1880 settlement proved little more lasting than that of 1876. After a brief period of prosperity, the Arabi rising, the riots at Alexandria, and the events generally which led to the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, followed by the losses incurred in the Sudan in the effort to prevent it falling into the hands of the Mahdi, brought Egypt once more to the verge of financial disaster. The situation was an anomalous one. While the revenue assigned to the service of the debt was more than sufficient for the payment of interest and the sinking fund was in full operation, the government found that their share of the revenue was altogether inadequate for the expenses of administration, and they were compelled to borrow on short loans at high rate of interest. Moreover, to make good the losses incurred at Alexandria, and to get money to pay the charges arising out of the Sudan War and the Arabi rebellion, a new loan was essential. On the initiative of Great Britain a conference between the representatives of the great powers and Turkey was held in London, and resulted in the signing of a convention in March 1885. The terms agreed upon in this instrument, known as the London Convention, were embodied in a khedivial decree, which, with some modification in detail, remained for twenty years the organic law under which the finances of Egypt were administered.
The principle of dividing the revenue of the country between the Caisse, as representing the bondholders, and the government was maintained by the London Convention. The revenue assigned to the service of the debt, namely, that derived from the railway, telegraphs, port of Alexandria, customs (including tobacco) and from four of the provinces, remained as before. It was recognized, however, that the non-assigned revenue was Provisions of the London Convention. insufficient to meet the necessary expenses of government, and a scale of administrative expenditure was drawn up. This was originally fixed at £E.5,237,000, but subsequently other items were allowed, and in 1904, the last year in which the system described existed, it was £E.6,300,600. The Caisse was authorized, after payment of the coupons on the debt, to make good out of their balance in hand the difference between the authorized expenditure and the non-assigned revenue. If a surplus remained to the Caisse after making good such deficit the surplus was to be divided equally between the Caisse and the government; the government to be free to spend its share as it pleased, while the Caisse had to devote its share to the reduction of the debt. This limitation of administrative expenditure was the cardinal feature and the leading defect of the convention. Those responsible for this arrangement—the most favourable for Egypt that Great Britain could secure—failed to recognize the complete change likely to result from the British occupation of Egypt, and probably regarded that occupation as temporary. The system devised might have been justifiable as a check on a retrograde government, but was wholly inapplicable to a reforming government and a serious obstacle to the attainment of national prosperity. In practice administrative expenditure always exceeded the amount fixed by the convention. Any excess could, however, only be met out of the half-share of the eventual surplus reached in the manner described. Consequently, in order to meet new expenditure necessitated by the growing wants of a country in process of development, just double the amount of revenue had to be raised.
To return to the provisions of the London Convention. The convention left the permanent rate of interest on the debt, as fixed by the Law of Liquidation, unchanged, but to afford temporary relief to the Egyptian exchequer a reduction of 5% on the interest of the debt was granted for two years, on condition that if at the end of that period payment, including the arrears of the two years, was not resumed in full, another international commission was to be appointed to examine into the whole financial situation. Lastly, the convention empowered Egypt to raise a loan of nine millions, guaranteed by all the powers, at a rate of interest of 3%. For the service of this loan—known as the Guaranteed loan—an annuity of £315,000 was provided in the Egyptian budget for interest and sinking fund. The £9,000,000 was sufficient to pay the Alexandria indemnities, to wipe out the deficits of the preceding years, to give the Egyptian treasury a working balance of £E.500,000 and thereby avoid the creation of a fresh floating debt, and to provide a million for new irrigation works. To the wise foresight which, at a moment when the country was sinking beneath a weight of debt, did not hesitate to add this million for expenditure on productive works, the present prosperity of Egypt is largely due.
The provisions of the London Convention did not exhaust the restrictions placed upon the Egyptian government in respect of financial autonomy. These restrictions were of two categories, (1) those independent of the London Convention, (2) those dependent upon that instrument. In the first category came (a) the prohibition to raise a loan without the consent of the Porte. The right to raise loans had been granted to the khedive Ismail in 1873, but was taken away in 1879 by the firman appointing Tewfik khedive. (b) Next came the inability to levy taxes on foreigners without the consent of their respective governments. This last obligation was, in virtue of the Capitulations, applicable to Egypt as part of the Ottoman empire. The only exception, resulting from the Ottoman law under which foreigners are allowed to acquire and hold real property, is the land tax. (All taxes formerly paid by natives and not by foreigners have been abolished in Egypt, but the immunity described constitutes a most serious obstacle to the redistribution of the burden of taxation in a more equitable manner.)
From the purely Egyptian point of view the most powerful restriction in this first category remains to be named. In 1883 the supervision exercised over the finances by French and British controllers was replaced by that of a British official called the financial adviser. The British government has declared that “no financial decision shall be taken without his consent,” a declaration never questioned by the Egyptian government. This restriction, therefore, is at the same time the chief safeguard for the purity of Egypt’s finances.
In the second category of restrictions, namely, those dependent on the London Convention, were the various commissions or boards known as Mixed Administrations and having relations of a quasi-independent character with the ministry of finance. Of these boards by far the most important was the Caisse. As first constituted it consisted of a French, an Austrian, and an Italian member; a British member was added in 1877 and a German and a Russian member in 1885. The revenue assigned to the debt charges was paid direct to the Caisse without passing through the ministry of finance. The assent of the Caisse (as well as that of the sultan) was necessary before any new loan could be issued, and in the course of a few years from its creation this body acquired very extensive powers. Besides the Caisse there was the Railway Board, which administered the railways, telegraphs and port of Alexandria for the benefit of the bondholders, and the Daïra and Domains commissions, which administered the estates mortgaged to the holders of those loans. Each of the three boards last named consisted of an Englishman, a Frenchman and an Egyptian.
During the two years that followed the signing of the London Convention, the financial policy of the Egyptian government was directed to placing the country in a position to resume full payment of the interest on the debt in 1887, and The race against bankruptcy. thereby to avoid the appointment of an international commission. By the exercise of the most rigid economy in all branches this end was attained, though budgetary equilibrium was only secured by a variety of financial expedients, justified by the vital importance of saving Egypt from further international interference. By such means this additional complication was averted, but the struggle to put Egypt in a genuinely solvent position was by no means over. It was not until his report on the financial results of 1888 that Sir Evelyn Baring (afterwards Lord Cromer) was able to inform the British government that the situation was such that “it would take a series of untoward events seriously to endanger the stability of Egyptian finance and the solvency of the Egyptian government.” From this moment the corner was turned, and the era of financial prosperity commenced. The results of the labours of the preceding six years began to manifest themselves with a rapidity which surprised the most sanguine observers. The principal feature of the successive Egyptian budgets of 1890-1894 was the fiscal relief afforded to the population. From 1894 onward more attention was paid than had hitherto been possible to the legitimate demands of the spending departments and to the prosecution of public works. Of these the most notable was the construction (1898-1902) of the Assuan dam, which by bringing more land under cultivation permanently increased the resources of the country and widened the area of taxation.
With the accumulating proofs of the financial stability of the country various changes were made in connexion with the debt charges. With the consent of the powers a General Reserve Fund was created by decree of the 12th of July Reserve funds. 1888, into which was paid the Caisse’s half-share in the eventual surplus of revenue. This fund, primarily intended as a security for the bondholders, might be drawn upon for extraordinary expenditure with the consent of the commissioners of the Caisse. Large sums were so advanced for the purposes of drainage and irrigation and other public works, and in relief of taxation. The defect of this arrangement consisted in the necessity of obtaining the consent of the commissioners—a consent sometimes withheld on purely political grounds. At the same time it is believed that but for the faculty given by the decree of 1888 to spend the General Reserve Fund on public works, the financial system elaborated by the London Convention would have broken down altogether. Between 1888 and 1904 about £10,000,000 was devoted from this fund to public works.
In June 1890 the assent of the powers was obtained to the conversion of the Preference (Privileged), Domains and Daïra loans on the following conditions, imposed at the initiative of the French government:—
1. The employment of the economies resulting from the conversion was to be the subject of future agreement with the powers.
2. The Daïra loan was to be reimbursed at 85%, instead of 80%, as provided by the Law of Liquidation.
3. The sales of Domains and Daïra lands were to be restricted to £E.300,000 a year each, thus prolonging the period of liquidation of those estates.
The interest on the Preference stock was reduced from 5 to 3½%, and on the Domains from 5 to 4¼%. As regards the Daïra loan, there was no apparent reduction in the rate of interest, which remained at 4%, but the bondholders received £85 of the new stock for every £100 of the old. The capital of the debt was increased by £1,945,000 by these conversions, while the annual economy to the Egyptian government amounted at the time of the conversion to £E.348,000. Further, an engagement was entered into that there should be no reimbursement of the loans till 1905 for the Preference and Daïra, and 1908 for the Domains. By an arrangement concluded in June 1898, between the Egyptian government and a syndicate, the unsold balance of the Daïra estates was taken over by the syndicate in October 1905, for the amount of the debt remaining, when the Daïra loan ceased to exist. The fund formed by the accumulation of the economies resulting from the conversion of the Privileged, Daïra and Domains loan was known as the Conversion Economies Fund. The fund could not be used for any purpose without the consent of the powers, and the money paid into it was invested by the Caisse in Egyptian stock. The fund therefore acted as a very expensive sinking fund, the market price of the stock purchased being above par. Up to 1904 the consent of the powers to the employment of this fund for any purpose of public utility was withheld. On the 31st of December of that year the fund amounted to £E.6,031,000. It may be added that besides the General Reserve Fund and the Conversion Economies Fund, there existed another fund called the Special Reserve Fund. This was constituted in 1886 and was chiefly made up of the net savings of the Egyptian government on its share of the annual surpluses from revenue. Of the three funds this last-named was the only one at the absolute disposal of the government. The whole of the extraordinary expenditure of the Sudan campaigns of 1896-1898, with the exception of £800,000 granted by the British government, was paid out of this fund—a sum amounting in round figures to £1,500,000.
Notwithstanding all the hampering conditions stated, the prosperity of the country became more manifest each succeeding year. During the four years 1883-1886, both inclusive, the aggregate deficit amounted to £E.2,606,000. In An era of prosperity. 1887 there was practical equilibrium in the budget, in 1888 there was a deficit of £E.53,000. In 1889 there was a surplus of £E.218,000, and from that date onward every year has shown a surplus. In 1895 the surplus exceeded, for the first time, £E.1,000,000. The growth of revenue was no less marked. “In 1883—the first complete year after the British occupation—the revenue was slightly under 9 millions. This sum was collected with difficulty. The revenue steadily rose until, in 1890, the figure of 10 millions was exceeded. In 1897 a figure of over 11 millions was attained. Continuing to rise with ever-increasing rapidity, a revenue of close on 12 millions was collected in 1901 and 1902, in spite of the fact that during the latter of these two years the Nile flood was one of the lowest on record. In 1903 the revenue amounted to 12½ millions, and in 1904 the unprecedented figure of £E.13,906,000 was reached.” Yet during this period the amount of direct taxation remitted reached £E.1,900,000 a year. Arrears of land tax to the extent of £E.1,245,000 were cancelled. In indirect taxation the salt tax had been reduced by 40%, the postal, railway and telegraph rates lowered, octroi duties and bridge and lock dues abolished. The only increase of taxation had been on tobacco, on which the duty was raised from P.T. 14 to P.T. 20 per kilogramme. At the same time the house duty, with the consent of the powers, had been imposed on European residents. The fact that during the period under review Egypt suffered very severely from the general fall in the price of commodities makes the prosperity of the country the more remarkable. Had it not been for the great increase of production as the result of improved irrigation and the fiscal relief afforded to landowners, the agricultural depression would have impaired the financial situation. In this connexion it should be stated that during 1899 the reassessment of the land tax, a much-needed reform, was seriously taken in hand. The existing assessment, made before the British occupation, had long been condemned by all competent authorities, but the inherent intricacies and difficulties of the problem had hitherto postponed a solution. After careful study and a preliminary examination of the land, a scheme was passed which has given satisfaction to the landowning community, and which distributes the tax equitably in proportion to the fertility of the soil. The reassessment was completed in 1907.
While the country thus prospered it also suffered greatly from the restrictions imposed by the system of international control. This system produced a great disproportion between the sums available for capital and those available for The cost of internationalism. administrative expenditure. Although the money for public works could be obtained out of grants from the General Reserve Fund, there was no fund from which to provide a sufficient sum to keep those works in order. Moreover, to avoid having to pay half the amount received into the General Reserve Fund the government was compelled to keep certain items of revenue and expenditure out of the accounts altogether—a violation of the principles of sound finance. Then there was the glaring anomaly of allowing the Conversion Economies to accumulate at compound interest in the hands of the commissioners of the Caisse, instead of using the money for remunerative purposes. The net result of internationalism was to impose an extra charge of about £1,750,000 a year on the Egyptian treasury.
All these cumbersome restrictions were swept away by the khedivial decree of the 28th of November 1904, a decree which received the assent of the powers and was the result of the Anglo-French agreement of April 1904 (see § History).Egypt gains financial liberty. The decree did not affect the inability of Egypt to tax foreigners without their consent nor remove the right of Turkey to veto the issue of new loans, but in other respects the financial changes made by it were of a radical character. The main effect was to give to the Egyptian government a free hand in the disposal of its own resources so long as the punctual payment of interest on the debt was assured. The plan devised by the London Convention of fixing a limit to administrative expenditure was abolished. The consent of the Caisse to the raising of a new loan was no longer required. The Caisse itself remained, but shorn of all political and administrative powers, its functions being strictly limited to receiving the assigned revenues and to ensuring the due payment of the coupon. The nature of the assigned revenue was altered, the land tax being substituted for those previously assigned, that tax being chosen as it had a greater character of stability than any other source of revenue. By this means Egypt gained complete control of its railways, telegraphs, the port of Alexandria and the customs, and as a consequence the mixed administration known as the Railway Board ceased to exist. Moreover, it was provided that when the Caisse had received from the land tax the amount needed for the service of the debt, the balance of the tax was to be paid direct to the Egyptian treasury. The Conversion Economies Fund was also placed at the free disposal of the Egyptian government. The General Reserve Fund ceased to exist, but for the better security of the bondholders a reserve fund of £1,800,000 was constituted and left in the hands of the Caisse to be used in the highly improbable event of the land tax being insufficient to meet the debt charges. Moreover, the Caisse started under the new arrangement with a cash balance of £1,250,000. The interest of the money lying in the hands of the Caisse goes towards meeting the debt charges and thus reduces the amount needed from the land tax. The bondholders gained a further material advantage by the consent of the Egyptian government to delay the conversion of the loans, which under previous arrangements they would have been free to do in 1905. It was agreed that there should be no conversion of the Guaranteed or Privileged debts before 1910 and no conversion of the Unified debt until 1912. Such were the chief provisions of the khedivial decree, and in 1905, for the first time, it was possible to draw up the Egyptian budget in accordance with the needs of the country and on perfectly sound principles.
In the system adopted in 1905 and since maintained, recurring and non-recurring expenditure were shown separately, the non-recurring expenditure being termed “special.” At the same time a new General Reserve Fund was created, made up chiefly of the surpluses of the old General Reserve, Special Reserve, and Conversion Economies funds. This new fund started with a capital of £13,376,000 and was replenished by the surpluses of subsequent years, by the interest earned by its temporary investment, and by the sums accruing by the liquidation of the Daïra and Domains loans. During 1905 and 1906 about £3,000,000 was paid into the fund through the liquidation of the Daïra loan. From this fund, which had a balance of over £12,000,000 in 1906, is taken capital expenditure on remunerative public works in Egypt and the Sudan, and while the fund lasts the necessity for any new loan is avoided. The greater freedom of action attained as the result of the Anglo-French declaration of 1904 enabled the Egyptian government to advance simultaneously along the lines of fiscal reform and increased administrative expenditure. Thus in 1906 the salt monopoly was abolished at a cost to the revenue of £175,000, while the reduction of import duties on coal and other fuels, live-stock, &c., involved a further loss of £118,000, and an increase of over £1,000,000 in expenditure was budgeted for. The accounts for 1907 showed a total revenue of £E.16,368,000 and a total expenditure of £E.14,280,000, a surplus of £E.2,088,000. The annual growth of revenue for the previous five years averaged over £E.500,000. About one-third of the annual revenue is derived from the land tax; customs and tobacco duties yield about £3,000,000, and an equal or larger amount is received from railways and other revenue-earning departments. The chief items of ordinary expenditure are tribute and debt charges, the expenses of the civil administration, of the Egyptian army (between £500,000 and £600,000 yearly), of the revenue-earning departments and of pensions.
It will be convenient here to summarize the position of the Egyptian debt at the close of 1905, that is at the period immediately following the liquidation of the Daïra loan. In a previous table it has been shown that under the Law of Liquidation of 1880 the total debt was £98,640,000. In 1883, the first complete year after the British occupation, the capital of the debt—then exclusively held by the public—was £96,457,000. In 1885 the Guaranteed loan, the nominal capital of which was £9,424,000, was issued, and in 1891 the debt reached its maximum figure of £106,802,000. At that period the charge for interest and sinking fund was £4,127,000. On the 31st of December 1905 the total capital of the debt was as follows:—
The charge on account of interest and sinking fund was £3,709,000. Thus the capital of the debt in 1905 stood at almost the exact figure it did in 1883, although by borrowing and conversion operations nearly £17,000,000 had in the meantime been added to the capital. This reduction was brought about by surplus revenue, and by the operation of the sinking fund in the case of the Guaranteed loan, while £15,729,000 had been wiped out by the sale of Daïra and Domains property. These figures do not, however, indicate fully the prosperity of the country, for although the nominal amount of the capital was practically identical in 1883 and 1905, in the latter year the Egyptian government or the Caisse held stock (bought with surplus revenue) to the value of £8,770,000. The amount of debt in the hands of the public was therefore only £87,714,000, that is to say £8,743,000 less than in 1883, while the interest charge to be borne by the taxpayer of Egypt was £3,378,000, being £890,000 less than in 1883. The charge amounts to about 40% of the national expenditure. On the other hand, Egypt is not now weighed down with a huge warlike expenditure. There is no navy to support, and the army costs but 7% of the total expenditure.
Authorities.—A concise view of the financial situation in 1877 will be found in J. C. McCoan’s Egypt as it is (London n.d.). Mr Cave’s report is printed in an appendix. The subsequent history of Egyptian finance is told in the following blue-books, &c.:—Correspondence respecting the State Domains of Egypt (1883); Statement of the Revenue and Expenditure of Egypt, together with a List of the Egyptian Bonds and the Charges for their Services (1885); Reports on the Finances of Egypt, by the British agent, yearly from 1888; Convention . . . relative to the Finance of Egypt, signed at London, March 18, 1885; Khedivial decree of the 28th November 1904; Compte général de l’administration des finances, issued yearly at Cairo. Consult also the works of Lord Cromer, Lord Milner, and Sir A. Colvin cited under § History, last section. (E. Go.; F. R. C.)
The Egyptian Army.
The fellah soldier has been aptly likened to a bicycle, which although incapable of standing up alone, is very useful while under the control of a skilful master. It is generally believed that the successes gained in the time of the Early history. Pharaohs were due to foreign legions; and from Cambyses to Alexander, from the Ptolemies to Antony (Cleopatra), from Augustus to the 7th century, throughout the Arab period, and from Saladin’s dynasty down to the middle of the 13th century, the military power of Egypt was dependent on mercenaries. The Mamelukes (slaves), imported from the eastern borders of the Black Sea and then trained as soldiers, usurped the government of Egypt, and held it till 1517, when the Ottomans began to rule. This form of government, speaking generally, endured till the French invasion at the end of the 18th century. British and Turkish troops drove the French out after an occupation of two years, the British troops remaining till 1803. Then Mehemet Ali, a small tobacconist of Kavala, Macedonia, coming with Albanian mercenaries, made himself governor, and later (1811), by massacring the Mamelukes, became the actual master of the country, and after seven years’ war brought Arabia under Egypt’s rule. He subdued Nubia and Sennar in 1820-22; and then, requiring a larger army, he obtained instructors from France. To them were handed over 1000 Turks and Circassians to be trained as officers, who later took command of 30,000 Sudanese. These died so rapidly in Egypt from pneumonia that Mehemet Ali conscripted over 250,000 fellahin, and in so arbitrary a fashion that many peasants mutilated themselves to avoid the much-dreaded service. The common practice was to place a small piece of nitrate of silver into the eye, which was then kept tightly bandaged till the sight was destroyed. Battalions were then formed of one-eyed men, and of soldiers who, having cut off their right-hand fingers, were made to shoot from the left shoulder. Every man who could not purchase exemption, with the exception of those living in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, on becoming 19 years old was liable nominally to 12 years’ service; but many men were kept for 30 or 40 years, in spite of constant appeals. Nevertheless the experiment succeeded. The docile, yet robust and hardy peasants, under their foreign leaders, gained an unbroken series of successes in the first Syrian War; and after the bloody battle of Konia (1832), where the raw Turkish army was routed and the grand vizier taken prisoner, it was only European intervention which prevented the Egyptian general, Ibrahim Pasha, from marching unopposed to the Bosphorus. The defeat of the Turkish army at Nizib (Nezeeb or Nisib), in the second Syrian War (1839), showed that it was possible to obtain favourable military results with Egyptians when stiffened by foreigners and well commanded. Ibrahim, the hero of Konia, declared, however, that no native Egyptian ought to rise higher than the rank of sergeant; and in the Syrian campaigns nearly all the officers were Turks or Circassians, as were several non-commissioned officers. In the cavalry and artillery many of the privates were foreigners, numbers of the janissaries who escaped the massacre at Stamboul (1832) having joined Mehemet Ali‘s army.
In the reign of Abbas, who succeeded Mehemet Ali, the Egyptian troops were driven from Nejd, and the Wahhabi state recovered its independence. The next viceroy, Said, began as an ardent soldier, but took to agriculture, and at his death (1863) 3000 men only were retained under arms. Ismail, on succeeding, immediately added 27,000 men, and in seven years was able to put 100,000 men, well equipped, in the field. He sent 10,000 men to help to suppress a rebellion in Crete, and conquered the greater part of the (Nile) Sudan; but an expedition of 11,000 men, sent to Abyssinia under Prince Hasan and Rateb Pasha, well equipped with guns and all essentials, was, in two successive disasters (1875 and 1876), practically destroyed. The education of Egyptians in continental cities had not produced the class of leaders who led the fellahin to victory at Konia.
Ismail’s exactions from the Egyptian peasantry reacted on the army, causing discontent; and when he was tottering on the throne he instigated military demonstrations against his own government, and, by thus sapping the foundations of discipline, assisted Arabi’s revolution; the result was the battle of Tell el-Kebir, the British occupation, and the disbandment of the army, which at that time in Egypt proper consisted of 18,000 men. Ismail had collected 500 field-guns, 200 Armstrong cannon, and had created factories of warlike and other stores. These latter were conducted extravagantly, and badly administered.
In January 1883, Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., was given £200,000, and directed to spend it in raising a fellahin force of 6000 men for the defence of Egypt. He was assisted at first by 26 officers, amongst whom were Reorganization. two who later became successively sirdars—Colonel F. Grenfell, commanding a brigade, and Lieutenant H. Kitchener, R.E., second in command of the cavalry regiment. There were four batteries, eight battalions, and a camel company. Each battalion of the 1st infantry brigade had three British mounted officers, Turks and Egyptians holding the corresponding positions in the battalions of the 2nd Brigade. The sirdar selected these native officers from those of Arabi’s followers who had been the least prominent in the recent mutiny; non-commissioned officers who had been drill-instructors in the old army were recalled temporarily, but all the privates were conscripted from their villages. The earlier merciless practice had been in theory abolished by a decree based on the German system, published in 1880; but owing to defective organization, and internal disturbances induced by Khedive Ismail’s follies, the law had not been applied, and the 6000 recruits collected at Cairo in January 1883 represented the biggest and strongest peasants who could not purchase exemption by bribing the officials concerned. The difficulties experienced in applying the 1880 decree were great, but the perseverance of British officers gave the oppressed peasants, in 1885, an equitable law, which has been since improved by the decree of 1900. General considerations later caused the sirdar to allow exemption by payment of (Badalia) £20 before ballot. This tax, which is popular amongst the peasantry, produced in 1906 £E.150,000, and over £250,000 in 1908. This is a marked indication of the increasing prosperity of the fellahin. A portion of the badalia is expended in the betterment of the soldier’s position. He is no longer drafted into the police on completing his army service, but goes free at the end of five years with a gift of £E.20. The sirdar is allowed, moreover, to use £20,000 per annum of the badalia for the improvement of the education of the rank and file. As an experiment the police is now a voluntary service, except in Alexandria and Cairo, for which cities peasants are conscripted for the police under army conditions. The recruiting superintending committee, travelling through districts, supervise every ballot, and work under stringent rules which render systematic bribery difficult. The recruits who draw unlucky numbers at 19 years of age are seldom called up till they are 23, when they are summoned by name and escorted by a policeman to Cairo. To prevent substitution on the journey each recruit wears a string girdle sealed in lead. The periods of service are: with the colours, 5 years; in the reserve, 5 years, during which time they may be called up for police service, manœuvres, &c. The pay is £E.3, 14s. per annum for all services, and the liberal scale of rations of meat, bread and rice remains as before in theory, but in practice the value of pay and food received is greatly enhanced. So also with the pension and promotion regulations. They were in 1882 sufficiently liberal on paper, but had never been carried into effect.
The efforts of 48 American officers, who under Gen. C. P. Stone zealously served Ismail, had entirely failed to overcome Egyptian venality and intrigue; and in spite of the military schools, with a comprehensive syllabus, the only perceptible difference between the Egyptian officer and private in 1879 consisted, according to one of the Americans, in the fact that the first was the product of the harem, and the second of the field. Marshal Marmont, writing in 1839, mentions the capacity of the Egyptians for endurance; and it was tested in 1883, especially in the 2nd Brigade, since its officers (Turks and Egyptians), anxious to excel as drill-masters, worked their men not only from morn till eve, but also by lamplight in the corridors of the barracks. On the 31st March 1883, ten weeks after the arrival of the first draft of recruits, about 5600 men went through the ceremonial parade movements as practised by the British guards in Hyde Park, with unusual precision. The British officers had acquired the words of command in Turkish, as used in the old army, an attempt to substitute Egyptian words having failed owing to lack of crisp, sharp-sounding words. As the Egyptian brigadier, who had spent some years in Berlin, spoke German fluently, and it was also understood by the senior British officers, that language was used for all commands given by the sirdar on that special parade. The British drill-book, minus about one-third of the least serviceable movements, was translated by an English officer, and by 1900 every necessary British official book had been published in English and Arabic, except the new Recruiting Law (1885) and a manufacturing manual, for which French and Arabic editions are in use. The discipline of the old army had been regulated by a translation of part of the Code Napoleon, which was inadequate for an Eastern army, and the sirdar replaced it by the British Army Act of 1881, slightly modified, and printed in Arabic.
The task undertaken by the small body of British officers was difficult. There was not one point in the former administration of the army acceptable to English gentlemen. That there had been no adequate auxiliary departments, without which an army cannot move or be efficient, was comparatively a minor difficulty. To succeed, it was essential that the fellah should be taught that discipline might be strict without being oppressive, that pay and rations would be fairly distributed, that brutal usage by superiors would be checked, that complaints would be thoroughly investigated, and impartial justice meted out to soldiers of all ranks. An epidemic of cholera in the summer of 1883 gave the British officers their first chance of acquiring the esteem and confidence of their men, and the opportunity was nobly utilized. While the patient fellah, resigned to the decrees of the Almighty, saw the ruling Egyptian class hurry away from Cairo, he saw also those of his comrades who were stricken tenderly nursed, soothed in death’s struggles, and in many cases actually washed, laid out and interred by their new self-sacrificing and determined masters. The regeneration of the fellahin army dates from that epidemic.
When the Egyptian Army of the Delta was dispersed at Tell el-Kebir, the khedive had 40,000 troops in the Sudan, scattered from Massawa on the Red Sea to 1200 m. towards the west, and from Wadi Halfa, 1500 m. southward to Wadelai, near Albert Nyanza. These were composed of Turks, Albanians, Circassians and some Sudanese. Ten thousand fellahin, collected in March 1883, mainly from Arabi’s former forces, set out from Duem, 100 m. south of Khartum, in September 1883, under Hicks Pasha, a dauntless retired Indian Army officer, to vanquish the Mahdi. They disappeared in the deserts of Kordofan, where they were destroyed by the Mahdists about 50 m. south of El Obeid. In the wave of successful rebellion, except at Khartum, few of the Egyptian garrisons were killed when the posts fell, long residence and local family ties rendering easy their assimilation in the ranks of the Mahdists.
Baker Pasha, with about 4000 constabulary, who were old soldiers, attempted to relieve Tokar in February 1884. He was attacked by 1200 tribesmen and utterly routed, losing 4 Krupp guns, 2 machine guns and 3000 rifles. Only 1400 Egyptians escaped the slaughter.
The sirdar made an attempt to raise a battalion of Albanians, but the few men obtained mutinied when ordered to proceed to the Sudan, and it was deemed advisable, after the ringleaders had been executed, to abandon the idea, and rely on blacks to stiffen the fellahin. Then the 9th (Sudanese) Battalion was created for service at Suakin, and four others having been successively added, these (with one exception—at Gedaref) have since borne the brunt of all the fighting which has been done by the khedivial troops. The Egyptian troops in the operations near Suakin behaved well; and there were many instances of personal gallantry by individual soldiers. In the autumn of 1884, when a British expedition went up the Nile to endeavour to relieve the heroic Gordon, besieged in Khartum, the Egyptians did remarkably good work on the line of communication from Assiut to Korti, a distance of 800 m., and the training and experience thus gained were of great value in all subsequent operations. The honesty and discipline of the fellah were shown to be undoubtedly of a high order. When the crews of the whale-boats were conveying stores, the forwarding officers tried to keep brandy and such like medical comforts from the European crews, coffee and tea from Canadian voyageurs and sugar from Kroo boys. The only immaculate carrier was the Egyptian. A large sum of specie having failed under British escort to reach Dongola, an equivalent sum was handed to an Egyptian lieutenant of six months’ service, with 10 men, and duly reached its destination.
Twelve years later the standard of honesty was unimpaired, and the British officers had imparted energy and activity into Egyptians of all ranks. The intelligent professional knowledge of the native officers, taught under British gentlemen, and the constant hard work cheerfully rendered by the fellah soldiers, were the main factors of the success achieved at Omdurman on the 2nd of September 1898. The large depots of stores at Assuan, Halfa and Dongola could only be cursorily supervised by British officers, and yet when the stores were received at the advance depot the losses were infinitesimal.
By nature the fellah is unwarlike. Born in the valley of a great river, he resembles in many respects the Bengali, who exists under similar conditions; but the Egyptian has proved capable of greater improvement. He is Character of Egyptian soldier. stronger in frame, and can undergo greater exertion. Singularly unemotional, he stood steady at Tell el-Kebir after Arabi Pasha and all his officers, from general to subaltern, had fled, and gave way only when decimated by the British field artillery firing case shot. At El Teb, however, in 1884 he allowed himself to be slaughtered by tribesmen formerly despised, and only about one-fourth of the force under General Valentine Baker escaped. Baker Pasha’s force was termed constabulary, yet his men were all old soldiers, though new to their gallant leader and to the small band of their brave but strange British officers. Since that fatal day, however, many of the fellahin have shown they are capable of devoted conduct, and much has been done to raise in the soldiers a sense of self-respect, and, in spite of centuries of oppression, of veracity. The barrack-square drill was smart under the old system, but there was no fire discipline, and all individuality was crushed. Now both are encouraged, and the men, receiving their full rations, are unsurpassable in endurance at work and in marching. All the troops present in the surprise fight when the Dervish force was destroyed at Firket in June 1896 had covered long distances, and one battalion (the 10th Sudanese) accomplished 90 m. within 72 hours, including the march back to railhead immediately after the action. The troops under Colonel Parsons, Royal Artillery, who beat the Dervishes at Gedaref, were so short of British officers that all orders were necessarily given in Arabic and carried to commanders of units by Arabs. While an Egyptian battalion was attacking in line, it was halted to repel a rush from the rear, and front and rear ranks were simultaneously engaged, firing in opposite directions—yet the fellahin were absolutely steady; they shot well and showed no signs of trepidation. On the other hand, neither was there any exultation after their victory. It has been aptly said “the fellah would make an admirable soldier if he only wished to kill some one!” The fellahin furnish three squadrons, five batteries, three garrison artillery companies and nine battalions.
The well-educated Egyptian officer, with his natural aptitude for figures, does subordinate regimental routine carefully, and works well when supervised by men of stronger character. The ordinary Egyptian is not self-reliant or energetic by nature, and, like most Eastern people, finds it difficult to be impartial where duty and family or other personal relations are in the balance. The black soldier has, on the other hand, many of the finest fighting qualities. This was observed by British officers, from the time of the preliminary operations about Kosha and at the action near Ginnis in December 1885 down to the brilliant operations in the pursuit of the Mahdists on the Blue Nile after the action of Gedaref (subsequent to the battle of Omdurman), and the fighting in Kordofan in 1899, which resulted in the death of the khalifa and his amirs.
Black soldiers served in the army of Mehemet Ali, but their fighting value was not then duly appreciated. Prior to the death of the khalifa, many of his soldiers deserted to join their brethren who had been captured by the sirdar’s troops, during the gradual advance up the Nile. After 1899 many more enlisted: the greater number were Shilluks and Dinkas coming from the country between Fashoda and the equatorial provinces, but a proportion came from the western borders of the Sudan, and some from Wadai and Bornu. Many were absolute savages, difficult to control, wayward and thoughtless like children. Sudanese are very excitable and apt to get out of hand; unlike the fellahs they are not fond of drill, and are slow to acquire it; but their dash, pugnacious instincts and desire to close with an enemy, are valuable military qualities. The Sudanese, moreover, shoot better than the fellahin, whose eyesight is often defective. The Sudanese captain can seldom read or write, and is therefore in the hands of the Egyptian-born company quartermaster-sergeant as regards pay and clothing accounts. He is slow, and as a rule has little knowledge of drill. Nevertheless he is self-reliant, much respected by his men, and can be trusted in the field to carry out any orders received from his British officer. The most efficient companies in the Sudanese battalions are apparently those in which the captain is a black and the lieutenants are Egyptians.
In 1908 the Egyptian army, with a total establishment of 18,000, consisted of three squadrons of cavalry (one composed of Sudanese) each numbering 116 men; four batteries of field artillery and a Maxim battery, horses and mules being used, with a total strength of 1257 of all ranks; the camel corps, 626 of all ranks (fellahin and Sudanese); and nine fellahin and six Sudanese infantry battalions, 10,631 of all ranks. Every battalion receives two additional companies on mobilization and takes the field with six companies.
The armament of the infantry is Martini-Henry rifle and bayonet; of the cavalry, lance, sword and carbine.
There are seven gunboats on the Nile.
The medical department (reorganized in 1883 by Surgeon-Major J. G. Rogers at the time of the cholera epidemic) controls in peace fourteen station hospitals, and in war furnishes a mobile field hospital to each brigade. There are also veterinary station hospitals. The supply department controls mills at Tura, Halfa and Khartum.
The stringent system of selecting British officers, originated by the first sirdar in 1883, is shown by the fact that of the 24 employed in creating the army, 14 rose to be generals. The competition for employment in the army is still severe. In 1908 there were 140 British warrant and non-commissioned officers. Four of the fellahin battalions were officered by Orientals; in the other five, British officers commanded. Seven officers were employed with the artillery, six with the camel corps. Each of the Sudanese battalions had four British officers, and each squadron of cavalry one. Twelve medical and two veterinary officers are also employed departmentally, as well as officers acting as directors of supply, &c. Since the assumption of command by the third sirdar, Colonel (afterwards Lord) Kitchener, the ordnance, supply and engineer services have been separately administered, and a financial secretary is charged with the duty of preparing the budget, making contracts, &c. The total annual expenditure is £500,000.
The reorganized military school system under British control, for supplying officers, dates from 1887. The course lasts for about two years, and two hundred students can be accommodated. After the reconquest of the Sudan one-fourth of the cadets in the military school of Cairo were Sudanese. Later, however, the Sudanese cadets were transferred to a branch school at Khartum.
The army raised by the first sirdar in January 1883 was highly commended for its work on the line of communication in 1884-1885, and its artillery and camelry distinguished themselves in the action at Kirbekan in February 1885. Colonel Sir Francis Grenfell succeeded General Sir Evelyn Wood in March 1885, and while under his command the army continued to improve, and fought successful actions at Gemaiza, Argin, Toski and Tokar. At Toski the Dervish force was nearly annihilated. In March 1892 Colonel Kitchener succeeded General Sir Francis Grenfell, and four years later began his successful reconquest of the Sudan. In June 1896, owing to the indefatigable exertions of Major Wingate, a perfected system of secret intelligence enabled the sirdar to bring an overwhelming force of 6 to 1 against the Dervish outpost at Firket and destroy it. In September 1896 a skirmish at Hafir, with similarly successful tactics, gave the British commander the possession of Dongola. On the 7th of August 1897 Colonel Hunter surprised and annihilated a weak Dervish garrison at Abu Hamed, to which place, by the 31st of October 1897, a railway had been laid across the Nubian desert from Wadi Halfa, a distance of 230 m., the “record” construction of 5300 yds surveyed, embanked and laid in one day having been attained. On the 26th of December 1897 the Italian troops handed over Kassala to Colonel Parsons, R.A. On the 8th of April 1898 a British division, with the Egyptian army, destroyed the Dervish force under the amir Mahmud Ahmed, on the Atbara river. On the 2nd of September the khalifa attacked the British-Egyptian troops at Kerreri (near Omdurman), and being routed, his men dispersed; Khartum was occupied, and on the 19th of September the Egyptian flag was rehoisted at Fashoda. On the 22nd of September 1898 Gedaref was taken from the amir Ahmed Fedil by Colonel Parsons, and on the 26th of December the army of Ahmed Fedil was finally defeated and dispersed near Roseires. The khalifa’s army, reduced to an insignificant number, after several unsuccessful engagements withdrew to the west of the Nile, where it was attacked, on the 24th of November 1899, after a forced march by Colonel Wingate, and annihilated. The khalifa himself was killed; while the victor, who had joined the Egyptian army in 1883 as aide-de-camp to the first sirdar, in December 1899 became the fourth sirdar, as Major-General Sir F. R. Wingate, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., &c. (E. Wo.)
- A vivid description of Cairo during the prevalence of plague in 1835 will be found in A. W. Kinglake’s Eothen.
- A kantar equals 99 ℔.
- To the ministry of public instruction was added in 1906 a department of agriculture and technical instruction.
- The place of publication is London unless otherwise stated.
- The figures of the debt are always given in £ sterling. The budget figures are in £E. (pounds Egyptian), equal to £1, 0s. 6d.
- Egypt, No. 1 (1905), p. 20.
- Similar mortality, though on a smaller scale, recurred in 1889, when Sudanese battalions coming from Suakin were detained temporarily in Cairo.