Open main menu

Letter VI.




Naples. Beggars. Pompeii. Earthquakes. Herculanseum. Museum. "Secret Cabinet." Ascent of Vesuvius. Pliny the Elder. From Naples to Brindisi. Hardworking women. Corfu. Religious service in a Greek cathedral. Take steamer for Alexandria. Egypt. Turkish mosques. Copts. Mohammedan schools. Male and Female attire. Dervish worship. Suez. Red Sea.

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT, FEBRUARY GTH, 1873. Editor Deseret N&ivs:

The city of Naples contains a population of over half a million. It is beautifully situated on the slope of a range of hills bordering the Mediter- ranean. Including its suburbs, it is nearly eighteen miles in circumference. The streets, like those of most other cities of Europe, are generally narrow, though some are wide, handsomely paved, and bordered with elegant buildings, five, six and seven stories high. We noticed in many parts of the city that the lower stories are built without windows; air and light being admitted through the door in front, which is generally large, always stand- ing open, except at night, when the occupants retire to rest. These apart- ments were swarming with laboring people, many of whom appeared in great poverty. We have visited no city where so much begging is practised as in Naples. In many places beggars thronged us by multitudes.

We visited Pompeii, distant a few miles from Naples, and spent several hours in walking through the streets and examining its interesting and mournful ruins. In the year A. D. 63, the city was partially destroyed by an earthquake. The inhabitants abandoned the town, but returned directly afterwards, and it had regained nearly all its splendor, when, at midday, on November 23d, A. D. 79, the eruption destined to destroy it commenced. The wooden roofs of the houses were either set on fire or broken in by the weight of the matter deposited on them. It is though* that, inasmuch as but few skeletons have been found, nearly all of the inhabitants were enabled to escape. They returned soon afterwards to dig the soil in which the town was buried, and carried away the valuables left in their houses, and some precious objects from the public edifices. The villa of Diomede is one of the largest establishments. The remains of seventeen persons were found there during the excavations. Some of them


were shown us at Pompeii, others we saw in the National Museum in Naples. Close by the garden gate of this villa were discovered the skeletons of the proprietor and his attendant one holding in his hand the keys of the villa; the other, a purse which contained one hundred gold and silver coins.

Quite a large portion of the city is now excavated, exhibiting streets, private buildings, temples, theatres, fountains, wine cellars, public squares, etc., in a wonderful state of preservation. The whole resembles a large, magnificent town, the inhabitants of which had suddenly fled, or gone out on a general excursion.

In returning to Naples we stopped a short time in Herculanseum, which contains some objects of interest. The ancient theatre has been excavated, which appears to have consisted of nineteen tiers of seats, sufficient to accommodate ten thousand persons; its orchestra is twenty-six feet below the surface of the present town, Resina.

The next day we spent a few hours very agreeably in the celebrated Museum of Naples, which contains a vast number of apartments richly stored with relics of ancient art and science, and constitutes a general depot of the two ancient cities, Pompeii and Herculanseum, and other localities of Naples and Sicily. The "Secret Cabinet," which was formerly closed to all visitors, is now open to gentlemen, but is still closed to ladies and the Catholic clergy. Its contents exhibit, in a striking manner, the dissipated public taste, and the licentious and beastly practices of the inhabitants of those doomed cities, Pompeii and Herculanseum, showing that they well merited the terrible judgment meted out to them so suddenly.

We concluded to pay our respects to Mount Vesuvius. It is nearly four thousand feet above the level of the sea. In the eruption of A. D. 79, the elder Pliny lost his life. In 1631 several currents of lava burst forth at once and overwhelmed a number of cities at the foot of the mountain. Resina, partly built upon the site of Herculanteum, was consumed by the burning torrent, and it is said that four thousand persons perished in the catastrophe. Thirty four eruptions have taken place since 1750, extending to April, 1872. In this last, thirty persons perished upon the mountain, simply through venturing incautiously. We left our hotel in a carriage at 9 a. m., and reached the "Hermitage" at 11:30, situated upon the slope of the mountain, about one mile below the foot of the cone. The road to this point has been built at great expense, is very good, but extremely serpen- tine, passing over fields and hills of lava, which have been thrown out from the crater at different periods. We could proceed no further by carriage. President Smith, according to previous arrangement, was carried in an arm- chair, upon the shoulders of four Italians, to the foot of the cone, while others rode on ponies to the same point, over a tortuous path, in places very


narrow and rocky. Here we left our ponies. President Smith, borne upon the shoulders of his stalwart bearers, took the lead, while we followed, assisted by our strong walkingsticks. The ascent was difficult and fatiguing in places very steep, with ashes and sand nearly one foot and a half deep. We enjoyed a magnificent view of the surrounding country, the long range of the Apennines in the distance, covered with its snowy mantle, the ruins of Pompeii, the beautiful city of Naples and its great bay, dotted with many ships and steamers. We were one hour and a quarter in making the summit after leaving the foot of the cone. The crater was partially clear of smoke, affording a fine opportunity for examining the wonderful abyss. We tumbled a few rocks over the rim, which were more than thirty seconds reaching the bottom. Some of the party tried their strength of nerve by standing upon a craggy point, which appeared to hang over the burning chasm, and thrusting sticks into the smoking apertures, which inflamed in a moment. One of the party also sought to acquire fame in boiling and eating an egg in the midst of the burning heat and sulphurous smoke. It was judged that the mouth of the crater would equal in dimensions a ten acre block. The mountain all around appeared only a thin shell in a heated state, and for a long distance below the summit, here and there, volumes of smoke are issuing. We descended the mountain at nearly a running pace, which occupied only about fifteen minutes, arrived at our hotel at nearly 6 o'clock p. m., and indulged in a remarkably late break- fast the next morning.

We left Naples by train on the thirtieth, for Brindisi. A great portion of the country through which we passed is cultivated by the spade; and we saw here, and also in many other parts of Italy, the women engaged in this laborious employment; in one instance we noticed a company of women repairing a break in the railroad by carrying gravel upon their heads in baskets.

At Brindisi we took steamer for Corfu. We had a pleasant passage the sea smooth, the weather fine, like spring, and the air pure and bracing. We passed close to the coast of Albania, and had a fine view of Turkish towns and villas, which appeared here and there on the slopes of the mountains.

The city of Corfu contains about twenty-four thousand people, the island some fifteen villages, with seventy thousand inhabitants, and forms a portion of the Grecian government. The olive and grape are cultivated upon the island very extensively.

Sunday morning we attended Greek service in a magnificent cathedral. The psalms, prayers and portions of Scripture were read in modern Greek,

in a very amusing operatic style.


In the afternoon, the capacious square in front of our hotel was enliv- ened with thousands of promenaders gaily and

richly dressed. The fash- 

ionable Grecian ladies, however, made no display of the '"'Grecian Bend." A company of politicians passed us directly a row ensued, and one was stabbed to the heart a few steps from where we stood.

We took steamer for Alexandria and arrived here early this morning. We had fine weather, a smooth sea Ihe whole distance, and no sickness, a very remarkable circumstance. We remain here four days, and then pro- ceed by rail to Cairo, one hundred and thirty miles distant.


We have now completed our tour in Egypt, which in many respects has proved the most agreeable and interesting of any country we have visited in regard to its physical appearance, and the character, religion, customs and manners of its inhabitants. It occupies the northeastern part of Africa, and embraces nearly six millions of people Egyptians, Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Syrians and Mamelukes. The great majority are husbandmen, and their social condition of a low grade, generally igno- rant and uneducated and fond of frivolous amusements. The climate being warm, and their style of living cheap and simple, their habitations consist- ing chiefly of low mud huts, very little labor or expense is required for the maintenance of families. I noticed, in passing through many of their mud villages, that they appeared to be swarming with children. We were told, and from personal observation believed it to be true, that in Egypt the prac-

  • ice of raising offspring is the general rule and is fashionable and popular,

and that the estimation in which the wife is held by her husband, and even by her acquaintances, depends in a great measure upon her fruitfulness and the preservation of her children. By men and women, whether rich or poor, barrenness is considered a curse and a reproach, and it is regarded, also, as disgraceful in a man to divorce, without some substantial reason, a wife who has borne him a child, especially while her child is living. If a woman desires a husband's love, or the respect of others, her giving birth to a child is a source of great joy to her and him, making her own interest a sufficient motive for maternal tenderness. Children here appear to have great respect for their parents. We are informed that an undutiful child is scarcely known among the Egyptians or Arabs, and whenever such an instance does occur, being considered one of the greatest crimes, its punish- ment is very severe. It is said that cases are very rare in Egypt of wives being unfaithful to their husbands.

In visiting the Turkish mosques, we observed that there were no pic- tures, images, statues or altars, which universally decorate the cathedrals in


Catholic countries. Friday is their day for worship. The public service commences about noon by reading portions of the Koran, and delivering sermon or addresses by the "Imens." They hold Moses in profound rev- erence, and also Jesus Christ, but Mahomet as God's last and greatest prophet. Their creed is, "There is no Deity but God, and Mahomet is God's apostle." Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ were all God's servants in their various ages, but the greatest and best is Mahomet.

The Copts are avowed Christians, the descendants of the ancient Egyp- tians, and are very numerous. They have regular convents, nunneries, monasteries and about two hundred churches. The other religions are the Greek Church and the Latin or Eoman Catholic.

But little attention is paid to education. Parents generally content themselves with instilling into the minds of their children a few principles of religion. The child, as early as possible, is taught to say, "I testify that there is no Deity but God, and I testify that Mahomet is God's apostle." The boys are placed under a schoolmaster to be instructed in a few simple rudiments of education. The common manner of instruction is to sit upon the ground or floor, pupils and schoolmaster, each boy with his tablet in hand or a portion of the Koran or a kind of desk of palm sticks. All the boys recite or chant this lesson aloud, at the same time rocking their heads and bodies incessantly backward and forward, this practice being thought to assist the memory.

While in this country I have not witnessed a single case of intoxica- tion, though I have been in many places of large gatherings for general amusement. On every occasion the people were remarkably orderly no* boisterous speeches, loud talking or laughter. In these large crowds, and at hotels where only Egyptian servants and Arabs were employed, I con- sidered my little effects more secure than at American or European estab- lishments.

The dress of the men of the middle and higher classes consists generally of the following articles: First, a pair of drawers of linen or cotton, tied around the body by a draw-string or band, the ends of which are embroi- dered with fancy colored silk. The drawers descend a little below the knees or to the ankles. Next is worn a shirt, with full sleeves reaching to the wrists, which is made of linen or cotton, muslin or silk; over this is worn a garment of silk or cotton descending to the ankles, having long sleeves. The costume of men of the lower classes is very simple. These, if not of the very poorest class, wear drawers, or shirt or gown with wi-Je sleeves, and a woolen girdle or broad red belt. Their turban is generally composed of a white, red or yellow woolen shawl, but we saw many different forms of


turbans; the common style among the servants consists of several spiral twists, one above another, like the threads of a screw. Those worn by the upper class are of a better style. The dress of the Egyptian ladies is much after the fashion of that of men, but more elegant.

The Mohammedans, like the Christians, are divided into various religious societies, each having its peculiar tenets and practices. The Der- vishes constitute an important sect are very numerous, and in many parts of Egypt are highly respected. Their customs and modes of worship are singular and curious. Sometimes they enter a solitary cell, remain forty days and nights, fasting from daybreak till sunset, employing their time in imploring forgiveness, praising God, etc. Their religious exercises consist chiefly in the performance of what js called "zikers." Sometimes standing in the form of a circular or an oblong ring, or in two rows facing each other, sometimes sitting, they exclaim or chant "Lailah, Ella-llah!" (there is no Deity but God;) "Allah! Allah! Allah!" (God! God! God!) or repeat other invocations until their strength is nearly exhausted, accompanying their ejaculations or chants with a motion of the head, or of the whole body.

I felt a great curiosity to witness their manner of worship fortunately an opportunity presented. We took carriages, accompanied by a Dervish guide of some distinction, and proceeded to one of their mosques in Cairo. We were requested to take off our boots before entering the building their places of worship being considered sacred and holy. About fifty Dervishes were standing in the form of a semi-circle their head priest in the centre. They were bowing their heads and bodies nearly to the floor, simultaneously ^and very rapidly, keeping time to miserably wretched music, their long, flowing hair and wild, fanatical expressions, together with their horrible ejaculations and howls, made them appear more like lunatics or demons than rational beings. They continued their exercises about fifteen minutes, until, becoming exhausted, they rested a few moments, then commenced repeating the ceremonies. One of them, either through a high state of religious enthusiasm or vehemence of exertion, with a terrible groan, fell prostrate, foaming at the mouth, his eyes closed, his limbs convulsed and his fingers clenched. The Dervishes were pleased with this occurrence, considering it a divine manifestation, which increased their enthusiasm. At length the presiding Dervish raised the fallen man and placed him in the circle in charge of two of his companions. Another occurrence of similar character happened previously to our leaving the mosque. While these exercises were going on, two Dervishes stepped inside the circle and com- menced whirling around, using both feet to produce the motion, extending their arms and spinning around like tops, with great velocity. I expected


every moment to see them precipitated headlong upon the floor, but having continued nearly ten minutes, they joined the circle, apparently but little exhausted .

We were pleased with our visit in Alexandria, and with our Hotel de 1'Europe, which nearly equals the first-class hotels in America. Pompey's Pillar, Cleopatra's Needle, the Catacombs, Museum of Antiquities, etc., received a due share of our attention. But little improvement is at present being made in Alexandria, compared with that of Cairo it seems merely of importance as a maritime city.

In traveling in Egypt along the delta of the Nile, wherever its waters can reach by overflow or irrigation, the soil is remarkably rich, fertile and productive. Heavy growths of wheat, barley, clover, cane, cotton, with now and then a field of flax, also fields of beans, orange, lemon and fine vegetable gardens, with peach trees now in full bloom.

In passing from Cairo to Ismalia, we saw one steam plow in operation' but generally the ground is cultivated by rudely constructed plows drawn by oxen or an ox and camel yoked together, sometimes by two camels.

We have visited Suez and looked upon the beautiful waters of the famous Red Sea, and enjoyed a delightful sail over a portion of the great Suez Canal.

This afternoon

we leave by steamer for Jaffa, where we arrange for our 

Palestine tour, which will occupy about four weeks, and be performed on