This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
Fellahs (Aralb, fallah, a cultivator), a term applied without distinction to all the peasantry in Syria, Arabia, and Egypt. Of the various races which exist in Egypt the Fellahs are the most ancient, and are probably mainly the descendants of the old Egyptians. They still present a physiognomy resembling that which is found upon ancient Egyptian sculptures. A patient and laborious population, they have held for ages the soil which the Nile fertilizes. They are generally of large stature, with broad chests, muscular limbs, and black and piercing eyes. The conformation of the brain indicates an intelligent race, the facial angle being usually almost a right angle, though within the Delta the Arab type of countenance predominates. The antique Egyptian type reappears most strikingly in the women, who, though slender and graceful, are remarkably strong. The dress of the Fellahs indicates misery and privation, being rarely more than a shirt, leaving bare the arms, legs, and breast. Their ordinary nourishment is coarse bread, water, and onions, to which they are sometimes able to add cheese, dates, beans, or rice. They live in huts about four feet high, the only furniture of which is a mat on which to sleep, a water jug, and a few kitchen utensils.
They remain attached to the rudest agricultural methods, and use almost the same implements as their remote ancestors; yet the fruitfulness of the soil compensates for their lack of skill. Mehemet Ali failed in his efforts to introduce among them the implements of modern invention. They are able to endure the greatest fatigue, and to work through the whole day in a burning climate with very little food, accompanying their labors with songs. The women share the heaviest labors of the men.-The Fellahs in Palestine are addicted to theft and robbery, and are averse to work unless compelled by necessity. This arises partly from their natural indolence, and partly from the exactions of an arbitrary government, which views with distrust any acquisition of wealth. They are generally in debt to usurers, who lend them money at a ruinous rate of interest.