Avenge Near Cairo.
View Of Cairo.
The Virgin's Tree.
Plowing Near Heliopolis.
On the way back from Heliopolis to Cairo, one halts before a famous sycamore, known as the Virgin's Tree, since within its hollow trunk Mary and the Child Jesus are said to have taken refuge during the flight into Egypt. Tradition adds that they would surely have been captured by Herod's agents, had not a spider, after they had entered, covered the opening with its web, thus screening them from discovery. At the inauguration of the Suez Canal, in 1869, the courteous Khedive, Ismail Pasha, presented, of course in jest, this sacred tree to the Empress Eugenie to take back with her to France as a holy relic. It is said that the witty Empress thanked him gravely, but begged him to give her, instead, as a more portable and no less authentic souvenir, the skeleton of the spider that wove the web.
In the vicinity of Cairo are several delightful drives, through avenues completely sheltered from the sun by stately sycamores and acacias. These are the fashionable promenades of the Egyptian capital, and one of them, called the Shoobra Avenue, is five miles long. Here, every afternoon during the tourist season, one sees in landaus and victorias numberless representatives of different parts of Europe and America, among whom freely mingle wealthy Turks, Arabs, and Egyptians, while not infrequently one catches a glimpse of the Khedive himself or members of his family. It is a curiously cosmopolitan sight, for in the throng of European carriages the fleet little donkeys of Egypt amble along, and gaily caparisoned camels sometimes thrust their heads disdainfully upon the scene and leer at the crowd.
Here, also, one occasionally perceives a characteristic phase of Cai-rene life in the Nubian Sais, who runs before the horse or carriage of some rich pasha, and shouts for the way to be cleared. These runners, who are usually as black as ebony, carry wands in their hands, and wear colored turbans, gold-embroidered vests and jackets, and short white skirts, beneath which flash their naked limbs and feet. At frequent intervals we see an officer in handsome uniform, with silver-mounted weapons. These guardians of the peace will sometimes condescend to interfere and clear the crowd in case of an entanglement; but usually they content themselves with glaring fiercely at the Europeans, whom they seem to hate, or with posing as royal dignitaries intended for ornament, not for use. But great is the transformation which takes place in them, whenever the Khedive himself rides by. In an instant the scowling and disdainful officer becomes as fawning and obsequious as the veriest slave, and bends his head until the royal equipage is out of sight. He is a perfect illustration of the treacherous servant, - indifferent or tyrannical to those unfortunate enough to be beneath him, - cringing and false to his superiors.
An Egyptian Woman.
Museum At Cairo.
At the end of the Shoobra Avenue is a charming palace of the same name, which is built around an artificial lake, with a marble fountain, resembling an island, in the centre.
What an air of Oriental luxury we seem to breathe, as we stroll along these graceful porticoes! The pavement is of marble mosaic, the ceiling glows with brilliant frescoes, and between them rise, like the trunks of graceful palms, a multitude of slender Moorish columns, reminding one a little of the halls of the Alhambra. The Shoobra Palace was the favorite residence of Mehemet Ali, and even when his hair and beard were white as snow, the fierce old warrior used to amuse himself here in the oddest fashion. Sitting cross-legged on a comfortable divan, he would watch for hours the adventures of the ladies of his harem, who were, at his command, rowed out upon the lake in gaily colored boats by hideous black eunuchs. Suddenly, at a secret signal given by himself, the boats would be upset and the fair occupants thrown into the water, to be dragged out amid the most ludicrous screams and struggles. At this sight, the old Viceroy would, it is said, put down his coffee-cup or pipe, loll back on his luxurious cushions, and laugh until the tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks. Strange, is it not, that this grim veteran, stained with the blood of numberless murdered Mamelukes, could have found pleasure in such childish sport?