THE great development in Egyptian agriculture and trade within the past twenty or thirty years has not been attended by corresponding improvement in the skilled industries of the country. With a few exceptions these are still as backward as they were a hundred years ago. In the three centuries of mixed Turkish and Mamlouk misrule which followed Ottoman conquest, Arab art of every kind lost its cunning, and when Bonaparte’s savants entered Cairo they found its handicrafts, as its learning, at the lowest ebb of decadence. Twenty years later Mehemet Ali began a series of efforts to revive the old mechanical skill for which Egyptian workmen had once been famous, but the special aim and the methods of his reforms in this direction were alike unsound, and costly failure was the result. Fascinated by the flattering theory then cherished by more than one European Government, of making his country independent of all others for its manufactures, he imported foreign artisans and machinery on a large scale, and established factories to produce everything required for home consumption which the old handicrafts of the country did not already supply. But he worked the whole on a vicious system of close Government monopolies which underpaid, and consequently discouraged rather than developed native skill. As the products, too, of his new workshops cost more than they could have been bought for in .the European markets, industrial failure was not compensated by commercial success, and even before the death of the old reformer most of his factories were closed. During the reign of Abbas Pasha, in this, as in all else, the country rather retrograded than advanced ; and although monopolies were abolished by Said Pasha, native industry received from him little or no other stimulus or relief. Not much more can be claimed for the earlier years of the present reign, when the energies of the Khedive were chiefly applied to the extension of public works, the skilled labour on which was mostly done by foreigners ; but the later Hausmannisation of Cairo and Alexandria, and the impetus given to technical education in the Government scho 1s, have materially improved the class of work done by the constructive, trades within the past six or eight years. The Government and Daira factories and private enterprise (mostly foreign) have also contributed their quota to the same result ; but barring this comparatively small aggregate of improvement, little or no industrial progress has been made since before the French occupation. This lack of advance in the mechanical arts is no doubt in part explained by the fact that agriculture absorbs so preponderant a share of the native labour, the proportion of cultivators to artisans being, roundly, about 1,000,000 to 60,000. But the main cause has been the low level of material civilisation among nine-tenths of the population, and till lately, the absence of Government encouragement except during the spurt of misdirected manufacturing effort made by Mehemet All. The latest official return on this subject gives the subjoined statistics f of the industrial classes ; but the list is incomplete, omitting as it does bakers, millers, bookbinders, printers, carriage-builders, cotton-pressers, mechanical engineers, sugar-refiners, and several other crafts of modern date which, although chiefly worked by foreigners, also afford employment to many natives ; and in the instance of papermakers, it is obviously inaccurate, as the Daira mill at Boulak, which has a monopoly of this industry, em-ploys a large number of Arab and Copt hands.
The great majority of the forty or more trades practised in Egypt form separate esnafs or guilds, member-ship of which is obligatory on all who work at the respective crafts. This system of esnafs, which also obtains in Turkey, is said to have originated during the Baghdad Caliphate ; but a similar organisation prevailed among the ancient Egyptians, and it is probable therefore that these trade corporations of Alexandria and Cairoto which and a few other large towns the industrial population of the country is chiefly confinedare in the main native relics of the old time. At any rate, the system has been in immemorial use, and is probably maintained for the facilities it affords in the collection of personal taxes, as well as for the guarantee it is made to offer for the due execution of works ordered by the Government. Each esnaf is presided over by a sheikh, who is in practice chosen by the higher members of the craft, but is formally appointed by the Government, to which he pays a nomination fee of about 201. He is, in fact, the ruler of the guild, admitting members, fixing the scale of wages, directing the manner in which contracts shall be carried out, and selecting the workmen by whom they shall be executed. He also collects the taxes payable by the guild, and is responsible to the Government for all matters connected with it. The members of the craft receive on admission certificates stating their proficiency and the rate of wages it entitles them to demand. They are, as a rule, restricted to the particular trade of the guild ; or if, as is rarely the case, allowed to follow two crafts, or even separate branches of the same one, they are charged an increased tax, unless they can arrange matters privately with the sheikh. They may contract to do piece-work, but if employed by the day they can only ask for the wages fixed in their certificate. Besides these guild regulations, however, there is little or no legislation specially affecting the industrial classes.
The costliness and magnitude of the Khedive’s sugar-factories would entitle them to rank among the public works of Egypt ; while, as they are at the same time industrial adventures of his Highness, they might with equal fitness be described here. They fall still more appropriately, however, within the scope of the chapter on the Daïra, to which they belong, and will therefore be noticed in that connection. Of the private trade of the country, numerically the most important is that of the weavers. Of these about 1,600 are employed in the three Daïra factories of Foueh (belonging to the Queen-mother), Boulak, and Shoubrah, near Cairo. The first of these manufactures nearly 50, 000 tarboushes (the Egyptian fez) a year, of which the supply required for the army and navy is sold to the Ministry of War, and the remainder to the public. They also turn out annually about 315, 0001. worth of woollen cloth, the greater part of which is similarly bought for the troops. The wages in these establishments average about 8d. a day. This industry, however, is mainly carried on in private workshops, of which, ac-cording to the latest available statistics, there are in Cairosixty weaving mixed cotton and flax, twenty woollen cloth, and eleven manufacturing carpets, besides 107 others spinning and preparing woollen and cotton yarn for the loom ; and in Alexandria thirty-eight weaving cotton cloth and thirty-one making carpets. In Damietta 166 shops weave silk, besides sixty-two others which are employed in dyeing it. One of the chief industries of Beni-souef, also, is carpet-making, and the weaving of coarse linen staffs for the fellaheen. The rest of the hands engaged in textile work are employed in various other parts of the country in shops of from one to a dozen or more looms. The wages in this trade vary in different districts, bu 9d. a day is about an average of the whole.
In metal work the Government takes the lead with three large establishments at Cairoa cannon foundry, a rifle factory (with machinery for producing the latest Remington arms), the large engineering shops at Boulak, and a cartridge factory, which annually consumes a great quantity of raw copper. At Alexandria there are also an arms factory and extensive engineering workshops for the navy and the Khedivieh Steam Company, besides a small similar establishment at Suez. The official return is in-complete as to the distribution of private native industry among these trades, but Cairo may be mentioned as employing 85 iron foundries, 80 whitesmiths’ shops, 73 cop-per ditto, and 240 workers in gold and silverchiefly Copts, Jews, and Armeniansbesides a large number of armourers and blacksmiths. Alexandria, according to the same authority, reckons 6 iron foundries, 43 smiths’ forges, 100 tinmen’ s shops, and 93 workers in the precious metals. The large provincial towns absorb the rest. The wages of these various trades range, for native workmen, from averages of 1s. 6d. to 2s. a day, as much of the work is done by piece, and the amount earned therefore depends on the skill and activity of the mechanic.
Workers in wood, from water-wheelwrights to house carpenters, now earn about a similar average wage. Of these also the great majority are employed in Cairo and Alexandria, but within the past eight or ten years the extension , of building in the chief provincial towns has attracted thither large numbers of this class of mechanics, and correspondingly improved their rate of pay, which previously ranged below that of metal-workers. In what may be called the two capitals, however, the best work is all done by foreigners, at wages double, or even treble those paid to native hands. The same may also be said of bricklayers, masons, and other workers in stone, whose methods of labour are still for the most part as rude as when hardly anything better than a mud-hut was to be seen outside Cairo and Alexandria. Throughout the interior, sun-dried tiles are the structural material still most in vogue ; and even where imperfectly-burned bricks* are used, the mortar, and the workmanship in laying it, are generally so bad as to give the wall built with them little advantage, except in appearance, over the homelier mud one on which neither fire nor lime has been spent. Under European guidance the Egyptian mason or bricklayer can work fairly well ; but left to himself, he troubles little with rule or plummet, and if his wall keep at all within the perpendicular, accident, quite as much as his eye, is to be credited with the result. Building-stone in Cairo is obtained from the Mokattem quarries, behind the Citadel, and in Alexandria from those of Mex, five miles west of the city. These together now also supply the limited wants of the interiorwhere, barring in the capital, a stone structure is a raritywhich, until a few years ago, were chiefly dug out of the nearest temple or other ancient monument. But this vandalism has been stopped, and Mex and the Mokattem now furnish nearly all the stone used throughout the country, except what is imported ready cut from Trieste.
Tanners and curriers, although unable to compete with the more scientific processes of Europe, still turn out excellent leather of cow, buffalo, sheep, and goat skinsthe last of which as upholsterers’ “morocco,” finds a ready market abroad. The Government works a large tannery at Alexandria, which annually prepares between 30,000 and 40,000 skins, chiefly for army use ; and private industry maintains some thirty others there and in Cairo, with an outcome of above 200,000 skins a year. The wages in this trade range from 10d. to 1s., and those of curriers and saddlers from about 1s. 4d. to 1s. 8d. a day.
Of the once famous ceramic art of Egypt only pottery and the commonest glass work now survive. The first of these, however, forms perhaps historically the most interesting, though far from the most flourishing of the contemporary industries of the country ; barring only that the processes and results of the craft as now worked are ruder than those of 3,000 years ago, both are almost identical with its pictured presentments in the tombs of Upper Egypt. In fact, what may there be seen in colours that have survived a hundred generations may now any day be witnessed in real life and tangible substance at Memphis, at Mellawee, at Manfalout, at Assiout, and . especially at Ballas and Kenneh, whence jars, jugs, tiles, and porous water-bottles, absolutely identical in form and method of manufacture with those in use before the Exodus are still annually floated down the Nile by thousands. The total produce of the trade averages nearly 500,000 pieces a year of all descriptions. Glass-blowing has dwindled to eight or ten small shops in Cairo, which manufacture annually some 10,000 objects of the commonest ware, and about 20,000 chimneys for the petroleum lamps now in general use. The wages of these two kindred crafts range from 1s. to 1s. 6d. a day.
Although paper-making figures in the official list of trades with only a single representative, the fine Daïra factory at Boulak, which, as above remarked, monopolises this industry in Egypt, employs nearly 220 hands, the whole of whom, barring a few English foremen and engineers, are natives. The machinery of this establishment-which was erected in 1870is English, and like that of many of the sugar-factories, has the sole defect of being on far too large and costly a scale for the local wants of the trade. It annually manufactures some sigh teen tons of coarse packing paperchiefly for use at the sugar-factoriesand about 70,000 reams of printing and writing papers of various qualities, for the coarser of which the species of grass called hilfa and sugar-cane fibre stalks supply cheap and abundant raw material. As most of the writing paper made is specially adapted for Oriental caligraphy, the surplus beyond what is used in the Government offices and sold to private consumers is exported to the Hedjaz, and a few bales are also sent yearly to India. In immediate connection with this factory is the “national” printing office, which, with a large annexed lithographic shop, also belongs to the Daïra Sanieh. Besides the forms required by the various Ministries, the railway administration, the Daïras, and other branches of the public service, this establishment prints all the school books issued by the Ministry of Public Instruction, in Arabic, Turkish, and the European languages ; and although the whole of the hands employednearly 100 in allare natives, the work would do credit to most London or Paris printing offices. Besides this large Daira establishment, private industry carries on five other printing and as many lithographic shops in Cairo and four in Alexandria, in which however many of the workmen are foreigners. The pay of the 200 or more natives engaged in these trades varies from 1s. 9d. to 2s. a day for compositors, while that of lithographers is about ten per cent. less.
Bakers and millers, although also omitted from the official return, form a large industrial class. The former alone number in all above 2,300, specially engaged in the trade, irrespective of the private bread-making by the fellahs, who, like the Bedoween, do most of their own milling and baking. Of this total, above 1,000 are registered in Cairo, 490 in Alexandria, and the remainder in the other provincial towns. The universal love of pastry, chiefly in the form of the cake called fateereh, further employs above 1,200 makers of this greasy luxury, of whom some 800 find work and customers in the capital, 200 in Alexandria, and the rest elsewhere. To provide flour for all these, 27 steam mills and 575 driven by horse-power are worked in Cairo, respectively 31 and 127, besides 37 windmills, at Alexandria, and a few of all three classes at Tanta, Zagazig, and Mansourah. For the supply of the army and navy the Government works a large steam mill at Cairo, and two great bakeries there and at Alexandria, which furnish all the bread and biscuit required by both services, as also for the extensive gratuitous distributions of both which are made to passing pilgrims, schools, and other charities. The wages in these two trades are lower than those of most other crafts, averaging for the common hands not more than 9d. a day.
In nearly the whole of these handicrafts the work done by the natives is, as a rule, inferior. The masons, shoemakers, and tinsmiths turn out perhaps the best ; but even their work, as compared with that of foreigners, is clumsy and rough in finish. Occasional specimens of good embroidery may be met with, but, although pleasing to the European eye from its being applied to objects with which embroidery is not generally associated in Europe, and from the pattern being Eastern, these also are much inferior in delicacy and precision to the best European work. So, too, with goldsmiths’ work, which, though in some of its results very quaintly pretty, is as rude in finish as its narrow range of patterns is antiquefor the originals of nearly every one of these last may be seen in the Boulak Museum, or among the wall pictures of Thebes. The re-construction of so much of Cairo and Alexandria in a European style of architecture, and the imitation, more or less rude, of a similar fashion in the new buildings in most of the other large towns has largely led, within the past dozen or fifteen years, to disuse of the old-fashioned mushrabeeyah, or projecting lattice window, and to a consequent very marked decline in the production of the beautiful turnery-work of which these were composed. So pretty indeed is this, that travelling collectors now pay more for old specimens of it than a whole window cost fifty years ago. The same remark also applies to the curious and intricate panel. work employed in interior decorations, which is similarly being superseded by tawdry French and German mouldings. In Cairo and Alexandria a large opening is consequently offered to the better skill of Europeansespecially in mechanical engineering, railway plate-laying, carpentry, smiths’ work, and the best class of stone-masonry and bricklaying. The engineering required is chiefly done by Englishmen, at wages ranging from 81. to 25. a month, or by Frenchmen or Germans at from twenty to thirty per cent. less. But in this craft natives have, within the past few years, qualified to an extent which has sensibly reduced the number of Europeans employed, with the result that both on the railways and in fixed factories, a large proportion of the engine-drivers are now Egyptians, receiving from 81. to 101. a month. In the other trades Maltese take the lead in respect alike of skill and wages, receiving as ordinary workmen, 5s., or as foremen, from 6s. to 8s. a day ; Frenchmen, Italians, and Greeks ranking next, at from 3s. to 5s. per diem.
Passing from regular handicrafts to industries in which the labour cannot in the same sense be called skilled, the oldest and most peculiar is that of artificial egg-hatching, which provides almost the whole poultry of the country. This curious process was already ancient when Herodotus made his note of it at Memphis, and as it was carried on then, so is it still in nearly every detail, The building in which it is performed, called mahmal-ferakh, is constructed of burnt or sun-dried bricks, and consists of two parallel rows of small chambers and ovensthe latter uppermosteach about eleven feet square by about five feet high, and divided by a narrow vaulted passage, through which the rearer enters to watch the progress of the operation. This last takes place only during two or three months of the year, in spring, and as soon as the mahmal is opened the eggs are brought in by the neighbouring peasants, and after being carefully examinedwith the result of about one-fifth being rejected as not fecundatedare placed on mats or straw sprinkled with bran, on the floor of the lower chamber. The ovens above are warmed with fires of gileh, the flat cakes of mixed dung and chopped straw described elsewhere. These mahmals vary in size from twelve to twenty-four chambers, and in the larger ones receive about 150,000 eggs during the annual term of their being open. The hatching takes generally twenty-one days, during which the temperature is maintained at from 100° to 103° Fahr., fixed, it need hardly be said, by the practised sense of the rearer, without the aid of a thermometer. In the result, about two-thirds of the eggs produce chickens, – of which the owner of the mahmal retains one-half, as his fee in kind, and. gives the remainder to the peasants. There are in all some 600 of these establishments through-out the country, hatching above 12,000,000 chickens a year.
Although not reckoned in the official list of trades given in a previous foot-note, the workers in the cotton factories form a large industrial element, ranking in respect of wages about midway between common labourers and artisans. Most of these establishments date from the beginning of the American war, which gave so sudden a spurt to the Egyptian cotton trade. There are in all eight steam pressing millssix in Alexandria, with nine presses, and two in the interiorand about 150 ginning factories, for the whole of which last, however, there is not now constant work. These establishments * employ a large number of men, women, and children, at wages varying, for the common hands, from 5d. to 2s. a day.
As Egypt possesses few or no mineral resources, properly so-called, it has in consequence no industries that can be classed strictly under this head. The old emerald mines of Jebel-Zabâra and Wady-Sakayt, between the Nile at Edfou and the Red Sea, the lead mines of Jebeler-Resfis in the same region, the gold mines in the Bishari country, and the turquoise mines of Magharah in the peninsula of Sinai, have all been long ago abandoned, although there is reason to believe that with improved modern skill and appliances some of these might be profitably re-opened. The granite and limestone quarries of Assouan and the Mokattem are still of course worked, as are also those of Oriental alabaster and porphyry at Wady-Omargoob and Jebel-ed-Dokhan in the eastern desert the former of which supplied the material for the Citadel mosque at Cairo, while from the latter were taken, during the time of Trajan and Adrian, most of the splendid porphyry columns that still adorn Rome. Of coal, tin, silver, and the more modern metals, no traces have been discovered, and only the faintest of iron, copper, and lead, in, respectively, some rocks near Philæ, and Mounts Baram and Zabâra. Apart, therefore, from the quarries mentioned, the mineral products of the country are narrowed to the natron found in the province of Behera and at one or two other places on the Upper Nile, and to the nitre and other salts collected in the various salines of Lower Egypt, or worked in the rock from along the western coast of the Red Sea. The first of these is chiefly gathered in the Wady-Natroon, about thirty-five miles west of Teranéh, on the Rosetta branch of the Nile. The valley takes it name, as mentioned in a previous chapter, from a series of rock-walled basins whose waters contain crystallisations of natron or sub carbonate, and of muriate of soda, or common salt. These basins or lakescalled mellâhotof which there are in all eight, besides two smaller ponds that dry up during the summer, are fed by infiltration from the Nile, whose waters take three months to percolate through the interjacent desert of rock and sand, the salts of which they carry with them, and deposit in these reservoirs. Thus, the annual rise in the water in the lakes begins only about the end of December, and continues to the middle of March, when the fall commences, after which, during the summer months, the subcarbonate and muriate are collected. All the lakes contain the latter, but only some of them both salts, which in that case crystallise separately, the natron underneath in a layer of some 30 inches thick, and the common salt above in one of about 18 inches. The patron is of two kindsthe khartayeh and the sultanieh, which latter (the better of the two qualities) is further distinguished as black and white. This (the sultanieh) is taken from the bed of the lakes as the water retires, and the khartayeh from the neighbouring low grounds which have not been submerged, but to the surface of which the salt rises. This valuable product is prepared for market by being washed, dissolved in water, and then again crystallised by the action of artificial or solar heat. The muriate is more commonly exported in the rough as collected. The official returns of this industry do not distinguish between the two salts, but state the total quantity of both gathered in one season at 90,169 pesés, of which 71,297 were collected directly on account of the Government, and the remainder, in the neighbourhood of Barnoughi in the same province, by a contractor who farms the enterprise from the Treasury. The cost price of the former, delivered in Alexandria, averaged about 10 pias. 8 paras per pesé, and that of the latter, being nearer the port, 6 pias. 10 par. The population of the Wady-Natroon is about 300, of whom some 200 are employed in this industry, and the remainder belong to the four Coptic monasteries, which form the chief attraction of visitors to this desolate region. Natron is also found on the brink of some ponds in the valley of El-Kab, above Esneh, and on the shore of the Birket-el-Korn, in the Fayoum, but in neither place in sufficient bulk to be of much commercial value. As it is, about 30,000 pesés of natron are annually exported front Alexandria, chiefly to Austria and Italy. Large quantities of raw nitre are also extracted, chiefly on Government account, from the mounds that mark the sites of ancient cities in Middle and Upper Egypt. It is thus procured more or less abundantly from Ghizeh,. Bedreshayn, Sakkara, Enaneh, Mensheeyah, Denderah, Karnak, Koum-Ombos, and from various places in the Fayoum. The débris of the old walls is thrown into shallow ponds, when the nitre dissolves, and is then drained off into still shallower basins, the water in which rapidly evaporates under the strong solar heat, leaving a layer of crystallised nitre at the bottom. The total quantity thus produced averages about 650,000 kilos a year, which, when refined at the Government saltpetre works at Old Cairo, yield about 560,000 kilos of pure nitrate of potash.
In addition to this large collection of natron and nitre, above 72,000 ardebs of sea-salt are annually produced from twelve pits at Damietta (the largest of the whole), Rosetta, Farkshour, Ballachi (on Lake Menzaleh), Brullos, Alexandria, Havara, Port Said, Ismaïlia, and Suez. The last official return reports nearly 700 persons and above 1,300 animals as finding employment at these twelve pits, at wages averaging for the former about 9d. a day. There are also two other large pits at Rawiah and Darrah, near Souakim, which further produce some 30,000,000 quintals a year. Of this quantity about 1,000, 000 quintals are exported to Djeddah, Aden, and Bombay, and as much more is carried inland by caravans to Taka, northern Abyssinia, and other parts of the interior. The remaining surplus of the whole produce finds a market chiefly in the Levant and at Constantinople. Rock-salt exists in almost inexhaustible abundance along the coast of the Red Sea below Suez, cropping up to the surface in seams of great thickness and purity ; but as yet these have been merely tapped at wide intervals, and contribute little or nothing to the salt produce of the country. This industry, which is a Government monopoly, yields to the Treasury a net annual revenue of about 250,000l.
Petroleum of good quality has also been “struck” about a hundred miles south of Suez, but only a few sample barrelsdrawn off last year by an American mining engineer in the service of the Governmenthave yet been raised. Machinery, however, for opening and working several wells has been procured, and will be in situ in a few months, when it is expected that not only the whole of the lubricating oil required for the railways, the Khedivieh steamers, and the Government and Daira factories will be thus provided at a low cost, but a considerable excess be available for export.
The sea and fresh-water fisheries, which are also farmed out, form an important industry, the former employing above 3,700 persons and 800 boats, and the latter in all over 6,000 hands. Of these last, nearly 4,000 find work on Lake Menzaleh, with some 400 boats, and the remainder on the other lakes, the Nile, and the large navigable canals. As the total quantity of the fish caught greatly exceeds the home consumption, the excess, salted and dried, forms a considerable article of export to Syria, Turkey, and Greece. The proceeds of this monopoly being lumped together in the Budget with those of boat-farming, bridge-tolls, and charges on waste lands, its separate value to the Treasury cannot be stated ; but the farming of Lake Menzaleh alone is said to yield 60,000l. a year.
The Nile boatmen and those employed on the larger navigable canals form another numerous class of in all above 36,000, working some fifty river passenger steakers and tugs, and above 9,000 sailing boats of various kinds, from the yacht-like cangias or dahabeeyahs to the ” ponderous cargo-carrying maaskes or cock-boat sandals. They are nearly all -fine muscular men, inured to severe labour in rowing, poling, or towing, and are withal perhaps the merriest of the Egyptian working classes. They mostly belong to the river-side villages, and in spite of the still not uncommon device of sacrificing an eyewhere ophthalmia has not already done it-to avoid conscription, they mainly furnish the crews of the small navy and of the Khedivieh Company’s steamers. In both ‘they are now fairly well treated, and the service is much less dreaded and avoided than it was a few years ago.
If the level of native skilled labour in Egypt is thus generally low, it is at least quite up to the wants of the great mass of the population. A vast advance must be made in both the social and material civilisation of the country before a much higher class of work, or more of
” it, will be required for home consumption ; while as regards manufactures for export, the chance of Egypt competing successfully with Europe is still less now than it was fifty years ago. Sugar-making is perhaps the sole exception, and the foundations of that industry have been laid at a cost which no mere private enterprise could afford. From an aesthetic point of view the loss of the art which built Karnak, or of the later and more delicate skill that reared the old Cairene mosques, may be lamented ; but the economist and the politician will not greatly regret either, nor the general backwardness in humbler crafts, if agriculturethe oldest and still most important of Egyptian industriesbe improved and encouraged as it is the common interest of both the people and the Government that it should.