WHATEVER may have been the origin of the ancient Egyptianswhether Semitic or Aryan, as ethnologists much disputetheir modern successors are many-raced, and no two estimates of their number agree. Arabs, Copts, Turks, Nubians, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, and Levantines of every shade of mixed Eastern and European blood, they have been variously computed at from 1,500,000 by Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, to 5,250,000 by the latest official Egyptian returns.* But when the former of these estimates was made no trustworthy statistics existed ; and it can only therefore be regarded as the random guess of an otherwise well-informed observer, based on assumptions which later investigation has shown to be incorrect. So, too, with Mr. Lane’s reckoning of less than 2,000,000 made nearly fifty years ago ; f not only did that exclude the Arab tribes on both sides of the Nile, who, although nomad, pay regular taxes to the Government and otherwise acknowledge its authority, but it considerably reduced the totals of the various settled communities as estimated by their respective chiefs. A few years later, M. Mengin, a French historian of the reign of Mehemet All, computed the whole at nearly 2,900, 000 ; but although his estimate had the ad-vantage of being based on an official return. of the number of houses throughout the country, he demonstrably under-numbered the quota of heads per house in all the chief towns of Lower Egypt, besides repeating Mr. Lane’s omission of the entire nomad population. Strabo and Diodorus, reasoning from the cultivable area of the country, its extreme fertility, the great fecundity of Egyptian women, and the evidently vast amount of disposable labour, reckoned the population under the Pharaohs at between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000, and modern criticism has accepted the estimate as proximately exact Clot Bey, writing in 1840 with all the materials for a judgment up to that date before him, reckoned the decadence since the Persian conquest at about one-half, leaving a then total of between 8,000,000 and 4,000,000.* But making full allowances for the waste of life consequent on the many revolutions through which the country hats passed, and for the more modern losses occasioned by the internecine feuds of the Mamlouks and the campaigns of Mehemet All, there is still reason to believe that, even thirty-seven years ago, the total population exceeded the larger of these estimates. A rough census taken in 1859, during the viceroyalty of Said Pasha, returned the whole inhabitants of Egypt proper at 5,125,000 ; and allowing for even a considerable margin of error in that computation, there would still remain nearly 5,000, 000 as the population strength of the country three years before the accession of the present Khedive. Since then the cholera epidemic of 1865 and the typhus pest that followed it swept away about 100, 000, but the steady and increasing excess of births over deaths has much more than recouped the loss thus occasioned. The latest official returns show that, while this gain of life over death averaged annually 88,470 during the ten years ending 1861, it had, through better sanitary administration and general improvement in the material condition of the country, risen in the five following years to 46,902, and in 1867-71 to 63,296-a rate of increase, as compared with Europe, which is inferior only to that of Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Sweden during the corresponding period, and which, if continued, would double the existing population in less than sixty years.* It is evident, therefore, that if the census returns of 1859 were even approximately accurate, the present inhabitants of Egypt proper must number rather over than under 5,500, 000. Of Nubia and the Upper Nile countries only the very roughest estimate can be formed, on a mean of the conjectures of various travellers, from Bruce and Burkhardt to Baker and Nachtigal, which would give for the whole another 10,000,000 or 11,000,000. But although these southern provinces will undoubtedly form important factors in the future of Egyptian politics, their present economical value is small as compared with the territory below Philae, and no more precise estimate of either the number or ethnological distributions of their inhabitants need, therefore, be here attempted.
No official classification of the population of Egypt proper has been published, but the following is believed to be approximately correct :
Settled Arabs (fellaheen) 4,500,000 Bedoween 800,000 Turks 10,000 Copts 500,000 Abyssinians 3,000 Nubians and Soudans (mostly slaves) 40,000 Jews 20,000 Rayah Greeks 20,000 Syrians 7,000 Armenians 10,000 Various foreigners 90,000 Total, about 5,500,000
Of the dozen or more elements which thus constitute the present motley population of the country, the settled Arabs, who form four-fifths of the whole, although one in creed, are nearly as diverse in race as the minor communities which complete the tale. Two-thirds of them may be set down as descendants of the Copts who embraced Islam after the Arab conquest (A. D. 640), or who have since apostatised, and by intermarriage have long ago fused with their conquerors and with the Moslem immigration from east and west. The actual army of Amrou was small, and, though mostly of pure Arabian blood from the neighbourhood of Medina, would have been swamped in this great conversion but for the influx of whole tribes of other Arabs from the Hedjaz, from Mauritania, and the coasts, who gradually mixed with and more or less assimilated the ex-Coptic element in the districts where they settled, and together formed the great labouring class of the fellaheen. These immigrants did not, however, completely amalgamate among themselves, and even yet the much finer physique of the fellahs of Lower and Middle Egyptthe Arab element in whom descends mostly from the tribes that came originally from beyond the Red Seadistinguishes them clearly from the Moorish Moghrebees of the Said. Amongst the town populations the distinction of tribes has been almost wholly lost, but traces of it are to be met with in the remoter villages, where many old customs of their desert ancestry still survive. Physically, the fellaheenwith the distinction noted in favour of Lower as compared with Upper Egypt are a fine muscular race, the average height of the men being from five feet eight to five feet nine inches, and that of the women in proportion. Under nine or ten years of age, most of the children have very spare limbs and distended abdomens, but as they grow up their forms rapidly improve, and in full age the majority, as a rule, become remarkably well-proportionedwith fine oval faces, bright deep-set black eyes, straight thick noses, large but well-formed mouths, full lips, beautiful teeth, broad shoulders, and well-shaped limbs. From twelvethe usual age of marriageto eighteen or nineteen, nearly all the women are splendidly formed, and many of them are of real beauty ; but once past their ‘teens they rapidly wither, and as a rule are little better than, wrinkled hags before thirtya fact on which a recent writer is liberal and philosophical enough to base a strong apology for polygamy. In Cairo and throughout the larger towns of the Delta, those who have not been much exposed to the sun have a clear olive complexion and a very delicate skin, but the less sheltered villagers are of a more bronzed and coarser hue. In Middle Egypt the colour is still darker, and in the Saïd it deepens, towards the Nubian frontier, to the tint of a Barbadienne bronze. Time and dynastic revolutions have wrought but little change in either the condition or character of this great mass of the Egyptian population. As they were under the Pharaohs, the Ptolemies, the Romans, and the Caliphs, so in the main are they nowthe most patient, the most pacific, the most home-loving, and withal the merriest race in the world. In this latter respect the oppression of more than forty centuries has failed to damp their natural buoyancy of spirit ; and nowhere more than amid the mud huts and seemingly abject poverty of a fellah village does “the human heart vindicate its strong right to be glad.” The men are temperate and honest, but the women, if not quite meriting Lane’s harsh judgment that they are “the most licentious of all females who lay claim to be considered as members of a civilised nation,” have at least long lost the robust virtue of the Bedoweeyeh, and as a class, while physically the finest, are said to be ethically the frailest of their sex in the Nile Valley. It is the fashion to write and speak of this large section of the Khedive’s subjects as being intolerably oppressed; ground down by crushing taxation, and generally wretched beyond any parallel elsewhere. This exaggeration has, no doubt, its origin mainly in the superficial impressions of strangers, who, coming fresh from Europewhere, in a different civilisation, a totally different standard of peasant life prevailsdiscover in the scant clothing, the simple food, and the primitive huts of these Egyptian ryots evidences of altogether special misery and administrative abuse. But no inferences could well be more fallacious. Apart from the fact that these external features accord with the climate, and have been stereotyped since before the Pyramids were built, it may be affirmed that the general condition of the fellaheen will compare favourably with that of almost any other peasantry in the East. If economical facts prove anything at all, the vast increase in the agricultural and other exports of the past dozen years, and the nearly corresponding return outlay on European manufactured goods, demonstrate a measure of material improvement among the producing classes which may be vainly sought for elsewhere out of Europe. That the taxation is heavybut not oppressiveis admitted ; and that, until lately, the methods of its collection have been often brutal may also be conceded. But, apart from the traditional cruelty of tax-gathering all the East over, the Egyptian peasant has been noted in all time, from Cheops to Ismail, for his unwillingness to pay taxes at all. It is, in fact, a point of honor to bear any amount of ” stick,” if by so doing the impost, or any part of it, can be evaded. The fellah, indeed, who will not do so is despised by even his own wife as a poltroon, and if, after only a dozen or score of blows, he disgorges the coin which endurance of fifty might perhaps have saved, the conjugal estimate of his spirit is shared generally by his fellows. Hence a difficulty of no trilling importance in the way of the new financial administration. Those who know Egypt best believe that nothing short of “stick logic ” will, as a rule, persuade a fellah to pay his dues, be they ever so equitable; and if Mr. Romaine and his colleagues will not use it, the chances are much against the revenue.
But a much wider line than that which marks the difference of origin between the two sections of the settled Arab population separates both from the Bedoween, who represent those of the original immigration who retained their old nomad habits and, with them, much of the proud independence that distinguishes the race everywhere from Barbary to Oman. These number in all some sixty tribes roughly estimated at about 800,000 strong, the whole of whom, since the vigorous action taken against them by Mehemet All, are in complete subjection to the Government, and the desert on both sides of the Nile is now as safe for caravans or even private travellers as are the streets of Alexandria and Cairo. The most powerful tribes are the Ababdehs and Bisharis, who claim patrimonial rights over the great eastern wilderness south of the parallel of Cosseir, far up into Nubia ; the Henadi or Henadouehs, whose territory extends northwards to the latitude of Beni-souef ; the Mehaz, the Serrâbria, and the Quattâb, thence down to Cairo ; and the Halaybis and Beni-Ali, who divide between them the desert east of the Delta to the Syrian frontier. Across the Gulf of Suez, the Tor Arabs of Sinai are probably the friendly tribe, miscalled Midianites, who guided Moses as far as Ezion Geber on the Gull of Akabah ; and, beyond them, the Alawinthe hostile Edomites who refused him passage through their country and compelled the long détour round the east side of Mount Hor. But these, too, are now as obedient to the Government of Cairo as their fellow-nomads in Egypt proper, and where the Israelites were turned back Cook’s and Gaze’s tourists pass safely on payment of a trifling backsheesh to the local sheikh. Few or none of these tribes are stationary, except on the skirts of the wilderness, where they pass some months of the year on the green spots with their flocks and herds, cultivating patches of grain-land, and visiting the neighbouring towns for the purposes of traffic. The latest published returns of the movements of these nomads states the number of those who thus camped during the year on the border of the settled districts at 40,000, of whom above 19,000 visited the province of Esneh, and nearly 6,000 the Fayoum. For convenience of pasturage, each tribe is broken into subdivisions of from forty to one hundred tents, governed by minor sheikhs, chosen from amongst the heads of families, who in turn choose the supreme chief of the tribe, whose authority, though practically hereditary, is still in theory elective. These Bedoween consider themselves the aristocracy of the race, and rigidly abstain from intermarriage with the settled inhabitants, whom they regard as degraded, and contemptuously call the ” dwellers among brick.”
The introduction of the Turkish element into Egypt dates from the Ottoman conquest, in 1517, when Sultan Selim dethroned the last of the Mamlouk Borghite dynasty, usurped the title of ” Caliph,” and nominally reduced the country to the rank of an Ottoman province. But the change was followed by only a small immigration of conquerors, who settled chiefly in Cairo, and neither then nor subsequently did these fuse with the native Moslem races. For nearly two hundred and forty years they monopolised most of the chief posts in the administration, but without exercising much real authority in the country. But towards the middle of the last century the Mamlouks who in the meantime had remained a distinct and strictly warlike caste, kept up and recruited by the white-slave trade with the Caucasushad regained most of their old ascendency, and during the next fifty years the resident Turkish colony not only lost nearly all share in the govern. ment, but the sovereignty of the Sultan over Egypt was virtually extinguished. Nor was the position of this Otto-man aristocracy at all retrieved by the revolution effected by Mehemet All, who, only half a Turk himself, had few sympathies with it. His obvious aim, too, being to re-found an Arab empire, his policy was to employ rather the native Egyptian than the Osmanli element in both the military and civil services ; and whether or not his successors have inherited his ambition, they have at least followed the same rule. Just as Arabic has become the official as well as vernacular language of the country, so Egyptians have supplanted Turks in almost every branch of the administration, which in a few years bids fair to be wholly in Arab and Coptic hands. With some few official exceptions, the existing Turkish colonyof whom about 5,000 are settled in Cairo, 2,000 in Alexandria, and 3,000 are scattered throughout Upper and Lower Egyptconsists mainly of artisans, shopkeepers, small proprietors, and members of the. Ulema, of good position in their respective classes, but of little either social or political influence outside.
The free Nubians are chiefly Barabras (or Berbers), who, though nominally Moslems, can be classed with neither the Arabs nor Turks. They belong to a tribe between the First and Second Cataracts, large numbers of whom migrate down into Egypt, chiefly to Cairoas the Auvergnats and Savoyards do to Paristo earn money in domestic service, and then return to their villages comparatively rich with the fruits of their ten, fifteen, or twenty years’ savings. They have an especial repute for honesty, and serve Moslem and Christian masters with equal zeal and fidelity.
Next in order of number to these Mohammedan elements, but before them in historical interest, stand the Copts, who are not only the most ancient, but strictly speaking the only native Egyptian race. In spite of Volney and Champollion, ethnologists are now generally agreed in regarding them as the descendants of the Pharaonic Egyptians, mixed more or less with the Persians left by Cambyses and the Greeks who followed the standard of Alexander, but still visibly preserving the characteristics of the old-world race that built Thebes and worshipped Amounra. To a portion, at least, of the Arab population, which now so far outnumbers them, they bear a similar relation to that of the Gauls to the Franks under the Merovingian Kings ; but unlike these, the victors and the vanquished in Egypt never completely blended into one national whole. A majority of the native race embraced the creed of their conquerors, and in time amalgamated with them by intermarriage ; but a large remnant adhered to the older faith, and, preserving jealously all their special features of race and religion, have remained till the present , as distinguishable from the surrounding communities as they were two thousand years ago. The etymology of their name has been disputed, but the weight of authority inclines to regard it as the middle syllable of the word AEgyptius,* the oldest name of the Nile (anciently written AEgoptios), and their proper language is similarly accepted as the aboriginal tongue. It had some affinity to Hebrew and Ethiopic, but before passing from popular use in the tenth century, it had become largely mixed with Greek and Arabic terms. It now survives only in the church services, in which few even of the priests understand what they read. Though crossed with both Persian and Greek blood, in form and feature these Christian Copts still closely resemble the sculptured presentments of the original race which abound everywhere in tomb and temple from Beni-hassan to Philae . The theory of Volney that they are of negro origin has been refuted by the minute anatomical investigations of Baron Larrey, chief of the medical staff of the French expedition, who adopted the view of Herodotus, that they are a cross of the Nubians with the Abyssinians–their skins being of a dusky yellow colour, darker than the Arabs ; their countenance full without being puffed ; their eyes large, black, and elongated ; the nose almost straight and rounded at the tip ; the nostril dilated ; the mouth middle-sized ; the lips thick, but not thrown back like those of the negro ; and the beard and hair black and bushy, but not at all woolly. They are, too, in contrast to the fellaheen, generally under the middle size, as wereto judge from the mummiesthe ancient Egyptians. In character, like all long degraded classes of men, they are
mean, crafty, avaricious, and immoral ; wholly lacking both the self-respecting pride of the Turk and the manly frankness of the Arab. In religion they are Monophysites of the Jacobite sect-pronounced heretical by the Council of Chalcedon in A. D. 581and claim St. Mark as the founder of their church. Their clergywhose educational status is perhaps now lower than that of any other Christian priesthood in the Eastconsists of a Patriarch, who takes his title from Alexandria but resides in Cairo, of twelve bishops and an indefinite number of arch-priests, priests, deacons and monks. The Patriarch is chosen from the monks of St. Anthonyone of two monasteries belonging to the sect in the eastern desert between Beni-sand and the Gulf of Sueza mode of election which, as Mr. Curzon remarks, ensures his entire ignorance of all sublunary affairs, and his consequent unfitness for his high office; unless he chance to be a man of very uncommon talent. He appoints the Aboona, or metropolitan, of Abyssiniathe ” Christianity” of which is also Copticand, besides absolute ecclesiastical authority, wields extensive civil jurisdiction over both the clergy and laity of his own communion. The twelve bishops are also chosen from the monks, and, like the Patriarch, can. not marry : for the priests and deacons, on the contrary, marriage is a condition of ordination, but in the event of their wives dying, they may not marry a second time. Of all Eastern Christians the Copts are perhaps the most bigoted and intolerant, carrying their peculiar tenet to the length of regarding all other churches as polytheistic, and so refusing any approach to fellowship with Latin, Greek, and Protestant alike. They practise polygamy, and the rite of circumcision on both sexes, as also auricular confession, frequent and rigid fasts, and some other observances common to both the Eastern and Western churches. At Cairo an energetic Jesuit mission has succeeded in making seven or eight thousand converts to Roman Catholicism, and it is but fair to say that these form the most civilised and progressive section of the Cop-tic population. At the same time, the social condition of the Copts generally is much improved since Gibbon de-scribed them as “a race of illiterate beggars, whose only consolation is derived from the superior wretchedness of the Greek Patriarch and his congregation.” Mehemet All relieved them from many humiliating disabilities, and the same liberal policy has been carried still further by his successors. Several of the sect have from time to time been promoted to the rank of Bey, and the singular aptitude of nearly all the males for account-keeping and subordinate administration has long led to their extensive employment in Government offices and in the management of estates owned by the wealthier Arab and Turkish proprietors. In retail trade and skilled labour they compete successfully with the Jews, Syrians and rayah Greeks, who otherwise monopolise most of the handicrafts and petty commerce of the country ; and in Upper Egypt, where the sect is most numerous, they cultivate their fields and date-palms under the same fiscal conditions as the ordinary fellaheen. The inhabitants of Nubia also be-longed to the Coptic communion until about the twelfth century, when they embraced. Islam almost en masse.
Of the other smaller Christian communities, the Abyssinians most nearly resemble the aboriginal race. Nominally identical in creed and ritual, they have also many physical traits in common with the Copts. Their features are more regular, butexcept in the case of those from the borders of the Galla country, who closely approximate to the negrotheir colour and hair are similar, and both are alike slim and small-boned. As most of the Abyssinians in Egypt have been imported as slaves, the women are in great majority, and many of these are remarkable for their splendidly lustrous eyes, their finely cut features, and general elegance of figure and carriage. In all but the very wealthiest households these dusky beauties of Habesh have superseded the fair-skinned but costlier houris of Georgia and Circassia ; but the trade in both is now contraband, and in a few years they may be expected to count for little in any census returns. It may be remarked that the Abyssinian slaves of both sexesthe males are mostly eunuchsgenerally follow the common example of their class on reaching Cairo, and em-brace the dominant creed. Only the few of their free countrymen who come north for trading or other purposes can, consequently, be claimed as within the pale of Egyptian Christianity.
The rayah Greeks pride themselves on being the descendants of the ancient Greek colonists ; but, in the matter of religion, this community of origin has not prevented their splitting into two sects. Of these, the more numerous belongs to the “Orthodox” communion of Constantinople, and receives its Patriarch from the Fanàr ; while the other, though still retaining the dogmas and ritual of the mother church, has, like the Catholic Armenians of Turkey, accepted the spiritual headship of the Pope. To this sub-sect are affiliated most of the Syrians domiciled in Egypt, who being chiefly Maronites, stand in a similar situation to Rome ; Arabic, too, is the common vernacular of the whole.
The Armenians in Egypt nearly all belong to the ” United ” communion, and, except in here speaking Arabic, they differ little in character or social habits from their co-religionists of the same rite in Turkey. They are, however, ecclesiastically independent of Constantinople, having their own Patriarch and episcopate ; but their relations with the Balata hierarchy are still intimate and cordial. The few “Catholic” Armenians in Cairo and Lower Egypt differ from their compatriots of this “nation” only in the point of spiritual allegiance to Rome ; and as this in their case is rather Gallican than Ultramontane, its chief, if not only, outward effect is seen in the Frankish dress of their women. In all else both sections of this community are, here as in Turkey, as Semitic as the lost Ten Tribes, from whom some ethnologists not unplausibly derive their descent.
Last, and socially lowest in the census-roll of the Khedive’s non-Moslem subjects stand the Jews, most of whom still occupy a special ” quarter ” in Cairo, as dirty and as isolated as the old Ghetto at Rome. Until the reign of Mehemet All they were the pariahs of Egypt, oppressed and plundered by the dominant class far beyond the worst experience of the Christians, and treated with ignominy by all. The even-handed tolerance of the old reformer much improved their condition, and at present they are more effectively protected by the Egyptian Government than in any other part of the Levant. But forty years’ humans treatment has as yet done little to morally improve or socially elevate the victims of so long a degradation ; and the Jews of Egypt are, therefore, perhaps the lowest types of their race in the East. They are dirty, greedy, and bigoted beyond the average of their fellows elsewhere, and in return for their fanaticism they are still despised, and when possible abused, by both their Moslem and Christian fellow-subjects. A few of them have risen to the foremost rank among local bankers, and in the wholesale trade ; but the great majority are petty money-changers, subordinate clerks in government and merchants’ offices, and handicraftsmen in the lighter skilled trades. About 2,000 are Caraites, who adhere to the strict letter of the Old Testament, and the remainder Rabbinists, who follow the traditions of the Talmud. Physically, by strict abstinence from intermarriage with other races, they have preserved. the peculiar features of the pure Eastern Jew the fair complexion, the blue or grey eye, and the light chestnut beard and hair which differ so markedly from the heavy Armenian- physiognomy of most of their co-religionists in Western Europe ; but owing to the use of a gross diet, of which sesame oil forma a large ingredient, they have a flabby unhealthy look that still further distinguishes them from both the Arab and the Christian population.
Of the 90,000 or more Foreigners domiciled in Egypt, the large majority are Roman Catholics and Greeks, of whom it is no libel to say that a minority at least are the very dregs of the Levant. Of the gross total about 25,000 reside in Cairo, and 50,000 in. Alexandria, the remainder being distributed along the Isthmus and among the other principal towns of Middle and Lower Egypt. More than nine-tenths of these foreign coloniesas they are locally calledhave settled in the country since the reign of Mehemet All, who offered every encouragement to the immigration ; and the latest official returns show a steady annual increase in their numbers. These are now respectively reckoned at-40.000 Greeks, 15,000 French, 16,000 Italians, 7,000 British, 7,000 Austro-Hungarians, 1,500 O’er-mans, and 4,000 of other various nationalities. Under the anomalous régime of the Capitulations, these foreign communities have hitherto been wholly independent of the native authorities, each being governed exclusively by its own Consul, with the result of there being some sixteen alien jurisdictions in the country, all more or less antagonistic to each other and to the native tribunals. The mischief worked by such a system may be conceived ; but a reform introduced last year, and the details of which will be explained in a subsequent chapter, has already done much to remedy many of the resultant abuses, and to bring this section of the population into juster relation to the Government. Most of the foreign trade and banking business of the country is in the hands of this class, to which also belong the wealthiest retail dealers and best paid artisans in both Alexandria and Cairo
The present population of Egypt proper is thus composed of elements as various as the castes of India, and is engaged in occupations as separate as the races themselves are distinct. The agriculture of the country is mainly in the hands of the Moslem fellaheen, its account-keeping in those of the Copts, the Turks are for the most part pro prietors and officials, the Negroes domestic servants, and the Levantines and Europeans, in their multitudinous varieties, traders, shopkeepers, and dealers in money. Estimating the whole at 5, 500, 000, we have about 484 in-habitants per square mile of its cultivable area ; or, in other words, in ratio of population to arable surface Egypt ranks before Belgium, the most densely-peopled State of Europe.