Travel Letters: Suez (1882)

DEAR WILLIAM, — We are just tying up to the wharf in Suez, and nobody seems to know how long we are to stay before we start on our voyage down the Red Sea. I will write my Sunday letter at once, and tell you that I have come thus far in happiness, health, and safety, and in the Poonah. I sent Gertie a postal card the other day from Alexandria, which I hope she will excuse. I am not in the habit of sending postal cards, but there was no other way. We were only there for a very short time and all the time we had was spent on shore. It was curious to see the results of the war so close at hand. The great square of Alexandria is all in ruins, and looks like Liberty Square in Boston after the great fire. The forts which brought on the bombardment are all banged to pieces, and the guns are standing on their heads. There must have been some wonderful firing on the Englishmen’s part.

Then we sailed over to Port Said, the steamer rolling about badly in the long swell. There was plenty of room at the dinner-table on Thursday. Port Said looks as I remember seeing Lawrence look when father took us there from grandmother’s, one day when we were boys. It is an extemporized town of shanties and cheap buildings, with everything to sell, which it is supposed that uncomfortable and extravagant travelers will buy. Only the population does not look like Lawrence people. They are brown Egyptians and Nubians as black as coals, and a few British soldiers with white pith helmets and red coats.

The sail down the canal has been delightful. The air was fresh and bright as spring, yet had the warmth of summer in it. The atmosphere was delightful, and though we sometimes ran between high banks of sand, which hid everything, most of the time the view was made up of long stretches of desert, reaching away to distant hills, with effect of light and color on them, all which were beautiful. This morning I saw out of my stateroom window a glorious sunrise, just such as the children of Israel must have seen on their famous trip from Egypt into Palestine some years ago. We passed yesterday Ismailia, where the British headquarters were this autumn, and saw the way they started to Tel El Kebir. And there we heard of the verdict in Arabi’s case, about which nobody seemed to care.

Now we really start upon our voyage. Up to this point has been mere preparation. Here the passengers for Australia and Calcutta leave us, and we take on board the passengers for Bombay, who have come all the way by sea from London. We shall be quite a new company. We have lost two or three days by having to go through the canal, and shall not be in Bombay certainly before the 22d, perhaps not till later. I like the ship, the people, the life on board, and all is going beautifully. Merry Christmas to you all.