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Egypt Collection

History Archive - Egypt Collection

Egypt is a country forming the north-east extremity of Africa, also being considered part of the Near East. In the following account a division is made into (I.) Modern Egypt, and (II.) Ancient Egypt.

By the Greek and Roman geographers Egypt was usually assigned to Libya (Africa), but by some early writers the Nile was thought to mark the division between Libya and Asia.

For most of the Modern period Egypt was a tributary state of the Turkish empire, and was ruled by an hereditary prince with the style of khedive, a Persian title regarded as the equivalent of king. The succession to the throne is by primogeniture.

The central administration is carried on by a council of ministers, appointed by the khedive, one of whom acts as prime minister. To these is added a British financial adviser, who attends all meetings of the council of ministers, but has not a vote; on the other hand, no financial decision may be taken without his consent.

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The ministries are those of the interior, finance, public works, justice, war, foreign affairs and public instruction,[3] and in each of these are prepared the drafts of decrees, which are then submitted to the council of ministers for approval, and on being signed by the khedive become law. No important decision, however, has been taken since 1882 without the concurrence of the British minister plenipotentiary. With a few exceptions, laws cannot, owing to the Capitulations, be enforced against foreigners except with the consent of the powers.

While the council of ministers with the khedive forms the legislative authority, there are various representative bodies with strictly limited powers. The legislative council is a consultative body, partly elective, partly nominative. It examines the budget and all proposed administrative laws, but cannot initiate legislation, nor is the government bound to adopt its suggestions. The general assembly consists of the legislative council and the ministers of state, together with popularly elected members, who form a majority of the whole assembly. It has no legislative functions, but no new direct personal tax nor land tax can be imposed without its consent. It must meet at least once in every two years.

For purposes of local government the chief towns constitute governorships (moafzas), the rest of the country being divided into mudirias or provinces. The governors and mudirs (heads of provinces) are responsible to the ministry of the interior. The provinces are further divided into districts, each of which is under a mamur, who in his turn supervises and controls the omda, mayor or head-man, of each village in his district.

The governorships are: Cairo; Alexandria, which includes an area of 70 sq. m.; Suez Canal, including Port Said and Ismailia; Suez and El-Arish. Lower Egypt is divided into the provinces of: Behera, Gharbia, Menufia, Dakahlia, Kaliubia, Sharkia. The oasis of Siwa and the country to the Tripolitan frontier are dependent on the province of Behera. Upper Egypt: Giza, Beni Suef, Fayum, Minia, Assiut, Girga, Kena, Assuan. The peninsula of Sinai is administered by the war office.


Egypt is bounded N. by the Mediterranean, S. by the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, N.E. by Palestine, E. by the Red Sea, W. by Tripoli and the Sahara. The western frontier is ill-defined. The boundary line between Tripoli and Egypt is usually taken to start from a point in the Gulf of Sollum and to run S. by E. so as to leave the oasis of Siwa to Egypt. South of Siwa the frontier, according to the Turkish firman of 1841, bends eastward, approaching the cultivated Nile-land near Wadi Halfa, i.e. the southern frontier. This southern frontier is fixed by agreement between Great Britain and Egypt at the 22° N. The N.E. frontier is an almost direct line drawn from Taba, near the head of the Gulf of Akaba, the eastern of the two gulfs into which the Red Sea divides, to the Mediterranean at Rafa in 34° 15' E.

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The peninsula of Sinai, geographically part of Asia, is thus included in the Egyptian dominions. The total area of the country is about 400,000 sq. m., or more than three times the size of the British Isles. Of this area 14/15ths is desert. Canals, roads, date plantations, &c., cover 1900 sq. m.; 2850 sq. m. are comprised in the surface of the Nile, marshes, lakes, &c. A line corresponding with the 30° N., drawn just S. of Cairo, divides the country into Lower and Upper Egypt, natural designations in common use, Lower Egypt being the Delta and Upper Egypt the Nile valley. By the Arabs Lower Egypt is called Er-Rif, the cultivated or fertile; Upper Egypt Es Sa'id, the happy or fortunate. Another division of the country is into Lower, Middle and Upper Egypt, Middle Egypt in this classification being the district between Cairo and Assiut.

The distinguishing features of Egypt are the Nile and the desert. But for the river there would be nothing to differentiate the country from other parts of the Sahara. The Nile, however, has transformed the land through which it passes. Piercing the desert, and at its annual overflow depositing rich sediment brought from the Abyssinian highlands, the river has created the Delta and the fertile strip in Upper Egypt. This cultivable land is Egypt proper; to it alone is applicable the ancient name-"the black land." The Misr of the Arabs is restricted to the same territory. Beyond the Nile valley east and west stretch great deserts, containing here and there fertile oases. The general appearance of the country is remarkably uniform.

The Delta is a level plain, richly cultivated, and varied alone by the lofty dark-brown mounds of ancient cities, and the villages set in groves of palm-trees, standing on mounds often, if not always, ancient. Groves of palm-trees are occasionally seen besides those around the villages, but other trees are rare. In Upper Egypt the Nile valley is very narrow and is bounded by mountains of no great height. They form the edge of the desert on either side of the valley, of which the bottom is level rock. The mountains rarely take the form of peaks. Sometimes they approach the river in bold promontories, and at others are divided by the dry beds of ancient watercourses. The bright green of the fields, the reddish-brown or dull green of the great river, contrasting with the bare yellow rocks, seen beneath a brilliant sun and a deep-blue sky, present views of great beauty. In form the landscape varies little and is not remarkable; in color its qualities are always splendid, and under a general uniformity show a continual variety.

Cities and Towns

Cairo the capital, a city of Arab foundation, is built on the east bank of the Nile, about 12 m, above the point where the river divides, and in reference to its situation at the head of the Delta has been called by the Arabs "the diamond stud in the handle of the fan of Egypt." It has a population (1907) of 654,476 and is the largest city in Africa. Next in importance of the cities of Egypt and the chief seaport is Alexandria, pop. (with Ramleh) 370,009, on the shore of the Mediterranean at the western end of the Delta. Port Said, pop. 49,884, at the eastern end of the Delta, and at the north entrance to the Suez Canal, is the second seaport.

Between Alexandria and Port Said are the towns of Rosetta, pop. 16,810, and Damietta, pop. 29,354, each built a few miles above the mouth of the branch of the Nile of the same name. In the middle ages, when Alexandria was in decay, these two towns were busy ports; with the revival of Alexandria under Mehemet Ali and the foundation of Port Said (c. 1860), their trade declined. The other ports of Egypt are Suez, pop. 18,347, at the south entrance of the canal, Kosseir (794) on the Red Sea, the seat of the trade carried on between Upper Egypt and Arabia, Mersa Matruh, near the Tripolitan frontier, and El-Arish, pop. 5897, on the Mediterranean, near the frontier of Palestine, and a halting-place on the caravan route from Egypt to Syria.

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In the interior of the Delta are many flourishing towns, the largest being Tanta, pop. 54,437, which occupies a central position. Damanhur (38,752) lies on the railway between Tanta and Alexandria; Mansura (40,279) is on the Damietta branch of the Nile, to the N.E. of Tanta; Zagazig (34,999) is the largest town in the Delta east of the Damietta branch; Bilbeis (13,485) lies N.N.E. of Cairo, on the edge of the desert and in the ancient Land of Goshen. Ismailia (10,373) is situated midway on the Suez Canal. All these towns, which depend largely on the cotton industry, are separately noticed.

Other towns in Lower Egypt are: Mehallet el-Kubra, pop. 47,955, 16 m. by rail N.E. of Tanta, with manufactories of silk and cottons; Salihia (6100), E.N.E. of and terminus of a railway from Zagazig, on the edge of the desert south of Lake Menzala, and the starting-point of the caravans to Syria; Mataria (15,142) on Lake Menzala and headquarters of the fishing industry; Zifta (15,850) on the Damietta branch and the site of a barrage; Samanud (14,408), also on the Damietta branch, noted for its pottery, and Fua (14,515), where large quantities of tarbushes are made, on the Rosetta branch. Shibin el-Kom (21,576), 16 m. S. of Tanta, is a cotton centre, and Menuf (22,316), 8 m. S.W. of Shibin, in the fork between the branches of the Nile, is the chief town of a rich agricultural district. There are many other towns in the Delta with populations between 10,000 and 20,000.

Upper Egypt

In Upper Egypt the chief towns are nearly all in the narrow valley of the Nile. The exceptions are the towns in the oases comparatively unimportant, and those in the Fayum province. The capital of the Fayum, Medinet el-Fayum, has a population (1907) of 37,320. The chief towns on the Nile, taking them in their order in ascending the river from Cairo, are Beni Suef, Minia, Assiut, Akhmim, Suhag, Girga, Kena, Luxor, Esna, Edfu, Assuan and Korosko.

Beni Suef (23,357) is 77 m. from Cairo by rail. It is on the west bank of the river, is the capital of a mudiria and a centre for the manufacture of woollen goods.

Minia (27,221) is 77 m. by rail farther south. It is also the capital of a mudiria, has a considerable European colony, possesses a large sugar factory and some cotton mills. It is the starting-point of a road to the Baharia oasis.

Assiut, pop. 39,442, is 235 m. S. of Cairo by rail, and is the most important commercial centre in Upper Egypt. At this point a barrage is built across the river. Suhag (17,514) is 56 m. by rail S. of Assiut and is the headquarters of Girga mudiria.

The ancient and celebrated Coptic monasteries El Abiad (the white) and El Ahmar (the red) are 3 to 4 m. W. and N.W. respectively of Suhag.

A few miles above Suhag, on the opposite (east) side of the Nile is Akhmim or Ekhmim (23,795), where silk and cotton goods are made. Girga, pop. 19,893, is 22 m. S. by rail of Suhag, and on the same (the west) side of the river. It is noted for its pottery.

Kena, pop. 20,069, is on the east bank of the Nile, 145 m. by rail from Assiut. It is the chief seat of the manufacture of the porous earthenware water-bottles used all over Egypt.

Luxor, pop. (with Karnak) 25,229, marks the site of Thebes. It is 418 m. from Cairo, and here the gauge of the railway is altered from broad to narrow.

Esna, pop. 19,103, is another place where pottery is made in large quantities. It is on the west bank of the Nile, 36 m. by rail S. of Luxor.

Edfu, pop. 19,262, is also on the west side of the river, 30 m. farther south. It is chiefly famous for its ancient temple.

Assuan, pop. 12,618, is at the foot of the First Cataract and 551 m. S. of Cairo by rail.

Three miles farther south, at Shellal, the Egyptian railway terminates.

Korosko, 118 m. by river above Assuan, is a small place notable as the northern terminus of the caravan route from the Sudan across the Nubian desert. Since the building of the railway-which starts 96 m. higher up, at Wadi Halfa-to Khartum, this route is little used, and Korosko has lost what importance it had.

Ancient Cities

Many of the modern cities of Egypt are built on the sites of ancient cities, and they generally contain some monuments of the time of the Pharaohs, Greeks or Romans. The sites of other ancient cities now in complete ruin may be indicated. Memphis, the Pharaonic capital, was on the west bank of the Nile, some 14 m. above Cairo, and Heliopolis lay some 5 m. N.N.E. of Cairo. The pyramids of Giza or Gizeh, on the edge of the desert, 8 m. west of Cairo, are the largest of the many pyramids and other monuments, including the famous Sphinx, built in the neighborhood of Memphis.

The site of Thebes has already been indicated. Syene stood near to where the town of Assuan now is; opposite, on an island in the Nile, are scanty ruins of the city of Elephantine, and a little above, on another island, is the temple of Philae. The ancient Coptos (Keft) is represented by the village of Kuft, between Luxor and Kena. A few miles north of Kena is Dendera, with a famous temple. The ruins of Abydos, one of the oldest places in Egypt, are 8 m. S.W. of Balliana, a small town in Girga mudiria. The ruined temples of Abu Simbel are on the west side of the Nile, 56 m. above Korosko.

On the Red Sea, south of Kosseir, are the ruins of Myos Hormos and Berenice. Of the ancient cities in the Delta there are remains, among others, of Sais, Iseum, Tanis, Bubastis, Onion, Sebennytus, Pithom, Pelusium, and of the Greek cities Naucratis and Daphnae. There are, besides the more ancient cities and monuments, a number of Coptic towns, monasteries and churches in almost every part of Egypt, dating from the early centuries of Christianity.

The monasteries, or ders, are generally fort-like buildings and are often built in the desert. Tombs of Mahommedan saints are also numerous, and are often placed on the summit of the cliffs overlooking the Nile. The traveller in Egypt thus views, side by side with the activities of the present day, where occident and orient meet and clash, memorials of every race and civilization which has flourished in the valley of the Nile.

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Owing to its early development of a high civilization with written records, its wealth, and its preservative climate, Egypt is the country which most amply repays archaeological research. It is especially those long ages during which Egypt was an independent centre of culture and government, before its absorption in the Persian empire in the 6th century B.C., that make the most powerful appeal to the imagination and can often justify this appeal by the splendor of the monuments representing them. Later, however, the history of Hellenism, the provincial history of the Roman empire, the rise of Christianity and the triumph of Islam successively receive brilliant illustration in Egypt.

As early as the 17th century travelers began to bring home specimens of ancient Egyptian handiwork: a valuable stele from Sakkara of the beginning of the Old Kingdom was presented to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford in 1683. In the following century the Englishman R. Pococke (1704-1765), the Dane F. L. Norden (1708-1742), both traveling in 1737, and others later, planned, described or figured Egyptian ruins in a primitive way and identified many of the sites with cities named in classical authors. Napoleon's great military expedition in 1798 was accompanied by a scientific commission including artists and archaeologists, the results of whose labors fill several of the magnificent volumes of the Description de l'Egypte. The antiquities collected by the expedition, including the famous Rosetta stone, were ceded to the British government at the capitulation of Alexandria, in 1801.

Thereafter Mehemet Ali threw Egypt freely open to Europeans, and a busy traffic in antiquities began, chiefly through the agency of the consuls of different powers. From the year 1820 onwards the growth of the European collections was rapid, and Champollion's decipherments of the hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating from 1821, added fresh impetus to the fashion of collecting, in spite of doubts as to their trustworthiness. In 1827 a combined expedition led by Champollion and Rosellini was despatched by the governments of France and Tuscany, and accomplished a great deal of valuable work in copying scenes and inscriptions. But the greatest of such expeditions was that of Lepsius, under the auspices of the Prussian government, in 1842-1845. Its labors embraced not only Egypt and Nubia (as far as Khartum) but also the Egyptian monuments in Sinai and Syria; its immense harvest of material is of the highest value, the new device of taking paper impressions or "squeezes" giving Lepsius a great advantage over his predecessors, similar to that which was later conferred by the photographic camera.

A new period was opened in Egyptian exploration in 1858 when Mariette was appointed director of archaeological works in Egypt, his duties being to safeguard the monuments and prevent their exploitation by dealers. As early as 1835 Mehemet Ali had given orders for a museum to be formed; little however, was accomplished before the whole of the resulting collection was given away to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1855. Mariette, who was appointed by the viceroy Said Pasha at the instance of the French government, succeeded in making his office effective and permanent, in spite of political intrigues and the whims of an Oriental ruler; he also secured a building on the island of Bulak (Bulaq) for a viceregal museum in which the results of his explorations could be permanently housed. Supported by the French interest, the established character of this work as a department of the Egyptian government (which also claims the ancient sites) has been fully recognized since the British occupation. The "Service of Antiquities" now boasts a large annual budget and employs a number of European and native officials-a director, curators of the museum, European inspectors and native sub-inspectors of provinces (at Luxor for Upper Egypt and Nubia, at Assiut for Middle Egypt and the Fayum, at Mansura for Lower Egypt, besides a European official in charge of the government excavations at Memphis). The museum, no longer the property of an individual, was removed in 1889 from the small building at Bulak to a disused palace at Giza, and since 1902 has been established at Kasr-en-Nil, Cairo, in a special building, of ample size and safe from fire and flood. In the year 1881 the directorship of the museum was temporarily undertaken by Prof. Maspero, who resumed it in 1899.

The admirably conducted Archaeological Survey of the portion of Nubia threatened by the raising of the Assuan dam is in the charge of another department-the Survey department, directed for many years up to 1909 by Captain H. G. Lyons. Non-official agencies (supported by voluntary contributions) for exploration in Egypt comprise the Egypt Exploration Fund, started in London in 1881, with its two branches, viz. the Archaeological Survey (1890) for copying and publishing the monuments above ground, and the Graeco-Roman Branch (1897), well known through the brilliant work in Greek papyri of B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt; and the separate Research Account founded by Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie in London (University College) in 1896, and since 1905 called the British School of Archaeology in Egypt (see especially Memphis).

The Mission archeologique francaise au Caire, established as a school by the French government in 1881, was re-organized in 1901 on a lavish scale under the title Institut francais d'archeologie orientale du Caire, and domiciled with printing-press and library in a fine building near the museum. As the result of an excellent bargain, it was afterwards removed to the Munira palace in the south-east part of the city. An archaeologist is attached to the German general consulate to look after the interests of German museums, and is director of the German Institute of Archaeology. The Orient-Gesellschaft (German Orient-Society) has worked in Egypt since 1901 with brilliant results. Excavations and explorations are also conducted annually by the agents of universities and museums in England, America and Germany, and by private explorers, concessions being granted generally on the terms that the Egyptian government shall retain half of the antiquities discovered, while the other half remains for the finders.

The era of scientific excavation began with Flinders Petrie's work at Tanis in 1883. Previous explorers kept scientific aims in view, but the idea of scientific archaeology was not realized by them. The procedure in scientific excavation is directed to collecting and interpreting all the information that can be obtained from the excavation as to the history and nature of the site explored, be it town, temple, house, cemetery or individual grave, wasting no evidence that results from it touching the endless problems which scientific archaeology affords-whether in regard to arts and crafts, manners and customs, language, history or beliefs. This is a totally different thing from mere hunting for inscriptions, statues or other portable objects which will present a greater or less value in themselves even when torn from their context. Such may, of course, form the greater part of the harvest and working material of a scientific excavator; their presence is most welcome to him, but their complete absence need be no bar to his attainment of important historical results. The absence of scientific excavation in Egypt was deplored by the Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind (1833-1863), as early as 1862. Since Flinders Petrie began, the general level of research has gradually risen, and, while much is shamefully bad and destructive, there is a certain proportion that fully realizes the requirements of scientific archaeology.

The remains for archaeological investigation in Egypt may be roughly classified as material and literary: to the latter belong the texts on papyri and the inscriptions, to the former the sites of ancient towns with the temples, fortifications and houses; remains of roads, canals, quarries and other matters falling within the domain of ancient topography; the larger monuments, as obelisks, statues, stelae, &c.; and finally the small antiquities-utensils, clothes, weapons, amulets, &c. Where moisture can reach the antiquities their preservation is no better in Egypt than it would have been in other countries; for this reason all the papyri in the Delta have perished unless they happen to have been charred by fire. A terrible pest is a kind of termite which is locally abundant and has probably visited most parts of Egypt at one time or another, destroying all dead vegetable or animal material in the soil that was not specially protected.

In Lower Egypt the cities built of crude brick were very numerous, especially after the 7th century B.C., but owing to the value of stone very few of their monuments have escaped destruction: even the mounds of rubbish which marked their sites furnish a valuable manure for the fields and in consequence are rapidly disappearing. Granite and other hard stones, having but a limited use (for millstones and the like), have the best chance of survival. At Bubastis, Tanis, Behbeit (Iseum) and Heliopolis considerable stone remains have been discovered. In the north of the Delta wherever salt marshes have prevented cultivation in modern times, the mounds, such as those of Pelusium, still stand to their full height, and the more important are covered with ruins of brick structures of Byzantine and Arab date.

Middle and Upper Egypt were less busy and prosperous in the later ages than Lower Egypt. There was consequently somewhat less consumption of the old stone-work. Moreover, in many places equally good material could be obtained without much difficulty from the cliffs on both sides of the Nile. Yet even the buried portions of limestone buildings have seldom been permitted to survive on the cultivated land; the Nubian sandstone of Upper Egypt was of comparatively little value, and, generally speaking, buildings in that material have fallen into decay rather than been destroyed by quarrying.

Starting from Cairo and going southward we have first the great pyramid-field, with the necropolis of Memphis as its centre; stretching from Abu Roash on the north to Lisht on the south, it is followed by the pyramid group of Dahshur, the more isolated pyramids of Medum and Illahun, and that of Hawara in the Fayum. On the east bank are the limestone quarries of Turra and Masara opposite Memphis. South of the Fayum on the western border of the desert are the tombs of Deshasha, Meir and Assiut, and on the east bank those of Beni Hasan, the rock-cut temple of Speos Artemidos, the tombs of El Bersha and Sheikh Said, the tombs and stelae of El Amarna with the alabaster quarries of Hanub in the desert behind them, and the tombs of Deir el Gebrawi. Beyond Assiut are the tombs of Dronka and R?fa, the temples of Abydos and Dendera, and the tombs, &c., at Akhm?m and Kasr es Saiyad. Farther south are the stupendous ruins of Thebes on both sides of the river, the temple of Esna, the ruins and tombs of El Kab, the temple of Edfu, the quarries of Silsila and the temple of Ombos, followed by the inscribed rocks of the First Cataract, the tombs and quarries of Assuan and the temples of Philae.

Trade Routes and Communications

Egypt's geographical position gives Egypt command of one of the most important trade routes in the world. It is, as it were, the fort which commands the way from Europe to the East. This has been the case from time immemorial, and the provision, in 1869, of direct maritime communication between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, by the completion of the Suez Canal, ensured for the Egyptian route the supremacy in sea-borne traffic to Asia, which the discovery of the passage to India by way of the Cape of Good Hope had menaced for three and a half centuries.

The Suez Canal is 87 m. long, 66 actual canal and 21 lakes. It has sufficient depth to allow vessels drawing 27 ft. of water to pass through. It is administered by a company whose headquarters are in Paris, and no part of its revenue reaches the Egyptian exchequer (see Suez Canal). Besides the many steamship lines which use the Suez Canal, other steamers run direct from European ports to Alexandria. There is also a direct mail service between Suez and Port Sudan.

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The chief means of internal communication are, in the Delta the railways, in Upper Egypt the railway and the river. The railways are of two kinds: (1) those state-owned and state-worked, (2) agricultural light railways owned and worked by private companies. Railway construction dates from 1852, when the line from Alexandria to Cairo was begun, by order of Abbas I. The state railways, unless otherwise indicated, have a gauge of 4 ft. 8 in. The main system is extremely simple. Trunk lines from Alexandria (via Damanhur and Tanta) and from Port Said (via Ismailia) traverse the Delta and join at Cairo. From Cairo the railway is continued south up the valley of the Nile and close to the river. At first it follows the west bank, crossing the stream at Nag Hamadi, 354 m. from Cairo, by an iron bridge 437 yds. long. Thence it continues on the east bank to Luxor, where the broad gauge ceases. From Luxor the line continues on the standard African gauge (3 ft. 6 in.) to Shellal, 3 m. above Assuan and 685 m. from Alexandria. This main line service is supplemented by a steamer service on the Nile from Shellal to Wadi Halfa, on the northern frontier of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, whence there is direct railway communication with Khartum and the Red Sea.

Branch lines connect Cairo and Alexandria with Suez and with almost every town in the Delta. From Cairo to Suez via Ismailia is a distance of 160 m. Before the Suez Canal was opened passengers and goods were taken to Suez from Cairo by a railway 84 m. long which ran across the desert. This line, now disused, had itself superseded the "overland route" organized by Lieut. Thomas Waghorn, R.N., c. 1830, for the conveyance of passengers and mails to India. In Upper Egypt a line, 40 m. long, runs west from Wasta, a station 56 m. S. of Cairo, to Abuksa in the Fayum mudiria. Another railway goes from Kharga Junction, a station on the main line 24 m. S. of Girga, to the oasis of Kharga. These lines are privately owned.

In the Delta the light railways supplement the ordinary lines and connect the villages with the towns and seaports. There are over 700 m. of these lines. The railway development of Egypt has not been very rapid. In 1880 944 m. of state lines were open; in 1900 the figure was 1393, and in 1905, 1688. For several years before 1904 the administration of the railways was carried on by an international or mixed board for the security of foreign creditors. In the year named the railways came directly under the control of the Egyptian government, which during the next four years spent E.3,000,000 on improving and developing the lines. In the five years 1902-1906 the capital value of the state railways increased from E.20,383,000 to E.23,200,000 and the net earnings from E.1,059,000 to E. 1,475,000. The number of passengers carried in the same period rose from 12 to over 22 millions, and the weight of goods from slightly under 3,000,000 to nearly 6,750,000 tons. In 1906 the light railways carried nearly a million tons of goods and over 6,800,000 passengers.

Westward from Alexandria a railway, begun in 1904 by the khedive, Abbas II., runs parallel with the coast, and is intended to be continued to Tripoli. The line forms the eastern end of the great railway system which will eventually extend from Tangier to Alexandria.

The Nile is navigable throughout its course in Egypt, and is largely used as a means of cheap transit of heavy goods. Lock and bridge tolls were abolished in 1899 and 1901 respectively. As a result, river traffic greatly increased. Above Cairo the Nile is the favorite tourist route, while between Shellal (Assuan) and the Sudan frontier it is the only means of communication. Among the craft using the river the dahabiya is a characteristic native sailing vessel, somewhat resembling a house-boat. From the Nile, caravan routes lead westward to the various oases and eastward to the Red Sea, the shortest (120 m.) and most used of the eastern routes being that from Kena to Kosseir. Roads suitable for wheeled vehicles are found in Lower Egypt, but the majority of the tracks are bridle-paths, goods being conveyed on the backs of donkeys, mules and camels.

Posts and Telegraphs

The Egyptian postal system is highly organized and efficient, and in striking contrast with its condition in 1870, when there were but nineteen post-offices in the country. All the branches of business transacted in European post-offices are carried on by the Egyptian service, Egypt being a member of the Postal Union. It was the first foreign country to establish a penny postage with Great Britain, the reduction from 2d. being made in 1905. The inland letters and packages carried yearly exceed 20,000,000 and foreign letters (30% to England) number over 4,000,000. Over 17,000,000 passes yearly through the post. A feature of the service are the traveling post-offices, of which there are some 200.

All the important towns are connected by telegraph, the telegraphs being state-owned and worked by the railway administration. Egypt is also connected by cables and land-lines with the outside world. One land-line connects at El-Arish with the line through Syria and Asia Minor to Constantinople. Another line connects at Wadi Halfa with the Sudan system, affording direct telegraphic communication via Khartum and Gondokoro with Uganda and Mombasa. The Eastern Telegraph Company, by concessions, have telegraph lines across Egypt from Alexandria via Cairo to Suez, and from Port Said to Suez, connecting their cables to Europe and the East. The principal cables are from Alexandria to Malta, Gibraltar and England; from Alexandria to Crete and Brindisi; from Suez to Aden, Bombay, China and Australia.

The telephone is largely used in the big towns, and there is a trunk telephone line connecting Alexandria and Cairo.


Evelyn Wood, 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 9. pgs. 21-39.

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