Showing posts sorted by relevance for query pasha. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query pasha. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Marches without water

Poor William Grant Stairs. Aged but 28 he died of malaria 130 years ago today. Having been caught up in the feverish ‘Scramble for Africa’ at the behest of the ruthless King Léopold II, he became a cruel leader himself. On an expedition to win mineral rights in Katanga many of his men died, and many others deserted. A diary he kept of his exploits in Africa, not published in English until the late 1990s, gives a good feel for the moral corruption of those enacting imperialist ambitions, as well as the arduous conditions they suffered.

Stairs was born in 1863, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and educated in Edinburgh before attending the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He spent three years working for the New Zealand Trigonometrical Survey. In 1885, he was commissioned in the British Royal Engineers, though soon after he joined the privately-funded Emin Pasha Relief Expedition led by Henry Morton Stanley which sailed from London in 1887. (See more on this extraordinary expedition in The Diary Review article Rescuing the Emin Pasha.) On his return, Stairs was named a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Subsequently, and on Stanley’s recommendation, Stairs was appointed by King Léopold II of Belgium, who privately ruled over the Congo Free State, to command a mission to claim Katanga, a mineral-rich territory, now in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A rival expedition, led by the Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, was also after the minerals in Katanga.

Stairs set out from Zanzibar in June 1891, and ultimately achieved his goal in that Katanga became part of the Congo Free State. But, he was a cruel leader, often resorting to violence, and he lost many of the 400 men he started out with, either because they died from appalling conditions on the expedition or because they deserted. He himself was frequently sick, and while onboard a steamer on the lower Zambezi he died - on 9 June 1892 - from an attack of malaria. In 1908, the Congo Free State was annexed by the government of Belgium after the increasingly brutal mistreatment of local peoples and plunder of natural resources had become an international scandal.

Wikipedia has plenty of information on Stairs, his expedition, and the part they played in the ‘Scramble for Africa’. But more can be read in the introduction to African Exploits: The Diaries of William Stairs 1887-1892 by Roy D. MacLaren (sub-titled as ‘A personal account of imperial ambitions in Africa in the nineteenth century’). This was first published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 1998, and most of it is free to read at Googlebooks. At the time, Roy MacLaren was High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom.

According to the publishers, ‘few diaries of the period convey better than Stairs’s the nature and course of imperialist expeditions in Africa in the nineteenth century and the psychological and moral corruption caused by absolute power’. Stairs’s diaries of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, it continues, ‘present a candid, personal account of the long and arduous venture, including a very unflattering assessment of Stanley, whom Stairs described as cruel, secretive, and selfish’.

African Exploits is divided into two main sections: Stairs’s diary of the Emin Pasha expedition, and the diary of the Katanga expedition. According to MacLaren, the latter is less spontaneous and less personal, because it was written as per the terms of his contract, as an expedition diary. It also suffers, he says, from having to be translated back from the French (the only extant version of the Katanga diary is in French in Léopold’s journal Le Congo Illustré) and along the way has lost ‘the lively Victorian idiom which Stairs habitually employed’.

Nevertheless, here are a few extracts from the Katanga diary in African Exploits.

27 August 1891
‘I have tried, during my leisure hours, to write some verse. I certainly have not achieved anything notable, but if I have been able to analyze faithfully the changing lights and shadows of the daily life of an African expedition, I shall have realized a long-held goal.’

28 August 1891
‘Tomorrow we must tirika: sleep in the bush without water . . . an eleven hour march almost twenty miles from here to the next water. A camp without water worries me, for on the following day, the men are good for nothing.’

29 August 1891
‘We have marched twenty kilometres in five hours and fifty minutes. We passed the place where poor [Thomas] Carter [a British army officer who had tried to introduce Indian elephants to Africa] was killed several years ago. . . Our camp is near the Lake Cheia which at the moment is simply a parched expanse without a drop of water. I sent natives on ahead to search for water. . . they report only empty wells, surrounded by decomposing buffaloes, giraffes, and antelopes, all dead from thirst. Extraordinary as it is for this region, there is also the corpse of an elephant upon whose putrid flesh the Africans feed.’

30 August 1891
‘Marched from 5:15 am until 10:15 am, when we arrived at Itura with my caravan dying of thirst and exhaustion. In the wells there was no more than a small ribbon of water. An Arab whose caravan preceded ours assured the natives along that route that we rob the natives. The result is that only with the greatest difficulty have I been able to buy any food. And to think how kind and courteous I have been to the Arabs.’

31 August 1891
‘Six and a half hours of march to cover fifteen miles. We camp amidst the brush, tired beyond description and without water. Tomorrow we shall reach water after a two and a half hour march, but the following day there is a wasteland of fifteen miles to Rubuga. [. . .]

As we approach Tabora I fear increasingly the desertions of more of my men. These long marches without water terrify them and I sense that they would prefer to desert than to continue in such conditions. . . The hardships and the weariness cause me such endless cares. . . that I have become as thin as a rail and my cheekbones stand out in my face.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 9 June 2012.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rescuing the Emin Pasha

Arthur Jephson, a young adventurer and African explorer, died one hundred years ago today. He’s not well remembered, but he would be even less so if it were not for a diary he wrote while accompanying Henry Stanley on one of his expeditions in Africa. Unfortunately, the text of the diary does not appear to be available on the internet, although copies printed in the 1960s are available, at a price.

One of twelve children, Jephson was born in 1858 to the vicar of Childerditch in Essex, and Ellen, the daughter of the recorder of Norwich. He trained for the merchant navy, but then spent time in the Antrim regiment of the Royal Irish Rifles, before resigning his commission and living under the patronage of Helene, comtesse de Noailles. In 1886, a donation by the comtesse secured Jephson’s place on an expedition along the Congo, being undertaken by Henry Morton Stanley. On Jephson’s return from Africa, he published an account of the journey which was translated into French and German, and also lectured on the subject. Despite wanting to return to the continent, he never did due to ill-health. He was appointed Queen’s Messenger (one who carries important documents for the sovereign) in 1895; in 1904 he married and had one son. Four years later he died, while still relatively young, on 22 October 1908.

But it is the expedition to Africa for which Jephson is most remembered. It was organised to rescue a man invariably called Emin Pasha. A physician and explorer from Silesia, he was originally named Eduard Schnitzer, but after becoming a medical officer in the Turkish army, he adopted a Turkish mode of living with the name Mehmet Emin. He later served under General Charles Gordon in Equatoria (an Egyptian province in the upper Nile at the time, now Sudan) as a district medical officer, and then succeeded Gordon as governor. However, an Arab revolt, that started in the early 1880s, increasingly isolated him and his few troops. Nevertheless, he managed to keep lines of communication open, and his communiques to Europe eventually attracted considerable sympathy, especially after Gordon’s death in 1885.

Thus, in 1887, the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, led by Henry Morton Stanley, undertook to rescue the man by going up the Congo River and then through the Ituri Forest. Two-thirds of those who undertook the journey died. A Wikipedia article on Emin explains that Stanley did find Emin, in April 1888, but then spent a year arguing with him and his troops to leave for safer parts. During this time, both Emin and Jephson were imprisoned for some months by rebel officers, and only then was Emin finally persuaded to leave for the coast.

Jephson kept a diary during the expedition, but it wasn’t published until more than 50 years after his death, in 1969 (for the Hakluyt Society by Cambridge University Press). Its full title is The Diary of A J Mounteney Jephson: Emin Pasha Relief Expedition 1887-1889. It was edited by Dorothy Middleton, and has a preface, prologue and epilogue compiled by the editor in collaboration with Maurice Denham Jephson. As far I can tell there are no extracts available on the internet, but Abebooks has some copies for sale, starting at about £30. Wikipedia calls Jephson’s diary ‘frank, sensitive and open-hearted’.

A few more interesting details about Jephson and his diary are available at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website (for which one needs a subscription, but UK public library membership allows for free access). The diary, it says, confirms ‘in graphic detail the extent of the violence and suffering’ that accompanied the expedition. It also argues that since Jephson had had no previous experience of either tropical travel or warfare, his very survival was considered something of an accomplishment. According to the AIM25 website (which provides information on archives in the greater London area), photocopies of the original diary is held at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Read the Word of God

‘Luigi Assemani desired to argue with me again about faith in the Pope, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. But as he is very young, I thought it not fair to argue with him; I told him, therefore, that I advised him to read the Word of God diligently . . .’ This is from the journals of Joseph Wolff - Christian Missionary to the Jews of the world - who died 160 years ago today.

Wolff was born at Weilersbach, near Bamberg, Germany, in 1796 into a Jewish family. His father was a rabbi but he sent his son to the Protestant Lyceum at Stuttgart to learn German. Later he studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Interested in Christianity, he left home very young. After some years of travelling, he was baptised in 1812 by Leopold Zolda, abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Emmaus, near Prague. Four years later, he arrived in Rome, where he began training as a missionary at the seminary of the Collegio Romano. However, he was a subversive student, criticising his tutors, and was expelled in 1818. He moved on to England to stay with Henry Drummond, founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, where he became friendly with Lewis Way. Wolff became a member of the Church of England, and was persuaded to train as a missionary at Cambridge University, with his expenses paid by The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews.

Between 1821 and 1826, Wolff traveled as a missionary in Egypt and the Levant, and was the first modern missionary to preach to the Jews near Jerusalem. He sent Christian boys from Cyprus to England for education, and then continued his travels through Persia, Mesopotamia, Tiflis, and the Crimea. He married Lady Georgiana Mary Walpole in 1827. And, in 1828 set off east again, this time in search of the fabled Lost Ten Tribes (said to have been exiled from the Kingdom of Israel after its conquest in the 8th century). This journey lasted five years, taking Wolf to Armenia, Bokhara, India and Egypt among other countries.

Wolff travelled to the United States where he preached before Congress. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of New Jersey, and in 1838 priest by the Bishop of Dromore. In 1843 he made another journey to Bokhara, to rescue two captured British officers. There he found they had been executed by the Emir, Nasrullah Khan; he only narrowly escaped the same fate. In 1845, he was presented with the vicarage of Isle Brewers, Somerset, where he raised funds to rebuild All Saints Church. When his wife died, he married Louisa Decima in 1861 but he himself died the following year, on 2 May 1862. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the Jewish Encyclopaedia, or

Wolff kept journals of his travels, and published them in various forms during his life - the earliest being articles in the Jewish Expositor. These were collected together and interspersed with letters, memoir material, and verbatim dialogues to form his first book, Missionary Journal and Memoir of the Rev. Joseph Wolf (published by E. Bliss and E. White in 1824; editor John Bayford) This is freely available at Googlebooks and Internet Archive. (Other volumes of his can also be found at Internet Archive, such as the two-volume Travels and Adventures.) Here are few extracts from the Missionary Journal.

21 December 1821
‘Pitched my tent in Abajilbana, where we saw the sea, called Bahar Almahl.’

22 December 1821
‘We pitched our tent in the plain of the village Arish, where there are an old castle, and some cannon. They asked me there whether the English Sultan is allied with that of Islam, I said. Yes; Hamd Lelah was the answer.’

26 December 1821
‘Arrived at Gaza. There came Samson, and it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither, and they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night, saying: In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him: and Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of a hill that is before Hebron. 

It is now a little town inhabited by Mussulmen, and 100 Greek Christians, who have a very old church, which, by the account of the Greek priest on whom I called, was built in the time of Constantine the Great They are in possession of an old Arabic manuscript of the Gospel, which is kept sacred in the church. I asked them whether they would sell it to me, the priest replied, it would be an Haram Allah to sell any thing belonging to the church. All the Greeks throughout the East, are now in anxious expectation of the success of their brethren, fighting against their oppressors. Those at Gaza wept, and expected to hear from me good tidings, news of victory, on which I pointed them to the Lord, from whence their help will come. The chamack of the Grand Pasha of Acre, at the custom-house of Gaza, was very kind to me; he invited me to drink coffee with him, and procured me a room in the Han, which was not very handsome: he sent me some of his dates, and candles, and all this he did without reward, but I gave him before my departure, a present of three dollars. He was once in the service of the famous Djezzar, Pasha at Acre, and he knew Dr Clarke the traveller, and Mr. Smith, and he is the friend of Lady Esther Stanhope.’

3 January 1822
‘Peter Abbott, Esq., had the kindness to introduce me to an English Jew, with whom I had a short conversation about the Gospel. That Jew is to introduce me to their synagogue. My mind is quite relieved since I am again with English gentlemen; Peter Abbott, Esq. and Mr. M’Michael, Mr. Abbott promised me that he will kindly take an interest as well in the cause of the Bible as Missionary Society. Sent letters to Dr. Naudi, Mr. Lee, and Henry Drummond, by my friend Jacob Berggren.’

4 January 1822
‘Moreover, he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim; but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved. Psalm lxxviii. 67, 68. This very exclamation of the royal prophet may have been the reason, that the prophetical song of his harp did not sound well in the ears of the Samaritans, and that his oracles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have not been accepted, but rather rejected by them.

I took in view this morning the seraglio of the Pasha Abdallah, at Acre, it is a little, nice building. Mr. M’Michael accompanied me. The building is not to be compared with any house of a rich private gentlemen in England. We requested, by means iff Mr. Abbott’s dragoman, a bugrat for our journey to the Mount Lebanon. The clerks of the government office are almost all Christians of this country. We met there with one of the innumerable children of Djezzar; that is to say, with one of those whose nose has beep cut off by Djezzar’s order! We afterwards took in view the spot where Bonaparte encamped with his army: it is near the sea, opposite the Mount Carmel. “There was Nabal, who was churlish and evil in his doings, he would not know who David, and who the son of Jesse was.” 1 Samuel xxv.’

3 February 1822
‘Luigi Assemani desired to argue with me again about faith in the Pope, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. But as he is very young, I thought it not fair to argue with him; I told him, therefore, that I advised him to read the Word of God diligently, which tells us, that God shall add the plagues written in that book unto the man who should add to it; and that he should read that word of God with prayer, and then he would perceive the reason of my disbelief in the Pope.’

4 May 1822
‘Several Jews called on me, and asked for New Testaments, tracts, and Bibles. I gave them the books gratis. They read them in the streets, but the Jews from Barbary took them out of their hands, and burnt a great many. Armenian and Greek priests called on me to-day, and desired to purchase Greek, Arabic, and Armenian Bibles and Testaments, but I was not able to comply with their wish; I therefore wrote again to John Barker, Esq. in Aleppo, and to Peter Lee, Esq. in Alexandria, to send me Bibles, Testaments, and tracts.’

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Flaubert the Realist

Today is the anniversary of the death of the French author, Gustave Flaubert. A fastidious writer, he produced few books in his life, but Madame Bovary is certainly considered one of the best French novels of all time. And Flaubert himself has an important place in the history of literature as a master of Realism. Interestingly, although he only appears to have kept a diary when travelling - particularly on a journey in Egypt - some believe his travel diary writing helped turn Flaubert from the Romantic he was to the Realist he would become.

Flaubert was born in 1821, in Rouen, the son of a surgeon. As a teenager, he fell in love with an older, married woman. In 1841, he began to study law in Paris, but, on discovering he suffered from a nervous disease, he abandoned the law so as to concentrate on writing. After his father died in 1846, he moved to Croisset on the Seine near Rouen where he lived with his mother (and the daughter of his sister who had died soon after his father had done). He was to remain at Croisset for most of his life. That same year, 1846, he fell in love with the poet Louise Colet. Their affair lasted to the mid-1850s, but it was Flaubert’s only serious romantic relationship. Otherwise, he visited prostitutes (and suffered from venereal disease).

Although Flaubert wrote a couple of novels in the 1940s, it was not until after returning from a long journey to the Orient, with his friend Maxime du Camp, that he began working on Madame Bovary, a novel that would take him five years to complete. When first serialised in Revue de Paris, it was considered immoral by the government, though legal actions to that effect failed. Flaubert’s next novel, Salammbô, took four years and a trip to Carthage to complete.

A fastidious writer, always in search of stylistic perfection, Flaubert produced only two or three more works in his life. His last work, over which he obsessed for years, was published posthumously and to mixed reviews - Bouvard et Pécuchet. Nevertheless, Madame Bovary remains one of the most famous French novels of all time, and, despite being a romantic at heart, Flaubert is credited with being a master of the Realist style in literature, and influencing many later writers, such as Zola and Kafka. He died 130 years ago today, on 8 May 1880. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia and in a New Yorker review of a biography by Geoffrey Wall.

Flaubert was more of a letter writer than a diarist, but he did keep a journal on his travels, and the one he wrote while in the Orient has become a literature classic. First published in English by Bodley Head in 1972, as Flaubert in Egypt (with the subtitle A Sensibility on Tour; a Narrative drawn from Gustave Flaubert’s Travel Notes & Letters translated from the French & edited by Francis Steegmuller) it has since been republished as a Penguin Classic. A few pages can be read on the Amazon website, and even more of the book is viewable on Googlebooks.

Introducing Chapter IV of Flaubert in Egypt, in which Flaubert describes his experience of the Pyramids, Steegmuller draws attention to the idea that the ‘very act of keeping a travel diary played a role in carrying the Romantic Flaubert towards Realism.’ And to support this view, he gives a short example of Flaubert’s earlier writing, an imagined description of the pyramids. That ‘pantheistic rhapsody’, as Steegmuller calls it, starts as follows: ‘When the traveler has reached the top of the pyramid, his hands are torn and his knees are bleeding; he is surrounded by the desert and devoured by the light, and the harsh air burns his lungs; utterly exhausted and dazzled by their brilliance, he sinks down half dead on the stone, amidst the carcasses of birds come there to die. But lift your head! Look! Look! And you will see cities with domes of gold and minarets of porcelain, palaces of lava built on plinths of alabaster, marble-rimmed pools where sultanas come to bathe their bodies at the hour when the moon makes bluer the shadow of the groves and more limpid the silvery water of the fountains . . .’

And here, by contrast, is what Flaubert wrote in his diary when first seeing and experiencing the Sphinx and Pyramids for real.

7 December 1849
‘Set out at noon for the Pyramids. Maxime is mounted on a white horse that keeps jerking its head, Sassetti [a Corsican-born servant] on a small white horse, myself on a bay, Joseph [guide and interpreter] on a donkey. We pass Soliman Pasha’s gardens. Island of Roda. We cross the Nile in a small boat: while our horses are being led aboard, a corpse in its coffin is borne past us. Energy of our oarsmen: they sing, shouting out the rhythm as they bend forward and back. The sail swells full and we skim along fast.

Gizeh. Mud houses as at ‘Atfeh - palm grove. Two waterwheels, one turned by an ox and the other by a camel. Now stretching out before us in an immense plain, very green, with squares of black soil which are fields most recently plowed, the last from which the flood withdrew: they stand out like India ink on the solid green. I think of the invocation to Isis: ‘Hail, hail, black soil Egypt!’ The soil of Egypt is black. Some buffaloes are grazing, now and again a waterless muddy creek, in which our horses sink to their knees; soon we are crossing great puddles or creeks.

About half-past three we are almost on the edge of the desert, the three Pyramids looming up ahead of us. I can contain myself no longer, and dig in my spurs; my horse bursts into a gallop, splashing through the swamp. Two minutes later Maxime follows suit. Furious race. I begin to shout in spite of myself; we climb rapidly up to the Sphinx, clouds of sand swirling about us. At first our Arabs followed us, crying ‘Sphinx! Sphinx! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ It grew larger and larger, and rose out of the ground like a dog lifting itself up.

View of the Sphinx. Abu-el-Houl (Father of Terror). The sand, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, all gray and bathed in a great rosy light; the sky perfectly blue, eagles slowly wheeling and gliding around the tips of the Pyramids. We stop before the Sphinx; it fixes us with a terrifying stare; Maxime is quite pale; I am afraid of becoming giddy, and try to control my emotion. We ride off madly at full speed among the stones. We walk around the Pyramids, right at their feet. Our baggage is late in arriving; night falls. . .’

8 December 1849
‘Ascent. Up at five - the first - and wash in front of the tent in the canvas pail. We hear several jackals barking. Ascent of the Great Pyramid, the one to the right (Kheops). The stones, which at a distance of two hundred paces seem the size of paving-blocs, are in reality - the smallest of them - three feet high; generally they come up to our chests. We go up at the left hand corner (opposite the Pyramid of Khephren); the Arabs push and pull me; I am quickly exhausted, it is desperately tiring. I stop five or six times on the way up. Maxime started before me and goes fast. Finally I reach the top.

We wait a good half hour for the sunrise. The sun was rising just opposite; the whole valley of the Nile, bathed in mist, seemed to be a still white sea; and the desert behind us, with its hillocks of sand, another ocean, deep purple, its waves all petrified. But as the sun climbed behind the Arabian chain the mist was torn into great shreds of filmy gauze; the meadows, cut by canals, were like green lawns with winding borders. To sum up: three colors - immense green at my feet in the foreground; the sky pale red - worn vermilion; behind and to the right, a rolling expanse looking scorched and iridescent, with the minarets of Cairo, canges passing in the distance, clusters of palms. . .’

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Egyptian diary in Pisa

An Italian diary, nearly two centuries old and detailing archaeological sites in Egypt that were subsequently destroyed, has just been found in a library at Pisa university. The diary was written by Dr Alessandro Ricci, an explorer, draughtsman and medical doctor. There is not much information about him on the internet, though he took part in the important Franco-Tuscan expedition to Egypt with Ippolito Rosellini, said to be the father of Italian Egyptology. Oh, and he died of a scorpion sting.

Last month, the Italian news service Ansa revealed the story of Dr Alessandro Ricci’s diary; and, since then, it’s been widely reproduced across the internet, but without any additional facts or embellishment. So, most of the information in this article is based on the Ansa-sourced story (as on the Archaelogy Daily News website, for example).

Ricci was born in Siena and left Italy in 1817 to travel to Egypt, staying first in Alexandria and then travelling through Nubia, where he found tribal fighting and hostility from the local governor. In 1820, while in Cairo, he joined a military expedition to the Siwa Oasis - 560km west of Cairo - organised by the Viceroy Muhammed Ali, who is sometimes called the founder of modern Egypt (see Wikipedia). Indeed it was Ali who claimed the Siwa Oasis for Egypt. During the trip, Ricci carefully copied inscriptions he found at the temple of Amun and mapped out the area around the oasis. Later that year, he travelled to Suez and to Mount Sinai, where he spent some time at St Catherine’s Monastery.

In 1821, Ricci returned to southern Egypt, joining another military expedition, this one led by Ali’s son Ibrahim Pasha. He returned to Italy in 1822 and set to work organising the drawings and notes he had made in Egypt. A few years later, in 1828, these notes would be of much service when he returned to Egypt, serving as a draughtsman and doctor, on the so-called Franco-Tuscan expedition. This was organised by a French philologist, Jean-Francois Champollion, and Ippolito Rosellini, of Pisa university, who would later be called the father of Italian Egyptology (see The Travellers in Egypt website). It lasted a year, and explored up river on the Nile as far as Wadi Halfa, but soon after it was over Ricci was bitten by a scorpion. He was paralysed and eventually died in 1834.

Ricci’s journal - the one that has just been rediscovered - concerns his first period in Egypt, the five years to 1822. ‘This is an exceptional find for the field of Egyptology,’ said Marilina Betro, the professor heading a Pisa university team researching the Franco-Tuscan expedition. This is partly because, Betro explains, Ricci describes and draws sites that were already destroyed by the time of Champollion-Rosellini expedition, but also because he writes about much more along the way, ‘the customs and habits of the people he met, the fighting strategies of armies, the condition of women and even the treatment of animals’.

The whereabouts of Ricci’s journal appears to have been a mystery for decades. Ricci gave it to Champollion in 1827, prior to the Franco-Tuscan expedition, apparently believing the French expert would publish it. But then both Champollion and Ricci died a few years later. Although Rosellini asked French authorities to return the journal to Italy in 1836, it remained in France.

The diary then vanished for several decades until surfacing in 1928, when an Italian architect working for King Fuad I of Egypt bought it in a Cairo bookshop (these details are all from the Ansa news story). This architect showed it to the Italian Egyptologist Angelo Sammarco, who recognised its value and was keen to organise its publication. A synopsis of the diary appeared in 1930 but the project never got any further. After he died in 1948, all trace of the journal vanished - until recently, when it was found at Pisa university by researcher Daniele Salvoldi.

‘Now, two centuries after it was written, our goal is to get this book published,’ said Betro.

(Postscript: See From Siena to Nubia: Alessandro Ricci in Egypt and Sudan, 1817-22 published in 2018 by Bloomsbury.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bertie in the Middle East

‘The anniversary of my Parents Wedding Day, what a sad day for poor Mama! We started at 10 A.M. sight seeing.’ This is Bertie, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII writing in a diary during the first few days of a trip to the Middle East. The journey had been organised by his mother, Queen Victoria, who had never much liked her son, and partly blamed him for husband Albert’s death. The diary has just been made available online - with images of the handwritten pages and a transcribed text - as part of an exhibition of mid-19th century photographs taken by Francis Bedford on the tour. Although biographers have had access to other of Bertie’s diaries, they are said to be scrappy and laconic, and none - as far as I know - have ever been published.

Albert Edward (always known to his family as Bertie) was born in 1841 in London, the eldest son of Victoria and her prince consort, Albert. Apart from various other titles, he was created Prince of Wales when one month old. From around the age of seven he was subjected to a strict educational programme devised by Prince Albert. He attended both Oxford and Cambridge universities, and in 1860 undertook the first tour of North America by an heir to the British throne. The following year he was serving with the army in Ireland, where he had a liaison with an actress that caused a major scandal. Prince Albert visited his son to admonish him, and died two weeks later. Queen Victoria held her son partly responsible for the death of his father. She withdrew almost completely from public life, and thereafter denied Bertie any control over affairs of state, court and the royal family. Soon after Albert’s death, Bertie was sent on an extensive tour of the Middle East.

In 1863, Bertie married Alexandra, eldest daughter of Denmark’s Prince Christian (later king), and they had five children that survived to adulthood. They established themselves at Marlborough House in London and Sandringham House in Norfolk, and entertained on a lavish scale. Bertie, indeed, played a free-and-easy part in London life, and travelled abroad often. He had many affairs, some causing scandals, and was a familiar figure in the worlds of racing, sailing and gambling. When Victoria died in 1901, Edward succeeded to the throne as Edward VII, and he set about trying to restore some splendour to the monarchy, starting with an elaborate coronation in 1902

Edward VII - nicknamed ‘Uncle of Europe’ - was related to most other Continental royal families, a circumstance that led him to travel abroad often to help Britain’s foreign policy. He was the first British monarch to visit Russia. At home, he supported the government’s major military reforms, and he founded the Order of Merit to reward those who distinguished themselves in science, art or literature. In the last year of his life, King Edward was involved in a constitutional crisis brought about by the refusal of the Conservative majority in the Lords to pass the Liberal budget of 1909. He died in May 1910, before the situation could be resolved, and was succeeded by his son who became George V. There is no shortage of biographical information online, from the British Monarchy website, Wikipedia, the BBC, or from biography reviews at The Guardian or The New York Times.

Bertie was certainly a diarist, if only an occasional one. None of his journals have been published, but several biographers quote from, or mention, them. In describing his sources in The Importance of Being Edward - King in Waiting 1841-1901 (John Murray, 2000), Stanley Weintraub says: ‘King Edward’s diary survives at Windsor and is quoted by biographers and editors; however it is scrappy and usually laconic.’ Now, though, The Royal Collection Trust, established in 1993 by the Queen and chaired by Prince Charles, has made one Bertie’s diaries, of a trip to the Middle East, freely available online. The online publication - which was given little publicity of its own - is part of a bigger event, an exhibition of early photographs from the Middle East: Cairo to Constantinople.

According to the organisers: ‘This exhibition documents the Prince of Wales’ journey through the work of Francis Bedford, the first photographer to travel on a royal tour. It explores the cultural and political significance Victorian Britain attached to the region, which was then as complex and contested as it remains today. The tour took the Prince to Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. He met rulers, politicians and other notable figures, and travelled in a manner unassociated with royalty - by horse and camping out in tents. On the royal party’s return to England, Francis Bedford’s work was displayed in what was described as “the most important photographic exhibition that has hitherto been placed before the public”.’

The following extracts are taken directly from the online exhibition.

10 February 1862
‘The anniversary of my Parents Wedding Day, what a sad day for poor Mama! We started at 10 A.M. sight seeing. We went first to the Palace which is a handsome building. The “Shönheits Gallerie” is well worth seeing, & the portraits are well painted, the pictures of Lady Ellenborough & Lady Milbanke (wh. are amongst them) are very good. The Ballroom is very handsome & so is the “Shlachten Saal.” The Queen was kind enough to receive me in her boudoir, wh. was very prettily arranged. She seems a very nice person, & must have been very pretty; I also made the acquaintance of her two sons, who seem nice, unaffected lads. We saw the two Theatres wh. adjoin the Palace, & a very pretty “Winter garten” with foreign plants & birds in it. From the Palace we visited the studios of Kaulbach, Pilaty [sic], Shraudolph [sic], Anschütz & Schwind. The two first are the two most celebrated painters. Kaulbach, showed us a beautiful fresco of the “Reformation” wh. he is painting & also a completed fresco of the “Battle of Salamis” wh. I admired immensely. Piloty, who painted the celebrated picture of Nero at the burning of Rome, which I saw last year at the Exhibition of pictures at Cologne, had not much in his studio, but the few things he had, we admired very much. We divided our day by lunching at 1.50. & Count Perponcher, who is now Prussian Minister at Munich, came to luncheon. After having eaten our fill, we proceeded in carriages to see the “Bavaria,” which is a monster female figure in bronze, cast out of the French guns wh. were taken in 1814 & 15. We went up inside the figure, & 7 of us could sit in the head, & 2 in the nose & eyes. From thence we visited the studio of Adam who paints animals, & very well too, we looked into Schwantaler’s [sic] studio were [sic] there were some good statues, but he was not at home. We then saw the Basilica, a very beautiful Church in Bysantine [sic] architecture, with a good deal of gold inside; it was built by King Louis of Bavaria (who has now abdicated) before going home we saw some excellent photographs, at a photographers called Albert. Mr. Bonar dined with us - & after dinner Louis, Keppel, Meade & I took a short walk. There was a very pretty ball going on at our Hotel, & Louis & I peeped into the room fr. a staircase, it seemed very gay & the ladies were well dressed & were decidedly pretty.’

21 May 1862
‘In the forenoon I wrote letters to England, wh. occupied all my time till luncheon. At 3 o’clock we rode to the Arsenal, with Sir H. Bulwer. The Capidan Pasha received us, & we had pipes & coffee. We then went into a Caique belonging to the Sultan wh. he has put at my disposal & we visited another part of the Arsenal, wh. is small but seems tolerably complete. We then took leave of the Capidan Pasha, got into our Caique & rode [sic] down the Golden Horn into the Bosphorus & went on board to see the Turkish ship that had met us at the Dardanelles. We remained a short time on board & then went ashore, not far off fr. the Sultan’s Palace, got on our horses again & rode back to the Embassy thro’ part of the town. In the evening [. . the] Sultan’s band played during dinner & very well.’

27 May 1862
‘At about 10.30. E. Leiningen Moore & I went to the Photographic Studio of M. Abdullah & were photographed (very successfully) “en carte de visite.” Abdullah, did took another photograph at the Embassy of a group of Sir H. & Lady Bulwer & all his staff, & myself & my suite. [. . .] At 4.30. we left the Embassy after having taken leave of Lady Bulwer. We then rode down to the landing place near Tophané Mosque, & were rowed about in our caiques passed past Seraglio Point; at a little after 6 we went on board the “Osborne” & took leave there of Sir H. Bulwer & all the Attachés &c. At 6.30. we wished Constantinople adieu, & steamed slowly down the Bosphorus leaving the beautiful town gradually in the distance, after having spent there a most agreeable week.’

9 June 1862
‘At Sea – A lovely day. A[t] 7. A.M. we had a bathe from the ship, in spite of one of the sailors telllin telling us that a shark of 10 feet long had been seen. In the middle of the day, we went through the “Passage de L’Ours” past the Island of Caprera, & saw Garibaldi’s house in the distance, & then passed thro’ the Straits of Bonnifacio.’

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Damascus diaries

It’s four years since Britain, and many other countries, closed their embassies in Damascus, Syria, and withdrew their diplomatic staff, the famous city having become too dangerous to live in or to visit. Before then, though, it had an exotic appeal to Westerners, especially Peter Clark, who fell in love with the place in the 1960s and then returned in the 1990s to run the British Council branch there. His diaries of that time have just been published by the specialist Middle East publisher, Gilgamesh. They paint, Gilgamesh says, ‘a vivid and almost nostalgic picture of life in this remarkable city’. I, too, have visited Damascus, in the mid-1970s, staying just a couple of days as I hitchhiked my way from Europe to Australia. As my own diary entries remind me, I found the Syrians most friendly and hospitable.

Peter Clark was schooled in Loughborough and Southend before studying at Keele, Cambridge and Leicester universities. He joined the British Council in 1967, mostly working abroad, in the Middle East and Africa, remaining with the institution for 30 years or so. In 1992, he was invited to reopen the British Council office in Syria, a country he’d first visited in 1962, and he remained until 1997. He enjoyed good relations with the British diplomatic staff, and, briefly, met successive foreign ministers, Douglas Hurd and Malcolm Rifkind, on their official visits to Damascus. Among Clark’s cultural successes were a production of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas in Arabic and an exhibition of Freya Stark’s Syria photographs. After retiring from the Council, he returned to Syria occasionally leading lead tour groups.

Clark is fluent in Arabic, and has translated novels, drama, poetry and history by contemporary Arab writers. He has written books on the Islamic scholar Marmaduke Pickthall and the explorer Wilfred Thesiger, and published a collection of writings on the Middle East - Coffeehouse Footnotes - as well as a book on Istanbul. He is a trustee of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, a contributing editor of Banipal, and an adviser on cultural tourism to Turkey and Syria. He is married, and lives in Frome Somerset. A little further biographical information is available from Debretts, The International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the Gilmour Print Service or a Marmaduke Pickthall fansite.

Throughout most of his adult life, Clark has kept personal diaries, and his time in Damascus was no exception. Perhaps because of the troubles now afflicting Syria and its capital, Gilgamesh - a specialist in Middle East books - has chosen to publish Clark’s diaries of his Damascus years. It says of the book - Damascus Diaries: Life Under the Assads - ‘Here we see the dramas and routines of everyday life played out against the backdrop of the world’s oldest continually inhabited city on the eve of collapse into civil war. Enchanting and alarming by turns, everyday events combine to paint a vivid and almost nostalgic picture of life in this remarkable city.’ Reviews can be read online at The Economist and The Tanjara. Here are several extracts (with thanks to Gilgamesh Publushing).

23 October 1993
‘I am at the office early and at precisely 9.30 we hear the screaming of sirens, and Douglas Hurd, his detective, and the Ambassador arrive, followed by members of his entourage - Richard Culshaw in charge of the press and his Principal Private Secretary, John Sawers, whom I last saw in Yemen in 1980. I take Douglas Hurd round the exhibition of Freya Stark’s photographs, and he talks to some of the staff. He also signs my copy of his novel, The Palace of Enchantments, which was already signed by the co-author, Stephen Lamport, in Abu Dhabi. And that is that. The party disappears and so do we.

Douglas Hurd has called on the President, with Andrew Green. It is the first time Andrew has met him.’

24 October 1993
‘I am in the office very early. The Hurd visit has been seen as a success. A tide is moving in our favour, an enhancement of Syria-British relations. Meanwhile the situation in Algeria gets grimmer by the day. The country is slipping into confusion and foreigners are being kidnapped and assassinated. At this rate the British Council will withdraw and there may be extra funds for Syria. Every cloud has a silver lining.’

20 January 1994
‘In the afternoon we go for a walk, due north, beyond Muhajirin and up the mountain. Jabal Kasiyun has slowly had the city encroaching upon it. We climb up roads that are at a gradient of about 1 in 3. The views over the city get more and more splendid - skyscrapers stand out, tall white buildings, with here and there to the west patches of green, all that is left of the gardens of Damascus. It is invigorating. We descend, passing by an office that is surrounded by dozens of black Mercedes cars and lots of security people. I learn later that this is where the President has his office. It is a shabby building but one can, at least, walk within 20 yards of it, and the residential flats nearby in these leafy suburbs must be desirable.

We are invited to dinner with Dr and Mrs Drubi. He is a prosperous doctor from Homs. She has three daughters, one of whom is studying English at the British Council. Another was Miss Syria in 1986 and is now in Canada. I talk to Zelfa Samman, half-sister of and 20 years younger than the novelist, Ghada, who chooses to live in Paris. Zelfa’s mother is a Shishakli, a niece of the former President, Adib. Her mother’s mother is a sister of Akram Hourani, who is still alive, in exile in Amman, over 80 and frail. Zelfa’s father was President of the University of Damascus and has been briefly Minister of Higher Education. Our host’s brother was Minister of Petroleum. The older ruling official and the contemporary elites merge.’

22 January 1994
‘We walk into the city centre. There are more people around than usual. Men in dark suits persuade shopkeepers to close up and by 1 o’clock all shops have their shutters down. Groups of youths process in hooting cars, carrying pictures of Basil [the President’s son, who died the day before]. Newspapers with large photos are stuck on shop doorways and people pause to peruse. One paper has a long poem by the Minister of Culture. Yesterday people seemed to be too stunned to show any reaction. Today there are demonstrations. A human tragedy is perceived. Everyone can deplore the death of a child before his parent. Basil was writ large across Syria. His father, prematurely aged, must be shattered. I hear there were troop movements all last night, including tanks in the city. The accident, we hear, was on the road to the airport, perhaps late on Thursday night. Basil was perhaps drunk, driving to see a Makhlouf cousin off to Germany.’

23 January 1994
‘I try unsuccessfully to get some guidance from the Embassy. I decide myself to keep the teaching centre closed today. We arrange to put a notice of condolence in the paper and to send a cable to the President. Yesterday there were manifestations of grief: fake orchestrated and genuine. Today there are further demonstrations that border on the contrived. Shops and schools remain closed. I think in years to come Syrians will look on Basil al-Assad as the herald of a golden age that never dawned. His early death will be an alibi for frustration or disappointment.’

8 November 1995
‘At noon I get a summons to go to the Embassy to meet Malcolm Rifkind (or Rifkunt as one of my Syrian colleagues calls him). I bump into a breezy, relaxed Andrew Green who is accompanying him. The Secretary of State is in the loo when I arrive. The top floor of the Embassy is transformed into a mobile office. One man is busy on the phone. Another is scanning faxed press cuttings. A girl is at a typewriter. Coffee pots, teapots and cartons of fruit juice are on a shelf. Malcolm Rifkind comes in, relieved. We stand talking for my allotted five minutes. He fires questions at me and seems well briefed. I tell him that we see our role as subversive, promoting the values of an open and plural society. He laughs encouragingly. He has heard of the success of the opera. (Bully for him!)

I go to the airport to meet Leila Abouzeid, the Moroccan writer. I have been told that she is quite a big woman. I accost all the larger women coming off the plane from Tunis and Algiers and get “old-fashioned looks”. Eventually Leila accosts me. Actually she is quite petite in appearance, looking older than I expected. I take her to the house before the hotel. She is surprised at my interest in contemporary Arabic literature. I tell her I am an endangered species.’

14 December 1996
‘I am translating Sa’dallah’s play and am having difficulties. There is no problem getting the meaning but I am not getting the brio of the Arab text into English. I feel my present version is mechanical. The challenge is the dialogue that has to be spoken. It is different from translating a novel or story that has only to be read. I am now translating something with a production in mind.’


I have my own Damascus diaries, but they are only two entries long! In my youthful travelling days, back in 1974, I hitch-hiked from Europe to Australia, by way of the Middle East, stopping in Damascus for only two days. I was befriended by a young man named Khald, who so generously let me stay in his house, and took me around the city with his friends.

13 July 1974, Damascus
‘After a cold shower, I’m up and out quick. The bus driver tries to rip me off 40L for a ride to Syria, so I hitch - 8km of no mans land signalled by barbed wire. A visa costs me nearly £2 - big rip off. I should have got a transit visa. By 10 I am in Syria. I hitch a ride to Allepo and take a bus to Damascus S£5. There is an English couple on the bus, but I take an immediate dislike to them. We three English are befriended - given cucumbers and nuts and asked our names. One of the passengers, a teacher, speaks English so we talk for a while. Several little girls are always smiling. The journey is long - five hours sitting and standing. At first, all the land is ploughed, but dry-looking with something growing but later it becomes arid and desert-like. I see many soldiers, and tanks shunting backwards and forwards. On the bus, Khald befriends me. We arrive by 6:00. Khald takes me to his flat which he shares with his brother and a friend. In the evening, we stroll slowly around the town, stopping to talk to friends, and always shaking hands when meeting and leaving them. Many boys walk together with arms or hands joined, very strange - everywhere is very lively - a glass of ice with lemon juice - a chapati with egg and mayonnaise and tomato, and another with meat and cucumber. I sleep well on the floor even though I sweat a lot at first.’

14 July 1974, Damascus
‘This morning I walk for a few hours - it’s very, very busy with numerous street sellers, and a lot of smoke. I pass by several long narrow covered streets selling mostly clothing, shoes and fancy goods, handicrafts, copper, wood - rickety overhangs balanced on bent beams provide the shade. Everywhere, there are old buildings, once beautiful, but now falling down, and much building of modern blocks too. I visit the Umayyad Mosque. This is the most beautiful place I have yet seen. As you enter through the arches of a vast courtyard, there are the most fantastic mosaics of bright colours far above, with enchanting pictures of villages. To one side, there is a vast edifice with two beautiful altars of mother of pearl in wood and very detailed wood carving. People come here for cool and rest and prayer. In the middle is the tomb of the Prophet Yehia (John the Baptist) with a velvet cloth covering. So beautiful. For S£1 I go next to the Al Azm Palace, the 18th century home of The Pasha - one of the ruling class, a typical rich man’s house - here too are many lovely things. The rooms are smallish with the most beautiful wood carvings on doors and ceilings - painted so intricately with dour colours and gold in square patterns. The courtyard is very pretty, with many green plants - but this is usual. There’s a folkloric museum here too.

Later, I sit in a cafe drinking real lemon juice and watching a game of chess - everyone plays chess, backgammon or cards - a lot of water-pipes being smoked - iced water is free for all - shoe cleaners takes people’s shoes and clean them while they play or smoke. Khald is very happy because he has money. We all eat chicken brought to the house. They sleep, but I go out to walk a long way up a very steep hill. I turn and see Damascus - a panorama. Hot and weary I return. Khald goes to the cinema with his girl, while I walk in a pleasant garden in a mosque. I play a little chess with someone who claims to be the fifth best player in Syria. Khald is happy; but sad that I am going.’

Friday, October 6, 2017

The soul of this café

‘To give you the soul of this café, I must say that the immense porch of a mosque rests its six polygonal pillars in the very midst of the benches. The capitals are carved in a very strange Spanish baroque style. Five small domes lead to an adjoining high wall, which is pierced by a high narrow door in black wood where ivory and mother-of-pearl inlays shine in a complicated linear design.’ This is from a diary kept by Le Corbusier, born 130 years ago today, when still a young man, travelling through Europe, not yet an architect, but thirsty for knowledge, observing everything, and particularly interested in buildings.

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret was born on 6 October 1887, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, son of a watch engraver and a piano teacher. He studied at the local art school which taught applied arts connected with watchmaking, but was encouraged by one teacher towards architecture, and he set about teaching himself. With two friends, he designed and built his first house in 1905. In the next few years, he travelled frequently in Europe meeting artists and architects, and working for some of them (including a Paris studio which was pioneering the use of reinforced concrete for domestic residences). In 1912, he built an ambitious house for his parents. This impressed a wealthy watch manufacturer who then commissioned Jeanneret to design an imposing villa.

During the war, Jeanneret taught at his old art school, and began to theorise on the use of prefabricated housing. In 1917, he moved to Paris to work as an architect on concrete structures, but was soon devoting his time to painting. With Amédée Ozenfant, he published an anti-Cubism manifesto, and established a new artistic movement - purism. It was in the first issue of the movement’s journal - L’Esprit Nouveau - that Jeanneret took on the pseudonym Le Corbusier. In 1923, he published a collection of his essays for the journal in Vers une Architecture (Toward a New Architecture), and by the mid-1920s he was actively involved in seeing his new ideas turn to reality. With his cousin Pierre and with Ozenfant, he built the Esprit Nouveau Pavilion for the 1925 Paris International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts (from which the name Art Deco originated); and in 1927 he was commissioned by a Bordeaux industrialist to build a complex of worker houses, which he realised using his ideas for modular units.

In 1928, Le Corbusier helped found the International Congresses of Modern Architecture. In 1930 he took French citizenship, and he married Yvonne Gallis. As his international reputation grew, so he travelled widely, lecturing and winning contracts not only in France, but in Brazil and Russia. During the Second World War and the German occupation of France, Le Corbusier did his best to promote architectural projects, without any success, but his first public commission in ten years came after the war with Cité radieuse, a rehabilitation project in Marseilles. This was finished in 1952, the same year he was made a Commander of the Legion d’Honneur.

Among his most famous works are Ozenfant House (1922), Villa Jeanneret (1925), Villa Savoye (1928) and the Swiss Dormitory at the Cité Universitaire (1931-32) all in Paris; the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro (1936), Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp (1950-54), various buildings in Chandigarh, India (1952-59), the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo (1954-59), and the Carpenter Visual Art Centre, Harvard (1964). Le Corbusier died in 1965. Further information can be found at The Corbusier Foundation, The Art Story, Wikipedia, and

Although an inveterate keeper of notebooks with ideas and sketches, there is no obvious evidence that Le Corbusier was a diarist as such. However, as a young man, on one of his journeys through Europe, he did keep a journal, which subsequently has been referred to as a diary. On route, he sent each diary entry back to his home town to be published in a local newspaper. On his return, he considered preparing the diary for publication but the war intervened, and it was to be more than half a century before he revisited and edited the manuscript - just before his death in fact. This was published in its original French language, and not published in English until 1987, when The MIT Press brought out Journey to the East as translated by Ivan Žaknić with Nicole Pertuiset and edited by Žaknić. In 2007, MIT Press re-issued the book. The following extracts come from the original 1987 edition.

The introduction to the French edition (as translated) is worth reproducing.

‘In 1911 Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, a draftsman in the office of Peter Behrens in Berlin, decided with his friend, Auguste Klipstein, to undertake a journey whose destination was Constantinople. From May to October, with very little money, the two friends toured Bohemia, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

It was then that Charles-Édouard Jeanneret discovered architecture: a magnificent play of forms in light, a coherent system of the mind. During this journey from Dresden to Constantinople, and from Athens to Pompeii, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret kept a travel diary. In it he noted his impressions, and he also executed a great number of drawings which taught him to observe and to see. From these notes he extracted articles, some of which were to be published by La Feuille d’Avis of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Later he would reassemble and complete these manuscripts to form a book. The book, Le Voyage d’Orient, was to be published by Gaspard Valette of Mercure de France in 1914. However, the war prevented that publication, and the manuscript was stored among the archives of Le Corbusier. Fifty-four years after his journey, he decided at long last to publish the book that is a testimony to his wonderment and discoveries as a young man. In July 1965 he edited the manuscript and annotated it meticulously, relying on nothing more than his memory. Here then is Journey to the East, considered by Le Corbusier to be an important and revealing document on the most decisive year of his growth as an artist and as an architect.’

In fact, although there are passages which read like a diary, the whole seems to have been worked on, making it more of a memoir than a diary. Here is one extract (with a typical illustration by Corbusier).

‘A Café
I entered it by chance: I was fleeing anywhere to escape the Bazaar. Everything is cool and quiet, for age-old trees mask the sky. Huge gray, red, or white striped linens are suspended from their four corners to tree trunks, and their bellies sag to within a few meters of the ground. The foliage diffuses circles of white light that dance upon the grayish patterns of irregularly shaped paving stones. Luxurious little wicker cages in which two divans face each other and, where the coffee is prepared, form on one side an uninterrupted boundary. Turkish houses block the view threading its way into the narrowness of a winding street. To get there, I climbed an odd stone stairway and went through a pretty gate in a high wall. Numerous benches are strewn about, creating enclosures; carpets of red, black, and yellow stripes cover them. They are deep and have a back and armrests. Yet they are not used for sitting down. After taking off one’s shoes, one sits on one’s heels. In this way one assumes a very dignified position, very neat, and this does away with our own casual habit of slouching like young revelers. The coffee is served, as you know, in tiny cups, and the tea in pear-shaped glasses. Either one costs a sou, which permits refills.

A hundred Turks converse in low voices. The water gurgles in the narghiles, and the air turns blue from the smoke. We are in the land of exquisite tobaccos, and we make extravagant use of it. Only when it is out of control do we moderate it, but Auguste practically kills himself with it. Fezzes are mixed with turbans, and the long black robes with grays and blues. Here comes an old man dressed entirely in pink, which makes him look like a small child. The old people are always personable, gay, sharp-eyed, yet never helpless; prayer provides them with such health because of the exercise it requires. So these old men always smile and slip by like ferrets with some inseparable corpous under their arms.

Over my table bloom copious blue hydrangeas; elsewhere there are roses and carnations; only two steps away I can hear the singing of a little marble fountain in Turkish rococo. Cats strut about in quest of balls of yarn, and to give you the soul of this café, I must say that the immense porch of a mosque rests its six polygonal pillars in the very midst of the benches. The capitals are carved in a very strange Spanish baroque style. Five small domes lead to an adjoining high wall, which is pierced by a high narrow door in black wood where ivory and mother-of-pearl inlays shine in a complicated linear design. Bright-colored carpets spread to the rush mats beneath the domes. The muezzin has just climbed the minaret which can be seen through the foliage, and his strident call to prayer pours out, while the mats are covered by the faithful who prostrate themselves, rise, and worship Allah.

But here is a touching note characteristic of the lofty, poetic Turkish soul: among the tables are three mounds, each a few meters high and bordered by a stone wall with a fine iron railing; a lantern hung to some tree which had sprouted there burns every night to illuminate the tombstones whose worn inscriptions no doubt recall the virtues of brave men now resting between the roots of the great sycamore which rises like their soul to heaven. They must rest here among the living, so as to familiarize them with Sweet Death. All these good old men, so nice in their childlike robes of pink, blue, or white, will come every morning to greet them and to whisper in their beards: Yes, yes, soon, we are coming, we are coming. I rejoice! . . .

This place, the café of Mahmud Pasha and the little mosque with a minaret and one single large dome that rests on four bare walls, is not far from the feverish Bazaar. Auguste and I spent many evenings there.’