Egyptian History

Oct 2015
8
Tennessee, USA
Good evening,

I'm writing a book on Alexandria, Egypt. Granted its fictitious but I am hoping you can assist me in getting the correct facts that I need in order to make the book more authentic. In my book, the timeline is set in 1893. I have every intent to respect the Egyptian people in my book. The book I am writing about is a pulp-action adventure western. As I said its fictitious. So, my questions to you are:

Q1: To travel from Kenya to Alexandria, how would this be possible? Like would a person take a train or ship?

Q2: Were there any desert bandits? As to rob a tourist of their prized possessions if they wandered off into the deserts alone.

Q3: Were there any military installations nearby, in case of war or trouble during this time frame.?

Q4: Besides the French Foreign Legion, and the British army, where there any other form of the military stationed in Alexandria?

Q5: Did Egyptians like foreigners coming to their country? Such as Australians or Americans.

Q6: What type of horses were available?

I hope you can help me with my writing project.
 
Mar 2017
878
Colorado

Q1: To travel from Kenya to Alexandria, how would this be possible? Like would a person take a train or ship?
The Story of Africa| BBC World Service
In 40 yrs, the train would have probably gone West, rather than South. You are talking about a JOURNEY just to get from one place to another (1/2 the length of the continent).

Easy part: Kenya ... walk over to Uganda's Lake Victoria
Easy part: Take a boat across the lake and down the White Nile
Hard part: You have to cross the Sudd ... ~350 miles of swamp. The Romans tried to go the other way in 61 ACE and gave up. Shallow slow water with mosquitoes, parasites, water borne diseases, crocs, & hippos.
Easy part: Down river all the way to the Mediterranean.

HOWEVER, even in 1890, you're probably going to be restricted to Egyptian rowing/sailing boats (the wind goes the other direction, but sometimes the Nile is wide enough to tack) probably until the third cataract. I imagine you could get European steamers the rest of the way ... getting off and changing boats at the 2nd and 1st cataracts.

Just South of the 2nd cataract is the Batn El Hajar. There's about 18 miles of absolute barren, rocky broken granite. The Nile would be impassable except during the season of "Inundation" and a little after. Get a calendar and make sure your story makes sense.

You wouldn't have to go all the way to the Mediterranean and then across. There's an ancient canal that just happened to be restored at the time you're interested in ... a shortcut from the delta to Alexandria.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoudiyah_Canal

If you time it right, that's about 5-6 travel months ... without any major delays. If you get to the 2nd cataract in Jan, you'll have to wait another 6 months.


Q2: Were there any desert bandits? As to rob a tourist of their prized possessions if they wandered off into the deserts alone.
There were "organized" bandits and pirates the entire way. They didn't look for only loners ... they attacked full caravans and trade boats in broad daylight.


Kartoum was founded around the time you want: that's Nubia where the Blue & White Nile meet. ...but it looks like white people didn't "discover" it until the mid-1800's. A good chunk of Egyptian army was there, but I don't think they cared much about individual travelers ... unless you were friends of the Pasha or something. There was a big battle that decimated the place just before your time ... maybe you could use it.

I would IMAGINE they used the historic forts along the way. Don't know the 1890 names, just the ancient ones. Kerma, Semna, Sai Island, the massive fort at Mirgissa.
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Think about this:
The lady who wrote Harry Potter had to invent everything: cities, houses, Hogwarts, Azkeban prison, etc.

You're picking a world that's already created. You can download street maps of Alexandria from the 1890's & use buildings already in place. There's a maze of tunnels under the city which supply Nile water to the city (look at a map and see how far away the Nile is). There's a mishmash of crumbling ancient Egyptian & Roman stuff, and new Arab buildings. When you describe someone walking around, just look at the map to keep yourself straight.

Read as much history as you can and use whatever fits. It's like having a forest complete with all the trees: you just walk around them. The Harry Potter lady had to put in all the trees one by one.
 
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Mar 2017
878
Colorado
Horses:
Everyone in the world knows Arabs loved horses. They developed the "Arabian" breed that actually has two vertebrae fused, to give them more stability over soft sand. Any time there's a movie and they want an iconic silhouette image of a horse, it's an Arabian. They're magnificent things.

What Europeans would ride? Or Kenyans? No clue.

The way from Nubia to Alexandria is the Nile. However, there's also an ancient caravan route (still used), that hits the major oases. It's called the Forty Day Route, but I think it starts North of the 1st cataract ... so only the very last part could be horse ridden, but I think they just used camels. Horses can't get past the Batn el Hajar ... don't even think a camel could do it ... you have to go way out of the way.

Roughly, 2000 miles from Kenya to Alexandria.
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Now that's an adventure. I'm kicking myself because that's the area I'm familiar with, but I hadn't looked at the obvious.

Would it be shorter if you went on a steamer on the Indian Ocean, around the horn, and up the Red Sea? Pro-bab-ly? Nice big metal steamer, immune to small pirate boats, and armed against bigger ones. Rough seas around the horn, and then through the Gulf of Aden to calm waters in the Red Sea?

I have no idea how long that would take.

One website says ~20 nauts/hr for 1890's steamships.
https://sea-distances.org/

Well, there you go: the easy way. Kilindi,Kenya to Alexandria, Egypt ... at 10 nauts ... 13 days.

Upto you:
6 months of grueling, risky travel
13 days of sitting in a chaise lounge deck chair

WERE there steamers that did that route? Not a clue.
 
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Mar 2017
878
Colorado
Foreigners:
I must admit my knowledge of modern Egypt is skimpy at best. Was the French Foreign Legion *IN* Alexandria? Were British troops there? You know more than me. If the Egyptian army was in Kartoum, they must've been in Alexandra too ... I would think.

The Greeks and Romans visited the Pyramids & Sphinx as tourist attractions. There was a tourist trade, and an antiquities (mostly illegal) trade.

I imagine as long as you weren't wearing a military uniform, visitors' money was happily accepted everywhere. Egypt was pretty diverse, Alexandria even more so.

As a foreigner LIVING there? That's more of an Ottoman question for Alexandria, than Egyptian ... and I can't answer that.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,536
Portugal
Good evening,

I'm writing a book on Alexandria, Egypt. Granted its fictitious but I am hoping you can assist me in getting the correct facts that I need in order to make the book more authentic. In my book, the timeline is set in 1893. I have every intent to respect the Egyptian people in my book. The book I am writing about is a pulp-action adventure western. As I said its fictitious. So, my questions to you are:

Q1: To travel from Kenya to Alexandria, how would this be possible? Like would a person take a train or ship?

Q2: Were there any desert bandits? As to rob a tourist of their prized possessions if they wandered off into the deserts alone.

Q3: Were there any military installations nearby, in case of war or trouble during this time frame.?

Q4: Besides the French Foreign Legion, and the British army, where there any other form of the military stationed in Alexandria?

Q5: Did Egyptians like foreigners coming to their country? Such as Australians or Americans.

Q6: What type of horses were available?

I hope you can help me with my writing project.
Hi and good luck to your book,

I would advise you to read some diary or chronicle of the end of the 19th century, many are freely available online. That could answer to most of your questions, eventually much better than any one of us here.

In the 70’s Samuel Baker made that route with his wife, from Egypt to Equatoria:
The basics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Baker
The book about the expedition: https://archive.org/details/ismailaanarrati03bakegoog

The explorer Richard Francis Burton also wrote about his voyages and was attacked by bandits in Somalia, if the memory doesn’t fail me.

If you want to take a look in the Media, I would suggest the movie: “Mountains of the Moon” about him and Speke and “Khartoum” about the “Chinese” Gordon and the beginning of the Mahdist War (always recalling that the movies are fictional works).

Anyway don’t forget that in 1893 the Mahdist War was still ongoing.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,536
Portugal
Q4: Besides the French Foreign Legion, and the British army, where there any other form of the military stationed in Alexandria?
Was the French Foreign Legion in Alexandria in 1893? I didn’t recall that.
 
Jan 2018
283
Netherlands
Was the French Foreign Legion in Alexandria in 1893? I didn’t recall that.
Not an expert at all, but after checking some newspapers from that year I don’t think that the French Foreign Legion was stationed in Alexandria.

Apparently, at the start of the year there were growing tensions between the Egyptian government and the British authorities. Newspapers reported in January 1893 that the British were sending more troops into Egypt (about 1,000, in addition to the c. 3,000 that were already there). On 20 January (source in Dutch) the French government complained about what it saw as illicit British meddling in Egyptian internal affairs, saying that it did not want to “intervene in Egypt as Great Britain did, because we won’t forget that the Khedive is the vassal of our ally the Sultan”. No French troops are mentioned.

During January and February a couple of British bataillons disembarked and passed through Alexandria on their way to Cairo.

On 27 February a Dutch newspaper noted that the British now wanted to lay garrison in Alexandria and strengthen the one they already have in Cairo, whereas Lord Salisbury had removed the former and diminished the latter some time ago as a result of pressure from the other powers demanding that Egypt should be evacuated gradually.

On 12 April (source in English) it was reported that a French squadron consisting of eight ironclads and fifteen cruisers and torpedo boats had arrived at Alexandria. “The vessels will make a stay of a week.” It was also reported that anti-British papers in Egypt were making much of it. By 19 April the squadron was gone. Again, no mention is made of a French military presence on the mainland.

In October (source in Dutch) a Russian squadron visited Toulon. A newspaper speculated about what might happen if in the case of a general war the Turks would open the Bosporus to let through the Russian fleet: certainly a combined Franco-Russian fleet could utterly destroy British power in Egypt. Again, no mention of the French Foreign Legion.
 
Sep 2012
942
Prague, Czech Republic
Easy part: Down river all the way to the Mediterranean.
I doubt that was the easy part. In 1893 you would have been sailng through the lands of the Caliph, under whose father - a man who called himself the Mahdi - the Sudanese had overthrown the rule of the Turks in a religious jihad. 'Turks', in this case, largely meant British, since although it was technically part of the Ottoman Empire it was 'administered' by the British as agents of the Khedive, who was a vassal of the Sublime Porte. In reality Turkey had no power in Egypt or Sudan. The Khedive was a puppet maintained in power by British arms; and his British 'employees' ran the country as a protectorate of the British Empire; only sending tax revenues to Constantinople.

I think Europeans travelling from Kenya (British East Africa) to Alexandria in 1893 would sail through the Suez Canal

Kartoum was founded around the time you want: that's Nubia where the Blue & White Nile meet. ...but it looks like white people didn't "discover" it until the mid-1800's. A good chunk of Egyptian army was there, but I don't think they cared much about individual travelers ... unless you were friends of the Pasha or something
There was no Egyptian army anywhere near Khartoum in 1893. The Egyptian garrison had been almost entirely wiped out when the city fell to the Mahdi in 1885.

In answer to the OP question:

Q4: Besides the French Foreign Legion, and the British army, where there any other form of the military stationed in Alexandria?


There was the Egyptian army! Some of the senior officers were held by British people, but by no means all - not even most. The non-British officers were not all Egyptian, though - several were drawn from elsewhere in the empire (Ottoman, not British), so could be Greeks, Armenians, Albanians, Turks etc. The rank and file would have been primarily native Egyptians, though.
 
Nov 2017
1
Australia
A few years ago I had the pleasure of reading a novel by David Gibbins, Pharaoh. While its setting is contemporary most of the book gives a fictional account of an attempted secret rescue of Gordon in Khartoum in the mid 1800s. The research Gibbins put into this is a fascinating read in itself full of details I would otherwise never have known e.g. Canadian Mohawks recruited as scouts and boatmen and the type of firearms available at the time. While before I had no real interest in the presence of Royal Engineers in Egypt at that time, or firearms for that matter, the way Gibbins tells the story one feels compelled to find out more. Having read an earlier novel of his I thought I was in for an Indiana-Jones-like adventure but was pleasantly surprised to be educated at the same time with such fascinating details of a subject I hadn't hitherto known anything about.
A story set in Alexandria in the 1890s would be a wonderful tapestry of cultures, ancient and new, with plenty of opportunity for drama, intrigue etc.
If I were to write it I'm afraid I'd never get past the research ;)
Good luck
 
Jun 2016
1,568
Oregon
Good evening,

I'm writing a book on Alexandria, Egypt. Granted its fictitious but I am hoping you can assist me in getting the correct facts that I need in order to make the book more authentic. In my book, the timeline is set in 1893. I have every intent to respect the Egyptian people in my book. The book I am writing about is a pulp-action adventure western. As I said its fictitious. So, my questions to you are:

Q1: To travel from Kenya to Alexandria, how would this be possible? Like would a person take a train or ship?

Q2: Were there any desert bandits? As to rob a tourist of their prized possessions if they wandered off into the deserts alone.

Q3: Were there any military installations nearby, in case of war or trouble during this time frame.?

Q4: Besides the French Foreign Legion, and the British army, where there any other form of the military stationed in Alexandria?

Q5: Did Egyptians like foreigners coming to their country? Such as Australians or Americans.

Q6: What type of horses were available?

I hope you can help me with my writing project.
I published a book a few years ago that had the story moving thru Alexandria by canal to Cairo, but that was in 1836. In 1893 the railroad would have been in existence. An easier way would be to take the train to Suez City and take a steamer to the Red Sea and down to Mombasa, the port of Kenya - a whole lot faster.

Going up the Nile would be a book in itself - you could also go by caravan to the area of Chad - there the French would be then eastward to Kenya - but again an epic journey, or at Khartoum go overland thru Ethiopia -a really epic journey.

Take the boat

In 1882 the Franco-British fleet had plastered the forts and Egyptian fleet. The British were in effective control of the country at that time.

Here is a link to a free book a travelers guide to Egypt from 1878 - it will give you some 'color'. https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Karl_Baedeker_Firm_Egypt_Lower_Egypt_with_the_Fayû?id=RHRBAAAAYAAJ

Here is one from 1895, https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Karl_Baedeker_Egypt?id=vFJfxidJdBQC

Another from 1885, https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Karl_Baedeker_Firm_Egypt?id=cfgRAAAAYAAJ

These will have all the pleasant details on traveling in those countries all the way to describing everything you need to bring, what you can buy there, what are the dangers etc.
 
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