Below are excerpts and pictures taken from Charles Dana Gibson's account published in the McClure's Magazine in 1898 under
the title "Sketches in Egypt."
The article is a good example of how the Western world perceived the Orient at the time. Also, it amply demonstrates that
even a hundred some years ago tourism was already a well-developed industry and a common activity among those who could
Some Egypt-bound tourists decide to go up the Nile before they buy their tickets at the company's office in Bowling Green. Others, if they are good sailors, make up their minds before they reach Naples. Some are ill all the way to Port Said, and don't care. But most travelers are pretty sure to decide one way or the other soon after Mount Etna has been left behind, for the East begins for most people from that moment. If the guide-books fail to persuade you, there is pretty sure to be a fellow-passenger who will. The man who has once seen Upper Egypt does his best to make you dissatisfied with Lower Egypt. He can easily show you that your journey's end is not Cairo, but, at the very least, the first cataract. This is the shortest distance he will listen to. And after he has your promise to go that far, he tells you of the wonders that can only be seen by going on to the second cataract.
My fellow-passenger was an old traveler. Others besides myself fell under the spell of his eloquence; so, before we had been at Shepheard's a week, we were a party of six, with the steam dahabiyeh "Nitocris" chartered for a month, beginning December 12th. There were growing plants, rugs, and a piano on her deck, and six staterooms below. Salem Ghesiri was our dragonman. He spoke good English, and knew the river by heart...
...After an early breakfast, we climbed the bank, and found that it was chiefly inhabited by beggars. We visited the tombs, and came back to the dahabiyeh by way of the bazaars, where the natives were dyeing the dark blue cloth which they all dress in. That afternoon we came upon an army of pelicans on a mud flat in the middle of the river. At the sound of our whistle they got up, and we lost them far ahead on the twilight, and we thought of that tame pelican that waddles about in Shepheard's stable-yard.
The next day we went by mud villages at the foot of high mountains of white limestone, until we stopped at Farshit for coal, and tried to awaken some sign of friendliness in the natives who were as dull as the mud banks on which they sat.
On the afternoon of the 18th, we reached Keneh, and in fifteen minutes we were on donkeys, going by villages filled with barking dogs and children, on our way to the temple of Dendera. This was to be our first big temple and Salem had made it his chief excuse for hurrying us away from Behi Hassan, Assiut, and the rest. Our donkeys raced along the edge of an empty canal, through herds of goats and buffalo, until we saw a low pile of stones in the distance, and then we reached the half-buried temple, and lit candles, and went down into it and looked up at the mighty columns. Salem repeated all that the guide-books knew, and then took us around to the back wall and showed us the famous likeness of Cleopatra and her son Caesarion...