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Nile Notes of a Howadji | American Travelers in Egypt
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American Travelers in Egypt: 1837-1869

Nile Notes of a Howadji

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William Curtis (1824-1892)
Nile Notes of a Howadji
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851. 320 p

In 1846, at age twenty-two, George William Curtis began a four-year tour of Europe, Egypt, and West Asia, describing his adventures in letters to the New York Tribune. Upon returning to the United States, Curtis composed two travel books based on his letters, Nile Notes of a Howadji (1851) and The Howadji in Syria (1852). Written in the third person, these books feature Curtis in the persona of the Howadji, a term he helped to popularize. Curtis was particularly fascinated by the peoples and culture of modern Egypt, which seemed so wonderful and exotic to the nineteenth-century American traveller. During 1849 and 1850, Curtis sailed up the Nile aboard the dhahabîyeh Ibis travelling as far south as the famous temple complex of Abu Simbel. There he viewed the colossal statues of the ancient king Ramses the Great, which led him to exclaim: "The face of one of these Aboo Simbel figures teaches more of elder Egypt than any hieroglyphed history which any Old Mortality may dig out." The Libraries' copy displayed here is inscribed, "The Howadji's Aunt Eleanor from Himself -- March 1851."

From the collection of the Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art



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Boat Life in Egypt and Nubia

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William Cowper Prime (1825-1905)
Boat Life in Egypt and Nubia
New York: Harper & brothers, 1858. 498 p

A New York City lawyer and keen collector of art, Prime and his wife Mary Trumbull travelled widely in pursuit of objects for their collections. In 1855-1856 they made a trip to Africa and west Asia which Prime describes in Boat Life in Egypt and Nubia (1858). In contrast to Bayard Taylor, Prime was more concerned with the comforts of home while in Egypt. Prime offered this advice for the less adventurous tourist contemplating a winter visit to Egypt. "You will need in Egypt ordinary clothing, such as would be worn in New York in May or the latter part of September, with overcoats for cold changes. No special provision in this respect need be made." In his preface to this book, Prime thanks Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry for providing "such introductions as enabled me to prosecute my explorations in Egypt with satisfactory success."

From the collection of the Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art



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Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petræa and the Holy Land

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John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852)
Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petræa and the Holy Land
New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856. 2 v. in 1

In 1834 John Lloyd Stephens, a New York lawyer, traveled to the eastern Mediterranean when his doctor prescribed a sea voyage. His letters to America, published in the American Monthly Magazine, were so popular, that they were re-published in this collection. Near Cairo, Stephens commented on the Sphinx: "Next to the pyramids, probably as old, and hardly inferior in interest, is the celebrated Sphinx. . . . it is now so covered with sand that it is difficult to realize the build of this gigantic monument." The illustration shows Stephens with Mohammed Ali, the pasha, or Turkish-appointed ruler of Egypt. The first edition of this work was published in 1837.

From the collection of the Anthropology Library



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Journey to Central Africa; or, Life and Landscapes from Egypt to the Negro Kingdoms of the White Nile

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Bayard Taylor (1825-1878)
A Journey to Central Africa; or, Life and Landscapes from Egypt to the Negro Kingdoms of the White Nile
New York,: G. P. Putnam, 1854. 522 p

In 1851, the 26-year-old Taylor embarked on some two years of travel to Egypt, Africa, and Asia with promise of payment for travel letters from the Saturday Evening Post and the United States Gazette. In his published account of the Egyptian leg of his travels, he commented that while "[I] have not been insensible to the interest which every traveler in Egypt must feel in the richness of her ancient art," his principal concern was for its contemporary inhabitants. Taylor criticized travellers who defaced the antiquities by carving their names on them. "There is no end to human silliness, as I have wisely concluded, after seeing Pompey's Pillar disfigured by 'Isaac Jones' (or some equally classic name), in capitals of black paint, a yard long .... A mallet and chisel are often to be found in the outfits of English and American travellers, and to judge from the frequency of certain names ... the owners must have spent the most of their time in Upper Egypt, in leaving records of their vulgar vanity."

From the collection of the Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art



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