Notes of a Howadji
American Travelers in Egypt, 1837 - 1903: An Introduction
literature is an increasingly popular research tool for anthropologists,
natural scientists, and social historians, as well as an informative
and entertaining subject for the armchair traveler. The works displayed
here focus on the American travel experience in Egypt, a popular
destination for travelers from the time of Herodotus (ca. 420 B.C.).
American travel accounts displayed a brashness and a paradoxical
tendency to praise Egypt for being a fresh new travel destination
while criticizing it for not being enough like home.
the early nineteenth century a trip to Egypt and up the Nile aboard
a native dhahabîyeh (large sailing craft) was reserved
for only the most adventurous traveler, or howadji, a Turkish
word originally meaning "merchant" or "shopkeeper."
Howadji soon became a term applied by local inhabitants to
all foreign travelers. In 1851, George William Curtis popularized
the term in his travel account, Nile Notes of a Howadji,
explaining it as "the universal name for traveler."
the late 1860s, Thomas Cook & Son, a London travel agency, began
offering Nile excursions on steamers and luxurious dhahabîyehs,
reducing much of the hardship of earlier travel. These conveniences
brought more American visitors to Egypt, ranging from noted public
figures to Midwestern businessmen and their families. Soon, the
exotic locales of Nubia and the oases of the Western Sahara Desert
were offered as stops on the Grand Tour for American travelers.
the nineteenth century drew to a close, Egypt was regularly visited
by Americans. Many years earlier, in an issue of The North American
Review from 1839, Egypt was described by the anonymous reviewer
of John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Egypt as
quarter of the world, where comparatively few [Americans] have
travelled, but where we anticipate they will soon penetrate,
with all their characteristic ardor and enterprise (p.184).
online presentation brings together selected travel account by Americans
who visited Egypt in the nineteenth century. Many of the volumes,
or their authors, have special associations with the Smithsonian.
Additionally, a sampling of guidebooks and handbooks to Egyptian
antiquities are presented.