Strolling Through Istanbul

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City is the essential guidebook for any curious visitor to Istanbul. Originally written in 1972 by the late Hillary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely, the book has since been revised by Freely and reprinted in 2010. Sumner-Boyd was a professor of Humanities at Robert College, Bosphorus University. Freely, originally a New Yorker is currently a professor of physics at Bosphorus University in Istanbul and author of over forty books and guides. The authors, who are intimately familiar with Istanbul, have outlined several walking tours in and around the city and bring attention to the major historic sites as well as many others often overlooked by tourists. Sumner-Boyd and Freely go beyond simply mentioning historic locations but animate each stop along the stroll with vivid historical descriptions, biographical sketches, and architectural interests. Through their well crafted prose they guide the eye to the more unique aspects of each location. Their engaging personalities and love for the city comes through in their writing making them the ideal tour guides to Istanbul. The walking tours are divided into geographic sections for a total of 23 chapters that span up the Golden Horn to Eyüp, along the Bosphorus, and down to to the Prince’s Islands. Despite its considerable size, a generous 487 pages, this book is always tucked into a bag and towed around the city. It’s through this guide that we discovered such gems as the Yeraltı Cami (Underground Mosque), Namazgahs (open air prayer spaces), and the serene Küçük Aya Sofia Camii.

Yeraltı Cami 

Leaving Karaköy we begin walking along the seaside road, which is always bustling with pedestrians rushing to and from the ferry station. About 200 metres along, past the ferry pier, we turn left and then left again at the next street. A short way along on our right we come to the obscure entrance of Yeraltı Cami, the Underground Mosque. This is a strange and sinister place. The mosque is housed in the low, vaulted cellar of keep of a Byzantine tower or castle which is probably to be identified with the Castle of Galata. This was the place where was fastened the one end of the chain which closed the mouth of the Golden Horn in times of siege. Descending into the mosque, we find ourselves in a maze of dark, narrow passages between a forest of squat passages supporting low vaults, six rows of nine or 54 in all. Towards the rear of the mosque we find the tombs of two sainted martyrs, Abu Sufyan and Amiri Wahabi, both of whom are supposed to have died in the first Arab siege of the city in the seventh century. Their graves were revealed to a Nakşibendi dervish in a dream in 1640, whereupon Sultan Murat IV constructed a shrine on the site. Then in 1757 the whole dungeon was converted into a mosque by the Grand Vezir Köş Mustafa Paşa.

The Underground MosqueThe interior of the Underground Mosque.

Namazgahs 

In the centre of the square, Kadirga Liman Meydanı, there is a very striking and unique monument. This is the namazgah of Esma Sultan, daughter of Ahmet III, which was built in 1779. It is a great rectangular block of masonry, on the two faces of which are fountains with ornamental inscriptions, the corners having ornamental niches, while the third side is occupied by a staircase which leads to the flat roof. This is the only surviving example in Stamboul of a namazgah, or open-air place of prayer, in which the kıble or direction of prayer is indicated but which is otherwise without furniture or decoration. Namazgahs are common enough in Anatolia and the remains of at least two others can be seen in the environs of Istanbul, one in Okmeydanı overlooking the Golden Horn and the other at Anadolu Hisarı on the Bosphorus; but this is the only one left in the old city.

Ironically one is no longer allowed to pray here.

SS. Sergius and Bacchus 

At the end of this lane, we come to one of the entrances to the courtyard of the beautiful Küçük Aya Sofya Camii, the former Byzantine church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus. The church was begun by Justinian and his Empress Theodora in 527, five years before the commencement of the present church of Haghia Sophia. It thus belongs to that extraordinary period of prolific and fruitful experiment in architectural forms which produced, in this city, buildings so ambitious and so different as the present church, Haghia Sophia itself and Haghia Eirene…

In SS Sergius and Bacchus, as in almost all of the surviving Byzantine churches of the city, we must simply use our imagination in order to recapture the extraordinary beauty of its original condition. The walls, like those of Haghia Sophia, were revetted with veined by variegated marbles; the vaults and domes glittered with mosaics. “By the sheen of its marbles it was more resplendent than the sun,” says Procopius, “and everywhere it was filled profusely with gold.”


Kitāb al-Futūḥāt al-rabbāniyya fī tafsīr mā warada fī al-Qurʾān min al-awāmir wa’l-nawāhī al-ilāhiyya

While browsing the used books in the Sahaflar Çarşısı (located in the Aslıhan Pasajı off of Istiklal Street in Beyoğlu, Istanbul) we came across a corner bookstore called Ayça Kitabevi. Inside I found a stack of mostly old Ottoman books, but intermixed with these works were a few Arabic ones.

After going through the store’s small collection I ended up purchasing a copy of the Qur’an printed in Mecca, whose publication date is unlisted (according to the text this edition was verified in Ramadan 1366/July-August 1947), and a two-volume Arabic tafsīr or commentary of the Qur’an. Both volumes of the text are in fairly poor condition. The cover to volume two, for example, has been previously “repaired” with tape. The tafsīr in question is entitled Kitāb al-Futūḥāt al-rabbāniyya fī tafsīr mā warada fī al-Qurʾān min al-awāmir wa’l-nawāhī al-ilāhiyya and was written by Muḥammad ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥakīm. According to the introduction the author’s full name is Muḥammad ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥakīm Ibn ʿUmar Rāsim b. Ḥusayn b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm (vol. 1, p. 3). Consulting al-Ziriklī, the author, who also bears the nisba al-Kuraydī, appears to have died in 1324/1906 with this tafsīr listed as his only work of note (al-Ziriklī, al-Aʿlām, vol. 4, p. 24). This date of death cannot be correct if the tafsīr itself is to be believed. The colophon to the second volume states that the work was completed on Monday 29 Safar 1324/23 April 1906. However, the colophon to the first volume states that that volume was completed a year later on 12 Rabīʿ al-Awwal 1325/24 April 1907. It would seem that volume one was finished after volume two and that the author was still alive in 1325/1907.

The text is an aḥkām al-Qur’ān work. Based on the repeated Qur’anic injunction to command the good and forbid the wrong, the book is divided into two volumes; one deals accordingly with divine commands (awāmir) and the other with divine prohibitions (nawāhī). The first volume is 352 pages with 4 additional pages of corrections and the second volume is 354 pages also with 4 pages of corrections. Neither a date of publication or publisher is given in the work. The book appears to be rare. Checking the libraries catalogued on WorldCat the tafsīr only appears in the collection of two libraries: the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and Brigham Young University. The edition that they have, however, is a later printing. We know this because their edition, which was published in 1936  by Maṭbaʿat el-Mahmūdiyyah in Cairo, has both volumes printed together as one, whereas as the present edition was printed as two separate volumes as it was initially intended.

If anyone can shed further light on this work or its author Muḥammad ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥakīm, it would be greatly appreciated.

An Edition Concerning the Histories of Nishapur

In an earlier post on Frye and the Histories of Nishapur I drew attention to the importance of consulting the earliest surviving recension of Fārisī’s Kitāb al-Siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr as it is preserved in the facsimile edition prepared by Richard N. Frye. I was unaware at the time that an edition of that work had been published (Harvard at least had not and still does not own it). However, a few days ago while browsing the Arabic books at Şam Kitabevi in Istanbul I came across an edition prepared in Iran.

This work, edited by Muḥammad Kāẓim al-Maḥmūdī, was published by Mīrās-i Maktūb in 2005. I wish I had come across this book sometime earlier during the past seven years. It would have made the task of dealing with Fārisī much easier (On further investigation, a copy appears readily available at Yale where I could have accessed it earlier had I known of its existence, but by then I was reading from own copy of Frye).The indices are especially helpful and exceed Jaouiche’s indexing of the Kitāb al-Siyāq.

Nevertheless, I still believe Frye’s facsimile should be checked against the edition. An edition after all is ultimately an interpretation of how a manuscript should be read and the Fārisī manuscript can be quite difficult to read in places. For instance, my question concerning what appears to be a marginalia scrawling in the manuscript remains unanswered by the edition.

In any case, consider this 1) an update to the material available for Nishapur and 2) a notice to check out Şam Kitabevi for its Iranian editions of Arabic and Persian works (among other things) if you are ever in Istanbul. The location of the bookstore is marked on our Islamicana Map of Istanbul.

Abū al-Ḥasan al-Fārisi. 2005. al-Mukhtaṣar min mitāb al-siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr. Tehran: Mīrās-i Maktūb.

Andersen in Istanbul: The Mawlid of the Prophet Muhammad

The Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), famous for his stories and fairy tales, also captured his journeys abroad in a number of travelogues. The lengthy excerpt reproduced here recounts a visit to Istanbul (Constantinople) on the occasion of the birthday celebration, or Mawlid, for the Prophet Muhammad. He also recounts the public procession of the Sultan and his entourage from the Serail (meaning Topkapı Saray or Palace). The account gives yet another interesting outsider perspective on Ottoman life and society.

ConstantinopleThe following passage is found in an 1889 publication entitled Stories for the Household as are the two images (pp. 829 & 845 respectively) in this post:

MAHOMET’S BIRTHDAY. 

A SCENE IN CONSTANTINOPLE.

THE fourth of April is the birthday of the Prophet. Already on the eve of that day the celebration began; and to say the truth, the performance on the eve was the prettiest part of the festivity. I considered it unfortunate that the night happened to be moonlight, and that the Osmanli police regulations demanded that every one who went out after sundown should carry a light in a lantern; but I was obliged to submit, for the police regulation could not be altered, nor could the moonlight. A young Russian named Aderhas and I associated ourselves together, and, without a companion, but duly provided with a light in a great paper lantern, we sallied forth to behold the illumination in honour of the Prophet.

“We went through a narrow street of Pera, and before us lay a scene of fantastic beauty, such as we can only see in the North in a wondrous dream. From the row of houses near which we stood down towards the bay extended a churchyard, that is to say, a cypress grove, with thick dark trees ; and dark night rested upon it. Over rough hills, downwards among the tall trees, winds the path which the footsteps of men and the hoofs of horses have worn, sometimes among the tombs, sometimes among fallen grave-stones. Here and there a blue lantern was seen moving to and fro, which soon disappeared, to reappear shortly upon the black background of the picture.

In the churchyard a few lonely houses lie scattered, and the lights glimmered from the upper windows, or were carried to and fro upon the balconies.

Beyond the cypress-tops shone, blue as a Damascene blade, the Gulf with its many ships. Two of these, the largest, were richly ornamented with burning lamps, which glittered around the portholes, the masts, and the guns also, or were hung in the rigging, which shone like a spangled net. Just before us lay the town itself, the great far-spreading Constantinople, with its countless minarets all wreathed with garlands of lamps. The air was still red with the sheen of the setting sun, but so clear and transparent that the mountains of Asia, and Olympus, covered with perpetual snow, showed their sharp broken outlines like a silver-white cloud behind the glorious city. The moonlight did not deaden the splendour of the lamps, but only brought out the minarets in relief, till they looked like gigantic flower-stalks crowned with blossoms of flame. The smaller minarets had one starry wreath, the larger two, and the largest of all three, one over the other.

 Not a human being was to be seen in our neighbourhood, all was lonely and still. We wandered down among the cypresses; a nightingale was raising its flute-like voice, and turtle-doves cooed among the shadows of the trees. “We came past a little sentry-house, built of planks, and painted red; a little fire had been kindled in front of it, among the gravestones, and soldiers were reclining around it. They were dressed in European garb; but their complexion and features proclaimed them of Ishmael’s race, children of the desert. With long pipes in their mouths, they lay and listened to a story. This story was about Mahomet’s birth.

The nightingale translated it for us, or we should not have understood it. Here it is:

La illah il Allah!” “There is no God but God!” In the city of Mecca the merchants assembled for the sake of traffic; thither came Egyptian, and Persian, and Indian, and Syrian dealers. Each one had his idol in the temple Kabba, and a son of Ishmael’s race filled the highest office, namely, that of satisfying the hunger of the pilgrims and quenching their thirst. In his piety he wished, like Abraham, to offer up his son as a sacrifice; but the prophetess declared that the handsome Abdallah should live, and a hundred camels were sacrificed in his stead. “La illah il Allah!

And Abdallah grew to be a man, and was so handsome that a hundred maidens died for love of him. The prophetic flame shone on his forehead, the flame which passed hidden from race to race, until the Prophet was born, Mahomet, the first and the last. The prophetess Fatima saw this flame, and she offered a hundred camels if he would be her husband; but he married Amina, and the prophetic flame vanished from his forehead and burned in Amina’s heart. “La illah il Allah!

And the next year came round; the flowers had never been so sweet as they were this year, never had the fruits on the trees swelled with, such abundance of juice; and the rocks trembled, and the lake Sava sank into the earth, the idols fell down in the temple, and the demons, who wanted to storm the heavens, fell from the sky like millions of shooting stars, hurled down by the mighty hand that wielded the lance; for in that night Mahomet the Prophet was born. “La illah il Allah!

This was the story the nightingale translated for us, for the nightingale understands Turkish just as well as our own language.

We went forth beneath the tower of Pera, out to the convent of the dancing dervishes, and a beauteous panorama met our view. The whole Sea of Marmora lay before us, lighted up by the rays of the moon, and in the mid-distance Scutari [Üsküdar] stood forth, its minarets gleaming with many lamps like those of Constantinople. The Mosque of St. Sophia with its four, and the Mosque of Ahmed with its six minarets, stood forth in especial splendour, each pinnacle crowned with a double or a triple garland of glittering stars. They seemed to surround the garden of the Serail, which stretched down towards the Bosphorus, dark as a starless night. No light shone in the palace of the sultanas near the shore; but there where the Golden Horn ends, a sword of flame had been reared, that threw a ruddy glow over the waters. Innumerable little boats, gaily decked out with red, green, or blue paper lanterns, darted like fireflies between the shores of the two continents. All the great line-of-battle ships blazed with lamps; every ship, nay, every rope and spar, could be clearly seen, the outlines drawn in fiery colours. Scutari and Stamboul seemed united by the gleaming water with its rows of shining sparks. It was a fairy city, a city of the fancy, with a magic haze poured forth over it; and only two points were covered by mysterious darkness: in Asia the great churchyard behind Scutari; in Europe, the garden of the Serail. Night and dreams lay brooding over both spots the dead heroes are dreaming of the maidens of Paradise, and in the night of the Serail the dreams are those of earthly beauties, charming and fair as the houris of Paradise.

The streets of Pera were filled with a throng of Greeks, Jews, and Franks, each carrying his lantern or his candle. It was an Oriental procession of Moccoli; but the costumes were far more correct, more rich and varied, than those in the Corso of Rome on the last evening of the Carnival. In front of the palaces of the foreign ministers lamps were burning, erected in the form of pyramids, or in a great M, the initial letter of the Prophet’s name. At nine o’clock cannon were fired from all the ships; there was a thundering din, like that of a sea-fight; all the windows shook; shot after shot boomed forth, announcing the hour at which the Prophet was born.

I fell asleep amid the thunder of the cannon, and was awaked early by the same sound. Merry music of Rossini and Donizetti sounded through the streets: the troops were marching on, to be paraded between the Serail and the Mosque of Ahmed, whither the Sultan was about to proceed in state.

The Danish Consul, Romain, an Italian, came to fetch me. A young Turk, with pistols in his girdle and two long tobacco-pipes an his hand, walked before us; an old Armenian, in a dark blue fluttering caftan, and a black jar-shaped hat on his shaven head, came after us, carrying our cloaks; and thus we strolled through the main street of Pera, down towards Galata. The servants stepped into a boat, we two embarked in another, and now we rowed across the Gulf, darting swiftly among hundreds of others, whose rowers shouted and howled at each other, as one or other of the boats ran the risk of being swamped. At the landing-place in Constantinople the mass of gondolas formed a huge swaying bridge, across which we had to skip, to reach the firm land, which is bordered by decayed planks and beams. The crowd was great, but soon we came to a broad side street. Here were many people, but there was room enough. Great crowds of veiled women wended along the same way with us, and soon we had arrived under the walls of the Serail, which are very high towards the town, and look like the walls of an old fortress. Here and there is a tower, with a little door, which looks as if it had never been opened; the hinges were covered with grass and climbing plants. Great old trees stretched their leafy branches across the old walls; one could fancy one’s self on the borders of the forest in which sleeps the enchanted Princess.

We chose our position in front of the Mosque of St. Sophia, between the great fountain and the entrance to the Serail. From this point the Mosque of St. Sophia, with its numerous cupolas and subsidiary buildings, has a whimsical resemblance to a great flower-bulb to which several smaller bulbs have attached themselves. The terraces in the foreground were thronged with Turkish women and children, and the shining white veils worn by the former gave the scene quite a festive air. The fountain behind us is the largest and most beautiful in Constantinople. With the name “fountain” we usually associate the idea of a basin with a jet of water plashing up from it; but in Turkey fountains have a very different appearance; and a more correct idea of their appearance will be obtained by imagining a square house, whose walls are quite Pompeian in their variegated richness of colour: the white groundwork is painted with inscriptions from the Koran in red, blue, and gilt letters; and from little niches, to which brazen basins are fastened, the consecrated water ripples forth, with which the Mussulman bathes his hands and face at certain hours of the day. The roof is painted and gilt with quite a Chinese richness of colour. The dove, the sacred bird of the Turks, builds its nest here: in hundreds they flew over our heads, to and fro between the fountain and the Mosque of St. Sophia.

All around were a number of Turkish coffee-houses, all built of wood, with balconies, almost like the Swiss houses in appearance, but more gaudy and less solid: before each there stretched a little plantation of trees; and all these plantations were occupied by smoking and coffee-drinking Turks, who quite lit up the gardens and the fronts of the houses with their bright-coloured caftans: some of them wore turbans, others fez caps. Between the fountain and the great gate leading into the forecourt of the Serail, two long scaffolds had been erected of boards placed on tubs and tables. The second of these was higher than the first, and on the lower one veiled Turkish women of the lowest class were reclining. Old Turks, Persians, and a few Frankish strangers, whose unveiled women were objects of universal attention, held their station on the upper platform. Now appeared several regiments of Turkish soldiers, all dressed in European fashion, in tight trousers and close jackets, white cross-belts across their chests, and red fez caps on their heads. The guards made a very good appearance in their new uniforms, with tight stock and collars; and, as I was told, they wore gloves to-day for the first time. Some of the other regiments seemed in most lamentable plight: not only were the men of all possible complexions, white, brown, and coal-black soldiers all mingled together, but some of them were lame, and others had club feet. Their European uniforms were too tight for them, consequently the majority had ripped up the seam of the sleeves at the elbow, and many had cut their trousers at the knee, that they might move their legs with greater freedom; consequently naked elbows were seen protruding all along the line, and during the march many a red, brown, or black knee protruded from the blue trouser. Especially remarkable was one regiment, which I might almost call the “barefoot warriors,” for some of them had only one boot and one shoe, while others shuffled along with bare feet thrust into slippers of different colours. Amid a din of military music, they all marched into the courtyard of the Serail, and, after defiling before the Sultan, came back and drew up in line along both sides of the way: Ethiopians and Bulgarians stood side by side, and the Bedouin became the neighbour of the shepherd’s son from the Balkan.

At ten o’clock the procession was to begin; but it was nearly twelve before the Sultan thought fit to leave the Serail. The sun shone warm as in summer; cup after cup of coffee was quaffed, and once or twice the lower platform gave way, and all the Turkish women tumbled down in a heap. It was a long time to wait. Until within a few years, it was the custom to bring out to this spot the heads of those who had been decapitated in the courtyard of the Serail, and to throw them to the dogs; but everything looked peaceable enough now. Young Turks who could speak a little French or Italian began a conversation with us and with other Franks, and showed the greatest willingness to explain to us whatever they thought might excite our interest. Below us, in front of the walls of the Serail, lay spread the Sea of Marmora, enlivened with many a sail, and glittering in the sunshine; and high up, in the background, the snow-covered mountain-peaks of Asia glowed in the clear blue-green sky. I had never before seen this grassy glimmer in the air. A young Turk, who told me he had been born on the banks of the Euphrates, assured me that yonder the sky sometimes showed rather green than blue.

But now a cannon-shot resounded from the garden of the Serail: the procession was starting. First came a mounted military band, even the drummer and the man who played the cymbals were on horseback: the latter musician let the reins hang loose on the horse’s neck, while he clashed the brazen plates in the sunlight. Now came the Sultan’s guards, as soldierly a body of men as you would see in any Christian kingdom; then a number of splendid horses were led along, without riders, but all decked in gorgeous trappings, red, blue, and green, and all powdered with jewels. The horses danced along on their strong slender legs, tossing their heads and shaking their manes, while their red nostrils quivered like the leaf of the mimosa, and more than instinct seemed to flash from their bright eyes. Now came a mounted troop of young officers, all clad in the European costume, but wearing the fez cap; they were followed by civil and military officials, all clad in the same way; and now the Grand Vizier of the empire appeared, an old man, with a long beard of snowy whiteness. Bands of music had been posted at different points, and relieved each other at intervals. In general, pieces from Rossini’s “William Tell” were played, but suddenly they were broken off, and the strains of the young Sultan’s favourite march were heard. This march had been composed by the brother of Donizetti, who has been appointed band-master here. Now came the Sultan, preceded by a troop of Arabian horses still more gorgeously caparisoned than those who had gone before. Rubies and emeralds formed rosettes for the horses’ ears; the morocco leather bridles were covered with precious stones, and saddles and saddle-cloths were wrought with pearls and jewels.

 It seemed as though we were looking on the work of a spirit of Aladdin’s lamp. Surrounded by a number of young men on foot, all displaying a feminine Oriental beauty, as if a number of Turkish women had ventured abroad without their veils, came riding on his splendid

Arab horse the young “nineteen-year-old” Sultan Abdul Medjid. He wore a green coat buttoned across the chest, and wore no ornament, except one great jewel with which the bird of Paradise feather was fastened in his red fez cap. He looked very pale and thin, had melancholy features, and fixed his dark eyes firmly on the spectators, especially on the Franks. We took off our hats and bowed; the soldiers shouted out, “Long live the Emperor!” but he made not a gesture in acknowledgment of our salutes.

 “Why does he not notice our salutes?” I inquired of a young Turk at my side. “He must have seen that we took off our hats.”

 “He looked at you,” replied the Turk; “he looked at you very closely.”

With this we had to be content, for it was considered as good as the best acknowledgment. I told the Turk that all Frankish princes acknowledged the salutes of their subjects with uncovered heads, a statement which seemed quite incredible to him. 

Pachas and other grandees of the empire now came by; then Frankish officers in the Turkish employ; and then a number of servants, male and female Turks, closed the procession. Such a crowd, such a pushing to and fro! Half-naked street boys with dingy turbans, old beggar women with ragged veils, but with coloured trousers and morocco slippers, pushed noisily through the throng.

Allah akbar!” “God is great!” they shouted, when the soldiers tried to drive them back with the butt-ends of their muskets. The whole street was like a many-coloured stream of fez caps, turbans, and veils, and on both sides, like reeds along the river’s banks, rose the glittering bayonets. Whenever parties of Franks wished to pass through the ranks of the military, Turkish officers came forward and made room for them with the greatest politeness, pushing aside their fellow-countrymen, who contented themselves with gazing upon the favoured Franks, and shouting once more, “Allah akbar!” (pp. 830-836)

Hans Christian Andersen. 1889. Stories for the Household. London: George Routledge and Sons.

Mecca Temple in NYC

An imposing domed building called Mecca Temple lies on 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in the very heart of Manhattan. Or at least it was once called that.

Today the building is known as the New York City Center and is a theater with 2,750 seats. When it was first built in 1923, however, it was christened Mecca Temple and served as a meeting hall for its builders the Shriners, more bombastically known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. And what a shrine Mecca Temple must have been for these noble gentlemen of New York with its immense green dome (now red tile) and its profuse Islamic and Arabesque motifs. Though the building is now hidden by its towering neighbors, it was once (see vintage postcard below) an imposing structure in its own right.

We can revisit our 1939 New York City Guide for a more historic perspective on Mecca Temple as it once was. It succinctly reports:

MECCA TEMPLE, the largest Masonic Shrine in the city, is at 135 West Fifty-fifth Street. The mosque-like façade is framed with shallow-arched recesses in blue, green, and orange mosaic. The hall itself, which seats 3,500, is crowned by a tiled dome surmounted by the Scimitar and Crescent. (p. 180)

The architecture style seen here is known as Moorish Revival and reflects a Western fascination with a mysterious/mystified orient, particularly with romanticized Ottoman and Andalusian elements. Such fanciful imaginings of course, extended beyond building design and is equally evident in the habit and customs of the Shriners themselves, their most notable piece of apparel being the red fez.

More images of Mecca Temple can be found over on the appropriate gallery page. Of course, if you are ever in town I encourage you to see it for yourself. It’s worth a visit.

Ernest Goes to (Post-)Ottoman Istanbul, 1924-26

In less than two weeks time I’ll be journeying to Istanbul yet again. In anticipation of that I wanted to share a wonderful reminiscence of Istanbul from a fellow American, Ernest Gerber,* at the beginning of the 20th century.  What you’ll find are Ernest’s striking readings of a number of subjects including Muslim tolerance, Laylat al-qadr, and what I presume to be a Sufi dhikr (rather than Tarawih prayer). But before I begin, a bit of background is in order.

Kiran’s earlier post on The Real Muslims of Lower Manhattan introduced us to the fount of historical information that was gathered and compiled by FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), specifically the Federal Writers’ Project, from 1936 to 1940. The efforts of these writers, however, extended beyond American guide books like our New York City Guide (1939) and New York Panorama (1938). Spread across the country, the writers of the WPA were well positioned to collect the local history and cultural color of many of the America’s oft-overlooked communities and hidden corners.  In effect, these writers became the country’s first collective of oral historians. In fact, counted among the hundreds who worked for the WPA was Studs Terkel, who arguably went on to become America’s greatest oral historian.

Kiran and I have searched and continue to search through the rich collection of WPA material for other bits of “Islamicana.” Particularly helpful has been the website maintained by the Library of Congress: American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940. The piece that I wish to share now is just one of our discoveries and seemed exceedingly relevant given my own imminent departure to Istanbul. Not only does the Library of Congress provide a rough transcription of the typed interviews, or “life sketches” as they were sometimes called, it also provides digital scans of the original reports.

Allow me at last to share with you some excerpts from one remarkable interview entitled “From Around the World to a Georgia Farm.” Rather than being about some aspect of Islam in America, these words have more to do with an American abroad.

A WPA writer named A. O. Berie met with a Swiss-American neighbor named Ernst Gerber on the latter’s farm just north of the Chattahoochee River in Marietta, Georgia. Locals also called Ernest “Chief” and “Doc” as the writer does in the following life sketch. The interview was conducted on 25 February 1939, but the story that Ernest related covered nearly his entire life.

Berie opens by providing an interesting description of Ernest’s home, part of which reads:

The chest which holds the camp stove also serves as a kitchen table, holding the few dishes and accessories necessary for his simple meals. A few inches above them, and extending nearly across the wall from door to window, is a fine example of Turkish tapestry about 18 inches in width, and immediately above the center of this is a small but excellent water color portraying the murdering of a Sultan’s favorite by the Eunuch and his helpers. (The Chief says she probably waved her handkerchief out the window at some Yankee sailor). Flanking the picture is a pair of wrought brass candlesticks (from Turkey) representing two puff adders. Above each of these is a small framed excerpt, in Arabic, from the Koran. Above these, in the center of the wall is a beautiful prayer rug depicting the mosque of Little St. Sofia. Scattered about the other walls are pictures of Mohammedans in native garb and a couple of fine tapestries. Two small taborets of exquisite inlay workmanship stand near a large oil-cloth covered table which serves as a writing desk and also accommodates the typewriter and a few books and datalogues. (pp. 5-6)

With that our stage is set and Berie then hands over the course of the life sketch directly to Ernest’s own words. And so we learn from Ernest himself that in 1917 he joined the Hospital Corp of the US Navy and then, began in 1920 to visit Istanbul, or Constantinople as he called it. Here is some of what Ernest had to say about a two-year stay in Istanbul that began in early 1924:

Well, magazines have carried pictures and fine descriptions of the beautiful mosques and palaces in Turkey and nothing I could say would make them more beautiful or interesting. I do say, though, that the so called Christianized people who are always talking about the Turks or Mohammedans being so terribly intolerant, don’t know what they are talking about. They always cite the fact that the beautiful mosaics in the mosque of St. Sofia have been covered with ochre. Well, did you ever see a picture of the Virgin Mary in a Presbyterian or other protestant church? I have been in St. Sofia many times and the thought came to me the first time that if these people were so intolerant, why didn’t they destroy the mosaics? A Yankee boy with a handful of stones could spoil one in a few good throws. And in many cases the only part of the picture covered is the face, and some of these are not even painted over but covered with a gold star. In the same Mosque, on either side of the opening in the hall-way where the faithful enter the inner temple there is a beautiful statue which could have been destroyed with a blow of a hammer; instead they are enclosed in cabinets which are closed up during religious ceremonials, and can be opened to the view of the public at other times.

I had a little adventure in connection with this mosque which might be worth telling about. It was built by The Emperor Justinian I as a Catholic shrine, and is considered the third most holy mosque in Turkey. For that reason it was, at that time at least, closely guarded, and no one was allowed to carry anything inside which might desecrate it. I had tried for nearly a year to get permission to photograph some of the interior but was always refused permission. Well, one day I got acquainted with a shepherd who tended his flock not far from there and after I had visited him many times I told him what I wanted. He finally told me of a way to get in through a narrow opening between the bastions in the rear which was covered with bushes. I sneaked through the opening and not seeing the guard inside I set up my tripod and camera and got two good pictures. Just as I was hurriedly taking down the outfit the guard entered and saw me. He raised his long barreled rifle and was about to drill me when the shepherd rushed in with his hands up, shouting the Arabic word for “immunity.” This was my cue and I dug out my embassy assignment card and handed it to him. Of course he didn’t know what it said but as we were immune from about everything else he thought I hadn’t got a picture yet he finally got friendly and was very courteous from then on.

One day I heard that some prominent man had died and his funeral was to be held at the Mosque of Ayoub [Eyup], on the Golden Horn. Hiking out there I joined the crowd lining the street and waited for the ceremonial procession. I noticed a young man in European clothes standing next to me and spoke to him in Arabic. He answered me in better English than I ever spoke and we immediately became friends. He was highly educated in English and other languages, was a graduate of one of our own famous universities, and was the personal secretary of the Sheik El Islam, the spiritual head of the Church in that part of the empire. He did me many favors during the rest of my stay and helped me to learn more of the Mohammedans and their customs.

Not long after we met, the month of the Ramidan [Ramadan] began. During this period, which begins when the first sickle of the new moon appears after the Vernal Equinox, the faithful fast every day from sunrise to sundown, not even a drop of water reaching their lips. But you’d ought to see them eat and drink between sunset and sunrise! They sure do make up for lost time.

During this month there is one night set apart from the rest and called the Night of Power [Laylat al-qadr]. On this night the spirits are supposed to descend on each worshipper and give him the power to control his body and mind, in fact make them sort of supermen. That is, if they are able to get themselves wrought up to the proper pitch for the reception of the power. I had long wanted to witness one of these gatherings but it seemed I was doomed to disappointment, until I met my new friend and asked him if he could help me out. Well, through his influence with the Sheik I was permitted to attend, clothed in the proper robes and instructed how to act. I must say that I was not greatly impressed with the show. It was not nearly as wild as I had been led to believe; in fact, I’ve seen a lot crazier demonstrations of fanatical emotionalism right here at home at Holy Holler meetings. Very few of the worshipers went into contortions and for the most part it was more of a mass action, the robed figures swaying from side to side and forward and back in unison, me with the rest of them. Maybe its all hooey, but I know from close contact with them that they sure do know how to control their tempers, especially when some fool white man does something that would mean fight right now in any other country.

I sure enjoyed life there and sometimes wished I could have stayed there permanently, but all things must keep moving, so early in 1926 I was ordered to the USS Pittsburg, at Villefranche, France. And here began the long trip which finally landed me back in the States, on the last lap of my journey to Georgia. (pp. 28-30)

The interview continues beyond this and at the very end of the typed report is a brief note scrawled in an expedient cursive hand. It dispassionately states “The subject of this sketch died on Dec. 23-1940” (p. 40) meaning that Ernest Gerber passed away almost two years after having been interviewed.

*In memory of Ernest Gerber (12 January 1883 – 23 December 1940). Thank you Ernest for your memories, sincerity, and honesty and thank you to the men and women of the Federal Writers’ Project for saving so much that would have otherwise been lost.

For those still interested in reading more here is a bonus passage detailing his living accommodations and his observance of firefighting methods in Istanbul/Constantinople:

No, I didn’t find my old sweetheart in that port [Constantinople] but there was plenty of others. Now, I’m not going to spill a lot of hooey about the morals of sailors or make excuses, but what the folks call the immorality of the foreigners is a damn sight better than the same thing in some of the so-called civilized countries. Now, you take a man assigned to shore duty for a long stretch; he would have to spend most of his spare time on the ship, if he didn’t live on shore, and would have to be in at certain hours and put up with a lot of other regulations. Well, he can rent a good room and kitchenette for five dollars a month, get him a good looking girl, and live like a king. Yes, they do everything a wife would do and a lot more than most of them. And let me tell you, they are a darn sight more capable and economical in running a house than the girls here. They have it bred into them in those countries… They mend and press your clothes, buy the groceries, do the cooking, and they sure can cook, and keep the place spotlessly clean. And while you have her she is your woman and nobody else can touch her. Yes, as soon as you’re gone she will be looking for another man, but they got to live just like everyone else.

Since Kemal Attaturk began to reform the country I suppose there have been many changes, and things would be a lot different than when I was there, but my camera retained for me the things as I saw them, and bring back to my mind the incidents that happened at that time. Some things I didn’t photograph pop into my mind once in a while and I was just thinking of the time I saw the fire department go into motion. They didn’t have any waterworks then, just a well here and there, and there seemed to be two crews of firemen, one with red equipment and the other with green. The men wore helmets like the old Roman soldiers and a little short tunic, the rest of the body being bare. Their pump was a sort of barrel-shaped thing which was carried on the shoulders of six men, some extra men being in front and behind them to relieve if the trip was very far, and a number of men carried buckets. There wasn’t any signal system, but a watchman in a tower in some part of the city would cry out when he saw what looked like a fire maybe the word would get around to the firemen after a while. When they heard about a fire they would start running toward the spot and the first crew there might get the job of putting out the fire. If both crews got there about the same time, they would begin bidding on the job of putting out the fire. That’s what happened one day when I was lucky enough to be nearby, and damned if the building didn’t burn down before the owner decided which crew he would hire. (pp. 26-27)

Frye and The Histories of Nishapur

Richard N. Frye’s The Histories of Nishapur is an invaluable source for Islamic history, especially for documenting the local history of a medieval Islamicate city. I, like many other scholars, have made and continue to make frequent use of this book. To my surprise, however, I discovered shortly after I moved to Connecticut that Yale University did not own a single copy, where I had previously had access to five at Harvard. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of this rare book from the online site of Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.

This substantial tome is concerned with Nishapur, a city in Khurasan (or the northeastern region of modern day Iran) and provides facsimile editions of three important manuscripts on the city’s historical personalities. The texts, two of which are in Arabic and the third in Persian, are biographical dictionaries or ṭabaqāt. A number of important studies have used Frye’s collection to great advantage, the most famous being Richard Bulliet’s seminal book The Patricians of Nishapur.

The three text included in Frye’s Histories are:

1. Kitāb aḥvāl-i Nīshāpūr, a Persian manuscript from the Bursa Central Manuscript Library: Hüseyn Çelebi, Tarih 18, 74 folios.

2. Kitāb al-Siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr, an Arabic manuscript written by ʿAbd al-Ghāfir ibn Ismāʿīl al-Fārisī (d. 529/1134) and stored in the Dil ve Tarih Fakültesi Library in Ankara: İsmail Saib 1544, 98 folios.

3. al-Muntakhab min kitāb al-siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr, an Arabic recension of al-Fārisī’s Kitāb al-Siyāq written by Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣarīfīnī (d. 641/1243). The manuscript of 146 folios is from the Köprülü Library in Istanbul, no. 1152.

Perhaps, because of the book’s relative scarcity, I have noticed in recent years that some scholars are bypassing or overlooking Frye’s valuable collection altogether. Compounding the issue is the ready availability of edited print editions al-Ṣarīfīnī’s al-Muntakhab, such as the ones published by Dār al-Fikr and Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya. Not only are these print editions easier to read and navigate than the manuscript facsimiles in Frye’s book, they can also be more easily located in Arabic bookstores and on library shelves than the difficult-to-find and now costly The Histories of Nishapur.

But to pass over a work like al-Fārisī’s Kitāb al-Siyāq would be a mistake. As Frye has pointed out, al-Fārisī’s text has significant differences from al-Ṣarīfīnī’s. To focus on one would be to overlook much in the other. For example, al-Fārisī provides important information on the lives of Abū’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072) and Ibn Ḥabīb (d. 406/1016) that is entirely absent in al-Ṣarīfīnī’s al-Muntakhab. This latter text, after all, appears about a century later. One would be wise to consult both texts.

To aid in navigating the manuscripts of Frye’s collection, Habib Jaouiche has compiled and published a useful index that covers the two Arabic manuscripts contained in the book. While Jaouiche only indexes the biographical entries in the texts, rather than every occurrence of a name, his work is nonetheless helpful.

Frye, Richard N., ed. 1965. The Histories of Nishapur. London: Mouton & Co.

Jaouiche, Habib, ed. 1984. The Histories of Nishapur: ʿAbdalġāfir al-Fārisī – Siyāq Taʾrīḫ Naisābūr, Register der Personen- und Ortsnamen. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

Bulliet, Richard. 1972. The Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

The Real Muslims of Lower Manhattan

My eyes quickly scan the spines of books lining the overburdened shelves, stacked and piled with patient tomes. The letters are familiar, my mind registers them as English, however the words are Turkish. My brain struggles to make sense of the jumbled script and forces my eyes to settle on words I can understand. New York City Guide.

This is no ordinary guide to New York City, the greying hard cover, weathered binding and strained spine reveal its age. Instinctively I turn to the verso to find it is a 1939 print. While Martin is methodically searching through shelves and amassing his own collection of books, I settle into a chair on the dusty 4th floor of Simurg Bookstore. I skim the table of contents and flip to the index searching for any indication of Muslims living in Lower Manhattan.

I’ve read contemporary studies, newspapers and opinion pieces of the evidence supporting the existence of places such as Little Syria. The case for Muslims being a part of New York’s unique tapestry has been made. However, at times I need the evidence to manifest itself to me – to appear in a 1939 guidebook. I need for the rosy fragrance of deteriorating pages to invade my senses, to witness acidity yellowing the pages, to feel the strain of cradling a heavy book on my wrists. I want to read paragraphs, uninhibited by an author’s interjections, on the Muslims of New York.

At a time when hotels were rented for $2.00 a night, subway fare cost 5 cents, and traveling via steamship was normal, baklava was being sold on the street corners of Lower Manhattan.

In the market section, comprising a world of its own, is the Syrian Quarter, established in the late 1800’s at the foot of Washington Street from Battery Place to Rector Street. A sprinkling of Turks, Armenians, Arabs, and Greeks also live here. Although the fez has given way to the snap-brim, the narghile has been abandoned for cigarettes, the coffee houses and tobacco and confectionery shops of the Levantines still remain.

Using the same methods and types of implements as native Syrian bakers, the confectioners make delicious sweets such as baclawa (chopped walnuts or pistachios, wrapped in forty layers of baked dough of gauze-like thinness flavored with goat’s milk butter and drenched in honey), knafie (twisted hank of fried dough with a core of chopped pistachios flavored as baclawa), sweet-sour apricot paste sprinkled with pistachios strings of walnuts dipped in grape syrup, and “Syrian delight” scented with attar of roses. Restaurants feature shish kebab (spit-broiled lamb) and rice cooked in salted vine leaves, and furnish narghiles upon request. Other neighborhood stores sell graceful earthen water jars; brass, silver, and pewter trays; tables inlaid with mother of pearl; brass lamp shades fringed with variegated beads, and Syrian silks of rainbow hues. (p. 76)

Flipping between the index and the text, my fingers interlaced with the pages, I learn that in addition to Syrians residing in Lower Manhattan they also lived in Brooklyn.

[I]n the Red Hook vicinity there are many Arabs and Syrians. It is anomalous that Brooklyn, the borough of homes and churches, should have some of the worst slums (Williamsburg, Brownsville, Red Hook) of the nation, yet such is the case.” (p. 433)

Concerning South Brooklyn:

Here are Erie and Atlantic basins, the Todd and United Shipyards, the busy State Barge Canal Terminal, and miles of freight railway tracks. Sailors from a hundred foreign ports fill the bars and rooming houses, and the prevailing atmosphere of a great international seaport is increased by the Syrian shops and coffee houses with their Arabic signs, on Atlantic Avenue. (p. 463)

Finally, on diverse Brownsville:

Brownsville extends from Ralph Avenue to Junius Street, between Liberty and Hegeman Avenues. With more than two hundred thousand people dwelling in its 2.19 square miles, it is the most densely populated district in Brooklyn. The population is predominantly Jewish. A large group of Negroes lives on Rockaway Avenue, Thatford Avenue, and Osborn Street between Livonia and Sutter Avenues. The only Moorish colony in New York is on Livonia Avenue between Rockaway and Stone Avenues. Italians live in the northern section of Brownsville; and on Thatford Avenue near Belmont is a small Arabian and Syrian quarter.” (p. 498)

Entranced, I continued to search. What else could I find? And what exactly was this treasure I had found?

A few months later, and back in the states I learned that the guidebook I stumbled upon in Istanbul is only one of an impressive series of books, all part of The American Guide Series – the first guidebooks to cover the states and regions of the United States. This warranted a trip to the library where we picked up a few more books on the guidebook series and the program that started them. In the mid 1930’s and in response to the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of the New Deal. The WPA was enacted to employ millions of workers in public works projects. One of the more creative WPA projects was the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP); this division was created to support written work and writers during the Depression. The Federal Writers’ Project relied upon struggling writers to document the peoples and places of the United States. Many notable writers held modest careers as FWP writers, including Studs Terkel, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston. More can be found on the WPA and the Writer’s Project in Soul of a People (book and documentary). The American Guide Series and the research that went into it ended up being an incredible anthropological study of the American people. I found that the New York City Guide is the companion volume to New York Panorama, a broader view of the city’s life and history.

The Panorama provided even richer details of the early immigrants.

Of the three near-Eastern groups, the Syrians have the largest population in the city, numbering 30,000 throughout greater New York. The Armenians come next with 22,000, while the Turks in New York number only about 300.

Only 1,000 of the city’s Syrians live in Manhattan, along Washington Street between Morris and Rector Streets. The largest Syrian colony lies between De Graw and State Streets, running from the East River to Hoyt Street in Brooklyn. A smaller settlement has grown up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

The Turks are settled mainly along Rivington and Forsythe Streets in Manhattan.

Armenians and Syrians in the city are almost without exception Christian, the former adhering to the Gregorian Church while the latter have formed a number of sects related to the Greek Orthodox and the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches. St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church at 57 Washington Street, best known Syrian church in the city, conducts services in Syrian.

The Turks are exclusively Mohammedans. The only real mosque in the city, at 108 Powers Street in Brooklyn, claims most of the devout. Some belong to the Mohammedan Unity Society at 67 West 125th Street. (p. 117)

In many ways, Michael Gomez says it best, “arguments are necessarily more tentative than conclusive…” (Gomez 1998, 60). Despite the hopes I once held for Muslim Syrians in Lower Manhattan, a mere two sentences on the Turks has abated my disheartenment. How appropriate is it then that I found the New York City Guide tucked away on a dusty shelf in Istanbul. Somewhere in the pages, interspersed between the lines lies a fleeting truth. I am caught between discerning facts and waiting for unanticipated discoveries, clinging to the fine details. Culling for the truth and always hoping for something more, these small nuggets of information keep the search alive.

Gody, Lou, Chester D. Harvey, and James Reed, eds. 1939. New York City Guide. New York: Random House.

New York Panorama. 1938. New York: Ramdom House.

Michael Gomez. 1998. Exchanging Our Country Marks. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Ephemera: The Garden of Allah

Always in pursuit of a new opportunity to find unique items, Martin and I ventured to an ephemera fair. It is only recently that we’ve started to appreciate and understand the potential value of ephemera. Ephemera consists of everyday one-time use materials; printed objects that were never intended to have enduring historic value. This includes everything from pamphlets, brochures and postcards to posters, stock certificates and advertisements. For example the Library of Congress has a collection of restaurant menus. Though many of these materials may not hold much value on their own, when viewed in a series or as a collection they begin to illustrate a story, a window into social history. The perceptions, thoughts and ideas of people begin to gain clarity through the printed material that they created or read. A single postcard then is only a piece in a larger, elaborate, puzzle.

Overwhelmed and timid we took a quick walk through sixty-some exhibitor booths. The larger of the two rooms was designated for dealers and a smaller room for members exhibiting their personal collections. In addition to the exhibit space there are sessions and discussions for members of the society. We spent all of our time among the dealer booths. We narrowed our focus and decided to search through the following categories that were present there:

1. Black ephemera

2. Religion

3. Foreign Travel

Personally we were searching for material related to early Muslims in America or how Americans have imagined Islam. Unfortunately our searches yielded few results. One of the two pieces we did find is this:

The Garden of Allah – Southern Arizona and California is a travel brochure, copyright 1936, for the Rock Island Lines, a railroad company. Though Allah is only mentioned in the title the imagery it intends to invoke is scattered throughout it’s pages:

Thus, in four words, may be told “The Winter’s Tale” that summarizes all the varied delights of Southwestern Resorts reached directly by the Golden State Route.

Romance, color, exotic charm, historic interest, scenic grandeur, social vivacity, out-door sport, – all in the golden wash of a never-failing winter sun – at El Paso-Juarez, Tucson, Chandler, Phoenix, Litchfield, Indio, Palm Springs, San Diego, Coronado, La Jolla, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara!

The fair, called Ephemera 32, was presented by the Ephemera Society of America in Old Greenwich, CT.

Cairo 1916: Where have all the dragomans gone?

I’ll be travelling to Cairo soon and I’ve been reading through my travel guide in preparation. Apparently, I need a reliable dragoman. Dragoman, you ask? Allow me to explain…

Being the historian that I am, I’ve forgone the latest Lonely Planet and instead turned to a book of a much finer vintage, a 1916 Guide to Egypt and the Sûdân* from the Macmillan’s Guides series. A couple of years ago Kiran and I picked up this slim, handsome volume from the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

If there was ever an underused source for historical information, old prejudices and past insights it is the modern day travel guide. They are the ugly cousins to the more refined and consciously-worded travelogues and historical tomes. What distinguishes travel guidebooks from their kin is that they are published on a regular basis, constantly “updated” with new and more correct information (or so they would have you believe), and contain pro forma a wealth of detail not guaranteed in travel writings and history books. And of course travel guides are as much a window into the world of their authors and intended audiences as they are to the far off places they intend to cover.

For instance, let us return to the matter of the dragoman. First, a dragoman refers to a translator, interpreter or guide and the term itself derives from the Arabic word for translator, tarjumān. Concerning dragomans, the 1916 edition of Guide to Egypt and the Sûdân states:

Dragomans – It is unnecessary for the ordinary tourist, who only stays in the big towns and makes a steamer trip up the river, to have a dragoman constantly. For sightseeing in Cairo it is better to take a guide or dragoman each day than to engage one for the whole period of stay. The charge is from P.T. 30-40 a day, according to the experience of the man and his knowledge of English. Travellers must remember that the dragoman, whether Egyptian or Syrian, dressed in European, Turkish, or Arab dress, is merely a servant, and should always ride on the box and not in the carriage. They are quick to take advantage of the slightest familiarity. (p. 5)

A helpful rule of thumb indeed– that my dragoman must “ride on the box and not in the carriage.” Another choice tip about bakshīsh (meaning a tip):

Bakshîsh would seem to be the first word the Egyptian child learns, so great is the cupidity of the tourist-spoilt Arab. Yet, however big the tip given, it is rare to find the recipient grateful or satisfied, and the traveller must not think he has underpaid because no thanks are returned. (p. 5)

Finally, concerning Mohammedanism or Islamism, the guide notes:

Polygamy is allowed by the law of the Koran, but is not frequently practised. Unfortunately the law makes divorce particularly easy. In the year 1903, while there were 176,474 Moslem marriages registered, there were 52,992 cases of divorce. The position of women under Egyptian Mohammedanism is deplorable, and is responsible to a large extent for the unprogressive state of society. (p. 23)

Text aside, the book also provides a number of attractive illustrated maps, several of which fold out. For the curious, here are the maps of Cairo:

If you ever chance upon an old travel guide, it is certainly worth a look.

Guide to Egypt and the Sûdân including a Description of the Route through Uganda to Mombasa. 7th edn. Macmillan’s Guide series. St. Martin’s Street, London: Macmillan and Co., Limited., 1916.

*According to the personal inscription at the beginning, this book once belonged to a Sophie Voorhees of Richmond Hill, Long Island, New York. Her handwritten notes indicate that she likely stayed at the National Hotel in 1924 and then the Shepheard’s Hotel in 1928. I’ve discovered quite a bit about Sophie Voorhees’s social life from the archived New York State newspapers at fultonhistory.com.