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Northeast African Studies 7.1 (2000) 172-176
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Egypt fascinated foreign travelers even in ancient times: her monuments and wealth rarely failed to disappoint. Successive Muslim dynasties aspired to equal or surpass the splendor of the tombs and temples of the pharaohs. Even the awakening of European interest after Napoleon's expedition in 1798 was an acceleration rather than a discovery; pilgrims and Crusaders, merchants and adventurers had visited during the European middle ages and Ottoman times. But the scientific interest kindled and exemplified by Napoleon's incursion was new, and has coexisted uneasily with (rather than superceding) a vast increase in tourism in the two centuries since.
Travellers in Egypt is a collection of papers presented at a conference held in 1995 at the Oriental Museum of the University of Durham. Almost all of them deal with travel and travelers in nineteenth-century Egypt. The book is divided into seven parts of unequal length, with an Introduction by the editors, a Select Bibliography, and an index of people and places.
In the Introduction, the editors ask whether European travelers formed "a cultural image of modern Egypt as they wanted it to be rather than as it was in reality" (1). The papers that follow are not particularly concerned about an answer, but the overriding themes of Nile Valley civilization and of European interest in Egypt hold the book together.
Part One, "Early Travelers," has two papers. In "Pietro Della Valle in Ottoman Egypt 1615-1616," P. M. Holt, the doyen of historians of Egypt, finds "a prototype of later Western travelers in Egypt" (22): a religious pilgrim unlucky in love who visited pharaonic sites, traveled into Sinai, engaged in some amateur archaeological digging, and was notably open-minded in his account of the Muslim Egyptians. Rosemarie Said Zahlan's "George Baldwin: Solder of Fortune?" provides an account of a British consul general in Egypt from 1786 to 1793.
Part Two, "Egyptological Travellers," comprises six chapters. Peter A. Clayton presents "A Pioneer Egyptologist: Giovanni Baptista Belzoni, 1778-1823," a circus strongman from Padua whose lasting impact derived from early investigations at (and removal to Europe of artifacts from) various important sites; he brought a head of Ramses II from Ramesseum to the British Museum, excavated the funerary temple of Amenophis III, and worked in the Valley of the Kings. Patricia Usick's brief chapter on "William John Bankes's Collection of Drawings [End Page 173] of Egypt and Nubia" is explained by its title. Another brief study, Marcel Kurz and Pascal Linant de Bellefonds's "Linant de Bellefonds: Travels in Egypt, [the] Sudan and Arabia Peraea (1818-1828)," presents that well-known traveler's notebooks, drawings, and maps from expeditions in Lower Nubia, the Siwa Oasis, and the Sudan (to Sinnar and the White Nile).
Chapter 8, Joachim S. Kang's "A Prussian Expedition to Egypt in 1820: Heinrich von Minutoli," very briefly presents a German visitor important for inspiring later travelers by his eyewitness accounts and the early collecting of artifacts that became the nucleus of the Egyptian collections in Berlin. In chapters 9 and 10, John Ruffle describes "The Journeys of Lord Prudhoe and Major Orlando Felix in Egypt, Nubia and the Levant 1826-1829, and Neil Cooke presents "The Forgotten Egyptologist: James Burton," to whom the British Museum remains in debt.
That Part Three, "Women in Egypt," contains but two papers indicates the rarity of female visitors in the early nineteenth century and historians' relative lack of interest in those there were. Chapter 11 is Deborah Manley's "Two Brides: the Baroness Menu von Minutoli and Mrs. Colonel Elwood," while chapter 12, Peter Rowley-Conwy, John Rowley-Conwy, and Deborah Rowley-Conwy's "A Honeymoon in Egypt and the Sudan: Charlotte Rowley, 1835-36," concerns in part an account of an early European visit to Khartoum.
Part Four, on the other hand, "Artists and Photographers," provides six chapters on travelers interested in various...