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British Herald: Friday, January 1, 1864 - Page 1

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   British Herald (Newspaper) - January 1, 1864, London, Middlesex                                REGISTERED FOR TRANSMISSION ABROAD. james ni8bet and co.,] EDITED BY THE REV. WILLIAM EEID, M.A.-QEOBOE SQXFABE, EDINBTIROH, [21 bbenbrs 8tekbt, londow. LETTERS FROM THE EAST. AtKXANBBiA, March 9. I posted a few lines to you just before we sailed from Marseilles; now we are twelve or fifteen hundred miles further from you, in distant, ancient Egypt! Two days after embarking we passed in sight of the high lands of Corsica and Sardinia, were off Sicily next day, landed the following one at Malta, and spent some hours at Valletta. It is a picturesque, Italian-looking town, rising, terrace above terrace from the sea, to a considerable height. The point which woidd have interested us most in the island-St Paul's Bay-is on the other side, too distant to allow of our visiting it during the brief stay of the vessel; but the whole island shares the interest of Paul's memorable shipwreck, and it felt to us like a fii-st scaipture site. The church of St John's and the palace of the Knights Templars are the lions of the place, and full indeed of historic and romantic memories-the former is especially beautiful; four hundred of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem lie buried there-each stone in the pavement being an elaborate monumental tablet, and the church surrounded with little chapels of exquisite workmanship and costliest material The Maltese costume is peculiar and pretty : the women all wear a curiously-formed black silk mantle, which is at the same time bonnet, veil, and cloak, and which they manoeuvre with elegant dexterity; it is a sort of ompromise between the Eastern veil and the Western unveiledness. Indeed, the island and all about it appear just what they are-a half-wt\y house between Europe and the East. We took on board many additional passengers here, so that the rest of the voyage was rather uncomfortably crowded. In the fore part of the vessel were already about one hundred Arab pilgrims from Algiers, bound for Mecca; poor things! they were deck paasengers, and presented, in their dirty-white bournous, a deplorable spectacle, during some rough weather wa had after leaving Malta ; sick and ill, wet with the rain and the spray breaking over them, unaccustomed to the sea, and iU provided with food, the first stage of their pilgrimage was enough to dishearten them ! we watched them with deep pity and interest --Abraham's seed, though so degraded! About six o'clock last night, after anxiously looking out for it for some hours, we sighted the Pharos light, at the mouth of the harbour of Alexandria, It Was just too late to enter the port, the approach to which is so difficult of navigation that pilots never attempt taking ia a vessel between sunset and sunrise. So we had to lie off all night, rolling idly on the billows, and longing for the morning ; for when the engines are not at work, the motion of a steamer at sea is peculiarly unpleasant.    As we watched the light on the horizon, and remembered that it beamed from Egypt's shore, we felt with pleasure that we were about to enter the scenes we have so often wished to see-the lands of old and hallowed memories. We were up with the dawn, and there, sure enough, lay before us the long, low, sandy beach, and the white buildings, and innumerable windmills of Alexandria ; we explored the view with a glass, as we steered cautiously through narrow channels, between breaker-covered rooks, till about 6 a.m. we cast anchor, amidst a forest of shipping, within half a mile of the dock In a few minutes the vessel was surrounded by little boats, manned by sailors of every hue, and in every costume, jabbering an unintelligible jargon of English, Arabic, French, and Italian. The ship seemed to be taken by storm. Arabs, Egyptians, Turks, and Greeks swarming sdl oy'&r it, and that too in a pouring rain-a rather unpleasant as well as un-Egyptian phenomenon 1 It was no easy matter to get ourselves and our baggage safely assembled in one boat, and under the auspices of one boatman; but we did succeed at last, and were soon deposited on the quay. But such a dilapidated and dirty quay, and such wretched, ragged creatures as those upon it, I neier saw ! We passed through the customhouse, and out upon the square, amid a varied crowd of thoroughly Oriental-looking men and boys, donkeys and camels; but all forlorn and degraded in appearance, beyond everything description had ever led me to expect. The narrow tumble - down - looking streets (mere lanes) shewed, perhaps, to unusual disadvantage in the rain, but they certainly impress a stranger most unfavourably. The Frank quarter, or principal square, where the European hotels are found, is a little better, but shares the look of decay and dilapidation which characterises the town. " The Peninsular and Oriental Hotel," where we are, is tolerably comfortable inside. A fire which occurred last night was still burning when we were shewn to our room, which commands a view of a central courtyard, surrounded with balconied buildings, of which the demolished theatre forms one side. Here are hundreds of robed and turbaned men, ragged, half-naked Arabs, boys of all sizes and costumes, gestulating, vociferating, and enjoying, I suppose, the excitement, but rendering little assistance in extinguishing the flames. The real work is doing by gangs of French and English sailors from the vessels in the harbour, who are manfully exerting and exposing themselves, puUiug down the burning building and those adjacent; their activity, skill, and daring contrasts strikingly with the idle, unintelligent apathy of the natives. It is a strange scene, novel alike to eye and ear, and painfully interesting. _Are those poor, ignorant, degra( beings our fellow-creatures, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh? Yes, indeed, bodies and souls, like our own, formed by Him who is no respecter of persons! Like us, they are on their way to meet their God, to stand at His bar, and be judged by the law or perish without law, in the day when God, by Jesus Christ, shall judge the secrets of men. As we gaze down on this surging sea of human beings, and remember these thin^, the desire to be able to speak to them of the only way of salvation is intense ; but alas I our tongue would awake no intelligent response in their minds ; and, were it otherwise, they would, scorn the story of a crucified Saviour ; poor deluded followers of a false prophet 1 In the evening, as the rain had ceased, we took a long and very interesting walk. The sky was cloudless; it was very warm, but not oppressive : novel objects met our eyes at every turn; the palm and the elegant tamarisk overhead; the utterly foreign "prickly pear," a gigantic cactuslike plant, growing in hedges ten or twelve feet high, and yuccas and aloes around; and little bright-green succulent things, such as we keep in greenhouses, growing under foot instead of grass.   Then the extreme clearness of the air causes colours to look much more brilliant; and the houses and mosques stand out so brightly against the deep blue sky.    The long lines of heavily-laden camels, with their bending necks and undulating movements ; and, above all, the amazing variety of complexion and costume among the people,-the women with their covered faces, some with little naked babies seated astride on one shoulder, others with water-pitchers on their heads, altogether we could not for a moment forget that we were  in  a  foreign land indeed : yet, amid scenes rendered so familiar by pictures and descriptions, that while all was very new in one sens^ all seemed very old and very natural in another. We came unexpectedly upon Pompey's Pillar, (so called,) standing near an old burying-ground, and to-day have made further acquaintance with the city, visiting Cleopatra's Needles, the catacombs, 
                            

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