Mosques

Posted: February 19, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

We had our twelve hours leave today. We all took motors – our party had a nice little torpedo built French car. I was in the front seat, it was fine buzzing along at about 40 miles per hour, though the sunlit avenue on asphalt roads. I spent all my morning inspecting mosques. I did the two just below the Citadel, they are called the “Tombs of the Caliphs”. I could write pages and pages about them, but can only find time for a few notes and facts.

The first one we saw was 1100 years old.  It has the highest doorway in Cairo – 65 ft.  It is like a big domed porch, and beautifully carved, and wrought on the stalagmite system, with alabaster from the casings of the Pyramids. All round the walls are Cufic writings about Moses and the bulrushes etc. The inner temple and domes are all made of alabaster and one is 180 ft. high. All over the ceiling or roof, gold, turquoise, ivory, elephants tusks, and silverwork is inlaid. One door is similarly treated in ivory and gold, and is beautifully done, it cost about 14,000 pounds to make. All the walls are dovetailed ivory, and must have cost an immense figure. Just outside the door is a jet black stone, said to be the stone on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. The other mosque is where the Caliph and his mother are buried, also Saladin the mighty warrior who fought with Richard Lionheart in the Holy Wars.

The tombs are wonderful – ivory, gold and all sorts of jewels everywhere. Solid silver candlesticks 6ft 6 inches high and two feet in diameter in large numbers – some 600 years old. The roof is solid gold with Sandalwood, Alabaster, Ivory, and every precious metal one can think of. There are lovely windows made of Agate, every one a different colour, one tomb cost a million francs (45,000 pounds).

All over the floor are silk carpets. We had to put on sandals over our boots to see these places. Incense braziers of gold, praying stools of silver, and Koran stands of sandalwood everywhere. The Korans are all hand written in gold, with blue fancy work all over them, beautifully done.

This was the only available time to see these mosques as they were being cleaned for the Sultan to worship there today. I didn’t see the Citadel Mosque, it contains Joseph’s well, 320 ft deep. Napoleon was in a destructive mood when he visited Egypt. He fired forty five cannon shots at the first mosque mentioned, but didn’t do much damage, only knocked out a few bricks. In one place the cannon ball is still in the hole. Also knocked several holes through the big iron gates of the Citadel Barracks, which is no mean job.

I saw amongst my many sights the Palace Hotel, Heliopolis, which is now a Military Hospital. It is an enormous place, about 1,000 rooms, it was originally intended for a casino in opposition to Monte Carlo, but didn’t take on. The hall has an inlaid wooded floor, and enormous Egyptian lamps – very costly and beautiful. It cost 3,000,000 to build, Electrical Fillings 1,500,00 pounds, when all the electric lights were switched on it cost 70 pounds per hour.

To finish my day, I went home on the roof of a car, cold, tired and poor. I weighed myself the other day and scaled 12 stone 1 lb., have lost about 5lbs. There is a lot of influenza and pneumonia about here, although there is a lot of malingering. One fellow perfectly fit went down to the Doctor and asked for “light duties” in a very husky whisper, “as he had caught a cold on sick parade”.

On the 19th February we will have finished our six months training – it seems a long time, tomorrow we will have been two months in Egypt. We have a bugler in our tent who has two brothers at the front. He got a letter from one in the Leed’s Hospital suffering from frost bitten feet. He had been in all the fighting from the start, through the battle of Mons, and all those big engagements. He hasn’t heard of the other one at all. I enclose a coin supposed to be Roman, and found in the Pyramids.

____________________________________________________________

Notes:
This letter appears in the diary as Friday and sequentially for the 19th. However, Lance writes about the 19th of February in future tense as the day they complete their 6 months training. He also refers to having been in Egypt for 2 months, which means this letter was written on approximately the 5th or 6th of February.

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ColoniesMap1914 19141208

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