A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
first published 1876
Okay, this is the plan. Don't get distracted. Just nip in, grab a little local colour, and get out fast. You know how the research can get out of hand - you really want to be writing this new book - it's all very well, Miss Edwards doing and seeing things you'd love to see, or have seen, since so many of them are gone now, but that's not the point ...
Nip, grab, scarper. Right?
I started to read the description of her first morning in Egypt:
"It was dark last night, and I had no idea that my room overlooked an enchanted garden, far-reaching and solitary, peopled with stately giants beneath whose tufted crowns hung rich clusters of maroon and amber dates. It was a still, warm morning. Grave grey and black crows flew heavily from tree to tree, or perched, cawing meditatively, upon the topmost branches. Yonder, between the pillared stems, rose the minaret of a very distant mosque; and here where the garden was bounded by a high wall and a windowless house, I saw a veiled lady walking on a terraced roof in the midst of a cloud of pigeons."
The bazaar in Cairo - "a noisy, changing, restless, particoloured tide, half European, half Oriental, on foot, on horseback, and in carriages. Here are Syrian dragomans in baggy trousers and braided jackets; barefooted Egyptian fellaheen in ragged blue shirts and felt skullcaps; Greeks in absurdly stiff white tunics, like walking penwipers; Persians with high, mitre-like caps of dark woven stuff; swarthy Bedouins in flowing garments, creamy-white with chocolate stripes a foot wide, and head-shawl of the same bound about the brow with a fillet of twisted camel's hair; Englishmen in palm-leaf hats and knickerbockers, dangling their long legs across almost invisible donkeys ..."
But it's not all long descriptions - sometimes just a sentence reaches out and takes your hand.
"Everyone takes Herodotus up the Nile."
"The lights twinkled and flitted, like wandering sparks of stars."
"Every breath is laden with the fine grit of the desert."
I will get on with writing. Very soon. Any minute now. But first, just a few more pages ...
Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892)
Seductive writer. Be warned.