Nov 5, 1900

A Trip to Egypt

Hallwyl Museum

On 5 November 1900, Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl leave Stockholm and begin a long journey accompanied by a couple of their daughters and their husbands and Wilhelmina's lady's companion, Miss Ida Uhse. They spend more than four months in Egypt before continuing on to Palestine. In this exhibition we follow them through bazaars and luxury hotels and as they sail up the Nile all the way to Sudan. Please click on the images and then on “details” if you want to read longer texts and diary excerpts.

“May the grace of God give us wonderful weather to Port Said, so that we do not arrive half ruined.”

Going to Beni Hasan, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7942
On the donkeys, from the left: Wilhelm von Geijer, Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, Henric de Maré, probably a guide and the lady companion, Ida Uhse. Irma von Geijer and Ellen de Maré (nées von Hallwyl) are missing in the picture.

THE LADY'S COMPANION

Miss Ida Uhse, to the right in the photo, came to Wilhelmina von Hallwyl as a lady's companion when they were both in their thirties. The two stayed by each other's side through thick and thin until the end. 

Ida Uhse accompanied the von Hallwyls on all their journeys and kept detailed travel diaries including one covering the tour of Egypt. All quotes in this exhibition are taken from her diary.

Ida Uhse on a camel's back at Mena House Hotel, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7922
Ida Uhse on a camel's back at Mena House Hotel.
Passports, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14158
Train tickets, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14156

FROM SWEDEN TO EGYPT

5 Nov. Departure from Stockholm

6 Nov. Arrival in Berlin

9 Nov. Departure from Berlin for Naples. The 46 hour long train trip goes past Munich, Innsbruck, the Brenner Pass, Verona and Milan. After that to Rome, before reaching Naples.

12 Nov. Arrival in Naples

13 Nov. Visit to Pompeii

14 Nov. Going on board the steamship Irene for the crossing of the Mediterranean.

17 Nov. Arrival in Port Said, Egypt.

Panoramic view of Port Said, Photographe Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, 1880/1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8031
In older travelogues it is common to disembark in Alexandria. The travellers were often shocked by the myriads of people fighting for the money of the foreign visitors. In the diarly of Ida Uhse we find nothing of this. Perhaps Port Said was a calmer place.
The Savoy Hotel, Cairo, De Guerville, A. B., 1906, Original Source: TIMEA, Travelers of the Middle East Archive
Upon their arrival in Cairo, the party checked in at the elegant Savoy Hotel.
Menu from a dinner at the Savoy Hotel, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14153

HOTELS

In the early 19th century there were so few tourists coming to Egypt it was not profitable to run a hotel. The number of visitors increased rapidly and by the end of the century, the hotel business was fully developed. 

 Almost all tourists came to Egypt in winter. During the summer and up until October–November was the flooding season and the currents on the Nile were too strong to sail on. After March it got too hot. Therefore, hotels were only open from December to March. This made staying at hotels very expensive.

Gezirah Palace Hotel, Photographe Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, 1800/1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8047
The "Moorish Gallery" at the Gezirah Palace, which was one of the fancier hotels in Cairo at the turn of the century.
Walther von Hallwyl with his daughter Irma von Geijer at the Gezirah Palace Hotel, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7914
Gezirah Palace Hotel, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8045
Interior of Gezirah Palace Hotel, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8046
Running guards in Cairo, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8049
Cairo appeared as exotic to the Swedish travellers, but also offered all the conveniences that they were used to have at home.

“The finest carriages have drivers and servants dressed in red fezzes as well as two runners in white costumes embroidered with gold. The latter run in front of the carriage while crying loudly in order to make room.”

View of Cairo, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8033
In 1900 Cairo was a modern metropolitan, where European and American tourists could find everything they wanted.
Souk el Selah, the old arms market, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8035
The door of an Arabic house in Cairo, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8036
Boats on the Nile, Cairo, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8040
The Sultan Hassan Mosque, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8037

VISITING HOMES

As soon as the family had installed themselves at the elegant Savoy Hotel, it was time to go sightseeing. In Cairo, tourists were expected to visit mosques and Coptic churches. It was also common to visit private residences. 

Female tourists might have been lucky enough to be invited to the “harem” of the home, i.e. the women's quarters. It was very popular and an experience that was talked about afterwards. There was great curiosity among western Europeans on the Muslim view of women.

Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, Photgr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8039
The first part of the Amr ibn al-As mosque was constructed in the 7th century and was the first mosque in Egypt.
Mosque and street of Emir Akhor, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8034
The dome in the background belongs to the Emir Akhor mosque.
A ship on the Suez Canal, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8053
On 9th December, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, Ida Uhse and the dragoman Abdul travel to Suez. The next morning they go by boat across the Red Sea to the Moses Springs, while three donkeys are being shipped over on another boat. Then the ladies ride for two hours to the bitter water sources, where they have breakfast before they ride back. 
Portrait of Dragoman Abdul, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7979
A dragoman was a guide and interpreter and was indisposable to the European tourists in Egypt.

“We were looking for mussels on the shore of the Red Sea. The previous day had been full of experiences and I can never thank the Countess enough for allowing me to accompany her on this trip.”

Sea shells from the shore of the Red Sea, 1901/1938, Original Source: Object number: LXII:A.148.
The Sphinx and a pyramid at Giza, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8058
According to the travel diary the Sfinx was almost covered in sand during the winter 1900-1901.

“I did not find it hard to ride a camel, neither was it hard to mount this long-legged animal.”

Wilhelmina von Hallwyl going by camel to Mena House Hotel, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7921
Going by camel to Mena House Hotel, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7920
View over the Pyramids, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8056
From 1899 there was an electric tram line from central Cairo to the pyramids. Now the trip took 40 minutes, instead of a whole day or two.
Sheikh el-Beled at the Egyptian Museum, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Cie, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8042

GOING SHOPPING

During the stay in Cairo, in November and December, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl and Ida Uhse spend many hours visiting museums and making purchases in the bazaars. 

They buy jewellery, little sculptures, rugs and other souvenirs. They also buy things they will need for the coming voyage on the Nile, for example a number of fly whisks.

Scarab, Unknown, Original Source: Object number: XXXVI:J.g.01.
Earthenware finger ring, Unknown, Original Source: Object number: LVIII:A.b.a.01.

“I have no predilection for Egyptian art but it must be admired that such artistic objects could be made as early as 6,000 years ago.”

Ushebti figures, 663-525 BC, Original Source: Inventory number: LVIII:A.f.a.03.
Travel equipment, From the collection of: Hallwyl Museum

“22nd of Dec. In the morning we cared for our clothes, washed gloves, etc. After lunch we made some purchases. Went on a little boat over to Hotel Bûlâk which is situated on the opposite shore. Subsequently we went on a tram to the city park, Esbekiye, located in the centre or town where all the hotels are. In the evening we went to the Cedercrantz residence for dinner, together with Consul-General Östberg who invited us for dinner in the grand hall at the Gezirah Palace. In the evening our hotel arranged a great ball for the hotel's guests, as well as guests of other hotels. The lighting was splendid."

A list of items to be packed for the trip to Egypt, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14157
A list of clothes and items that were to be packed for the trip.

“Today we celebrate sacred Christmas Eve far away from Sweden. We have already dressed the Christmas tree for the evening [...]. In the evening the Cedercrantzes will come for dinner at the hotel and thereafter we will go up to our rooms in order to dance around the Christmas tree together, in accordance with the Swedish custom.”

Christmas dinner at the Gezirah Palace, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14154
The cuff-links that Walther von Hallwyl got for Christmas, Jeweller J. Lattes, Cairo, ca 1900, Original Source: Inventory number
Gold bracelet. A Christmas gift from Walther to Wilhelmina von Hallwyl., A Turkish goldsmith in Cairo, 1900/1938, Original Source: Object number: XXV:III:A.a.08.

CONVENIENCES

Around the turn of the 19th century the hotels in Cairo had all the conveniences a European tourist could ask for, with running water, electricity and lifts. 

The hotels were the basis for tourism and for the social life of the upper classes. That is where you would find good restaurants, bars, parties and balls. 

The von Hallwyl family were repeatedly invited to dinner at the Gezirah Palace by the Swedish Consul-General, one occasion being Christmas dinner.

Boxing day menu from the Gezirah Palace Hotel, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14155

“27th Dec. At nine in the morning we went on board the Nile boat Columbia, which was moored by the hotel. The Count had hired the boat for the entire voyage on the Nile, from Cairo to Aswan.”

The steamship Columbia in Sohag, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7962
The party on board the SS Columbia. The flag at the fore was brought from Sweden by Walther von Hallwyl.
SS Columbia, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14151
The crew of the steamship Columbia, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7977
The crew of the Steamship Columbia.
Brochure from the Anglo-American Nile Steamer and Hotel Company, The Anglo-American Nile Steamer and Hotel Company, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14152

MODES OF TRANSPORT

Prior to the 1850s, travellers on the Nile had to hire their own boat and crew but starting from the late 1850s there were passenger steamships to Aswan. 

The service for tourists developed quickly and a railway was built from Cairo all the way to Minyah, but hiring a more expensive and slower dahabeya (a traditional sailing vessel) had the highest status. 

The von Hallwyl family hired their own steamship, which would have been the next best option.

The commanders of the SS Columbia, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900/1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7997
The steamship Columbia outside Asyut, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7955
Feluccas on the Nile, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1900/1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7994
The main attraction for most tourists was not Cairo, but the historical Egypt. A trip to Egypt should include a boat tour up the Nile, to Aswan via Thebes, Karnak, Luxor and the Valley of Kings. Those with more time and money could also chose to continue to the second Cataract and the temple at Abu Simbel.

ON THE NILE, DEC 27-JAN 16

27 Dec. From Cairo to Al Badrashin

28 Dec. Up the Nile

29 Dec. Via Beni Suef to Girga

30 Dec. Minya

31 Dec. Beni Hasan

1 Jan. El-Hag Kandeel

2-3 Jan. Asyut

4 Jan. Sohag

5 Jan. Abydos

6 Jan. Qena

7-8 Jan. Dendera

9 Jan. Towards Luxor

10-16 Jan. Luxor

Ellen de Maré being carried on a litter, on the way to Memphis and Saqqara, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7927
A child crying, outside a village between Manfalut and Asyut, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7952
A village between Manfalut and Asyut, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7949
Henric de Maré going hunting, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7950

“The journey continues towards Asyut; on the way we saw bands of wild ducks, pelicans, herons and other waterfowl. The men attempted to shoot one of them for a trophy from both the large boat and a rowing boat, but they were not successful.”

On board the steamship Columbia, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1900/1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7995
Henric de Maré having fun in Sohag, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7959
Girga, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7966

“The eastern side of the terrace has three rooms, the middle one of which has ceiling paintings depicting the famous ‘Dendera Zodiac’ (now housed in the National Library in Paris), the only circular representation of the zodiac found in Egypt.”

Dendera, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8072
A temple in Dendera.
The temple ruins at Abydos, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8065
The temple of Seti I in Abydos, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8066
The temples of Luxor, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci, circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8074
Luxor appears to have been the highlight of this trip. The von Hallwyls stay here for six days and visit most of the historic sites. The ladies are tireless in their exploring of temples and monuments. The gentlemen are perhaps not quite as interested. They go hunting instead.
On board the steamship Columbia, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900/1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7978
Ida Uhse disembarking at Thebes, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7987

“It had been a very lovely day, rich in the enjoyment of nature and art. The Egyptian art, in my opinion, is somewhat monotonous; the greatest impression comes from its overwhelming supernatural size.”

Wilhelm von Geijer on the Colossus of Memnon at Thebes, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7988
The temple of Ramesses II in Luxor, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8075
Wilhelm von Geijer after a bird hunt, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7980
The temple ruins in Karnak, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8081

“When we had crossed the Nile in the morning and had just set off on our ride, the Countess fell from her donkey and I was terribly frightened as I saw her lying on the ground with a bloody nose.”

Henric de Maré on board the SS Columbia, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1900/1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 7998
The Temple of Horus in Edfu, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., ca 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8091
Ida Uhse admires the Temple of Horus in Edfu but is horrified by the hoards of tourists that arrive, making a terrible noise.

“After breakfast, we went down to the temple again to admire its beauty in peace and quiet. However, a Cook boat with 65 passengers had arrived in the meantime, and the crowd of travellers hurled themselves towards the temple on the backs of donkeys. We found it unpleasant to see these people and their guide walking around. The latter gave his explanations in a monotonous voice, which made a ridiculous impression on us.”

Baedeker's guide to Egypt, 1898, Original Source: Image number: DIG 14150
The pillar hall in Edfu, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8092

DOUBLE STANDARDS

In her diary, Ida Uhse is upset by the pillaging of temples and ruins, but at the same time, she describes how they themselves pick up objects they find on the ground, for example during their visit to Beni Hasan:

“On Monday, we again rode out to the cat tombs, where many mummies are scattered about. Captain de Maré took one to bring back for Rolf.”

In a palm forest close to Aswan, Ellen de Maré, née von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8005
From the left: Walther von Hallwyl, unknown person, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, Ida Uhse and Irma von Geijer, all dressed for exploring.
Overlooking Aswan, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8099
The First Cataract, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8100

"We then went on the Nile to look at the great floodgates that have been used to dam the river. We could not be too impressed with the Cataract, as we were used to seeing the river Ljusnan.”

A view of Philae, Photogr. Artistique G. Lekegian & Ci., circa 1900, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8101
Inhabitants of Dakka, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8008
Inhabitants of Derr, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8012

“Today we continue on a tourist boat to Wadi Halfa to see the ruins. The boat is very good, the passengers are pleasant, the food is good, but the beds are terrible. The weather is lovely, everyone is in good spirits, poor Irma is the only one who looks displeased, I would say she never feels well and content.”

Inhabitants of Dakka, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8009
Inhabitants of Derr, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8011
A stop during the trip to Khartoum, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8014
Ida Uhse and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl at a train station in the Sudanese desert, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8018

“Yesterday we left for the train at 5pm and at 7 the train set off, just after we had had dinner. There were seven of us ladies in the sleeping car, and it was neither as hot, as sandy nor as dusty as we had expected. This morning we got up at 6am as there were seven ladies who needed to perform their toilette.”

A train station in the desert between Wadi Halfa and Khartoum., Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8015
Train station in the desert, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8019

“The crocodiles only come to Khartoum later on, when the water is lower and there are no more boat tours. These dangerous animals make many blacks disappear while bathing.”

Men and children i Khartoum, Wilhelm von Geijer, 1901, Original Source: Image number: DIG 8027

DESCRIBING PEOPLE

In older travelogues written by European travellers, the people in Egypt are often described on the basis of their appearance and race. You often come across perceptions such as “the Arabs try to swindle you out of money” and “the Nubians are primitive”. 

Ida Uhse’s diary is relatively free from this type of opinion. She describes the people they meet rather sparingly and without much amazement. She does note the colour of their skin, but does not make any bid deal of it. This is probably partly due to her being well-travelled, but many experienced travellers of this period would describe the local population in very disparaging terms.

GOING BACK

8 Feb. Abu Simbel

9-21 Feb. Aswan

22 Feb. Visit to Bisharin camp

27 Feb. Train to Luxor and then on for approximately 650 km to Cairo.

1 Mars. Back in Cairo

PHOTOGRAPHS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS

Some of the photographs in the von Hallwyl’s album from their journey to Egypt have been taken by members of the family, but most of them were purchased from a professional photographer. This was common practice, as few people owned a camera.

Nearly all the photos purchased on this journey come from the same studio: Photogr.  Artistique G. Lekegian & Co. The person behind that studio, G. Lekegian, was an Armenian photographer and artist, who moved to Cairo from Constantinople. We do not know much about him as a person. His first name may have been Gabriel. His studio was very successful. It was located opposite the large Shepheard Hotel and over the course of 30 years, up until the 1920s, they sold vast numbers of photographs to European and American tourists. 

Lekegian’s studio maintained a high level of artistic quality. They would photograph sights and tourist attractions, but also captured images of everyday life in Cairo in a sympathetic and vivid way.

THE LAST DAYS IN CAIRO

1 Mars. Cairo. It has rained.

2-9 Mars. Go shopping in the bazars, go to dinners, the opera, parties.

11 Mars. Back to the Pyramids.

18 Mars. Visit the wife of the Dutch General Consul.

21 Mars. Visit the mother of the Khedive.

24 Mars. To the Egyptian Museum. Buy “idols”.

27 Mars. Dinner with General Consul Östberg.

28 Mars. Continue to Palestine.

“At nine o’clock in the evening, we had our dinner and then went to bed, me with a heavy heart, thinking of the seasickness I would endure. However, there was no rough sea, thank God, and we arrived safely at Jaffa.”

Credits: Story

Producer  — Sara Dixon
Form and photo  — Erik Lernestål

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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