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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An 18th Century Traveler Describes Dhimmitude in Egypt

Carsten Niebuhr, an 18th century Danish traveler in the Middle East, then called the Orient, published this account of being a dhimmi in Egypt.

In Cairo, no Christian and no Jew can show himself mounted on a horse. They only ride donkeys and must get off as soon as they encounter an Egyptian, even the least important. The Egyptians never go about except on a horse, preceded by an insolent servant who, armed with a big club, warns the man on the donkey to show the obligatory marks of respect for his master, by crying out: "Infidel, get off! . . ."

It is true that in Egypt these distinctions between Mohammedans and persons belonging to other religions are made on a grander scale than anywhere else in the Orient. Christians and Jews must get down to the ground even in front of the house of the Chief Cadi; in front of more than some twenty other houses where the judges give justice; in front of the gate of the janissaries, and in front of several mosques. It is not tolerated that they even pass in front of several mosques very venerated for their holiness or through the El-Karafe quarter where many tombs and prayer houses are located; they must make a detour in order to avoid these places, for the very ground on which they stand is so sacred in the eyes of the people that it could not tolerate being profaned by the feet of Infidels.
[M. Niebuhr, Travels through Arabia and Other Countries in the East, vol. I (Edinburgh 1792), pp 81-82. Quoted by Yahudiya Masriya, pp 29-30]

This description was confirmed not long afterwards by a member of Napoleon's scientific research staff that came to Egypt along with him. When an important personage came along in the streets of Cairo, riding on a horse, . . .

The Christians and the Jews were obliged to get off their donkeys.
[Tableau de l'Egypte pendant le sejour de l'Armee francaise, par A.G....D, membre de la Commission des Sciences et Arts, seant au Kaire, an XI, 1800, vol. I, p 14. Quoted by Yahudiya Masriya, p 30]
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Note: Yahudiya Masriya [= Egyptian Jewess in Arabic] was an early pen-name used by Bat Yeor. This latter name is also a penname and means Daughter of the Nile in Hebrew.
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Coming: poems of Zion, archeological updates, oppression and persecution of Jews in Jerusalem under Muslim rule

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