4oo PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
though it is a favourite subject for Cairene poets, and the inhabitants love to smoke their pipes
and enjoy their " keyf" or siesta in the houses and terraces overlooking it, and drowsily listen
to the murmur of the water-wheel (see page 395)—
" Where bright Khaleega, like a spotted snake,
Past meads and gardens trails her glittering coil "—
it is only pretty during four months when the Nile fills it, while for the rest of the year " bright
Khaleega" is a gutter of mud and a home for noisome smells. The people, however, are so
fond of this unwholesome drain that no ruler dares risk his popularity by converting it into a
street, though that is, undoubtedly, its proper destiny.
In the gardens which fringe the Khalig the fair inhabitants of the harim enjoy the
fragrance and tints of the rose and oleander and the other favourites of Cairene horticulture
unseen by the profane eye of man. It is true the ladies of Egypt do not take much interest in
their flowers ; the gardeners make formal bouquets for them, which they languidly admire, but
they never dream of tending or even plucking the flowers themselves. Nevertheless, they
enjoy " smelling the air," as they call it, amid the irregular parterres of Cairene horticulture ; and
if we are to believe Beha-ed-din Zuheyr, an Egyptian poet of the thirteenth century, who wrote
some charming verse which our lamented E. H. Palmer (who deserved so well of students of
Palestine and Arabia) turned into no less charming English, these gardens of Cairo were once,
and may still remain, delightful places for lovers' meetings. The garden he described looked
on the Nile, but in other respects the picture applies to many of the pleasure-grounds in the
heart of the city :—
•' I took my pleasure in a garden bright—
Ah ! that our happiest hours so quickly pass ;
That time should be so rapid in its flight—
Therein my soul accomplished her delight,
And life was fresher than the green young grass.
There raindrops trickle through the warm, still air,
The cloud-born firstlings of the summer skies;
Full oft I stroll in early morning there,
When, like a pearl upon a bosom fair,
The glistening dewdrop on the sapling lies.
There the young flowerets with sweet perfume blow;
There feathery palms their pendant clusters hold,
Like foxes' bushes waving to and fro ;
There every evening comes the after-glow,
Tipping the leaflets with its liquid gold.
Beside that garden flowed the placid Nile.
Oft have I steered my dahabiyeh there ;
Oft have I landed to repose awhile,
And bask and revel in the sunny smile
Of her whose presence made the place so fair."
West of the Tfilun the canal makes a sharp angle, and then, resuming its south-westerly
direction, enters the Nile close to Masr El-'Atikah,or, as Europeans call it, " Old Cairo." 1 he
entrance of the canal (Fum El-Khalig) is opposite the island of Rodah, where is the famous
Nilometer, or well for measuring the height of the inundation. Until the river has risen to the
height of sixteen cubits in the Nilometer, an old law enacts that no land-tax can be levied. The
Government, however, of course take care to publish a falsified measurement before the due