An American Woman in Egypt, 1914-1915: Christmas in Asswan

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today we rejoin our anonymous diarist as she journeys down the Nile in the winter of 1914-1915. You can read previous installments of this series here (introduction), here (Cairo to Aysut), here (Aysut to Asswan), here (Asswan to Abu Simbel), and here (Wadi Halfa to Asswan), and here (At the Cataract Hotel, Asswan).


In this sixth and final installment of the “American Woman in Egypt” series, we will follow our anonymous diarist through the final ten days of the year as she celebrates the December holidays far from home. While this section of the diary doesn’t conclude the diarist’s trip to Egypt, I will be picking up with a new writer’s diary in January. Hopefully, you have enjoyed this vicarious journey!


From Cairo to the Cataracts by Blanche Mabury Carson (1909)

Dec 21. Went to English church, then walked to village & back. P.M. Busy in my room till 3.45 then we went out for a sail up toward the dam among the islands. Got back & saw the sunset from my balcony.


Dec 22. Read in the garden for awhile, then at 11.40 left the hotel and took train for Shellal with party from Ramses the Great. Got back & went round first to the dam. had lunch at Cook’s resthouse, then walked nearly across the dam and back, got back in boats & went through two locks rowing back to steamer which we reached for tea. Found Mr. Wood, returned from Khartoum.


Dec 23. Sailing along all day & very cold. Began a letter after lunch. Could not sit out. Reached Luxor at 4, but decided not to land & stayed on boat overnight.


Dec 24. Landed at 9.15 & came in bus to Hotel Savoy. Miss Merrill did not feel well. I walked back to Cook’s & looked in the shops. Afternoon sat in garden & then had tea on terrace outside. Wrote in garden.


Dec 25. A.M. Xmas day. Went to church at 10.30. Dr. Hudson ill but he did officiate. P.M. Wrote till 4 in garden then went to Winter Palace for tea with Miss. M. & Miss Ensign. Saw end of some sports & met Mr. Pratman who stayed with me & escorted us home. After tea saw a Xmas tree there & Santa Claus. Listen to the music, then saw sunset on the terrace. We had our own tree for dinner with presents at each plate & a 9 course dinner.


Dec 26. Went to village & bought cards and in P.M. sat in garden & wrote then went out on terrace to see sunset.


Dec 27. Started at 9 for Karnak. Walked there & spent whole morning. Started to walk back but was taken into a carriage by a couple who picked me up in the road. After lunch sat in garden, then walked to village to P.O. – Cook’s & also went into shops. Got back just in time to see sunset from terrace.


Dec 28. Went to church, met Mr. Pratman after it, who walked home with me & sat in the garden. P.M. Wrote in the garden, then went to see Miss Gillander & had tea with her at the Hotel du Nil. Saw Miss Kerr’s pictures after lunch & in evening again.


Dec 29. Walked to village to P.O. & then went into Luxor Temple. P.M. spent in garden & on the terrace.


Egypt: Ancient Sites and Modern Scenes by Sir Gaston Maspero (1911)

Dec 30. Walked to Karnak first to temple of Ptah then up by eastern ave. of sphinxes to the great temple. Tried to find some friezes from Mr. Tynsdale’s book, but could not. P.M. spent in garden & on terrace.


Dec 31. Went across the river met Miss Gillander & we three went to Deir el-Medina – tombs of [illegible phrase], temple Medinet Habu where we ate our lunch & tombs of Nobles [illegible phrase]. Got back to boat at 4:30. Came back & had tea on terrace. Very hot in sun.


We will leave our diarist here, an American abroad enjoying the mid-winter sun on the terrace of the Cataract Hotel. For those of you interested in exploring more of this writer’s story, remember that you can visit the library or order reference reproductions.