chapter  6
Picturesque Views of Cairo: Touring the Land, Framing the Foreign
Pages 28

In 1815, Lady Hester Stanhope became the fi rst Englishwoman to visit Egypt. Six feet tall, clad in a Turkish man’s dress and fl uent in Arabic, she must have been as much of a sight to Cairo as Cairo would have been to her. Unfortunately, she left no récit-de-voyage behind to record her impressions of Egypt or Egypt’s impressions of her. Three decades later, Harriet Martineau admitted in Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848) that her observing faculties failed her when it came to describing Cairo, ‘the queen of Arabian cities’, and she was able to conceptualise her only as ‘as like as possible to the pictures of the Arabian Nights’.1 The Lockean idea that knowledge is gathered through observation and the notion of Egypt as picture remained with her in her subsequent descriptions of Cairo, which are full of concepts of background and foreground and the interplay of colours, light and shade.