Courtesy of a private collector | Licence: All Rights Reserved
Courtesy of a private collector | Licence: All Rights Reserved

Crossing the Desert, Suez to Cairo


[May - June 1850]



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From the Collection


"The vans are like small omnibuses carrying six passengers and no luggage. They have two large wheels and are drawn by four horses, driven at great speed and very well by Arabs in the Sultan’s service. Our caravan comprised six of these vehicles. The baggage and mails had set off on camels about two hours before. We went in style, the horses galloping, plunging, and kicking; the passengers shouting, laughing and singing. Changing horses, we were quickly off again in the same order. At the third station we found hot supper awaiting us. On again and dashed along all night arriving in Cairo, after two more suppers at half-past four next morning; so that we accomplished our journey of ninety miles, including stoppages, in 12 and a half".
This is a page from a unique leather-bound volume of Robert Elwes’ travelogue 'A Sketcher's Tour Round the World', first published 1854, (see page 396 for corresponding passage).
The book contains the printed text of the manuscript but remarkably, the monochrome wash illustrations are hand painted by Elwes. The book bears a handwritten inscription ‘Mary F Elwes from her affect. husband Robert Elwes Jan 25 1878’, dated after Robert Elwes became ill at Congham, his Norfolk home. On 28th January 1878 , their youngest daughter Violet noted in her diary: “Papa much worse”. Less than three months later, Robert Elwes died on 17th April aged 58.

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Courtesy of a private collector

From the Watercolour World


Suez, Egypt