Egypt of the Magicians II

A Return to the East


(notes edited by John Radcliffe, drawing on the work of the ORG Editors)

Publication History

This letter was first published in July 1914 in Nash’s Magazine under the title “Egypt of the Egyptions”, and in Cosmopolitan under the title “Egypt of the Magicians II”. There are two illustrations by F. Matania in Nash’s.

The magazines and the collected texts include a four-line verse:“Oh, if you live in Leyden town …’, from Breitmann in Leyden by C. G. Leland (1824-1903) , slightly misquoted; this is to be found in The Breitmann Ballads (1871). In the magazine editions there is a two-verse heading without title, beginning “Blessed be the English and all their ways and works”, which is the first line of the poem later collected as “Jobson’s Amen”, with eight verses. (ORG Verse 1,005).

The story


At Port Said Kipling meets an old acquaintance who has settled there in his retirement, and reflects on the joys of living in ‘A perpetual cinema show’ of ships of many nations and people of many languages, going back and forth through this cross-roads; and of the different feelings one has about Port Said if one remembers it of old, or— better still—is welcomed by old friends or family.

From Port Said the Kiplings travel through the night by train to their hotel in Cairo. Rudyard remembers coming this way as a child, and is amused by the American tourists who find it hard to adapt themselves to foreign ways. In the morning he looks delightedly out the window, and ventures across the bridge into the city. He is enchanted to find so many of the sights and sounds and smells of Lahore, another great Muslim city, which he remembers vividly from his youth.

Notes on the Text

[Page 220, line 3] St. Gothard: properly St. Gotthard. The St. Gotthard pass is an important route from northern Europe to Italy, between the German speaking lands of the north, and the Mediterrwnean world.

[Page 220, line 7] lateen sail the traditional sail of the Mediterranean. A triangular sail suspended on a long yard about 45° to the mast.

[Page 220, line 17] junk (left) the traditional sailing vessel of the far-eastern seas, especially used by the Chinese. Flat-bottomed, high-sterned, with square bows, it carries lug sails, usually made of matting. See “An Unqualified Pilot” in Land and Sea Tales..

[Page 220, line 18] dhow (right) the typical sailing vessel used for centuries in Arabian
waters. The name is usually applied to a vessel of about 150 tons, with a high sloping stern, and one mast with a lateen sail on an enormous yard. Formerly dhows were regularly employed in the slave trade from the east coast of Africa. See “The Junk and the Dhow”, and the uncollected (until the Sussex Edition) story “A Reinforcement”, first published in 1912.

[Page 221, line 12] one Face showed itself after many years—ravaged but respectable An old acquaintance. See also The Light that Failed, Chapter iii, page 32.

[Page 222, line 7] afrits the afrit, or afreet, in Arab mythology is a being with magical powers, the most powerful but one of the five classes of jinn, or djinn. Solomon, it is said, once trained an afreet.

This picture by Kipling from “The Butterfly that Stamped”. in the Just So Stories shows four great djinns lifting the palace of Solomon—’Suleiman bin Daoud’—up into the air.

[Page 222, line 29] The Canal Company’s garden The British took control of the Suez Canal after they invaded Egypt in 1882 to deal with Arabi Pasha, and continued to control the Canal area from 1888 onwards. The Treaty of Constantinople of that year guaranteed the right of passage to ships of all nations using the Canal, which was operated by The Franco-British Suez Canal Company.

The defence of the Canal area was provided by British troops stationed in Egypt, and when this presence was reduced in 1936, the Canal Zone was created for the British troops remaining. All British troops were withdrawn by 1956, and in July of that year the Suez Canal Company was nationalised by the Egyptian Government of Gamal Abdul Nasser. On October 31st the British and French, in collaboration with Israel, invaded Egypt so as to maintain control of the canal. Following international pressure they ceased hostilities within a few days, and withdrew before the end of the year.

[Page 222, line 32] her meaning India.

[Page 223, line 15] two-thirds of a member of Parliament’s wage Provision for the payment of Members of Parliament used to be fixed at £400 per annum, a level which remained unchanged until 1937; this was equivalent to some £35,000 in present day (2010) values. MP’s are currently paid nearly twice this.
The young man who was appointed to administer a district in the South Soudan was to be paid £266 a year, but his allowances would be very considerable.

[Page 223, line 133] the Pullman Traditional British railway carriages were divided into compartments, like the Cairo train, with a corridor along the side for access. ‘Pullman cars’, more familiar to the tourists from the United States, were long open carriages, with seats along either side, in a tradition of luxurious travel established by their American originator, George Pullman (1831-1897).

[Page 225, line 5] governed by mixed commissions These arrangements arose from the London Convention of 1885, the result of a conference between the great powers and Turkey (under whose suzerainty Egypt then formally was) with the object of improving the inefficient financial administration of the country. Under the Convention there came into being, a series of “commissions”, or boards known as Mixed Administrations, including the ‘Caisse’ which administered the public debt, the ‘Railway Board’, administering the railways telegraphs and port of Alexandria, and the ‘Daira and Domains’ commissions, administering estates mortgaged to holders of government loans. Each of the three organisations last-named consisted of an Englishman, a Frenchman and an Egyptian.

[Page 225, line 7] Zagazig a town in Lower Egypt; it is built on a branch of the Sweet Water Canal which runs from the Suez Canal area across to the Nile. A great centre of the cotton and grain trade. Kipling had been here on a train journey as a small boy, which must have been when when his parents were taking him to England in 1871.


[Page 225, line 24] Kassassin a village in Lower Egypt, 22 miles west of Ismailia on the Suez Canal. Here on the 8th August and 9th September 1882, the British force fighting Arabi Pasha was attacked by the Egyptian army, both attacks being repulsed.

Tel-el-Kabir the main battlefield of the Egyptian campaign of 1882, where Arabi Pasha was finally defeated by Sir Garnet Wolseley on September 13th.

[Page 225, line 27] Gondokoro in the Equatoria Province of Southern Sudan. It was here that the Nile sudd (swamp barrier) had proved such an obstacle to Sir Samuel Baker in his expedition of 1869 up the White Nile,
a task in which he was relieved by General Gordon, who was more successful after the removal of the sudd.

[Page 225, line 27] El-Obeid about 200 miles south-west of Khartoum, and 400 by road. The capital of Kordofan Province.

[Page 225, line 28] Clapham Junction an important railway junction in south London, a place where many routes cross.

[Page 225, line 28] Abyssinia-way The name ‘Abyssinia’ has historically been used of Ethiopia, south of Egypt and the Sudan in the mountains of the Horn of Africa.

[Page 225, line 30] before the overhead traffic began presumably an anticipation of air travel. See “With the Night Mail” in Actions and Reactions.

[Page 226, line 3] Lieutenant Waghorn’s time Lieutenant Thomas Waghorn, R.N., in around 1830, organised the ‘overland route’ from Cairo to Suez for the conveyance of passengers and mails to India. Before the Suez Canal was built this route was superseded by a railway 84 miles long, now disused, which ran across the desert.


[Page 226, line 10] kites great hawks, the scavengers of the East, from Cairo to Calcutta and beyond. Chil, the kite, figures in The Jungle Books.

[Page 226, line 26] a ticca-gharri stand. What a cab rank would be called in India. A ticca-gharri is a four wheeled horse-drawn carriage. See Kim chapter 7:

He swallowed his disappointment, while the Colonel bundled him into a ticca-gharri with his neat belongings and despatched him alone to St Xavier’s….

[Page 227, line 13] the Trades the trade-winds, the name given to the regular north-easterly and south-easterly winds which blow from the tropical belts of high pressure to the equatorial belt of low pressure. Their regularity explains their name. The word “trade” is used in the obsolete sense of ‘course’.

[Page 227, line 17] the Prophet Mahomet.

[Page 227, line 22] Taksali Gate One of the gates to the city of Lahore. See Kim Chapter 3:

Had Kim been at all an ordinary boy, he would have carried on the play; but one does not know Lahore city, and least of all the faquirs by the Taksali Gate, for thirteen years without also knowing human nature.

[Page 228, line 6] “Oh, if you live in Leyden town… Another quotation from C. G. Leland (1824-1903).

[Page 228, line 22] Nubian Nubia is a largely desert region in the Sudan, with no strictly defined limits. Nubians are striking people, with dark skins, readily recognisable on the streets of Cairo.

[Page 228, line 32] Cook’s Steamer Thomas Cook and Son, the first of the English tourist agencies, operated the Nile Steamer Service.

[Page 228, line 33] Assuan (Aswan) is on the Nile near the First Cataract. The site of the Aswan Dams..

[Page 229, line 4] Marida kindly spirits.

[Page 229, line 16] a warlock a wizard, sorcerer or magician, also a traitor, deceiver or breaker of a truce.

[Page 229, lines 17 and 28] Thousand and One Nights … Harun-al-Raschid The ‘Arabian Nights Enter¬tainments’ is a celebrated and much-loved series of Arabic folk tales, translated into English by Sir Richard Burton, and many others since. Largely set in Baghdad in the days of the great Caliph, Haroun el Raschid, they offer a classic evocation of life in Arab cities over a thousand years ago. Kipling took much relish in parodying the style and language of these tales, as in The Butterfly that Stamped” in the Just So Stories, and “Railway Reform in Great Britain”.

[Page 229, line 28] Father of Lies the Devil.

©John Radcliffe 2010 All rights reserved