Notes and Queries

When replying to a query in the Bulletin, please reply direct to the person who makes the query, but please also let the Bulletin Editor share your reply with other members. Responses to queries are only published in the ASTENE Bulletin, and so are available only to ASTENE members.


Replies to Queries are printed only in the Bulletin and are not included in the ASTENE web page.

Very important to the concept of ASTENE is the sharing of information and the accumulation of knowledge. If you have a query about people or places in the ASTENE region, send it for publication. Answers to queries sometimes take months or even a year to come in, but when they do we share them here. The following is a very good example of how a question asked through the Bulletin brings fascinating information to other members and can provide new and unexpected knowledge.

Salamat von Thebes – Richard Lepsius’ Travellers’ Book

A query in the last Bulletin (no. 38, p. 15), about a visitors’ book kept by Dr Lepsius during his time in Egypt in the 1840s, has elicited a response from Isolde Lehnert of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Cairo. She writes:

The ‘strangers’ book initiated by Richard Lepsius (1810–84) in 1843 in Thebes has survived! Its title is Salamat von Thebes – Salutations from Thebes.

When Lepsius left Thebes he gave the book to a guide there by the name of Anad or Awad. After this man’s death in 1853 the book came into the possession of Todrous Bulos and his son, Mohareb. Both were Prussian (after 1871, German) consular agents in Luxor, dealing with antiquities. Both kept the book carefully. After Mohareb’s death, the book was held in private German hands. Then on 2 May 2002 the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung Staatliche Museum in Berlin bought the book at auction.

It has 205 pages and some vignettes, and contains more than 2600 entries by travellers from 32 countries, beginning on 1 January 1845 and ending on 16 January 1873. There is a mixture of travellers to Egypt, comprising different social classes and professions. There is an online German text at

Then Isolde did further research and discovered a 36- page book by Rudolph Said Ruete, published in 1900, entitled Ein Fremdenbuch aus Thebes, by Carl Richard Lepsius and others. Copyright libraries in Britain have copies of this book.

A founder member of ASTENE, Michel Azim, has added yet more fascinating information about this document. He recalls that when he was working at Karnak at the end of the 1980s, the ‘Fremdenbuch’ could be consulted in Luxor – somewhere near the Rue de la Gare. Sadly, he never saw it, but he knew that the cover had been designed by a member of the Lepsius expedition, Ernst Weidenbech. Mr Azim refers us to an article by L. Keimer in Glanures iii (23 December 1955): ‘Une livre des voyageurs institute a Thebes par Karl Richard Lepsius’, pp. 300–314, with some reproductions. For further information he recommends contacting or

Ein Fremdembuch aus Thebes

It was with a real thrill that I sat down at the Sackler Library of Oxford University with a small grey folder, labelled 20740 d 31(2), called in by ASTENE member and Sackler librarian Diane Bergman. Inside the folder is a dull yellow pamphlet with a paper cover and 36 pages of text. A small corner of the cover is torn off, and the pamphlet is worn at the spine. The title page tells us that it was published in Berlin in 1890. The verso says: ‘Nachdruck verboten’.

My German was never good, and I learned it a long time ago, so I could not, at this time, interpret the introduction, which explains the history of the pamphlet. From the pages rose up such names as Poncet, Norden, Pococke, Bruce, Light, Bankes – but I knew these were travellers long before the Prussian Expedition led by Dr Richard Lepsius.

Later the pamphlet mentioned Drovetti and Salt, Belzoni, Cailliaud and Linant de Bellefonds, Gau, Felix and Hay, Champolion, Puckler Muskau – with ‘seine eleganten Reisseleizzen’ – Passalqua taking antiquities to Berlin, Dr Young struggling with the hieroglyphs, Wilkinson preparing his Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians and The Topography of Thebes, Edward Lane telling of the modern Egyptians.

Next came Colonel Vyse and his architect Perring, at the Pyramids of Giza. Throughout Europe and on across the Atlantic the discoveries of these pioneers were proclaimed, and the British-born American Consul in Egypt, George Gliddon, wrote of the threats to the evidence of Egypt’s ancient history.

Then came plans for another expedition and with those plans the names of the Prussian expedition of 1842–45 led by Dr Richard Lepsius – soon they were at Aswan and beyond with ‘53 Kameelen’ to carry them to Khartoum. There follows pages of the expedition’s travels and researches, with dates for places they visited.

At this point the very speciality of the subject-matter barred me from reading further. ‘This,’ I thought, ‘needs – and will have – a proper translation.’ Then came the words which had started ASTENE on this search: ‘HEUTE IN DER NEUJAHRS NACHT DIE UNTERZEICHNETEN’. And below that begins about a dozen quotes from the entries in the Fremdenbuch.

We give here only a taste of that taste: there are just 15 quotes in the pamphlet, each representing from one to half-a-dozen travellers. Many of these men are long forgotten, but many are not.

Jean-Jacques Ampere signed in on 28 January 1840. Ampere (1800–1864) was a French scholar and Professor of French Literature who published Voyage en Egypte et en Nubie in 1867.

S. Wells Williams, of Utica, New York, was returning from Canton to the United States and wrote on 26 March 1845: ‘Many thanks to Wilkinson, Lepsius and all who have assisted the passing traveler [sic] to understand better the ruins around him so worthy of a visit.’

On 14 December 1846 the book included a most inappropriate and, indeed, offensive entry by three aristocratic British travellers, urging such men as Lepsius ‘to commit their devastations at home’. A German entry soon retaliated with a comment on Lord Elgin. Samuel Lyde of Jesus College, Cambridge, was more sympathetic on 20 January 1851, and there followed a great debate.

The Times correspondent, William Howard Russell, famed for his reporting of the Crimea War, signed the book while accompanying the Prince and Princess of Wales in Egypt in 1869. So did one Henrik Ibsen ‘aus Norwegen’, who wrote of his appreciation of Lepsius’ work.

In 1881 Emil Brugsch, Conservateur of the Museum at Boulaq, signed in. And so the list goes on, amounting in its original form to over 2000 entries, including Henry M. Stanley of the New York Herald on the steamer Venus in 1869 and Dr Georg Ebers (1837–1898), who had studied Egyptology under Lepsius and was there in 1873.

Said Ruete’s pamphlet ends at Luxor (Theban) in November 1899, but for ASTENE we hope this is a new co-operative beginning in which more of us might join. We already have eager volunteers, about which more news in the next Bulletin.

Deborah Manley 2009

Leo Africanus

 A Portrait of Leo Africanus?

Deb Manley draws our attention to an article by Tom Verde in the Saudi Aramco Magazine Jan/Feb 2008. This asks whether a painting by Sebastiano del Piombo in the Washington National Gallery usually titled ‘Portrait of a Humanist’ actually depicts Al Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fassi – ‘Leo Africanus’. The portrait was painted in Rome in 1520 and shows a bearded man in dark robes with books and a globe in the background. A summary appears on the Saudi Aramco website.

Apologies to new ASTENE member Andrea Touni for giving his e-mail incorrectly. The correct email is If you have information for Andrea, please send it to this address.


The query in Bulletin 25 about the Nairn Line to Baghdad brought a record 9 replies in the first week. All had references which can be followed up. As Margaret Clarke wrote “the Nairn Line sent bells ringing”, and what started as mere curiosity has become a communally-written article. Lifetime memory of some members is today’s history.
Dr Laurence Cook in Stockport sent a wonderful quotation from Vita Sackville-West’s Passenger to Teheran (Hogarth Press, London 1926, reprinted by Arrow Books in 1991). This appears in full below, and a later reply confirms that Nairn first ran Cadillac cars across the desert.
Alison Millerman, from Manchester, and Margaret Clarke from Oxfordshire both drew our attention to H.V. Morton’s Through the Lands of the Bible (Methuen. London, 1938 (with a fifth edition by 1946). This is a book full of not only the Bible and St Paul, but of Greek and Roman pilgrims in the Egyptian desert, Crusaders, Robert Wood and James Dawkins at Palmyra in 1751 and Lady Hester there in 1813, among others. Morton introduced the Nairn Line thus in chapter 2: Standing outside the window in the early morning was a long, experienced-looking motor-coach. It was touched everywhere with brown dust. The words “Nairn Transport Co.” were written on its side. It was a heavier, longer version of those coaches which roll so swiftly through the English countryside. It had made a special stop at Palmyra to take up passengers, for its normal route is straight from Damascus to Baghdad.

H.V. Morton soon met Long Jack, the driver. Born in Wellington, New Zealand, he had come to Syria as a boy of eleven. The Nairn brothers. Jerry and Norman, were also New Zealanders. They had served in Palestine during the war and then started their desert transport business. Margaret Clarke wrote of a rather surreal Morton experience at Rutba Fort, halfway between Damascus and Baghdad, where a George Bryant was commandant at the rest-house, and where the menu started with tomato soup and went on through fried fish (from the Tigris), roast beef with horseradish sauce and Yorkshire pudding to raisin pudding and lemon syrup!

Lorien Pilling, of Harrogate, also knew of Nairn from H.V. Morton, and supplied a website for Morton:

Margaret Edgecombe – our New Zealand member – told us of a book, Nairn Bus to Baghdad by J.S. Tullett published in Wellington in 1968 (not yet tracked down in U.K), “purporting to be the story as told by Gerald Nairn to the author.”

Henry Keown-Boyd of Herefordshire had read of the Nairn Line from Jerusalem to Damascus in Harold Nicolson’s biographical stories, titled Some People in the story called ‘Miriam Codd’. The drivers, he remembered, were Australians and New Zealanders. “It was a pretty punishing job and they had to be skilled mechanics as well.” This sentence sums up this story – I leave it to you to read it:
I was perfectly aware that around me stretched Arabia Deserta: that beside me, a point of civilisation in a radius of several hundred miles, were grouped a Cadillac, an English driver, a behaviourist, a Colonel, a smashed aeroplane, a Polish neuropath, some sausages, tea, cardboard plates, marmalade and Lea and Perrin’s sauce.
(p. 180)

More surprisingly, it seemed at first, when Mr Keown-Boyd was in Baghdad in 1957, Nairn operated long-distance buses, “but I daresay it was only the name which had survived and the brothers were long gone.” He added that Sir Lee Stack’s Australian chauffeur who was wounded when Stack was assassinated in Cairo in 1924, Fred March GC, used to say that he had been a Nairn driver. (See Mr Keown-Boyd’s The Lion and the Sphinx, p. 126.)

Then Norman Lewis of Croydon told me he knew lots of people who used the Nairn Line in the 40s-50s. He thinks it folded because of local competition and the increasing use of the motor car.

He spoke to an old friend who used a Nairn bus in 1953. She spoke very highly of it and mentioned that when they stopped at a mid-desert toilet she and her two small children were escorted and guarded while they were there, and ditto back to the bus, – other people having to wait!

Norman recommended Murray or Baedeker as a likely source of information. He also recommended a less known resource: the country by country Geographical Handbook series of the Naval Intelligence Division published in the 1940s. And that led to another search, recorded elsewhere in this Bulletin.

nairnbus The next informant was John Bartlett from Dalkey in Co. Dublin, Editor of Palestine Exploration Quarterly. He remembered reading about the Nairn Transport Service as a boy in an article by H.E. Symons FRGS in a book called Power and Speed edited by F.A. Dean, Temple Press, London, 1938. “I loved that book and have kept it” and he enclosed copies of the relevant pages. Note you will note just “a longer and heavier version” of a country bus, but “the largest bus in the world – 68 ft. long, nearly 9 ft. wide and 11 ft. wide, carrying 12 first class passengers, 20 second class passengers and 6,100 pounds of luggage.”Andrew Wilson from Leeds, one of ASTENE’s railway experts, recommended The Nairn Way by Professor John M. Munro of the American University of Beirut, Caravan Books of Delmar, New York, 1980, ISBN 0-88206-035-X. This deals with the Nairns and their business up until they retired: Gerald in 1946-7 and Norman in 1950.

“The Nairn company,” Andrew wrote, “carried on in the old way until 1956, but then political developments started to be increasingly unfavourable to expatriate-owned business. Road services continued to operate under the Nairn Transport Company name until about 1973” – so Henry Keown -Boyd was right in his memory.

Andrew also commented on information in the original query that “In the 1930s the completion of the Orient and Tarsus Express put the Nairns out of business.” He suggests this was not so, with a brief, succinct and fascinating history of railway development in the region.

The Orient Express and various similarly titled trains operated only west of the Bosphorus, and were railway networks were largely completed in Victorian times.

Asia Minor had a rather fragmented railway system and the only major long distance rail route pre-1914 was the line from the Bosphorus to Konya, which was being extended towards Baghdad when war broke out. The Baghdad Railway ended up in 1918 with a major unfinished gap in what was to become eastern Syria and northern Iraq, which was not connected up until 1940.
The other major rail route, from Turkey to Egypt had been completed by 1918 but involved mountainous narrow gauge lines from the Beqaa to Damascus and Haifa where it connected with the British military-built railway to Egypt.

The Taurus Express seems to have been introduced in 1930, providing links from the Bosphorus to Baghdad and Cairo, using road connections over the gap in the Baghdad Railway, and along the Lebanese coast, bypassing the narrow gauge section of the railway through Damascus, but in both cases the road coaches were provided by CIWL (the International Sleeping Car Company), not by the Nairns.

After World War 2, the through trains resumed, subject to political opportunities, to Baghdad and to Beirut, although no passenger trains have operated in Lebanon since about 1975. Beirut was reached over the wartime-built British military railway along the Lebanon coast. More recently, Syria has built a new standard gauge railway into Damascus, entirely bypassing any bit of Lebanon and a through connection now runs from Istanbul, I think, once a week. Do not imagine a gleaming luxury train for these services; travellers report one single car shunted off another train and leaving Turkey at the head of a freight train. Very much an adventure, requiring determination and patience.

This could clearly be a good subject for a paper – or even a session – at the next ASTENE conference….

Dec 05


This note relates to a privately printed work (Ottershaw 2001) by the distinguished genealogist Terrick Fitzhugh, with supplementary chapters contributed by other members of the FitzHugh and Fitzhugh families, of which there is a copy in the British Library (shelf-mark YA.2002.B.256). Chapter 21 is of interest to ASTENE members, dealing as it does with the experiences in Aleppo between 1735 and 1751 of William Fitzhugh, sent out as a trainee at the age of 18 to work for David Bosanquet, a member of the Levant Company’s factory in the city.
By the middle of the 18th century the Aleppo factory, once second only to Constantinople, had greatly shrunk in size. The author describes some of the political and mercantile reasons for the decline of business, not least of which were the rapacious tax-farming ambitions of the local chief Customs Officer. The distance of Aleppo from Constantinople made administrative problems of this kind difficult to resolve. William Fitzhugh’s own history shows that nonetheless there were fortunes to be made in this era in Aleppo. Working first for Bosanquet, then for the dynamic London merchant Jacob Chitty, and ultimately for himself as well, Fitzhugh was able to leave Aleppo in 1751 a wealthy man at the age of 33. Despite local dislike of giaours, Fitzhugh is recorded as having made at least two journeys in the company of one of the other factors, Alexander Drummond, during the course of which they visited the Valley of Salt, and made a circuit of more than two hundred miles via the banks of the Euphrates, inspecting ancient sites, including St Simon Stylites, column, the castle of Ruwant (identity?) and the ancient city of Hierapolis (modern Manbij). A nice Ottoman detail was the sight of a Turcoman settlement, far from the traditional Turcoman territory. The journeys were attended by difficulties with predatory ‘Gourdin’ (Kurdish?) tribesmen and suspicious Ottoman officials, but passed off without serious incident.
Terrick Fitzhugh’s account of his fore-bear is well written, sets its individual history in historical context, and is an attractive addition to the rather scanty literature on European experiences in this part of the Levant in the eighteenth century. Worth a look if one finds oneself in the British Library.

Tom Rees
Dec 05


The Archive of the Griffith Institute in Oxford has one of the largest collections of the so-called studio photographs of Egypt, those produced by professional photographic studios active in Egypt between about 1855 and 1900.

The collection may be consulted on

We are now extending our interest into the area of amateur and tourist photographs taken during the same period. We have been fortunate in being able to examine, analyse and scan images taken in Egypt in 1888 by James Parker Simpson. His great-grandson, Simon B. Simpson OBE, writes about his ancestor as follows:

My great-grandfather, James Parker Simpson, was born in July 1841 in Leeds, Yorkshire. As a young man he returned north to the country town of Northumberland, Alnick, the county of his forebears and started a grain merchanting business in the town in 1866. By 1872 he had purchased a piece of land at Greenbatt, Alnick and built his first maltings. During the next twenty years his business flourished, supplying malt to the local breweries in the north of England. At the time of his death in 1897, his maltings stretched from Darlington in the south to the borders of Berwick upon Tweed in the north – eight maltings in total. It was in 1888 under doctor’s orders that he made the trip for the winter in Egypt.

Several of the photographs are of considerable interest for Egyptologists because they show two scenes which are now damaged or lost (this is especially true of TT96, ‘Le Tombeau des Vignes’, of Sennufer, the mayor of Thebes under Amenophis II). There are other photographs, including one showing the entrance to the famous Shepheard’s Hotel at 8, Sharia Kamil in Ezbekiya, Cairo. The hotel was burnt down in 1952 and replaced by establishment in Corniche El Nil Street. Copies of the photographs are now in the Archive of the Griffith Institute and can be seen on

Jaromir Malek
Dec 05