Warburton, Eliot
Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land, or, The crescent and the cross: comprising the romance and realities of eastern travel — Philadelphia, 1859

Page: 61
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https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/warburton1859/0089
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chap, x.] THE HAKEEM—THE ODALISQUE

51

their bars, and discover in their aviaries a thousand little plea-
sures invisible to eyes that have a wider range. To them, in
their calm seclusion, the strifes of the battling world come soft-
ened and almost hushed ; they only hear the far-off murmur of
life's stormy sea, and, if their human lot dooms them to their
cares, they are as transient as those of childhood.

Passing through the secluded suburbs of Cairo, I once found
myself near one of the principal hareems : I paused by the dull,
dark wall, over which the palm-tree waved, and the scent of
flowers and the bubbling of fountains stole ; and there I listened
to the sweet laughter of the Odalisques within. This was
broken by snatches of untaught song, to which the merry un-
seen band joined chorus, and kept time by clapping hands, on
which their jewelled bracelets tinkled. It was a music-of most
merry mirth ; and as I pictured to myself the gay group within,
I wondered whether they deserved all that pity from their Eu-
ropean sisters which they so little appreciate. An English
lady, visiting an Odalisque, inquired what pleasure her profu-
sion of rich ornaments could afford, as no person except her
husband was ever to behold them : " and for whom," replied
the fair barbarian, " do you adorn yourself? is it for other men V

I have conversed with several European ladies who had
visited hareems, and they have all confessed their inability to
convince the Eastern wives of the unhappiness or hardship of
their state. It is true that the inmate of the hareem knows
nothing of the advantages of the wild liberty (as it seems to her)
that the European woman enjoys : she has never witnessed the
domestic happiness that crowns a fashionable life, or the peace
of mind and purity of heart that reward the labors of a London
season ; and what can she know of the disinterested affection
and changeless constancy of ball-room belles, in the land where
woman is all free. Let them laugh on in their happy ignorance
of a better lot, while round them is gathered all that their lord
can command of luxury and pleasantness : his wealth is hoarded
for them alone ; he permits himself no ostentation, except the
respectable one of arms and horses ; and the time is weary that
he passes apart from his home and his hareem. The sternest
tyrants are gentle there ; Mehemet Ali never refused a woman's
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