1944 ORIGINAL, SIGNIFICANT MANUSCRIPT DIARY HANDWRITTEN BY A BRITISH SOLDIER ON LEAVE TOURING COPTIC CHRISTIAN MONASTERIES IN EGYPT ACCOMPANIED BY HIS ONE DAY FAMOUS NEW ZEALAND FRIEND AND HERO OF THE GREEKS2355
On offer is a sensational, historically significant 25 page manuscript diary handwritten by an unidentified British soldier, likely an Officer, during WWII while on leave. He was in Egypt and spent several days touring a number of Coptic Monasteries in the Wadi Natrun area and does a super job detailing the tour he and his friend Arthur Helm [who we believe became a noted New Zealand explorer and author and was also a hero to the nation of Greece for his contribution to the war effort there in 1941 and the failed Crete campaign. A massive memorial in New Zealand was inspired by Mr. Helm's efforts] and their camel 'George' took. [Readers whether historians or researchers will treasure his narrative style and his descriptions of all he saw especially given the fact that there were once as many as 300 Coptic monasteries in Egypt and now there are but a handful.] That said we note a homophobic slur that reflects the times and attitudes of many. Here are some snippets: "A Night in a Coptic Monastery: Friday, 31st, March 1944. I am writing these notes by the light of a candle in the guest room of the Coptic Monastery of Deir Syrins in the desert depression of Wadi Natrun, half way between Cairo and Alexandria Egypt. It is 7 o'clock and everything is still except for the low moaning of some monks chanting in the Eastern fashion at the other side of the monastery. There is a half moon and from the window of the guest room the monastic buildings present a fine scene with their white walls bathed in the silver light." "With my New Zealand friend Arthur Helm, I left Cairo at 9 o'clock this morning. We were quite lucky in getting lifts, and by 11 o'clock we had hitch hiked to the Halfway House, half way to Alexandria. From here a road leads down to the Wadi Natrun Salt and Soda factory, and here again we were fortunate, as we had only been walking for about five minutes, when factory lorry overtook us and gave us a lift." "The lorry dropped us at the Egyptian Frontiers Administration Police Post and here we changed from our battledress and blue uniforms, which we are still compelled to wear in town and changed into K.D. shorts and open neck shirts. We were armed with a "guide" by the police to show us the best way through the sinking sand of the Wadi and carry our rucksack in the form of an old and withered old native. So we loaded the rucksack on to "George's" back and set off without further delay as fast as possible in the direction of the monasteries of Anba Bishoy and Deir el-Surian, which stand together about five miles from the Police Post. The rucksack, incidentally, was fairly heavy as it contained my three cameras and a tripod, as well as a pair of pajamas and a toothbrush!" (At the Anba Bishoy monastery they are taken to the guest house.) "The monk who took us round spoke a little English. He was an awful "sissy" and an obvious homosexualist, which probably explains why he went into a monastery." "After spending about two hours looking round and taking photographs, we returned to the guest house for our meal. We were somewhat dubious what sort of food it would be, but we had decided to try as much as possible. It consisted of Halawa olives, and coarse bread. Halawa, which is made out of a certain seed and oil. I am very partial to, but the olives we both found pretty difficult to get down. However, we made a good hole in the pile in the dish so not offend our guests, and entered it bravely, all in the cause of science. The meal over, we packed the cameras into the rucksack. Woke our native George from his slumbers, and prepared to move on to the next monastery, Deir Syrianus. This is only about quarter of a mile from Bishoy and a walk of five minutes brought us to the door. There was a pitcher of water in front for the benefit of the Bedouin, which two monks were in the process of filling, so they took us straight inside the monastery, and the lengthy bell ringing process was eliminated. Here again we were ushered straight to the guest room, and went through the usual coffee drinking process. Syrianus is rather more opulent than Bishoy, and the guest house is more pretentious. Opening from the central reception ball were four rooms, each with a large four poster bed, two of which were offered us for the night." "In a small room in the Kasr I came across a pile of old books all hand written in Coptic and Arabic. They were all in a heap and did not appear to be wanted but the monks would not let me take any away!" "I am just completing these notes now before trying the bed. This looks good enough in itself, although I expect a few visitors. I have just opened a widow in the room and judging from the effect on the hinges, it is the first time it has been opened for years." (They set out on foot to the Deir Baramus Monastery an hour and forty minutes away, a good meal later and back to Cairo to the Frontiers Police Post.) "We reached the Police Post at 3:15, doing it in an hour and 25 minutes. We changed into our official clothes, had some tea with the Egyptian police, which we could not refuse but which we were reluctant to take as our time was getting short, and then began the last part of our trek from the police post to the Halfway House on the Alex-Cairo Road. This we reached at 4, and within five minutes we had got a lift on an American Cairo bound lorry. We did the journey, sitting on a pile of packing cases, in just under two hours; we reached Cairo at 10 to 6, and I was just in time to get on duty at 6 o'clock, although in a somewhat hot and dusty condition!" The 5" x 8" pages are overall in Good condition save some turned corners.
Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)
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