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Travel Choices

By Land Or By Sea


By late 1831, Mendes was ready to leave mainland Europe and continue his adventures in Egypt collecting antiquities. He had two choices: he could travel from Constantinople to Egypt via either land or sea. Both had advantages and disadvantages.


How would you choose to travel? 


Traveling by land was often much slower than traveling by water. Also, in Mendes’ case, the distance traveled by land would have been much further. However, land could be a safer choice as it eliminated the possibility of shipwreck.

One land-based danger Mendes did have to consider was bandits. In fact, Mendes paid for a bodyguard in October of 1832 when he traveled from Jerusalem to the Jordan River:

“We are eight in number all well armed and have an escort of 15 soldiers with an Arab chief to accompany us whom the governor sent for, persons going on this pilgrimage generally have much to fear from the Arabs… looking daily for prey of robbery or plunder.”

However, on March 24, 1832, Mendes wrote:

“A few women gathering herbs was all that we saw out of the reach of what might be called civilization… I considered the whole thing as a farce and got up by the Governor for the purpose of saving his own pocket which by not employing these Bedouins he would have to provide for himself.”


Perhaps the threat of bandits had been overstated!

Tourists riding unruly donkeys to a picnic at the pyramids, Egypt, 1850s. North Wind Picture Archives.



Mendes often decided to travel by boat where possible. It was usually faster but not always, as he described on December 21, 1831:

“Wind calmed this day and think we have not made more than one fourth of the way. This completes one month since I left Smyrna….I have been 60 days: 30 waiting for our opportunity, and 30 on the way.”

A Storm on a Mediterranean Coast by Claude-Joseph Vernet.  Google Art Project.


Mendes was also in two shipwrecks, one near Cyprus and the other on the Nile.

December 22, 1831

“the waves began to thump the vessel to such a degree as to apprehend some great danger... at night one more violent broke the rudder and a general shriek was made from the females. I jumped on deck and soon found the vessel would soon go about the waves of the surf.”

“The captain and pilot seeing the situation of the vessel passed out the cable our anchor remaining firm. The boat was then got out. I had remained hold of the latter and one of the ropes when she went on her side when the sea broke over the vessel wetting us all at every surge. I jumped from the side of the vessel to the boat and got in ...I write now on a chest of one of the passengers and the hand[s] employed in getting all things out from the vessel. We are encamped on shore and I employed part of my time in drying clothes. My baggage I have saved all, having fastened my door before leaving the vessel and they could not float out.”

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