Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians  

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"If we can point to great Orientalist works of genuine scholarship like Silvestre de Sacy's Chrestomathie arabe or Edward William Lane's Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, we need also to note that Renan's and Gobineau's racial ideas came out of the same impulse, as did a great many Victorian pornographic novels (see the analysis by Steven Marcus of "The Lustful Turk")." -- Edward W. Said, Orientalism p. 8

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836) is a book by published by Edward William Lane and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The work was partly modeled on Alexander Russell's The Natural History of Aleppo (1756). Lane visited Egypt again in 1833 so that he could collect materials to expand and revise the work, after the society accepted the publication. The book became a bestseller (still in print), and won Lane a reputation.

The book is very important as Lane leaves detailed accounts of everyday life in Egypt in the 19th century which will be useful to later researchers. Arthur John Arberry visited Egypt a century after Lane and said that it was like visiting another planet - none of the things Lane wrote about were present.

Lane was conscious that his research was handicapped by the fact that gender segregation prevented him from getting a close-up view of Egyptian women - an aspect of Egyptian life that was of particular interest to his readers. He was forced to rely on information passed on by Egyptian men, as he explains:
Many husbands of the middle classes, and some of the higher orders, freely talk of the affairs of the ḥareem with one who professes to agree with them in their general moral sentiments, if they have not to converse through the medium of an interpreter.
However, in order to gain further information, years later he would send for his sister, Sophia Lane Poole, so that she could gain access to women-only areas such as hareems and bathhouses and report on what she found.

The result was The Englishwoman in Egypt: Letters from Cairo, written during a residence there in 1842, 3 & 4, with E.W. Lane Esq., Author of "The Modern Egyptians" By His Sister. (Poole’s own name does not appear.) The Englishwoman in Egypt contains large sections of Lane's own unpublished work, altered so that it appears from Poole's perspective (for example "my brother" being substituted for "I"). However, it also relates Poole's own experiences in visiting the hareems that were closed to male visitors such as her brother

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