On International Women’s Day – I celebrate four remarkable women of the Nile

Inspirational Women of the Nile

Pictured left to right – Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon (1821-1869), Amelia Edwards (1831-1892), Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), Omm Sety (aka Dorothy Eady 1904-1981) – all picture credits: Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Omm Sety – reproduced with permission, copyright 2016: Lesley Hammam

If it hadn’t been for these four remarkable women, I would not be exploring Egypt in the way I am now. They set a precedence for independent travel to a far flung country in a time where women were truly restricted and oppressed. For them, this was no barrier and they lived a full and rich life in a country they quickly came to love and honour. Not mere ‘tourists’, they immersed themselves in the lives of the Egyptians both ancient and modern and were equally as loved in return.

All these women documented their travels and lives in Egypt –

220px-Amelia_B_Edwards_1890_in_AmerikaAmelia Edwards, an English novelist, journalist, traveller and Egyptologist,  wrote (amongst many other books) A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877), which described her 1873–1874 voyage up the Nile River and a series of lectures published as Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers in 1891. In 1882, she co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society.)


Aside from being a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale was a prolific writer and travelled through Egypt as a young woman. She travelled the length of the Nile in 1850, and at Thebes, she wrote of being ‘called to God’, while a week later near Cairo she wrote in her diary : ‘God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.’ On her return from Egypt she dedicated herself to the service of others.

Ommsety4Dorothy Louise Eady, also known as Omm Sety or Om Seti was Keeper of the Abydos Temple of Seti I and draughtswoman for the Department of Egyptian Antiquities.Best known for her belief that in a previous life she had been a priestess in ancient Egypt but also as for her considerable historical research at Abydos. Publications include: Omm Sety’s Abydos, Survivals from Ancient Egypt and Omm Sety’s Living Egypt: Surviving folkways from Pharaonic Times, Omm Sety (author), Edited by Nicole B. Hansen

There were of course many other women who traversed the Nile – among them Lady Evelyn Cobbold, Isabella Bird, Winifred Blackman, Norma Lorimer, Harriet Martineau, Sarah Belzoni, Sophia Poole, Eliza Fay and Ellen Chennells. But it is these four women who have inspired and intrigued me most of all and their obvious love and respect for Egypt and its peoples that surpasses the others.

Egypt lives in one’s heart and I love it with all of mine.

Florence Nightingale said of it: ‘One wonders that people come back from Egypt and live lives they did before.’

I wonder too…it is almost impossible.


Picture:  Karnak – David Roberts (Wikimedia Commons)




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