In Boulac. Nile - cangia [a boat] - sun - vast and quiet yearning.

January 17th, 1850, 10pm

In Boulac. Nile - cangia [a boat] - sun - vast and quiet yearning. Bath alone, perfumes, light through the glass lenses of the rotundas - gay men. Until 1 a.m. we work with Khalil Effendi. It’s the epiphany of the Greeks, at 1 a.m. we get out; while waiting for the churches to open we stay in a café; the church opens at 4 a.m.

Epiphany of the Greeks. Armenian Church: a kind of glassed rotunda at the entrance, where they sell candles. When we enter the assistants have their backs turned to the alter and face the door. The religious paintings are in the same vein as the Copts’. Charming effect of the choirs, whispering (sung by children), prolonging the culmination of falsetto from the celebrant. When the celebrant ends his falsetto, the choir, mezza voce, continues. Little beauty in the costumes. The sign of the cross is mixed with truly Muslim prostrations. Thus: first a sign of the cross, then a prostration where the forehead touches the ground. Back to a café. Max goes to bed - the Greeks are not open yet. Back to a café for the third time, Joseph and me. It’s 4 a.m.

In the Greek Church: Byzantine paintings in the Russian taste - which brings one back to snow. Entering the church for the second time, it was half-dusk. My eyes were tingling, like a man who’s stayed up all night. A few Greek ladies were entering the church; I was struck by a whiff of a good smell (fresh) coming from under their veil, while they were making large gestures to tie it back on their head. Right now I see, passing in front of me, the lower part of a puffy pink fabric and the end of a pointed yellow slipper. The mass was long. The Patriarch at his pulpit, proud and with a hard stare - did vigorously apostrophize, two or three times, the women who were babbling in the gynoecium - small boy in a frock coat kissing his hand and prostrating - too much kissing of hands. He himself kisses the Gospel. After they’ve gathered some money, orange blossom-flavored water is poured on the assistants’ hands. I get away at 8 a.m. and the mass only ended at 10!

David Wade said thanks.

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Gustave Flaubert

"Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." [extracts from Flaubert's travel diary written in 1849-1851]

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