Scene on the Quay of Suez
The city of Suez, founded in the 15th century, had already gained considerable commercial importance as a stop-over for sailings to India and the East Indies. In his travel journal, Roberts described Suez as “a wretched place” and, even though he found the bazaars “ptiiresque”, chose to depict in one of his drawings the quays of the port, somnolent by day but greatly animated by the arrival of the Bombay steamer during the night.
General View of Suez
David Roberts set out from Cairo for the Holy Land on 7 February 1839, with a, small caravan including servants in Arabian and Turkish dress, an armed escort of Bedouins and twenty-one camels which transported provisions and baggage as well as tents for overnight encampments. With Roberts travelled two Englishmen, John Pell and John G. Kinnear, who two years later dedicated his own book of memoirs, Cairo, Petra and Damascus, to Roberts.
Guiding the party was Hanafi Ishmael Effendi, an Egyptian converted to Christianity during his stays in England, who spoke English fluently and with whom Roberts had become friends while in Cairo.
The first stop on their itinerary was the city of Suez, at the extreme southern tip of the isthmus of the same name, which had at the time yet to be cut through by Ferdinand de Lesseps to place the Mediterranean in communication with the Red Sea.
DAVID ROBERTS A Journey in the Holy Land