In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Egypt I have divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. Unless otherwise noted, charts and illustrations come from the original Gazetteer. — George P. Landow

Of the inhabitants of Egypt, the great majority those of the peasant class or Fellahs, as they are called are undoubtedly indigenous, and may be regarded as descendants of the ancient Egyptians. These having embraced Mahamodism, are now generally denominated Arabs, though easily distinguished from the true Arab, who invariably regards the Fellah with contempt.

Left: Fellahs employed in agriculture, Egypt. Right: Fellah Dressed in the Hábá, and Female Wearing Face-Veil, Egypt. Both from Prisse’s Oriental Album. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The Copts are the Egyptians who still cling to the Christian faith; though comparatively few, they contrive to hold a respectable position in society, by means of their education and useful talents. They are thus widely separated by their faith and social lot from the Fellahs, though of kindred race with them. The Fellahs are generally peasants and labourers; the Copts fill the posts of clerks and the Greeks are all merchants and traders.

Frederick Goodall’s paintings of Egyptians of different races or ethnicities: Left: Moving to Fresh pastures. 1880.Right: Nubian Leading a Laden Camel along the Banks of the Nile. 1885. Both courtesy of the Fine Art Society. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

With these aboriginal Egyptians are mingled, in various proportions, Turks, Arabs (chiefly Bedouins), Ar menians, Greeks, Berbers, Negroes, Jews, and Franks. The Turks form a privileged class, or kind of aristocracy, and hold the principal offices under Government. The Arab tribes considered as belonging to Egypt, and to whom lands have been assigned, are the Bedouins, who supply the country with camels, sheep, and, to some extent, with horses. Their haunts are on the borders of El-Fayoum; their numbers about 250,000. The Armenians are generally bankers or jewellers; the Greeks are all merchants and traders. The Berbers, from Lower Nubia, below the second cataract, do all porters work; while the Negroes are preferred as domestic servants.

The whole population of Egypt has been estimated by the Government, from apparently ample data, at 3 or nearly 4 millions; but the Europeans, who have examined this question on the spot, concur in reducing the estimate to 2 millions; the Fellahs being nearly 2,000,000; the Copts 145,000; and the ruling caste of Turks and Mamelukes (that is, slaves chiefly from Caucasus, taken young, and reared as Turks) not above 20,000.


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 31 July 2020.

Last modified 1 August 2020