Florence Nightingale’s Letters From Egypt 

October 15, 2023

In the winter of 1849, Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), before serving as a nurse in the Crimean War, was an unknown 29-year-old – beautiful, well-born and deeply unhappy. 

After clashing with her parents over her refusal to marry, she was offered a lifeline by family friends who suggested a trip to Egypt, a country which she had always longed to visit.

After sailing to Alexandria, she travelled up the Nile on a dahabiyeh in 1849-50. As privileged early travellers, she saw an ancient landscape unchanged for centuries, and visited monuments still familiar to tourists today. She wrote about the sights she saw. An account of her journey is preserved in her Letters from Egypt, published in 1988.

Nightingale, sailing all the way to Abu Simbel, was overcome with emotion on seeing the beauty and splendour of the remote temples of Ramses II, and revelled for a couple of days in a new-found freedom: “You look abroad and see no tokens of habitation; the power of leaving the boat and running up to the temple at any hour of the day or night, without a whole escort at your heals; the silence and stillness and freedom of it were what we shall never have again.” – Florence Nightingale

Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing. She laid the foundation stone of professional nursing with the principles summarised in the book Notes on Nursing. The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.

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