While long distance travel by cars or airplanes was just being developed as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made His journey to America, travel by sea across the Atlantic was in its sixth century. The S.S. Cedric which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took to New York from Alexandria with stops in Naples and Liverpool was owned by the White Star Line. The steamship was built in 1903 in Belfast, Ireland and carried nearly 3,000 passengers in the different classes.
The White Star Line also owned the Titanic, the steamship that saw its ill fate and sank in the Atlantic days after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reached New York on the Cedric. The British Bahá’ís, wanting to provide for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s comfort during His trip, had urged Him to go to London and take the Titanic to America, saying it was faster, more comfortable and safer.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá thanked them and declined the offer saying, “No, we will go direct, trusting in the assistance and protection of the Blessed Beauty. He is the true Protector and the divine Keeper.”
The Cedric left Alexandria for Naples on March 25th with many reluctantly saying farewell to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Ali Yazdi described the solemn day of the Master’s departure from Egypt for America in the following account:
… Again He left us, this time for America. I will never forget the scene of His departure as He came out of the house and turned to wave His last farewell to His disconsolate family gazing down from the veranda above. They were greatly concerned about His safety and well-being. He was sixty-eight years old. He had suffered many hardships and endured severe trials. He had been in prison for forty years of His life and now He was undertaking this journey to a far-off country utterly different from any to which He was accustomed. But `Abdu’l-Bahá had made up His mind and nothing could turn Him back. He walked out of the garden gate and never looked back again. He walked for several blocks near the shore to take the electric train to Alexandria where He would board the ship that was to take Him to New York. He was followed by about thirty believers who walked silently behind Him. I was one of them. What `Abdu’l-Bahá accomplished in America is now history…
At the time, Italy was at war with Turkey and since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His entourage had Turkish passports, they stayed onboard until they left Naples on March 30th. There were nine companions on the ship: three Persians; Siyyid Asadu’lláh-i-Qumí, Dr Faríd and Mahmoud — and six Americans – Mr. and Mrs. Woodcock, Miss Woodcock, Mr. and Mrs. Austin and Miss Mathew.
During the 12-day journey on the ship, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to hundreds of people about the Faith including diplomats, many dignitaries and priests from the east and the west and He often spoke to the Bahá’ís traveling with Him.
The Bahá’í World 1979-1983, Vol. XVIII, page 909
Richard L. Taylor, The First Flight Across the United States: the Story of Calbraith Perry Rodgers and His Airplane, the Vin Fiz, (New York: F. Watts, 1993)
Photo from www.fredkohlhepp.blogspot.ca