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Peeps at Many Lands: Egypt
by R. Talbot Kelly
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There are many other interests in Assuan, which is a delightful place to visit. The desert rides, the ancient quarries where the temple obelisks were hewn, the camp of the beautiful Besharin, and the weirdly pictorial Cufic cemetery which winds so far along the barren valley in which the river once flowed—each have their attraction, which varies with the changing light, while many a happy hour may be spent in watching the many coloured lizards which play among the rocks, the curious mantis and twig-insects, and other strange specimens of insect life which abound here; while, should you weary of sight-seeing and the glare of light, quietude and repose may be found among the fruit-laden fig-trees of Kitchener's Island, or in the shady gardens of Elephantine.

Such in brief is the Nile from Cairo to the first cataract, though a great deal more might be written on this subject. The various towns and villages passed are often very pretty, and some are of great age, and surrounded by very interesting remains. Then there is the enjoyment of the many excursions on donkey-back to visit some tomb or temple, the amusement of bargaining for trophies or curios at the various landing-places, and a host of other interests which go to make the trip up the Nile one of the most fascinating possible, and which prevent any weariness of mind in the passenger. But to write fully about all these things is beyond the scope of this small book, though some day, perhaps, many of my readers may have the opportunity of seeing it all for themselves, and so fill in the spaces my short narrative must necessarily leave.



CHAPTER VIII

THE MONUMENTS

If asked to name any one thing which more than any other typified Egypt, the average boy or girl would at once reply, "The pyramids," and rightly, for though pyramids have been built in other countries, this particular form of structure has always been regarded as peculiarly Egyptian, and was selected by the designers of its first postage stamp as the emblem of the country.



In speaking of the pyramids it is always the pyramids of Ghizeh which are meant, for though there are a great many other pyramids in Egypt these are the largest, and being built upon the desert plateau, form such a commanding group that they dominate the landscape for miles around. All visitors to Egypt, moreover, are not able to go up the Nile or become acquainted with the temples, but everyone sees the pyramids and sphinx, which are close to Cairo, and easily reached by electric car, so to the great majority of people who visit the country they represent not only the antiquity of Egypt, but of the world.

The great pyramid of Cheops, though commenced in 3733 B.C., is not the oldest monument in Egypt; the step pyramid of Sakkara is of earlier date, while the origin of the sphinx is lost in obscurity. The pyramid, however, is of immense size, and leaves an abiding impression upon the minds of everyone who has seen it, or climbed its rugged sides. Figures convey little, I am afraid, but when I tell you that each of its sides was originally 755 feet in length and its height 481 feet, or 60 feet higher than the cross of St. Paul's, and that gangs of men, 100,000 in each, were engaged for twenty years in its construction, some idea of its immensity may be formed. At one time the pyramids were covered with polished stone, but this has all been removed and has been used in building the mosques of Cairo, and to-day its exterior is a series of steps, each 4 to 6 feet in height, formed by the enormous blocks of limestone of which it is built.

Designed as a tomb, it has various interior chambers and passages, but it was long ago ransacked by the Persians, and later by the Romans and Arabs, so that of whatever treasure it may once have contained, nothing now remains but the huge stone sarcophagus or coffin of the King.

The second pyramid, built by Chephron 3666 B.C., is little less in size, and still has a little of the outer covering at its apex. All around these two great pyramids are grouped a number of others, while the rock is honeycombed with tombs, and practically from here to the first cataract the belt of rocky hills which rise so abruptly from the Nile Valley is one continuous cemetery, only a small portion of which has so far been explored.

Close by is the sphinx, the oldest of known monuments. Hewn out of the solid rock, its enormous head and shoulders rise above the sand which periodically buries it, and, battered though it has been by Mohammed Ali's artillery, the expression of its face, as it gazes across the fertile plain towards the sunrise, is one of calm inscrutability, difficult to describe, but which fascinates the beholder.

From the plateau on which these pyramids are built may be seen successively the pyramids of Abousir, Sakkara, and Darshur, and far in the distance the curious and lonely pyramid of Medun. These are all built on the edge of the desert, which impinges on the cultivated land so abruptly that it is almost possible to stand with one foot in the desert and the other in the fields.

In addition to the pyramids, Sakkara has many tombs of the greatest interest, two of which I will describe.

One is called the "Serapeum," or tomb of the bulls. Here, each in its huge granite coffin, the mummies of the sacred bulls, for so long worshipped at Memphis, have been buried.

The tomb consists of a long gallery excavated in the rock below ground, on either side of which are recesses just large enough to contain the coffins, each of which is composed of a single block of stone 13 feet by 11 by 8, and which, with their contents, must have been of enormous weight, and yet they have been lowered into position in the vaults without damage. The tomb, however, was rifled long ago, and all the sarcophagi are now empty. There is one very curious fact about this tomb which I must mention, for though below ground it is so intensely hot that the heat and glare of the desert as you emerge appears relatively cool.

While the Serapeum is a triumph of engineering, the neighbouring tomb of Thi is of rare beauty, for though its design is simple, the walls, which are of fine limestone, are covered by panels enclosing carvings in low relief, representing every kind of agricultural pursuits, as well as fishing and hunting scenes. The carving is exquisitely wrought, while the various animals depicted—wild fowl, buffaloes, antelopes, or geese—are perfect in drawing and true in action.

Close to Sakkara are the dense palm-groves of Bedrashen, which surround and cover the site of ancient Memphis. At one time the most important of Egypt's capitals, Memphis has almost completely disappeared into the soft and yielding earth, and little trace of the former city now remains beyond a few stones and the colossal statue of Rameses II., one of the oppressors of Israel, which now lies prostrate and broken on the ground.

Though there have been many ancient cities in the Delta, little of them now remains to be seen, for the land is constantly under irrigation, and in course of time most of their heavy stone buildings have sunk into the soft ground and become completely covered by deposits of mud. So, as at Memphis, all that now remains of ancient Heliopolis, or On, is one granite obelisk, standing alone in the fields; while at other places, such as Tamai or Bete-el-Haga near Mansurah, practically nothing now remains above ground.

In Upper Egypt, where arable land was scarce and the desert close at hand, the temples have generally been built on firmer foundations, and many are still in a very perfect state of preservation, though the majority were ruined by the great earthquake of 27 B.C.

The first temple visited on the Nile trip is Dendereh, in itself perhaps not of the greatest historical value, as it is only about 2,000 years of age, which for Egypt is quite modern; but it has two points of interest for all. First, its association with Cleopatra, who, with her son, is depicted on the sculptured walls; and, secondly, because it is in such a fine state of preservation that the visitor receives a very real idea of what an Egyptian temple was like.

First let me describe the general plan of a temple; it is usually approached by a series of gateways called pylons or pro-pylons, two lofty towers with overhanging cornices, between which is the gate itself, and by whose terrace they are connected. Between these different pylons is generally a pro-naos, or avenue of sphinxes, which, on either side, face the causeway which leads to the final gate which gives entrance to the temple proper. In front of the pylons were flag-staffs, and the lofty obelisks (one of which now adorns the Thames Embankment) inscribed with deeply-cut hieroglyphic writing glorifying the King, whose colossal statues were often placed between them.

Each of the gateways, and the walls of the temple itself, are covered with inscriptions, which give it a very rich effect, their strong shadows and reflected lights breaking up the plain surface of the walls in a most decorative way, and giving colour to their otherwise plain exterior. Another point worth notice is that this succession of gateways becomes gradually larger and more ornate, so that those entering are impressed with a growing sense of wonder and admiration, which is not lessened on their return when the diminishing size of the towers serves to accentuate the idea of distance and immensity.

One of the striking features in the structure of these buildings is that while the inside walls of tower or temple are perpendicular, the outside walls are sloping. This was intended to give stability to the structure, which in modern buildings is imparted by their buttresses; but in the case of the temples it has a further value in that it adds greatly to the feeling of massive dignity which was the main principle of their design.

Entering the temple we find an open courtyard surrounded by a covered colonnade, the pillars often being made in the form of statues of its founder. This court, which is usually large, and open to the sky, was designed to accommodate the large concourse of people which would so often assemble to witness some gorgeous temple service, and beyond, through the gloomy but impressive hypostyle[7] hall, lay the shrine of the god or goddess to whom the temple was dedicated and the dark corridors and chambers in which the priests conducted their mystic rites.

[Footnote 7: One with a roof supported by columns.]

In a peculiar way the temple of Dendereh impresses with a sense of mystic dignity, for though the pylons and obelisks have gone, and its outside precincts are smothered in a mass of Roman debris, the hypostyle hall which we enter is perhaps more impressive than any other interior in Egypt. The massive stone roof, decorated with illumination and its celebrated zodiac, is supported by eighteen huge columns, each capped by the head of the goddess Hathor, to whom the temple is dedicated, while columns and walls alike are covered with decorative inscriptions.

Through the mysterious gloom we pass through lofty doorways, which lead to the shrine or the many priests' chambers, which, entirely dark, open from the corridors.

Though it has been partially buried for centuries, and the smoke of gipsy fires has blackened much of its illuminated vault, enough of the original colour by which columns and architraves were originally enriched still remains to show us how gorgeous a building it once had been. There are a great many temples in Egypt of greater importance than Dendereh, but though Edfu, for example, is quite as perfect and much larger, it has not quite the same fascination. Others are more beautiful perhaps, and few Greek temples display more grace of ornament than Kom Ombo or submerged Philae, while the simple beauty of Luxor or the immensity of the ruins of Karnac impress one in a manner quite different from the religious feeling inspired by gloomy Dendereh.

I have previously spoken of the hum of bees in the fields, but here we find their nests; for plastered over the cornice, and filling a large portion of the deeply-cut inscriptions, are the curious mud homes of the wild bees, who work on industriously, regardless of the attacks of the hundreds of bee-eaters[8] which feed upon them. Bees are not the only occupants of the temple, however, for swallows, pigeons, and owls nest in their quiet interiors, and the dark passages and crypts are alive with bats.

[Footnote 8: A small bird about the size of a sparrow.]

There are many other temples in Egypt of which I would like to tell you had I room to do so, but you may presently read more about them in books specially devoted to this subject. At present I want to say a few words about hieroglyphs, which I have frequently mentioned.

Hieroglyphic writing is really picture writing, and is the oldest means man has employed to enable him to communicate with his fellows. We find it in the writing of the Chinese and Japanese, among the cave-dwellers of Mexico, and the Indian tribes of North America; but the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt differed from the others in this respect, that they had two values, one the sound value of letters or syllables of which a word was composed, the other the picture value which determined it; thus we find the word "cat" or "dog" spelled by two or three signs which give the letters, followed by a picture of the animal itself, so that there might be no doubt as to its meaning. This sounds quite simple, but the writing of the ancient Egyptians had developed into a grammatical system so difficult that it was only the discovery of the Rosetta stone, which was written in both hieroglyph and Greek, that gave the scholars of the world their first clue as to its meaning, and many years elapsed before the most learned of them were finally able to determine the alphabet and grammar of the early Egyptians.

I have said nothing about the religion of the Egyptians, because there were so many different deities worshipped in different places and at different periods that the subject is a very confusing one, and is indeed the most difficult problem in Egyptology.

Ra was the great god of the Egyptians, and regarded by them as the great Creator, is pictured as the sun, the life-giver; the other gods and goddesses were generally embodiments of his various attributes, or the eternal laws of nature; while some, like Osiris, were simply deified human beings. The different seats of the dynasties also had their various "triads," or trinities, of gods which they worshipped, while bulls and hawks, crocodiles and cats, have each in turn been venerated as emblems of some godlike or natural function. Thus the "scarab," or beetle, is the emblem of eternal life, for the Egyptians believed in a future state where the souls of men existed in a state of happiness or woe, according as their lives had been good or evil. But, like the hieroglyphs, this also is a study for scholars, and the ordinary visitor is content to admire the decorative effect these inscriptions give to walls and columns otherwise bare of ornament.

I must not close this slight sketch of its monuments without referring to the colossal statues so common in Egypt.

Babylonia has its winged bulls and kings of heroic size, Burma its built effigies of Buddha, but no country but Egypt has ever produced such mighty images as the monolith statues of her kings which adorn her many temples, and have their greatest expression in the rock-hewn temple of Abou Simbel and the imposing colossi of Thebes. In the case of Abou Simbel, the huge figures of Rameses II. which form the front of his temple are hewn out of the solid rock, and are 66 feet in height, forming one of the most impressive sights in Egypt. Though 6 feet less in height, the colossi of Thebes are even more striking, each figure being carved out of a single block of stone weighing many hundreds of tons, and which were transported from a great distance to be placed upon their pedestals in the plain of Thebes.



Surely in the old days of Egypt great ideas possessed the minds of men, and apart from the vastness of their other monuments, had ever kings before or since such impressive resting-places as the royal tombs cut deep into the bowels of the Theban hills, or the stupendous pyramids of Ghizeh!



CHAPTER IX

THE PEOPLE

Beyond everything else Egypt is an agricultural country, and the "fellahin," or "soil-cutters," as the word means, its dominant type, and in order to form any idea of their character or mode of life, we must leave the towns behind and wander through the farm-lands of the Delta.

Trains are few, and hotels do not exist, and anyone wishing to see the people as they are must travel on horseback, and be content with such accommodation as the villages afford. The roads are the canal-banks, or little paths which wind among the fields; but, as we have already seen, the country has many beauties, and the people are so genuine in their simple hospitality that the traveller has many compensations for the incidental hardships he may undergo.

What will perhaps first strike the traveller is the industry of the people. The luxuriant crops give evidence of their labour, and the fields are everywhere alive. From dawn to dark everyone is busily employed, from the youngest child who watches the tethered cattle or brings water from the well, to the old man so soon to find his last resting-place in the picturesque "gabana"[9] without the village. Seed-time and harvest go side by side in Egypt, and one may often witness every operation of the farm, from ploughing to threshing, going on simultaneously. The people seem contented as they work, for whereas formerly the fellahin were cruelly oppressed by their rulers, to-day, under British guidance, they have become independent and prosperous, and secure in the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour.

[Footnote 9: Cemetery.]

Another impression which the visitor will receive is the curiously Biblical character of their life, which constantly suggests the Old Testament stories; the shepherds watching their flocks, ring-streaked and speckled; the cattle ploughing in the fields; the women grinding at the handmill, or grouped about the village well, all recall incidents in the lives of Isaac and Rebekah, and episodes of patriarchal times. Their salutations and modes of speech are also Biblical, and lend a touch of poetry to their lives. "Turn in, my lord, turn in to me," was Jael's greeting to flying Sisera, and straight-way she prepared for him "butter in a lordly dish." So to-day hospitality is one of their cardinal virtues, and I have myself been chased by a horseman who rebuked me for having passed his home without refreshment.

Steam-pumps, cotton-mills, and railways may have slightly altered the aspect of the country, but to all intents and purposes, in habit of thought and speech, in costume and customs, the people remain to-day much as they were in those remote times pictured in the Book of Genesis.

Fresh fruit or coffee is frequently proffered to the traveller on his way, while his welcome at a village or the house of some landed proprietor is always sure. On approaching a village, which is often surrounded by dense groves of date-palms, the traveller will be met by the head men, who, with many salaams, conduct him to the village "mandareh," or rest-house, and it is only as such a guest, resident in a village, that one can form any idea of the home-life of the people.



From the outside the village often has the appearance of some rude fortification, the houses practically joining each other and their mud-walls having few openings. Within, narrow and tortuous lanes form the only thoroughfares, which terminate in massive wooden doors, which are closed at night and guarded by the village watchman. The huts—for they are nothing else—which compose the village are seldom of more than one storey, while in many cases their small doorway forms their only means of ventilation. Their roofs are covered with a pile of cotton-stalks and other litter, through which the pungent smoke of their dung fires slowly percolates, while fowls and goats, and the inevitable pariah dog roam about them at will.

Windows, when they do occur, are merely slits in the mud wall, without glass or shutter, but often ornamented by a lattice of split palm-leaves. Light and ventilation practically do not exist, while a few mats, water-pots, and cooking utensils comprise the only furniture; yet the people are well-conditioned and content, for their life is in the fields, and their poor dwellings are little used except at meal-times or at night.

The guest-house is little better than the huts, except that one side is entirely open to the air; here at least the visitor may breathe, even though his slumbers may be disturbed by the sheep and cattle which wander in the lanes. At night a fire of corn-cobs is lit, and while its smoke serves to drive away the swarms of mosquitoes and flies with which the village is usually infested, its warmth is grateful, for the nights are cold, and by its light, aided by a few dim lanterns, the simple evening meal is shared with the head men, who count it an honour to entertain a guest.

I have described one of the poorest of the "fellah" villages, but the traveller is often more luxuriously housed. Many of the native landowners occupy roomy and well-appointed dwellings, often surrounded by pretty and well-stocked gardens, where one may rest beneath the vines and fig-trees, and enjoy the pomegranates, apricots, and other fruits which it supplies. These houses are generally clean and comfortably furnished after the Turkish manner. The host, prosperous-looking and well clothed, meets his guest at the doorstep or assists him to dismount, when, with many compliments and expressions of delight at his visit, he is conducted to the guest-chamber. Coffee and sweet meats are then presented, a foretaste of the generous meal to follow, for in the homes of the well-to-do a feast is usually provided for an honoured guest.

The food is served on the low "sahniyeh," or tray, which forms the table, on which several flat loaves surrounded by little dishes of salad and other condiments, mark the places of the diners; but before eating, each person present ceremoniously washes his hands and mouth, a servant bringing in the copper "tisht wa abrik," or jug and basin, kept for that purpose.

The meal always begins with soup, which, greasy to begin with, is rendered more so by the addition of a bowl of melted butter. This is eaten with a spoon, the only utensil provided, each person dipping into the bowl, which is placed in the centre of the table. The rest of the meal, which consists of fish, pigeons, and various kinds of stews and salads, is eaten with the hands, the diners often presenting each other with choice morsels from their portion; a baked turkey stuffed with nuts, or on important occasions a whole sheep, forms the principal dish, which is cleverly divided by the host or principal guest without the aid of knife or fork. Water in porous jars, often flavoured with rose-leaves or verbena, is presented by servants as the meal proceeds. The final dish always consists of boiled rice and milk sweetened with honey, a delicious dish, which is eaten with the same spoon by which the soup was partaken of.

Such fare as I have described is only for the wealthy. In general the "fellahin" live on rice and wheaten bread, sugar-cane, and vegetables, with the occasional addition of a little meat, or such fish as may be caught in the canals. Their beverage is water, coffee being a luxury only occasionally indulged in, and their use of tobacco is infrequent.

Theirs is a simple life whose daily round of labour is only broken by the occasional marriage feast, or village fair, or, in the more populous centres, by the periodic "Muled," or religious festival.

In Cairo and other large cities, these "Muleds" are very elaborate, and often last for days together. Then business is suspended, and, as at our Christmas-time, everyone gives himself up to enjoyment and the effort to make others happy. Gay booths are erected in the open spaces, in which is singing and the performance of strange Eastern dances. Mummers and conjurers perform in the streets, and merry-go-rounds and swing-boats amuse the youngsters, whose pleasure is further enhanced by the many stalls and barrows displaying toy balloons, dolls, and sweetmeats.

All wear their gayest clothing, and at night illuminations delight the hearts of these simple people.

The principal feasts are the "Muled-en-Nebbi," or birth of Mohammed, and "El Hussanen," in memory of the martyred grandson of the Prophet, and although they are Mohammedans the "Eed-el-Imam," or birth of Christ, takes a high place among their religious celebrations.

But they have their fasts also, and Ramadan, which lasts for four weeks, is far more strictly observed than Lent among ourselves, for throughout that period, from sunrise to sunset, the Moslem abstains from food or drink, except in the case of the aged or infirm, or of anyone engaged upon work so arduous as to render food necessary, for the Mohammedan does not allow his religion to interfere with his other duties in life.

On the last day of Ramadan occurs a pretty observance similar to that of All Souls' day in France; then everyone visits the tombs of their relatives, laying garlands upon the graves and often passing the night in the cemeteries in little booths made for the purpose.

You will have noticed how large a place religion takes in the life of the people, and in their idle hours no subject of conversation is more common. To the average Mohammedan his religion is a very real matter in which he fervently believes, and Allah is to him a very personal God, whom he may at all times approach in praise or prayer in the certain belief of His fatherly care. Nothing impresses a traveller more than this tremendous belief of the Mohammedans in their Deity and their religion; and though many people, probably from lack of knowledge, hold the view that the Moslem faith is a debased one, it is in reality a fine religion, teaching many wise and beautiful doctrines, and ennobling the lives of all who live up to the best that is in it.

Unfortunately the teaching of Mohammedanism is so largely fatalistic that it tends to deprive the individual of personal initiative. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord," is a general attitude of mind, and this, combined with their long centuries of servitude, has had so much effect upon the national character of the Egyptian that they almost entirely lack those qualities of alertness, confidence, and sense of personal responsibility without which no race can become great or even, indeed, be self-respecting.

The higher education now general in Egypt has already had its effect upon the present generation, among which a feeling of ambition and independence is growing, while the Egyptian army has shown what wonders may be wrought, even with the poorest material, by sustained and honest effort in the right direction; and if the just and sympathetic guidance which it has enjoyed for now a quarter of a century is not too soon withdrawn, Egypt may once again become a nation.

As it is, to-day the great mass of the people remain much as they have been for ages; a simple, kindly people, ignorant and often fanatical, but broadly good-humoured and keenly alive to a joke; fond of their children, and showing great consideration for age, they have many traits which endear them to those who have lived among them, while their faults are largely on the surface, and due in some measure to the centuries of ignorance and slavery which has been their lot.

The greatest blot upon the Egyptian character is the position accorded to their women, who, as in all Mohammedan countries, are considered to be soulless. From infancy employed in the most menial occupations, they are not even permitted to enter the mosques at prayer-time, and until recently the scanty education which the boys enjoyed was denied to their sisters. It is no wonder, therefore, that these often beautiful girls grow up much like graceful animals, ignorant of the higher duties of life, and exercising none of that refining and ennobling influence which have made the Western races what they are.



CHAPTER X

THE DESERT

When so much of geographical Egypt consists of desert, it would be interesting if I were to tell you something about it before closing this little book. Probably the first question my readers would ask would be, "What use is it?" Why does Nature create such vast wastes of land and rock which can be of little or no use to anybody?

We cannot always follow the intentions of Nature, or see what may ultimately result, but so far as the desert is concerned we know of at least one useful purpose it serves, and that is the making of climate.

Edinburgh and Moscow are in precisely the same latitudes, yet the one is equable in temperature while the other endures the rigours of an arctic winter. The South of Iceland also suffers less from cold than do the great central plains of Europe. And why? Simply because their different climates are the result of special conditions or influences of Nature, and what the Gulf Stream does for the British Isles the deserts of Africa effect not only for Egypt, but for the whole of Southern Europe, whose genial climate is mainly caused by the warm air generated on these sun-baked barren lands.

Now let us see what the desert is like in appearance. It is a very common impression that the desert is simply a flat expanse of sand, colourless and unbroken; in reality it is quite different, being full of variations, which give it much the same diversity of interest as the ocean.

The colour of the sand varies infinitely, according to its situation. Thus the desert which surrounds Assuan, which is composed of decimated granite and Nile silt, is generally grey; in Nubia the sand is formed of powdered sandstone of a curiously golden tint, while the desert of Suez, which abuts on Cairo and the Delta provinces, is generally white in tone, due to the admixture of limestone dust of which it is largely composed. The great Sahara also is no monotonous stretch of sand, but is to a great extent covered by wild herbs of many kinds, which often entirely screen the sand from view, and give it the appearance of a prairie.

Nor is the desert always flat, for its huge undulations suggest ocean billows petrified into stillness, while rocky hills and earthquake-riven valleys give it a fantastic variety which is wildly picturesque.

Though generally barren, the desert supports growths of many kinds; wild hyssop, thorns, the succulent ice-plant, and a great variety of other shrubs. Flowers also abound, and though they are usually small, I have counted as many as twenty varieties in an area of as many feet, and in some of the deep "wadis," as the mountain valleys are called, wild plants grow in such profusion as to give them the appearance of rock gardens.

In aspect the desert varies very much, according to the time of day or changing effect of light.

At dawn a curious mauve tint suffuses it, and the sun rises sharp and clear above the horizon, which also stands out crisply against the sky, so pure is the air. Presently, as the sun slowly rises higher in the sky, every shrub or stone or little inequality of surface is tipped with gold and throws long blue shadows across the sand. At midday a fierce glare envelops it, obliterating detail and colour, while by moonlight it is a fairyland of silver, solemn, still, and mysterious. Each phase has its special beauty, which interests the traveller and robs his journey of monotony.

Scattered over the surface of the sand are innumerable pebbles of all sizes and colours—onyx, cornelian, agate, and many more, as well as sea fossils and other petrifactions which boys would love to collect. And it is also curious to notice that the rocks which crop up in all directions become sunburnt, and limestone, naturally of a dazzling white, often assumes a variety of tints under the influence of the powerful sun, as may be seen in the foreground of my picture of the pyramids.

Animal life also exists in profusion; every tuft of scrub supports a variety of insects upon which the hunting spider and desert lizard feed; the tracks of giant beetles or timid jerboa scour the sand in all directions, and many wild-birds make these wastes their home. Prowling wolves and foxes hunt the tiny gazelle, while the rocky hills, in which the wild goats make their home, also give shelter to the hyenas and jackals, which haunt the caravan routes to feast upon the dying animals which fall abandoned to their fate.

The life of the desert is not confined to the beasts, however, for many Bedawin tribes roam about them in search of water or fodder for their animals, and of all the Eastern races I have met none are more interesting than these desert nomads.



The wandering life of the Bedawin makes it difficult for anyone to become acquainted with them, while their reputation for lawlessness is such that travellers on desert routes usually endeavour to avoid them. In several parts of the desert near Egypt, however, important families of them have settled so as to be near the farm-lands granted to them by Ismail Pasha many years ago (nominally in return for military services, but in reality to keep them quiet), and I have often visited their camps at Beni Ayoub and Tel Bedawi, to find them courteous, hospitable, and in the best sense of the word, gentlemen.

These camps are large, and the long lines of tents, pitched with military precision, shelter probably more than 1,000 people, for though the head sheykh may build a lodge of stone in which to entertain his guests, the Arab is a gipsy who loves his tent.

The tents, which are often very large, are formed of heavy cloths of goats'-hair woven in stripes of different colours, and supported by a large number of poles; long tassels hang from the seams, and other cloths are often attached to them so as to divide the tent into different apartments. Clean sand forms the floor, on which at nightfall a rug or carpet is spread to form a bed. Round the walls are the gay saddle-bags and trappings of the camels and horses, as well as many boxes ornamented with tinsel and painting, which contain the wardrobes and other possessions of the inmates. At the tent-door, stuck upright in the ground, is the long spear of its occupant, and the large earthen pot which serves as fireplace, while in some shady corner a row of zirs contain their supply of drinking water. Turkeys and fowl give a homely look to the premises, where perhaps a gentle-eyed gazelle is playmate to the rough-haired dogs few Bedawin are without. Round about the tents children are playing, while their mothers are working at the hand-loom, or preparing the simple evening meal.

In character the Bedawin are dignified and reserved, and have a great contempt for the noisiness so characteristic of the Egyptians, but, like them, are passionately fond of their wives and children, and so highly prize the various articles of saddlery or apparel made by their hands that no money would buy them.

The men are tall, with strong aquiline features and keen eyes, which look very piercing beneath the "cufia,"[10] which is wrapped around their heads; their clothing is loose and flowing, a black "arbiyeh" being worn over the "khaftan," or inner robe, of white or coloured stripes, and their boots are of soft leather. Though the traditional spear is still retained, all are armed with some firearm—ancient flint-locks of great length, or more commonly nowadays with a modern rifle, and many of the sheykhs wear a long, curved sword of beautiful workmanship, which is slung across their shoulders by a silken cord. All have strong, deep voices, and impress you with the idea that these are manly and courageous fellows, and upright according to their lights.

[Footnote 10: A square shawl of white or coloured silk.]

The women also are clothed in loose draperies, the outer one of some rough material, which conceals others of daintier fabric and colour. Handsome in feature, with glossy blue-black hair, their dark gipsy faces also wear that look of sturdy independence which so becomes the men.

It may naturally be asked, "How do these people occupy their time?" First of all, they have large flocks, which must be fed and watered, and they are thus compelled to wander from well to well, or from one oasis to another, and they are also great breeders of horses, which must be carefully looked after, and from time to time taken to some far away fair for sale. Food and water also have often to be brought long distances to their camps by the camel-men, while the women are occupied with their domestic duties and their weaving.

Naturally the Bedawin are expert horsemen, and are very fond of equestrian sports. Some of their fancy riding is very clever, and great rivalry exists among them, particularly in their "jerid," or javelin, play, when frequently several hundreds of mounted men are engaged in a melee, which, though only intended to be a friendly contest, often results in serious injury or death to many.

The Arab is very fond of his horse, which he himself has bred and trained from a colt, and his affection is amply returned by his steed. They are beautiful animals, strong and fleet-footed, but often savage with anyone but their master.

Sport enters largely into the life of the Bedawin, and many tribes train falcons, with which they hunt gazelles, and in the Lybian desert the "cheetah," or hunting leopard, is tamed and used for the same purpose, and in this way the monotony of many a long desert march is relieved.

When on a journey smaller tents than those which I have described are used, all the heavy baggage being loaded on to camels, upon which the women and children also ride. Camels have often been called the "ships of the desert," and they are certainly the most useful of all animals for such travelling, for their broad pads prevent their feet from sinking into the soft sand, and not only do they carry enormous loads, but are able for days together to go without food or water. When Abraham sent his servant to seek a wife for Isaac, it was on camels that he travelled, and shaded, no doubt, by her canopy of shawls, it was on camel-back that Rebekah returned with him to the tent of his master. So to-day we may often meet a similar party on their journey, the women seated beneath the "mahmal," as the canopy is called, while the food and water for the journey is slung from the saddles of the camels ridden by the armed men who form their escort.

Camels are of two kinds—the heavily-built beast, such as we see in Egypt, and which is used for baggage purposes, and the "hagin," or dromedary, used solely for riding. Lest any of my readers should fall into the common error of supposing that the dromedary has two humps, let me say that the only difference between it and the ordinary camel is that it is smaller and better bred, just as our racehorses differ from draught animals, and must not be confounded with the Bactrian or two-humped camel of Asia. These hagin are very fleet, and often cover great distances, and I have known one to travel as much as 100 miles between sunset and sunrise!

On a journey the pace of a caravan is that of its slowest beast, and very arduous such journeys often are, for there is no shade, and the dust raised by the caravan envelops the slowly moving travellers, while the fierce sun is reflected from the rocks, which often become too hot to touch. On the other hand, the nights are often bitterly cold, for the sand is too loose to retain any of its heat, while the salt with which the desert is strongly impregnated has a chilling effect on the air. Most trying of all, however, are the hot desert winds, which often last for days together, drying up the water in the skins, while the distressed travellers are half suffocated by the dust and flying sand which cut the skin like knives. Little wonder, therefore, if these hardy desert tribes are taciturn and reserved, for they see nature in its stern moods, and know little of that ease of life which may be experienced among the green crops and pastures of the Delta.

It must not be supposed that the Bedawin are morose, for beneath their outward severity lies a great power for sympathy and affection. The love of the Arab for his horse is proverbial, and his kindness to all dumb animals is remarkable.

Like the Egyptian, family affection holds him strongly, and he has a keen appreciation of poetry and music. Hospitality is to him a law, and the guest is always treated with honour; it is pleasant also to see the respect with which the Bedawin regard their women, and the harmony which exists between the members or a tribe. Their government is patriarchal, each tribe being ruled by its sheykh, the "father of his children," who administers their code of honour or justice, and whose decision is always implicitly obeyed. Here, again, we have another Biblical parallel, for, like his brother Mohammedan in Egypt, the life of the desert Arab, no less than the dwellers on the "black soil," still preserves many of those poetical customs and characteristics which render the history of Abraham so attractive, and although these pages have only been able to give a partial picture of Egypt and its people, perhaps enough has been said to induce my readers to learn more about them, as well as to enable them a little more fully to realize how very real, and how very human, are the romantic stories of the Old Testament.

THE END

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* * * * *

The Waverley Novels

By SIR WALTER SCOTT

The Authentic Editions of Scott are published solely by A. and C. Black, who purchased along with the copyright the interleaved set of the Waverley Novels in which Sir Walter Scott noted corrections and improvements almost to the day of his death. The under-noted editions have been collated word for word with this set, and many inaccuracies, some of them ludicrous, corrected.

LIST OF THE NOVELS

Waverley

Guy Mannering

The Antiquary

Rob Roy

Old Mortality

Montrose, and Black Dwarf

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The Bride of Lammermoor

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The Monastery

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Peveril of the Peak

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* * * * *

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* * * * *

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THE END

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