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Round the Wonderful World
by G. E. Mitton
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We are actually in Africa, that mysterious land which still contains the greater part of the unexplored territory of the world, and which for long was described as "The Unknown Continent," though it can hardly be called that now. Of all the countries which make up Africa, Egypt is the strangest, indeed, she is the strangest country in all the world—a weird and mysterious land whose ways are not as the ways of any other country on earth.

Imagine a land much longer than it is broad, in the shape of an ordinary hearth-rug, and then lay down lengthwise along this a mighty river which divides it into two parts. Have you seen the Eiffel Tower? If not, you have at all events seen pictures of it, well, imagine an Eiffel Tower lying prostrate along the hearth-rug and you will have a pretty fair idea of Egypt and its river. The legs of the Eiffel Tower are very near the bottom and stick out sharply; from the point where they meet the long body stretches upwards straight as an arrow.

The Nile is like that. Not so far above where it runs into the Mediterranean Sea it is split up into many channels like the legs of the tower. It is at the foot of one of these legs we have just landed, and presently we are going to pass on up to the junction of the many channels at Cairo, which is the capital town of Egypt. Of course the Nile is not perfectly straight and rigid like the man-made tower; it winds and turns, as all rivers do, but, taking it as a whole, the comparison is a good one.

We have to wait for our baggage to be brought across from the ship so that we can see it through the custom-house, and here it comes at last; it is carried by a boy about your age who is simply lost to sight beneath it. They begin young! He stands grinning, well pleased with himself. He certainly deserves a good tip, for he is no shirker. We have just got some Egyptian money from Cook's, so can give it him in his own coinage, though he would not in the least mind taking English money.

Egyptian money is not very difficult to understand: the principal coin is a piastre, which is equal to twopence-halfpenny; and half a piastre, which looks like a silver sixpence, but isn't silver at all, serves the purposes of a penny, though it is really equal to a penny-farthing. There are no coppers here. The most useful coin—corresponding to our shilling, the French franc, and the Italian lira—is rather like an overgrown shilling to look at and equal to five piastres or a halfpenny more than a shilling.

Now we have only to buy some cigarettes for me and some Turkish Delight for—well, for us both! Then we can go on to our train. Cigarettes and Turkish Delight are the two things no one ever fails to buy at Port Said, for here you get them good and cheap.

It will take us four hours to reach Cairo by rail, and we shan't see anything of the country, as it is dark. And what a country it is!

You will never get used to it, for it is run on lines of its own. The part of it lying between the legs of the imaginary Eiffel Tower, in other words, between the mouths of the Nile, is called the Delta, from the Greek letter [Greek: Delta], which shape it is. Except in this delta rain never falls, that is to say, not to speak of. Up in Assouan, one of the larger towns, which we shall visit, they say, for instance, "Rain? Let me see—oh yes, we did have a shower, two years ago it was, on such and such a day at four in the afternoon. Pretty smart shower too; the roofs of the mud houses got squashy and slipped down on the inhabitants. Quite funny, wasn't it?"

It seems funny to us that anyone could remember the hour of one particular shower two years ago! With us if there is no rain for a few weeks the farmers begin to cry out that their crops are ruined. What a glorious land Egypt must be to live in when there is no chance of any excursion being spoiled by the weather!

"But how in the world does anything manage to grow?"

I thought you would ask that. Egypt has a system of its own. Once every year this gigantic river, which cleaves the land into two parts, rises and overflows all its banks; it submerges the low-lying flat land near it and carries all over it a rich fertilising mud. The land is thoroughly soaked, and when the Nile slowly retires, sinking back into its channel, the crops are planted in the spongy earth.

For many ages no one knew why this happened, and indeed no one troubled to ask; the ancient Egyptians thought the Nile was a god, and that this wonderful overflow was a miracle of beneficence performed for their benefit. Then Europeans began to penetrate into the heart of Africa and the mystery was solved. The Nile rises far up in the vast continent where there are mighty lakes lying in among the hills. The three largest of these lakes are called Victoria, Albert, and Edward, after our sovereigns, for the men who discovered them were British and naturally carried the names of their rulers to plant as banners wherever they penetrated. These lakes are not in Egypt, but far beyond, in a region where at one season of the year there is a terrific downfall of rain; this swells them up and makes them burst forth from every outlet in a tremendous flood. The Nile carries off most of this water, and some other rivers, which flow into it up there, bring down masses of water too, and all this rushes onward, spreading far over the thirsty land of Egypt and turns the desert into a garden, making it "blossom as the rose." Wherever the water reaches the land bears fruit, but beyond it is sandy and sterile desert.

The length of this amazing river from Lake Victoria to the sea is now reckoned to be between three thousand and four thousand miles, or almost half the length of the earth's diameter, and for over a thousand miles it receives no tributaries at all. In almost all rivers we are accustomed to we see streams and other tributaries running in and swelling the volume of water as the main river passes down to the sea, but for all these miles the Nile flows unsupported and unreplenished beneath the blazing sun. No wonder the Egyptians worshipped anything so splendid!

The total length of England and Scotland together, from John o' Groats to Land's End, is eight hundred miles, which gives us a measuring rod to estimate the length of this splendid highway, which is frequently half a mile broad.

Though the yearly inundation made cultivation possible, men soon learned that it was not enough; besides this they must water the crops between times, and so means were devised for storing up the water; but these were mostly very simple and primitive until Great Britain went to Egypt to help the Khedive out of his difficulties and to teach him how to govern for the good of his people. Then immense works were started for holding up the water which would otherwise have run away to the sea at flood-time and been wasted.

We arrive at Cairo very late at night, and when we get to our bedroom we find both beds looking rather like large meat-safes, for they are enclosed in white net curtains. These fall from a top or ceiling resembling that on old four-posters.



You stare at them in a puzzled way a minute or so, and then declare, "What a stuffy arrangement! I'm not going to sleep shut in like that!"

"Please yourself, but you run the risk of having red lumps on your nose in the morning if a mosquito takes a fancy to you!"

"Oh, they're mosquito-curtains! I've heard of them. What are you going to do?"

"Run no risks!"

At last, protesting, you agree to do likewise, and climb inside your meat-safe. You'll soon get used to it, and though it is too cold here for any mosquito to be very lively, it is safer. In some countries the curtains are useful for keeping off worse things than mosquitoes—tarantulas, for instance!

We are only staying one day in Cairo so are out early the next morning, and find that the town looks on the whole very like a French town. Indeed, were it not for the red fez or tarboush which so many men wear, even when they dress otherwise in European costume, and for the turbans and flowing robes of the native dress, we might be in Paris or Marseilles.

We go to the top of a very wide main street to await the tram which is to take us to the Pyramids.

"Poste-carte, sir-r-r-r," says insinuatingly a ragged ruffian, thrusting vividly coloured picture postcards into our faces as we stand. We turn away, shaking our heads. He quickly runs round to face us again, "Poste-carte, sir-r-r," in a tone as if the conversation had only just begun and he had great hopes of a sale.



"No, thank you; go away," I say as sternly and emphatically as I can, for he is not too clean.

"Poste-carte, Cismus cards, nice," he continues with unabated zeal as if we had not spoken at all. Resolutely we turn our backs on him and are confronted by a very gorgeous individual in a long loose gown and turban, with innumerable strings of beads of the cheapest and commonest "Made-in-Germany" kind, hung in festoons round his neck. "Beades, sir-r-r," he begins persuasively, and the other chimes in a duet, "Poste-carte." "Beades," continues the new tormentor, swinging his wares in our faces. Evidently "no" is a word not understood by these gentry. They go on at it hard for about five minutes, our stony silence in no way diminishing their enthusiasm, and then from the corner of my eye I see a tall man, with an exceptionally handsome face, clothed in a beautiful long coat of blue cloth cut away to show a great orange sash underneath.

"You want guide?" he says, hastening to the fray and sending the other men flying with "Imshi, imshi!" "Me good guide, beest guide in Cairo, show you Pyramids, all-a sights, verry cheap, sirr, me show you, only ten shillings, citadel and——"

"I don't want a guide, thank you."

The gentleman's knowledge of English is limited apparently, for he doesn't understand that. In exactly the same tone in which he has just spoken he begins again, "Me good guide, showing you all sights, cheap, verry cheap, Pyramids, telling you all things, bazaar, only eight shilling——"

By the time he has worked himself through all the grades down to two shillings, his eye falls on two other newly arrived tourists, evidently Americans, and he rushes upon the fresh prey. Luckily our car comes in sight just then, for a second dragoman, as these guides are called, has just caught sight of us and is racing across the street as fast as his legs will carry him.

As the tram starts we hear his desperate "Me verry good guide, best—bazaar——" He is quite willing to risk his life in jumping on to the moving tram at the smallest sign from us, so we simply hold our breath and resolve not to wink an eyelid until the danger is past.



* * * * *

So those are the Pyramids!

We have arrived after a very cold and rather monotonous run of about an hour.

Was there ever a time when one had not heard of the Pyramids and pictured their vast triangles rising out of the desert? But for my part, I had always imagined them set far off in solitude so that one came upon them gradually, seeing them first as mere hillocks in the immensity of the sand. Instead of that they spring upon us suddenly, rearing up on a height as the tram speeds toward them along a tree-shaded road across a vast artificial lake.

The lake is picturesque, studded with little islands and promontories covered with houses and palm trees, so also are the groups of donkeys and camels with their attendant men waiting at the terminus for tourists, but these things disperse the mystery to which we had looked forward. The large and comfortable hotel at the foot of the white winding road which leads up to the Pyramids is doubtless useful, but——

As we approach on foot we experience surprise to see that the blocks of which the largest Pyramid is composed are so small they look almost like bricks. Pictures show them as gigantic blocks up which stout ladies are being "boosted"—sorry, but there is no other word—by heated dragomans. As we draw near we see that the blocks are fairly big. Nearer still—what is that crawling about on the edge of the great cone? Hullo, it's a man, and there is another and another. They do look small. Why, there is one who has reached the top; he is not to be compared with a fly so much as a midge—who would have thought it? We are close under now and I find that the block by which I am standing is the height of my shoulder, and I am fairly tall. This must be an exceptional one, but—it isn't! They are all the same! Watching the men clambering up above,—men who we now see are English soldiers dressed in khaki,—we can understand why they seem to find the ascent so difficult—each block is shoulder high and requires much strenuous exertion to surmount. They cannot stride from one to the other as on a flight of stairs. One man is exhausted and gives up half-way, and a cheerful Cockney voice comes down from above telling him to "put his beck into it!" He'll need it. Standing thus and looking up we get some idea of the enormous size of the Pyramid, which makes its blocks look small by contrast. It is bigger, far bigger than one expected. This is the largest of all, built anything between 5000 and 6000 years ago, as the tomb of King Cheops. He built it for himself by cruel forced labour crushed out of starving men; he intended that his body should lie like the kernel of a nut in this mighty shell.

As we pass beyond it we see another, farther off in the desert sand, and yet another. We are accustomed to speak of the Pyramids as if these few at Gizeh were all, but there are others scattered about Egypt, though they are less known and visited.

Then, quite unexpectedly, we come upon the Sphinx. It is in a hollow in the sand like the nest children scoop out for shelter on the seashore, only vastly greater. As we struggle round the yielding rim, with the powdery sand silting over our boot-tops, we feel something of the wonder of it thrilling through us. Let us sit down here facing it by these broken stones, where we can be a little sheltered from the chilly wind and gritty sand. We are looking at the oldest thing in Egypt. You will see farther south many splendid examples of amazing age but nothing to equal the Sphinx. When Abraham came down into Egypt the Sphinx was old beyond the memory of man! When King Cheops built his Pyramid the Sphinx sat with his back turned to it wearing the same inscrutable smile that it has to-day. It has watched kings succeed and die, it has watched empires spread and collapse, it has watched civilisations ripen and wither away. All the known history of mankind has unrolled before it, not the short history of a few trifling centuries which we call ours, but the history of the world.

The crouching figure is lion-like in attitude, but how human of face in spite of its broken nose. It was carven of the solid rock and fashioned with its face to the sunrise and its back to the desert. No one knows the thought in the mind of the puny artist who brought it into being and then shrivelled beside it like a blade of grass. Was it intended to be a god? It has been silted up by sand and unburied again; it has been worshipped and hated. It has been reverenced and shot at, so that its face is chipped and its nose broken away, and still it smiles with fierce serenity.

Sit silently.

"Poste-carte——"

"Imshi, imshi."

That Arabic word, picked up at hazard from the dragoman, has acted like a talisman—the pest has actually gone!

There creeps up beside you, very slowly and determinedly, an old, old man. "Fortune told," he says almost in a whisper, groping for your hard boyish hand. So be it! He at least does not send the spirit of the place flying away. Nonsense it may be, but these fellows do know something——

Give him that five piastre piece that looks like a large shilling and listen to his quaint expressive English.

"Clever head, head very much good, gooder than many men, but an enemy inside there. You see a long, long road, and you go that road, then coming hills and that road grow tiresome and you stop and say, 'Not worth it, I don't care,' an enemy here—slay him!

"Much work lies to your hands to do when they grow large. In many lands I see them plucking down cities and raising ships from the depths of the sea. Strange things be waiting for those hands in all the world. Many tongues you speaking, and many things you gain. But the hand not opening easily. What it gains it grips, hard and tight; it is a close hand, and that which comes thereout drops slowly between the fingers to friends also as to foes. Riches and work and honour hold the hands, and only death will tear them away. With them all is a bitterness and a glory greater than the shine of what men count joy. But in that day when you eat with kings the desire of life shall pass from you!"

Hullo, old boy! He gave you a good shilling's worth, anyhow! Though it was rather a nasty hit that at your Scottish national character! You don't believe it surely? Look at the Sphinx and laugh. What does it matter if we two midges, among all the midges that have crawled about his paws, don't exactly enjoy ourselves the whole of our brief day?

What is that? How you start! No, it's not a lion roaring, though it's a pretty good imitation; it's only a camel cursing and snarling with all his might while his owner piles a few bushels' weight on his back. He doesn't really mind it, but it is the immemorial custom of camels to protest with hideousness and confused noise, and if he didn't do it his trade union would be down upon him.

"Poste-carte——"

Come, let us go!



CHAPTER V

THE HIGHWAY OF EGYPT

Of course you have been in a cinematograph theatre, and there, seated comfortably, have watched the various scenes pass before you. The great charm of these scenes is that the people really did do the things which we here see them doing, even down to the smallest gestures. But often the pleasure is spoilt by knowing that the actors were only making these gestures for the purpose of being photographed; also the scenes are sometimes disconnected and scrappy, and seldom indeed is it that they are represented in colour, and then, though the colour is clever enough, it is not like that of nature.

To-day we are watching a cinematograph which has none of these drawbacks. We are seated in a leather-lined railway carriage running from Cairo southward up the country to a place called Luxor, and passing before us every minute are vivid pictures of the life of Egypt. The railway runs along the middle of Egypt, just as the Nile does, but we do not often see the river from the line, for at this time of the year it flows low down between its banks. It is on the other side of the railway that the main interest lies. Here there is a canal as straight as the line and close beside it, and on the far side of it is a sort of raised tow-path—the great highway of Egypt. We see it against a fringe of bushy palm trees at one minute, and the next against a field of tall, green-growing stuff, which looks exactly like those rushes found on the banks of our own rivers. This, however, is maize, or, as you probably know it better, Indian corn, which forms the staple food of the people. The brown feathery heads wave in the wind, but the corn itself is tucked away in the thickness of the stalk. You must have seen a "cob" of Indian corn some time, with all the flat yellow grains nestling in a honeycomb of little cells. To-day in Egypt you will see everyone eating them; even the solemn baby seated astride its mother's shoulder picks out the grains and nibbles them like a little monkey. The straw part of the plant is used for many things: it feeds the numerous domestic animals of the Egyptians to begin with—the donkeys, camels, buffaloes, bullocks, goats—and it forms thatch for the huts and makes bedding.

Notice that man over there in the field; his cotton gown is of the purest blue, which shows up richly against the vivid green of the maize stalks. There is another seated far back on the rump of a small donkey who is tripping along on its stiff little legs. It wears no harness of any kind beyond a cord round its neck, which enables anyone to catch hold of it. The man has no saddle and he holds his long legs straight forward to prevent his feet from touching the ground, and from time to time he guides or goads the donkey with a little sharp-pointed stick. Close behind him, walking fast to keep up, is a tall woman in black with a black shawl covering her mouth, her dress is a mass of grey dust as far as the waist, and drags up the dust in clouds as she moves. On her head is a large bundle and on her hip a large baby. She is the wife of the lordly individual riding so comfortably ahead, and she takes this state of affairs as a matter of course. The scene arouses anger in the breast of a nice American with a grey moustache and keen grey eyes, who shares our compartment.



"So long as they treat their womenfolk like that they'll never rise to anything better," he says emphatically. "The higher the civilisation of a nation is the higher the position of its women. A nation of men who ride and let the women carry the burdens is bound to be rotten and flabby."

Next there passes across our window-frame a flock of goats, but they are not much like those we know—they are dark brown and black, with thick rough coats and cheeky tufted tails; numbers of kids dance up and down the steep sides of the tow-path after the manner of kids all the world over. A small boy, dressed in what appears to be a striped flannel night-shirt, with a tiny skull-cap on his head, is driving them. He pulls his single garment up to his waist as he dances and pirouettes as if the joy of living were almost too much for him. He is enveloped in a cloud of dust raised by the goats, but he snatches handfuls of the dust from the ground and flings it in the air around as if he could never get enough of it!

"The Lady of Shalott," in Tennyson's poem, who watched in her mirror all who went down to Camelot, cannot ever have seen anything half so interesting as this.

Presently we meet a long string of fine-looking camels, one of them pure white; they are fastened by a connecting rope and so covered with loads of bristling twigs that each looks like a walking bush, out of which the great padded feet are planted with deliberate steps and the haughty heads swaying at the ends of the long necks stick out. It is the scrub of the cotton bush that they are carrying; you will see fields of it presently, some of it bursting into fluffy pods, for cotton growing is one of the most extensive and profitable of Egyptian industries. The twigs and branches are used as fuel by the people, who have a happy knack of letting nothing be wasted.

"I never!" exclaims the American. "If that isn't like them!" We are overtaking a second string of camels, precisely similar to the first, and similarly laden, stepping gingerly and protestingly in the opposite direction from the first, having just passed them. "Why couldn't they arrange things better?" demands the American. "If one lot is going this way and the other that, an exchange would have saved time and labour."

In America labour is costly and all sorts of inventions for saving time have been invented; in this eastern land time is of no value at all, and a man working all day in the fields is content to earn a shilling. Perhaps the contrast with their own country is the reason of the fascination Egypt has for Americans!

What are those strange-looking beasts mincing along like gigantic peacocks? As we draw nearer we see that they are camels too, each bearing a load of sword-bladed leaves, which hang down over their hindquarters exactly like the folded fan-tail of a peacock. Upon my word I never noticed it before, but a camel walks just like a peacock, with the same hesitating "Don't-care-a-hang-for-you" stride. The bundles so arranged hide the animals' hind legs and bring out the resemblance.

But what is it they are carrying? Not maize stalks this time, nor bushy cotton twigs, for these stalks are a dull crimson at the upper end. It is sugar-cane, which grows in quantities here, and forms a more profitable crop than maize. You will see it sold at the stations; the people buy it, and, breaking off a joint, eat it with pleasure.

We cannot tear ourselves away from this fascinating window even for a moment; far in the distance across the green fields and waving palm trees we see glimpses of the desert, looking pinkish-yellow, and rising up in it, changing with every mile we travel, are many pyramids, not only those famous ones at Gizeh we visited yesterday, but others stretching farther and farther away. You will notice that the favourite colour for the dress of the peasants, or fellaheen, as they are called, is a glorious blue, but that all the women are in black—most unsuitable of hues, as they live and move and have their being amid drab-coloured dust; khaki would be much better.

As our breakfast, though better than that in France, was nothing so very wonderful, we begin to feel hungry, and are ready to go along early to the luncheon-car; we had a good dinner in that one on the train coming up from Port Said to Cairo, and anticipate something of the same kind. As we get up the American remarks casually, "Best pull in your belts and have a smoke—there isn't any."

No luncheon-car! No means of getting any kind of refreshment on the train! And we, having started at eight, are in for a journey of fourteen hours! Lively this! It is one of the little incidental discomforts of travel! The American is in the same plight himself. But he found out soon after we started that there was no restaurant-car; it only runs three times a week, for the season hasn't begun yet!

We call the Egyptian attendant to find out if there is any prospect of buying anything on the way. He stands grinning very affably but doesn't understand a word of English. Presently, however, he seems to understand, and dashes off, to return triumphantly with a feather-brush in his hand with which he violently flops the seats of the carriages and all our personal belongings until we are choked and smothered with the dust.

In English fashion we have kept the windows open, not realising that in this country it is impossible, and that slowly we have been silted up with a layer of fine soft dust; but we didn't feel the inconvenience of it much until this idiot stirred it up and made it unendurable.

Having accomplished this great feat he stands still, grinning and holding out a broad palm. Officials on the trains are probably forbidden to utter the wicked word "Bakshish," meaning tips, but they can ask quite as well without it.

Having got rid of him, we turn in despair to the station at which we have just pulled up. There is a fine mingled crowd on the platform. Lying in the sun, awaiting their master's pleasure, are two beautifully kept white donkeys, with their hides clipped in neat patterns, very superior creatures indeed to what we know as donkeys, more like mules in size. A group of children, fascinated by our strange faces, draw nearer and gaze their fill unwinkingly; one poor little mite of about four has a mass of flies crawling all over its face, especially about the eyes. It never attempts to brush them off, for long habit has made it callous. Formerly very many children were so afflicted, and the crawling flies, carrying disease, made them blind; but since the British took the matter in hand the evil is much less. Yet so indifferent are the mothers, that in many cases even when lotion is supplied free for the children's faces they will not trouble to use it!

There is nothing eatable being sold in the station except fruit, but there seems plenty of that, and by the time the train starts again we find ourselves with a fine assortment in rich colours of purple and orange and scarlet. First there is a packet of dates which looks all right on the top, but turning them out we find the purple side of one had been placed carefully uppermost, and the rest are all hard, green, and unripe, not in the least like the sweet juicy dates we are accustomed to. The attendant, who is watching, scoops them up and devours them as if he hadn't been fed for a month. Then comes a bit of sugar-cane, stringy and sickly, which makes us feel as if we had bitten into a piece of sweet wood when we try it. That great purple pomegranate is, like all pomegranates, unsatisfactory and full of seeds, and though the little green limes are refreshing for the moment while we suck the juice, after a while our lips begin to smart as if they were raw, and we both keep on furtively wiping them. It is a tantalising feast, and the American smiles serenely as he smokes in his corner and refuses to have anything to do with it. The only thing we do get out of it are some really good green figs, which cannot, however, be eaten without shameless messiness, as they are so difficult to peel.

When the afternoon sun grows scorchingly hot the grinning attendant proves himself for once useful, by showing us that we can pull up sun-shutters with wooden slats outside the glass ones. He has indeed been anxious to pull them up all round the compartment ever since we started, and nothing but physical force has restrained him, for he cannot conceive how anyone could want to look out. Even now we keep down those on the sunless side, which grieves him deeply.

So all the afternoon we watch the glorious scenes changing in sunlight; we see the sailing boats, with their tapering white wings, laden with cargoes of straw, drifting up the canal, driven by the strong north wind; we pass innumerable villages, and some larger towns, where market-day has attracted vast crowds.

The small villages are indeed wonderful, and the first one excited us all three so much that we had to hurry to the window. Imagine a colony of last year's swallows' nests under the eaves, or a collection of ruined pigsties and sheds, only they are not ruins at all, but living, thriving villages with healthy people in them. The houses are all made of mud; a few are fashioned out of mud bricks, but many are merely of mud stuck and moulded together as a child would form a mud house with his hands. The doors and the holes for windows are crooked and lop-sided as they would be in a childish attempt. The roof is covered over with an untidy thatch of straw, thrown on anyhow, with piles of cotton scrub on the top of it. This scrub is for firing, and it is kept up there in the Egyptian's only storehouse; it is backed up by cakes of dried buffalo dung used for the same purpose. As it never rains the fuel is quite safe from damp.

Every man builds his own house as it pleases him, without regard to the style or position of his neighbour's, consequently the streets are narrow crooked passages of uneven levels; there is not a green thing in them, and the people live in dust and eat it and wallow in it. Here and there you can see a tray of flat cakes pushed out into the midst of the dust to bake in the sun and form a playground for the flies and the microbes, for the Egyptian has no respect for microbes, he is germ-proof; for generations he and his forefathers have drunk the Nile water, unfiltered and carried in goat-skins not too well cured. Yet the people are happy and the children apparently a gay set of youngsters. Little Gassim or Achmed, in the single unchanged and unwashed garment that covers their little brown bodies, dance and roll and sing and drive the loathly black buffaloes to the water and eat scraps of sugar-cane, and are as happy as the day is long. They work hard, it is true, from the time they can toddle, but so does everyone else, and all the animals do their share of toil, day in and day out. "I can't understand why they don't find a way of harnessing the turkeys," says the American sarcastically as we pass a lordly camel, stepping, with protest in every movement, alongside a sturdy bullock who helps to drag a primitive plough. The plough merely scratches the surface of the ground, but that is enough, for the Egyptian will never go deeper than he need.



We are getting very hungry indeed! Six hours more! How are we going to stand it?

Hurrah! A bit of luck! The American has been along the corridor and come across some friends who are getting out at the next station. They have presented him with the remains of a lunch-basket supplied by their hotel, and he is generously willing to share it with us. Never was prize-packet opened with greater eagerness; suppose it should only contain enough for one?



Amid the white wrappings of the open pannier we find slices of tongue, rolls of bread, chicken legs, hard-boiled eggs, and a bottle of soda-water!

Never did food taste better! We sit gnawing the chicken bones and blessing the American!

Meantime the sun falls and a splendour you never yet have imagined fills the air. Streaks of flaming colour shoot athwart the sky, bursting up behind the tufted palms; the eastern sky catches the reflection and shows softest blues and pinkest pinks in contrast. A veil of amber light hangs like a curtain overhead and changes to orange and again to apricot as the afterglow sweeps the sky before darkness falls like the curtain on a scene at the theatre.



CHAPTER VI

A MIGHTY MAN

Our beds face the windows, which open like high glass doors, French fashion; before retiring we set them wide, and close outside the long shutters made of slats of wood. In the morning we are awakened suddenly, almost at the same instant, by a red flame glowing between the slats as fire glows between the bars of a grate. Springing from our curtains we fling open the shutters, expecting to see a great conflagration, and behold, it is the sunrise!

The sun does not greet us in such boisterous fashion in England! Here it fills the sky with a blood-red radiance and lights up the palm groves in the garden below, where a mighty congregation of small birds are shrieking out their joy to greet the god of morning. There is an intensity in it all, in the flaming sky, and in the thrill of the birds' clarion that sends exhilaration into our veins and makes us feel it is good to be alive!

It is not long before we are out and around the garden—and what a garden! Strange coffee-coloured men in blue garments like smock frocks, with baggy blue trousers caught tightly round their ankles, appear and disappear noiselessly, their bare brown feet making no sound on the sanded paths. There is something unreal about it all, something that makes one think of the Arabian Nights and an enchanted garden. The hotel is called "The Winter Palace," and in England we should associate such a name with a vast artificially warmed glasshouse filled with broad-leaved plants of dark green; here, right overhead, is a tall bush covered with masses of sulphur-coloured flowers, shaped like tiny trumpets, hanging in festoons against a sky of glorious blue. Through plumed palms we catch glimpses of the spreading fingers of a deep red poinsettia; there is a pink frilled flower shooting toward the sky, so decorative that it looks exactly like those made of crinkled paper for decorations; this is the well-known oleander. The grass is so vividly green that it seems as if the greenness sprang away from the blades; as we draw near to it we see that it is not all matted together and interwoven, as is our grass, but is composed of separate blades, each one apart and upright, all together standing like a regiment of soldiers. It has to be sown every year freshly, for no roots can survive the long drought. Close by is a lawn of bare earth, and a boy of about your age, with a thin pathetic brown face, runs round and round it, shouting and waving a flapper to keep off the birds from the newly sown seed.

We are just going to plunge into a grove of trees—some acacias with leaves like delicate ferns, and others eucalyptus with long narrow leaves looking like frosted silver—when we find they are growing in a swamp, with the earth banked up all round to keep the water in!

Other flowers, familiar to us in England, such as roses, look rather pale and washed-out here in contrast with the flaming beauty of richest mauve and brightest orange worn by those which are at home in a hot country. As the sun gets strong we hear the drone of a swarm of great creatures like prodigious wasps with legs like stilts, which fly around the sweet-scented blooms. In ancient inscriptions this wasp, or hornet, was used as the sign of Northern or Lower Egypt. Across the flower-beds run miniature canals of stone, by means of which the water from the life-giving river is carried all over the ground, so that it can be easily watered; a very large part of the time of the blue-bloused gardeners is spent in watering. A garden which was watered from the sky would be a miracle to them.

We come back again to the hotel and pass through to the other or front entrance, where we catch sight of the majestic Nile, which we could not see in the darkness of our arrival last night. Standing on a high terrace, bounded by a parapet covered with riotous masses of magenta bougainvillea, we see the turquoise-blue river, flecked with boats carrying high, white, three-cornered sails; on the other side rise calm hills of orange-yellow. We shall visit those hills, for in them are buried some of the mightiest kings of Egypt, and the wild fastnesses form a truly royal burial-place, grander than any ordinary mausoleum or cemetery could ever be. On both sides of the river at one time stood the royal city of Thebes, one of the best known of all the capitals of Egypt which sprang up from time to time in its agelong history.

If ever you "do" the ix. book of the Iliad in your schoolwork, you will find that Homer speaks of Thebes as having one hundred gates and possessing twenty thousand war-chariots! It extended for about nine miles along the river-bank.

After breakfast our first plunge into sight-seeing is a visit to the temple of Luxor, which faces the river just five minutes' walk along the street from the hotel. This is the very first Egyptian temple we have examined and it is astonishing how much we can learn from it. That mighty row of columns, larger and higher than any cathedral pillars you have ever seen, makes us feel like midgets. Standing close together the columns spring right into the clear sky, as there is no roof left. Not so very long ago they were covered up to the capitals in sand and debris. The poorer Egyptians had built their mud huts in and around them for generations, and when one hut crumbled away another was put up on the top of it, and thus the level of the accumulated earth grew higher and higher. Then some learned Frenchmen saw the wonder of the buried temple and bought the people out, persuading them to go elsewhere, and they gradually cleared away the rubbish until the original beauty of the temple was visible again. Even now, high up on all sides, you can see the depth of the earth surrounding it like cliffs, and on the top are squalid huts with dirty children and fluffy impudent goats and shrill-voiced, black-clad women, living their daily lives and looking down into the temple.

The ancient Egyptian writing was by signs—a bird meant one thing, a flower another, and a serpent another, and so on, but for a long time the meaning of it had been forgotten, and it was impossible for anyone to read these wonderful signs. But at the very end of the eighteenth century a great stone was found which had upon it an inscription written in Greek and in hieroglyphics, as the sign-writing was called, and also in another writing which used to be employed by the priests, and from this, before many years had passed, clever men were able to understand the language of signs and read the inscriptions on the temples, which told who had built them and much else. This stone was called the Rosetta Stone, after the place where it was found. It is now in the British Museum.

This was long before Luxor was unearthed, and the inscriptions were deciphered as they came to light; by their help it was found that the temple had been built chiefly by two kings, Amenhetep III. and Rameses II. who came after him, though not immediately. Rameses added to the existing work and carried it on. So far as we know all this was between three and four thousand years ago. In a village in England people are proud if they can point to any part of their parish church and say, "This is Norman work," and yet the Normans only came over to England less than nine hundred years ago! Go back more than three times that, and try to realise the age of this temple. And even this, as we know, is not old compared with the Pyramids! Doesn't it make us feel that, as a nation, we are rather young after all?

Long before we were a nation these mighty kings flourished in Egypt and lived in pomp and splendour. They each had a different name, of course, and more than one, but yet they were all Pharaohs, just as at one time in the Roman Empire each emperor was a Caesar.

The Pharaohs had unlimited power in their own dominions, and forced their subjects to work for them as they pleased without giving them any payment. By some means we can't understand these mighty blocks of sandstone composing this temple and many others were brought from a place farther up the river. It is supposed that they were put on great rafts and floated down at flood-time, but the handling of them is still a mystery. The men who dealt with them had no steel tools, no driving force of steam or electricity at their backs, yet they reared buildings which we to-day, with all our appliances, think masterpieces.

Rameses II. was called the Great; he reigned for over sixty years, and he has a peculiar interest for us because he is believed to have been the Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites, while his son and successor, Menepthah, was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

Walk up the great aisle of giant columns into the courtyard at the end, there, between the pillars, stand massive images of granite, most of them headless, but one perfect except for the ends of the fingers and toes.



Sit down on this fallen block and look at that marvellous image; it is the mighty Rameses himself! There is a repressed energy and indomitable purpose about him that tells in every line of a man who never let go and never allowed himself to be thwarted. His almond-shaped eyes and full lips, the proud tilt of his head, are not merely conventional, they are an actual likeness of the man taken from life. He is every inch a king. His successor, who was his thirteenth son, was probably of the same type, and one can well imagine his scornful indignation at being asked to yield up that nation of slaves, the Israelites, whom he treated as we would not treat animals nowadays. The miracle is that Moses was not instantly slain for his boldness in proposing it; he was, of course, screened by his relationship to Pharaoh's daughter, but that would have counted little had he not been protected by a power far above that of the king of Egypt.

Close down under the knee of the standing Rameses is the figure of a plump woman, his favourite wife, Nefertari. The Egyptians had the rather childish idea that size meant importance, and to them now, as well as then, women seemed of much less importance than men, so the wife was represented as being about as high as her husband's knee. In spite of this, however, women of royal blood were treated with great deference, and royal ladies enjoyed a freedom like that of western women to-day. They gave their opinions and transacted business and were seen in public. Many a king only sat securely on his throne because his wife had a better title to it than he had. This did not, however, prevent them from making women very often quite diminutive in size in their statues, though in some cases the king and queen are the same size and are shown seated side by side.

It is very quiet and beautiful here in the temple this Sunday morning; the natives themselves are not allowed to come in, and visitors only on production of a ticket costing twenty-four shillings, which admits to all the temples of Egypt; and, as it happens, there is no one but ourselves. The sparrows twitter overhead in the holes and crannies of the pillars, and the great grey and black crows wheel silently against the blue sky, throwing moving shadows on the honey-coloured columns.

If we walk round the back of these solemn statues we shall see that there is a quantity of deeply cut hieroglyphic writing on a great plaque at the back of each. The name of the king himself is always written enclosed in an oblong space called a cartouche; sometimes this cartouche is supported by two cobras, who are supposed to defend it. The rest of the writing tells of the deeds of the king and all the mighty feats that he performed.

Turning to the walls we find them covered with pictures, not coloured but done in outline by means of deep-cut clean lines. We see the king offering fruit to weird-looking beings with men's bodies and animals' heads—these were the Egyptian gods; there were numbers of them, far too many to remember, but here are a few: Anubis, the jackal-headed; Thoth, the stork-headed; Sekhet, a goddess with a lion's head (some say a cat's). Besides these there were others of great importance: Osiris, the god of the dead, and Isis, his wife—these were the father and mother of Horus, the hawk-headed god. But it was to the glory of Amen-ra, the king or chief of all the gods, who can be recognised in the pictures by two tall feathers like quills standing straight up on his head, that that particular temple was built.



On one of the walls we see a long row of men, all exactly similar, one behind the other—these are some of the numerous sons of Rameses making offerings. You soon notice that in spite of the vigorous and excellent outlines of these pictures there is something funny and stiff about them. That is because the Egyptians had an odd custom of drawing a person sideways, with his two feet in a straight line, one behind the other. No one stands like that in real life, and if you try it you will find how difficult it is not to fall over! Also, though the people they drew were invariably shown from the side, yet the artists used to make them look as if they were squared round in the upper part to show the chest and both shoulders, so that Egyptians in pictures always look oddly wedge-shaped, being very broad at the top and narrow below. The eye was also put into the profile face as if it were seen from the front! Look at any typical Egyptian picture and you will soon pick out these peculiarities. It seems rather a pity they kept so rigidly to these silly notions, as they really drew extremely well; but no artist was original enough to dare to break away from the established custom!



Inside the temple walls all these scenes have something to do with the gods and the offerings made to them by the king, but come outside and on one of the finest bits of wall still standing you will see a most spirited battle-scene. Look at the king in his chariot with the plunging horses! He is drawing his bow and pursuing his enemies, who are dead and dying under his wheels, and fleeing before him. To show how much more important he was than the enemies he had himself made very large and the enemies shown very small. That is not quite our idea of honour and glory nowadays; we should think it more glorious to overcome enemies larger and stronger than ourselves! This afternoon we are going to visit a still larger and more wonderful temple, a mile or two away, called Karnak, and there you will see pictures of the king of that time holding the hair of his enemies' heads in the powerful grasp of his left hand while he prepares to strike off all their heads at one sweep with his sword.

The original entrance of Luxor temple does not face the river on the side we came in; to find it we have to scramble over heaps of rubbish to one end and there we see a great obelisk, a companion to the one which is now in the principal square of Paris, the Place de la Concorde, and we see also two huge buildings reared up on each side of the ancient entrance—these were called pylons and were always built in Egyptian temples. On festival days they were decorated with flags on tall staves and made very gay.

Then we go out again into the main street amid all the life of the place, and see men cantering past on gaily caparisoned donkeys; we note dancing, capering, gleeful children, guides in gorgeous gowns, shopmen of some mixed nationality from the Mediterranean, who run out of their shops and entreat you to come in. "Only look round, no paying, not wanting you buy," they lie. "Look and be pleased; there is no charge just only to look."

We stop at last and buy two fly-whisks with short bamboo handles and long silvery horsehair tails; of course they do look very smart, but we do not buy them just for that, but because they are useful.

As we have found already, nothing less than physical force suffices to remove an Egyptian fly, who sticketh closer than his English brother. No shake or puff will induce him to stir an eyelid, and yet he is quick on the wing and you rarely get him, sleepy as he appears! He doesn't buzz, and there generally appears to be only one of him, but if, by the aid of a fly-whisk, you get rid of him, another takes his place immediately!



CHAPTER VII

THE CITY OF KINGS

I think this is the gayest scene I have ever looked upon in my life. See those mahogany-coloured boatmen in their brilliant scarlet and white striped jerseys and blue petticoats, grinning so as to show all their milk-white teeth. The boats are apple-green and scarlet, and they are reflected in the clear still water, and the dragoman, who marshals all the party into them, is a very splendid person indeed, in a long overcoat of turquoise blue cloth as soft and fine as a glove, with a striped gown of yellow Egyptian silk underneath.

We are off with a party of Cook's tourists to explore the Tombs of the Kings on the other side of the river It is a pretty stiff day's work, so we are up early, and it is only half-past eight now. As we near the other side of the river we see an excited group of donkey-boys who have brought their animals over earlier, and now stand expectant, looking like a fringe of blue beads.



"Lily best donkey—Lily name for Americans, Merry Widow for Engleesh——"

"Come, lady, with me, Sammy best donkey in Egypt, verry good, Sammy my donkey, best donkey——"

"Kitchener, lady, best donkey in Egypt, me speak verry good Engleesh, alla way gallop."

And so on in a continuous yell. The dragoman shouts out the numbers of the donkeys, and helps the ladies of the party to mount. Some ride on side-saddles, others, unused to any form of riding, prefer to get up astride, which they find difficult in the tight modern skirts. One German girl, after a frantic attempt, has to give it up, and sits wobbling on her saddle with her arms round the donkey-boy's neck, agonisingly appealing to him not to move! A very stout lady in black is lifted on to her mount by the united efforts of the dragoman and two donkey-boys, and, held in position by the boys, moves off, threatening a convulsive landslide to one side or the other at every step.

We are lucky in securing two fine greyish-white animals, almost as large as mules and very well fed and kept; yours is named "Sirdar" and has a single blue bead slung on a string round his neck as a charm, while mine, "Tommy Raffles," has a rattling chain of yellow and blue beads and much scarlet wool in his harness. You won't have much difficulty, I know, as you have been used to a pony since you could walk.

At first the soft powdery sand makes the going stiff, and we have much difficulty in restraining our boys, who run behind, from smacking or prodding the donkeys as they plough through. These boys are very proud and fond of their donkeys and treat them well, but it is the ambition of every donkey-boy to see his donkey head the cavalcade, and he is ready to die of envy and mortification if any other boy's donkey gets in front of him. We pass through clouds of dusty earth and then turn on to uneven narrow ways between tall green stalks of growing dhurra, stuff which looks like maize, except that it has a heavy head of grain which is ground up for making rough bread for the poorest people.

Along by a canal, over a bridge and a railway line we gallop, our animals going well. Their trot is impossible, as we soon find, but the easy loping canter delightful. We pass many black-clad women working in the fields, with crowds of bright-eyed friendly children who murmur "'Shish" in the vain hope that we may throw them some money. Then we see herds of black goats in among the cut stalks, and a tethered baby camel, who looks at us with innocent wondering eyes.

Far off rise up from the plain two mighty seated statues, the Colossi, set up by Amenhetep III. as part of a temple now vanished. Presently we all stop to see another temple, interesting enough, but not so interesting as those already visited at Luxor and Karnak.

The dragoman, whose work is not easy, brings up the rear of the cavalcade, having managed to keep even behind the fat lady, who has stuck to the slippery surface of her saddle with many a desperate plunge firmly resisted by her escort.



The dragoman describes the temple fluently and intelligently, first in English, then in French, and adds a little explanation in German for the benefit of two men of that race who have talked loudly in their own guttural tongue all the time he has endeavoured to make the rest of the party hear. The dragoman does not reel his words off as if he were repeating a lesson, as, alas, so many of the guides at our own cathedrals do. He is a clever man, well educated and capable. It has taken him years to learn all he knows, and it is only the clever boys who can become good dragomans. One of our donkey-boys, a bright little fellow who speaks far better English than most of his companions, tells us, "I am going to be a dragoman." He says it deliberately, with a pause between each word to get them correctly. "Thus I speak always with the English and the Americans. To the English I speak English, which is what I have learned, but when I am with Americans I can talk to them in their own tongue too."

Laughing, we mount and are off again.

We are now penetrating into the great hills of sandstone we saw afar off from the hotel. The road winds into a gorge, and at each turn displays more vivid beauty. We feel a strange joy rising within us, so that we would like to sing or shout at the tops of our voices. The brilliance of the air shows up every line in the great precipices of orange-yellow, streaked with red and purple, which rise against a sky of thrilling blue. There is not a blade of grass or a leaf to be seen in these vast solitudes, only the massive stones, broken and split and scattered, lie in the fierce sun or black shadow. We can imagine these defiles looking much the same when three or four thousand years ago the funeral procession of one of the mighty Pharaohs wound its way into the heart of the mountains, carrying the man who had never known opposition or denied himself his slightest wish. They were very magnificent these processions, composed of hundreds of people who carried all sorts of things—furniture, chariots, boats, animals, fruit and flowers—with tremendous ceremony.

It is a longish ride before we alight again, and leaving the donkeys under a slight straw shelter penetrate into the fastnesses of the hills.

How many of these rock-tombs were made here will probably never be known, but year by year more are uncovered. The first we step into is like a large well-lighted cave cut out of a cliff-side, from it opens another cave-like room, and from that another, each sloping downward and the whole series giving the impression of a series of puzzle-boxes fitting into one another and then drawn out. The walls are covered with pictures, paintings on plaster, not outline pictures like those we saw in the temples, but filled in with blue and green, orange and terra-cotta, laid on thickly, and as fresh as the day they were done. Ever descending we pass on until we reach the last chamber, where the great sarcophagus or coffin of the king was placed right up against the face of the rock. The sarcophagus might be a mighty block of granite, enclosing a wooden case, and that again another case, probably carved and gilt, and finally, as a kernel, there was the body of the king, preserved and dried by spices, lying awaiting the final resurrection. The Egyptians believed in a future world, but they could not imagine a future world without there being human bodies in it such as we have now, so they took infinite trouble in preserving the dead body that it might be ready for its time of call. Most of the sarcophagi from these tombs have been removed and taken to the museum at Cairo, but in one to which we penetrate, hewn out at a slope so steep that we have difficulty in keeping our feet as we slither down, the mummy has been replaced and is left uncovered.

Lit up by electric light we see King Amenhetep II., with his skin blackened to a parchment, drawn tightly over his chiselled aristocratic features. In the dome-shaped forehead, the Roman nose, and the tightly compressed lips there is an expression of infinite disdain, as if he, in his time the mightiest ruler in the world and the leader of civilisation, knew that now he was exposed to the gaze of a party of outer barbarians whose national histories were but of mushroom growth. This king struck terror into the hearts of his enemies; he raided the land of Syria, slew seven chiefs with his own hand and brought them back to Thebes, hanging head downward from the bows of his boat!

The very day after a king ascended the throne he used to begin hewing out the sepulchre where he should lie. The scenes drawn on the walls show what he expected to find in the other world. We see a pair of scales with the heart of the dead man in one balance and a feather in the other; a monkey sits on the top and adjusts the weight. The heart must weigh the feather exactly, for to be over-righteous was as bad as being wicked! The dead man also had to pass before forty-two judges, who each examined him searchingly as to whether he had committed one particular sin. As one of the party remarked in an awe-struck voice, "And if he did pass them all safely and another started up and asked him if he ever told a lie he'd be done, for no man could deny that he had committed any of the forty-two principal sins and remain truthful!"

To accompany the soul to the other world many things used to be buried in the tombs, clothes and food and utensils and weapons, and, thanks to this custom, numberless things have been saved to show us how the ancient Egyptians lived. These, however, have mostly been taken to Cairo for safe keeping. But here in Amenhetep's tomb one thing has been left. In a small side chamber, with the light falling full upon them, are three mummies, each with a hole in the skull and a gash on the breast, showing that they were the king's slaves, killed in order that their souls might accompany him and serve him beyond the tomb!

They lie there with their hair still on their heads, and even the false hair, they used to increase it, showing; on their faces is a ghastly grin. We wonder if they submitted quietly, proud of having been chosen, or if each fought fiercely for the life which belonged to him and was not any man's to take away.

It is very hot and close down in the rock-hewn chamber, and we are glad enough to stumble up and out again, though we are blinded by the sunshine as we emerge.

The next part of the day is the hardest of all, for we scramble up a mountain-side to gain a splendid view of gorges and valleys on one side and the flat plain spreading to the Nile on the other. The view is indescribable; from lemon-yellow to orange and saffron are the hills, with blue-grey shadows in their folds. Right opposite is one absolutely perpendicular, with immense rounded columns looking like giant organ pipes rising on its face. A fresh wind is blowing, and when we mount our donkeys, which have come round to meet us another way, and ride along a path a few feet wide, with no fence of any kind and a drop of some hundreds of feet on one side, we are devoutly thankful that the German girl and the stout lady went round the other and longer way by the valley!

Over the summit the donkeys are set free to get down the steep descent as best they may, and they are as sure-footed as goats, but we who follow find considerable difficulty as the loose stone and sand fall away in miniature avalanches from beneath our slipping feet and we get very hot. We are sheltered here from that fresh wind which is such a joy in Egypt, the sun is at its height, and we have done a good morning's work already after an early start. There, far below, looking like a doll's house, is the rest-house where we lunch, and beside it two of the men of the Mounted Police Camel Corps in khaki on their long-legged beasts.

Whew! That last bit was tough! I am glad to get a long drink and equally glad to go on after it to an excellent cold lunch which has been brought to meet us. Hard-boiled eggs, salad, cold meat and fruit! We try them all and then rest on the verandah looking at the towering orange cliffs which hem us in. They seem to hang right over that little temple near, to which we shall presently pay a visit. That is the temple of Der El Bahari and was built by Hatshepset, the greatest of Egyptian queens. Hatshepset was the daughter of one king and the wife of another, and after her husband's death she ruled for about sixteen years. She made expeditions to the Red Sea and acted in every way like a man. In the drawings of her on the temple wall she is represented as a man and is dressed in man's clothes. When her son-in-law, Thothmes III., who had married her daughter, succeeded her, he scratched out her name wherever he found it and chiselled out the pictures of her. He had evidently had a bad time while she lived, but he must have been a small-minded and spiteful man to take that petty revenge after her death!



On the way home across the dhurra fields I see you stop riding suddenly and stare intently down at something on the ground. I think at first it is a scorpion you have found on the patch of light-coloured sand, but it is only an immense black beetle, with a strong horny skin and a horn or trumpet-shaped excrescence on the front part of its head. He belongs to the scarabaeus, or dung-beetles, and big fellows they are; this one would just about cover the palm of your hand. The Egyptians called one of their gods Khepera, or the beetle, and believed him to be the creator of all things, so they used to make images of these beetles and put them in their temples; you saw a huge one, you remember, on a pedestal at Karnak, and any time you are in London you can see them at the British Museum. There were also tiny images of them made in stone and amethyst and porcelain, and almost anything else, and these were frequently buried in the tombs with the mummies. Sometimes they had the name of the person with whom they were buried inscribed on the back in hieroglyphic writing, or the name of a god. These scarabs, as they are called, are bought and worn in rings and ornaments by visitors. The natives quickly found out that there was a demand for them, and as they could not always find old genuine ones they set to work to make them! Hundreds of new ones are palmed off as old in this way on unsuspecting tourists.

"Scarab!"

A solemn girl-child clad in a rust-coloured garment has come up on seeing our donkeys halt and holds out a brilliant blue scarab for sale in a hot little hand. She nods violently, repeating, "Scarab! Verry old." "Found in tombs," says our donkey-boy gravely, willing to help her to take us in. He picks it up and pretends to examine it carefully, "Genuine anteekar," he pronounces. Laughing, we hand the "genuine antique" back to its owner, knowing that it is probably "genuine Birmingham," and then we canter after the rest of the party.



CHAPTER VIII

ON THE NILE

In my ears is the sound as of the tuning up of a thousand fiddles! I hear the agonising scrape of strings, the squeal of the bows! I have heard it all before at many a concert, but this time it is intensified a thousandfold and penetrates even into my dreams. I imagine I am in a concert hall and spring up wildly with the intention of getting outside until the music begins, but the movement wakes me, and behold I am not at a concert in London on a dim Sunday afternoon, but in a brilliantly white two-berth cabin with the sun flooding in through the square window! Peering out I see we are running smoothly along up-stream close in to a high mud bank, and that is where the noise comes from. It is caused by the squeaking of one wooden rod against another as hundreds of Egyptian fellaheen raise the water from the Nile to moisten their crops.

It is not long before we are both dressed and out to examine the curious sight. The banks are about the height of a high room, and at the distance of, it may be, fifty yards, all the way along them there are deep cuts like miniature denes, or chines, running down to the water. At the foot of each of these a brown-skinned man stands with his bare feet at the edge of the water, gripping with his toes to save himself from slipping in the mud. At this time in the morning he is clothed in a quantity of garments, mostly mud-colour, but as the sun grows strong he throws them aside and stands forth a fine bronze statue with his skin gleaming in the clear light. Just above his head there is a pole bridging the cut, or chine, and fastened to the middle of it at right angles is another, which swings up and down upon it like a see-saw.

A huge lump of mud like a swollen football is plastered on to the far end of this, and at the other end a basket or basin made of skin is attached to a string. The mud ball is heavy, and when it is allowed to go free it hangs down to the ground; but the brown man constantly reaches up and raises it by pulling down the basin, which he dips in the Nile water, then lets the heavy end swing it up as high as his head, when he tips it up, and the water from it flows into a pool at that height. Another man stands on the edge of this pool and he has a similar arrangement, by means of which he raises the water out of the pool with a basin like the first, and there may be another above him, and another again. This primitive arrangement is called a shaduf, and by its means the water from the Nile is lifted up to the surface of the fields, where it runs away in miniature channels to water the roots of the maize. This is one of the most extraordinary sights in the world. Think of all the mills in which machinery does delicate work like that of the human hand; think of the patterns made by the machines, of the newspapers printed and folded with very little human guidance, and then leap back to this clumsy device used now by the Egyptian as it was used by his ancestors thousands of years ago! A few pints of muddy water raised by a weight, half of it falling out of the badly constructed basin as it goes, and the same drop of water handled again and again by four men till the tiny trickle reaches the fields! We watch with amazement. The shrieking and squeaking of the shadufs goes on, the brown figures stoop down, rise again, and swing with regularity, minute after minute. We steam on round the next corner and see more of them and yet more again; how many have we not seen already in the short time we have been on deck? Multiply that times without number for all the miles we came up by train and double it to include both banks! Imagination gives way!



"I can't bear it," says the nice American who was in the train with us and has now joined us in the trip up to Assouan in one of Cook's steamers. "It's maddening! Why can't a whole village form a company and get some sort of machine to work? It would water all their crops in a tenth of the time."

As he speaks there comes into view something just a little better. At the top of one of the deep cuts on the bank two bullocks plod slowly round and round in a circle as if they were threshing corn; they work a wheel, which revolves horizontally and is fitted into another which turns vertically, deep down into the hole it reaches, low enough to touch the water at the bottom. Earthenware jars are strung all round it like beads on a necklet, and as each pot dips into the water it brings up its share, and when it reaches the highest point it tips it into a little channel, where it runs away. This is called a saddiyeh. The wheels groan and creak, the patient beasts turn in their dizzy circle, and the youngster seated on the wheel prods them with a sharp-pointed stick when they slacken. At least the water runs away in a continuous stream at the top, however tiny.

Then the steamer takes a sharp turn, leaves the bank, and careers across into midstream! We go up on to the top deck and see three dark-skinned men, warmly wrapped up in brown coats, sitting in a little glasshouse in the bows and watching earnestly the channel ahead.

This is the reis, or captain, with his two assistants. They know every turn and dip in the river; but the river changes ever, no two days is it alike as it falls and washes away a bank or deposits sand so as to make an island where none was before. So the three men watch intently and steer the boat to this side and that wherever they can find the deepest channel. The Nile is low for this time of year and caution is necessary; when there is any doubt as to there being enough water, one of the crew below handles a long pole, dipping it in to find the bottom and calling out the depth as he goes.

There are twenty passengers or so on the boat and they sit about the sunny decks watching the panorama of the banks and the wonderful changing scenes ahead, hour by hour. Hardly anywhere would you find a greater variety of nationalities than on one of these Nile boats, for Egypt draws people from all parts of the world with her mystery and beauty. The odd people one meets add to the interest, and the strange manners, which are not ours, are like flavouring in the dish of travel, which, if it were composed only of scenes of perpetual beauty, might be a little insipid.

To begin with, I am English and you are Scottish, we have our friend the American and four of his compatriots, not by any means so delightful as he is. He takes care to steer clear of them, we notice! One of them is a little man who might be any age from twenty to fifty; if we examine him with field-glasses we shouldn't be able to discover how old he is. His yellow skin, drawn tightly over a bony face, gives no sign of age or youth. He eats sweets all day out of a box as large as a child's coffin, and he is attended by three stout ladies, doubtless "his mother and his aunts." They are veiled and swathed in wraps, and seem to spend their time gossiping or asleep in the innermost recesses of the cabin. We never once catch them admiring the scenery or taking any interest in the wonders we pass. Then there is a Swiss, a gentle-mannered bronzed man with a brown beard; he speaks only French, and in an unobtrusive way seems to have seen a great deal of the world; we discover, for one thing, that he has lived out in the desert near Tunis for many years. There are three Russians, mother, father, and daughter, who speak practically nothing but Russian, with a few words of French; they are brave to have started out on such a journey so ill-equipped. Coming across a Russian dragoman in Cairo they trusted him joyfully; he bought three temple tickets for them at their expense and promised to meet them somewhere up the Nile. They seem to expect to find him sitting on every sandbank, and their faith is pathetic; they'll never see those tickets again, for the man will sell them to the next party of victims. Then there is a Belgian, also a couple of lively pleasant French people, and two Germans, a sister and brother, who dress in clothes intended to be very sporting.

It is an interesting crowd, and it is well kept in hand by the manager, who looks like a fair-haired, brown-faced boy of two-and-twenty, but has been everywhere and speaks half a dozen languages fluently. In addition to this he sketches in water colours, plays the fiddle, and breaks in horses! You have to travel to come across people like that! Here he is nothing so out of the way—every dragoman is able to talk in three languages at least. Doesn't it spur you on to feel how much we have to learn and how ignorant we are in our stay-at-home villages?

All the morning we sit about and watch the graceful white-sailed boats coming down with cargoes of every kind. Sometimes we see them stranded on a hidden sandbank with the crew making frantic efforts to get them off again. We see the reaches lying ahead glittering like jewels in the sun, and then we land and ride a short way to a temple, under the care of the dragoman of the boat. The most moving thing in all that temple is a set of scenes of a hippopotamus hunt shown with great spirit; the poor little hippo looks more like a pig when he is at the bottom of the water with a spear or harpoon sticking in him, but when they haul him up by means of a noose round one leg the ancient artist represents him becoming bigger and bigger as he comes to the surface!

The walls are, besides, covered with all the usual scenes of the king making offerings to the gods, and overriding his enemies, and doing all those noble things which kings wanted their posterity to know about them.

A high-pitched voice, speaking in a hyper-refined affected tone, breaks in on our enjoyment; it belongs to one of the English people from the boat, a lady who evidently considers it her mission in life to instruct people; information flows from her ten finger-tips, she cannot help it, she was born to be a schoolmistress certainly.

"That is the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt," she says, "that the king is wearing; sometimes you see him with one and sometimes with the other, here he has both together."

As this is about the first thing a dragoman tells anyone in the first temple he sees, and as it is repeated at least once at every temple afterwards, only an idiot could fail to know it. We murmur something politely and turn away. Round a corner we stop to admire the rich colour still left in the ceiling, where a heavenly blue, covered with golden stars, represents the sky.

"When we were here three years ago," says the lady at our elbows, "they had not uncovered those pillars, but we are told—that——"

The peace and beauty are spoilt! Again we murmur something and make a dive to get away, but are confronted by a clean-shaven man in glasses. "When we were here three years ago," he begins, "perhaps my wife has told you——"

It is rude, but there is nothing for it but to bolt; people like that would take the effervescence off newly opened champagne! We leave them confronting each other, and wonder what they do when they are alone together! Do they force their mixture of guidebook and water on each other?



When we look back upon Egypt these river days will stand out most clearly, for the glory of them and the interest of them are unfailing. We have to leave this boat at Assouan, but we shall come back and go right down the Nile to Cairo on our return journey, so that is something to look forward to.

At Assouan we are not going to stop but to change on to another steamer, one belonging to the Government this time, and we shall penetrate farther into the heart of the land to see something, which, after the Sphinx, is the most wonderful thing in Egypt.

But we can't step off one steamer on to another, for at Assouan is the first of the many cataracts that for ages has hindered the navigation of the Nile. The river, hemmed in between two rocky sides, tears down, dashing over stones and whirling round corners in a dangerous way. So the steamer for the upper part of the river waits above the cataract and we have to make a short train journey of half an hour or so to join it.

Picture the scene at an English railway station of any size, with its solidly-built platform and its gloomy roof and its row of uniformed porters drawn up waiting the arrival of the incoming train. I don't suppose anywhere you could find anything less like this than the station at Assouan where we await our train this afternoon. There are great palm trees springing out of the platform itself, not fenced in in any way. There are masses of scarlet poinsettias growing. And the porters! yes, they are porters, not criminals waiting to be hanged! There they stand, a ragged regiment indeed, dressed in any sort of garment that takes their fancy. Most of them look as if they had collected all the dish-clouts and dusters which had seen service and piled them on anyhow. To add to their adornment each man has a double coil of shabby-looking rope hung round his neck, this is to fasten together the luggage he hopes to carry. The men are of all sizes and all colours. That good-looking fellow at the end is not darker than a sun-browned Englishman, while that stout, round-faced, thick-lipped one next to him is as black as the polished boot seen in an advertisement. He is a Nubian, for here we are on the borders of Nubia, now counted part of Egypt. The porters are making a tremendous hullabaloo, chattering and quarrelling at the tops of their voices, so a native policeman in khaki comes along and smacks one of them hard on the side of his face, and then catches him a crack on the other side to make him keep his balance; the man does not resent it at all—he rubs his cheek and takes the hint. Fancy a policeman in our country smacking a porter on the face; what a row there would be!

Here is the train! The engine-driver and his mate are dressed in shabby European clothes crowned by turbans which have gaudy orange and red handkerchiefs twisted round them. They get down on the platform, and suddenly the fireman sees a rather unpleasant-looking man, with a beard, standing away from the others; he rushes at him, bows low before him, and finally kisses both his hands. The man is probably a sheikh of the Mohammedan church.

The train is a corridor one, and we mount the platform at the end of a carriage and find ourselves in a compartment thick with dust, where the seats vary from straight leather-covered benches to comfortable-looking basket-chairs. The place is crammed with "kit"; dispatch-boxes, helmet-cases, sword-cases and leather bags fill every corner.

"Allow me," says a pleasant-voiced sunburnt man as he stoops to remove some of his things to make room for us. "We've come right up from Cairo and things get a bit scattered," he adds apologetically.

When we get clear of the town we find that in addition to glass windows and wooden shutters there are also windows of blue glass to keep off the glare, a splendid idea, as they do not hinder the view. One of these is up, and peeping through it we get our first real glimpse of the desert, transformed as if it lay beneath bright moonlight. From the other side we can see it as it is in its yellow colouring. How fascinating! Its runs away in sweeping low waves to a line of hills and is crossed by caravan tracks; even as we watch we see a man riding a small donkey ahead of a string of camels laden with huge bales. The railway is still but a small thing in Egypt; it runs right ahead, with few side-lines, and from it the desert tracks lead off in many directions. The camel, who has been the bearer of Egyptian traffic for generations, still does a large share of the transport. A good camel is expensive, but a man who owns one is sure of a livelihood, for he works backwards and forwards across the great solitudes, eating his handful of dates or grain, and drinking the water he carries with him, if he is not lucky enough to camp near a well. Oddly enough camels are not represented on the wall-drawings of the ancient Egyptians, and though it is true they were probably not to be found in the country in the very earliest times, yet they were certainly introduced as early as the horse, who is often shown in battle-scenes.



What rivets our attention directly it comes into sight is an encampment of low mat huts like beehives right out in the midst of the sand.

"Those belong to the Bisharin," says the same fair-haired, keen-faced man who had first spoken; "tribe of fuzzy-wuzzies! They extend right away from here to the Red Sea. Live on raw grain mostly. Quaint lot!"

Some of the men from the camp are standing near the railway line, so we can see them well; they are very tall and extremely handsome, with well-cut features and well-proportioned figures. Their hair is cut exactly after the fashion of the palm trees, with a tuft standing up in the middle and two tufts dropping away from it on each side. These men are quiet enough now that they have learnt the British power, but not so long ago they were inflamed with fanatical hatred.

You have heard of the dervishes who were killed in thousands at Omdurman, outside Khartoum, in the great battle at which Lord Kitchener won his title when he freed the Soudan from the power of the Mahdi? Now, having seen the Bisharin, you can imagine what dervishes looked like. For they dressed their hair in the same way, they wore the same dirty-white garments, and as they came yelling onward at a run, brandishing their weapons, it must have taken some courage for the Egyptian soldiers to meet them steadily.

All the men in the carriage with us are going on up to Khartoum and beyond. They are soldiers, administrators, and Government officials, men whose lives are passed on the outposts of civilisation, and who carry the British ideals of cleanliness, honesty, and straight-dealing far into the desert; but they do not talk about it, as Kipling says they speak:—"After the use of the English in straight-flung words and few—"

"Go to your work and be strong, halting not in your ways, Baulking the end half won for an instant dole of praise. Stand to your work and be wise—certain of sword and pen, Who are neither children nor gods, but men in a world of men."

Khartoum is the capital of the Soudan, but we have not arrived in the Soudan yet. This great province was won from barbarism and brutality by the English, who had trained and commanded the Egyptian army for the purpose through years of heart-breaking work, and it is held jointly by England and Egypt.

Then we arrive at Shellal, the station where the steamer waits, and in a moment we are plunged into a turmoil of confusion and shouting.

The red sun is setting in a flame of glory over the great lake-like expanse studded with black rocks; this is the huge dam or reserve of water held up for the use of the crops when the Nile goes down. The scene beggars description; bags, bundles, bales, boxes are pitched out pell-mell. Gleaming black faces are lit up by the flames of leaping fires lit on the sand. Petticoated porters thrust metal numbers at us so that we may be able to recognise them again and reclaim our luggage safely. We make our way to the steamer and mount to the first-class deck and look down on the whirl of turbans and red fezes (also called tarbooshes) below. The perpetual chatter, the long low cries, the beating shout of men staggering under heavy loads make up a resounding din. Clamped boxes, camp-chairs, enamel basins, dispatch-boxes, helmet-cases are carried swinging up the gangway. Here is a man wildly waving a gun-case which a non-commissioned officer wrenches from him; another is struggling under a folded tent, the end of which catches on a post and nearly precipitates him into the water. Black Nubian sailors in white and blue jumpers are wrestling with an endless series of mail-bags; third-class passengers, lost under piles of bedding, straggle into a great barge alongside. In the midst of it all one sailor detaches himself a little from the rest and drops down on his knees on the quay, prostrating himself and bowing with his forehead to the ground; he rises again, stands straight, with head erect, then down he goes again. He is praying at sunset, as a good Mohammedan is told to do. No one notices him or ridicules him. What would happen to an English sailor who knelt to say his prayers on an English dock? We feel that we have something to learn from this people, who are at all events not ashamed of their religion.

A man is selling oranges on the quay, another has large round flat loaves of bread tucked well under his arms and hugged against his body. A black hand, extended from the lowest deck beneath us, grasps one of these loaves and begins to finger it with a view to purchase; we cannot see the owner of the hand, but we can see his fingers feeling cautiously all around that loaf; he nips it between finger and thumb, he prods it, kneads it, rubs it, and finally, when no inch of it has been untouched, he hands over reluctantly a small coin and withdraws with the bread.

"Hope that isn't for us," says the cheerful voice of a young officer leaning over the rail beside us in the dark. "Think I'll cut off my crust at dinner to-night on the off-chance, anyway!"



CHAPTER IX

A MILLION SUNRISES

It is very cold and quite dark when I wake. The steamer is anchored close up to the bank and not a sound comes from the still water. My blankets are very comfortable; it can't be time to turn out yet. It is an effort even to stretch out a hand and strike a light to see my watch—5.15! Yes, we ought to go!

You take some waking, and only my threat of, "You'll never get another chance in your life," brings you out of your bunk at last.

If you've ever done anything nastier than trying to dress against time, two together in a small cabin on a cold morning in the pitch dark, I'd like to know it. The electric light is off, because the engines are not running, and there are no candles. By the time we've got into some sort of clothing we're both at snarling-point. Twice I've violently tried to put on your boots, thinking they were mine, and I know you've got my shirt on, because I couldn't find it and had to drag out a clean one!

A walk along the cold dark deck and across a slippery plank to the mud bank does not improve matters. Apparently we have this exhilarating entertainment all to ourselves, for the rest of the fifteen passengers have not appeared.

The sand is like the softest silk, and it seems sometimes as if we must be walking backwards so little headway do we make. If it wasn't for this icy wind I should think I was still dreaming. All the time that red bar in the east glows steadily brighter, and warns us that if we want to see one of the grandest sights in the world—Abu Simbel by sunrise—we must hurry up.

When at last we get clear of the sand we find ourselves on a piece of ground cut up by cracks wide enough to put a foot in. There is just sufficient light to keep us from twisting our ankles if we walk along with our eyes glued to the ground, and so we get along somehow, till suddenly we stop—sunrise is here!

A considerable distance in front of us and above our level we see three mighty seated figures and the remains of a fourth in a flat recess chiselled out of the side of a great rounded cliff. That first touch of dawn has tinged them with rosy pink, and they sit with their faces to the sunrise, which they must have seen somewhere about one million times already. Night succeeding day, day succeeding night, light following darkness, darkness following light, thus has time flickered before them throughout their stupendous age. As we creep nearer and climb higher they seem to rise and rise in size. Silently we seat ourselves on a stone, forgetting the shivering wind, and we stare and gaze spellbound at the triumphant eager expression on those mighty features, which, as the dawn spreads, softens to a deep complacence. Then the pink changes to a splendour of living gold, which sweeps over like a curtain, and the full majesty of them strikes us almost like a blow.

Their expression has in it something akin to that of all mighty time-resisting images set up by man; it is found in the face of the Sphinx and on that of the Buddhas of the East. It is an expression of soul-crushing superiority, so without doubt of its own unassailable dignity that it can afford to be benign. We must make up a word and call it "supremity"—it is the only one that fits it.

Under the knee of each mighty figure is the plump outline of a little wife, small it looks from here, but draw nearer still, stand right under that colossus on the right and you will find that she is twice the height of a man.

As they tower above us, seeming to grow greater every instant as the light filters into the crevices, we get some idea of the monster size of these noble statues, and discover that each foot is nearly as long as a man! From the broken face of the sloping cliff they have been hewn, not built and pieced together and brought here from elsewhere, but born full size, springing to life from out the living rock. They all represent the king with whom we are already familiar, Rameses II., who caused this great temple to be made to celebrate his victory over the Kheta, a tribe of Syrians, living far away by the river Orontes in the north of the Holy Land.

Two on each side of the temple doorway the statues sit, and between them, in low relief, is the small figure of the god Harmakhis. Running above, across them all, is an inscription, part of which signifies—

"I give to thee all life and strength."

Look up at it beyond those towering immovable heads, and from it again to the rough cliff untouched by tool, and from that to the sky, now of the purest, softest blue, hanging like a canopy above.

The high black doorway of the temple lies like a gash on the face of the cliff, and on one day of the year the ray of light from the rising sun falls through it clean as a shot arrow. The black-robed guardian has been expecting us, he stands waiting, holding his staff of office, and admits us to the interior. It is very dark, and even with the light of the flickering candle he holds up it is difficult to make out those great columns, each seventeen feet high, carved with an image of the god Osiris. As for the deep-cut pictures everywhere on the walls we can only get the merest glimpses of them. We pass on through several halls, noting how the angles and lines are absolutely plumb and true, and come to the innermost sanctuary, where we find the king again as one of four seated statues, not very large, the other three being gods! That was the idea Rameses had of his own importance!

Then it grows on us with increasing wonder that all this temple—the walls, the columns, the statues—are cut out of the actual rock, and that all the stone dislodged in the cutting must have been carried out through that doorway. How was it achieved? The depth of the temple to its farthest wall is one hundred and eighty-five feet, or almost three times a cricket-pitch! Imagine this depth driven in to the rock and cleared out to a great height without any machine power or modern tools! And this was accomplished in the reign of one king. Rameses reigned some sixty years, and his great victory over the Kheta was five years after his coronation, so perhaps sixty years is the longest we can give for the construction of the temple, and it was probably much less. The story goes that in this great battle the king, cut off from his men and alone in the midst of a hostile army, performed prodigies of valour; he slew and hewed right and left until he sent the greater part of the Syrian army flying before him; all this is recorded on the walls. Of course in the case of kings these doings are apt to be magnified, still, there is no doubt that this was one of the most memorable occasions of his life, and he has certainly caused it to be remembered by building this enduring monument.

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