Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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some Jia(/}' melctub (stones with inscriptions) for which we
inquii'e everywhere, viz., some rocks in the neighbourhood, on
which, in somewhat modern times, a number of horses, camels,
and other creatures have been roughly scratched, similar to
what we had already often seen in I^ubia. About half-past
nine we halted for the night, after having quitted the high


cliaiu of mountains an hour and a half previously. On the
morning of the sixth day, vre crossed the -wide plain Mir^-
DEBA, to which another lofty chain, Abu Sihha, is attached,
at the farther side ; the southern frontier of this plain,
where it inclines towards that chain, is called Abdebab ; the
southern portion of the large chain of Eoft lying behind us
is called Abu Se>'ejat.

About three o'clock we left the plain behind us, and again
entered the mountain range, which, like the others, is com-
posed of granite. Half an hour afterwards, we halted for
our mid-day's repose. In a couple of hours we rode on
larther, and encamped towards midnight, after we had tra-
versed another small plain, and from the 'stony range Adar
AriB which succeeds it, entered a new plain, comprehended
under the same appellation, which extends as for as the last
chain of mountains belonging to this desert of Gebel


On the following day, the seventh of our journey, wo
started about half-past seven in the mornuig, and at length,
beyond Gebel Graibat, we reached the great boundless plain
of Adeheuat, which we did not quit again till we arrived at
Abu Hammei). To the south-west we now kept in view
llie small hill El Faeut and the larger range of Mogead ; to
the east, far distant, another mountain chain, Abu Nugaea.
joins that of Adar Aiub. Then to the south-east there were
other Bischari chains of mountains, whose names were un-
Ivnown to our Ababde guides. The commencement of the
c^reat plain of Adererat was covered for whole hours together
with beautiful, pvu-e quartz, sometimes rising up out of the
f^and in the form of solid rock, although the predominant
kind of rock continued to be black granite, which towards
the south was traversed by a broad vein of red granite.
Early in the day a small caravan of merchants passed us at
some little distance.

At a very early hour in the day we saw the most
beautiful mirages, both near us and at a distance, exhibiting
a very deceptive resemblance to lakes and rivers, in which


the mountains, blocks of stone, and everything around is
reflected, as if in clear water. They form a strange con-
trast with the hard arid desert, and, as it is related, must
have often bitterly deceived many a poor wanderer. When
we are not aware that no water can be there, it is often
totally impossible to distinguish the semblance from the
reality. Only a few days ago, in the neighbourhood of
El Mecheeef, I felt perfectly certain that I saw either
Nile water which had overflowed, or a branch of the river,
and I rode up, but only found Bahr Scheita??, " The water
of Satan," as it is called by the Arabs.

Even though the sand may have obliterated all traces of
the caravan road, it cannot easily be missed daring the day, as
it is sufliciently marked by innumerable skeletons of camels,
several of which are always in view ; yesterday I counted
forty-one, which we passed during the last half hour before
sunset. We did not lose one of our own camels, although
they had not rested long in Korusko, and had had scarcely
anything to eat or drink on the road. My own camel, into
whose mouth I had sometimes put a piece of biscuit, used to
look round in the middle of the march when it heard me
biting, or twist round its long neck, till it laid its head, with
its soft large eyes on ray lap, to get something more.

About four o'clock in the afternoon we stopped for about
two hours, and then went on again till about eleven o'clock,
when we went in search of a place for our night's encampment
in the great plain. The wind however blew so violently that
it was impossible to secure our tent. In spite of the ten iron
pegs which fasten it all the way round, it was three times
overthrown, before it was completely pitched ; we allowed it
therefore to remain as it was, and laid ourselves down behind
a little wall, which the guide had made out of the saddles
of the camels, to protect us from the wind, and we slept a la
helle etoile.

On the eighth day we might have arrived at Abu Hammed
late that evening, but determined to halt for the night, one
hour sooner, that we might reach the Nile by daylight. The


birds of prey increased iu number as we approached the
river; we frightened away about thirty vultures from the
fresh carcase of a camel, and only the day before I had
shot a white eagle in the desert, as well as some desert par-
tridges, that were in search of stray grains of Durra* on
the caravan road. We only saw the footsteps of beasts of
prey, round the skeletons of the camels ; they did not disturb
us in tlie night, as they did in the camp at Korusko, where
we killed a hyaena, besides several jackals. Towards mid-
day we met a caravan of slaves. The last encampment for
the night before we reached Abu Hammed was iu a less windy
position, yet our supply of charcoal was exhausted, and our
people had forgotten to collect camels' dung on the road for
fuel ; therefore, to appease our thirst, we were obliged to be
contented to drink the last brown water of the skins unboiled.
We could give no more to the asses.

On the 16th January we mounted our camels about lialf-past
seven in the morning, and looked forth from our high thrones
towards the Xile. It was, however, only visible a very short
time before we reached it. The river does not cut through any
broad valley at this spot, but flows in a bare, rocky channel,
passing almost unperceived through the slightly elevated and
wide rocky plain. On the farther side of the river the ground
had more the character of a plain, and some Doum Palms
grew upon an island that had formed there. Shortly before we
reached tlie bank, we met a troop of 150 camels, which had just
started from Abu Hammed. A great circular embankment
of earth then became visible with some towers upon it like a
fortress, which had been erected by the great Arab Sheikh
Hassan Chalif, for the government stores. A small hollow con-
tains five huts, one made of stones and earth, another of trunks
of trees, two of mats, one of bus, or durra-straw ; a more open
space then spread before us surrounded by several wretched
houses, one of which was prepared for our reception. A
brother of Hassan Chalif who lives here came out to meet
us ; he led us into the house, and proflered his services.
* Bhorra. Bolcus sorghum. Kenrick, Anc. Eg. — Tr.


Some anqarebs (reed bedsteads), which on account of the
creeping vermin are much in use here, were brought within
doors, and we settled ourselves for the day, and the following
night, for we were obliged to allow the camels at least so much
time for repose.

We were surrounded by a great square space, thirty feet
wide on every side, the walls were made of stone and earth, two
thick trunks of trees, branching like a fork, supported a large
architrave, above which the other joists were placed, which
were covered and joined together by mats and wickerwork.
It strongly reminded me of some very ancient architecture
which we had seen represented in the rock-grottoes of Beni-
hassan; the columns, the network of the ceiling, through
which as in that instance the only light except what was ad-
mitted by the door entered by a square opening in the centre,
there was no window. The door was composed of four short
trunks of trees, of which the uppermost one was exactly like
the ornamented door-posts in the tombs of the time of the
Pyramids. We hung a canvas curtain before the door to
protect us from the -wind and dust ; another door led at the
opposite corner into a side-room, which was arranged for
the kitchen. It was a windy day, and the wind was dis-
agreeably charged with sand, so that we went very little out
of doors. But we refreshed ourselves with some pure and
fresh Nile water, and a meal of well-dressed mutton. The
G-reat Desert lay behind us ; and we were only four days'
joui'uey from El Mecheref, the capital of Berber, during
which time we should follow the course of the river. "We
learned that Achmed Pascha Menekle was in our neighbour-
]iood, or that he would soon arrive, in order to lead a military
expedition from Darner, a short day's journey beyond El
Mecheref, up the Atbara to the province of Taka, where
some of the tribes of the Bischaris had revolted.

"When we stepped out of doors the following morning, our
Arabs had all anointed themselves most beautifully, and had
put on clean clothes ; but what most astonished us, was the
appearance of their magnificent white powdered wigs, which


gave quite a venerable appearance to their faces. To make
their toilet complete, they are in the habit of combing up
their great heads of hair into a high toupie, which is
spriukled over with fine, flaky, shining, white butter, like
powder, expressly prepared for this purpose. But in a
short time, when the sun rises higher, this greasy snow
melts, and the hair seems then as if it was covered with
innumerable pearls of dew, till even these gradually dis-
appear, and dripping over the neck and shoulders, spread a
gloss over the pliant darlc brown skin, which gives their
well-built figures the appearance of antique bronze statues.

We started the next morning, about eight o'clock, with a.
fresh camel, which we had had an opportunity of obtaining
in exchange for a tired one. The nearer we approach the
island of Meroe, the valley becomes so much the wider, and
more fertile, and the desert even becomes more like a steppe.
The first station was Geg, where we passed the night in an
open space of ground ; the air is very warm ; about half-past
five in the afternoon it was still 25^ E. (87° Fahr.). The
second night we halted beyond Abu IlAscnix, close to a
village, which in fact is not really a station, as we were
anxious to get through the five ordinary stations in tlio
space of four days ; the third night we halted in the open
air, near a cataract of the JS'ile. On the fourth day from
Abu Hammed we removed somewhat farther from the river
into the desert, yet we always remained on the soil of the
ancient valley, if I may so designate a yellowish earth which
is now no longer overflowed by the river, but which was
turned up by the inhabitants of the village directly from
beneath the sand ; that they might improve their fields with
it. AVe stopped in the evening at the village of El Choe,
one hour distant from El Mecheref, and the fifth day we
arrived at an early hour at the capital of the province of

I sent the dragoman forward to announce our arrival, and
to ask for a house, which was given up to us, and we took
possession of it immediately. The Mudhir of Berber was in



Darner, but his Wakil, or representative, visited us, and
soon after Hassan Clialif, the principal Arab Sheikh, who
promised us better camels to take us to Damer ; he was re-
joiced to hear some tidings of his and our friends, Linant
and Bonomi, and was much pleased in looking over our
picture books, among which he found likenesses of some of
his own relations and ancestors. We had scarcely arrived,
before we received news that Hassan Pascha had arrived at
the same time as ourselves, from a different quarter. He
had travelled from Korusko to his province of Dongola, and
now came from Edabbe, on the southern frontier of Dongola,
right across the desert to El Mecheref, whither Em in, the
new Pascha of Chartum, had gone to meet him. This meet-
ing caused us some inconvenience with respect to the
arrangements of our journey ; nevertheless, we so far ad-
vanced our object, that on the following morning, the 22nd
of January, soon after Hassan Pascha had again set out on
his journey, we were also enabled to depart for the south,
leaving two camels behind, which we did not require any
longer as water-carriers, and exchanging three others for
better ones.

"We rode away about mid-day, and stopped in the evening
at the last village before reaching the river Mogran, the
ancient Astaboeas, which we had to cross before getting to
Damee. It is called on the maps Atbaea, which is evi-
dently derived from Astaboras; yet this name does not
appear now to be used for the lower, but for the upper river,
beginning from the place of the same name. On the follow-
ing morning we crossed the river close to its mouth. Even
at this point it was now very narrow in its great bed, which
in the rainy season is entirely filled, and two months hence
it is only prevented from being wholly dried up by a little
stagnant water. On the farther side of the river we entered
the (Strabonic) island of Meeoe, by which appellation the
land between the Nile and the Astaboras was designated.
Two hours more and we arrived at Damer.

The houses were too wretched to receive us. I despatched

e' da:mee. 147

Jussuf to Emin Pasclia, in whose province we row are, and
who has encamped in tents with Hassan Pascha on the bank
of the river. He sent a Kawass to meet us, and invited us
to dismount and to dine with them. I however preferred to
haye our tent pitched at some little distance, and first of all
to change our travelling costume. The Mudhir of Berber
immediately visited us to ask what we might require, and
soon after Emin Pascha sent a sumptuous dinner for us to
our tent : four well cooked dishes, and, besides, a whole
sheep stuifed with rice and roasted on the spit, with a flat
cake of puff paste stuffed with meat.

About three o'clock in the afternoon, about tlie time of
Asser, we announced that we were going to pay our visit ;
just as we were making our arrangements to set out we
heard some sailors' songs, and saw two boats with red flags,
and the crescent, floating down the river ; it was Achmed
Pascha Menekle, who was returning from Chartum. The
Paschas and the Mudhir immediately repaired to his boat,
and it was late before they separated ; our friend, Dr. Koch,
unfortunately, was not expected to arrive from Chartiini for
two days later. I had received a letter from Erbkam very
soon after our arrival, in which he announced to me, through
a passing Kawass, that he had left Korusko on the 15th
January with Ibrahim Aga ; he wrote from their first night's
encampment. The Kawass had ridden with incredible speed
in fourteen days from Cairo to Berber, and he brought
Achmed Pascha the permission which had been earnestly re-
quested, to raise the government charge for the camels be-
tween Korusko and Berber from sixty to ninety piastres
above what it was before.

26fh January. — The day before yesterday we paid an
early visit to Achmed Pascha, which he returned yesterday.
He will do aU in his power to accelerate our journey on-
wards. He communicated to us that, as he had before pro-
mised, he had sent an officer from Abu Haras to Mandera,
three days into the desert, and had heard it reported by him
that some great ruins were still extant on that spot. A letter


148 JO■UE^'EY 0^'^VAEDS.

from Cbartum, wliich we received yesterday from Dr. KocL,
mentioned the same thing, and it was verbally confirmed by
himself this morning. After dinner he is going to introduce
US to Musa Bey, who has been on the spot. At the same
time he informed us that he had received some letters
addressed to us, and that they were left in Chartum ; also
that the draughtsman who had been engaged from Bome had
arrived in Cairo.

A boat is ready in El Mecheref for our travelling com-
panions. I myself, however, intend to ride on before with
Abekeu. Achmed Pascha has sent me word that in an hour's
time a courier departs for Cairo, who will take this letter
with him.

Postscript. — The glowing accounts about Mandera, upon
closer inquiry, seem to want confirmation . It will hardly be
worth our while to go there.


On the Blue Eiver, Province of Senndr, Lat. 13,
2nd March, 1844.

To-DAT we reach the most southern limit of our African
journey. To-morrow we again turn towards the north and
homewards. We shall go as far as the neighbourhood of
Seeo — a place on the boundary between the provinces of
Sennar and Fasokl, for our time will not allow us to do
more. Prom Chartum I have ascended the river as far as
tliis spot, with Abeken alone. "We relinquished the desert
journey to Mandera, the rather as the eastern territories are
at present insecure from the war in Taka ; and we now
employ the time, in travelling several days farther across
Sennar, to gain some information about the character of the
river and the adjacent country. This journey is worth the
trouble, for, from Abu Haras, situated at the influx of the
Eahad, between Chartum and Sennar, the character of the

JOUEyEY TO chaetum:. 149

whole country is completely altered in its soil, vegetation,
and animals. I then thought I should like to obtain a view
of the Xile valley itself, as far up the river as possible, as
the character of this narrow strip of countrj^ has had a
greater influence on the course of history than any other
epot in the whole world.

It is impossible, witliout incurring danger, or making pe-
culiar preparations, to travel up the White Eiver beyond a
few days' journey, as far as the boundaries of Mohamed All's
conquests. After this, there are the ScniLLi'KS on the
western bank, the Dinkas on the eastern, both native
negro nations, who are not ver}' friendly to Xorthern guests.
Tiie Blue Eiver is navigable still farther up, and in historical
times, as well as at the present day, was of much greater
importance than the White Eiver, as it was the means of
communication between the Xorth, and Abyssinia. I sliould
have liked to have penetrated as far as the province of
Pasokl, tlie last under Egyptian rule ; but it cannot be com-
bined with the calculation of our time. This evening, there-
fore, we shall terminate our southern journey.

But I must go back in my reports to Damer, where, on the
27th January, I embarked with Abcken npon a boat belong-
ing to ^lusa Bey, the first adjutant of Achmed Pascha, who
politely placed it at our disposal. About eight o'clock in
the evening we halted for the night at the island of Dal
Haul AV^e had received a Kawass from Emin Pascha, who
came here with Ismael Pascha at the time of the conquest of
the countrv, went with Defterdar Bey to Kordofan (or, as
ho expresses it, Kordifal), then accompanied him on his
avenging march to JSchendi, in consequence of the murder
of Ismael, and since that time has, for three-and-twenty
years, roamed over the whole of the Sudan in all directions.
He carries in his head the most complete map of these
countries, and has a marvellous memory for names, direc-
tions, and distances ; so tliat I have drawn two maps accord-
ing to his statements, particular parts of which may not be
without geographical interest. He has also been in Mecca,


and therefore likes to be called Haggi Ibrahim (The Pilgrim
Ibrahim). He has great experience in other matters also,
and will be extremely useful to us from his long and exten-
sive knowledge of the country.

On the 28th January we halted about mid-day at an island
called GrOiiEA, as we heard that there were some ruins in
the vicinity which we were anxious to see, "We were obliged
to go through a shallow arm of the Nile, and to ride back an
hour northwards on the eastern bank. At length, after
passing the villages of Motmar and El Akarid, between a
third village, Sagadi, and a fourth, GEy:s-A, we found the in-
significant ruins of an ancient place, constructed of bricks
and strewed over with potsherds.

We returned in the mid-day heat, not in the very best
humour, and did not reach Begeeatjieh in our boat before
sunset, near which the Pyramids of Meroe arc situated. It
is singular that Cailliaud does not mention tliis spot ; he only
speaks of the Pyramids of Asstje, i. e. Sue, or e' Sue.
This is the name of the whole plain in which the ruins of
the town and Pyramids are situated, and also a single portion
of Beg'erauieh, which last, by wrong spelling, is called, in Hos-
kins, Begeomi.

Although it was already dark, I nevertheless rode to the
Pyramids with Abeken. They are situated a short hour
inland, on the first elevation of the low hills which run along
in an easterly direction. The moon, which was in its first
quarter, feebly illuminated the plain, covered with stones,
low bushes, and clumps of reeds. After a rapid ride, we at
length reached the foot of a row of Pyramids, closely
crowded together, which rose before us in a crescent, as the
form of the narrow elevation rendered necessary. To the
right, a little behind, another group of Pyramids joined these ;
a thh'd lies more to the south, and rather more forward in
the plain, but too distant to be seen by half moonlight. I
fastened the bridle of my donkey-steed to a block of stone,
and clambered up the first mound of ruins.

Although the individual Pyramids are not accurately


placed according to the quarters of the heavens, as they are
in Egypt, nevertheless all the ante-chambers here attached to
the Pyramids themselves are turned away from the river,
towards the east, doubtless on the same religious grounds
which induced the Egyptians to place the unattached temples
standing in front of their Pyramids also towards the east ;
therefore, in Gizeh and Sagara, towards the river, while their
sepulchral chambers are towards the west.

Half looking, half feeling, I found some sculptures on the
outer walls of the small sepulchral temple, and I also felt
figures and writing on the inner walls. It occurred to me
that I had the end of a candle in my saddle-pocket ; I lighted
this, and then examined several ante-chambers. There I
immediately encountered the Egyptian gods, Osiris, Isis,
Nephthys, Atmu, &c., with their names in the known hiero-
glyphic character. I also found the name of a king in the
first chamber. One of the two Rings contained the emblems
of a great Pharaoh of the Old Monarchy, Sesurtesen I., the
same which had been adopted by two later Egyptian mo-
narchs, and I here found them, for the fourth time, as the
Throne-Name of an Ethiopian king. The sculptures on the
remainino^ sides were not completed. I found some Royal
Shields this evening also in another ante-chamber, but not
very legible. The inscriptions and representations had alto-
gether been much damaged. The Pyramids have also all of
them lost their summits, as in Egypt, and many have been
destroyed down to the ground.

Our new Kawass, who did not like to leave us alone in the
night time, had immediately followed us. He had a perfect
knowledge of the locality, as he had been here a long time
with Ferlixi, and had assisted him in his researches among
the Pyramids. He showed us the spot in which Eerlini, in
1834, had found immured the rich treasure of gold and silver

I also discovered, the same evening, a cased Pyramid, ac-
cording to the principle of the Egyptian Pyramids, which
were afterwards enlarged by superimposed layers of stone.


According to the inscriptions and representations of the
ante- chambers, these Pyramids were most of them built
solely for kings, some of them, perhaps, for their wives and
children. Therefore,' their great number indicates a tolerably
long succession of kings, and a well-established Monarchy,
which probably must have remained in a state of tranquillity
for a series of centuries.

The event of m.ost importance in this moon and torchlight
survey, was not, however, exactly the most cheering. I was
unavoidably convinced that on this most renowned spot of
ancient Ethiopia, I had nothing before me but the remains,
proportionately speaking, of a very late period of art. Even
earlier than this, the drawings of Eerlini's monuments, which
I saw for the first time in Eome, and the monuments them-
selves, which I had just seen in London, impressed me with
the opinion that they had been, indeed, sculptured in
Ethiopia, but certainly not previous to the first century
before the birth of Christ, tlierefore about the same period
to which certain genuine Greek and Eoman works belong,
which were discovered simultaneously with the Ethiopian
treasure. I must now make the same remark upon the