Richard Lepsius.

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

. (page 14 of 54)
Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 14 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

monuments in general, which are found not only here but
throughout the wliole island of Meroe, as well as of all the
Pyramids at Beg'erauich, and of the temples of Ben jN'aga, of
Naga, and in the AVadi e' Sofra (the Mesaurat of Cailliaud),
which we have since then seen. The representations and
inscriptions do not leave the smallest doubt of this, and it
will in future be a fruitless task to endeavour to support the
favourite supposition of an ancient, brilliant, and renowned
Meroe, whose inhabitants were at one time the predecessors
and the instructors of the Egyptians in civilisation, by the
demonstration of monumental remains from that old period.

This conviction is besides of no small scientific value, and
seems even now to throw some light on the historical con-
nection between Egypt and Ethiopia, the importance of which
can be only thoroughly demonstrated by the monuments of
Barkal. There, I have no doubt, will be found the oldest


Ethiopian monuments, although, perhaps, not earlier than
the period of Tahraka, who reigned simultaneously over
Egypt and Ethiopia in the seventh century before Christ.

The next morning at sunrise "we rode back to the Pyramids,
and discovered fifteen different kings' names, some of them,
however, in very bad preservation.

AVe had just completed our survey of the two groups of
Pyramids lying to the north-east, and were riding on to the
third, wliich is situated in the plain, not far from the ruins
of the town, and is, perhaps, the oldest Necropolis, when we
heard shots from the bank, and saw white sails fluttering over
the river. Soon afterwards Erbkam, the two "Weidenbachs,
and Franke, came walking across the plain, and hailed us
from a great distance. AYe had not expected them to arrive
so soon, and, therefore, rejoiced still more to sec tliem again.
We could now pursue our journey to Chartum together.

We sailed away about two in the afternoon, and the next
morning about ten o'clock reached Schendi. AVe pro-
ceeded in the afternoon, spent the night on the island of
HoBi, and the following morning arrived at Be"N" Naga.
Here, we first visited the ruins of two small temples ; the
one lying towards the west, had Typhonic pillars, instead of
columns, but no inscription was to be found on the few
remains; in the other temple to the east, some sculptures
were preserved on the low remains of the walls of the temple ;
and also some writing on several circular fragments of
columns, but too little to take away any connected ideas
from them. Had w^e made some excavations, we might pro-
bably have discovered some kings' names, but it was impos-
sible to make such an experiment till our return.

We procured some camels for the following day, and about
nine o'clock in the morning I started with Abeken, Erbkam,
and Max AVeidenbach, for Xaga. Such is the name given
to the ruins of a town and several temples, which are situated
in the eastern desert, between seven and eight hours distant
from the Nile. Prom our landing-place in the vicinity of the
only group of palm-trees in the surrounding country, it was


only one half hour to the village of Ben j^'aga, which is in
"Wadi Teeesib. One hour eastward down the river (for it
here flows in a direction from west to east) are the above-
mentioned ruins, in Wadi el Kiebegax, near to which we
had disembarked the previous day; we left them now on
our left hand, and rode in a south-easterly direction into the
desert, having here and there some parched bushes ; we trar
versed the valley of El Kirbegan, which, as far as this point,
runs outwards from the river, in which we found an encamp-
ment of the Ababde Arabs.

Four hours and a half from Ben JN'aga we came to a single
hill in the desert called Bueeib. It was on the water-shed
between the smaller south-western Wadis (so even the flat-
test depressions of the ground are called, in which the water
runs ofl", and which we should scarcely call valleys) and the
great, broad AYadi Atjateb, which we were now descending,
after having left Buerib at a short distance on our left. In
three hours and three-quarters from Buerib we arrived at the
ruins of Naga.

It was not till we approached tlie temple that I solved the
enigma, which I had hitherto sought in vain to interpret, and
on which neither Cailliaud nor Hoskins could offer any ex-
planation ; namely, how had it been possible to found and
to maintain a large city in the midst of the desert, so far re-
moved from the river. The whole valley of Auateb is even
now cultivated land. We found it far and wide covered with
the stubble of Durra. The inhabitants of Schendi, Ben
Naga, Fadnie, Selama, Metamme, consequently of both banks
of the ^ile, come as far as this to cultivate the land and to
gather in the Durra. The water of the tropical rains suffices
to fertilise this flat but extensive tract of low ground, and
in ancient times, when more care was bestowed upon it, a
still greater profit must liave been derived from this region.
During the dry season of the year they must undoubtedly
have had large artificial reservoirs, such as we found even
now, though without water, near the more remote ruins to
the north-west of iN'aga.


The ruins stand on a projection of a mountain range
several hours long, which from them has taken the name of
Gebel e' Xaga, and stretches out from the south, north-
wards, AVadi Auateb passes along its western side towards
the river. We arrived ahout half-past five o'clock, after an
uninterrupted ride. On the road we saw the path covered
with the marks of gazelles, wild asses, foxes, jackals, ostriches.
Lions are also met with here, but we did not see any of their

I visited the three principal temples before nightfall, all of
which belong to a xery late period, and do not suggest the
ideas of very ancient art, as Cailliaud and Hoskins thought
they could recognise. There is, besides, a fourtli temple by
the side of the tliree principal temples, of EgA-ptian architec-
ture, whose well-joined arches, not unpleasantly combined
with Egyptian ornaments, not only pre-supposes them to have
been erected when the Boman dominion extended over the
world, but even that Eoman architects were on the spot.
This last temple has no inscriptions. "With respect to the
three others, the two lying to the south were built by one
and the same king ; in the representations in both temples
he is accompanied by the same queen. But a third royal per-
sonage appears behind them having a different name in the
two temples. The Tlu'one-Shield of Sesurtesen I. is again at-
tached to the name of the king, although he does not appear
to be the same as the King of the Pyramids of Sur. Besides,
both those other personages have assumed old Egyptian
Throne-Shields, which might easily mislead us.

The third most northern temple has sustained much injury,
and very little wTitiug remains upon it, yet a king is men-
tioned on the door-posts who differs from the builder of both
the other temples.

The figures of the gods are almost wholly Egyptian, but on
the southern temple there is a figure unknown in Egypt,
with three lions' heads (a fourth may perhaps be supposed
behind) and four arms. This may be the barbaric god spe-


ciallj mentioned by Strabo, whom the Meroites worshipped
besides Hercules, Pan, and Isis.

The next morning, the 2nd of February, we again visited
the three temples, took some impressions on paper, and then
started for the third group of monuments, named by Cailliaud
Mesatjeat. This, however, is a term which is here employed
to designate all the three groups of ruins, and which only
means pictures, or walls furnished with pictures. The ruins
of Ben ]S'aga are called Mesatjeat el Kiebeqax, because
they are situated in "Wad i el Kiebegais"; it appears that
the second group only has retained its old name of Naga,
or Mesaueat e' Kaga ; the third group situated towards
Schendi is called jMesaueat e' Sofea from the mountain
basin in which it lies, which is called e' Sofea, the table.

TVe first pursued, for tlie space of two hours, in a north-
erly direction the mountain chain of Gebel e' Naga, in the
valley of Auateb. Then, about half-past twelve, we as-
cended through the first defile which opens to the right, into
a valley situated somewhat higher, e' Seleha ; it becomes
broader behind the first low fore-range, and is luxuriantly
overgrown with grass and shrubs ; after extending for an
hour and a quarter in the direction of S.S.A\^. to jS'.N.E., it
opens on the left hand into the valley of Auateb, and
straight on into another smaller valley, from which it is
separated by Gebel Lagar. It is this small valley, which
from its circular form is called e' Sofea ; here are the ruins
which were also seen by Hoskins, who did not, however,
advance as far as jS'aga. We arrived about a quarter past
two, and had not, therefore, been quite four hours coming from
Naga to this spot. As we only wished to take a passing
hasty survey, we walked through the -R-idely-scattered ruins
of the principal building, which Cailliaud held to be a great
school, and Hoskins an hospital; and we saw in the few
sculptures, which are unaccompanied by inscriptions, that
here also we had before us monuments of a late period, pro-
bably still more recent than those in Sur and Xaga. "We

ASSES. LlOyS. 157

then went to a small temple in the neiglibourhood, with
pillars on which are represented riders upon elephants, lions,
and other strange barbarous scenes. TTe looked at the
huge artificial cisterns, now called Wot Mahemur, which in
the dry season must have compensated the inhabitants for
the want of the river ; and about four o'clock we returned to
Ben Naga.

As we emerged from the hills, we met great troops of wild
asses, which always kept at a little distance from us, as if they
would invite us to hunt them. They are of a grey or greyish-
red colour, with white bellies ; they all have a black stripe
drawn distinctly across the back, and the tip of the tail is also
generally black. Many of them are caught when young, but
they cannot then even be used for riding or carrying burdens.
It is only the next generation which can be employed in tliat
manner. Almost all the tame asses in the south, which come
from the Ass Cataract (Schellal homar) in Berber, are got
from this wild breed, and have the same colour and similar

"VVe encamped soon after sunset in a plain, overgrown with
bushes. The camel-drivers and our Kawass were in great
terror of lions in this desert till a large fire was kindled,
which they kept most carefully alive throughout the night.
If a lion only lets his voice be heard near a caravan, which
really does sound deep and awful across the wide desert, all
the camels run away on every side as if they were mad, and
it is difficult to catch them again, frequently not before they
have sustained and done much injury. Human beings are
not, however, easily attacked. A few days ago a camel was
strangled by a lion in our neighbourhood, but on the farther
side of the river. A man who was present saved himself on
the nearest tree.

On the 3rd of February we again set out about seven in
the morning ; we left the two Bueribs, the great " blue" and
the little '• red," at a considerable distance on our left hand,
and shortly before nine o'clock arrived in the valley of El
lurbegan, which we followed for half an hour in the direc-


tion of the river. 'We saw tlie Mesaurafc el Kirbegan iu its
whole extent on our right, but kept upon the hills till a little
after eleven, when we arrived at Ben JN'aga, and half an hour
afterwards once more at our landing-place.

Two hours afterwards we continued our journey in our
boat. "We made, however, little progress with a strong
adverse wind, and saw nothing new, except for the first time
a hippopotamus swimming in the water. The next morning
we disembarked on the western bank, opposite the village of
Gos Basabie, to see the ruins of the walls of an old fortress,
with towers of defence, which surrounded the summit of a
hill. The space enclosed was about 300 paces in diameter.
In the afternoon we approached the Schellal (the Cataract) of
GrEEASCHAB, the higher mountain ranges lying before us,
closed in upon each other, and at length formed a mountain
hollow, seemingly without any outlet ; this was, however, to
our surprise, near at hand, for we turned to our left into a nar-
row defile, which widened into a liigh and wild rocky valley ;
we followed it for nearly an hour before again emerging on
the other side into another plain. The eruptive granite
ranges of Qieee pass on the eastern side of the river into
Eauian, "the thirsty quenched;" while to the west, some
distance from the river, there is Atschax "the thirsty,"
also rising up in a detached form.

The 5th February we landed about eleven in the morn-
ing at Tamaniat. Mohammed Said, the former treasurer of
the late Achmed Pascha, whose acquaintance we had made
in Damer, had given us a letter to one of the sub-officials
there, which contained instructions to him to deliver to us
the fragment of an inscription which had been found in
Soba. It belonged to the centre of a marble table, which
was inscribed on both sides with Grreek or Coptic letters of
a late period. The signs, which were not difficult to read,
neither contained Greek nor Coptic words ; only the name
retoprio . . could be deciphered. The same evening we
arrived in Chaetum. This name signifies an elephant's
trunk, and probably was derived from the form of the nar-


row tongue of land on whicli the town is situated, between
the two Nile rivers which unite at this spot.

My first visit with Abeken was to Einiu Pa«c-ha, who had
reached Chartum before us. He received us in a very
friendly manner^ and would not allow us to leave him the
whole morning.

A magnificent breakfast, consisting of thirty dishes, which
we partook of at liis house, gave us a most curious insight
into the secrets of the Turkish culinary art ; as I learned
from our highly-fed Pascha, it resembles the most accom-
plished systems of the latest French kitchens, in obeying
the refined regulations of a fastidious taste in the prepara-
tion and arrangement of food. Soon after the first dishes,
mutton, roasted on the spit, is brought in, which cannot be
dispensed with at any Turkish meal. Then follow various
courses of dishes of meats and vegetables, solid and liquid,
sour and sweet, and a certain repetition of changes is ob-
served in the successive dishes, in order to keep up the
keenness of the appetite. Pillau, boiled rice, always forms
the conclusion.

The external preparations for such an entertainment are
somewhat as follows. A great, round, metal tray, with a
flat border, about three feet in diameter, is placed on a low
frame, and senses as a table, round which five or six persons
seat themselves on cushions or coverlets ; the legs vanish
beneath the body, in the ample folds of the dress ; as to the
hands, the left must be invisible, it would be quite improper
to let it ever be seen during meals. The right hand must
alone be active. No such thing as a plate is to be seen, no
more than knives and forks. The table is covered with deeper
or shallower, covered or uncovered dishes, which are con-
stantly changed, so that but a very few morsels can be taken
from each. Particular dishes, however, such as roast meat,
cold milk with cucumbers, &c., remain longer on the table,
and one returns to them more frequently. Both before and
after dinner, the hands are of course washed. A servant, or
slave, kneeling, holds in one hand a metal basin, in the

160 CHAETUir.

middle of which lies a piece of soap, in a little projecting
saucer, expressly iised for the purpose ; with the other he
pours water from a metal pitcher over the hands, and a fine,
ornamentally embroidered towel hangs over his arm for
drying them.

After dinner the pipe is immediately presented, coffee
handed round, and then one may retire. The Turks are
in the habit of making this the period of their mid-day
repose, till Asser. But before we parted from our host, a
number of weapons were brought, belonging to the savage
nations living farther up the country, lances, bows, arrows,
clubs, and a king's sceptre, which he sent to the boat for me,
as a present to his guest.

We afterwards visited our countrjanan, jSTeuba-UEe, the
apothecary of the province, who has been very unfortunate :
a short time since, he was removed from his post by the
late Achmed Pascha ; but he has now been again appointed
apothecary by Achmed Pascha Menekle, through the inter-
cession of Dr. Koch. We then went to a Pole who has
settled here — Hermanovich, the head-physician of the
province, who, in consequence of an order from the Pascha,
offered us his house, to which we went the following day ;
it had lately been newly fitted up ; there was a garden be-
side it, and a great court-yard, which was very useful for
unpacking and repairing our chests and tents.

The next day the Pascha returned our visit. He came on
horseback. We handed him coftee, pipes, sherbet, and
showed him some drawings and pictures from Egypt, in
which he was interested merely from curiosity. He is a
large, corpulent man, a Circassian by birth, and therefore,
like most of his countrymen, better informed than the Turks
in general I saw a rich collection of all kinds of birds of
the Sudan, at the house of a Syrian, Ibeahim Chee ; there
were about 300 different species, and between twenty and
thirty choice specimens of each.

On one of the following days, I took a walk with Abeken
and Erbkam to the opposite bank of our tongue of land on '


tlie "White Ettee, vrhich we then followed up to its junc-
tion ^vith tlie Blue ; its waters are in fact whiter, and have
a less pleasant taste than those of the Blue, because at a
higher point it flows slowly through several lakes, the stand-
ing water of which imparts an earthy and less pure taste to
it. I have filled some bottles with the water of the Blue,
and White Eivers, which I shall take away with me
sealed up.

On the occasion of a more recent and friendly visit of the
Pascha, we met the brother of the former Sultan of Kor-
dofan (who was himself also called Mak or Melek) and the
Vizier of the Sultan Xime (Tiger) of Schendi. The latter
still lives in Abyssinia, whither he fled, after having, in the
year 1822, burned the conqueror of his country, Ismael
Pascha, a son of Mohammed Ali, and all his officers, after a
nocturnal banquet which he had prepared for him in a
somewhat lonely house.

On the 14th, we made an excursion up the White Ettee,
but were soon obliged to turn back, because it has so little
current, that, on account of the north wind which of late has
constantly been blowing, our return threatened to be tedious.
The banks of the White Eiver are barren, and the few trees
which formerly stood in the neighbourhood of Chartimi are
now cut down, and have been used for building or fuel.
There is a larger mass of water in the White Eiver than in
the Blue, and even after its junction it preserves its course,
80 that the Blue Eiver must be viewed as the secondary river,
but the White as the true Nile. Their different waters can
be distinguished beside each other for a long time after their

On the 16th February, I sent for some Dinka slaves,
to interrogate them about their language. They were,
however, so dull of apprehension, that I could only with
difficulty get out of them the words for numbers up to a
liundred, and a few separate pronouns. The languages of
the Dinkas and the Schilluks, who dwell several days' journey
distant up the White Eiver, the former on the eastern bank,



tlie latter on the western, are as little known grammatically
as most of the other languages of Central Africa ; I therefore
requested the Pascha to procure me some intelligent persons
who were well acquainted with those languages. This was
impossible for the present, but we shall attend to it on our

Meanwhile our purchases and repaii's being completed, I
hurried on the departure as much as possible. The house of
Hermanovich will also be at our disposal on our return ; it
is built in a convenient manner, and is very airy. I had a
prospect of the oldest house in the town from my window,
whose pointed straw roof peeped over our wall. These
pointed straw huts, called Tukele, are the characteristic
buildings of this country, and are found almost exclusively
in the south. But as Chartum is a new to-svn, the small
number of old huts have disappeared, with the exception
of this one, and all the houses are built of unburnt bricks.

About mid-day, on the 17th February, we embarked on
board our boats. I sailed to the south with Abeken up the
Blue River, partly to become acquainted with its natural
character, partly to view the ruins of Soba and Mandera ;
oiu" other travelling companions, who had nothing to occupy
them farther up, sailed northwards back to Meroe, in order
to sketch the monuments there.

The following day we landed on the eastern bank, where
great heaps of red bricks, destined for exportation, proclaimed
the vicinity of the ruins of Soba. At the present day, un-
burnt bricks alone are made throughout the country, there-
fore all the ruins of burnt stones must have belonged to an
earlier period. This material for building is transported in
great quantities from Soba as far as Chartum, and beyond it.

We disembarked, and had scarcely got beyond the thorny
bushes nearest to the bank, when we perceived the over-
turned mounds of bricks, covering a large plain, possibly an
hour in circumference. Some larger heaps might be the
remains of the Christian churches which are described by
Selim of Assuan (in Macrizi), in the tenth century, as mag-


nificentlv decorated with gold, when Soba was still the
capital of the kingdom of Aloa. We were shown the spot
where some time ago a stone lion is said to have been dis-
covered, which is now in the possession of Churshid Pascha,
in Cairo. Xo where could walls, nor the form of buildings, be
recognised ; it was only on the mound to the south, at a little
distance off, that we found some hewn yellow blocks of sand-
stone, and a low wall ; on another heap lay several rough
slabs of a black slaty stone.

Tlie country round Soba, like this, is flat both far and wide
to the base of the hills in front of the Abyssinian range, and
the ground, especially at this season, is arid and black ; the
denser vegetation is confined to the bank of the river ; fiir-
ther off tliere are nothing but single trees, now in greater,
now in fewer numbers.

I promised the sailors a sheep, on condition that we should
reach Kamlin betimes, for there was a strong wind, which
made us very slow in our progress ; our boat, besides, is not
a fast one, the sailors are inexperienced, and from the low
state of the water, the boat easily sticks fast in the sand ; we
sailed on almost the whole night through, and reached
Kamliu about eight in the morning.

The ancient place of the same name lies one half-hour
farther up the river, and is composed of a few huts. The
houses near which we landed belong to a number of factories,
which Nurcddin Effendi, a Coptic Catholic Egyptian, who
went over to Islam, established, in common with the late
Achmed Pascha, more than four years ago, and which yield a
rich profit. A simple, homely German, who has never given
way to the bad customs of the East, bom in the neighbour-
hood of Wiirzburg, by name Bauer, has established a Soap
and Brandy Manufactory, of which he takes the management
himself. A Sugar and Indigo Factory is conducted by an
Arab. Bauer has settled farther to the south than any
European we have ever met with in Mohammed All's domi-
nions, and we were rejoiced to find such a good termination
to the long but not very agreeable chain of Europeans, most


164 KAMLI>'.

of tliem degenerated in civilisation, who have preferred the
Turkish government to that of their Fatherland.*

He has an old Grerman housekeeper with him, Ursula, a
comical, good-natured soul, to whom it was no less a holiday
to receive G-erman guests again, than it was to himself With
joyful alacrity she rummaged out some European utensils,
and the only fork that was still in preservation, and served
up fried chickens, saurkraut, and some small sausages, with

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 14 of 54)