Richard Lepsius.

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

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excellent wheaten bread; at last actually a cherry cake,
of baked European cherries (for our fruits do not gi-ow
in Egypt), in short, a home repast such as we never ex-
pected to see in this Ultima Thule.

On a pedestal in front of Bauer's house we found the
most southern Egyptian sculpture which we have met with :
a sitting statue of Osiris, with the usual attributes, carved
out of black granite ; a portion of it is mutilated, and it is of
a late style, about 2^ feet high ; it had been found in Soba,
and is not devoid of interest, being the only monument of
Egyptian art from this town.

The European arrangement of Bauer's rooms made a
strange impression on us, here in the midst of the black
population in the south. A wooden Black Eorest house-
clock, with weights, beat in regular time ; some half-broken
European chairs stood round the fixed table, a small book-
shelf was placed behind it, with a selection of the Grer-
man classics and historical works ; in the corner the Turkish
divan, which could not be dispensed with even here. Above
the great table, and beside the canopied bed in the opposite
corner, hung bell-pulls, which communicated with the kitchen.
An inquisitive Xesnas ape looked in at the grated window
next the door ; and across the little court-yard we saw the
busy Ursula, in a crimson-flowered gown, tripping hither and
thither among little naked black slave-boys and girls, order-
ing them to do this and that with a somewhat scolding voice,

* I have since then received intelligence of the death of Herr Bauer,
which happened onlv the following year.


and peeping into the steaming-pots in tlie adjoining kitchen.
"We saw nothing of her the whole morning ; not even during
the excellent and savour}- repast which she had prepared for
us ; it was only after dinner that she presented herself, with
many curtseys, to receive our commendations. She lamented
over the insufficiency of her cooking apparatus, and vehe-
mently reproached Herr Bauer because he had no intentions
of leaving this detestable, dirty, hot country, although he
had promised her to do so from one year to the other. She
came hither with Bauer, and has been eleven years in the
country, and four years in Kamlin. He intends to return
to Germany in another year, to settle in Styria or Thuringia
with his savings, and, like his father, to be a peasant again.

After rising from table, the son of Xureddin Effendi also
sent us a Turkish dinner, ready cooked, of twelve to fifteen
dishes, which however, alter our European repast, we left to
the servants, ^'e had also seen the factories that morning,
and had tasted the fine brandy (called Marienbad), which
Bauer prepares chiefly from sugar-cane and dates. The
business seemed to be in the best order, and even the cleanli-
ness, so unusual in this country, of the rooms, the vessels,
and utensils, were proofs of the soHd basis upon which this
factory, worked by slaves 9,lone, is conducted. The pleasant
impression made upon us by this visit was also considerably
increased by discovering that Bauer possessed a second piece
of the above-mentioned marble inscription, which had been
discovered in the ruins of Soba. He presented me with the
Iragment, whicli was easily joined with the other piece,
though we had still not got the complete inscription. The
fragment shows the traces of twelve lines on the one side,
and of nine on the other. The characters can be distinctly
read here also ; but the name iakcjub is alone intelligible.
It is either very barbarous Greek, or a peculiar language
formerly spoken in Soba. In fact, we know, through Selim,
that the inhabitants of Soba had their sacred books in the
Greek language, but translated them also into their own.

After we had also paid a visit to the son of Xureddin


Effendi, we started with the promise to call upon him again
on our return.

From Kamlin the banks continue at an equal elevation.
The character of a river valley is lost. There is no longer a
deposit of black earth ; the precipitous and high banks con-
sist of a primitive soil, and a calcareous conglomerate, which,
by Bauer's account, can be easily burnt into plaster.

On the morning of the 21st we came to a considerable
bend of the river towards the east ; the Mind became, on that
account, so unfavourable, that our Kawass disembarked, to
press into our service people from the neighbourhood to
draw our boat along. I walked for several hours along the
western bank, as far as Aebagi, a deserted village, built of
black bricks, but on the remains of a still older place, as I
discovered from the walls of burnt bricks. This place was
formerly the chief centre of the commerce of the Sudan,
which, at a later period, was transferred to Messelemieh.
Soon after this we saw the two most northerly growing
Baobabs, which here are called Homaea. These giant trees
of the creation (Adansonia digitata) become more and more
frequent, south of this spot, and at Sero they are among the
common trees of the country. One of the stems which I
paced round, measured above 60 feet in circumference, and
was certainly not one of the largest of its kind, as they
are still not numerous here. At this season they were
leafless, and stretched out their bare branches far above the
surrounding gi^een trees, which looked like low bushes beside
them. I found their fruit, which is called Gungules,* here
and there among the Arabs ; they resemble smaU gourds, in
the form of pears, and have a light hairy surface. If the
hard, tough shell is broken, a number of kernels are found
inside, which are surrounded by a dry, sweetish, sourish
pulp, which is nevertheless pleasant to the taste. The
leaves are digitate.

* Russeger (Reise, 2 Bd., 2 Thl., S. 125) found one specimen of this
tree, 95 feet in circumference. He is mistaken when he calls it Gan-
GLEs; the tree is called Homara, and the fruit Gckgules.


On the 22nd of February we arrived on the western bank,
at a small \Tllage, whose inhabitants, men, women, and
children, fled with terror at our approach across the sandy
plain to the wood, probably because they were afraid of
being, pressed to draw the boat on farther. On the opposite
bank there was another village, and from it we saw a mag-
nificent procession of men, dressed out in the Arabian and
Turkish costume, march down to the river ^dth some beau-
tifully bridled horses. It was the Kaschef, and the principal
Sheikh of Abu Haras, who had heard about us from Achmed
Pascha, as we had intended to go from this spot into the
desert to Mandera with camels and guides. The horses were
intended for us, and we therefore rode to the house of the
Kaschef, to make some more inquiries about the antiquities
of Mandera and Qala. As the desert road to the shore of
the Ked Sea leads from here by that place, we found several
people who had passed near it. However, by what I gathered
from all the accounts, tliere seem to be only some hiUs in
the form of a kind of fortress at both these places, or, at
the most, some roughly -built walls, intended to protect the
caravans, but no ancient buildings or hieroglyphic inscrip-
tions. In Qala there might be some camels and horses, also,
scratched into the rock by Arabs or other people, such as
we have frequently seen in the Great Desert near the well of
Mui'had, and in other places.

"VVe therefore determined to relinquish tliis desert journey,
and to go farther up the river instead, that we might become
acquainted, as far as our time permitted, with the natural
character of tlic Nile river, its banks, and neighbouring in-

After a short quarter of an hour from Abu Haras, we
came to the mouth of the Eahad, which, in the rainy sea-
son, conveys a considerable mass of water into the Nile, but
was now nearly dry, and had only a little stagnant water,
which next month may perhaps also disappear.

I left the boat as often as possible, to get acquainted with
the banlis. To go farther inland was of itself interdicted


cWefly by the wood, wLicli clothes botli sides of the rivers
and is nearly impenetrable. There, in luxuriant splendour,
grow the shady, high-domed tamarind-tree, the tower-like
h6mara' (Baobab), the many-branched gemus (sycamore-tree),
and the various kinds of the brittle, gum-yielding sont-trees.
Creeping plants, often the thickness of a man's body, climb
up their branches like gigantic serpents, in innumerable
windings, to their very summits, and down again to the
ground, where, along with the low shrubs, they fill up every
gap between the huge stems. In addition to this, scarcely
one of ten among the trees or shrubs has not thorns, which
renders any attempt to penetrate the close thicket not only
dangerous, but impossible. Several among them — for in-
stance, the sittere-tree — have thorns placed together in pairs,
and in such a manner, that one thorn bends forwards, the
other back ; if any one, therefore, approaches the branches
carelessly, he may be sure tliat his clothes will carry away
with them some unavoidable signs, not to be obliterated here
without difficulty, and then imperfectly. Some other thorny
trees look extremely ornamental, and growing in more open
situations, they rise like slender young birches. "We dis-
tinguished two species which are usually joined together, and
can only be known from one another because the bark of the
one stem is of a brilliant red colour up to the outermost
little branches, like a growth of blood-vessels, while that of
the other is of a dark black colour. Both of them have
glistening long white thorns, which, with the little green
leaves, rise up with a sharp outline, as if they had been
painted with the brush.

Scarcely one of the birds, which frequently hovered around
us in large nuilibers, were known to me, even in Egypt. I
shot many of them, and had them stuffed by our cook,
Sirian. Among them were some beautiful silver-grey falcons
(suqr schikl), guinea-fowls (gedad el wadi), with knobs of
horn on the nose, and blue lappets on both sides of the
head ; black and white rhinoceros birds (abu tuko) with huge
beaks ; some birds quite black, with a bright crimson breast


(abu labba) ; large brown and white eagles (abn tok), one
of which, with outspread wings, measured six feet ; smaller
brown eagles, the heddja, and black and white ones, whicli
are called rdcliama. These last, which are much more
numerous towards Eg^^t, are the same which we are in the
habit of seeing among the hieroglyphics. On the bank there
are also great numbers of black and white plovers, furnished
with black curved spines on their wing-joints, and the long-
legged, completely white, ahc iaqr (cow-birds), who are in
the habit of grazing on the backs of the buffaloes and cows.

"We saw great bats frequently flying about in broad day-
light ; their long golden-brown wings look briglit through
the branches, and suddenly they hang head downwards on
the branches like great yellow pears, and can then easily be
shot. They have long ears, and a strange tnunpet-like nose.

We also hunted the Monkeys, but from their agility they
were very difiicult to reach. One day we found an immense
tree, quite full of monkeys; some of them hastily came down
on our approach, and fled to a distant thicket ; others hid
themselves among the foliage, quite at the top ; but some of
them who considered both methods of escape dangerous,
sprang with inconceivably bold leaps from the uppermost
branches of the tall tree, Avhich might have been about 100
feet high, to the smaller trees standing near, whose thorny
branches bent down beneath their weight without letting
them fall ; they thus gained their end, and escaped my gun.

The Ceocodiles become more numerous the farther south
we go. The tongues of the sandy islands are often covered
with them. They generally lie in the sun, close to the edge
of the water, open their mouths, and seem to sleep, but do
not allow any one to approach them ; but even if they are
hit by the shot they immediately dive into the river. It is
therefore very difficult to obtain one. Our Kawass only
once made such a good shot at a young crocodile, about three
feet lonor, that it was unable to get back to the water. It
was brought to the boat, where it lived for several days after-
wards, to the terror of our little Nesnas monkey, Bachit.


It is no less difficult to approach tlie Hippopotami, wliich
we have sometimes seen in great numbers, but with their heads
alone above the water. Once only a young hippopotamus stood
quite clear out of the water on a sandy island ; it allowed us
to come unusually near. The Kawass shot, and hit it, natu-
rally without the ball penetrating the thick hide, whereupon
the clumsy creature, with its unshapely head, its fat belly, and
short elephant legs, galloped oif in a most comical manner
to reach the water close beside him, and immediately disap-
peared. They generally are in the habit of coming on land
only in the night, and they do much injury in the fields of
Durra and other plantations, by treading down and devour-
ing. It is not known that a hippopotamus was ever caught
alive here.

We saw no lions, but we heard their roaring in the dis-
tance throughout the starlight night; there is something
very solemn in the deep and sonorous voice of this royal beast.

The 24th of February we came to a second tributary river
of the Nile, the Dender, which is larger than the Eahad. I
went up part of it to see (which was impossible at its mouth)
whether the water was still flowing, and farther up I disco-
vered that, where the still water had collected into small
canals, certainly a very feeble current yet existed ; in the
rainy season the Dender must rise more than twenty feet, as
may be seen by its bed ; I found its banks were cultivated
with cotton bushes, gourds, and other useful plants.

The heat is not excessive, in the morning about eight
o'clock it is usually 23° E. ; about mid-day till about five
o'clock, 29°; and about eleven o'clock at night it is 22°
(83|°, 97i°, 81i° Fahr.).

We spend our evenings in our boat ; here I make our Ka-
wass, Hagi Ibrahim, inform us about the geography ; or I take
some Nubian sailors into my cabin to learn their language.
I have already made a long vocabulary in the Nubian lan-
guage ; comparing it with other lists in Euppel and Cailliaud,
I found many words in the Koldagi language spoken in the
southern territories of Kordofan which agree with them ;


tliis proves there is an intimate connection between the two
languages. The Arabs are in the habit of calling the N'ubiaii
language lisdn rotdna, which I at first supposed to be its
actual name ; but it only means a foreign tongue different
from the Arabic. They do not, therefore, only speak of a
Rotdna Keniis, Mahass, Donqolaui, when they mean to
designate the three Xubian dialects, but also of a Rotdna
Dinkaui, Scliilluk — even of a Eotana turhi andfranki, thus
likewise of Turkish and French ; i. e. of European gibberish.
The same error is the cause of the now received designation
of the Xubian as the Berber, and of their language as the
Berber language ; fojo this is not the name of the people, nor
of their language, as is generally thought, but originally
means only the people speaking a foreign tongue, the Rar-

On the 25th of February we disembarked at Saba Doleb ;
I searched for ruins, but only found high domes in the form
of bee-hives, built well and solidly of bricks, about 20 feet
higl), and closel}' resembling the Greek Thesauri, constructed
of liorizontal layers, lapping over inwardly. They are tombs
of lioly Ai'ab Sheikhs of a late period ; the inhabitants of the
village could not tell us the date of their erection. Beneath
the cupola, and in the centre of the building, which is be-
tween 15 and IS feet wide, there is the long narrow tomb of
tlie saint, surrounded with larger stones, and covered with a
number of small stones, which, according to a superstition,
must necessarily amount to a thousand ; I found six domes
similar to these, most of them half, some wholly fallen to
pieces ; two, however, in very good preservation, which are
even still visited ; a seventh, probably the most recent, was
built of unburnt bricks.

At Wad Negudi, a village situated to the west of the
Nile, we found the first Dileb Palms, with slender naked
stems and small bushy crowns, resembling, at a distance,
the Date Palm, but when near, from their leaves, like the
Doura Palm. Their fruit is round, like that of the Doum
Palm, but of a larger size. These trees are said to be very


abundant on the tributary rivers towards the east ; but liere,
on the Nile, they are only to be found within a very small
tract of land. The leaves are regularly divided like a fan
into a great number of connected folds, and the leaf-stalk
has strong serrated notches. The Eais of our boat, who was
with me, sawed off another leaf with one of these leaf-stalks ;
I had it brought to the boat, to take it away with us. It is
divided iuto sixty-nine points, and is five feet and a quarter
long, from that part of the stalk where the fan begins, al-
though it is still young, and therefore its fan is still com-
pletely closed. Another larger one, which had just unfolded
itself, we set up in the boat as an umbrella, and sat beneath
its shade. "We were obliged to make a path to those palm-
trees through gigantic woods of grass, which shoot up stiff
and thick like corn-fields, and cover large plains. The points
of the blades towered up five or six feet above our heads, and
even the tall camels, which are bred here, could hardly look
over it.

On the 26th February we arrived at the village of Abu
EL Abas, on the eastern bank. It is a chief town of this
district, and the Kaschef who lives here is placed over
112 villages. I there purchased a dog-ape from a Turkish
Ivawass for a few piastres. This is the holy ape of the
ancient Egyptians, the Cynocephalus, which was dedicated
to Thoth and the Moon, and appears as the second among
the four Grods of Death. It is interesting to me to have a
creature about me for some little time, which I have seen
innumerable times upon the monuments, and thereby to
observe the faithful appreliension and representation of its
essential and characteristic appearances in the ancient Egyp-
tian sculpture. It is remarkable that this ape, so peculiar
to Egypt in ancient times, is now only found in the south,
and even there, it is not very common. How many species
of animals and plants, even manners and customs of men,
with which we become acquainted through the monuments
of EgA^pt, can only now be found in the most southern parts
of ancient Ethiopia, so that now many representations, for


instance in the tombs of Beniliassan, seem to delineate scenes
in this country rather than in Egypt. There is no special
name here for the Cynocephalus, only the general one, qird
(large monkey). Its head, hair, and colour, are not unlike
those of a dog, and hence its Greek name. Sometimes also
it barks and snarls like a dog. It is still young, and very
good-natured, but far more intelligent than Abeken's pretty
little Nesnas ape. It is extremely ludicrous when it wishes
to get something good to eat, which we have in om' hands ;
it then lays back its ears on its head, and knows how to
express the utmost deliglit, but remains sitting quiet like a
good child, only chattering with the lips, like an old wine-
bibber. At the siglit of the crocodile, however, all the hair
of its body bristled up ; it uttered piercing shrieks, and
could scarcely be held down from terror.

On the 27th February we reached Sennae, the celebrated
ancient capital of the Sudan, whose king, before the con-
quest of the country by Ismael Pascha, had dominion as far
as Wadi Haifa, and ruled over a number of smaller kings
who paid him tribute. One would not suspect, from the
present aspect of the place, that only a short time since it
was such a powerful royal residence. Between six and seven
hundred pointed straw liuts, Tukele, surroimded the piles of
red-brick ruins, where formerly the royal mansion stood.
These bricks are now employed for building an abode for Soli-
man Pascha, who is to reside in Sennar ; it was already so far
complete that the AVakil* of the absent Pascha was able to
hold his divan within it. We found him there, just as ho
was sitting in judgment. Many other people. Sheikhs and
Turks, were present ; among them the Sheikh Sandaloba,
the chief of the Arabian merchants, and a relative of the
Sultana Nasr, whose acquaintance we afterwards made in
the village of Soriba, which she makes her royal residence.
We paid a visit to this distinguished man in his own house,
with which honour lie seemed much gratified. His principal
apartment is a dark, lofty hall, with a roof resting on two

* TFa^i?, or deputy.— Tr.

174 ABDI^'.

pillars and four pilasters, upon whicli we mounted to obtain
a view over the town.

Meanwhile an anqareb was prepared for us, to sit upon
in the court-yard; they brought us mead (honey with water),
and led a hysena out of the stable, here called Marafil,
and two young lions, the largest of which, belonging to
Soliman Pascha, and two wethers, were taken to the boat, as
a present from his Wakil. I had the creature fastened down
in the hold, and as a welcome immediately received a violent
scratch on my hand from his sharp claws. His body is now
above two feet long, and his voice has already become a
strong tenor. There is a most tumultuous scene now every
morning on our, not very large boat, when we drink our tea
at an early hour in front of the cabin ; on each side of the
door, a monkey is making its merry leaps, and when the lion
is released from the hold of the vessel, and on the deck,
which is given to him during the day, we are obliged to
place our cups and pitchers in safety, as he endeavours to
reach them with his clumsy, but already strong claws.

On the 29th of February, about nine in the morning, we
arrived at Abdin. The 1st of March the wind was un-
favourable to us, and we made very little progress, so tliat
we had plenty of time at our disposal for shooting birds.
Towards evening I came to a village romantically situated
in a creek formed by the river, spreading out at this point.
Many huts, built of straw, extended their pointed roofs up-
wards between the branches and thick foliage of the trees.
^Narrow crooked paths, forming a real labyrinth, led from
one hut to the other, between thorns and trunks of trees ;
within the huts, and in front of them, the black famihes
were lying, the children playing by a feeble lamp-light, I
asked for some millr, but was told to apply at an Arab village
in the neighboiu-hood, to which I was led by a man armed
with a spear, the universal weapon of the country. Making
our way through thin shrubs and tall grass, we reached the
large troops of cattle belonging to the Arabs, who had raised
their mat huts round the pasture ground. The Fellahs who


have settled here are much browner than the wandering
Arabs, though they are not negroes, but they appear by race
to be connected with the ]^subian stock.

The 2nd of ^larcli we landed on an island close to the
eastern bank. At a short distance from the landing-place the
Kais discovered a broken crocodile egg, at a spot where there
was some newly turned up ground. He dug down with his
hands, and found forty-four eggs lying beside each other three
feet deep in the sand. They were still covered with a slimy
ooat, as they had been only laid the previous day or during
the night. Crocodiles prefer coming out of the river on
a windy uight, they bury their eggs in the ground, cover tliem
over, and the wind soon disperses all traces of the disturbed
earth. A few mouths afterwards the young ones creep out.
The eggs are like large goose's eggs, but as much rounded off
at both ends as these are only at the blunt end. I had some
of them boiled, they are eatable, but have a disagreeable taste ;
therefore I willingly left them to the sailors, who devoured
them with a hearty appetite.

We lauded at the forsaken village of Dakela on the eastern
bank, from which I proceeded alone a distance of about tlu-ee-
quarters of an hour inland. The character of the vegetation
continues the same. The ground is dry and level, the small
hills and valleys which intersect it are not the original forms
of the ground, but seem only to have been produced by rain.

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 15 of 54)