Richard Lepsius.

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

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sionary Krapf, who has married her here, and is now going
to return with her and his* colleagues, Isenberg and Miihl-
eisen, to the English missionary station in Schoa, by the
next Indian steamer. He was married in the English chapel,
and I was present as a witness at the ceremony, which was
performed with simplicity and feeling.

On our arrival, on the 18th September, we foimd Erbkam,
Ernest Weidenbach, and Franke, already here. They had
been waiting for us several days.

Mohammed Ali had put to sea with the fleet, as he was
impatiently expecting the arrival of Sami Bey, who was to
bring him intelligence of the desired reduction of tribute ;
in place of which, he had received the appointment of Grand

The Swedish Consul- General, d'Anastasi, who as the
representative of our Consul- General Yon TTagner, still
absent, manages the affairs of Prussia, and who enters with
zeal into all our interests, presented us to-day to the Yiceroy,

* On the sudden death of JBishop Alexander, which happened shortly
after our departure from Palestine, Gobat, as is known, was selected
by H. M. the King of Prussia to be Bishop of the Evangelical Bishopric
of Jerusalem, which he has administered, by the blessing of God, eflS-
caciously ever since 1846.


and we have just returned from tlie audience. He expressed
himself much pleased with the vases, which I delivered to
the Pascha in the name of our Sovereign, and he felt himself
still more honoured by the King's letter, of which he imme-
diately ordered a written translation to be made, and perused
it with great attention in our presence, and desired that I
should be informed that he would give me the answer when
we should again leave the country. "We were received, and
dismissed standing ; coffee was handed to us, and he showed
us other attentions, some of which were afterwards care-
fully explained to me by d'Anastasi. Boghos Bey, his confi-
dential minister, was the only one present, and remained
standing all the time. Mohammed Ali appeared to be
cheerful, and youthful in his actions and conversation ; no
debility was visible in the features and flashing eye of the
old man of seventy-three. He spoke with interest of his
expeditions up the JS'ile, and* assured us ho intended to
repeat them, till he should have found the sources of the
"Wkite Eiver. On my inquiring about his Museum in Cairo,
he replied, that it certainly had not hitherto been very success-
ful, but that frequently, when rapid progress was expected in
his enterprises, unjust claims were made on him relative to
these matters in Europe ; since he was compelled first to
obtain a basis and foundation, which, with us, had long been
prepared. I only cursorily alluded to our excavations ; and in
the course of conversation assumed that he had granted us per-
mission to make them ; this I am soon to receive in due form.*

* Previous to my departure from Alexandria, the firman of the
Viceroy was presented to me, with unlimited permission to make al.
the excavations which I might think desirable, and Avith instructions
to the local authorities to render me assistance. All the workmen and
aid necessary for forming and transporting our collection of antiquities,
■were demanded in return for money, through virtue of our firman,
from the Sheikhs of the neighbouring villages, or the Mudhirs of the
provinces, by the Kawass, Avho had been given us by the government,
and they were never refused. Tlie monuments from the southern
regions were transported from IMount Barkal to Alexandria on govern-
ment boats, and three sepulchral chambers near the great Pyramids of
Gizeh were also added, which were carefully taken to pieces by the
aid of four workmen, sent expressly for the purpose from Berlin, and



Cairo, the \6th October, 1S42.
We were detained almost fourteen days in Alexandria.
The whole time was spent in preparations for our farther

were put on board a vessel opposite Old Cairo. I also received, before
my departure from Egypt, a written permit for the exportation of the
collection ; and the objects themselves were presented from the Viceroy
to H. M. the King of Prussia.

These peculiar favours, at a time when all private travellers, anti-
quarian speculators, and even diplomatic persons, were expressly forbid-
den by the Egyptian Government to make any collection, or to export
antiquities, have caused many unfavourable judgments to be passed on
our expedition. We have been chiefly accused of a tliirst for de-
struction, which, under the given circumstances, would presuppose a
peculiarly barbarous feeling to have existed in our party; for as we
did not, like many of our rivals, excavate and transport tlie monu-
ments, the greater part of which had previously been invisible, hur-
riedly and by night, and v/ith bribed assistance, but leisurely, and
with ox)en aid from the authorities, and before the eyes of numerous
travellers, all disregard in our treatment of tlie remaining monuments,
of which perhaps they formed a part, would certainly have been so
much the more blameable, since it was so easy to avoid it. "We might,
however, trust to a more correct judgment than what is usually pos-
sessed by the greater y»roportion of ordinary travellers or collectors,
with regard to the value of the individual monuments; besides, we
were not, after all, in danger of being deceived in this matter by per-
sonal self-interest, as Ave made our selection of the monuments not for
ourselves, but commissioned by our government, for the lioyal Museum
in Berlin, therefore for the benefit of science, and a public eager after

The collection, which chiefly on account of its historical value, may
be placed on an equal footing with the most important European
museums, was incorporated immediately on its arrival with the Koyal
collections, without my remaining myself officially connected with
it ; and it is already arranged and exhibited to the public. A more
accurate examination is best fitted to place the inconsiderate accu-
sations of more recent, and even German tourists, in their proper
light, some of whom have gone so far, for example, very recently,
Herr Julius Braun, in the Algemeiner Augsburg Gazette, as to charge
us with the mutilation of the gods, which happened more than 3000
years ago, in the temple of El Kab. Besides, it would prove an entire
ignorance of Egyptian affairs at the present time, or of that which
chiefly lends the monuments of antiquity their real interest to us, if
all were not desirous to preserve in the public museums of Europe, as
many as possible of the treasures of those countries, which are really
as valuable, as they are undervalued in their own home, and number*
of which are still daily destroyed.


journey. I saw the Pasclia several times again, and found
liim always favourably inclined towards our expedition. But
we had gained Kttle in a scientific point of view. We visited
Pompey's Pillar, which has nevertheless no connection with
Pompey, but, as we learn by the Grreek inscription on the
base, was placed there by the Prefect Publius, in honour of
the Emperor Diocletian. The blocks of the foundation are
partly fragments of older buildings ; the Eoyal Eing of the
second Psammeticus could still be recognised upon one of

The two obelisks, of which the one still standing is called
Cleopatra's Needle, are very much destroyed on the sides
which are exposed to the weather, and in part have become
totally illegible. They were erected by Thftmosis III.,
in the sixteenth century before Christ; at a later period
Eamses Miamtjn has inscribed his name, and still later, on
the outermost borders of the four sides, another king, who
proved to be hitherto wholly unknown, and was therefore
gladly greeted by me. I must also mention an interesting col-
lection of objects of every sort connected with ethnography
and natural history, which was made by Werne, a native of •
Prussia, during the second expedition of the Pascha up the
!N"ile, as far as the AVhite Eiver, in lands till then unknown,
and which a few months previously had been conveyed to
Alexandria.* It appeared to me of such value, and to be so
unique in its kind, that I have purchased it for our Museums.
"While we were still there, it was packed up, ready to be
despatched. I think it will be welcome in Berlin.

At length the Bujurldis (Firman) of the Pascha was ready,
and we hastened to quit Alexandria. We embarked the same
day that I received it (the 30th September), on the Mahmu-
dieh canal. Darkness surprised us before we had accomplished
this first difficult departure. It was nine o'clock before we

* The journal of this expedition up the Nile has been since pub-
lished under the title Expedition zur Entdeckung der Quellen des
Weissen Nil, 1840—1841. By Ferd. VYerne. With a Preface by-
Karl Ritter. A map and a table of figures. Berlin: G. Reimer
1848. 8vo.


drove off from our hotel, on the extensive and beautiful
Frank-square, in two carriages belonging to M. d'Anastasi,
preceded by the customary runners with torches. The gate
was opened at the watchword that had been given to us ;
our baggage had already been conveyed to the boat some
hours previously on camels, so that we were able to depart
very soon after our entrance into the roomy vessel, which
I had hired in the morning. The Nile, which we entered
at Atfeh, had tolerably high waves, as the wind was strong
and unfavourable. The usual mode of navigation here, is
with two pointed sails, which rise upwards like the wings of
a bee ; these are easily beaten down, by every violent gust of
wind, not without danger, especially in the dark. I there-
fore granted the sailors permission to stop every stormy

The following day, the 2nd of October, we landed at Sa
EL Hagee to visit the ruins of ancient Sais, the city of the
Psammetici, famous by its temple to Minerva. The circular
walls of the town, built of bricks of IN'ile earth, and the de-
serted ruins of the houses, are alone extant ; there are no re-
mains of stone buildings with inscriptions. We paced the
circumference of the city, and made a simple plan of the loca-
lity. The Acropolis was situated to the north-west of the
town, which is even now marked by tolerably high mounds of
rubbish. We spent the night at Nekleh. I have got the
great maps of the " Description de I'Egypte" beside me, on
which we were able to trace almost every step of our excur-
sions. We have hitherto found it almost everywhere to be
depended upon.

The 3rd of October we landed on the western bank, to
inspect the remains of the old Eosetta canal, and spent
almost the whole afternoon till sunset in examining the ruins
of an old town near Nahaeieh. No walls are now visible,
only mounds of rubbish, yet we found in the houses of the
modern town several stones with inscriptions, chiefly built into
door-sills, which had originally belonged to a temple of King
Psammeticus I. and Apries (Hophre). The next night we


stopped on the western bank at Teirieh, and landed there
the following morning to search for some ruins, an hour dis-
tant from the bank, but from which we obtained nothing.
The Libyan desert here for the first time advances quite close
to the Nile, and presented us with a new and deeply impres
sive sight.

On the following morning, we first saw the Great Pyramids
of Memphis, rising above the horizon ; I could not for a long
time take my eyes off them. "We still continued to sail on
the Eosetta arm ; about mid-day we reached the so-called
Cowsbelly, where the Nile divides into its two principal
arms. Now for the first time we were able to survey the
noble, wonderful river in its whole magnitude, which with its
fertilising and sweet-tasting water, influences the life and
manners of the inhabitants on its banks like no other
river in the world-. It usually attains its greatest height
about the beginning of October. But this year an inundation
has occurred, such as has not been remembered for genera-
tions past. A breach in the dams is dreaded, which after the
great murrain, that is said to have carried oif up to the last
week forty thousand head of cattle, would cause Egypt to
be afflicted a second time this year.

About five o'clock in the evening we arrived at Bulaq, the
harbour of Cairo. We rode at once from the harbour to the
touii, and made arrangements for a considerable stay. By-
the-by, when we say Cairo, and the Erencli La Caire, it pro-
, ceeds from a pure error in language. The town is never called
anything by the Arabs now, but Masr, and the country the
same ; that is the old Semetic name, which is more easily pro-
nounced by us in the dual termination Mis'raim. It was
only in the tenth century, when the present city was founded,
that the modern Masr, by the addition El Qahireh, that
is " the victorious," was distinguished from the earlier Mass
EL Atiqeh, the present Old Cairo. The Italians then omitted
the k, which they could not pronounce, mistook the Arabic
article el for their masculine il, and thus by its termination
also, stamped the whole word as masculine.


It vras just the commencement of the Musuhnans' holy
fksting month, the Eamadan. during which they neither
take food, nor "drink smoke or water" the Avhole day,
and receive no visits, but only begin the whole business
of life after sunset ; thus completely changing day and
night, which, on account of our Arabian servants, causes U3
much inconvenience. Our Kawass (the Pascha's guard of
honour that had been given us), which had missed the time
of our departure from Alexandria, established itself here,
As our Prussian vice-consul is out of health, I applied to the
Austrian consul, M. Champion, to whom I had been warmly
recommended by Ehrenberg, with respect to our being pre-
sented to the representatives of the Pascha at this place. He
received us with the greatest politeness and anxiety to serve
us, and has obtained for us everywhere a good reception. On
my official visits, which, on account of the Eamadan, were
necessarily made about eight o'clock in the evening, I was
usually accompanied by Erbkam and Bonomi. Our torch-
bearers ran before us, then followed on asses, first the Draofo-
man of the consul, and our Pascha's Kawass, then we our-
selves, in stately procession. "We rode almost across the
whole town to the Citadel, through the narrow streets, which
were filled with Arabs, and picturesquely illuminated by our
torches, there we first paid a visit to Abbas Pascha,* a grand-
son of Mehemet Ali. He is governor of Cairo, but rarely
there. Prom him we went to Scherif Pascha, his representa-
tive, and then to the minister of war, Ahmet Pascha. We
were everywhere received with great courtesy.

On the day after our arrival, I received a diploma as hono-
rary member of the older Egyptian Society, from which tlie
younger one, which had already forwarded to London the
same invitation to me, has separated. Both held meetings
during the first days after our arrival, but I was only able to
attend one of them, in which an interesting paper was read
by Krapf, on certain nations in Central Africa. The accounts

* Abbas Pascha has been Viceroy of E^ypt since the death of
Ibrahim Pascl)a= in 1S4S.


were given liim by a native of tlie coimtrj of Enarea, who had
travelled into the country of the Doko on mercantile business,
and describes the people there very much as Herodotus de-
scribes the Libyan dwarf nation, according to the account
of the Nasamonians, namely, as composed entirely of little
people, about the size of children from ten to twelve years
old. We might almost imagiae that they were speaking of
apes. As the geographical notices of the hitherto wholly
unknown land of the Doko are also interesting, I had the
whole paper copied, in order to send it along with the small
map which belongs to it, to our venerated Eitter.*

On the 13th of October we made our first excursion from
this place to the ruins of Heliopolis, the biblical On,
whence Joseph took his wife Asnath, the daughter of a priest.
Nothing remains of this highly-praised city, which prided
itself in possessing, next to Thebes, the most learned body of
priests, but the walls, which now resemble great ramparts of
earth, and an obelisk still erect, and perhaps in its original
site. The peculiar interest of this obelisk is, that it was
erected by King Sesuetesen I. in the Old Monarchy, about
B.C. 2300, and is by far the most ancient of all known obelisks ;
for the broken one in the Fajoim at Crocodilopolis, which bears
the name of the same king, is rather a lengthened stele, or
tablet, in the form of an obelisk. Boghos Bey has received
a present of the ground on which the obelisk stands, and has
laid out a garden round it. The flowers of the garden have
attracted a multitude of bees, and they have been unable to
find a more commodious habitation than in the deep and
sharply-cut hieroglyphics of the obelisk. Within the space
of a twelvemonth, they have covered the inscriptions of the
four sides to such a degi'ee, that a great portion of them have
now become quite illegible. They had been, however, pre-

* This paper — An account of the river Goschop, and of the countries
of Enarea, Caffa, and Doko, given by a native of Enarea (with a
map)— has been translated by Ritter, and was communicated to the
Geographical Society at Berlin on the 7th January, 1843, and was
printed in the monthly reports of this society in the latter part of the
year. P. 172—188.


viously published, and we liad little difficulty in our exami-
nation, because three sides bear the same inscription, and
that on the fourth, also, differs but little.

Yesterday, the loth October, was our king's birtliday, and
I had selected this day for the first visit to the Great Pyra-
mids. "VYe would there, vrHh a few friends, commemorate
our King and our Fatherland in a joyous festival. We invited
the Austrian consul, Champion ; the Prussian consul, Bokty ;
our learned countryman, Dr. Pruner, and Messrs. Lieder,
Isenberg, Miihleisen, and Krapf to join our party, some
of whom however, were to our regret, prevented from at-

The morning was beautiful beyond description, fresh and
festive. "We rode in a long procession through the yet quiet
city, and through the green avenues and gardens which are
now laid out before it. "Wherever, almost, that we met with
new and well carried out works, Ibrahim Pascha was named
to us as their originator. He seems to be doing much in all
parts of Egypt for the embellishment and improvement of the

It is impossible to describe the scene that met our view
when we emerged from the avenues of date-trees and acacias ;
the sun rose on the left behind the Moqattam hills, and illu-
minated the summits of the Pyramids in front, which lay
before us in the plain like gigantic rock crystals. All were
overpowered, and felt the solemn influence of the splendour
and grandeur of this morning scene. At Old Cairo we were
transported across the Nile to the village of Gizeh, from
which the largest Pyramids are called Haeam el Gizeh.
Prom this spot, in the dry season, one may ride over to the
Pyramids, by a straight road, in an hour, or little more. But
as the inundation now stands at its highest point, we were
compelled to make a great circuit on long dams ; we came
nearly as far up as Saqara, and only reached the foot of the
greatest Pyramid at the end of five hours and a half.

The unexpected length of the ride gave us an appetite for
the simple breakfast which, in order to strengthen us for the


ascent of the greatest Pyramid, Ave partook forthwith in one
of the old sepulchral chambers ; these had been here hewn in
the rock, somewhere about five thousand years ago, and are
now inhabited by some Bedouins. Meantime, a spacious
tent, with decorations of various colours, which I hired in
Cairo, had arrived. I had it pitched on the northern side
of the Pyramid, and the great Prussian royal standard, the
black eagle with the golden sceptre, the crown and the blue
sword on a white ground, which our artists had themselves,
during the last few days, sketched, stitched, and fastened to a
high pole, was planted before the door of the tent.

About thirty Bedouins had, in the meanwhile, gathered
around us, and waited for the moment when we should ascend
the Ppamids, in order to raise us, with their strong brown
arms, up the steps, which are between three and four feet
high. Scarcely had the signal for departure been given, than
immediately each of us was surrounded by several Bedouins,
who dragged us up the rough, steep path to the summit, as
in a whirlwind. A few minutes later, and our flag was un-
furled on the summit of the oldest and highest of human
works that is known, and we greeted the Prussian eagle
with three joyous cheers to our king. Flying towards the
south, the eagle turned his crowned head towards our home
in the north, from which a refreshing wind blew, and diverted
the hot rays of the mid-day sun from ofi" us. We also looked
homewards, and each one thought aloud, or silently in his
heart, of those who losing, and beloved, he had left behind.

The panoramic view of the landscape spread out at our
feet next riveted our attention. On the one side the Nile
valley, a wide sea of overflowed waters, intersected by long
serpentine dams ; here and there broken by villages rising
above its surface like islands, and by cultivated promontories
filling the whole plain of the valley that extended to the op-
posite Moqattam hills, on whose most northerly point the ci-
tadel of Cairo rises above the town stretched out at their base.
On the other side, the Libyan desert, a still more wonderful
sea of sandy plains and barren rocky hills, boundless, colourless,

TIEW rfiOil PYllAillD OF CHEOPS. 49

noiseless, enlivened by no creature, no plants, no trace of the
presence of man, not even by tombs ; and between both, the
ruined Necropolis, whose general position and simple outline
lay spread out clearly and distinctly as on a map.

What a spectacle, and what recollections did it caR forth !
When Abraham came to Egypt for the first time, he saw
these very PjTamids, which had been already built many cen-
turies before his coming. In the plain before us lay ancient
Memphis, the residence of the kings on whose tombs we
were then standing ; there dwelt Joseph, and ruled the land
under one of the most powerful and wisest Pharaohs of the
newly restored Monarchy. Farther away, to the left of the
Moqattam hills, where the fruitful low ground extends on
the eastern arm of theNile, beyond Heliopolis, distinguished
by its Obelisk, begins the blest region of Groshen, out of
which Moses led his people to the Syrian desert. It would
not, indeed, be difB.cult from our position to recognise that
ancient fig-tree on the road to Heliopolis, at Matarieh, under
whose shade, according to the tradition of the country, Mary
rested with the infant Christ. How many thousand pil-
grims of all nations have since visited these wonders of the
world down to ourselves, who, the youngest in time, are
yet but the predecessors of many other thousands who will
succeed us, ascend these Pyramids, and contemplate them
with astonishment. I will not describe any further the
thoughts and feelings which agitated me during these mo-
ments. There, at the goal of the wishes of many years,
and at the same time at the commencement of our expedi-
tion ; there, at the summit of the Cheops-Pyramid, to which
the first link of our whole monumental historical inquiry —
not merely for the history of Egypt, but for that of the
world — is immoveably attached ; there, where I looked down
upon the wonderful field of tombs, from which the Moses'-
wand of science now calls forth the shadows of the ancient
dead, and causes them to pass before the mirror of history,
in the order of their time and rank, with their names and
titles, and with all their peculiarities, customs, and surround-
ing accompaniments.



After I had taken an exact survey of the neighbouring
tombs, with a view to select some points for future excava-
tions, we once more descended to the entrance of the P}Tamid,
and, providing ourselves with lights, entered, like miners,
the steeply sloping shaft with some guides, and reached
the gallery, and so-called King's Chamber, by paths already
familiar to me by drawings. "We admired the in finitely fine