Nassau William Senior.

Conversations and journals in Egypt and Malta online

. (page 5 of 16)
Online LibraryNassau William SeniorConversations and journals in Egypt and Malta → online text (page 5 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

50 in the rock, we saw a sarcophagus perhaps as old as
the Pyramids. In these tombs are found from time to
time little clay images, about 6 inches high, of Osiris ;
a large unrifled tomb generally contains from 50 to 60.
The Bedouins brought many of them to us for sale.
M. Laporte, the French Consul, who was our guide, and
organised with great success our expedition, spent all
the morning, while we wandered about the tombs^ in

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Spurious Antiquities. 65

looking them over ; nine-tenths he rejected, as having
formed part of one of the cargoes of Egyptian
antiquities periodically exported from the Staflfbrdshire
potteries, but he selected about half-a-dozen as au-
thentic. " I have spent years," he said, " examining
such things, and I warrant these to be of the age of the
Pyramids, or older still: probably a tomb unopened
before has been discovered by the Bedouins."

He vsras so kind as to allow me to have three of them.

We were little annoyed by the Bedouins, not many
more than were wanted as guides and assistants in
climbing came to us. Probably the presence of our
constant attendant — ^a subordinate oflScer of the Viceroy's
court, called a Tchaouss or Kawass, a magnificent man
of grave austere deportment, carrying a sword and a
sort of silver-headed sceptre, which he applies liberally
to the shoulders of all who are in our way — imposed on
them. I never saw finer or more vigorous men, and
the lightness of their clothing — for few wore more than
a shirt, which they sometimes tucked up before making
any exertion — displayed their persons very fully.

I did not feel at all tired by my 25 miles of
donkey-riding, but in the evening those among us who
mounted the Pyramid complained of fatigue.

VOL. I. p

Digitized by VjOOQIC

66 Conversations and yournals in Egypt,

Monday^ November 26, — I went this morning with
M. Benaud to the Egyptian Bath. It is a charitable
institution, not a mere commercial speculation. Every-
one is received, and no payment is exacted. M. de
Lesseps told me that as he was leaving it yesterday
he saw a man tender at his departure a halfpenny,
which the superintendent accepted with grave dig-
nity. We took with us the Tchaouss, who explained
that we were men whom the Viceroy delighted to
honour, and we consequently were placed on the
carpet of state on the divan, supplied with an abun-
dance of clean towels, and had the bath-rooms, in
which the shampooing and washing are performed,
to ourselves.

We were laid down on the floor, kneaded, put into
a large bath about 10 feet square, at a temperature of
about 100^, taken out, soaped, scraped, put again into
the bath, sluiced with tepid water, wrapped up and
laid on the divan to rest ; pulled about again, especially
our hands and feet, and dismissed after about three-
quarters of an hour's treatment.

It was pleasant, but I should have liked it still better
if the hot bath had been followed by a cold one.

At 1 o'clock in the afternoon we embarked for

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Departure from Cairo. 67

Upper Egypt in a steamer fiimished to us by the
Viceroy. We were to have started at 11, but in
this country of noise, bustle, confusion, and irregu-
larity, it took two hours to convey our luggage from
the hotel to the water-side.

p 2

Digitized by VjOOQIC

68 Conversations and Journals in Egypt.


Tuesday y November 27, 8 a.m. Off Minieh. — We
steamed all yesterday and to day, and reached this
place at 4 in the evening. Our coal is expended, and
we were to have found here a supply. But though,
a month ago, all had been reported to be ready, none
has been sent, at least none has arrived ; probably it
was sent at the last minute, and the south wind, which
has persecuted us ever since we left Marseilles, and
still blows, has prevented its arrival. Sixty men have
been furnished by the Governor, and are employed in
collecting all the rubbish of the Government coal-
cellars and sifting it, to obtain fuel enough to carry
us to our next depot, El Sioot.

The Governor, a short, sharp-looking man, walked
with us over the town. Among other curiosities, he
showed us the gallows on which a couple of Bedouins
were executed a few days ago. Minieh used to boast
of six such erections, but the diminution of executions
has allowed the number to be reduced to one. In the

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Scenery of the Nile. 69

long narrow bazaar Mrs, Senior bought a pair of red
slippers for 35., about the price in London. We
entered a mosque, a quadrangular cloister supported by
antique Corinthian pillars with an open quadrangle in
the centre. In the evening the Governor paid us a
visit. He told M. de Lesseps that his wife was ill.
The aid of our doctor was tendered, but the Q-overnor
said that he knew well the nature of her complaint, and
the remedy, namely six pears and a bottle of champagne,
which were accordingly sent him.

The scenery of the Nile resembles nothing that Lever
saw before. On each side, from time to time 10 or even
15 miles apart, but generally approaching one another
much nearer and on the right bank occasionally sink-
ing into the river, are yellowish calcareous hills from
300 to 700 feet high, utterly and hopelessly barren,
their bases generally covered for 200 feet by a sloping
ridge of sand, the detritus of the rock above, which
extends a mile towards the river. Between this sand and
the river lie the two strips of land which form Upper
Egypt. They appear to have a very slight slope down-
wards from the bank to^rds the hills. The elevation
of the bank above the lowest level of the Nile is 25
feet. The Nile is now 6 feet above that level, or 19

Digitized by VjOOQIC

^o Conversations and journals in Egypt.

below the bank. Standing on the deck of our
steamer we are about 10 feet above the water, and
therefore about 9 feet below the bank. We seldom
therefore can see more than the edge of the plain
imtil we have passed it for a few hundred yards. It
is covered partly with gigantic crops of millet and
sugar-cane, and partly, especially in the neighbourhood
of a village or town, with groves, abnost forests, of
palms, mixed with dark-green tufted acacias and syca-
mores; every hundred yards, frequently at less dis-
tances, are little gullies cut in the mud banks, in which
systems of buckets, worked by horses or asses, and
often by men, raise water from the Nile and throw it
into channels of irrigation. They are most abundant
on the eastern bank, which is seldom low enough to be
inundated. For this reason it is generally used for
sepulture. We passed a corpse on the western bank,
waiting to be carried across, surrounded by mourners.
The legend of Styx and Charon is supposed to have
arisen from this habit of interring on the eastern bank ;
as that is the narrowest and the less populous, the
body had generally to cross the river.

The villages are huddled together in irregular masses
on land a little raised, but in no other way prepared

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Villages on the Nile. 71

to receive them. The smaller houses have seldom
more than two rooms, circles of 7 or 8 feet in diameter,
with cupola roofs, looking like great beehives. The
larger ones have short square towers, with walls slightly
inclined inwards, and small external apertures. They
are generally crowned by dwarf battlements made of
earthenware pots, kept together by mud and inhabited
by clouds of pigeons ;* all are built of small black unburnt
bricks, which every one who uses them seems to make
for himself by ^throwing water upon the mud, mixing
it with a little straw, and moulding it with the hand.

The movements of the Nile, as the formation of any
bank in its bed drives its current sometimes against its
eastern and sometimes against its western bank, carry
away from time to time the land and buildings which
rise immediately above it. We have passed towns of
which half has been undermined and sunk, and the
remainder looks like a street which has been cut
through by a railway.

The scenery, though somewhat monotonous, is ex-
ceedingly beautiful. Some one says that it is the mono-
tony of Paradise. The groves and woods form grand
objects at a distance, and as we approach them are

* " Though ye have lien among the pots, your wings shall be as the
wings of a dove.'* — Ed.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

72 Conversations and Journals in Egypt.

beautiful in their details. The villages and towns are
strange looking and picturesque, and are full of a
population, some half-naked, and others in brown or
dark-blue shirts, who stand in groups to watch us.
Files of camels and asses, looking gigantic against the
sky, are constantly passing along the banks. The lofty
crops of sugar-cane and millet, about 12 or 15 feet
high, which cover the land wherever it is watered
and is not occupied by trees or houses, are protected
along their sides at intervals of about 50 yards by
little mud pillars, in which boys or men are posted
with slings, by the use of which, and by their
screams, they frighten away the clouds of birds which
are constantly^ trying to destroy the crops. Their
cries, those of the men who work the water buckets,
and the shrill grating of the water-wheels, are the
sounds that greet us as we approach each bank. . From
about 11 to 5 it is very hot in the sun, but the
evenings and mornings are delightful, and the nights
cool. The sunsets and sunrises are such as we wonder
at half-a-dozen days in the year in England. Yester-
day and this evening the moon rose cloudless. For
half an hour before she appeared her light was seen to
approach in a fan of oblique rays starting up behind
the low eastern hills, and as soon as she rose above

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Visit of Pashas. 73

them she threw a broad column of light on the river, on
which the palms and acacias were drawn in shadow as
they crossed it. The only site of much interest that we
passed was that of Memphis.

Tliursday, Navmber 29, 1 1 a.m. Off Sioot, lat.2Tlb'.
— We passed yesterday — alas, without landing — Beni
Hassan and Antinoe, and at night moored our boat
oflF El Hamra, the port of Sioot, a town of 20,000 in-
habitants, the capital of Upper Egypt We landed at
about 8 in the evening, and walked along the fine
dike constructed by Linant Bey, which stretches for
about 3 miles through lands the greater part of which
are inundated by a full Nile, through the town of
Sioot, and to the hills bounding the desert. We met
few persons ; we found the bazaar lighted, and protected
by watchmen at each end ; the streets, winding between
windowless walls, were clean, and free from dust. As
we were returning, we saw some bales of fire on poles
moving before us, and found that they accompanied Latif
Pasha, the Governor-General of Middle and Upper
Egypt, and Setif Pasha, the Governor of the Province
of Sioot, who were on their way to visit M. de Lesseps
in our boat. The bed in Linant Bey's cabin was used

Digitized by VjOOQIC

74 Conversations and Journals in Egypt

as a divan, and they sat and smoked and drank
coffee there with him and Lesseps till about 11 at
night. These portable bonfires are picturesque illumi-
nators, but must be dangerous. We could trace the
road which they had taken by the luminous embers
scattered along it.

Our pilot seldom ventures to proceed during the
night. This morning, therefore, we were still off El
Hamra, and we profited by the delay to take a ride
into the country. The Governor sent down to the
waterside nine or ten horses, splendidly caparisoned,
and about twenty asses, and we rode in a picturesque
cavalcade to the hills. Mrs. Senior and I humbly
mounted asses, and most of those who used the
horses complained that the high saddles and short
wide stirrups destroyed their seat, which was incon-
venient, as the horses were fresh, and were excited by
the presence of a mare. M. de Lesseps, who is an
admirable horseman, galloped about when we reached
the desert, and gave us a specimen of a fantasia.

Sioot is on the site of the ancient Lycopolis. We
climbed the side of the hill to some of the caves covered
with hieroglyphics in which the mummies of wolves
are found, the wolf having been the sacred animal of

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Abouteeg and Girgeh. 75

this district. The narrow valley of the Nile seen from
it was exceedingly beautiful. The fine domed tombs
of the Mussulman cemetery were at our feet, beyond
them the fourteen tall minarets and the gardens and
pahn-groves of Sioot, and on each side of them the
greenest possible vegetation dotted over with palms
and sycamores, then the Nile, and then another green
wooded strip, bounded by the Eastern hills.

We were detained while shipping our coals until
11, and are now, at 4 p.m., just crossing the 27th
parallel of latitude. The scenery is unaltered, but less
visible, as the wind has changed to the north, and the
atmosphere, as is generally the case in this country
after a change of wind, is hazy ; at about 2 we passed
Abouteeg, the ancient Abutis, the prettiest town that I
have seen in Egypt. The houses are of mud, but in
good repair; many look new. The larger ones have
towers, slightly inclined, the gate being often between
two towers, resembling in form the propyla of the
ancient temples. I suspect that Abouteeg is now much
what it was 5000 years ago. We steamed on until
dark, anchored till the moon rose, and then steamed
on to Girgeh, a considerable town on the western
bank, which we reached at about 7 on Friday morning.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

76 Conversations and Journals in Egypt.

Friday y November 30. — We remained at Girgeli about
three hours, taking in coal, a slow process, as it was
brought to the bank on asses, and not above three or four
appeared to be employed, so that they were always going
and coming. We walked through the town, much of
which has been carried away by the river. We saw
three mosques, the cloister as usual supported by Greek
pillars, and went through the bazaars. Though it was
Friday the shops were open ; many of them had signs,
the favourite one a rude representation of a steam-boat.
One neat Greek shop was full of liqueurs. I saw
among them Maraschino. We then strolled about a
large private garden just out of the town, planted with
palms, acacias, and lemon-trees, and intersected by little
brick canals. Men were tied by broad strips of linen
round the middle to the tops of some of the palms,
chopping off the lower branches for fuel, and the outside
bark, or rather rind, to make mats and cordage. The
proprietor, a very gentleman-like man, welcomed us at
his door, and allowed me to pluck a bouquet of lemon-
flowers, henna and pomegranate-blossoms.

On the eastern bank rise some high calcareous hills,
through which a road has been cut to Kosseir on the
Red Sea. ''In one of the caves on the side of those

Digitized by VjOOQIC

A curious Robbery. 77

hills/' said Linant Bey to me, " I once spent a disagree-
able night I was overtaken by the dark, and I knew
that the country was foil of robbers ; so I hid myself
there with my dromedaries, but I might have been
murdered if I had been discovered. I saw,*' he con-
tinued, "a curious robbery committed just where we
are moored. A vessel containing a cargo of slaves
was dropping down the river. A man swam in the
grey of the morning from the eastern bank, rose
just below the gunwale, pulled a girl down from the
deck, and swam back with her obliquely, so as to
have the aid of the current, diving from time to
time to ajvoid being shot, and raising her head and
his for an instant to breathe. He was fired at in-
effectually, and before a boat could be got out he was
on the shore and off to the hills."

The Governor, a heavy Chinese-looking man, paid us
a visit. He sat for about an hour on the poop, silent,
unemployed, but not apparently ennuyS^ a suffering
from which orientals seem exempt. We sent off our
letters from hence. They are carried to Cairo, 200
miles off, by relays of men, who run each half an
hour, and perform the journey in forty-eight hours.
They run nearly ad fast as a horse could do,

Digitized by VjOOQIC

78 Conversations and Journals in Egvpt.

and swim across the canals with the letters on their

Saturday^ December 1. — We reached Denderah last
nighty and started hefore breakfast this morning for
the ruins, which are about 3 miles from the shore.
About 3 miles further to the west are the Lybian
mountains and the desert. The valley of the Nile is
here so winding, that the yellow cliflFs which bound
it seem to meet above and below, and Denderah
appears to stand on a plain, surrounded by craggy,
fantastically-shaped mountain^.

All that remains of the town are mounds of sand
and pottery, two very noble pylones, a large temple,
and two small ones. These are the first Egyp-
tian temples that I have seen. The large one fully
answered my expectations. It consists of an original
building and an addition. The original building is an
oblong, about 170 feet long, 100 feet broad, and 90 feet
high, and contains an oblong central hall, the ceiling
supported by six columns; a farther hall, separated
from the first by a passage, and some small chambers
on each side. The roof is flat, and the walls are in-
clined, terminating in the broad, deep concave cornice

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Denderah. 79

with which we are familiar in the drawings of
Egyptian buildings. This building appears to have
been erected by Cleopatra, and the cartouches contain
her name, and that of her son by Julius CaBsar,
Caesarion. On the eastern wall she appears holding a
sceptre and receiving offerings from a hawk-headed god.
The features are those of a handsome modem Egyptian,
the nose slightly aquiline and the lips fall. To this
naos the inhabitants of the district added in the twenty-
first year of Tiberius Oaasar a pro-naos, called, I think
incorrectly, a portico, about 140 feet broad, 50 deep, and
80 high, closed on three sides with a roof, the ceiling
of which is intersected by broad stone beams, and
supported, according to the handbook by twenty-four,
according to my recollection by eighteen, columns, 8
feet in diameter, and about 60 high, with massive
capitals, equal in length to about one-eighth of the shaft.
The effect is exceedingly grand : not so beautiful as
the great temple of Poestumj but as imposing. The
arrangement much resembles that of a Gothic cathedral,
with its nave, its choir, its Lady-chapel, and its lateral
chapels. The whole, — columns, ceiling, passages and
walls, — ^both within and without, is covered with
hieroglyphics and sculptures in low relief. There are

Digitized by VjOOQIC

8o Conversations and Journals in Egypt.

no windows, but small openings in the walls and in
the roof, together with the open side of the pro-naos,
give suflScient light. We started at about 11, steamed
all day through the same scenes of monotonous beauty,
and are now, at 8 p.m., moored oflF Luxor, the portion of
Thebes nearest to the river.

Sunday y December 2. — We walked over Luxor before
breakfast this morning. As the modem town is built
among the ruins, they are generally concealed by
rubbish to the depth of 30 feet. At Luxor we saw
for the first time one of the most characteristic and one
of the most beautiful forms of Egyptian architecture,
the massive mixture of tower and wall resembling an
elongated truncated pyramid, with a broad base and
inclined sides, ending in a broad and deep cornice,
which has been sometimes called a pylon, and some-
times a propylon. I am inclined to think that the most
convenient nomenclature is to give the name of propyla
to these massive buildings, and to designate by the word
pylon another peculiar Egyptian form, the lofty gate with
narrow inclined sides and a flat roof, in Graeco-Egyptian
buildings found alone, but in purely Egyptian ones
generally forming the centre between two propyla.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Luxor. 8 1

The temple of Luxor, like most great works, was
gradually erected. Amenophis III., the eighth sove-
reign of the brilliant Eighteenth Dynasty, whose reign
is supposed to have begun in the year 1430 before
Christ, and 40 after the Exodus, built the first por-
tion, consisting of a sanctuary, a covered hall sup-
ported by pillars 8 feet in diameter, a vast court
surrounded by columns, some connecting chambers,
and a colonnade 170 feet long, many parts of which
have been built into the mud walls of the houses of the
modem town, ending in a lofty pylon.

Rameses II., the twelfth sovereign of that dynasty,
the fourth in succession from Amenophis, erected imme-
diately before his predecessor's pylon a court of about
190 feet by 170, surrounded by columns and two vast
propyla, before which he placed three colossal statues,
now buried up to their necks, and the two celebrated
obelisks of Luxor, not the loftiest, but among the most
exquisitely worked that are known. One is 60 feet
high, the other 70. Mehemet Ali gave the larger one to
the English, the smaller to the French. They removed
theirs and erected it in the Place de la Concorde. Ours
remains in sUuj half-buried, surrounded by a large
miserable population, and exposed to all the injury
VOL. I. a

Digitized by VjOOQIC

82 Conversations and Journals in Egypt.

which such a population can inflict on hard granite.
Mr. Maclean says that its removal would be neither
difficult nor expensive. I regret that it is not effected.

The sculptures and hieroglyphics with which the
whole of the building is covered are very fine, but
the general impression produced by the Luxor temple
is disappointment. The mud town which adheres to
them makes a complete view impossible, and the
accumulation of rubbish destroys the proportions.

After breakfast we went to the great temple of
Karnak, about a mile and a quarter from the propyla
of Luxor, with which it is supposed to have been
connected by an avenue of sphynxes interrupted by
grand pylones. Their mutilated remains are found
along the whole road. This building, or mass of
buildings, is rather less than ] 200 feet in length and
rather more than 350 feet in breadth. We entered it
by an avenue of ram-sphynxes leading to propyla,
together about 350 feet in length, with colossal statues
on each side of the entrance. Thence we reached a
court, 329 feet by 276, surrounded by a covered
corridor, with a double row of gigantic columns
running down the centre, only one of which remains
standing; the others lie as they fell, Propyla end

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Kamak. 83

this court, and opposite to them, divided by a passage
or vestibule, rise the propyla of the great hall, also 339
feet long, but only 170 feet broad.

This is perhaps the grandest covered hall ever erected.
Its height is not uniform ; the ceiling of the centre is
supported by twelve columns, 12 feet in diameter, with
shafts, including the capital, which is a square abacus,
4 feet high, on which rest the slabs forming the roof,
each 25 feet long. I could not ascertain the height of
the pedestals, as they are buried. The Egyptian
pedestals are seldom high. On each side of the
central colonnade are sixty-three columns in seven
rows, each column 49 feet high and 9 in diameter.
The centre of the hall, about 40 feet broad, rises like
the clerestory of a Gothic cathedral, and its sides,
where it rises over its wings, are perforated to admit
air and light. The whole is covered with hieroglyphics
and elaborately painted. Beyond the propyla which
terminate this hall is a court surrounded by a colonnade,
and containing four lofty obelisks, the largest that are
known, except that of St. John Lateran ; two of them
are still standing. This court is the centre of the
edifice. Beyond it extend other halls, but lower and
smaller. I did not penetrate to them, having more

o 2

Digitized by VjOOQIC

84 Conversations and Journals in Egypt

than enough to do to wonder at the architecture, and
look cursorily at the bas-reliefs of the great hall and
its walls and propyla, all covered with sculpture,
once painted, and sometimes, as on the architraves
between the columns, still unfaded.

We had talked about the dances of the Almes, and
this evening a carpet was spread on the bank opposite
to our boat, illuminated by three bale-fires, and six
women, from 16 to 25 years old, danced to us for an
hour and a half, during which time they consumed
about a bottle and a half of brandy. They advanced
and retreated, sat and rose up, shook their bodies and
kicked their legs very ungracefully with monotonous

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryNassau William SeniorConversations and journals in Egypt and Malta → online text (page 5 of 16)