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قراءة كتاب Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 710 August 4, 1877

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‏اللغة: English
Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 710
August 4, 1877

Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 710 August 4, 1877

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

vast tomb palaces, but from their shadowy portals the worshippers have gone for ever. Desolate and state-fallen, they open now only to admit the curious stranger.

In A Thousand Miles up the Nile, by Miss Edwards, we have a lively gossiping description of the Egypt of to-day with its wasted temples and ruined palaces. Cairo—where Miss Edwards tells us she arrived in the end of November 1873, with a party of friends in pursuit of dry weather—is a picturesque city. Seen from a distance embowered in gardens of the richest green, it looks like a forest of minarets and domes intermingled with palm-trees and acacia groves. The streets, as is always the case in eastern cities, are narrow and intricate; but their gloom is enlivened by a series of gorgeous bazaars, where the little pigeon-holes of shops are bright with many-hued carpets, and gay with delicately tinted silks, and glittering tissues of gold and silver. Here you can buy precious stones of varied value, and bracelets and collars of intricate and complex designs, such as were the fashion thousands of years ago at the court of the Pharaohs; or invest, if you choose, in a variety of warlike weapons, inlaid with gold and silver, and damascened with exquisite arabesque patterns.

The busy crowd passing and repassing the while, presents to the stranger a series of intensely interesting tableaux vivants. There, with ample turban and flowing beard and long robes of striped silk, stalks the stately Turk, followed by a scantily clad Fellahin. Next comes some Light of the Harem, some Fatima or Emineh, mounted on a carefully painted donkey led by an armed slave. On the street this fair enchantress is but a shroud-like mass of drapery, through which the curious gazer can sometimes discern the outline of a delicately oval face and the flash of a black liquid eye. Behind her, in thin clinging robes of dark but vivid blue, with graceful form and carelessly veiled melancholy face, a Niobe in bronze, glides an Abyssinian slave-girl. By her side a swarthy Bedouin sheik reins in an Arab steed, whose prancings and curvetings somewhat disturb the gravity of the tiny donkey upon which that Englishman is mounted; while over all streams the sunshine of an Egyptian noon, flooding with light the unfamiliar draperies, the strange Saracenic architecture, and the varying features and costumes of each commingling race.

While conducting the important operation of bargaining for a dahabeeyah (a Nile-boat), Miss Edwards and her party went to interview the Great Pyramid. She had fancied that the Pyramids looked small and unimpressive when she first caught a glimpse of them from the railway carriage; but once at the base of this gigantic tomb, she realised, with a sense of awe and wonder, how mighty it was. As she lingered, loath to leave the scene, the sun set in crimson glory behind the sands of the Libyan Desert, and the shadow flung by this immense mass of masonry stretched full three-quarters of a mile over the plain below. 'It was,' she says, 'with a thrill of something like awe that I remembered that this self-same shadow had gone on registering not only the height of the most stupendous gnomon ever set up by human hands, but the slow passage, day by day, of more than sixty centuries of the world's history.'

Before starting up the Nile, Miss Edwards witnessed two of the characteristic sights of Cairo—a performance of howling dervishes, and the departure of a caravan of pilgrims for Mecca. She found the convent of the howling dervishes situated in a picturesque nook beyond the walls. The gateway and courtyard beyond were shaded by a great sycamore tree, through whose branches the glowing sunshine broke in vivid flecks and bars of gold. About seventy dervishes were present; and with the aid of eight musicians, and to the chant of 'Allah! Allah!' they danced round in a circle until they had worked themselves up into a state of convulsive frenzy. Gradually their dance became a series of mad leaps, performed with incredible rapidity, their chant swelled into a hoarse scream, and at last one of the devotees fell writhing and shrieking to the ground. This ended the first performance; and the English ladies did not wait for a second.

Having made choice of a dahabeeyah yclept the Philæ, Miss Edwards and her party started with a fair breeze for their voyage up the Nile. This once sacred historic river is, as every one knows, all in all to the Egyptian. His harvests depend upon its beneficent inundations, its waves form his highway to the sea, he eats of its fish, he drinks of its waters, and finds them still, as his ancestors found them of old, delicious as the nectar of the gods. Egypt, baked and shrivelled by the glowing sun into one immense brick, annually sinks beneath the waters of the life-giving river, and emerges from the flood, fresh, radiant, shining, like an emerald, flower-crowned like Ceres of old, and holding in her full hands an ample promise of fruit and sheaf. A Nile voyage in favourable weather is about the pleasantest of all pleasant things. The large sails of the dahabeeyah swell out to the breeze like the wide snowy wings of a sea-bird, and fleet as that bird, she cleaves her way past water-palaces and suburban gardens. The minarets and domes of Cairo are left behind; the Pyramids, towering over the groves of palm, stand clearly out against the cloudless sky; and the distant ridges of the Arabian hills glow with softened shades of tawny purple. As evening falls, every charm of the landscape is subdued into a more tender repose; the night-breeze balmy and cool sweeps up the river; darkness follows, and your boat is moored for the night at Bedreshayn.

Morning on the Nile is inexpressibly fresh and beautiful. At the first faint streak of dawn the light mist clears away, and Aurora spreads for the sun a rosy chariot of clouds, into which he steps at once, flushing the stately palm-groves, and the gleaming river, and the picturesque water-wheels, and the swarthy crew, with a flood of golden radiance. There was, however, little time for sentimental feeling, our author's whole attention being claimed by a horrible clamour which arose outside, caused by the arrival of a regiment of donkeys attended by a phalanx of men and boys.

Mounted upon eight of these asinine martyrs, Miss Edwards and her party proceeded to Sakkarah and Memphis, riding through a country which would have been monotonous but for the subtle beauty of its colouring. Tender tints of rose, and warm tones of russet gold, pale opalescent blues and grays and dusky purples, were all blended by Nature's cunning brush, shading into the nearer green of the dusky palm forests, until they formed one inimitable whole. Sakkarah is a vast necropolis, whose more distinguished tombs are pyramids. The soil around is full of fragments of broken pottery, mummy gods, bones, shreds of linen, and lumps of a strange brown substance like dried sponge. Tread lightly, O Northern stranger! around you are the mighty dead; that brown spongy mass was once warm human flesh, instinct with power and passion; that skull perchance once held the scheming brain of a Pharaoh, who reared for himself one of these vast sepulchres, little dreaming of this all too ignoble resurrection. Of Memphis, the ancient city of the Egyptian kings, only a few mounds remain embowered in vast palm-forests, through whose fan-like foliage the brilliant sunshine falls aslant upon a muddy pool, where, face downwards, lies the far-famed Colossus of Rameses the Great, which, like Cleopatra's Needle, belongs to the British nation. This, with a few battered sphinxes, is all that is left of one of the earliest cities of the world.

On their way to Minieh, a Moslem saint of peculiar sanctity, yclept holy St Cotton, swam out to them, and having hallowed by a touch the tiller-ropes and yards of the Philæ, dropped into the water again, and swam back to the shore. It happened to be market-day when they