Изображения страниц

it is an oblong square, composed of granite; the roof is formed of seven enormous stones, that extend from one wall to another. A tomb, made of a single block of marble, lies at one end of it, and most probably contained the remains of the founder; but it has been rifled of its contents, and the lid wrenched off. Beneath this beautiful apartment is another, rather smaller, which leads to a conduit filled with rubbish.

After visiting the recesses of this gloomy mansion, where the light of the sun never penetrates, we returned by the way we came, taking care to avoid a well, that goes to the very foundations of the pyra mid. Having examined the inside, and enjoyed the refreshment of the balmy air, after having breathed that which had been so long stagnated, we proceeded to scale the outside: it is composed of more than. two hundred layers of stone. The fatigue of climb ing so many enormous steps was very great, but the view of the rising sun, from such a height, made full compensation for the labour. Gold and azure spread over the east, the glorious luminary began to gild the summit of the Mokattam, and presently his bright disk appeared above the edge of the mountain : in a few moments more, he burst forth in all his splendour, and displayed a most extensive and enchanting prospect. In the shade, we distinguished the points of the three pyramids of Sakara, the minarets, and the tops of the date trees, which are planted round those villages, that stood on rising ground, became enlightened. As the sun rose above:

the horizon, his rays spread over the mountains and
the valley of Egypt. Men were beginning to rouse
from sleep, and pursue the occupations of the day;
the flocks were descending from the hamlets, and
boats under sail, going up the Nile. Animation and
variety added beauty to the scene.
On the north,
barren hills and parched sands formed a pleasing
contrast with the river and ripening harvests, in an
opposite direction. On the east lay the small town
of Gizé, the towers of Masr Fostat, the minarets of
Grand Cairo, with the castle of Salah Eddin. Such
number of romantic and unusual objects was an
exquisite gratification.

After engraving my name on the pinnacle of the pyramid, with regret and difficulty I descended. Many of the stones being loose, there was a danger of their giving way, and rolling me precipitately to the ground. Having reached the bottom with safety, I surveyed the outside of the building, which seemed, whilst I stood near it, to be formed of masses of rocks; but when I retired to the distance of only a Inundred paces, the magnitude of the stones is lost in the immensity of the whole. The learned cannot determine by whose hand this sanctuary has been violated: curiosity, or the hope of finding treasure, seems the only motive for attempting such a laborious and expensive undertaking, as opening these edifices; designed, no doubt, when the remains of the monarchs were deposited in then, to be closed for


Facing the second pyramid, on the eastern side, is the enormous sphynx, the body of which is buried in the sand. The top of the back only is visible, which is more than a hundred feet long. It is formed of one single stone, making part of the rock on which the pyramids are placed. The head rises about twenty-seven feet above the sand. The Arabs, who, from the tenets of their religion, hold the representation of men and animals in abhorrence, have disfigured the face with arrows and lances. What was the design of this huge image can now only be conjectured: perhaps it represented some object of the idolatrous worship of the ancients. The form it bears, of a young woman grafted on the body of a lion, probably refers to the signs of the Lion and the Virgin, under the influence of which the Nile swells, and gives fertility to the country.

Heliopolis, the celebrated city, dedicated to the sun, was built, according to ancient geographers, on an artificial mound of earth, raised on the eastern side of the Delta. This causeway, covered with rubbish, is still visible, about two leagues to the northeast of Grand Cairo. I visited the remains, but in vain did I seek for its magnificent temples, the entrances of which were adorned with avenues of sphinxes and colossal pillars, of marble, and the walls covered with hieroglyphicks, which concealed the mysteries of their religion from the eyes of the vulgar. Equally fruitless was my research for those abodes of science, whence Herodotus drew forth the

[ocr errors]

the stores of Egyptian learning, and Plato imbibed the foundation of those principles that rendered his philosophy so sublime. All the monuments of its grandeur are vanished, but a single obelisk, and a sphinx, of yellowish marble, overturned in the mud. Alas, said I, here once stood Heliopolis; but she is no more time, that consumer of all things, has destroyed her palaces, reduced her temples to heaps of ruins, and converted the busy "hum of men" to a dreary silence. The impression made by this melancholy change, so forcibly fixed my attention, that, for some time, I neglected to admire the beauty of the obelisk, which is formed of a well-polished block of Thebaic stone, sixty-eight feet high, without the base: it is covered with hieroglyphicks, which I could not decypher.

On my return to Cairo, I grew impatient for another expedition, and, hearing that the caravan that returns annually from Mecca, through Cairo and Fezzan, to the countries in the westward, was expected to halt at Kardaffi, a village at a small distance, I prepared myself to join it.



Journey from Grand Cairo to the Western Countries of Africa.

Our first adventure was at Wadey-el-Latron. We had halted, in order to collect fresh water, when a

troop of Bedouins appeared in front, and created great alarm in our caravan. The prudence and valour of our sheik had acquired the veneration and confidence of his followers. He immediately ordered us to occupy the spot affording water, whilst he, with about twenty Arabs, advanced to reconnoitre the ground where the Bedouins had been seen. They had now retreated wholly out of sight, and we had time to cook and fill our water-bags. We however hastened forwards, and encamped, in a disorderly manner, at the foot of a sand-hill, making no fires, lest the smoke should discover our retreat.

The next morning we entered the desert, which forms the boundary of Egypt, and encamped on a tract of land called Muhabag. The following day we reached Mogara, a watering place, on the verge of a fruitful valley.

The water collected is preserved, for several days, in bags made of goat skins, greased withinside with butter or oil: the latter often gives a rancid taste to the water. After nine wearisome days travelling, we reached the chain of mountains, that bounds the uniform desert through which we had passed. I ascended these hills, and found the plain, on their summit, consisted of a saline mass, spread over so large a a tract, that, in one direction, no eye can reach its limit. The clods of salt, discoloured with sand, lie so thick, as to give this vast plain the appearance of a newly-plowed field.

The small village of Ummesogeir was a welcome

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »