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Looking now along the shore, beneath me lies the harbor in the form of a crescent-the right horn occupied by the palace of the Pasha, his hareem, and a battery; the left, a long low sweep of land, alive with windmills, the city in the centre: to the westward, the flat, sandy shore stretches monotonously away to the horizon; to the eastward, the coast merges into Aboukir Bay.
Having taken this general view of our first Egyptian city, let us enter it in a regular manner to view it in detail. The bay is crowded with merchant vessels of every nation, among which tower some very imposing-looking three-deckers, gigantic but dismantled; the red flag with the star and crescent flying from the peak. Men-of-war barges shoot past you with crews dressed in what look like red night-caps and white petticoats. They rise to their feet at every stroke of the oar, and pull all out of time. Here, an "ocean patriarch" (as the Arabs call Noah), with white turban and flowing beard, is steering a little ark filled with unclean looking animals of every description; and there, a crew of swarthy Egyptians, naked from the waist upward, are pulling some pale-faced strangers to a vessel with loosed top-sails, and blue-peter flying.
At length, amid a deafening din of voices and a pestilential effluvia from dead fish and living Arabs, you fight your way ashore and if you had just awakened from a sleep of ages, you could scarcely open your eyes upon a scene more different from those you have just left. The crumbling quays are piled with bales of eastern merchandise, islanded in a sea of white turbans, wreathed over dark, melancholy faces. Vivid eyes glitter strangely upon solemn-looking and bearded countenances. High above the variegated crowds peer the long necks of hopeless-looking camels. Wriggling and struggling amidst all this mass were picturesquely ragged little boys, dragging after them shaven donkeys with carpet saddles, upon one of which you suddenly find yourself seated with scarcely a volition of your own, and are soon galloping along filthy lanes, with blank, white, windowless and doorless walls on either side, and begin to wonder when you are to arrive at the Arab city. You have already passed through it, and are emerging into the
Frank quarter, a handsome square of tall white houses, over which the flags of every nation in Europe denote the residences of the various consuls. In this square is an endless variety of races and costumes most picturesquely grouped together, and lighted brilliantly by a glowing sun in a cloudless sky. In one place, a drove of camels are kneeling down, with jet black slaves in white turbans, or crimson caps, arranging their burdens; in another, a procession of women waddles along, wrapped in large shroud-like veils from head to foot, with a long black bag, like an elephant's trunk, suspended from their noses, and permitting only their kohl-stained eyes to appear. In another, a group of Turks in long flowing drapery are seated in a circle smoking their chibouques in silence, and enjoying society after the fashion of other gregarious animals; grooms with petticoat trousers are leading horses with crimson velvet saddles, richly embroidered; a detachment of sad-looking soldiers in white. cotton uniform is marching by to very wild music; and here and there a Frank with long moustaches is lounging about, contempleting these unconscious tableaux which seem to have been got up for his amusement.
THE NILE-ITS BATTLE.
The Nile! the Nile! I hear its gathering roar,
The King of Floods, old Homer's Nile, appears.
The spirit of our fathers
Shall start from every wave;
For the deck it was their field of fame,
"EGYPT is the gift of the Nile," said one* who was bewildered by its antiquity before our History was born (at least he is called the father of it). A bountiful gift it was, that the "strange, mysterious, solitary stream" bore down in its bosom from the luxuriant tropics to the desert. For many an hour have I stood upon the city-crowning citadel of Cairo, and gazed unweariedly on the scene of matchless beauty and wonder that lay stretched beneath my view: cities and ruins of cities, palmforests and green savannahs, gardens, and palaces, and groves of olive. On one side, the boundless desert, with its pyramids; on the other, the land of Goshen, with its luxuriant plains, stretching far away to the horizon.
Yet this is an exotic land! That river, winding like a serpent through its paradise, has brought it from far regions, unknown to man. That strange and richly-varied panorama has had a long voyage of it! Those quiet plains have tumbled
down the cataracts; those demure gardens have flirted with the Isle of Flowers,* five hundred miles away; those very pyra. mids have floated down the waves of Nile. To speak chemically, that river is a solution of Ethiopia's richest regions, and that vast country is merely a precipitate. At Pæstum† one sees the remnant of a city elaborated from mountain streams; the Temple of Neptune came down from the Calabrian Hills, by water and the Forum, like Demosthenes, prepared itself for its tumult-scorning destiny among the dash of torrents, and the crash of rocks; but here we have a whole kingdom, risen, like Aphroditè, from the wave.
The sources of this wonderful river are still veiled in mystery-it is the very heroine of geographical romance, often and warmly wooed, but never won. War has tried to ravish her by force, and Commerce to bribe her by its gold, but the Naiad of the Nile is as virgin as ever. The remotest inhabitants seem to know as little of its origin, yet more remote: I have conversed with slave-dealers familiar with Abyssinia as far as the Galla country, and still their information was bounded by that vague word-south: still from the south gushed the great river.
This much is certain, that from the junction of the Taccaze or Astaboras, the Nile runs a course of upwards of twelve hundred miles to the sea, without one tributary stream-" exemple," as Humboldt says, "unique dans l'histoire hydrographique du globe." During this career, it is exposed to the evaporation of a burning sun, drawn off into a thousand canals, absorbed by porous and thirsty banks, drunk by every living thing, from the crocodile to the pasha, from the papyrus to the palm-tree; and yet, strange to say, it seems to pour into the sea a wider stream than it displays between the cataracts a thousand miles
The Nile is all in all to the Egyptian: if it withheld its waters for a week, his country would become a desert; it waters and manures his fields, it supplies his harvests, and then
For an account of the formation of the travertine of which Pæstum was built, see Sir Humphrey Davy's "Last Days of a Philosopher."
carries off their produce to the sea for exportation: he drinks of it, he fishes in it, he travels on it; it is his slave, and used to be his god. Egyptian mythology recognized in it the Creative Principle, and poetically engaged it in an eternal war with the desert, under the name of Typhon, or the Destructive Principle. Divine honors were paid to this aqueous deity; and it is whispered among mythologists that the heart's-blood of a virgin was yearly added to its streams;-not unlikely, in a country where they worshipped crocodiles, and were anxious to consult their
The Arab looks upon all men as aliens who were not fortunate enough to be born beside the Nile; and the traveller is soon talked into a belief that it affords the most delicious water in the world. Shiploads of it are annually sent to Constantinople for the Sultan's hareem, where it is in great request, not only on epicurean, but anti-Malthusian grounds. The natives dignify their beloved river with the title of "El Bahr," the sea, and pass one-third of their lives in watching the flow, and the remainder in watching the ebb, of its mighty tide. The inundation begins in May, attains its full height in August, and thenceforth diminishes, until freshly swollen in the following year. The stream, economized within its channel as far as the first cataract, then spreads abroad its beneficent deluge over the vast valley. Then it is that Egypt presents the most striking of its Protean aspects, becoming an archipelago, studded with green islands, and bounded only by the chain of the Libyan Hills and the purple range of the Mokattam mountains. Every island is crowned with a village, or an antique temple, and shadowy with palm-trees, or acacia groves. Every city becomes a Venice, and the bazaars display their richest and gayest cloths and tapestries to the illuminations that are reflected from the streaming streets. The earth is sheltered from the burning sun under the cool bright veil of waters; the labor of the husbandman is suspended, and it is the season of universal festivity. Boatmen alone are busy, but it would seem to be pleasant business; for the sound of music is never silent beneath those large, white sails, that now glitter in the moonlight, and now gleam ruddily, reflecting the fragrant watchfires on the deck.