Page images

they interest from their novelty; for here an European finds himself in a new region-he observes a shore lined with a belt of palm trees, among which the mingled mosques, and tombs of sheiks meet the eye at every opening :-as one unvaried scene, however, extends from Rosetta to Cairo, the sameness at length becomes tiresome. The villages are frequent and well peopled ; and besides the boats on the river, numerous passengers on horses, asses and camels are every where seen skirting the shores of the Nile. Provisions appeared to Captain Light to be plentiful and cheap, yet beggars swarmed on every side. Blindness was very common, and every third or fourth peasant seemed to have a complaint in his eyes. The plague and ophthalmia are the principal diseases of Egypt, to both of which the inhabitants are perfectly resigned. The Arabs (no great philosophers, it must be confessed) consider the plague as a necessary evil to keep down the population to the level of the means of subsistence.

On the 22d March Captain Light reached Cairo. I will not add,' he says, 'to the numberless descriptions of Cairo. Each year takes away from its population and adds to its ruins; nothing is repaired that grows old ; but still it is an extraordinary city. The Pasha being absent, our traveller waited on the Kaya Bey, or prime minister.

• My interview with the Kaya Bey took place in the divan of the citadel, where he sat daily to receive petitions, and administer the affairs of the country. I noticed a suite of apartments, filled with Albanian soldiers, through which I passed to enter the divan, where the Kaya Bey was examining some black slaves who were brought for his inspection ; such an employment for a prime minister could not but surprise an Englishman. The grouping of the party present was admirable : the rich and varied dresses, the warlike appearance of the attendants, their mute attention, the proud superiority of the chief, round whom the subordinate beys seemed to crouch with abject submission, riveted my attention. I found myself among barbarians, who lived only by the breath of the man to whom I was introduced, who in his turn preserves the same sort of abject submission to the will of the pasha. Fifteen hundred thousand inhabitants of Egypt felt the influence of a single despot: and from the accounts I obtained whilst there, they seemed to be in the same state to which the policy of Joseph reduced the people of Pharaoh.'--pp. 23, 24.

Captain Light left Boulac on the 1st April in a boat he had bired, of twelve or fourteen tons burden, and proceeded against the stream, by sailing or towing, as the wind served or not; but his progress was so slow that it was the 7th May before he reached Assouan; in the course of which time, he observes, • I had some trials of temper, a few privations and inconveniences; but I was rarely insulted; nor was I ever persecuted by the curiosity of the natives, who rather treated me with respect.' In some of the vil. lages our traveller assisted the sick with medicine and advicewrote for them Arabic sentences as charms to preserve the wearers from the evil angel. “In one village,' he says, called Abou Gaziz, I was requested by a party of women to hold my drawn sword on the ground, whilst they went through the ceremony of jumping across it, with various ridiculous motions, to correct the well. known eastern curse of barrenness; and was rewarded by blessings and offerings of Durra cake.'

Some ancient excavations which have been described by Denon and others are all that remain of the city of Lycopolis ; but at the foot of the Mokattam, a range of modern Mahomedan tombs runs for nearly a mile, in a grove of sount, or Egyptian thorn, (mimosa nilotica ?) bearing a tufted yellow flower. In this grove the mixture of the cupolas, Saracenic walls, and turrets of the tombs, either simply white-washed or rudely coloured, with the thick foliage of the trees, presents a singular and interesting scene, and attracted my attention more than any thing modern I had seen in Egypt.?-p. 44.

Siout is the intermediate mart between Sennaar, Darfoor, and Cairo, at which caravans of Gelabs, or slave merchants, are constantly arriving. The remnant of one came in while Captain Light was at this place. Its fate had been most melancholy, having lost on the desert a vast number of men, women, and children, horses, camels, and other animals, to the amount, in the aggregate, of four thousand ; notwithstanding which our traveller was offered a young well-formed negress, about seventeen years old, for the trifling sum of fifteen pounds. * The Gelab,' he says, like a horse-dealer, examined, pointed out, and made me remark what he called the good points of the girl in question. The poor wretch, thus exposed, pouted and cried during the ceremony; was checked, encouraged, and abused, according to her behaviour.' Another branch of commerce at Siout is that of eunuchs for the seraglio at Constantinople. In two boats were one hundred and fifty black boys, on their way to Cairo, who had been emasculated, and cured in a month, at a village in the neighbourhood. A Franciscan monk described the operation, though painful and cruel, as easily performed, and without much danger; eleven only having died out of one hundred and sixty. We have here a proof how difficult it is to get at the real truth from the hearsay report of travellers. Mr. Legh, in speaking of the same operation, and the subsequent process of burying the victims in sand to stop the hemorrhage, observes that, according to calculation, one out of three only survives ;' and that the operation is performed at a moment of distress, that the risk of mortality might be incurred at a time when the merchants could best spare their slaves.'

In passing upwards Captain Light contented himself with one short visit to the temple at Luxor, and with viewing the mass of buildings which formed part of the ancient Apollinopolis Magna through a telescope from the Nile, the hieroglyphics on which he could plainly distinguish, though at the distance of a mile and a half. Elephantina, called Ghezirat-el-Sag, or the flowery island, is described as a perfect paradise.

• It must be confessed that we find beauty by comparison ; and this must excuse all travellers in their particular praise of spots, which elsewhere would pot, perhaps, call forth their eulogy. Though the season of the year was approaching to the greatest heat, shade was every where to be found amongst the thick plantations of palm-trees, which surrounded and traversed the island. Amongst these the modern habitations showed themselves, whilst the eye often rested on the ancient temples still existing. Every spot was cultivated, and every person employed; none asked for money; and I walked about, greeted by all I met with courteous and friendly salams.

• The intercourse I had with the natives of Assuan was of a very different nature ; and in spite of French civilization and French progeny, which the countenances and complexion of many of the younger part of the inhabitants betrayed, I never received marks of attention without a demand on my generosity.'- Pp. 52, 53.

At Philæ our traveller first observed the ravages committed by the locusts, of which an immense swarm obscured the sky. In a few hours all the palm-trees were stripped of their foliage, and the ground of its herbage; men, women, and children, were vainly employing themselves to prevent these destructive insects from setDing; howling repeatedly the name of Geraad, (locust,) throwing sand in the air, beating the ground with sticks, and, at night, in lighting fires--yet they blessed God that he had sent them locusts instead of the plague, which, they observed, always raged at Cairo when these insects made their appearance in Nubia, and which Captain Light says was, in the present instance, actually the case.

At Galabshee the Nile divided itself among several rocks and uninhabited islands; and here Captain Light says he had occasion to remark shells of the oyster kind, attached to the granite masses of these cataracts, similar to those often found in petrifactionswhose presence he attributed to some communication of former times between the Nile and the ocean. At this place the inhabitants were more suspicious, and behaved with more incivility to our traveller than at any other which he had yet passed. They demanded a present before they would allow him to look at their temple. One more violent than the rest,' he says, 'threw dust in the air, the signal both of rage and defiance, ran for his shield, and came towards me dancing, howling, and striking the shield with the head of his javelin, to intimidate me. A promise of a present pacified him, and enabled me to make my remarks and sketches.'

At Deir Captain Light met with excavations in the rocks, which had evidently been intended as burial places; their sides were covered with hieroglyphics and symbolic figures similar to those in the Temple of Cneph at Elphantina.

• The jealousy of the natives, who could not be persuaded I was not influenced by the desire to seek for treasures, prevented me from making those researches that might perhaps have led to the discovery of the connecting character between the hieroglyphic, Coptish, and Greek languages; for it cannot be supposed the two former were dropped at once; and that whilst the custom of preserving the bodies of the dead in the Egyptian manner was continued by the early Christians, there should not be some traces of the language of the people from whom it was copied. Such a discovery may be attempted by some future traveller.

. The sides of the openings are well finished. On one I traced a cross of this form + preceding the following Greek characters :

And on another were these :

TWN Tor X Cor

ANTONIOT which were the first inscriptions I had seen that appear, connected with Christianity.'--pp. 78, 79.

Beyond this point, and between Ibrîm and Dongola, as we learn from Mr. Burckhardt's journal, the temples, which have been converted into Christian churches, become more frequent, so as to leave little doubt that it was by the line of the Nile that Christianity found its way, at so early a period, into Abyssinia ; and it certainly will become an interesting object of inquiry for some future traveller, well qualified, to trace its progress from Nubia into that country, where it still holds its ground, though greatly corrupted from its original purity;

From Deir Captain Light proceeded to Ibrîm, where he made a short visit to the aga, a venerable old man, who prayed him, in the true patriarchal style, to 'tarry till the sun was gone down; to alight, refresh himself, and partake of the food he would prepare for the strangers.' It was served up on a clean mat spread under the shade of the wall of his house, and consisted of wheaten cake broken into small bits, and put into water, sweetened with date-juice, in a wooden bowl; curds with liquid butter, and preserved dates, and a bowl of milk. The aga's house was, like the rest, a mere mud hovel. The people flocked round the stranger, and inquired, as usual, whether he came to look for treasure, and whether Christians or Moslems, English or French, were the builders of the temples. Among the superstitions of the natives, which it appears is common in Egypt as well as Nubia, is that of spitting on any diseased part of the body as a certain remedy.' 'At Erment, the ancient Hermontis, says Captain Light, “an old woman applied to me for medicine for a disease in the eyes, and, on my giving her some directions she did not seem to like, requested me to spit on her eyes, which I did, and she went away, blessed me, and was well satisfied of the certainty of the cure.

From Ibrîm our traveller returned down the Nile, examined the temple of Seboo, called, by Legh, Sibhoi, and describes “its avenues of sphinxes, its gigantic figures in alto-relievo, its pilasters and hieroglyphics.' At Quffeddonnee he discovered the remains of a primitive Christian church, in the interior of which were many painted Greek inscriptions and figures relating to scriptural subjects. The ruins of a temple at Deboo are minutely described. On the 1st June Captain Light reached Philæ, and thus sums up his observations on the natives of Nubia :

· The people who occupy the shores of the Nile between Philæ and Ibrim are, for the most part, a distinct race from those of the north. The extent of the country is about one hundred and fifty miles ; which, according to my course on the Nile up and down, I conceive


be about two hundred by water, and is estimated at much more by Mr. Hamilton and others. They are called by the Egyptians Goobli, meaning in Arabic the people of the south. My boatmen from Boolac applied Goobli generally to them all, but called those living about the cataracts Berber. Their colour is black; but the change to it, in the progress from Cairo, does not occur all at once to the traveller, but by gradual alteration to the dusky hue from white. Their countenance approaches to that of a negro; thick lips, fattish nose and head, the body short, and bones slender : the leg bones have the curve observed in negroes : the hair is curled and black, but not woolly. Men of lighter complexion are found amongst them; which may be accounted for by intermarrying with Arabs, or a descent from those followers of Selim the Second who were left here upon his conquest of the country. On the other hand, at Galabshee the people seemed to have more of the negro than elsewhere ; thicker lips, and hair more tufted, as well as a more savage disposition.

• The Nubian language is different from the Arabic. The latter, as acquired from books and a teacher, had been of very little use to me in Egypt itself; but here, not even the vulgar dialect of the Lower Nile would serve for common intercourse, except in that district extending from Dukkey to Deir, where the Nubian is lost, and Arabic prevails again : a curious circumstance ; and, when considered with an observation of the lighter colour of this people, leads to a belief of their being descended from Arabs. The Nubian, in speaking, gave me an idea of VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.


« PreviousContinue »