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276

EGYPTIAN PLAGUES.

desperate determinations to sleep, and had actually fallen asleep several times, our slumbers were of short duration ; for packed as we were—the squeaking of a rat under one of our heads—the flight of a cockroach into our faces—the bite of a bug—the incessant attacks of fleas-or the loathsome crawlings of more intolerable and disgusting vermin, forced one or other of us from the short oblivion of our annoyances, and roused all in time to sympathise with, or laugh at the miseries of the sufferer, who in vainly endeavouring to free himself from his tormentors, awoke the whole party. When we arose in the morning we found that our Arabs had fared better, for having moored the boat to a post on the bank, they were quietly enjoying their slumber, so that we were only twenty-five miles from where we had set out the day before.

It was excessively cold at this early hour, the thermometer standing below 50. After breakfast we landed, and as the boat made but little way, we were able to keep up with it, shooting along the banks. The country here is exceedingly fertile; the corn and flax were well up, and of a richer green than I had any where seen, with large plantations of cotton, which, however, is here but a small shrub, not bigger than a currant bush ; and the cotton, now bursting from its capsules, make those inclosures look as if a flock of sheep had run through the bushes, and left the greater part of their fleeces on the thorns. The

THE COTTON PLANT.

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introduction of this plant into Egypt has been attended with the most signal success; and though twenty-five years have not elapsed since the first sprig of it took root, it is now one of the principal sources of revenue, and the most extensive article of export. In 1820, a scheme of manufacturing it in the country was commenced, and the Basha went to an enormous expenditure of men and money, in erecting cotton mills, and procuring spinners, engineers, and machinery from Europe. At first these men worked with great energy, and the Basha was fain to believe the interested stories of his French and Italian overseers, that he could thus, in a short time, become the rival of Glasgow and Manchester. Crowds of natives were driven into the factories ; the machinery, of a rude and imperfect description, was made by ignorant hands, and soon got out of order. I understand that a system of peculation was carried on by the foreign instructors, and the outlay was immense. Afterwards the war in which Egypt has been engaged for some years past, has been so great a drain upon the population, that the different cotton mills have, in a great measure, been abandoned.

Mohammad Alee is now, however, pursuing a wiser and a better policy, in curtailing the number of the spinning and weaving mills, and only manufacturing in the country a sufficiency for its own consumption, and the remainder of the raw material is sold into Europe. Machines for compres

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APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY.

sing the bales are multiplied at Alexandria, and the export into England bids fair to exceed both the East and West Indies, or America. We left six English traders in the harbour of Alexandria receiving cotton. Although of a dark colour, and not of the very finest description, it is now much valued in our markets.

The Basha has established telegraphic communications along this canal to the capital from Alexandria, and to Rosetta by the banks of the Nile from Atfé. The country is one immense flat, but only cultivated along the banks of the canal, or around the villages, which are placed upon little hillocks, rising like islands out of this interminable plain, and which, with their square mud houses, domed dovecotes, and groves of tall palms, with the white minaret of the hamlet-mosque peeping from out their wide-spreading branches, have a very picturesque and pleasing effect. In other places occur large tracts of uncultivated swamp or sandy slobs, which are covered with countless numbers of

geese, and water-fowl of all descriptions, so close as absolutely to cover the ground ; they are, however, very wary, and as there is no possible cover, the sportsmen can seldom get near enough for a shot. I should imagine the apparatus of Colonel Hawker would commit great devastation among the feathered tribe here. The avoset is particularly plenty; also bee-eaters, (merops apiaster and m. tavia,) and in the corn-fields, the paddy-bird, so tame, that it

MODE OF CLEANING THE CANAL.

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can be knocked down with a stick; its stately walk, its light and elegant snow-white plumage, fawncoloured erectile crest, and yellow legs and bill, make this bird one of the most beautiful in Egypt; and like the robin with us, its domestic habits, and appearing to put itself under the protection of man, is the reason why it is erroneously supposed to be held sacred by the modern Egyptians. The field lark is a larger bird than ours, with a black erectile tuft on the head. Pigeons, in vast flocks, supplied us with our daily meals, and hoopoes fill

every

bush. But let the bird be large or small shot by the Mooslim, it is turned towards Mekka, and its throat cut, otherwise it would be considered unclean, and to use it would be deemed pollution. Jackals are met in the thicker parts of the country; and the ditches and lagoons teem with fish, principally mullet, and also binny, (cyprinus binny and cyp. nilotica.)

As there is a continual filling up of this canal, both by the deposits from the water, and the wearing of the banks, the clay of which, from its want of tenacity, is continually slipping in, it requires frequent cleaning, which is effected by means of a large dridge, worked by a wheel of great size, set in motion by men inside, much in the manner of a tread-mill. The mud is carried away in small baskets on the head by women and

young girls ; yet though apparently loathsome their occupation, they all seemed light-hearted,

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singing gaily, and clapping the hands to keep time. Many of the younger ones were pretty, and wore bracelets, anklets, nose jewels of silver, and beads, although covered with mud, and only dressed in a dirty blue chemise.

As you approach the Nile, large sheets of water occur, the remains of the previous year's inundation; some of these communicate by locks with the canal. In the banks of the canal are vast quantities of bivalve shells, principally the tellina fluminea, unio Egyptica, and unio hilotica of Caillaud.

About four o'clock we arrived at Atfé, where the canal communicates with the Nile by means of a lock, so narrow, however, that boats never pass from one into the other. The gates are only opened when the Nile is high, or when the water of the canal becomes too low ; exhausted by evaporation, or the drain of irrigation. Atfé, though a small and insignificant place, exhibits all the stir and bustle of a commercial port. The view of the Nile here is truly grand, and awakens sensations, heightened by expectation, and not disappointed by the reality. It is about 500 yards across, and runs at the rate of about two miles an hour ; the water not so muddy as that of the canal, and when filtered, particularly sweet, especially when there is no other than that of the canal to be got. The operation of filtering, as it is termed, (but properly of deposition, as the water only requires to stand still, and throw down

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