תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

THE NILE BOATMEN.

281

its sediment,) is performed in earthenware vessels, unglazed, delicately thin, and of beautiful antique shapes. These being placed in the shade, the water is cooled by evaporation, as well as cleared. Our Greek servant, who had proceeded hither the night before, had along with the British viceconsul, procured us a boat much more comfortable than the one we had left, and except for the cargo of raw hides which was piled in the hold immediately outside our cabin door, and the increase of rats consequent thereon, we should have considered ourselves very fortunate.

This kanghia was one of the largest size, having two masts and sails, and a double cabin, in the larger of which was a table with seats, and windows along the sides. Our Arab crew .were a dirty but well-formed and hardy set of men; their food, beans and brown bread, mashed up together in a wooden bowl, round which they all sat without distinction each dipping his hand in the dish, first reminded me of an Eastern custom that every Christian well remembers. Active and obedient, they were ever ready to tend, or shift the cumbrous yards and heavy sails to the different windings of the river, or changes of the wind, as well as to plunge into the water like so many amphibious animals at a moment's warning, upon the boat's touching any of the numerous sand-banks that occurred along our

The old Reis would sit at the helm, perched upon the high poop for hours together,

course.

282

VILLAGES ON THE NILE.

without exchanging a word, except the occasional salaam aleikim, to the salutation of a similar occupant of a passing kanghia. Numerous villages occur along the bank, with groves of limes and orange trees, and surrounded by carobs and acacias, in which hundreds of doves nestle.

[graphic]

Our morning temperature was excessively severe, and till seven o'clock generally as low as 47°, rising during the day to 75o. This variation is most trying to invalids, and will be felt by all Europeans. We hoisted the English ensign, which is well known and much respected along the river, and will save the boat and crew from any of the impositions or exactions so frequent here. The greater part of Monday the wind was against us; and as the boat made but little way, we landed and walked a considerable distance, shooting along the banks, and observing the country, of which nothing can be

COMPOSITION OF THE SOIL.

283

seen from the deck of a boat, owing to the height of the banks, the flatness of the land, and the lowness of the water at this season of the

year. The banks

vary

in height from four to nineteen feet, but to tell the exact strata from the section would be impossible, so great a variety occurs in different positions. You see, however, several layers appearing in some places, alternating in thickness from one-half of an inch to three or six inches, and differing likewise in colour and constituents—some consisting of a dark loam, and others of a lighter colour, and having in them quantities of mica* and minute particles of iron pyrites, which, with the siliceous earth, lime, and magnesia, are yearly carried down by the inundation, and deposited in proportion to the ratio of the rise of this river, so that by the quantity of this valuable manure, the crop must vary as well as by the extent of land covered by the inundation. The Nile is yearly changing its channel, throwing up banks in some places, and encroaching upon its former limits in others, and thus it must have again and again traversed and cut through the same parts of the valley in which it is confined. Stones or

* It appears to me more than probable that it is the small shining yellowish particles of this mica, adhering to the feet of the thousands of pigeons that are constantly feeding along its banks, that have given rise to the opinion of gold dust being carried into Greece and the Ionian isles by the flocks of these birds that migrate yearly to those countries from Egypt, and not, as is supposed, from the interior of Africa.

284

SCENERY OF THE NILE.

gravel of

any kind are very rare in this section of the bank, and in no instance did I see any organic remains or any shells since leaving Atfé. Towards the fork of the Delta the river becomes very tortuous on the Canopic branch, and runs in some places upwards of three miles an hour. At this point the fertile land varies in breadth from two to one half, or even one quarter of a mile. In some places as far as the eye can reach you see nothing but green; in others the desert approaches very close to the water; and even here, so low down, and so near the seat of government and the two great cities, there is much land uncultivated. The people seem little acquainted with agriculture, and the only instrument of husbandry in common use is the mattock, or short hoe, and a very rude wooden plough, which barely scratches the soil four inches deep; but the land is so soft and pulverisable that little more is required. Pigeon factories, and whole villages solely erected as dove-cots, form (as they are as yet untaxed,) a great source of the livelihood of the people, and flocks of lapwings and plover swarm in

every

field. The balearic crane we frequently met in the morning, and although we saw both swifts and swallows at Alexandria, and martins afterwards about Cairo, not one of the hirundines appeared during this part of our journey. Hares I shot more than once, similar to ours, but with longer hair, having a slight tinge of black at the extremity, and the ears being nearly

THE FELLAHEEN.

285

black The Felláheen, or lower orders, in this part of Egypt, appeared to be poor, dirty, and idlenumbers lying basking in the sun-rising on our approach merely for the purpose of asking a buckshese. The poorer classes of Egyptian women are much less tenacious of their beauty or their modesty than they were some years ago.

Great numbers now go without the yashmac, or nosebag, required to be worn by Mohammadan females, their only covering being a blue. linen chemise, which, fitting pretty tightly, often exhibits the outline of a figure of surpassing grace and elegance. This garment reaches somewhat below the knees, and is open in front as far as the waist, which, though never subjected to the torture of lace or whalebone, is, in many of those Arab girls, slender without contortion, and proportionate without compression. The breasts of those who have had children (and few here arrived at sixteen who have not) become, from want of covering or support, exceedingly pendant, and to a European eye, disgusting. The young children, who are invariably naked, are carried astride upon the hip or shoulders, and the mother, with a pitcher of water on the head, and her infant thus seated, and both balanced with unerring accuracy, offers an interesting subject for the pencil of the painter.

All the females along the Nile are tattooed upon some part of the face, chin, or temple. The lines are marked in blue, and differ in figure and extent,

.

« הקודםהמשך »