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some better regulation. There is much outcry made at present about the taxation of Egypt. It is, no doubt, over-taxed, and it is quite time that something should be done to inquire into, and remedy this defect.
Great quantities of the crops are mortgaged long before they are cut, but although no excuse for such conduct here, it would be well for those who exclaim against it, to inquire into the oppressive duties imposed upon the natives of the interior of British India, and they may probably find not only à parallel for Egypt, but a solution of the question respecting the frequent famines that have of late years attracted so much attention. Whatever
be the rate, the payer now knows how much he has to pay, while heretofore, it was regulated by the daily wants of rapacious lords, and levied whenever luxury or ambition required it. But to return to our text. The crops were mostly beans and barley; the former, which was partly in blossom, is a small kind, but forms one of the principal articles of food for the people. Great numbers of both men and women were now in the fields, engaged with the bean crop.* It is sown in drills, and the old stalks are made use of to support and protect the young, till they have acquired sufficient strength. There is a continual succession of
* Herodotus informs us that the ancient Egyptians ate 'no beans.
THE PLAIN OF MEMPHIS.
bean-crops going forward, and many are planting in one part of a field, when the remainder is in full bloom.
The great pyramids of Geza now came into the landscape, appearing on the boundary of the cultivated plain, and though still several miles distant, seemed as if within a mile or less, to raise their huge giant forms, and stood forth in solitary monumental grandeur, that thought may faintly conceive, but words cannot express. Our track lay obliquely across the country, towards the pyramids of Aboosier, which now became distinctly visible, leaving those of Geza on our right to be visited on our return.
A raised narrow road traversed the noble plain of Memphis, intersected by numerous canals for admitting the inundations of the Nile, not unlike the dykes of Holland, and several small lakes and ponds* of stagnant water, left by the vast overflow, filled with fish of different kinds. Two crops are the ordinary return from the natural irrigation; three, however, can be procured by artificial means, but the quantity of land so worked, must, in places distant from the river, be necessarily very limited.
* Numbers of men were engaged in raising the water from these, either by the pole and bucket or in sachș. The water, once brought to the proper level, is distributed to the different parts of the crop, as each may require it, in little furrows made by the foot of the labourer, as described in Deuteronomy, xi. 10, 11—where Moses in depicting the beauties and fertility of Canaan, says, “It is not as the land of Egypt, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs.”
wonders would not a few steam engines effect in this department; with their aid, and a proper rotation of crops, no doubt four could be obtained yearly.
The sugar-cane is now grown in considerable quantity, and the manufacture is in a most flourishing condition. The colocynth, or bitter apple, has also become an article of considerable trade, and the opium I examined was fully as good in appearance, and as clean as any Turkish or East Indian ; but as it too has become a royal monopoly it cannot be expected to be so productive as it would otherwise be.
Thousands of teal that sported in every pond and pool afforded us ample sport, and curlews were in such abundance as to shadow the earth over which they flew; they were, however, just as wary as their fraternity at home. The white egrets having become objects of interest from their exceeding familiarity, we gave up shooting at them. Larks were in great abundance, and buzzards of enormous size sailed over our heads. About midway between the pyramids of Geza and Aboosier we arrived at the desert, and here it was that the full force of the Egyptian fable, regarding the perpetual contest of Typhon and Osiris, became apparent, for the desert is yearly encroaching on the cultivated land wherever the inundation has not extended. The line of demarcation is most accurately defined, and as the crop which ought naturally to extend to the very verge of the sand, and which acts like a wall to keep out the desert is in many parts of Egypt neglected
from want of labourers, it is slowly but undoubtedly conducing to the narrowing of the land, an event which all writers agree has taken place since the days of the ancient Egyptians.
We are now upon the vast Lybian desert, the fertile plains of Egypt to our left, the pyramids of Geza behind us, those of Dashoor and Sakara in front, and raised a considerable height from the valley of the Nile by a ledge of rock that runs parallel with the fertile land.
This wall of rock is partly covered with the sand which, rising in a crest above it, and in some places presenting an undulating surface, as it bounds over the barrier, givesit the remarkable appearance of one vast rolling swell suddenly arrested in its onward course to swallow up the land, which smiles beneath it in all the luxuriance of nature's richest clothing.
Were I to offer an opinion of my own I should say
that this rock once formed the enclosure of a vast city that extended all along the plain, between the pyramids and the river; and should any wealthy or enterprising traveller attempt to clear away some of the sand that now covers its face, at one or two points, I am strongly inclined to think, judging from what I saw at Sakara, that many tombs and excavations would be discovered, as it is more than conjecture that the catacombs extend the whole length of the pyramids. It may be in some secret or traditionary knowledge of this kind that originates the story told by the Arabs, of there being
a subterranean passage all along from the chambers of Sakara to the pyramid of Cheops.
Numbers of birds fluttered over the desert, and several noble eagles soared high above our heads in the liquid ether of an atmosphere peculiarly Egyptian. It was a most lovely day, though one of the warmest I experienced since our arrival, and as we passed forward I had ample opportunity of observing the various animals around me. The swallow tribe were in great plenty ; the red-breasted swallow, and the small grey martin particularly attracted our notice. I find that this little bird does not migrate like the swifts, (which, however, do not approach this part of the country,) but remain all the year round in the vicinity of the pyramids. I was not a little surprised at the good feeling and familiarity that seemed to exist between them and numbers of kestrils that flew with the most graceful motion, now skimming in rapid flight along the sands, and anon balanced on extended wing for minutes together ere they pounced upon their quarry. These were not birds, but a large species of grass or sandhopper, with remarkably brilliant crimson legs. The wings and back of this insect were the exact colour of the sand, so that when the animal lay quiet on the ground not even the eye of a hawk could distinguish it. The bird, however, marked with unerring accuracy the spot whereon it alighted, and remained hovering over it, as described, till the insect again took flight, when its red legs and under