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THE COTTON PLANT.
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 the feas-or the loathsome crawlings of more intolerable and disgusting verminforced one or other of us from the short oblivion of our annoyances, and thus roased all in time to sympathise with, or laugh at the miseries of the sufferer, who, in vainly endeavouring to free himself from his tormentors in our narrow abode, necessarily 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 in 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, (seven o'clock,) the thermometer standing below 45°. After breakfast we landed, and as the boat made but little way, we were able to keep up with it, and employed our time in shooting along the banks. The Basha has established telegraphic communications to the capital from Alexandria along this canal, and to Rosetta by the banks of the Nile from Atfé. The land here was exceedingly fertile ; the corn and flax were well up, and of a richer green than I had ever seen before; with large plantations of cotton, which, however, is here but a small shrub, not bigger than a currant bush; and the floculent material, 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 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 Básha 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; but the machinery, of a rude and imperfect description, APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY. .
and made by ignorant hands, soon got out of order ; and I understand that a system of peculation was carried on by the foreign instructors to an enormous extent, and the outlay was immense. Afterwards, the war in which Egypt was engaged for some years became 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 compressing the bales are multiplied at Alexandria, and the export to England bids fair to exceed 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 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 dove-cots, and groves of tall palms, with the white minaret of the hamletmosque 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 occupied by 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 is so tame, that it can be knocked down with a stick; its stately walk, its light and elegant snow-white plumage, fawn-coloured 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 by travellers 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,
MODE OF CLEANING THE CANAL.
supplied us with our daily meals, and hoopoes filled 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 several ditches and lagoons teem with fish, principally mullet, and also the binny, of both kinds, the cyprinus binny, and cyp. nilotica. In the banks of the canal are vast quantities of bivalve shells, principally the tellina fluminea, unio Egyptica, and unio nilotica of Caillaud.
As there is a continual filling up of this canal, both by deposits from the water, and the wearing of its 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 dredge, 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 seem light-hearted, 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 strings of 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.
This great national undertaking, the Canal of Mahmoud, forty miles in length, was commenced in 1819, it is said at the instance of an English merchant, resident at Alexandria, many of whose boats had been previously lost in attempting the bar at Rosetta. The Viceroy, having determined on the plan, was not slow in putting it into execution. His mandate went forth, and in a few days upwards of three hundred thousand of the Egyptian people were collected along the site laid down. It will be scarcely credited, yet such is the fact, that this canal was formed literally by the hands of the Fellaheen, who,“ destitute of the necessary tools, scratched up with their hands the soft mud, which was removed by women and children, in baskets, and placed in heaps on the right bank and left.” I have been informed that more than twenty thousand people died, and were buried in its banks, during the ten months it was constructing.
About four o'clock in the afternoon we arrived at the village of 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, exhausted by evaporation, or the drain of irrigation, becomes too low to permit of navigation. 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 two miles and a half an hour; the water is not so muddy as that of the canal, and when filtered, tastes 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 deposit 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 vice-consul, procured us a boat much more comfortable than the one we had left; and except for the cargo of raw hides which were piled in the hold immediately outside our cabin door, and the increase of rats consequent thereon, we should hare considered ourselves very fortunate. Numerous villages occur along the banks, surrounded with groves of limes and orange trees, and fringed by carobs and acacias, in which hundreds of doves nestle.
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 was beans and brown bread, mashed up together in a wooden bowl, round which they all sat without distinction; and 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; to track the boat along the bank, 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 course. The old Reis would sit at the helm, perched upon the high poop for hours together, without exchanging a word, except the occasional “salaam aleikim," to the salutation of a similar occupant of a passing kanghia. Our morning temperature was excessively severe, and till seven o'clock generally as low as 47°, rising, however, 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 many of the impositions or exactions so frequent here. During 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 little or nothing can be 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 or twenty feet, but to tell the exact number of the 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 silicious earth, lime, and magnesia, are yearly carried down by the inundation, and deposited in proportion to the ratio of the rise of the 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. 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. 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