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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 have 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
PASSAGE UP THE. NILE.
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,
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
parts of the valley in which it is confined. Stones or gravel of any kind are very rare in this section of the bank, and in no instance did I see any shells or other organic remains since leaving Atfé.
Towards the fork of the Delta the river becomes very tortuous on the Canopic branch, and runs in some places nearly four miles : an hour. At this point the fertile land varies in breadth from two miles, to half, or even a 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 remaining 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 (being as yet untaxed) a great source of the livelihood of the people, and flocks of lapwing and plover swarm in every field. The Balearic or crested 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 voyage.
Hares I shot more than once; they were similar to ours, but with longer hair, having a slight tinge of black at the extremity, and the ears being nearly black.
The Felláheén, or lower orders, in this part of Egypt, appeared to be poor, dirty, and idle—numbers lying basking in the sunrising on our approach merely for the purpose of asking a buckshese. The poorer classes of Egyptian women are now much less tenacious of their beauty or their modesty than they were some years ago. Great numbers go without the yashmac, or nose-bag, 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 chil
dren (and there are few here arrived at sixteen who have not) become, from want of covering or support, exceedingly pendent, and, to a European eye, disgusting. The young children, who are invariably naked, are carried astride upon the hip or shoulder; 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, according to the several tribes or villages to which they belong. Those who are in a better condition, and adhere to ancient custom with more accuracy, wear the facecover (boorks), consisting of a stripe of black crape, or linen, about eight inches wide at top, where it is fastened to the headdress by an ornamental clasp, or circular bit of brass, which comes down over the root of the nose
ose—the upper margin is closely applied immediately below the eyes, and the lower end hangs down in front to the knees, or lower ; above the upper margin peep a pair of most bewitching and invariably black eyes, rendered more sparkling by the dark line of kohl or liban surrounding them—the eyebrows being arched with the same. A triangular piece of muslin is brought over the forehead, and hangs down behind below the waist, and thus there is but about two inches of the face left to view. Many will here appear so careful of their charms, that, although nearly in a state of nudity, they will draw with becoming modesty some portion of their ragged only garment across the face on meeting a stranger; though by so doing they expose more of their person than is in accordance with our notions of decency-yet such is the fashion of Egypt. All who can muster a few piasters are provided with rings of brass or silver, or strings of beads in the ears, and on the wrists and ankles. Some few wear large silver nose-rings, passed through a hole, not in the septum, but through one of the sides or alæ. The colour of most of the Egyptian women is a light olive—the features of many are regular, and, to my taste, pleasing—the exceeding regularity of outline still preserves a similarity to that of the ancient race—more particularly seen in the long lozengeshaped eye.
The eye of the Arab girl, and more particularly the Egyptian, is so peculiar, and so often caused me to stop and admire its