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CATACOMBS OF ALEXANDRIA.
tent, and the labour that must have been expended on its construction. To those, however, who are interested in studying the forms of tombs, and the modes of burial of different nations, these have many remarkable peculiarities, and exhibit the type of buildings on a large scale, which will be found in all the rockcarved sepulchres, both throughout Egypt and in all the countries which derived their customs, arts, and architecture from her.
In a large outer hall, now used as a donkey-stable, and filled with dust and rubbish, we lighted our tapers, and were conducted through chamber after chamber, in most of which the sand and dirt had accumulated to within two or three feet of the roof. Some of these apartments are square, others round; but in all there was a soros or crypt opposite the door, and one on either side, for depositing the bodies; and several of them had a chimneylike aperture at the top, communicating with the open air above. In the farthest recesses of these chambers, I found holes cut in the sides through the solid stone, and leading upwards, but to what place I had no means of determining. In shape and situation they exactly resemble the air-holes that I before noticed in the chambers of the pyramids. It is surprising that a knowledge of this circumstance did not sooner lead by analogy to some reasonable explanation for the apertures in the pyramids. There was one room of great size, which struck me as remarkable ; it was circular, the doorway adorned with Doric pilasters; the roof slightly domed; and in its sides were three minor spaces, shaped like crosses, with three niches in each space for bodies, as exhibited in the plans of Dr. Clarke. In one of the distant rooms we were pointed out a narrow hole, which barely admitted the body ; this we were told led into another series of tombs, but Paulo endeavouring to creep through it, stuck fast, and as he could neither proceed nor retreat, we had to pull him out by the feet, which fortunately were within our reach.
The absence of hieroglyphics, the comparatively modern appearance of the work, the traces of Grecian architecture upon it, and there being no remains of bodies, sarcophagi, or mummycloths, to be found in or about them, leave little doubt that these catacombs are of a more recent date than has been usually assigned to them. They have been most accurately detailed by the enterprising traveller whom I have already mentioned; but from the fatigue, bruises, and the coating of dirt and mud with which I had become covered, in endeavouring to find out something
new or remarkable; which I did not, (with the exception of the air-holes, and the similarity of the ground-plan to other tombs to be mentioned hereafter,) I was, I must confess, on the whole, disappointed. But with regard to this, as well as all the other subjects of antiquity which I had an opportunity of examining in this country, I must say, that I am of opinion that, although so much has been done already, fully as much more remains for future explorers.
As the lake Mareotis lay but a short way from this place, I spent the remainder of my ride in examining it. The shores of this lake are quite flat, presenting the same appearance all round; and seeing a raised spot from which to view it, I rode onward for a great distance, momentarily expecting I should come to it, but it still seemed to recede, and appeared as far off as ever ; thus affording a singular optical deception, similar to that sometimes seen upon the desert.
The ground here affords a good specimen of fossil formation ; thousands of bivalve shells (the cardiacea) are to be seen imbedded in the sand, and coated over with an incrustation of chloride of sodium. Some of these shells are loose in the sand; others quite hardened, and with difficulty detached, as the sand is yearly consolidating, the greater part of the sea-water having been evaporated or drained off, and, with few exceptions, the hinges of these shells were turned towards the lake, or the last retiring wave. Should this fact be found to hold good elsewhere, it might enable us to give some probable opinion as to the direction in which water receded in other formations. Large quantities of sand, impregnated with common salt, are dug up here, and carried to Alexandria to be refined ; and from it the principal supply of salt for this part of the country is obtained. This substance is also collected in smaller pieces in the form of thin plates, not unlike ice, over the holes where the water has evaporated, since the embankment was broken down at the time of the French occupation of Egypt in the first years of this century.
The climate was then so cold, that not deeming it prudent to go farther up the country, we determined to try the coast of Asia Minor ; but before I leave this place, or conclude this part of my narrative, I am anxious to condense my scattered notes into a more regular form, upon that most important topic :- An Inquiry into the present state of Egypt under Mohammad Alee-which will be considered in the next chapter.
in which water o give some probahnd to hold good of the last
The present condition of Egypt and character of Mohammad Alee-Diversity of Opinions
Impressions received in the Country Parts and in the Cities-Egypt tried by an unfair stan. dard-Prophecies of Ezekiel-Introduction of the Memlooks—Their debasing GovernmentTestimony of Volney-War of 1802-Rise of Mohammad Alee-Destruction of the Memlook Beya--Exchange of Tyrants-Native Instruction-Colleges, Institutions, and FactoriesGrades in Society--Railroads-Steamerg-Basha's Household-Hig Knowledge of the StateAffection for his Wife_Taxation-Effects of the Battle of Koniah-Regeneration of Egypt, & Fulfilment of Prophecy-Affairs in the East-Political State of Egypt-Instability of the Turkish Empire-Extent of Mohammad Alee's Territory-Consequence of this returning to the Porte-Symbol of the Euphrates-Right to Independence-Present State of TurkeySooltan's Rule compared with the Viceroy's Effect of Mohammad Alee's Independence on European Powers-His Hereditary Possession.
The extraordinary diversity of opinions expressed in Egypt as well as in Europe, regarding the character and government of Mohammad Alee, and the present state of that country, over which he rules, is so remarkable, as to demand an inquiry how those opinions have arisen, and how views so different have in their turn been adopted by the visitor and the writer.
Opinions as opposite as the poles, are daily formed and promulgated by the traveller, and these will be found to arise not so much from previously conceived ideas, as from the mode in which he views the country, and the reception he there meets with ; circumstances which must, even to the mind least liable to be prejudiced, tend to bias its judgment. A few years ago, Europe rang with the praises of this wonderful man, and lauded the regeneration which he had been the means of bringing about in this ancient, highly-favoured, but long-degraded land. It has now become the fashion to decry the character of the viceregal occupant of the throne of the Pharaohs. Let us see how these opinions are formed.
A traveller arriving in Egypt, by way of the Red Sea, lands at Cossier, and reaches the Nile in the vicinity of the first cata
tend to bias ist, even to then he there
DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS.
ract, for the purpose of examining the ruins of Thebes, Luxor, and Karnak, and the other antiquities of Upper Egypt. The impression there received of the former grandeur of this ancient people is brought into the strongest contrast with the present unutterable poverty and wretchedness of the natives. Nay, the trivial circumstance of their inhabiting, in all the squalid misery of want, those mighty monuments of their bygone glory, affects his mind, and warps it from a sober and impartial judgment. Unprovided, perhaps, with the magic signature of Mohammad Alee, numberless obstacles present themselves to his antiquarian researches, and the very difficulty he experiences in procuring a kanghia to convey him down the Nile, (all the boats here belonging to the Basha,) prejudice him against the fellaheen; to obtain redress of whom, for some fancied wrong, he applies to the next ravenous sheykh, who, for a bribe of a few piasters, submits the unfortunate and ignorant accused to the agonies of the koorbag—the rhinoceros-skin whip.
As he proceeds down the river against untoward winds, and suffering daily annoyances from want of the luxuries he has been accustomed to, he meets the conscription-officer and the tax-gatherer, in the full exercise of their hated and oppressive power; the former of whom, he sees dragging the peasant from his home, and followed to the water's edge by the curses of the infirm, and the wailings of the mother and the wife; while many of those who are left behind have purchased their exemption by the mutilation of their limbs, or the partial deprivation of their sight; and moreover he beholds much of this fertile land lying waste for want of cultivation.
Arrived at Cairo, disgusted with the country, and out of humour with himself, he looks with a jaundiced eye upon the modern manufactories, and other improvements made by the viceroy, whose reception of him may no doubt remove some of the impressions he had already received on his voyage down the Nile, but which may be shortly afterwards restored, perhaps, by the company he meets at his consul's, or the renegade European instructors he may find at his hotel, at the faro table, or in the billiard-room.
On the other hand, a traveller landing at Alexandria, receives the opinions of the agent or consul he may be most in contact with, whose judgment may, in turn, have been biassed for or
• MODE OF THEIR FORMATION.
against the government by the result of his last presentation at . court—by the political feelings towards the Basha, of the nation he represents—or, by the result of the last commercial speculation he has had with Mohammad Alee, who, being the sole merchant of the country, transacts his business in person, and often drives a hard bargain. It is the object of all who are not then in favour, to enumerate to the traveller every instance of oppression or fancied misgovernment; and to place before him those dreary pictures which almost every country affords of hardship and distress.
Again, another visitor appears furnished with such recommendation as insures him a certain degree of attention at court; a deal of pains is consequently taken that he shall see every thing in the best possible light, and it is the business of the officials to make the most favourable representations to him of every circumstance connected with the state of the country, in order to raise it the more highly in his estimation. Thus, he is led to see thriving manufactories, public schools, and splendid hospitals, together with well-disciplined troops, fully qualified instructors, artizans skilful in their different departments, and a well-fed population crowding the principal and most opulent parts of the city. To all these his views are at first generally confined, and in the din and bustle of such movements, the court paid to himself, and the interest excited by the novelty and diversity of the scene, he knows not, or hears not, of the misery without. Poverty and oppression are studiously kept out of sight, and should he ascend into the country, he is borne along in all the ease and luxury which can be furnished, and with such supplies for his comfort, that he has no opportunity of demanding from the inhabitants what they could not possibly procure. Yea, more than this—it is a positive fact, that he is frequently supplied with every necessary for his journey, at the expense of the very man whose government he is going to review. In a word, his first impressions are received, and his opinions formed, from the extreme good he has witnessed and enjoyed in the neighbourhood of the city, as those of the other are formed from his observations of the extreme ill seen in the country parts.
Egypt has been tried by the standard of civilization and refinement at present to be met with in the countries of Europe ; whereas, to make a fair comparison, we should try her by the