Page images








[ocr errors]

which they brought down with them, and thus the soil of Egypt was gradually built up. Near Esna begins the layer of sandstone, which extends southward, and covers nearly the whole of Nubia, and rests ultimately on crystalline rock.

The part of Egypt which lies to the north of the point where the Nile divides itself into two branches resembles in shape a lotus flower, or a triangle standing on its apex, and because of its similarity to the fourth letter of their alphabet, the

DELTA Greeks called it Delta,

The Delta is formed of a deep layer of mud and sand, which rests upon the yellow quartz sands, and gravels and stiff clay, which were laid down by the sea in prehistoric times. The area of the Delta is about 14,500 square miles.

The Delta of Egypt. The Oases of Egypt are seven in number, and all are situated in the Western Desert. Their names are: 1. Oasis of Siwah or Jupiter Ammon; 2. Oasis of Bahariyah, i.e., the Northern Oasis ; 3. The Oasis of Farafrah, the Ta-åhet of the Egyptians ; 4. The Oasis of Dakhlah, i.e., the “Inner" Oasis, the Tchesti of the Egyptians; 5. The Oasis of Khârgah, i.e., the “Outer Oasis,” the Uaht-rest or “Southern Oasis” of the Egyptians ; 6. The Oasis of Dailah, to the west of Farâfrah ; 7. The Oasis of Kürkûr, to the west of Aswân.

The principal Lakes of Egypt are: 1. Birkat al-Kurún, a long, narrow lake. lying to the north-west of the Province of the Fayyûm, and formerly believed to be a part of the Lake Moeris described by Herodotus; 2. The Natron Lakes, which lie in the Natron Valley, to the northwest of Cairo; from these the Egyptians obtained salt and various forms of soda, which were used for making incense, and in embalming the dead; 3. Lake Menzâlah, Lake Bûrlûs, Lake Edkû, Lake Abukir, now almost reclaimed, and Lake Mareotis; all these are in the Delta. Lake Timsah (i.e., Crocodile Lake) and the Bitter Lakes, which were originally mere swamps, came into existence with the making of the Suez Canal.

The Fayyûm which was in ancient times regarded as one of the Oases, is nothing more than a deep depression scooped out of the limestone, on which are layers of loams and marls covered over by Nile mud. The district was called by the Egyptians “Ta-she,” or “Land of the Lake”; at the present time it has an area of about 850 square miles, and is watered by a branch of the Nile called the “Bahr Yûsuf,” which flows into it through an opening in the mountains on the west bank of the Nile. The Bahr Yûsuf, or “River of Joseph," is not called after the name of the


The Entrance to the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings at Thebes.

patriarch Joseph, but that of some Muhammadan ruler. It is not a canal as was once supposed, but an arm of the Nile, which, however, needs clearing out periodically. In the Fayyûm lay the large body of water to which Herodotus gave the name of Lake Moeris. He believed that this Lake had been constructed artificially, but modern irrigation authorities in Egypt have come to the conclusion that the mass of water which he saw and thought was a lake was merely the result of the Nile flood, or inundation, and that there never was a Lake Moeris.

Deserts. On each side of the Valley of the Nile lies a vast desertThat on the east is called the Arabian Desert,

massorties in Egypth artificially, but reved that this

The influe for six mont At many pretches of Sawith

in andter A, when back to a

or Red Sea Desert, and that on the west the Libyan Desert. The influence of the latter on the climate of Egypt is very great, as for six months of the year the prevailing wind blows from the west. At many places in the Eastern and Western Deserts there are long stretches of sand scores of miles in length, and immense tracts covered with layers of loose pebbles and stone, and the general effect is desolate in the extreme. The hills which skirt the deserts along the Valley of the Nile are usually quite low, but at certain points they rise to the height of a few hundred feet. Nothing grows on them, and more bare and inhospitable places cannot be imagined. The accompanying illustration gives a good idea of the general appearance of the stone hills on the Nile. In the fore-ground are masses of broken stone, sand, rocks, etc., and these stretch back to a gap in the range of hills just below the letter A, whence, between steep rocks, a rough road winds in and out along the dreary valley which contains the sepulchres of the great kings of the XVIIIth, XIXth and later dynasties. Under the light of a full moon the Valley is full of weird beauty, but in the day-time the heat in it resembles that of a furnace.

The chief characteristic of Egypt is the great river Nile, which has in all ages been the source of the life and prosperity of its inhabitants, and the principal highway of the country, The Egyptians of the early Dynastic Period had no exact knowledge about the true source of the river. In their hymns to the Nile-god they described him as the "hidden one,” and “ unseen,” and his “secret places ” are said to be “unknown.” The river over which he presided formed a part of the great celestial river, or ocean, upon which sailed the boats of the Sun-god daily. This river surrounded the whole earth, from which, however, it was separated by a range of mountains, On one portion of this river was placed the throne of Osiris, according to a legend, and close by was the opening in the range of mountains through which an arm of the celestial river flowed into the earth. The place where the Nile appeared on earth was believed to be situated in the First Cataract, and in late times the Nile was said to risc there, between two mountains which were near the Island of Elephantine and the Island of Philae. Herodotus gives the names of these mountains as “Krophi” and “Môphi," and their originals have probably been found in the old Egyptian “Qer-Hāpi” and “Mu-Hāpi”; these names mean “Cavern of Hāpi” and “Water of Hāpi” respectively.

The underground caverns, or "storehouses of the Nile,"

from which the river welled up, are depicted in the illustrations here given. In the first the cavern is guarded by a hippopotamus-headed goddess, who is armed with a large knife and wears a feather on her head. Above are seated two



The two Nile-gods and their Cavern, and the

hippopotamus goddess, who is armed with a huge knife, their protectress.

The Nile-god in his cavern, under

the rocks at Philae, pouring out the waters which formed the two Niles.

gods, one wearing a cluster of papyrus plants on his head, and the other a cluster of lotus flowers; the former represents the Nile of the South, and the other the Nile of the North. Each god holds water-plants in one hand. In the second illustration the god is depicted kneeling in his cavern, which

is enclosed by the body of a serpent; he wears a cluster of water-plants on his head, and is pouring out from two vases the streams of water which became the South and North Niles.

The Egyptians called both their river and the river-god " Hän" or " Hāpi » 8 2.8 mi , a name of which the meaning is unknown ; in very early dynastic times the god was called “Hep-ur” 8 _ , i.e., the “great Hep.” The name “Nile," by which the “River of Egypt” is generally known, is not of Egyptian origin, but is probably derived from the Semitic word nakhal "river"; this the Greeks turned into “Neilos," and the Latins into “Nilus,"


The Nile-gods of the South and North tying The Nile.god bearing the stems of a lily and a papyrus plant offerings of bread, wine, round the symbol of “union," symbolizing fruit, flowers, etc.

the union of Upper and Lower Egypt. whence comes the common form “Nile.” The river appears in the form of a man wearing a cluster of water-plants on his head, and his fertility is indicated by a large pendent breast. In the accompanying illustration the gods of the South and North Niles are seen tying stems of the lotus and papyrus plants round the symbol of “union”; the scene 'represents the union of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The ideas held by the Egyptians concerning the power of the Nile-god are well illustrated by a lengthy Hymn to the Nile preserved on papyrus in the British Museum (Sallier II, No. 10,182). "Homage to thee, O Hāpi, thou appearest in this "land, and thou comest in peace to make Egypt to live. Thou "waterest the fields which Rā hath created, thou givest life

« PreviousContinue »