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THE AVENUE OF SPHINXES AND PTOLEMAIC PYLON AT KARNAK. The old man in the foreground is a Mohammedan saint going through his religious exercises. p. 216)
round it. The doors themselves are overlaid with the hard wood arabesques : they open into lofty, vaulted passages. One had four fanwork groins meeting in the centre of its vault, more ambitious than the Damietta fanwork, and executed in stone. Their courtyards are extremely fine, and often very large; they once had cloisters of fine masonry, but only a few arches now remain, though so graceful and so well-built, that they serve to show the splendour of these caravanseries of Rosetta, when it and Damietta were the two great ports of Egypt. One khan had above its cloister a clerestory of charming moresque windows.
While I was photographing this, three dromedaries were lying under them, and some boys were making, with lightning rapidity, hencoops out of palm-ribs : their feet were as nimble as their hands.
Few of the khans were more than a storey high, and I saw none used by merchants for their camels. Hardly to be distinguished from the khans, outside, were other buildings used for various kinds of trades, one storey high, but roofed over and with a double row of columns up their centres, carried right across from their doors like a hall of an Egyptian temple.
When we stepped out of the train at Rosetta a few Arabs attached themselves to us—but none was the usual polyglot, who hangs about stations and quays to offer his services to the tourist for whatever he can get, and is very thankful for so very few piastres: Rosetta is too unspoiled for that. They had fine Arab manners, so we did not drive them away, especially since one of them murmured Felookah, and the other, Antika, the two commodities which we happened to want. The antika man showed intelligence ; finding that cloistered khans and colonnaded mansions of mediaval Arabs for some inscrutable reason seemed to interest mehe conducted me to several admirable specimens. The felookah man held grimly on, for three hours or more, for what must have appeared to him mere waste of time. He reaped his reward, for when we had exhausted the city we determined to eat our lunch, and spend the rest of our day at
Rosetta, on the Nile. We naturally took his felookah after the sanitary officer—whose nationality we did not discover, but who spoke a certain amount of English-had reduced his demands from six shillings to two.
Our lunch had been consigned, for safety, to the assistant station-master's safe, and, when we had fetched it from the station, we stepped gleefully on board our stout felookah, helped with Arab courtesy by the two picturesque boatmen in dark red galabeahs.
The moment we pushed out the spell began. The boat heeled half way over with the fresh breeze, the blue water rushed hissing past us as we flew over to the farther shore, where the outline of the palm groves was broken by a graceful villa, the retreat of some pasha, and two of the white domes, which mark the tombs of saints (and secure the success of any picture). Four wild-looking Arabs commenced shouting, and made a rush for the boat-as I guessed with no feller intent than to secure a free passage to the farther shore. They did not wait for the boat to put in, they waded out, in Egyptian fashion, and clambered on board. we had a nice fresh breeze we cruised up and down, while we ate our lunch and photographed mosques and tombs of saints, and felookahs with great white bellying sails. At the end of a mile of blue water to the north was a factory, built in such an open, pleasing way that in my photographs it will be taken for an Egyptian temple. To the south the river contracted, with high banks of sand, bold enough for Assuan, and one dear little mosque nestling under the hill, and another with a soaring minaret down on the river edge, at the point of the picture-I think the most beautiful effect we have seen on the river. Rosetta itself, with its tall, old mansions and all its fantastic minarets and its fringe of quaint native craft drawn up on the steep bank, made a delightful picture. Whichever way we tacked, some vision of pure beauty met our eyes on that sky-blue lake with its quaint Oriental setting. The lunch we had brought from the hotel was not for such surroundings. We gave all those savoury viands to the Arab boatmen, who had never known such a
banquet. They gave us their bread in exchange, and Arab bread with pâté de fois gras, washed down by good wine and nice cold soda-water, was good picnic food.
Then we allowed the boatmen to land us at the Mosque Point, strangely like the landing by the old church of the weird Campo Santo at Venice on that lonely isle. The mosques were simple but charming; the river bank was shady with tall palms. We climbed the cluster of little golden hills where tradition puts that mysterious city of Bolbitine. That may be or may not be. Our eyes were not for it; we looked northwards where the Nile winds into the sea-the Nile which we had seen from its birth, where the White Nile and the Blue Nile meet, to the point when it forks again into the Delta-the Nile, the other half of which we had seen lose itself in the Mediterranean at Damietta. On the left bank lay Fort St. Julien, which played such a dramatic part in the story of Egypt. The Rosetta Stone was found at Fort St. Julien by the French conquerors of Egypt digging to lay the foundations of the fort. Its existence there was shrouded with mystery, for no other remains were found to keep in countenance so important a monument. There was no Bolbitine, but the Rosetta Stone, in the precincts of Fort St. Julien. Nor did the dramatic end here, for when the French conquerors in their turn were conquered by the English, and forced to evacuate Egypt, the surrender of the trilingual decree, written in stone by the Pharaohs, was ceded as a trophy of victory.
Abukir and the Battle of the Nile
HERE is no spot in all Egypt which has the same
significance to the Englishman as Abûkir, for here were dealt the blows by sea and land, but for which Egypt would today, as Algeria, be a department of France. To-day we could regard such a contingency with more equanimity than in the closing years of the nineteenth century, for France is a nation that no longer pursues a policy of pin-pricks against England, though there are individual Frenchmen in Egypt who lose no opportunity of breeding trouble for England. To-day we regard Nelson's and Abercromby's victories in another light, as the first blood drawn in the long fight-to-a-finish between England and Napoleon, rather than between England and France. With Abercromby at Abukir I shall not linger long. I shall only point out the coincidence that the man who shattered France's dreams of Empire in old Egypt was a single-battle man, carried home from his victory to die, like Wolfe, who struck down for ever, on the plains of Quebec, the lilies that had waved for two hundred years in the new France which we call Canada.
Though Abercromby drove the French out of Egypt and Nelson did not, it would be idle to pretend that his victory, which takes its name from Abûkir, is of the same significance as Nelson's in Abukir Bay; for that was the superlative Battle of the Nile, which was the foundation of England's position as the greatest sea-power in history.
I had the proud story of the battle related to me again at Abûkir by a captain in the Italian arıny, who told me that his sympathies were with the Egyptian Nationalists, and was,