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in good preservation, rather like the tombs of the officials at Thebes, but have certain features of their own; they have paintings, and they have architectural decorations, and they still have the shoot, flanked by steps on each side, by which the sarcophagus was dragged up from the water's edge, called in Egypt a mummy-shoot or mummy-slide. There are other important tombs round the corner called, for a similar reason, Lady William Cecil's tombs, and a highly picturesque tomb of some unimportant Arab saint at the top of the bluff, which every one photographs, though there are many, to which it is not comparable, in the Arab cemetery.
On the west bank of the Nile, too, is the convent known as Amba-Sama'ân-St. Simeon (of the Column, I suppose). Nobody knows when it was built, but it was abandoned in the thirteenth century.
There is much to see here : fine fortress walls, a church with frescoes, many cells and monastic buildings. Some think that this was the Roman fortress which held the west bank. Considering its age, the monastery is in wonderful preservation. But Coptic buildings do not excite one's interest much with their architecture, which inherited the unambitious simplicity of the mud buildings of the Pharaohs, who put all their architecture into temples and tombs. The glory of the Coptic churches lies in their wonderfully carved and inlaid screens, their marble pulpits and basins, their mediæval paintings, their portals and baldachins.
The expedition to this convent is one of the favourites with Assuan visitors, many of whom take donkeys, though it is only half an hour's walk from the landing, and you soon get on the hard path. The shore is broken by little creeks. You hunt along, like Robinson Crusoe, till you discover one where you can land. You then find yourself at the foot of a hill, a toboggan slide of sand with a grain like pure gold. Little Arab boys are there before you, to turn somersaults down it from top to bottom for a small piastre. The visitors themselves are tempted to do all sorts of undignified things on that shoot of velvety sand, much more tempted, most of them, by this than they are by the
convent. There is only one way to make the Philistine take an interest in ruins—to give him a meal in them.
Another favourite expedition is to take a donkey ride to Shellal to see the sun set over Philæ. This ride is full of interest for those who have eyes to see ; but most people notice nothing except the delightfulness of Assuan desert sand for a gallop, a general impression of the domes of Arab tombs, and perhaps a glance at the obelisk a Pharaoh began to cut and left undetached, and an Apis-bull sarcophagus, which the consignees forgot to take away.
I found this ride adorable. It nearly made me late for dinner, though I started off in the apoplectic heat immediately after lunch. A German scientist had promised to show me all the antiquities of this disused Nile Valley, but his donkey ran away with him the moment he got outside the hotel, and did not stop till it got to Shellal, six miles away. I wandered about the Arab cemetery taking photographs while the donkey-boys tried to catch him. The first thing I noticed was a heap, which contained thousands of what looked like bright yellow rock-melons, but which I recognised for the poisonous ground fruit I had seen growing on the edge of the desert on the way to Khartům. “What are they there for ?" I asked the dragoman—"to make a patch of colour for artists ? "
"Sir, they are there to kill butterflies." “What?" I exclaimed incredulously.
He explained that they were there to be sent to England to kill butterflies. I did not recollect butterflies being killed in England on a scale to nced all this. But when he picked one up and cut it in half and gave it to me to smell, I recognised that this was the bitter-apple of commerce, with which good housewives make war upon moths.
What made them look more incongruous was that there were Turkish dogs cruising over them. They belonged to an old woman who lived in a tomb, the best-looking saint's tomb in the whole cemetery, set upon a hill, where it could not be hid. She was more like a witch than anything I ever saw ; she was dressed in black, and sat beside a jar and some mysterious
SAINT'S TOMB IN THE DESERT BEHIND THE CATARACT HOTEL AT ASSUAN.
On the road to the Great Dam.
luggage. I thought perhaps that she was waiting for the end of the world, but she was only waiting to make pennies out of being photographed. She had discovered that her hellish appearance had a market value. She also levied tribute on the people who examined her mausoleum, which was quite a good one, apart from its dome, with a handsome stone mediæval arch, a courtyard with scalloped battlements, and a four-poster tomb with silver spikes over it.
In spite of the beauty of the domed chapels over mediæval sheikhs and saints, this granite-and-sand desert of the tombs had the desolation of the Vision of Ezekiel ; it was so strewn with broken pottery, so broken with the little round dustheaps, which mark recent graves of the very poor.
There were hundreds of brown domes, some of them supported by quite delightful Byzantine arches of good burnt brick, but stripped of their plaster, and all fast falling into decay. One of the chief tombs had still an ancient Arabic inscription on its sandstone tablet, which had escaped the antiquity hunter, and was now guarded by a ghaffir in a long black robe with a yellow badge. The tiny white flags, which were about, showed that there was still some one to pay its occupant reverence.
Presently the donkey-boys came back, and said that they could not catch the Professor, and we rode on up the valley, making a detour to see that obelisk lying on its back still undetached, showing the grooves cut for the wedges which were to have split it off for the Pharaoh who has left his mark
I should have liked that German to have been with me, when I was riding about in the quarries which had yielded beautiful rose-coloured granite for all the monuments of Egypt. He would have been able to point out and interpret the inscriptions cut on the rocks, where this or that Pharaoh had taken a colossus or a sarcophagus or an obelisk. We saw a colossus twenty feet high lying in the sand, ready to be taken away, with the spoor of a jackal beside it, which had doubtless been running over the fallen monarch.
Two things specially I noticed—the colour of the uncut