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granite, which was often quite black, and hardly ever its own rose, and the fact that all the quarrying which has been going on for seven thousand years has not used up even the boulders yet. There are no traces here of systematic quarrying as you get in the limestone quarries near Helouan; there are no tunnels, no underground galleries ; the granite was on the surface and, except for enormous pieces like obelisks or colossi, they seemed to have used the detached rocks.
A few miles back in this district there is a desert camp, considered invaluable for consumptive patients, and, I believe, sportsmen-a curious combination.
At length we came to the end of that marvellous valley of the quarries and halted on the high ground overlooking Philæ. It was an ineffable sight; I shall never forget that gold lake reflecting the sunset, with Pharaoh's Bed and Isis's Temple standing out black against the hills of Nubia.
Long before we got home the darkness had fallen, but the bright flame of afterglow which hung over ruined Philæ, was still firing the darkness in the west when we dismounted from our tired asses at the Cataract Hotel, and walked through the Arab lounge to join the travellers' club assembled in the loggia, watching the nightly miracle of the sunset in the darkness, and bidding for each other's surprise with tales of unfamiliar lands.
The Great Dam of Assuan
HE Assuan Dam has been called the eighth wonder of
the world-a famous American scientist has pronounced it a greater engineering feat than the Pyramids. It looks more than anything else like the wall of a Japanese castle thrown across the bed of the Nile; it looks like enough to the vast bastions, with which the engineers of the Renaissance fortified Italian cities, the principle being a sloping wall of immense thickness.
But no castle or city ever had such a fortification as the Dam of Assuan, which was ninety feet thick at the base and twenty-one feet thick at the top, and has now been made fifteen feet thicker all the way up. It is built of granite from the well-tried quarries which supplied nearly all the monuments of the Pharaohs ; its foundations are sunk deep into the granite rock below the bed of the Nile; its ends are built deep into the granite cliffs on each side of the Nile. It is a mile and a quarter long, and was a hundred and fifty feet high in places before the recent elevation of fifteen feet extra began. It has a hundred and eighty sluices arranged at four different levels, which are opened and closed by electricity.
When the new works are finished and the dam is full, its level will be not much short of a hundred feet above the bed of the river, and another million acres will be irrigable in addition to the half million already gained. The value of this reclaimed million acres is estimated to be £30,000,000 sterling. At the beginning of July, when the Nile begins to rise, all the sluices are opened till about the first of September
About the beginning of December, when the mud-charged water ceases to run and the water becomes relatively clear, the sluices are closed in a certain order, and the reservoir gradually fills till the first of February. About the end of April, when the water begins to be exhausted, the reservoir discharges the quantity necessary, which goes on till the river rises again.
The river-bed below the dam is divided by cross-walls, so that any portion of it can be drained if it is necessary to examine or repair the dam. The escape of water through the masonry has been infinitesimal. The thickening will make it immensely stronger. It was built six inches apart from the original dam, this interval being left open for two years till the new masonry became as cool as the old, when stones and cement were to be thrown in to fill it up. The new masonry is bolted to the old with thick steel rods.
When I visited the dam in 1907 one entire portion of the river below was drained, so that men might work at this thickening, and at the execution of the immensely long granite apron, built below the dam to stand the impact of the water from the sluices, which cracks the unprotected granite rock. There is far more risk of damage to the apron than to the dam itself.
The leakages only take place in the winter; in the summer the cracks close perfectly. It is a curious sight to see hundreds of men working at the bottom of the Nile on one side of a wall, while on the other side a cataract like the rapids of Niagara is hurling along from a banked-up mass of water which is equally behind both. The force of the current which tears through the open sluices is so great that the water rises in the centre several feet above the level of the banks, and is as white as ostrich feathers. There is a wire ladder down from the top of the dam to the top of this dividing wall. A friend of mine, called Graham, climbed down with a camera and took some admirable photographs of it.
At the western end of the dam is a navigable canal two kilometers long, which contains a series of four locks, that allow the native craft, and even steamers of considerable
size, like the stern wheelers of the Sudan Government, to go up and down. These locks are more than two hundred feet long and about thirty feet wide ; their doors are respectively sixty, forty-five, thirty-six, and thirty-three feet high. The whole system was constructed by Sir John Aird & Co., under the direction of Sir William Garstin, and the engineer, Sir William Willcocks.
A trolly line runs along the whole length of the dam for the carriage of materials and the use of the engineers. The dam requires an immense staff. Besides the chief, Mr. Macdonald, and his assistant, Mr. MacCorquodale, and three doctors, there are about sixty British, seven hundred Italians, and about twice as many Arabs. The offices are just above the navigation canal on the west side, and have a rest-house beside them. The staff lives on the east side, in what was formerly the bed of the Nile, and is very fertile for gardens when irrigated.
The heat at the dam is alarming. It has been known to rise to 130 in the shade by day and 100 by night. When the new works are completed the waters of the Nile will be driven back for nearly three hundred kilometers, and the water will be twenty feet deeper, though the dam is only fifteen feet higher.
An elaborate system of charts is kept in the offices. From Assuan the height of the river is reported every hour, and also at various stations up the river as far as Roseires on the Blue Nile. It takes the flood ten days to travel from Roseires to Khartûm.
When the new dam is completed the roadway will be widened to eleven feet instead of seven. Eighty tons of water per second pass through each sluice, when it is wide open; the water is marvellously white and pure, and there is a wonderful hole in it where the rocks dip. The roar, the hiss, the seething of those mad waters, white above and buff below, are inconceivable to those who have not heard them. When the new works are completed the banks of the Nile will be flooded the whole way from the dam to Korosko, and the temples of Philæ, Dabud, Tafa, Kalabshe, and Dakka
will be affected, but not the superb rock temple of Abu Simbel or the beautiful little temple of Kartassi, which is almost as elegant as the temple at Philæ, called Pharaoh's Bed.
We saw the great dam under very favourable circumstances. An introduction Sir William Garstin gave me to the head of the works resulted in the Government steam launch being sent down to fetch us from the Cataract Hotel up past the rapids and through the navigation canal. Not a soul on board spoke any English, and none of our party spoke any Arabic. But these Arab reises, or river captains, are accustomed to being sent to meet strangers, and, if they receive full directions beforehand, always deliver their human goods safely.
Even in December it was a scorching day, but our launch had a heavy awning.
The scenery as you go up is striking. First you see the remains of fortifications of all conquerors from the Cæsars to Lord Kitchener on the lofty eastern bank, while on the west bank is a hilly desert of glorious golden sand—the most matchless colour I ever saw, crowned, too, in the distance by the castle-like walls of the ancient Coptic convent. The river here is wide, and, in the dusk, from the belvedere of the Cataract Hotel, always seems to be full of bathing elephants and tossing hippopotami. As we passed them now we saw that they were granite reefs rounded and polished and blackened by the Nile flood, with pots on their surfaces like those you get in Scotch mountain torrents.
The foam-bubbles came right down to Assuan, though the dam is six miles above. Soon the banks on either side became steep wilds of granite which had many ancient inscriptions, like the rocks of the turquoise Daiyagawa at Nikko in Japan. The steamer rolled in the swirl, and a rocky island made the channel so narrow that she seemed to be tearing straight into the rocks ahead. But the rapids so far, though they made pretty whirls with their eddies, did not look so formidable as Charybdis. The worst symptom
• Ambra Sama’ân.