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sing their chanteys, the Arabs of Philæ are mightily picturesque as they row in their white turbans and flowing black robes.
I saw the moonlight Philæ with unwonted patience, for an American judge who was with us wished to be landed on a rock near Pharaoh's Bed to hatch a photograph, which he said would take him an hour. We beguiled the time by rowing into that beautiful kiosk, which is really like a manyposted monarch's bed, and floating there under the stars, now watching the play of the moonlight on the white columns, now noting the constellations like Orion, which were in the vault of blue over the temple. There was a fathom of water over the marble floor. It was the silver water which made the scene so enchanting, though the columns against the moonlit sky were simply glorious. At last the brilliance became overpowering, and we had to get the three wise men of the east, who were rowing us, to back out and pull away from the glistening marble into the blue night. We soon found ourselves out of the frying-pan into the fire, for the three wise men thought that it was a pity we should waste our time, and took us straight to the colonnade of the Temple of Isis. The Parthenon itself does not rise more grandly from the brow of the Acropolis than the Temple of Isis rose that night from the brink of the waters of Philæ. We were sincerely grateful to them; they had given us an object of superlative beauty to look at, and here the marble was not close enough to be oppressive with its glister. The American judge must have felt like St. Simeon on the top of his column-we were so long before we remembered him. But when we got back to him he was unruffled, and saluted us with one of his characteristic observations: "The palm-trees beside the temple look as if they had been made on purpose.” He said an even truer thing when the three foolish men had rowed us back to the steamer, and gone through every species of antic in the last hundred yards with a view to bakshish : "The Arab has one God, and that is his profit."
1 suppose that the time will come when they will add
a fresh storey to the big dam, and Philæ will disappear altogether in the march of Irrigation ; it would have been cheaper in the long run to take down the temples of Phila and re-erect them on the island of Elephantine to make monuments for Assuan.
Among the most interesting facts about Philæ are its negatives. Herodotus, who visited Assuan in the days when it was called Syene, did not think it worth mentioning. Philæ may not have had any temples in his time; it is curiously modern for Egypt; there is no building there now which goes back to his time; the oldest was built about a century later, though the stones of the twenty-sixth dynasty built into the Temple of Isis might have belonged to an older temple on the site. For it would have been absurd for the heart of Osiris to be buried so late as this.
Again, neither the Egyptians nor the Nubians use the name Philæ ; they call it after the hero in the Arabian Nights, whose story is laid here, a sort of Hero and Leander episode. It is thus summarised by good old Ebers:
“ The natives call it Anas-el-Wugood, and Anas-el-Wugood was beloved by the fair Zahar-el-Ward (Flower of the Rose). The legend of this pair, of how they were parted, and how at last they found each other again, which is put into the mouth of Sheherezade, originated, beyond a doubt, on the shores of the Nile ; indeed the modern story-tellers begin it to this day with these words: ‘I will build thee a castle in the midst of the great waters (Bahr) of Kenoos'-i.e. Northern Nubia. The castle here meant is the Temple of Isis; and in the story of Anas-el-Wugood it is related that the young hero of the story reached his beloved, who was imprisoned in a castle on an island, by swimming on the back of a crocodile. Must not this story have grown out of the legend of Isis and Osiris, who loved each other, and were parted, and the myth of the god who rejoined Isis, and the legend of the god who, by aid of a crocodile, reached the abode of Isis? The Osiris room in the Temple of Philæ is even at the present day held by the Arabs to be the bridal chamber of the happily united pair"Banal Ebers!
I was parting from Philæ with a jest, but Philae is no laughing matter to me. I shall never cease to regret that I did not see this exquisite spot in the days before the dam was built at all. It was one of the most sacred spots in Egypt; its inhabitants had to appeal to their rulers against the burthen of pilgrims who visited it; there were fifteen temples, and food walls, and colonnades, and Nilometers, with the picturesque adjuncts of a Nile village embosomed in its greenery, and all of them as decayed and deserted as the city of the sleeping beauty. Now it is a Karnak at the bottom of the Nile.
The Humours and the Beauties of the Nile as
seen from Cook's Steamers
HERE are people who would go to Egypt without
remembering the existence of the Nile, if they were not obliged to cross it to go to the Khedivial Sporting Club and the Mena House. They will tell you that they do not see any difference between the Nile and the Thames at Hammersmith, except that the Nile's suspension bridge opens and is always in suspense when you want to go across it, and the Nile barges have slightly taller sails. There are many more, who will think this, without having the brutality to put it into words.
To me the Nile was a source of never-ending interest and delight; the shining thread which linked Egypt from end to end; the highway to the dark Sudan; the street of ancient Egyptian temples; the country road from which you see all the quaint procedure of Egyptian agriculture; a chapter in the history of the humours of Egypt. The humours commence for most people at Cairo, though the Delta has a fine crop of its own. The Nile bridge plays a most important part in the economy of Cairo. Perhaps this is because the Nile has so few bridges—much less than a dozen in its whole length-and boats are a tedious way of crossing a river. For about two hours in the very middle of the day the bridge is open for boats to go through. As Cook's steamers don't go through the bridge at all, it would be far more convenient to everybody if the bridge was open to boats, and consequently closed to carriages, for two hours before breakfast. The market people who cater for the early pauper would
please their clients better by coming in at dawn; and the boats would hardly have to wait at all, instead of waiting from dawn till lunch-time, as they invariably do. But it would deprive the tourist of a sight, because the assemblage, which collects at the hour when the turn-bridge ought to close, is an assortment of tit-bits of Egyptian and Anglo-Egyptian life. There are the carriagefuls of foreigners with dragomans on the boxes; the stone-carts; the forage camels; the sheikhs in bridal veils on donkeys; the native 'buses, with black humpty-dumpties of women squatting on the floor-the native 'bus is nothing but a floor, it has no roof and no sides, and is more suitable for beer-barrels. But this ordinary jog of traffic is broken up by impatient motors eager to get their only run; British officers in dogcarts, and British officers' polo-ponies, with grooms who are burlesques of the camel-corps. At the near end of the bridge are the Kasr-elNil Barracks, where Tommies play football on the sand in unsuitable weather, and the Semiramis Hotel, which would be so much improved if every other floor was knocked out to give the rooms the proper height for the climate. At the far end are an open-air theatre, where European music-hall artistes of a kind begin to entertain Africans, in the summer after Europeans have gone, and the only public garden in Cairo which has any flowers.
Here there is almost as fine an assortment of native life and native peddling as in the Ataba-el-Khadra, for here the holiday-maker starts for the Pyramids-generally in the wrong tram, which stops halfway—and the hide-bound Englishman goes off to his sporting club. But these belong to another chapter. Those who wish to follow the humours of the Nile turn down to the left, where a fleet of white steamers, which look in the distance like General Gordon's gunboats, fly the honoured flag of Thomas Cook & Son. Cook is the uncrowned King of Egypt, and this is the navy with which he won his battle of the Nile.
Cook's boats are like the best hotels: there is the same boy with the ostrich-feather broom waiting to dust your legs and feet; the same procession of Arab porters in gowns