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found surrounded by children looking like funny little Japs covered with Aies, carrying an extraordinary medley of water-pots, We saw no women about, and the men wore grey cloaks instead of black. The streets in the buried city have been shored up, like the levels in a coal-mine, with joists and cross-pieces. This is probably represented as unwarrantable English interference with local tradition. Our hearts fell when we were taken to see the Omdeh ; it is one thing to go without your afternoon tea when you are sight-seeing hard, and another when, to use a colloquial expression, you are being “bored stiff.” We had been taken to see many Omdens, and had their preposterous compliments translated for us, and had racked our ingenuity to coin sufficiently preposterous compliments for them. This generally takes about an hour, and the very sweet Turkish coffee arrives just when you have made up your mind to go without it. This does not conflict with the fact that the Omdehs are, as a rule, charming old gentlemen with delightful manners; it is only that the interview takes so long, and that the conversation hardly ever takes a turn of practical interest.
This Omdeh, however, was an exception. The friendship of an Englishman like the Pasha had been an education to him ; he had taken an important part in the development of the oasis, and gave information as well as compliments; and, though he lived in native fashion, and received us in a selamlik with mastabas all round it to sit on, and was a typical sheikh to look at, he was a most civilised old gentleman. Directly we went in he presented us with handsome fly-switches of local manufacture, with which we were to combat the plague of Aies while we were there, and which we were to take away as mementoes. And in a few minutes he had afternoon tea ready for us served with Huntley & Palmer's Garibaldi biscuits, the kind that schoolboys call “squashed Aies,” and painfully appropriate in that room, where there were enough Aies for Beelzebub, who was, I understand, the God of Flies.
When we had had a tremendous tea--as many cups as ever we liked after a day's tropical sight-seeing-and had exchanged the proper courtesies, he took us out into his garden and presented us all with oranges, and the ladies with orange blossom, without perhaps any intention of raising false hopes. . The Kharga oranges are famous. When the railway was first opened the Savoy Hotel sent a man up to buy the whole crop, but the natives had grown only enough for themselves, and would not sell them. They knew what an oasis khamsin was, and had no wish to face it without the usual oranges. The dragoman, Mohammed, who had accompanied us, helped himself to as many as all of us, together, took. He had a hole in the lining of his frock-coat which gave him very useful pockets. I should not be surprised if he took a chicken or two as well as the oranges, unless he was unusually honest. His frock-coat looked like a Dutchman's trousers when he left. I have no doubt the Omdeh detected him, but was too polite to interfere with our temporary servant.
The Omdeh then took us to see the great sight of the place -a beautiful lake more than half a mile long, surrounded by palm-trees, which sprang into existence (literally) in a single night, and had a most engaging lot of saints' tombs with elegant white domes round it, and very possibly under it. It came to pass in this wise. The Pasha had a machine for cleaning out wells; the village had a well of Roman antiquity and high repute, which was yielding hardly any water. The Pasha asked to be allowed to clean it out to show the merits of his machine. The villagers acquiesced incredulously, and he set about his task. When they woke the next morning they found a lake half a mile long, and thought the end of the world had come. But the water having used up its accumulated force behaved more reasonably, and now yields just the right amount to keep the lake going.
We walked round the lake in semi-state, headed by the Omdeh, past the saints' tombs, to a causeway with a leet running down the centre, which connects the well with the mainland. The well is in the middle of the lake just above its level. This does not surprise people in Egypt, where you have wells protruding from the inundation the whole way up the Nile Valley. This is not an Artesian well, but more like the springs of the fountain of Cyane near Syracuse, or the public gardens at Nimes, or the river at Petrarch's Vaucluse. It has beautiful clear water. Our animals were awaiting us on the bank-not even the authority of the Omdeh could make them behave properly; but the best riders took the worst beasts, and we contrived to get somehow to the Temple of Nadura, passing one of the curious ancient "water manholes" on the way, Nadura would be a striking enough place if it had no history ; but tradition maintains that the Bishop Nestorius, after his condemnation by the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 435, and his banishment to the Great Oasis, was accommodated or confined in Nadura.
Nadura is a tall mud-brick shell, which has a little sandstone temple inside it, and stands in the middle of the oasis, with a pink amphitheatre of mountains on one side, and the broad pale green expanse of cultivation and a background of tent. shaped mountains on the other. It commands a fine view of the Temple of Hibis, and that wonderful Roman necropolis.
" When the Pasha said to me “That's one of the manholes," I paid no particular attention, not realising that these manholes communicated with a marvellous system of underground aqueducts large enough for a man to walk along, and in some places between a hundred and fifty and two hundred feet below the surface of the earth. There are at least ten miles of them. Mr. H. J. Llewellyn Beadnell, in his “An Egyptian Oasis," lately published by Mr. John Murray, the only authoritative recent book on the subject, gives an account of his descent into one of these aqueducts. It was a shaft a hundred and thirty-two feet deep, and he descended it the first time with a stretchy native rope made of fibre, tied to a log laid across the shaft. The shaft measured about a yard and a half by three quarters of a yard, and tapered gradually downwards. Rough footholds on opposite sides of the shaft facilitated the descent, and he was very glad of their assistance, for the rope began to stretch and contract like a piece of elastic, in what Mr. Beadnell calls “a most unpleasant manner.” When he reached the bottom, he found himself standing in a gently Aowing stream, which he knew ran for at least two kilometres to the south. The tunnels were apparently cut under valleys, and the stone removed from them must have been hoisted up through the manholes ; they were fed with water by little crevasses and shafts running right and left into the sand and pebble detritus. One of these tunnels has been cleared out, and supports a little agricultural settlement at its mouth. I wish I had space to quote the interesting facts about well-boring and well-casing in ancient times which Mr. Beadnell gives us. The exploitation of the Artesian basin of the oasis has been in progress for hundreds and thousands of years. The book is full of excellent illustrations and maps.
The pretty little sandstone temple, with its reliefs much worn by wind and sand, is generally attributed to Antoninus Pius. It is surrounded by a crude brick wall about two hundred feet long and a hundred and twenty feet wide.
The colours of the rock on which Nadura stands are wonderful ; their yellows and pinks are as gorgeous as the stones of the Palace of St. David's in South Wales : they are due to the action of metals. The manganese and cobalt of the oasis have dyed its rocks marvellous colours.
The oasis had been used as a place for banishment long before the time of Nestorius, as far back at any rate as 1033 B.C. We have record of that.
But the victims of these early banishments left no traces behind them like Nestorius, whose followers built the beautiful Necropolis of Kharga, and many churches, monasteries, and tombs in the oasis. The approach of darkness cut short our investigations at Nadura. We managed to get back to the train without any mishaps, and had fresh adventures with Mohammed.
After such a hot day we considered cold baths imprudent. Mohammed said there was a boiling spring close by, and volunteered to give us baths hotter than we could stand directly. The spring, I believe, has a temperature of 850. But the water stood at a much lower temperature than that before Mohammed's dilatory methods allowed him to pour it into the baths.
We had no expectations of a punctual dinner : we knew that we should have to wait till he had no way left of wasting time; but it was excellent when it came; and waiting had one advantage—it gave us time to cool the beer, which Mohammed had of course forgotten to put in the bedroom jugs before we started. After dinner, before we turned in, we went and sat out on the terrace on deck-chairs to look at the mighty Egyptian stars, and the quaint effect of the oasis in the moonlight. The air was softer than velvet. The Pasha, when he came along to fix where we should go on the next day, predicted a very hot to-morrow, and recommended us to go to Ed-der, the grandiose-looking Roman fort which we could see in the distance outlined against the great truncated cone of Jebel Ghenneima—the highest hill of the oasis. The natives call it Ed-der-the monastery, though it has not the slightest traces of any monastic building, the fact being that the Copts were so in the habit of building their monasteries inside old forts that the word came to be applied to an ancient fort as well as to a monastery.
As the day was going to be so very hot we were to make an early start. When we woke at dawn there were natives squatting on the virgin bit of green in front of the house, as if they had been there all night-perhaps they had.
To-day we were to ride the headquarter's animals, as the public beasts had been such failures. The very grand camel with the Bedâwin chief's caparison, which A. always rode, grumbled just as badly as the others.
We three were to be met by our animals at the point down the line which was nearest to the der, as a trolley ride is one of the sensations of the oasis trip. It was no new sensation for us, for we had had many trolley rides before the Oasis Railway was born. But it was very pleasant flying along the line propelled by three burly Arabs, dressed in pure white, against the strong morning breeze-pleasanter for us than the Arabs, I suppose, for the sun was already very powerful. It was too much to expect that they should have attended to the points; they ran into the train on the siding, of course, but did not damage any of us. It beat switchbacking.
At one place we passed an Artesian well in the makingsuch lovely pools of clear fresh water were flooding over the desert like the tide coming in.
The signs of an oasis are sometimes comparatively slighteven bents on the hummocks meant water; the presence of an empty sardine-tin in the desert may hold a romance. The desertscape often looks like a seascape. This did not it was spoilt by telegraph-poles. We saw, however, patches in the distance. We knew that they must be the camels and the donkeys. What else should they be?