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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 on it.
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 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.